The following Blog entry was made possible through Graham Limb, who supplied the text and pictures.
This is a tribute to all of the men who served with 6041 Servicing Echelon, who supported 41 Squadron when they moved from England to Belgium in December 1944, moving through Holland into Germany and finally to Denmark after the end of the Second World War in May 1945.
These were the supporting ground crew who endured the very cold winter of 1944/45 and attacks by the Luftwaffe to keep the Spitfires XIVs of 41 Squadron serviceable and ready for action. They were the engine fitters, armourers, air frame fitters etc who had to be mobile and ready to move on to the next airfield with all of their equipment as the Allied advance progressed.
The servicing echelons were set up to support the squadrons of the 2nd Tactical Air Force for their role after D-Day. Initially they were to be set up to be available to be attached to any squadron, but generally they supported their own particular squadron, which was included in their name i.e. 6041 SE supported 41 Squadron.
My father was posted to 6041SE on October 1944 and stayed with this unit until the end of the war. Previously, after being ‘called up’ in 1940 and undergoing training, he served as an Aircraftman engine fitter with 233 and 235 squadrons of Coastal Command working on Avro Ansons, Lockheed Hudsons and Beaufighters.
In early 1944 he was moved to 3043 Servicing Echelon at Hurn and worked on Hawker Typhoons up to and beyond D-Day in June 1944. When the Typhoons were particularly seriously affected by the intake of the abrasive Normandy dust, he was involved in the urgent fitting of emergency dust filters & Sabre engine replacement to keep the Typhoons flying to support the invasion progress.
In August 1944 he was moved to Detling, which was one of the airfields from where the many V1 ‘Doodlebug’ rockets being sent across from the Continent were being challenged by Spitfires and Hawker Tempests. On returning to Hurn in mid October 1944 he was soon transferred again to join 6041SE with 41 Squadron.
Their journey took them to B.56 Evere Belgium; B.64 Diest/Schaffen, Belgium; Y.32 Ophoven, Belgium; B.80 Volkel, Holland; B.78 Eindhoven, Holland; B.106 Twente, Holland; B.118 Celle Germany; B.160 Kastrup, Denmark; B.172 Husum, Germany and B.158 Lubeck, Germany.
Here are some photos of 6041SE from my father’s collection.
If anyone can identify anyone in any of these photos I would be very interested to hear from them.
My father was very proud to have served in the RAF and this remained with him all his life. He was also very proud to have looked after Wing Commander ‘Johnnie’ Johnson’s spitfire for part of his time with 6041SE.
The following pictures and war record were provided by Peter Lee about his cousin, Flight Sergeant Teddy Watts.
WATTS, Edward George Hullet ‘Teddy’, 1051882, RAFVR;
b London, 11 Feb 19;
ed Holborn GS;
joined RAFVR, 29 Jul 40; 9 EFTS, Ansty, 1940; Crse 28, 9 SFTS (Master & Hurr), Hullavington, 1940-16 Apr 41;
plt badge & Sgt Plt, 16 Apr 41;
Crse 20, 57 OTU (Spit), Hwdn, 23 Apr-9 Jun 41;
RF/WUL in Spit Ia, K9942, Hwdn, 16 May 41;
501 Sqn (Spit II), Chilbolton, 19 Jun 41;
145 Sqn (Spit II), Merston, 10 Jul 41;
485 (NZ) Sqn (Spit Vb), Redhill, 1 Sep 41;
41 Sqn, 3 Dec 41-12 Apr 42;
7 days leave, 22 Dec 41;
7 days leave, 22 Jan 42;
Flt Sgt, ca Apr 42;
SD/KIA in Spit Vb, W3450, in combat w FW190s during Circus 122 to Hazebrouck Marshalling Yards, 12 Apr 42, aged 22;
s of Edward A. & Beatrice Watts, & husb of Margaret Watts of Stockwell, London;
bur Plot 2, Row 3, Grave 5, Dunkirk Town Cem Nord, F.
The full extent of the activities conducted by 41(R) TES cannot be shared online, however you can get a sense of the scope and complexity involved in this recent publication by David Gledhill and David Lewis.
The Squadron hold very little information covering the years that it operated the Bloodhound Missile (1965-1970). Fortunately the Bloodhound Missile Preservation Group (BMPG) have an excellent resource of information on their website and YouTube channel. Read more below:
The Bloodhound MKII missile system, as operated by 41 Squadron, was a key part of the integrated UK air defences during the Cold War, a wholly British designed defensive weapon to counter nuclear armed, high flying bombers at long range.
Bloodhound MKII became operational with the RAF in 1964 and continued to be improved as new technology became available with its operational role continually enhanced to include the countering of low level air strikes.
The missile system was withdrawn from RAF service in 1991, at the end of the Cold War.
You can learn more about how the system worked through the following reports
Originally posted on the website of the Bentley Priory Museum
To mark his 95th birthday, Warrant Officer (Retd.) Peter Hale RAF has taken to the air in a Spitfire again – the first time he has done so since 1945. On this occasion, he was a passenger in the Goodwood-based two-seater SM520.
