Third Mission: December 12, 1944

This is what happened on December 12, 1944. The information is taken from the ORB of 23 Squadron.

Flying Officer J.A.E. Gagnon and Flying Officer R.C. Harris took off at 1756 for Twente, Holland, probably to attack the airfield.

December 12 ORB

December 12 ORB Twente

Twente. Unable to complete patrol owing to inability to pinpoint through rain storms and very thick haze. Visibility poor. Brought bombs back owing to lack of targets.

A fun ride… that lasted 1 hour and 50 minutes in rain and haze.

What more does the ORB has for December 12, 1944?

A fight between a pig and a dog!

 December 12 ORB next

It’s a pity we have no pictures…

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A.S.H. The Queen of the Skys Maiden Flight

December 7, 1944

This was not Eugene Gagnon’s and R.C. Harris’ third mission.

scan0011

It was a training exercise with a Mosquito equipped with the A.S.H. radar like this one.

Mosquito with ASH radar

Training flight or a mission over Germany, flying on a Mosquito was always a dangerous affair. George called the Mosquito a mean bitch even though he fell in love with that plane.

He told me…

George Stewart on nose

Second Mission: December 6, 1944

This is what happened on December 6, 1944.

It could have been the last day in the lives of Eugene Gagnon and R.C. Harris.

R.C. Harris wrote in his logbook what occured that day. They flew two times before their second mission over Dortmund-Ems Canal and Meppen in Germany.

No piece of cake mission!

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1944 December 5 Freshman mission

6-12-44 11.25

Eugene was flying an Anson.

Avro Anson

R.C. Harris was acting as an instructor for Flight Sergeants Spender and Halliday, and Sergeant Boland. They were training on the A.S.H radar seen here on this picture of a Mosquito.

Mosquito with ASH radar

Few pictures exist of A.S.H. equipped Mosquitoes.

ASH Radar notes

Eugene had flown a lot of planes in Canada and he was to fly St. Chris that day. the same plane George Stewart flew with his navigator Paul Beaudet on seven missions.

First to check the plane out for 15 minutes.

Mission 2 St. Chris check

Then at 20.55 they took off for Germany where they were coned by 20 searchlights over Dortmund-Ems Canal.

Mission 2 St. Chris

1943-1944_Plane (bike)

Mosquito Mk VI, PZ181, YP-E

George Stewart’s collection 

Freshman Mission: December 5, 1944

This is what I wrote the first time I started writing this blog in 2010 about 23 Squadron.

Click here. 

Now, with the help of Robert Harris, this is Eugene Gagnon’s and R.C. Harris’ first mission.

The first mission out of 33.

We have no pictures of that mission but we can easily imagine how they felt the first time on a cold day on December 5th, 1944 at the end of the runway of Little Snoring.

R.C. Harris was an experienced navigator and Eugene Gagnon had his wings since April 1942.

Dunnville Eugene Gagnon plaque

23 SQUADRON LITTLE SNORING 5 December 1944

17 h 55 YP-D MOSQUITO VI

F.O GAGNON NAVIGATOR

FRESHMAN INTRUDER. 

BASE. HAISBORO. N. EGMOND. ENKHUIZEN KAMPEN. HARDERWIJK. HOORN. N. EGMOND. BASE.

ST. ELMO’S FIRE OVER ZUIDER ZEE

2 hours

R.C. Harris wrote it all in his logbook!

1944 December 5 Freshman mission

Freshman mission…

That’s what they called the first mission flown by 23 Squadron crews.

Usually this first mission was uneventful and not flown deep into Germany.

However every mission was dangerous. Taking off on a Mosquito had to be done with full power. George Stewart told me he was reaching a take-off speed of 130 mph because the lost of an engine would mean certain death.

33 take-offs and 33 landings. Landing was also tricky and high speed had to be maintained for the same reason as with take-offs.

George should know he flew 50 missions and he had a total of 1000 hours on Mosquitoes throughout his career first as a pilot then as an instructor with Nationalist Chinese pilots who had a hard time to learn how to fly the Mosquito.

George Stewart on nose

George Stewart, 19 years old (1944) 

Comment on Bud Badley Redux Post

I got this comment.

If anyone can help, just add a comment.

