Vignettes - Wellington era - 1940 to 1942
This page is for short items and pics which do not warrant a full page.
There is plenty of stuff to add here when I get round to it. DF
HOME RUN - ALAN MILLS ( on the left with Sgts Whiting and Coglan )
There were 2 POWs from 103 Sqn who successfully escaped from captivity and returned to the UK. Ron Hawkins and Alan Mills
Alan was in the crew of Flight Lieutenant E V Lawson. F/L Lawson was flying his 8th operation as captain of his own crew on the night of the 7/8th Nov 1941. The target was Mannheim and they took off from Elsham Wolds in Wellington X9794 at 1827.
The navigator, Sgt Alan Mills, had been detailed to fly a "Fresher" operation with a new captain but this sortie was scrubbed and he was ordered to fly with Lawson's crew instead.
The raid was not a success and high winds and 10/10ths cloud caused serious navigational difficulties. Problems with a radio bearing on return saw the crew end up lost and flying over Vichy France.
With fuel running very low they were forced to abandon the aircraft and bale out. Sadly the second pilot, Clifford Onions did not survive the drop and was later found dead on the ground.
All 5 of the survivors were eventually captured although at least one, Harry Mossley, was hidden by a French family for a short while.
Alan Mills was later to escape from Fort de la Rivere and was picked up in October 1942 from the coast of southern France by the Seawolf along with at least 32 other escapers and evaders. Alan was taken to Gibraltar and was soon back in England.
This escape is a fascinating little story which I must write up when I get an hour or two to spare.
The Seawolf was a former Moroccan fishing vessel operating out of Gibraltar and, with several other similar vessels, was involved in many clandestine, covert and SOE operations around the Western Mediterranean coastlines of North Africa, Eastern Spain and Southern France. David Fell
Mellor and Havers
One of Arthur Roberts photos features S/L Mellor ( left ) and F/O Jimmy Havers DFC. It reminded me of a story concerning these 2 gentlemen in Black Swan which is worth repeating should anybody have not read it.
17th April 41 - Berlin. Mellor, with Havers as co-pilot, were tasked to fly this operation in a new Wellington that had arrived that day. On take off the aircraft set off down the runway with Havers at the controls and proved most reluctant to leave the ground. With the engines screaming at full power they just managed to clear the fence. By the time the Wellington had reached the coast they had only reached 200 feet. Mellor cursed Havers all the way telling him he should be flying a pram and not an aeroplane.
Eventually Mellor took over the controls and got the shock of his life exclaiming "The bloody bitch must have a lead arse." With full fuel and bomb load they had no option but to carry on. They never made Berlin but found a suitable target. Without the bomb load and with fuel diminishing they gained a respectable height on return before landing back at base.
Next day the aircraft was inspected and found still to contain the ferry ballast weights in the tail ! In theory, with the ballast weights in position and at full load, it was impossible for the aircraft to fly at all.
Havers, with Mellor's "encouragement", had got it off the ground by sheer will power. A salutary lesson to all pilots. Make sure you inspect your aircraft thoroughly before signing for it. David Fell
Lewis Blome-Jones DFC.
Lewis, pictured on the right with Arthur Roberts on the left, was a pilot with 103 Sqn in France flying Battles. On return to the UK he continued with the Squadron flying 18 ops in Battles and Wellingtons from Newton before completing his tour in May 1941.
He later commanded 630 Sqdn at East Kirkby.Lewis lived in South Africa to a grand old age. He may have made his century. David Fell
F/O R E V Pugh DFM RAFVR
Richard Pugh, from Abergele in Wales, was a 103 Sqn Wellington captain in late 41 to June 42. He had a particularly lively tour and was awarded a well deserved DFM on completion.
Award recommendation by Squadron CO.
