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Flying Officer Ken Wilkinson (deceased)
|Battle of Britain pilot flying Hurricanes, he flew Spitfires with 611 Sqn and then 616 Sqn at Kirton-in-Lindsey and 19 Sqn at Fowlmere during 1940 and after a spell instructing returned to operations on Spitfires, with 234 and 165 Squadrons. After spending time with 53, 24 and 10 Operational Training Units, he left the RAF in November 1945 and served in the RAFVR.|
Ken said :
From 1st September 1939 I wrote myself off. I thought, 'you've got no chance' lasting through whatever is going to be. It was quite obvious, in the way the Germans were moving, they were going to make a hell of a war out of it, so I was ready for war. I can remember saying 'we've got to stop this fellow Hitler'. When you think of all the thousands of citizens that were being killed by this absurd bombing. They had to pay for it didn't they. Yes, we lost people. Friends that didn't come back. I don't think we were the sort of people to brood over it, ever. You have to get into an attitude to make sure that you're as cold as a fish. Once someone has failed to return, that's it. Fortune smiled on me and not on some of the others. I can only say that whoever it was who pooped off at me, wasn't a very good marksman. It transpired that we were doing something far more important than we thought. As far as we were concerned, it was just that there were some untidy creatures from over the other side of the channel, trying to bomb England and the United Kingdom. And we didn't want them to bomb us. After all, we never asked the Germans to start this nonsense, did we? But they did, and we had to stop them, and we did. It's our country. You die for you country.
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.
Wing Commander Roger Morewood (deceased)
|An uncle suggested to Roger Morewood that he should join the RAF so Roger did at the age of 17. Roger said : I was going be a pilot, that was the only reason to join. Roger trained to fly in a Tiger Moth biplane before joining 56 Squadron - regarded within the RAF as an elite unit - flying open cockpit Gauntlet fighters. The squadron were then re-equipped with Gloster Gladiators - the last RAF biplane - then the Hawker Hurricanes that would join Spitfires in fighting off Hitlers Luftwaffe in the Battle of Britain. While serving with 56 Squadron Roger Morewood was assigned the dangerous role of long-range fighter sweeps over the coast of occupied France and Holland but left to help form 248 Sqn at Hendon with whom he served throughout the Battle of Britain flying Blenheims. Roger said: We had a few panic station alerts when we were scrambled. We wouldd be leaping into our aircraft with flying suits over our pyjamas as we tried to get into the air in a minute and a half. In July 1942 Morewood went to 9 OTU and later HQ Transport Command. After a long post-war career in the RAF he retired in 1957. Roger Morewood once said of his squadron: It was damned dodgy. We had a high loss rate on operations. And on one sortie - then aged 21 - he nearly met his maker : I flew across to Den Helder (Northern Holland) in a long-nosed Blenheim to look after this battleship at the entrance to the Zuiderzee. We flew round this thing and sure enough I saw some aircraft coming up. They were twin-engine bombers naturally - Messerschmitt 110s. That was a bit hairy. My two blokes (other pilots) shoved off in a hurry into a cloud, and there was me popping away until I ran out of ammunition. There was just me left. I realised there was no point chasing - I was not going to knock his wings off. So I started flying home. After making hardly any noise all flight the chap (navigator) in the back said you haveve got somebody on your tail now - you had better move swiftly. So I moved to left and right. We got a pretty hefty clobbering. His turret disappeared at the back. My poor navigator wore a tin hat and I dont blame him. He got a bullet half way through his armour. He was alright. I had a dreadful wound. If I shook my hand really hard I could get blood out of one finger. I was hit all over the place. We took dozens of bullets. The aircraft was ruined. That is all there was to it. We were still going home - even with the North Sea to go across. So I trundled off back and ditched the damn thing. Thank God it didnt blow up. We literally got away with it. It was the hairiest trip I ever did. On another occasion, Roger intercepted a German weather forecasting flying boat called Weary Willy : I was in a Beaufighter at this time. I flew upwind and had a shot at him downwind. Then all the guns jammed. So I pulled alongside him - not too close - and waved him good luck lad. Anyway he sank when he got back to Norway. That was that one finished. Flying from Shetland, his squadron attacked German shipping off Norway. Roger was rested and spent two years training new Beaufighter pilots but still managed to go on some operations, mainly attacking convoys off the coast of Holland. Roger Morewood said: job was to attack the flak ships, floating anti-aircraft batteries, so other Beaufighters could attack the cargo ships. It could be pretty hairy as 12 Beaufighters lined up to have a crack at the target. You wouldd see tracer shells from your mates plane whizzing over your head or underneath you. They were a bigger danger than the Germans Wing Commander Roger Morwood was posted to the Mediterranean where he contracted TB. He recalled: "In hospital, they treated you with whisky in milk and a pint of Guinness for breakfast, very primitive stuff." When the war ended and the RAF were scaled down, Roger continued to serve in various postings around the UK until 1947. after leaving the RAF Roger was recalled again as an instructor at the Central Flying School, but with the rank of flight lieutenant. He was posted to Edinburgh and then Glasgow University squadrons. finnaly leaving service in 1957. Wing Commander Roger Morewood notched up more than 5000 flying hours in 32 different types of aircraft. Roger Morewood died in early December 2014.|
