Only two patrols were undertaken by the Hornchurch Wing all day, and both were completed by 41 Squadron. The first was a brief, abortive patrol by three pilots (Lovell, Mileham, Wells) from 09:20 to 09:40, and the second a similarly uneventful patrol by 12 pilots from 10:10 to 11:30.
These patrols concluded 41 Squadron’s participation in the Battle of Britain in a rather anti-climactic manner. Although hostilities would continue for a long time yet, and the date was perhaps not yet recognised as the official end of the Battle, today saw the end of a three-month, three-week campaign that turned the tide of the War.
The pilots participating in the Squadron’s last official patrol of the Battle of Britain were the following: Flt Lts Tony Lovell (P7300) and Norman Ryder (P7443), Fg Offs Dennis Adams (P7322), Guy Cory (P7448), and John Mackenzie (P7507), Plt Offs Frederick Aldridge (P7283), Denys Mileham (P7326), and Edward Wells RNZAF (P7281), and Sgt Plts Robert Angus (P7299), Aubrey Baker (P7314), Robert Beardsley (P7354) and Terence Healy (P7371).
The Squadron's strength at the conclusion of the day is shown in the below table. Note that 'U/S' = Unserviceable, 'RAD' = Repairable at depot, 'AWO' = Awaiting write off, and 'IE Est' = Immediate Equipment Establishment (i.e. the number of aircraft they should have available to fly operations)
Man vs Horse - 50Mile race
Taken from the RAF Athletics website:
When Flt Lt Jo Murray deployed on Ex HIGH RIDER 16 with 41 (R) Test and Evaluation Squadron to China Lake, California at the start of September, she knew it would be a great opportunity to get some longer distance running under her belt. A quick search of the Internet and she was soon Facebook friends with a whole host of the friendliest locos from the Ridgecrest and Indian Wells Valley running club, Over The Hill Track Club (OTHTC). Day 3 in the USA and she was running thousands of feet up the Pacific Coast Trail amongst the Joshua trees and feeling on top of the world. With Ridgecrest being approximately 2,300 ft above sea level, and many of the local runs being well above this, it became a perfect training ground for hills, distance and altitude.
Adopted by the club and pretty much going native, Jo ran most days and also became a regular Wednesday club night runner. These Wednesday night runs have been hosted by ultra runners Eric and his wife, Jo, for over twenty years. Come rain or shine, and even on Christmas Day, club members meet here for a run around 'Mikey's', an undulating course over the Radamacher Hills. The views, as the blazing sun is setting over Ridgecrest in the fall and lighting up the desert in a spectrum of purples, pinks, blues, greens, reds and oranges, are simply breathtaking. What's most special, however, is the people. Like hosts Eric and Jo, this gathering of humble ultra runners have been there, run it and got the t-shirt...many times over! These guys and gals have more 100 miler races under their belts than hot dinners. They know Badwater and the Western States...the stuff of dreams and legend! How could Jo say no when they challenged her to run the 50k Man vs Horse Race on Oct 9 with them?
Encouraged by OTHTC, Jo ran the Beavertail Half Marathon first, a rocky, hilly trail race, and came in third overall and first female. After a second lap for fun, and to make it up to a marathon, followed by a 21 mile hike/run the next day with some of her favorite locos, the 50 MILE Man vs Horse was starting to seem within grasp...
So, at 0630 on Sunday 9 Oct, Jo jogged off with a handful of ultra runners from the bottom of the Indian Wells Valley. Decked in a borrowed Nathan pack, union flag bandana and garmin from Karin Usko, her SoCal best friend and the race do-director, the long journey began. Having never run more than 32 miles before, and having never run in the midday desert sun, the plan was to stick to a steady 5 miles per hour and take on as much fluid, salt and food as possible. Luckily, incredibly well stocked aid stations, complete with everything from friendly, helpful volunteers to potatoes, peanut butter sandwiches, crisps, carbopro capsules, candies, cookies, bananas, grapes, oranges (you name it, they had it and Jo ate it) lined the course every 5-6 miles, with water stations every few miles also. There was a nine mile climb at one point, and over 6000ft of elevation gain throughout with temperatures up to 89 degrees Fahrenheit. It wasn't easy but there was plenty of support...
Flt Lt Tim Nettleton, the 41 (R) Sqn Engineering Officer, had successfully completed the ten mile Man vs Horse race that morning too. Beating six horses and coming a very respectable fifth in his age group, Tim was 21st overall out of a strong field of 96. After a burger and a nap (what??!) he selflessly joined Jo for her last ten miles and jogged in with her. Fifty miles of desert hills (with only two snakes) was suddenly over. The finishing time was 10hr 20, third overall and first female. Swag included 24 bottles of the famous Indian Wells beer, the prestigious Man vs Horse belt buckle and bottle opener medal, plus more free beer (because you can never have enough, right?!) Oh, and the t-shirt of course, that's a keeper to wear to the next Wednesday night Mikey's run.
The running adventures will continue for Jo, with plenty more trail races and hikes around this magical desert bubble with the locos lined up until her return to RAF Coningsby at the end of November. And when not running, there are mules and dirt bikes to ride!
