Historical Aircraft

March 1944


Wednesday, 1 March, 1944

No operations and no non-operational flying were done today.  The remainder of the pilots and our MO, F/L D.S. Munroe, as well as the Squadron clerk came back from Hutton Cranswick by rail today.  The other Squadrons here did a sweep today which proved uneventful.  We are al hoping that the food here will continue to improve until it reaches the high standard of Hutton Cranswick.  F/O H.R. Finley was re-posted to the Squadron today as O.C. of ‘B’ Flight.  F/O T.A. Brannagan, F/L I.G. Keltie and F/l R.G. Middlemiss were posted to 144 Airfield HQ wef today.

Thursday, 2 March, 1944

There was one operation carried out today and, outside of being bounced by Thunderbolts, it proved to be uneventful.  There were only six non-operational sorties carried out today.

Friday, 3 March, 1944

One operation was carried out today, in which the Wing escorted 108 Marauders to bomb Laon/Athies.  No enemy aircraft were seen.  Jerry seems to be conserving his fighter strength for something big.  In the afternoon, a fighter sweep was done by our Wing, which penetrated to the Lille/Coutrai area.  No enemy aircraft were seen but some flak was experienced from Lille.  Today again there were only six non-operational sorties carried out.

Saturday, 4 March, 1944

There were two operations carried out today, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.  On the morning do, the bombers were recalled after reaching the French coast.  No enemy aircraft were seen today.  There were thirty-four non-operational sorties flown today.

Sunday, 5 March, 1944

There were no operations carried out nor was there any non-operational flying done.  F/O C.S. McLean was posted to the Squadron today from A.D.G.B. HQ.  He has done a tour in Malta and all of the pilots welcomed him to our Squadron.

Monday, 6 March, 1944

One operation today as close escort to the bombers.  Enemy aircraft were reported but none were seen.  Sixteen non-operational sorties were done today for a total of 9:10 hours.

Tuesday, 7 March, 1944

Today our pilots saw some enemy aircraft but luck was not with us, as they could not be engaged.  There was only one operation done today.  We did our first bit of night flying this evening; three sorties for a total of 3 hours.

Wednesday, 8 March, 1944

Two shows and 28 non-operational sorties were flown today.  We were escort wing on the morning do and this afternoon we carried out an eight man Ranger.  No enemy aircraft were seen.  On the Ranger, we lost two pilots, F/O J.H. Ballantyne DFM and F/L D. Goldberg, our adjutant.  F/O Preston’s aircraft was severely damaged by flak but he managed to land at Friston.  F/O Ballantyne’s aircraft was seen to hit the ground and explode and very little hope is held for him.  He has been posted as missing believed to be killed.  F/L Goldberg reported that he was going to attempt a crash landing.  He has been posted as missing but we all are hoping that he will be walking back to see us one of these days.  F/O Foster was posted to 53 OTU wef today.

Thursday, 9 March, 1944

No operations were carried out today but 28 non-operational sorties were flown in the late afternoon.  We were scrambled to Ford to patrol a practice landing of troops.

Friday, 10 March, 1944

The aircraft were unable to return to base today the weather being very unsatisfactory.  A lot of grumbling was heard but it wasn’t very long before a party was organized.

Saturday, 11 March, 1944

The aircraft returned today, but their trip back home from Ford was the only flying done today.  ‘B’ Flight had a party this evening and according to all reports it was a howling success.

Sunday, 12 March, 1944

No operations were flown today but an early morning exercise in co-operation with the Army was carried out.  This evening, three sorties were carried out on night flying for a total of three hours flying time.  F/Os Whittaker, W.H. Rhodes, W.A. Doyle and R.B. Greene were posted to 403 today from 3(RCAF) PRC.

Monday, 13 March, 1944

The aircraft were scrambled today and they fired their guns into the sea off Beachy Head.  On their return, the re-arming was timed.  When we go to the field it is not at all unlikely that all of our aircraft will return with empty guns and it is a good thing to know how long it will take to re-load them.  An army convoy was beaten up today and, in all, there were 33 non-operational sorties.

Tuesday, 14 March, 1944

It was a rather quite day today.  There was a great panic in the morning with the pilots up by seven for a briefing at 8:15.  The sweep was subsequently cancelled and the pilots got their excitement from doing readiness today.

Wednesday, 15 March, 1944

One sweep was carried out today and we went in behind 401 Squadron who caught up with six P.R.U. FW190s who were trying to land at Cambrai.  401 Squadron shot down four of them.  After this sweep the Wing landed at Manston.  No other sweeps developed today and our aircraft returned to base at 1800 hours.

Thursday, 16 March, 1944

No operations today.  We were released to do some training.  We were escort to some Mustangs who were late at the RV as usual.  The pilots report a fairly good picture was shown in the mess tonight.

Friday, 17 March, 1944

Thick fog stopped all flying today.  Some skeet shooting was organized by the pilots.  All of the pilots appear to be in good spirits and they have been busy all day polishing the cockpit covers of their aircraft.

