Historical Aircraft

May 1944


Monday, 1 May, 1944

The Squadron took off on a bombing show at about 1515 hours and, as the target was covered by cloud, a secondary target was selected.  Later in the afternoon, six of the lads, led by Chuck Thornton, took off on a Ranger south of Paris.  An airfield was attacked but all that was seen were dummy airplanes and lots of flak.

Tuesday, 2 May, 1944

Nothing much was doing today until the Wing took off on an escort job at about 1930 hours.  The show itself was uneventful but the Marauders did a good job on the railroads.  There was no further flying for the day.

Wednesday, 3 May, 1944

At 1530 hours, the Squadron took off on another escort job, this time for Mosquitoes bombing the region of Abincourt.  There was no flak, just another dead another dead beat trip.  At 2005 hours, the Squadron set off with bombs to prang a Noball in the vicinity Southwest of Abbeville.  All hell was let loose by the Hun and Mac Hume was the unfortunate one this time.  He had to bale out over the Channel and spent an uncomfortable hour in the Channel just five miles off of the French Coast before he was picked up by a Sea Otter of the Air Sea Rescue.  The Sea Otter damaged a float on landing in the heavy sea, which meant taxiing only, as it could not take off.  A launch finally took all aboard and the Sea Otter joined the Spitfire at the bottom of the drink.

Thursday, 4 May, 1944

We were up at an early hour to take part in the exercise Fabius.  The Squadron was airborne on its first patrol at 0720 hours.  Two more patrols were carried out during the day without incident.

Friday, 5 May, 1944

All were up at daybreak again, this time to escort some Mitchells that were to bomb a marshalling yard near Cambrai.  This turned out to be another uneventful trip.  The rest of the day was a quiet one but later in the early evening, seven of the lads set off on a Ranger South of Paris.  No Huns were sighted but a couple of barges etc were shot up and they returned at about 2100 hours well pleased with themselves.

Saturday, 6 May, 1944

We were scheduled for an early show this morning but it was cancelled so some practice flying took place instead.  The afternoon was a quiet one; at 1700 hours we took over readiness from 421 Squadron until 2215 hours.

Sunday, 7 May, 1944

We were up early again this morning and off on a Wing escort job for Bostons that were to bomb a locomotive works near Valenciennes.  Our Squadron penetrated a little deeper into France and, while doing a sweep over 8/10ths cloud, four ME109s bounced Yellow Section from out of the sun.  The break could not have been called for too soon.  Doug Lindsay damaged one and then came upon two ME109s and shot one of them down before his ammo ran out.  Doug Hodgson also damaged a FW190.  A factor contributing to not having better success was the fuel situation, which proved quite serious.  Ed Kelly had the experience of having to bale out coming across the Channel.  Bill Rhodes just managed to make the English Coast before making a belly landing at Beachy Head.  Chuck Thornton’s engine packed up just after getting across and he had to do a wheels up landing near Friston.  Bob Greene came back all by himself.  Fortunately no one was injured and all were back at the Squadron by 1730 hours.  At 1935 hours, the Squadron took off on another do to bomb a Noball near Abbeville and from all of the reports a very good job was done.

Monday, 8 May, 1944

Another nice day and another escort job.  Bostons were again in charge and had as a target the marshalling yards near Charleroi.  There was nothing exciting about this show.  Jim McKelvie took up and departed for 414 Squadron and we were sorry to see him go.  At about 1715 hours, the Squadron, led by the Winco, took off on an escort fight sweep past Abbeville.  Chuck Thornton had to return and nothing was seen on the sweep.

Tuesday, 9 May, 1944

We really got up with the birds this morning and a section of four aircraft, led by Jim Preston took off on a weather recco to Brussels.  The jet tank on Jim’s plane ran dry and he couldn’t get his engine started until about 300 feet, just off Nieuport.  Bill Whittaker and Harry Boyle also took off on a weather recco over the Cherbourg Peninsular and had all hell let loose at them.  But the unsung heroes of the day were those of ‘A’ Flight who took over readiness.  That was why we stayed at the dispersal until 2200 hours.

