Keith Lindsay, Edmonton meets Flying Officer Garland

Update

Flying Officer Garland is not the same pilot mentioned on this post.

A Canadian Tempest pilot, Flt. Lt. J. W. Garland of Richmond, Ont., jumped two Focke Wulfs just 50 feet from the ground. He dived from 9,000 feet and destroyed both.

Honest mistake…

He was posted however with 403 Squadron and his story will be partially told here.

MLG3


Ripples in the water.

The post below was written in 2011. There is a name of a pilot I did not research back then.

I have just received a message in my inbox and it is at the end of the original post.


Original post

This picture did not mean much to Greg when he was looking at his grandfather’s photo album…

 

Walter Neil Dove collection

Keith Lindsay was with this pilot when the Luftwaffe carried Operation Bodenplatte.

Click here for information on this pilot…

Canadian Fliers Down 36 German Aircraft in Luftwaffe Attack
London, Jan. 1, 1945 – (CP) – Canadian fighter pilots, in one of their greatest triumphs during the war, destroyed at least 36 of 84 Germans shot down today by the RAF 2nd Tactical Air Force.
The big Canadian score was rolled up as the German Air Force came out in its greatest show of strength for three years in an attempt to smash up Allied airfields in Belgium, Holland and France.

Five Planes Missing
Canadian fighter squadrons accounted for 35 enemy aircraft and the 36th was destroyed by a Canadian in an RAF Tempest Squadron Five. RCAF planes are missing.
Although the Huns’ low-level strafings included RCAF airfields and caused some damage, the operational program of the squadrons was not interrupted and approximately 300 sorties were flown. Some enemy planes were destroyed white the airfields were under attack and others when the enemy fled for home.
The pilot of one RCAF reconnaissance squadron, whose name was not immediately disclosed, destroyed two ME190s and damaged two FW190s as he returned to base.
Spitfire fighter-bombers also were active and destroyed or damaged several locomotives and freight cars in the German supply area around St. Vith in Belgium south of Malmedy.
The Canadian Wolf Squadron alone knocked down five out of a formation of 60 enemy craft which strafed the squadron’s airfield in the Brussels area. Two others probably were destroyed and another damaged in a low-level action that developed into the hottest dogfight for Canadian fighters in months.

Bags 2 Focke-Wolfs
Four RCAF Typhoons returning from a reconnaissance flight met enemy fighters and destroyed three and probably destroyed a fourth. Two were destroyed by FO. A. H. Fraser of Westmount, Que., and the other by FO. H. Laurence of Edson, Alta. All were FW190s.
A Canadian Tempest pilot, Flt. Lt. J. W. Garland of Richmond, Ont., jumped two Focke Wulfs just 50 feet from the ground. He dived from 9,000 feet and destroyed both.
In the Wolf Squadron dogfight, PO. Steve Butte of Michel, B.C., and Mac Reeves of Madoc, Ont., each downed two planes and Butte also claimed one damaged. FIt. Sgt. Keith Lindsay destroyed one and also had a “probable.”
These were the first scores for Butte and Lindsay.
Butte and Lindsay found themselves in a swirling mass of Huns as they took off on a morning patrol. Butte sent an ME-109 down in flames with cannon fire.
Next victim was an FW-190. “There were strikes on his wing and engine, and I saw him crash on the edge of a near by town,” Butte said.

Out of Ammunition
Then he hit an ME-109, seeing strikes and smoke, but losing sight of the enemy plane as it dived steeply toward the ground.
“By this time all my ammunition was gone and a Hun got on my tail,” Butte continued, “I managed to get on his tail, but couldn’t do anything about it.”
Lindsay shot one plane down in flames and registered a cannon hit on another, but couldn’t determine whether it crashed.
Reeves and his namesake, Flt. Lt. Dick Reeves of 1507 Mt. Pleasant Rd., Toronto, who is no relation, plunged into a flock of enemy planes while returning from patrol. Dick Reeves had to land immediately because of a faulty motor, but Mac, his guns belching, closed on the plane which caught fire and crashed. He attacked the second victim from underneath and the pilot baled out.
It was announced tonight that the Canadian Mosquito Squadron on the Continent during Sunday night destroyed two Junkers planes while on defensive patrol.

