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

Tommy Todd Revisited Redux: the Sequel

Post 321

This post is for you Andrew.

This has happen so many times since 2011 that I have stopped pinching myself.

Andrew Todd contacted me!

Andrew whose grandfather was Tommy Todd left more comments…

I don’t know how you found me but I am sure glad you did! I feel like I know you somehow but can’t figure out the connection.

If you start reading this blog from the start, I know you will start pinching yourself then stop pinching.

Andrew had written a comment on this blog in December 2011, but he had never contacted me again…

Tom Todd is my grandfather.  These pictures are new to me.  I am at work and have to keep it together but feel overwhelmed with emotion so I will have to look at this later in private.  Thanks for posting this.

Walter Neil Dove collection via Greg Bell

Many people contacted me since 2011 and they shared memories and pictures.

I posted everything!

This is why this is Post No. 321.

Captain Foster’s son wrote me, Van Sainsbury’s son wrote me, someone who knew Gil Gillis wrote me. Peter Lecoq’s son wrote me…

Dean Black, who is a retired air force Lieutenant-Colonel with 30 years’ service in the Canadian Forces, wrote me and share tons of information,

George White’s son wrote me and he wrote articles about his father… 

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Tony Cannell was the first person to reach me on this blog…

He knew Tommy Todd as well as his wife Val and he shared a story.

Walter Neil Dove collection via Greg Bell

I knew Tom Todd very well and despite the fact he was older (I missed the war by two years) he was my best friend.

I took him flying occasionally in light planes in the early sixties. He loved that and would sometimes recall some of his wartime experiences while we tootled around the skies west of Ottawa, or later around Maple Airport north of Toronto.

One incident he recounted was of flying a rhubarb, busting trains etc. He and his friend Izzy Isbister were warned to stay away from the Rhone Valley because of the intense flak in the area. Unfortunately, in their haste to get away after intense activity and getting low on fuel, they mistook the Rhone for another river and flew through some heavy flak. Leaving the coast, Tom could see cannon shells hitting the sea just behind Izzy just ahead. Taking evasive action, they were lucky to get out of that little mess with, no doubt, a great sigh of relief !

Other little incidents were just as interesting too !

Tom was a very quiet,  unassuming and wonderful friend.

Tony Cannell

I wrote this on Tommy Todd.

Click here to read my article. 

Someone else had written a story about Tommy Todd. I just copied it because I did not want to lose that precious story found also in Walter Neil Dove’s precious logbook.

F/L Todd Shot Down by Flak North of Emmerich

Walter Neil Dove collection via Greg Bell

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.

I had told Greg I was going to write about Tommy Todd once again so he revisited his grandpa’s photo album and Greg found this…

Walter Neil Dove collection via Greg Bell

Walter Neil Dove collection via Greg Bell

To be continued…?

There is no end in sight about what we can discover about RCAF 403 Squadron especially since Andrew is going to contact Karl.

Tommy Todd Revisited Redux

Someone added a comment on a post about Tommy Todd.

Tommy Todd:

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.

Can somebody bring me in contact with one of Tommy’s grandsons?
Up till now I do not know where he came down March 31, 1945.

Regards
Karl Lusink
Researcher from The Netherlands

START

One day someone will write a comment on this blog and say that he or she is related either to Captain Foster, Mo Morrison, Van Sainsbury, Ron Forsyth, Stew Tosh, Gil Gillis, Johnnie Johnson, Mac Reeves or Keith Lindsay…

 

Walter Neil Dove collection via Greg Bell

Tony Cannell is the first person to reach us…

He knew Tommy Todd as well as his wife Val.

 

Walter Neil Dove collection via Greg Bell

I knew Tom Todd very well and despite the fact he was older (I missed the war by two years) he was my best friend.

I took him flying occasionally in light planes in the early sixties. He loved that and would sometimes recall some of his wartime experiences while we tootled around the skies west of Ottawa, or later around Maple Airport north of Toronto.

