BACK TO True Tall Tales Index

True Tall Tales

The following short stories are a great mixture of tragic, humerous, and everyday events. No attempt has been made to organize them into categories, rather they are presented in the same chaos as was the day to day life on the squadron. Every day and indeed every hour, held moments of humour, boredom, tension, white knuckle fear, great excitement or intense grief. Sometimes all of the above could be experienced over a time frame of mere minutes. Keep in mind they are not intended to be historical documents and therefore may not be entirely accurate, often there are slight variances between the telling of the same story. Nonetheless,  this is the way the author remembered the events unfolding and this is the way they are recorded here. One last further point, an aircraft returning from operations shot full of holes and skidding to a stop wheels up in a great cloud of dust was never funny if someone was seriously hurt, on the other hand if all walked away safely, despite the terror of the event, it made fair game for great backslapping, storytelling and cheers in the mess that night.

from Lord Deramore

Blenheim crews who did their operational training in the summer of 1942 at No. 70 OTU at Nakuru in Kenya may remember an Australian Warrant Officer who was a Navigation Instructor. His name was "Bush" Barry and he had been awarded the DFM on his first tour.
I cannot vouch for the truth but it was said his decoration had been earned when he was Observer in a Maryland aircraft. Flying over Taranto, his pilot was severely wounded or killed by flak, and Bush brought the plane back to the Middle East and landed it successfully.
Whatever the facts are, Bush's buming ambition was to remuster as a Pilot and he took every opportunity to practise on the Link Trainer. It was as well that he did.
One day a Flight Lieutenant pilot on the staff took him and a W.CpI/AG up in a Blenheim. Flying amongst the mountains of Kenya was subject to violent turbulence and it was very warm being near the Equator. Mostly we flew with the hatch open. On this occasion Bush was seated in the nose when the Blenheim was struck by a particularly powerful down-draught. Immediately afterwards he became aware that the view through the perspex was behaving oddly. Wondering what the pilot was up to he glanced back and saw there were no feet on the rudder bar. Bush fought his way up to the cockpit to discover the pilot, wrongdoer that he was, had not strapped himself in and had been ejected through the open hatch. By this time the Blenheim was in a spin. Fortunately for him and the unfortunate W.Op/AG in the turret he had been practicing spins that very morning. Thus was he able to right the aircraft and fly it back to Nakuru, where he landed safely, but not without causing him to pass out when he stepped on to terra firma.
Summoned to the presence of the Station Commander he was congratulated on his feat and told he was being recommended for an AFC. To which Bush retorted that he didn't want any gongs. All he wanted was a Pilot's course.
In due course, my own crew finished our course and were posted up to the Pool in the Middle East. Given a leave pass I was walking in Cairo when I ran into Bush. I saw he was wearing a new AFC ribbon alongside his DFM, but was surprised to see he still sported the Observer's single wing. "I thought you were doing a pilot's course, Bush," I said. "I was, but, Geese, I failed it. I just couldn't get the hang of landing the dammed things".
P.S. The pilot parachuted to safety and was later picked up thanks to Bush's accurate log.  (Author - Lord Deramore, presented by Sgt George Checketts)

BACK TO True Tall Tales Index

RAF Roundel

By Sgt George (Taff) Checketts

 We didn't have much protection from straffing and antipersonnel bombs, only slit trenches and empty 4 gallon petrol tins filled with sand (no shortage of either) making a wall about three foot high, which incidentally, we also used for our latrine enclosure. I recall one rather inconsiderate air raid by the Germans while I was visiting the Latrine one morning when I was forced to dive for the sand and these tins saved me from being hit, it did however disturb my morning abolutions.

On this ocassion three German 110's had a bit of fun making a single straffing pass but there was no damage. Following some of these raids we spent a lot of time looking for anti personnel bombs ie: fountain pens, purses, cameras, anything to catch your eye. It kept the Armourers busy.

BACK TO True Tall Tales Index

RAF Roundel

By LAC Harry Hitchens

One night during an air raid we erk's were in our slit trench, (all six of us including Bert Reed wearing nothing but his tin hat), when Ginger Fallows in our group decided he needed to evacuate his bowels. With bombs falling and Ack Ack guns around the field blazing into the night sky, he climbed out of our trench and moving away a bit did it quite near a neighbouring trench, the occupants of which were not very happy and their hollering soon added to the din of the guns and bombs. The japs would be dissapointed to know that the only effect the air raid had was where Ginger could preform his toiletry.

BACK TO True Tall Tales Index

RAF Roundel

By Chappy Chapman

Gus Alder, a South African, was Flight Commander of "A" Flight when I rejoined. The Squadron was' re-equipped with the Bisley, which was a modification of the Blenheim lV with a swing round gunner's turret and bullet proof glass on the front and of course 10001bs heavier. We liked the Bisley because of these improvements and as I was never jumped by Japanese fighters in a Bisley that was another reason for liking them.

Concerning the 360 degree traverse of the turret, there is quite a story. The Squadron was on a raid down the Arakan coast and Gus Alder's gunner decided to test his guns in the forward position when the formation was near Feni. The gunner, an Aussie named Brooks, fired his guns which turned out to be out of line and some of the bullets found their way into the pilot's cabin, one of them glancing off the back of Gus' head. Gus hollered "I've been shot!" and his Obo, Corbett another Aussie, replied "who the hell shot you" Gus retorted "I don' t know but I am going to land this plane before I die !" Meanwhile the gunner, who knew who had fired the shots but not that Gus had been hit was crawling up the well of the Blenheim and when he reached the peephole area to look into the cockpit, he found Corbett who had taken off Gus' helmet, poking his finger through the hole in the back of it and said "You shot Gus". Meanwhile Gus is fighting back the black nausea and wandering all over the sky. Unfortunately, Gus was the leader that day and we in the rest of the aircraft were trying to keep formation with Gus. He eventually made a crash landing at Feni, the aircraft being BA452. All, Gus had was a large sized headache and a small hole that required a few stitches to close. Gus related the story to me when he got back to the Squadron, which was located at Comilla and laughed heartily at the incident.

BACK TO True Tall Tales Index

RAF Roundel

Author Unknown
The following article pertains to the 615 squadron but it is posted here as it is a firsthand, documented account of aircraft encountering a Monsoon. These storms were a fact of life for the 113 who lost many aircraft under similar conditions.

On the 10th August 1944, all of our aircraft RAF 615 (County of Surrey) Fighter Squadron were flying from Palel in Assam to Baigachi,Bengal. We where about 80 miles east of Calcutta when we flew into a monsoon storm.

I saw the C.O.'s Section disappear above me and I glanced in the cockpit, my instruments had, had it. There was no visibility and none of the planes controls were working. I made up my mind that it was time I parted company with the aircraft. This wasn't easy, the hook stuck and I had a hell of a job. Finally, it came away and to the right mainplane about three feet from the centre-section. Hells teeth I thought I had been in a hurry up until then, but I really got going now. In fact I jumped out helmet and all plugged in. I must have swung like a pendulum going around for a few seconds, that seemed like hours, waiting for the thud of the ground, when I felt a jerk.

I looked up and from that moment on I have a passion for mushrooms. There above me was the chute letting me down but then the chute began to fold in and spill air. I pulled on the rigging lines, as I had been told and was able to control the rate of descent. It was about 20 seconds before I saw the ground or should I say river. Yes, I landed up to my neck in water. I was helped by natives to shelter. After an hours rest, I heard news of another pilot who was a few villages away who had been injured. I was able to get to him later that day and a sampan took us to the nearest motorable road. we arrived in Calcutta the following day. Here we received news that the C.O. had been killed and three others. Eight of the other machines got through safely after being sucked right out of the cloud into brilliant sunshine. An L.A.C. at Ops was able to vector them in safely. This airman for his wide awake action received a mention in despaches. The C.O.'s body was the only body recovered ** as it was thought the others were in an area that it would not be possible. So, these were posted missing believed killed.

Never mind  the feeble motivation for leaving the bodies to rot, I Find it incredible and inexcusable they did not even go looking for the others who easily could have been trapped and hurt in the wreckage.  I have read numerous articles where exhaustive searches were carried out for lost comrades even behind enemy lines.  

