When Raid 92 was plotted ten miles east of Hartlepool at 13:53, flying on a westerly course, 41 Squadron’s Yellow Section was scrambled to intercept it. Plt Off Gilbert Draper (R6604) and Sgt Plt Terence Healy (X4242) were off the deck at 14:05 and subsequently claimed the Squadron’s first victory in two months.
However, as a result of a breakdown in communication between the Controller at RAF Catterick and the Sector Controller, the section was initially ordered to Saltburn, despite the fact the enemy aircraft made landfall at Whitby. Communications were also hampered as R/T contact between Yellow Section and Station Control was inconsistent, and Pip Squeaks were not picking up locational fixes.
However, Draper and Healy soon received a new vector to Whitby and managed to successfully intercept the aircraft near the town at 25,000 feet, on its way out again, shortly before 14:30. They recognised it as a four-engined FW200 Condor long range reconnaissance aircraft.
As Draper and Healy approached the aircraft, they noted that “the whole top of [the] E/A was painted black, [and it bore] one cross on [the] starboard side of [the] fuselage with white background lines near the tail”. They were also sighted, however, and there immediately began a chase out to sea, the three aircraft dodging in and out of cloud all the way.
It was not until approximately 15 miles east of Whitby at 20,000 feet that Draper was in a position to attack, and at 14:35 he delivered a two-second burst from slightly above on its fine stern quarter with slight deflection at 200 yards, closing to 150 yards. Seeing no visible effect, he broke away and Sgt Plt Healy prepared to make an attack of his own, “but was unable to get in a burst”.
By now, the Condor had commenced a steep dive but took no other evasive action. Diving after the aircraft, Draper made a second attack at 8,000 feet, firing a two-second burst from above and astern from a range of 180 down to 140 yards. This resulted in white smoke issuing from the port inner engine. Healy closed for a second attempt, and fired a single burst from astern at 350 yards down to 200 at an altitude of 5,000 feet. However, he was unable to see any result of his fire before the Condor applied boost, emitted black smoke from all four engines, and disappeared into thick cloud still diving.
Despite Draper and Healy’s efforts, they were thwarted by the cloudy conditions, and were unable to press their attack home any further: the Condor’s speed was greater than their own 290 mph IAS at 2,600 rpm, and it was not seen again. Left little choice, they returned to Catterick where they landed at 14:55.
Although Draper had fired 560 rounds, and Healy another 120, the victory was claimed by Draper alone: one damaged FW200C. Healy also attested to the claim, stating he had seen white vapour emitting from one of the port engines. It would prove to be the Squadron’s only claim of the War against a FW200 Condor.
[Excerpt from "Blood, Sweat and Courage" (Fonthill, 2014). Sharing permitted, but no other reproduction without prior permission, please]
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