Arranged by author and Westhampnett historian Mark Hillier, the flight was provided courtesy of his colleagues at the Boultbee Flying Academy. The Academy offers flights and experiences around the UK in an ever-expanding fleet of owned and managed Second World War aircraft, including SM250.
Completed in the Castle Bromwich factory on 23 November 1944, SM250, initially built as a single seat Mark H.F.IXe high level fighter, was delivered to No.33 Maintenance Unit at Lyneham in Wiltshire where it was to be prepared to operational standard for service delivery. Fitted with a Rolls-Royce Merlin 70 V12 engine, SM 250 was sold to the South African Air Force on 21 June 1948. One of a batch of 136 Spitfires earmarked for delivery to South Africa between 1947 and 1949, it is known that SM250 was off-loaded at Durban in 1948. Eventually sold as surplus, SM250 was registered in the UK in 1997, following which the decision was taken to convert her into a Trainer 9 two-seater.
With Jez Attridge, the former Officer Commanding RAF Coningsby at the controls of SM250, the flight was an emotional experience for Peter – stirring memories of his time flying Spitfires with 41 Squadron between August 1944 and August 1945. One sortie that he recalled was a 125-Wing operation from Celle, Germany, on 24 April 1945. Peter recalled how on this day the Wing, led by Group Captain Johnnie Johnson, headed east towards Berlin following reports of a large concentration of airborne German aircraft. It was discovered, however, that they were in fact Russian ’planes attacking retreating German troops around twenty-five miles WNW of Berlin.
Peter, then a 22-year-old NCO pilot, noted how the Red Air Force fighters ‘were all over the sky with no obvious formation. They suddenly appeared in the sky like a swarm of bees.’ The RAF pilots, however, proceeded to join the Russians in their ground attacks, this being one of the few instances of contact between RAF and Russian fighters during the war.
Having joined the RAF in January 1941, Peter undertook his elementary flying training in the UK before being shipped to Canada to undertake his service flying training. However, rather than being sent home for operational duties after receiving his Wings in April 1942, he was retained in Canada for a further eighteen months as a staff pilot and instructor. Finally released in October 1943, he returned home from New York on the majestic troopship Queen Mary.
After advanced flying and operational training, he was posted to 41 Squadron on 8 August 1944, by which time he had been promoted to Warrant Officer. From this point on Peter was in the thick of the action, commencing with patrols over south-east England to combat the flying bomb threat. These sorties were closely followed by others that were part of the hunt for V2 and V3 sites, escorts to USAAF bombers involved in the Oil Campaign, and air support for Operation Market Garden.
In December 1944, 41 Squadron moved to the Continent. It spent the ensuing months venturing deeper into Germany, mainly deployed on attacking ground targets behind the front. Its Spitfires were also regularly involved in brief but aggressive aerial combats. When, in mid-April 1945, 41 Squadron moved to Celle Aerodrome, approximately 140 miles west of Berlin, it became one of the first Allied air units to be based east of the Weser.
Following the German surrender, Peter remained with 41 Squadron until August 1945, when he was posted out to India. Returning home in time for Christmas 1945, he was demobilised in June 1946. Peter spent the next thirty-five years with the Met Office, but did not fly a Spitfire again until the flight in SM520.
This blog entry has been made possible by Mike Bradbury.
Over the last few months in and around Shrewsbury there have been two functions with Eric as a big part in his memory.
The first one held on March the 3rd at Bayston Hill, the village of his birth, when a stained glass window was unveiled in his memory by Flight Lieutenant Laura Frowen 41 Squadron, Wing Commander Steve Chaskin OC 611 Squadron and Rosemarie Jones, Eric's niece.
On the 24th of June Shrewsbury held it's Armed Forces Day, at 23 30 on the 23rd running up to this a light show was put on, this covered pictures starting back as far as the Boer War up to present day of people from Shropshire who served in the armed forces. These images were projected onto St Chads Church and a large part of this show was devoted to Eric, and for just this part I did the voice over telling just a short part of his service with 41 and 611 Squadron's and his life story.
This article was originally posted on the RAF Website.
RAF Coningsby Gate Guardian, Phantom FGR2, XT891
Some aircraft hold a special place in RAF history and XT891, the RAF Coningsby Gate Guardian is certainly one. It was not the first Phantom delivered to the UK as that accolade goes to a prototype YF-4K which first flew on 27 June 1966 at the McDonnell Douglas plant in St. Louis. XT891, however, was the first delivered for operational service to the Royal Air Force.
Group Captain Stanley Mason formally accepted XT891, an F4M designated the FGR2 (Fighter, Ground Attack, Reconnaissance) in RAF service, in a ceremony at RAF Aldergrove on 20th July 1968. After acceptance, it arrived on 228 Operational Conversion Unit, or OCU, on 23 August 1968.
