The USSR's Military Intervention in the Egyptian-Israeli Conflict
Isabella Ginor and Gideon Remez
Gideon Remez writes:
Reading about 41 Squadron's operation of F-4 Phantoms, I thought Association members might be interested in this new book that I co-authored with my "better half," Isabella Ginor.
One of the book's main themes is the head-on clash between Israel's newly acquired F-4s and Soviet-manned SAMs -- see the attached painting from the museum of Russia's Air Defense Corps. This duel largely determined the outcome of the Egyptian-Israeli War of Attrition (1969-70) and Yom Kippur War (1973). The book also quotes several dispatches that my father, former 41 Sqn pilot Aharon Remez, sent from his post as Israel's ambassador the the UK, 1965-1970.
Isabella and I will be presenting the book at Oxford University's Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies on 18 May and at the South Hampstead Synagogue, London, on 22 May -- see the hyperlinks for details. We'd be delighted to welcome 41 Sqn veterans!
In the May issue of AirForces Monthly we take a look at the varied work of No 41 (Reserve) Test and Evaluation Squadron at RAF Coningsby. AFM spoke to members of the unit that is responsible for ensuring the Royal Air Force gets the very best out of its Tornados and Typhoons.
In broad terms, No 41(R) TES tests and assesses fast jet systems and upgrades that are bound for the operational units.
The drawdown in different fighter types flown by the RAF is reflected in the 41(R) TES inventory – today it fields just three Tornado GR4s and six Eurofighter Typhoons. Its sister squadron No 17(R) TES is responsible for the F-35B under a similar mandate across at Edwards Air Force Base, California.
Although its days in service are numbered, the Tornado GR4 team at No 41(R) TES remains busy in light of the type’s current heavy involvement in Operation Shader against so-called Islamic State. On March 2, its three remaining examples departed once again for Naval Air Weapons Station (NAWS) China Lake in California.
The latest detachment will probably be the last for the squadron’s Tornados, however the unit’s Officer Commanding (OC), Wg Cdr Steve ‘Ras’ Berry, gives a wry smile as he says: “When I joined the unit in December 2014, the Tornado was going on its ‘last hurrah’ in spring 2015, then it was going to be in the autumn of 2015, but then we opted to leave the jets out there until spring 2016. We took them out again last autumn for High Rider 16-4 and now they’ve gone again. That’s the fifth ‘last hurrah’ the jet has had.”
A few years ago it was decided to reduce the No 41(R) TES Tornado complement to two, but three had to be retained just to cope with the squadron’s workload.
“The point is that she might be old, but she is so easy to get [new] capability on,” Wg Cdr Berry continues. “On the Typhoon and F-35 you really have to invest in technologies to get new stuff, but with Tornado you can just bolt it on. Which is why she is an absolute workhorse. She will keep going strong until the day she dies.”
A single He111, designated Raid 23A, entered into 13 Group from 12 Group just west of Dishforth at 15:29. The aircraft flew north over the town of Leeming and dropped bombs on RAF Leeming, slightly damaging some transports and wounding three people. The airfield’s anti-aircraft batteries engaged the aircraft with their 40mm gun, but the 13 Group Controller quickly vectored 41 Squadron to the area.
Four sections were in the air at the time, and the pilots converged on Leeming. At 15:35, Flt Lt Tony Lovell (X4683) sighted the He111 one mile northwest of RAF Leeming flying east at 1,800 feet at approximately 180 mph, and gave chase. At around the same time, Sqn Ldr Patrick Meagher and Sgt Plt Bill Palmer (X4718) also arrived in the area.
Lovell made an attack on the aircraft, expending a single, four-second burst from dead astern, closing from 200 yards to 50 as he fired. This caused a small, unidentified piece of the aircraft to dislodge itself and fly off. However, he was unable to make a further attack as a result of “another Spitfire being close to [the] E/A”. After this, Lovell did not see the aircraft again.
Palmer sighted the aircraft briefly between cloud patches and informed Meagher, who had not seen it. As such, Meagher told Palmer to follow it and take the lead. Meagher then glimpsed the aircraft, too, but when he turned to follow Palmer, got lost in cloud and took no further part in the pursuit. Palmer also momentarily lost the aircraft but soon spotted it again and quickly closed to within 100 yards to identify it. Palmer’s aircraft therefore appears to have been the Spitfire to which Lovell refers.
