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Thread: Whirlwind Ops

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    Default Whirlwind Ops

    Having (yesterday) reviewed the service file of James R. Rebbetoy (killed on Whirlwinds), I have a sudden wish to collect a bit more on RCAF personnel who flew this type. Does anyone out there have the Operational Record Books for Nos.137 and 263 Squadrons during their Whirlwind days (1940-43) ?

    I believe that James R. Coyne, DFC (RCAF) wrote an article for the CAHS Journal and shall be looking through my holdings of that publication for said article. Wingspan (July 1995) had a general article on the type. Other bibliographical references (books or articles) about either the type or the two above-noted squadrons would be welcomed.

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    Default P/O James R. Rebbetoy, RCAF

    Hi Hugh,

    Maybe you will be interested by the following information concerning the last mission of P/O Rebbetoy :

    At 10.35 h on April 25th 1943, 6 Whirlwind of the 137 Squadron took off from Manston for a Rhubard mission above Belgium. P/O Rebbetoy was F/Lt Bryan n°2 and near Tielt they sighted a train. They were ready to attack when F/Lt Bryan realized it was a Flak train. He tried to warn his n°2 not attacking this target but to no avail. P/O Rebbetoy dived and was immediately hit. The aircraft went down and inverted crashed in an inoccupied house. The pilot was instantly killed. It happened at Wijnendale near the railway track. The aircraft was a Whirlwind I (SF-G/P7058). Two German soldiers were wounded too.

    P/O Rebbetoy claimed the first Whirlwind victory of the Squadron (shared with Sgt H. O'Neil) too.

    Rgds.

    Régis

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    Default 137sqdn ORB

    Hugh,
    I have copies of 137 ORB for Feb/Mar 1942. Only problem is, there is no way of telling the nationality of the pilots, also no initials for first names, just rank and surnames.
    Feb 42.
    F/Lt Marsland.
    F/Sgt Mercer.
    Sgt McClure.
    Sgt De Houx.
    P/O Martin.
    P/O Haggberg.
    S/Ldr Coghlan.
    Sgt Rebbetoy.
    P/O Lawton.
    F/Lt Woodward.
    P/O Torrence.
    F/Sgt Luing.
    Sgt Ashton.
    P/O Jowitt.
    Sgt Brennan.
    F/Sgt Robertson.
    P/O De Shane.
    P/O La Gette
    P/O Wright.
    Sgt Sandy.
    P/O Van Schaick.
    Sgt McPhail.
    March 42.
    F/Lt Bartlett.
    F/Sgt Brunet.
    P/O Musgrave.
    P/O Samant.

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    Default Whirlwind in print

    or mostly out of it probably!

    Westland Whirlwind Described, Bruce Robertson, Kookaburra, 1970
    Whirlwind, Victor Bingham, Airlife, 1987
    Profile publication No.191. Philip J.R.Moyes, 1967
    Westland Whirlwind, 4+ publication, Michal Ovcacik & Karel Susa, 2002
    Westland Whirlwind Warpaint No.54, Alan W.Hall, Warpaint Books

    I am putting the finishing touches to a 137 Squadron history, with Phil Listemann, for the next in his squadron history series.

    Chris Thomas

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    Default

    Hi Hugh,

    Similar to Chris I'm working on 263 Sqn with Phil Listemann. Below is a list of RCAF pilots who flew with 263 Sqn on Whirlwinds and some info I have on them. The dates below their names is when they joined the sqn and when they left or were lost.

    Barr, Alexander P/O RCAF
    09/43-14/10/44 (†) RCAF No J/26504
    From 55 OTU.

    Brearley, Edgar Sgt RCAF
    09/10/41-16-17/04/43 (†) Can J/15157
    Posted in from 55 OTU.

    Brennan, John Robert Sgt RCAF
    09/10/41-26/10/41 RCAF No R/72637
    Posted in from 55 OTU. Posted out to 137 Squadron. Failed to return from ops.
    (†) 27/05/42 Whirlwind P7122, 137 Squadron

    Coyne, James Patrick* Sgt RCAF
    09/10/41- No J/15233
    Posted in from 55 OTU. Born in October 1930 and brought up in God’s Lake, Manitoba, Canada. Enlisted in RCAF on 10th October 1940. Initial training at 1 ITS and then 1 EFTS and 2 SFTS. Graduated as Sgt. Posted to UK in July 1941. Coyne was posted to 55 OTU at Usworth. In October he was posted to 263 Squadron at Charmy Down. Pilot Officer in February 1942. He completed his first tour in August and was posted to a non-flying desk job as President of the RCAF Aircrew Re-selection Board at Warrington. Flying Officer in October. Flight Lieutenant in February 1943. After a spell of leave in Canada he was posted to Harwell for Mosquito conversion before being posted to 418 Squadron. Squadron Leader in December 1943. He remained with that until the end of the War. Returned to Canada in March 1946.
    DFC : LG 15/06/43

    Gill, Donald Ross F/O RCAF
    09/10/41-07/11/42 (†) No J/15111
    Posted in from 55 OTU. Failed to return from operations.

