No. 181 Squadron

I know: slowest blog in the world. I’ve been travelling a lot for work, but onward! So we arrive at August 25 – Sept 16, 1944. Dad is flying solo in a Typhoon IB but also an Anson and Auster. No idea about the latter aircraft, so it’s Dr. Google.

Whilst flying solo in the Typhoon, Dad was undertaking individual dive bombing, section dive bombing and rockets at 30° and 45°. I know that the Typhoon had rockets under each wing, so presumably Dad was practicing firing the rockets at particular angles.

The summary of his flying for August 18 – August 25, 1944 was signed off by F/Lt RJ Hyde. A quick Dr Google search shows this to be Reginald Jack Hyde.

In the Anson and the Auster aircraft, Dad was the second pilot (with Flt. Sgt Clarke and W/O Graham respectively) and he was practicing dives, low flying and (I think) flying to Bognor Regis in West Essex. I am presuming this is in preparation to be moved to France, because half-way down the log page Dad joins No. 181 Squadron in France. Another quick search shows that this squadron was a fighter-bomber unit, operating Typhoons and relocated to France.

There are some references to B6, B48 and B58 – no idea – over to the experts.

So from September 3, 1944 it seems that Dad was relocated to France with No. 181 Squadron and was flying Typhoons (or Tiffies as they were referred to). Dad is now in the thick of things from a reading of his logbook. No longer practicing, but attacking jettys and encountering flak.

On September 3, the logbook records B30 Creton – B48 Amiens. Not sure but I think that B30 was a unit stationed at Creton and B48 might have been a unit stationed at Amiens. Was he flying between these units for some reason? On the 6th, he was flying between B48 Amiens and B58 Belgium. I’m not really sure what he was doing so, again, over to the experts.

September 8, Dad is flying the Typhoon and records “tugs & barges on Rhine”, so I am assuming he was on some mission to look for the enemy. His notes record: “No flak. Hit one barge with rockets & got cannon strikes on tug. F/Lt Stockes missing.” I’m wondering if Dad incorrectly recorded this pilot’s name: is it F/Lt N. F. Stock?

From September 10 to September 16, Dad flew back to Bognor Regis, conducted an air test, attacked jettys at Lillo (is this Lille in France?) and provided cover for a troop concentration. There’s some stuff I don’t understand, such as:

  • Attack jettys – Lillo (R/P & cannon)
  • Turnout – Tilbury – Breda – Bergen op 200M
  • Troop concentration M.E. of AART

If you click on the thumbnail photos below, you can enlarge the page of the logbook.

As Dad was providing cover for the troop concentration on September 16, he records: “Wizard fun – no flak. Plastered wood with rockets & cannon.”





Filed under Log entries, No. 181 Squadron, Uncategorized

Typhoon IB

Somewhere between August 2nd and 8th 1944, Dad moved from 132 A.F. Tangmere (T.A.F.) to No. 3 T.E.U. Aston Down. I know that T.E.U. stands for Tactical Exercise Unit but I had to search Dr Google for information on Aston Down, which is in Gloucestershire (South West England). This airfield has its own Wikipedia entry so I can tell you that No.55 O.T.U. was renamed No.3 T.E.U. around 1944 I think. In December, 1944, the unit was redesignated and flew Hawker Typhoons.

And so we arrive at August 9th 1944 and Dad’s first solo flight in a Typhoon 1B. Looking at his logbook, I am wondering if this unit specialised in training on ground attack techniques. Over to the experts who might know more about No. 3 T.E.U.

I remember Albie Gotze SAAF (Brig Gen. Retd), who contacted me in 2012, saying that he and Dad had to convert pretty quickly from the Hurricane to the Spitfire. Going back through the logbook, I’m pretty sure that Dad had not flown a Typhoon before. Up to August, 1944 he had flown:

  • Tiger Moth (for most of 1941)
  • Yale
  • Harvard IIA
  • Hurricane II, Hurricane IIA, Hurricane IIB, Hurricane IIC, Hurricane IID
  • Tomahawk
  • DC-3
  • Anson
  • Hudson
  • Baltimore III
  • Boston
  • Spitfire IVC, Spitfire VC, Spitfire IX
  • Kittyhawk III
  • Waco
  • Fairchild

The Spitfire IX he’d been flying since March 1944 and, on moving to Aston Down, Dad started flying a Typhoon IB. I guess this is the Hawker Typhoon Mk. 1b. His first flight was on August 9th and he flew solo. Up to this point, Dad had 663 hours and 05 mins flying experience. The experts will really have to help me out here – can a pilot easily convert from a Spitfire to a Typhoon? I don’t see any mention in Dad’s logbook of specific training in the Typhoon.

