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Thread: G/C Gordon Learmouth RAPHAEL, DSO, DFC, Nos.77, 10 and 85 Squadrons

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    Default G/C Gordon Learmouth RAPHAEL, DSO, DFC, Nos.77, 10 and 85 Squadrons

    Apologies for a very long post - I thought I might have to break it into two parts.

    RAPHAEL, F/O Gordon Learmouth (37508) - Mention in Despatches - No.77 Squadron - Awarded as per London Gazette dated 20 February 1940. Born in Brantford, Ontario, 25 August 1915; educated in Quebec City; went to England, 1934, to attend College of Aeronautical Engineers, Chelsea, England. Enlisted in RAF Reserve, September 1935; appointed Acting Pilot Officer on Probation, 20 January 1936. As Acting Pilot Officer, to No.7 (Bomber) Squadron, Worthy Down, 10 August 1936. With No.77 Squadron at outbreak of war until 19 May 1940 (wounded, hospitalized); with No.10 Squadron, 16 July 1940 to approximately 23 September 1940; reported to have instructed at a Coastal Command general reconnaissance school; with No.85 Squadron, 7 May 1941 to January 1943; ferried Boston BZ338 to Britain, April 1943; commanded Castle Camps and then Manston. Attended RAF Staff College. See Epics of the Fighting RAF, pp.130-132. Killed 10 April 1945 flying a Spitfire in collision with a Dakota (actually an C-46 Commando returning from France (freight run). Specifically listed in AFRO 1292/41 dated 7 November 1941 as a Canadian in the RAF who had been decorated as of that date; AFRO 373/43 dated 5 March 1943 (reporting his DSO) and AFRO 765/45 dated 4 May 1945 (reporting his death) also described him as a Canadian in the RAF. According to Chris Shores, Aces High (second edition), Raphael was a "severe leader" who neither smoked nor drank and disapproved of these actions in others. He nevertheless was admired for other qualities. Aerial victories as follows: 10/11 May 1941, one He.111 destroyed north of London (Havoc I); 13/14 May 1941, one He.111 destroyed off Thames plus one He.111 probably destroyed near Gravesend (Havoc I); 23/24 June 1941, one Ju.88 destroyed off Harwich (Havoc I); 13/14 July 1941, one He.111 destroyed 25 miles east of Ray Sand (Havoc I); 16/17 September 1941, one Ju.88 destroyed near Calcton (Havoc II); 30/31 July 1942, one Ju.88 damaged near Cambridge (Havoc II); 2/3 August 1942, one Ju.88 destroyed off Dengle Flats (Havoc II); 17/18 January 1943, one Ju.88 destroyed over southeastern England (Mosquito); 29/30 June 1944, one V-1 destroyed in sea off Manston (Mosquito); 6/7 July 1944, one V-1 destroyed in sea off Manston. Photo PL-26460 taken 6 January 1944. Photo PL-33122 (ex UK-14297 dated 18 September 1944 shows S/L Guy Plamondon, DFC, W/C Gordon Raphael, DSO, DFC, and Lieutenant J.J. McDonald (Halifax, Canadian Army loaned to British and serving with an airborne division). No citation to MiD.

    RAPHAEL, F/L Gordon Learmouth (37508) - Distinguished Flying Cross - No.77 Squadron - Awarded as per London Gazette dated 17 May 1940. No citation other than "for gallantry and devotion to duty in the execution of air operations". Public Record Office Air 2/9317 has recommendation dated 22 March 1940 which specifically identifies him as a Canadian:

    As captain of a Whitley aircraft engaged on a Nickel flight to Warsaw on the night of 15/16 March 1940, this officer carried out his task with a precision and exactness that has marked all his operational flights.

    His teamwork in the air, his meticulous planning before a flight, his ability as a pilot and navigator and his complete knowledge of his equipment makes all his flights appear simple and uneventful. The flight to Warsaw, in spite of an increase in wind speed when going to the target and dense clouds on the return journey, was completed with a deviation from schedule which can be accounted for almost to a minute by the increased wind speed. Throughout the period of the present hostilities this officer has shown skill, daring and initiative on all his flights.

