'NOBALL' TARGETS, 1943-1944
Tangmere's Spitfire XII Wing participated in a single Ramrod on 5 December 1943, which constituted the first ever Noball target not only by the Wing but also by Allied forces in general. ‘Noball’ was a code-name for targets related to the V1 flying bomb.
Allied intelligence of German rocket-propelled technology had been building for some months and significant data had been gathered by agents in Germany, Denmark and France, including photographs and sketches.
By late October 1943, sufficient concern had been raised to justify a decision to have RAF Photographic Reconnaissance squadrons photograph all of northern France. During the following month, the first photographs were obtained of ‘ski ramps’ and of ‘midget aircraft’ on one such ramp. By the end of November, 72 ski ramps had been photographed and, as a result, the British-American Combined Chiefs of Staff gave the order to launch “Crossbow Operations against Ski Sites” on 2 December.
The first attacks were planned for 5 December at St. Josse-au-Bois in the Pas-de-Calais and at Ligescourt in Picardie, which were the targets that the Spitfire XII Wing supported today. The Wing would support another eight such attacks during December 1943 (totalling nine out of 13 operations by the Wing that month), twenty-one in January 1944 (constituting every operation by the Wing that month) and another eight attacks during February (80% of the Wing’s operations).
By early 1944, the damage wrought by Allied attacks on Noball sites had compelled the Germans to move to mobile launch ramps, the first of which was complete by 25 February. By this time, however, the Spitfire XII Wing had been split up and although 41 Squadron supported another eleven attacks on Noball targets during March and April 1944, the unit was withdrawn from Ramrod operations altogether from 28 April. They were then deployed instead on ground attack operations in preparation for the launch of Operation Overlord.
It should be emphasised that, all this time, not a single V1 was launched against the United Kingdom and all the attacks that 41 Squadron, and indeed the Spitfire XII Wing, were involved in during late 1943 and early 1944 were of a purely precautionary and preventative nature.
However, whilst 41 Squadron was relieved of operations against Noball sites at the end of April 1944, it would only be a brief respite; less than two months later the Squadron was called upon again against the V1 – this time, however, in a defensive role against aerial targets rather than stationary ground targets.
[Excerpt from my "Blood, Sweat and Valour" (Fonthill, 2012). Sharing permitted, but no reproduction without prior permission, please.]
The Association was fortunate enough to secure several places through RBL for the Act of Remembrance at the Cenotaph. For many of us this was the first time we had the opportunity to take part.
I joined the RAF in Aug 1976 as an Armourer mech. My basic training was at Halton and then posted to Coltishall in the Armoury in Feb. '77. A stint at Lossie on the Hunters (2 TWU), fitters course and then posted to 41(F) in May '82. Lots of detachments ensued with the annual pilgrimage to Bardufoss and Laarbruch. Along with varying trips to Villafranca, Deci and Vegas, I was eventually deployed with the Sqn to Bahrain in Oct '90 as part of GW1. After that, detachments to Incirlick living in tents. Although then posted to 6 Sqn in '93 still felt 41(F) gave me the best of times. Favourite parts of being on the Sqn - well I suppose there were too many to mention but living in a fishing hut in Malsevossen cooking up chilli con carn and making oobies comes close to the top. Even GW1 had its perks (as we check-in don't dig in) and getting the jitters because they had run out of John Smiths!!
Sunday was my first time doing the marchpast and as it was I had phoned my Dad the before to tell him I would be marching past with his medals on - (he's 99, captured at Dunkirk and then spent the next 5 years in camps). Shook him a bit I think. Anyway, I think we all did a sterling job at doing military waiting time and trying to keep in step.
I took over as SEngO on 41(F) Sqn in May 1985 following previous Jaguar tours at Lossiemouth and as JEngO on 20 Sqn at RAF Bruggen. 41 Sqn was a very different world to the strike-attack operations at Bruggen – no HAS ops and no QRA to support. However, with 22 Jaguars allocated to us we were always busy, especially with detachments. Highlights of the tour are many, but I would pick out meeting SACEUR, General Bernard Rogers, whilst on exercise in Norway, and receiving a written commendation from C-in-C Strike Command for our performance in our 1987 NATO Taceval in Bardufoss. Taking part in the 2018 Parade made me think not only of the sacrifices in 2 World Wars but also those with whom I served on 20 and 41, aircrew and groundcrew alike, who were taken before their time.
