This is the title of a new painting completed earlier this month for Mr Pete Smith of Northampton. It depicts an heroic action in Mosquito FB.VI RS507, flown by his father In January 1945. My caption for the painting gives just a glimpse of what happened that night:
What must surely be one of WWII’s most extraordinary acts of bravery occurred on the night of 16th/17th January 1945 when F/L T A Smith and F/O A C Cockayne were on an ASH patrol over Stendal. Flying Mosquito FB.VI RS507 (YP-C), they inadvertently stumbled upon the German airfield of Fassberg on their return trip, fully lit up with aircraft taxiing. Taking full advantage of this situation, F/L Smith went straight in to attack, destroying one Bf.109 on the taxiway and another two as they attempted to take off. RS507 received ground fire hits to its starboard engine during the chase down the runway, Smith feathering the prop, but continuing to press home his attack. Knowing that there was no way of saving their aircraft, Cockayne was ordered to bale out, but sadly lost his life in the attempt. F/L Smith fought gallantly to bring his Mosquito down into snow with minimum damage, but the aircraft hit trees before striking the frozen ground and a furious fire broke out, Smith trapped in the wreckage. Against all the odds, he survived the crash, albeit with terrible burns, and saw out the war as a prisoner of the Germans.
It will never cease to amaze me what incredible people these young men were. Mr Smith very kindly provided me with a very comprehensive file of the squadron’s activities before and after this incident which offers an uncompromising insight into the daily – and nightly – rigours of a front line Mosquito squadron and its young crews in 1945.
It would appear Theodore Griffiths came to 418 as a Sergeant pilot on Boston III’s, was promoted to Flight Sergeant whist with 418 and left as a Flight Sergeant. Notice he transitioned from Boston to Mosquito during that period as his name appears as a Mossie pilot as well. Somewhere in that period of time he learned to fly the Mosquito.
During this period 418 Squadron was moving from Bradwell Bay on the Essex coast to Ford and was transitioning from Boston III aircraft to Mosquitos. I found a picture of a Boston III taken during the time of that transition which I include here. Another Boston III photo from Bradwell Bay is also included FYI
Theodore Griffiths’ DFC must have come after he was promoted to the officer ranks as Sergeant pilots were awarded a DFM (Distinguished Flying Medal) rather than the DFC awarded to officers.
Theodore Griffiths would appear to have a very interesting story to tell!
All the best
This is the Boston III at RAF Bradwell Bay
The 418 call letters were TH.
So on his first patrol Theodore Griffiths flew Boston III TH-L.
Cliff also sent me the ORBs where all the information about Theo’s ops are found.
Theo got his wings at Craig Field, Selma, Alabama.
In total Craig Field graduated more than 9,000 pilots before the end of the war. Craig Field also saw a number of British Royal Air Force cadets through their training. By 1943, 1,392 RAF cadets had earned their wings at Craig Field. In addition, French and Dutch pilots were trained at Craig Field. (Wikipedia)
No. 5 I.T.W. is No. 5 Initial Training Wing. So I guess Theo was going to Americus, Georgia for his initial training as a pilot.
Rich sent me some postcards from that period that Theo had kept as mementoes.
Rich thinks they were for Theo’s wife, but they were never sent since there are no written messages at all.
Rich also sent part of Theo’s training logbook for February and March 1942.
This is the plane he was training on.
Theo’s grandson added this comment…
Theo never really liked to talk about the war but it was always a family story that he went to Canada before crossing over into the USA on foot for his training as at that time the USA was not involved in the war and so they had to do their training in secret.