One incident he recounted was of flying a rhubarb, busting trains etc. He and his friend Izzy Isbister were warned to stay away from the Rhone Valley because of the intense flak in the area. Unfortunately, in their haste to get away after intense activity and getting low on fuel, they mistook the Rhone for another river and flew through some heavy flak. Leaving the coast, Tom could see cannon shells hitting the sea just behind Izzy just ahead. Taking evasive action, they were lucky to get out of that little mess with, no doubt, a great sigh of relief !

Other little incidents were just as interesting too !

Tom was a very quiet,  unassuming and wonderful friend.

Tony Cannell

Want to read what I wrote on Tommy Todd?

Click here to read my article. 

In fact someone else wrote it, I just copied it.

This is an excerpt in case you forgot to read it the first time…

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.

F/L Todd Shot Down by Flak North of Emmerich

Walter Neil Dove collection via Greg Bell

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.

I told Greg I was going to write about Tommy Todd once again so he revisited his grandpa’s photo album again and found this…

Walter Neil Dove collection via Greg Bell

END

North of Emmerich.

North of Emmerich

To be continued…?

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.

Reg Morris

This blog is by no means written to glorify war.

It’s not about shooting down Germans airplanes or strafing MET.

It’s about sharing pictures of those who had to fight for their side.

It’s about remembering.

Reg Morris is another pilot in Walter Neil Dove’s photo album. Reg Morris came back, just like Tommy Todd and Doug Orr did.

Little is known about him.

So when Greg scans pictures and send them along, I write what I can find.

This is Reg Morris in the cockpit.

Reg Morris

Collection Walter Neil Dove

This is the story I found on the Internet.

This is an excerpt taken on page 303 and the following page. Reg Morris’ name is in there as well as others. I will put their names in red as well as information found in F/L Dove’s logbook and photo album as I go along.

This article will be edited as I go along and review it.

So come back once and a while. It will be worth it.

Lest we forget…

The Luftwaffe appeared again for a brief while on April 23rd [1945].

Returning from an early morning patrol of the Bremen- Hamburg area the Wolves [403 Squadron] met twelve long-nosed FW 190s.

Eight of the aircraft were milling about low over an autobahn, the other four acting as cover at 3,000 feet.

The squadron engaged the four flying as cover and F/Ls H. R. Finley

and W. N. Dove

each destroyed one. F/O A. McLaren experienced engine failure southeast of Bremen and crash-landed but called up to say that he had got down safely. He eventually was released from a prisoner-of-war camp.

Later in the morning two more FWs were seen but they took refuge in cloud.

The Oshawa Squadron damaged some transport and strafed a tank.

A total of 22 transports, two locomotives and several goods cars was accounted for by the Hornets on the 24th while the Red Indians claimed a complete train.

But there was a bigger and more varied toll on the 25th.

F/O Bob Shannon of the Wolves destroyed an FW.190 at Hagenow just after it had landed and, as aircraft in large numbers were reported parked there and at Schwerin, the squadron visited those two aerodromes later in the day and damaged four enemy aircraft on the ground. S/L Zary claimed an Me.262 and a Ju.88 while F/Ls Reg Morris and E. O. Doyle each damaged an Me.262.

On the southwest corner of Schwerin aerodrome twelve Me.109s were strafed and as our pilots pulled up and away they noted a large explosion which enveloped all the aircraft in a cloud of dust.

