41 Squadron Rested after the Battle of Britain
On 23 February 1941, following almost six months deployment in the thick of the action at Hornchurch, 41 Squadron was ordered north to Catterick, in 13 Group, for a rest. It was necessary.
Their time at Hornchurch had taken its toll on the unit, and it was now a very different squadron, both physically and psychologically. Most of the pilots who had been sent south from Catterick with the unit the previous September did not return today. Fourteen pilots landed at Catterick at 10:00, but of the original 23 pilots who had arrived at Hornchurch in early September 1940, only four made the return flight:
• Remaining – 4: Darling, Ford, Lovell, Mackenzie
• WIA/Hospitalised – 4: Bennions, Lock, Usmar, Wallens
• Killed – 6: Boyle, Hood, Langley, McAdam, Scott, Webster
• Posted – 9: Allison, Boret, Carr-Lewty, Cory, Howitt, Morrogh-Ryan, Piddocke, Ryder, Sayers
However, if one also includes all the pilots posted to the Squadron between 3 September 1940 and 23 February 1941, the statistics are much more grim: Angus, Boyle, Chalder, Garvey, Gilders, Hogg, Hood, Langley, Lecky, Lloyd, McAdam, O’Neill, Scott, Walker, and Webster were all dead.
Others had been wounded in action, such as Sqn Ldr Robert Lister who had taken over command from Sqn Ldr Hood in September 1940 but had only lasted a week before he was shot down and hospitalised. Bennions, Draper, Lock, Usmar and Wallens were also all still in hospital as the Squadron headed for Catterick and only two returned after they were released.
Additionally, Aldous, Aldridge, Allison, H. C. Baker, Bamberger, Boret, Carr-Lewty, Carter, Cory, Howitt, Le Roux, Mileham, Morrogh-Ryan, Norwell, Piddocke, Ryder, and Sayers had all been posted away.
Taking all these men into account, a total of 15 pilots had been killed, six wounded and hospitalised, and 17 otherwise posted away, making over a 150% turnover in manpower since the unit’s deployment to Hornchurch in early September 1940. The Squadron now also had its third Commanding Officer since then, and in fact its fourth within ten months [See the table in Appendix I for a clearer overview of personnel movements].
Nominal Roll, 23 February 1941
On their arrival at RAF Catterick, 41 Squadron consisted of the following 22 pilots:
Sqn Ldr Donald O. Finlay
Sqn Ldr Patrick E. Meagher (Supernumerary)
Flt Lt Anthony D. J. Lovell DFC, OC B Flight
Flt Lt John N. Mackenzie DFC, OC A Flight
Fg Off Dennis A. Adams
Fg Off M. Peter Brown
Plt Off Edward V. Darling
Plt Off Roy C. Ford
Plt Off Michael F. Briggs
Plt Off Norman M. Brown
Plt Off Edward P. Wells
Plt Off Archibald L. Winskill
Sgt Plt Aubrey C. Baker
Sgt Plt Robert A. Beardsley
Sgt Plt Norman V. Glew
Sgt Plt Terence W. R. Healy
Sgt Plt Thomas Hindle
Sgt Plt Harry Hopkinson
Sgt Plt Jack London
Sgt Plt Wilfred Palmer
Sgt Plt George W. Swanwick
Sgt Plt Thomas W. Willmott
The move to Catterick gave Sqn Ldr Donald Finlay a much-needed opportunity to rest his pilots and provided him a five-month window in which to do so.
Whilst most men were sent on leave of varying lengths, many were posted away soon after the unit’s arrival, and replaced by pilots from other squadrons or, more often than not, by fresh pilots, albeit inexperienced, who arrived directly from operational training units.
As such, by the time the Squadron returned to operations with 11 Group in late July 1941, the unit had undergone yet another major transformation, and nearly all of the old faces were gone.
[Excerpt from Steve Brew’s “Blood, Sweat and Courage” (Fonthill, 2014). Sharing permitted, but no reproduction without permission, please.]
Terrence Spencer's Mk XII Spitfire tipping the V1 flying bomb.
Painting completed Jan 2020 by Marc Heaton.
Captain Valentine Baker MC AFC served with 41 Squadron from 1916 – June 1917, and served briefly as a Flight Commander. He left the RAF in 1922 to work for Vickers-Armstrong. In 1934, however, he formed the Martin-Baker Aircraft Company with his colleague James Martin, to design new aircraft and offer flying lessons. One of their more notable pupils was Amy Johnson. The company went on to manufacture and market four different propeller aircraft, but Baker himself was killed in a flying accident in 1942, whilst test-flying the third of these. It was his death, however, that caused his business partner to rethink safety and develop a means of assisted escape for pilots. As a result, Martin-Baker began to manufacture ejection seats in 1946, and still does today for both fixed wing and rotary military aircraft.
