A northwesterly wind, light inland and 10-15 mph on the coast, in fair to cloudy skies with scattered showers and visibility of 2-4 miles. The day started innocuously enough with an uneventful routine patrol 11:05-11:40 (Draper, Briggs & London), which was completed before the day’s first hostile raid was plotted.
During the early afternoon, however, two enemy raids were recorded. In the first of these, at 14:28, a Ju88 was plotted three miles east of Dunbar, which dropped a bomb near a submarine, but caused no damage. A section from another squadron investigated, but the plot faded before they were able to intercept the aircraft. However, as that plot faded, another appeared 120 miles east of the Isle of May, which was designated Raid 65. The plot moved in a southwesterly direction and made landfall north of Acklington, then continued south towards Middlesbrough.
In response, ten pilots of 41 Squadron were ordered into the air at 14:50, to patrol Seaham Harbour; this was the first time the unit was airborne in such numbers for some time. Eight minutes later, as they were near Blyth at 2,500 feet, Blue Section, comprising Flt Lt Tony Lovell (X4683) and Plt Off Archie Winskill (R6623), were ordered to intercept the raid, which was reported as 1+ aircraft at 24,000 feet, and subsequently as a single aircraft at 21,000 feet.
The pair climbed fast through 7,000 feet of cloud on a vector of 010 degrees and broke above it into clear blue sky. As they reached 17,000 feet, they sighted a one-mile-long vapour trail another 7,000 feet above them, moving in the opposite direction. On approaching the aircraft, which they recognised as a Ju88, they noted it was “painted duck-egg green or pale blue underneath” and “very dark green on top”. Lovell felt the camouflage was very effective as it made it invisible from below; the Ju88’s position was only given away by its vapour trail.
The two pilots climbed with full boost, turning towards the Ju88 as they did so, to approach it from astern. The aircraft belonged to Toussus-le-Buc, France, based 1.(F)/123, which had re-positioned to Stavanger, Norway, for a photo-reconnaissance mission to Manchester. “Taking advantage of its vapour trail, Lovell “stalked up behind him until [its] wingtips were seen on either side of [its] tail”, and was “very effectively hidden” by the vapour trail as he did.
At 15:03, Lovell was within 250 yards range, and commenced his attack over Ouston. He opened fire with a three-second burst with no deflection, closing to 200 yards, and immediately struck the fuselage, which caused pieces to dislodge. There was no return fire, but the Ju88 dived steeply to port. Lovell followed it down in its slipstream, making “continuous bursts when [the] opportunity [was] offered”. At one time, he thought he was being fired at, but then realised it was his own de Wilde ammunition striking the dorsal gun tunnel.
Having fired 2,720 rounds at the aircraft, he broke away to port, but by this time the starboard engine had feathered. One of the crew baled out, and Winskill observed that his parachute did not deploy, “though it was extended in a straight line”. The crewman then disappeared into cloud, as did the aircraft, which was now free-falling out of control, its pilot likely having been disabled in the attack.
The Ju88 subsequently crashed at high speed on in the Eston Hills, diving deep into the peat on Barnaby Moor, around four miles south of Middlesbrough, at 15:17. It exploded on impact, creating a large crater, and was “smashed to bits”. The three crew members remaining on board were killed instantly, and the airman that baled out landed dead in trees along Flatts Lane, Normanby.
Lovell and Winskill then regrouped with the rest of the Squadron, completed their patrol, and landed at Catterick again at 15:50. Winskill had flown approximately 500 feet behind Lovell throughout, but had not opened fire. Although Lovell was not using a cine gun during his attack, the victory was never in question: Winskill had witnessed the entire combat and, moreover, as it was one of only two Luftwaffe aircraft destroyed over land in England that day.
The victory constituted the Squadron’s first confirmed destroyed enemy aircraft since 27 November 1940, and would ultimately prove to be Lovell’s last on 41 Squadron. He was the unit’s third highest scoring Ace of World War II, having claimed 9-2-3 in the ten-month period between his first and last victories (31 May 1940-30 March 1941).
[Excerpt from my “Blood, Sweat and Courage” (Fonthill, 2014). Sharing permitted, but no reproduction without permission, please.]