'This N.C.O. has displayed superb qualities as a Captain having taken part in 32 sorties, of which 25 were as Captain. He has carried out these attacks with consistent skill and courage. Throughout he has set a high standard of Captaincy. His coolness and determination, frequently in the face of strong enemy opposition, have been an inspiration to all. One night, returning from a raid on the Ruhr, his aircraft was attacked by a night fighter. His hydraulics were shot through and the undercarriage came down and the bomb doors fell open. Despite this, he handled his aircraft skilfully, giving his rear gunner a chance to fire a burst at the fighter. After two attacks the fighter broke away. Sgt. Pugh then brought his aircraft back to base and made a very good "wheels up" landing. His enthusiasm, skill and fearlessness in the face of danger and his dogged determination have caused him to be selected for a number of difficult and more dangerous tasks and has carried these out magnificently. His devotion to duty and his fine fighting spirit fully deserve personal recognition and I strongly recommend him fo the award of the Distinguished Flying Medal.'
Remarks by Station Commander:
'This N.C.O., during his 200 hours operational flying with 103 Squadron, has shown that he has outstanding qualities of guts, determination and a complete disregard for his own personal safety. He allows nothing to deter him from hitting his target. As a result, he has always been the first selection to undertake any new or particularly dangerous operations. His offensive spirit and skilful captaincy have been an inspiration to the squadron. I have watched this N.C.O.'s progress and have no hesitation in recommending him for the award of the Distinguished Flying Medal.'
F/O Richard Elwyn Vaughan Pugh returned for a second tour with 103 Sq in late 43. He was killed on 26 November 1943, aged 29, when his Lancaster was shot down during a raid on Berlin. He is buried at the Berlin War Cemetery. David Fell
S/L Stephen Cox RAFVR
Stephen Cox senior joined 103 Sqn at Newton as an NCO Wireless Operator/Air Gunner in March 1941. He flew an eventful first tour on Wellingtons, mostly with the capable and experienced P/O Anderson.
In July 1941 he was posted to Central Gunnery School as an instructor and commissioned in March 1942. He attended a course at Boulton Paul to familiarise himself with their gun turrets and then was posted back to 103 Sqn in July 1942 as Gunnery Leader. 103 Sq had just commenced operations with the Halifax bomber which was equipped with Bolton Paul turrets at that time
On completion of his second stint at 103 Sqn he was promoted Acting Flight Lieutenant and posted onto the staff of 1 Group as a gunnery specialist.
He was promoted to Acting Squadron Leader in July 1943. He remained at 1 Group for the rest of the war and received a Mentioned in Despatches.
He survived the war but tragically was to pass away suddenly in Dec 1945 as a result of peritonitis.
A cruel twist of fate indeed for the Cox family. Ironic indeed for Stephen senior to live through all that and yet to pass away soon after hostilities were over as a result of illness. Two of Stephen's contemporaries at 103, Len Pipkin and Leslie Walsh also passed away in 1944 due to tragic none flying accidents. David Fell.
Eric Kennington - War Artist
Amongst the pictures sent me was a particularly fine and evocative portrait of the Stephen Cox ( see right ) This pastel drawing is the work of the famous war artist and sculptor Eric Kennington. The original is in the Imperial War Museum.
It is believed to have been drawn by Kennington during a visit to Newton in 1941 and is thought to be one of several 103 Sq airmen he drew during his stay. The others may well be at the Imperial War Museum as they have an extensive collection of Kennington's work.
Eric Kennington was born in Chelsea in 1888, the son of the painter T B Kennington. In August 1914 he enlisted in the 1/13th (County of London) Battalion, the London Regiment – the Kensingtons. He was wounded and eventually discharged as unfit for further service.
During his convalescence he painted what many experts consider the finest painting to come out of WW1 - The Kensingtons at Lavantie. Interestingly it was painted on glass.
Kennington was subsequently appointed as an one of the first official war artists and returned to the Western Front in 1917. He was noted for his fine drawings of ordinary soldiers.
After WW1 he accompanied T E Lawrence to the Middle East and made a number of drawings which were used to illustrate Lawrence's great book, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Between the wars Kennington became a leading sculptor.
