Wednesday, 1 April, 1942
Weather, clear with scattered cloud at 4,000 feet. The CO inspected the armoury, MT and dispersal. The Squadron was at readiness at 0537 hours and briefed for a circus to the RR yards at Boulogne. The Wing got airborne at 1220 hours and made rendezvous with 11 Bostons at Chatham at 1256 hours. The circus consisted of the bomber at 14,000 feet, the Biggin Hill Wing as close escort at 15,000 to 17,000 feet, the North Weald Wing as escort cover at 18,000 to 21,000 feet and the Northolt Wing as top cover in loose fours. 403 Squadron was in the middle position of the North Weald Wing.
The Circus crossed the French Coast at Le Touquet at 1304 hours, the Northolt Wing then turned South with Biggin Hill and North Weald turning left and following the railroad to Boulogne. The Circus came out at Cap Gris Nez at 1315 hours, meeting up with the Hornchurch Wing which swept across the French Coast covering our withdrawal. They came in South of Cap Gris Nez and crossed the French Coast West of Calais. Flak was encountered all the way from Le Touquet to Cap Gris Nez and ten of the eleven bombers were escorted home. All of our a/c returned safely after landing at Southend due to weather which was closing in at North Weald.
Late in the afternoon, S/L Campbell took 10 a/c with less experienced pilots on Army co-operation, getting airborne at 1650 hours doing manoeuvres around Chelmsford. F/L Walker went on three days leave upon his return from Hendon and flew down to Southend with F/S McDonald in the Tiger Moth.
F/O Dean, press liaison officer came here today. P/O Magwood, Sgts Aitken and Walker wrote reports on their liaison duties with the Army. They were very interesting to read and show keen observation. The reports were typed in detail and transmitted to 11 Group HQ.
F/S Argue has now finished reading all information available on starting procedure for the ME 109 and states that the pamphlet 114A, page 2, has typographical error under flying the aircraft (i) radiator shutter control (13) to start fuel pump in tank, should read 12 instead of 13 also the cockpit illustration should have a picture showing the right-hand side of the cockpit.
Thursday, 2 April, 1942
Weather, clear, visibility unlimited with a brisk breeze from the SW. The Squadron was on 30 minutes availability. The pilots did army co-operation, formation, dogfights and Sector reconnaissance. AC1 Barby and AC1 Chiaisson were posted as fitters to 417 Squadron for overseas duty. A new Spitfire, Mk VB, BM185 was delivered to ‘A’ Flight. F/S Monchier, while taxiing in AD199, collided with a truck parked on the perimeter track at 1600 hours, damaging the port wing and oleo leg. The inquiry puts most of the blame on the truck driver. F/S Oliver was posted overseas as a test pilot; the boys gave him a farewell dinner at the ‘Thatch’. Orders were received at 1800 hours for all Officers to carry revolvers. F/L Connie Riddle was posted to Gravesend for 3 weeks. W/C Stewart paid a visit to the dispersal today.
Friday, 3 April, 1942
Weather, some ground haze, with clouds at 2,000 feet breaking towards noon. Visibility fair.
The Squadron was at readiness at 1300 hours and scrambled to Clacton-on-Sea at 1338 hours. F/S Beurling, while taxiing in KH-W for take-off on the scramble, gunned the engine too quickly while on rough ground, hitting bumps at the edge of the perimeter track and buckled the port wheel, then ground looping and striking a/c KH-V. He damaged the starboard wing and the propeller of KH-V and the oleo leg and port wing of KH-W.
The pilots did formation flying and cannon testing today. Instructions were received from the ops to strafe AA gun positions at co-ordinates 7516 W during official visit of Right Honourable Winston Churchill and other officials. One section, led by F/O Norman Dick with F/S Somers, F/S Walker and P/O Tillier took off at 1528 hours. They patrolled for 30 minutes at 4,000 to 6,000 feet between North Weald and Radlett, until they were notified by ops to start the attack. F/O Dick led the section over the target area in starboard echelon formation at 2,000 feet, then peeled off in pairs making in all some 30 attacks on the gun position. On the first attack, Dick and Somers came down between the surrounding structures and strafed the gun position from a 20-foot elevation. The Government officials and spectators ran for cover but the Prime Minister appeared to stand fast. By carrying out numerous attacks from all angles in pairs, the gun crew appeared to have had some difficulty in orienting the fire. At the close of the action, the section climbed to 2,000 feet and flew in pairs in line astern, then echelon starboard to echelon port, then box formation while carrying out shallow dives during each manoeuvre. The Section returned to North Weald at 1659 hours.
Dawn readiness tomorrow so everyone turned in early.
Saturday, 4 April, 1942
Weather, visibility fair with scattered cumulus clouds at 3,000 feet, closing in with occasional showers during the late afternoon. The Squadron was called to readiness at 0530 hours and briefed for a sweep at 0900 hours. The briefing was as follows: 403 Squadron as bottom Squadron, 121 Squadron in the middle and 222 Squadron as top cover, with the Wing acting as forward support with freedom of action to sweep occupied France between Dunkirk and Nieuport, then turning South across Poperinghe and Cassel, then turning at St. Omer and coming out between Gravelines and Calais. The North Weald Wing was to cross the French Coast at 25-27,000 feet. This sweep is timed to cover the withdrawal of bombers from a target at St. Omer. Twelve Bostons are to make rendezvous at Chatham at 1000 hours, forming up with the Kenley Wing as escort at 14-16,000 feet, Northolt as escort cover at 17-19,000 feet and Biggin hill as top cover at 20-23,000 feet. The course is from Chatham to Hardelot to target at St. Omer at 1034 hours and home across the French Coast East of Calais. The Hornchurch Wing is to act as target support, flying at 20-22,000 feet to accompany any bombers as far as Aire, then to turn North, sweeping Dunkirk, Gravelines and across the French Coast at Cap Gris Nez homewards.
Action The North Weald Wing took-off at 0934 hours and crossed the French Coast East of Dunkirk at 1032 hours, after delaying for five minutes upon instructions from ops. The Wing swept Poperinghe, Cassel and St. Omer where eight-plus huns were seen. We dived to attack, then the e/a made off. Coming out between Calais and Gravelines, several FW 190s were encountered. In the melee with the FW 190s, F/S Campbell was attacked but suffered no damage. P/O Magwood was attacked at close range by an unknown Spitfire which fired upon him. Fortunately he was not hit, as whoever the Spit pilot was, he was not a very good marksman. W/C Scott Malden, after his encounter with the FW 190s, stayed to pick up stragglers and to protect F/S Campbell. F/O Dick and P/O Rainville fired but claim no damage. Six of our a/c landed at Manston, two at Southend and three at North Weald with all a/c returning safely. The weather during this sweep was none too good, the French Coast was visible but further inland was overcast including the target area. All of the bombers returned safely but some casualties were suffered in the fighter escort.
F/L Walker and F/S Munn returned from leave today. P/O Bill Zoochkan went away on leave as was P/O Amour who went on a 48-hour. F/S Walker (Blue 2) hit a soft spot on the aerodrome when taking off this morning and was bogged down, missing the sweep.
Sir Archibald Sinclair cancelled his appointment to address the pilots today. All of the ATC cadets that visited the Squadron were given rides by Sgt Beurling in the Tiger. He topped his flying time off by giving the dispersal staff, Batty and Hays rides as well. Beurling is very much at home in the air and can certainly handle the a/c. Ops reported ‘outward’ today at 1400 to 1800 hours.
Sunday, 5 April, 1942
Visibility fair – cumulus nimbus clouds at 1,500 feet with occasional showers. The Squadron was made available at 30 minutes at 0628 hours. F/L Wood, Sgt Hubbard, Sgt Johnson and Sgt Rawson left for Martlesham Heath for air firing practice at 1005 hours. Upon arrival, F/L Wood continued on to see how the weather looked while Sgt Hubbard brought the section in to land down wind. He noticed his mistake as he was about to touchdown and pulled away. Johnson also went around on his own. Sgt Rawson hit the deck and turned over in the middle of the aerodrome. A/C KH-V W3170 was a complete wash out. Rawson was seriously injured and present reports indicate a broken jaw bone, badly cut face and injury to his eyes with the possible loss of sight in one eye. Tough break for Rawson, not much chance for him to fly again. The air ambulance took him to No. 1 Military hospital. The accident occurred at 1035 hours.