The C.O. was buried in Calcutta. He was thought of so much of by his Squadron, that a letter was sent to his mother asking what she would like as a memorial to him. Funds were raised and a stainless glass window is now installed in the church in his home town in Australia.

He was held responsible for the accident by a court of enquiry, but I still wonder, if it was an error on his part. Three pilots bailed out successfully and one force-landed.

               CASUALTY LIST 10TH AUGUST 1944
               Lost SQD Leader D McCormack DFC & Bar RAAF (Killed)
               F/O W S Bond RCAF (Missing believed killed)
               F/O M Pain RAAF (Missing believed killed)
               W/O Chappell RAAF (Missing believed killed)

               BALED OUT
               Flying Officer Costain RAF (Broken leg)
               F/O Armstrong RCAF (Dislocated knee cap)
               F/O F.P.Fahy RNZAF (Twisted knee)

               FORCE LANDED
               F/O Watson RAF (Unhurt)

               8 other Squadron Aircraft and Pilots landed safely
SOURCE: Author  unknown, the story was found on a newsgroup forum, noted as public domain and having been posted by an archive offical, also unknown.

BACK TO True Tall Tales Index

RAF Roundel

By F/Sgt Harry Clement

One of the main worries of the 113 Squadron pilots serving on the Assam-Burma front was not the Japanese Air Force - we had seen very little of that - but what lay below when we were airborne, namely the unending green carpet of jungle, and its inhabitants, not least the Japanese Army.

I don't think any of us had ever seen a Japanese, except perhaps on some flickering black and white newsreel, showing their relentless advance all over the Far East. The jungle too was a complete mystery. The nearest experience any of us had had of it was maybe an unkempt back garden at home, this despite the fact that jungle surrounded most of the airstrips. No one thought to venture within, at least not to my knowledge. One concession had been made to the jungle, however, in so far as a "jungle suit" had been issued to pilots. This was an overall type suit, which included gloves, baseball type cap from which unrolled a piece of mosquito netting and a canvas water bottle, called a chagal. Also included were water sterilisation tablets, Horlicks tablets and marching compass.

So every time we took to the air, in the back of our minds was the fear of the unknown, coloured by thoughts of snakes, wild animals and little yellow men, some of whom regarded beheading as an agreeable pastime. The natives of the region, called Nagas, were also high In the head-hunting league, but we were told they were now friendly to the Allied forces.

To counter these fears most pilots adopted the "it won't happen to me" attitude. However, it did happen to some and I was one of the unfortunates who unwittingly had their worst fears realised. March 1944 had become increasingly hectic for the squadrons based in and around Imphal. The Japanese Army had made its move towards India, and the 14th Amny had countered this move by withdrawing towards the Imphal plain - a flat valley containing several airfields and surrounded by jungle covered hills there, if possible, to make its stand. Soon the Japanese had surrounded the valley and cut the few tracks leading to it The only way to supply the inhabitants was by air. The 14th Army, defending the valley in the hills surrounding it, increasingly called for assistance from the several Hurricane squadrons which bombed and strafed as directed.

113 Squadron, flying Hurricanes, was increasingly involved, and 22 March 1944 (22/03/1944) was no exception. Several sections had flown from Tulihal, their base in the central plain, to Palel, a forward airstrip tucked beside the jungle In the north-east corner of the valley. One bombing mission had been completed without mishap, and in mid-aftemoon the call was made for three Hurricanes from 113 Squadron to make up the numbers for a raid by aircraft from 34 Squadron, which shared the Palel airstrip.

Flying Officer Herbert, who I believe had been born in India, Illman, a Canadian, and myself were hurriedly dispatched to the briefing tent for a quick description of the target, together with a few more facts - then away. So hurriedly, in fact, that the usual depositing of personal effects with the Intelligence Officer was completely forgotten. I took off carrying my Service Identity Card, several Airmail letters from home, the odd photograph and 600 rupees in back pay from promotion to Flight Sergeant. Fortunately I was properly dressed, complete with "jungle suit" and a pair of stout boots. "Herbie" F/O Herbert, if I remember rightly, was clad only in shirt, shorts and shoes, hardly the desired attire when flying over jungle. F/O Illman was better equipped.

The target was a place called Layshi, purporting to be harbouring a concentration of Japanese troops. Layshi lay some 10 miles within the Burma border, and approximately 90 miles from Palel to the northeast. On the map, the letter B, indicating a Rest House and a dotted tine showing a track connecting the village to the outside world were the only items of note about the target. The map of this part of Assam and Burma was somewhat featureless, containing mainly contour lines, and in some parts white patches marked "unsurveyed". So I was quite happy to be No.3 in the section and not particularly concerned with navigation.

However, 34 Squadron had located the village and left a column of smoke rising from the target. We were the last to arrive and dropped our 2 x 250lb. bombs on to the smoke, at the same time strafing with our 2Omm. cannon as we bombed. As usual, no activity was seen on the ground, and there was little satisfaction to be had from the raid.

Our section then reformed and set course for home. 34 Squadron's aircraft were not to be seen, having left the target area before us. Being No.3, I was concerned with watching the rear, so I paid little attention to the course home. The cloud base seemed to be lowering somewhat on the starboard side, and the top of the hills were disappearing into cloud. In consequenoe we were reducing height to keep beneath cloud and in touch with the ground. The port side was still bathed in sunshine. "Herbie" tried to contact base on the R/T a couple of times without success. R/T at the time was somewhat printitive, and the hills may have been affecting reception. After a time, judging by the edginess in "Herbie's" voice, the repeated calls to base and the utter silence which followed, it was obvious that "Herbie" hadn't a clue where we were. Neithar had I, nor I assumed had Illman. "'Herbie"" told us to keep our eyes peeled for any sign of life or landmarks down below, anything which would pinpoint our position. Nothing, however but the switchback of green jungle-covered hills, darkened by the cloud on the starboard side, still baking in the afternoon sunshine to port.

Fuel was now the problem. I kept my eye on the gauge, hovering around the zero mark, while scouring the horizon. Nothing. Landing would be impossible. I unfastened the safety harness end waited for the engine to cut. I made up my mind to tum the plane over and drop out, hoping for a reasonable landing among the trees. "Herbie" had now stopped trying to contact base on the R/T. We waited for the engines to die.

Suddenly, an excited shout. "Over there, 10 o'clock!" The unmistakable brown scar of an airstrip hacked out of the jungle. An open space at one end of the runway, in the middle of a flat green valley. Down we skidded and sideslipped before the engines finally stopped. No account taken of wind direction or any other landing formalities just get on the ground. Then, there we were, taxied and parked at the end of the runway, helmets draped over the control column, smoking furiously and congratulating ourselves on our good fortune. The general consensus was that we had landed on some emergency landing strip, and the next problem was to find some "erks" or airmen to refuel the Hurricanes and to find the course back home. "Herbie" indicated that I should accompany him and leave Illman with the aircraft. Then, changing his mind for some reason, he decided to take Illman with him and leave me by the aircraft. On they went down a path on the opposite of the strip, leaving me to await their retum.

There was an eerie silence about the place. Nothing stirred in the late afternoon sunlight apart from a dust devil wheeling in the airway from the strip. Perhaps a quarter of an hour and two cigarettes later, I thought to take a stroll down the path that "Herbie" and Illman had taken, when several shots rang out from the jungle, shattering the silence. My immediate reaction was that "Herbie" was potting at some bird life in the trees. He had been known to indulge in this pastime on several occasions. This reaction was soon forgotten when I noticed three oval shaped steel helmets, with their occupants eying me from behind a bush some 30 yards or so down the path. The helmets were not "ours", and I did not stop to enquire the nationality of the wearers. I had seen similar helmets in those flickering newsreels. I shot into the scrub and undergrowth a few yards from the edge of the strip and lay there awaiting the end. I did finger my revolver in its holster, but soon thought better of it.

Minutes passed, five, ten, and a quarter of an hour still quiet and no sign of any search party. An hour or so passed and hope began to return. No one appeared to be looking for me. Suddenly there was tha roar of an aircraft as a lone Hurricane jinked across the strip banking over our three parked Hurricanes, then climbing rapidly away. Silence again. Time passed slowly and I prayed for the onset of darkness. Then a sudden explosion and the ground shuddered. More explosions and I clutched at any available roots. We were being shelled. It was my first experience of shellfire and it was pretty frightening. There was a short respite from the shelling then the silence was again shattered by the roar of aircraft. This time there were several Hurricanes intent on reducing our grounded aircraft to smouldering wrecks. More explosions and the thump of cannon fire. As their chief target was only some 30 or 40 yards across the airstrip, it was a hairy time for me and any Japanese in the vicinity. Luckily the shooting must have been reasonably accurate and on or near the target.