I joined 41(R)TES from the Aerosystems Course in 2014 as the BAE Systems embed at Warton. I took on the role at a time when many of the weapons I knew from my time on the GR4 were being ported onto the Typhoon. It was a unique position to have a first look at the integration work ahead of the Squadron at Coningsby. On reflection it was very gratifying to know that we were all shaping capability for the next generation, something particularly poignant during my last tour.
I had thought that I might get the chance to someday watch the Cenotaph parade from the sidelines, but I never thought for an instant that I would be taking part in the procession. The shear scale of the event was hard to grasp, even whilst we assembled on Horse Guards parade it was hard to judge the enormity of it all until the columns moved off. The silence was all the more stark against the hustle of an absolutely packed Whitehall just moments before. My thoughts turned to those I knew lost in training, on operations and to the scourge of natural causes like cancer.
My RAF career and how I got to 41 Squadron?
I joined the RAF in 1987 as an Aircraft Mechanic (electrical).My first posting was to 41(F) Squadron on Jaguars, then posted to 13 Squadron Tornado as a ‘Junior Tech’ after my Fitters course.
During my time I was lucky enough to go on numerous detachments to Norway, Canada, Spain, Sardinia, Germany, USA and Bahrain.
I left the RAF in December 1996.
What was the highlight of your time on 41 Squadron?
Definitely the month long detachment we spent in Texas, taking part in the WWRAM (World Wide Recon Air Meet) competition. Closely followed, if not equalled by the back seat flight in one of the T2 Jaguars.
What it meant to me to be there on Sunday?
A chance to pay my respects to my great Uncle who was killed at the Somme in WW1. Plus the opportunity to represent the association at the Cenotaph in this RAF100 year.
Joined as direct entrant 1961 as an airframe mech, 1961 Fought the cold war at Honington/Cottesmore working on all three V bombers.
1965 Served at Sharjah on Twin Pioneer and visiting aircraft of all breeds.
1967 At CSDE working in Supply Services Wing on Summary of Component Servicing Requirements.
1971 RAF(G) Wildenrath On 20 Sqn Harrier GR3 and Wittering Major Servicing the same.
1976 Leconfield On Jaguar Gun Mod Programme.
Managed exchange positing to Coltishall and was at formation of 41(F) Des.
1981, 6 mths Belize Harrier Charlie Delta Hide.
1982 617 Tornado’s on formation at Marham then 27sqn on promotion in 1985.
1987 Back to Coltishall as Flt Sgt ASF Jaguar Serv Until 1991
1991 Belize as Flt Sgt i/c 1417 Flt
1992 back to 6 Sqn as F/sgt ic A shift
1994 posted to St Athan as WO as an ISO 20001 Assessor
1996 back to Coltishall on 54 F Sqn and retired in 1998
What was the highlight of your time on 41 Squadron
Any detachment was a highlight! Best Focuses were extra special, beating the RAF(G) Sqns in the 1977 Bombing Comp at Lossiemouth was great and extra special for me was to represent 41 (F) Sqn as Red Flag Job Controller in 1981. Most memorable was that the Jaguars did so well in the gulf war and all involved during the conflict came home.
What it meant to me to be there on Sunday
Respect for those fallen in battle (any) and for those who served through any conflict on service and civil duty. I was able to pay respects for my family’s generation .
Moreover I was there to remember my 41 sqn colleagues that had passed on, though not necessarily in service.
From 41 Sqn I remembered John Thompson, Barrie Thompson, Dave Archer, John Mardon, Colin Middleton, George Maloney, Al Mathie, Piggie Ray, Jack Nabel, Wynn Evans and Peter Norriss plus all those who died in the Black Forest tragedy.