    Previous flights include a Nickel raid on Posen, as well as several security patrols, reconnaissance and Nickel raids on other German towns.

    This is minuted by a staff officer in No.4 Group on 1 April 1940:

    This Canadian officer has carried out many flights over enemy territory since the outbreak of war with a maximum of success. His Nickel flights to Warsaw and Posen were excellent both in prior planning and execution. Very strongly recommended for the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross.

    Although the award was gazetted without a citation, the recommendation was edited for security purposes in case it had been published:

    As captain of an aircraft engaged on a pamphlet flight to Warsaw on the night of 15/16 March 1940, this officer carried out his task with the distinction that has marked all his previous operational flights. His teamwork, careful planning and ability as a pilot are of the highest standard and throughout the period of hostilities he has shown skill, daring and initiative. Previous flights include a pamphlet raid on Posen, several security patrols and also reconnaissance and pamphlet raids on other German towns.

    Spink catalogue of 23 November 2006 has a slightly different recommendation:

    As Captain of a Whitley aircraft engaged on a Nickel flight to Warsaw on the night 15/16th March 1940, this officer carried out his task with a precision and exactness that has marked all his operational flights.

    His teamwork in the air, his meticulous planning before a flight, his ability as a pilot and navigator and his complete knowledge of his equipment makes all his flights appear simple and uneventful. The flight to Warsaw, in spite of an increase in wind speed when going to the target and dense clouds on the return journey, was completed with a deviation from schedule which can be accounted for almost to a minute by the increased wind speed. Throughout the period of the present hostilities, this officer has shown skill, daring and initiative on all his flights.

    Previous flights include a nickel raid on Posen, as well as several security patrols, reconnaissance and nickel raids on other German towns.

    RAPHAEL, F/L Gordon Learmouth (37508) - Bar to Distinguished Flying Cross - No.85 Squadron - Awarded as per London Gazette dated 15 July 1941. Air Ministry Bulletin 682 refers.

    This officer has proved himself to be a relentless and skilful night fighter pilot. Since May 1941 he has destroyed three and probably another of the enemy's aircraft.

    Spink catalogue has the following as the recommendation:

    This officer has performed magnificent work in the course of recent night flying operations.

    Since May 3rd, 1941, when he joined the Squadron, F/L Raphael has destroyed three enemy aircraft and probably destroyed another. On the night of May 10/11th, he shot down a He.111 in flames which crashed near Chelmsford. On the night of June 13/14th, he attacked and probably destroyed a He.111 which was last seen going down completely out of control east of Shoeburyness. A few minutes afterwards, he attacked another He.111 near Gravesend which exploded in mid-air. In both these combats, he pressed home his attacks with great determination in the face of intense return fire.

    On the night of June 24/25th, F/L Raphael destroyed a Ju.88 after making three separate attacks. In breaking away after the first attack, he received intense and accurate return fire from the enemy aircraft which hit his Havoc in many places including the starboard engine, oil tank, and fuselage. In spite of this, F/L Raphael delivered a second attack which silenced the rear gunner and a third attack which stopped the engines of the Ju.88.

    F/L Raphael has proved himself to be a relentless and skillful night-fighter pilot and his example has been a source of encouragement to his fellow pilots’.

    RAPHAEL, W/C Gordon Learmouth (37508) - Distinguished Service Order - No.85 Squadron - Awarded as per London Gazette dated 2 February 1943. Air Ministry Bulletin 9121 refers.

    Since being awarded the Bar to the Distinguished Flying Cross, Wing Commander Raphael has destroyed three enemy aircraft at night. By his inspiring leadership, great skill and untiring efforts he has contributed in a large measure to the high morale and operational efficiency of the squadron he commands.

    Spink catalogue of 23 November 2006 gives the following as the recommendation:

    Since receiving a bar to his D.F.C., (London Gazette 15.7.41) W/Cdr. Raphael has destroyed three more enemy aircraft at night and damaged another.