    Kennedy, Irving Farmer Sgt RCAF
    09/41-06/42 RCAF No J15273
    Known as ‘Hap’, Posted in from 55 OTU. Irving was born in Cumberland, Ontario, Canada in 1922. At the outbreak of WWII Irving joined the RCAF but being only 17 years old he was told to come back when he was 18. He finally enlisted in October 1940. Basic training was done in Canada with 2 ITS for 4 weeks. From there he went to 3 EFTS and then to 10 SFTS. On 16th August 1940 he arrived in the UK as a Sergeant Pilot and was posted to 55 OTU on Hurricanes. In September he was posted to 263 Squadron. His commission to Pilot Officer came through in March 1941.
    ‘Hap’ flew a number of low level operations but he always wanted to be a fighter pilot. His wish was answered in June 1942 when he was posted to 421 ‘Red Indian’ Squadron RCAF, flying Spitfire MkVs. The Squadron was mainly employed on convoy escort duties with the occasional sweep over France. ‘Hap’ hankered for action and volunteered to be sent to Malta. In October was posted to 249 Squadron. In November 249 Squadron was transferred to Gibraltar to cover the Torch landings in Tunisia. It was here that ‘Hap’ gained his first victory, a Ju-52 transport. Returning to Malta he was briefly attached to 185 Squadron in June 1943. That same month he was awarded the DFC.
    In July he was posted to 111 Squadron in Sicily where he gained further victories. September saw him posted to 93 Squadron as a flight commander. His tour was completed in January 1944 and he returned to the UK. He attended a number of courses before being posted to 401 Squadron, which he was promoted to command in July. Later in the month he was shot down by flak but managed to avoid capture and return to the UK in August. He did not take part in any further operations. He was awarded a Bar to his DFC. He returned to Canada in October and joined 124 Squadron, RCAF. In February 1945 he was discharged from the air force.
    Total claims for WWII 10 plus 5 shared.
    F/Sgt : 01/01/42, P/O : 20/03/42

    Le Gear, Frederick Stanley F/O RCAF
    -10/09/44 (†) RCAF No J/28384
    The youngest of four brothers Frederick joined the RCAF in August 1941. His training was carried out at Bellville and Windsor. In June 1942 he received his pilots wings while with 14 SFS at Aylmer. After a brief service with an operational unit on the Pacific Coast he was posted to the UK arriving there in December. He was promoted Flying Officer in March 1944.

    McClure, John Edward * Sgt RCAF
    09/10/41-26/10/41 RCAF No J/15505
    08-09/43-
    Posted in from 55 OTU. John was born in Toronto in 1921. He joined the RCAF and trained initially 1 ITS and then 10 EFTS and 9 SFTS. He was shipped to the UK and posted to 55 OTU. From there he joined 263 Squadron in October. 2 weeks later he joined 137 Squadron. Commissioned in 1942. Awarded the DFC in July 1943. Posted back to 263 Squadron.

    McPhail, Donald Burton W/O RCAF
    10/42-07/12/42 (†) RCAF No R/67887

    Mitchner, John Davidson Sgt RCAF
    09/10/41-06/42 RCAF No 20196
    Posted in from 55 OTU. John Mitchner was born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada on 3rd July 1914. In October 1940 he joined the RCAF. His initial training was with 2 ITS, then received further training with 8 EFTS and 10 SFTS. He arrived in the UK in August and was posted to 263 Squadron. Promoted to Flight Sergeant in December. In June 1942 he was posted to 55 OTU as an instructor and promoted to Warrant Officer. One month later he was posted to 247 Squadron and in August came another posting to 116 Squadron. Another move in November saw him with 402 Squadron.

    John was commissioned Pilot Officer in January 1943 and made his first claim on 17th. Rapid promotion followed and by August 1943 he was a Flight Lieutenant. Awarded a DFC in October his tour came to an end in February 1944. He was posted back to Canada, serving at Tealing Air Base. By August he was back in the UK and soon posted to join 421 Squadron as a Flight Commander based in France. A posting to 416 Squadron came through in September along with a promotion to Squadron Leader and command of the squadron. A Bar to his DFC was gazetted in July 1945. He was invalided out of the service in 1960.
    Total claims for WWII 10 plus 1 shared.