In WW2 he resumed his duties as an official war artist and toured the United Kingdom creating a huge portfolio of memorable work including many portraits of airmen, famous and otherwise. An interesting and talented man. David Fell
S/L L C Pipkin DFC and Bar RAFVR
A notable figure in the history of 103 Sq, Leonard was a navigator with 103 in 1942 in Clive Saxelby's crew. Twice decorated in a incident packed tour.
DFC Citation :-
"Acting Flight Lieutenant Leonard Charles Pipkin RAFVR No 103 Squadron. This air observer has
displayed great skill in navigation whilst his leadership and courage, when under fire, have been an example to others. On one occasion when his aircraft was attacked
by an enemy fighter and the rear of the fuselage was set ablaze, he beat out the flames with his bare hands and afterwards similarly extinguished flames on the tube of an oxygen bottle. Flight Lieutenant Pipkin, despite severe burns thereby received, navigated his aircraft back to base. By his courage and devotion to duty, while suffering great pain, this officer was largely responsible for the safe return of his aircraft".
Shot down on the 7th Sept 42 he successfully evaded back to the UK and subsequently gave a lecture on evasion at Elsham. Leonard was one of three navigators who evaded at around this time. The other two being Gordon Mellor and Dizzy Spiller.
Leonard did not return to operations and was posted as an instructor. He was later promoted Squadron Leader and I believe had some senior navigational training role. He sadly died in a firearms accident in at Wymeswold in Aug 1944 and is buried at Hendon.
The circumstances of his death were and still are a mystery to his family. Leonard was brought up on Lord Caernarvon's estate with his brother Leslie. Their father, Joseph Pipkin, was a gamekeeper. They lived in the gamekeepers cottage and the boys grew up shooting game for the estate. Leonard was very experienced with firearms but apparently this was caused by the accidental discharge of a loaded shotgun being removed from the boot of a car prior to a shooting party. David Fell
G/C Charles E R Tait OBE DFC RAF.
Charlie Tait was born in 1913 and was a pre war regular RAF officer. I believe he was a Scot. In 1934 he was commissioned as Pilot Officer with 603 City of Edinburgh Bomber Squadron.
At that time this Auxiliary Air Force Squadron was based at RAF Turnhouse ( now Edinburgh Airport) flying Hawker Harts. He was promoted Acting Flight Lieutenant on the 2nd March 1939. About this time he must have been posted to 103 Sqn.
During the Battle of France, as a Flight Commander with 103 Sqn, Charlie was involved from first to last and was one of the last to leave Souge when the surviving crew and aircraft evacuated the airfield and flew to the UK.
After being under constant bombing and strafing for much of the day he was able to get away with 103 Sqn OC, Wing Commander Dickens in an unserviceable aircraft that was barely flyable.
Charlie was awarded a DFC when the Squadron returned to the UK and stayed with the Squadron till early Dec 1940. Charlie was OC from the 23rd Nov to the 5th Dec 1940 when he was succeeded by W/C C E Littler.
He held the rank of Group Captain in 1946 and was awarded an OBE 1st Jan 1946. David Fell
David Davidner RCAF
David flew Wellingtons with 103 in 1942 and was shot down and taken prisoner on the 2/3 July 1942 Bremen. He was in the crew of P/O Archie Little RAAF. The aircraft concerned was Wellington DV611 The circumstances of this are quite remarkable and whilst possibly not unique are certainly worth a mention here.
The aircraft was about 30 mins from the target when they were attacked by a night fighter. The rear gunner opened fire and the pilot commenced evasive action.
There was an explosion near David's face and he reached for his parachute pack and tried unsuccessfully to hook it on to his harness. He felt the aircraft go into a turning dive and then followed a much larger explosion which shattered the aircraft and propelled David out into the night sky.
" I was somersaulting slowly through space and my eyes were shut. Needless to say the state of my mind at this point was not great. I could hear the remains of the aircraft burning and exploding either above or around me. On completion of the third somersault I opened my eyes and there above me was my parachutepack unopened.
I was already on my fourth somersault and the parachute was still there. I was able to reach up and grab it which stopped my somersault and I managed to clip the parachute onto one side of my harness. I pulled the rip cord and landed at the edge of a wheat field with burning wreckage from the aircraft not far away. Physically I was unhurt but what my mental state was like I cannot answer."