|The Aircraft :|
|Spitfire||Royal Air Force fighter aircraft, maximum speed for mark I Supermarine Spitfire, 362mph up to The Seafire 47 with a top speed of 452mph. maximum ceiling for Mk I 34,000feet up to 44,500 for the mark XIV. Maximum range for MK I 575 miles . up to 1475 miles for the Seafire 47. Armament for the various Marks of Spitfire. for MK I, and II . eight fixed .303 browning Machine guns, for MKs V-IX and XVI two 20mm Hispano cannons and four .303 browning machine guns. and on later Marks, six to eight Rockets under the wings or a maximum bomb load of 1,000 lbs. Designed by R J Mitchell, The proto type Spitfire first flew on the 5th March 1936. and entered service with the Royal Air Force in August 1938, with 19 squadron based and RAF Duxford. by the outbreak of World war two, there were twelve squadrons with a total of 187 spitfires, with another 83 in store. Between 1939 and 1945, a large variety of modifications and developments produced a variety of MK,s from I to XVI. The mark II came into service in late 1940, and in March 1941, the Mk,V came into service. To counter the Improvements in fighters of the Luftwaffe especially the FW190, the MK,XII was introduced with its Griffin engine. The Fleet Air Arm used the Mk,I and II and were named Seafires. By the end of production in 1948 a total of 20,351 spitfires had been made and 2408 Seafires. The most produced variant was the Spitfire Mark V, with a total of 6479 spitfires produced. The Royal Air Force kept Spitfires in front line use until April 1954.|
|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.|
|Me109||Willy Messerschmitt designed the BF109 during the early 1930s. The Bf109 was one of the first all metal monocoque construction fighters with a closed canopy and retractable undercarriage. The engine of the Me109 was a V12 aero engine which was liquid-cooled. The Bf109 first saw operational service during the Spanish Civil War and flew to the end of World War II, during which time it was the backbone of the Luftwaffe fighter squadrons. During the Battle of Britian the Bf109 was used in the role of an escort fighter, a role for which it was not designed for, and it was also used as a fighter bomber. During the last days of May 1940 Robert Stanford-Tuck, the RAF ace, got the chance to fly an Me109 which they had rebuilt after it had crash landed. Stanford-Tuck found out that the Me109 was a wonderful little plane, it was slightly faster than the Spitfire, but lacked the Spitfire manoeuvrability. By testing the Me109, Tuck could put himself inside the Me109 when fighting them, knowing its weak and strong points. With the introduction of the improved Bf109F in the spring of 1941, the type again proved to be an effective fighter during the invasion of Yugoslavia and during the Battle of Crete and the invasion of Russia and it was used during the Siege of the Mediteranean island of Malta. The Bf109 was the main fighter for the Luftwaffe until 1942 when the Fw190 entered service and shared this position, and was partially replaced in Western Europe, but the Me109 continued to serve on the Eastern Front and during the defence of the Reich against the allied bombers. It was also used to good effect in the Mediterranean and North Africa in support of The Africa Korps. The Me109 was also supplied to several German allies, including Finland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, and Slovakia. The Bf109 scored more kills than any other fighter of any country during the war and was built in greater numbers with a total of over 31,000 aircraft being built. The Bf109 was flown by the three top German aces of the war war. Erich Hartmann with 352 victories, Gerhard Barkhorn with 301 victories and Gunther Rall with 275 kills. Bf109 pilots were credited with the destruction of 100 or more enemy aircraft. Thirteen Luftwaffe Aces scored more than 200 kills. Altogether this group of pilots were credited with a total of nearly 15,000 kills, of which the Messerschmitt Bf109 was credited with over 10,000 of these victories. The Bf109 was the most produced warplane during World War II, with 30,573 examples built during the war, and the most produced fighter aircraft in history, with a total of 33,984 units produced up to April 1945. Bf109s remained in foreign service for many years after World War II. The Swiss used their Bf109Gs well into the 1950s. The Finnish Air Force did not retire their Bf109Gs until March 1954. Romania used its Bf109s until 1955. The Spanish Hispanos flew even longer. Some were still in service in the late 1960s.|
|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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