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Thread: No.602 Squadron - 1 July 1944

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    Default No.602 Squadron - 1 July 1944

    Does anyone have a copy of the ORB for this unit and this date ? I wish to obtain details of the armed reconnaissance mission on which Flight Lieutenant H.J. Cleary was shot down by flak. How may aircraft were on the mission ? What time did they depart B.11 ? At what altitude were they detailed to fly ? Were any other aircraft damaged ? Did any of them attack targets of opportunity ? Do the forms 540 or 541 describe anything of the mission ? Any help would be much appreciated.

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    Default 602 Squadron - 1 July 1944

    hello Hugh

    I have both the 602 Squadron 540 and the 541 for July 1944 - and will e-mail you the relevant pieces, to save trying to transcribe them on to here

    it is also reported in the 125 Wing ORB as follows:

    After reporting on 132 Squadron it goes on to say "....F/L. Cleary of 602 was hit by intense light flak E. of Falaise while on an armed Recce in the Mezidon-Argentan-Falaise area and did not return from the operation" No doubt you have this additional information

    He dived on a German motor transport column and was subsequently hit by flak. F/L Cleary managed to send out a mayday before bailing out. Pilots of his squadron reported to have last seen him entering cloud in a northerly heading. The Spitfire struck the ground some 30 miles southeast of Caen. Now an evader, F/L Cleary managed to rendezvous with a number of other allied fliers who were in the same predicament.

    Their dash to freedom ended on the 8th of July when they were killed during a gun battle with the Germans. F/L Cleary was initially buried at St. Clair but was later exhumed and re-buried in plot number XIX. F.3.of the Bretteville-sur-Laize Canadian War Cemetery.

    cheers

    Allan
    Allan Hillman

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    Notwithstanding long experience with this site, I am still amazed at the speed and thoroughness of replies. Many thanks for this. The e-mail and attachments came through and I shall send you a separate message on these.

    For those interested in the query, I have been loaned the logbook of Henry Joseph Cleary. He was an only son but had four sisters; of the four sisters, one never married, one married but had no children, one married and had one child, one married and had two children. The three nieces never knew their uncle, and the one who provided the logbook realized that it was significant but did not fully understand the contents (such as the significance of a "streaming" with a Lysander). Another niece thought she had some letters he had written (but they seem not to have been saved) plus a photograph of him (it turned out she had about eight plus a news clipping).

    Henry Joseph Cleary had a fairly routine and unspectacular career - he earned no gallantry awards, and probably never saw a German aircraft. It appears that after "pranging" a Magister in 1941 he was sent to purgatory in the form of two years at a Gunnery Flight. It was only in March 1944 that he got the opportunity to fly Spitfires, and the best way I can sum up his subsequent career is to say that once he joined No.602 Squadron, the exclamation marks in his logbook multiplied.

    There are two entries that I particularly wish to share through this Forum. One is dated 13 June 1944, in connection with low cover for assault forces - "Royal Navy's usual trick of firing at their own aircraft - real display of fireworks." The other is an ominous entry dated 26 June 1944, patrolling the beach-head - "Fired on by flak from Caen - mighty close." On 1 July it nailed him.

    He volunteered - itself a form of heroism - and the manner of his death was poignant beyond description. Was he shot in a farmhouse firefight or executed afterwards ? Almost everything that I write about him will be news to his nieces - but I hope the article now in hand will interest a wider circle. It may even move people to preserve a few more logbooks from an earlier generation.

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    Default F/L Cleary - 602 Squadron - 1 July 1944

    Hello Hugh

    Happy to help as always - if it hadn't been for MotoGP on TV, and then mowing the lawns on what passes for a sunny day in the UK (a very rare animal in the past couple of years!!) you would have received your answers earlier!!

    With regard to "Was he shot in a farmhouse firefight or executed afterwards ?" - I hope the former, but I suspect the latter.

    cheers

    Allan
    Allan Hillman

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