From August 9th-23rd 1944, Dad was gaining experience with this aircraft by doing low-flying; cross-country at 7,000ft; pairs formation; aerobatics; formation – fours; battle climb 20,000 ft; and cab rank exercises. Not sure what the latter is but presumably a flying reserve of aircraft that could be called on for air support, sort of like you call a cab to take you somewhere.

On August 18 is the first mention of rockets – “Rocket – 15 °”. Is this the angle the rocket is fired at? Again, over to the experts. Dad also undertook dive bombing on August 23. He made no comments in this section of his logbook, so I get the impression that he was at Aston Down to come up to speed in the Typhoon before……well, next post!

In the last post, we saw that Dad was recommended for Flight Commander duties at an early date and the logbook for August 9th-23rd has Dad writing “O.C. “B” Flight” – I wonder if this means he was the officer in charge of B flight (whatever B flight is!).

Click on photos below to enlarge.

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Filed under Aircraft flown, Log entries, No. 3 T.E.U. Aston Down, Typhoon

Very little petrol left

I would say this is the slowest blog in the history of the internet! What can I say? Work, work and more work. But thanks to a gentle reminder from John Engelsted, I have resuscitated myself and so it is onward!

We are now in the last week of July, 1944 and Dad is with 132 A.F. Tangmere. From July 27th to August 1st, Dad appears to be conducting the usual flight duties: sweeping; escorting Halifaxes and Lancasters; scrambling after a”doodlebug” (presumably a V-1 flying bomb); and flying to Manston. He also escorted Lancasters to Pas-de-Calais in Northern France.

The comments section of his log are interesting – on July 27th, he reports 90 gallon tank surging at height. No idea on this one; over to the experts. On July 30th, there seems to be a bit of excitement when he reports British 2nd Army started offensive after this bombing!

Then we have a couple of hair-raising events (for me anyway!). On July 31st, Dad landed at Manston with no air pressure and reports a flapless landing at….130mph. On August, in his Spitfire IX, Dad reports that he landed Manston at dusk with very little petrol left. Imagine!!!

Dad’s flying summary for July and August 1st and 2nd, 1944 is signed off by P. Hillwood. F/Lt O.C. “B” Flight. This is Peter Hillwood I believe, who appears in the list of pilots for the 127 Squadron. His summary shows that Dad had a grand total of 663 hours and 5 mins flying time and he also seems to have been assessed for his flying.

As a fighter pilot, Dad was rated Above Average and Average as Pilot-Navigator, Bombing and Air Gunnery. The Average for Navigator could explain why I am pretty useless when it comes to finding my way around LOL. Dad was recommended for Flight Commander duties at the earliest possible date. Guess we’ll find out if this happened.

Meanwhile, the next post will see Dad shifting from flying Spitfires to Typhoons and moving to No. 3 T.E.U. Aston Down. T.E.U. stands for Tactical Exercise Unit and I remember a fellow pilot of Dad’s who contacted me (Albie Gotze) saying that the conversion from the Spitfire to the Typhoon needed to occur ASAP. I’m not sure of the difference between the two aircraft types, so can’t tell you how hard this might have been for Dad and Albie.

Click on thumbnails below to view logbook entries.

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Filed under Log entries, T.A.F. Tangmere, WWII pilot log

Escort to Eisenhower

Well people: do I still have any readers left? I’ve had a LOT of work on, plus Winter here in New Zealand is always a little rough – snow, rain, muddy conditions – and living on a farm means a ton of work to do. But fear not! We continue on.

The last post saw Dad – June 1944 – leading the squadron that escorted a cruiser to France, which was carrying King George VI. He also saw buzz bombs whizzing around and took shots at them from his Spitfire.

Now, we reach July 1944 and the 127 Squadron seems to have been posted to T.A.F. Tangmere. I’m pretty sure that T.A.F. stands for Tactical Air Force and Dr Google tells me that Tangmere (or rather, R.A.F. Tangmere) was located at Tangmere village about three miles (or 4.8 kms) east of Chichester in West Sussex, England.