Eventually everything setlled down and darkness fell. I began to believe that the Japanese were not interested in a solitary pilot encamped prostrate by the side of the airstrip. I tried to make things a little more comfortable in anticipation of a quiet night but it was not to be. As if by prearranged signal the whole area sprang to life. Tanks moved down the strip and shouted orders added to the general hubbub of an army on the move. Vehicles only a few feet away added to my general unease. After what seemed an age, quiet returned and I fell into a broken sleep, drained by the events of the last few hours. It rained a couple of times in the night and I woke up wet and miserable.

Time to take stock and decide on a plan of action. Firstly, I tore up all the letters, etc. which I should not have had with me anyway, and pushed them into the undergrowth. I drew the line at the 600 rupees. My possessions included a compass, revolver and waterbottle, a few Pleyers cigarettes in a tin and matches. I had an inkling that we had landed at Tamu, an emergency landing strip, and that the general direction back to base was to the north-west Some 25 miles approximately as the Hurricane flies. Later there were distant sounds of battle, and I knew I had a back-up direction indicator.

The immediate problem was drinking water, and I spent some time squeezing the drops of rainwater on the surrounding vegatation into the tobacco tin. I decided not to move until the activity by the airstrip had quietened down. There were occasional showers of rain during the day and the tobacco tin provided water to moisten my tips. I could see the Hurricanes across the strip, and a Japanese sentry pacing around them. One aireraft was down on one wing, but apart from this there seemed to be litlle damage. The time passed slowly, and apart from the sentry there was no other activity. Another couple of showers, but mainly hot sunshine." Made up my mind to stick to three square meals a day, in the form of a Horiicks tablet and go in search for water after dark.

It was an ideal night to move on. No moon. I assumed there would still be a sentry by the aircraft, but I had to risk it.  I took off my boots and hung them round my neck, as I had the notion that if I trod on any twigs they wouldn't break and make a sound. Crouching low, I moved on to the strip and away from the open area at the far end without any trouble. When I reached the jungle again I bedded down for the rest of the night. Dawn came and I skirted round the edge of the clearing and soon found a stream. I was in the process of filling my chagal and adding a sterilisation tablet when I heard voices. I froze. Two Japanese soldiers were walking along the top of the bank with their feet about level with my head and about four feet away. Luckily they were engrossed in their conversation. This was the first of several close encounters with the Japanese. I stumbled on a group sun-bathing by the same Stream, thinking it was strange that they were brown and not yellow, a couple cooking over a fire in a clearing, a couple moving in single file down a track, but each time I saw them before they saw me. I realised that my luck would not hold if I stayed in this area. There were quite a few clearings and I had crossed a road,  so I decided to head west, away from the general direction of the distant gunfire and obvious activity. The rest of the day was spent moving deeper into the jungle. The Japanese seemed to have people in the top of trees and any time an aircraft was sighted they let out a fearful yell as a warning to their pals to cease whatever they were doing and take cover. By the time night fell I had left all those noises behind.

I setlled into a routine. I walked during daylight. I did try night time walking but found it to be impractical. I kept to my three square meals a day. After a while my Horlicks tablets ran out but I didn't feel particularly hungry. I filled the chagal at every opportunity and luckily there were streams a-plenty. Just before dusk I would select a tree on a hillside, put on my gloves and baseball hat, pulled down the mosquito netting, and curl myself round the base of the tree so as not to slide down the hill. I did suffer the odd mosquito bite mainly on the wrists, but nothing to worry about. Invariably the nights were cold and shivery after the day time heat but I managed to get some sleep, eventually getting used to the jungle noises. I was off again at the crack of dawn, soon walking the night time cold and stillness out of my bones. It was a hard physical slog.

The jungle varied quite a lot, from the "green hell" type, which I avoided where possible, to a sort of open woodland. There was an occasional clearing, thickets of impenetrable bamboo and cool fresh water trickling from the hillsides. I tried to stick to the game trails which seemed to wind up and down the hills, and keep to a general westerly direction. I lost all count of time, and when there was a horizon to be seen it was just another range of jungle-covered hills. The only remotely edible things I saw were a few hard green bananas, which I left well alone. There was plenty of animal life to judge by the incessant racket, but I only saw a few monkeys, one snake and a beaver type of animal which was sharing a water hole with me. I didn't encounter any of the Naga, nor did I see any of their habitations. For me they were non-existent. Indeed, my fear at the jungle seemed to diminish with familiarity.

As the days went by, I began to wonder how far I would have to walk to catch up with the 14th Army. For all I knew they could be retreating all the way to India. So I decided to alter direction to cut across the line of the Japanese advance and the 14th Army withdrawal and started to move generally northwards. One thing I missed more than anything was human contact, although I saw and heard plenty of aerial activity, including one Japanese fixed undercarriage plane which seemed very interested in the hillside opposite. Eventually I came across signs of "civilisation" - slit trenches, a stack of abandoned large tins of bully beef, bayonetted to let in the air, and a dirt road. I did manage to scrape a mouthful of bully beef but decided against trying to eat any more. A basha hut complete with abandoned beds, pin-ups and, more important, the still warm embers of a fire just outside the door. I was back in the land of the living.

To follow the road, keeping to the jungle on either side, seemed a good idea, and I made good progress by day. I risked walking along the edge of the road by night, but at no time was there sight or sound of any humans. The road as such was cut into the hillside and afforded a bettar view of the surrounding hills and horizons than I had enjoyed previously. Soon afer dawn one moming I spotted several figures moving about atop a hill which had been cleared of trees. They were too far away to be recognisable, so I made to move nearer through the jungle up the hillside. I stopped in my tracks. Facing me some 30 - 40 yards away was a rifle and bayonet pointing at my chest. There was only one course of action. Any other would have been fatal. I stuck up my hands and moved towards the rifle. The bayonet that was stuck in my ribs was not of Japanese origin, but belonged to an Indian. I muttered words like "British Officer"' and "RAF" as I scrambled up the hillside, but these evoked no reply. Then It was all over. I was greeted by a British Army officer. After I had identified myself he told me they were expecting someone else, and seemed rather dubious about my credentials. I soon convinced him that I was a member of the RAF, although I could understand his doubts - filthy, smelly, bearded, full water bottle slung round my neck, not a badge of rank or service to be seen. A single shot rang out and we an tumbled unceremoniously into the silt trench, the officer cursing about "that damned sniper"'.

Soon, however, a cup of tea was produced and after more questions a jeep was summoned and I was driven through the hills down to the Imphal valley that I had left some time before. The squadron pilots and groundcrew were being briefed on the defence of the airfield for the night, and were being allotted their respective "boxes", This briefing soon broke up and I was deluged with questions. Unfortunately I could not anlighten them about "Herbie" and Illman, After a scratch-up meal and a bath in a tin tub I settled down for the best sleep since the night of 21 March. I was amazed when I learned that the date was now the 6th of April.

The next couple of days were spent in hospital, supposedly with sore feet, although I felt as fit as a fiddle. I suppose all the poisons aacumulated from boozy nights In the Sergeants Mess had been exorcised out of my system. The M.O. tried to give me a No.9 - the Forces laxative, and I had a hell of a job to convince him that my constipation was due to lack of food and not the first symptom of some obscure tropical disease. I did feel ravenously hungry, and the half rations in force in the besieged Imphal Valley were somewhat irksome, "to say the least." If any of the hospital patients were too poorly to eat, I would always oblige. One of my chief impressions of the whole affair was that when I knew there was no food to be had I didn't feel hungry, but when food was available I felt ravenous. I felt that given a bit of luck the Japanese and the jungle were not the ogres they were made out to be.

I did not fly on the Burma front again, but was posted to the Middle East, the reason being that I was considered to be an escaped prisoner of war, the Japanese presumably having my flying helmet, marked with my number, rank and name. Some two years later, when on demob leave in England, I developed malaria. Perhaps a belated sting in the tail, or the "jungle's revenge."