As he lay there trying to collect his wits an aircraft flew very low overhead and bombed the fires. It was probably an RAF intruder attracted by the blaze. David lay face down as two bombs exploded nearby. He then passed out. When he came to in the morning German soldiers were searching the area and he was soon found and taken to the nearby Luftwaffe airfield to begin nearly three years as a POW.
He was a very lucky man indeed to survive that. The rest of the crew were all killed and are buried at the Reichswald Forest War Cemetery.
Pilot - P/O A T Little RAAF.
Wireless Operator - Sgt J W Edwards RAFVR
Front Gunner - Sgt T A Elliott RAFVR
Rear Gunner - F/S J Chicoine RCAF
The crew were on their 10th trip with Archie Little although several had flown with other pilots, P/O D M Jones being one.David Fell
A Letter Home by Charles Waghorn.
This letter was written by Sgt Charles Edward Wagon RAFVR 103 Sq ( Wag to his comrades ) to his parents Mr & Mrs E. L. Wagon. He hailed from Maidstone in Kent and was 22 years of age. The incident described occurred during a raid on Emden on the 10th May 1941 in Wellington R1395 Pilot - P/O E C Ball. "Wag" was an Air Gunner/ WirelessOperator.
"C/O Sergeants Mess, R.A.F Station, Newton, Notts. 17/5/41
Dear Mum & Dad,
Thanks very much for the cigs and the socks. Please could you send me some more as soon as you get the chance. I hope you have received the money. I posted it on Friday night. This was the first time I had been to Nottingham for about a fortnight.
We have been issued with battle dress for working and flying in but we are not allowed to wear it outside the camp. We have our badges on it, but we only wear stripes on the right arm, and no eagles on the shoulders.
It is very much like army battle dress, only it is blue of course. It is quite smart and nice for working and flying in. It is only air crews that get it.
Besides the battle dress you get 3 vests, 3 pairs of long pants, ( which are very nice for flying at night ), shirt and 2 collars, and a lovely thick white polo pullover. Officers are issued with it as well.
Well, last Saturday, we went on a raid to Emden. On the way back we had rather a nasty experience. We had bombed the target and were on our way back about 2 miles out from the Dutch coast. We were flying at 15,000 feet and using oxygen I was in the front turret keeping a lookout, with guns loaded and ready. I had just removed my oxygen mask for a few minutes to have a bite of chocolate. When, all of a sudden, there was a terrific flash of blue tracer bullets, fired from 4 machine guns and a cannon, which came up about 4 feet in front of my turret and ran right along the side about 2 feet away.
I dropped the chocolate, ripped off my gloves and swung my turret round. I then heard old Cox, who was in the tail turret, shout that we were being attacked by fighters and the Captain told us to give them all we had got.
The first to attack was an Me 109 who fired that first burst, but he disappeared. After a break of about 2 minutes the battle started and there was three of the blighters. Two Me 110s and a Ju 88. The bullets and cannon shells started flying about. And two more lots came just in front of me again.
I thought, "Crumbs, we have got a job on to shake these off."
The 2 Me 110s came in to attack together, one from each side on the tail. I shouted to old Coxie, for I could not get my guns round far enough to fire at them.
He said "I am OK" so I said "Let them have it". And he did.
During all this the Captain had been throwing the old Wellington all over the place to try and shake them off and I did not know if l was right way up or wrong. As the fighters broke away Coxie got one right along the bottom. It rolled over on its back and went straight down in flames into the sea.
But we had been hit, our left wing and right engine were on fire. So the Captain put the machine into a steep dive as the other Me 110 and the Ju 88 came in again to attack.
We went down from 11,000 to 1,500 ft. in the one dive, and we were doing 330 m.p.h. when we pulled out. By a bit of luck the dive had blown the fires out although the engine was banging and spluttering quite a bit.
Just as we pulled out the Ju 88 passed round under my turret I got him in my sights and let fly with my guns straight at him. He then passed under the wing, and I heard Coxie shout "You've got him Wag, He's burning.He's going down".