    On the night of 13/14th July 1941, he destroyed a Heinkel 111 which was seen to hit the sea in flames about 15 miles East of Clacton.

    On the night of 16/17th September, 1941, he destroyed a Ju.88 which crashed into the sea in flames just East of Clacton, three members of the crew bailing out and being apprehended at Clacton.

    On the night of 30/31st July, 1942, he damaged a Ju.88 South of Cambridge. Two bursts of 2 and half seconds each were fired and many strikes were seen.

    On the night of 2/3rd August, 1942, he fired a 5-seconds burst at less than 100 yards range at a Ju.88 which caught fire and crashed in flames near Dengie Flats.

    The above combats were carried out in Havoc night fighters.

    Wing Commander Raphael has commanded No. 85 Squadron since the end of May 1942. During the last four months when enemy activity at night over this country has been almost negligible, he has maintained an extremely high morale in his Squadron. Thi,s he has done by his hard work, keenness in efficiency, and by keeping his aircraft in a high state of serviceability and readiness.

    When the Squadron was re-equipped with Mosquitoes, the change-over was done with extreme smoothness. The high serviceability was still maintained and the Squadrons became operational was still maintained and the Squadrons became operational on their new type in a very short space of time. Wing Commander Raphael himself gave dual instruction to a large number of his pilots. Again, he maintained a high state of serviceability of Mosquitoes and has continued to do so.

    Wing Commander Raphael has at all times had the welfare and comfort of his pilots and ground crews at heart and has worked hard and solely for the efficiency and well being of his Squadron, both from an operational point of view and a welfare point of view. He has proved himself an outstanding Squadron Commander of great personality and offensive spirit.

    His D.F.C. was awarded him in May 1940 (Bomber Command); Bar to D.F.C. in July 1941 (85 Squadron).


    His successes are eight destroyed (two with Bomber Command) all at night, one probably destroyed, one damaged).

    RAPHAEL, W/C Gordon Learmouth, DSO, DFC (37508) - Mention in Despatches - awarded as per London Gazette dated 1 January 1945.


    On the night of 18/19 May 1940 while heading for Hanover to bomb an oil refinery, his Whitley was attacked by an Me.110. He was wounded in the foot and one engine was set on fire. Enemy aircraft then crossed tail of Whitley and was shot down in flames by rear gunner, AC Parker. Raphael landed in sea. Crew spent four hours in dinghy before rescue by HMS Javelin (destroyer).

    On night of 16/17 August 1940, during an attack on Jenna, his bomber was attacked by an Me.110 which the rear gunner shot down.

    On 28/29 August 1940 took part in raid on Dortmund during which he carried a special camera for experimental night photography and successfully took pictures.

    NOTE: RCAF Press Release 407, cleared by Security on 9 June 1942 and by Headquarters, Fighter Command, on 12 June 1942, is transcribed here for the historical record; the text in bold was removed by the censors:

    "The thing I like about this place", said Raffy as he strolled around the garden of the old, creeper-covered English rectory where he lives with his wife and Gaby, his 17-month old son, "is that you can be up in the night tangling with the Huns and then sit here in peace 15 minutes later."

    Raffy is short for Squadron Leader Gordon Learmouth Raphael, DFC and Bar, of Quebec City, commander of one of Britain's crack night fighter squadrons. During the last war it was known as the "Dawn Patrol" squadron and was commanded by a certain Major W.A. Bishop of the Royal Flying Corps. That Major Bishop is now, of course, Air Marshal W.A. Bishop, VC, DSO, MC, DFC, Croix de Guerre with Palm.

    Raffy Raphael stood in the lovely rectory garden, which looks out over a broad, lush valley in one of England's most beautiful counties. "We have tried to keep up the Bishop tradition," he said. "Our squadron emblem is still the white hexagon which was painted on the old SE.5s which the squadron had when Bishop commanded it in the last war.

