Historical Aircraft

June 1944


Thursday, 1 June, 1944

There was very little flying done today, mostly practice flying and air tests.  The Squadron was released in the afternoon.

Friday, 2 June, 1944

Readiness was the order for the day and ‘A’ Flight was up at 0430 hours.  Pete Logan and Jim Wilcocks did a patrol.  A talk on close support was given by a RAF Squadron Leader this afternoon.  At 1700 hours, the Squadron took off on a sweep into France shooting up trains etc.  While attacking a train, F/L Hodgson, one of the old timers of the Squadron, developed engine trouble.  In an endeavour to bale out safely, ‘Hodge’ bunted his aircraft over and was last seen lying over the coupe top.  The aircraft was seen to crash and burn.  Later on in the evening, ‘B’ Flight again did readiness, which proved quite uneventful.  Tomorrow we move to Tangmere Mess.  D-day must be around the corner.

Saturday, 3 June, 1944

We moved into Tangmere Mess this morning; quite a nice place.  At 1315 hours, the Squadron, led by the CO, took off on a sweep into the Cherbourg area.  A train, a staff car and two trucks were shot up.  This was the only show for the day.

Sunday, 4 June, 1944

The big day must really be at hand because we woke up this morning to find that all of our kites had been painted with black and white stripes.  No flying at all today but we did have a ‘Gen’ talk by the Intelligence Officer pertaining to D-day.

Monday, 5 June, 1944

‘B’ Flight was on readiness at 0400 hours and at 0430 hours a section was on a sector recco over France.  Then, at about 1100 hours, two of the kites were scrambled and did a patrol.  No more flying was done for the rest of the day.  We certainly feel that great happenings are in the offing as tonight we are all confined to camp and sure enough we all attended a ‘Gen’ session with all of the pilots of 126 and 127 Airfields in the Mess at 126.  The long awaited big day is here at last.

Tuesday, 6 June, 1944

D-Day.  At about 0630 hours this morning, the Wing, including our Squadron was on its way.  And what a show, it was almost beyond description; boats of all shapes and sizes, destroyers standing off from the shore and pounding away at Hun positions and giving covering fire for the landings.  Our second show at 1200 hours was quite uneventful, no Huns were seen and our landing forces seemed to have made very definite progress.  Two more patrols finished off the day without a Hun being sighted.

Wednesday, 7 June, 1944

The day was much the same as yesterday, the first show awakened at 0330 hours and throughout the day we covered ‘Omaha’ beach.  The weather was poor with cloud based at 2,000 feet.  The Hun did come into the area and 126 Airfield had a good go, they got eight JU 88’s and four single-engined, three probable and one damaged.  We were sent after 20-plus FW 190s that were claimed to be in the area but nothing was actually seen.

Thursday, 8 June, 1944

Another day of patrols over the Beachhead and quite uneventful for us.  We did the last patrol of the day and then the weather became very dirty.  We had two men at readiness all day and they were scrambled but nothing was seen.

Friday, 9 June, 1944

Even the birds are walking today because of the dirty weather.  At about 2000 hours, we were on our way again on a patrol over the Beachhead.  The ceiling was down to about 800 feet and, as we came in over ‘Omaha’ Beach, our Navy let everything they have go at us.  We immediately got out of the way and called ‘Research’ who told us to come in again, as it would be all right this time.  So in we went again, this time flying line astern and with our navigation lights on, but still those trigger twitchy guys of the Navy let us have it a second time.  Those guys must really be blind because, of all the aircraft that they have seen the most of, it certainly is the Spit. So away we go again, giving ‘Research’ hell and prepare for a third go.  Sure enough the Navy cuts loose with everything that they have for a third time, hitting four of our kites and causing F/L Williams aircraft to disappear, nothing more being seen of him.  F/O Kelly was slightly wounded but managed to land his aircraft safely at Tangmere and taxing over to the ambulance at Flying Control.  F/O Thompson and F/O Shapter’s aircraft were hit but the pilots themselves were uninjured.

Saturday, 10 June, 1944

Today we carried out patrols over the Beachhead much the same as yesterday.  On our second show, Yellow Section ran into quite a bit of flak and red tennis balls a few miles West of Caen.  F/O W.H. Rhodes’ aircraft was hit on the starboard wing by cannon and had to return to base.  Nothing exciting to report on our trips other than we are glad to see our landing strips getting into shape.  126 Airfield landed over there today.  Two new NCO pilots reported in today, Steve Butte and Ron Forsyth.