Amongst 80 types of aircraft into which their seats have been fitted are the Jaguar, which 41 Squadron flew from 1977–2006, the Harrier, which the squadron flew from 2006–2010, and the Tornado and Typhoon, both of which they fly today. Martin-Baker ejection seats are now being fitted into the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Over 70,000 Martin-Baker ejection seats have been delivered to 93 air forces, which have saved almost 7,500 lives. It is a squadron legacy that in giving his own life, Baker has saved the lives of thousands of others.
9 December 1941 – A southerly wind of 10-15 mph with 7/10ths cloud at 6,000 feet and 6-8 miles visibility. It was a generally quiet day operationally today, and only two sections of two pilots were airborne.
In the first of these, a section undertook an uneventful shipping reconnaissance, 13:25-14:40 (Buckley & Rayner), but it constituted Plt Off John Buckley’s first and in fact only operational sortie with the Squadron. The second was a successful Rhubarb to France by Sgt Plts Arthur Glen (AA902) and Charles Valiquet (W3770).
The two pilots were airborne as Blue Section at 14:09 and tasked with attacking ‘Target 57’, a distillery at Le Buc, between Thiétreville and Ypreville, southeast of Fécamp. Traversing the Channel at sea level on a vector of 158° from Merston, the two pilots made landfall in cloud cover at St. Pierre-en-Port, east of Fécamp, and then flew at ground level on a course of about 195° until they reached a tree-lined road between Le Buc and Ypreville.
Sighting the distillery about 500 yards to starboard of their position, Glen led Valiquet to the target and they went straight into the attack, first from south to north, Glen strafing the distillery with a two-second burst of cannon and machine-gun fire and Valiquet expending a one-and-a-half-second burst. Both pilots registered strikes but noticed no other effect of their fire. Making a circuit of the target, they repeated their first attack from south to north, both firing and striking the distillery again, but on this occasion eliciting grey-green and ‘reddish’ smoke.
They made a full circuit again, and came in a third time from south to north. On this occasion, Glen was unable to position himself correctly for an attack and therefore did not open fire. Following 300 yards behind, Valiquet took his lead and also did not fire. By now, however, “volumes of heavy smoke”(1) were pouring from the top of the distillery. Now trying a new tactic, Glen banked around and made a long run over the fields from north to south, this time opening fire from 300 yards and aiming low. He later reported:
“I continued firing until forced to break off to avoid running into the Still. Very concentrated hits were seen at the base of the Still and a terrific sheet of flame enveloped the whole building. I made one or two circuits of the target before leaving and when I came away the whole Still was burning very fiercely with flames issuing from all windows and through the roof. The flames were 200 to 300 feet high.”(2)
It is not clear whether Valiquet fired on the fourth run, but he does state in his Combat Report that he took pictures of the target on each of his attacks with his cinegun camera. However, they do not appear to have survived amongst those in the Imperial War Museum’s collection.
On the way back out, the pair shot up a moving Army lorry in the same vicinity, but no results of their attack were observed as they darted over the top of it on the deck. They stayed as low as possible as they made for the coast, which they crossed two miles west of St. Pierre-en-Port. Setting a course of 340°, the two pilots headed quickly back across the Channel to make landfall on the English coast at Shoreham.
They landed at 15:12, and Glen claimed the distillery destroyed, reasoning in his Combat Report that, “In view of the fierceness of the fire and the rapid hold it gained it would be impossible to save the Still and I claim this target as destroyed.”(3) He shared the victory with Valiquet.
At some stage during the attacks, however, they had come under light machine gun fire from the ground near the distillery, and one of the two Spitfires sustained slight damage to its wing. The ORB makes no mention of it, but as Glen does not mention it in his comment on the operation in his logbook, it may have been Valiquet’s aircraft that sustained the damage. In any case, neither pilot was injured.
Separately today, three Dutch pilots were posted to the Squadron from 57 OTU at Hawarden: 26-year-old Plt Off Leendert C. M. ‘Kees’ van Eendenburg, 25-year-old Plt Off Albert ‘Peter’ van Rood, and 26-year-old Fg Off Bram ‘Bob’ van der Stok. They were not only the first Dutch to ever serve on the Squadron, but also the first of many pilots from the Continent that would join the Squadron before the cessation of hostilities.
