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]
Former OC 41, Dick MacCormac, has had his medals stolen. Please be on the lookout for any unscrupulous characters attempting to sell them on.
They are identifiable by the engraving MACCORMAC 2630345K on the medal circumference.
Further detail passed by email this evening:
They were taken last week or over the weekend (I was away), from my home in Copenhagen. My guess is that they are likely to be sold on in fairly short order. So I'm looking at eBay, etc.
There are six of them. Five are on one pin; the Afghanistan one, which was my last tour in the Service, is a singleton. They are not court mounted - just loose.
There are a fair few links to the Sqn about them, in fact: my Gulf War medal was gained while I was on 6 Sqn, but under the command of the then OC 41(F), Wg Cdr Bill Pixton, who led the Jaguar force during the war. (The 41 Sqn-led team, with members from 41(F) 54(F), 6 and the then 226 OCU still meets, under the banner of the Gulf War Jaguar Pilot’s Association).
The NATO FRY and Iraq no-fly zone medals were also both gained during my subsequent tour on 41(F) Sqn.
I’m actually pretty gutted – had hoped to hand them down in due course. Look after yours!
Our second visit to The Wattisham Museum was prompted by an invitation from Maggie Aggiss to be interviewed for a documentary about the base and the people surrounding it. She wanted to include my father’s story as it had had a major impact on the people of the village of Ringshall. Photo of Maggie Aggiss and Lt Cdr (Ret), Robby Silk who is a benefactor helping produce the documentary which is called “From Both Sides of the Fence”.
Finding the photo of the plaque about my father led us to the museum at Wattisham in 2010. During the first visit in 2010 we met with several men that knew my father and were able to tell personal stories about him. The photos show Maggie and I, the Javelin model in 41 Sqd, markings which they have nickname “Earl” after my father. I am being interviewed by David Ellery of Viewpoint Products for the independently produced documentary that should be completed early this year (2017) . The photos of the Moat Farm field are where the crash occurred. My wife Sandi and I much appreciate Maggie for keeping the memory of my father alive.
Trailer for "Wattisham: Both sides of the fence"
41 Sqd. has included my father Capt. Earl Taylor USAF as one of their own. We had been gracously invited to visit the squadron at Coningsby. We stayed at the Petwood Hotel, which served as the Officers Mess for 617 Sqd. the “Dam Busters”. Even more special was the fact that we were able to meet Bill Hustwayte who had flown with my father and he had his log book with the entry of the flight. Also on the Visit was Steve Bond and his wife Heather. Steve was doing research for a book about the “Javelin Boys” .
I would like to thank Wg Cdr Berry, Sqd Ldr Richard Tuer, Flt Lts Alastair McFarland, Laura Frowen and Jim Roughton and Mr Steve Brew for their time and acceptance, especially being it was the first day everyone was back from the US.
Email Maggie Aggiss (Curator): firstname.lastname@example.org
Following a six-month deployment at RAF Hornchurch, 41 Squadron was rested at RAF Catterick from 23 February-28 July 1941. Although the pilots flew many operational sorties from Catterick and saw limited action during this period, their time in Yorkshire can perhaps best be described as a period of great turnover. Thirty-two pilots were posted in, 30 were posted out, and two were killed in flying accidents.
The two pilots killed were 20-year-old Plt Off Michael F. Briggs and 24-year-old Sgt Plt Eric E. Croker.
2 April 1941 – An east-northeasterly to east-southeasterly wind in 8/10ths-10/10ths cloud with a base of 1,000-2,000 feet and visibility of 1-3 miles. Despite the conditions, or indeed because of them, six enemy aircraft operated over 13 Group today. However, whilst 41 Squadron’s pilots were airborne on two patrols, they were not detailed to intercept any of the aircraft. Nonetheless, the day ended in tragedy for the Squadron when one of the pilots was killed in a flying accident as a direct result of the weather.
Sgt Plts George Swanwick and Bill Palmer were the first pair airborne today, taking off at 09:30 for an uneventful 45-minute patrol. Half an hour after their return, a second section took off, comprising Plt Offs Archie Winskill (P7320) and Michael Briggs (P8049). On return from the patrol, the pair became separated in conditions of poor visibility and whilst Winskill managed to land safely at 11:30, Briggs was unable to find the airfield in the low cloud.
It is believed that he ultimately ran out of fuel, and undid his straps in preparation for baling out, but was too low to do so. Before he could gain altitude, however, he flew into high ground above the village of Whashton, near Richmond, Yorkshire. Thrown from the cockpit by the impact, he was killed immediately. As his aircraft was brand new, and had only been delivered on 30 March, it is not believed to have played a role.