Wednesday, 10 May, 1944

At 0645 hours, the Squadron took off for Bradwell Bay and, after having breakfast and refuelling, were off on an escort job for Marauders.  They really had us criss-crossing while they dodged all over France and Belgium but the trip, as a whole proved uneventful.  In the afternoon, we did another Noball bombing with good results.  Four of the lads then took off on a Ranger as far as Southeast of Alancon France, shooting up trucks and returning at 2140 hours.  Chuck McLean, a veteran of Malta, left us today for the land of milk and honey, lucky stiff.

Thursday, 11 May, 1944

We were airborne at 1045 hours on the first show of the day.  This time it was bombing a Noball five miles Southeast of Abbeville, but the results were not that good.  The surprise of the day was the visit of Dave Goldberg whom the lads last saw bailing out of his aircraft after it had been hit by flak over France on March the 8th.  Dave looks like he has been well taken care of and was full of praise for the people he had the occasion to call friends in France. Later in the afternoon, the Squadron was released for the remainder of the day and we hung around the dispersal as the AOC in C was on the camp.

Friday, 12 May, 1944

We were non-operational today as our planes were getting the once-over so we took the opportunity to visit the local quarry where everyone had a good swim and a demonstration of dinghy drill.

Saturday, 13 May, 1944

At 0400 hours believe it or not, we were up for a show and were airborne at 0520 hours on a sweep into Valenciennes and St Quentin area.  We did not see a Hun.  Some tempting convoys were seen but none were attacked and we returned without incident at 0720 hours.  At 1030 hours, the Squadron took off again, this time with bombs to hit a railway junction.  This was a Wing do and the results were pretty good.  At 1450 hours we were off again and we bombed a Noball with fair results.

Sunday, 14 May, 1944

We were up at 0600 hours for another early do but it was cancelled.  After waiting around we were finally released for the day.

Monday, 15 May, 1944

At 0930 hours the Squadron was off on an escort job to Douai.  While passing North of Lille, some Huns were sighted on an airfield.  The Winco, who was leading, sent Yellow Section down after one FW 190, which had just landed.  Chuck Thornton, who was leading the Section, gave the first burst followed by Bill Williams, Doug Orr and Tony Bryan.  The Hun plane was last seen burning but this was an expensive do as Chuck Thornton’s plane was badly hit resulting in Chuck having to bale out.  He was last seen heading for a nearby woods as fast as he could run.  We have lost, for the time being, one of the best-liked chaps of our Squadron, a real guy.  He will be back just like Dave Goldberg.  There was to have been a bombing do this afternoon but it was cancelled and the rest of the day was taken up with a little practice flying.

Tuesday, 16 May, 1944

We were up at 0430 hours with the Squadron, led by Hart Finley, taking off on an early morning fighter sweep by Marigny and St. Quentin.  Doug Orr had a squirt at a FW 190 on the ground and Hart led the other six down South of Paris to shoot at some army trucks.  A bombing show scheduled for the afternoon was cancelled so the Squadron Gunnery Officer, Poke Bryan, took over and we went down to the range for some practice.  A release came through for the Squadron so the gang headed for town.

Wednesday, 17 May, 1944

There was no flying as the weather was duff.  In the afternoon we had a short talk on escape procedures at Tangmere Intelligence.

Thursday, 18 May, 1944

There was no flying in the morning.  At 1255 hours, Doug Lindsay and some of the lads took off on a Ranger to see what could be found in the area of Paris.  No Huns planes were seen but a few trucks and D.R.s with sidecars as well as a couple of staff cars and a gas truck were pranged in good fashion.  F/L Andy MacKenzie, DFC, joined our Squadron today and took over as Commander of ‘A’ Flight.  At 1655 hours, a Ranger, led by Pete Logan, set off for France to see what could be found.  They returned with very little to report.  Another show scheduled for later was cancelled.

