Historical Aircraft

September 1941


Monday, September 1, 1941

F/O Davies (IO) posted to the Squadron.

Tuesday, September 2, 1941

Weather am – fine 5/10ths cloud. Various training flights.  Sgt Grigg took Magister with Squadron IO to Hawkinge and back.

Wednesday, September 3, 1941

Weather am – sultry, 10/10ths cloud with haze.  The Squadron instructed to stand to in the am in readiness to participate in Circus Operation 95, their function being to cover the withdrawal of the bombers.  After two or three postponements, the operation was cancelled altogether, owing to the unfavourable weather conditions.  Consequent upon this, some pilots were released from duty and others carried out flying training.

Thursday, September 4, 1941

Weather fine but hazy.  P/O ‘Pappy’ Gilbertson did some flying in the morning for the benefit of the local AA batteries.  Various flying training also done.  Some members of the Squadron attended at the Station Intelligence Office to see films on Aircraft identification, which was considered to be most interesting.  Station Intelligence Officer provided tea for ‘the boys’, nice work but the tea was cold.  Orders came through for Squadron to refuel at Manston at 1600 hours to cover withdrawal of bomber forces, if found necessary.  F/L Secretan, P/Os Dick, Ford and Carrillo and Sergeants Rainville and Crist participated in the operation, taking off from Debden at 1459 hours.  Squadron eventually patrolled at 5,000 feet as high cover to Lysander patrol and escort South of Dover, but owing to unceasing haze and sea mist returned from patrol, the visibility becoming very bad and the Squadron could not keep Lysander and escort in view.  Squadron landed from patrol at Manston at about 1900 hours.  A concert, organized by the Padre, was attended later in the evening.  This turned out to be a very good show and it was all the more enjoyable because all the artistes who took part were stationed locally.  The Station Dance band made a definite ‘hit’ and the Padre equally enhanced his reputation.

Friday, September 5, 1941

Weather dull and misty in the early morning, clearing towards noon.  P/O Wood returned form leave looking none the worse, despite his experience of ‘taking himself a wife’.  P/O Hyde left on embarkation leave prior to going out East.  Film entitled ‘Records of Combat’ shown at the Station Intelligence Office.  Weather in the morning unfit for flying, but improved in the afternoon when various flying training was done.  P/O Dick took up member of ground crew for a ‘flip’.

Saturday, September 6, 1941

Weather 10/10ths clouds and dull.  No flying today.  Films on Dinghy drill and Aircraft Identification shown in the Photographic Section.  F/L Secretan, P/Os Ford, Carrillo, Dick, Wood (Timber) and F/O Davies (IO) went to Duxford to inspect Aircobra.  Attendant American Engineer extremely anxious to impress capabilities and performance of A/C.  Party quite impressed with lines and neatness of aircraft.  Whirlwind and variety of other aircraft seen.  Not impressed with Typhoon.  Great disappointment was felt that JU 88 and HE111 not available for inspection – the former having been taken to Farnborough.  ME109E seen.  Drizzle in the afternoon.  F/L Christmas, P/Os Carrillo, Gilbertson (Pappy) accompanied S/L Lee-Knight (CO) to Digby where Canadian Squadron located.  Prime Minister and some Canadian notables there too.

Sunday, September 7, 1941

Weather fine 2/10ths cloud.  Various flying training carried out.  House party held at mess in the evening, which was patronized by a goodly gathering.  Those present included AOC Canadian Squadrons, Air Commodore Stephenson and  S/L Gracie from Cotishall (CO 601 Squadron).  F/L Fitzgerald and F/O McLean (IO 91 Squadron Hawkinge) who was flown over by P/O Donoghue.

