Genuine short snorter with Buzz Beurling’s signature?

Pat Murphy sent me this.

Pierre,

this letter and this Canadian one dollar bill have been in a file at the Vancouver Island Military Museum for many years.

Buzz Beurling Dollar bill

We came across it a while back as we sorted through the many artefacts that we have yet to put on display. I would like to make it part of the Spitfire display in fact I would like to create a special display just for this and place it next to the picture we have of Canada’s most famous Spitfire ace, if I can verify its authenticity then we will put it up on display.

Having never seen a copy of George Beurlings signature before I’m a little hesitant to claim it’s genuine, I thought if it were to be published on your blog site I may get some opinion from a collector of signatures who has seen Buzz Beurling signature.
The letter that came with the Canadian dollar bill tries to determine the names of the other signatures and has managed to figure some of them out, others are not eligible and I guess will never be known.

Beurling Dollar Bill info

On the back side of the dollar bill we see the name P/O G F Beurling, that signature is easy to read as is the words SHORT SNORTER in block letters on the left side of the bill.

Buzz Beurling Dollar bill signature

The date, September 25, 1942. Beurling was in Malta and claimed  a victory that day as well as one damaged. It stands to reason he might be celebrating that night with friends. I know he did not drink but he was famous for socializing with the fair sex and several female names appear on the bill.

Buzz Beurling Dollar bill 001 90L Buzz Beurling Dollar bill 001 180

Buzz Beurling Dollar bill 001 90L

Buzz Beurling Dollar bill Short

The tradition of the Short Snorter is not well known, It was common during the Second World War and maybe, just maybe this dollar bill is the genuine article. If any of your readers have an opinion I would love to hear them.
 
Pat Murphy
Vancouver Island Military Museum
Nanaimo B.C.

You can contact me using this contact form.

Tommy Todd Redux

I have posted a few articles about Tommy Todd on this blog.

This was the first one. He was just a name and a picture in Walter Neil Dove’s photo album and a story that I had found on the Internet.

For those who never read it I am posting it again.

Tommy Todd

Walter Neil Dove collection

Start

Who is Tommy Todd?

Standing on the wing of a Me-109
Walter Neil Dove collection

If you want to know more about this pilot…

Click here. 

It’s great reading.

On August 20th 1943, Canadians flying Spitfires arrived here from Lashenden as their runway needed repairing. Lashenden was not used again until 1944 when P51 Mustangs flew from there.

The two Canadian Squadrons were 403 and 421, led by Wing Commander Johnnie Johnson CB CBE DSO DFC DL. He finished the war as the RAF ace destroying 38 German planes. He was the only Englishman in the Canadian Wing, and he led both squadrons. He has visited us since the war and shown us the logbook he used when flying from here.

Every man, both pilots and crew, was under canvas. Briefings always took place in a large wireless-type vehicle parked under an oak tree opposite Weeks Farm. After briefings the pilots were taken aboard a utility van to their Spitfires which were at dispersal points around the airfield. Johnnie Johnson would always walk with his black Labrador across a field and over two ditches to his plane, which had the initials ” JEJ” on both sides. These are frequently seen on airplane kits to be found in model shops. I always looked out for these letters when the planes returned from operations in France. From here they flew sorties carrying small bombs to drop over France. They strafed landing barges, trains, airplanes and anything that moved. The Spitfires also escorted bombers. Many other planes had to land here due to fuel shortages etc.. On one day 13 Flying Fortresses had to land because of fuel shortage or damage. We saw most types of planes landing here with some problem or purpose!

Soon after the Spitfires arrived one of the Canadian pilots, Flying Officer Thomas Todd visited Kingsden – my home, to ask my mother if she would accommodate his wife while he was stationed at the airfield. He had married a 19-year-old Welsh air controller called Val in Swansea. The answer must have been “yes” because they both moved in with us and remained until October 1943. Toddy flew a Spitfire that had the squadron letters AUT on the fuselage (another one I always checked for on their return). One particular morning Toddy had overslept and was woken by his batman calling him from under the bedroom window. Having no time to dress or eat breakfast, with only five minutes to spare until he was due at briefing, he pulled his uniform on over his pyjamas, and went off to cause havoc over France – if only the enemy had realised!

