MAYERS, Howard Clive, Flying Officer (77976) – No. 601 Squadron – Distinguished Flying Cross – awarded as per London Gazette dated 1 October 1940.

‘This officer has participated in a number of interceptions and has destroyed seven enemy aircraft and possibly three others. During a recent engagement, a cannon shell passed through the port wing of his aircraft making a hole four feet in diameter, but flying Officer Mayers succeeded in bringing his aircraft safely to base. He has displayed great courage and fighting spirit.’

MAYERS, Howard Clive, Squadron Leader, DFC (77926) - Mention in Despatches - awarded as per London Gazette dated 1 January 1942.

MAYERS, Howard Clive, Wing Commander (77926) – No. 94 Squadron – Bar to Distinguished Flying Cross – awarded as per London Gazette dated 13 February 1942.

This officer has led his wing on a large number of sorties during the Libyan campaign. His mastery of tactics and skilful planning of operations have contributed largely to the many successes obtained. One day in December, 1941, during a machine gun attack against an enemy column, Wing Commander Mayers observed a member of his formation shot down by anti-aircraft fire.
When the attack was concluded, he skilfully landed near the crashed aircraft and,
although enemy vehicles were approaching, coolly waited for his comrade to reach him.
Putting him in the seat, Wing Commander Mayers clambered in on top of him and took
off as the enemy neared the aircraft. He finally flew safely to base. This officer has
always shown great courage and leadership. He has destroyed at least n enemy aircraft.

The recommendation found in Spink catalogue of 24 July 2008 gives the recommendation as above.

MAYERS, Howard Clive, Wing Commander, DFC (77926) – Distinguished Service Order – awarded as per London Gazette dated 28 July 1942. Published citation as follows:

Wing Commander Mayers has commanded a wing since April, 1942. He .is an expert on bombing and machine gun attacks, whilst his tactical knowledge has. contributed much to the success of long, range fighter operations. On two occasions in May, 1942, this officer led a formation .in attacks on aircraft bringing supplies to the enemy and destroyed many of them. Wing Commander Mayers has displayed gallantry and. great devotion to duty in .the direction of recent intensive operations.

Further information from Spink catalogue of 24 July 2008. The recommendation states:

”Wing Commander took over No139 Wing on 23.4.1942, 1 Squadron from this wing was the first to be fitted with Kittyhawk Bombers and another squadron was the first to be fitted with long range tanks. His tactical knowledge and personal interest in every operation has been a big factor in the success of the Kittyhawk Bomber and of the Long Range Kittyhawk Fighter, and his enthusiasm for both types overcame any reluctance on the squadron to be diverged from their normal role of air fighting. No. 6 Squadron with their Hurricane 11D’s were posted to this Wing and it was due entirely again to his tactical knowledge that No. 6 Squadron were able to have such success. In all cases, he has led the first few operations where new tactics were employed. On the 8/5 and the 12/5, he led both long range interceptions of supply aircraft on the Derna-Crete route, resulting in the interception of a large enemy force in which 13(or 23 corrupt) Ju.52’s were destroyed. On this sortie, he personally destroyed 1 Ju.52 and probably destroyed another. On 9/5, he led a Long-Range Escort to Benghazi with No. 250 Squadron and his part in planning the operation was a very important factor in its being carried out without loss. He is an expert in the art of bombing and strafing aerodromes, one of the most important being the attack on Gazala on 16/6 which enabled our retreat from Gabut to Sidi Rezeig and LG 75 to be carried out without serious interference by 109’s. Throughout the retreat, his Wing has been able to operate intensively under his direction despite his administrative responsibilities during this difficult period’.

Wing Commander Howard Clive Mayers, D.S.O., D.F.C., born Sydney, Australia, 1910; educated at Canford School and Jesus College, Cambridge; at the latter establishment he became a member of the University Air Squadron, 1929; commissioned into the R.A.F.O. the following year; prior to the outbreak of the Second World War, Mayers lived and worked in London, and was employed as a Managing Director of a company there; commissioned Pilot Officer 11.3.1940, and was posted to 5 MU Kemble, before moving to 6 O.T.U., Sutton Bridge, for conversion to Hurricanes in July.