NOTES TO TEXT: (1), (2) & (3) Combat Report for Sgt Plt Arthur A. Glen, No. 230, 9 December 1941, TNA AIR 50/18.
1. Sgt Plt Arthur ‘Pinky’ Glen would go on to command 41 Sqn, a role he held from January to May 1944.
2. Bram van der Stok would later become one of only three men to make a ‘home run’ from the March 1944 ‘Great escape’.
[Excerpt from Steve Brew’s "Blood, Sweat and Courage" (Fonthill, 2014). Sharing permitted, but no reproduction, please, without prior permission.]
After a 12 year build my Spitfire EB-N as flown by Tony Lovell, 41squadron, Catterick, finally took to the skies on the 13th of May this year. An LAA inspector, Don Harker recalled to me when he was a young boy walking through Middlesbrough, watching a Spitfire shooting down a JU88 over the Eaton Hills. We traced the name of the pilot flying it (Tony Lovell) and managed to contact his niece who gave permission to display it as her Uncle Tony’s Spitfire. The commemoration flight will take place on the 18th of August, the day before what would have been Tony Lovell’s 100 birthday.
Tony Lovell who survived the war and was killed in a flying accident the day after the war ended. Many pilots had some artwork on their aircraft nose, so when I contacted Tony’s closest relative, his niece, Helen Daw, she said that her uncle Tony was devoted to his mother who he called Cherub. So I had a picture of a cherub painted on the nose of my Spit.
I was told by Helen that August 19th would have been Tony’s 100th birthday but looking at my records it should be the 9th of August, not the 19th! We still plan to do the dedication flight on Sunday the 18th at Fishburn airfield. Helen Daw and her family will be there as will relatives of Ben Bennions who flew in 41 squadron with Tony Lovell. We have a local folk duo coming to perform the song they wrote about my Spitfire, Tony Lovell and other RAF pilots of the Second World War.
As Tony was a deeply religious man I also have my friend who is a vicar coming to do a short memorial service.
A cloudy day with continuous rain and good to poor visibility. At 12:20, Flt Lt Norman Ryder, was sent up to investigate an inbound raid off Whitby. Within four minutes of Raid X32 appearing on the board in 13 Group Headquarters’ Operations Room, he was airborne from Catterick, flying Spitfire Ia, N3114.
He was initially sent to Redcar, with an order to sweep the area between the Redcar and Whitby, on his way to the coast. When just north of Guisborough, however, Ryder was advised the aircraft was now bombing shipping three to four miles north of Whitby, and ordered to immediately head to that location. He opened up to 4½ lb. boost and crossed the coast at Staithes at a height of just 400 feet. He could not fly much higher as the poor conditions would not allow him. The cloud cover was 9/10ths to 10/10ths at a base of around 600 feet, and visibility was very poor with fog and driving rain.
When a few miles out to sea, Ryder was given a new vector of 30° to intercept the still unidentified aircraft. He soon spotted it, however, 60° to starboard, approximately three to four miles off the coast, on a course of 080° and at an estimated airspeed of 100 mph. Ryder approached the aircraft, and circled it anti-clockwise whilst he identified it as a Heinkel 111H, recognising it by the “cutaway “V” in rudder and long glass nose and fine shaping of fuselage and tail. Starboard cross [on] fuselage hardly distinguishable, but port cross very clear and looked very white with two figures behind it which could not be distinguished.”
Ryder also noticed that the port engine was disabled, which was the result of anti-aircraft fire from HM minesweepers 'Lilac' and 'Walnut', accounting for its low airspeed and his ability to circle the bomber without difficulty. When the Heinkel’s crew saw Ryder, they attempted to climb away but were making slow progress owing to the damaged engine. The pilot was unable to take any other evasive action, and could therefore not avoid Ryder’s expected attack. However, they were not going to go down without a fight.
Ryder needed to be quick if he was going to make an attack before the bomber disappeared into the cloud cover, and so came around behind it as fast as he could, lining himself up dead astern for a ‘No. 1 Fighting Area Attack’. As he did so, he saw red flashes emanating from the dorsal gun, but no tracers. It was misty and raining at the time, but he judged his position approximately 400 yards behind the aircraft, and made a wingspan allowance of 80 feet. Aiming his reflector gun sight on the starboard engine, he opened fire with a single six-second burst as he closed to 200 yards, with his closing speed of approximately 70 mph.