They would fly up to three missions a day, weather permitting. Toddy flew as wingman to Johnnie Johnson and his successor; this meant he had to protect the tail of the Wing Commander’s plane, with a great risk of being shot down. This must have helped Johnnie Johnson to become the Ace! There were very few accidents or losses while the Spitfires were here. Johnnie Johnson left here on September 9th for a course in preparation for D-Day. His place was taken by Wing Commander Hugh Constant-Godefroy until October 14th 1943, when with much regret the squadron left for a permanent base for winter at Kenley. Val returned to Wales to await the birth of their baby, and later sailed to Canada to stay with Toddy‘s family. During his stay with us I had taken photographs of Toddy and Val, and my mother had taken one of me with them. We each treasured these photos for 47 years until we met again. In 1990 they came over from Canada to visit Val’s family in Wales, while over in the U.K, they came to visit us and take part in the service held in September at the memorial in Bedlam Lane for Battle of Britain Sunday. There they were joined by the next generation of pilots of the same wing. The young pilots had flown over from Germany for the ceremony (and did so for a few years afterwards). We shall never forget the sight of these youngsters cornering Toddy at Elvey Farm, where we had gone for tea. They were so interested in his Spitfire flying experiences. We have remained close to Val and Toddy and have visited them three times at their home to the north of Toronto. Toddy was shot down 6 weeks before the end of the war and was taken prisoner. He should not have been flying that day, but had offered to take the place of a young pilot who was exhausted. He records his dreadful experiences in the hands of the retreating German soldiers and the Hitler Youth for his grandsons. They can be read in the blue covered book.

Another pilot who joined the Canadians while they were here was a bit of a loner, a rebel. Johnnie Johnson had been asked to take him into the squadron and try to straighten him out. He couldn’t, but tolerated him as he was an excellent pilot. Unfortunately he would not fly as part of a team. If he saw the enemy he would fly off and deal with them himself, usually successfully, and often outnumbered by them! I remember so well how he would go off in a Tiger Moth Bi-plane trainer during the evening. He would go up very high, and then he would put the nose down and let the plane float down in a dive. This was called “the falling leaf’. He would recover just before reaching the treetops and go up again. He was asked – perhaps told – to stop this activity or face a courts martial. He did it again but the Canadian Commissioner let him off, as he was such a good pilot! His name was George Beurling known as “Screwball” Beurling or “Buzz” Beurling.

As far as I remember there was no enemy activity over here during the summer of 1943 in daylight, there may have been some after dark. No bombs were dropped on airfields around here. During that time the young airmen took part in ” Evasion Exercises” which they called “ringo” operations. The object was for the pilots of 126 Wing at Staplehurst to try and find a way into the Headcorn (127) Wing airfield and vice versa. The following extract from the diary of D.R. Matheson shows it was a welcome break from the busy operational flights they had made that summer.

“…Commanding Officer Ian Ormeston and I had been dumped out of the back of a truck in the general area. From there we pinched a bike and found our way to the vicinity of Headcorn Airfield. We crept up through the barbed wire and eventually got into the airfield. You may know that we were all living in tents at that time. Ormeston and I crept into the tent of Group Captain William McBrien, the 127 Airfield commander. We stole some of his clothes, then we stole his Station Commander’s car. We were considering the theft of his personal Spitfire but found it to be too closely guarded. We drove his car out of the main gate, getting the appropriate salutes from the service police on guard and returned in triumph to Staplehurst. Later that day a whole assortment of other pilots arrived back. One flew into the airfield in a Tiger Moth, while another arrived in a new Spitfire 12 stolen from another airfield.. ……”
He later adds that this seemingly “nonsense” training was put to good use two months later when he found himself an evader in France!

Prior to all this on October 17th 1940, in this area, a Hurricane crashed after being shot down from above the clouds by a German ME109. We heard the cannon fire and knew that it was a German plane firing, as the RAF did not have cannons. The Hurricane whistled like a bomb through the clouds and exploded on hitting the ground. A local airman home on leave, possibly Bob Turk, Dick Weeks’ cousin collected the pilot’s scattered remains.
He was Sergeant Pilot Atkinson -just 19 years old. His identity tag was later found in the crater. The Rolls Royce engine remained 12 feet down until it was dug up in 1975. Later in 1940 two very large bombs were dropped within this area, one made two craters, the other made three, the latter measured 90 yards around the perimeter and the earth was piled up around it.