BACK TO True Tall Tales Index

RAF Roundel

By Corporal Jimmy Lightbody

They had enjoyed their breakfast but being Scots always complained of the sweetened porridge. As they made their way around the perimeter track towards the Headquarters area their conversation was all about the previous night out at the Kings Head in Romford and the dance they finished up at.

Pat and Jock were Ground Gunners on Hornchurch Airfield in I940 and had been great pals since the day they met on the train going to Blackpool for their initial training. At O8.OOhrs they were due to relieve the duty crew on the gunpost just North of the Hangars and had been for an early breakfast. It was a dull November morning and there was drizzle in the wind as they made their way across the Airfield. That particular morning the cloud base was well below 1500 feet 'and there was no flying activity.

On taking over the gunpost Pat and Jock soon got settled down to reading old copies of the "REVEILLE". The post had suffered a direct hit during the bombing raids in September and had been rebuilt. It now housed a 2Omm cannon and had a very comfortable dug-out. They were quite pleased they had wangled it to be on together. Things were reasonably quiet these days, quite different from the sunny days in August and September  when three squadrons of spitfires had to be kept in the air. They had accounted for many of the German aircraft shot down during the Battle of Britain, now the Germans had resorted to night bombing.

About 11OOhrs. the relaxation in the dug-out was suddenly disturbed by the little Tannoy speaker bursting into life.  Operations calling, Operations calling, there is a lone bandit approaching from the East and could be headed our way. "Guns to readiness". Jock was first to speak, "Go and take the cover off the gun Pat". "No, I took it off the last time", came the reply. "Oh no you didn't, it was I who took it off", said Jock. This had no effect on Pat who continued to argue, and seeing that Pat was in one of his obstinate moods Jock decided to go and do it himself. There was still rain blowing in the wind as he took the cover off the cannon, and then checked the magazine before taking the safety catch off. He swung the gun round on it's mounting to make sure it was free. It moved easily, being a well balanced unit. As he was doing this, he imagined he could hear the sound of aircraft engines in the distance. He now began to listen more intently, and sure enough it sounded as if an aircraft was heading towards him straight across the airfield. Mounting the gun he began to sight it relative to where he could hear the engine sounds. There had been a Spitfire circling the field just below the cloud base only Thirty minutes before, but Jock was sure this was something much heavier. He continued sighting the gun along the cloud base following the sounds until it seemed almost over ead, but slightly to th  right. Now the gun was almost pointing West and suddenly out of the cloud appeared the aircraft. It was right in his sights and he recognized it as a Dornier...2I5. without hesitation he squeezed the trigger and managed to get off a burst of nine shells before it went back into the clouds. The Dornier had only shown itself for two or three seconds and no other gun in the vicinity had opened fire.

The burst of fire had given Pat quite a jolt and his head shot out of the dug-out, "What the hell was that about", he exclaimed. Not without some slight elation, Jock shouted,"I've just had a crack at a Dornier 215 and I was the only gun that had a go". "Oh," said Pat, you 'are' sure it was a Dornier and not a Blenheim". Some Blenheims had recently been brought in on night fighter operations and the Army Ack Ack had given them a rough time, Jock however knew his aircraft. It was then they heard shouting, and Pat looking over the sandbags said, "I don't know who the hell this is, but he's headed our way and I think it's you he's after matey". Jock took a look and yes, there was an officer running towards the gunpost shouting something that sounded like "Who fired the gun". It wasn't long before he was in the gunpost angrily dernanding, "Who fired the gun?". Jock said "I did .sir". "Well I'm Flying Officer Baker, defence officer, and you will be courtmartialled for this. Who told you to fire the gun?," said the officer. Neither Pat or Jock had ever met this officer before and were beginning to think, "We've got a right Prat here". Jock replied, "Nobody told me to fire it, surely that's what I'm here for, to fire at enemy aircraft, it was a Dornier 2I5". Before the officer could reply to that, there was the sound of heavy gunfire from the direction of Romford and the air raid sirens began to wail. As they looked towards Romford they could now see the Dornier which for some reason had come down below the clouds and was heading back towards them. Jock shouted, "I told you it was a Dornier", and immediately mounted the gun. He began tracking the aircraft in his sights and calculated that if it kept on course it would be well within his range when it passed over the WAAF dining hut. He knew too, that with only 36 rounds in the magazine it didn't last long.

By now the Bofors had begun to fire and above the din he could hear the officer shouting, "Fire, Fire", but Jock ignored this, waiting until he thought he would be most effective. As it arrived over the dining hut he started to fire and could see his tracer arcing up towards the aircraft, along with the many tracers from other guns. He could now hear the officer shouting, "You are hitting it, I can see your tracer going into it". Suddenly the gun was silent, the magazine empty, but the Dornier flew on. It seemed incredible that it had stayed airborne after all the stuff that had been thrown up at it. Jock took off the empty magazine to replace it with a new one which Pat was passing to him. The Flying Officer said, "That was good shooting, I could see your tracer going in to it, I'm sure you hit it". Underneath Jock was still seething from the earlier encounter with the officer and the threat of court martial, now that the Dornier had got away didn't improve matters any. "It's this bloody ball ammunition they give us, why can't we have the explosive shells they use on the aircraft cannon?". He looked round to hear the officer's reply and then realised he was no longer there, he had gone as swiftly as he had come. "I don't believe it, officers I'll shoot them", said Jock. "You would have thought he'd give me credit for being the only gun to fire on his first pass, and what about that court martial?"

Pat by now had got out the cleaning equipment and was starting to clean the gun. He looked over at Jock, and with his usual grin, said, "Well, there' s one thing for sure, there won't be any argument about who takes the cover off next time."

I suppose you may be wondering if the Dornier got back to his base after running the gauntlet of the guns. What happened was that his course after he left Hornchurch took him over Gray where two Spitfires were waiting to intercept him. They promptly shot him down, each pilot claiming a half kill. The Dornier had been on a reconnaissance flight and the wreckage when examined had all kinds of holes in it.

Strange to say, although Pat and Jock remained at Hornchurch for the next three months, they never ever saw or heard of this officer again. If however F/O Baker should ever happen to read this, Jock is still awaiting that apology, it was the only time during his six years service that he was threatened with Court Martial.          Jimmy Lightbody

BACK TO True Tall Tales Index

RAF Roundel

By Corp Jimmy Lightbody

Dubber was suddenly awake and wondered where the hell he was. Above him, instead of the Billet ceiling, he could discern what looked like pipes and bulbous objects. It took a minute or two before he realised he was lying underneath the wash basins in the ablutions. While he had been asleep, some jokers had quietly lifted him in his bed and placed him beneath the sinks. "Who the hell did this", he roared as he struggled to lever himself out of the bed. "I'll get the bastards, I'll get my own back", he shouted. This was typical of Dubber although he wasn't an aggressive type. The lad from Cheltenham who in 1940 found himself serving as a Ground Gunner at R.A.F. Hornchurch would not have hurt a fly.

Prior to joining the R.A.F. Dubber had been a Postman and whenever anyone commented on why one of his shoulders was lower than the other, which was in fact true, he would say it was due to all the Royal Mail bags he used to have to carry on that shoulder. During his time at Hornchurch he had made a friend of an older married man who hailed from Gloucester, who because of size and shape had acquired the nickname 'Jumbo'. Both coming from the same part of the country, they got on well together and whenever possible would pair up for Gunpost duties.

It must have been about the end of September or early October and they were on duty together at the South end of the Airfield for the four hours 02.00 - 06.00. During the hours of darkness, it was normal for one man to stay within the Gunpost whilst the other stood sentry with rifle and fixed bayonet outside and in the vicinity of the parked Spitfires. On this particular night, it was bright moonlight and Dubber was acting as sentry. It must have been about 04.00hrs Dubber looking up towards the moon saw what he thought to be a parachute coming down. He shouted to Jumbo, "There's a German parachutist coming down", and he ran to where he thought he would land, shouting "Halt who goes there". At the commotion Jumbo raised his head above the sandbags, saw the object on the end of the chute and shouted "Come back there's a bomb on the end of it". As it landed the metal rings on the lines struck the bomb which made a clanging noise. When Dubber heard this he shouted back "It's a paratrooper, didn't you hear his bicycle". If nothing else, Dubber had a great imagination. Having cocked his rifle he went charging up to it only to find what looked like a 45gal. drum covered in soot. Seeing this he turned to make a dash for the Gunpost but hadn't got far when there was an almighty explosion, a blast of hot air and burning grass which blew him flat on his back. Another bomb had landed on the perimeter fence but this one had exploded. Jumbo who had his back towards it but shielded by the Gunpost walls suddenly found his steel helmet whipped off his head. When they had both recovered from the shock of the explosion, they got on the field telephone to report to the duty Corporal and all of us who were connected up to it, could hear all the excited conversation. We knew something had happened but not exactly what until we came off duty at 06.00hrs. It was the usual practice to make for the cookhouse for a mug of tea and it was then we heard the full story of what had happened. Dubber with a wide grin on his face spouting his favourite phrase "Life with the lid off".