At the muster it was very moving to be back in the aura of the service family and of course to get familiar again with some serious military waiting time, how they managed to get us in the parade on time was a credit to all involved?
For me the muster at the parade was a pilgrimage which I was privileged and very proud to attend with my favourite Jaguar Sqn. I will not be able to attend regularly due to British Legion commitments in my own village. We are also very fortunate in my area to have regular Jaguar sqn reunion events but even so it was good to meet so many RAF Mates at the parade.
On the 11th of November this year I had the honour of taking part in the Annual Cenotaph Marchpast in London, this was the first time I’d taken part in the ceremony as a veteran.
In the slideshow above are two photos which I think encapsulate the day quite well. The first one is a group shot of 8 our members gathered on Horse Guards parade before the event. It captures the personal element of the event, in that it allows you to meet old friends for a chat and have some serious military waiting time. On that parade square I bumped into 20 odd old friends in the space of 1 hour, given the number there it seems an amazing number, but after 25 years in the RAF you forget how many people you actually know.
By contrast the second picture shows the collective nature of the event. It is taken from Column C of the marchpast, Graham Howard (a friend and colleague in KPMG) and his larger group are about 15 yards behind us in the same column. I think it shows 2 things, firstly the scale of the event but also the connections we share as a veteran’s community. We chatted easily with the Royal Irish Regiment contingent to our right, bantered mercilessly the RAF parachute jump instructors to our front and in turn took a severe ribbing from the ex-RAF Oman Stations association behind. The severe ribbing came about because of our comparative youth, most of those behind us were 80 years old! Simply put it was like being on parade 30 years ago but with more aches and pains.
Now most people have an intense personal reason for being there, a large number of veterans has their grandfather’s medals on the their left lapel, but for me it was a chance to remember old friends. One of the advantages of being a fast jet pilot in the RAF, aside from it being a darn good chat up line, was the humour within the community. Sadly that humour was, and still is, intensely sardonic and often tinged with a blackness that can seem aggressive and isolationist. But as I stood there looking into beautiful winter sun remembering friends lost, I counted 20 who had died in flying accidents. Bayo, Dickie, Jim, the Staish, Eddie, Spade, Flo, Pete, Dave, Kev, Billy, Des, Colin – and the list goes on. None of those names will mean anything to most of you, but to me they do. I guess many others on the parade had a similar moment squinting into that sun.
41 Squadron was once a Bloodhound Missile Unit. The hardware behind this part of our history is cherished and restored by Bloodhound Missile Preservation Group (BMPG).
The BMPG was formed with the objective of restoring items of the Bloodhound MKII missile system that are in the group’s possession. Currently these are a Bloodhound Launch Control Post (LCP) and a Type 86 (T86) radar.
An exceptionally busy period for the Sqn leading up to the culmination of Project CENTURION and the anticipated role out of Brimstone onto Typhoon FGR4, which will in turn allow the retiral of the Tornado GR4 force in early 2019. Blessed with the recent good weather and consistent hard work to ensure aircraft availability, the Sqn has made positive progress on all current trials with the hard work and high tempo set to continue well beyond the New Year.
Meanwhile, the Sqn had a significant presence at the RAF 100 parade in London in July with the standard displayed alongside other current serving sqns in one of the biggest displays of RAF personnel and aircraft in recent history. A cadre of 25 sqn personnel travelled to Saint-Omer, France in Sept to join the RAF 100 events arranged and discover the history around the Sqn’s involvement during WWI and exposure to the wider impacts of the war. This provided an excellent opportunity for the group of predominantly junior sqn members to gain a greater understanding of the Sqn’s historical relevance.
Looking forward, the Sqn is deep into the planning phases for trials for 2019, with another deployment to America due within the coming 12 months.
You’ll see from the attached photograph that 9 hardy souls from the Association will be taking part in this year’s marchpast at the Cenotaph in London. Given the significance of the date, 100 years to the minute since the signing of the Armistice, I think you’ll agree it is fitting that the 41 Squadron Association are represented.
We will endeavour to provide some photographs afterwards, but for those watching the parade on TV we are in column C and expect to pass the Cenotaph at about 1140. You never know we might get even a mention.
