About Erks

What Paul Richey thought about erks? 

 

Excerpt from his book written in 1941

fighters came across in big formations: sometimes three squadrons of 109s would do a sweep as far as Metz and Nancy. The 110s had made their first appearance at the end of March, in close squadron formation and very high, only engaging when pressed into it by our Hurricanes. It was obvious that the Germans were practising offensive tactics, and it looked as though the bust-up might come soon.

This thought caused us to pay even more attention to our aircraft. Every pilot takes a pride in his own aeroplane, but the knowledge that he may be in action at any moment is naturally an additional incentive. There was now a marked increase of interest in the individual Hurricanes, and long hours were spent by ground crews and pilots in flight testing, altering rigging, adjusting control wires to the preferred tautness, tuning the engine, harmonizing the sights, checking the guns and testing them in the air, and generally getting everything on the top line.

For the benefit of the layman I should mention that the crew of a lighter does not consist solely of the pilot, although he is the only member who flies: the other two members, who are aircraftsmen, are just as vital; they are the fitter and the rigger. The fitter looks after the engine, the rigger the airframe. The pilot depends on these two men for his life. Normally the fitter and rigger take a personal pride in their pilot and would do anything for him. They are inextricably involved in his victories and defeats. Consequently there is a wonderful spirit of teamwork and comradeship between the pilots, who are mostly officers, and the men not only the fitters and riggers, but all the men in the various technical sections right down to the aircraft hands. My own fitter and rigger were two fine chaps, and much later, back in England, I paid a visit to my old squadron specially to thank them for the invaluable work they had done for me during the French campaign.

More on Paul Richey

The pilots of 1 Squadron

The pilots of 1 Squadron

Most of 1 Squadron’s well trained and experienced pilots are seen here shortly before the outbreak of the blitzkrieg on 10 May 1940. The commanding officer, Squadron Leader PH ‘Bull’ Halahan, is in the centre, wearing a sheepskin flying jacket.

On the far left is Pilot Officer Billy Drake. Although one of the only two pilots in this photo not to receive a DFC in June 1940 (having been shot down and wounded on 13 May), he was to end the war as the most successful of all this group of outstanding fighter pilots. He had by then been promoted to Wing Commander, and had claimed some 28 aircraft shot down (three of which were shared and two unconfirmed), plus 15 more destroyed on the ground. He had also been awarded a DSO, DFC and Bar, and a US DFC. He remained in the RAF postwar, becoming a Group Captain.

Next to him is Flying Officer LR Clisby, an aggressive Australian pilot who was the squadron’s first top-scorer, having already claimed at least ten aircraft shot down, and possibly more, by the time he was brought down and killed on 14 May. Behind his left shoulder is his friend, Flying Officer LR Lorimer, who was shot down and killed during the same engagement.

Flight Lieutenant P Prosser Hanks was one of the unit’s two flight commanders. He had claimed seven victories when sent home to become an instructor later in May. He ended the war as a Wing Commander, credited with 13 enemy aircraft shot down. Between him and Halahan is Pilot Officer PWO ‘Boy’ Mould (see below).

Behind ‘Bull’ Halahan’s left shoulder is Jean-François Demozay. A civilian pilot before the war, he had been loaned to the squadron as French interpreter. He fled to England when France fell, and became a fighter pilot, joining 1 Squadron in this role late in 1940. He ended the war as a Wing Commander, credited with 18 victories, but was then killed in an aircraft accident on 19 December 1945.

The senior flight commander, Flight Lieutenant PR ‘Johnnie’ Walker, is next. He claimed eight successes in combat during spring 1940, and ended the war as a Group Captain. Standing in front of Walker and the next two pilots is Flight Lieutenant DM Brown, the squadron medical officer. Behind his left shoulder is Flying Officer JI Kilmartin (see below).

Almost hidden behind Brown and Kilmartin is Flying Officer PHM Richey, later author of Fighter Pilot, one of the classic books of the war. Before he was wounded on 19 May, Paul Richey had claimed ten victories. He later returned to operations in 1941, and also ended the war as a Wing Commander.

Another, almost hidden behind his colleagues, is New Zealander Flying Officer WH Stratton (see below), and the last in the line is Flying Officer CD ‘Pussy’ Palmer, born in the USA of British parentage. He later became a Squadron Leader, but was shot down and killed over the English Channel on 27 October 1942.