    "It flew in France during this war, too - with Hurricanes. That was before I came to the squadron. They destroyed 90 Jerries during the Battle of France and 54 more during the Battle of Britain. I came here after it had become a night fighter outfit."

    Raffy lives in the old rectory with his wife and their young son because it is handy to the aerodrome. "I don't want to let the war interfere with my family life any more than I can help," he says. "Particularly I don't want to miss the biggest thrill of being a father - watching my son grow up."

    Lean, moustached, 26 years old, Raffy Raphael is exactly the kind of man you would expect one of the RAF's best night fighter pilots to be. Since he joined the squadron about a year ago, he has accounted for five German aircraft certainly destroyed during nights over Britain - and it is well to remember that he got these in times when the number of Jerries that venture over England to be shot at, even at night, has not been considerable.

    "It wasn't really my doing, you know", he says. "That young radio operator of mine has been responsible for our getting each one of them." His radio operator is a diminutive English Warrant Officer who is a wizard with the secret detectors used by British night fighters.

    Raffy became a night fighter squadron commander by a devious route which is long in the telling. Born in Quebec in August 1915, he attended the High School of Quebec and came to England in 1934 to study at the College of Aeronautical Engineering in Chelsea, London.

    "I wanted to design aeroplanes", he says with a short laugh, "but after a year I discovered that what I really wanted to do was to fly. So I took a short service commission in the RAF in 1935.

    "They trained me as a bomber pilot and after I got my wings I went to a Heyford squadron which was at that time regarded as the crack squadron in Bomber Command. You may remember the Heyford. It had a long, gaunt fuselage suspended from the underside of the upper wing (it was a biplane). Consequently, it always looked as if it was upside down. But believe it or not, it was lovely to fly.

    "My term of service was due to end in December 1939. In the meanwhile, we had converted to Whitleys shortly before the war, and so when war broke out, I started on a long series of ops with the Whitleys.

    "Those were curious days. We didn't know what to expect, because nobody had ever done night raids on germany, and I remember that the first time we went over we were quite certain that we would be shot down. But we soon found out that it wasn't really so bad."

    There was no bombing in those days. The Whitleys used to go out loaded with leaflets. Raffy Raphael made the first leaflet raid of the war - over the Ruhr - and he and his crew used to liven up the evenings by permitting the rear gunner to fire at searchlights. "We accounted for between 50 and 60 searchlights altogether", he says.

    With another RAF pilot, he took one of the only two aircraft of the RAF ever to fly to Warsaw and back. "We dropped leaflets there, too," he says. "We took off from France and the trip took me 11 hours and ten minutes. It took the other lad a bit longer, though. He landed after getting lost and found he was in Germany, so he promptly took off again. He got home quite safely. The astonishing part about that trip was the fact that most of the towns in eastern Germany were lit up quite brightly. I guess they never figured there would be an enemy aircraft around."

    One day, however, Raffy and his crew managed to drop a few bombs. These fell on Sylt - they were the first bombs to hit the German base during the present war. "We went after a bridge and the flare path of one of the aerodromes," Raffy says.

    With the invasion of Norway, the show started up in real earnest. The Whitley's of Raffy's squadron went out to bomb objectives in Oslo - particularly the airport where the Germans had been landing troops.

    "The first time was a piece of cake," he says. There was scarcely any flak. Se we went back three days later. By this time the Jerries has moved up in force. We went in fairly low - just as we had the first time. I was promptly picked up by 23 searchlights and about 60 multiple pom-poms opened up on us. We got away, but I don't know how."

    A little later, the Whitleys carried out the first raid on Trondheim. Squadron Leader Raphael was on that show, too. He was also on the night raid on the Maastrict bridge during the invasion of the Lowlands, and after all these varied ops, he was awarded the DFC.

    "Then I stuck my neck out," he says. "I was feeling so good about getting a gong that I asked to be allowed to fly again the next night, although it wasn't my turn. We were going after an oil refinery, and out machine was first over the target to drop incendiaries and light it up for the later arrivals.

    "On the way back we were attacked by a Jerry over the North Sea. He shot out both my engines and busted the hydraulic system. But my rear gunner got him and he went down in flames.

