De Havilland Mosquito Mk VI serial number PZ187

I never got around to post this on my blog.

What is PZ187?

This is PZ187.

YP-E St. Chris

A famous De Havilland Mosquito Mk VI flown by some famous pilots!

George Stewart flew Mosquito Mk VI serial number PZ187.

George Stewart DFC

Tommy Smith flew PZ187.

Tommy Smith

Eugene Gagnon flew PZ187.

Eugene Gagnon

These are some notes taken from the 23 Squadron diaries of Tommy Smith shot down on January 16, 1945.

01048 Never Say Die, low res

23 Squadron

August 31, 1944
Pilot Smith – Navigator Cockayne
Mosquito PZ172
Fresher Ops: Zuider Zee
Round trip: Hoorne-Harderwjick-Urk- Hoorne-LF& SL from Hoorne

September 1, 1944
Pilot Smith – Navigator Cockayne
Mosquito PZ315
Strafe patrol:
Weser Elbe canal, Hannover-Magdeburg
Rly, Schoningen-Hildesheim: Barges hit at Hannover, Braunschweig

September 11, 1944
Pilot Smith – Navigator CockayneMosquito HR215
Patrol:
Guissen & Lippe airfields, no activity. Strikes on goods trucks at Koblenz, Limburg, Guissen yards

September 12, 1944
Pilot Smith – Navigator CockayneMosquito PZ187
Patrol: Stuttgart/Ectodingen A/F activity at Boblingen. Strikes on goods trucks at Kaisers Lautern yard

September 14
Pilot Smith – Navigator CockayneMosquito PZ172
Daylight Escort at 20000ft.-fortress on Dutch coast.

September 19
Pilot Smith – Navigator CockayneMosquito PZ334
Patrol: Achmer A/F No activity retired early. Bad visibility & no R/T

September 26
HR215 Patrol: Kitzingen A/F Turned back at Moselle. No pinpoints rad fog

September 28
Pilot Smith – Navigator CockayneMosquito PZ187
Patrol:

Handorf A/F no activity. Low stratus. Spoof raid to
Terschelling, 22000ft.

September 29
Pilot Smith – Navigator CockayneMosquito PZ187
Patrol:
Kolitzheim & Gerolshofen A/F’s
no activity

October 2, 1944
Pilot Smith – Navigator CockayneMosquito PZ187
Patrol:
Hagenow A/F
no activity. Train hit SW of Hagenow, 3 trains, and 1 engine Hagenow junction. Train & engine hit S of Luneburg

October 15, 1944
Pilot Smith – Navigator CockayneMosquito HR217
Patrol: Sylt A/F.
no activity.

October.19, 1944
Pilot Smith – Navigator CockayneMosquito HR217
Patrol:
Biblis A/F.
no activity 2x500Ib.
Bombs on A/F

October.26, 1944
Pilot Smith – Navigator CockayneMosquito HR217
Patrol:
Gutersloh A/F

No activity.
Attacked motor convoy at Delde on autobahn, 8 vehicles, 1 left burning

October.29, 1944
Pilot Smith – Navigator CockayneMosquito HR217
Patrol
Stade A/F no activity

October.30, 1944
Pilot Smith – Navigator CockayneEscape photographs taken-moustaches shaved off-except Sammy’s

October.31, 1944
Pilot Smith – Navigator CockayneMosquito PZ183
NFT and film unit co-op

October.31, 1944
Pilot Smith – Navigator CockayneMosquito PZ183
Patrol: Munich/Schleisheim A/F
no activity 3 trains damaged: Aalen, Heilbrohn, Worms

November .2, 1944
Pilot Smith – Navigator CockayneMosquito HR215
Patrol:
Fritzlar A/F
no activity tarmac strafed strikes on hangar

November.4, 1944
Pilot Smith – Navigator CockayneMosquito HR217
Recalled from ops: struck birds taking off.

November.6, 1944
Pilot Smith – Navigator CockayneMosquito HR215
Patrol:
Ardorf, Marx, and Varel; diverted to Woodbridge
Ardorf active, Marx lit, Varel inactive: no luck Bud Badley does ‘belly-landing’ at Woodbridge.