Missing from this group are three other notable officers and three leading NCO pilots. The third representative of the Commonwealth was Flying Officer MH ‘Hilly’ Brown from Canada, who was on leave when the photograph was taken. He had claimed some 17 victories when the squadron left France in June, having overtaken Clisby as the top-scorer for the unit in 1940. Becoming Commanding Officer soon after the return to England, he also flew during the Battle of Britain. He became a Wing Commander in 1941, but was shot down and killed over Sicily on 12 November 1941.

Flying Officer GPH Matthews joined the squadron in August 1939. He claimed five victories during May-June 1940, ending the war as a Squadron Leader, with 11 victories credited to him.

Pilot Officer PV Boot had arrived only in March 1940 as a reinforcement, having just retrained as a fighter pilot. The 1 Squadron ethos and example obviously enveloped him rapidly, for by 5 June he had claimed five aircraft shot down. He later took part in the Battle of Britain before becoming an instructor, and was awarded a DFC.

The squadron’s outstanding NCO pilot was Flight Sergeant FJ Soper, who claimed 13 victories over France during 1940. He was later commissioned and by 1941 had been given command of his own squadron. He failed to return from a sortie to intercept an intruding German bomber off the Suffolk coast on 5 October 1941.

Flight Sergeant AV ‘Darky’ Clowes had claimed seven successes by 18 June 1940. He too was commissioned later in the year, subsequently becoming a Squadron Commander. A third notable NCO was Flight Sergeant FG Berry, who shot down the bomber that had just bombed the troopshipLancastrian in St Nazaire harbour on 17 June 1940. He was killed shortly afterwards, on 1 September, during the Battle of Britain.

Paul Richey

Dr. Albert (Al) JOHNSTON – Redux

A great research and article from Mark

Dr. Albert (Al) JOHNSTON

Al Johnson

JOHNSTON, Dr. Albert (Al) Charles West MD.CM., FRCS

December 7, 1923 – July 28, 2013

With great sadness, we announce that Al passed away peacefully at age 89 on July 28, 2013 in Port Moody, B.C. He is survived by his loving wife of 61 years Peggy (nee Mouat), his children Kathleen, James (Barbara), William (Diane) and Thomas (Deanne), his grandchildren Alexander, Robert, James and Daniel, and his brother Jack and sister Maureen Bailey, and predeceased by his brothers Herbert, Walter and Victor.

Born in Armstrong, B.C., Al grew up in Nanaimo, B.C. where he attended elementary school thru grade 13.

He joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1942 and served as a Leading Aircraftman for the RCAF 403 Wolf Squadron in England, Holland, Belgium and Germany thru 1946.

He returned to Canada and graduated from University of British Columbia, B.Sc (Zoology) with honors in 1949, McGill University medical school in 1953, and from Ophthalmology training at Wayne State University and Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit in 1958.

Al and Peggy opened medical practices in Vancouver in 1959 in an office they shared together until their retirement in 1989. During his years of practice, Al was associated with UBC/VGH Department of Ophthalmology as Clinical Professor devoting time to clinical teaching, developing the Neuro Ophthalmology program at UBC and to serving as an examiner for the Royal College of Physicians.

Al loved the outdoors and he and Peggy actively spent time on Saltspring Island, on their boat in B.C. and travelling in other parts of the world. Following retirement, Al and Peggy moved to Saltspring where they built their retirement home and they greatly enjoyed retirement with their extended family.

Thanks go out to his doctors and the staff at Eagle Ridge Manor in Port Moody, B.C. where he spent the final stage of life and special thanks go to Dr. Tony Wilson, Dr. Saul Isserow and to Dr. Christine Todorovic.

A memorial service will be held Saturday, August 24, 2013 at 1:30 p.m. at St. Mark’s Church, 961 North End Road, Saltspring Island, B.C. and a gathering of friends to celebrate Al’s life will also be held in Vancouver from 1:00pm to 4:00pm on Sunday, September 15, 2013 at Royal Vancouver Yacht Club at 3811 Point Grey Road, Vancouver, B.C.

In lieu of flowers, donations to the Walter George Johnston research fund (UBC faculty of medicine) #P128, or the Saltspring Island Foundation named fund would be welcome.

Published in The Times Colonist from August 17 to August 18, 2013

Dr. Albert Johnston was a very talented and remarkable human being.

The ERK wearing the glasses is very prominent in a lot of my dad’s war pictures.  