Monday, September 8, 1941

Weather fairly good – 5/10ths cloud.  Cloudier late in the morning and clearing by afternoon.  F/L Christmas, P/Os Ford, Ball, Sgts Rainville, Crist and Collinson took off 0720 hours for Manston to refuel at 0900 hours in readiness to provide escorts in conjunction with Circus 95.  P/O Carrillo carried leaves off some tress and scared into complete stiffness some of the AA gun crews during AA co-operation flying in the morning.  F/O Whitby DFM posted from 59 OTU.  He saw active service in France before the collapse.  Film on ‘Daily inspection of Spitfire’ shown to some of the ‘boys’ in the afternoon.  P/O Dick flew F/O Bailey to Aston Down and back.  The six pilots above referred to returned in the late afternoon from Manston having done some Convoy Patrol, but nothing of interest to report.  P/O Wood (Timber) did some aircraft testing.

Tuesday, September 9, 1941

Weather 10/10ths cloud.  Some flying training done.  Weather cleared towards noon, but visibility poor.  ENSA concert in the evening, variety entitled ‘Take Your Choice’.  Rather an intriguing title and undoubtedly attracted a considerable number.  Whether or not title worked out in practice with the fair sex (the artistes) of the party not known!

Wednesday, September 10, 1941

Weather dull 10/10ths cloud clearing towards noon.  Some formation flying training done in the morning and afternoon.  F/O Reason (Jimmy) posted to the East.  Pending actual posting, acting as supernumerary Engineering Officer to the Squadron.

Thursday, September 11, 1941

Weather dull 9/10ths cloud.  Various flying training done.  F/L Christmas, P/O Ford and Sgt Collinson had a ‘beat up’ with two Tomahawks north of Cambridge this morning.  Ford (Henry) highly elated; said he had them beaten to a ‘frazzle’.  F/L Secretan posted to 54 Squadron at Hornchurch and left today.  Although he had been with the Squadron for but a comparatively short time, he had established himself as a popular and enthusiastic member of the Squadron and the news of his abrupt departure was received with regret and disappointment.  F/L Christmas, P/Os Ford, Dick, Gilbertson, Sgts Collinson and Ryckman took off at 1415 hours for Martlesham to escort Blenheims in search for pilots in the Channel.  Owing to the weather, Black Section (Gilbertson and Ryckman) only sighted Blenheims.  Nothing to report.  P/O Ball and Carrillo went on leave.

Friday, September 12, 1941

Weather 8/10ths cloud, dull, clearing a little towards noon.  Squadron equipped with 18 Spitfire Mk VB.  P/O Amer posted to the Squadron as Engineering Officer.  F/L Christmas and P/O Ford posted.  F/L Christmas hailed from Montreal and was one of the original members of No 1 (Canadian) Squadron, now 401 (Canadian) Squadron, before being posted to 403 (Canadian) Squadron.  He was amongst those fighter pilots who had the privilege of participating in the battle of Britain, during which he destroyed 2 ME109s, damaged one HE 111 and DO215, and had a one third share in the destruction of a JU 88.  P/O Ford was a native of Liverpool, Nova Scotia and prior to enlistment was a student of Philosophy at Dalhousie University.  F/L R.B. Newton and F/L R.G. Clouston (New Zealand) posted in, the former from 72 Squadron at Biggin hill and the later from 258 Squadron Martlesham.  F/L Newton is Flight Commander of ‘A’ Flight and F/L Clouston Flight Commander ‘B’ Flight.  Various flying training was done during the course of the day.  F/L Clouston went up on Sector Reconnaissance in the evening.  P/O Whitby DFM posted to SHQ Debden.  He had a ‘bag’ of 6 and ½ enemy aircraft destroyed and 1 enemy aircraft probably destroyed.

Saturday, September 13, 1941

Weather 2/10ths cloud.  Various formation flying training.  Allotment of crews to new Spitfires in the morning.  Rearrangement of personnel making up the flights (‘A’ and ‘B’ Flights).  F/L Newton flew on Sector Reconnaissance in the afternoon.

Sunday, September 14, 1941

Weather dull 10/10ths cloud.  Church Parade at 0825 hrs.  Raining in the afternoon and Squadron released off Station.  Usual Sunday Party in the evening.  Amongst those present were Mrs. Townsend, wife of S/L Townsend, DFC, members of an Eagle Squadron, S/L Thomas, S/L Holden, DFC, and P/O Gaze DFC.  One cherubic looking Eagle pilot, with twinkling eyes and constant smile, from ‘down Texas way’, was convinced that the ME 109F was faster than the Spitfire V, but conceded that the Spitfire was more manoeuvrable!  His behaviour made it difficult to know whether he meant what he said or was simply jesting.