“We were told that the Luftwaffe would probably use their ME 262s to dive bomb our troops as they crossed the Rhein in their landing craft and that they would come in at high level. Our task would be to stop them. One of the pilots on 41 Sqn politely asked the AOC 83 Gp. how we were going to do this since the 262s were at least 100 mph faster than our Spits. Air Vice-Marshal Broadhurst replied “Attack them head on and if necessary, fly into them”!!!”
Excerpt from correspondence with Gp Capt (ret) Derek S. V. Rake OBE AFC, January 2009, concerning a briefing on 23 March 1945, when the pilots of 41 and 130 Squadrons were advised by the OC, 125 Wing, Gp Capt David Scott-Malden, and the AOC 83 Group, AVM Harry Broadhurst, of the general plan for crossing the Rhine, and the sphere of operations allotted to 125 Wing.
[Excerpt from "Blood, Sweat and Valour" (Fonthill, 2012). Sharing permitted, but no reproduction without prior permission, please.]
The Saddlers' Company award for 41 Squadron RAF is presented annually to an airman who, in the opinion of the Commanding Officer, is the most deserving that year for the credit they have brought on themselves and the Squadron - be it for a specific action, their overall performance or for another notable reason.
Corporal David Nutland has been an integral member of 41(R) Sqn since his arrival just under 8 years ago. His previous Harrier experience allowed him to slip seamlessly into the Trials and Evaluation environment, passing on knowledge to his peers and effortlessly guiding teams during maintenance and weapon loading tasks. Tornado courses soon followed, vastly increasing his skill set and future worth. This has resulted in ‘Nutty’, as he is more fondly known, being regarded as an invaluable asset, not only to the Weapon trade desk but to the Squadron as a whole. When the Harrier GR 9 was retired from service, he took the lead in ensuring all associated armament GSE, spares and tooling held on the Squadron were returned via supply to the correct destinations. Showing exceptional managerial and communication skills, he successfully liaised with all parties to ensure all requirements were met well within set timescales.
He has been pivotal in advancing the capability of the Tornado GR4 with involvement in many trials both at home and abroad; Helmet Mounted Cuing System, Brimstone 2, Anti-Fast Inshore Attack Craft , Storm Shadow, Common Jamming Pod and Expendable Active Decoy to name but a few. His contribution and reasoned logic ensured these assets and procedures were thoroughly tested and engineering advice given to the appropriate Project Team before being released to general service. Many of these trials were conducted on the ranges of North America which has resulted in a considerable amount of time away from his family. Amiable and outgoing he has made many contacts within the local American community where he presents the Sqn in a positive manner.
His work outside the RAF is equally impressive. For over 7 years he has given up most of his spare time as a volunteer lifeboat crewman for the RNLI. His roles within the organisation are numerous. He has helped arrange and taken part in several major fundraising events, including a TV appearance. He also hosts visitors to Mablethorpe Lifeboat Station, giving tours and lectures on RNLI history and sea safety to all ages. He is regularly called away from his family to often life threatening and perilous situations. This can range from aiding mariners in distress to macabre tasks such as recovering suicide victims from the Humber Estuary. Recently, through dedication and hard work, he has completed his training for his Helms qualification on the smaller in-shore craft operated by the RNLI and is awaiting pass out by the RNLI Divisional Inspector. This gives him sole responsibility for crew safety and everything that happens during a rescue. Always looking to broaden his horizons, he is soon hoping to begin training at the RNLI College to Helm the larger class vessel at his station. A rigorous weekly training schedule sees him focus on teamwork, competence and safe procedures. It is due to this training, selfless dedication and well-rehearsed drills that countless people owe their lives to ‘Nutty’ and his team of volunteers
Even with his RNLI voluntary work, he still manages to find time to further serve the local community of Mablethorpe. As an active member of the Royal British Legion, assisting the branch to collect over £40,000 towards this worthwhile charity. He often assists elderly veterans with home visits, shopping and their general welfare. So highly regarded by his peers within this organisation, he has recently been requested to run for the position of deputy Chairman of his local branch. His emphatic commitment to both Service and community is a shining example to all personnel regardless of rank or trade and hopefully, the promotion which he fully deserves will be just around the corner.
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