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.