On October 12th 1940 a ME109 tried to hit Headcorn station but the bomb missed, exploding close to “Chantry” the home of Frank Foreman’s family in Oak Lane. Frank’s mother, his 22-year-old sister Mary, his Aunt, Blanch Munn and the gardener, Walter Tassel were killed. Lawrence Woodcock had been delivering bread there and was fortunate enough to crawl, badly shaken, safely out from the rubble.

Occasionally in daylight during the winter of 1942/43 ME109s used to nip over here with one bomb each to attack Ashford station and strafe the streets. During that winter, Tom Milgate, Bergan Harper and I attended Ashford Tech for farming classes every Friday. The Germans seemed to know we would be there on Fridays. One particular day we were on our way back to the tech after visiting Hansons, the famous fish and chip shop, when there was a great deal of noise as we reached the High Street. A German fighter was strafing Bank Street, it was too late to take cover but we survived!!

A Flying Fortress with engine trouble was the first American plane to land on our field on February 15th 1944. One of the crew remained on guard and I went over to view it. The guard showed me all over the inside, a wonderful experience for a plane mad lad of 15 and a half.

On April 12th 1944 the American 362 Fighter Group consisting of Squadrons 377, 378, and 379 flew in with 87 Thunderbolt fighters. 84 were painted green, 3 were unpainted. About 2000 personnel accompanied them, all living under canvas. I believe the senior officers lived in the commandeered houses along Bedlam Lane. The Americans arrived very well organised, but the one thing they had not planned, was where to empty their latrines (loos). Murray Mitchel at Burnt House Farm had mostly poultry and some market garden produce, tomatoes and cucumbers. The cucumbers were grown on ridges with gullies between each row. It was in these gullies that the latrines were emptied, and in the same gullies the local women stood to cut the cucumbers, poor souls!

Where the Brookgate Caravan Park is now situated in Bedlam Lane there stood four dwellings, known as Brookgate Cottages. Due to the danger of being situated at the end of the runway they were demolished in 1943. Ironically on June 13th 1944 a Thunderbolt piloted by Lt. Curtis was taking off west to east when his plane caught fire. He kept it on the ground, running off the end of the runway where he came to a halt in the road between the two sharp corners a few yards from where the cottages had stood! Lt Curtis climbed out only seconds before the fuel and the bomb the plane was carrying exploded, leaving a large crater in the road.

The Americans flew two or three missions a day weather permitting The fighters acted as escorts to bombers with whom they would rendezvous over the channel. Because of the distance to the targets, they would carry extra fuel tanks holding 100 gallons under each wing which could then be jettisoned, allowing them to leave the bombers and hasten home, faster and lighter. In the mean time another group of Thunderbolts would take off with extra tanks to meet the bombers and escort them home. These Thunderbolts were also able to carry one tank under the fuselage and two 5001b bombs under the wings. The belly tanks used here were brought over from America in plywood packing cases to protect them while in transit. They would dive bomb the marshalling yards, trains, bridges, tunnels, and barges on the rivers Rhine and Moselle, airfields tanks and lorries on the road, besides aircraft in the air.

Alan Palmer 2004

End

This blog about RCAF 403 Squadron will never end soon if people keep writing comments.

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They would fly up to three missions a day, weather permitting. Toddy flew as wingman to Johnnie Johnson and his successor; this meant he had to protect the tail of the Wing Commander’s plane, with a great risk of being shot down. This must have helped Johnnie Johnson to become the Ace!

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Walter Neil Dove collection via Greg Bell

Paying Homage to Dennis Connolly

The Best Kept Secret on the West Island…

Click here

This homage amounts to only one word… recognition.

Dennis Connelly flew probably with this Free French pilot…
Same squadron. He was also at Dieppe.
This video is in French.

http://videos.france5.fr/video/iLyROoaf88ej.html

Jean Maridor was chasing a V-1 in 1944.
He shot it down when it was falling on a hospital.

On August 3,1944, during one of these dangerous operations Captain Jean Maridor saw a V1 directy falling on a hospital in Benenden. Unable to tilt it with his wing as pilots did, he followed right behind firing at point blank range leaving himself no way out after the V-1 explosion. He sacrificed his life destroying his 6th flying bomb, his disintegrated Spitfire crashing near the hospital he had just saved.

A Living Legend

How would you call a pilot who started flying with RAF 91 Squadron?

UK-Spitfire-Mk-Vb-W3122-F-L-Jean-Demozay-91-Squadron-1941

How would you call a pilot with more than 500 hours on a Spitfire?

