Pilot Officer Robertson

On April 26, 1943, Alec joins 605 Squadron. 

He is checked out on an Oxford by Squadron Leader Stubbs on April 26, and he then soloed on the 29th.

Airspeed Oxford

On May 3, 1943Alec flies a Miles Magister and Pilot Officer Robertson is a passenger in the front seat.

Miles Magister

On May 7, Flight Lieutenant Green introduces him to the Mosquito, a Mk III.

The Mark III was a dual control variant without armament. The prototype was a converted NF Mk II which flew on 30 January 1942 and first deliveries were to the Mosquito Training Unit in September 1942. The T Mk III remained in service until 1955. 

Click on the image for the source

On May 11, 1943, Alec flies a Mosquito with P/O Robertson as the passenger. Pilot Officer Robertson would become his navigator and will become part of a team just like George Stewart and Paul Beaudet were. 

Hey… We’re a team…!

Message from Al

Al had this in his message…

Hopefully some people may recognise some of the names in the Passenger column…

Hi Pierre,

Here are the Log scans I mentioned. I have also included the bailout chits that Alastair had left in the Log Books. I have not scanned all of the log books but just the 23 Sqn &  605 Sqn entries and some of the immediate post war 4 Sqn and Courier Flight stuff.

Hopefully some people may recognise some of the names in the Passenger column. 

Well let’s get started!

This is what we do best on this blog.

Alastair Lawson has joined RCAF 418 Squadron at Bradwell Bay. He first soloed on a Boston III.

No passengers.

The date is November 11, 1942.

This is a picture of a RCAF 418 Squadron Boston III found on the Internet.

Sgt Harrow is the only passenger listed on the page. No information about him on the Internet, but we have lots of information about 418 Squadron…

Click here.

A lot more here.

Next time… this page. We jump to April 26, 1943.

Alec joins 605 Squadron and we meet Pilot Officer Robertson.

Exceptional

This is not only about an exceptional night intruder pilot.

It’s about paying homage to all those related to him.

Alec Lawson or Alastair Lawson was just like Eugene Gagnon.

An unknown Mosquito pilot.

Very little information about him on the Internet.  

Alec Lawson: Never took a parachute and always sat on a seat cushion made from the folded engine covers. 

For now that is…

With his nephew Al, who has just shared his uncle’s logbook, we will reach out for people who are related to Alastair Lawson just like Hector Goldie seen on this picture with Alec Lawson.

Courtesy Peter Smith

There are more info about 605 Squadron though… 

Ian sent these after I contacted him.

Courtesy Ian Piper

Courtesy Ian Piper

F/Lt. A. C. Lawson. D.F.C.

‘Alec’ joined the R.A.F., on the 14th August 1939 under the Short Service Commission scheme. In April 1943 he joined 605 Squadron as a Flight Lieutenant and with ‘B’ Flight operated a couple of times at night. Then he was posted to 23 Squadron in June ’43. 23 at this time were intruding from Malta and between June ’43 and Feb ’44, Alec successfully completed 35 sorties with them. He shot down three Huns and became a Flight Commander before returning te England. He was awarded the D.F.C., for this tour of Ops but unfortunately had to relinquish his acting rank of Squadron Leader on return. For the next few months he instrueted at an O.T.U., where he taught future Mosquito pilots all he knew about handling this aircraft (and he knew plenty) and in Nov.’44 he rejoined 605 at Hartford Bridge when they were in the throes of changing over to 2 Group’s night interdiction role. Between that date and the end of the war, he successfully completed a further 30 sorties and was with the Squadron at their disbandment, having acted as Deputy Flight Commander (‘B’ Flight) during this period.

What about Ian Piper…

He wrote a book about 605 Squadron.

Logbook Cover

This is my 100th post on this blog about 23 Squadron. It all started in April 2010 when I wanted to pay homage to this pilot.

Eugene Gagnon’s logbook was put in the garbage by his sister after  Eugene died in 1947. His war medals including a DFC were also “disposed” of…

This is not Flight Lieutenant Eugene Gagnon’s logbook.

Courtesy Al Bowie

Eugene Gagnon was buried with full military honours in 1947, then the people of Bromptonville slowly forgot all about him.

Except two people.