Although he had expended around 800 rounds, he observed no effect of his fire on the engine. He felt this may have been the result of rain on his windscreen and the light buffeting he experienced in the bomber’s slipstream. Deciding to try again, he broke away to port to make a full 360° turn and execute a second No. 1 Attack. Just as he broke off, however, he heard two distinct bangs under his engine, though there was no noticeable effect on his aircraft.
As he came around full circle, readying himself to open fire when the He111 was in his sight again, he saw “grey smoke from above and black smoke from below [the] starboard engine, and [a] momentary burst of flame from [the] region of the spinner”. Realising his first attack had indeed hit the target, he did not open fire after all, but rather continued through on an arc to port.
The He111 now reacted to the damage. The starboard engine was only idling and the aircraft started to lose altitude; it was not far down to sea level. Realising the bomber was finished, Ryder discontinued his attack and positioned himself off its starboard side to watch it slowly descend towards the sea, now around 15 miles northeast of Whitby.
Despite the rough sea, the bomber floated for around five minutes on its wings and fuselage, allowing Ryder to circle it a few times, intending to draw nearby ships to the crew’s aid. Before long, the Scarborough drifter Silver Line approached.
Whilst circling, Ryder checked the state of his aircraft in an effort to determine the cause of the two bangs he had heard during his attack. He checked the airframe over, then the instruments, and thereby noticed his oil temperature was steadily rising. He deduced that he had probably been hit by return fire and felt the two bangs were likely the sound of a bullet entering and then exiting his engine.
Realising that there was no way his aircraft would make it back to the coast in this condition, he circled a nearby trawler so they knew he was there and in difficulty. With his oil gauge now reading almost 100° Centigrade, his engine failing, and his cockpit heating up and filling with oil fumes, Ryder radioed Control to inform them of the situation.
Weighing up the possibilities, he realised he would not make it to the coast, and his low altitude also meant a parachute descent was out of the question. As his altitude fell further and time was running out, it became quite clear that his only option was to ditch. When just 40 feet above the surface of the water, with seconds of flight left, he informed Control he was doing just that.
Then he hit the water. He later recalled, “I stalled on the water at 65 m.p.h. with a loud crash. [The] aircraft immediately dug its nose in and came to [a] vertical position, tail up, and sank immediately. I think the whole touch down and sinking was simultaneous.
My next clear recollection was realising that I was below the surface, and that everything appeared green. I undid my harness and commenced to get clear. The A/C was sinking rapidly and when almost clear my parachute caught under the sliding roof. I then got partly back into the cockpit and out again, and finally got clear and commenced to swim to the surface. The tail plane passed just in front of my face. Pressure was very great and green light had changed to dull black.”
By the time Ryder broke to the surface, his lungs had almost reached bursting point and he gasped for air. Now rising and falling in a five-to-six-foot swell, he released his parachute and trod water, hoping the trawler he had circled would soon find him. He attempted to remove his flying helmet but each time he stopped paddling to remove it, he sank, so gave up. He then tried to blow more air into his Mae West, but the strain on his lungs from holding his breath, coupled with the physical effort of treading water to keep his head above the surface, made this impossible, too. He felt his sodden clothing getting heavier, but kept himself up with the assistance of his parachute, which he kept hold of throughout, though in time it, too, became waterlogged and began to sink.
As he came to the peak of a roller, Ryder was relieved to see a trawler not too far away, coming in his direction. Moments later, it pulled alongside and a boat-hook was extended towards him. He was heaved on deck and taken into a cabin to reduce his exposure to the elements. He was told he was aboard the Grimsby-crewed trawler, Alaska. The crew helped him to remove his wet clothing as he was physically exhausted and vomiting sea water. They did not have any alcohol or spirit to warm him, but made him as comfortable as possible.
Meanwhile, at Catterick, 41 Squadron were anxious and had difficulty finding out what was going on. It wasn’t until 14:30 that news was finally received, much to everyone’s relief, that Ryder had been picked up alive. He was landed at Hartlepool and hospitalised for three days.
The five-man crew of the Heinkel was brought ashore at Scarborough by the drifter Silver Line and taken into captivity. They were identified as Gruppenkommandeur Obstlt Hans Hefele, who was a passenger on the operation, Lt Rudolf Behnisch, the pilot, Lt Georg Kempe, the Observer, Uffz Albert Weber, the Wireless Operator, and Uffz Alfred Bächle, the Mechanic. Kempe had been wounded in the head and was taken to hospital, but the remaining four men were taken to the police station, where they were fed before being collected by the military. At Burniston Barracks, they revealed they were on an armed reconnaissance flight in He111H-3, 1H+AC, of Lübeck-Blankensee based Stab II/KG26.
