Group Captain A. F. Anderson

To be Sold on: 1st & 2nd March 2017 : The outstanding Second World War Wing Leader’s D.S.O. and Bar, fall of France 1940 D.F.C. group of seven awarded to Group Captain A. F. Anderson, Royal Air Force, late Royal Warwickshire Regiment, having originally been decorated for suicidal sorties over Calais in an obsolete 170 m.p.h. Hector biplane – in which he faced the attentions of Me. 109s and 110s – he converted to Mustangs and added a D.S.O. to his accolades for his gallant command of No. 268 Squadron in 1942, not least for leading the first ever single-engined fighter sortie to Germany from the U.K., and a Bar for equally gallant services as C.O. of No. 35 Wing , 2nd T.A.F., in 1944-45: in one of many low-level sorties flown over Holland in the latter period, a cannon shell burst inches behind the armour plating protecting his head and removed part of the fuselage, but he nonetheless completed his mission

Distinguished Service Order, G.VI.R., 1st issue, with Second Award Bar, the reverse of the suspension bar officially dated ‘1943’ and the reverse of the Bar ‘1945’; Distinguished Flying Cross, G.VI.R., the reverse officially dated ‘1940’; 1939-45 Star; Air Crew Europe Star, clasp, France and Germany; War Medal 1939-45; Coronation 1953; The Netherlands, Order of Orange-Nassau, Commander’s neck badge, silver-gilt and enamel, with J. M. J. van Wielik case of issue lid, mounted as worn where applicable, together with Egypt Command prize medals for the period 1931-33, two in silver and one in bronze, one named, all cased, and two Royal Warwickshire Regiment cap badges and a quantity of related uniform buttons, very fine and better (Lot) £9000-12000


D.S.O. London Gazette 5 February 1943. The original recommendation states:

‘Wing Commander Anderson has been in command of No. 268 Squadron since December 1940. At the time the Squadron was equipped with Lysanders and in order to get some sort of operations for his pilots he arranged for dusk and dawn patrols off the East Coast. In May 1941 the Squadron was re-equipped with Tomahawk aircraft and by September was fitted with a No. 19 A.F. wireless set giving larger range.

On 19 October 1941, the first attack was made on targets at Ijmuiden and Dan Helder in Holland with the Wing Commander leading. Several other attempts were made by Wing Commander Anderson but were abandoned owing to lack of cloud cover or fog. In December, in order to get further operational experience, Wing Commander Anderson asked for and obtained permission to be attached to R.A.F. Ibsley with a view to getting combat experience. Working under 10 Group, Wing Commander Anderson and three pilots carried out convoy patrols.

In January 1942, owing to the numerous mechanical failures of the Alison Engine, H.Q., Army Command, stopped operational flying. Throughout the above period the Squadron continued its normal role of training with H.Q. No. 2 Corps.

In April 1942, the Squadron was re-equipped with Mustang aircraft and in June, at the request of Wing Commander Anderson, it was permitted to carry out shipping reconnaissance off the Dutch Coast.

In August 1942, the Squadron was attached to No. 12 (Fighter) Group for full fighter operations and was equipped with V.H.F. and operated on interceptor patrols, shipping reconnaissance off the Dutch Coast and attack of ground targets in Holland and Germany.

It has been due to the personal effort of Wing Commander Anderson that his squadron has been enabled to carry out offensive operations and he himself has always led the first of any new type of sortie.

In October, Wing Commander Anderson led a section of four Mustangs to North-West Germany and attacked targets on the Dortmund-Ems Canal. This was the first time that single-engined fighters based in England had attacked targets in Germany. Throughout this period, Wing Commander Anderson has led: 6 Tomahawk operations over Holland; 2 Mustang “Rhubarbs” – one over Holland and the other over Germany; 12 Mustang shipping reconnaissance operations; and 3 Mustang interceptor patrols over the North Sea.

Wing Commander Anderson has always displayed the greatest initiative to get his squadron onto offensive operations. he is a born leader and has instilled an operational attitude into not only the pilots but also the N.C.Os and ground crew as well. He is absolutely tireless and one of the most enthusiastic Commanding Officers I have met. Through his magnificent leadership, courage and example he has produced in 268 Squadron a thoroughly sound and reliable fighting unit not only in its primary role of Fighter Reconnaissance but also in its secondary and more offensive roles.’

