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Flight Lieutenant Alex Thom DFC
|Born in Perth, Scotland, Alex Thom joined the RAFVR on June 24th 1939 and flew at the weekends at 11 EARFTS Perth. At the outbreak of World War Two, Thom was called up for full time service with the Royal Air Force and was posted to 3 ITW at Hastings on October 2nd 1939, moving to 15 EFTS at Redhill on April 29th 1940 and on June 15th moved again to 15 FTS, initially at Brize Norton and later to Chipping Norton. Alex Thom went to 6 OTU on September 29th at Sutton Bridge where he converted to Hawker Hurricanes and joined 79 squadron stationed at Pembury only for a short period when he was transferred to 87 Squadron on October 6th 1940, moving with the squadron on the 31st of October to their new base at Exeter. He achieved the rank of Pilot Officer on the 3rd of December 1941. During his time at Exeter he was also based on the Scilly Isles and on one occasion after shooting down an enemy bomber the crew bailed out over the sea. Alex Thom circled the downed German crew who were in a life raft until a motor launch came and picked them up. Thom would later meet the crew and was given a flying helmet by the German pilot, an item he still has today. Alex Thom was appointed B Flight commander on 10th July 1942 and was awarded the DFC on the 14th August 1942. At this time he was credited with two enemy aircraft destroyed and a probable He111. On the 19th of August 1942 while supporting the ground forces at Dieppe, his Hurricane (LK - M) was hit by ground fire and lost oil pressure. He managed to limp back to England where he made a forced landing at East Den. Thom managed to get back to his airfield as a passenger in a Master flown by Flt Sgt Lowe and immediately took off again in Hurricane (LK - A) back to Dieppe where he proceeded to strafe enemy positions. On the 1st of October 1942 he became F/O. In November 1942, 87 Squadron was transferred to North Africa. They were transported by ship to Gibraltar where the squadron flew sorties, and then onto North Africa. Thom was posted away from the squadron to be a flying control officer at Bone. He returned to 87 Squadron which was then based at Tongley and took command on June 27th 1943. He was again posted away from the squadron on September 27th returning to the UK with the Rank of Flight Lt. Thom became an instructor with 55 OTU at Annan on November 17th moving to Kirton in Linsay on March 12th 1944 to join 53 OTU. He was appointed Flight Commander Fighter Affiliation Flight at 84 (Bomber) OTU at Husbands Bosworth on May 19th 1944 and remained there until October 10th when he went to RAF Peterhead as Adjutant. His final posting was to HQ13 Group, Inverness on May 8th 1945 as a Staff Officer and retired from the RAF on December 4th 1945 as a Flight Lt.|
Group Captain Byron Duckenfield AFC (deceased)
|Byron Duckenfield started at Flying Training School on 25th November 1935 in a Blackburn B2 at Brough. As a Sergeant, he joined No.32 Sqn at Biggin Hill on 8th August 1936 and flew Gauntlets and Hurricanes. He joined 74 Squadron at Hornchurch on 11th April 1940, flying Spitfires, and on 5th May was posted to 501 Squadron flying Hurricanes at Tangmere. On the 11th of May at Betheniville, he survived a crash in a passenger transport Bombay aircraft in an aircraft in which he was a passenger, While comin ginto land the aircraft at 200 feet the aircraft stalled and the aircrfat fell backwards just levelly out as it histhe ground. 5 of th epassengers were killed when the centre section collapsed and crushed them. Duckenfield was fortunate as he had moved position during the flight. as the two passengers sitting each side of where he was sitting had died in the crash. (it was found later that the Bombay had beeb loaded with to much weight in the aft sectiion. ) recovering in hospital in Roehampton. On 23rd July 1940, he rejoined No.501 Sqn at Middle Wallop, then moved to to Gravesend two days later, scoring his first victory, a Ju87, on the 29th of July 1940. During August and September he scored three more victories. After a spell as a test pilot from 14th September 1940, he was posted to command 66 Squadron on 20th December 1941, flying Spitfires. On 26th February 1942 he took command of 615 Squadron flying Hurricanes from Fairwood Common, taking the squadron to the Far East. In late December 1942 he was shot down in Burma and captured by the Japanese. He remained a POW until release in May 1945. After a refresher course at the Flying Training School in November 1949, he took command of No.19 Squadron flying Hornets and Meteors from Chruch Fenton. After a series of staff positions, he retired from the RAF as a Group Captain on 28th May 1969. Duckenfield would write later his details : |
