Note that the story as wriiten here does not in any way do justice to the original booklet written by Pat which had coloured covers and numerous pictures of interest. As such nearly all of the feeling and artistic presentation is lost. The story however is exceptionally well written and Pats easy going style of writing keeps it interesting and easy to follow. The reader will also easily discern that it was this story which laid the foundation for the 'Book In Writing' which is found on this site. Note that the descriptions in italics are where the pictures in the original book are inserted.
Back to THE 113 SQUADRON STORY
ROYAL AIR FORCE
113 CRUSADER SQUADRON
A BRIEF HISTORY
F/O PAT G WOODWARD
In keeping with its odd number, 113 squadron has been involved in several unusual events during its short history, one of the oddest being at the very beginning when it was raised on 1st August 1917 as part of the Royal Flying Corps, not in the UK, but at Ismailia, Egypt, for services against the Turks 7th and 8th Armies in Palestine as part of General Allenby's army.
The squadron's first designation was as a `Corps Reconnaissance Unit' equipped with BE2C, BE2E, BE2E, and RE8 aircraft, and it was used operationally mainly in artillery and trench spotting. The details of this early period are sadly very sparse and at the Public Record Office there are only three pages from the Operations Record Book for study. These cover the 27th and 28th October 1917 during active service at Julis when `ops' over two famous places, Beersheba and Gaza, are detailed.
(1.) BE.2c. India 1917
(2.) RE8. France 1918
At least we have one other tangible reminder of those early days which is the squadron badge, as shown above, depicting the five Crusader crosses and crossed swords commemorating the squadron's role in the defence of Holy Land. The squadron never served on the Western Front in France which means that those who still possess a copy of the programme of the `Farewell Dinner' at Zayatkwin on 4th October 1945 will need to amend the first paragraph on page 2, (see enclosure). In fact, at the end of hostilities in 1918 the squadron returned to Egypt and although not formally disbanded ceased to exist on 1st February 1920 when it was renumbered as 208 squadron.
The squadron reappeared in 1937 when, along with many other defunct units, it was reformed as part of the urgent expansion of the RAF brought about by the realization of the worsening political situation in Europe, and particularly German rearmament. It was in May of that year that an Air Ministry Order set things in motion and the squadron became part of 1 Group, Bomber Command, stationed at Upper Heyford and equipped with 13 Hawker Hinds pending conversion to Bristol Blenheims as soon as they could be made available. The first Commanding Officer was S/Ldr. Bartholemew and flying commenced on 8th. June with the first crash, not an uncommon event with Hinds, occurring on the 24th. June when it is recorded that whilst taking off from Abingdon, Acting P/O Helsby wrote off his aircraft but he survived, although sustaining a broken jaw.
(3.) Hawker Hind 1937 in 49 Sqdn. markings This air craft was later transferred to 113 squadron so it is the first known picture of a 113 aircraft.
On 5th. August 1937 the squadron was transferred to 5 Group Bomber Command and posted to Grantham, but there was still no sign of modern aircraft and training continued throughout the year in the Hinds, which must have been most frustrating for both air and ground crews flying and servicing single engine, two seat, open cockpit biplanes instead of the Blenheim, an entirely different concept with twin engines and needing a three man crew. In fact the Hinds were still in use when the squadron was ordered overseas in April 1938 and travelled by troopship (HMT Lancashire) to Alexandria, Egypt, under a new CO, S/Ldr. Cator, arriving finally at Heliopolis on 10th. May.
Training at last gave way to important work on 28th. September 1938 when the squadron was posted to a `War Station', at Mersa Matruh and took part in a complete photographic survey of the Western Desert right up to the Libyan border, which must have been of vital help in the subsequent desert battles. This work was completed in May 1939 when, under a new CO, S/Ldr. Keily on 1 St. June, the very day on which he was awarded the Air Force Cross, 113's first decoration of its new existence. No reason is given in the squadron records for this Honour, probably it was in connection with the photographic survey, although it may well also have been a small recognition of the patience shown by all ranks in waiting so long for their promised front line aircraft to appear.
In fact the bulk of the Blenheims did not `arrive' in the Middle East as expected, let alone on the squadron, and as late as August 1939 `several squadron pilots' had to be sent `home' to collect their new aircraft and ferry them back to Heliopolis and (no doubt with a huge sigh of relief) the CO was able to report in the Operations Record Book that `by the outbreak of war' the squadron was `fully equipped'. It was a close run thing and there must have been some very hasty conversion courses to twin engine flying!
