“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 twelfth entry in this series marks the centenary of 41 Squadron's first pilot killed in action and has been made possible by Mary Cody-Cowdery.
Samuel Franklin Leslie Cody was born 07th September 1895 in Basel, Switzerland to parents, (touring Europe as performers,) S.F. Cody and ‘Lela Marie Cody’ real name being Mrs Elizabeth Mary King nee Davis. They were not married to each other.
From an early age ‘Frankie’ was no stranger to limelight having appeared in his parents ‘trick shooting and riding acts in the circus as well as onstage in one of his father’s melodrama plays ‘Viva, A Woman of War’.
Frankie first attended a boy’s school [private] at Forest Hill House, Sydenham, South East London before attending a Grammar school in Farnborough, Hants when his father was invited by the army to further his Man Lifting Kites as well as later to develop and build his aeroplane at Farnborough in Hampshire and thus become the first man to fly in England. Needless to say ‘Frankie’ must have been the envy of every school boy growing up in the UK to have such a famous father as ‘Col’ S.F. Cody.
April 1913 S.F.L. Cody, aged 17 years and employed as an aeroplane mechanic, married Maude Helier Cody. (A shock to both of his parents as neither of them knew that it was taking place). In August of that year, his father was killed in an air crash. Following his father’s death, Frankie was employed as an Assurance Inspector. His son Samuel Franklyn Cody was born October 1913.
In 1914 soon after his 19th birthday, Frankie like so many thousands of men in the country enlisted into King’s Royal Rifle Corp at Blackdown, ( 9th Service) Military Battalion, later he transferred to Motor Machine Guns. 31st October [his son’s first birthday] transferred to The Royal Field Artillery before finally transferring on the 19th June 1915 to The Royal Flying Corp. Pilot’s licence number 1797 issued on 28th September 1915. Certificate was taken on a Maurice Farman Biplane at The British Flying School, Le Crotoy, France.
0n 1st March 1916 Frankie was promoted to Corporal. Three months later on 1st June 1916 he was promoted to Sergeant. He was posted to No 6 Reserve Squadron on the 17th August 1916, 3 years after his father’s fatal air crash.
On 10th October 1916 he was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant on the General List P17479/Appointed Flying Officer in The Royal Flying Corps Special Reserve on 2nd September 1916 just 5 days before his 21st birthday when he was posted to 41 Squadron.
S F L Cody of No 41 Squadron RFC was killed in action while flying FE8 7613 on 23 January 1917. He left Abeele aerodrome at 14:24 and was seen in combat with four enemy aeroplanes (Albatros and Roland) east of Boesinghe, after which he spiralled down in a nose dive. Lnt Walter von Bülow-Bothkamp of Jasta 18 was credited with a victory over a "Vickers" which crashed near Bixschoote; it was the 6th of his eventual 28 victories before his death in action on 6 January 1918.
From an enquiry, which was dropped over enemy lines, reliable sources confirmed that his body was found at Houthulst G.C. 20.P.13.b.3.7. German grave number 826A.
Images from the remembrance service in Belgium 23 Jan 2017
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.
12 December 1940 – 11 Group had been considering the idea of sweeps over German-held territory for some time. It was a tactic that had already been executed with great success by the Luftwaffe for some months. An initial plan from late October 1940 was cancelled and replaced with a new plan on 8 December.(1) Its aim was quite simple: “To carry out whenever weather and other conditions are suitable, offensive sweeps by three Squadrons in company from a Sector”.(2)
The plan was for the Group Controller to issue the order to a Sector and outline the lateral limits of the area to be swept. Over all control of the sweep would be held by the Sector Commander and all three squadrons were to keep within visual range of each other. The three squadrons involved should rendezvous over base but not cross the Maidstone Patrol Line until reaching their operational heights.
These altitudes were set at 30,000-35,000 feet for the first, top squadron, 25,000-30,000 feet for the second, middle squadron, and 20,000-25,000 feet for the third, bottom squadron. None were permitted to descend below a base of 15,000 feet once the English coast was crossed on the outbound leg.
The three formations were then to proceed towards the coast of France in strict radio silence, with the exception of Pip-Squeaks, but were forbidden to proceed inland. Such operations were only to be conducted down-sun, between the hours of 13:30 and 16:30. The squadrons should then sweep once across their allocated area and return across the Channel, without re-traversing the area already swept.
On returning to England, however, they were to conduct a public relations exercise by flying directly up the Thames “to enable shipping in the Estuary to see our Fighters in strength”.(3) The order was to be executed, whenever suitable, from 11 December 1940 onwards. Thus, only a day later, the Hornchurch Wing was called upon to conduct “the first offensive sweep of three Squadrons… over the Channel”.(4)
The Station’s squadrons starting taking off at 15:10, with 41 Squadron’s twelve pilots airborne last, at 15:20. Having rendezvoused and formed up by 15:30, they crossed out in textbook formation, but 41 Squadron was soon called off to investigate what proved to be a false plot. They tried to re-join the sweep, but were unable to locate 64 and 603 Squadrons. As the operation could now therefore not be fulfilled as planned, the entire sweep was cancelled at 16:05.
No enemy aircraft were seen, and the Squadrons returned to base independently of one another, with otherwise nothing to report. 41 Squadron put down at 16:30, and this concluded the day’s flying. It had not quite been the success that had perhaps been hoped, and the first such operations did not commence in earnest until early 1941.
1. 11G/S.500/13/Ops, 1, 11 Group – Sector Offensive Sweeps, dated 21 October 1940 was cancelled and replaced with 11G/S.500/13/Ops, b, 11 Group – Sector Offensive Sweeps, dated 8 December 1940, and issued to all Group Stations and Controllers. See also 11 Group ORB Appendix, TNA AIR 25/198.
2. 11G/S.500/13/Ops, b, 11 Group – Sector Offensive Sweeps, 8 December 1940, 11 Group ORB Appendix, TNA AIR 25/198.
4. RAF Hornchurch ORB, 12 December 1940, TNA AIR 28/384.
(Image: Crown Copyright Expired)
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.
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)
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.
Updates and news direct from the Committee