Eco-Extreme Trail Run Half Marathon – Ventura, California
Taken from the RAF athletics website:
This 100% non-profit race takes place annually on Santa Cruz Island, Channel Islands National Park, run by the Sheriff’s Rescue Unit and supported by Ojai Search and Rescue.
Flt Lt Jo Murray, accompanied by 9 others from 41 (R) Test and Evaluation Squadron who are currently deployed on Ex HIGH RIDER 16-4, made her way to Santa Barbara the day before this prestigious and special race. RDML Corey, Commander Naval Air Warfare Center, Weapons Division, had disappointingly injured his arm in the weeks leading up to the race and kindly transferred his bib number to Jo. Although it was just Jo racing, the others from the Sqn took the opportunity to conduct some FD in this beautiful part of the world.
After a gentle jog down to the beach, followed by a quiet and cultured evening on the Santa Barbara pier, race day began with an early 3:45am alarm clock! Leaving her colleagues sleeping soundly, Jo drove down to Ventura harbour to gather in the morning darkness with over a hundred other trail runners for the ferry to Santa Cruz Island. Once on the ferry, Jo sat quietly and listened to the chatter of experienced runners, feeling very much outclassed and out of her depth. Looking around, all the girls were half her size and definitely much more gazelle-like!
Still, making plenty of friends on the 90 minute transfer and enjoying the cool temperatures, Jo stood at the start line in anticipation of a fun trail run ahead. Then the countdown and suddenly everything changed. The fierce sun made an immediate and unwelcome appearance, the track just went up and up and up...a gazelle overtook her after ¾ of a mile and Jo found herself down to 2nd place female. Looking over her shoulder, the 3rd place female was roughly 10 seconds behind and probably could be kept at arm’s length...though nothing was certain. Gazelle #1, however, was pulling away and this scenic trail run suddenly became a tunnel vision fight to the death. The first 2.7 miles were up a steep dirt path, gaining approx. 1300 feet in elevation. The trail then became a single track wilderness ridgeline trail and the rocks more difficult to negotiate. The pace was relentless and pressurised, the trail either up or painful down, the sun beating down –a real slog and quite a shock to be working so hard. At the 6 ¾ mile point, Jo managed to overtake Gazelle and hold the lead as they wound around the hills and topping out at 1425ft. There was no time to admire the stunning views of the Pacific – another time maybe but not today. At mile 10, Jo stopped to throw a few cups of water over her head – still not quite acclimatised to the Californian heat. Gazelle used this opportunity to catch up to just a second behind. Pounding down the very steep trail at sub 6 min miles, Jo and Gazelle fought tooth and nail for a clear lead over the next two painful miles (27 % gradient!). Unfortunately, Gazelle eked into first place with less than a mile to go, put on the after burners and took the win with an impressive and well-deserved 18 second lead.
What a race...and it wasn’t even over. Gazelle fancied doing a few extra miles on top of the half marathon and, of course, Jo couldn’t lose face. 4.5 miles of 8:30 pace was not an ideal recovery run...but it was soon over and Jo was then free to spend the next 3 hours eating delicious fresh tuna wraps, pumpkin muffins, chocolate chip cookies and sipping champagne. Everyone was super friendly and some even mentioned the super-scenic Ray Miller 50k/50mile trail run coming up nearby at Point Magu in just 4 weeks time. Thinking how lovely the Man vs Horse 50 miler was a fortnight ago, Jo signed up to the Ray Miller 50 miler without a second thought. This probably wasn’t Jo’s best decision as, after surprised comments from her Californian ultra friends, a quick Google revealed that this is one SERIOUS trail race. So, in 4 weeks, Jo will take on 50 miles of ‘rolling’ Santa Barbara hills, with roughly 14,000ft of ascent and descent...what could possibly go wrong? The adventures just never seem to end!
It was also today that Plt Off Eric Lock DFC & Bar claimed his last victory of the Battle of Britain. Attesting to his skill in the cockpit, he probably destroyed an Me109 with just 140 rounds from seven guns, as one was inoperable.
Lock singled out his own Me109 to port, and attacked it from astern and slightly above at a range of 250 yards. Firing just a single one-second burst as he closed to 200 yards, the aircraft reacted immediately by climbing almost vertically. He followed it upwards, but the Messerschmitt soon stalled and “fell forward into a vertical dive” with glycol steaming from beneath the starboard wing.
He watched it fall from 28,000 feet to approximately 7,000, where he left it, noting the pilot had made no attempt by that altitude to recover his aircraft. He assumed the aircraft would crash in a triangular area bounded by Sevenoaks, Maidstone, and Tonbridge, and claimed the aircraft probably destroyed southeast of Biggin Hill.
He had now claimed 20 destroyed and seven probably destroyed enemy aircraft, and was very likely the highest scoring RAF pilot of the entire campaign.
The Squadron as a whole today made fourteen claims, which was the third highest number of claims for a single day – after 5 and 18 September 1940 – of the entire war.
The Squadron’s first World War II victory was shared by three pilots just six weeks into the war, on the late afternoon of 17 October 1939.