Eugene Gagnon’s nephew who had many pictures and shared them with me… like this one of his uncle taken in 1941 when he was learning to fly.

Courtesy Jacques Gagnon

And Marcel Bergeron, a 84 year-old man, who wanted to keep Eugene’s memory alive.

Marcel Bergeron contacted me back in 2010 and he wanted my help to learn more about Eugene’s war years.

Courtesy Marcel Bergeron

This is Marcel Bergeron who was 20 at the time at the scene of the plane crash.

Eugene Gagnon died on October 21, 1947 when a Sherbrooke Airways Republic Seabee he was flying lost power over Windsor Mills in Quebec.

Marcel took these pictures of the crash scene and the funeral, and he had a few newpaper clippings paying homage to the pilot.

Now Eugene Gagnon is not an unknown pilot anymore. We know he flew 33 night missions over Europe as a night intruder Mosquito pilot.

Since 2010, Flight Lieutenant Eugene Gagnon has been on a ongoing mission to reunite 23 Squadron airmen and ground crew.

Courtesy W.C. Phil Russell via Tom Cushing via Peter Smith

 

Assessment…

This is what Allan M. Murphy wrote about Alastair Lawson when he was with 23 Squadron.

You can read it on this page sent to me by Alastair Lawson’s nephew Al.

 

Coming from Sticky Murphy, that says a lot about Alastair Lawson.

More to come because Al sent all the pages related to 23 Squadron.

Alec Lawson or Alastair Lawson

I had received a comment on this blog in 2011.

Hi,
my Uncle Alastair Lawson was a pilot with 23 Sqn in Malta (OC B Flight). He had a Kiwi Navigator F/O Roberston who is still alive AFIK and living in Auckland. Unfortunately my uncle’s eyesight has gone so I cannot show him the photos.

Do you have any other photos of 23 Sqn personnel?

Regards

Al Bowie

Sydney Australia

I have been writing this blog  since 2010 with Peter Smith’s help, and I knew more and more about 23 Squadron but not enough to help this reader.

Information about Alec Lawson is very scarce on the Internet except here on this Webpage.

Johnny Burton: Went to Test Pilots’ School and also to APS at Leconfield. Chris Capper: Went to Test Pilots’ School and eventually joined de Havilland – I believe he took over John Derry’s work after the crash. ‘Rox’ Roxberry: My pilot for the second two years on the Squadron. Also went to Leconfield and Farnborough and spent a year with the Yanks at Edwards base. Les de Garis: Also went to Leconfield and each time the weather was unfit for flying we all heard Les’s lecture ‘T.S.C.S. x SIN Angle Off’ again – and again – and again. Sax Saxby: One of the best pilots on the Squadron, but unfortunately in those days inhibited by the PII ranking. Monty Mountford: Overcame the PII syndrome and became a Groupie or something. ‘Chips’ Hunter: Excellent swimmer and diver. A bit hair-raising to fly with – later killed in an air crash. Iain Dick: Good footballer. Alec Lawson: Never took a parachute and always sat on a seat cushion made from the folded engine covers. Dave Spencer: We did OTUs on Canada and England together and he was my pilot for three years until grounded with high tone deafness. Like Jimmy Gill he joined the Equipment Branch. ‘Ferdie’ Fortune: Hit Rox’s tailplane during formation. We then discovered he was half blind in one eye. ? Archer: Alec Lawson fell out with him one night in the Mess and chased him back to his room (the last block on the left when looking with your back to the Mess at Gutersloh). Archer hid round the corner in his room and locked the door. When Alec couldn’t get in, he fetched his 12 bore and blasted a hole in the door. Luckily Archer was out of the way, but his raincoat was hanging on the door! ‘Willie’ Williams: Spent all his time reading Bradshaw and could tell you the time of almost every train in the UK and all the connections. Jock Marshall: Received his Croix de Guerre and legion of Honour through the normal post. We celebrated on the beach at Sylt with crates of Guiness left in the edge of the sea to cool. Jackie Butt. ‘Doc’ Orrell. ‘Bunny’ Warren.

Not much of a lead… 

But last week Peter Smith had this picture with his manuscript that he sent me about Hector Goldie, Vicki’s father-in-law.

Normand Conquer had it in his collection.

