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Ken Wallis MBE CEng FRAeS PhD - RAF - 103 Sqdn

103 Squadron Wallis

  Former 103 Sqdn pilot Ken Wallis passed away peacefully on the 1st September 2013. He was a legendary aviator engineer and inventor who achieved so much in his long fascinating life. His postwar work on the development of the autogyro deserved far more recognition. He was also a great character, much loved man and wonderful company.

  There is a fine obituary from the Norfolk and Suffolk Aviation Museum site ( click here )

  Also a nice obit here from the Scotsman newspaper ( click here )

  As my own little tribute to Ken I would like to add my own notes on his tour with 103 Sqdn in 41 and 42 and these are reproduced below.

  Ken H Wallis RAF - 103 Squadron

  Pilot Officer Ken H Wallis was posted to 103 Squadron at Elsham Wolds on the 23rd June 1941.

  His tour with the Squadron was as follows :-

  Note all operations were flown form Elsham Wolds, Lincolnshire.

  3/4th July 1941. Target - Bremen. Aircraft Wellington T2617. Second pilot in the crew of P/O Petrie. Up 2315 Down 0653.

  5/6th July 1941. Target - Rotterdam docks. Aircraft Wellington R1217. Second pilot in the crew of P/O Petrie. Up 2325 Down 0410. Bombed in region of Zalmhaven. No results observed.

  7/8th July 1941. Target - Cologne. Aircraft Wellington R1217. Second pilot in crew of P/O Petrie. Up 2305 Down 0505. A good attack developed in perfect weather. Cologne reported its heaviest raid in 1941.

  10/11th July 1941. Target - Cologne. Aircraft Wellington R1446. Second pilot in the crew of P/O Petrie. Up 2245 Down 0445. Bombed in bad weather from 16,000ft at 0156 in area of Semo  5 miles SE of Cologne on a red glow which was thought to be a blast furnace. 6 or 7 large explosions seen and fires were started.

  14/15th July 1941. Target - Bremen. Aircraft Wellington R1396. Second pilot in the crew of P/O Petrie. Up 2305 Down 0555. Bombed from 17,000ft at 0229. Intense searchlight activity made observation difficult. Other returning crew reported seeing many fires.

  20/12st July 1941. Target - Cologne. Aircraft Wellington W5656. Second pilot in crew of P/O Petrie. Up 2304 Down 0405. Thick cloud in target area led to scattered bombing.

  2/3rd August 1941. Target - Hamburg. Aircraft Wellington R1396. Second pilot in crew of P/O Petrie. Up 2255 Down 0540. Bombed from 16,000ft at 0212. Explosions seen in built up area.

  8th August 1941. Target - Essen. Aircraft Wellington R1396. Second pilot in the crew of P/O Petrie. Up 0025 Down 0540. Bombed from 18,000ft at 0235 3 miles SE of Essen.

  Ken was now promoted to from Second pilot to Captain of his own crew.

  12/13th September 1941. Target - Cherbourg docks. Aircraft Wellington R1667.

  Crew :- P/O K H Wallis, W/C Ryan, Sgt Walker, Sgt Rouse, Sgt Fairhurst, Sgt Clowes

  Up Down. Unable to locate target due to 10/10 cloud cover. Brought bombs back to base.

  16/17th September 1941. Target - Karlsruhe. Aircraft Wellington L7786. P/O Ward replaced W/C Ryan. Up 1915 Down 0315. Glide attack from 18,000ft to 16,000ft and bombed at 2250.

  20/21st September 1941. Target - Frankfurt. Aircraft Wellington L7886. Crew - as above. Up 1906. Abandoned at 0410 NNW of Market Rasen, Lincolnshire. Unable to locate primary because of cloud cover so bombed secondary from 17,000ft at 2325. In attacking the secondary target the aircraft was now short of fuel. On return to the UK they found the whole of the South covered in fog but there was no hope of reaching an airfield  further North because of the critical fuel situation. P/O Wallis used the emergency radio system “ Darkie “ and received a response from Binbrook  to follow the searchlight homing system. This could just be seen through the fog and on arrival over Binbrook he requested the “Chance “ runway light to be flashed on and off. This was done and he was able to see it in the gloom. The fuel gauges were by now reading zero but it was known that these could be inaccurate. Using a timed circuit he made about 10 attempts to land . This was obviously an extremely hazardous and difficult undertaking and eventually he decided to abandon this and requested Binbrook for permission to bale out. The controller responded instructing  him to fly to Linton-on-Ouse and land there but P/O Wallis pointed out his negative fuel state. At this point the Wellington was climbing and then both engines, starved of fuel,  cut out then immediately started up again screaming in fine pitch.