    Muirhead, H D Sgt RCAF
    09/10/41- RCAF No R/79587
    Posted in from 55 OTU. By May 1942 he was a Flight Sergeant. Posted out to 401 (RCAF) Squadron. Lost in a collision with another 401 Squadron Spitfire by which time he was a Warrant Officer 1st Class..
    (†) 17/02/43, Spitfire Vb BM346, 401 (RCAF) Squadron

    Racine, Gerald Geoffrey F/O RCAF
    10/43-31/03/44 RCAF No J5800
    Posted in from 55 OTU. Known as ‘Gerry’. Gerald was born in St Boniface, Manitoba, Canada in May 1920. He joined the RCAF in November 1940 serving with 2 MD, Brandon and 4 SFTS, Saskatoon. He served in a number of roles before being posted to the UK in July 1943. He served briefly with 59 and 55 OTUs before going to join 263 Squadron. During a sortie over Morlaix airfield on 31st March 1944 he shot down a Me410 that had damaged his Typhoon. He baled out and evading capture returned to the UK at the end of May. He was posted back to Canada and served with 124 Ferry Squadron until released from service in 1946.
    F/L :
    DFC : LG 26/09/44

    Ryan, Alton James F/Sgt RCAF
    09/43-24/06/44 (†) RCAF No R/149115
    From 55 OTU.

    Unwin, Leonard Arthur F/O RCAF
    09/43-24/12/44 (†) RCAF No J/10393
    From 55 OTU.


    Hope the above makes sense.

    Alex
    Last edited by Alex Crawford; 1st December 2007 at 19:11.

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    Default Whirlwind Ops

    This is great stuff; many thanks. To help those helping me, I can say that I can definitely identify the following as being on Whirlwinds, viz:

    No.137 Squadron

    DESHANE, P/O C.W. killed in flying accident, 9 March 1942, aircraft P7036
    WRIGHT, P/O R.E.D., killed in flying accident, 4 May 1942 (serial ?)
    BRENNAN, FS J.R., killed on operations 27 May 1942 (serial ?)
    MERCER, P/O C.E.. killed on operations, 19 february 1943, aircraft P7114
    REBBETOY, F/O J.R., killed on operations, 25 April 1943, aircraft P7058

    In addition, the following men were decorated for services in the squadron; said services were probably executed, in whole or in part, on Whirlwinds:

    McCLURE, F/O John Edward - DFC, 4 July 1943
    DEHOUX, F/O Laurier - DFC, 30 July 1943
    BRUNET, P/O Arthur Gaston - DFC, 12 August 1943
    ASHTON, P/O Joel Hilton - DFC, 22 October 1943

    No.263 Squadron

    GILL, F/O D.R., killed 7 November 1942, aircraft P7043
    McPHAIL, WO D.B., killed 7 December 1942, serial ?
    BREARLEY, F/O E., killed 16 April 1943, aircraft P6095

    In addition, the following officer was decorated for Whirwind services in No.263 Squadron:

    COYNE, F/O James Patrick - DFC, 1 June 1943

    Incidentally, if the ORBs give service numbers, the RCAF types stand out by virtue of having J- or R-service numbers.

    Now I confess that I can probably get a lot of information about those who were killed from their service files, although curiously these files yield very little (and often none) details about operational experiences (other than how they were killed). Thus, dates of first sortiies and ORB extracts respecting operations, close calls, or mistakes will not be in the personal documents while they might be in the ORBs.

    I should explain what I have in mind. I write routinely (and for free) for the "Observair" (newsletter, Ottawa Chapter, Canadian Aviation Historical Society) and wish to do a few short pieces on RCAF personnel whose service careers were entwined with RAF rather than RCAF units (a group known among RCAF history buffs as "The Lost Legion"). Further down the road (perhaps two years hence) a few of these pieces may be expanded into articles in "Legion Magazine" (Royal Canadian Legion publication).

    By way of illustrating what I have extracted from Rebbetoy's service file, I submit two pieces of information which may interest visitors to this board:

    EXTRACT, LETTER FROM COMMANDING OFFICER, NO.137 SQUADRON TO REBBETOY'S FATHER:

    "I should like to say that your son joined my squadron approximately a year and a half ago as a Sergeant, and from the very moment of joining the Squadron had shown himself to be a very fine pilot, exceptionally keen and most efficient, and six months after his joining the Squadron I was very happy to be able to recommend him for a commission, so that he could become one of my officers.

    "Since that time he has done extremely well and was in the front line in the Squadron for being recommended for the DFC, and but for his unfortunate loss he would have certainly earned this distinction. Apart from the work side he was very much beloved by the squadron and he had a personality which we will always remember."