P/O Rainville, F/Ss Messum, Aitken, and Monchier also went to Martlesham Heath for air firing, leaving at 1050 hours and returning at 1645 hours.
F/S Munn went on a cannon test and P/O Magwood did some army co-op. F/S Argue returned from Manston and gave a good detailed statement of unknown Spitfire that opened fire on Red 3 on April 4 sweep.
S/L Jackson from FC HQ visited S/L Campbell and had tea with us. P/O Parr returned from 7 days of leave with friends, reporting that the only thing that was rationed was the food. F/O Francis (adjutant) and F/O MacKay looked over the aerodrome defence areas with particular reference to 403 Squadron.
Monday, 6 April, 1942
Weather, 10/10ths cumulus cloud at 1,500 feet. Quite cold with fair visibility. The Squadron was put on 30 minutes at 0700 hours. At 1300 hours, the Squadron was put on readiness, then released at 2130 hours. At 1120 hours, Black and White Sections went off on convoy patrol, with Green Section following at 1543 hours.
The boys were not very accurate on the number of ships seen and will do better the next time. F/L Wood was the only one to give a clear account; he reported 47 merchant vessels escorted by 3 destroyers, 2 corvettes heading NE from Shoeburyness past Harwich. he also reported having seen 2 minesweepers heading West towards the Coast. A Gladiator was observed diving on the Island fortress off Frenton-on-Sea. F/L Wood closed in and examined the markings to make sure that it was a friendly a/c.
P/O Hoben arrived to officially take over the new Spitfire VB that is to be named ‘Canadian Policeman’. This a/c was donated to the cause by the Canadian Police effort. A ceremony is to take place at 1500 hours April 8th. Hoben was formerly RNWMP and we trust that the old saying of the RNWMP that they always get their man will go for pilot and aircraft.
G/C Pike, DFC and bar, along with our CO inspected the defence drill for 403 Squadron personnel at 1730 hours.
W/O Belcher was away today for his overseas posting. Nice chap, Belcher, quite and unassuming, he does his work well; we wish him the best of luck.
‘Toothy’ the dentist, with his wife and two friends was hit by another car and turned over while driving in London last night. Toothy got out through the top and had his shoe sole torn-off but nobody was hurt. Toothy did not dare breath on the policeman who took his number.
Tuesday, 7 April, 1942
Weather, heavy rain during the night with cumulus at 1,000 feet in the morning which cleared towards noon. The Squadron was at readiness 0624 hours and convoy patrols were carried out with 10 ships reported seen entering the Thames estuary accompanied by 2 Destroyers. The escort asked P/O Rainville if he could spot one vessel about 30 miles astern, this vessel could not be located.
F/L Reid and F/O Dean, Canadian Press Officers, paid 403 Squadron a short visit and were given a news item concerning P/O Dick’s section strafing the AA gun position during the inspection made by the Prime Minister and his party. Those pilots not on convoy patrol did some formation flying and sector reconnaissance.
P/O Hurst went away on 7 days leave. F/S Campbell and Sgt Johnson went to HQ, 56 Division for liaison duties. They were picked up by an army transport which brought Major S.W. Peet of the 2/6 Queen’s Royals and Capt Strick of the 1st London Irish here for liaison duties. F/L Connie Riddell dropped in today in a Magister from Southend for a short visit. The ‘Daily Sketch’ today has a picture of F/L Brad Walker doing a ‘roll off the top’ on the ground.
Wednesday 8 April, 1942
Weather clear at North Weald with slight ground haze. The Squadron was at readiness at 0620 hours and was briefed at 0645 hours as follows: The North Weald Wing, with 222 Squadron on the bottom at 16,000 feet, 403 Squadron in the middle at 17,000 feet, and 121 Squadron as top cover at 19,000 feet would make rendezvous with the Debden and Hornchurch Wings at Bradwell Bay at 0730 hours, to cross the French Coast between Dunkirk and Nieuport at 0750 hours. The Debden Wing would be below us at 14,000 -15,000 feet and the Hornchurch Wing above us flying between 20,000 – 22,000 feet.
We were to sweep over Poperinghe at 0755 hours, St. Omer at 0800 hours, then split up with North Weald coming out East of Cap Gris-Nez at 0807 hours, the Debden Wing at Gravelines at 0805 hours and the Hornchurch Wing just North of Boulogne at 0807 hours with all wings having the freedom of action to bounce any e/a.
In addition to this and timed to cross the French Coast as we were to be coming out, the Northolt Wing at 15,000 – 18,000 feet, the Tangmere Wing at 19,000 – 21,000 feet were to leave the English Coast at Littlestone at 0759 hours and cross the French Coast North of Boulogne at 0807 hours, then turn left to come out west of Calais homeward. The Biggin Hill Wing at 9,000 – 12,000 feet, along with the Kenley Wing at 14,000 – 17,000 feet were to leave the English Coast at Winchelsea at 0739 hours and cross the French Coast at Hardelot at 0750 hours, coming out East of Cap Gris-Nez at 0757 hours.
403 Squadron took-off on the sweep at 0715 hours, made the rendezvous at Bradwell Bay at 0732 hours and crossed the French Coast between Dunkirk and Nieuport at 0753 hours. We swept Poperinghe and St. Omer and came out at St. Inglevert at 0810 hours, encountering eight bursts of flak South of Calais at 16,000 feet and another burst of 6 from St. Inglevert at 16,500 feet. At St. Inglevert W/C Scott Malden reported ME 109s flying East along the Coast which S/L Campbell endeavoured to intercept by orbiting the Squadron in a left turn and sweeping Ambleteuse and marquis re-crossing the French Coast at St. Inglevert and heading home. All of our a/c returned undamaged at 0840 hours. Convoy patrol carried out by Red and Yellow Sections who got airborne at 1055 hours. P/O Parr reports 7 merchant ships escorted by 2 Destroyers off Harwich heading southbound.
At 1400 hours, a rehearsal for the dedication of the ‘Canadian Policeman’ was done by ‘A’ and ‘B’ Flights. At 1500 hours the Flights took up their positions flanking the a/c, ‘Canadian Policeman,’ for the actual parade. Sir Philip Game, Supt of the Metropolitan Police , made the presentation, which was accepted by Air-Vice Marshall Edwards. S/L Campbell introduced P/O Hoben, the pilot who is to fly the a/c. Also in attendance were a detachment of the former RCMP who are now attached to the Army. Sir Phillip took the salute on the march past. Thanks to the coaching of the CO, the Squadron formed up well and looked quite smart. Tea was served in the Mess for the visitors after the ceremony.
F/O Deans and Mr. Hunter of the Canadian Press, as well as some photographers were here to attend the presentation of the Spitfire. F/O Francis took Dean to Hill Hall to see antique furniture. Dean was particularly intrigued with the combination easy chair and commode and the gilded bed adorned with a crown and a coat of arms now occupied by S/L Campbell, DFC.
Upon landing from the sweep, F/S Argue taxied KH-R into another aircraft, which had its nose projecting too far over the runway, damaging the propeller reduction gear and possibly the main plane of KH-R and causing glycol to leak from the damaged propeller and engine cowling of the other aircraft.
Thursday, 9 April, 1942
Weather, 10/10ths cloud and rain all day. The Squadron was called to readiness at 0530 hours and this was cancelled at 0545. No flying today. W/C Scott Malden gave a lecture to the Wing with regard to e/a claims by pilots. He stated that too much deflection was allowed in firing, that most pilots opened fire at too great a range and were not sufficiently educated in judging distances.
Air Marshall Sir Sholto Douglas of Fighter Command was due to arrive at teatime. He arrived at the dispersal at 1715 hours, with W/C Scott Malden and G/C Pike who chatted with S/L Campbell and met with the pilots. F/S Hubbard was posted to an air-sea rescue Squadron.