November 6, 1944
Returned to Snoring with Bud Badley (from Woodbridge)

November 18, 1944
Pilot Smith – Navigator CockayneMosquito HR217
Patrol: Plantlunne A/F
no activity

November 21, 1944
Pilot Smith – Navigator Cockayne
Mosquito PZ231
Patrol: Gutersloh A/F; active one Hun lit up by E.S.N’s No contacts

November.25, 1944
Pilot Smith – Navigator CockayneMosquito PZ231
Patrol:
Stuttgart/Echterdingen A/F s unident T.E. A/C damaged on G.R. Hailfingen L/G 1 Ju88 damaged on GR. + 2 hangars strafed at Echterdingen A/F Loco & MT hit at Plochingen. Trains hit N. Stuttgart & N. of Karlsruhe

November.27, 1944
Pilot Smith – Navigator CockayneMosquito PZ315
Patrol: Ober-Olm A/F
no activity low cloud

November.28, 1944
Pilot Smith – Navigator CockayneMosquito PZ315
Spoof raid, 20,000ft.2x500Ib on Bonn (on Gee)

December.3, 1944
Pilot Smith – Navigator CockayneMosquito PZ410
A.S.R. off Egmond coast for W/C Murphy

December .5, 1944
Pilot Smith – Navigator CockayneMosquito PZ410
Patrol:
Zellhousen A/F, Badenhousen L/G no activity 2 x 500Ib M.C. on Frankfurt/Rhein-Main A/F

December.22, 1944
Pilot Smith – Navigator CockayneMosquito RS517
ASH Patrol:
Echterdingen A/F strafed tarmac and buildings + Halfingen L/G strafed train at Heilbronn Hit pyrotechnic store: fireworks still visible 30 miles away

December.23, 1944
Pilot Smith – Navigator CockayneMosquito RS517
ASH Patrol:
Saschenheim A/F: not lit very foggy. Just cleared balloons at
Germersheim

December.27, 1944
Pilot Smith – Navigator CockayneMosquito RS507
ASH Patrol:
Halfingen L/G &  Stuttgart/Echterdingen A/F s
no activity: thick haze: generator failure

January .13, 1944
Pilot Smith – Navigator CockayneMosquito YP-A
Operational Intruder:
A/F not lit chased own ‘shadow’ on ASH for 15 mins.

January.14, 1944
Pilot Smith – Navigator Cockayne
Mosquito YP-M
Opn: intruder
Gutersloh
A/F, A/F lit hangars and tarmac strafed: 1 U/E A/C destroyed

January.16, 1944
Pilot Smith – Navigator Cockayne
Mosquito YP-C
Opn: intruder,
Stendal A/F, not yet returned

01048 Never Say Die, low res

Tommy Smith’s last mission

Very few people know that PZ187 was not in fact PZ187.

dirt

George Stewart told me about it.

How important is this? Probably not that important unless you write a blog about 23 Squadron a little known Mosquito Squadron based at Little Snoring.

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Tommy Smith’s Freshman Mission

Peter Smith sent me this transcript from his father’s war memories after I posted Eugene Gagnon’s first mission.

I always share information people send me with their permission.

This account of a Freshman mission would be the same one Eugene Gagnon would have written after the war.

Eugene Gagnon

Ghislaine Laporte’s collection

He never spoke that much about the war. Eugene would died in a plane crash on October 21, 1947.

numérisation0015

Jacques Gagnon’s collection

Night of 31st August-1st September 1944

As we had completed 4 night X-countries without mishap, we were allowed to do our ‘Fresher Trip’. We went to briefing at 7pm where other members were being given targets for ground strafing of trains etc. Took off at 10.30 after the others were off, and proceeded on the so-called ‘Steep Turn round the Zuider Zee’.

It was almost full moon, with a fresh breeze blowing, so I could fly over the sea at 300ft visually, with the radio altimeter set at 400ft, showing red all the time.

Soon after crossing the coast we passed through the middle of a convoy of coastal tramps, black and rolling in the clear moon-track. We droned on and on unable to get a ‘Gee’ fix of any sort, and relying entirely on the course being right. I was a bit uneasy about this, as the navigator had unthinkingly computed all courses and times for 2000ft! Three minutes to ETA off the Dutch coast.

I climbed up straight ahead to 200ft., and there, in the gloom of a line of thunderclouds, was the white line of the coast. My first sight of occupied territory.

I had watched the lightning flashing both in and below this line of cloud, all the way from Norfolk, and but for them would have climbed to 3000ft to ‘dive over’ the coast.

As soon as we began to climb up from the sea, the Hun radio location scanners made its appearance, or rather noise. A loud singing buzz which came and faded, grew and faded, in the radio intercom, as the scanning beam passed over us. At 200ft. we were hanging in the filthy gloom just under an uneven, threatening ceiling of black cloud. I expected to turn South over the coast until the ‘Gee’ fix came into line, then dive over, but the Nav. could get no ‘Gee’, and on seeing water behind the coastline jumped to the conclusion that it was the mouth of the canal at (?) and said ‘turn North’. I was very sceptical. The steady singing announced that we were held in the A.A. beam: the up currents under the bellying cloud threw the Mosquito up and around like a cork, while the lightening flashes half blinded me every few seconds. I was so concerned about keeping right side up and out of the cloud, and worried about where exactly we were on the coast that I’d forgotten to worry about the Hun although we were stooging around just above his coast, being in the beam. We bucketed about, heading north, but immediately saw the promontory with Den Helder at the point, so turned South again, and dived across at 1000ft. doing 300+ mph.

