View Full Version : G/C Richard Thomas Fairfax GATES, DFC, AFC

16th November 2020, 20:08
Disposing of papers, I have found and transcribed the original recommendation (for a DSO) which led to his DFC; also earlier research (re his AFC) and the discovery of earlier RAF Commands forum material on his biographical details.

GATES, Richard Thomas Fairfax, W/C, AFC (37064, Royal Air Force) - No.53 Squadron - Distinguished Flying Cross - awarded as per London Gazette dated 31 October 1944. Citation published in Gazette.

In. August, 1944, this, officer captained an aircraft which attacked a U-boat. The vessel was submerged but could be clearly seen from a certain angle. Wing Commander Gates promptly delivered a well conceived attack, straddling the submarine with, a number of depth charges. Afterwards, the surface of the water became covered with a large patch of oil. This 'officer has completed a large number of hours flying on operational duty and has displayed a high degree of skill and determination.

Public Record Office Air 2/9159 has original recommendation for a DSO dated 13 August 1944 drafted by G/C R.C. Read (Commanding St.Eval) when he had flown 86 sorties (712 hours 30 minutes). Event was 9 August 1944, 1430 hours, Bay of Biscay (46 degrees 50 minutes North, 03 degrees 08 minutes West), aircraft C/53.

On 9th August 1944 at about 1430 hours C/53 was on patrol in the Bay of Biscay. After investigating radar contacts which proved to be an escort group, the aircraft was rerunning to its patrol line when a long oil slick was seen. This was flown over at 4,000 feet and a U-Boat could clearly be seen below the surface.

Wing Commander Gates took command and after reducing height dropped a marker ahead and in line with the oil slick, subsequently dropping six depth charges between the head of the oil slick and this marker.

The rear gunner saw large green bubbles in the depth charge disturbance and, as the aircraft turned, the crew could see a boiling up of large air bubbles, which were soon joined by a patch of oil, which spread over the smooth sea. C/53 summoned the escort group, which reported a large pool of oil and wood resembling U-Boat planking.

From the very considerable amount of oil and air which escaped it is certain that the U-Boat was extensively damaged and unlikely that it could regain port.

The effectiveness of the attack was almost entirely due to the manner in which Wing Commander Gates conceived it, since the U-Boat could only be seen from a certain angle and height; the crew drill also was excellent.

Wing Commander Gates has a long operational career in this Command, starting on September 4th, 1939, in flying boats, in which he flew 68 sorties. After a period in the Trans-Atlantic Ferry Service he transferred to land planes, flying on operations with No,120 and No.220 Squadrons and commanding the latter from February until August 1942, in which months his crew had to abandon their Fortress by parachute at night when unable to find a base fit to land on return from a sortie.

In December 1943 he assumed command of No.53 Squadron and with this squadron has flown eight operational sorties totalling just under one hundred hours flying.

He is a particularly experienced and resourceful squadron commander, who is largely responsible for the success of his squadron in its operational work in the last nine months and particularly since D Day in the present important operation.

He is strongly recommended for an immediate award of the Distinguished Service Order.

On 16 August 1944 Air Vice-Marshal Baker (AOC No.19 Group) added his remarks.

The attack on this U-Boat was extremely well conceived and resulted in a certain kill, the survivors being picked up by HMS Wren. Wing Commander Gates has a long and distinguished operational record and I strongly recommend him for an immediate award of the DFC but not for the DSO.

This was U-608. Wikipedia reports, “She was scuttled in the Bay of Biscay on 10 August 1944 after being attacked by a RAF Liberator aircraft with depth charges. The damaged boat surfaced unnoticed and was scuttled by her crew, which was rescued by HMS Wren six hours later suffering no losses.”

The Fortress crash was evidently FK204, abandoned and crashed at Doddington Quarry near Wooler, Northumberland. 11 August 1942.

His earlier AFC award is in my data bases as follows:

GATES, Richard Thomas Fairfax, W/C (37064, Royal Air Force) - No.6 (Coastal) Operational Training Unit - Air Force Cross - awarded as per London Gazette dated 1 January 1944. Citation from Public Record Office Air 2/8959, provided courtesy of Steve Brew noting he had flown a total of 2,260 hours (140 in previous six months).

This officer has served as Chief Instructor for the past ten years [ten moths ?]. He has shown himself to be a first-class leader and a skilled and experienced pilot. He has instilled in his pupils a fine spirit of determination, dash and aggression, tempered with sound common sense.

There is a considerable amount of biographical information generated in May 2005 - see RAF Commands Archive - http://www.rafcommands.com/archive/07117.php