How would you call a pilot who was with RAF 222 Squadron?

How would you call a pilot who fought at Dieppe in 1942?

How would you call a pilot who knew Buzz Beurling?

How would you call a pilot who was senior to Buzz Beurling so Buzz was posted in Malta instead of him?

How would you call a pilot who came back to Canada and became a flight instructor with 130 Squadron in Bagotville?

Personnel with a Hawker Hurricane XII aircraft of No.130(F) Squadron, RCAF Bagotville, October 21, 1942. Flight Lieutenant Dennis Connolly served as a flight instructor at RCAF Bagotville during the Second World War. Credit: Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-180618.

How would you call a pilot who might have known Walter Neil Dove when he was stationed there and got further training and Pierre Lecoq who was also a flight instructor in Bagotville?

Peter Lecoq who knew also Buzz Beurling.

How would you call a pilot I met this afternoon at this aviation museum in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue at the book signing of a book about RCAF 425 Squadron?

A living legend?

Final answer?

Yep… and it really made my day.

I know you will come back for more…

Well after thinking about it…

Click here.

I soloed right away because I had a full year of training before that. As far as the flying is concerned, when we completed our training in Canada, we were all sort of professional pilots. So I went to [Royal Air Force No.] 91 (Nigeria) Squadron, officially a “Jim Crow” Squadron, which meant we would do single search. In other words, we’d fly over the North Sea at different altitudes and down the French coast and pick up the German convoys along the coast. Then report them when we got back to Hawkinge [England], the [No.] 91 Squadron Base. And they would then send out, as an example, some [Hawker] Hurricane skip bombers [fighter aircrafts] or something in that nature, and we’d escort them, tacking the convoys. Also, we did the air-sea rescue work, which meant that when we lost somebody in the [English] Channel, they had air-sea rescue ready to go out and drop dinghies for them and send out high-speed launches to pick them up, if possible. And we would spot the people who were down for them and leave them. Then they’d pick them up and bring them in. Now, that was one of our duties.

Quite often, we were short of fuel getting home and I had several occasions where after an attack, everyone is sort of broken up and finding their way back, singly or in pairs, and the few cases of the attack with German fighters who were coming back from the coast and sometimes, we didn’t have any ammunition, so you had to sort of make them think you did.

I did 220 hours of operational time, which is actual engagement with the enemy, other fighters and bombers and so on. So at that time, in those two years, I did over 120 hours of actual fighting or whatever you call it. In so doing, I flew about 500 hours of [Supermarine] Spitfire [single-seat fighter aircraft] time, which was a fair amount of time in those days, in that short of time. It was an indication of how busy we were at that time because we were short of fighter pilots.

[The] Dieppe [Raid, August 19, 1942], yeah, which was just a few minutes. So we had time to refuel and re-arm and then away we went. That particular day, I can remember, we had breakfast before it was daylight and we took off just before daylight and we came back and forth, refueled and re-armed and we were ready to have a lunch but then we were scrambled again, we didn’t have lunch. And we went on until after dark. But it was a real tiring day, that one.

We had to mix it up with them [the Germans] that day and we were initially, three squadrons attacked and they had 120 airplanes up and we had 12, 36, and the odds usually were that we all, during the day at Dieppe, it went on for a full day, it was one of the longest battles during the war of, you know, fighter aircraft and so on. Actually, we were usually outnumbered anyway. So we’re more or less used to being outnumbered. And with a mix-up like that, it’s pretty hard to tell when you get a whole bunch of squadrons whirling around and shooting at each other and so on.

The [British Commonwealth Air] Training Plan that Canada had, they did a very great job of training pilots and a large number. But we had no one who had fighter experience. So our group went over[seas] and we spent a couple of years and then they brought us back to instruct in [Royal Canadian Air Force Station] Bagotville [in La Baie, Quebec], with the knowledge that we had, the present knowledge that we had from our operations and we were able to pass that on and make it part of the training course and so on. So that was one of the reasons why we were brought back.

People asked me, well, were you afraid during that time. And I just say, well, you’re just too busy, you don’t have time. You’re just so busy mixing it up that you’re doing what you have to do and, and you don’t think about being afraid.

F/L John Hodgson J/5667

One more pilot who did not make it back.

