Strange title… for my 175th post on this blog about 23 Squadron.

Click on this link to view my edited version of some Movietone shots made in Italy.

Please view the credits at the end.

Next time I will tell you when and how these movie shots were taken.

The Baron’s Punch


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


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.

The Baron and Norman Conquer

This is part III of an amazing story.

Amazing story because I never thought I would be able help Vicki learn about her father-in-law. Amazing because I knew nothing about The Baron and his navigator Norman Conquer last week. Amazing because Peter Smith knew nothing about 23 Squadron when his father died back in 2006, and I knew nothing about that RAF squadron in January 2010 when I started searching for a French-Canadian Mosquito pilot who died in a plane crash on October 21, 1947. Amazing because I am not even related to Eugene Gagnon nor Peter Smith. 

Amazing because I wrote everything I now know on this blog about 23 Squadron.

So without further ado…

Here is Hector Goldie again with his navigator Norman Conquer.

Norman Conquer was one of the Squadron’s senior Navigators. We see him again in the yellow rectangle when he was with Gunnery Squad.

Norman Conquer, far right first row “Gunnery Squad”
(Courtesy of Norman Conquer)

The story continues…

Norman was informed that he was to be commissioned on the 24th August, and after two weeks leave, with a log book recording 52 operational flights and a total of 87 hours was to be posted to an Operational Training Unit, flying the Mark IV Blenheim.

So, September 1941 would see Pilot Officer Conquer at his new Station, No 13 OTU at Bicester.

No. 13 OTU at RAF Bicester (Courtesy of RAF Bicester).

He was crewed up with pilot Sergeant Charles Crozier who was the “granddaddy” of the course at 26. The pilots had already completed all their training, and the function of the OTU was to get all aircrew acclimatised to “type”, in this case the Blenheim.

13 OTU Blenheims (Courtesy of the Aircrew Remembrance Society)

At this point with their experience, and due diligence, the course was more of a formality and within a month they were posted, not to No 2 Group as they thought, but to North Africa to 105 Squadron, flying Blenheim V‟s, the “Bisley”.

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.

To be continued… on Monday.

Meantime, this is a little edited version I did using the Movietone video on 23 Squadron.

Hector and Norman did a little cameo appearance in the movie.

Hector Goldie and his Navigator: part two

Yesterday was the busiest day on this blog about 23 Squadron.

I am not surprised because Vicki has now all the answers she was looking for and much much more. I think she has been reading some of my other posts as well as her husband and her son.

This is post No. 90  about 23 Squadron, a little known RAF Squadron based at Little Snoring.

Here is Vicki’s father-in-law Hector Goldie with his navigator Norman Conquer.

This is taken from Peter Smith’s manuscript who yesterday sent Vicki everything he had about her father-in-law. Peter does not keep what he found about 23 Squadron to himself, and Peter gave me the green light to write about Hector Goldie and his navigator on this blog using excerpts from his manuscript. This story is amazing because it shows how brave these men were.

Imagine it’s a movie…

In the above picture taken from George Stewart private collection, another 23 Squadron pilot, we see ‘Shorty’ Dawson, Kit Cotter, Sticky Murphy, Baron Goldie, Norman Conquer and Jim Coley.

The Maltese girls’ names are unknown.

You have surely noticed the nicknames given to these airmen. Shorty, Kit , Sticky, Baron. Where does the Baron nickname come from…? I could give you the answer right away, but I would spoiled the ending.

We will start with this first part of Peter’s manuscript he sent me two days ago… I will be posting several articles because of the amount of information on Hector “the Baron” Goldie. 

Norman Conquer was one of the Squadron’s senior Navigators. He and his pilot, Hector “Baron” Goldie, had crewed up at an Operational Training Unit (O.T..U) where they had both ended up before being posted to 23 Squadron in 1943, where upon they had joined the Squadron in Malta, the normal route via the Bay of Biscay and Gibraltar.

However Norman was not a new recruit but he was like many others in the Squadron who had joined up in 1939 and 1940. Unlike many others in the Squadron Norman would be on his first tour of “ops”on the offensive. His path there had been perhaps more difficult than many of the others.

At the outbreak of war he had been all set to follow a different path. He had been already to join the BBC in fact. To be precise the BBC Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra, as well as “touring” a small dance band of his own.

In December 1939 he had volunteered at Uxbridge as a pilot, and being a keen type (as most of the Chaps at 23 were) had volunteered for immediate duty, to fly of course, but had been “persuaded” to do one tour as a Navigator. So Norman had promptly found himself part of an RAF Gunnery squad on ground defence in Blackpool, since it would take time for the aircrew receiving centre to call prospective aircrew up for actual flying duties.


Norman Conquer, far right second row “Gunnery Squad”
(Courtesy of Norman Conquer)

While there were some benefits, such as the very hospitable Blackpool landlady who made them feel as though they were part of the family, a real home away from home. However it was not to last and with his unit he was soon at White Waltham in Berkshire „training‟. However this too would only last a couple of months before a posting to Dumfries in Scotland. This was not the way young Conquer envisaged his notable talents being utilised, and he had got to the point, some ten months after joining, where he was almost resigned to the fact that this was “his lot”, when in mid-December he would be informed that he had been posted to No. 10 Initial Training Wing at Scarborough. He was on the move again.

At 10 ITW he would form several close friendships, Norman would later write,

Of the four I was closest too, one failed to survive training, two were lost on operations, and the last was the sole survivor of an entire Squadron destroyed in one raid in the Mediterranean.

Other Squadron members, who had started this early in the war, would all tell a very similar story, by the time the war ended. Normans training would continue in earnest, with in March ‟41 a move to No. 10 Bombing and Gunnery School, where, that’s right “Dumfries”, again. His first experience in a “Harrow” did not fill either him or any of his colleagues with confidence.

An air experience flight in a “Harrow” did not create quite the impression we imagined our instructors wished to convey. I presume the pilot on that occasion had actually flown before-but perhaps he thought we would be more at home if we felt that he too was a beginner…

(Author‟s note: a Handley Page “Harrow” was a twin engine heavy bomber designed and built in the 1930s).

Next time, more on The Baron and Norman Conquer.