Bar to D.S.O. London Gazette 27 April 1945. The original recommendation states:

‘Between 15 December 1944 and 21 February 1945, Group Captain Anderson carried out 6 reconnaissance sorties over enemy territory. Besides bringing back valuable information, this officer and his No. 2 made the following claims:

1 1000-ton ship destroyed (seen on fire); 2 1000-ton ships severely damaged (one on fire); 1 minelayer damaged; 1 tug destroyed; 3 tugs damaged (one on fire); 3 barges severely damaged; 1 500-ton ship and sundry small M.Vs damaged; 1 ferry damaged; 2 M.T. destroyed; 1 Met and 1 A.F.V. damaged.

These attacks were carried out often in the face of intense accurate flak and twice Group Captain Anderson’s aircraft was hit and damaged.

Since the date of his last award this officer has carried out 49 sorties over enemy territory, some of which were to provide photographs necessary during the planning of “Overlord”. Besides the claims made above, he has scored successes against a number of different types of target including 16 locos damaged, parties of troops on the ground, and damage to transport vehicles of all descriptions, at all times displaying a fine offensive spirit and courage of a high order.

Group Captain Anderson has proved himself to be an outstanding Commanding Officer. The Recce. Wing he has commanded in the Field since August 1944 has achieved magnificent results whilst working with 1st Canadian Army. The results achieved, at a small cost to the Wing, are an indication of its efficiency. This high standard is very largely due to the efficiency of its Commanding Officer and the magnificent example he sets to the rest of his unit.’

D.F.C. London Gazette 5 November 1940. The original recommendation states:

‘During the months of May and June 1940, this officer was in charge of No. 613 Squadron which operated during the evacuation of the B.E.F. In spite of the fact that this squadron was without previous experience of operational flying, a number of important sorties were successfully accomplished in the face of heavy anti-aircraft fire. Squadron Leader Anderson took part in each of these which included the bombing of batteries in the vicinity of Calais, and the dropping of ammunition and water for the garrison holding the Citadel there. All these operations were successfully carried out. This was substantially due to the confidence and enthusiasm which Squadron Leader Anderson inspired in his junior officers and to his magnificent leadership.’

Order of Orange Nassau London Gazette 31 October 1947. The original recommendation states:

‘Group Captain Anderson commanded No. 35 Reconnaissance Wing from 30 August 1944 until 1 December 1945. The Wing operated from Gilze Rijen and Mill during the winter of 1944-45. During this period his Wing was responsible not only for tactical reconnaissance and artillery spotting, but also for provision of photographic cover extending deep into enemy territory, without which detailed plans for operations by the Army and Air Force could not have been made. Group Captain Anderson proved himself to be a courageous leader; he himself flew a great number of operational sorties and frequently insisted on leading missions which, by the nature of their tasks, expected heavy opposition. Under his inspiring leadership the Wing carried out all these tasks in an exemplary manner.’

Alan Ford Anderson was born in Simla in November 1910, the son of an Indian Army officer. Educated at Winchester and the R.M.A. Woolwich, he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Artillery in January 1931, but transferred to the Royal Warwickshire Regiment later in the same year. Ambitious to fly, however, and following time in Egypt, he obtained a welcome secondment to the Royal Air Force in early 1934. Having then qualified for his “Wings”, he was posted to No. 13 (Army Co-operation) Squadron and, after a brief period back on regimental duty in 1938, to another Army Co-operation unit, No. 2 Squadron, in the rank of Flight Lieutenant.

No. 613 Squadron 1940 – off to war in a biplane – D.F.C.

Shortly after the outbreak of hostilities, and having been briefly employed at Abbeville, he was granted the temporary rank of Squadron Leader and appointed to the command of another Army Co-operation unit, No. 613 (City of Manchester) Squadron, then equipped with obsolete Hectors, but gradually taking delivery of Lysanders, and in early 1940 he volunteered to ferry a Lysander to Finland for operations against the Russians – a journey entailing civilian clothing, a false passport and, as it transpired, a forced landing in Norway.

Back in England, with the looming prospect of combat with the Luftwaffe, Anderson’s concerns regarding his squadron’s obsolete Hectors fell on deaf ears. In his own words:

‘Though our Lysanders were fairly new, our Hectors were not. A large proportion were in fact veterans, and in particular my own aircraft was no stranger to me since I had flown it at the R.A.F. Display at Hendon in 1937 … Words can give little impression of the problems of manpower, serviceability and armament. For the Hectors in particular we relied almost exclusively on cannibalisation. Bomb racks were designed for manual release gear operation, while the bombs were designed for electro-magnetic release. This caused four main problems:

(a) The bombs didn’t fit the racks, and were free to swing longitudinally as well as vertically, just enough to cause hang-ups or premature release (taxi-ing or in bumps).

(b) The nose pistols often unwound in the airflow, arming the bomb on the rack and exposing the detonator during take-off or in the air.