Further Information: RBL Website
The timings for the day are as follows:
Story: Royal Air Force Website
Group Captain Mark Flewin has assumed command of RAF Coningsby. The Group Captain has previously served at Coningsby, flying Typhoon aircraft with both No 3 (Fighter) and No XI Squadron. He also commanded No 1 (Fighter) Squadron at RAF Lossiemouth.
Gp Capt Flewin said, “I am delighted to have assumed command of RAF Coningsby and would like to formally thank Gp Capt Baulkwill for his considerable efforts over the last two years. Having been closely involved with the Station for a significant portion of my career, I feel privileged to return at a time of continued growth and in the Service’s Centenary year. It has been immediately apparent that the Station has maintained its exemplary reputation, both at home and on operations overseas, and the committed, resourceful people working here remain its greatest strength; I look forward to working closely with all those on Station and across the whole Force as I assume Command”.
The former Station Commander, Group Captain Baulkwill, will now take up his new post in London on promotion to Air Commodore.
He said, “As I hand over to Gp Capt Flewin I wanted to thank all of Royal Air Force Coningsby for its outstanding work, total commitment and unwavering support during my time in command. The pace for us all has been unrelenting and the demands on all of you has been intense. I know that the Station will afford the new Station Commander the very same support I received and I wish Mark the very best for next two years.”
We would like to welcome Flt Lt Linda McLean to the Association Committee as the Military secretary. Linda takes the place of Flt Lt Laura Frowen, who has been posted from 41 Squadron on promotion.
Flight Lieutenant Linda McLean in an engineer, whose short service has principally been in the ISTAR field.
After completing a Master’s degree in Aero-Mechanical Engineering at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow in 2013, McLean undertook Initial Officer Training at Cranwell before posting to RAF Cosford in October 2014 to complete her Engineering Officer Foundation Course; she received the Air Cdr Chris Green Memorial Award upon graduation in June 2015. In her first tour, McLean was posted as a JEngO to 5(AC) Sqn at RAF Waddington. During this tour, McLean deployed as the engineering lead on OPs on 6 separate occasions and was involved with Ex RED FLAG 16. Following a selection process by Empire Test Pilot School (ETPS) in mid-2017, McLean was selected to complete a Flight Test Engineer (FTE) course in the USA at the National Test Pilot School (NTPS) in the first half of 2018. She is now in post as a Fast Jet FTE/Trials Management Officer with 41 TES, RAF Coningsby.
Flight Lieutenant McLean’s interests include playing the bagpipes with RAF Waddington Pipes and Drums, and playing rugby union and league for which she has been capped for the RAF Inter Services squad for 3 seasons. She has also recently been selected for the UK Armed Forces Rugby League squad for 2019.
The following information can be found at http://australiansatwarfilmarchive.unsw.edu.au/archive/1627-eric-gray
Australians at War Film Archive
Transcript of Interview
Date interviewed: 10 March, 2004
Copyright UNSW Canberra 2018
We are starting now, so can you just give me a summary of your life?
Yes well I was born in Brisbane and brought up in a small country town of Gore, and moved through as my father
moved through from butchering business to butchering business and we eventually finished up in Toowoomba. My entry into
Toowoomba was by horse. I rode a horse from Toowoomba by sulky [light buggy], mare, from Toowoomba to? I'm sorry, from Allora to Toowoomba that about 30 odd miles, 35 miles. I was about 10 years of age then. And then I
worked after school I was in a printing office and later on as war broke out and I got on reserve for RAAF [Royal
Australian Air Force] aircrew in 1940 and I was called up in
1941, July 1941. And I spent the, after getting my wings in Australia on Wirraways I was transferred to, took a posting
I should say to England and did some refresher flying over there and then joined a RAF [Royal Air Force] Spitfire
Squadron, 41 Squadron. And of course I was fortunate to see the war through from when I got over there to
end of 45 and I was discharged from, got my discharge from or repat discharge I should say from the squadron to
Britain prior to coming back to Australia. So I arrived back in Australia in 1946.