Being in an advantageous position, and afraid he would lose the aircraft into cloud, Palmer attacked it immediately. Opening up from below and astern, he fired a three-second burst as he closed from 100 yards to just 20, resulting in heavy return fire from the Heinkel’s ventral gunner. Climbing above the bomber’s tail and out of his range, Palmer made a second attack from above and behind, once again closing from 100 yards to 20 as he fired a four-second burst, although this time with slight deflection. He saw no result of his fire, but also experienced no return fire from the dorsal gunner. It was later assumed this was the result of the gunner having been hit.
He then dropped below and behind the aircraft again to make his third attack, on this occasion firing another four-second burst, from 40 yards closing to 20. The ventral gunner was likely hit during this attack as Palmer experienced no further return fire from him. His fire also caused the port engine to explode; pieces of the engine dislodged themselves and flew back towards him, and oil sprayed across his windscreen.
When Palmer broke away, the Heinkel disappeared into cloud and was not seen again. He tried to locate it, and asked the Controller for a new vector, but his message was not heard. It was assumed this was the result of a number of sections being in the air at the same time and the Controller likely conversing with them when Palmer sought to contact him. Left little choice, he returned to base.
The last pilot was on the ground at 16:25. Palmer submitted a Combat Report for the operation, in which it is recorded that he had expended 1,760 rounds in the attack. Lovell had fired 740 rounds, but despite his contribution to the Intelligence Report that was submitted for the operation, he did not make a formal claim for the aircraft and Palmer was therefore granted the whole victory: one damaged He111. It was his first claim.
The aircraft claimed damaged today is believed to have been He111P-2, 5J+NL, WNr 1623, of 5/KG4, which crash-landed at Soesterberg in the Netherlands on return with 35% damage. The Flight Engineer/Gunner, Fw Wilhelm Rahrig, was wounded, but none of the other crew members were hurt.
[Excerpt from "Blood, Sweat and Courage" (Fonthill, 2014). Sharing permitted, but no reproduction without prior permission, please]
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.]
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]
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]
The booklet below features a number of former 41 Squadron pilots are listed as Station Commanders: Sowrey, Boret, Woodhall, Appleton.
January 1941 – As the new year dawned, the Battle of Britain was over. Analyses were being undertaken by the RAF, conclusions made and lessons learned.
During this month, 11 Group’s squadrons claimed just 18 victories: seven destroyed, four probable and seven damaged, of which 41 Squadron claimed one probable and one damaged. This stands in stark contrast to the numbers claimed during the height of the Battle of Britain, when almost 200 were claimed in all three categories in just one day. In fact, 41 Squadron claimed more than the month’s total in just one day in September 1940.
However, the poor winter weather that prevailed throughout the month did not help the cause, and 41 Squadron flew only 16 patrols on nine days out of 31: there was no operational flying on 6-7, 11-21, and 23-31 January.
The month’s monotony was only broken by combats on two of these patrols, both of which resulted in victory claims for the pilots. These were, however, the first since 27 November 1940, and the last for another two months. The former of these claims was made during the RAF’s first ever Circus operation, on 10 January, and the latter in a chance interception during a routine patrol on 22 January.
On the latter of these two dates, the morning broke to 10/10ths cloud between 1,000 and 2,000 feet, but soon started to lift and broke to between 6/10ths and 3/10ths with moderate visibility in a southwesterly wind at 5-10 mph.
As a result of the improved weather, both the RAF and Luftwaffe were active today, and the Luftwaffe sent approximately 70 reconnaissance aircraft across the Channel to England. The RAF responded well and five victories were claimed by 11 Group, the largest single daily score in some time.
For their part, 41 Squadron had a few sections in the air on practice flying, as well as two operational patrols, the first by six pilots between 09:10 and 10:20, and the second, by a pair between 09:50 and 11:10. Whilst the latter was uneventful, the former resulted in an interception and a shared victory for Flt Lt Tony Lovell and Plt Off ‘Hawkeye’ Wells.
Green and Blue Sections took off at 09:08 for practice flying, but at 09:35 Green Section was ordered to intercept a lone enemy aircraft, designated ‘Raid 17’. After several vectors, the pilots had still not sighted the aircraft but were nonetheless following its path some distance behind it.
Hearing this in progress, Blue Section (Lovell P7612 & Wells P7284), who were then off Southend, called up the Controller and offered their assistance. This was readily accepted and they were advised that the enemy aircraft was now over Clacton. The pair turned north and flew up the coast until Wells finally sighted a bomber some distance north of them, flying on a southeasterly course at 7,000 ft in a 3,000 ft gap between two cloud layers.
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.
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