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Thread: Who is "Harry" 23 Sqn Early 1939

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    Default Who is "Harry" 23 Sqn Early 1939

    This is an article from

    DAILY EXPRESS, FRIDAY. AUGUST 11 1939

    By Victor Ricketts Daily Express Air Reporter

    He does not name Sqn or Location but based on Clues in rest of article I am 90% sure it is RAF Wittering. He writes


    Two motorists can tell the story of an afternoon in the life of Harry, filer in the same squadron as Tom (I believe "Tom" to be F/O Percy Don Walker). He was fifty feet above them as they motored past his airfield when his plane caught fire. Terrified they saw his machine in flames from nose to
    tail.'
    He dropped to the road just in front of them, bounced as a ball of fire into the next field and
    ' there overturned. They were still in their motionless car, with rescue parties/racing over the airfield, when Harry appeared, blackfaced, walking out of the flames.
    He still does not know how he got out. "I just kicked hard." I have just seen Harry with a burn on one cheek. Over blue uniform is slung the hideous, dirty yellow anti-gas cloak. He is waiting for the telephone alarm call that will bring him with his brother fighter pilots racing into the air after raiding bombers. "Another line shooter," he said, introducing me to his friends.

    Can anyone ID the crew for following Blenheim incidents that could match ? BLENHEIM L1447 of 23Sqn crashed on landing, Wittering. 21 March 1939 "hit ridge on take-off and crashed on landing at Wittering; became 1352M" or any other incident that matches

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    It just occurred to me that the incident to Harry may have NOT occurred during his time on 23 Sqn - However I am sure I have read this story before elsewhere!

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    Paul, Hi,

    Somethings do not quite hang together on this one. I did 3 postings to Wittering in the 1950’s (Lincolns, Canberras, and Valiants).

    IF the motorists were motoring past the airfield (and it was, in fact, Wittering) then they would have been on the old A1 – there is no equivalent road past the other (Collyweston) end of the strip. It was grass airfield in them days. The airfield boundary, then, would have been very much as it is today – i.e. the northbound carriageway of the old A1 (and current A1) has not changed. The Met charts suggest (although it is marginal) that they were taking-off from west to east.l There is no “ridge” on the airfield nor, indeed, across the A1 in the direction of Barnack. 50 feet above would be about right, over the A1, for landing E > W, but a bit low for a take-off W > E, and subsequent “bouncing into fields”. BUT, 50 feet above the motorists would NOT result in dropping on to the same road. UNLESS the a/c had taken off (W>E), had found a problem and was trying to return to base even though it might have meant a downwind landing!

    GE will give you a fair indication of the local Wittering topography, but if you can deal with http://wtp2.appspot.com/wheresthepath_old.htm then you can get a section (or sections, if you wish) of the approach(es) to many UK a/fs. If this is sufficient for your needs then fair enough, but if you want to go into the nitty-gritty it is possibly better if you contact me off-board and we can argue/shout/cuss to our hearts contents without disturbing the others!!!

    HTH
    Peter Davies
    Meteorology is a science; good meteorology is an art!
    We might not know - but we might know who does!

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    Peter

    Thanks the more I think of it, the incident was probably not at Wittering - I have read an account similar to this elsewhere

    The reason I know that the reporter was at Wittering is that he describes "Tom" accident which matches to be F/O Percy Don Walker, and he mentions Hurricanes overhead (213 Sqn were at Wittering at time and were on Hurricanes) he says Fighter Station, two man crews and so hto be Blenheim's of 23 Sqn. Author calls the aerodrome "Westland" as well which is a clue

    Paul
    Paul

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    Quote Originally Posted by paulmcmillan View Post
    Peter

    ... Author calls the aerodrome "Westland" as well which is a clue

    Paul
    Paul
    Yeovil airfield was Westland, built on Westland Farm and also Westland Aircraft works (see also Action Stations 5. by Chris Ashworth).

    Yeovil Airfield not to be confused with Yeovilton near Ilchester (2 miles East of Ilchester per Ashworth).

    Could Yeovil also known as Westland be the place referred to?

    Regarding Yeovil aerodrome, my Military Map undated (attached), matches my Military Map "Air information correct to 20.11.39." with map Key indicating an Aerodrome at Yeovil.



