Preserving the Past – 12 August, 1941 – No.5 I.T.W. (Initial Training Wing) 4 Squadron

Hopkins, Myself, Sheppard, Cpl Shuttleworth (P.T.I.), Green, Thompson
12 August, 1941 – 5 I.T.W. 4 Squadron

Collection Theo Griffiths DFC (courtesy Richard Cooper)


Preserving the Past – No. 18 Course No. 51 O.T.U. Cranfield

This is a group picture from Theo Griffiths’ collection of memorabilia. It has the names on it to pay homage to some of them.

I wonder how many survived the war.

Sergt. W.F. Price, Sergt. E.J. Oboldstone. Sergt. L.D. Hayter, Sergt. R. Sullivan,
Sergt. T. Griffiths, Sergt. C.C. Adams, L.A.P. Nowlan,

Sergt. D.M. Selby, Sergt. J.R. Coote, Sergt. N. Sisley, F/O J.E. Morris, Sergt. J.H. Scott, Sergt. L.R.C. Lasham, Sergt. C.H. Curl,

P/O D.O. Norcott. F/O W.R. Wells, F/L M.H.A. Phillips, S/Ldr I.T. de K. Bocock,
F/L B.T. Brigg, F/O A.G. Woods, P/O A.D. Somerville


Collection Theo Griffiths DFC
Courtesy Richard Cooper

We all know about Theo Griffiths who became a Mosquito pilot with 23 Squadron, won a DFC, and survived the war.

Rick Maude and Theodore Griffiths mod

Theo is in the last row.


He was with No. 51 O.T.U. which is an Operation Training Unit of the RAF.Theo’s logbook says he was there in December 1942.


His Squadron Leader was I.T. de K. Bocock according to the caption.

Squadron Leader Ian Maxwell Theodore De Kaap Bocock did not survive the war.



 We Never Slept the Story of 605 Squadron

Click above for the PDF

I found this information in the history of 605 Squadron.

Page 77…

The first operational sorties with the Mosquito Mk II took place on the 10th March 1943, but alas it was not an auspicious start with the new machines as Fl Lt Mike Olley AFC and his navigator W/O Vipond were killed on an intruder sortie to Tours. The Squadron log wrote of the men :-
“F/Lt M.G. Olley, apart from being an absolutely first class pilot and an exceptional instructor, was a man of great personal charm and was very good company. His keenness and eager desire to stop the Hun (which were probably his undoing) set a fine example to the other members of the Squadron. W/O H. Vipond was the same sort of NCO that F/Lt Olley was an officer – quiet, efficient and keen. Equally tall, they were a well matched pair.”

Two days later the Squadron recorded its first successes with the new aircraft which coincided with the first visit to Holland, when S/Ldr de Bocock and Sgt Brown destroyed a Dornier 217 over Eindoven. During their attack the Mosquito was hit by shrapnel from the disintegrating enemy aircraft which damaged the starboard engine so badly it ceased to function. Despite this S/Ldr de Bocock brought the aircraft back to Manston, later attributing the successful return to the exceptionally clever navigation of his companion Sgt Brown, who steered them back whilst avoiding all the flak defended areas.

S/Ldr de Bocock had the unenviable distinction of being the first pilot to be wounded in combat since the Squadron reformed when he sustained a slight arm injury to his arm on 24th March, when his aircraft was shot up quite badly by flak over Deelen. Not to be overshadowed his navigator, Sgt Brown received a grazed hand during the same flight. On 26th March the Squadron received a limited supply of long range fuel tanks which increased the fuel capacity by 150 gallons, which allowed S/Ldr de Bocock to fly his aircraft on a five hour patrol to Stavanger on the Norwegian coast on the 8th April.

Page 78…

On the 24th April S/Ldr I.M.T. de Bocock and Sgt R. Brown were killed when their Mosquito dived into the ground at Housedean Farm near Lewes, Sussex, the cause of the accident was unknown. S/Ldr de Bocock was a South African, having been posted supernumerary to the Squadron on 1st February 1943 and by his persistence and anxiety to engage the enemy had done much to increase the fighting spirit of the whole Squadron. He had been in the RAF since 1933 and above all he was an excellent comrade, always willing to impart his very wide knowledge of service procedure and flying experiences in a most charming manner to anyone in need of help. There is no doubt that his death was a great loss not only to 605 but to the whole service to which he had devoted his life. Sgt Brown, despite not having been in the Squadron for long was a quiet and self contained man and shared in his pilot’s determination to engage and destroy the enemy.