Monday, 15 September, 1941

Weather dull 8/10ths cloud.  Flying training in the morning.  ‘A’ and ‘B’ Flights dispersal separated.  S/L Lee-Knight, F/L Newton, F/L Clouston, F/O Price, P/Os Gilbertson (Pappy), Wood and Dick and Sgts Crist, Ryckman, McDonald, Collinson and F/S Sones went off on formation practice flight.  Took off 1540 hours and made Harwich and return.

Tuesday, 16 September, 1941

Weather fine 5/10ths cloud.  S/L Lee-Knight as Dinkie Leader; Red Section – F/L Newton, P/O Gilbertson, Sgts Crist and Ryckman.  Dinkie 3 and 4 – P/O Wood and Sgt McDonald; Blue Section – F/L Clouston, P/O Dick, F/O Price, Sgts Sones and Sgt Collinson took off from Debden at 1025 hours for Manston to refuel prior to going on an offensive patrol to Le Havre and Boulogne.  All except Sgt Crist took off from Manston at 1730 hrs.  When about 15 miles inside France, they were warned of a large Hun plot in the St. Omer area.  A wide orbit to come round South of St. Omer was made and 30 plus ME 109s were seen at about 8,000 feet above and well South of St. Omer.  Owing to the ‘soppy’ Spitfires IIA which could not get to height, the Squadron zigzagged its way across the sun at 19,000 feet and made land at Dover.  No convoys or flak seen.  No casualties suffered or inflicted.  During the patrol, several formations of Spitfires seen possibly engaged in combat.  Eleven aircraft landed at Debden at 1900 and 1915 hours.  Sgt Crist also landed at the same time from Manston.  CO was of the opinion that, had the Squadron been equipped with Spitfire V’s, there would have been good hunting that afternoon.

Wednesday, 17 September, 1941

Weather beautifully sunny and warm, 2/10ths cloud and hazy.  S/L Lee-Knight DFC and Sgt Crist Dinkie 1 and 2.  F/L Newton and P/O Gilbertson, Red 1 and 2; P/O Wood and Sgt McDonald, Dinkie 3 and 4; F/L Clouston, P/O Dick and F/S Sones and Sgt Collinson as Blue Section, took off from Debden at 1245 hours on diversionary operation to Circus 95 with orders to rendezvous at Hastings at 1315 hours.  This was made and the Squadron proceeded to Berck-Sur-Mur at 14,000 feet and flew inland for approximately 20 miles.  S/L Lee-Knight saw 40 plus ME 109s about 5,000 to 6,000 feet below and 15 miles north climbing in to sun behind the Squadron.  Other formation of ME 109s observed.  Enemy aircraft attacked out of sun as Squadron was re-crossing the French coast, but as they came into range Squadron broke into main formation completely disorganizing the enemy formation.  Squadron ordered down to sea level and made landfall at Hawkinge.  Desultory burst of fire aimed at enemy aircraft but no results seen.  Heavy flak in vicinity of Le Touquet but no shipping seen.  Excellent weather slight haze 2/10ths cloud over France.  All the aircraft flown were Spitfire IIAs.  All landed at Hawkinge 1400 to 1409 hours.  S/L Lee-Knight, P/O Wood, Sgt Crist, P/O Gilbertson, F/L Newton, Sgt McDonald, Sgt Collinson, P/O Dick and F/S Sones took off Hawkinge 1510 hours to escort Rescue boats searching for a pilot in the Channel.  Patrolled up sun of Rescue boats between 500 to 5,000 feet in twos and fours.  S/L Lee-Knight and P/O Wood observed enemy aircraft diving to attack rescue boats.  Orders were given to attack and 4 plus ME 109s were identified.  Camouflage of enemy aircraft noted to be remarkably effective – silvery grey toning blended perfectly with the sea, at times large black crosses only to be seen.  S/L Lee-Knight singled out and attacked 2 ME 109s and P/O Wood attacked three enemy aircraft, also ME 109s, with the result that S/L Lee-Knight destroyed one enemy aircraft which was seen to descend in flames, P/O Wood destroyed one ME 109E and probably destroyed another.  The enemy aircraft destroyed by P/O Wood (Timber) was seen to dive into the sea, and the one probably destroyed was seen to pour out smoke (white and black) from the engine; fragments were flying off the enemy aircraft and it was observed to wallow from side to side in its course.  The whole of Timber’s combats and results were observed by Sgt McDonald and S/L Lee-Knight observed the enemy aircraft destroyed crashing into the sea.  Tallyho!  Remaining enemy aircraft disappeared and Squadron continued on patrol until ordered to land at Hawkinge to refuel.  Combats took place 5 to 6 miles off Cap Gris Nez at heights varying from 1,000 feet to 50 feet.  All the aircraft landed safely at Hawkinge at 1638 hours.  No flak was experienced or convoys seen.  Our casualties, thank heaven, were nil.  The weather was excellent, slight haze low down only being experienced.  Having ‘tasted blood’, with the exception that F/L Clouston replaced P/O Dick, all those who were in on the first kill again went off again at 1750 hours from Hawkinge to patrol Calais area at 10,000 feet.  After zigzagging up and down the French coast for about 40 minutes, during which many friendly but no enemy aircraft were seen or flak experienced.  P/O Dick also landed a few minutes earlier from Hawkinge.  The end of a most successful and encouraging day’s work!