I happened to be on duty at the Main Gate where we had a pillbox guarding entry into the Station. I had heard a heavy plane circling around at some height and it made about three or four circuits. For some reason no Ack Ack guns opened up and I did say to my mate, "That sounds like a four engine job, probably a Folke Wolf Condor."

What we now had on the Airfield was one of the first blockbuster type bombs. Orders were issued for no one to go near it with any metal and for the planes not to overfly it. Station HQ had the theory it may be magnetic. Nobody had apparently told them Dubber had been up to it with his rifle and bayonet. Even dafter still, we Gunners were asked to volunteer to move a dump of 4 gal tins of high octane which were located only a few yards from the bomb. I remember having to cut the metal buttons off our uniforms before carrying out the task.

Later that day two young Naval Officers arrived and set about defusing it. They loaded it on to a small truck. which they had arrived in and I remember a few of us saying cheerio to them at the Main Gate. They told us they were going down to Fords at Dagenham where another had landed and failed to explode. The-following day, it was with some sadness we learned that these two fine Offioers had been killed while trying to disarm that bomb.

BACK TO True Tall Tales Index

RAF Roundel

By Corp Norman Say

We went up to Athens airport and they gave us a pay parade. Now the drachma at that time was about 450 to the pound, so most of us got a thousand drachma note.(£2/10s), and we were let out of the camp.
Four of us went out together and as we were walking along the country lane we noticed a sign on a cafe. It said ‘Amandeggs’, all one word. One of the chaps said, ‘Let’s have a meal.’ So we went in and asked for amandeggs. It came up swimming in olive oil, then one of the chaps spotted something on the side and said, ‘Oh look rice pudding, we’ll have some of that.’ It turned out to be yoghurt, and not like the ones in the shops nowadays but sour goats milk. I didn’t mind it but the others disliked it. We had a bottle of wine with the meal and at the end I said I would pay so that I could get some change from my thousand drachma note, so I passed it over.

The cafe owner looked at it and said something, he had a smattering of English, and eventually indicated that he wanted seven drachmas. I indicated ‘Is that each?’ He replied, ‘No, it is for all of us.’ That was one penny three farthings in old money - we were millionaires! He had never seen a thousand drachma note before and he had to go round the village to collect enough change for me. He came back with a great wad of notes of all denominations, my pockets were full of them.

BACK TO True Tall Tales Index

RAF Roundel

By Corp George Foster

It was some time after we had been attacked at Giarabub that Father Cox decided to hold a small service one day. Having gathered his flock in the open desert scattered loosely in front of him and standing on a folding trestle table, he began his address. Sadly it was meant to be a short one for out of the low clouds several Junkers 88's began making their dives. After glancing up at them briefly, Father Cox turned back to his flock and cried out "its alright they're just Hurricanes" which was immediately followed by a second voice crying out louder than his,  "F___ING BIG HURRICANES, WITH TWO BLOODY ENGINES"! There may have been a sir at the end but I don't think anyone heard it.

BACK TO True Tall Tales Index

RAF Roundel

By F/Sgt Alan Bailes

On April,1942, I was the Wireless operator/air Gunner of a Blenheim Mark IV bomber, piloted by Flight Sgt. Bill Hinds, Observer F/S Jock Aitken, which took off from Asansol in Bengal, India for Loiwing in the Yunnan province of South China. Our aircraft was one of six, from 113 Squadron, R.A.F., led by the Commanding Officer, Wing Commander J.F. Grey. Our task was to attack Japanese columns which were advancing on lashio in North Burma. Lashio was of strategic importance as the S.W. terminus of the Burma Road, the tortuous route by which military supplies were carried in M.T. convoys across the mountains into China.

At Loiwing. we met pilots of the A.V.G. {Amencan Volunteer Group) led by the legendary Claire Chennault. Their P.40 Tomahawks, with air intakes painted to look like sharks jaws, carried the insignia of the Chinese Air force. The AV.G.pilots were paid US $500 for every enerny-aircraft destroyed by them. Among the ground crews helping to service their machines were fitters and riggers from 17 Squadron RAF., since all their Hawker Hurricanes had been lost or written off.

On 24th April we flew to Lashio airfield behind Flying Officer D.J. Hammond, R.N.Z.A.F. and his crew: observer Pilot Officer Evans ; WOp/Ag Sergeant "Tassie" Lord, RA.A.F from Tasmania. We were briefed by Group Captain Noel Singer to attack' Japanese M.T concenttcatios along the Hopong - loilein road about one hundred rniles due south. We carried four 250 pound G.P bombs with eleven second delay fuses, since the attack was to pressed home from Iow level.

Once again Flying Officer Hammond led, skimming over the tree tops of the pleasant, hilly countryside of the Shan States. Nearing the target I noticed with apprehension that Bill Hinds had lost formation and the leading Blenheim was some way ahead

As we dived Iow over the Japartese coloumn M.T. in attack, l was firing the twin Browning.303 inch machine guns when there was an orange coloured explosion on the ground just below our starboard wing. As we climbed away after Jock had released our bombs I noticed grey smoke or vapour streaming from our starboard engine. We had been hit, either by Japanese flak, or more probably the explosion from F/0 Hammond's bombs.

Minutes later Bill Hinds ordered me to bale out. We were at just over one thousand feet when I jumped. As I descended in sudden silence I saw the aircraft flying northwards, still trailing smoke. Nothing more was ever heard of Bill or Jock, the latter a Glaswegian who had survived the bombing of the SS Lancastria at St. Nazaire in 1940, and who had pulled me from the blazing wreck of an 88 squadron Blenheim at Swanton Morley in Norfolk in July 1941.

I came down on a grassy slope in undulating open country, with scattered trees. I had no map, no compass and I was wearing a khaki bush-shirt and slacks, whilst on my feet were totally inappropriate pointed light dancing shoes,  since my service footwear was being re-soled in Asansol. I had an old Bresica  44 revolver, Iooted from the Italians in the Western Desert North Africa with eight rounds of ammunition.
           I decided to walk north using the sun for bearings; I thought it would be prudent to stay clear of roads, along which the Japanese would be advancing.
Towards nightfall I came to a village built of wooden huts. The people were heavily tattooed in blue patterns on their arms and torsos. I mimed hunger and asked for food in sign language but they didn't want to know me and tried to send me on my way. I drew the Brescia from my pocket (I had no holster) and I was grudgingly given boiled rice on a leaf in lieu of a plate and a drink of milkless tea. I slept on the floor of the hut with my gun in my right hand. After a restless night and a hurried breakfast of rice, I was on my way again in the early morning my body covered with itching bug bites.

     I continued walking north all day, still avoiding roads and keeping to the higher ground. I had nothing to eat, but thirst was becoming a problem until I found a cylinder of bamboo with a string loop for carrying obviously a home-made water bottle. I came across a deep fast flowing river about 40 metres wide. Tying my shoes and gun around my neck I swam across diagonally down stream. I dried out in the sun, then spent the night in the remains of a Buddhist shrine, covering myself with thatch from the roof.

     On the third my feat were badly blistered and my lightweight shoes were beginning to disintegrate, but I struck out northwards again, with the rising sun on my right, not meeting a soul. About mid morning I was very shaken when-firing broke out abruptly in front of me. I could hear the noise of rifles and machine-guns and the crump of grenades or mortars. There was shouting and screams as men were hit. I lay in cover for about half an hour; when it all became quiet. I moved forwards cautiously and soon came across clothing, bedding and kit which had been jettisoned in the fighting. It seelmed likely that a Japanese forward patrol had come across a platoon of Chinese troops. I was very apprehensive, the Japs were either just ahead of me or not very far behind.

