Alec Lawson or Alastair Lawson – Redux

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

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?


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.



26 November 1942 Redux


This post was written back in 2010.

I just found the pilot’s name on the same page as Flight Lieutenant Bob Williamson’s name who was shot down over Cognac.

On the night of the 26th, Sgt Hutt and Sgt Cridge were killed in a crash whilst on local flying.

Williamson 1942 28 November ORB

Original post written in 2010.

I got this comment on my blog.

My uncle flew for RAF Squadron 23 and was killed on November 26 1942 in a Mosquito fighter bomber. His name was Duncan Stuart Hutt, RCAF. This was before the move from England. My mother told me that her mother sent packages to the pilots in Malta, but the Wing Commander told her that all pilots that Stuart had flown with in England were KIA.

Source of images

I found these locations of No. 23 Squadron on this Website.

16 May 1938 – 31 May 1940: Wittering
31 May – 12 September 1940: Collyweston
12 September 1940 – 6 August 1942: Ford
12 – 25 September 1940: Detachment to Middle Wallop
6 – 14 August 1942: Manston
14 – 21 August 1942: Bradwell Bay
21 August – 13 October 1942: Manston

13 October – 11 December 1942: Bradwell Bay

11 – 27 December 1942: On way to Malta
27 December 1942 – 7 December 1943: Luqa
3 September – 5 October 1943: Detachment to Signella
5 October – 1 November 1943: Detachment to Gerbini Main
1 November – 7 December 1943: Detachment to Pomigliano
7 December 1943 – 8 May 1944: Alghero
8 – 19 May 1944: Blida
19 May – 2 June 1944: Returning to UK
2 June 1944 – 25 September 1945: Little Snoring

Duncan Stuart Hutt was stationed at Bradwell Bay when he got killed.

I found this video on the Internet about No. 23 Squadron based in Italy.

If you have information on No. 23 Squadron, just write me a comment and I will get in touch just like I did with Stuart Hutt’s nephew.

Cricket 39

Each artifact I posted a picture of yesterday is important.

We all know by now that Hugh Boland had no fear.


This is what is written in this book.

Hugh Boland

Confounding the Reich

This is the post I wrote back on June 6, 2012…

It was about Cricket, a call sign used by 23 Squadron.

This is what I wrote.

It’s about Cricket 23. I did not pay that much attention to the Cricket call sign.

George shed light about it on this post.

This is what I wrote later about another crew brought to life with this artifact which indicates that Boland’s Mosquito was Cricket 39.

I was about Cricket 23.

call sign

This is a good time to remember the valiant ones who served in World War II.

Tim Dench is sharing Bill Goody’s account of a raid on Munich Riem.

Courtesy Tom Cushing via Peter Smith

Munich Riem Raid – 25 April 1945

The following account was dictated by Bill Goody to Tim Dench in 1977. At the time, Bill was a much loved officer of 97 ATC squadron, and I was doing a school project on the Mosquito.

It was decided that No 23 Squadron being experienced in the low level intruder role, and flying their Mosquito MkVI  aircraft with Merlin 25 engines, would act as “Pathfinders” in that they would navigate precisely to the airfield and go in first to the attack dropping their 80 x 4lb incendiary bombs which would burn with a vivid white light to mark the area where the normally high level Mosquito Mk XXX’’s  with their Merlin 76 engines would make their own low level attacks lobbing onto the incendiaries their 100 gallon drop tanks, 1 to each wing rack, filled with petroleum jelly (Napalm) to effect maximum damage to the parked enemy aircraft.

Mosquito YP-N flown by Flight Sergeant Goody took off from Little Snoring airfield in Norfolk and followed the prescribed route.   The weather was clear with very little high level cloud and the moon was quite full, not ideal weather for low level operations as flak gunners on the ground with light anti aircraft weapons could fire visually at the aircraft.  The crew relied on the superior speed and maneuverability of the Mosquito to combat such defensive actions,  but as these missions where never flown higher than 2,000ft above the ground the risk was always present of the aircraft being flown into the ground or striking trees, pylons or high buildings during this type evasive action.

The purpose of the low level operation was to allow for accurate map reading from ground features, rivers, lakes and railway lines etc, the task being made easier on the Munich Riem raid by good night visibility.  “Gee”, a radar navigation aid was also used but mainly by the Mosquito XXX’s crews who flew high level to the target area.

The Merlin engines of the Mk xxx’s had two stages of super charge and gave their best performance and heights of 10,000ft  to 20,000ft hence this tactic.  The 23 Squadron aeroplanes had single stage super chargers and where fastest at 2,000ft to 5,000ft.

