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Thread: Sgt Charles Ronald Alexander 566165, DFM citation needed

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    Default Sgt Charles Ronald Alexander 566165, DFM citation needed

    Hallo,

    Can anyone please help me with the above ? It was gazetted 30 July 1940. I am looking for any 206 Squadron or Hudson connections.

    Regards,

    Martin.

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    Hi Martin,,

    DFM recommendation details for 566165 Charles Ronald ALEXANDER:

    ALEXANDER, Charles Ronald. 566165 Sergeant, No.206 Sqn.
    L.G. 30/7/1940. Pilot. Air2/9434.

    Sergeant Alexander has been with this squadron since August 1938, and has always set a high example in flying and devotion to duty. Not only has he shown great keenness on flying duties but has also carried out his ground duties in a faultless manner. Since the outbreak of war, Sergeant Alexander has shown a sense of responsibility, courage and endurance which has done much to maintain the morale of the squadron at a high state at which it is. He has completed nearly 350 hours operational flying and has been employed in reconnaissance and offensive patrols, convoy escorts and day and night bombing raids and is always eager to take part in any special operation without regard to his personal safety. In addition to work done with the squadron, he was attached to Bomber Command and navigated one of the flights which raided Brunsbuttel on 4th September 1939. Though he has been unable to achieve spectacular results, he has carried out all his duties in a quiet, cheerful and efficient manner and has set a high standard to all his juniors.

    15th June, 1940.

    See:
    The Distinguished Flying Medal Register for the Second World War with Official Recommendation Details - Vol. I. A-J.
    Tavender,Ian
    London:Savannah Publications,2000.
    p.14

    Col.

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    Col,

    This is an interesting citation in that it, firstly, records Alexander as being a pilot but, secondly, it describes him as 'navigating' one of the flights that raided Brunsbuttel on 4 September 1939. My first thought was that this was a classic case of the early wartime practice of pilots assuming responsibity for navigating as well as piloting an aircraft - despite a navigator as being part of the crew (see "The Battle of the Heligoland Bight" by Robin Holmes).

    This, the first wartime operation by Bomber Command, was a complete shambles. Eight Wellingtons from No 149 Squadron and six from No 9 Squadron were involved, and Holmes's book lists the aircraft serials and the captains - Alexander's name is not listed. I suspect, therefore, that since, according to the citation, he was attached to Bomber Command, this was also a case of a pilot assuming a navigator's role, although in this instance he wasn't also piloting the aircraft.

    For the record most of the 149 Squadron aircraft failed to find the target, although one MIGHT have dropped its bombs in the area. The six Wellington's of 9 Squadron were successful in attacking the target, although two were shot down. They attacked in two flights, one led by S/L Lamb, the other by F/L Grant, so the probability is that Alexander was on one of these two Wellingtons (L4320 and L4278 respectively).

    Should anyone have access to the 9 Squadron ORB it should be easy to sort out.

    Brian

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    Hello,

    Had already checked Holmes' The Battle of Heligoland Bight 1939, and the No.9 Sqn ORB. It would appear that Sgt Alexander was attached to No.149 Sqn. Now which crew?

    There is no mention of Sgt Alexander in Johnston and Carter's History of No.149 Sqn, Strong By Night.

    Col.
    Last edited by COL BRUGGY; 8th September 2013 at 12:29.

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    Hi Brian,

    Only a few operational squadrons in the early war days had an Observer(later called Navigator) as part of the crew make up.

    It normally was Captain/First Pilot and Second Pilot with the Second pilot taking on the duties of Observer/Nav/Bomb Aimer.

    So it quite possible for him to be flying ops as 2nd Pilot doing the navigation duties in addition to the Captain/1st Pilot.

    Regards
    Ross
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    I guess my statement was a bit sweeping, Ross, but based on this extract from Holmes:

    Typical of the lack of understanding which existed in the early days of the war, is the personal recollection of the Brunsbuttel raid by Sgt 'Bunny' Austin, navigator of S/L Paul Harris's Wellington (the punctuation is as is written):

    "I recall vividly standing by for up to 24 hours or more in the crew room with the crew waiting to go somewhere, we knew not where, but assumed it would be Germany. When the call did in fact comewe all dashed out to the aeroplane. There was no briefing for crew members other than, I think, the captains, and when we got in the aeroplane and took off I asked the captain, Paul Harris, where we were going, as navigator of the lead machine I would find it useful to know. After handing over to the second pilot, P/O Brown, he came back to the navigation table and said we were going to the Kiel Canal and I fortunately had all the availablr charts that one could have at that time in my navigation bag. Taking it out we found the Kiel Canal or rather, we didn't find the Kiel Canal, it was an old admiralty chart and it was labelled the Kaiser Wilhelm Canal. I recall saying to Paul, 'Well that's it', and he said 'No, no, it's the Kiel Canal', and by some freak of fate a short distance off the Kaiser Wilhelm Canal there was a tiny little tributary marked Kiel Canal. Paul said, 'that's where we're going, that's where we're going'. So I then said, 'do we go straight there?' and he said, 'no, no, we must fox the enemy, we go up north-east then across and then cut down', in other words make a deviation, and we duly set course!"

    Little wonder the squadron became lost.

    Brian

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    Thanks Col, Brian and Ross,

    That's exactly what I needed regarding 206 Squadron.

    The 149 Sqn. ORB F.541 for 4-9-1939 records a 'Sgt. Alexander' in the third place of the six-man crew in Wellington L4302, captained by S/Ldr. Harris. There is no mention of Alexander being from another unit, so perhaps he had been with them for some time already ?
    Now for the puzzling part. Sgt. Austin is listed on the same crew as above, but in the fourth place behind Alexander !
    The 11 crews who took part in the 4-9-1939 mission are all listed. 9 crews consisted of five airmen each while the other two have six each. The other six-man crew had the duties noted against the names; Captain, Gr. Obs., 2nd pilot, Obs., W/T OP and AG. If P/O Brown was indeed the 2nd pilot (as per Bunny Austin's account) then Alexander should have been the observer. If not then what was he (Alexander) doing on that crew ?

    Can anyone solve this problem ?

    Regards and thanks once more,

    Martin.

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    Martin,

    Since 206 Squadron was in Coastal Command and equipped with Ansons, is it possible he had developed navigating skills for maritime operations - perhaps whilst flying in the right-hand seat? This would fit in with Ross's post at 12.54.

    Brian

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