Sunday, 11 June, 1944

We were up again at 0330 hours.  We were briefed at 0600 hours and a coin was tossed to see which Squadron would remain here on readiness.  We won so we went on the show and made the first landings for the Squadron on 126’s Airstrip in France after patrolling for two hours and twenty minutes.  We all returned with plenty of French soil on us as the landing strip was like a duststorm.  At 1410 hours, the Squadron was off on another patrol.  F/L Andy MacKenzie was hit by flak near the American landing strip in the Utah area and managed to get his kite down safely, making a successful belly landing on the strip.  We didn’t do another show and were on readiness for the remainder of the day.

Monday, 12 June, 1944

We were up at 0330 hours again and off on patrol at 0630 hours.  It was an uneventful trip.  Another patrol was flown and a two-man patrol over a convoy off of Shoreham finished off the day.  F/O J Preston left us today for a rest.  Jim has finished a tour of Ops and was one of the oldest members of the Squadron.  Another patrol over ‘Omaha’ beach came up.  It was led by the Winco and proved to be uneventful.

Tuesday, 13 June, 1944

No flying today as the weather kept us on the ground.  However, 416 and 421 Squadrons did manage to get up and do a patrol over the Beachhead.  What we consider the biggest tragedy to hit us yet occurred on this patrol.  Our Winco, W/C L.V. Chadburn DSO and bar DFC, collided with F/L F.C. Clark and both were killed.  We have indeed lost a great leader and also a great friend.  F/O Bob Lawlor joined our Squadron today hailing from the Honeymoon City back home.

Wednesday, 14 June, 1944

The Squadron did a sweep in the morning around the Paris area but still had no luck.  We spent the rest of the day on standby at 126 airstrip.  Then, in the evening, we did another sweep, this time in the area of Evreux West of Paris and still with no luck.  WO Roth, one of our new chaps, went missing.  The last was heard of him when he called saying that he was having engine trouble 10 miles West of Le Harve.  The best news of the day was that our CO, S/L R.A. Buckham DFC, is to take over as the new Winco and has been upped in rank to Wing Commander.  Good luck Winco Buckham from all of the boys in 403.

Thursday, 15 June, 1941

There was the customary patrol early in the morning over the Beachhead, which was uneventful.  We were all very surprised to see KH-T, with WO Sid Roth flying it, land at 1100 hours at Tangmere.  He had spent the night on the landing strip in France.  We did the evening show and had as our patrol the Western Section.  421 Squadron was flying to the East and had a real fight.  They were vectored onto about 30 Huns FW 190s and ME 109s.  The got nine destroyed, one probable and two damaged which was an excellent job.  F/O Reeves of our Squadron had to bale out due to engine trouble while on our patrol and he was seen to land safely by parachute in France.  We all joined with 421 Squadron in the mess to celebrate their victory.

Friday, 16 June, 1944

Today we did two convoy patrols.  We escorted a Cruiser to the Beachhead, which proved to be an uneventful patrol.  Today we saw an Air Lift Party, including the Squadron Adjutant, F/O A Birchnall, the Clerk, Cpl W Codern, our technical Sgt, Sgt S.G. Williams and the remainder of the Wing HQ personnel that were left behind to service our aircraft, leave for France in a flight of ten Dakotas which took off from RAF Tangmere at 1415 hours.  When we joined them on Landing Strip B.2 near Crepon France, we learned that they had an uneventful trip.  Our new CO, S/L E.P. Wood, arrived from 402 Squadron today.  The Squadron’s Spitfires landed at B.2 at about 2200 hours.  We spent the night with five to six to a tent with just a small visit from the Hun.

Saturday, 17 June, 1944

The boys really went on the scrounge today.  German booty first arrived in the form of two horses ridden by F/L H.R. Finley and F/L A.R. MacKenzie.  Quite a lot of laughs were provided by F/O J.D. Orr and WO1 A.B. Clenard for their attempt to ride these two beautiful German horses.  ‘A’ Flight took over readiness shortly after 1800 hours.  At about 1900 hours, we were scrambled.  F/O W.H. Rhodes was bounced by two Huns from out of the sun.  He broke hard but was hit on the starboard wing.  He managed to damage one of the Huns in the fight that followed.  WO1 Clenard took off on this scramble but did not return to the landing strip and he has been classified as missing.  We learned today that F/O Reeves who was previously reported as having baled out safely, is back at Tangmere after being taken across the Channel on a Destroyer.