Souther Field, Americus, Georgia Revisited

This picture was taken in 1942…

Theo in training mod

Collection Theo Griffiths DFC

These were also taken in 1942…


Courtesy Graham Padden (
Collection Gerald Thomas Padden (1922-1942)


Courtesy Graham Padden (
Collection Gerald Thomas Padden (1922-1942)


Courtesy Graham Padden (
Collection Gerald Thomas Padden (1922-1942)

Theodore Griffiths

Collection Theo Griffiths DFC


Courtesy Graham Padden (
Collection Gerald Thomas Padden (1922-1942)


In 1942, both Theo Griffiths and Gerald Thomas Padden were in the same class at Souther Field, Americus, Georgia.

Theo Griffiths’ story is here on this blog.

Gerald’s story will be told here.

The End of the Beginning

This is post no. 384, and the end of the beginning of this blog about RAF 23 Squadron.

I will repost for you the first  article I wrote in 2010 so you won’t have to search for it…

This blog about RAF 23 Squadron wasn’t  meant to pay homage  only to a French-Canadian  Mosquito pilot from Bromptonville, Quebec,  a small town in the Eastern Townships.

Eugene Gagnon

Eugène  Gagnon DFC

Since  2010, a 84 year-old man had been  trying  to convince  the  people of Bromptonville to pay homage  to Eugène  Gagnon, a hometown boy,  who had died  in a plane  crash near Windsor Mills  on October  21st, 1947. Eugène had never talked much about what he did in the war with the RCAF let alone with the RAF.

Eugène Gagnon was like a brother to Marcel Bergeron.

In 2010, Marcel asked for my help to find more about  his war hero when  he was just 14 years-old. At first he didn’t not have much information to go on, only Eugène’s discharge papers…

And a knock on the door of a World War Two veteran.

This is really how this blog started. A knock on a door!

First post April 5, 2010

This could be the start of the amazing story of the airmen of a forgotten squadron in Little Snoring.

Please leave a comment…

Little Snoring - June or July 1945

Picture taken in 1945 before the squadron was disbanded (Courtesy Tom Cushing via Peter Smith)

Squadron 23

No. 23 Squadron formed at Fort Grange, Gosport on 1 Sep 1915 under the command of one of the RAF’s most experienced operational pilots – Captain Louis Strange. After a brief period attempting to counter German airship flights over London, the Squadron moved to France with its FE2Bs initially employed on escort duties. By early 1917, Spad single-seaters had arrived, and were being used on offensive patrols. By the end of the War, the Squadron had converted to Dolphins, and flew these until disbanded at the end of 1919.

On 1 July 1925, No. 23 Squadron reformed at Henlow with Snipes, but these were replaced shortly after with Gloster Gamecocks. In 1931, the Squadron was tasked with carrying out trials on the new Hawker Hart two-seaters, taking the production version, known as Demons, on strength in 1933. It wasn’t until late 1938 that the squadron received its first monoplanes in the form of Blenheims, and these were used as night-fighters in the early days of World War II whilst based at Wittering. In 1941, Havocs replaced the Blenheims, and these were used with great success in the intruder role, until themselves replaced by the Mosquito in mid-1942. At the end of the year, the squadron moved to Malta in support of allied operations in the Mediterranean before returning to the UK in 1944.

In September 1945, the Squadron had disbanded, reforming a year later at Wittering with Mosquito night-fighters. By late 1953, Venom night fighters had joined the Squadron, before Javelin all-weather supersonic fighters replaced these in 1957. In 1964, the Lightning replaced the Javelin, and it was with this classic aircraft that the squadron continued until Phantoms were received in late 1975, this coinciding with a moved to Wattisham in Suffolk. After the Falklands War in 1982, the Squadron occupied Port Stanley airfield until reduced to a Flight of four aircraft in 1988, reforming at Leeming with Tornado F3s. Defence cuts following the end of the Cold War saw the unit disbanded in March 1994. No. 23 Squadron was again reformed, this time as part of the Waddington AEW Wing in 1996, sharing not only the aircraft with the already established No. 8 Squadron, but operational duties in Europe and the Gulf.

The Squadron was officially disbanded on 2 Oct 2009.

This Squadron has been virtually reformed…


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

La médaille de l’Assemblée nationale du Québec


On November 11th, 2016, this medal was awarded posthumously to Joseph Achille Eugène Gagnon who flew 33 operations with RAF 23 Squadron.

Operational record 004 modified

Eugène Gagnon never received any recognition from his hometown of Bromptonville except when he died on October 21, 1947.

Early in 2016 I had received a phone call from Clément Gagnon, a man who was looking for veterans to honour with a medal given by l’Assemblée nationale du Québec. On November 11, 2016, Jacques Gagnon, Eugène’s nephew, received the medal from a member of the National Assembly of Quebec.

When Maxime Laporte, the President of the Société St-Jean-Baptiste de Montréal, mentioned the fact in his presentation of the medal that Eugène Gagnon had flown 33 night operations mostly over German airfields, murmurs were heard from the people attending the commemoration.


When Jacques Gagnon heard those, he felt a tremendous pride as well as a profound humility when he received the medal.