    "We had to land in the sea; that made a couple of 'first times' on this trip. It was the first time a Whitley had shot down an enemy night fighter, and the first time a Whitley had been put down in the sea with all the crew intact. My crew really got out in a hurry when we hit the water; I was a bit slower because I discovered that a bullet from the enemy's guns had gone through both my feet. However, we got the dinghy out and didn't discover until later that we had it upside down. We were picked up by a British destroyer and I spent a couple of comfortable days in the sick bay. When I got ashore, I had to spend three months recuperating. This was a bit annoying, because it meant that I missed a lot of good shows."

    When he got back on operations, however, he saw plenty more good shows. Included among them were trips to Berlin and three flights to Italy. The Italian tours were all done in the same week. What he remembered most about them is the flight over the Alps. "It was a wonderful sight." he says. "I'll never forget it. I used to go skiing in the Alps before the war, but they never looked as lovely then as they do so from the air in the moonlight. Incidentally, on one of these trips we started a beautiful fire in the Fiat works."

    Another trip he made was to the Zeiss optical and instrument works at Jena. "Believe t or not," he says with some pleasure, "that was the first time in 150 years that they had seen war at first hand in that part of Germany. A Me.110 tried to intercept us, but my tail gunner was on the job all right. The Jerry went down in flames."

    In September 1940 he made his last bombing trip; then he went to a Coastal Command general reconnaissance school as an instructor for a change from operational flying. When he had finished his rest, he went, at his own request, to night fighters - which is probably the most highly specialized job in the service.

    His first victory in this game was during the big blitz on London on May 10 [1941], the last time the Luftwaffe attacked Britain in force. It was the night when Britain's new system of defence against night bombing brought down 33 German raiders. Raffy's victim was Heinkel 111.

    After that night, the opportunities to get confirmed victories have been few and far between, but Raffy managed to get three, in a short while, of the very few raiders seen over England. For these victories, he was awarded the Bar to the DFC.

    One of his victories was over a Ju.88 which crashed into the North Sea a short distance out from the English coast. He still wears the orange-coloured Mae West jacket which belonged to the pilot of that aircraft. "It's a kind of souvenir", he explains.

    In the Adjutant's office at squadron headquarters hangs a big oil painting of Billy Bishop. All around the room are pinned photographs of aircraft with which it has been quipped during both Great Wars - the SE.5s of the last war, the Hurricanes which it flew during the Battle of France and the Battle of Britain, and the Douglas Havocs which it flies now.

    On the side of each of these black machines is painted the famous white hexagon which shows on the pictures of the old SE.5s. The spirit of Bishop runs strongly through everything that the squadron is doing today.

    Flying with Raffy are four other Canadians and one American who joined the RCAF. Of these, one is a radio operator; the rest are pilots.

    They are: Pilot Officer H.H. Norsworthy of Westmount, Quebec, Pilot Officer R.B. Harris of Rosetown, Saskatchewan, Flying Officer J.J. McCloskey of Richmond, Virginia, Pilot Officer C.F. Medhurst of Foremost, Alberta, and Flying Officer I. MacInnes of Vancouver, the radio operator.

    Raffy has just recently been made commander of the squadron and the boys - Englishmen and Canadians alike - think he is terrific.

    When he has finished his night's flying, Raffy goes down the road to the Old Rectory, where his wife and son are always waiting. It is very quiet there, under the shadow of the massive oak trees and the spire of the 14th Century village church. Sometimes Raffy wanders around the churchyard and examines the inscriptions on the ancient tomb-stones. "Some of them," he says, "are unbelievably old."

    Usually, after he has finished the day's work in the officer - all the administration which the squadron commander must look after in addition to leading his pilots and air crews into battle in the air - he goes home for tea and plays for awhile with young Raffy, who is just learning to walk. Together they look out over the wide valley behind the old rectory - the pilot, the wife and the son. "This," says Raffy, "is what is worth fighting for. You will not find it anywhere else in the world."