Sunday, 18 June, 1944

Sunday – a day of rest.  That was the way that most of our day was spent, that is as far as flying was concerned.  Some say the reason was due to the fact that we had no bombs and that we shall soon be doing close support for the Army.  Much was done today for self defence as the sleeves were rolled up and the pick and shovel were used for making trenches.  F/L C.T. Brown and P/O R.J. Lawlor were picked to go to England to bring over replacement aircraft.  The Squadron went off on a short sweep with 416 Squadron at 2115 hours and had no encounter with the enemy.  Shortly before that sweep, four of our pilots led by F/L Lindsay and F/O Orr did a recco job.  At 2145 hours, WO Clenard returned to the Squadron, much to the surprise of everyone concerned.  We were all certainly glad to see him again but he really had a tough time of it.  His engine blew up over the Hun lines and he had to crash land.  He was challenged by the Hun and was the subject of some machine-gun fire.  He managed to reach our lines where he was given medical treatment and was driven back to our airfield.  F/O Rhodes has been officially credited with one FW 190 damaged.

Monday, 19 June, 1944

The Squadron was on readiness at first light today and, while riding down to dispersal in the jeep, a roar was heard.  Out of the low cloud and pouring rain came a FW 190 less than 100 feet off of the deck.  The fellows flattened out on the ground even before the jeep stopped.  A few seconds later two explosions shattered the peace that turned out to be parachute anti-personnel bombs.  None of the boys were hurt.  Our Squadron came off readiness shortly after 1300 hours.  This has been the wettest day since arriving and there was very little flying of any kind done today.

Tuesday, 20 June, 1944

Last night Jerry came over again and disturbed our peace yet nothing landed dangerously close.  No operations were planned for today as again there were low clouds and it was more like fall weather.  Our Squadron was on readiness commencing 1330 hours.  F/O Doug Orr and F/S Butte were scrambled but saw nothing.  F/L C.T. Brown and P/O R.J. Lawlor returned today with replacement aircraft from England.  F/O R.L. Reeves came back to us today and WO1 A.B. Clenard has returned to England so that he can get over his narrow escape.  A new pilot, F/O K. Oliver reported in today.  At about 2230 hours we were released from readiness and so we returned to our tents, had a snack and went to bed to await Jerry’s visit.

Wednesday, 21 June, 1944

It was another lousy day with low cloud and a gusty wind.  No flying was done by the Squadron.  It gave the pilots a well-deserved rest and a chance to relax a little.

Thursday, 22 June, 1944

The Squadron pilots were up early to go on readiness.  This state lasted till shortly after 1300 hours when the Squadron was relieved.  There were two shows done today.  The first one was cover to 412 Squadron who were to do some dive-bombing.  This sweep was uneventful.  On the second show, our Squadron went to bomb a woods in which an ammunition dump was reported to be.  We had hits in the target area but little happened.  P/O Scott had a hang up and when his bombs finally released, they landed in the woods.  A terrific flame and grey smoke filled the sky so perhaps our do was more profitable than we realized.  On the way home, a staff car was shot up.  The exciting feature of the day was watching the crew of a fortress bail-out after their kite had been hit by flak over Caen.  Their aircraft flew for awhile making a large spiral then suddenly the wing broke and the aircraft went into a couple of rolls and crashed with plenty of flame and smoke Northeast of us.  One of the crew arrived safely at our airfield.  Another sight was that of Marauders bombing some target near Caen.  They had all hell thrown up at them and one was seen to go down in flames.  Another was smoking but the crew managed ok.  Yes, we are sure getting nearer to real war.

Friday, 23 June, 1944

Another day of readiness for us.  The big event of the day took place when we were off on patrols.  ‘A’ Flight went to the western section and ‘B’ Flight took the east of Caen.  ‘B’ Flight, with five aircraft, ran into about 15 FW 190s coming head on and slightly below.  They were bombed up and so were up to no good.  They both broke about the same time and the scrap was on.  F/L P. Logan and F/L M.J. Gordon both got a destroyed and a damaged each and F/O K. Oliver, a newcomer to the Squadron got a damaged.

Saturday, 24 June, 1944

Today was a rather restful day for us.  We were able to get a few extra sleeping hours in the morning.  After lunch, we were on 30 minutes notice so we spent the time at Intelligence waiting for a show to come up.  About 1900 hours, we did a dive bombing show with delayed action bombs.  F/O Rhodes left for England to bring back an Auster.  F/O Greene flew a Spitfire to England to deliver secret documents.

Sunday, 25 June, 1944

F/O Rhodes flew an Auster V to France for our Squadron.  The Squadron was supposed to be off for the afternoon but patrols from England became grounded so we were called to readiness.  In the morning, a long fighter sweep and escort to Mustangs around Paris took place without any excitement.  Two flights did independent bombing shows.  The Army laid some smoke and we pranged the spots from which the smoke was coming.  In the afternoon, some of the fellows went into town.