Friday, 19 May, 1944

‘A’ Flight got up at 0430 hours to go off on a Ranger led by Andy MacKenzie.  The six were airborne at 0540 hours.  Cloud conditions were bad over the continent; all they managed was to shoot up three trucks.  The rest of the morning was spent in practice flying.  There was no show in the afternoon but a Ranger, led by Pete Logan, took off at 1645 hours, first to Friston to refuel and then off from there at 1755 hours.  The boys swept around Paris.  Bill Williams sighted two FW 190s and the other section attacked.  Both Doug Lindsay and F/L Hodgson each got one.  The tragic part of this trip was the fact that F/O Smith, who was either hit by flak or one of the FW 190s, had to bale out over the Channel.  Pete Logan and Red Thompson circled and saw him go into the drink.  Unfortunately he was not seen to climb into his dinghy and, as of yet, no word has been heard of him.  Bill Myers left the Squadron to go to 414 Squadron today.

Saturday, 20 May, 1944

We started bombing again today.  The Squadron pranged a bridge just inside the French Coast with fair results.  At 1800 hours, the Squadron went on an escort job for Mitchells bombing Creil Aerodrome returning at 2000 hours.  Nothing exciting happened.

Sunday, 21 May, 1944

The Squadron set off at 0900 hours to go to Hawkinge to take part in a show.  There, the Squadrons were broken into sections of four and took off to prang any moving target in France.  Trains, staff cars, M.T. D.R.s were all shot up but unfortunately for us F/O Tommy Bryan was hit by flak well into France.  He was not seen to bale out but we all hope that he reached ground safely.  In the afternoon practice flying took place.  Pete Logan left today for an engine course.

Monday, 22 May, 1944

It was a release day for the Squadron today.  Practice flying filled in the hours of the morning and the afternoon.  At 1655 hours, a Ranger, led by Andy MacKenzie, set off to get a few more of the Huns for the Squadron.  The boys returned however with nothing to report.  Hart Finley left on a Fighter Leader’s Course today.

Tuesday, 23 May, 1944

At 0430 hours we were awakened and put on readiness.  A weather recco and a patrol helped to pass the early hours of the morning and, up until 2100 hours, the Squadron had at least two aircraft in the air continuously doing patrols off the coast.  Readiness ended at 2300 hours.

Wednesday, 24 May, 1944

This day started with a good fog that cleared later in the morning.  Air Marshall Conningham had a personal chat with the pilots and gave a short talk on what we are about to face.  We all feel that the day is almost upon us when we shall start to move eastwards.  Dakotas arrived at about 1400 hours and a practice loading was held.  At 1950 hours, the Squadron, led by F/O J. Preston with Doug Orr and Mac Gordon leading ‘A’ and ‘B’ Flights respectively, did a dive bombing attack on a Noball target near Fruges.  We have four new members for the Squadron now.  WO J.A. L. Wilcocks, P/O K.F. Scott, F/O S.W.Smith and P/O J. Lanfranchi, all pilots.

Thursday, 25 May, 1944

The day started with a show scheduled that finally came off at 1100 hours.  The W/C Flying flew with our Squadron.  We were escort to Bostons that were bombing Nord Lille aerodrome.  It was an uneventful trip and the Squadron was back at 1310 hours.  We were released after the show due to weather.

Friday, 26 May, 1944

Today was a duff day and the pilots spent the morning at the dispersal.  A release was obtained for the Wing.  The pilots were called back from town for a talk given by Air Chief Marshall Leigh Mallory.  WO Sid Roth became our latest arrival.