News was today received by telegram from the International Red Cross Society, quoting Berlin information, that P/O Waldon (J.3750) had died and was reclassified as ‘missing believed to have died of wounds’.  This officer was a member of the RCAF, joined the Squadron on the 22nd April 1941 from 52 OTU and was reported missing on the 9th August 1941.  The news was received with deep regret by all those who knew him.  F/L Riddell (RCAF) posted to the Squadron as the MO.

Thursday, 18 September, 1941

Weather fine, another sunny and warm day, 2/10ths cloud with haze.  Various flying training done.  Cannon firing testing of Spitfire V aircraft carried out at Hollesley bay, South of Orfordness.  Battle climbs up to 34,000 feet also made.  A signal was today received from AOC, 11 Group (Air-Vice Marshall T.L. Leigh Mallory) congratulating the Squadron on its achievement yesterday.  P/O Carrillo and P/O Ball returned from leave.  P/O Gilbertson went on leave.  Chef Clerk went up to Group HQ Uxbridge.  F/O Carlyle (RCAF) posted to Squadron as supernumerary Adjutant.

Friday, 19 September, 1941

Weather dull, 7/10ths cloud.  Cannon firing testing of Spitfire Vs carried out at Hollesley Bay.

Saturday, 20 September, 1941

Weather dull 10/10ths cloud, clearing towards midday.  News received that the late CO of the Squadron (S/L Morris – ‘Bungy’) is a prisoner of war.  S/L Lee-Knight DFC, P/Os Colvin and Wood, F/L Newton, Sgts Cairns and Rainville (‘A’ Flight), F/L Clouston, F/O Price, P/Os Dick, Ball and Carrillo and F/S Sones (‘B’ Flight) took off from Debden at 1605 hours on offensive patrol.  Squadron crossed the coast near Ramsgate at 10,000 feet and patrolled at this height from Dungeness to Cape Gris Nez and down Channel to Boulogne.  Returned to Cap Gris Nez and thence to Debden landing at 1725 hours.  No shipping, enemy aircraft or flak seen.  Weather, cloud patches 2/10ths to 3/10ths thick haze 3,000 to 4,000 feet.