The Baron and Alec Lawson, also with 23 Squadron (via Norman Conquer)

The Baron had his picture taken beside someone whose name was Alec Lawson.

Could that Alec be Alastair Lawson, Al’s uncle?

The Baron and Alec probably knew each other of course since both flew in Malta together.

I hope Al Bowie is still reading my blog and sees what Peter and I have been up to since 2010 by clicking here.

To be on the safe side I wrote him an e-mail…

I wonder where that picture was taken because this Mosquito has the Polish Air Force logo painted on its  nose and this is surely not taken in Malta by the way they are dressed up and the radar nose of the Mosquito.

So many questions that Al probably has some of the answers in his uncle logbook.

Note:

By the time I wrote this post, Al contacted me. Alec is Alastair on the picture and Al has his logbooks and he is willing to share some of it.

Alastair Lawson was with 605 Squadron after his posting with 23 Squadron. So this picture must have been taken at the 605’s airbase.

Tribute to Alden Berry

Jake Drummond who has done extensive research on some British airmen killed in WWII contacted me this week.

Click here.  

He had a picture of Al Berry with two of his friends. One friend was killed when his Lancaster shot down over Sweden. 

But Jake had something more than that picture to share with me

Click here.

Alden Berry was President of IPS in 1971 before going to Japan for some years.
He was born in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 1920. A strong family man, father of three sons, he was a devout Christian and loving husband of Setsuko.
His early years in Japan saw him taking many portraits of children and weddings. We often had a laugh about the ‘fathers’’ of the bride making Alden repeat the whole session if the Bride and Groom were smiling!

His beautiful photos taken around Kobe and Japan often won him honours at club level and in national exhibitions. I remember the night Alden brought his young son, Ian, to join IPS whilst still in school uniform.

Alden was in the group of IPS members who travelled to China for a month some years ago. Shaw Tan, Joan Carson and Rob Burkitt all enjoyed his company on that trip.
My memory of Alden will be of a gentleman of high honour and great integrity towards his fellow man.

Editor’s Note: Alden Leonard Berry passed away peacefully on April 3, 2012.

As a final farewell to Alden Leonard Berry, these two pictures from George Stewart collection when George and Alden were together in Course No. 6 at No. 60 O.T.U.

George Stewart collection

George Stewart collection

You can recognized some familiar faces like Griff Rogers killed also in WWII with his pilot Ken Eastwood.

Lest we forget.

I wrote George Stewart about my post on Alden Leonard Berry.

George remembers Al and wrote this a few moments ago…

Al flew with Ron Neil, his pilot, and was in our hut, operating with us in our time.  Always the gentleman always a friend.

We’ll miss him.

Paying Homage to Flying Officer A. L. (Al) Berry

I have not talked a lot about Al Berry. Last time was August 16, 2010.

Time flies…

Flying Officer A. L. Berry was from New Zeland and he was a navigator with 23 Squadron.

Paul Beaudet’s daughter sent some pictures of Al Berry. Paul Beaudet was George Stewart’s navigator.

Here is the post I wrote on August 16, 2010, to refresh your memory.

Do you have more information on F/O A.L. (Al) Berry?

Flying Officer  A.L. Berry was with the RNZAF.

He was a navigator in No. 23 Squadron of the RAF.

This is what George Stewart told me. He identified him also on the pictures sent to me by Paul Beaudet’s daughter.

Sometimes it only takes one clue to open many doors… So this is the first door.

F/O A.L. (Al) Berry

Are you related to him?

F/O A.L. (Al) Berry on the right, George Stewart is in the middle

This is another picture in Diane’s collection where we see F/O A.L. (Al) Berry.

Looks very much like F/O A.L. (Al) Berry. Look at his insigna. He is a navigator.

Want another picture?

This is what George said about F/O A.L. (Al) Berry when he saw this next picture I sent him…

This photo shows me with F/O A.L. (Al) Berry, a squadron navigator, whose pilot was P/O R. A. (Ron) Neil, both members of the RNZAF.

Could this be his pilot, P/O R. A. (Ron) Neil?

F/O A.L. (Al) Berry and P/O R. A. (Ron) Neil?

Try this montage…

Déjà vu…?

Are you related somehow to these airmen?

If so, write me a comment.

Someone wrote but he is not directly related to Al Berry.