  P/O Wallis ordered the crew to bale out and, as they did so, he started to put on his parachute. This was a harness/ life jacket combination with hooks on the hips for a seat type “chute”. He had great difficulty in attaching the parachute properly and was only successful after the second  attempt. At this point the Wellington was gliding down but occasionally getting bursts of power from the last dregs of fuel in the tanks.

  By the time he was ready to leave he looked back down the fuselage. The interior light had been left on and he could see that all the crew had abandoned the aircraft and he was alone in, what he commented later, looked like a  “ great empty cathedral. “ The altimeter was now reading 700ft.

  P/O Wallis made his way to the forward escape hatch and bent down to open it, the crew having left by the rear hatch. As he was doing this he realised he felt unusually encumbered even considering he was wearing a parachute. He looked up back to his seat and was appalled to see his webbing lines streaming out tangled in the pilot seat raising handle. If he had baled out he would have been dragged down to his death with the aircraft. He gathered up the lines in his arms and dived head first through the escape hatch releasing the webbing lines and pulling the rip-cord as he fell clear. The parachute opened with a painful jerk as the aircraft passed overhead.

  His relief at getting clear then quickly disappeared as he heard the sound of his own aircraft approaching. It had turned 180 degrees as he fell and came out of the fog heading directly toward him. It was slightly banked and just missed him as it continued its circle before crashing into the ground soon after. For a moment there was only fog and silence and then P/O Wallis felt a great blow to his head as the unseen ground “ came up and hit him”. He suffered concussion and a spinal injury and was unconscious  for about 30 minutes. He came to and became very concerned that his aircraft may have killed someone when it crashed onto the ground. Having no idea where he was he managed to find his way in the fog to a gate in the field and fired 2 shots from his pistol to attract attention.

  He was found by a Home Guard and a policeman who had been alerted. His crew landed safely along the Caistor/ Market Rasen road. The Wellington  crashed in open fields near Market Rasen.

   10/11st October 1941. Target - Ostend docks. Aircraft Wellington R1549. Crew - Sgt Campbell replaced Sgt Clowes. Up 2244. Down 0035. Bombed dock area from 12,000ft at 2210.

  12/13th October 1941. Target - Bremen. Aircraft Wellington R1549. Crew - as above. Bombed through a gap in the cloud from 15,000ft at 2159.

  13/14th October 1941. Target - Dusseldorf. Aircraft Wellington. Crew  - as above. Observed bombs and incendiaries bursting in target area. On return the intercom and TR9 failed. Landed at Coltishall.

  22/23rd October 1941. Target - Mannheim. Aircraft Wellington R1459. Crew - P/O Winchester replaced P/O Ward. Up 1808 Down 0007. Bombed from 16,000ft at 2035. On the outward flight the oil coolers froze, possibly because of water in the system, and the co pilot was unable to pump oil to the engines, the pump handle and piston assembly breaking from the pump. They continued  however and  bombed the target from 16,000ft at 2035.

  On the return flight, having encountered heavy flak over Liege, P/O Wallis and his crew unsuccessfully attempted to fly round a large thunderstorm area over the North Sea. One engine quickly iced up and failed. The other failed soon after. The windscreen iced over and the air speed indicator ceased to register because the pitot head had frozen up. The cylinder head temperature gauges dropped to zero and they lost height flying completely blind from 14,000ft to 1,000ft. The stormy seas below left little chance of a successful ditching and the wireless operator began sending out SOS signals.

  The position seemed hopeless but at 1000ft one engine suddenly came back to life for a few seconds in fine pitch. P/O Wallis juggled with the alcohol pump and the throttles and managed to get both engines running although badly misfiring.

  By this time the Wellington had descended out of the freezing air and, as the windscreen cleared of ice, white patches of broken water could be seen below. The flight continued towards East Anglia at 1,000ft.

  Suddenly flak began to burst around the aircraft and it was realised that they had strayed into the Harwich defence area. The course was hurriedly reset and they headed back out to sea and then up the coast. P/O Wallis spotted a flashing beacon and asked his navigator to check the identity as he suspected that this was the beacon at Elsham Wolds. Almost immediately there was a sudden fierce impact to the aircraft followed by a rising “twanging” noise.