(c) The pilot’s manual release gear, always awkward to operate, was, with differently designed bombs, liable to fail.

(d) Modifications, necessarily ‘off the cuff’, could seldom be described to another shift of armourers, causing un-necessary risk.’

Notwithstanding such limitations and a top speed of 140 knots, Anderson and his fellow Hector pilots went into action in their ancient biplanes over Calais in May 1940, an astonishing feat reminiscent of scenes enacted over the trenches in the Great War, and an extraordinarily gallant one by virtue of the fact they faced Me. 109s and 110s, in addition to accurate ground fire. In one low-level strike at 100 feet, Anderson had to fire one round at a time with his forward Vickers gun as the crank handle had sheared off, but his ‘bombs actually came off at the right time which was surprising as one almost always lost them on the way to the target or got a hang-up with the detonator exposed.’

Of operations on 26 May, he later wrote:

‘At 04.10 613 Squadron took off for Hawkinge. We were briefed to drop supplies of ammunition and water to the Calais garrison in two simultaneous missions – (a) by the Lysanders of the Air Component Squadrons on the Citadel and (b) by 613 Squadron Lysanders on the Docks area, where part of the garrison was now isolated. This force was to be supported by low-level bombing and low flying attacks by the Hectors of 613 Squadron. A section of Defiants was to provide top cover for the Citadel force.
At 09.50 we took off through traces of lifting ground fog. The landfall was clearly marked by black smoke stretching about 120 degrees across the horizon from Dunkirk to Bologna. The weather over the Channel and France was sunny with unlimited visibility.
With the Lysander Flight to starboard in echelon, I led the Hectors into the target in a shallow Vic, diving from 4,000 ft. We dropped our 120lb. bombs at about 600 ft. on the run in, and shot up such targets as we saw, mostly L.A.A. gun posts and a few trucks. We got a certain amount of light flak, and some Bofors fire from the dock area, and turning half a mile inland we came back at ground level to give the air gunners a chance to find targets and to create what diversion we could for the Lysanders. The smoke was fairly thick near the ground, and I lost sight of the Lysanders as we went in.

When the supply dropping aircraft were reckoned to be clear of the target area we broke off, and crossing out I saw that my No. 2 had been hit by a burst of Bofors shells in the fuselage and centre section, and was losing petrol very fast. His air gunner was dead. The pilot broke away at the English coast, and crashed in sea fog which was still thick on the cliffs. Though injured he fortunately recovered later.’

As concluded by Leslie Hunt in Twenty-One Squadrons, ‘never did airmen go into battle flying such obsolete machines but the spirit was unequalled as machine-gun posts were knocked out by the Hectors, the enemy pouring a hail of return-fire into the slow moving aircraft.’

Anderson was awarded the D.F.C.

No. 268 Squadron 1940-42 – Tomahawks and Mustangs – D.S.O.

In December 1940, Anderson was appointed to the command of No. 268 Squadron, equipped with Lysanders, but shortly to convert to Tomahawks, an unhappy transition owing to the many defects in the latter aircraft’s performance – in fact according to Anderson ‘the worst aircraft in the world’: nonetheless, operational work was keenly pursued and, in October 1941, a notable attack carried out against targets in Ijmuiden and Dan Helder in Holland.

Having been re-equipped with Mustangs in April 1942, No. 268 embarked upon a spate of interceptor patrols and shipping reconnaissances off the Dutch Coast, in addition to attacking ground targets and, from August of that year, on attachment to No. 12 (Fighter) Group, commenced full time fighter operations, the recently promoted Anderson – now a Wing Commander – invariably taking the lead.

Thus in October, he led a section of four Mustangs to North-West Germany in October, the first time that single-engined fighters based in England had attacked the Nazi homeland in daylight, on this occasion causing extensive damage to targets on the Dortmund-Ems Canal.

For ‘his magnificent leadership, courage and example’, he was awarded the D.S.O.

Wing Leader – No. 35 Wing 1944-45 – Bar to D.S.O.

Grounded at the end of 1942, Anderson attended the R.A.F. Staff College, but in the summer of 1943, after being appointed Wing Commander (Operations), H.Q. No. 35 Wing, he orchestrated his return to operations, taking part in a flurry of interceptor and anti-shipping patrols, in Mustangs operating out of Odiham and Tangmere.