Friday, 10 April, 1942
Weather, 5/10ths cloud with a ceiling at 2,000 – 3,000 feet. At 0620 hours one section was put on readiness with 2 sections at 15 minutes. ‘A’ Flight was at 30 minutes availability. The Wing was briefed at 1600 hours. The North Weald Wing, as cover for the Debden Wing, is to rendezvous at Bradwell Bay at 1700 hours at 2,000 feet and set course for Gravelines, crossing the French Coast at 1722 hours. The Debden Wing, was to be at 14,000 – 15,0000 feet, North Weald at 17,000 – 19,000 feet, with 222 Squadron on top, 121 Squadron in the middle and 403 Squadron at the bottom position. Wings were to sweep Cassel, St. Omer and come out at Hardelot with freedom of action. Timed to engage any e/a that were stirred up by this, the Biggin Hill Wing, at 14,000 – 17,000 feet, Kenley Wing at 18,000 – 22,000 feet and the Hornchurch Wing at 23,000 – 25,000 feet were to leave West Mallings at 1706 hours and cross the French Coast at Hardelot at 1723 hours. They would then turn left, sweeping St. Omer before splitting up with Biggin Hill coming out East of Cap Gris-Nez, and Kenley and Hornchurch coming out at Gravelines. The Tangmere Wing at 18,000 – 20,000 feet, along with the Northolt Wing at 15,000 – 17,000 feet were to leave the English Coast at Dungeness, cross the French Coast East of Gravelines at 17,000 – 19,000 feet at 1715 hours and sweep Cassel and St. Omer before turning right and forming up in pairs abreast, coming out at Hardelot at 1730 hours at 15,000 feet, making landfall at Dungeness at 1740 hours.
Twenty bursts of flak accurate for height were encountered South of Boulogne, coming from a battery of about 12 AAs. No e/a were encountered and all of our a/c landed undamaged. Those taking part in this sweep were:
Red Section Blue Section Yellow Section
W/C Scott Malden S/L C. Campbell F/L C. Wood
P/O W. Munn F/S G. Walker P/O G. McDonald
F/L B. Walker P/O L. Somers P/O J. Parr
P/O C. Magwood Sgt G. Beurling F/S C. Olmsted
Larry Somers, Bill Munn and Hammy McDonald received appointments as Pilot Officers and went to London today to get outfitted. F/S Campbell was appointed W/O. Well deserved promotions for all. Sgt Johnson and W/O Campbell returned from Army liaison duties and Major Peet and Capt Strick returned to their duties. F/O Dick returned from three days at Martlesham Heath. W. (Bill) Zoochkan returned from seven days leave at Bournemouth.
The Magister, piloted by 222 Squadron with an Army liaison officer on board crashed on a crosswind landing. No one was hurt but the starboard wing and engine on the Magister were badly damaged. The Squadron was released at 2000 hours.
Saturday, 11 April, 1942
Weather, high-scattered cloud, with fair visibility and late afternoon ground haze.
The Squadron was at 30 minutes availability during the day and was released from this at 1700 hours. The Squadron did weather tests, formation and cannon tests off of Bradwell Bay.
At 1400 hours, the W/C gave a talk on air-sea rescue in 222 Squadron Dispersal to the Wing. this was followed by a practical demonstration of inflating a dinghy in the water reservoir, the pilot demonstrating being the one who pranged the Magister. P/O Magwood (Maggie) took-off with a good looking blonde for two days leave. Somers, McDonald and Munn are back from London, fully equipped by Simpsons who turned out a good job in 18 hours. Brad Walker’s sea-going brother arrived to spend a few days holiday. He is training for invasions barges. All of the Officers went to the ‘Thatch’ at 2000 hours to initiate the new members of the Officer’s mess then went home to Hill Hall. We evidently stirred up a few Jerrys yesterday for the Tangmere and Northolt Wings.
Sunday, 12 April, 1942
Weather was clear all of the day; no cloud with a slight ground haze. The Squadron was on 30 minutes so the pilots did dog fighting, sector reconnaissance, aerobatics and Army co-op in the morning. At 1200 hours we were briefed for a Circus in 222 Squadron Dispersal. The North Weald Wing is to act as escort to 9 Bostons, with 222 Squadron at the front at 10,000 feet, 121 Squadron at the back and sides of the bombers at 10,000 feet and 403 Squadron on top and slightly behind the bombers at 11,000 feet. Rendezvous at Clacton-on-Sea at 1300 hours is to be made with the Debden Wing acting as close escort at 12,000 – 15,000 feet, and Hornchurch as high cover at 16,000 – 18,000 feet. Course for the French Coast is to be set crossing between Dunkirk and Nieuport at 1323 hours, then flying South to a point ten miles East of Hazebroock at 1330 hours. We are to be over the target area at 1330 hours and come out at Gravelines at 1340 hours. The Kenley and 12 Group Wings would act as rear support and were to leave West Mallings at 1317 hours, crossing the French Coast at Cap Gris-Nez at 1334 hours, then sweeping West and coming out at Gravelines at 1340 hours. The Kenley Wing would be at 15,000 – 17,000 feet, with 12 group at 18,000 – 21,000 feet, Tangmere at 15,000 – 16,000 feet, 10 group at 17,000 – 19,000 feet and the Northolt Wing at 20,000 – 23,000 feet as target support, leaving Beachy Head at 1306 hours, crossing the French Coast at Hardelot at 1322 hours and then splitting up. Tangmere would orbit East of St. Omer, 10 Group to orbit the target area and the Northolt Wing to sweep inland to West of Bethune and all Wings coming out at 1341 hours.
Action. The Wing made the rendezvous at 1300 hours and crossed the coast with the bombers East of Gravelines at 1323 hours. We were over the target at 1330 hours and came out West of Dunkirk at 1340 hours. Flak was encountered for a depth of five miles in from the coast. Blue Section was attacked by several FW190s which came in from above at 11 o’clock at 11,000 feet and were driven off with bursts from F/L Walker and P/O Munn. S/L Campbell saw two FW 190s come up from below to attack the bombers and led his section in and headed off the attack. Four other a/c made a diving attack on the bombers and, just before running over the target the rear port bomber was hit in the Starboard engine and fell away. Bombs appeared to miss the target and fell to the West of the RR yard. F/L Walker and P/O Munn had another encounter with a ME 109 from 250 yards but observed no damage. The W/C fired a burst at a ME 109 and this attack was continued by F/S Argue who fired a good burst from 250 yards, closing to 150 yards. The e/a went into a shallow dive, and F/S Argue could not follow up as another e/a opened fire on him from above and astern, with tracer passing over his port wing. P/O Rainville fired short bursts at two FW 190s and 1 ME 109 from a range of 500 yards but saw no damage. P/O McDonald attacked 2 109s and fired short bursts but observed no damage before he was attacked by three FW 190s. He saw tracer pass overhead, turned and made a front attack scaring two of the e/a off, then turned inside the other e/a and got in another burst but without seeing any damage. He then went into a spin and levelled at 6,000 feet and set course for home having lost Beehive. All of our a/c returned undamaged to the base.
Monday, 13 April, 1942
Weather, clear with a slight ground haze and high cirrus clouds. ‘A’ Flight was at readiness at 0625 hours and ‘B’ Flight on 15 minutes availability. At 1034 hours, Red and Yellow Sections were scrambled and airborne within 3 minutes. They were given vector of 140 to intercept bandits at Manston, then changed to 020 for Clacton-on-Sea before being notified that the bandits were friendly aircraft and returning to base. The Squadron was on the top line at 1250 hours and briefed at 1355 hours for a fighter sweep on which they got airborne at 1403 hours.
403 Squadron was top cover in the Wing at 25,000 feet and made rendezvous with Debden, Hornchurch and Biggin Hill Wings at 1430 hours. We were over Manston at 1440 hours and crossed the French Coast at Gravelines at 1450 hours. We turned right, sweeping Marquis and coming out at Ambleteuse at 1500 hours. Some flak was encountered from Boulogne which burst at 20,000 feet. Only two e/a were seen which were out of range and below the Wings when we were going in. Some excitement occurred at 1930 hours when F/S Monchier came in to land and could not get his wheels down. F/L ‘Timber’ Wood took-off and talked to Monchier, telling him to side slip to try to force the wheels down, and then by way of encouragement said, “you had better land on the grass, it’s a bit softer, I’m holding my ears for the prang” and then promised him a day off if he brought it down in one piece. S/L Campbell directed Monchier through Ops. Everything went off okay with Monchier landing without damage and smiling. P/O John Rainville went on 7 days leave today.