20-year-old Briggs was an experienced pilot who had been commissioned the previous September and had seen service in the latter stages of the Battle of Britain; he had served with 41 Squadron since 4 November 1940. He is buried with his parents at Cookham Rise Cemetery, and a memorial to him is carved into a stone seat close to the Tarry Stone at Cookham.
1 June 1941 – A northerly wind of 10-12 mph with 10/10ths cloud between 400 and 600 feet, and visibility of 500-2,000 yards. There was no Luftwaffe activity all day, likely as a result of the weather conditions. As such, there was no operational flying by 41 Squadron today either, but some pilots undertook flying training, thereunder Sgt Plt Eric Croker who was airborne in P8163 at 20:40 to practice ZZ landings.
At 21:20, however, he struck high ground in poor visibility near Thimbleby Moor, approximately six miles east of Northallerton, and just south of Osmotherley. As it was not yet dark at the time, it is believed Croker may have been blinded by low cloud.
He sustained serious injuries and was admitted to Catterick Military Hospital that same evening, but succumbed to his injuries at 06:00 the following morning. The 24-year-old New Zealander had joined 41 Squadron on 12 May 1941, and had therefore been with the unit less than three weeks. His body was not returned home to his native New Zealand, and he was buried in Catterick Cemetery.
May we never forget their, or their families', sacrifices.
[Excerpts from my "Blood, Sweat and Courage" (Fonthill, 2014). Sharing permitted, but no reproduction without prior permission, please]
It is with great sadness that we learned of the passing of Flt Lt John Wilkinson earlier today, 2 Feb 2017. John served as a Spitfire pilot on 41 Squadron in the latter stages of WWII and later settled in Spearfish, South Dakota.
He had been a very active member of the Association from afar and took great pride in recollecting his service, most notably in the recent release of The Gentleman Next Door 28 Oct 2016.
An excerpt of service from a speaking engagement on 12 Sep 15:
As the sun was setting, we circled over the Baltic coast and cruised inland at about 25,000 feet. Approaching the town of Schwerin we spotted about 30 aircraft at low level and headed down toward them. Then something curious happened. We saw explosions around the airfield and town, so two of our number assumed that they were RAF Typhoons attacking the area and climbed back up to our cruising altitude and headed home. But Tony and I continued on down to further investigate.
As we got low enough to positively identify the aircraft we realized they were Focke-Wulf FW-190 fighters. We assumed, incredibly, that they had spotted us and were dropping their loads in preparation for a fight. Diving down from our cruising altitude, we had built up some excess speed. I picked out the highest FW-190 flying quite slowly, so I had to lose speed rapidly using my propeller in fine pitch as a brake and fish tailing as hard as I could to avoid overshooting him and becoming a target for him. I was very close to him when I opened fire, without a thought for the round object under his belly. But I soon found out as I fired with cannons and fifty-caliber machine guns.
The round thing was a bomb and there was an almighty explosion. I ducked down for maximum protection from my bulletproof windshield and large engine. Although the outside air was very cold, I could feel the fiery heat on my neck between my collar and leather helmet. I could see flaming fuel and wreckage engulfing my Spitfire. It was time to take stock of the condition of my aircraft. I was still flying and attempted to gain more defensive altitude, but I was obviously very badly damaged. So I called for a homing to take the most direct route back to base. The radio-direction-finding personnel were on the ball and got it to me immediately just before the Germans, who were listening in, jammed the radio.
My propeller was damaged because the vibration was almost enough to pull the engine out. I climbed using as much power as I dared to and I was wallowing, telling me that my tail was badly damaged also. Since I had about 100 miles to travel, my biggest concern, beside the possibility of being picked off by an FW-190, was the huge radiator under each wing. If either one of them was holed and leaked my glycol and oil, I would not make it home. I watched the temperature and oil pressure gauges very closely and to my relief, the needles remained at their normal settings.
Before getting too low on approach to the airfield I tested my flaps and undercarriage. Both were still functioning. So with the crash crew standing by I came in fast in order to retain control until my wheels were safely on the ground.
After climbing out of the cockpit, it was then discovered that one blade of my propeller had been split off long ways. Paint was burned off the wings, and the fuselage and part of the controlling surfaces of the tail were missing, plus various holes and dents in wings and fuselage.
But most remarkable of all was that nothing entered the huge radiator and oil cooler air scoops under each wing, even though the narrow cowling edges of the scoops were riddled with holes. Make no mistake: The hand of the Lord was indeed upon me.
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