Sunday, 21 September, 1941

Weather fine but hazy.  Sgt Belcher went on search for unidentified aircraft, but no trace was found.  At 1415 hours, CO, P/O Colvin, F/L Newton, Sgt Cairns, P/O Wood and Sgt Rainville (‘A’ Flight); F/L Clouston, P/O Dick, F/S Sones, Sgt Cranham, P/O Ball and P/O Carrillo (‘B’ Flight) took off for North Weald to refuel prior to operational flight as high escort cover to Circus No 102.  Owing to accumulator trouble, Sgt Cranham remained behind at North Weald, but the remainder of the Squadron took off from there at 1523 hours, rendezvousing with the wing over Manston.  Red marker flak and accurate normal flak experienced en-route to the target area at Lille where tremendous box flak encountered.  Many ME 109s were seen, some with yellow fuselages and others camouflaged silver grey.  Determined but unsuccessful attacks made against the bombers, all of which returned undamaged, which provides eloquent testimony to the effectiveness of the escort provided.  Its mission fulfilled, the Squadron returned, and P/O Wood (Timber) again ‘bagged’ an ME 109, which was seen to catch fire and dive out of control.  This is Timber’s second destroyed (apart from a probable) within a week.  On the CO’s orders, F/S Sones returned to base during the course of the operation, and the remainder of the aircraft landed safely at Hawkinge at 1655 hours.  Enemy casualties – 1 ME 109 destroyed (P/O Wood).  Our casualties nil.  Another good day’s work completed! … 6!  Unfortunately no party in the evening to celebrate the event.  F/O Gillespie posted to the Squadron from No. 402 Squadron, Rochford.

Monday, 22 September, 1941

Weather fine but hazy, cloud towards noon.  Bright and sunny afternoon.  CO, (S/L Lee-Knight) P/O Wood, F/L Newton and Sgt Rainville (‘A’ Flight) and F/L Clouston, P/Os Dick, Ball and Carrillo and Sgt Sones (‘B’ Flight) took off from Debden at 1315 hours for Hornchurch to provide escort cover with Hornchurch Wing on Circus 103B, the target being the Bully Power Station at Maingarbe, which is to be bombed by six Hampdens.  The operation was, however, cancelled and the Squadron returned to Debden at 1505 hours.  CO went to town to attend formal investure by HH the King.  Cannon firing testing was carried out during the course of the day.

Tuesday, 23 September, 1941

Weather dull, thick mist; no flying.  Squadron went to Duxford by charabane during the afternoon to inspect various types of aircraft.  HE111 and ME 109 seen; also Typhoon and Aircobra.  HE 111 impressed one as being a well made aircraft.  It forced landed in Scotland during the early part of the war, practically undamaged.  The pilot was killed and control was taken over by the Observer.  Apparent defects of the aircraft are – (a) vulnerability of pilot’s cockpit to attack through the Perspex, (b) poor defensive armament, although it must be remembered that this aircraft was one of the earliest versions of the HE 111.  In the evening, some of the members of the Squadron went to a dance at Bishops Storfford, whilst others attended the ENSA concert on the Camp.  F/O Tomkin, the Squadron MO was posted to West Africa.  This news was received with regret, as he was a most popular member of the Squadron.  His presence and manner suited him admirably to the office that he occupied so efficiently, in his quiet and unassuming way.

Wednesday, 24 September, 1941

Weather dull with heavy mist.  No flying.  Weather cleared in the afternoon and, eventually, it developed into a lovely afternoon.  A football match (Association) was arranged between ‘A’ and ‘B’ Flights and was (after a great deal of searching and running about for equipment, which delayed the kick-off) contested with considerable vigour.  As a number of the participants were unfamiliar with the rules of Association football the game was without a dull moment, some of the ‘incidents’ being most comical.  A number of ‘scores’ were ‘evened’ in a most amiable way, a few bruises serving to provide a constant reminder of this.  In other cases, ‘differences’ were ‘flattened out’ to full length on the turf.  Eventually ‘A’ Flight emerged victorious by 5 goals to 1.  It was indeed a most enjoyable and exhilarating afternoon.

