Preserving the Past – Toronto, September 1941

Richard Cooper and I are preserving the past. I have been doing it since 2009. Richard joined me in February 2013 when he found this blog and started contributing stories and pictures.

My father-in-law is Theodore Griffiths DFC. He was a Mosquito pilot with 23 Squadron and his navigator was a Rick Maude. Any memories copies of photographs would be much appreciated. Theo suffers from Alzeimer’s and vascular dementia but is still able to recall his time with the squadron.

Richard Cooper

This is another day in the life of Theo Griffiths whose life has been touching so many people’s lives.

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Click on the image to get a closer view…
Collection Theo Griffiths DFC (courtesy Richard Cooper)

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Theo Griffiths DFC

Theo was one of 90 cadet pilots from England heading down South.

Now look closer at the group picture…

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George Rushbrook

George Rushbrook was also one of the 90 cadet pilots from England, with a friend…

Look closer…

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Gerald Thomas Padden
“Bunty”
1921-1942

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What’s next on this blog?

90 cadet pilots are going south of the border…to Souther Field, Georgia, USA!

Theo in training mod

We will be October 24, 1941…

Another day in the life of Theo Griffiths whose life has been touching so many people’s lives.

Day I soloed 24 October 1941

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Preserving the Past – No. 18 Course No. 51 O.T.U. Cranfield

This is a group picture from Theo Griffiths’ collection of memorabilia. It has the names on it to pay homage to some of them.

I wonder how many survived the war.

Sergt. W.F. Price, Sergt. E.J. Oboldstone. Sergt. L.D. Hayter, Sergt. R. Sullivan,
Sergt. T. Griffiths, Sergt. C.C. Adams, L.A.P. Nowlan,

Sergt. D.M. Selby, Sergt. J.R. Coote, Sergt. N. Sisley, F/O J.E. Morris, Sergt. J.H. Scott, Sergt. L.R.C. Lasham, Sergt. C.H. Curl,

P/O D.O. Norcott. F/O W.R. Wells, F/L M.H.A. Phillips, S/Ldr I.T. de K. Bocock,
F/L B.T. Brigg, F/O A.G. Woods, P/O A.D. Somerville

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Collection Theo Griffiths DFC
Courtesy Richard Cooper

We all know about Theo Griffiths who became a Mosquito pilot with 23 Squadron, won a DFC, and survived the war.

Rick Maude and Theodore Griffiths mod

Theo is in the last row.

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He was with No. 51 O.T.U. which is an Operation Training Unit of the RAF.Theo’s logbook says he was there in December 1942.

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His Squadron Leader was I.T. de K. Bocock according to the caption.

Squadron Leader Ian Maxwell Theodore De Kaap Bocock did not survive the war.

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 We Never Slept the Story of 605 Squadron

Click above for the PDF

I found this information in the history of 605 Squadron.

Page 77…

The first operational sorties with the Mosquito Mk II took place on the 10th March 1943, but alas it was not an auspicious start with the new machines as Fl Lt Mike Olley AFC and his navigator W/O Vipond were killed on an intruder sortie to Tours. The Squadron log wrote of the men :-
“F/Lt M.G. Olley, apart from being an absolutely first class pilot and an exceptional instructor, was a man of great personal charm and was very good company. His keenness and eager desire to stop the Hun (which were probably his undoing) set a fine example to the other members of the Squadron. W/O H. Vipond was the same sort of NCO that F/Lt Olley was an officer – quiet, efficient and keen. Equally tall, they were a well matched pair.”

Two days later the Squadron recorded its first successes with the new aircraft which coincided with the first visit to Holland, when S/Ldr de Bocock and Sgt Brown destroyed a Dornier 217 over Eindoven. During their attack the Mosquito was hit by shrapnel from the disintegrating enemy aircraft which damaged the starboard engine so badly it ceased to function. Despite this S/Ldr de Bocock brought the aircraft back to Manston, later attributing the successful return to the exceptionally clever navigation of his companion Sgt Brown, who steered them back whilst avoiding all the flak defended areas.
 

S/Ldr de Bocock had the unenviable distinction of being the first pilot to be wounded in combat since the Squadron reformed when he sustained a slight arm injury to his arm on 24th March, when his aircraft was shot up quite badly by flak over Deelen. Not to be overshadowed his navigator, Sgt Brown received a grazed hand during the same flight. On 26th March the Squadron received a limited supply of long range fuel tanks which increased the fuel capacity by 150 gallons, which allowed S/Ldr de Bocock to fly his aircraft on a five hour patrol to Stavanger on the Norwegian coast on the 8th April.

Page 78…

On the 24th April S/Ldr I.M.T. de Bocock and Sgt R. Brown were killed when their Mosquito dived into the ground at Housedean Farm near Lewes, Sussex, the cause of the accident was unknown. S/Ldr de Bocock was a South African, having been posted supernumerary to the Squadron on 1st February 1943 and by his persistence and anxiety to engage the enemy had done much to increase the fighting spirit of the whole Squadron. He had been in the RAF since 1933 and above all he was an excellent comrade, always willing to impart his very wide knowledge of service procedure and flying experiences in a most charming manner to anyone in need of help. There is no doubt that his death was a great loss not only to 605 but to the whole service to which he had devoted his life. Sgt Brown, despite not having been in the Squadron for long was a quiet and self contained man and shared in his pilot’s determination to engage and destroy the enemy.