Dad’s logbook for July 4, 1944 says: Squadron posted to T.A.F. Next place France! Obviously, he was excited about the prospect of missions over France. What I find interesting is the location – Dad’s mother was born in Ditchling, East Sussex. Sort of like visiting the ancestral homelands for Dad.

At the top of the page in his logbook is 134 and 132 A.F. T.A.F. Tangmere – so I’m not sure if this means Dad joined the 134 and 132 or if the 127 simply relocated to Tangmere where the 134 and 132 was already based.

He’s zooming around in a Spitfire IX but was a passenger in a D.C.3 that flew him from Lympne to Tangmere. Once at Tangmere, Dad took to the air in the Spit and conducted dive bombing; low level bombing; and convoy patrol mainly.

What’s really of interest is his notation for July 25 – Escort to V.I.P. Turns out the V.I.P. was General Dwight David “Ike” Eisenhower, who was later Prez of the USA. Dad notes: Gen. Eisenhower was V.I.P. Shook hands with him and had photo taken too. Wish I had that photo! It’s not in his photo album and I’d love to find it. Any ideas welcome.

On July 24, Dad mentions that he flew his Spit to Thorny Island. This was the day before he escorted Eisenhower. He must be referring to R.A.F. Thorney Island, located 6.6 miles (10.6 km) west of Chichester, West Sussex. Possibly he picked up General Eisenhower at Thorney Island and escorted him to Tangmere. Although the entry for July 25, when Dad mentions he escorted Eisenhower, seems to point to Dad flying over French villages because he says in the Comments section: Saw a couple of French villages rather badly damaged. So I wonder if Dad escorted Eisenhower to France for the General to see how the bombing operations were going. July 25 also saw Dad doing convoy patrol, which he didn’t seem to like: Quite an enjoyable day – except for convoy patrol!

Earlier in July, it seems that Dad used the Spitfire’s machine guns to record several hits and, on July 18, he took part in a squadron dive-bombing mission that saw the Spits go from 9,000 ft to 3,000ft. Dad also recorded that the “V” has gyro-sight. I’m not sure if he’s referring to the V-1 or V-2 rocket. Gyro refers to a gyroscope and I guess this was basically the rocket’s guidance system. I don’t know too much about the V-1 or V-2 rockets, so gyro-sight might mean that the rocket could identify a flying object such as a Spitfire and zoom towards it. Over to the experts on this.

Click on photos below to enlarge.





Filed under 127 Squadron RAF, T.A.F. Tangmere

Escort to cruiser

Slowly but surely we make our way through Dad’s logbook. I was hauled off again overseas – to Hong Kong and Indonesia – so sorry for the lack of posts.

We have now reached June 1944 and THE most exciting thing for Dad must have been escorting the cruiser carrying the King to France. Presumably this is England’s King George VI. Why he was off to France, I don’t know – maybe to rally the troops. On that day (June 16), Dad reported it was foul weather and that he led the Squadron escorting the King.

There are a few things I don’t understand but you know me: I’ll have a stab at it! On June 22, Dad’s duty was target cover 24 Mitchells – Caen. Mitchells must surely be a WWII plane, so off to Dr Google I go. Yep, there was a North American B-25 Mitchell plane and it was a twin-engined medium bomber.  Target cover I guess means that Dad and other pilots were covering the 24 Mitchells whilst they carried out a bombing mission over Caen, which is in northwestern France. Dad comments: lots of flak and pretty accurate with height – 14,000 ft.

On June 23, Dad was flying convoy patrol and had two squirts (presumably fired at) a buzz bomb from about 1,000 yards. I remember being freaked out in High School history classes about the buzz bombs. They were called V-1 flying bombs but my grandparents called them doodle bugs. The mere thought of walking around London streets enjoying some shopping, only to hear a buzzing sound just as the V-1 was about to impact, must have been beyond frightening.

Then Dad seems to have escorted 18 Stirlings on June 23. I guess this was after the convoy patrol. Off to Dr Google again. Mmmmm….could be the Short Stirling, which was a four-engine British heavy bomber. Makes sense. Dad comments that the Stirlings were: dropping supplies in Caen area. Went in at 1,000ft. Is he talking about the Stirlings here or himself in the Spitfire IX?

On June 24th, Dad returned to base with a rough engine following an area sweep. I’m still a bit confused about the column No. in the logbook. So, for example, on June 24, the column No is X but, on the same day, the Column No is marked U. Over to the experts!