F/L John Hodgson J/5667 is with Peter Lecoq, Buzz Beurling in this picture sent by Peter Lecoq who is Peter Lecoq’s son.

Lecoq, Beurling and Hodgson (Peter Lecoq collection)

Click here

Mission: Ramrod 960.

Date: 2nd June 1944.

Unit: No. 403 Squadron R.C.A.F.

Type: Spitfire IX.

Serial: MK742.

Coded: KH –

Location: Herbecourt France.

Pilot: F/Lt. John Hodgson. R.C.A.F. J/5667. Age 22. Killed.

REASON FOR LOSS:
One of two Spitfires lost on this Ramrod 960, F/Lt. Hodgson was tragically killed when his Spitfire IX MK742 suffered complete engine failure which may have been due to flak, and crashed at Herbecount near Amiens. The second aircraft lost on this mission Spitfire IX MJ229 411 Squadron R.C.A.F., flown by F/Lt. R W Orr was hit by flak, but he was able to bale out over the Channel and was rescued.

Click here

In memory of
Flight Lieutenant
 JOHN  HODGSON
who died on June 2, 1944

Military Service:

Service Number: J/5667
Age: 22
Force: Air Force
Unit: Royal Canadian Air Force
Division: 403 Sqdn.

Additional Information:

Son of John and Susanna Hodgson; husband of Doreen Lydia Hodgson, of Southgate, Middlesex.

Burial Information:

Cemetery:
ST. PIERRE CEMETERY, AMIENS
Somme,France

Grave Reference: Plot 7. Row D. Grave 13.
Location:
ST. PIERRE CEMETERY is situated on the north-eastern outskirts of Amiens, on the northern side of the main road to Albert.

Tommy Todd

Who is Tommy Todd?

Standing on the wing of a Me-109
Walter Neil Dove collection

Want to know more…

Click here. 

Great reading.

On August 20th 1943, Canadians flying Spitfires arrived here from Lashenden as their runway needed repairing. Lashenden was not used again until 1944 when P51 Mustangs flew from there.

The two Canadian Squadrons were 403 and 421, led by Wing Commander Johnnie Johnson CB CBE DSO DFC DL. He finished the war as the RAF ace destroying 38 German planes. He was the only Englishman in the Canadian Wing, and he led both squadrons. He has visited us since the war and shown us the logbook he used when flying from here.

Every man, both pilots and crew, was under canvas. Briefings always took place in a large wireless-type vehicle parked under an oak tree opposite Weeks Farm. After briefings the pilots were taken aboard a utility van to their Spitfires which were at dispersal points around the airfield. Johnnie Johnson would always walk with his black Labrador across a field and over two ditches to his plane, which had the initials ” JEJ” on both sides. These are frequently seen on airplane kits to be found in model shops. I always looked out for these letters when the planes returned from operations in France. From here they flew sorties carrying small bombs to drop over France. They strafed landing barges, trains, airplanes and anything that moved. The Spitfires also escorted bombers. Many other planes had to land here due to fuel shortages etc.. On one day 13 Flying Fortresses had to land because of fuel shortage or damage. We saw most types of planes landing here with some problem or purpose!

Soon after the Spitfires arrived one of the Canadian pilots, Flying Officer Thomas Todd visited Kingsden – my home, to ask my mother if she would accommodate his wife while he was stationed at the airfield. He had married a 19-year-old Welsh air controller called Val in Swansea. The answer must have been “yes” because they both moved in with us and remained until October 1943. Toddy flew a Spitfire that had the squadron letters AUT on the fuselage (another one I always checked for on their return). One particular morning Toddy had overslept and was woken by his batman calling him from under the bedroom window. Having no time to dress or eat breakfast, with only five minutes to spare until he was due at briefing, he pulled his uniform on over his pyjamas, and went off to cause havoc over France – if only the enemy had realised!