So we were inside, skelping across the black flat land in bright moonlight, the clouds left behind. No lights were visible, nothing but the reflection of the moon running over the straight canals. I varied height ‘as per the book’, and soon the curving edge of the Zuider Zee came into view. We were slightly north of track and made allowance as we headed S.E. across the water. It was calm and bright in the moonlight, with slight broken silvery clouds above. Half a dozen times a little Dutch sailing vessel was silhouetted black against the shimmering moon track. Then the far coast came up. A moment of uncertainty, then we saw the little bulge that was our pinpoint at Harderijk. The houses and quay were clearly visible in the moonlight as we circled, then North to the Polder at Urk.

This time the coast was hard to see as we were coming ‘down-moon’ and the Polder was completely flooded in many places.

The western dyke, running north like an arrow, was a fine pointer, so we turned off for Hoorne, the place where we entered the Zuider Zee.

As we neared the little bay, I turned right over the town, to be sure of hitting the north sea coast correctly, and at once the navigator said ‘Theres’ a searchlight, and its got us.’

I could not see it in the bright moonlight but did not have far to look, for on his words a hail of orange lights whipped past behind the tail and hung in the air, a brilliant cluster, as they receded. The first ‘light flak’ I had encountered and not very pleasant. I dived for the ground, which was plainly visible, and kept right down to 100ft or so, with the Nav. yelling ‘Pull out’. The searchlight soon lost us, and looking behind I could see it probing about, with the orange tracers flying around uselessly with the beam.

We neared the west coast, and the scanning, uncanny singing began, but we reached the sea and dived to 300ft. without incident.

The trip back was tedious, and I was glad to see the Norfolk coast, and hear the landing chatter of aircraft on the R.T.

In the Mess having bacon and egg, we remarked that we’d been fired at on our ‘Freshman Trip’, which evoked ‘cries of shame’. ‘Things must be done.’ ‘Write to the League of Nations. The Hun should know we use that route as a training run!’

Which makes you think. No German aircraft has dared the North Sea crossing to Britain for some months and we stooge around the borders of the Fortress of Europe with impunity (or very nearly).

Since seven or eight crews had done this trip in a fortnight, it was evident Jerry had decided to do something.

First time over Hoorne, we woke him up.

Passing over again in moonlight like day he was all set and woke us up. (Time taken 2 hours.)

Tommy Smith

Peter Smith’s collection

It Just Struck Me!

Click here… 

Someone just wrote a comment.

Tommy Smith was indeed a brave man…he had the courage to allow me to marry his eldest daughter!

Another notable member of 23 squadron was the young Douglas Bader. He lost both his legs after crashing a 23 Squadron Bristol Bulldog during an unauthorised aerobatic display at a civilian aeroclub at Woodley, near Reading, in 1931when only 21 years old.

I have very fond memories of Tommy Smith who was an inspiration to us all.

Richard Benson QC

I had never realized before that Douglas Bader was with 23 Squadron and that Tommy Smith had a daughter. When I was a young kid I knew about Douglas Bader, but nothing about Tommy Smith.

Tommy Smith

Small world.

Day Ranger to Grove

Day Ranger to Grove is the second painting commissioned by Peter Smith who has since 2006 went on a mission to honour all those who served with RAF 23 Squadron, a little known Mosquito Squadron.

 01058 Day Ranger to Grove, low res

Day Ranger to Grove

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. 

Peter Smith first commissioned Never Say Die.

01048 Never Say Die, low res

Never Say Die

What must surely be one of WWII’s most extraordinary acts of bravery occurred on the night of 16th/17th January 1945 when F/L T A Smith and F/O A C Cockayne were on an ASH patrol over Stendal. Flying Mosquito FB.VI RS507 (YP-C), they inadvertently stumbled upon the German airfield of Fassberg on their return trip, fully lit up with aircraft taxiing. Taking full advantage of this situation, F/L Smith went straight in to attack, destroying one Bf.109 on the taxiway and another two as they attempted to take off. RS507 received ground fire hits to its starboard engine during the chase down the runway, Smith feathering the prop, but continuing to press home his attack. Knowing that there was no way of saving their aircraft, Cockayne was ordered to bale out, but sadly lost his life in the attempt. F/L Smith fought gallantly to bring his Mosquito down into snow with minimum damage, but the aircraft hit trees before striking the frozen ground and a furious fire broke out, Smith trapped in the wreckage. Against all the odds, he survived the crash, albeit with terrible burns, and saw out the war as a prisoner of the Germans. 