About twenty aircraft were seen at Travemunde aerodrome and sea station and again there was ground strafing with good results. F/L A. E. Fleming destroyed an He.III and F/O Leslie claimed what he thought was an FW.189. A Do.26 was damaged by F/O Fred Town with the help of F/O J. R. Baker and FS J. C. Pickeringand in addition six small speed boats and two tugs were damaged. The squadron also reported two submarines lying in the channel. The Hornets participated in the strafing of Schwerin where they saw some sixty assorted Ju.87s, FW.190s, Ju.88s and other types of aircraft. One Ju.88 was destroyed by F/O A. J. Dilworth and damage was claimed to two Ju.87s and an unidentified aircraft by F/L Finley, to another unidentified aircraft and a Ju.87 by S/L DeCourcy, who got the D.F.C. for his part in this attack, to a Ju.87 and an unidentified aircraft by F/O H. A. Greene, a twin-engined and a single-engined aircraft by F/O M. C. Tucker, a Ju.87 by F/O O. A. Dodson, an FW.190 by F/O G. S. Taylor and a Ju.87 by F/O W. G. Conway.

In the evening the same squadron visited Neustadt aerodrome where they sighted twenty-five Me.109s and FW.190s on the ground. Two FWs were destroyed by F/O Tucker and one by F/L Finley while F/O Taylor damaged two more. The squadron also had much success against road transport. This time, however, F/O Dilworth failed to return, his aircraft being assumed to have been hit by flak. The Hornets lost two pilots the next day, too. F/L Watt reported a glycol leak after an attack on road transport near Neumünster and subsequently crash-landed while F/O Conway said that he had hit a pole when pulling up from a ground attack. He was not heard from after he asked for directions to make base. Watt was later reported in hospital and Conway safe in the United Kingdom.

The Wolves recorded an attack on road transport and also strafed a locomotive with a train-load of lumber. The 27th and 28th were poor days though the Wolves saw a Do.217 flying southeast at 6,000 feet on the 28th.

F/L Cap Foster attacked it from astern and it burst into flames and crashed.

Foster now had three destroyed and a damaged to his credit, as well as several transport vehicles, a score which netted him the D.F.C.

On the 29th the same squadron encountered an FW.190 at which W/C J. F. Edwards took a squirt-but it escaped in the clouds. Similarly the Hornets saw an Me.109 at Lübeck which also escaped.

The month closed with a good score on enemy road and rail transport by the Wolves and the Oshawa Squadron. In addition F/L Fleming of the Wolves shot down an Me.108. The Oshawa Squadron set something of a record when for twenty-four sorties it claimed 45 motor vehicles destroyed and io6 damaged, together with two locomotives and five goods trucks damaged too. S/L Mitchner, D.F.C., was awarded a Bar for his share in this devastation of enemy transport. An interesting note was added to the diary of the Red Indians by F/O Marsden on April 29th: Soon after we landed (at Reinsehlen) Evans and myself heard of the army finding one of those graves containing German political prisoners of all nationalities so out of curiosity we went to ee it. There had been 156 of them in all–the last 19 of them were still there and those are what we saw. It wasn’t a pleasant sight as they had been dead since April 5th and were being exhumed by local farmers overrun by the Army. We’d both seen photos of them in newspapers but hardly believed it. However, there’s no doubt about those pictures now.

The close of hostilities found the McGregor-Northcott Wing at Wunstorf. On May 1st the Rams on a patrol of the Schwerin Lake area sighted an FW.190 which W/C G. W. Northcott, D.S.O., D.F.C., damaged. A second one was seen taking off from Lübeck aerodrome and was likewise damaged by S/L Klersy. On the last patrol of the day the aircraft of F/L G. D. Cameron, D.F.C., was hit by flak and he had to bale out but he was escorted back to his unit by a German doctor.

The Grizzly Bears were more unfortunate, Losing P/O D. B. Young, who was posted as “missing, particulars unknown”. The same Bears gained two victories on the and when F/O Wilson destroyed an Me.109 and F/O G. N. Smith damaged an Me.262, the only other event of the day being the damaging of a locomotive and a passenger car by the Falcons.

Klersy was killed on a training flight on May 22nd. His D.S.O. was announced in June, 1945, at which time he was credited with the destruction or damaging of go enemy vehicles, eight locomotives and eight goods trucks since the award of the Bar to his D.F.C. His total of aircraft destroyed in the air and on the ground was 16½. 2 F/O J. P. Francis who had destroyed four e/a was awarded the D.F.C.