They would fly up to three missions a day, weather permitting. Toddy flew as wingman to Johnnie Johnson and his successor; this meant he had to protect the tail of the Wing Commander’s plane, with a great risk of being shot down. This must have helped Johnnie Johnson to become the Ace! There were very few accidents or losses while the Spitfires were here. Johnnie Johnson left here on September 9th for a course in preparation for D-Day. His place was taken by Wing Commander Hugh Constant-Godefroy until October 14th 1943, when with much regret the squadron left for a permanent base for winter at Kenley. Val returned to Wales to await the birth of their baby, and later sailed to Canada to stay with Toddy’s family. During his stay with us I had taken photographs of Toddy and Val, and my mother had taken one of me with them. We each treasured these photos for 47 years until we met again. In 1990 they came over from Canada to visit Val’s family in Wales, while over in the U.K, they came to visit us and take part in the service held in September at the memorial in Bedlam Lane for Battle of Britain Sunday. There they were joined by the next generation of pilots of the same wing. The young pilots had flown over from Germany for the ceremony (and did so for a few years afterwards). We shall never forget the sight of these youngsters cornering Toddy at Elvey Farm, where we had gone for tea. They were so interested in his Spitfire flying experiences. We have remained close to Val and Toddy and have visited them three times at their home to the north of Toronto. Toddy was shot down 6 weeks before the end of the war and was taken prisoner. He should not have been flying that day, but had offered to take the place of a young pilot who was exhausted. He records his dreadful experiences in the hands of the retreating German soldiers and the Hitler Youth for his grandsons. They can be read in the blue covered book.

Another pilot who joined the Canadians while they were here was a bit of a loner, a rebel. Johnnie Johnson had been asked to take him into the squadron and try to straighten him out. He couldn’t, but tolerated him as he was an excellent pilot. Unfortunately he would not fly as part of a team. If he saw the enemy he would fly off and deal with them himself, usually successfully, and often outnumbered by them! I remember so well how he would go off in a Tiger Moth Bi-plane trainer during the evening. He would go up very high, and then he would put the nose down and let the plane float down in a dive. This was called “the falling leaf’. He would recover just before reaching the treetops and go up again. He was asked – perhaps told – to stop this activity or face a courts martial. He did it again but the Canadian Commissioner let him off, as he was such a good pilot! His name was George Beurling known as “Screwball” Beurling or “Buzz” Beurling.

As far as I remember there was no enemy activity over here during the summer of 1943 in daylight, there may have been some after dark. No bombs were dropped on airfields around here. During that time the young airmen took part in ” Evasion Exercises” which they called “ringo” operations. The object was for the pilots of 126 Wing at Staplehurst to try and find a way into the Headcorn (127) Wing airfield and vice versa. The following extract from the diary of D.R. Matheson shows it was a welcome break from the busy operational flights they had made that summer.

“…Commanding Officer Ian Ormeston and I had been dumped out of the back of a truck in the general area. From there we pinched a bike and found our way to the vicinity of Headcorn Airfield. We crept up through the barbed wire and eventually got into the airfield. You may know that we were all living in tents at that time. Ormeston and I crept into the tent of Group Captain William McBrien, the 127 Airfield commander. We stole some of his clothes, then we stole his Station Commander’s car. We were considering the theft of his personal Spitfire but found it to be too closely guarded. We drove his car out of the main gate, getting the appropriate salutes from the service police on guard and returned in triumph to Staplehurst. Later that day a whole assortment of other pilots arrived back. One flew into the airfield in a Tiger Moth, while another arrived in a new Spitfire 12 stolen from another airfield.. ……”
He later adds that this seemingly “nonsense” training was put to good use two months later when he found himself an evader in France!

Prior to all this on October 17th 1940, in this area, a Hurricane crashed after being shot down from above the clouds by a German ME109. We heard the cannon fire and knew that it was a German plane firing, as the RAF did not have cannons. The Hurricane whistled like a bomb through the clouds and exploded on hitting the ground. A local airman home on leave, possibly Bob Turk, Dick Weeks’ cousin collected the pilot’s scattered remains.
He was Sergeant Pilot Atkinson -just 19 years old. His identity tag was later found in the crater. The Rolls Royce engine remained 12 feet down until it was dug up in 1975. Later in 1940 two very large bombs were dropped within this area, one made two craters, the other made three, the latter measured 90 yards around the perimeter and the earth was piled up around it.

On October 12th 1940 a ME109 tried to hit Headcorn station but the bomb missed, exploding close to “Chantry” the home of Frank Foreman’s family in Oak Lane. Frank’s mother, his 22-year-old sister Mary, his Aunt, Blanch Munn and the gardener, Walter Tassel were killed. Lawrence Woodcock had been delivering bread there and was fortunate enough to crawl, badly shaken, safely out from the rubble.

