View Full Version : Beaufighter Boys (G Pitchfork, Grub Street 2019)

Don Clark
11th February 2020, 03:12
Beaufighter Boys: True Tales of Those Who Flew Bristol's Mighty Twin G Pitchfork (Grub Street 2019)

Air Commodore (ret'd) Graham Pitchfork MBE first began work on this book in 2002. Delayed by circumstances, Graham took up the task again in 2018 and it was published at last by Grub Street in July 2019.

The reminiscences of Beaufighter crew are, for the most part, those shared with him back then and will be fresh to most readers. A few cases are extracts from published memoirs. While there are some familiar photos, many more are either less well-known from official sources or fresh, from personal collections. Printing & image techniques have advanced again in recent years, so the images are well-produced at appropriate sizes placed throughout.

For 211 Squadron's oft-neglected part in the India-Burma theatre air war there are two terrific contributions:

William E (Bill) Dickinson's 2002 recall of three Memorable Sorties in Burma gives a vivid account of bravery, skill and luck on operations. This chapter will be fresh to all readers.
Sergeant and later Warrant Officer pilot of 211 Squadron from their re-forming in August 1943, Bill and his navigator Andy Chatterton survived to complete their tour of operations in late January 1945. I last heard from Bill in 2003: recent efforts to regain contact were unsuccessful. Following the publication of Beaufighter Boys, a friend of Bill’s contacted Graham to pass on the news of his death on 10 July 2019, a few days before the book launch on 13 July as part of Flying Legends 2019 at Duxford.
See also: WE Dickinson http://www.211squadron.org/burma_quintet.html#Dickinson

Dennis A Spencer's Looking Backwards Over Burma 1999 manuscript chapter on his completed 211 Squadron tour (as a Sgt and F/Sgt Nav/W on Beaufighter low level operations with pilot F/O Geoff Vardigans) makes a welcome re-appearance. Dennis' book of the same title was published by Woodfield in 2009, where it is still available for purchase at modest cost. Part of his ms chapter on navigation techniques at low level was included in the book, and included in entirety with my 211 Squadron narrative for him. Despite advanced dementia, Dennis remains well in care and reached 100 years of age in January 2020.
See also: DA Spencer DFC http://www.211squadron.org/da_spencer.html

In Beaufighter Boys, Graham has made another very fine contribution to RAF/RAAF history. Available from the usual places (Grub Street, Amazon, Booktopia, eg).

I know and greatly respect Graham and his many RAF works. Although his efforts in this case have been slightly let down in publishing/copyediting by a number of typographical errors, this remains a fine book overall.

p13: Hercules "rotary engines" should be "radial engines"
p17: "211 Squadron reformed in August 1944" should be "...reformed in August 1943"
p163: "There does not appear to be any hard experience" should presumably be "any hard evidence"
p178 "flew 57 operations over Burma" should be "...flew 51 operations..."

Don Clark

Don Clark
10th October 2020, 05:08
My old friend Dennis A Spencer DFC died aged 100 years on 20 Sep 2020 after a number of years living with increasing frailty, under good care.

His funeral was held this week in Somerset, attended by close family.
Son Ian has written a splendid obit for him, on his own blog here:

Dennis' own account of his RAF and 211 Squadron service, especially as Nav/W on Beaufighters to his well-regarded pilot GD Vardigans DFC,
Looking Backwards Over Burma, is still available at modest price from Woodfield Publishing here

To complete a tour of 200 hours worth of trips, in 51 sorties on low-level strike ops against the Japanese in Burma, took a combination of skill, perseverance, bravery and luck.
Both men were subsequently awarded the DFC and promoted (to Warrant Officer (Spencer) and to Flight Lieutenant (Vardigans)).

Dennis and his late wife Annabelle (dec 2016) were wonderful correspondents and quickly became good friends over the course of our acquaintance from 2003 onwards.
Thanks to them both I was able to put together a fair page for Dennis for my 211 Squadron site.
I can't adequately describe how good it was to know them both.