June 25 sees more problems with Dad’s Spitfire – at 26,000ft he reported L.R. tank cutting and on 26th, following an air test, he says: still doesn’t seem right. I think L.R. tank is Long Range tank. Frankly, I would have refused to step foot in that plane again until its engine was as smooth as silk!

Then we see Dad providing cover again (June 27) for Halifaxes as they attempted to bomb the bejesus out of buzz bomb installations. Wonder if that was in Caen? Finally, on June 29, a pilot shot down one of those horrid buzz bombs – w/c Harris. At least I think it’s w/c Harris – can’t quite read Dad’s writing. Wing Commander I presume. The list of 127 Squadron pilots shows Flt Sgt Harry James Marshal Harris, so maybe this is the pilot. Can’t decipher the writing after Dad names the pilot but I think he shot the buzz bomb at a range of 180 yards.

I’m getting nervous just reading Dad’s logbook. He volunteered in 1939 at the age of 19 and my grandfather had to give permission for him to join the RNZAF. He was in the War until November 1944 (well, that’s when his logbook ends) and, as far as I know, suffered not one injury.

In July 1944, the 127 Squadron moves again and Dad meets up with a VIP who he escorted. Until then!

Click on photos below to enlarge and see logbook entries.

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Filed under 127 Squadron RAF, Aircraft flown, Spitfire IX, WWII pilot log

On my birthday

The last post saw Dad leaving Egypt on April 8, 1944 – the day of his 24th birthday. The 127 Squadron shifted to R.A.F. Station, North Weald (UK) and an email to me from Albie Gotze SAAF (Brig Gen. Retd) told us how the Squadron moved.

In one of those eerie coincidences in life, Dad takes up his logbook again on May 8, 1944. He didn’t know it then but I would be born on that day many years later. His first entry, now that he’s stationed in the United Kingdom, is full of excitement because he is now flying his own aircraft: a Spitfire IX.

I learnt from Albie Gotze that he and my father had to convert from a Hurricane Mk 2 to the Spitfire. I know that the development of the Spitfire has a rather interesting history – but maybe a dedicated reader could point out the specific features of the Spitfire IX. I vaguely recall Dad telling me (do I have this right?) that the Spitfire he flew was developed in response to a particular German aircraft and that this aircraft could climb higher than the Spitfire IX (or the Spitfire before the IX, not sure). Over to experts!

Anyway. We see Dad commenting on May 8: My own A/C. Lovely too. Seems he was involved in the usual flying activities but now including sector recco (guess this was a reconnaissance mission in a particular sector); wing formation; escort to Mosquitoes (the British-built de Havilland DH.98 Mosquito plane); and looks like some bombing missions too.

A couple of things I don’t understand – Line Aster Chase (at least I think the logbook says Aster) and Sweep – Creil Area (both on May 22). In his logbook, Dad comments: First time over France – at 24,000ft. I know that Creil is in Northern France so I presume Sweep – Creil Area means he was flying over that area in search of enemy activity.

You can really sense the action is heating up now. During the sweep of the Creil area, Dad noted: Pranged train in marshalling yard. I presume this means he hit a train with the guns of his Spitfire (which were located in the wing) as opposed to just seeing a damaged train.

Actually, a comment above the one he makes in his logbook about the train says: Hit second train which fired back, so I guess Dad was involved in some sort of raid on the marshalling yards that were intended to take out or severely damage the trains. German trains? There is another part to the comment that I simply can’t read – although the last word is hit (see photos below). On that day, he also noted that there was bags of light and accurate flak. Neil Thomas missing.

The list of the 127 Squadron pilots shows a F/O Neil Osborne Thomas and I corroborated the date he went missing with the Operational Losses section of the 127 Squadron website. F/O Neil Osborne Thomas (400740) was Australian who was shot down and spent the rest of WWII as a prisoner of war.

A bit more Dr Googling and I found that he was discharged on November 17, 1945 from the 127 Squadron and he previously served with the 457 Squadron. I’d be very interested to know where he spent time as a POW and if he is still alive.

Dad returned to base (North Weald – Lympe) on May 24 with engine trouble. He’d been involved in a strategic bombing mission over Douai (Northern France) and had to jettison the 500 lb bomb in the Channel as he flew back to base. Frankly, I would have been a bundle of nerves – just shows you the nerves of steel fighter pilots needed!

The Summary for May 1944 is signed off by Flt Lt Peter Hillwood O.C. “B” FLT. Not quite sure what the O.C. “B” FLT business means – Officer Commanding presumably. And on the opposite page of the logbook, Squadron Leader, Charles Frank Bradley’s signature appears.