The 3rd was a great day, a kind of grand finale to the whole continental campaign.

The Rams had been patrolling over Hamburg as the ground forces entered the city and, while in search of enemy transport, saw a grass strip at Schonberg, northeast of Kiel, with a number of enemy aircraft in various stages of camouflage. The Rams attacked and, meeting no opposition, continued firing until they ran out of ammunition. S/L Klersy destroyed a Ju.52 and an He.III. F/L Watt destroyed a Ju.52 and a Ju.87, F/O Francis destroyed two Ju.52s and F/Os Gudgeon and Dack each three more; P/O V. E. Cottrell destroyed two Ju. 52s and P/O Woodill one He.III. In addition the squadron accounted for five locomotives damaged, thirteen rail trucks damaged, seven motor vehicles destroyed and 47 damaged and three horse-drawn transports damaged. The Winnipeg Bears also added to their score. Sighting three Fi.156s on the ground north of Neumünster, F/Ls Innes and Peck attacked and left all three damaged. Innes now had three enemy aircraft destroyed and was awarded the D.F.C. in September 1945 A little later S/L Gordon, D.F.C. saw another Fi.156 flying near the deck and shot it down in flames. F/L J. A. O’Brian was hit by his own ricochets during this operation and baled out southeast of Hamburg. The same day he was reported as on his way back to the squadron. For the Grizzly Bears and the Falcons it was an unfortunate day, both losing one pilot. F/L McClarty, D.F.C., of the Bears was hit by flak and disappeared twenty miles south of Kiel while F/L Pieri of the Falcons was forced to bale out when his aircraft likewise was hit by flak or ricochets.

 The last score of the war for this wing was obtained on May 4th. A locomotive and five trucks were damaged by the Falcons and an He.III was destroyed by F/L D. F. Campbell and F/O T. L. O’Brien of the Grizzly Bears. The Winnipeg Squadron got two motor vehicles and damaged ten others. Flying on the 5th was uneventful.

On May 12th the Wing moved to Fassberg. There they found many wrecked German aircraft.

They soon settled in and availed themselves of the many amenities that they found, including the two swimming pools. On July 5th they reluctantly left for Utersen, a few miles north of Hamburg, where they were within reach of the many entertainments provided for service personnel.

They remained there throughout the summer, the Wing forming part of the Occupation Forces.

Since D-Day, June 6th, 1944, the McGregor-Northcott Wing had flown 22,372 sorties and destroyed 361 enemy aircraft in addition to taking an enormous toll of ground targets. Reinsehlen continued to be the locus operandi of the Turner-Edwards Wing until its official disbandment on July 7th, when two of the squadrons, the Oshawa and the Hornets, were transferred to the McGregor-Northcott Wing, the Wolves and the Red Indians being disbanded with Wing headquarters.

May started with a bang. On the 1st, four squadrons maintained standing patrols over the bridgehead across the Elbe, carried out armed reconnaissances in the Schwerin area, southeast of Lübeck, and provided escort fighter cover to medium bombers attacking Lübeck. The reconnaissances provided many targets on the roads and the second patrol netted an encounter between the Wolves and twenty FW.190s. In the dog-fight two of the enemy were destroyed by WO R. C. Neitz and F/O R. Young, one was probably destroyed by F/O Bob Shannon, and eight were damaged, one by F/O Leslie, two by WO Neitz, two by F/L C. L. Rispler and three by Shannon. After escorting Mitchells to Lübeck, the Red Indians on an armed reconnaissance in the Schwerin area saw an FW.190 which was shot down by the joint efforts of F/L W. P. Harper, F/O E. H. Mann and WO P. S. Murphy. The squadron also successfully attacked a convoy of motor vehicles while the Hornets similarly had considerable success against road transport.

