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Thread: ASR Walrus 1940 South Coast

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    Default ASR Walrus 1940 South Coast

    Hi guys

    I'm endeavouring to find information about the use of a RN Walrus by Flt Lt Russell Digger Aitken during ASR of British and German aircrew during August/September 1940. It is recorded that he recovered 35 airmen, probably some dead, while operating from Gosport. I've identified a few but not many. His crewman may have been Flt Sgt Bagshaw.

    Nothing of use in Gosport ORB.

    Sadly, Aitken's logbook was lost in a house fire in his native New Zealand (in touch with his grandsons).

    Any help whatsoever could prove useful.

    Fingers crossed
    Stay safe
    Brian

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    Default Re: ASR Walrus 1940 South Coast

    Have you tried refering to Norman Franks' book 'Another Kind of Courage: Stories of the UK-based Walrus Air-Sea Rescue Squadrons' ?
    Andrew

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    Default Re: ASR Walrus 1940 South Coast

    Quote Originally Posted by cyflyer1 View Post
    Have you tried refering to Norman Franks' book 'Another Kind of Courage: Stories of the UK-based Walrus Air-Sea Rescue Squadrons' ?
    Hi Andrew

    Thanks for the response.

    I was under the impression that the book you mention covers only post 1940 Walrus operations?


    Cheers
    Stay safe
    Brian

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    Default Re: ASR Walrus 1940 South Coast

    Brian,

    Although I see from the internet you have been researching this story for many years (circa 2015?), you have not provided any indication of the sources you've found or used. That being the case I wonder if you've seen his Wiki entry at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russel..._(RAF_officer) which appears to suggest he was operating independently (ie with approval but not as part of an operational unit/squadron). If that is the case I suspect it would be unlikely to find a definitive record of his flights or those he saved.

    Quote from Wiki:

    In the early stages of the Battle of Britain, many British fighter pilots who bailed over the English Channel or North Sea drowned or died of exposure before being rescued by lifeboats or launches, if they were located at all. This was a significant concern for the RAF at a time when trained and experienced fighter pilots were vital to Britain's aerial defences. In July, Aitken was stationed at Gosport and observed many aerial engagements over Portsmouth and Southampton that saw aircraft being ditched in the sea. He proposed to his commander that amphibious aircraft be used in a rescue service for downed pilots as a quicker alternative to the launches that he often saw making their way to the downed pilots.[8][9]

    With his initiative approved, Aitken sourced a Supermarine Walrus,[10] a biplane amphibian having a crew of four and which had been in service with the RAF since 1933.[11] He then stationed himself off the Isle of Wight, on the south coast of England. Floating on the sea, he would wait for the dogfights to take place above him before taking off to retrieve any pilots who had ditched or bailed out. He was soon joined by a couple of other pilots, similarly operating Walruses but from the Royal Navy Air Station at Ford. These semi-official air-sea rescue services ended at the end of August, when Gosport and Ford were bombed. By this time, Aitken had been responsible for rescuing at least 35 pilots, both British and German.[8][12] His work helped lead to the development of the Air Sea Rescue Services which operated air-sea rescue squadrons for collecting RAF aircrew who had ditched in the sea.[13]

    Another Brian

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    Default Re: ASR Walrus 1940 South Coast

    Interestingly Aitkin's initiative receives no recognition whatsoever in the 2007 edition of the RAF Historical Society Journal devoted to the Evolution of the Air/Sea Rescue Organisation (that's actually the title of one presentation rather than the Journal itself). That would support my thinking there is little, if any, official documentation about his exploits.

    Brian

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    Default Re: ASR Walrus 1940 South Coast

    Quote Originally Posted by Lyffe View Post
    Interestingly Aitkin's initiative receives no recognition whatsoever in the 2007 edition of the RAF Historical Society Journal devoted to the Evolution of the Air/Sea Rescue Organisation (that's actually the title of one presentation rather than the Journal itself). That would support my thinking there is little, if any, official documentation about his exploits.

    Brian
    Thanks, Brian

    I find it difficult to accept that there was not some form of record of the RAF use of a RN Walrus (and its fuel), let alone the recovery of 35 aircrew/or bodies! I appreciate there was a war ongoing, but .....!

    Flt Lt Aitken's gallantry/initiative was recognised only by a MiD. I intend to make some belated amendment within my forthcoming "Battle for the Airfields", hence I would dearly appreciate some further detail.

    Stay safe
    Brian

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    Default Re: ASR Walrus 1940 South Coast

    Hi guys

    Brian - the fact that the latest official ASR publications give no mention to Aitken's exploits, is what I'm complaining about!

    David - I meant Doug Gow is a fellow New Zealander - I thought that you may know him!

    Col - Not much progress since then, so thought I'd try RAF Commands!

    Thanks again
    Stay safe
    Brian

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    Default Re: ASR Walrus 1940 South Coast

    Brian
    I agree with you that it is highly unlikely that an airman just took a plane back in 1940, and flew it on his own. I would believe such semi official flights could happen later in the war, say in the MTO, but not on the Isles. I assume, perhaps wrongly, that Walruses were at hands of the RN, were not they? Thus it could be one of the FAA Sqns was responsible, but their records were decimated, it seems. As to keeping the records, certainly there were, but lots were destroyed or went missing. It is not unusual that it is problematic to establish combat flights of Wing Commanders, not necessarily mentioned in relevant ORBs. Some records of detachments also went missing, perhaps not returned or attached to parent ORBs.
    I would bet that there is some mention in the paperwork held by TNA, Group ORB perhaps? Some clue might be in the records concerning Isle of Wight airfield - the choice is rather small.
    https://wight.hampshireairfields.co.uk/som.html#
    BTW Have you tried to obtain his personal file from the MoD?
    Franek
    https://www.facebook.com/Franciszek-Grabowski-241360809684411/

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    Default Re: ASR Walrus 1940 South Coast

    Hi Franek

    Good to hear from you.

    I have now been able to establish that Aitken's unit was simply Gosport Station Flight, but unable to find any record for it during this period (extracted from his personal file ex MoD)

    Take care
    Stay safe
    Brian

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    Default Re: ASR Walrus 1940 South Coast

    Brian
    Then you need to check if there was any Walrus attached to the Station Flight. I am afraid, that if records of the unit are not attached to the ORB then they are gone.
    Franek
    https://www.facebook.com/Franciszek-Grabowski-241360809684411/

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