George White

I’m no expert, but I think Dr. Albert Johnston may be in some of these pictures. 

Wouldn’t it be nice if you readers could identify more of these airmen.

 George White 1

George White 3 George White 2-1 George White 2

Mark White – October 2013

What do you think?

George White 3-1

George White 2-2

George White 1-1

George White 2-1-1

 

Erks and the necktie story

I first  heard the word “erks” from George  Stewart’s mouth when  he phoned me in 2011. I  never thought  a Mosquito  pilot  would  have ever phoned  me.

I asked John last  Saturday  if he knew George Stewart.

He did not.

I  am sure  George  doesn’t  know  who is J. B. Le May also because I am  pretty  sure George doesn’t  read this blog, not even  my blog about  23 Squadron,  a night intruder  squadron  in the R.A.F., the squadron  he flew with in WWII.

It doesn’t  really matter because  I  just write  so people will  find  my blogs  about  their  father, grandfather, uncle, granduncle… just like Andrew Tood did a few years ago.

All this writing  about  people  I  knew  nothing  about  led me to meet virtually,  or in person,  wonderful  caring human  beings.

I  could  write  a book about  all these meetings, but I  am too busy writing  my blogs.

This  being  said, John B. told  me so many anecdotes  when  I  met  him that I  have enough  material  to fill a book. Luckily  he wrote  most everything  in his ebook.

Take  the  time  to  read it.

ebook

Now what about the necktie  story  I  told John  B.?

https://rcaf403squadron.wordpress.com/2013/11/19/the-necktie/

If you happen to stumble on this blog… Redux

Editor’s notes

Written in 2011 when I just started to write about a RCAF Squadron I knew nothing about before I met Greg Bell. This redux post is for you John. This is post number 530.

***

If you happen to stumble on this blog, then you are missing a lot…

A lot…

A lot about the history of RCAF No. 403  Squadron from December 1944 through May 1945.

This is my 44th article since September.

This mission all started with a few pictures of unknown pilots from a photo album of an little known Canadian Spitfire pilot with the RCAF.

Walter Neil Dove most probably never talked that much about the war.

His grandson had his photo allbum and his logbook.

Just one pilot was well known to me in this group picture taken in March 1945.

Johnnie Johnson.

I knew who he was.

He was the RAF top ace with 38 enemy aircraft destroyed. 

The caption from this picture scanned last week is most interesting.

Greg’s grandfather wrote it… in 1945!

That’s History!

Greg and I are on a special mission to share that part of History.

Greg is scanning and I am writing.

Greg is scanning like hell and I am writing likewise.

Nothing compare though to the hell some pilots went through during WW II…

Like Sandy Borland shot down by T-Bolt.

Sandy Borland

Sandy Borland incident

Here are some more pictures Greg scanned last week.

I said to him these would jump start our blog about his grandfather’s  photo album and logbook and increase its visibility…

 

 

***

I wish I could build this model kit for you John.

JE-J

Exclusive Pictures From Alaska Circa 1942 – Redux

Editor’s note…

Have you noticed something on one of these old pictures?

I just did!

***

More pictures from Lorne Weston’s collection with this message…

Hello again Pierre

Here are more Alaska pictures for you, all but one un-dated, with Dad’s notes, where possible.

Crack up
crack up
 
Kitty Hawk (sic) crash landing Alaska
Kitty Hawk cash landing Alaska
 
 
 
Bolingbrook (sic) landing Alaska
 
Bolingbrooke Landing in Alaska
seaplane base Alaska
 
Seaplane Base in Alaska
runway
 
Runway
 
Alaskan Airfield
Alaskan Airfield
(sign reads); 1 MILE
                  <———–
                  FATHER NESBITTS
                  BOYS TOWN
                  WELCOME
 
(back of picture); WING COM. NESBITT
                         SQAD. LEADER ASHMAN
                         PILOT OFFICER BULTON
                         AUG 1942 ALASKA
 
airborne on dawn patrol Alaska
airborne on dawn patrol Alaska
 
Kitty Hawk (sic) landing Alaska
Kitty Hawk (sic) landing Alaska
 
Back in the 1960s Dad told me that the “dawn patrol” picture, and others like it which I have, were taken from the Observer’s seat of a U.S.A.A.C. PB-Y Catalina, but I don’t know if they were taken at Ketchican, or Kodiak.
 