At first light, 12 Hurricanes IIC aircraft of 615 Squadron, myself in the lead, took off from Chittagong for central Burma to attack the Japanese air base at Magwe, 300 miles away on the banks of the River Irrawaddy. Arriving at Yenangyaung, we turned downstream at minimum height for Magwe, 30 miles to the South and jettisoned drop tanks. Just before sighting the enemy base, the squadron climbed to 1200 feet and positioned to attack from up sun. On the ramp at the base, in front of the hangers, were 10 or 12 Nakajima KI - 43 Oscars in a rough line up (not dispersed) perhaps readying for take. These aircraft and the hangars behind them were attacked in a single pass, before withdrawing westward at low level and maximum speed. A few minutes later perhaps 20 miles away form Magwe, I was following the line of a cheung (small creek), height about 250 feet, speed aboput 280 mph, when the aircraft gave a violent shudder, accompanied by a very lound, unusual noise. The cause was instantly apparent: the airscrew has disappeared completely, leaving only the spinning hub. My immediate reaction was to throttle back fully and switch off to stop the violently overspeeding engine. Further action was obvious: I was committed to staying with the aircraft because, with a high initial speed, not enough height to eject could be gained without the help of an airscrew. So I jettisoned the canopy and acknowledged gratefully the fact that I was following a creek; the banks of either side were hillocky ground, hostile to a forced landing aircraft. Flying the course of the creek, I soon found the aircraft to be near the stall (luckily, a lower than normal figure without an airscrew) extended the flaps and touched down wheels-up with minimum impact ( I have done worse landings on a smooth runway!) My luck was holding, if one can talk of luck in such a situation. December is the height of the dry season in that area and the creek had little water, it was shallow and narrow at the point where I came down: shallow enough to support the fusalage and narrow enough to support wing tips. So I released the harness, pushed the IFF Destruct switch, climed out and walked the wing ashore, dryshod. The question may occur -Why did not others in the squadron see their leader go down? - the answer is simple, the usual tatctic of withdrawal from an enemy target was to fly single at high speed and low level on parallel courses until a safe distance from target was attained. Then, the formation would climb to re-assemble. Having left the aircraft, I now faced a formidable escape problem? I was 300 miles from friendly territory: my desired route would be westward but 80% of that 300 miles was covered by steep north-south ridges impenetrably clothed in virgin jungle; these were natural impediments, there was also the enemy to consider. Having thought over my predicament, I decided the best I could do - having heard reports of mean herted plainspeope - was to get as far into the hills as possible and then find a (hopefully sympathetic) village. I suppose I may have covered about 15 miles by nightfall when I came upon this small hill village and walked into the village square. Nobody seemed surprised to see me (I suspect I had been followed for some time) I wa given a quiet welcome, seated at a table in the open and given food. Then exhaustion took over, I fell asleep in the chair and woke later to find myself tied up in it. Next day I was handed over to a Japanese sergeant and escort who took me back to Magwe and, soon after that, 2.5 years captivity in Rangoon jail.
Sadly we have learned that Byron Duckenfield passed away on 19th November 2010.