    After tea, when it is time to go back and get ready for the night's flying, he strides out through the front gate. From the nursery window, the youngster watches and waves. Soon he will be in bed,a sleep. Somewhere, two or three miles over his head, his father will be searching steadily in the moonlight night, aided by the miraculous eye of science, looking for sights of those who come in the night to bring death to children. The child will sleep peacefully; as yet, he does not know the meaning of the purple and white ribbon with the silver star on his father's chest; he has nt seen the neat little row of swastikas on the side of his father's aircraft. He will know one day, and he, like all who know Raffy Raphael, the man who wanted to design aeroplanes, will be proud.

    RCAF Press Release No. 1118 dated 28 January 1943 read as follows:

    The award of the Distinguished Service Order to Wing Commander Gordon L. Raphael, D.F.C. and Bar, of Quebec City, Quebec, Canadian leader of one of the RAF’s crack night fighter Squadrons, successor to the famous “Dawn Patrol” Squadron led in the first Great War by Air Marshal “Billy” Bishop, V.C., was announced at Air Force Headquarters today.

    Wing Commander Raphael’s citation reads: “Since being awarded a Bar to the Distinguished Flying Cross, Wing Commander Raphael has destroyed three enemy aircraft at night. By his inspiring leadership, great skill and untiring efforts, he has contributed in a large measure to the high morale and operational efficiency of the Squadron he commands”.

    Wing Commander “Raffy” Raphael has commanded Air Marshal Bishop’s “Dawn Patrol” Squadron of the last war since the early summer of last year. When the Air Marshal made a tour of R.C.A.F. Squadrons in England last year, he visited Raphael at his headquarters.

    “We have tried to keep up the Bishop tradition,” Raphael said at that time. “Our Squadron emblem is still the white hexagon which was painted on the old S.E.5’s which the Squadron had when Bishop commanded it in the last war”.

    It flew in France, during this war, too – with Hurricanes. That was before I came to the Squadron. They destroyed 90 Jerries during the Battle of France and 54 more during the Battle of Britain. I came here after it became a night fighter outfit.”

    “Raffy,” as he is known in his Squadron, was interviewed at his home in England. “The thing I like about this place,” he said, as he strolled around the garden of the old creeper-covered English rectory with his wife and seventeen-month-old son, “is that you can be up in the air tangling with Huns and then sit here in peace fifteen minutes later”.

    He lives in the old rectory because it is handy to the aerodrome. “I don’t want to let the war interfere with my family life any more than I can help. Particularly, I don’t want to miss the biggest thrill of being a father – watching my son grow up,” he said.

    Lean, moustached, 27 years old, “Raffy” Raphael is exactly the kind of man you would expect one of the R.A.F.’s best night fighter pilots to be. Since he joined the Squadron more than a year ago, he has accounted for eight German aircraft certainly destroyed, all during nights over Britain.

    “Raffy” was born in Quebec in August, 1915, and he attended high school there. In 1934, he went to England to study at the College of Aeronautical Engineering in Chelsea, London. He gave up aeronautical designing to fly, and took a short service commission in the R.A.F. in 1935.

    “They trained me as a ‘bomber boy’ and after I got my wings I went to a Heyford Squadron which was at that time regarded as the crack Squadron of Bomber Command.”

    “My term of service was due to end in December, 1939. In the meanwhile, we had converted to Whitleys shortly before the war, and so when war broke out, I started in on a long series of ops. with the Whitleys.”

    “Those were curious days. We didn’t know what to expect, because nobody had ever done night raids on Germany, and I remember that the first time we went over we were quite certain we could be shot down. But we soon found out that it wasn’t really so bad.”

    There was no bombing in those days. The Whitleys used to go out loaded up with leaflets. “Raffy” Raphael was on the first leaflet raid of the war – over the Ruhr – and he and his crew used to liven up the evening by permitting the rear gunner to fire at searchlights. “We accounted for between 50 and 60 searchlights altogether,” he says.

