Sharing Our History 10
The tenth entry in this series has been made possible by Bill Hustwayte, a Javelin Navigator (See: http://www.seekanddestroy.info/videos.html):
No 41 Squadron, Royal Air Force, Wattisham 1958 – A recollection.
A notable member of the squadron in 1958 was Flight Lieutenant Nicky Varanand who, as the squadron members were to discover, was a Thai prince and a member of the Siamese royal family and a cousin of Prince Bira the well known racing driver of that era.
He didn’t boast about this fact and only that he was enormously wealthy did one realize his background. Personal number plates were unknown during this time but Nicky had 5 – NV1, NV2, NV3, NV4 and NV5 this being a Vespa scooter on which he rode to the squadron; the remainder were expensive vehicles in the “roller’ class. He joined the RAF in 1942 and his seniority enabled him and his wife, Pamela, to move directly into a married quarter. During ‘Halyard’ over Christmas 1958 he invited the night standby crews to lunch at his home. Upon knocking, the door was opened by his butler, who had come from the family home in Surrey especially to serve drinks and canapés!!
In 1965. whilst serving on No 48 Squadron at Changi, I had a sortie to Bangkok. Whilst there I remembered that Nicky had retired from the RAF and returned to Thailand to fly commercially with Thai Airlines and then attempt to form Varanand Air and later Air Siam. The receptionist at the hotel, after a lot of heel clicking and bowing, arranged a phone call to Nicky. A long chat enabled me to catch up with his news and was disappointed to hear that he had divorced his wife and now had a Thai bride.
Nicky died in 1990 aged just 68. (Seen in the Times Obituary column.)
More info on Prince Varanand came be found on Wikipedia under VARANDA DHAVAJ.
The Luftwaffe launched three attacks on southeastern England today, the first directed towards convoys in the Thames Estuary at 08:45, in which bombs were dropped on Felixstowe and Ipswich. The second arrived over Kent at 15:10 and the third over Beachy Head only forty minutes later, in which bombs were dropped at Newhaven. The Hornchurch Wing intercepted the first of these, and a spectacular dogfight ensued.
The attack came in three raids, which the Controller designated 44, 47 and 48. The first of these was plotted at 08:33, around 15 miles east of Boulogne as 2+ aircraft, which was later updated to 30+ aircraft. The second plot appeared at 08:38, eight miles east of Boulogne as 20+ aircraft at 20,000 feet, which was later updated to 60+ aircraft. The third was plotted at 08:45, 15 miles east of Gris Nez as 18+ aircraft at 17,000 feet.
Having taken off at 08:00, 41 and 603 Squadrons were already airborne together on a patrol of the Maidstone Line, when the attack began. 41 Squadron was led by Sqn Ldr Finlay and comprised three sections of four pilots. A minute after the first plot appeared, Debden’s 257 Squadron was ordered into the air to protect the convoy ‘Adapt’, and was airborne at 08:45. At 08:46, Kenley’s 253 and 501 Squadrons were also scrambled, with an order to patrol the Biggin Hill Line, and were airborne at 08:50. At 08:45, Biggin Hill’s 66 and 74 Squadrons received the order to take over the Maidstone Patrol Line from the Hornchurch Wing, and were airborne at 08:53. At 08:55, 17 Squadron was ordered to join 257 Squadron over ‘Adapt’ and were airborne at 09:00.
As 17 Squadron took off, 41 and 603 Squadrons were ordered to the Thames Estuary to patrol over the convoys. Meanwhile, 66, 74, 253, and 501 Squadrons had also been ordered to sweep along the coastline between Dungeness and Manston, and at 09:02 North Weald’s 26 and 249 Squadrons received the order to take off and patrol between Rochford and Burnham.
Over the Thames Estuary a short while later, between Clacton and Herne Bay, the Hornchurch Wing sighted the vapour trails of at least 40 aircraft. These proved to be Me109Es of JG54, which were approximately 2,000-5,000 feet below them and to port, approaching from the southeast at altitudes of between 15,000 and 25,000 feet.
Almost immediately, they were ordered to engage and “were fortunate enough to be able to dive on them out of the sun in line astern”. A series of aggressive dogfights then ensued, in which both sides claimed victories and counted losses. 41 Squadron would not come out of the fight without their own nose bloodied, but they certainly claimed their share of the victories: five Me109s destroyed and one damaged.
The Bloodhound Years 1965-1970
The following content can be found at: http://bloodhoundmkii.org.uk/41S.htm
41 Squadron reformed as a Bloodhound surface-to-air missile unit at RAF West Raynham in September 1965. Changes to the Bloodhound squadrons saw No 41 disbanded as a Bloodhound unit in September 1970.
RAF West Raynham
41 Squadron operated with six sections with 8 missiles per section. The sections were known as MS-1 to MS-3 (T87's) and MS-4 to MS-6 (T86's). Prior to 41 Squadron disbanding in 1970 it exchanged equipment with 25 Squadron at RAF North Coates to form six missile sections with T86 radars prior to 25 moving to RAF Germany in 1970/71
Contribution by Graham Sandford Jones
I joined 41 Squadron at RAF West Raynham in September 1967 as a brand new Corporal, straight from Apprentice training at RAF Locking. Other members of my entry (107th) to arrive on 41 at the same time were Nigel Ayling, Dave Coulter and two other ex 107 guys whose names I have forgotten. Over the course of two years I worked in almost every area from Ops, through Missile Servicing, Armaments and Handling, but with most time being spent on the sections MS-3, MS-4 and MS-6.
If my memory serves me right the winter of 1968/69 was bad with approx 1.5 to 2 feet of snow. During this time I spent a short time on Missile Handling driving a Side-Loader and putting missiles onto launchers etc. As cold-weather gear, all we got was a white donkey jacket which did nothing for keeping the feet warm and dry. I scrounged my Father's WW2. Fleece lined flying boots and wore them. For this, I was charged and hauled in front of the C.O. for wearing non-regulation clothing. The charge was thrown out for the simple reason that they had been 'official Issue' and still had the W.D. label inside! After that, I’m sure that I was the only guy working outside who had warm and dry feet.
41 Squadron did a detachment to Cyprus in April 1969 (I think), as part of a NATO exercise, and opened up the old transmitter site just outside Episkopi. For some reason, I got a C.O.'s Commendation out of that.
In 1970 41 Squadron disbanded and we became a part of 25 Squadron, with an influx of people from North Coates and Hank Costain as C.O. By this time I was serving as a Tech Sup. on the sections. I remember working with Dave Clegg on MS3 ... but I can't remember whether it was as 41 or 25 Sqn. (41 Sqn I think).
As 25 Squadron, we took the T86 sections to Germany in Oct 1970 - 2 to RAF Bruggen and 1 to RAF Wildenrath. RAF Wildenrath was made up to 2 sections by a section from RAF North Coates with 2 more North Coates sections going to RAF Laarbruch.
In my 41 Squadron days, people were rotated onto training courses at RAF Newton.
Further information on the Bloodhound Missile Preservation Group can be found here: http://www.bmpg.org.uk/
Blog edit: The following information was provided by BMPG:
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