A twin stick variant, the rear cockpit had a different configuration to the normal Phantom. The layout of the cockpit consoles was revised to accommodate the throttles which were mounted on the left. Although these operated normally in the military power range, reheat could not be selected in the back. An enhanced flight instrument cluster sat at eye level in the back seat, although it restricted the forward view considerably. The floor mounted control column allowed the flying instructor in the rear cockpit to take control when needed. The “stick” could be removed to allow the radar scope to be pulled out from its housing, otherwise impossible if a stick was installed. For intercept training sorties this was the preferred configuration, although occasionally it remained fitted, allowing the staff navigators some “stick time”.
The trainer configuration was less common and each operational squadron had only one twin sticker although a much higher proportion were operated by the OCU at Coningsby because of the increased training task as pilots converted to the Phantom. In all other respects it was fully capable operationally.
Soon after its arrival XT891 moved across to 54 Squadron in the ground attack role remaining at Coningsby for some years serving another short stint on the OCU. When 56 Squadron reformed with Phantoms it became the Squadron “two sticker” serving as “Zulu” at RAF Wattisham before returning to the OCU at Coningsby and, eventually moving to RAF Leuchars where it wore the tail letters “Charlie Zulu”. Another stint at RAF Wattisham as “Sierra” on 74 Squadron ended its service career and it returned to its spiritual home at RAF Coningsby.
Once retired, officially, it adopted a ground instructional airframe number, 9136M, although it continues to wear its operational registration marks. Soon after being placed on display as the Station Gate Guardian it was repainted in the colours in which it first served in 1968. The square fin cap for the radar warning receiver was removed to return it to its original configuration and it reverted to the grey and green camouflaged pattern with red, white and blue roundels reminiscent of its early service during the Cold War. In subsequent years both 6 Squadron and 41 Squadron, both of which operated the type but not the actual airframe, laid claim to the airframe adding their own squadron markings.
The following information has been collated from:
www.spyflight.co.uk/ and www.airrecce.co.uk/ together with assistance from Ray Dunn.
In 1964 the Labour government of Harold Wilson cancelled the P1154 and TSR-2 programmes, leaving the RAF without obvious replacements for the Hunter and Canberra in the fighter, ground attack and reconnaissance roles. The RAF eventually decided to follow the Royal Navy's decision to purchase the McDonnell Douglas F-4 and in Feb 65 placed an order for 118 F-4's to take over the roles of the Hunter and Canberra. In RAF service the Phantom was known as the FGR2, with the initials standing for Fighter, Ground Attack and Reconnaissance. Unlike the USAF and US Marines, the RAF did not obtain Phantoms that was solely for photographic reconnaissance, the RF-4 series.
The F-4 OCU at Coningsby was formed in Aug 1968 and the initial output of graduates formed the ground attack squadrons in Germany and UK. The first dedicated F-4 reconnaissance squadron to form was 2 Sqn based at Laarbruch in Germany which stood up in Dec 70. This was followed by 41 Sqn at Coningsby which formed in Apr 72. Only some thirty F-4's were specially wired to carry the EMI reconnaissance pod and these aircraft equipped 2 and 41 squadrons. The pod was pressurised and mounted on the aircrafts centre-line position, looking like a 500 gal external fuel tank, it had a fat bottom and an air scoop on each side of the pods forward nose section. Using a considerable amount of technology originally developed for the TSR2 reconnaissance systems, EMI eventually created the biggest, most capable and most expensive reconnaissance pod of the 1960s.
Starting at the front the pod was fitted with the following equipment, two AGI F.135 cameras, a Texas Instrument RS700 infar-red linescan (ILRS) sensor, four F.95 cameras in the oblique position, these could replaced with another split pair of F.135 cameras for night tasking. All of the F-135's were vertical facing. When in the 'Night-Flashing' mode, four F-135's were used, three of them were arranged in a split-pair 'fan', the fourth camera was used as a timer unit to synchronise with the electronic flash unit in the port Sargent Fletcher tank.
Along each side of the pod were the 15 ft slotted waveguide aerials for the MEL/EMI Q-band Sideways Looking Reconnaissance Radar (SLRR). This scope of reconnaissance equipment fitted gave a horizon-to-horizon coverage, however, there was a loss of 4½° on each horizon due to the external fuel tanks mounted under the aircrafts wings. For special tasks, a F126 vertical camera and an F95 oblique camera with a 12in focal lens could also be fitted.
The only 'forward-facing' camera used was an F-95 in the 'Strike-pod' which was fitted to the port forward sparrow position. It had a depression angle of 20° from the horizontal.
The exposure rate of each camera could be selected to run at 4, 6, 8, or 12 frames per second, though normal settings were either 8 or 12 depending on what height the aircraft was flying. The IRLS could cover an area of three times the aircrafts height. When using the SLLR the aircraft had to fly straight and level as the system was not roll stabilised. The system could cover an area of five miles when the aircraft was operating at normal low-level height, this increased to ten miles when flying at 6,000ft, however, there was a degradation of image quality.
The Jaguar used a new build EMI recce pod when it took over the role of tactical reconnaissance from the FGR2 in 1976. The Jaguar pod featured a different mark of F-95 camera (Mark 10), and used a different IRLS, 70mm rather than the 5'' format used on the Phantom EMI Pod.
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!
Updates and news direct from the Committee