Click on photos below to enlarge.

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Filed under 127 Squadron RAF, Log entries, R.A.F. Station North Weald, Spitfire IX, WWII pilot log

Left Egypt on my 24th birthday!

Well, here we are: the end of Dad’s time in Beirut and Egypt. In one of those spooky coincidences in life, he left Egypt on April 8, 1944 – the day of his 24th Birthday. The 127 Squadron was posted to the UK and we’ll find out what happened in future posts.

For now, we remain with Dad during February and March 1944 on convoy patrol; practicing straffe (which I believe is attacking ground targets from a low-flying aircraft); flying to Damascus and back to base; and ack-ack co-op (and I’ve come to learn that this means gunners on the ground tracking aircraft flying and pretending they were shooting at an enemy plane).

On February 27, 1944, Dad was on convoy patrol and his comments say he “covered flotsam ’till dark. Landed at base“. Presumably, this meant he protected or covered wreckage floating around the ocean following the sinking of a vessel. On March 5, Dad seemed to be having “bags of fun” dog-fighting during formation and ack-ack co-op exercises.

March 7 is our first hint that the real action is about to happen. Dad returns to base to find “spits arriving in big numbers – wizard“. I guess when the squadron left for the UK, the newly-arrived Spitfires were flown enmasse to North Weald, where the 127 re-assembled.

On March 10, Dad flew an aircraft I haven’t seen mentioned before – Fairchild with serial number FS549 – and his second pilot or passenger was W/CDR Shepard. W/CDR stands for Wing Commander but I can’t find any reference to W/CDR Shepard in the 127 Squadron. Dad flew the route Quociea – Yate – Beirut. I’m not sure about this as I can’t find any reference to Quociea so could it be Qociea? And Yate? No idea. I wish Dad had commented why they were flying this route in a different aircraft.

Looks like Dad wasn’t all that impressed with the exercise he had to undertake on March 19 (ack-ack co-op) because this was the morning after another big dance. Given that Dad loved to dance and drink beer, I can imagine the night of the dance was, shall we say, rowdy!

March 20 sees Dad commenting in his logbook: “To Base; finish of Beirut detachment“. And then, at the bottom of the left hand page in his logbook in capital letters, the news: “Squadron posted to UK!! Left Egypt 8th April 1944 – my 24th Birthday”.

The logbook has a gap – from March 21 to May 8, 1944. Towards the end of March, Dad had finished his Beirut detachment and, on his birthday, received the news that the 127 Squadron was on its way to the UK. I presume that all of April and early May was taken up with moving an entire squadron to the UK.

Actually, I know how the squadron moved to the UK because about two years ago, Albie Gotze SAAF (Brig Gen. Retd), contacted me via email and solved the Valerie mystery. He told me some stuff about Dad that I never knew (such as Dad was a good singer).

Somewhere on this blog I’ve already posted the following but it’s worth repeating. Here’s what Albie told me about the 127 Squadron’s move to the UK:

Jimmy and I joined the sqdn while based at St Jean in then Palestine. I a week before him. I had just completed a conversion course onto Hurricane Mk 2. 127 had just been re-equipped with Spitfires Mk 5. So he and I had to convert onto Spit 5. 

We no sooner got there when the Sqdn was moved lock stock and barrel to England. Everything was packed into trucks and had to drive through the Negev dessert, where, to make things for us most uncomfortable, we were caught in a “Ghamsin” a severe desert storm. We crossed the Suez Canal at Ismailia, onto a train to Port Alexandria. We embarked onto the SS Franconia and went in convoy escorted by the navy through the Mediterranean, where several ships were sunk, right round the top of Ireland, because of the U boats to dock at Glasgow and disembarked at 0200h in blistering rain onto a train and ended up at North Weald the following morning.

I can imagine this was quite a precarious journey. I suppose any squadron moving was vulnerable and open to attack. Clearly, the Navy (British?) had to protect the 127 as it navigated around Ireland towards Glasgow.

The logbook picks up again on May 8, 1944. Another one of those spooky coincidences in life – May 8 being my birthday. 🙂 And so the next post will take up the 127 Squadron’s action from R.A.F. Station, North Weald.

Click on photos below to enlarge.







Filed under 127 Squadron RAF, Aircraft flown, New Zealand WWII history, WWII pilot log