Both prints are A3 in size, and numbered, ?/250 in a limited run, they cost £35 and postage is free within UK and standard postal rates outside the UK.

Visit Ivan Berryman Website for more details.

Never Say Die

From Ivan Berryman’s website

This is the title of  a new painting completed earlier this month for Mr Pete Smith of      Northampton. It depicts an heroic action in Mosquito FB.VI RS507, flown by his father In January 1945. My caption for the painting gives just a glimpse of what happened that night:                           

01048 Never Say Die, low res

What must surely be one of WWII’s most extraordinary acts of bravery occurred on the night of 16th/17th January 1945 when F/L T A Smith and F/O A C Cockayne were on an ASH patrol over Stendal. Flying Mosquito FB.VI RS507 (YP-C), they inadvertently stumbled upon the German airfield of Fassberg on their return trip, fully lit up with aircraft taxiing. Taking full advantage of this situation, F/L Smith went straight in to attack, destroying one Bf.109 on the taxiway and another two as they attempted to take off. RS507 received ground fire hits to its starboard engine during the chase down the runway, Smith feathering the prop, but continuing to press home his attack. Knowing that there was no way of saving their aircraft, Cockayne was ordered to bale out, but sadly lost his life in the attempt. F/L Smith fought gallantly to bring his Mosquito down into snow with minimum damage, but the aircraft hit trees before      striking the frozen ground and a furious fire broke out, Smith trapped in the wreckage. Against all the odds, he survived the crash, albeit with terrible burns, and saw out the war as a prisoner of the Germans.                    

It will never cease to amaze me what incredible people these young men were. Mr      Smith very kindly provided me with a very comprehensive file of the squadron’s activities before and after this incident which offers an uncompromising insight into the daily – and nightly – rigours of a front line Mosquito squadron and its young crews in 1945.                    

I am indebted.

Aren’t we are all indebted to Peter?

01058 Day Ranger to Grove, low res

Imagine

Imagine by clicking here.

Total darkness, even lower, over hostile countries, in late 1944, in winter.

Imagine George Stewart and Paul Beaudet.

Paul Beaudet and George Stewart 1

Imagine Eugene Gagnon and R.C. Harris.

No. 23 Squadron Aircrew 1945 R. Harris

Imagine Theo Griffiths and Eric Maude.

10-11-1943 Naples Theo

Imagine Tommy Smith and Arthur Cockayne.

Never_Say_Die

Imagine what it was like.

Now imagine you are practising bailing out of a Mosquito like Sticky Murphy and Jock Read…

Jock Read and Sticky Murphy

Or having a Chrismas dinner with 23 Squadron…

Xmas Overseas 1943

Just imagine what you are missing if you have not read all the posts on this blog about 23 Squadron.

Want more?

Image

I Got This in the Mail

I got this in the mail yesterday.

Never_Say_Die

I wondered who could have sent it. I did not order it from Ivan Berryman.

Then I found out who send it.

Peter did!

Peter Smith

Never Say Die

This is the title of a new painting completed earlier this month for Mr Pete Smith of Northampton. It depicts an heroic action in Mosquito FB.VI RS507, flown by his father In January 1945. My caption for the painting gives just a glimpse of what happened that night:

What must surely be one of WWII’s most extraordinary acts of bravery occurred on the night of 16th/17th January 1945 when F/L T A Smith and F/O A C Cockayne were on an ASH patrol over Stendal. Flying Mosquito FB.VI RS507 (YP-C), they inadvertently stumbled upon the German airfield of Fassberg on their return trip, fully lit up with aircraft taxiing. Taking full advantage of this situation, F/L Smith went straight in to attack, destroying one Bf.109 on the taxiway and another two as they attempted to take off. RS507 received ground fire hits to its starboard engine during the chase down the runway, Smith feathering the prop, but continuing to press home his attack. Knowing that there was no way of saving their aircraft, Cockayne was ordered to bale out, but sadly lost his life in the attempt. F/L Smith fought gallantly to bring his Mosquito down into snow with minimum damage, but the aircraft hit trees before striking the frozen ground and a furious fire broke out, Smith trapped in the wreckage. Against all the odds, he survived the crash, albeit with terrible burns, and saw out the war as a prisoner of the Germans.

It will never cease to amaze me what incredible people these young men were. Mr Smith very kindly provided me with a very comprehensive file of the squadron’s activities before and after this incident which offers an uncompromising insight into the daily – and nightly – rigours of a front line Mosquito squadron and its young crews in 1945.

I am indebted.

