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Thread: 144 Squadron

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    Default 144 Squadron

    I am currently researching 144 Squadron based at North Luffenham, Rutland. My initial interest is in Sgt A. H. Taylor (an uncle) between 1940 and December 1941. I have discovered from ORB that he was posted as missing in a Hampden bomber following a raid on Brest 13 Dec 1941. Questions: are there any relatives researching fellow crew members who were Pilot David McLaren (115139), Nav Ronald Pulman (1256360), WT/AG Thoms Pearce (932162) and WT/AG Richard Atkinson (1006920)? What is a beam gunner as this seams to have been my uncle's role? I have a photo of Alfred with 51 others with a Blackpool photographer's stamp - is this where he did his training? Would others be interested in a copy of this photo? Can futher names be added to the faces? Any further information would be welcomed by this first time poster.

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    Hello, and Welcome,

    Not exactly what you want, but I can tell you this about Pulham, Atkinson and Pearce:

    20/21-9-1941
    No.144 Sqn.
    Hampden I AD922:FL-
    Op: Frankfurt.

    Took off 1920 North Luffenham. Ran out of petrol and abandoned 0420, except for the pilot, near the airfield at Swanton Morley. Moments later, the Hampden crashed at Foulsham, 16 miles NW of Norwich.

    921756 Sgt (Pilot) Eric Charles William TURNER RAFVR +
    1256360 Sgt (Nav.) Ronald John PULHAM RAFVR - Baled out safely.
    1006920 Sgt (W.Op./Air Gnr.) Richard Alfred Palmer Vincent ATKINSON RAFVR - Baled out safely.
    932162 Sgt (W.Op./Air Gnr.) Thomas John PEARCE RAFVR - Baled out safely.

    See:BCL2/151

    Col.
    Last edited by COL BRUGGY; 15th June 2012 at 11:39.

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    Thank you for the additional information. Would I be correct in assuming that aircrew tended to stay together? I believe that Alfred Taylor was in training during 1940 - did he join an established team?

    Quote Originally Posted by COL BRUGGY View Post
    Hello, and Welcome,

    Not exactly what you want, but I can tell you this about Pulham, Atkinson and Pearce:

    20/21-9-1941
    No.144 Sqn.
    Hampden I AD922:FL-
    Op: Frankfurt.

    Took off 1920 North Luffenham. Ran out of petrol and abandoned 0420, except for the pilot, near the airfield at Swanton Morley. Moments later, the Hampden crashed at Foulsham, 16 miles NW of Norwich.

    921756 Sgt (Pilot) Eric Charles William TURNER RAFVR +
    1256360 Sgt (Nav.) Ronald John PULHAM RAFVR - Baled out safely.
    1006920 Sgt (W.Op./Air Gnr.) Richard Alfred Palmer Vincent ATKINSON RAFVR - Baled out safely.
    932162 Sgt (W.Op./Air Gnr.) Thomas John PEARCE RAFVR - Baled out safely.

    See:BCL2/151

    Col.

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    Crash site of Hampden AD922 was in trees at Sennowe Park. Located by Norfolk researcher Stan Hall in 1989. SE cut out due fuel shortage and pilot ordered crew to bale out when unable to maintain height.

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    Default Beam Gunners

    I was trying to help out with the question regarding "beam gunners", but there seems to be very little about them on the net.

    Firstly, I am assuming that they were similar to the USAAF "waist gunners", where aircraft had guns fitted to the sides of the aircraft to enable gun coverage to the port and starboard sides.

    I have read that some of the Hampdens and Sunderlands were adapted to include beam guns; what other RAF aircraft encompassed their use?

    As training enabled the gunner to adopt any gun position on any aircraft, I am assuming that there was not a formal RAF category of "beam gunner"; he would have been trained as a W/OP AG through the normal route of Signal Recruit Centre (Blackpool), Radio School and Air Gunner School.