Thursday, 25 September, 1941

Weather misty in the morning, clearing in the afternoon.  Hazy 5/10ths cloud.  S/L Lee-Knight returned from London.  Some formation and practice flying was done.  P/O Wood, Colvin, and Dick went on leave.

Friday, 26 September, 1941

Weather misty, clearing later.  Some formation flying and aerobatics.  S/L Lee-Knight, F/L Newton, F/L Clouston, F/O Price, P/Os Gilbertson, Ball and Carrillo, and Sgts McDonald, Crist, Ryckman, Collinson and Sones took off from Debden at 1503 hours on offensive patrol.  Swept Channel.  Apart from 3 small boats stationary off Hardelot and 12-14 small vessels off Le Touquet, nothing to report.  Eight Spitfires landed Debden 1640 hours, the remaining four arriving later from Tangmere.  The late arrivals were F/L Clouston, F/O Price, Sgt Collinson and F/S Sones.

Saturday, 27 September 1941

Weather fine, 4/10ths cloud, hazy.  Encouraging news received that P/O Anthony is a prisoner of war.  S/L Lee-Knight, F/L Newton, F/L Clouston, F/O Price, P/Os Gilbertson, Ball, Carrillo, Sgts McDonald, Crist, Ryckman, Rainville and Collinson took off Debden at 1330 hours for Hornchurch to refuel in readiness to provide escort cover to Blenheims on Circus operation No. 103B.  Rendezvous with bombers was made at Manston at 1410 hours and they escorted them as far as Cassel, when the Squadron was attacked by enemy aircraft.  Individual dogfights ensued, as a result of which 3 ME 109s were destroyed and 1 ME 109E was damaged.  The three destroyed were claimed by F/L Newton, P/O Ball and Sgt Crist, whilst F/L Clouston claimed the enemy aircraft damaged.  This was a most excellent performance and was marred only by the distressing fact that the CO, S/L Lee-Knight, failed to return from the operation.  Information is very scanty as to what happened or as to what misfortune befell him to cause his disappearance.  Sgt McDonald, who was the CO’s No 2, last saw him when he followed him in a turn to starboard.  As Sgt McDonald was hit by flak, he lost sight of his leader, and that was the last seen of him by any member of the Squadron.  Sgt McDonald sustained superficial injuries to his right foot.  S/L Lee-Knight was undoubtedly a fine leader of Squadron in flight, and was acknowledged as a fighter pilot of above average capabilities.  It is to be hoped that news will eventually be received that he is, at any rate, a prisoner of war, and uninjured.  All the bombers escorted returned safely.  Sgts McDonald and Crist’s aircraft were damaged to such an extent that they were classified as Category 2.  All the other aircraft and personnel returned safely.  P/Os Ball and Carrillo’s aircraft being slightly damaged and classified as Category 1.

Sunday, 28 September, 1941

Weather fine 2/10ths to 3/10ths cloud.  Formation flying and aerobatics.  The new Squadron Leader, C.F. Gray DFC and Bar, arrived to assume control.  He was a member of No. 1 Squadron stationed at Tangmere.  Usual Sunday evening party, the band having returned from leave.

Monday, 29 September, 1941

Weather dull, raining in the morning, clearing towards midday.  Flying training done.  Sgt Crawford posted here from 412 Squadron, Digby, a member of the RCAF.  Films on ‘Tactical use of Cloud Cover’ and (Met film) on ‘Pressure and Wind’ shown at Station Intelligence Office this morning.  Disappointing news received that new CO being re-posted to his old Squadron (No. 1) as Squadron Commander.  Although his stay was but of a short duration, he had impressed all who met him as possessing the qualities of an ideal Squadron Commander.  His departure was, therefore, regretted all the more.  He had the amazing record of 17 ½ plus 1/5th enemy aircraft destroyed and 9 ½ probably destroyed!  Truly an achievement to be proud of.

Tuesday, 30 September, 1941

Weather dull, 9/10ths cloud.  Formation flying and proactive dog fights.  Aerobatics and low flying.  S/L Douglas arrived.  P/O Price took S/L Gray to Tangmere in the Magister.