There is a footnote to the story of this painting. Having completed the original, which measured 36 x 24 inches, it was crated up in a sturdy plywood box for transit to the eager customer. A certain well-known courier company (who shall remain nameless, but let’s just say that their name begins and ends with a ‘T’) promptly lost it! After much ado at my end and head-scratching at theirs, it finally turned up not more than six miles from where it left me – and still my side of the Solent. It was eventually delivered to a very relieved customer, three days late. Fresh underwear please…

On the other hand, another well known courier (who also shall be nameless, but whose name begins with ‘F’ and ends in ‘X’ shipped an even bigger create with another painting from my door to Perth in Australia in under 72 hours. Cue the fanfare and confetti.

Source

He Went in for a Second Pass…

I never got around to post this back in 2011. Now I think the time is right

This is what happened when Tommy Smith was shot down.

Tommy Smith

This is what George Stewart told me.

George told me a lot of things during our little five-hour chat. We were sitting side by side just like in a Mosquito.

Mossie in flight 23 Squadron

Unlike the crew of a Mosquito, I was sitting on the left and George was on the right. His lovely wife had prepared some snacks. I did not have time to grab a bite. I was too enthraled by what George was telling me.

Everything is in my head. I would have wished I could have taped the conversation. I had my tape recorder but it never crossed my mind to use it or I did not have the guts to ask him.

We talked about Paul Beaudet, George’s navigator.

Hey we're a team

George had just kind words for him. Paul is now deceased, but his memory still lives on with his daughter Diane and his granddaughter Sonya.

Sonya is the one who found my blog Lest We Forget two years ago… just like Robert did this week.

Tommy Smith’s Diaries

Yesterday Peter sent me some of his father’s diaries to read.

Tommy Smith 1

 

I have just started. 

It’s not easy to read because I stop all the time wanting to know all the names of unknown places and other kind of info I read.

Like Babbacombe… Never heard of it!

Diary excerpt…

We climbed aboard buses, and were taken up and down the long, tree-enclosed hills of Devon to Babbacombe, two or three miles North along the coast, and from the bus I saw my pal from home, who had been in the machine for a week or so; and that was the nearest I ever got to speaking with him, though we were neighbours for a fortnight.

and No. 2 I.T.W. Cambridge. What’s I.T.W?

Diary excerpt…

On arriving then at St John’s then we were issued with a white ‘peak’, a handbook, PT kit and a green-brown camouflaged cape groundsheet and handed over to some ‘veterans’ who showed us where and what and when, and generally introduced us to the routine and conditions of A squadron, No 2 ITW.

So I did what I do most of the time when I don’t know something… (well all the time) I Google it.

This is what I found on this Website

The description made by this pilot is quite similar to what I have read in just the few pages of Peter’s father’s diaries.

It’s about Reg Everson’s story. He was also a Mosquito pilot. He was also shot down like Tommy Smith. What he recalls is most interesting so I thought I would share it with you.

Reg Everson’s story

I joined the Royal Air Force on 10th March 1941 and after tests and medical was enlisted as Pilot U/T (under training) and put on the Reserve awaiting training until 5th July 1941 when I reported to Babbacombe. Here we were initiated into the ways of the R.A.F, lectures, kitting out, kit layout, inoculations and vaccination, marching at 140 paces a minute and saluting. Seven days later posted to No. 2 I.T.W. Cambridge. More marching, 160 paces a minute, Maths, navigation, Aircraft Recognition lectures, Morse Code 8 words a minute, Physical Training kept us busy until half way through the course we were suddenly promoted to Leading Aircraftmen and posted to Gourock. Here we boarded the ‘Duchess of Athlone’. No sooner had we set sail when we returned to harbour, the degaussing equipment (protection against mines) had failed. We went by train to Wilmslow and were sent on leave (our first since joining up). We had hardly arrived home before we received a telegram instructing us to return to Wilmslow. Here I learned that I had been selected for flying training in America. Back to Scotland again this time to embark on the ‘Stratheden’. We set out in convoy but after two days left the convoy and proceeded at full speed to St John’s Newfoundland.

From St John’s we went to Toronto. A short stay here while we were kitted out with grey suits as we were to travel to America as civilian ‘Aeronautical Students’. America at that time was neutral, (it was before Pearl Harbour). Some of us took time out to hitch hike to Niagara Falls before the long train journey to Georgia. It was a slow journey of about five days and at each stop we were welcomed with fruit and cookies and enquires about the ‘Old Country’, so much for our disguise as Civilians. We arrived at Darr Aero Tech Albany Georgia,( a civilian flying school taken over by the US Army Air Corps) on 2nd October some two months before Pearl Harbour.