The other 110, which Coxie had fired a few bursts at, thought it was getting a bit too hot for him after seeing his pals go down and buzzed off the other way. It was a good show, 2 out of 3 down, and we were still flying.
Dalton, who was on the set, sent out an S.O.S. because we thought we would have to come down on the sea but we managed to crawl home at 1,000 fee with the old right hand engine spitting and shuddering all the time. The airspeed indicator had been shot away and also some of the other instruments so we had to do a crash landing without any wheels, as they would not come down. We all got out without a scratch, although the old kite was a wreck.
The next day ( Sunday ) we had a look at it. The mechanics had been sorting it out a bit, and there were 4 incendiary bullets in the left hand wing petrol tank, the one that had caught alight. There was also half a cannon shell in one of the tyres and bullet holes all over the wings and tail, some of them were pretty close too.
When we got back we had to go before the Group Captain who said we had put up a good show and set a very high standard for the rest of the squadron to follow.
Did you hear the account of it in the 9 o'clock news on Sunday night ? We have also been congratulated from Group Headquarters.
Well after that I have a bit of good news for you, our crew are due for a weeks leave in a fortnights time which will not be long popping along.
I am quite well and hope all of you are at home, so cheerio for now !
Hope to see you soon,
Love to all,
P.S. Have not received paper this week."
Note - Many thanks to Mrs J Lyons for allowing me to publish this fascinating letter. The incident described is recorded in the 103 Sqn ORB and was clearly a splendid effort by all of this crew. Tragically Charles Wagon went missing on the 10th Sept 1941 - Turin with P/O P L Petrie and crew. He is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial to the Missing.
P/O E C Ball RNZAF was flying his first operation as captain of his own crew following graduation from co pilot. Edward Cecil Ball completed his tour but does not seem to have received any decoration. He flew another tour with 75 Sqn but was killed on the 9th Oct 1943 whilst with 488 Sqn. His aircraft crashed near Bradwell Bay in bad weather. He is buried at Maldon Cemetery in Essex. He was a married man of 33 years of age
Wag's pal in the rear turret, Sgt J J Cox RAFVR, was killed on the 27th July 1941 whilst flying with Sgt M S Lund RNZAF. The target was the same, Emden. He is buried at Leuwarden Northern General Cemtery with the rest of his crew. John James Cox was 24 and a Bristol boy.
Dermot Kelly RAF
Dermot Daly Aloysius Kelly was the son of Brigadier Denis Patrick Joseph Kelly, O.B.E., M.C., BA – a very distinguished army officer, and May Agnes Kelly (nee Dillon-Doyle), of Barnes, Surrey. Dermot was posted to 103 Squadron just prior to WW2. During the period of the Phoney War he flew numerous operational sorties and practise duties in France. His regular Wop/AG was Frank Barker, a name well known to me During the Battle of France Dermot was very active flying over 15 operations until the Squadron withdrew to the UK. He remained with the Squadron when they were transferred to Newton and rose to the rank of Squadron Leader. Up until his death he completed 26 ops from the UK to German and French targets. 2 on Battles and 26 on Wellingtons.
Dermot was killed 16th June 1941 with 103 Sqn flying Wellingtons. He was 3 times mentioned in despatches but for some inexplicable reason was never awarded a DFC. I cannot understand this at all as he had been flying operationally for 21 months and must have completed over 50 operational sorties in that time. It seems quite extraordinary he was allowed to fly so long without a break of some sort. He was obviously a most experienced and capable pilot and officer.
The details of the loss are as follows -
Wellington IC - N2849 - Duisburg - 103Sqn - Newton
S/L Kelly Dermot.D.A. 3x MID (KIA)
Sgt McVicar John.D. RCAF (KIA)
F/S Marais Stephanus.F. (KIA)
Sgt Beaumont Leonard. (KIA)
Sgt Houghton George. (KIA)
Sgt Connell William. (KIA)
Buried Heverlee war cemetery
David Fell - Thanks to the Kelly family for the photo