Occasionally in daylight during the winter of 1942/43 ME109s used to nip over here with one bomb each to attack Ashford station and strafe the streets. During that winter, Tom Milgate, Bergan Harper and I attended Ashford Tech for farming classes every Friday. The Germans seemed to know we would be there on Fridays. One particular day we were on our way back to the tech after visiting Hansons, the famous fish and chip shop, when there was a great deal of noise as we reached the High Street. A German fighter was strafing Bank Street, it was too late to take cover but we survived!!

A Flying Fortress with engine trouble was the first American plane to land on our field on February 15th 1944. One of the crew remained on guard and I went over to view it. The guard showed me all over the inside, a wonderful experience for a plane mad lad of 15 and a half.

On April 12th 1944 the American 362 Fighter Group consisting of Squadrons 377, 378, and 379 flew in with 87 Thunderbolt fighters. 84 were painted green, 3 were unpainted. About 2000 personnel accompanied them, all living under canvas. I believe the senior officers lived in the commandeered houses along Bedlam Lane. The Americans arrived very well organised, but the one thing they had not planned, was where to empty their latrines (loos). Murray Mitchel at Burnt House Farm had mostly poultry and some market garden produce, tomatoes and cucumbers. The cucumbers were grown on ridges with gullies between each row. It was in these gullies that the latrines were emptied, and in the same gullies the local women stood to cut the cucumbers, poor souls!

Where the Brookgate Caravan Park is now situated in Bedlam Lane there stood four dwellings, known as Brookgate Cottages. Due to the danger of being situated at the end of the runway they were demolished in 1943. Ironically on June 13th 1944 a Thunderbolt piloted by Lt. Curtis was taking off west to east when his plane caught fire. He kept it on the ground, running off the end of the runway where he came to a halt in the road between the two sharp corners a few yards from where the cottages had stood! Lt Curtis climbed out only seconds before the fuel and the bomb the plane was carrying exploded, leaving a large crater in the road.

The Americans flew two or three missions a day weather permitting The fighters acted as escorts to bombers with whom they would rendezvous over the channel. Because of the distance to the targets, they would carry extra fuel tanks holding 100 gallons under each wing which could then be jettisoned, allowing them to leave the bombers and hasten home, faster and lighter. In the mean time another group of Thunderbolts would take off with extra tanks to meet the bombers and escort them home. These Thunderbolts were also able to carry one tank under the fuselage and two 5001b bombs under the wings. The belly tanks used here were brought over from America in plywood packing cases to protect them while in transit. They would dive bomb the marshalling yards, trains, bridges, tunnels, and barges on the rivers Rhine and Moselle, airfields tanks and lorries on the road, besides aircraft in the air.

Alan Palmer 2004

A little known No. 403 Squadron pilot

Click here…

Buzz Beurling flew with the 403 as well as Johnnie Johnson.

Few people know that Greg’s grandfather flew some missions with Johnnie Johnson as his wingman.

Click here

Excerpt…

London, June 28, 1944 – (CP) – Wing-Cmdr. J. E. (Johnny) Johnson, an Englishman from Nottingham, with 32 enemy planes shot down in air combat, shared today with Group Capt. A. G. (Sailor) Malan, of South Africa, the status of top-ranking Allied air ace of this war.
Johnson, who commands a Canadian fighter wing operating from a base in Normandy, downed two German ME109’s yesterday in air duels over the bridgehead front to bring his score up to that of Malan. The latter now is on ground duty.
Top-ranking Canadian airman is Flt.-Lt. George (Buzz) Beurling, of the R.C.A.F., now an instructor in Canada. Beurling has downed 31 planes.
One of the highest-scoring Canadians flying from the R.C.A.F. Normandy base which was established shortly alter D-day, is Sqdn-Ldr. Wally McLeod of Regina, whose total stands at 17. Johnson’s Canadian wing achieved a mark of five enemy planes downed within 48 hours last week. Johnson, a quiet-looking pipe smoking man, is regarded by many airmen who have flown with him, as one of the most brilliant flyers now on operations.

This should tell you a lot about his flying abilities.

Greg’s grandfather is Walter Neil Dove.

Walter Neil Dove

He is the father of Greg’s mother.

Greg is in the process of scanning all the pictures in his grandfather’s album as well as scanning his logbook.

It will take time to do this.

He has a lot to scan.

So this is why I will post an article every day.

We don’t have many readers yet on this blog.

But this is not the reason why Greg and I are teaming up.

We only want to keep the 403 alive…