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…


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.


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







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,

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.

Bonjour Pierre

This is the e-mail I got from Dai Whittingham.

I can post it here for all to see because I got the go ahead and it is so much interesting to read.

Bonjour Pierre

Thanks for the prompt reply. Bud appears on the screenshot for the Channel 4 film about the Mosquito and I noted that he was wearing a 23 Sqn tie! I hope to persuade him to attend our next annual dinner.

There is a very good history of 23 Sqn written by Peter Rudd DFC, who was flew Mosquitos with the Sqn in Malta. Peter passed away about several years ago, but his book is called The Red Eagles. I don’t know if it is still in print and my own copy is in temporary store, but there is a copy available on eBay today if you are interested!

While I was commanding RAF Waddington in 2001, I had the pleasure of accompanying Peter and Wg Cdr (retd) Jock Brown to Malta – we flew them in an E-3D Sentry to Luqa, from whence they had both flown in the war. We managed to find Peter’s old digs in Sliema and photographed him on the same front steps that appear in a photo in his book. Both Peter and Jock had their brains thoroughly picked by the curator of the aviation museum at Ta Qali and our visit took rather longer than expected as a result.

We also laid a wreath at the Malta Memorial and visited as many of the Sqn war graves as we could find, including two in Cagliari (Sardinia). I was particularly struck by the stories that emerged from the two of them as the names on the memorials opened memories – as they should – and by the fact that the names were people and faces to them. To us, they were sadly just names. The Cagliari crew were remembered as having come to grief on a single-engine approach.

There was a grave in the Naval and Military cemetery in Valletta of one SAC Penfold (age 21) who had been killed at Luqa – he was marshalling a Mossie and the noise of its 2 Merlins masked the noise of the single Merlin powering a Hurricane up one of the dispersal goat tracks behind him. He didn’t hear it, and the Hurricane pilot couldn’t see him because he was in a tail-dragger and the track was too narrow for the normal weaving. A sad story behind a simple headstone, accident rather than enemy action.

Jock told me a fascinating story of how he had started on the Mossie. He had been posted to 23 from Hurricanes, so knew the engine, but his first sortie was atually from southern England to Gibraltar en route Malta. They weren’t supposed to be at Gib and should have gone to an airfield in North Africa so Jock was called to the CO’s office to explain himself. He and his nav had heard that everyone arriving at Malta had sand-fly fever (true…) and decided they were probably catching it in Africa. OC Gib agreed with him, told him to advise OC Luqa that all his replacements would come via Gib and that he would advise the Air Ministry of same. His 2nd sortie was Gib to Malta, his 3rd was an air test and his 4th was night ops. To clarify, I asked him if he had done a proper conversion to type, and he said ‘no’. I then asked if he had told anyone about it. I will always remember his reply: “Och, no – I might have lost my tour!”

Peter told us an equally hair-raising tale of losing an engine during a night attack on Taranto harbour (not the big raid…). The good engine was overheating and he couldn’t get enough power to climb above 100ft for much of the return leg over the sea. He decided that if he could make 400ft over the Grand Harbour he would be able to close the throttle and glide the rest of the way, which would solve the asymmetric handling problem that had killed several of his friends. At that time nobody had successfully gone around from a poor asymmetric approach in the Mk 1 Mossie. Unfortunately the gliding performance was better than expected and he realised late on that the landing was going to be so long that they would be off the end at high speed with probable fatal consequences. He then said he thought if they were going to die, they might as well die trying, so he gently applied power and lots of rudder. He told me he wasn’t sure how he did it, or whose hands were on the controls, but airspeed and altitude started to increase. The second approach was successful, but he did say he was ready for a beer afterwards.

One other snippet for you (sadly I can’t recall which gent provided it but I think it was Peter) was the use of intelligence. By this stage 23 was doing solo intruder ops and plenty of crews were taking hits from flak. He and his observer used to go through all the other crews’ mission reports, plotted every gun position that was ever mentioned, and then planned routes around them. Simple but effective. They only got shot at once, and that was by a fixed AAA site that had been mis-reported.

The other definite Mossie man in the Association was Fred Hayes, who was an observer; Fred died in 2003. He was great company. I don’t know whether George will remember him.

Thank you for helping to keep the flame burning for No 23 Sqn. Sadly, the Sqn disbanded in Oct 2009 and the reductions in force levels since then means that the numberplate is very unlikely to see RAF service again.

Kind regards,

Dai Whittingham

Click here to view the documentary outside the U.K.

Bud Badley Revisited

This is the comment one reader posted when he saw Bud in the documentary The Plane That Saved Britain…

Bud Badley documentary

I found this site after the Blast documentary was aired in the UK. I had the privilege of commanding No 23 Sqn 1997-1999 and am currently Chairman of the Sqn Association. I would love to hear from any ex-23 Sqn members, or family, who would like to be part of the Association. We still have a couple of Mosquito members but sadly time has caught up with the others. We also have members from the Javelin, Lightning, Phantom, Tornado and Sentry eras!

I would especially like to make contact with Bud.

Air Cdre Dai Whittingham RAF Retd.

If any reader has knowledge how to reach Bud Badley, please write a comment and I will contact Air Commodore Dai Whittingham RAF Retd.


Bud Badley Redux

Few people know or remember who Bud Badley is.

One of my latest readers does and he posted a comment on this post about Bud Badley.

I know a little bit more about Bud Badley than ordinary people. George Stewart told me all about that picture taken in 1944. George is there fourth on the right last row.

Georges Stewart group picture

George’s navigator was Paul Beaudet.

Paul Beaudet group picture

They flew 50 missions together on Mosquitoes.

Now take a good look at Bud who was quite a character.

Bud Badley group picture

Look again…

Bud Badley group picture toast

To be continued…