As this was the first time a Spitfire had ditched in the sea – and the pilot had survived to tell the tale – both the Air Ministry and Supermarine were interested in the circumstances of Ryder’s escape. He was asked to make recommendations and his detailed report provided invaluable information for training pilots in what to do when ditching; it is understood he spent some time lecturing other pilots on surviving ditching in the sea. Some of these recommendations are included in his Combat Reports, and suggest that a pilot finding himself in such a situation should:
• Tighten straps and inflate “Mae West”,
• Open hood and possibly door.
• Close radiator flaps and pancake at 70 m.p.h.
• Aircraft immediately tucks its nose in (with sea running) and assumes a vertical position, tail up, and sinks.
• Release Sutton harness and parachute and evacuate, push away hard to clear tail plane.
Whilst this was 41 Squadron’s first loss of an aircraft in action during the War, the major newspapers reported it was also the first British home based fighter to be shot down by an enemy aircraft, for fifty German aircraft already shot down by the RAF. Additionally, the 13 Group ORB records that Ryder’s He111 was the 27th enemy aircraft shot down by the Group since September 1939.
Ryder was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross on 19 April for the ‘coolness and courage’ he showed today, thereby receiving the first decoration to be bestowed upon a 41 Squadron pilot during World War II, and the first DFC awarded the unit since 1919. The citation reads,
“During April this officer was ordered to investigate an enemy raid at sea and took off alone in bad visibility and low cloud. He sighted an enemy aircraft and, observing that its port engine was out of action, he promptly attacked the starboard engine and after disabling it with one burst of fire the aircraft fell into the sea. Afterwards Flight Lieutenant Ryder found that his own aircraft was losing power and he was forced to come down on the sea, whereupon his aircraft immediately dived. When at a considerable depth he managed, with great difficulty, to extricate himself from the cockpit and was then picked up by a nearby trawler. His accurate flying made the interception a success, and his coolness and courage materially contributed to his own rescue and the collection of much valuable information. He set a splendid example of courage and discipline to his squadron.”
[Text: Excerpts from Steve Brew's book "Blood, Sweat and Courage" (Fonthill, 2014; Images: 1. A portrait of Flt Lt E. Norman Ryder DFC, drawn by Captain Cuthbert Orde on 4 January 1941. Crown copyright expired, 2. Flt Lt Norman Ryder DFC, late Nov 1940, snip from IWM Image CH 001871, 3. Ryder was flying Spitfire Ia, N3114, EB-J, when he claimed a Heinkel He111 on 3 April 1940, but was shot down by return fire and ditched in the North Sea. This profile commissioned specifically for "Blood, Sweat and Courage" © Gaëtan Marie]
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.
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.
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
Text contributed by Doug Wanstall (firstname.lastname@example.org) Twitter
The picture is of my grandfather, John Wanstall who witnessed the dogfight and the plane belly landing. the reaction on Twitter and facebook has been amazing and shows just how much people care about our history, heritage and the brave souls that protected us.
The wreckage of the Messerschmitt Bf 109E4 (‘White 6’) piloted by Leutnant Heinz Schnabel
Schnabel was captured after his Messerschmitt Bf 109E4 (‘White 6’) was shot down and crash landed in Kent on 5 September 1940 during the Battle of Britain. Schnabel was a member of Jagdgeschwader 3 (1 Staffel (squadron)) and was an ace with six confirmed 'kills' to his name at the time.
"5 September 1940: 1./JG3 Messerschmitt Bf109E-4 (nr.1985). Engine damaged in combat with fighters during escort sortie for Do17s to Croydon and belly-landed on Handen Farm, Chaphill, near Aldington, 10.10 a.m. Possibly one of those attacked by F/L J.T. Webster of No.41 Squadron. FF Lt Heinz Schnabel captured slightly wounded. Aircraft White 6 + 100% write-off."
"Leutnant Heinz Schnabel and Oberleutnant Harry Wappler were two German prisoners of war (PoW) who made a daring, but unsuccessful attempt, to fly from captivity in England to the Netherlands during the Second World War. They managed to hijack a training aircraft and then attempt to fly to the continent, only to turn back due to lack of fuel. They were subsequently caught and later transferred to Canada for the rest of the war." - (info via wikipedia)
(Colorised by Paul Kerestes from Romania)
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