The following article was originally published by Leonardo MW Ltd.
Last week saw the conclusion to a spectacular series of events that marked the Royal Air Force’s Centenary, RAF100 - a campaign which Leonardo has been very proud to support. The campaign has been ongoing since 01 April, the date on which the Royal Air Force was formally created in 1918.
On 20 September, a Leonardo team representing sites from around the UK, attended a series of poignant First World War commemorations in St Omer, France, and the Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate in Ieper (Ypres), Belgium.
St Omer is known as the ‘spiritual birthplace’ of the Royal Air Force with its operational base for most of the First World War on the outskirts of town, the Bruyères Aerodrome next to the local race course. Four current-day RAF squadrons, represented on the day, trace their beginning directly to the aerodrome.
Our team attended a service of commemoration at the St Omer Cathedral, a local exhibition, then a memorial service at the Commonwealth War Grave Cemetery, during which schoolchildren laid flowers at the RAF and other air service graves. The day closed with a dedication ceremony, unveiling a plaque at the Aerodrome in the presence of ministers, personnel of all ranks, and The Viscount Lord Trenchard, the grandson of 1st Viscount Trenchard, the ﬁrst Chief of the Air Staff and the ‘Father of the Royal Air Force’. The strength of the UK - France relationships then and now were demonstrated by the warmth of the hospitality from the local community, and by the fly-pasts by both Air Forces.
RAF100 ceremony at the Royal Air Force’s very first operational base at Bruyères Aerodrome, St Omer, on the anniversary of the last aircraft from 41 Squadron leaving in 1918
Leonardo team attending the RAF100 celebrations in St Omer, ‘spiritual birthplace’ of the Royal Air Force.
Left to Right:Eddie Wilson-Chalon, Josh Sleeman, Sam Orr, Lynda McVay, Douglas Meikle, Yolanda Bullen, Arvind Mahendran, Jack Hempsall, Mark Gunning, Aran Bains
On the following Saturday and Sunday the Imperial War Museum at Duxford hosted its Battle of Britain Air Show with aircraft from throughout history thrilling a total of 50,000 visitors. It was an amazing flying programme which included the season finale of the Leonardo sponsored, RAF Typhoon Display Team, and 18 Spitfires flying, each with its own story told to the crowds.
There was even more for visitors to see in the Museum’s hangars, including iconic aircraft from our company history including the Airco DH9a, the Westland Lysander as well as the Westland Whirlwind and Wessex helicopters. Also, following its first appearance at Farnborough Air Show this year, the concept model for the UK’s next generation combat air system, Tempest was on display.
The Air Show reflected the RAF100 themes of Commemorate, Celebrate and Inspire. Continuing Leonardo’s work in support of the Inspire theme, our team of STEM ambassadors from across Leonardo’s Apprentice and Graduate community once again did a fantastic job engaging the public with a range of exciting, interactive activities. Highlights included our Eurofighter VR Maintenance Training competition, seeing youngsters battling to beat the clock in preparing e the aircraft for flight, our ever popular thermal imaging technology, Leonardo Helicopters’ aerodynamic wind table, as well as our ‘future selfie’ kiosk all of which successfully drew in the crowds!
The finale to the Centenary celebrations was played out in spectacular style with a stunning flying display by the RAF’s Red Arrows, which had visitors truly spellbound, and marked the end to what has been a remarkable and poignant campaign.
Thank you to everyone in Leonardo who has contributed throughout this year.
RAF100 celebrations in St Omer
Imperial War Museum's Aircraft Display including Westland Whirlwind (on the right)
Concept model for the UK’s next generation combat air system, Tempest
Leonardo's UK STEM ambassadors inspire youngsters
41 Squadron experienced some intensive days during World War II, and there were 28 days upon which the pilots made five or more victory claims against the Luftwaffe. But which periods of the war were the busiest? You might expect the Battle of Britain to be up there, and you'd be quite right, but about a third of the busiest days fell in other periods. The list below might surprise you.
Credit: Steve Brew
Updates and news direct from the Committee