Historical Aircraft

April 1944


Saturday, 1 April, 1944

No operations were flown today and the Squadron finished up the army exercises today.  The lads learnt quite a bit about this type of flying.

Sunday, 2 April, 1944

Bad weather again today prevented us from flying.  All of the pilots were released at noon, the Crackers Club being the local rendezvous.

Monday, 3 April, 1944

Very low ceilings this morning prevented any flying, however a few venturesome types did a little flying.  At about teatime, a party was organized which turned out to be very successful.

Tuesday, 4 April, 1944

A good deal of practice flying was done today.  Doug Orr went on a spot of leave in London, to the envy of the rest of us.

Wednesday, 5 April, 1944

The day started off with the usual overcast conditions so the Squadron attended a lecture on the new gun sight given by F/O McKenzie and aided by our Hart Finley.  After the lecture, those would could grab a kite went nipping out to try the new sight, as again that all too familiar phrase was heard ‘released for training’.  Night flying was cancelled.

Thursday, 6 April, 1944

Duff weather again today but a good softball game got going between the erks and the pilots.  Our new Padre did a good job of pitching for the pilots.  Night flying was again scheduled for us but washed out again on account f the weather.

Friday, 7 April, 1944

Another duff day found us on readiness.  But still no flying.

Saturday, 8 April, 1944

At last the sun came out today and the Winco came over to the Dispersal and advised us he had requested permission to send the Squadron on a dive-bombing mission.  Spirits soared when the OK came through and at 1500 hours the Squadron, led by ‘Brownie’ took off with five hundred pounders to prang a ‘Noball’.  Near Le Treport, our Squadron had the distinction of being the first Spitfire group to commence the bombing of Europe.  A huge success, so much so that everybody is eager to have another go just as soon as possible, and a party is planned tonight to honour the occasion.

Sunday, 9 April, 1944

Easter Sunday.  Some of the fellows, looking the worse for wear after last night’s party, gradually got down to Dispersal.  We are quite elated over our success of yesterday and deeply interested in the reports in the paper and on the radio over the bombing do.  Later in the afternoon, we had a visit from the RCAF Recording Unit and then later on a release arrived for us, along with a new addition to the Squadron, namely a Jeep, which has saved quite a lot of shoe leather already.

Monday, 10 April, 1944

About 0715 hours this morning, we were rudely awakened by the call ‘All pilots of the wing report to their Squadrons immediately.  We were all set to go by 0830 hours but a mist closed in on the airfield so we were put on 15 minutes readiness.  The Squadron went on a show as target cover for some Mitchells and Marauders that plastered the marshalling yards at Charleroi.  Yellow Section received a dose of ‘green’ flak over Lille.  The Squadron set out after some barges that turned out to be Mustangs.

Tuesday, 11 April, 1944

A show was scheduled for early this morning but was cancelled.  Very little doing today; we were briefed for an exercise that is to take place early tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, 12 April, 1944

Everyone was up about 5:15 hours but we were told that the show was off; duff weather again.  The Squadron took off about 0930 hours with the Wing to do a patrol ‘Trousers’.  We landed at Holmsley South and then returned at 1630 hours.  Jim McKelvie had the experience of having to bale out.  He made the ground OK although he had the uncomfortable experience of going through cloud at 2,000 feet.  On returning to dispersal, we met Pete Logan who had changed his name from Pierre Lecoq.

Thursday, 13 April, 1944

Today was spent packing in view of another move.  All of our planes have been fixed up with the new gun sight.

Friday, 14 April, 1944

Early this morning, the advance party left for our new location, another day of no flying and still more packing.  Another party was held in the evening.

Saturday, 15 April, 1944

We were supposed to fly to Tangmere, our new location today, but as usual the weather was duff so once again we resigned ourselves to another bridge tournament and another party.

Sunday, 16 April, 1944

Another duff day and no flying.

Monday, 17 April, 1944

Still no flying – what weather we get these days.  We were ready, at about 1500 hours to fly to Tangmere, but as the weather wasn’t so good, it was postponed until tomorrow.  W/C Chadburn flew up from Tangmere and we were all pleased to hear that he would be leading our Wing.  Best regards to W/C Godefroy, DSO, DFC who we believe is returning to the land of milk and honey.

Tuesday, 18 April, 1944

At last the weather was good enough for us to take off for Tangmere, arriving there at about 0930 hours and ready to commence a healthy?? Outdoor life.  The rest of the day was spent in erecting tents and getting settled.

Wednesday, 19 April, 1944

The first show from our new location took the shape of a bombing effort near Fruges and was led by W/C Chadburn.  Unfortunately, the target was not located but we did prang a ‘Noball’ before returning.  Another show was scheduled for the afternoon but was cancelled because of duff weather.  We have now been informed that our first bombing effort was a complete success having destroyed one of the farthest ‘noballs’ in France.  We call it a darn good show.  New arrivals to the Squadron are F/O Dick Reeves from Toronto, F/O Red Thompson from Windsor and F/O Andy Hardy from Davidson Sask.

Thursday, 20 April, 1944

The Squadron took off for a bombing show at 1230 hours but was unsuccessful due to cloud cover over the target area at Le Treport.  C.B.C. correspondents visited the Squadron looking for some Gen on 403.

Friday, 21 April, 1944

Readiness was at 0600 hours but was cancelled and the Squadron did another patrol.  ‘Ike’ Eisenhower was due to visit the Squadron after lunch so every body got themselves cleaned up.  It was 1730 hours before ‘Ike’s’ plane finally landed and, by then, some of the Squadron has to push off on a show led by Chuck Thornton.  The patrol was uneventful and the Squadron landed by 1930 hours.