Tuesday, 14 April, 1942
Weather, clear with no cloud and a slight ground haze. The Squadron was briefed at 1100 hours. North Weald Wing was to act as diversion wing with Kenley and Hornchurch, rendezvousing at West Mallings. Kenley was at 16,000 – 19,000 feet, North Weald at 20,000 – 23,000 feet and Hornchurch at 24,000 – 26,000 feet. 403 was in the middle position of the Wing. 12 Bostons, escorted by the Tangmere Wing were to take-off from Tangmere at 1200 hours, reach the target which is the Caen powerhouse at 1230 hours and return to Tangmere at 1308 hours.
North Weald made the rendezvous at West Mallings at 1150 hours and was over Beachy Head at 1211 hours. We crossed the French Coast at Fecamp at 1230 hours, turning left and sweeping the French Coastline coming out at Le Treport at 1240 hours, before heading home for North Weald over Hastings. No enemy were seen although Ops reported 40 plus e/a at 20,000 feet between Dieppe and Le Treport heading South East which were not seen by our Wings. No Flak was encountered. All of our a/c returned undamaged. F/L Walker has a loose hood and had to return soon after take-off. Flying KH-X ‘Canadian Policeman’ on its first do was P/O Doug Hurst.
A short briefing was given by the CO at 1700 hours. North Weald was to rendezvous at base with Debden at 21,000 – 23,000 feet, with 403 Squadron on the bottom, 121 in the middle and 222 on top. We were then to pass over Hawkinge and cross the French Coast at St. Inglevert. Two other sweeps of other Wings were to proceed our take-off to stir up e/a. Action S/L Campbell reports that they left Hawkinge at 1835 hours with the Debden Wing not in position and were halfway across the Channel before one of its Squadrons got into position. The W/C reported the others to still be orbiting at the rendezvous. The French Coast was crossed at Ambleteuse at 1845 hours then they turned left and swept 10 miles inland coming out at St. Inglevert at 1852 hours. Heavy flak was encountered between Cap Gris-Nez and Boulogne, bursting at 23,000 – 26,000 feet. Yellow 2, P/O Doug Hurst, states that his section, led by F/L ‘Timber’ Wood, dove on a FW 190 going down on an unknown Spit which cut across Hurst who turned to avoid a collision and lost Yellow 1. F/L Wood was not seen again and is now reported as missing. Evidently, from observations by S/L Campbell and W/C Scott Malden, there were 10 plus huns below when ‘Timber’ went in to attack. We all hope that Timber will turn up and all expect him to. His eagerness to fight and the sunnyness of his disposition kept high the morale of his Flight. He was tireless and patient with his pilots in training and his Section flew into action with him full of confidence in his ability and guidance. W/O Campbell, Yellow 4, saw a FW 190 climb to attack Yellow 3, P/O Parr. He followed the e/a up and got in two one second bursts, then stalled and fell away. Pictures of this action show good deflection and aim, but no damage is claimed. P/O Somers flew as No 2 to the W/C and had to stay put but saw several e/a but could not get them in his sights without loosing position.
All of our a/c returned undamaged with the exception of timber whom we hope is okay; he was the only one in the Squadron carrying a revolver. This was one of the hottest days we have had which came on very unexpected; none of the boys thought when they took-off that they would bump into much.
A F/L from Intelligence HQ paid the Station a visit. F/O N. Dick and F/S Olmsted went to 56 Division HQ for liaison duty. Second Lt M. Tranttenberg, 10 Royal Berks and Capt W.F. Clarke, 8 Royal Fusiliers arrived for liaison duties. F/S Aitken went on leave.
Wednesday, 15 April, 1942
Weather, clear with unlimited visibility. Owing to the loss of F/L Woof, F/O Dick and Olmsted were recalled from liaison duty for operations. Second Lt Tranttenberg was also recalled to his Unit, departing at 1530 hours. F/S Hubbard paid a visit from air-sea rescue, being homesick for 403 Squadron and Spitfires. He was given F/S Rawson’s letter to read and was glad to hear that he is coming along okay at the No. 1 Military Hospital. Mosquito and Havoc a/c were in here today. A Flight Lieutenant Gas Officer from HQ inspected the Squadron and a Flight Lieutenant from the photographic department also visited us. The Squadron was briefed at 1330 hours. North Weald and Hornchurch Wings are to act as withdrawal support to Hurricane bombers attacking Desvres, with North Weald at 23,000 – 26,000 feet and Hornchurch at 27,000 – 28,000 feet. The Wings were to cross the French Coast at Gravelines and then sweep Guines coming out at Cap Gris-Nez. Action S/L Campbell DFC reports that rendezvous was made at Gravesend at 1423 hours and the French Coast was crossed between Gravelines and Calais at 1450 hours. They swept inland, coming out at Boulogne, then turned right along the coast to Sangette before turning for home. No flak was encountered and only one e/a was seen.
The Squadron was briefed for another do; North Weald Wing was to act as top cover at 21,000 – 22,000 feet, with the Hornchurch Wing as escort at 18,000 – 20,000 feet and Debden at 15,000 – 17,000 feet. This was to be close support for eight Hurricanes which were to be rendezvoused with at Eastchurch at 1835 hours. Course would then be set for Gravelines where the bombers would release their loads and then return unescorted while the fighter wings go in to sweep Audruica, Guines and come out at Cap Gris-Nez. They were to orbit the Channel then go back in over France at Winereuax and out at Sangette before returning home. Action S/L Campbell reports that the French Coast was crossed at Gravelines at 1855 hours with considerable flak at 22,000 feet. Ops reported bandits at 30,000 feet between Boulogne and Cap Gris-Nez which turned sharp right. The W/C instructed all to bunch up and then saw 18 FW 190 ahead and above to port. Six of these came down out of the sun on the port section, the S/L turned into them and the e/a all pulled up with the exception of one which was attacked by a Spitfire. We then lost height to 21,000 feet and circled to the East of Cap Gris-Nez, then, led by the W/C, south of Cap Gris-Nez were we formed a defensive circle while the other two Squadrons bounced the e/a which came down. The defensive circle was kept for cover while e/a were still above and several encounters took place with some of the e/a that came down.
F/S Argue, Blue 4, was attacked from port astern and above by three FW 190s with tracer passing over his Starboard wing. After the diving attack, two of the e/a climbed away; the third turned gradually while climbing to the port. Argue turned to port more tightly than the e/a and got in a one second burst from 20 degree port quarter astern. The e/a fell off in a steep dive, Argue followed him down from 26,000 feet to 18,000 feet and gave a 5-second burst from 200 yards dead astern. He saw white smoke come from underneath on the starboard side, then pulled out at 16,000 feet and saw the e/a continue to dive below 10,000 feet. This a/c is claimed as destroyed and given as a probable.
P/O Somers, Blue 3, was attacked by six FW 190s from front starboard. He turned head on with e/a tracer passing over his cockpit. He opened fire at 450 yards closing to 25 yards. The e/a passed beneath with no damage observed. He then dived on 2 FW 190s below and to the port, firing a 4-second burst from 250 yards at the rear of the e/a but saw no damage. P/O Somers was then attacked by a FW 190 who came out of the sun from his front port. He turned slightly to be head on and fired a one-second burst from 150 yards closing to 50 yards. No claim was made.
In this sweep 403 Squadron acted primarily as bait and did a good job as total days score for all the Wings were good with only a few casualties. AVM TL Leigh-Mallory CB DSO, AOC 11 group sent a congratulatory telegram for our part.