    Mark
    Last edited by Mark Hood; 25th December 2013 at 09:18.

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    One has to be cautious about modern roads round airfields - in the Wittering/Collyweston case - I would imagine that at least 4/5 roads were closed/diverted due to the airfield build/amalgamation,here is a photo by Andrew Tatlow which shows the old Collyweston Crossroads,one original road clearly going into Wittering airfield.



    Also during wartime - Authors did not generally use the real airfield name !

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    The pre war annual exercises that were undertaken to train for an attack by Germany used "Westland" and "Eastland" for the defenders and attackers.


    The article could be describing any one of the defending aerodromes in the exercise.


    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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    Thanks all I will dig out whole article and post here. "Westland" is definately a code for an airfield

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    From 23sqdn ORB, between Jan and Aug 39.
    March 39.....
    7th, Blenhiem crashed at Usworth, W/C D.V. Carnegie uninjured.
    20th, P/O J.B. Raven, killed in flying accident near Hambury.
    July 39....
    20th, Sgt J.A. Bullard killed in flying accident.
    25th, Flying accident, F/O P.B. Walker escaped by parachute, Sgt L.G. Tarrant, Obs, killed.

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    Full article "DAILY EXPRESS, FRIDAY. AUGUST 11 1939

    Victor Ricketts
    Daily Express Air Reporter


    SOMEWHERE in Westland I stood at sunset with an R.A.F. fighter pilot who four years ago was passing
    into the sixth form at a public school

    Over us circled a flight of three Hurricanes silhouetted blackly, against the sunset. Inside each of the rumbling
    fighters sat a war-wise youngster ready to slam his throttle wide open in pursuit of raiding bombers.

    We two stood and looked up at the fighters, that between them carried enough bullets to kill 10,000 men and the young man
    with silver wings on his chest said quietly, ""No! I am not flying tonight. You see I am going blind.""

    It was evening, with dew on the airfield grass, camouflaged planes ranged out, a mobile field kitchen with the fragrant smell of hot
    coffee, and far away, now, the drone of the patrolling fighters.

    I said, ""Oh,"" rather stupidly."" They've just taken me off flying,"" I heard him say. ""Both my eyes are going a bit dim. I'll be able to see a
    bit I think, but flying's finished for me.
    ""I had a Rugger accident a few years ago, got a kick on the back of the head. That started it I think.""

    You hear things, quietly like that, that beat the films
    This same boy was until a little while ago a pilot in a crack fighter
    squadron. It was his life and very nearly his death.
    Roaring along on night manoeuvres he had the real-life
    nightmare of all who fiy in the dark—instantaneous and complete
    breakdown of his engine.
    At five miles a minute his engine started coming to pieces. Beneath
    were no lights, only darkness hiding trees hedges, walls, rivers ;
    all the necessary-things to break his neck trying-to land three tons
    of steel at ninety m.p.h.
    He took the only way out, through the sliding roof of the
    dropping fighter . . . with a kick to carry himself clear as he fell
    into space. Then the moment of suspense, wondering if the silken
    shrouds of the parachute would open. They did, with a jerk that
    knocked the breath out of his plummeting body.
    ""Don't you believe that stuff about coming down like thistledown,""
    he grinned. ""You hit the ground with a wallop.""
    The fighters were out of sight and we went to a hangar to collect
    my own parachute ready to take off when our-patrol time came.

    MEET another one. We will call him Tom. He
    is limping round now with bandages on his side and
    wrist. ""Afraid I shan't be flying until next week,"" he apologised.
    He was censoring my story before I telephoned it at midnight
    from the pilots' room with the black painted windows.
    Outside men were grumbling as they picked their way round the
    blacked-out airfleld. When he had read my story he said thoughtfully
    ""I couldn't stand your job. I'd be a bunch of nerves in a week.
    You seem to be rushing round all the time doing a different job
    every day.""
    I looked at his bandages : ""Some people would have nerves doing
    your job.""
    He didn't think so. ""My excitement is purely physical. It's not
    nearly such a strain as a mental one.""
    And this is Tom's little, adventure
    story. He was flying a new type warplane that was originally
    designed without, too much consideration
    of how its crew should
    get out of it ln emergency.