Battle of Britain – ‘Gentlemen Riders’

Mayers was posted to ‘A’ Flight 601 (County of London) Squadron, Tangmere (Hurricane), 3.8.1940; as a new member of the ‘gentlemen riders’, he was immediately thrust into the Battle of Britain, and five days after his posting, he ‘Shot down ME 109 South of St. Catherine Point’ (Log Book refers); 12.8.1940, ‘Shot down 2 Ju.88 near Brighton and 1 Me.110’ (Ibid); the following day, ‘Shot down Me.110 off Portland. Hurricane hit by cannon… baled out found by Archie [Sir Archibald Hope] and rescued’, an article in The Evening News called The Week-End Boys of 601 Sqn, gives further insight, ‘Pilot Officer Mayers of 601 Squadron gives a dramatic account of his experience when he was shot down over the South Coast. After shooting off the tailplane of an Me.110, his Hurricane was hit ‘by what felt like a tornado’.

He goes on: ‘I felt a pain in my right side and leg, felt the engine stop, heard hissing noises and smelt fumes. My first reaction was to pull back the stick but there was no response. The next thing I remember was falling through the air at high speed and feeling my helmet, flying boots and socks torn off. Lack of oxygen must have dulled my senses as the combat ended at 19,000 feet and my parachute opened just above the clouds at 7,000 feet. At about 5,000 feet, between two layers of clouds, an Me.110 fired at me while being chased by a Hurricane.

I landed in the sea three miles from Portland – 200 yards from a German pilot. After 20 minutes, I saw a Hurricane searching the bay and recognized it as my Flight Commander, Flight Lieutenant Hope. He guided a Motor Torpedo Boat to our position’; Mayers was treated for slight shrapnel wounds at Portland Hospital, before being back up in the air three days later, 16.8.1940, when ‘Shot down 3 Ju.87’s over and near base. Bombed’ (Log Book refers); 18.8.1940, ‘Dog fight with Me.109. Damaged or shot down’ (Idid); however, Mayers was not to have it all his own way, in August, 26.8.1940, ‘Bombed while taking off. All formers on S.B. side broken by blast. Sgt. Wooley’s machine burnt on aerodrome; now flying out of R.A.F. Debden, Mayers on the 31st August, ‘attacked Ju.88; damage not ascertained… attacked alone about 30 Do.17 over London Docks. Shot down 1 Do.17 and probably another Do.17 (Ibid); in September, he moved with the Squadron back to the happy hunting ground of Tangmere, and in the opening week was once again in the thick of the action, 3.9.1940, ‘George and I attacked Do.17 S. of Brighton. Some smoke’; 4.9.1940, ‘Shot down Do.215 off Brighton. Me.110 probably destroyed with Mike Robinson’; 6.9.1940, ‘S.B. main plain hit by cannon from Me.109 making tremendous hole. Got back to base’; by the latter entry in Mayer’s Log Book, he has inserted a picture of the hole in his wing, the size of which is illustrated by Michael Robinson standing in it; moved with the squadron to Exeter, and on 16.9.1940, records ‘Archie, Griers and self awarded D.F.C.’; he finished off September adding to his tally, 24/25.9.1940, with two others, ‘ran in to 80 plus south of Bristol. Shot down Me.110 confirmed’.

Promoted Acting Flight Lieutenant, ‘A’ Flight Commander 601 Squadron, 1.10.1941; six days later, he took part in his last operational flight during the Battle of Britain, when he was shot down for the second time, 7.10.1940, ‘Shot down by Me.110 over sea. Force landed near Lyme Regis. Turned over. Wounded. Glycol tank hit. Invalided to Torquay.’; this was also the second time that he had written off an aircraft; not to be deterred by his wounds, and with a reputation to live up to as a ‘gentlemen rider’ – part of a squadron originally made up of entrepreneurs, millionaires and the aristocracy, it appears that Mayers knew how to lead his men both in the sky and on the ground, 8.11.1940, ‘C.O. Gilbert and I flew in formation for party at Tangmere. Consumed 137 bottles of Champagne’ (Log Book refers).

Escorts and Rescues

Mayers moved with the Squadron to Northolt, December 1940; in early February of the following year, the Squadron were mainly operating on Blenheim escorts over France, including 10.2.1941, ‘Escorted 6 Blenheims to Calais. A.A. at 800. 601 close escort. Lawson missing. Two machines No.46 Sqn down in channel. Sgt. Steadman saved. Helped in air rescue by bringing M.T.B. Landed Hawkinge met Paddy Green’; an article that appeared in The Evening Standard adds more detail to Mayer’s Log. ‘During a recent R.A.F. offensive sweep over occupied France, states Air Ministry, a Flight Lieutenant [Mayers] saw another Hurricane burst into flames.

The pilot baled out and came down in the channel. The Flight Lieutenant turned to fly down the Channel to find help, and in a few moments sighted a Motor Torpedo Boat. He then dived down to the boat and flew out in the direction of the pilot.