During one “Ranger” operation to Mezidon marshalling yards in November 1943, his No. 2 was shot down in flames, and his own aircraft severely damaged by a direct hit in the starboard wing – his flight back to base had to be completed at 20 feet and a maximum speed of 120 m.p.h. Nor was subsequent pre-invasion photographic reconnaissance over Normandy any more relaxing – ‘These often rather nasty, 500 feet straight and level on sometimes long features. Beaches particularly tricky jobs. Flak tricky.’
In March 1944, Anderson was advanced to the acting rank of Group Captain and joined the Planning Staff for D-Day, but he was back in action with No. 35 Wing, comprising 2, 4 and 268 Squadrons, as part of 2nd T.A.F., shortly thereafter, and particularly in the above cited period of December 1944 to February 1945, when the Wing operated out of airfields at Ghent and Gilze Rijen – thus a mass of damage inflicted on enemy transport, armour and troops, and indeed enemy shipping.

On a solo sortie against enemy armour at Hellevoetsluis, Anderson encountered intense and accurate flak – ‘20mm. hit aft of cockpit removed radio and some of the fuselage, but it hung together. Bofors very bright in the cloud on way down to target. Cockpit full of smoke but it cleared … Quite a nasty episode but informed Huns we are here and we’ll be back.’

Gilze Rijen was subjected to occasional attack from passing V1s, Anderson and his fellow pilots having to take cover in the mess when the engines were heard to cut out above them – “Boom” Trenchard, who was visiting No. 35 Wing on one such occasion, ‘never moved throughout the event and was amused when everyone in the Mess came out from under the tables. He was still sipping his gin and tonic at the bar.’

For his own part, Anderson’s ‘courage of a high order’ resulted in the award of a Bar to his D.S.O., in addition to being appointed a Commander of the Order of Orange-Nassau; see Coming into Land, by Bill Malins, D.F.C., for some good accounts of 268 Squadron and 35 Wing in action, in which he describes Anderson as ‘the very best C.O.’, who led by example.


No sooner had hostilities ended than Anderson found himself “flying a desk” at the Air Ministry, dealing with accident prevention, so he was relieved to return to duty as C.O. of No. 324 Wing in Egypt, flying Tempests, in 1948-49, a period that witnessed him making a wheels-up forced-landing in February 1949. A staff appointment at S.H.A.P.E. in Paris having followed, he returned to the U.K. and became C.O. of Western Sector, Fighter Command, in which period he flew Meteors.

Taking his retirement as a Group Captain in 1958, Anderson took over the Channel House Hotel at Minehead and, after seven years as a hotelier, opted for growing tomatoes commercially in Somerset. Retiring for a second time, to Minorca, he returned to the U.K. after 20 years, where he died in December 2002, aged 92.

to be sold with the following related archive:

(i) The recipient’s original R.A.F. Pilot’s Flying Log Books (5), comprising Form 414-types, covering the periods January 1934 to July 1936, August 1936 to December 1939, and January 1940 to December 1944; and Form 1767-types covering the periods January 1945 to November 1951, and December 1951 until September 1957, the wartime period examples with a quantity of inserted newspaper features and, by the time of his command of No. 35 Wing, particularly detailed operational entries: a fine record reflecting participation in nearly 100 sorties, many of them of the low-level kind.

(ii) Three congratulatory letters on the award of his D.F.C., two of them from senior officers at No. 22 Group and all dated in November 1940.

(iii) Official correspondence, warrant and statutes for the Order of Orange-Nassau, 1947-48, including investiture letter.

(iv) A wartime photograph album (approximately 140 images), ranging from operational scenes with No. 35 Wing in 1944 through to Berlin and Hamburg in early 1946, with good coverage of fellow pilots and aircraft.

(v) Another wartime photograph album (approximately 70 images), ranging from R.A.F. Hurn in the summer of 1942 through to June 1945, as kept by the recipient’s second wife, and again with good coverage of pilots and aircraft.

(vi) A further selection of wartime photographs (approximately 50 images), including targets under fire, a visit by the King and Montgomery to a forward airfield in Belgium, and further aircraft and personnel; together with a selection of post-war images, including time in Meteors, some official messages and letters relating to his time in Egypt in the late 1940s, and an official programme and related luncheon menu for the Queen’s visit to R.A.F. Leuchars, June 1957.

(vii) Official Grant of Squadron Badge for No. 268 Squadron, hand-illuminated badge and motto, as painted by an artist of the College of Arms, dated November 1941, and signed by the Chester Herald and Inspector of Royal Air Force Badges, J. Heaton-Armstrong, and H.M. King George VI, creasing and tear to top of document.

(viii) Official Air Ministry letter with record of service, together with 9pp. career summary written by the recipient.

(ix) A file of correspondence with Airey Neave, the much decorated Colditz escaper and author of The Flames of Calais, including the recipient’s part hand written and carbon copy accounts of 613 Squadron’s part in the operations of May 1940; together with other miscellaneous official reports and paperwork.

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