Monday, 26 June, 1944

We were up around 0500 hours to go on our early morning armed recce.  The Squadron was off at 0615 hours in what was typical Hun weather.  We shot up a truck and didn’t see much else until F/L Finley spotted a gaggle of ME 109s.  We got into them and would have done the Squadron proud had not the cloud conditions favoured the enemy.  F/O Orr destroyed 1 ME 109 and damaged another.  F/O Rhodes also scored a destroyed and a damaged.  F/O Nadon also destroyed a ME 109.  A little later in the morning, the Squadron was off again and ran into FW 190s and ME 109s.  F/L Lindsay scored a ME 109 damaged.  The afternoon was spent on readiness, which meant doing beach patrols as the ADGB boys were grounded by weather.

Tuesday, 27 June, 1944

The Squadron was up again very early and went on a bombing show. They pranged, with very excellent results, some enemy gun position enabling the Army to advance West of Caen without great difficulty.  Most of the day was spent by the pilots waiting at Intelligence for the next show.

Wednesday, 28 June, 1944

F/O Rhodes, the officer who up to this point has been writing the diary, was reported missing after an early morning do today.  He was last seen chasing an enemy aircraft deep into France.  He ran out of petrol and force landed in a field in enemy territory.  F/L A.R. MacKenzie got his fourth enemy aircraft on this same patrol.  On the second patrol, F/O J. Lanfranchi’s engine packed up over enemy territory, he said he was bailing out but cloud obscured any confirmation of this statement.  The rest of the day settled down to the old routine of readiness and uneventful patrols.

Thursday, 29 June, 1944

F/L J.D. Lindsay destroyed another German aircraft today but not before the Jerry had shot down WO2 R.C. Shannon.  However, WO2 Shannon was seen to bail out so we are all hoping that he makes it back to us okay.  F/O Lawlor has gone back to England non-effective sick.  He has been having trouble with his eyes.  We wish him all the best of luck and hope that he may be able to rejoin us at a later date.

Friday, 30 June, 1944

F/L C.T. Brown returned from England today after being on a Court of Inquiry.  F/S W.J. Hill and P/O K. Scott returned from England today with new Spitfires for our Unit.  F/L Commerford and F/O Tomlinson reported to the Squadron today.  F/O Orr destroyed a Jerry aircraft today; outside of that our flying for the day was uneventful.  A Thunderstorm battered the balloons, which are flying from the ships along the beach, and one of them was seen to fall in flames after being struck by lightning.  The health of the Squadron remains very good.  There have been no admissions to the hospital.

403 Squadron Establishment and Flying Times for Month of June 1944

RCAF        USA Personnel    RAF
No. of Officers – Flying    19    Nil    Nil
No. of Officers – Ground    2    Nil    Nil
No. of Airmen – Flying    5    Nil    Nil
No. of Airmen – Ground    2    1        2

Flying Times for the Month

Operational:         1002:40
Non-Operational:    78:10     (day)
Non-Operational:    Nil    (night)
Auster III:        _     7:35
Total    1088:25

Aircraft on Squadron Strength:     17 Spitfire Mk IX B
ML180    MK780    MK693    NH265    ML420    MJ752
MJ237    MK859    MJ187    MJ664    ML411    MK730
MJ550    ML415    NH232    MK964    MK881

1 Auster III MJ 667

Our Casualties for the Month:       2-6-44 F/L J. Hodgson – missing
9-6-44 F/L E.C. Williams – missing
9-6-44 F/O E.D. Kelley – slightly wounded
15-6-44 F/O R.E. Reeves – missing – returned
to Unit 17-6-44 uninjured.
17-6-44 W/O A.B. Clenard missing – returned
to Unit slightly injured
28-6-44 F/O W.H. Rhodes – missing
28-6-44 F/O J. Lanfranchi – missing
29-6-44 W/O R.C. Shannon – missing

Enemy Casualties:         17-6-44 1 FW 190 damaged by F/O W.H. Rhodes
23-6-44 1 FW 190 destroyed by F/L P. Logan
23-6-44 1 FW 190 destroyed by F/L M.J. Gordon
23-6-44 3 FW 190 damaged each by F/L M.J. Gordon,
F/O Oliver and F/L Logan (1 each)
26-6-44 3 ME 109 destroyed by F/O W.H. Rhodes,
F/O J.D. Orr, F/O G.R. Nadon (1 each)
26-6-44 2 ME 109 damaged by F/O W.H. Rhodes,
F/O J.D. Orr (1 each)
26-6-44 2 ME 109 damaged by F/L J.D. Lindsay
28-6-44 1 FW 190 destroyed by F/L A.R. MacKenzie
29-6-44 1 FW 190 destroyed by F/L J.D. Lindsay
30-6-44 1 ME 109 damaged by F/L H.R. Finley
3-6-44 1 ME 109 destroyed by F/O J.D. Orr