On the 2nd the Wing participated in almost every conceivable kind of activity, patrols, armed reconnaissances, escorts to bombers and to a V.I.P. (very important personage), scrambles, fighter sweeps, and reconnaissances to check up on bombing results. The Wing got credit for an enemy aircraft when a German wireless mechanic landed a Henschel 126 on the aerodrome and, with another member of the master race, surrendered to the Canadians. The Wolves scored again when, on a patrol of the bridgehead, an He.III was shot down by F/O Town. But it was really the Hornets’ day. On a morning patrol, four of their pilots destroyed twelve transports and damaged twenty more, four more pilots got an additional twelve and still later the squadron found a number of aircraft on .the east shore of a lake in the Lübeck area and destroyed one He.III and a Fieseler- Storch as well as damaging two more He.IIIs. Then a Ju.88 was seen flying north at 2,500 feet over Bad Segeberg. F/O M. J. Clow and F/L Finley shot it down but Finley’s aircraft was hit by the rear gunner’s fire and Finley had to bale out. He returned to the squadron three days later. The Red Indians on their afternoon patrols damaged five trains and destroyed ten motor vehicles.

A new note was introduced on May 3rd when, in addition to their other duties, the squadrons indulged in antishipping strikes. The Wolves turned in a varied score of one locomotive and rolling stock damaged, road transport destroyed and damaged, flak towers destroyed, hits on a runway and dispersed aircraft, trawlers and cargo ships damaged -and rail cuts obtained. The Oshawa Squadron, on an otherwise uneventful day, got its last victory of the war  when F/O Rex Tapley and P/O Larry Spurr jointly destroyed a Do.217. The Red Indians’ only relief from a series of dull patrols was an attack by an FW.190 which failed to do any damage and then made off in clouds. The Hornets damaged locomotives and rolling stock, road transport, cut roads and rails, destroyed a trawler and damaged others, and destroyed a Ju.88 which fell to the guns of S/L T. J. DeCourcy, F/L R. G. Sim and F/O W. A. Marshall.

Subsequent operations by the Wing provided nothing eventful.

Since D-Day the Wing had flown 20,084 sorties, destroyed 184 enemy aircraft, probably destroyed 8 others and damaged 103.

Source: THE R.C.A.F. OVERSEAS

Words, once they are printed, have a life of their own.

— Carol Burnett

Play ball!

Greg send these along with the picture of the Chief at bat…

Collection Walter Neil Dove

Hank Zary was not the only one at bat.

Fred “Body Beautiful” Town was also at bat and in great shape…

Mo and Ollie Olson were also playing while Tommy was just relaxing at first base…

Collection Walter Neil Dove

With so many names, we have to look at the squadron roster found in Walter Dove’s logbook to know who’s on first.

Collection Walter Neil Dove

If Tommy Todd is taking easy around first base when Mo Morrison is running hard and Ollie Olson is reaching for the ball, then these pictures would have been taken before March 31, 1945 because that’s when Tommy Todd was shot down.

If we have Tommy Tomlinson, then when this picture was taken is everybody’s guess.

Tommy Tomlinson left on April 4, 1945 when his tour expired.

This is Tommy Tomlinson in the Nissan hut.

I wonder if he is packing up his things.

Collection Walter Neil Dove

Pilots

This is the list of the pilots of 403 Squadron found in the logbook.

One thing that might not get noticed with the names highlighted is that Hank Zary survived the war contrary to Hank Byrd, Mac Reeves and Grant Aitcheson.

Hank Zary was a squadron leader and Walter Neil Dove called him the Chief…

The Chief died in 1946.

Hank Zary died of pleurisy on 11 February 1946 at the Royal Edward Laurentian Hospital (Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts division) where they specialized in treating tuberculosis & other chest problems.

Click here. 

Walter Neil Dove thus added this information after the war. Like so many war veterans Greg’s grandfather kept in touch with his comrades.

I wonder how the other pilots used to call affectionately Walter Neil Dove.