Keith Lindsay was with another pilot on January 1st 1945.

Mac Reeves was from Madoc, Ontario.

Walter Neil Dove collection

Mac did not come back from the war…

Walter Neil Dove collection

End of the original post

Message: 

Thursday, 17 August, 1944

Three armed recces today and a black day for us. On the first armed recce we lost F/O Weber, a newcomer to the Squadron whom we saw bale out and on the second we lost F/O Boyle, a second tour type, an old-timer of the Squadron and a darned good type.

We also lost F/O Garland (pictured below) on the second recce, a newcomer, all to Jerry flak. Here is the last entry of F/O Garland’s journal: On Aug 17 at 1800 hours we went on our third trip of the day strafing German trucks and transport in the Falaise Gap. I was flying #2 to F/O Greene and reached target in a few minutes.

After several passes at many levels, I was climbing back up from one pass at about 700 feet when I was hit in the base of the right wing by a 4mm shell. The plane went out of control but I managed to recover and by trimming it hard managed to crawl along. I immediately turned for home and started climbing for height. The shell must have hit my oil cooler as the oil pressure was gone, the engine commencing to run rough and the temperature started to rise. I tried to jettison my crop top but had to slide it back finally. Flames started to come from the stacks and the temp had gone past the danger mark so I switched off the engine and prepared to bail out. By the time I reached approximately 2000 feet, undid my harness, opened my door, stood up in the seat, slowed the plane up to about 130 and looking down dove out. My trip was suddenly stopped as I was halfway out. Later I reasoned that it was my dinghy straps that had become entangled with the door. I managed to hack loose and after feeling myself slide along the fuselage and past the tail, I pulled the ripcord and waited what felt like hours. Suddenly my fall was stopped with a quick jolt and looking up saw my chute opened. On looking down, I was just in time to see my plane explode into the ground. I had bailed out I think near St. Pierre which was about five miles south east of Caen and at that time was in the center of fighting. I pulled my chute half shut in order to reach the ground as quickly as possible in case any German snipers were around. I landed in the matter of a few seconds in the center of a small field filled with hay. I released my chute and started to run as fast as I could to the nearest hedge. When about ten yards from it I heard something like “Halt” and on looking closely at a small hole in the hedge, I observed a German with a machine gun pointed at me. I immediately stopped and upon his direction went slowly towards him. On passing through the hedge, I discovered about thirty five Germans along the hedge. It must have been a German patrol which I had run across in No Man’s Land. After searching me, they commenced to move slowly back to their lines with their head Sargent keeping a very close watch upon me. We kept walking until about nine at night when the Sargent brought me to what seemed a divisional headquarters.

F/O Garland would later escape capture and find his way back to London via the French underground. He would furlough back home but not have to return to battle due to the war ending. F/O Garland would return to Canada, marry his sweetheart Marguerite, and successfully obtain an Engineering degree from Queen’s and ultimately his MBA from Harvard.

F/O Garland with Marguerite had 6 children, 15 grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren (still counting). F/O Garland passed away in September 2007.

Below are photos courtesy David Garland

Gil Gillis with captured Fw 190 – Redux

As a sequel to Hart Finley’story, something I wrote in 2011 when I knew little about 403 Squadron.

Original post

Gil Gillis was probably one of Greg’s grandfather’s best friend…

We see him in many pictures in the photo album.

 

Walter Neil Dove collection

Gil is from Pense, Saskatchewan in Canada.

One of these days, someone will google his name on the Internet and find this blog…

Come back for more pictures from Greg’s collection.

End of the original post

That was back then. Since 2011 I wrote more articles about Gil.

Click here.

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!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Walter Neil Dove collection via Greg Bell

ME 262 Is Back in Production

Mike wrote me yesterday about some links I had posted on the blog about RCAF 403 Squadron.

He had a good point.

It came as a surprise to me to find that the ME 262 is back in production.

As much as I like the Corsair and the B29 links, the ME 262 Project is much more relevant to your 403 Blog.