Perhaps the first thing we noticed after gazing with awe at the Stearman Aircraft on the ‘Line’ was the names of the civilian flying instructors, Goethe, Schmidt, Burkhalter, Frize, Haut and Schellenberger, A bit of a shock to meet so many Germanic names, but in spite of their names they were third and fourth generation Americans. I was lucky enough to be assigned to the most patient and understanding of all instructors, Mr J E Nill. Nothing will ever surpass the first flight I made on 6th October, dressed for the first time in overalls, helmet and goggles. I sat in the rear seat and bumped across the grass until the aircraft suddenly stopped bumping and we had left the ground behind. Thirty-five minutes of ecstasy until we touched down. Apart from a feeling of euphoria I was left with the conviction that I would never master the art of flying this machine, how nearly right I was. I managed to fly solo after about ten hours dual instruction, but I must have driven my instructor to near distraction, I was so ‘ham-fisted’ that he was forced to put me up for a “Progress Check”, a misnomer if there ever was one since it was for lack of progress. The Flight Commander, G.W. Kimble, decided that maybe I would eventually make it and returned me to Mr Nill for further instruction. Early in the course we had our only fatality during our time at Darr. A student who had recently soloed took off and climbed, colliding with a dual aircraft ahead of him. The instructor and the pupil in the dual aircraft survived without serious injury but the solo student crashed and caught fire. This event cast its shadow over us, and we attended our first Military Funeral, which was held at St Paul’s Church in Albany.

Having seen American Football at the stadium a number of cadets conceived the idea of staging a British Rugby Football Match. Two teams of cadets met at the stadium on 7th December and impressed the local people who were particularly surprised that the players wore no helmets or protective padding although it is a very physical game. After the game the public address system brought the news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. The entry of America into the war brought a change in regime. From now on we wore RAF uniform, security was increased and the tempo of our training was speeded up.
On the 17th April we graduated, received our American Wings and became ‘honorary’ 2nd Lieutenants in US Army Air Corps. Most of us declined an RAF Commission as it meant staying in America and instructing future RAF Cadets. By May 1942 we were back in England and sent to Bournemouth.

During our brief stay here a ‘Hit and Run’ raid demolished a hotel near where we were staying. We found ourselves as ‘Navvies’ removing rubble and trying- to find survivors. Five days leave. On return we discovered that it was decided that due to the excellent training we received in the U.S.A. we should pass it on as flying instructors, as Sergeants since we had declined commissions in America. A month’s conversion course on to twin engine Oxford Aircraft and I went to Pilot Advanced Flying Unit at Little Rissington, Gloucestershire on 17th June 1942, and then to No 2 Flying Instructors School at Dalcross, Inverness, Scotland.

In April 1943 I managed a posting to No 15 Pilot Advanced Training Unit at Greenham Common, Berkshire as Instructor on Oxford Aircraft this was much more comfortable and more to my liking. Here we did advanced flying instruction day and night flying, instrument flying, radio and Dead Reckoning Navigation and Beam Approach System. I was assessed as Above Average Pilot on Multi-Engine Airplanes.

At last in October 1944 I was posted to No 2 Group Support Unit at Swanton Morley, Norfofkshire for Conversion Course on to Mosquito Aircraft. Here we flew Mosquito Mark 3 and Mosquito Mark 6 Fighter Bomber. We ‘crewed-up’ with a navigator, Sgt Tony Rudd (ex University Air Squadron) and I decided that we could ‘get along’ with other on the ground and in the air, so agreed to fly together for our operational tour. On the course we concentrated on low level flying by day and night, air to ground and air to air gunnery, bombing and ‘Gee Navigation’ – a form of radar. On 10th December Exercise ‘Peashooter’ an army co-operation exercise against army tanks was held. We were detailed to fly No2 to S/Ldr Tennant. The exercise involved attacking tanks at low level with .303 machine guns. Unfortunately S/Ldr Tennant flew so low that his aircraft hit a tank, burst into flames and he and his navigator were killed instantly. Observing this made us realise that flying too low can be a dangerous business! We reported the accident on the radio and the exercise was then cancelled. We had to give evidence at the enquiry and were offered the opportunity of taking a rest from flying, this we declined.

We were posted to 305 (Polish) Squadron at Epinoy, France on 7th January 1945. The airfield was snow bound and we spent the first two weeks clearing the runways so that our first flight was an air test on 23rd January.

Let me tell you something of the type of operation (mission) that we were engaged on. 305 Squadron was part of 2nd Tactical Airforce and our main task was to bomb and disrupt enemy transport. Apart from one daylight operation all the other flights were at night. – ‘

We would take off singly and fly at 4,000 ft to an area behind enemy lines. Here we would patrol for about an hour when another Mosquito would take our place. During the patrol we would search out signs of any movements on the ground. Once we spotted something we would go down lower and investigate. If the movement proved to be a train, lorries, tanks, barges we would then attack from low level with 5001b bombs, .303 machine guns or cannons. This could sometimes be a bit ‘scary’ there was always a danger of going too low. Most of our losses were due to hitting the ground or obstructions such as trees or power lines and, sometimes the object being attacked. If my navigator thought we were too low he would shout “Up!” I never argued but immediately pulled back the stick to gain height as quickly as possible.