Thursday, 16 April, 1942
Weather, clear with unlimited visibility. No rest for the weary and everybody was up at 0500 hours this morning after getting through work at 2300 hours last night. We never get the chance to hoist a few pots anymore. The boys still feel blue about ‘Timber’, but most of us sort of feel that he will show up. What a party that will be! The flying policeman, former bomber pilot P/O Hoben, arrived back from leave today to take up duties with the Squadron in the ‘Canadian Policeman’. Capt Clarke had a flip in the Maggie to see what brown jobs look like from 2,000 feet. On take-off this morning, one of 121 Squadron’s Spits went over on its back, the pilot uninjured. We saw a Mustang perform today.
Briefing North Weald Wing, at 15,000 – 18,000 feet was to act as close escort and withdrawal support for hurricane bombers. Biggin Hill was to go as escort cover at 19,000 – 23,000 feet and Kenley as top cover at 24,000 – 27,000 feet with the rendezvous at Eastchurch. After orbiting the target, the Biggin Hill and Kenley Wings were to fly North for 2 minutes, then turn right and sweep Dunkirk again and then home. North Weald, after leaving the bombers at the target would turn up sun, gaining height to cover the exit of the second sweep by Biggin Hill and Kenley.
Action We crossed the French Coast at Gravelines at 0723, was over Dunkirk at 0728, then we turned West and in again East of Calais and came out at Gravelines at 0750 hours. Flak was encountered over Dunkirk and Calais, bursting at 15,000 -16,000 feet. No e/a were seen.
Briefing Squadron was briefed at 1300 hours for a fighter sweep with freedom of action. North Weald Wing would fly at 21,000 – 25,000 feet with two Squadrons from Hornchurch at 28,000 feet to rendezvous at Chatham at 1346 hours. The Wings were to cross the French Coast South of Hardelot to sweep Samer, Guines and then come out between Calais and St, Inglevert. Prior to our Sweep Biggin Hill, Kenley and Debden would sweep the area and stir up the e/a, going South of Boulogne and coming out at Cap Gris-Nez, then orbiting the Channel and sweeping back to cover our withdrawal.
Action S/L Campbell DFC reports that the French Coast was crossed at Le Touquet at 1410 hours. The Wing then turned left along the coast to Boulogne where Ops indicated bandits were. We saw three e/a going South and climbing, then saw five tadpoles to the starboard above and behind. We turned left out of Cap Gris-Nez and climbed to 28,000 feet, following the tadpoles that turned towards us then swung away. We followed but the tadpoles disappeared. We then saw two Spitfires emerging from the same area, coming out from France. On the way home, Ops reported something in the Sea 10 miles off Cap Gris-Nez. We circled to investigate but saw nothing. All a/c returned undamaged. Sgt H.S. Anderson arrived to join our Squadron posted from 57 OTU.
Friday, 17 April, 1942
Weather, clear with some ground haze. F/S Aitken was recalled from leave as the Squadron is short-handed. F/S Monchier is off sick with a boil. F/L Riddell (Connie) paid us a short visit from Southend. The Secretary for the Air failed to show up – makes the third false alarm; we waited for an hour. The Squadron was briefed at 1100 hours for a sweep as withdrawal support wing.
Briefing North Weald, at 25,000 – 28,000 feet was to set course subject to change by ops for Le Touquet and sweep along the coast past Cap Gris-Nez and come out at Gravelines at 1223 hours. Six Bostons, with Biggin Hill as close escort at 10,000 – 13,000 feet, Debden at 14,000 – 18,000 feet as escort cover and Hornchurch on the top at 20,000 – 22,000 feet, were to cross the French Coast East of Calais at 1220 hours then turn right over the target (parachute factory) and then home. The Debden and Hornchurch Wings were to break away from the bombers and orbit the target.
Action S/L Campbell DFC reports that they left Hawkinge at 1210 hours, climbing to 27,000 feet when over the Channel. We were instructed by Ops to go in at Cap Gris-Nez, then this was countermanded and they told us to cross the French Coast South of Le Touquet. We turned left and dove towards Calais and saw flak bursting at 22,000 feet from St. Omer. We saw 20 plus huns on level with us, climbing on our front starboard, also two and threes to the South at 30,000 feet leaving tadpoles. We turned towards the 20 plus huns who kept climbing. Yellow Section was attacked by several FW 190s who opened fire on Yellow 1, P/O Parr, and Yellow 2, F/S Messum. W/O Campbell and F/S Olmsted followed the e/a attacking Yellow 1 and 2 down to 2,000 feet but failed to get within range.
Yellow 2, F/S Messum, was attacked as above by a FW 190, which came down and passed in front over his port wing. He heard a loud bang and the engine jumped, then started to vibrate badly. He lost fore and aft trim and the controls went sluggish. He started to lose height so he turned towards England with gasoline soaking his legs. The engine cut out halfway across the Channel and he pressed button D and called Mayday several times. He then pulled off his mask, having difficulty with the chinstrap, rolled the Spit half over and bounced out at 4,000 feet. He inflated his Mae West on the way down but forgot to strike the quick release on his parachute when hitting the water which was fortunate because the lanyard for the dinghy became detached from the Mae West. Had Messum released his chute, he would have lost the dinghy. He swam and retrieved the dinghy, climbed aboard without trouble and was picked up inside of 20 minutes by HMM A/S B24 and was landed at Dover. He reported back to the Squadron at 2100 hours unharmed.
The Squadron was briefed at 1400 hours for a fighter sweep to Lumbres. North Weald was to rendezvous with the Debden Wing at Southend at 1534 hours. With North Weald at 23,000 – 27,000 feet and Debden at 18,000 – 21,000 feet we were to cross the French Coast at St. Inglevert at 1557 hours and sweep Lumbres at 1604 hours with freedom of action. Timed to cover our withdrawal, Biggin Hill at 12,000 feet, Kenley at 15,000 feet and Hornchurch at 28,000 feet, were to cross the French Coast at Bercks, orbit Lumbres at 1606 and then come out.
Action S/L Campbell DFC reports that the rendezvous with the Debden Wing at Southend was made at 1532 hours. Debden went in over the French Coast at Gravelines instead of St. Inglevert at 1557 hours, swept Bergues and then turned right towards St. Omer. The W/C reported e/a below and turned towards them. 403 Squadron was cut off by a Squadron of the other Wing and had to turn in the opposite direction. As we turned, a FW 190 came out of cloud with an unknown Spit on its tail diving towards me. I turned and went head-on, passing underneath the e/a who rolled over behind me and dove away followed by the other Spitfire towards Boulogne. I then formed up with the W/C and returned to base over Gravelines. Heavy flak, bursting at 18,000 feet, was observed coming from Desvres and light flak was seen coming out over Gravelines. Red 3, P/O Somers, saw four FW 190s come out cloud head-on and fired a short burst as they passed. No damage was observed. All of our a/c returned undamaged at 1640 hours.
Saturday, 18 April, 1942
Weather, some ground haze with very little wind. The Squadron was at 30 minutes notice and the pilots did Army co-operation, map reading and formation flying. All the boys are a bit weary from the steady grind of the past week. Sir Archibald Sinclair, accompanied by G/C Hugh Green, arrived in a Flamingo and met all the pilots at 1100 hours. He gave an interesting address and was introduced to everyone. F/O Don Sewell dropped in with a Blenheim and the CO, Adj and F/L Walker went for a spin. The Squadron was released at 1700 hours.
Sunday, 19 April, 1942
Weather, a very heavy ground haze with winds from the NE at 5 to 15 mph. The Squadron did four convoy patrols. P/O Parr reports 30 ships southbound off Harwich, accompanied by 3 Destroyers and 4 Corvettes. The convoy was passed by a northbound convoy. Parr saw a blaze around an oil tanker in the northbound convoy. He investigated and saw oil on the water and the tanker, apparently okay, in escort with a Destroyer. Yellow and White Sections got airborne on a scramble to patrol a convoy at 1430 hours, taking only two minutes to get into the air from the time the hooter blew. F/L Duval (Hank) joined the Squadron today to take over ‘A’ Flight, coming from 222 Squadron. The boys had a party at the ‘Thatch’ where they ran into a party of one young lady and three men who were celebrating a brother missing in air operations in the Mediterranean.
Monday, 20 April, 1942
Weather, very thick ground haze. At 1200 hours, we were briefed for a circus which was cancelled at 1215 hours. It looks as if Hitler’s birthday will pass without any strafing. S/L Ogben gave the pilots a talk on escape.
