Exceptional – Redux

Something I wrote in 2012.

***

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.

Alec Lawson or Alastair Lawson – Redux

This is a comment I had received on this blog in 2011.

Hi,
my Uncle Alastair Lawson was a pilot with 23 Squadron 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 Squadron personnel?

Regards

Al Bowie

Sydney Australia

I have been writing this blog  since 2010 with Peter Smith’s help whose father was Tommy Smith. I had known more and more about 23 Squadron in 2011 but not enough to help this reader.

Information about Alec Lawson were 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 Peter Smith had this picture in his manuscript he sent me about Hector Goldie, Vicki’s father-in-law.

 

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

Normand Conquer had it in his collection. The Baron was on this picture taken beside someone whose name was Alec Lawson. Alec was Alastair Lawson, Al’s uncle.

Al Bowie has been reading my blog ever since and he wrote a few comments. This morning Al wrote me a personal message about his uncle.

 

 

About the wreck…

Peter Smith wrote this comment about the wreck.

In that case it was the plane Hector Goldie wrecked after they all drew short straws because none of the aircrew wanted to fly it. And Hector did a beautiful belly landing: the maintenance officer was happy because he now had spares. Bud Badley said the plane was a ‘beast’ and that it was the best thing to do with it.
I have a couple of pictures (photocopied so they’re not great) of the same aircraft just a different angle.

Best

Pete

I told him to send me his photocopies.

Just Joe pranged nose view Just Joe pranged

The maintenance officer was happy now…

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

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.

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.

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.

A Great Shot or Dangerous Things, Guns!

I have decided to move along more rapidly with this story…

Part V

It was on Malta that Norman discovered his Pilot, “The Baron” was quite adept with a revolver.

Baron had awoken to find his wallet being rifled through-and in a rage had chased the burglar across the roof of their mess firing after him.

After a particularly hectic party one night our pair of Flying Officers retired to their room with their roommate Pat Rapson, all pretty “clattered”, and had gone to bed with the light on.

“Turn that bloody light out” shouted Pat.

“Turn the bloody light out yourself” Norman shouted back.

Bang! Baron shot the light out with a single shot.

It was some weeks after they left Malta they heard Police had captured a burglar, with a pronounced limp-he had a bullet in his leg. Norman was to note, “Dangerous things, guns!

Our intrepid pair were to move within the month to the forward air base at Pomigliano, near Naples along with ground crews. This would be their first “op” with Sticky up too as Flight Commander.

Amidst much miserable flying weather an incident occurred (Author‟s note: years later stories of Sticky’s jeep would permeate through the ranks of the aircrew, and to their families, and this incident may have been the start of it)

Baron and Norman had gone to Naples and while there visited the “Arizona Club”, a den of dubious repute, an obvious attraction to anybody wanting “booze” and female company, even though it was more akin to a wild west Saloon, undoubtedly run by the local mafia.

“Sticky has been grumbling about his lack of transport-what a boon a Jeep would be.”
So whilst “shopping” in Naples Baron and Norman decide to visit the Arizona Club. However what grabs their attention is parked right outside, with the key in the ignition.

“Sticky wants a Jeep-Sticky deserves a Jeep-he shall have a Jeep, so off we go. So much quicker to get back to camp this way too! Presenting his new toy to the boss we notice a certain lack of enthusiasm on his part-in fact he was torn between joy at the acquisition and concern about the possible inquisition. ‘There will be one hell of a row’ quoth he.”

Despite furious denials the Squadron were visited by a representative from the Provost Marshall’s Office, who insisted he search the Station. The Jeep meanwhile was pushed from a tent, around the perimeter track into a wood, and back into a tent again.

“Never the less it was considered too dicey to hang onto the thing and by then Sticky’s enthusiasm for the Jeep idea had waned”. Subsequently it was decided to quietly deposit the Jeep back outside the Arizona Club, where it had been “found”. (After a trip to Pompeii!!) This was duly carried out by Don Kimpton and Norman Conquer.
However within days B flight would be reunited with the rest of the Squadron at Alghero in Sardinia, their “new” base.

The Baron and Dave Atherton

Their time there would pass without incident, well, almost.

To be continued…

The Baron teams up with Norman Conquer

This is part IV of an amazing story.

Last time Sergeant Charles Crozier’s Blenheim crashed.

13 OTU Blenheims (Courtesy of the Aircrew Remembrance Society)

Their last flight before posting at the OTU was low level practice formation exercise. During the flight the three airman’s craft, Blenheim Z5800, suffered engine failure and they flew straight into a tree at 200 MPH near Bloxham.

The story continues…

Charles was badly broken up and died on the operating table and the WO/AG was killed outright.”

Charles Crozier, Dorchester, and H D Perrin
(Courtesy of TWGPP)

Welwyn-Norman had been very lucky

Pilot Officer Conquer would not be joining 105 Squadron. In fact he would be spending the next 8 months encased in different varieties of plaster cast. He had in fact been miraculously lucky with a broken right femur and multi-fractured left ankle. However it would keep him out of the war a little longer.

He would find himself shipped from the Radcliffe infirmary at Oxford, to the RAF Hospital at Halton, and then to the RAF Officers Recuperation Centre which was the Palace Hotel in Torquay. It was days after Norman left that the place was bombed by a lone FW190, and
some of the recuperating officers killed. Norman had cheated death again, this time without being in an aircraft.

The bombing of The Palace Hotel Torquay by a lone FW190.

(Courtesy of Devon Heritage)

He was returned to Halton and declared fit, and given a week‟s leave before reporting back to Bicester, to 13 OTU, but not to take up where he left off. It was now July 1942 and he had been classified fit for ground duties for the next 6 months, at least. His lot for six months was to be one of the Station Operations Officers, working shifts 3 days on, one day off.

It would be November before Norman would be before the Central Medical Board in London being declared fit to return to „non-operational‟ aircrew duties within the UK for four months. Eventually he would be returned to Bicester fully operationally fit, perhaps slightly „miffed‟ that even though he had flown as „Staff Nav‟ on the previous two courses he was told he would have to complete this one again. All of it. Such was life. It was now March 1943.

Having completed the elementary navigation courses, again, at 13 OTU it was now time to “crew up”.

In Norman‟s case he chose Hector Goldie, a 33 year old instructor with 2000 flying hours underneath his belt. Norman would later write “he never put a foot wrong in the air, and I had the utmost faith in his flying ability”. Hector was known popularly as “the Baron”, the reason? As to be expected because he looked like a “swarthy” German Baron.

Early in June they were visited at Bicester by none other than Sammy Hoare, Wing Commander Flying, and Chief Instructor of a new OTU, No 60 at High Ercall, being set up-to train pilots for intruder missions, flying not the Blenheim, but Mosquitoes.
Flying Officers Goldie and Conquer were chosen by Sammy Hoare to „attend‟ another course starting from June to September.

It was while at High Ercall Norman made several good friends, several of them WAAFs. One was a lady called Peggy who had a brother flying Mosquitoes; his name was Peter Stokes DFC. His DFC was awarded in the Med with 23 Squadron, and he was an instructor at 60 OTU. Norman would next see her at his funeral, a very sad affair.

His fellow course attendees would become part of 23 Squadron also-Sticky Murphy, Bill Gregory, Phil Russell-so Norman’s and Hector’s stage was set.

Finally on the 4th of October they went to Lyneham to collect their new FBVI, HX813. After more courses they were then set to fly from Portreath on the 24th, first stop Gibraltar. (This particular “Mossie” would last until 09/04/45 when it broke up during a roll 8m SE of Cairo West)

To be continued next week…

Meantime take a look at this.