Night operations suspended whilst squadron rehearsed for,` daylight operation ‘Clarion’ on 22nd February. We flew a formation of 18 Mosquitos (I was Number 18 the most vulnerable). As we crossed the enemy lines, at 4000ft, we were fired on from the ground. We broke formation and re-formed again as soon as possible. Patrol Stadt, River Elba River Weger Bombed Railway trucks encountered some flak but avoided any damage to our aircraft. Left area flying formation on W/O Smith who flew over German Gun Emplacement unfortunately he was hit, caught fire and crashed. We decided that it might be safer to fly at about 4,000ft this proved to be true although we did run into heavy anti-aircraft fire over Bremerhaven which we managed to evade and we got back to base in France safely.

Back to night operations again on 8th April. My aircraft was unserviceable so I flew Mosquito Letter V ‘borrowed’ from F/Sgt Earie who was on leave (he never ceases to remind me that I lost his brand new aircraft)

Details of this operation: after briefing we took off to patrol Leipzig, Berlin, Magdeburg, Braunsweig area. Owing to the distance from base and the length of time for the flight we had to carry wing tanks with extra fuel. On patrolling the Berlin Magdeburg road we saw some movement, circled round and dropped flares on what was enemy transport. We attacked with machine gun and cannon fire. Transport stopped and appeared damaged but the flares went out before we could assess the extent of the damage. Returning at economical cruising to save fuel and flying at 4,000 ft, at about 2.00 am we were attacked by a night fighter. It fired a long burst of cannon fire and I immediately took violent evasive action, however the port engine caught fire. Tony operated the fire extinguisher and I feathered the propeller. A further burst of gun fire and the starboard engine caught fire. I throttled back and operated the fire extinguisher, but as the fire did not go out, ordered Tony to bale out. He clipped on his parachute, jettisoned the door and successfully abandoned the aircraft. During this manoeuvre the aircraft was losing height rapidly. I struggled out of my seat, having some difficulty getting my left leg passed the control column, and pulling the seat pack of my parachute clear of the bucket seat, at the same time trying to keep on an even keel. With some difficulty I reached the door and dived through the opening. I pulled the rip cord as soon as I was clear of the aircraft and I hit the ground almost simultaneously. I landed in the bottom of a valley and saw my plane crash a short distance away. I was very close to a road and could hear vehicles moving along it. I kept low and attempted to crawl away but before I had moved a few yards I heard voices calling “Commen Sie heir” I ignored this and continued to crawl away. With much shouting and shining of torches, six or seven German soldiers circled my position and starting firing revolvers at me. Realising that I could not escape, I stood up and raised my hands. I was searched and cigarettes, matches, penknife and comb were taken away from me. A German officer placed me under guard and we marched until daybreak. I was then out in a barn under armed guard and later a German officer arrived on a motor bike and tried to question me. Finding me “uncooperative” he rode off. Later that afternoon one of my guards said “Your comrade kaput” Suspecting this was a trick to get me.

About 5.00 pm I was taken to Gestapo Headquarters in Gummerbach where I was interrogated but again the officer who spoke perfect English gave up and told me he had lived in Purley, England’ and worked as an insurance Agent. He chatted for a while presumably hoping in vain for an unguarded comment from me. I was then taken to a Prisoner of War Camp, Stalag 6G; where they returned my comb, with escape compass in it! I was put in a wooden hut with a number of American airmen who had also been shot down. After a few days we were aroused one morning at 2.00 am, given a mug of Ersatz coffee and marched away under armed guard. During the day we marched away in a column along roads where we attracted the attention of American Lightning fighters which attacked us from time to time obviously thinking that we were German troops on the move. Each time we were straffed we took cover in ditches beside the road; after each attack the German guards tried to check that no prisoners were missing. A few did disappear into the woods on scavenging expeditions, rejoining us Iater to the confusion of the guards. eventually they gave up trying to count us and we arrived at P.OW. Camp near Enbach. Here chaos reigned. The guards were inefficient and we didn’t help as we moved about while they tried to take a roll call. Food at this time was: Breakfast, Ersatz coffee, Lunch, soup (water that vegetables had been cooked in, but no vegetables!), Supper, black bread and margarine.

As it became increasingly clear that the advancing American troops were getting near the camp, administration of the camp was gradually taken over by the prisioners and by the time the 78th Division American Infantry arrived at 14.00 hours on 12th April, the German guards had already handed over their rifles and revolvers and we were in complete control. Fresh food arrived shortly afterwards (fried chicken and real coffee were much appreciated.