Tuesday, 21 April, 1942
Weather, heavy fog with occasional rain and visibility one mile. F/S Sprague went on 48 hours pass. Second Lieut. R. Fevez, 2nd/ 5 Battalion, Queen’s Royal Regt arrived to take up liaison duties. The Squadron was on 30 minutes all day until it was released at 2150 hours. No flying was done today.
Wednesday, 22 April, 1942
Weather heavy fog with visibility 1,000 yards. The Squadron was on readiness at 0551 hours with one section, two section at 15 minutes, and one flight at 30 minutes availability. The Squadron was released on one-hour notice at 1300 hours. F/O Lodge, the former IO, paid the Squadron a farewell visit. F/O Gordon Hoben gave a broadcast over the BBC regarding the presentation of the ‘Canadian Policeman’ to the RCAF by Canadian Police donations.
Thursday, 23 April, 1942
Weather, heavy fog with some rain clearing towards late afternoon. The Squadron was put on 30 minutes notice in the morning, one-hour notice at 1455 hours and released from ops at 2145 hours. The ground crew were briefed at 1030 hours, outlining the plans for a sham battle attack. All NCOs were given stations and the procedure explained by F/O (Harry) Francis who gave a good talk. Major Crabbe outlined the program. P/O Hoben (returning officer) finished the balloting on MacKenzie King’s plebiscite. 135 votes were cast out of a possible 165. No flying was done today. F/O Johnson paid Sgt Rawson a visit, taking down with him his personnel effects. He reports that Rawson is doing fine. His face however, is still swollen and he has only half the vision in one eye. No flying today.
Friday, 24 April, 1942
Weather, clouds at 1,000 feet during the early morning, clearing at 1000 hours. Visibility unlimited. The Squadron was put on 30 minutes notice. The sham battle started at 0500 hours. The men were armed and in position by 0455 hours. The enemy attacked HQs, 403 and 121 areas. Our patrols spotted the enemy advancing towards 403 area at 0532 hours. Cpl Todd, with six men in No. 2 bay and Cpl DeLong in the blockhouse, resisted the attack, killing three of the enemy and capturing 18 men, 2 Bren guns and 16 rifles. Cpl Starr repulsed the attack on the magazine blockhouse, F/S Champion’s post captured nine enemy. All of the other aerodrome areas were captured by the enemy, we were the only position that held. One bad piece of work was the killing of one of our own patrols by Sgt Brim’s men. S/L Campbell brought back 27 prisoners and interned them in dispersal. The G/C reviewed the battle with all of the officers concerned at 1000 hours and complimented 403 Squadron on holding its position. Valuable information was gained from this practice which will help us do even better the next time. The Squadron took-off at 1220 hours to rendezvous at Martlesham and get briefed for a fighter sweep.
Briefing We were to rendezvous at Martlesham with 12 Bostons. The Debden Wing was to act as close escort at 14,000 – 15,000 feet, North Weald Wing as escort cover at 16,000 – 19,000 feet. The Circus was to fly at sea level for the first ten minutes, then climb. Departure from Martlesham was at 1400 hours, we were to cross the Belgium Coast at Flushing at 1435 hours, then turn right for the bombing before turning back to cross at Clacton-on-Sea at 1501 hours.
Action S/L Campbell DFC reports that the 12 Bostons left the rendezvous at 1400 hours; 403 Squadron was airborne at 1410 hours and steered a course of 120 degrees for 10 minutes, then climbed above cloud which was 500 to 600 feet thick and saw a beehive about four miles in front. We overtook them and took position as top cover at 19,000 feet. We hit Flushing at 1438 hours and bombed the target, then turned right and came out North of Knocke at 1445 hours. No e/a were sighted above but a JU 52 was seen below and was attacked by 121 Squadron who dove down and opened fire, destroying it. A little flak was encountered over the target while the bombing was done, also some black marker flak was seen at 16,000 feet over Flushing as we left the Coast. Odd bursts of flak were also noticed East of Knocke. 11 a/c returned undamaged and one landed at Bradwell Bay. At 1600 hours the Squadron was briefed for another Fighter sweep.
Briefing 121 Squadron was to be on the bottom at 25,000 feet, 403 Squadron in the middle at 26,000 feet and 22 Squadron on the top at 28,000 feet. Rendezvous was to be made with the Debden Wing at 19,000 – 23,000 feet at Southend at 1705 hours and we were to cross the French Coast at St. Inglevert at 1723 hours, sweeping Desvres with freedom of action.
Action Rendezvous was made at Southend at 1705 hours and we left Manston at 1715 hours, crossing the French Coast at St. Inglevert at 1725 hours. We turned right along the Coast to Le Touquet, then turned left inside France, sweeping West of St. Omer and out at Gravelines at 1742 hours. We crossed the English Coast at Dover at 1750 hours. No e/a or flak were encountered and all of our a/c returned undamaged to North Weald at 1805 hours. P/O Rainville had to turn back due to engine trouble; oil temperature and pressure. S/L Campbell was very pleased with the work done by the ground crew in the sham battle and the condition of the billets. These were inspected by the Station Commander, G/C Pike DFC, and the adjutants of the other Squadrons, who were asked to inspect our quarters at the request of G/C Pike so that they might follow our example of cleanliness. Conditions of the quarters reflects great credit on F/O Francis, our Adjutant. F/L Walker went away at 1500 hours for seven days leave. LAC Liske received a cable today announcing the birth of his baby daughter in Canada who was already named Joan Beverley by the proud parents. Both mother and daughter are doing well. Lt R Fevez left at 1600 hours to resume his normal duties.
Saturday, 25 April, 1942
Weather, clear but with considerable ground haze. The Squadron was at readiness at 0545 hours. At 0915 hours, the Squadron was briefed as follows: North Weald Wing, with 121 Squadron at 18,000 feet, 403 Squadron at 20,000 feet and 222 Squadron at 22,000 feet were to rendezvous at Clacton at 1009 hours with six Bostons at 12,000 feet. Debden was to act as escort wing at 14,000 – 17,000 feet and we were to be escort cover. The French Coast was to be crossed 10 miles East of Dunkirk at 1025 hours. We were then to make a wide turn to starboard and approach the target from the Southeast at 1027 hours and then return to Manston at 1100 hours. Target support wing was to be Northolt at 22,000 – 25,000 feet who were to cross the French Coast between Calais and Gravelines at 1025 hours, and then sweep inland to cover the withdrawal of the bombers.
Action S/L Campbell DFC reports that rendezvous was made at Clacton at 1000 hours. We crossed the French Coast at Nieuport at 1025 hours and were over the target at Dunkirk at 1030 hours and saw bombs hit on the quayside. After passing the target we saw six FW 190s who came down out of the sun on the port side. I tried to head e/a off but was balked by some Spitfires who were following them. We encountered a fair amount of flak two miles off Dunkirk while following the bombers out. On the was in when we were half-way across the Channel, I saw Blue 2, P/O Zoochkan go into a spin with his engine stopped and called to Blue 3 to follow him down. I then received word from Blue 1, F/O Dick, stating that he had been hit and was going back with Blue 3 and Blue 4 to follow him. After escorting the bombers back to Manston at 1040 hours, we started to look for someone in the sea about six miles East of Manston, but as other Spits were also looking for this person, Operations asked if I cared to find Zookie who was reported as down in the Channel. Ops gave a vector of 95 degrees. When I was told to orbit, I asked for a fix and was told that I was 10 miles too far East and 5 miles too far North. I was given a vector of 220 degrees but saw no sign. I was then told to return to Manston and rendezvous with a Lysander. I followed the Lysander until my gas showed 15 gallons.