Next time I will introduce you to someone who is doing exactly what I have been doing since 2010.

Paying homage to airmen even though we are not directly related to them.

The Baron’s Punch

Epilog

Everything Peter wrote about 23 Squadron is true inasmuch the veterans he interviewed told him the truth.

Peter Smith, whose father was Tommy Smith, also a pilot with 23 Squadron, has done a lot of research on his father since 2006 and he was willing to share everything with me so I could reach out with this blog about 23 Squadron and find relatives of these fine airmen.

Someday Peter and I will have to meet and drink to all this…maybe Vicki could also join us.

On a final note, this is an e-mail Vicki sent two weeks ago. I kept it for this special occasion.

Beware though because this is could be lethal…

Hi Pierre,

Here is the Baron’s Punch

1 bottle of gin

1 bottle of Sweet Martini
I bottle of Dry Martini
I bottle of orange squash
3 or 4 litres of dry cider
1/4 litre of Cointreau

Block of ice

1 sliced apple and 1 sliced orange

Serves 30 – 60 glasses depending on the size

Warning this is lethal RAF grade! We once served it at a party and everyone was incoherent within an hour!

For the more faint hearted add either 1-2 litres of lemonade if you like it sweet or 1 – 2 litres of soda water.

Good luck and have fun!

Best wishes

Vicki

Tomorrow more about “Al” Berry who was in fact Alden Berry.

Whose Great Idea Was It?

Last part of Hector Goldie’s and Norman Conquer’s story…

Two incidents, amongst many, are worth noting, one operational, and one not so operational,

The Baron and Alec Lawson, also with 23 Squadron

Operationally one such sortie was to bomb Villafranca, one of the major Axis airbases, a regular episode for the Squadron because the Germans kept Messerschmitt 210s there, realistically the only aircraft that was going to catch a Mosquito in the Italian theatre of war.

Baron and Norman had been patrolling on a ferociously “dirty” night in thick cloud above the airbase, Norman takes up the episode.

“…….a sudden break revealed the airfield barely a couple of miles away. A quick dirty dart, switches on, bombs released-and nothing! Did they go? Have we got a hang up? No, they’ve gone alright, so why no flashes? Hit or miss? No idea-so, somewhat disconsolately, head for home. Oh dear, now I see it, my incompetence, omitted to fuse the bombs! I can’t repeat what Baron said to me (many times) as we scraped our way through the murk back to base.

At debriefing much mirth and chiding from the gang as that navigator, tail between legs, retired hurt. But no-one could have foreseen the consequences: two days later, a message from Command ops/Intel. –

“Whose great idea was it too drop ‘dummy’ bombs on Villafranca? Great result-all flying there has been suspended for the past 48 hours-squads are searching for unexploded bombs. Do it again!”

Messerschmitt 210.

The other incident, well, Bud Badley takes up the mantle,

“There was one particular aircraft that worried us. It would not fly in the manner it should have done. We were all of the same opinion that it was dangerous and had asked for it to be replaced. This fell on deaf ears somewhere up at HQ. In the end we pilots decided to do something about it.

After one of our usual happy hour meetings it was decided to belly land the thing. The question was who? It was decided by the equivalent of tossing a coin. F/O Hector Goldie drawing the short straw.

On the day selected we rolled up at the airfield to witness the aircraft’s demise.(Buddy would add that of course the CO didn’t know, but if he had, he had had his share of flying the beast, so in his swash buckling way would have approved.)

“Hector put her down at the southern end of the airfield without lowering the wheels in fine fashion to the ringing of loud cheers from the onlookers.
Some people might think this a terrible thing to do, but the plane wasn‟t a complete write off. It just meant we had got rid of the threat before it killed any of us”.

The engineering officer, apparently, was thrilled, no more complaints, and loads of spares.

The picture is one belonging to Bud Badley, and may well be the aircraft that proved troublesome to all. It would appear to be nicely belly landed.

(Author’s note: If it were one of Bud’s it would be full of shell holes?).

It would be here at Alghero that Baron and Norman would do more than half of their operational sorties, and Norman would “adopt” Flak who would become the Squadron’s unofficial mascot.

They would join the rest of the Squadron aboard the S S Mooltan, en route back to the UK.

There is one more thing about this whole story…

Come back later today.