    Note: Photograph of Sunderland Beam Gunners: http://www.historyofwar.org/Pictures/pictures_short_sunderland_I_beam_guns.html
    Last edited by PeteT; 21st June 2012 at 12:07. Reason: Note added
    Main areas of research:

    - CA Butler and the loss of Lancaster ME334 (http://rafww2butler.wordpress.com/ )
    - Aircrew Training (Basic / Trade / Operational / Continuation / Conversion)
    - The History of No. 35 Squadron (1916 - 1982) (https://35squadron.wordpress.com/)

    [Always looking for copies of original documents / photographs etc relating to these subjects]

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    Beam guns were operated by Air Gunners who could man any gun position.

    Pre war and until the first part of 1940 the Air Gunner as a trade did not exist and was normally a groundcrew man who undertook operations to man an aircraft guns in addition to his normal ground trade in return for flying pay.

    Pre war aircraft such as the Wellington, Hampden, Hereford etc were intended to be used in daylight in self supporting formations.

    As such the were fitted all round with guns including hand trained weapons fired from the fuselage through window openings.

    http://forum.keypublishing.com/showthread.php?t=80464

    The eary failures of daylight operations for Heavy Bombers (of the time) resulted in this tactic being abandoned and night raids adopted.

    So not a trade, but a description of a gun position and one that fell out of use in the early war years.

    The Air Gunner (AG) was the only pure airborne gunnery trade augmented by Wireless Operator/Air Gunners WOp/AG to meet the needs of smaller bombers.

    Posting of recruits to Gunnery School for AG trade did not start until April 1940.

    Regards
    Ross
    The Intellectual Property contained in this message has been assigned specifically to this web site.
    Copyright Ross McNeill 2015/2018 - All rights reserved.

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    Default From my own 144 Squadron research

    For TJWOODS

    13 December Brest Mining
    A change of crews and aircraft from the day before, four Hampdens took off in the early afternoon of Saturday 13 December again for Brest. Carrying mines their target was the sea area Jellyfish which covered the approaches to Brest harbour. Each Hampden carried a fifth crew member as beam gunner and followed the familiar course along the south coast to the Lizard, then turning out to sea. A course change was made for the Island of Ushant on the most westerly tip of Brittany. The weather again proved a problem with two crews considering the limited amount of cloud was unfavourable. Sgt Nightingale in AD801 waited twenty minutes circling Ushant before returning with his mine.

    Sgt Raw in AE441 had flown from the English coast at 50 feet. Climbing to 3,000 feet to check the cloud base was suitable for mining. Their references to enemy fighter aircraft is slightly contradictory referring to a single engined fighter then confirming a ME110, a twin engined fighter. Sgt Skingsley the beam gunner reported a single engined aircraft approaching on their port beam confirmed by his wireless operator Sgt Guest as an ME110. The pilot dropped down to sea level avoiding any possible engagement. Now aware of fighters in the area and with no cloud cover he returned to Start Point south of Dartmouth. The coast of England was covered in cloud and raining, he reached the Isle of Wight before he was able to pinpoint his position and turn inland for home. He probably flew into the Southampton Balloon Barrage, flying at 2,000 feet in cloud his aircraft suddenly plummeted to the ground. It is the pilots own assumption that he hit a Balloon Cable. He was fortunate when within 50 feet of the ground the cable and aircraft parted. With his fuel position his next priority he considered landing at Hullavington in Wiltshire, unable to get assistance from the airfield he changed his mind and made for North Luffenham. With his fuel low he dropped below cloud on his ETA, and positioned himself with the aid of the Wittering beacon which he could see flashing its red light high into the sky, giving in morse its recognition letters. With his port engine cut due to lack of fuel he made a safe landing on one engine at Polebrook South West of Peterborough.

    Sgt McDermott in P4347 on reaching Ushant also found the cloud gave out. He flew west for thirty minutes out over the Atlantic returning on a reciprocal course to find the cloud had dropped to a 1,000 feet and dusk was setting. Considering the conditions were now more favourable he flew to Brest and planted his mine, recording - ‘there was much unidentified shipping in the channel were the mine was planted’. The ORB record contradicts itself saying P4347 returned with its mine.