No caption…
 Kittyhawk with pilot

***

Alaska Kittyhawk 2

Setting the record straight… 
Alaska Kittyhawk 3

John Le May’s collection – Never seen before documents

Documents taken from the CD John LeMay sent me.

Editor’s notes

Production of this CD is the result of a collaboration
The hard work….scanning…cataloguing…photography…caption editing etc.., -: John B. Le May –

rcaf127@gmail.com

The fun stuff….HTML and multimedia programming: – Marcel Lemay –

lemaymanufactur@gmail.com

Some material on this CD may be copyrighted and is not to be distributed commercially

No son they gave us a pistol

Red Ryder

Pierre:
 
I have attached a pic of the print.  Sorry but it is hard to get a good shot as it is under glass.
 
Another memory of Red:
 
I saw him at one of our retirees parties and joked with him that I still flew spits.  Red knew that I flew models.  He replied that one of his grand kids had asked if he had a parachute in his plane.  He said no son they gave us a pistol.  Got a lot more respect from the grand kids after that.

Red Ryder will never be forgotten.

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Henry Percy Duval – Redux – A Comment

Hi there,
I am Madeleine Campbell’s grandson.
My Father Duncan Campbell being the son of Ken Campbell- Madeleine’s second marriage after the death of Hank.
It is lovely to see people speak of my ‘Nanna’ and Hank and see similar pages with the story of Hank and Kens fateful day.
We celebrated Nanna’s 95th birthday last month- but she is in no state to recount memories of her past. So it’s down to reading my Grandpa’s memoirs (Ken) an my father Duncan filling in any holes.

Thank you

Comment made with this post…

I write so people can find lost loved one.

We had very little information on Henry Percy Duval before the war.

Henry Percy Duval

Dean Black had sent this taken from the year album of McGill University. He had sent a painting done by someone at the former base where he was a commander.

Col Blacks picture

That painting was done by Robin S. McQueen

Henry Percy Duval was a Spitfire pilot with 403 Squadron.

Someone has just left a comment.

We now know much more about Henry Percy Duval.

Henry Percy Duval was my great-uncle. I grew up with his sister(my grandmother) so I was familiar with stories about Uncle Harry who was killed in the war. I knew he was a pilot but not much else. He looks a lot like my grandmother. Thank you for posting this.
Regards,
Darryl Hunter
Los Angeles, CA

Remembrance Day 2012 – Redux

One of the most poignant story written on this blog…

Posted on Remembrance Day 2012

Written by Mark White

Lest We Forget

Robert Charles Medforth

MEDFORTH, ROBERT CHARLES LAC R78265 – aero engine mechanic. From Pennant, Saskatchewan. Killed in action Jan 1/45 age 36. #6403 Servicing Echelon, Belgium. Died of injuries sustained when the airfield at RAF Station Evere, Belgium was strafed by enemy aircraft. Leading Aircraftsman Medforth is buried in the Brussels Town Cemetery, Evere-les-Bruxelles, Belgium. 

They Shall Grow Not Old – Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum Memorial Book

Bob’s Fresh Grave

 

Bob’s Grave With Flowers

Leading Aircraftsman Robert Charles Medforth is buried in the Brussels Town Cemetery, Evere-les-Bruxelles, Belgium. 

Whitey, Bill and Bob Medforth

Operation Bodenplatte

Operation Bodenplatte (Baseplate) launched on January 01, 1945, was an attempt by the Luftwaffe to cripple Allied air forces in the Low Countries during the Second World War. The goal of Bodenplatte was to gain air superiority during the stagnant stage of the Battle of the Bulge, to allow the German Army and Waffen-SS forces to resume their advance. The operation was planned for 16 December 1944, but it was delayed repeatedly owing to bad weather until New Years Day, the first day that happened to be suitable for the operation. – Wikipedia

 

Eyewitness Account

This is a written eyewitness account of what happed that day from a member of my dad’s crew.  127 Wing moved to Base 56 (B56) on Nov.4.44 and remained there until Mar.1.45.

It is typed as it was written by hand.

Here’s the Story

127 moved from Mechelan to Evere – another ex-Brussels Airfield – now another bombed out mess, but the best one to date as we had a few amenities – hangers are mostly unsafe and unusable but we have discovered a properly working flush toilet in an otherwise wrecked washroom – how and why is really interesting because no other taps and plumbing worked – we also have a good cement apron to work on.

January 01, 1945.

Most personnel had been up a little late doing a little celebrating and were slightly groggy.