After all, 403’s Spitfire bagged a few of these bad boys.

http://www.stormbirds.com/project/index.html

I offered him this explanation.

I told Mike that the B-29 link came from the son of Peter Lecoq who was a pilot with the 403, and that the Corsair link came from another blog about someone who befriended a war veteran who was a mechanic in the Pacific.

Old Man Jack.

B-29 Restored with New Engines

As sent by Peter Lecoq a few minutes ago…

This aircraft was at Spirit of St.Louis air show several years ago. Neat

fifi

B-29 Restored with New Engines

I thought you guys would like to see a short video of the only flyable B-29 in the world.

Notice the flight engineer is still wearing his “Confederate” Air Force patch.

To our friends who may not understand the passion we feel for planes and particularly planes from WW11, this is Fifi. It is the only flying B-29 Stratofortress in the world.

This is one of the combat airplanes that flew from Iwo Jima, Saipan, Tinian islands to bomb Japan and help win the war. It was usually escorted by P-51 Mustangs to protect her from enemy fighters but many thousands of planes and aircrews were lost fighting for our country. This happened at a time in history before we had long range missiles and electronics. These planes were flown by men from our farms and cities who left their families at home and risked their lives in high altitude gun fights. It was up close, brutal and extremely dangerous but they risked it all to protect our country. Many never came home again. We love, respect and honor all of our veterans. But we also have a love affair with the planes. It is a permanent addiction for us so we preserve these wonderful aircraft so you can see and experience the marvelous machines that preserved our freedom.

We have completely rebuilt this aircraft and those powerful prop engines to bring Fifi back to life. It took years to accomplish, many thousands of donated dollars and thousands of hours of work by many unpaid volunteers to make this happen so that everyone can share this important part of our history. This is a unique flying museum.

If you get a chance to see her at an air show, don’t pass up the chance. You are watching history and she is the only one left out of thousands. This is truly a rare aircraft.

Enjoy the video.

Col. Tom Leo,
Golden Gate Wing

Someone did a nice job of filming Fifi, the only flying B-29…

http://vimeo.com/17388627

Peter Lecoq’s Contribution Once Again

Peter likes to send me links about aviation in his e-mails.

Here is the latest one.

Prepare to get reeled in.  It is just not possible to stop looking at these sites. 

KH-D revisited

Remember this picture… of Spitfire AR389!

Spitfire Mk Vb

And the pilot who flew it…

The pilot is mentioned in this article written by Dean Black.

The caption says the pilot was killed later in the day.

There is more to this story…    

Paying homage to the fine young men of 403 Squadron

Do you remember this article I wrote a few months ago?

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

This is a follow-up story.

Dean sent me this e-mail with a picture that tells all.

On your blog you have a page for Beurling, and on that page you have a photo for Tommy Todd. Below the photo of Todd you have a story from Alan Palmer. I have visited Alan and his wife Sheila twice. Here is a photo I took of them. If you look behind them, and a bit left of Alan’s arm you can see a hedgerow running away from Alan and Sheila. In the distance you can see three Canadian maple trees – one is a dark purple and two are yellow, in contrast against all the other green vegetation. These trees were planted by Sheila and Alan, in memory of the Canadians of 403 Squadron who flew from the airfield, which is just across the road from the trees. If you look just short of the maple trees, along the hedgerow you can make out the memorial to the squadron, that is installed to mark the airfield.

KH-C

No pictures of any KH-Cs but I found this piece of information on this site

I found what it meant…

X4329 (serial number)

Ia (type)

1094 (the quantity of aircraft in the range)

EA (built at Eastleigh)

MIII (contract number)

FF (first flew) 31-8-40

No. 8 Maintenance Unit 2-9-40

616 Squadron 7-9-40

65 Squadron 26-2-41

308 Squadron 13-4-41

403 Squadron ‘KH-C’ 21-5-41

61 OTU 11-8-41 engine failed hit tree in force-landed near Ellesmere Salop

CE 16-6-42

C Allocated to Instructional Airframe duties (for ground training)

E Write-off

616 Squadron scramble from Kenley, late August 1940 (source)