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Souther Field, Americus, Georgia Revisited

This picture was taken in 1942…

Theo in training mod

Collection Theo Griffiths DFC

These were also taken in 1942…

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Courtesy Graham Padden (paddeng@padden.eu)
Collection Gerald Thomas Padden (1922-1942)

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Courtesy Graham Padden (paddeng@padden.eu)
Collection Gerald Thomas Padden (1922-1942)

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Courtesy Graham Padden (paddeng@padden.eu)
Collection Gerald Thomas Padden (1922-1942)

Theodore Griffiths

Collection Theo Griffiths DFC

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Courtesy Graham Padden (paddeng@padden.eu)
Collection Gerald Thomas Padden (1922-1942)

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In 1942, both Theo Griffiths and Gerald Thomas Padden were in the same class at Souther Field, Americus, Georgia.

Theo Griffiths’ story is here on this blog.

Gerald’s story will be told here.

The End of the Beginning

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This is post no. 384, and the end of the beginning of this blog about RAF 23 Squadron.

I will repost for you the first  article I wrote in 2010 so you won’t have to search for it…

This blog about RAF 23 Squadron wasn’t  meant to pay homage  only to a French-Canadian  Mosquito pilot from Bromptonville, Quebec,  a small town in the Eastern Townships.

Eugene Gagnon

Eugène  Gagnon DFC

Since  2010, a 84 year-old man had been  trying  to convince  the  people of Bromptonville to pay homage  to Eugène  Gagnon, a hometown boy,  who had died  in a plane  crash near Windsor Mills  on October  21st, 1947. Eugène had never talked much about what he did in the war with the RCAF let alone with the RAF.

Eugène Gagnon was like a brother to Marcel Bergeron.

In 2010, Marcel asked for my help to find more about  his war hero when  he was just 14 years-old. At first he didn’t not have much information to go on, only Eugène’s discharge papers…

And a knock on the door of a World War Two veteran.

This is really how this blog started. A knock on a door!

First post April 5, 2010

This could be the start of the amazing story of the airmen of a forgotten squadron in Little Snoring.

Please leave a comment…

Little Snoring - June or July 1945

Picture taken in 1945 before the squadron was disbanded (Courtesy Tom Cushing via Peter Smith)

Squadron 23

No. 23 Squadron formed at Fort Grange, Gosport on 1 Sep 1915 under the command of one of the RAF’s most experienced operational pilots – Captain Louis Strange. After a brief period attempting to counter German airship flights over London, the Squadron moved to France with its FE2Bs initially employed on escort duties. By early 1917, Spad single-seaters had arrived, and were being used on offensive patrols. By the end of the War, the Squadron had converted to Dolphins, and flew these until disbanded at the end of 1919.

On 1 July 1925, No. 23 Squadron reformed at Henlow with Snipes, but these were replaced shortly after with Gloster Gamecocks. In 1931, the Squadron was tasked with carrying out trials on the new Hawker Hart two-seaters, taking the production version, known as Demons, on strength in 1933. It wasn’t until late 1938 that the squadron received its first monoplanes in the form of Blenheims, and these were used as night-fighters in the early days of World War II whilst based at Wittering. In 1941, Havocs replaced the Blenheims, and these were used with great success in the intruder role, until themselves replaced by the Mosquito in mid-1942. At the end of the year, the squadron moved to Malta in support of allied operations in the Mediterranean before returning to the UK in 1944.

In September 1945, the Squadron had disbanded, reforming a year later at Wittering with Mosquito night-fighters. By late 1953, Venom night fighters had joined the Squadron, before Javelin all-weather supersonic fighters replaced these in 1957. In 1964, the Lightning replaced the Javelin, and it was with this classic aircraft that the squadron continued until Phantoms were received in late 1975, this coinciding with a moved to Wattisham in Suffolk. After the Falklands War in 1982, the Squadron occupied Port Stanley airfield until reduced to a Flight of four aircraft in 1988, reforming at Leeming with Tornado F3s. Defence cuts following the end of the Cold War saw the unit disbanded in March 1994. No. 23 Squadron was again reformed, this time as part of the Waddington AEW Wing in 1996, sharing not only the aircraft with the already established No. 8 Squadron, but operational duties in Europe and the Gulf.

The Squadron was officially disbanded on 2 Oct 2009.

This Squadron has been virtually reformed…

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If you have any information about 23 Squadron and you wish to share what you know, you can contact me using this form.

La médaille de l’Assemblée nationale du Québec

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On November 11th, 2016, this medal was awarded posthumously to Joseph Achille Eugène Gagnon who flew 33 operations with RAF 23 Squadron.

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Eugène Gagnon never received any recognition from his hometown of Bromptonville except when he died on October 21, 1947.

Early in 2016 I had received a phone call from Clément Gagnon, a man who was looking for veterans to honour with a medal given by l’Assemblée nationale du Québec. On November 11, 2016, Jacques Gagnon, Eugène’s nephew, received the medal from a member of the National Assembly of Quebec.

When Maxime Laporte, the President of the Société St-Jean-Baptiste de Montréal, mentioned the fact in his presentation of the medal that Eugène Gagnon had flown 33 night operations mostly over German airfields, murmurs were heard from the people attending the commemoration.

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When Jacques Gagnon heard those, he felt a tremendous pride as well as a profound humility when he received the medal.

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