One squadron was just preparing to take-off. We had 4 brand new Spitfire 16’s to check out and put the squadron letters on so I started to head over to 403 disp (Dispersal) to get the stencils KH. At right angles to our work pad, a road went up at a slight rise behind an old hanger.

As I walked, suddenly I could hear gunfire from aircraft coming from the Mechelen Airfield direction. Then, what I first thought was a Spit IX aircraft appeared from that way after flying across our airfield. I said to the Spit – Hey! You better check out Mechelen as he sort of rolled up and there were black crosses well marked under his wings. Then aircraft started roaring across our aircraft and airfield. I jumped into a boarded up German slit trench as some 109’s came low over the old hanger firing as they turned to hit our new aircraft. They weren’t shooting at me but one 37 mm slug went into the wood beside me, the old German gas barrels also got hit and also our aircraft.

When I left about 2 minutes ago, Robbie was running up one Spit. Whitey was on the wing tip. I ran back down the little road. Fire was coming out of the cockpit of Robbie’s Spit. I jumped up on the wing. The cockpit was empty, Whitey got up from the ground, he had dropped beside the cement in a patch of old oil, half of his face was black.

A few of the rest of the crew had dropped on the cement apron. Bullets had bounced off the cement all around them, no one was hit – Robbie and 3 others had run to the top of the old smashed hanger. Their backs were covered in red brick dust as slugs had missed them by inches and imbedded in the bricks – and were later dug out for keepsakes. One fellow had been sitting on our prized toilet wondering what all the noise was when a slug came through the wooded door, hit the toilet between his legs, smashed the china bowl and left him sitting on a pile of rubble.

Bob Medforth got a cannon shell through both thighs. Some of the gang found him and applied field dressings to stop the bleeding, got a stretcher and ran him over to the M.Q.’s (Medical Quarters) and requested immediate attention. There were casualties coming in there pretty fast.

I carried on down to the apron to get our Bren gun, it was gone. I never heard it fire, the ammo was still there. The German planes were still raising hell in the vicinity.

A pilot who had finished his tour, ran out and jumped in a aircraft that was still running from the Squad that were leaving for take off – when the Germans hit – as he got clear of the ground he nailed two German aircraft who were crossing in front of him, two more German aircraft followed in behind him and shot him down over Brussels.

I was sent to the crash site right away by truck to find out definitely who was flying that Spit. He went down in Rue de Victare, a narrow cobblestone road solidly built up on either side.

The Spit had gone down straight in making a fair sized pit in the street – the hole was filling with bloody water. I rolled up my sleeves and started picking out pieces trying to find some proper identity.

The two men with me couldn’t stand the sight of the mess and couldn’t help. I had managed quite a pile of gore when a local Belgium came up with the pilot’s wallet. It somehow had landed on the sidewalk.

When I got back I found out that some idiot had run off with our Bren gun. He didn’t know how to use it even if he had brought along the ammunition. One fellow who had been running around  trying to help but was too excited to  do any good had a small caliber bullet right through his foot and he didn’t even know it. When one of the others asked him how come your boots are all bloody? He fell down and couldn’t walk and had to be carried.

The worse part was when some of the crew went back to the MQ’s to see how Bob was doing, they found that he was exactly the way they had left him on the stretcher, only now he was dead – from shock. The MO staff had done nothing for the seriously wounded and had only treated some of the minor injuries and hadn’t even put a blanked over Bob to prevent shock.

There were a mass of stories. The head man of the Tactical Airforce was visiting in his “Mobile Home Dakota” – it was a complete write off.

Our Bofors anti aircraft crew got shot up and put out of action very early.

We had two young pilots up for a practice flight before any operational duty. They got mixed in with the German aircraft and made a few circuits with the attacking aircraft before they had a chance to escape. The Germans couldn’t shoot at them without endangering their own aircraft. Our two pilots were too green to try being heroes.

Next day we could muster about 12 serviceable aircraft out of our four squadrons. Some aircraft were slightly damaged but some were complete write-offs.

The total aircraft destroyed that day must have been tremendous. The German air force also took tremendous losses in aircraft but their real losses were experienced pilots that they couldn’t replace.

Our losses were really only in aircraft and for most of these replacements were already available. We were changing from Spit IV’s to Spit 16’s.

Submitted by Mark White to RCAF 403 Squadron/Wolf Remembrance Day 2012

Next time, the epilog.