P/O Magwood and P/O Somers saw Zookie overshoot P/O Dick, Blue 1, with Zookie’s port wing colliding with Dick’s prop, tearing a large hole in the wing tip. The wind then lifted off 2/3s of the stress skin. He went into a violent spin. Maggie and Larry Somers followed him down but lost him at 5,000 feet. They did not see him bale out and gave several Maydays. The next view that they got of Zookie was with him in the water with no dinghy but he did appear to be uninjured as he waved to them. Somers went back to 6,000 feet and gave another Mayday, then tried to find Magwood but could not so he proceeded home alone. Magwood kept Zookie in sight for 35 minutes but as colouring faded lost him. He continued to circle for over an hour. No rescue boats or aircraft were in sight; Ops said that the sea was too rough for rescue boats. As no word was received that he was picked up, it looks as if Zookie drowned. It all looks like a poor show and the boys are mad. Magwood did a very good job as did S/L Campbell and Larry as they patrolled an area alone which was very vulnerable to enemy attack. Everyone misses Zookie, he was a nice lad, part Polish but raised in Canada on a farm. Dickie had only two feet left on each propeller blade. He made a deadstick landing from 8,000 feet over Manston but crashed on landing, receiving severe head injuries and is now in the hospital under observation for a fractured skull. We are glad that Dickie got out of it alive. At 1530 hours, the Squadron was again briefed for a second sweep. North Weald was to rendezvous at Red Hill with six Bostons and act as top cover at 19,000 – 22,000 feet, Debden Wing as close escort at 12,000 – 14,000 feet and 12 Group as escort cover at 15,000 – 18,000 feet. We were to leave Red Hill at 1600 hours, be over Hastings at 1613 hours, cross the French Coast South of Berck at 1632 hours, be over the target at Abbeville at 1635 hours, come out at Le Treport at 1641, and cross the English Coast at Beachy Head at 1651 hours. The target support wings were Kenley at 18,000 – 21,000 feet and Biggin Hill at 22,000 – 26,000 feet. The withdrawal support wing was Hornchurch at 22,000 – 26,000 feet.
Action S/L Campbell DFC reports that rendezvous was made the Bostons at Red Hill and we crossed the French Coast at Berck at 1632 hours. Just after crossing, I reported to the W/C that there were a/c to the port and was told to keep an eye on them, noting that some went to smoke trial height above and behind us. Then I saw about 20 e/a come down out of the sun on our tail. Red Section at this time was at the extreme left of the formation. The e/a dived as a bunch on Red Section. I warned Red Section and the W/C of the number of e/a and I then turned sharply right into them. They were travelling so fast that, by the time that I got around, the e/a had passed and split up. I saw one FW 190 on the tail of Red 4, F/S Argue, and turned into the e/a, making him veer slightly to the left. I followed and, out of the corner of my eye, saw a Spitfire pouring glycol; the e/a then dived away. I turned to look for the Spitfire but, owing to the melee, I could no longer see him. By this time, the other two Squadrons had turned around. Not seeing anything else but Spitfires, I climbed and took up top position. We escorted the bombers home safely. P/O Munn, Red 3, and F/S Argue, Red 4, are assumed to be shot down as the S/L saw one pouring glycol and some pilots in 222 Squadron saw two Spitfires pouring glycol and going down in shallow dives. It is hoped that they baled out. F/S Argue had a pistol with him. While Ted was the smallest pilot in the Squadron, he was one of the most aggressive fighters and had a very breezy way with him that appealed to everyone. He had recently shot down a FW 190 over France which the Air Ministry stated that, while the cine-gun shows almost positively that the aircraft was destroyed, only a probable could be allowed. When Argue heard this he said, “What do they want us to do, rope them and bring them back?” Bill Munn only recently received his P/O; he is a good type, quite and unassuming and there is little doubt that he would soon have led a section. However, we expect them both to turn up. P/O Hurst, Yellow 4, in the melee with the 20 e/a was attacked, with 2 cannon and 1 m/g shell passing through his port wing. He stayed with the Squadron and, upon reaching England, landed at Manston. Unfortunately, he hit a soft spot in the field and nosed over, damaging the prop, and receiving a slight head injury but otherwise okay and back on duty. He volunteered to fly immediately but the W/C is taking his place so that he may have a days rest. F/S Walker, Blue 2, saw about 8 e/a come down on his port side and Walker turned slightly to meet their attack, then swung to the starboard on an e/a’s tail, firing a 5 second burst of M/G at the e/a from quarter starboard astern form 400 yards range. No damage was observed and Walker made no claim. This ends the worst day that the Squadron has had for casualties and now we are short of pilots. While we have lost several fighter aircraft, our bombers all returned safely from their targets.
Sunday, 26 April, 1942
F/O MacKay went on an IO course of three weeks duration. 403 Squadron was briefed to act as support wing to six Bostons who were to bomb a target at St. Omer. Weather, slight ground haze at North Weald with a heavy haze at the target area. Clouds were at 26,000 feet over the French Coast to 10 miles West of St. Omer.
Briefing North Weald, with 403 Squadron at 26,000 feet, 222 Squadron at 27,000 feet and 121 Squadron at 28,000 was told to rendezvous with the Debden Wing at Chatham, who were to be between 22,000 – 25,000 feet. We were to leave the rendezvous at 1002 hours, cross the French Coast at Dunkirk at 1024 hours and sweep south to Cassel then join up with the bombers and come out at Gravelines at 1035 hours. The six Bostons were to rendezvous at Graves End with the Hornchurch Wing who were to be close escort at 14,000 – 16,000 feet, Biggin Hill as escort cover at 17,000 – 21,000 feet and Kenley as top cover at 22,000 – 26,000 feet. All were to leave Gravesend at 1000 hours, cross the French Coast East of Gravelines at 1023 hours, turn right to the target at St. Omer at 1031 hours and come out West of Calais at 1036 hours. Action S/L Campbell DFC reports that we crossed the French Coast North of Dunkirk at 1024 hours, turned right and swept within 8 miles of St. Omer then received word from Ops informing us that the bombers had just turned right off of the target. We turned right and swept and did a complete orbit just West of St. Omer falling in behind the beehive. Fourteen enemy aircraft smoke trails were seen coming from the East and catching up to the beehive at St. Omer. These aircraft followed us out to the French Coast but did not attack. The Circus came out at Gravelines at 1040 hours. Halfway across the Channel, the Wing did a complete orbit to pick up stragglers and made landfall at Deal at 1050 hours. Marker flak was seen at Calais when we were coming out, bursting at 18,000 feet. All aircraft landed undamaged at North Weald. Those taking part in this action were:
Blue Section Red Section Yellow Section
P/O Rainville W/C Pike F/L Duval
Sgt Johnson P/O Hoben F/S Messum
P/O Somers S/L Campbell P/O Parr
F/S Walker F/S Aitken W/O Campbell
On the second show of the day, 403 Squadron was close escort to six Bostons to Hazebrouk. There was considerable ground haze over the target but no cloud.
Briefing North Weald Wing, with 222 Squadron at 12,000 feet, 121 Squadron at 13,000 feet and 403 Squadron at 14,000 feet were to rendezvous with six Bostons at Clacton and act as close escort. Northolt, as escort cover was to be at 15,000 – 19,000 feet and Debden, as top cover, at 21,000 – 24,000 feet. The Circus was to leave the French Coast between Dunkirk and Nieuport at 1505 hours, be over the target at 1514 hours and come out between Gravelines and Dunkirk at 1502 hours then home via Manston at 1531 hours.
Action S/L Campbell DFC reports that the bombers followed the briefing, crossing the French Coast at 1505 hours and were over the target at 1515 hours. They came out between Gravelines and Dunkirk at 1523 hours and made landfall at Manston at 1533 hours. We saw no enemy aircraft but we did encounter considerable flak from Gravelines on the way out, bursting at 12,000 – 13,000 feet. All of our aircraft landed undamaged at 1555 hours. those taking part were:
Blue Section Red Section Yellow Section
S/L Campbell W/C Pike F/L Duval
Sgt Johnson P/O Hoben F/S Messum
P/O Somers P/O Parr P/O Rainville
F/S Walker F/S Aitken W/O Campbell
At 1808 hours, Ops phoned and wanted one flight to come to readiness. At 1844 hours , the Squadron was then placed on readiness. 222 Squadron was scrambled at 1942 hours. Another scramble came through from Ops for one flight to escort rescue boats working in the Channel. ‘A’ Flight got airborne in two minutes and 40 seconds on the scramble. All of our aircraft returned safely at 2110 hours. F/L Duval reported that, while they were over the rescue boats no e/a were seen. Those taking part in the scramble were:
Blue Section Red Section Yellow Section
F/L Duval P/O Rainville P/O Parr
W/O Campbell F/S Aitken F/S Messum
The Squadron was released at 2105 hours.