    SUMMARY, REBBETOY'S TRAINING AT NO.56 OPERATIONAL TRAINING UNIT:

    No.56 OTU, course from 15 September to 28 October 1941. Previous flying was 66.40 day dual, 3.20 night dual, 73.15 day solo, 6.40 night solo, 24.50 on instruments, 4.15 formation, and 31,25 Link. At OTU flew 2.40 day dual and 42.20 day solo (2.35 instruments, 10.00 formation). FLYING APTITUDE graded as follows: Natural Aptitude (Average), Skill in landing (Average), Acrobatics (Average), Cockpit Drill (Average), Instrument Flying (Average), Formation Flying (Average), Night Flying (Not Applicable), Mao Reading (Average), Flying for Bombing (Not Applicable). DISTINCTIVE QUALITIES listed as follows - Persistence - "Does he keep on trying or is he easily discouraged ?" (Above Average); Sense of Responsibility "Has he common sense or is he over-confident ?" (Average), Endurance "Does he put up a consistently satisfactory performance under conditions of strain ?" (Above Average), Leadership (Average), Method "Does he work systematically to a plan ?" (Average), Deliberation (Average), Initiative (Above Average), Dash "Is he quick and decisive in action ?"(Above Average), Distribution of Attention (Average), Self Control (Average), General Assessment of Suitability as Operational Pilot (Average). No bombing exercises. Fired 670 rounds air-to-air and 800 rounds air to ground. Exposed 50 feet of film. "A high average. Always willing to fly and is sure of himself without being overconfident. Ground discipline good."

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    Default canadians

    Hi
    Any names you need more info on, let me know.
    The following were all canadians on whirlwinds

    Ashton
    Barr
    Bartlett
    Brearley
    Brennen
    Brunet
    Coyne
    Crabtree
    De Houx
    De Shane
    Gill
    Kennedy
    LaGette
    Lee White
    Lovell
    McClure
    Mercer
    Mitchener
    Muirhead
    Rebbetoy
    Reed
    Unwin
    Wright

    a good book is 'flying under fire', isbn 1-894004-79-5 , published by fifth house ltd, calgary, covers Coyne in great detail, (deeper than the CAHS article). I have it from the library now and I am just reading it.

    I have access here to the ORB's for 137Sq & 263Sq ( obtained before I left the UK last year ) if you have any specfic questions just ask....
    or PM for my e mail details
    I have been researching whirlwinds since the early 70's
    Cheers
    Jerry
    Last edited by brewerjerry; 2nd December 2007 at 03:00.

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    Default Le Gear

    Hi Alex,
    This is one I think I might have missed ,
    Le Gear, Frederick Stanley F/O RCAF -10/09/44 (†) RCAF No J/28384
    any ideas what date he joined 263Sq ?
    Cheers
    Jerry

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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Decobeck View Post
    Hi Hugh,

    Maybe you will be interested by the following information concerning the last mission of P/O Rebbetoy :

    At 10.35 h on April 25th 1943, 6 Whirlwind of the 137 Squadron took off from Manston for a Rhubard mission above Belgium. P/O Rebbetoy was F/Lt Bryan n°2 and near Tielt they sighted a train. They were ready to attack when F/Lt Bryan realized it was a Flak train. He tried to warn his n°2 not attacking this target but to no avail. P/O Rebbetoy dived and was immediately hit. The aircraft went down and inverted crashed in an inoccupied house. The pilot was instantly killed. It happened at Wijnendale near the railway track. The aircraft was a Whirlwind I (SF-G/P7058). Two German soldiers were wounded too.

    P/O Rebbetoy claimed the first Whirlwind victory of the Squadron (shared with Sgt H. O'Neil) too.

    Rgds.

    Régis
    Hi Régis,
    Thanks for the information, but one correction rebbetoy did not get 137Sq first whirlwind victory, it was the second .
    order of combats as follows :-


    15.05.42 - F/Sgt G.V.Brennan P7111 & P/O Brunet P7055 (SF-W) - Ju.88 (Dam) N.Sea

    27.05.42 - F/Sgt G.V.Brennan P7122 & P/O LaGette P7046 - Ju.88 N.Sea (actually a RAF Blenheim)

    20.06.42 - P/O C.Mercer P6972 & Sgt Ashton P7012 ( SF-V)- Do.217 (Dam) N.Sea

    06.07.42 - P/O Bartlett P7111 & Sgt Roberts P7037 - Ju.88 (Dam) N.Sea

    25.07.42 - P/O J.E.McClure P7104 & W/O R.L.Smith P7012 (SF-V ) - Ju.88 3(F)./122 N.Sea

    29.07.42 - F/Sgt J.R.Rebbetoy P7058 (SF-G) & Sgt L.O'Neill P7005 (SF-H) - Ju.88D-1 N.Sea

    Cheers
    Jerry

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    Default

    Hi Jerry,

    Details about Le Gear came from the following link;

    http://www.vac-acc.gc.ca/remembers/sub.cfm?source=collections/virtualmem/Detail&casualty=1803278

    Sorry, I don't have any details of when he joined 263 Sqn. On his arrival to the UK I would assume he went to an OTU for further training before being posted to a squadron.

    Alex

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