    One day, however, “Raffy” and his crew managed to drop a few bombs. These fell on Sylt – they were the first bombs to hit the German base during the present war. “We went after a bridge and the flare path of one of the aerodromes”, “Raffy” says.

    A little later, the Whitleys carried out the first raid on Trondheim. Squadron Leader Raphael was on this show, too. He was also on the night raid on the Maastricht Bridge during the invasion of the Lowlands, and after all these varied ops. he was awarded the D.F.C.

    “Then I stuck my neck out,” he says. “I was feeling so good about getting a ‘gong’ that I asked to be allowed to fly again the next night, although it wasn’t my turn. We were going after an oil refinery, and our machine was first over the target to drop incendiaries and light it up for the later arrivals.

    “On the back, we were attacked by a Jerry over the North Sea. He shot out both my engines and busted the hydraulic system. But my rear gunner got him and he went down in flames.

    “We had to land in the sea; that made a couple of “first times” on this trip. It was the first time a Whitley had shot down an enemy night fighter, and the first time a Whitley had been put down in the sea with all the crew unhurt. My crew really got out in a hurry when we hit the water; I was a bit slower because I discovered that a bullet from the enemy’s guns had gone through both my feet. However, we got the dinghy out and didn’t discover until later that we had it upside down. We were picked up by a British destroyer and I spent a couple of comfortable days in the sick bay. When I got ashore, I had to spend three months recuperating. This was a bit annoying because it meant that I missed a lot of good shows.”

    When he got back on operations, however, he saw plenty more good shows. Included among them were trips to Berlin and three flights to Italy. The Italian tours were all done in the same week.

    What he remembers most about them is the flight over the Alps. “It was a wonderful sight”, he says. “I’ll never forget it. I used to go skiing in the Alps before the war, but they never looked as lovely then as they did from the air in the moonlight. Incidentally, on one of those trips we started a beautiful fire in the Fiat works”.

    In September, 1940, he made his last bombing trip. Then he went to a Coastal Command General Reconnaissance School as an instructor as a change from operational flying. When he had finished his rest, he went, at his own request, to night fighters – which is probably the most highly specialized job in the service.

    His first victory in this game was during the big blitz on London on May 10, the last time that the Luftwaffe attacked Britain in force. It was the night when Britain’s defence against night bombing brought down 33 German raiders. “Raffy’s” victim was a Heinkel 111.

    After that night, the opportunities to get confirmed victories have been few and far between, but “Raffy” managed to get three, in a short while, of the very few raiders seen over England. For these victories, he was awarded the Bar to the D.F.C.

    One of his victories was over a Ju88 which crashed into the North Sea a short distance out from the English coast. He still wears the orange-coloured Mae West jacket which belonged to the pilot of that aircraft. “It’s a kind of souvenir,” he explains.

    In the adjutant’s office at Squadron headquarters hangs a big oil painting of “Billy” bishop. All around the room are pinned photographs of aircraft with which it has been equipped during both great wars – the S.E.5’s of the last war, the Hurricanes which it flew during the Battle of France and the Battle of Britain, and the Douglas Havocs which it flies now.

    On the side of each of these black machines is painted the famous white hexagon which shows on the pictures of the old S.E.5’s. The spirit of Bishop runs strongly through everything that the Squadron is doing today.

    Usually, after he has finished the day’s work in the office – all the administration which the Squadron commander must look after in addition to leading his pilots and air crews into battle in the air, -- he goes home for tea and plays for a while with young “Raffy”, who is just learning to walk.

    Together, they look out over the wide valley behind the old rectory – the pilot, the wife and the son. “This,” says “Raffy”, “is what is worth fighting for. You will not find it anywhere else in the world”.