The next few days were spent in Medical Checks, ‘delousing’ and checking identities. When this was completed we were taken to Giespn by truck and then to Paris by Dakota aicraft. In Paris we were looked after by the American Authorities who supplied us with clean clothes, cigarettes and an advance of pay. We were allowed to roam free in Paris when while were being interrogated and “processed” For a few days I managed to get lost among the Americans until the RAF discovered my presence and I had to report back to my unit at Epinoy.

I reported back to Squadron on 19th April 1945, they were surprised to see me, not many ‘missing crews’ survived and returned. I had to report to Air Vice Marshall, Sir Basil Embry, and tell of my experiences. He then informed me that I had been Commissioned as Pilot Officer from 7th April (the day before we were shot down) I had resisted taking a Commission up to now preferring the less formal life in the Senior NCOs’ Mess, but pay and extra comfort of the Officer’s Mess persuaded me that the time was now right to accept the Commission.

When Tony arrived back he was able to provide some interesting details of our last flight. He was able to pinpoint the location and time of our being, shot down. A US P61 Black Widow night fighter put in a combat report claiming to have shot down a JU88 at precisely the position and time of incident. British intelligence proved that there were no enemy aircraft in that vicinity at that time. The A.O.C., Air Vice Marshall Sir Basil Embry, was not happy that one of his aircraft had been shot down by ‘friendly fire’.

I went on leave and when Tony and I both got back from leave started flying together again. On 8th July 1945 together with all the other English Crews we were posted from 305 Squadron, Tony and I went to 107 Squadron. We moved up to Gutterloh, Germany as part of the Occupation Forces and continued flying together until our last flight on 21st September 1945.

It was discovered that I had ‘Double vision’ I was then engaged on ground duties, as Technical Adjutant, until discharged on 14th June 1946.

I remained in the R.A.F. Volunteer Reserve until 1962 and was awarded the ‘Air Efficienccy Award’ to go with the Polish Gold Cross of Merit (First Class) and the Polish Air Medal.

For more on Babbacombe click here.

Diary excerpt…

And feeling very cheerful, we all went off to pack our kit and sleep ready for an early start: but the Bosche came over and we were in the shelter till 12.30pm.  We saw little of Jeffy in that fortnight and our only close view was of a Junkers 88, which skimmed past, while we were on parade, after bombing Newton Abbot.  We spent a number of miserable and long nights in the shelter behind the hotel, a cold barn of a place with cold draughts, a cold concrete floor, and no seating accommodation at all.  The Commanding Officer came round each time to see we were all right, and to explain what we were expected to do to them in due course.  The first night of our arrival was the only time that bombs dropped near, however, and then they dropped three whistling bombs which came screaming down in a disturbing manner to land 200 ft away, which made me feel quite excited.

Tommy Smith’s Navigator

Peter received this e-mail from someone in December 2008.

It all about his father’s navigator.

If you are related to Arthur Cockayne, write me a comment and I will get in touch.

Here is the e-mail he got about Cockie…

Arthur Clarence COCKAYNE

Flying Officer 157435

Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
Died on sortie to Germany on Tuesday 16 January 1945

Arthur was the eldest son of William Charles and Alice Barker Cockayne of 73, Darlaston Road, Walsall.

He was educated at Queen Mary’s Grammar School, where he was a member of the O.T.C., and later took a position as a student teacher at Hillary Street School.

Following this he attended Dudley Training College and was then appointed by the London County Council at their Highgate School.

When the war started and the children were evacuated from London, Arthur moved initially to Bedford High School and then to Northampton.

Volunteering for service in July 1941, he trained as a radio operator/observer and commenced his first tour of 250 flying hours in the Middle East, receiving a commission in 1943.

In March 1943 he was married at St. Gabriel’s Church, Sunderland to Vera Wardle, daughter of Mr and Mrs Wardle of 12, Montrose Gardens, Sunderland and a Domestic Science teacher at Diamond Hall School, Sunderland. Following the wedding the couple honeymooned in the Lake District. A son was born to the marriage in July 1945.

Returning to England, Arthur transferred to 23 Squadron who were based at Little Snoring near Norwich. From July 1944 onwards this squadron flew Mosquitos on night intruder operations. He flew in a Mosquito Mk VI, serial number RS507, coded YP-C with Flight Lieutenant T. Anderson-Smith as his pilot.

Serving as the navigator, Arthur had to do just one more flight to complete his second tour of duty when he was shot down over Germany.

Arthur took off from his base at 5.39pm on Tuesday 16 January 1945 for an intruder sortie over Stendal in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. His aircraft crashed at 9.30pm this night at Beckedorf, 3 miles south west
of Hermannsburg. Frederick was killed in the crash and initially buried in the local cemetery. Flight Lieutenant Anderson-Smith survived the crash, albeit badly burned, and was taken prisoner.

Arthur is buried in Becklingen War Cemetery in Grave 13.F.9. He was 35 years of age.