About an hour later I saw a narrow Tarmac road below me an the right. Blocking it at right angles was a burnt out truck, and manning this crude defense were two slim Chineese soldiers whose cap badges resembled the chrysanthemum insigna on the A.V.G aircraft. They didn't seem surprised or worried  by my arrival, in fact they didn't seem very bright. I was trying to get acquainted by mime when a Chinese officer came up. He was very suspicious and hostile and drew a Luger pistol which he dug into my stomach. He noticed the lanyard of my revolver round my neck, ripped open my bush-shirt and found the butt my gun protruding from my pocket. By now he was yelling and screaming and grabbing at my gun. I triad to stay calm and did all I could to communicate. I pointed to myself and made aeroplane engine noises, pointed upwards, mimed my slow parachute descent. I said "Chiang Kai Shek" O K. "Nippon no OK"  I drew pictures in the dust and finally he got message and calmed dawn. I said "Lashio, lashio" and he seemed to understand.

       He took me up the road some distance and there was a 3-ton open Chevrolet truck, with a Chineese soldier wounded in the stomach groaning in the back. He put me in front with the driver. I offered to change places with the wounded man, thinking he would be more comfortable, but the officer wouldn't hear of it. We drove-off into the night through a torrential and spectacular thunderstorm with vivid lightning flashes just missing us. Just before dawn the screams from the wounded soldier stopped he was either unconscious or dead. They dropped me off in lashio at about 6 am. and I made my way to the RAF camp. The only person awake was an Indian servant making tea.

      I asked, "Where is Group Captain Singer-Sahib?" He replied that he was still asleep in his charpoy. I was most anxious to prevent a "Missing in Action" telegram reaching my parents so I said, "Take me to him and wake him up," I was also hoping for news of Jock and Bill but G/C Singer could barely answer that they were still missing. He wanted to know how far away the Japs were and what forces were between them and lashio. My replies led him to complete the evacuation of lashio forthwith.

     I was sent for a meal and to have my badly blistered feet dressed at sick bay. There was a lot of discarded kit lying about left in the evacuation and I found a pair of large white tennis shoes to fit over my bandaged feet, plus a curiously shaped topee which resembled those worn by the British Troops in the Zulu wars. I met Tassie Lord again and he told me I was to fly in their Blenheim to Loiwing.

     Shortly after we Ianded back in China, Tassie was carrying me Pick-a-back to save my feet when two single-engined aircraft with their wheels down appeared, apparently intending-to land. We were completely taken by surprise when they opened fire at the Blenheim and us. Tassie dropped me from his back and we ran for the slit trenches. The aircraft were Nates, obsolescent Jap fighters with fixed undercarriages. When the attack was over we returned to Blenheim and found that rifle-calibre rounds had punctured the pitot head tube, the inner petrol tanks, the fuselage and the tail-wheel but fortunately the aircraft did not catch fire,

     Scratch repairs were made and after refuelling we took off for Dum Dum, airfield Calcutta. Violent pre-monsoon storms over the Arakan Yoma barred our way  and we were forced to divert to Shwebo, north-west of Mandalay. All RAF personnel had been evacuated from there and our arrival caused a sensation, the aircraft was besieged by about twenty high-ranking army officers from Brigadier upwards an of whom, so they said, had urgent reasons for getting to getting to India at once. We had landed at General Alexander's G.H.Q on the long retreat to India.

Flying Officer Hammond told them that he would take two of them, with no kit, at first light the next day. Some of those disappointed became very annoyed and demanded that, a mere sergeant, should be left behind to allow one more general to fly in my place but F/O Hammond (God bless him!) was not to be intimidated. He was the captain of the aircraft and pulling rank on him would not work.

That night Tassie and I were unwelcome guests at the G.H.Q. Staff Officers' Mess. The atmosphere was very grisly, morale seemed to be at zero and conditions were very spartan. A dish of meat stew eventually appeared to be eaten with fingers, everyone was grabbing away. Tassie and I got what was left, which was very little. The only drink available was Indian Gin.

Next morning we arrived at the airfield to find the well of the Blenheim full of suitcases and bedding rolls, with the two brass-hats and their servants standing by. F/O Hammond had all their kit thrown out; he was rightly worried about weight with a faulty Air Speed Indicator (due to the damaged pitot head) and a take-off run of just over one thousand yards.

We scraped over the tops of the trees on take-off and set course for Dum Dum. Over the Arakan was a wall of cumulo-nimbus cloud, impossible to climb over. Into it we flew, to be tossed up and down in black darkness with hailstones hammering on the aircraft skin. I saw Tassie climb out of his gun turret and clip on his parachute chest pack, gesturing me to do the same. The brass-hats faces were a study, they were airsick and they had no parachutes.

We broke cloud over the Sunderbunds and landed at Dum Dum. Our arrival caused a stir, the bullet-holed machine, the V.I.Ps, our unshaven and unkempt appearance all contributed. We hailed a taxi driven by a bearded Sikh and headed straight for the bar of the Grand Hotel on Chowringhee.

BACK TO True Tall Tales Index

RAF Roundel

By F/Sgt (F/Lt) Bill Whittlesey

During my time in Egypt we were involved in 3 advances and retreats during the period of June1940 until I embarked for home in 1942, on the last advance at El Alamein I came across a B.M.W Shaft drive Motorcycle propped up against a wall.  I thought this was to good to be true as we had been well briefed about the Germans leaving booby traps behind, so I was stood there examining it closely before touching it when a S.A.A.F major appeared on the scene and bawled "that's mine" where on f/sgt Whittlesey said that he was checking it out.  At that,  the S.A.A.F Major pulled out his revolver fired one shot in the air, pointed it at me and still said that it was his. So I shrugged my shoulders seeing that he was meant to have it and walked away. I hadn't gone far when BANG! !!! Bits of the bike and him came flying past me. It had been booby-trapped all right and he had found out too late! (NOTE ED: The SAAF 1 Squadron had been based nearby 113 Squadron for awhile when they were stationed at Sidi Haneish and were also involved in the capture of Al Alamein. It is likely the Major was from this Squadron)

After this little episode we advanced right round the coast to El Augila with the Italians and Germans in full retreat. Here however our supplies were running out and Rommel having taken over command of the enemy troops, we were finally driven back again outside Benghazi.  My trucks were blown over with a bomb blast but I got out uninjured and joined the retreat back to the aerodrome at El Adair (? His handwriting is difficult to read at this point) Here there were slit trenches but no ack ack guns; there were however parachute and cable devices which sent up a rocket trailing a folded parachute on a piece of wire. The theory was the operator would judge when to send it up and hope the plane caught the cable, swinging the bomb up and damaging the plane. Well sure enough a Stuka arrived and I jumped in the slit trench where there was a sergeant with this gadget and I fell right on top of him. This caused him to misfire the gadget and "WE" got the plane! You should of heard him explaining to the C/O how he judged the speed of the plane, angle of attack and the distance in order to hit the target.

BACK TO True Tall Tales Index

RAF Roundel

By F/Sgt (F/Lt) Bill Whittlesey

On returning home in 1942 and after some leave I was posted to R.A.F Blakehill Farm Gloucs and because of my experience of convoy driving on sand in the desert in setting up forward landing grounds, I was assigned the task of training drivers for the D.Day landings. One day I was taking a convoy up Birdlip hill Gloucs while at the same time a tank transporter complete with tank started coming down the hill. On seeing this I rode my motorcycle up the hill telling the drivers to pull over and was hit and run over by the tank transporter.

The driver of the tank transporter apparently told my people that there was an American field hospital just up the road on Birdlip hill near Cheltenham. How they managed to get me there without doing me any more damage I shall never know because I had broken my left femur, my hip socket, my sacrum and 4th, 5th transverse lumber vertebrae and my left leg was up behind my back with my foot by my right ear. I briefly came to and saw this then passed out again. One wrong move and I could have been paralysed from the waist down. The accident happened on August bank holiday Monday but I did not recover consciousness until the following Thursday.