    The fourth Hampden AD921 flown by Sgt McLaren failed to return. The ORB gives the pilot the rank of Sgt but other records refer to him as a Pilot/Officer. AD921 is listed as lost without trace. A second Hampden AE196 from 44 Squadron Waddington was shot down on this operation and is attributed to the German fighter pilot Fw. Harry Mayer 1./JG 2 who recorded the attack at 18.03 hours. The loss of AD921 could be attributed to the German fighter pilot Ltn. Horst Walbeck 3./JG 2 he recorded an attack at 17.46 hours. The timing would fit but he was unable to identify the Hampden he shot down and the record remains open.

    Hampden AD921 FTR
    P/O D. McLaren KIA
    Sgt R.J. Pulham KIA
    Sgt T.J. Pearce KIA
    Sgt R.A. Atkinson KIA
    Sgt A.H. Taylor KIA

    P/O David McLarens arrival in the squadron is not recorded in the movement of Officers and aircrew. His first operation was to the docks at Dunkirk on the 10 October. when he joined up for the first time with Sgts Pulham, Pearce, and Atkinson. Details on this crew are given in the notes on the operation to Frankfurt 20 September aboard AD922

    The regular crew of four were on their seventh operation together, all flown in AD921. Their fifth member Beam Gunner Sgt A.H.Taylor had joined the squadron from 25 OTU on the 1 December. He had also joined the same crew two days earlier on the 11 December to the German Seaplane Base on Norderney. The previous day the 12 December, Sgt Taylor had been the fifth member of Sgt McDougals crew to Brest which had been abandoned due to a clear sky giving inadequate cover.

    This is an extract from my own research. If you have seen the ORB relating to the operation, you may know all this.

    John

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    Default Hampden AD921

    Hello John,

    Sorry, but as very often, it is very hard for us, interested in Brest area, to help with MIA airmen. I checked our info, and do not have any particular info for this loss. Chorley’s “Bomber command losses”, or Harry Moyle “The Hampden File” (that I was offered by a 144 Sqn veteran) doesn’t have anything more.
    We know well three 144 Sqn Hampden crashes in our area.

    Regards
    Gildas

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    Good evening - another newcomer to this site so hello as well. During a WW1 research project on one side of the family, I have found that we're also related to Squadron Leader J.J 'Jack' Watts D.S.O. from 144 Squadron. I've now ascertained that Jack was killed when his Hampden hit a barrage balloon on the 13th June 1940 and is now buried at the CWGC site at Harpswell (St Chad).

    Please can anyone add to these 'bare bones' - was he up training or on a mission when the accident happened? 144 were right at the forefront of Bomber Command's early actions so we're working on the basis that Jack would have been involved in some of the first raids over German territory. Again, if anyone has any details at all - however small, then we'd love to hear them and find out more. He was, I'm told, a handsome and dashing figure -one that we'd love to know more about.

    Many thanks

    David Henshall

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    Hi David

    I cannot take credit for this particular research it is outside my period of interest in 144 Squadron. From the following, some of which you may already have you can begin your own research project.

    W/C J J Watts, DSO, 32152, 144 Squadron, Hemswell, Hampden P4345, KIA 12/13 June 1940 returning from France. His body was obviously returned to Hemswell to be buried at Harpswell.

    You can obtain the squadrons operational records online from The National Archive Kew for a small cost.

    Material is available from the London Gazette (LG). The photograph of the port wing of P4345 is on page 166 of the Hampden file, it describes how the cable cut through the wing, this event and others similar introduced the fitting of cable cutters to the leading edge of the Hampden wing and the introduction of squeaker barrage transmitters which gave pilots warning, via their IFF Receivers, of a barrage ahead. My father was to benefit from these additions in 1941/42.