Saturday, 22 April, 1944

It was another beautiful day and the Squadron got the OK for a bombing do on a bridge near Bothec, leading to Havre.  This was one of our previous targets.  Headed by W/C Chadburn, the Squadron took off at 1230 hours and returned at1335 hours highly enthusiastic over the success.  Pictures have been received showing one end of the bridge to be well plastered as well as a direct hit on the trestle.  At 1830 hours the Squadron again set off on another bombing mission of a ‘Noball’ near Abbeville.  We managed to get many hits in the area but no official confirmation as of yet.  The Squadron returned at about 2000 hours. We welcome to our Squadron FO Andy Birchnall who is to be our permanent Adj.

Sunday, 23 April, 1944

The Squadron, with the Winco leading, set out at about 1800 hours on another bombing do, the intended ‘Noball’ was not located but we left bombs on another.  Doug Lindsay had the uncomfortable experience of being hit by flak; the radiator as well as the tail were hit but he managed to make it back to base OK.  In the morning at about 1000 hours, the Squadron along with 416 attacked a bridge in the Cherbourg area, the results as of now are not known.

Monday, 24 April, 1944

A show was set for the late morning and the Squadron got airborne about 1220 hours but were recalled.

Tuesday, 25 April, 1944

‘A’ Flight got up before dawn to take over readiness and ‘B’ Flight produced a quota of men as it was thought that we might have to help out the ‘Heavies’ returning from their night’s work.  Doug Orr and Doug Lindsay took off to look over the situation at about 0600 hours and returned at 0715 hours having seen nothing.  At about 1000 hours, these two worthies were again scrambled in a flurry of excitement.  ‘Bogies’ were reported over the Cherbourg area but nothing was seen.  A ‘Ranger’ was put in for the evening as no show was scheduled and the Squadron took off at about 1800 hours for a forward base, then on to Brest and back.  This turned out to be another cook’s tour.

Wednesday, 26 April, 1944

We were to have done another escort job but, owing to the cloud conditions, we were unable to meet our friends.  The Wing went on into France and Belgium on a sweep but all that was seen was plenty of flak over Lille, which was fairly accurate.  Practice flying took up the rest of the afternoon.  At 1810 hours, the Squadron took off on another do which turned out to be an excellent tour of all of the dromes in North-west France.  Nothing at all was seen and the Squadron returned at 2035 hours.

Thursday, 27 April, 1944

At 1029 hours we set off as an umbrella for some Mitchells doing a bombing job near Le Harve.  The trip was uneventful and we returned at 1215 hours.  At 1400 hours we were off on another escort job, this time with Mosquitoes doing a daylight job.  The Squadron returned at 1540 hours after another uneventful trip.  We set out again at 1730 hours, this time with bombs to escort and bomb the Cherbourg Peninsular.  We returned again after another uneventful trip at about 1840 hours.  F/L Browne was promoted to S/L and is to take over 414 Squadron.  Chuck Thornton is our new Flight Commander in his place.

Friday, 28 April, 1944

Nothing much doing this morning except some practice flying.  At about 1220 hours, the Squadron set off with bombs for a job on a railway bridge in the Cherbourg Peninsular but the cloud conditions prevented us from bombing the target and the bombs were aimlessly dropped.  Bill Myers had to land with his bomb.  Practice flying took up the rest of the afternoon.

Saturday, 29 April, 1944

The Squadron was off again at 0740 hours.  The cloud conditions made it a pretty shaky do but the Squadron managed to return at about 0830 hours after crossing the Channel and finding10/10ths cloud.  Practice flying took up the rest of the afternoon.  Word was received that F/L Goldberg, who was missing some time ago, has now been reported safe and is on his way back to the Squadron.  We really consider this the best news that we have received in some time.

Sunday, 30 April, 1944

The Squadron left at about 0930 hours to prang a Noball and most of the planes came back with empty oxygen bottles.  The Squadron set off about 1930 hours to do an escort job to Bethune for some Marauders who did a job of plastering the marshalling yards there.  This outdoor life seems to be agreeing with the gang and everyone is really looking fit and tanned.

403 Squadron Establishment and Flying Times for Month of April 1944

No. of Officers – Flying    26
No. of Officers – Ground    2
No. of Airmen – Flying     1
No. of Airmen – Ground    3

Flying Times for the Month

Operational:         445:50
Non-Operational:    217:40     (day)
Non-Operational:    4:20    (night)
Auster III:        _     18:05
Total    685:55

Aircraft on Squadron Strength:     18 Spitfire Mk IX B
MJ590    MJ985    MJ887    MJ645    MJ988    MK306
MJ986    MJ980    MJ664    MJ480    MJ942    MJ939
MK179    MH719    MH719    MH928    MJ942    MJ939

1 Auster III MZ 181

Our Casualties for the Month:       1 Spitfire IXB MJ352 Pilot F/L McKelvie – safe

Enemy Casualties:     Nil

Pilots who took part on the first dive-bombing operation carried out by Spitfires:

F/L J.D. Browne
F/O A.J.A. Bryan
F/O H.R. Finley
F/L J.M.J. Gordon
F/L W.J. Hill
F/L J. Hodgson
F/L J.P. Lecoq
F/L J.D. Lindsay
P/O W.J. Myers
F/O J.D. Orr
F/O R.H. Smith
F/O W.D. Whittaker
F/O J. Preston