I awoke to find myself in traction and splints and I also had slings from an overhead cradle supporting my back. The American Doctor said to me "are your back with us" and I asked where I was. He told me where and said "English, German, American we mend em all." I said dismayed, "Germans you wait until you get to Bukenvauld" at this point the guy looked puzzled as at this point no one new of the place and what went on there. I remained at the American field hospital until November 5th when I was taken out of splints and traction and had a plaster cast on my leg and waist to transport me to R.A.F hospital Wroughton near Swindon. Here I remained for another three months while under going treatment.

In February I was moved to the R.A.F rehabilitation unit in Loughborough to undergo physiotherapy and on reporting to the medical officer he said "I am very pleased to see you here" puzzled I asked why, and he told me "you stopped breathing for 2 hours."  I replied don't be daft after 10 minutes without oxygen your dead! The doctor then told me that when I had been brought in from the accident I had stopped breathing and that they found an American soldier with the same blood group as me and hooked me up to his blood supply to oxygenate mine until they got me breathing again. I can remember vividly an experience I shall never forget while I was unconscious. I remember going up to the Pearly Gates and St Peter asked me for my I.D papers. I said they are in my battledress I will go back and fetch them. On the way back down the staircase I met a guy coming up and he said tell them about Buchenvauld. Perhaps while I had stopped breathing I had met a poor chap who been exterminated there and he tried to get me to tell everyone what was going on as Buchenvauld was not discovered until the end of the war.  How did I know about it in 1942 some 3 years earlier. I have no other explanation for this than the above recollection.   
BACK TO True Tall Tales Index

RAF Roundel

By P/O (S/Ldr) Michael Shekleton

One morning at breakfast just after Bob Bateson became our CO, he stopped by me (P/O Michael Shekleton) and said the Group IO would be arriving shortly. They were going to visit the Army Signals unit near Mersa Matruh. Join us, for the ride, he suggested. I jumped at the chance to get out of the camp even for a couple of hours. Make sure, he said, Cook puts my crate in the boot.

Bob and the chap from Group sat in the back, I sat in front with the driver. The Signals unit was just outside Mersa, and Bob and the IO were closeted with the CO there about 20 minutes. When they came out, Bob said: "We'll drop in at the Ras on the way home."

The maps we used in the air were either million or half-million, but in our Ops hut there was a quarter-mil map of the Mersa area showing the position of the DFPs (dummy flare paths, and our Ras was marked on that one - it's where we got the name Ras el Kenayis from.

Returning to MB after three or four miles Bob told the driver to turn off onto a bit of unmade road. This led to a long thin spur of land that enclosed a narrow lagoon. And a little way along it we stopped at a small hut canopied with tent canvas. As we came to a halt a brown figure leaped out the doorway slamming a side-hat on his head and flung up a salute. He wore bathing trunks! A moment later he was joined by another. There the two stood at attention in a smart salute, caps neatly poised and wearing nothing but bathing trunks!

Bob and the IO got out of the car grinning. "Sorry about the uniform, sir. Didn't know . . ."    "Save it, Corporal," Bob said, holding out a hand. "You're not on duty, and this isn't an inspection. He called me over. "Bones," he said, meet the Light-house keeper and his mate.! And then it dawned on me! At briefing for night shows (Operations) we were always told: "Come home over the Ras . ........' When we did, on ETA we flashed the letter-of-the-day, and lo and behold got an Aldiss flashing zero-zero back from the Ras. We turned in over it and homed on a DPA, knowing our way home from there. And these were the lads that did the flashing!

What a frightful job, eh? They were on a two-week roster and were drawn from the Blenheim squadrons. The little hut was comfortable enough. They had a land line to the Signals unit down the road, which also provisioned them. Bob had brought them a crate of fruit, beer, ham and roast chickens. Typical of the man, a leader with the common touch.

I still retain the memory of those two, half-hats at a jaunty angle, bronzed in their scanty pants, standing rigidly at attention, flinging up a salute as we left.

BACK TO True Tall Tales Index

RAF Roundel

By P/O (S/Ldr) Michael Shekleton

In the Mess for a pre-lunch drink we came upon Walker, now a Flying-Officer, by the way. He told us one of his runner-beans had already reached the top of his tent. (We were all growing beans up the guy ropes watering them daily with our shaving water.)

Walker had been at the Bardia/Tobruk show. He said the Navy had put up a spotter plane, an old Walrus and the RAF was asked to protect it. A Hurricane, three Gladiators and a Blenheim were also up, but only the Blenheim had been told about the Walrus. When the Navy ships came weaving in to start their bombardment they launched the Walrus. At once the `spotter' was spotted. The Gladdie leader seeing a silver aircraft at once put his nose down and all three Gladiators went streaking after it, followed immediately thereafter by the Hurricane which joined in the fun. The Blenheim then roared after them to wave them off! The Navy, in obvious disgust, at once put up a barrage to protect their precious Walrus. The `Allies' suddenly realizing their error hurriedly peeled off whereupon a solitary enemy CR42 nipped out of a cloud, saw the Walrus, and gave it a horrible mauling, disappearing before the Hurricane could attack it.  The poor Walrus, too badly holed to attempt a water landing beached itself somewhere just our side of the wire.

To top off the day, the Navy managed to destroy the Bardia hospital...... scratch one Walrus and one Hospital.

BACK TO True Tall Tales Index

RAF Roundel

By F/Sgt Ewan Brooking

In July 1942 the squadron's Commanding Officer W/C Grey was promoted away and replaced by W/C Walters. It must be remembered that at this time the Japs had steam rolled across Burma and driven the Allies out. The situation was critical and chaos was everywhere. In particular the 113 Squadron, a rag-tag lot at the best of times, was not exactly at the top of their form having endured unimaginable conditions for months. Flying total wrecks, poorly fed, overworked, living in tents in jungles rife with malaria, dysentry and plague, eaten by mosquitos, few supplies and bombed regularly by the japs for good measure, it is a miracle that they were operational at all.

To this backdrop came the new C.O and his attempt to whip the squadron into shape. At that, I give you this hilarious short excerpt from F/Sgt Brooking's diary:

How about this! All Nav/B's were given orders this morning, that we are to clean the  Blister guns, and check the Bomb sights of our aircraft, every morning. Three of us went out to do our "two" planes. One didn't have a blister at all, and the other had a single blister and no bombsight. It didn't take long for us to clean the solitary gun.

BACK TO True Tall Tales Index

RAF Roundel

By John Chapman II as relayed to him by his father Sgt John Chapman

By early 1942 Chappy and the rest of the RAF had been bounced out of Burma and were in Calcutta .  It was there that Chappy came up with an idea that should have been the Far East equivalent of “Dambusters" in the annals of aviation history but, instead, has a somewhat less distinguished place in history.

The story is this.  When in Burma , the squadron had used a country club as its base.  The fairways were used as runways and there was quite a plush clubhouse that was used as quarters for the aircrew.  It was a good life there: lots of servants, golf, tennis courts and a big swimming pool.  It was a big upgrade from living in a tent in Egypt with the threat of Messerschmitts.  Too bad the Japanese had to go and spoil it all by starting a war.

Chappy knew the Japanese treated their pilots well.  He figured it was highly likely their pilots would also be sleeping at the clubhouse and enjoying the country club's amenities. Pilots were rare in the Far East .   Taking out a good portion of Japan 's pilots in Burma in one stroke would strike a mighty blow.  Chappy came to his commander with a plan. If the Blenheims took off a couple of hours before dawn and were lightly loaded they could strike the clubhouse at dawn when the pilots were still asleep.   The clubhouse was made of wood.  Incendiary bombs would turn it into an inferno from which no one could escape.  Even a near miss would do as the bursting flame would spread to the clubhouse.  The risks involved were great - a long flight over enemy territory where if anything went wrong death was likely - but the rewards were even greater.  Approval was given.