At first, the boat crew could not understand, so he turned back and dived again, almost to sea level. This time the message was understood, and the motor boat followed the Hurricane as it led the way to the rescue’; Mayers continued with escorts and sweeps throughout March, including, 29.3.1941, ‘Three pairs took off C.O. and Whitney’s pair to Dunkirk and self and Hulbert to Abbeville-Poix area. Made sweep to Poix, east to Amiens, north to Abbeville. No enemy e/a attacked goods train in goods yard at Abbeville’; he moved with the Squadron to Manston at the start of May, and was shot down for the third time, 4.5.1941, ‘Shot down by 3 or 4 Me.109s. Baled out at 20 grand. N. of Dover. Fearn also shot down’; in the last weeks of May, Mayers period a Flight Commander of 601 Squadron came to an end. With a new posting in the offing, he parted from the Squadron in suitable style, ‘posted to Malta. Got stinking in Town. Met Gills. Ended up in Turkish Baths as usual’; Mayers briefly stayed in Malta, enroute to his new posting in Egypt, it would appear that he was not too impressed by his stop off, ‘June 1st to June 16.1941. The Lowest form of Human Life (R.A.F.) – Controller at Malta’ (Log Book refers).

A New Challenge – The Western Desert

Mayers took command of 94 Squadron, Ismailia, Egypt (Hurricanes), July 1941; early the following month, he was provided with a ‘warm’ welcome when his base was bombed by Ju.88’s, with the Squadron losing 3 Hurricanes; in September, he moved with the Squadron to Ballah, and claimed his first enemy aircraft with his new squadron, 11.9.1941, ’17 a/c on patrol. Palm and Garner damaged odd Ju.88’s. Self attacked Ju.88 for some 15 minutes. It eventually crashed in flames on Ataea Mountains. One bullet through my rad. and cockpit’; Mayers moved with the Squadron to the Western Desert and was promoted Acting Wing Commander, November 1941; the Squadron were heavily involved in bomber escorts over El Adem and Sidi Rezegh, and regularly seen to be strafing German armoured columns; in December the Squadron did a lot of flying in the Tobruk area, and on 8.12.1941, ‘Over El Adem. Jumped by 6 Me.109’s. One damaged’; on Boxing Day 1941, Mayers’ heroic nature came to the fore again (See D.F.C. Second Bar Award citation, where it gives the action as 29th), ‘260 Strafed M.T. S.W. Agedabia. Mackay shot down by a.a. fire. Landed and picked him up in my Hurricane. 260 formed defensive circle. 94 engaged Me.109’s.

His paternal care for the men under his command, is also illustrated by an entry in his Log Book a few days before his miraculous rescue of Mackay, when he had written, ‘returned to base and ordered Turkeys for Xmas’; appointed to lead a Hurricane Wing, January 1942, and appointed Wing Leader 239 Wing (Kittyhawks), 25.4.1942; it was whilst flying with the latter that on 12.5.1942, ‘Intercepted 15 to 20 Ju.52 and 2 Me.110. Destroyed 13 Ju.52 and Me.110. With 4 Beaus. Self 1 Ju.52 destroyed., 1 damaged; a newspaper cutting included in the lot gives, ‘The operation was led by an Australian born Wing Commander [Mayers] D.F.C. and Bar, who shot down one Ju.52. The rest of the bag was well spread, being shared by British, Australian and Canadian pilots… In brilliant sunshine, the enemy aircraft was sighted ‘right on the deck’ about 50 feet over the sea. Immediately, the R.A.F. fighters went into attack, and, in a few moments, the first Ju.52 plunged blazing into the waves. ‘For the next fifteen minutes, I haven’t seen anything like it’, said one fighter pilot, ‘one after another at half mile intervals, the Ju’s crashed in flames’; the last entry that Mayers’ ever wrote in his Log Book is apt of the ‘Fighter Ace’ that he had become and the success in the air that he had experienced, in that it records yet another enemy aircraft confirmed to him, 8.7.1942, ‘Loading 4 Sqns bomber L.G. 21. Got Me.109 confirmed’; on the 20th July, Mayers ‘had just been seen to shoot down an MC 202, when he was shot down himself, force-landing in the Qattara Depression.

Searching Spitfire pilots later spotted his Kittyhawk with the cockpit open, but no sign of him. He was never seen again. It is believed that he had been captured, but was lost when a ship carrying prisoners to Sicily was sunk down in the Mediterranean by British fighters. He had been recommended for a D.S.O. just before his loss and this was subsequently gazetted’ (Aces High, C. Shores and C. Williams refers). Wing Commander Howard Clive Mayers, D.S.O., D.F.C., is commemorated on the Alamein Memorial, Egypt and on the Canberra War Memorial, Australian.