Crew A – Denyer and Graham

I am so glad  Eddy  wrote  back about  his  Uncle seen  on the left.

1 - His Crew

Harold Stone could not remember who was in Crew A.

I found it in cyberspace…

Douglas A20 Havoc crash – RAF Ford – 9th July 1941

A brief story of how two young men trained together, flew together and died together. 

Sergeant Robert Denyer (Pilot) 927380 RAF  23 Squadron (Night fighters).  Died 9th July 1941

Flight Sergeant Donald Graham (Air Gunner) 628544  RAF 23 Squadron (Night Fighters) – died with his pilot on 9th July 1941

They are both buried in the CWGC section of the church graveyard at St. Mary’s at Clymping, Sussex

Robert Denyer and Donald Graham were assigned to night fighter duties with 23 Squadron and were based at RAF Ford, Sussex.  They had flown together as a crew for a few months and had initially trained together on Bristol Blenheims.  As far as I can make out they flew nearly every one of their flights as a crew together.

They lost their lives when their Douglas A20 crashed on 9th July 1941 but prior to this they had a close shave whilst training at RAF Church Fenton, Yorkshire on 23rd June 1941.  They were flying at night in Blenheim L1403 when one of the engines suddenly stopped and disintegrated in mid-flight.  Both Denyer and Graham evacuated the aircraft and baled-out at 1500 feet. Denyer was uninjured and Graham was slightly injured.

At the beginning of July 1941 the squadron moved to RAF Ford, Sussex and were re-equipped with the Douglas A20 Havoc (also known as the ‘Boston’).  Sgt Denyer and Sgt Graham were assigned A20 Havoc serial number BJ485.

On the night of 9th July 1941 a number of aircraft from 23 Squadron took part in night training exercises. All the aircraft took off from RAF Ford on what was primarily one of a number of training flights to familiarise the crews with the A20 Havoc. Sgt Denyer was the pilot of Havoc BJ485  and Sgt Graham was the Air Gunner.   During the night training flight the aircraft had a major mechanical / engine malfunction and crashed.  Both Sgt Denyer and Sgt Graham died.

About Blenheim L1403 near Little Fenton.

On 23rd June 1941 this trainee night-fighter crew were carrying out a training flight when one of the Blenheim’s engines broke apart in the air and the aircraft became uncontrollable. The two on board abandoned the aircraft from 1500ft which then crashed near Little Fenton, not far from the airfield at 03.00hrs. It was later found the engine had failed through oil starvation. A letter found on the superb RAF Commands forum website give additional information as to what happened to this crew after this incident, as prior to leaving the OTU this crew were one of two to volunteer to join an “intruder” operational squadron.

Pilot – Sgt Robert Gordon Denyer RAFVR (927380). Uninjured.

Air Gunner – Sgt Donald Clinton Charles Graham RAF (628544), of Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada. Slightly injured.

Robert Denyer and Donald Graham were soon posted to 23 Squadron, and both lost their lives on 9th July 1941 during “night operations” when their aircraft, Havoc BJ485 crashed soon after taking off from Ford airfield after it had suffered some form of engine failure. It is believed they were learning to fly the Havoc type when the crash occured. Both are buried at Clymping Churchyard, Sussex. F/Sgt Graham was twenty four years old, Sgt Denyer’s age is not given in the CWGC online register but he was probably born in the Reigate area of Surrey in 1921, he was the son of Henry and Louisa Denyer (nee Appleyard).

Blenheim L1403 was built to contract 527114/36 by The Bristol Aeroplane Co. Ltd. at Filton as a bomber variant and was awaiting collection in November 1938. It was initially taken on charge by 34 Squadron at Upper Heyford the following month but was transferred to 21 Squadron based at Watton in March 1939. In late 1939 the aircraft was transferred to 90 Squadron at Upwood but on 4th April 1940 90 Squadron and 35 Squadron merged, the aircraft later became attached to 17 OTU at Upwood when it formed on 8th April 1940 but shortly after this date it was flown into MU for conversion to MkIf status, it next appeared on charge with 23 Squadron at Collyweston during the summer of 1940 before moving with the unit to Ford on 12th September 1940. Before the end of 1940 it had a spell on the books of 600 Squadron at Catterick and 219 Squadron at Tangmere. In early 1941 it returned to the care of 23 Squadron at Ford but 23 Squadron ceased operating Blenheim MkIf’s in April 1941 so the aircraft was transferred to the newly formed 60 OTU at Leconfield on 28th April 1941. 60 OTU were moved to East Fortune on 4th June 1941 and their role as a Blenheim OTU ceased so the aircraft was transferred to 54 OTU at Church Fenton. As a result of the incident detailed above on 23rd June 1941 Cat.E2/FA damage was recorded.


Blenheim Mk I