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Thread: The First British pilot to fly an active mission from US Territory during WW2

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    Default The First British pilot to fly an active mission from US Territory during WW2

    Greetings! Who was the first British (RAF) pilot to fly an active mission from the USA during WW2?

    I ask this as my father, Flt Lt Jack Hubert Stigner, while with 53 Squadron, flew his first mission from a US airfield on 23 July 1942 in Hudson PZ-O from Quonset Point on convoy escort duties, taking off at 11.30 and returning at 15.10. The remarks in the ORB state:
    "Aircraft returned early due to weather. One S.E. contact (unidentified due to weather). Other S.E contact - Convoy. No visual contact made."

    I wondered if friends out there can find other contenders.

    Best wishes to all, Jonathan

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    That must have been one of very few, if not the only RAF squadron to undertake war operations from the Continental USA in WW2! This would have been whilst en route from the UK to Trinadad. In case you were wondering, "S.E." was an official abbreviation for "Special Equipment" which itself as a code word indicating what we would term Radar. This radar would have been ASV Mk. II.
    David D

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    Hi David,
    Thanks for the info regarding 'S.E.'
    And, yes, this was while 53 squadron was making its way down to Trinidad.
    It would be interesting to learn if any other RAF squadrons were active in the USA during WW2.
    Jonathan

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    Whilst recognising that it isn't quite the same, I understood that RAF students engaged on the Towers Scheme in late 1941, flew sorties in USN aircraft from Naval Air Stations Grosse Ille and Pensacola, in Florida. A log book for one RAF Bomber Command Nav in my possession suggests that although British students were onboard, and were there to be trained / gain air experience, these sorties were also operational in nature.
    In fond memory of Corporal James Oakland AGC (RMP), killed in action in Afghanistan on 22 October 2009. Exemplo Ducemus.

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    stiggy128 (13th August 2019)

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    Good input. I had the thought that there had to be other RAF pilots seconded to the USA after Pearl Harbour. Perhaps they might have been seconded for instructor duties.

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    Jonathon,
    Though from a different aspect, as you know I have also delved into the posting of No.53 Squadron to the USA - July to December 1942. I have also come to believe that No.53 was the only RAF Squadron deployed to the U.S.A. during WW.2.

    It is clear from the ORB that your father’s sortie in Hudson T9461, PZ/O. on 23 July 1942 was the first recorded operational patrol of a number undertaken by the Squadron from their initial base at USNAS Quonset Point, RI. The August transit flights from Quonset down to Trinidad included Anti-Submarine Sweeps, but there are no indication that the July passages across the Atlantic to Newfoundland and down the Canadian/U.S. East Coast to Rhode Island included any such operational activity.

    As far the first operation by an RAF Squadron crew based in the U.S.A. your father’s sortie is very likely the first.

    As regards individual airmen I suspect it is less clear cut.

    As Jonny suggested there exists a possibility that RAF and Fleet Air Arm students of the Towers Scheme were involved in quasi-operational patrols as part of their training – especially during the period following the attack on Pearl Harbor and then again when the U-boats began to appear of the U.S. East coast. I would like to suggest that both advanced training at Pensacola, FL. and the earlier PanAm Observer’s School at Miami, FL (March 1941 to October 1942) are likely locations for such activity. Perhaps a personal log book might reveal this.

    Neither No.111 O.T.U. Bahamas (formed August 1942) or HMS Goshawk at Piarco, Trinidad are contenders if you are just looking at U.S. Territory. You may recall from one of the personal diaries we read that the Piarco Station loaned the officers of No.53 Squadron an unidentified Tiger Moth for their use (not mentioned in the ORB). Being an FAA Station I have not come across any Station records, but I understand it was partly manned by RAF personnel – possibly for maintenance purposes. Although a training school, I am sure I read of a Proctor crew reporting a possible U-boat sighting. Is it possible quasi-operational training sorties were undertaken as the U-boats began to appear in the Caribbean and the sinking of Allied shipping increased?

    A number of Fleet Air Arm Squadrons were formed in the U.S.A. and initially manned by Tower and BCATP graduates, but I do not think any these were in existence as early as July 1942.

    Lastly – but not actually based in U.S. Territory, consider the training units in Canada numbered in the 30 series – all were RAF manned at the beginning. Particularly No.32 O.T.U. on the Pacific coast of Canada, equipped with Anson and Beaufort.
    The ORB records: 8th December. 1941. Serviceable Beaufort aircraft armed and bombed up and crews detailed and standing by for operations. ALL FLYING TRAINING SUSPENDED.

    I have not seen the 1942 ORBs for Nos.31 OTU (Debert, N.S.), 34 OTU (Yarmouth, N.S.) and 36 O.T.U. (Greenwood, N.S.) but I can imagine they may also have undertaken Anti-Submarine Searches.

    There may be one further possibility that I feel should not overlooked. We know there was a U.S.N. Ensign aboard the No.209 Squadron Catalina that re-discovered the Bismark in May 1941. I have often wondered if any RAF exchange officers were similarly embedded in an USAAF or USN Patrol Squadron in early 1942. With the initial employment of British-derived “Special Equipment” in various U.S. aircraft around this time, I think it is entirely possible.

    Offered for further debate..
    Tony Broadhurst

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