Monday, 27 April, 1942
The Squadron was released from Ops until 1000 hours when we were placed on 30 minutes. At 1010 hours, the Squadron got airborne on Squadron formation practice, landing at 1120 hours. A briefing at 222 Squadron Dispersal was held at 1145 hours. 403 had only eleven aircraft for this sweep as two of ‘B’ Flights aircraft have to be cannon tested and it could not be done in time for the show. 403 Squadron was part of the close escort wing to six Bostons going in on a target at Ostend. The weather for the circus had heavy haze over the Belgian Coast and 2/10ths cloud at about 10,000 feet.
Briefing North Weald Wing, with 403 Squadron at 12,000 feet, 222 Squadron at 13,000 feet and 121 Squadron at 14,000 feet were to rendezvous with the six Bostons over Bradwell bay at 1400 hours at 5,000 feet. No 12 Group acted as escort cover, stepped up from 15,000 – 18,000 feet. The Circus was to fly over Ostend and bomb on a right hand turn at 1426 hours, then proceed to Harwich.
Action S/L Campbell DFC reports that the operation proceeded according to plan but the bombing was four to five minutes late owing to the bombers arriving late at the rendezvous. Exceptionally heavy flak was encountered over the target and several of the pilots saw the bomber on the port side of the leading section receive a direct hit from the first salvo. This bomber dropped its load, and turned away. It turned again, crossing the coast and was last seen low down, heading for an aerodrome behind Ostend as though it were about to make a crash landing. Two other bombers turned sharply as though in trouble and were escorted safely over the English Coast at Harwich by 403 Squadron. No enemy aircraft were seen and all of our aircraft returned safely to base by 1518 hours. Those taking part in this action were:
Blue Section Red Section Yellow Section
P/O Rainville S/L Campbell F/L Duval
Sgt Johnson P/O Magwood F/S Messum
P/O Somers F/S Aitken P/O Parr
F/S Walker W/O Campbell
At 1549 hours, ‘B’ Flight was put on readiness and ‘A’ Flight at 15 minutes. Ops called at 1701 hours, informing us that a briefing would take place between 1800 and 1830 hours. At 1726 hours the Squadron was ordered at readiness at once and pushed buttons at 1740 hours. At 1743 hours, with two aircraft just taking-off, Ops called again and said that the Circus was postponed for 30 minutes. The W/C sent all aircraft back to their bays. F/L Duval, while taxiing along the perimeter let his control go forward and the wind, which was very strong at the time, tipped F/L Duval up on his nose. P/O Hurst says that it was the same thing that happened to him at Hawkinge on 26/4/42. F/L Duval took over F/S Olmsted’s aircraft in place if his, much to F/S Olmsted’s dislike. 403 Squadron was airborne with the Wing at 1813 hours with only eleven aircraft again to carry out a Rodeo (Fighter Sweep) with 12 Group Wing. Weather was 10/10ths cloud at 23,000 and a broken layer of 5/10ths cloud at 10,000 feet.
Briefing the North Weald Wing was to rendezvous at Southend at 10,000 feet with 12 Group Wing. We then were to proceed on course climbing until the two Wings were stepped up from 20,000 feet to 25,000 feet and then sweep Mardyck, St. Omer and then come out between Hardelot and Le Touquet. In the absence of any enemy activity the Wings were then to proceed at the discretion of the Wing Commanders.
Action This followed the briefing plan except that the top cloud prevented the North Weald Wing form climbing as high as intended. 121 Squadron was just below the cloud at 22,000 feet, 403 Squadron was at 21,000 feet and 22 Squadron at 20,000 feet with 12 Group Wing below. No enemy aircraft were encountered but heavy flak was experienced over Dunkirk, Mardyck area. At 1850 hours, just South of Le Touquet, F/L Duval, who was leading Yellow Section on the port side of the Squadron, was seen to turn sharply to the right and collide violently with the aircraft in which S/L Campbell DFC was leading Red Section. S/L Campbell’s aircraft lost the greater part of his port wing and he was seen to roll over on his back and go down out of control just inland. F/L Duval’s machine, which was streaming glycol, was seen to go straight down and crash about a half-mile off shore without the pilot bailing out. P/O Smith, of 121 Squadron, reports seeing a parachute at 5,000 feet inland from Le Touquet and it is hoped that this was S/L Campbell. When the collision occurred, there was a Squadron of Spitfires heading straight for the Wing at the same height, causing some of our pilots to dive down to avoid hitting them. P/O Rainville, who was leading Blue Section to the starboard of the CO, reports that he saw a column of black smoke coming from F/L Duval’s machine just before the collision. The remaining nine aircraft of the Squadron landed at North Weald by 2005 hours, F/S Messum having to refuel at West Mallings. Those taking part in this action were:
Blue Section Red Section Yellow Section
P/O Rainville S/L Campbell F/L Duval
Sgt Johnson P/O Magwood F/S Messum
P/O Somers P/O Hoben P/O Parr
F/S Walker W/O Campbell
The Squadron was released at 2200 hours. This completes another poor show for 403 and a very great loss to us all.
From the evidence we have, the chances are good that S/L C.N.S. Campbell DFC is alive and time alone will tell whether or not he can make his way back to England to carry on. If it is possible to get out of France, he will do it. He has already done more than his part for the War effort and, since he had been in command of the Squadron, has taken part in every sweep but one. During the past two months, he only took one day off, so untiring were his efforts to lick the Squadron into shape. From the reports he gave upon his return to the drome from operational sweeps, one can judge how observant he was in action. The efficiency of the Squadron’s ground operations speaks for itself; his administrative ability was excellent. Joining the RAF before the war, he fought in France as a pilot in one of the original fighter squadrons and, upon his return to England, was variously employed as an instructor and fighter pilot. His experience was of inestimable benefit to this newly formed, all Canadian Squadron which he was given command of in March 1941.
F/L ‘Hank’ Duval came from Eastern Canada and graduated from University as a mining engineer. He rose in his profession to the responsible position of mine Superintendent at the East-Malartee Gold Mine, one of Canada’s newer large tonnage producers. ‘Hank’ was one of the first Canadians to fly with the RAF. On one trip over France, he was shot down and baled out, making his escape back to England. He married an English girl while over here. Hank was a tall, dark chap, very quiet spoken and unassuming, the type of Canadian we like to call ‘Canadian’ and was the type that Canada will need after the war is over.
Tuesday, 28 April, 1942
The Squadron came to readiness, with ‘B’ Flight and ‘A’ Flight at 15 minutes. The weather no visibility in fog with a strong NNE wind.
Wednesday, 29 April, 1942
Weather Strong wind, hazing over towards evening. There has been no flying today and at 1725 hours, the Squadron was released off of the Station.
Thursday, 30 April, 1942
Weather, visibility good wind 20-25 mph. The Squadron was called to do convoy patrol at 0600 hours and, at 0700 hours, two of our sections were airborne for this duty. At 0810 hours the Squadron came to readiness. Sections were sent off on convoy patrol all day until the time of our release at 2206 hours. Squadron Leader Deere arrived.
403 Squadron Personnel
RCAF Officers – aircrew 11
RCAF Officers – aircrew sup’y 2
RCAF Officers – ground 3
RCAF Airmen – aircrew 13
RCAF Airmen – ground 103
RCAF Airmen – ground sup’y 2
RNZAF Officer – aircrew 1
RAF Officers – aircrew 0
RAF Officers – ground 1
RAF Airmen – aircrew 0
RAF Airmen – ground 35
22 Operational sweeps & circuses 391.45 hours
25 Operational convoy patrols 129.45 hours
Total Operational Flying time 521.30 hours
Non-operational flying time 283.50 hours
Grand total flying time 805.20 hours
a/c on strength: Spitfires – 18
Tiger Moth -1
Magister – 1