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!”
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.