Saturday, 27 May, 1944

Another day nearing the big event.  We all went to the dispersal at about 0900 hours and were told that there would be a briefing at 1030 hours.  The Squadron took off at about 1110 hours with the W/C leading our Squadron.  S/L Green of 416 Squadron also flew with us.  Our CO, S/L Buckham, returned due to engine trouble.  The show was an escort to Mitchells bombing Creil aerodrome.  It turned out to be another uneventful trip and the Squadron was back at 1310 hours.  In the evening, the Squadron, Led by F/L M Gordon with F/O Orr and F/L Brown leading sections bombed a Noball with fair results.  Five of our aircraft refuelled at Friston.

Sunday, 28 May, 1944

Shortly after 1100 hours, the Squadron went off on a sweep as far as the Paris area.  We were sweeping ahead of Forts going to bomb Western Germany.  F/L MacKenzie, DFC, led the Squadron.  After we passed into France ‘B’ Flight went cruising on the deck until all hell broke loose on them.  F/L Brown’s aircraft was badly hit.  His coup top was shot off and his tail was pretty well plastered.  In addition, his trim controls were knocked out.  We were all glad that he made it back to base.  At about 1515 hours, the Squadron again went on a sweep to the Brussels area.  There was no enemy action on this trip.

Monday, 29 May, 1944

Today was a very hot day.  The Squadron, led by F/L P Logan, took off for Deanland aerodrome where they were to bomb up for a show.  At 1200 hours, they took off to bomb a Noball Northeast of Neufchatel France.  At 1530 hours, we took over readiness for 126 Airfield who went on an operation.  As the aircraft were landing at Deanland, F/O Boyle ran into the tail of F/O S.W. Smith.  F/O Smith died several hours later in the hospital of shock.

Tuesday, 30 May, 1944

Today we did two bombing shows.  The first one was done at about 1200 hours, with F/L Lindsay leading the Squadron on an attack on a Noball target achieving pretty good results.  The leaders did a good job.  Our CO, S/L Buckham DFC & USA DFC, flew above to watch our performance.  The second show was led by F/O Orr.  This time they flew straight to their target, a RDF station on the French Coast and returned with a job well done.  F/O Preston flew above this time as observer.

Wednesday, 31 May 1944

The day started with quite some doubt as to whether or not the weather was good enough for a sweep.  However, we were briefed at 0930 hours and off at 0855 hours to do a fighter sweep in advance of a large number of Forts going in to bomb marshalling yards, etc.  Off the Coast we ran into thunderclouds and started to climb through.  S/L Buckham was forced to take violent evasive action while in cloud to avoid collision with an aircraft that zoomed up in front of him.  The fuselage of S/L Buckham’s aircraft was wrinkled as a result of this.  The Squadron returned to base due to the unfavourable weather.

403 Squadron Establishment and Flying Times for Month of May 1944

RCAF        USA Personnel
No. of Officers – Flying    22    1
No. of Officers – Ground    2    Nil
No. of Airmen – Flying     3    1
No. of Airmen – Ground    2    1

Flying Times for the Month

Operational:         759:50
Non-Operational:    145:25     (day)
Non-Operational:    Nil    (night)
Auster III:        _     29:20
Total    934:35

Aircraft on Squadron Strength:     19 Spitfire Mk IX B
MK887    ML415    MJ348    MJ570    MJ988    MK306
MJ664    MH928    MK742    MK808    MK570    MJ238
MJ951    ML411    MJ886    NH235    ML420    NH196

1 Auster III MZ 181

Our Casualties for the Month:       15-5-44 F/L C.P. Thornton – missing baled out
19-5-44 F/O R.H. Smith – missing baled out
21-5-44 F/O A.J.A. Bryan – missing thought to
have baled out
29-5-44 F/O S.W. Smith – died as a result of
flying accident

Enemy Casualties:             7-5-44 1 FW 190 damaged F/L Lindsay
7-5-44 1 ME 109 destroyed F/L Lindsay
7-5-44 1 FW 190 damaged F/O Hodgson
19-5-44 1 FW 190 destroyed F/L Lindsay
19-5-44 1 FW 190 destroyed F/L Hodgson