At 15:47 that day, B Flight’s Green Section, comprising of Fg Off Peter ‘Cowboy’ Blatchford, Flt Sgt Edward ‘Shippy’ Shipman and Sgt Plt Albert ‘Bill’ Harris, was scrambled to investigate Raid X18.
Once airborne, they were ordered to the vicinity of Whitby. Just before 16:25, whilst still heading south to Whitby from Saltburn at an altitude of approximately 9,000 feet, they spotted a lone Heinkel He111 bomber below them, flying north about eight or nine miles off the coast.
Flt Sgt Shipman was the first to see it. He and the Heinkel’s crew must have spotted each other simultaneously, as the aircraft suddenly dived away to the east, heading out over the North Sea. He alerted Harris and Blatchford, and from their position above and behind the Heinkel, they opened their throttles and gave chase to confirm its identity. When he was close enough, Shipman noted the aircraft bore a “Black cross on red on fuselage, black cross on white underneath wings halfway along the span. Tail mud colour with green marking (diamond shape).”
Flying to the fore of the trio, he immediately came under fire from the aircraft’s dorsal turret. He quickly dropped below the Heinkel’s altitude and fell back approximately 600 yards, out of range of both the dorsal and ventral guns, and was not hit. From this position, he also noticed the belly of the Heinkel was painted pale blue.
Shipman positioned himself dead astern, narrowed his range to 500 yards, and gave a burst of fire to check his guns were operating. The chase had already taken him almost 20 miles east of Whitby. Closing now to 450 yards, he opened up again from dead astern, to which the Heinkel’s dorsal gunner replied with machine gun fire of his own. Shipman saw tracers pass down his port side and fired at the Heinkel a third time. Opening his throttle again, he closed to around 250-200 yards and fired off his remaining ammunition, around 2,200 rounds in all, noting “the rear gunner ceased to fire and both engines began to smoke badly.”
The resulting failure of the Heinkel’s engines increased Shipman’s rate of closing and he soon found himself in the aircraft’s slipstream, making control difficult. He broke off his attack and dived away. This was the sign for Sgt Plt Harris to take over the attack, and he moved in behind the Heinkel, positioning himself for his own stern attack. Whilst he opened fire, Shipman turned back for RAF Catterick alone, leaving Harris and Blatchford to finish the job.
The squadron’s second fatal Spitfire accident occurred on 18 July 1939 when Sgt. Plt. Kenneth Mitchell flew into Great Dun Fell in the North Pennines in Mk. I, K9888.
Having grown up in Bournemouth he was later employed by Vickers Armstrong, working at the Supermarine Aviation works in Southampton. In 1937 he joined the RAFVR and received his wings in late 1938
Mitchell had taken off from Catterick for a cross country navigation exercise to RAF Kingstown, near Carlisle, necessitating a crossing the Pennine Hills, which lay between the two airfields.
After crossing the Pennines on his outbound, north-westerly leg, the exercise was called off because of bad weather and, accordingly, Mitchell turned back for Catterick. By the time he approached the Pennines on the return leg, however, the weather deteriorated to such an extent that visibility had been reduced to virtually nothing.
Flying blind through low cloud, Mitchell flew straight into high ground approximately five miles north east of Knock village, by Appleby in Cumbria. The aircraft disintegrated on impact and he was killed instantly. A parachute was on board, but Mitchell never had the opportunity to use it. The crash site was found the following day by a local shepherd at the height of around 2,500 feet.
Although the accident was clearly caused by Mitchell flying into a cloud-obscured hillside, the blame was split between both himself and his Flight Commander. Mitchell is believed to have obtained unfavourable weather forecasts but had not shown them to his Flight Commander prior to the flight although, the Accident Report Card states, there were no specific orders to do so. It was also felt Mitchell should have turned back sooner, as the weather deteriorated.
The Flight Commander shared the blame with Mitchell for “not ensuring [the] weather [was] O.K. before authorising [the] flt.” [Flying Accident Card for Sgt. Kenneth Mitchell, 18 July 1939, Air Ministry Form 1180, RAF Museum, Hendon]. The accident card goes on to note that the Navigation Officer should also have provided more information on the flight, but that “both he and [the] Flt. Cdr. [were] young & inexperienced” and that there was therefore “no case for censuring them.” [Flying Accident Card for Sgt. Kenneth Mitchell, 18 July 1939, Air Ministry Form 1180, RAF Museum, Hendon]
At the time of the accident, Mitchell had only flown 29 hours solo on Spitfires but an additional 345 hours, including dual, on other types. Spitfire I, K9888 was just 10 weeks old when she was struck from charge.
The photos above were taken by Mark Sheldon, BAE Systems Flight Test Engineer. They show the crash site of Spitfire Mk.I K9888 on Great Dun Fell in the North Pennines. The first photo was taken just below the point of impact looking down in to the Vale of Eden, while the other is of his research colleague, Richard Allenby, holding up one of the small pieces of wreckage that remain nearby.
*Permission from the landowner was sought to visit this site.
WW2 Royal Air Force Ace Fighter Pilot To Appear at South Dakota Film Premiere
Updates and news direct from the Committee