It all, almost,-went according to plan.  Chappy and two other planes took off at night and made the journey across Burma .  Their navigation was perfect.  As the sun rose, the pagodas of the city of Rangoon were before them in the morning calm.  The golf course was quickly spotted. There was no opposition and no warnings.  The planes came on untouched towards the target.  It would be like shooting a fish in a barrel.   Mac, the navigator was responsible for the bomb drop.  He called out the time to target.  Finally it was time.  The incendiaries fell towards earth.  Mac was at a viewer watching the bombs fall.  "They're right on target, they’re right on target" he yelled jubilantly. Then there was a brief silence followed by an "Oh my God".   Chappy felt that Mac must have finally realised the awful nature of war and what it was to kill a sleeping enemy defenceless in their beds.  But that was not it at all.  Mac was now yelling "I don't believe it.  I don't believe it".  The incendiaries had fallen true. They had fallen toward the clubhouse but missed it by only a few yards.  But that should not have mattered - the spread of their flames should have been as devastating as is the hit had been direct.   There was only one small thing that had been overlooked.  A few yards form the clubhouse was the gorgeous swimming pool that the squadron had enjoyed a few months previously.  The incendiaries had fallen squarely into the swimming pool.  Rather than bright flames, steam filled the air.

BACK TO True Tall Tales Index

RAF Roundel

By John Chapman II as relayed to him by his father Sgt John Chapman

Sometime in 1942 Chappy, Mac and Ken were flying back from a bombing mission over Burma .  The plane began to have engine trouble.  It was losing altitude.  Although Chappy tried to nurse it along it was clear they were going down.  They were over the jungle and the lines between enemy territory and that held by the British were not well defined.  As the plane descended it looked like they were over a solid canopy of jungle.  They did not want to parachute - they would never find one another and the jungle might never give them up.   Off to the left Chappy spotted a different colour of green.  A field.  He nudged the plane towards it.  The field was not large but it was enough and the plane belly flopped into the mud.   No one was hurt.  "For once Chappy had made a decent landing".

The instructions to air crew at the time made it clear that if a plane crashed the bomb site had to at all costs be denied to the enemy.  Mac and Ken dismantled the bomb site.  It weighed (according to Chappy) about 80 pounds and they began to struggle across the wet field with it. They were in the middle of nowhere with no idea of where they were, of how long it would take them to get to civilisation or whether the Japanese or British were in charge of the territory.

As Chappy tells, it when they landed there was not a person to be seen.  There was just an empty field in the middle of the jungle.  In the 10 minutes or so that it took them to detach the bomb site and struggle across the field that changed.  People - hundreds of people - began to emerge from the trees.   Chappy, Mac and Ken spoke no native languages.  At the time many inhabitants of the region did not support the British.  The Japanese had promised them their independence.  The sight of hundreds of people emerging from the bush was not necessarily good news.  Chappy thought that no doubt the Japanese would handsomely reward anyone who turned in three British airmen and a top secret bombsight.  Chappy had his service revolver with 6 bullets.  Mac and Ken were unarmed (aside from the bombsight which was not really useful in a fight).  If things got dicey they would not end well for the aircrew.  For 5, 10 minutes the two sides stared at each other.  Not a word was said.  The air crew was becoming more and more nervous.

A low murmur began to rumble through the crowd.  Something was happening.  Someone - the Japanese? - was approaching.  The crowd opened a wide path for whoever was coming.  It was clear that person had their respect or even their fear.

An old man emerged.  He was wearing Khaki shorts, a big leather military belt and a torn shirt.  Attached to the shirt was some sort of ribbon or medal.  The old man smiled though broken teeth.  He raised his arms.  Was this the signal for some attack?  No!   In heavily accented but intelligible English he said "God Bless Queen Victoria and the Royal Flying Corps”.  The whole crowd cheered in unison.  Everyone smiled.  The aircrew were saved.  They were escorted by the throng of happy natives through the forest to a village, loaded on to a cart and eventually found there way to a train station and back to base (what became of the pranged plane is unclear).

The aircrew had been saved by an old serviceman who had himself in ancient times fought for King and Country.  Although the old man's  up to date knowledge of British monarchy and military organisation may have left something to be desired there was no doubt he was a welcome sight to Chappy, Mac and Ken.

BACK TO True Tall Tales Index

RAF Roundel

 The Derna Story
By S/Ldr John (Ian) Blair

Prelude: Corp Ian Blair was an Armourer on the squadron during the opening days of the war. At this time ground crew often doubled as air crew gunners and observers.  

I was briefed to carry out a bombing raid on Derna Landing Ground  the track was to be a two legged  with a final approach to the Target on a East to West approach.  Bomb load was 20 & 40 lb. Fragmentation bombs carried  in  small bomb containers ,(SBC)  4   in number, this required the removal of the Bomb doors of the Blenheim, and accounted for the low Indicated Air Speed  (IAS)

The aircraft was airborne at 0820 hrs.  As usual the weather was good, the flight was uneventful.  At 0917 hrs the log shows an alteration of course was made to bring the aircraft on to the target at a height of 16,000 ft. having let down from 19,000ft.  This latter 40 minutes were used in part to make the necessary settings on the bomb sight, and to position  myself  by the bomb  sight , in my case, I always knelt on the floor with my chest resting on the bomb aimers folding  seat ( dropped down to the horizontal position from the starboard side of the aircraft, approximately in line with the control column). I found that in this position my hands were free to adjust the bombsight levels and compass (red on red)  and obtain a good line of sight in order to track the target.

I had just released my bombs when there was a loud bang on the Port side and when I looked round in the direction of the noise, I saw the pilot was slumped forward on the controls, and out of the  port  window I saw a CR 42  breaking off as if he was preparing for another attack.                                                                                                                      

My aircraft was beginning to dive, I struggled to my feet grabbed at the yoke of the control column and  as  I  pulled  it back  with  some  difficulty against the weight of the  pilot,  I was able to  exert some right pressure and turn the aircraft to starboard in a northerly direction, I concluded the hostile aircraft would not follow us very far, as it  had very limited duration.  I had gained a little height, but was having difficulty from my standing position and the added weight of the pilot against the control column.

 I called to my air gunner and asked him to assist in the removal of the pilot  from  his  seat, “Hank” had to crawl  from the turret through the aircraft “ well” to get to the front cockpit,  the  pilot  was carefully removed and placed on the floor of the aircraft, his parachute remained  in situ,  which I needed in order to see over the instruments etc.   Hank  returned to the turret, and when I realised the aircraft was O.K.  I   set a course for base, aiming to make a  landfall  near  Mersa  Matruh. I was unable to maintain my navigators log from this point on.   

It was a long flight back, I had plenty of time to consider the options, I discussed with Hank what we should do, did he wish to bail out over base, or to stay in the aircraft, he opted to stay with the aircraft. I outlined my plan to him which was, to make a circuit on arrival at base, and a long approach from east to west, high over the boundary “fence” which was a line of telephone cables on poles, I had no wish to run into these.

The return flight took about 1- 3/4 hours  I understand that  the W/Op  Hank sent a message to base by  W/T  telling them of our plight, in consequence there  was a very large party of spectators and crash vehicles awaiting our “touchdown” on arrival.  I was unaware that a message had been sent.

I made landfall not far from  Mersa,  it was a short time before I reached my base  Maten  Bagush,  which was about 3 miles  inland  and also  Headquarters  202 Group, the message sent by W/op generated a very large crowd of  spectators.

I did a very wide circuit of the LG, there were no other aircraft visible in the circuit as far as I could see, even if there had been any pilot giving me assistance on the approach I doubt if I  should  have taken much notice or be aware of what he was trying to indicate, there was no communication  R/T

From my observations of my  skipper's  flying , we had done many hours together,. I knew that I had to, change pitch of the propeller, engage rich mixture control, and when the wheels went down there  would be a lot of vibration, and loss of speed which I would have to compensate for with increased  revs, all of these actions were carried out on the down wind leg , and on the final approach I kept at about 85 mph, knowing that there would be a marked change of aircraft  attitude when the flaps  were lowered, I trimmed the aircraft tail heavy, (too much,) as it happened, because I had to exert forward stick  pressure on the control column in order to maintain my approach  path and speed, being aware of the telephone poles and lines at the touch down end of the strip. As soon as I passed over the telephone lines, I throttled back and because the tail trim was tail heavy,  the aircraft flared out nicely and sat on the ground.  I kept the stick  hard backwards with all my strength and eventually the aircraft came to a halt in a cloud of dust.

I do not remember shutting off the engines but they were stopped.

First aboard as I stood up on the seat, was the Medical Officer, I exchanged a few words about the  pilot ,the  MO looked at me and sent me off to sick quarters.

It is alleged that the AOC who  witnessed the landing  said  “ If that airman can fly an aircraft without a training course, it time he was sent on one”

BACK TO True Tall Tales Index

RAF Roundel