    On the walls of his Flight office
    Is a notice saying Air Ministry
    tests with dummies are how going
    on to find out the best method of
    quitting these planes without falling
    into the tail or propellers as
    you jump clear. ""Full details will
    be circulated in due course.""
    Tom piloted one of these planes,
    sitting at his controls with the
    black painted metal blades of propellers
    spinning round a few feet
    either side of his head. Behind
    him in a transparent turret was
    the gunner.

    Flying in the dark they hit another plane. With his damaged
    machine going steeply down out
    of control to a certain crash Tom
    roared ""jump"" to his gunner,
    hurled back the sliding roof over
    his cockpit and catapulted himself
    outwards.
    Halfway out he thought of the
    tail fin, razor-edged at 250 m.p.h.,
    and kicked himself out: over the
    wing as far as he could.
    As he slid off the edge into
    space the tail of the plane caught
    him a glancing blow. - He escaped
    with bruises and dropped safely
    into a field
    ""The other chap didn't get out,""
    he said soberly.

    Do you think that our war pilots are irresponsible
    young men ?
    Take a look at Tom's room for
    an insight into his character.

    There is the photograph of a pretty girl on his dressing table.
    Among his bookshelf titles are
    ""Inside Europe,"" "" Progress and
    Religion,"". ""Poems of Henry.
    Kendall,""-'.'When We Were Very
    Young"" . ""Swimming the American-
    Crawl,'-' and "" History of Ancient Philosophy.""
    Two :motorists can tell the
    story of an afternoon in the
    life of Harry, filer in the same
    squadron as Tom. He was fifty
    feet above them as they motored
    past his airfield when his plane
    caught fire. Terrified they saw his
    machine in flames from nose to
    tail.'
    He dropped to the road just in
    front of them, bounced as a ball
    of fire into the next field and
    ' there overturned. They were still
    in their motionless car, with
    rescue parties/racing over the airfield,
    when Harry appeared, blackfaced,
    walking out of the flames.
    He still does not know how he got
    out. ""I just kicked hard.""
    I have just seen Harry with a
    burn on one cheek. Over blue
    uniform is slung the hideous,
    dirty yellow anti-gas cloak. He is
    waiting for the telephone alarm
    call that will bring him with his
    brother fighter pilots racing into
    the air after raiding bombers.
    ""Another line shooter,"" he said,
    introducing me to his friends.

    THIS article does not
    say the R.A.F. take their
    lives in their hands on
    every flight. It does not mean
    that our flying men are real life
    editions of semi-hysterical Hollywood
    test pilots who go up while
    men on the ground toss a coin to
    see if they will come back again.
    The R.A.F. casualty list, compared
    with hours flown, is probably
    Europe's lowest. And very properly
    the R.A.F. pilots consider as line
    shooting any attempt to put them
    over as wlngsd heroes. They
    aren't. They are ordinary young
    Britons who come from the same
    sort of homes as the young men
    catching trains to the City every
    morning. But their job is war flying,
    and sometimes the. accidents
    do happen. That is inevitable
    when the toys they play with
    weigh tons and travel at miles a
    minute through this country's
    mists and storms.
    They are terse while on the job.
    During the air ""war"" I flew with
    a fighter, pilot at 1 a.m. Far away
    to the south searchlights suddenly
    blazed and clustered excitedly
    round a cloudbank. Into our earphones
    crackled a command from
    headquarters: ""Get over to
    as soon as you can. There are two
    raiders over there.""

    OUR textbook reply was,
    Message received and
    understood.""
    We were already going full
    throttle to where the bombers had
    been sighted, with their gun turrets
    glittering in the searchlights.
    ""Message received and understood
    "" will be the last unemotional
    acknowledgment of orders
    from many of our flying automatons
    if the enemy bombers ever
    really come to Britain again. .
    I have just finished writing this
    in a bomber, squadron's mess. Rain
    is beating against the windows.
    Pilots are sprawling in armchairs
    waiting for the word to send them
    'up raiding again.
    The radiogram is crooning sentimentally
    "" When I Grow Too Old
    to Dream.""
    A fair-haired flight-lieutenant
    with the face of a boy of nineteen
    —he commands a twenty-one-ton
    bomber—has just been discussing
    air tactics.
    "" If the war does start we are the'
    people who'll go first on both sides,
    the experienced pilots. We'll mop
    each other up in a few weeks and
    then it will come down to you
    people without much experience."""

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