    The following communication was published on this site some eight years ago. Double check to ensure accuracy.

    Hampden P4345 - 144 Sqn
    Jeff Carless (Guest) 01/25/2005

    Hi
    Does anyone have any information regarding the crew of the above aircraft collided with balloon cable and crashed into East Anglia Mills flour mill at Felixstowe on 12/13 June 1940.

    W/C J J Watts DSO
    FO JFE Andrews
    Sgt A Winstanley
    Sgt R Jolly DFM

    I have found some of Watts carear details from the online gazettes but not the date of his DSO. Also found the citation for Ronald Jollys DFM. Keen to find out little more about this crew as the mill is due for demolision and the site will be swallowed up with the expansion of Felistowe port.I have photo of the damage to the mill and there is a shot of the wing of the Hampden in the Hampden File. Any further info or leads gratefully

    Hampden P4345 - 144 Sqn
    Terry (Guest) 01/25/2005

    Jeff
    From the LG - Watts was commissioned as a
    PO on prob wef 4 Mar 32.
    Confirmed PO wef 4 Mar 33
    FO wef 4 Oct 33 and
    FL wef 10 Oct 36.

    His DSO was wef 9 Jul 40 and appeared in the LG of the same date. He was an WC at the time there was no citation and the entry noted - Since reported Killed in Action. He was awarded an m.i.d. wef 1 Jan 41 also with the same notation re KIA.
    Regards Terry

    Hampden P4345 - 144 Sqn
    Hugh Halliday 01/25/2005

    WATTS Joseph John WC 32152 Royal Air Force since killed in action - No.144 Squadron - Distinguished Service Order - awarded as per London Gazette dated 9 July 1940. Recommended by Air Vice-Marshal A.T. Harris%2C Air Officer Commanding No.5 Group on 28 May 1940. Promoted to Flying Officer 4 October 1933.

    Formerly a flight commander in No.44 Squadron. Recommendation in Public Record Office Air 2.

    This officer has taken an outstanding part in many night bombing raids. He invariably carries out his attacks from the lowest altitudes with an inflexible determination to secure direct hits at all costs with a complete disregard of personal danger. He has also successfully completed twelve mine-laying expeditions some at distances much in excess of the official operational range of his aircraft. On one occasion he attacked an important objective at maximum range. By imitating enemy aircraft and switching on all his navigation lights he so misled the defences that he was enabled to make a detailed reconnaissance of the objective from 500 feet lasting some 20 minutes. His subsequent bombing was in consequence accurately directed at the most vital part of the target and devastating in effect.Undeterred by any degree of enemy opposition or any extreme of weather this officer as a Flight Commander and subsequently in command of a squadron has over a long period of intensive operations set a supreme example of high courage and devotion to duty to those under his command. There is no keeping him out of the air or from personally selecting for himself the most difficult of any sorties ordered. The detailed reconnaissance information he obtains at additional risk on each operation is invaluable.

    Hampden P4345 - 144 Sqn
    Jeff (Guest) 01/26/2005

    The citation for Sgt Jollys DFM reads as follows

    This airman was the wireless operator and air gunner of an aircraft engaged in an attack on a target at Gladbach-Rheydt on a night in May 1940. The aircraft was severely damaged by anti-aircraft fire which stopped one engine and shot away the rudder controls but Cpl Jolly maintained wireless communication and obtained positions to assist the pilot and navigator. On reaching friendly territory after a flight of over 100 miles the pilot gave an order to abandon the aircraft and then Cpl Jolly then destroyed the aircrafts papers locked the wireless telegraph key and leaving the transmitter switched on jumped from the aircraft at a very low altitude. His coolness and efficiency throughout materially assisted in preventing the aircraft from falling into the hands of the enemy

    London Gazette 31 May 1940



    With this information you should be able to do google searches etc. What was the name of the flower mill and the time of the accident? I have not quite given you all I know. Not all on the web is reliable, you might get hooked like the rest of us.

    Good luck, John

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