Major Franz Kieslich (deceased)
|Franz Kieslich born in Bochum ion 12th March 1913 and served with 7./St.G. 77 in France in 1940, and later serving in Yugoslavia. Transferring to the Russian Front he was promoted Gruppenadjutant III./St.G. 77. And in October 1942 became Staffelkapitan 7./St.G. 77. In February 1944 he was promoted Kommandeur III./SG 77. He fought at Stalingrad, Kursk, Kiev and most of the other major engagements on the Eastern Front. In February1945 he became Kommodore erganzungs-SG148. Awarded the Knight’s Cross with Oak Leaves, he flew over 1000 combat missions, and had been shot down twenty times. His wards were awarded Ritterkreuz on 05.01.1943 as Oberleutnant and Staffelkapitän 7./StukaG 77 and ( 619 ). Eichenlaub on 10.10.1944 as Hauptmann and Kommandeur III./StukaG 77. He passed away on 31st August 2012.|
Wing Commander Bob Stanford Tuck DSO DFC** (deceased)
|Bob Stanford Tuck was a flamboyant fighter pilot, his dashing good looks, courage, and success in the air coming to epitomise the young flyers who fought and won the Battle of Britain. To the British public he was a hero in the mould of the knights of old, and today his name is legend. In the early stages of the Battle of Britain Bob fought with 92 Squadron flying Spitfires, quickly becoming one of the leading aces. Promoted to command 257 Squadron, now flying Hurricanes, Bobs dashing style of leadership inspired his pilots to great success. He went on to command the Duxford and Biggin Hill Wings, taking his personal score to 29 air victories before being shot down by ground fire over Northern France in 1942. He died on 5th May 1987.|
|The Aircraft :|
|Hurricane||Royal Air Force Fighter, the Hawker Hurricane had a top speed of 320mph, at 18,200 feet and 340mph at 17,500, ceiling of 34,200 and a range of 935 miles. The Hurricane was armed with eight fixed wing mounted .303 browning machine guns in the Mark I and twelve .303 browning's in the MKIIB in the Hurricane MKIIC it had four 20mm cannon. All time classic fighter the Hurricane was designed in 1933-1934, the first prototype flew in June 1936 and a contract for 600 for the Royal Air Force was placed. The first production model flew ion the 12th October 1937 and 111 squadron of the Royal Air Force received the first Hurricanes in January 1938. By the outbreak of World war two the Royal Air Force had 18 operational squadrons of Hurricanes. During the Battle of Britain a total of 1715 Hurricanes took part, (which was more than the rest of the aircraft of the Royal air force put together) and almost 75% of the Victories during the Battle of Britain went to hurricane pilots. The Hawker Hurricane was used in all theatres during World war two, and in many roles. in total 14,533 Hurricanes were built.|
|Ju87||By 1935 the German Luftwaffe was developing its first monoplane divebomber which entered production in 1936 as the Ju87 Stuka. The Stuka was to evolve into arguably the most successful single engine Axis divebomber of WW II. Utilizing a nearly vertical dive position the Stuka was stunningly accurate in the days when horizontal bombing was a relatively inaccurate science. The Ju87 was built for functionality and ruggedness. A fixed landing gear and exceptionally strong wing design were incorporated and no attempt was made to minimize protrusions. The Stuka was not designed for speed; it was an aerodynamic nightmare. The Stuka also incorporated a siren which when activated during a dive was designed to inflict psychological damage on the enemy below. The Ju87 was used with tremendous success in the Blitzkrieg attacks on Norway, Poland, Belgium, France, Holland, Yugoslavia, and Greece. Virtually unchallenged in the air during these Blitzkriegs the Stukas took a devastating toll on Allied ground and mechanized forces. Shipping was also vulnerable to the pinpoint attacks of the Stuka, and the Ju87 destroyed more Allied shipping than all other German aircraft put together during WW II. During Hitlers air attacks on Britain the Stukas reputation for invulnerability was shattered. Facing British Hurricanes and Spitfires the slower and less maneuverable Ju87s were destroyed in large numbers, eventually forcing their withdrawal from that conflict. Germanys attempt to develop an improved twin engine divebomber resulted in the introduction of the Messerschmitt 210 which was an unmitigated disaster. As a result, the Stuka remained in production longer than expected and the aircraft played a major role in Germanys surprise attack on Russia. In the first day of combat alone Stukas were credited with the destruction of over 700 Russian aircraft with minimal losses. One of Germanys top aces of WW II was Hans-Ulrich Rudel. Rudel flew over 2,500 combat missions in Ju87s, and was shot down on twelve occasions. Rudel was credited with destroying 519 tanks, 800 vehicles, 150 artillery pieces, one Russian battleship, one cruiser and one destroyer. Rudel was also credited with shooting down nine Russian aircraft in air-to-air combat.|
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