Saturday, 18 March, 1944

Only non-operational flying was done today.  There were 38 sorties flown today.  One of our best pilots was killed in a flying accident today.  Three pilots, led by F/O R.W. Denison, took off on a sector recco and when near Penshurst aerodrome, F/O Denison’s engine failed.  He attempted a crash landing on Penshurst drome but undershot the field crashing on the highway.  F/O Denison was killed instantly and the aircraft was a complete write-off.

Sunday, 19 March, 1944

No flying was done at all today, as the weather was very bad.  The Wing was released in the afternoon.  It was very quiet around the dispersal this afternoon.

Monday, 20 March, 1944

There was one operation carried out today and, as usual, no enemy aircraft were seen.  The pilots report that the flak was very accurate.  There were eleven non-operational sorties carried out for a total of 5 hours flying time.

Tuesday, 21 March, 1944

Bad weather prevented flying today and the pilot’s spent a quite day in the mess.  Funeral arrangements have been completed for the burial of F/O R.W. Denison.

Wednesday, 22 March, 1944

Just a few sorties of practice flying were carried out today.  F/O Denison’s funeral was held today at Brookwood Cemetery in Surrey.  Most of the pilots attended and the funeral was carried out with full Military Honours.  At the conclusion of the ceremony the pilots present, led by the Commanding Officer, S/L R.A. Buckham, DFC, stepped up to the grave and saluted F/O Denison for the last time.

Thursday, 23 March, 1944

There was a sweep carried out today and, even though our aircraft flew at 8,000 feet over Paris, they were not molested by either flak or enemy aircraft.  There were ten non-operational sorties done today.

Friday, 24 March, 1944

There was non-operational flying only today.  The weather closed in around 3pm after 21 sorties had been completed.  We are practicing dive bombing and army co-operation.  F/O J.A. Wilson was posted to RCAF ‘R’ Depot, Warrington, for repatriation for duty in Canada.

Saturday, 25 March, 1944

More practice dive-bombing was flown today.  More bad luck.  F/L Pennock blacked out when pulling out of a dive after bombing and rolled over on his back, crashing on the edge of the aerodrome.  He was killed instantly and the aircraft was completely wrecked.  We have lost four pilots this month and we are all hoping that this run of bad luck will stop soon.

Sunday, 26 March, 1944

More practice flying today.  Today, there was a church service held in the Dispersal.  In the morning some skeet shooting was done by the pilots who are now thinking of taking on the pilots of 421 Squadron in a skeet-shooting contest.  F/L Pennock will be buried tomorrow at Brookwood Cemetery.

Monday, 27 March, 1944

There was more army co-operation exercises today.  Forty non-operational sorties were carried out by the Squadron today.  In the afternoon, the pilots were at Brookwood for F/L Pennock’s funeral.  The service was conducted by S/L D. Carlson, the Protestant Padre, and full Military Honours were accorded with the Last Post being sounded at the conclusion of the service.  P/O H.V. Boyle and P/O E.D. Kelly were posted to the Squadron from 3(RCAF) PRC today for flying duties.

Tuesday, 28 March, 1944

Thirteen sorties were flown on army co-operation today.  There were no operations carried out.  It was foggy until noon today but the weather cleared enough in the afternoon to allow the army co-operation show to be carried out.

Wednesday, 29 March, 1944

No flying was done at all today as it was foggy in the morning and remained very dull for the whole day.  We were released at 2pm this afternoon and the pilots were soon on their way to London.

Thursday, 30 March, 1944

We were again flying on army co-operation today.  Our Squadron has been getting plenty of practice with the army lately and the pilots are getting anxious to do some operational flying.  There were 36 non-operational sorties carried out today.

Friday, 31 March, 1944

In the morning the cloud was 10/10ths but it cleared up later in the afternoon allowing our pilots to take part in an army beat-up exercise which was the only flying done today.  The health of the Squadron was very good this month and outside of a few pilots having slight colds there was nothing to worry about.

403 Squadron Establishment and Flying Times for Month of March 1944

No. of Officers – Flying    21
No. of Officers – Ground    1
No. of Airmen – Flying     nil
No. of Airmen – Ground    2

USA Personnel in RCAF

No. of Officers – Flying    4
No. of Officers – Ground    nil
No. of Airmen – Flying     1
No. of Airmen – Ground    1

Flying Times for the Month

Operational:         266:15
Non-Operational:    328:05     (day)
Non-Operational:    6:20    (night)
Auster III:        _     8:35
Total    609:15

Aircraft on Squadron Strength:     18 Spitfire Mk IX B
MJ570    MJ985    MJ887    MJ645    MJ988    MK306
MK742    MJ986    MK194    MJ980    MJ664    MJ352
MJ480    MK179    MH719    MH928    MJ942    MJ939

1 Tiger Moth T.7402   1 Auster III MZ 181

Our Casualties for the Month:       8-3-44 F/O J.H. Ballantyne DFM
– missing believed killed
8-3-44 F/L D. Goldberg
– missing
18-3-44 F/O R.W. Denison
– killed flying accident
25-3-44 F/L G.C. Pennock
– killed flying accident

Enemy Casualties:     Nil