  P/O Wallis instantly realised they had hit a barrage balloon cable  which was cutting through the port wing about 18 inches from the fuselage. The airspeed dropped to 60 mph and to maintain flying speed P/O Wallis applied full throttle with fine pitch keeping the nose down. The cable continued to cut into the wing with a shower of sparks and a pungent burning smell pervaded the aircraft. As the geodetic sections were severed the aircraft gave a lurch, which, for a fraction of a second, gave the crew the false hope that the cable had broken until the cutting action resumed. The crew asked if they should bale out but P/O Wallis refused realising that they were over the Humber Estuary. The cable cut through the throttle control rods and  fuel and hydraulic pipes to the port engine and the smell of hot metal was swamped by that of 100 octane fuel which was now running into the fuselage from the wing root but for some reason did not ignite. The port engine ceased to give power and was idling in fine pitch and, as the hydraulics were lost, the bomb doors and landing gear dropped adding to the drag.

    Suddenly the cable broke and they were free, the whole incident having lasted a matter of seconds. The Wellington flew on with the port wing oscillating from the loss of torsional strength, the front upper and lower main spar having been partially severed  The loss of hydraulics meant that P/O Wallis had no use of flaps.

    With starboard engine at full power with fine pitch he flew to the beacon he had spotted a minute or two earlier. The amber downward identification light was used to flash signals to the ground to ensure that the airfield lights were switched on. The Wellington descended to 400ft with the gyro instruments toppling through lack of suction but no runway lights greeted them so P/O Wallis turned once more for the beacon and made another approach to their airfield firing Very signal cartridges. The Air Traffic control at Elsham Wolds again did not turn on the runway lights. The remaining engine on P/O Wallis’s Wellington was running at such high revs that they thought the high pitched engine noise was that of a German intruder in the circuit.

    In the light of his Very flares P/O Wallis spotted the shape of other Wellingtons at their dispersals  and then caught a glimpse of the runways but was forced to make another circuit to be able to crash land as he again lost sight of the airfield in the darkness. As they turned again the Wellington ran out of height. Something white vaguely passed underneath as the aircraft shuddered on the stall. P/O Wallis managed to hold off at the right height and the Wellington ground into a wet ploughed field. With one hand on the control column P/O Wallis tried to brace himself against the instrument panel. In the emergency he had failed to strap himself in and, as the aircraft hit the ground, he was thrown forward hitting his face against the de icing levers. He quickly recovered and opened the canopy hatch ordering everyone out as fuel poured out of the aircraft into the field.

  P/O Winchester, the second pilot had been ordered to smash the open bomb door warning light on his side of the instrument panel as it was spoiling P/O Wallis’s night vision. As the  Wellington crash landed he was stood on the steps leading into the nose of the Wellington. When underside of the nose made contact with the ground a large amount of earth burst in burying P/O Winchester up to his waist. He was pulled out by P/O Wallis none the worse for wear.

  P/O Wallis counted his crew to make sure they were all out and found that there was one extra man. It was a  guard from the main gate of the airfield only a few hundred yards away who had run across to help. In the field there were neatly piled anti invasion posts to be used to prevent the landing of enemy gliders bringing paratroopers. Fortunately these had not been erected. The white object seen just prior to the crash landing was the face of the Elsham Lime Quarry which the Wellington just managed to clear coming down in the field beyond.  It turned out to be fortunate that P/O Wallis was not able to land on the runway because it was later thought that his fuel sodden aircraft would have certainly burst into flames on making contact with the concrete runway.

  Several days later, at a hectic party given for him and his crew, the barrage balloon unit at Immingham presented P/O Wallis with a piece of the cable that had so nearly brought his downfall.

  103 Squadron Wallis item

  7/8th November 1941 Target - Mannheim. Aircraft Wellington R1344. Crew - as above. Up 1813 Down 0205. Unable to locate primary so bombed a flarepath from 16,000ft at 2055 as last resort. Flarepath lights were doused just before bombing.

  26/27th November 1941 Target - Emden. Aircraft Wellington Z1140. Crew - F/S Fulbrook replaced P/O Winchester. Up 1820 Down 2241.  Bombed from 16,000ft at 2006. 10/10 cloud cover. Medium heavy flak encountered. On landing it was found there was no oil in starboard oil tank due to fractured pipe.