Accordingly the overall plan called for the attacking aircraft to rendezvous at a lake close to Munich and the flight planning allowing for some 5 minutes “stooging” there to allow for discrepancies in times of arriving.   The senior officer of 23 Squadron,  Squadron Leader Griffiths DFC was appointed Master Bomber whose duty required him to mark the target and direct the attacking aircraft during their attacks.

After the short channel crossing, routed to avoid the continental coastal areas still in German hands, the route was straight across Europe to Bavaria and Flt. Sgt. Goody remembers nothing of particular importance that occurred on the 2hr flight other than the signs of frontline fighting still going on, trace machine gun fire, burning buildings etc.  Enemy reaction to the intruders was not as fierce as they had experienced from previous raids prior to this date.   On identifying the small lake the Mosquito pilot reported over the radio to the Master Bomber their arrival by using the coded call sign “cricket 23”.    “Cricket” identifying the squadron and “23” the pilot.  After orbiting the lake for some 7 minutes (YP-N arrived  a few minutes early) the Master Bomber dived over the airfield and dropped the incendiaries on the tall control tower at one end of the large civil combined hanger and control building.

These bombs burnt brightly on the tarmac apron and building roof and “Cricket 23” was called on to follow this first attacking aircraft to mark the tower at the other end of the hanger complex.  Flt. Sgt. Goody carried out this attack from about 150ft and whilst pulling up and away noted further incendiaries bring dropped all along the complex by successive aeroplanes from 23 Squadron.  The Master Bomber then called on the lightened Mosquito fighters to fire their cannon at the sources of the small amount of defensive flak being thrown up by the airfield defence gunners.

Flt. Sgt. Goody remembers vividly the awesome sight of the Mosquito XXX’s lobbing their deadly load of Napalm onto the tarmac apron and the tremendous sheets of flame that erupted from the bursting tanks, resulting in the entire complex and apron flaming up.

During this frenzied activity over an airfield the size of Croydon Aerodrome a pilot called out that he had seen trace shells from an attacking enemy aircraft fired at one of our Mosquitos and after the last Napalm was dropped, Squadron Leader Griffiths instructed all attacking aircraft to go home, which Flt. Sgt. Goody says was acted on by all aircraft without delay!!!!   He recalls the return trip as being without incident, no German intruders awaited the returning aircraft over the home bases in Norfolk as had been the case some months or so previously.

Mosquito YP-N of 23 Squadron landed at Little Snoring at 05.15 the following morning as evidenced by the entry from Flt. Sgt. Goody’s log book, a total flying time of 5 hours, 45 minutes typical of the range of this mission for advanced fighter aircraft.    This type of offensive operation ended when the European fighting finished on 5 May a few weeks later.

The attacking crews heard nothing of the effect of the raid until Frank Ziegler who carried out early interrogations of enemy airmen after the war wrote an article about Col. Steinhoff and the revolutionary ME262, one of the first successful jet aircraft to be evolved.    Col.  Steinhoff related how JV44 the “Squadron of Aces” had achieved numerous victories by shooting down American daylight bombers from Munich Riem until the squadron was put out of business as a result of the Mosquito attack on the night of 25 April.  The unit was commanded by the General Adolph Galland and other Aces flying with it were Lutzow with 120 victories and Col. Steinhoff another veteran fighter leader and author of the ‘Straits of Messina’.

Flt. Sgt. Jacobs (by then a civilian at the end of the war), Flt. Sgt. Goody’s navigator, wrote a letter published by the RAF News which resulted in a reply being passed to him by Col. Steinhoff, by then Gen. Steinhoff of the postwar Luftwaffe, giving the results of the raid as seen from the German viewpoint.  The Cricket 23 crew were pleased to note Gen. Steinhoff’s  “warm greetings from your former adversary”.

Footnote (by Tim Dench 1977)

Many cadets in the ATC (Air Training Corps) may have assembled the plastic model Mosquito kit of the 23 Squadron night fighter version bearing squadron letters YP-A without realising that this aircraft was originally flown by an officer of my squadron no 97 (Croydon) of the Surrey wing ATC.    Flt.Sgt. Goody tells me that he enjoyed the use of this aeroplane as his “own” aircraft for a while whilst flying intruder operations in support of bomber command operations towards the war’s end.