    The Spink catalogue summarized his career as follows:

    Group Captain Gordon Learmouth ‘Raffy’ Raphael, D.S.O., D.F.C., born Brantford, Ontario, Canada, 25.8.1915; moved to Quebec at an early age and was educated at Shawinigan School and the High School of Quebec; he left Canada for England and attended the Chelsea Aeronautic College, 1934; enlisted as No. 700284 Aircraftman, 2nd Class Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 30.9.1935; Sergeant 1.10.1935; Acting Pilot officer, Royal Air Force, 16.12.1935; posted to No. 10 Flying Training School, 1.2.1936, before serving with 7 (B) Squadron, Worthdown, Hampshire (Handley Page Heyfords), 10.8.1936 and 77 (B) Squadron, Dishforth, Yorkshire (Heyfords and then Whitleys), 20.3.1937-28.11.1938, Flying Officer 16.6.1938; posted 77 (B) Squadron, Driffield, Yorkshire, (Whitleys) 1.6.1939, with whom he flew in the early leaflet raids over Germany.’ Those were curious days. We didn’t know what to expect, because nobody had ever done night raids on Germany and I remember that the first time we went over we were quite certain we would be shot down…”

    Raphael was on the first leaflet raid of the War – over the Ruhr – and he and his crew used to liven up the evening by permitting the rear gunner to fire at searchlights.

    “We accounted for between 50 and 60 searchlights altogether.: (Chronicle Telegraph, Canada refers); other operations included: the first attack on Trondheim seaplane base; Oslo airfield after the invasion of Norway and Warsaw. Then I stuck my neck out, I was feeling so good about getting a ‘gong’ [D.F.C. London Gazette 17.5.1940] that I asked to be allowed to fly again the next night, although it wasn’t my turn. We were going after an oil refinery [Hanover], and our machine was first over the target to drop incendiaries and light it up for the later arrivals. On the way back, we were attacked by a Jerry over the North Sea. He shot out both my engines and busted the hydraulic system. But my rear gunner got him and he went down in flames. We had to land in the sea; that made a couple of “first times” on this trip. It was the first time a Whitely had shot down an enemy night fighter, and the first time a Whitely had been put down in the sea with all the crew unhurt. My crew really got out in a hurry when we hit the water; I was a bit slower because I discovered that a bullet from the enemy’s guns had gone through both my feet. However, we got the dinghy out and didn’t discover until later that we had it upside down. We were picked up by a British destroyer [H.M.S. Javelin] and I spent a couple of comfortable days in the sick bay. When I got ashore, I had to spend three months recuperating.”

    “This was a bit annoying, because it meant that I missed a lot of good shows.” (Chronicle Telegraph refers); Flight Lieutenant 16.6.1940; posted 10 Squadron, Dishforth, Yorkshire (Whitleys), 12.7.1940; converted to Fighter Command and was posted as Flight Commander 96 Squadron, Cranage (Hurricanes), 18.1.1941); transferred 85 (Night Fighter) Squadron, Debden and subsequent move to Hunsdon (Havocs and Mosquitoes), 2.5.1941 with whom he was immediately successful, “His first victory in this game was during the big blitz on London on May 10th, the last time that the Luftwaffe attacked Britain in force. It was the night when Britain’s defence against night bombing brought down 33 German raiders. “Raffy’s” victim was a Heinkel 111” (Newspaper Cutting included in the lot refers); Raphael claimed four victories and a probable by the end of the year; Temporary Squadron Leader 1.9.1941; promoted Officer Commanding 85 Squadron, 27.5.1942, following in the foot steps of another decorated Canadian, Air Marshal “Billy” Bishop, V.C., who had commanded the famous ‘Dawn Patrol’ Squadron during the Great War, ‘We have tried to keep up the ‘Bishop’ tradition…

    Our Squadron emblem is still the white hexagon painted on the old S.E. 5’s which the Squadron had when Bishop commanded it in the last war’ (Raphael interview, Newspaper cutting included in the lot refers); Raphael proved a dedicated leader who disapproved of anything that may affect the reflexes or ability of his men in combat; his commitment inspired his men, ‘Unless a Hun machine comes over every night, the boys are pretty disgusted… They just love to have a crack at him.’ (Raphael interview, Newspaper cutting included in the lot refers);
    Last edited by HughAHalliday; 24th April 2022 at 22:07.

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