I wonder if it’s possible to identify other 23 Squadron members in this photo?

One day in the early 1990’s a former Pathfinder Mosquito navigator called Brian “Paddy” Burke told me that he flew beside Geoffrey de Havilland Jnr at a display in front of Air Ministry ‘big wigs’ during the plane’s development. He explained that there were question marks about the aircraft’s ability to perform on one engine. Brian told me that de Havilland briefed him prior to the flight that on his, de Havilland’s, signal Brian was to cut the power to one engine. Brian went on to explain that de Havilland then proceeded to roll the aircraft on its remaining engine. Over 50 years on, Brian’s admiration for de Havilland’s flying skills was palpable as he recalled that day. Brian later married and lived in Co. Down, N Ireland. He and his wife had no children. He died in 1994. Though he was far too modest a man to say so himself, I can only assume that Brian was highly thought of as a navigator if de Havilland chose him to fly with him that day.

I’d often remembered that story and I was naturally amazed to see footage on the recent documentary “The Plane That saved Britain” of a prototype Mosquito in November 1940 rolling on one engine at a demonstration in front of officials. I have absolutely no doubt that this was the flight Brian had described to me. I didn’t know Brian very well, and I don’t know which Squadron(s) he may have served with, but looking closely at the 23 Squadron photograph used in the documentary and on this site, it seems at least very possible that he is the man standing second from the right, middle row. I wonder does anyone out there know?

Ciaran O’Reilly,
Belfast

62 O.T.U. and Onwards

Robert sent me this information about where his father was posted after his posting with 456 Squadron.

Robert Harris group picture RC Harris

456 Squadron

62 O.T.Ufrom 25 October 1943 to 30 December 1943 flying on Ansons.

63 O.T.U. from 3 January 1944 to 29 February flying on Beaufighters, Beauforts and Ansons.

51 O.T.U. at RAF Cranfield from 27 March 1944 to 16 October 1944 flying on

Beaufighters, Wellingtons, Beauforts, Airspeed Oxfords.

B.S.T.U. Flight (Bomber Support Training Unit) from 22 October 1944 to 1 November 1944 when he was teamed up with Eugene Gagnon. They were with this unit until when they joined 23 Squadron. 

There then obviously followed some more training as he spent some more time in Avro Ansons.

Next time Eugene Gagnon and R.C. Harris fly their first mission together…

Bud’s Sense of Humour

Bud had quite a sense of humour (humor if you live in the U.S.) according to George Stewart.

Bud Badley group picture toast

George also told me Bud Badley was quite a pilot.

One of the best he had seen.

Reckless and all…

01058 Day Ranger to Grove, low res

This painting was commissioned by Peter Smith to whom we all owe a lot because he shared so much. I wrote about that painting in this post.

On 26th September 1944, F/O George Stewart, and his navigator F/O Paul Beaudet flew a Day Ranger with fellow 23 Squadron Pilot F/O D.L,’Bud’ Badley, and his navigator Sgt AA Wilson, to Grove Aerodrome in Denmark, in their FB.VI Mosquito fighter bombers. Arriving abruptly over their target, George spotted a Ju88 sitting by the perimeter track and at once strafed with his four 20mm cannons. He is flying YP-T (HR 201), and Bud, YP-Z (HR 216), seen in the background. Their sudden appearance and departure drew no return fire and, as they raced back to the coast, George couldn’t resist a departing shot at a Freya Radar tower, but got hit by a .303 round in his instrument panel as he flew overhead. Bud, however, received numerous hits on his pass, losing one engine, plus rudder, elevator control and R/T. In a superb display of airmanship, at zero feet, Bud regained control and flew back home to land safely at the emergency airstrip at Woodbridge. George, having plunged into low cloud and therefore lost sight of Bud, was unable to raise him on the R/T and flew on to Little Snoring. George and Paul were awarded DFCs, following their extended operational tour, and Bud an ‘Immediate’ DFC, by W/C ‘Sticky’ Murphy DSO and Bar, DFC and Bar, Croix de Guerre and Palm, Commanding Officer of 23 Squadron, RAF. 

So what about Bud’s sense of humour?

I am just waiting for George Stewart to contact Dai Whittingham and tell him personally before I tell you because Dai Whittingham reads this blog.