Courtesy Tom Cushing via Peter Smith


This editorial is taken from this scanned image sent by Rich Cooper.

photo 2

This is the front cover.

photo 1


EIGHT weeks at Souther Field have left us only two more in which to complete the course and, because printers are impatient people, it is time to say goodbye.

Regret at leaving is mingled with pride in having traveled at least a third, perhaps the thorniest part, of the road to our “Wings;” and if we part from our friends and various tutors now, it is with the assurance that we are not, yet, going far, and shall return from time to time to visit them.

We owe a great debt both to our flying instructors, patient and—for their peace of mind—fearless men all, and to those who have guided us through Ground School, whom doubtless we shall remember again over Germany in darkness, where a warm front meets a cold, and we have a spluttering engine.

We are grateful to Lieutenant Rood and his staff for a number of things, not least for helping strangers in a new, if charming, country; and from Mr. Graham and his employees we could not possibly have expected more in comfort, good food, and sympathetic consideration We thank them, one and all, from our hearts.

To turn to our own domestic affairs, we bid a belated, but sincere, farewell to Flight-Lieutenant Speck and wish him the best of luck wherever he may go. At the same time we extend a hearty welcome to our new Administration Officer, Flight-Lieutenant Easton Smith.

We record, with deepest regret. the tragic deaths of Peter George Hills and Harold Norman Evans in a bathing accident at Jacksonville, Florida, on 2nd November, 1941. These two young fliers, of Class 42C, had just completed their training here and met their deaths while on leave before proceeding to Basic School at Macon. We do not need to emphasize the tragedy of this particular ending to two young lives on the threshold of such a great service to their country, and our deepest sympathies arc accorded to the bereaved families and to the many friends who knew and loved them here.


If you have any information, please feel free to contact me.

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.

John S. Slaney

You don’t have to buy the book They Say There Was a War.


John Samuel Slaney was a Hurricane pilot that was transfered to 247 Squadron after being sent to 535 Squadron. He then went on to fly Typhoons and he survived the war to tell about it.


He was a very lucky pilot because the average number of missions before being killed while flying missions on Typhoons was around 11 or 12 missions. John Samuel Slaney shed a little light on how 535 Squadron was having fun flying alongside Havoc Turbinlites.

John Samuel Slaney wrote his memoirs… Typhoon Pilot.

While searching for it I found this.

Slaney, John S. 87

Formerly of Greensburg

John Samuel Slaney, formerly of Greensburg, passed away peacefully at home in Canonsburg on Sunday, June 22, 2008, at the age of 87. John was a highly decorated World War II RAF fighter pilot who spent the last year of the war as a POW. He was also a world-renowned metallurgist who retired from Latrobe Steel in 1986. John is survived by his wife, Elizabeth; sister, Lillian Mandviwalla, of England; son, Patrick Slaney and his partner, Susan Rice, of Massachusetts; daughter, Victoria Ross and her husband, John Ross, of Pennsylvania; son, Ian Slaney and his wife, Martina, of England; grandsons, Patrick and Alexander Ross and their wives, Allison and Rebecca; grandsons, James and Philip Clark; and great-granddaughter, Brianna Ross. John was a kind and embracing man who will be dearly missed by all who had the pleasure of knowing him. John was born in Birmingham, England, March 1, 1921. At the age of 14, John quit school to provide income for his family after his father passed away. At 18, John attempted to enlist in the military, but was turned away because he was employed as a pattern maker, a trade deemed critical to national security. Later, though, with the cooperation of his employer, he was granted permission. John joined the RAF as a fighter pilot, knowing that the average survival period was less than six months. John matured quickly as a pilot, fighting off the hazards of enemy fire and the high risks of flying single engine Spitfires, Hurricanes and Rocket Typhoons. He eventually advanced to the rank of flight lieutenant, completing 112 sorties between 1941 and 1944, before being shot down over enemy territory in Normandy on June 15, 1944, nine days after D-Day. John finished the war as a POW in Stalag Luft 1 in northern Germany. On returning home to England, John learned that King George had recognized his brave and unwavering service in defense of England by awarding him the DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross), the highest ranking medal bestowed on a surviving fighter pilot. John then entered London University’s Royal School of Mines to study metallurgy. After graduation, he pursued a career that spanned the globe from South Africa to Canada to New York state and then finally to Western Pennsylvania. In the process, John produced a number of revolutionary products and processes, including several patents for high performance alloys. One alloy developed while working for Special Metals in New York was key to preventing catastrophic failure of jet engine turbine blades due to time-weighted exposure to extremely high temperatures. John’s new alloy was quickly adopted for every new turbine blade manufactured and all existing blades were recalled from the field. Now, more than 40 years later, not one turbine blade has failed in this manner. Above all of John’s talents as a professional, perhaps the most memorable qualities to those who knew him were his kind, generous personality and passion for political change. John was a friend to all. He was always there to offer help to anyone in need, and he fought especially hard to eliminate discrimination, to support human rights, to save the environment, and to support the underprivileged. John was the kindest of fighter pilots. The family asks that in John’s memory, a donation be sent to the charity of your choice.