  16/17th December 1941. Target Wilhelmshaven. Aircraft Wellington W5664. Crew P/O Winchester replaced F/S Fulbrook. Up 1714 Down 2251. Bombed from 15,000ft at 1930.

  28/29th December 1941. Target Wilhelmshaven. Aircraft Wellington Z1142. Crew Sgt Staniland replaced P/O Winchester. Up 1754 Down 2316. Bombed from 14,000ft at 2023 in good visibility 3/4 mile S of point of aim. Incendiaries started a large fire and a very large explosion was observed in the fire 15 minutes later on the return flight.      

  6/7th January 1942. Target - Brest dockyard. Aircraft Wellington Z1142. Crew - P/O Winchester replaced Sgt Staniland. Up 1655 Down 2058. Intercom and oxygen failure resulted in mission being aborted.

  21st January 1942. Target - Bremen. Aircraft Wellington DV452. Crew - Sgt MacDonald replaced P/O Winchester. Up 1821 Down 2346. Attack on primary was abandoned due to internal heating failure in the aircraft. Attempted to bomb Emden and a flare was to be dropped 1 mile S of the town. Bomb doors were iced up and did not open. Magnesium flare ignited in the bomb bay and blew out of its tube blowing out the front bulk head and setting fire to the incendiary bomb load.  P/O Wallis pulled the jettison knob and the burning flare and incendiary bombs fell away at a height of 14,000ft at 2050. The fire eventually subsided after melting the bomb beams and burning away all the lower fuselage fabric.

  Sometime between these 2 operations Ken Wallis was promoted to Flying Officer.

  2/3rd April 1942. Target - Paris/Poissy motor factory. Aircraft Wellington L7819.

  Crew :- Flying Officer K H Wallis, Sgt MacDonald, P/O E C Burt, Sgt A Marwell, Sgt L L Bragan, Sgt J J Stockfield,

  Up 1954 D  own 0159. Engaged by intense light flak  on approach to target. Jettisoned 2 x 500lb bombs and continued with attack bombing W side of the factory.

  5/6th April 1942. Target - Cologne. Aircraft Wellington Z1152. Crew - Sgt Reid replaced Sgt Stockfield. Up 2314 Down 0530. Bombed in target area. Landed at West Raynham with TR9 U/S and short of fuel.

  8/9th April 1942. Target - Hamburg. Aircraft Wellington DV699. Crew - Sgt B W Vaughan replaced Sgt Reid. Up 2237 Down 0455. Target covered by 10/10 cloud. Bombed on ETA on flak concentrations.

  10/11th April 1942. Target - Essen. Aircraft Wellington DV699. Crew - Sgt J M Forman replaced Sgt Vaughan. Unable to take off due to engine trouble encountered on earlier air test which could not be repaired in time.

  12/13th April 1942. Target - Essen. Aircraft Wellington DV699.  Crew - as above. Up 2119 Down 0011. Abandoned operation 10 miles from Dunkirk. Rear turret doors blew open when turned to beam and turret became U/S. All bombs brought back to base.

  15/16th April 1942. Target - Dortmund. Aircraft Wellington Z1171. Crew - Sgt J J Stockfield replaced Sgt Forman. Up 2256. Down 0609. Bombed through gap in cloud on ETA.

  18/19th  April 1942. Target - Hamburg. Aircraft Wellington Z8843. Crew Sgt G A Deering replaced Sgt Stockfield. Up 2256 Down 0537. Unable to turn on nacelle fuel tanks so abandoned primary and bombed the port of Cuxhaven. Front turret doors blew open in slip stream and turret became U/S.

  23/24th April 1942. Target - Rostock. Aircraft Wellington Z1171. Crew  - flew with usual 5 man crew minus Sgt Deering  ( i.e. without extra air gunner ). Up 2152 Down 0608. Bombed from 10,000ft at 0155. Bombs believed fell 1/2 mile SW of point of aim.

  25/26th April 1942 Target - Rostock. Aircraft Wellington Z1152. Crew - see note above. Sgt W C Harrison replaced Sgt MacDonald. Up 2150 Down 0606. Bombed from 10,000ft at 0210. Heavy concentration of bombing in port and town. Nearby Heinkel factory also hit.

  Promoted to Flight Lieutenant, Ken Wallis was posted to 21 OTU on the 4th May 1942.

  Picture above courtesy of the Daily Telegraph

David W Fell - 25th March 2000

 

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