I know he will be missed…

John S Slaney pictures John S Slaney

How Much This Document Could Be Sold on E-Bay?


I don’t sell anything on this blog. I share all the information I can gather about 23 Squadron just like Robert Harris is doing right now.

This is a precious artefact to anyone related to these airmen.

G RS  517 F/O GAGNON  F/O HARRIS       17        553  OPS

J PZ  446 F/O Mc ALPINE F/O GIBBONS 20        553  OPS

W RS  515 F/O BIRD  F/O THOMPSON     29        553  OPS

Robert Harris flight roster document

It’s the night flying programme for December 31, 1944. So many information to digest for someone who has scant knowledge about 23 Squadron.

One information is quite easy for me to remember because I was born exactly 4 years later in Montréal, Québec, Canada.

How I came about to write about 23 Squadron is explained in this blog. I like to remember things about WWII and to pay homage to the men who gave so much like Eugene Gagnon’s navigator.

It all started back in 2010 when people started sharing what information they had on 23 Squadron. Along this journey through time I had the privilege to meet a Mosquito pilot in 2011.

George Stewart DFC

He was Cricket 34. (Click on that link)

Now I know Eugene’s call sign!

Cricket 17…

I wonder how much I could get for these pictures I took with my cellphone when I visited Cricket 34?

The instruction for flying a HS-126 if he was shot down… (Click on the link) 

 George Stewart plane instructions

The letter he sent to his parents telling them he was going home…

George Stewart letter 22 December 1944


Theo in Americus, Georgia Part Two

I hope you will take some time to browse through Theo’s training logbook pages.

I did.

In the training logbook every flight is entered.

Date, Flight From, Flight To, Aircraft Make and Model…

Each flight was an adventure in itself and each flight was very dangerous for any young cadet not to mention the instructor in the back.


Robert Shay’s Jr’s collection

Theo must have a lot of stories to tell us about his training days.

Try to find an entry where something went a little wrong. Last page November 25, 1941.

photo 2 photo 3 photo 4 photo 5

last page Americus

We see it on this page.


Failed check – Lt. Baldwin – (failed to find wind)

Now we know Theo’s instructor’s name.

How Eugene Became a Mosquito Pilot?

I always learn something new about a man I never met in my life.

laporte2 001

Eugene Gagnon died on October 21, 1947 when his Republic Seabee crashed probably when the propeller shaft broke.


I was born a year later.

Eugene and I are not even blood related. So why this compultive need to search for this Mosquito pilot’s life even though he died almost 66 years ago?

Because he gave so much for his country and I love history and airplanes.


This being said, someone just gave me this information about Eugene’s training days by looking at his service record.


Something I did not know and always puzzled me.

Looks like Eugene was washed out of pilot training at St. Catharines two weeks before the rest of the course completed their training there. Someone else also washed out and ended up serving as a navigator (DFC) with 426 Sqn. The remainder of the course was posted to No. 14 SFTS Aylmer (Harvards) and No. 5 SFTS Brantford (Ansons).
After KTS Trenton (reselection), Eugene was posted to No. 4 Manning Pool in Quebec, rather than back to No. 1 Manning Pool in Toronto. He must have had more receptive listeners in Quebec than in Toronto, as they sent him back to Elementary Flying Training, this time at Mount Hope, as you know, home airport of CWH – ties in great with the Mosquito appearance at Hamilton this summer.

Eugene trained at Mt. Hope and flew Mosquitos!

Eugene could have been washed out! But he persevered.

George Stewart will be a guest speaker at the CWH Airshow.

poster Hamilton Air Show

I am sure that if Eugene was alive he would also be a guest speaker alongside George.

But then I probably would not have written 170 posts (and counting) on a blog about 23 Squadron if he had not died on October 21, 1947, and met Peter Smith on the Internet, and met George Stewart at his home in September 2011, or reunited George with his navigator’s children and so on, and so on, and so on… and have in my possession the journal of someone who met Eugene only once in his life…


Small world!