On 1st. September the squadron was placed on a 6 hour standby for a move to the Libyan border but, as in Europe, nothing alarming happened during the first months of the war and until June 1940 the squadron was able to carry out constant training to work up its new aircraft and crews to a high standard of efficiency, which must have been a welcome and vital alternative to being pitchforked into immediate action.
(4.) Bristol Blenheim Mk. 1. 1938. 30 Sqdn
The serious fighting in the Middle East, which has become known as the first Libyan Campaign, started in June 1940 and 113 was in the thick of it from the beginning, being based at Ma'aten Bagush and `Waterloo', the latter probably a satellite airfield, carrying out bombing and strafing operations in support of the 8th. Army.
Unfortunately no details are available for the three month period up to September, the official history in the Public Record Office stating bleakly that, `the squadron records (for this period) were lost in the first Libyan Campaign'. These start again on 17th. September 18th., disaster stuck when, during what is described as a `defended raid', the CO, S/Ldr. Keily, recorded at this time as having a DFC in addition to his earlier award, was shot down and perished with his crew, thus ending the longest period by anyone in charge of 113 squadron.
(5.) Bristol Blenheim Mk. IV. The crew is Sgt's Geo. Checketts (WOP/AG), Frank Baker (Pilot), and Bob Hay (observer). They commenced operations with 82 sqdn. Bodney Norfolk in 1940. Transferred to 211 Sqdn. Greece in 1941 (where this picture was taken at menidi) and then to 113 in the Western Desert until just before the move to Burma when they were `tour expired'. George & Bob are still going strong (2001) but Frank was killed in action later in the war.
Under the new CO, S/Ldr. Bateson, continual operations were carried out and by this time all the squadron aircraft were Mk. IV Blenheims replacing the original Mk. I's. In January 1941 the squadron is reported to have been stationed at Sidi Barrani, followed quickly by moves to Gambut and Kabrit, then plucked from the desert they were hustled off to Greece in March.
In mid-March, at what must have been very short notice, they were caught up in the badly organized and disastrous campaign in Greece. This, as one source puts it, `was lost before we had commenced the opening stages', and 113 took a terrible beating losing all its aircraft either in combat or on the ground in attacks on their airfields. According to the story handed down during the later life of the squadron it was at this time that all the aircraft of `B' Flight failed to return from an operation and in memory of the crews the letter `B' was never used again, the squadron thereafter comprising `A' and `C' Flights.
Lost again also were the squadron records for the period from December 1940 to May 1941 so events cannot be detailed but at least it is known that during the very short time in Greece 113 was stationed briefly at Menidi, Larissa and finally Niamata where its remaining serviceable aircraft were destroyed on the ground on 15th. April after which a rapid evacuation was made to Egypt via Argos and Crete, the survivors reaching Alexandria in early May. (In this book: `Operation Mercury' (J & K H Publishing) Marcel Comeau MM describes this event and says that among RAF airmen in Greece 113 was known as the `unlucky squadron').
It says a lot for the urgency of the time and the spirit of the men involved, that after the debacle of Greece and the chaotic dispersal of its personnel, the squadron was able to reform so quickly at Ramleh in Palestine. Immediately following which it returned to its former front line station at Ma'aten Bagush on 1st. June 1941 and recommenced operations against the enemy on the 10th. The CO at this time was S/Ldr. Spencer who had taken command in February 1941 and so had been in charge of the squadron throughout the campaign in Greece and its rebuilding but unfortunately his time came to an end on 31st. August when he and his crew failed to return from a raid on Benghazi.
(7.) Cartoon detailing 113's variety of `jobs' in the Western Desert
His successor was W/Cdr. Stidolph, with two S/Ldrs. as Flight Commanders, probably a recognition by High Command of the predominant bombing role being carried out at this time by 113, but strangely it was to be another three months before the Operations Record Book confirms that all the so called `Fighter' variants of the Blenheim had been replaced, but probably the differences between the two types were subtle. The constant work in support of the army continued unabated and one incident worthy of mention happened on 26th. October 1941 when, during a `six place raid on Benghazi', the aircraft of S/Ldr. Lyall was hit by' one revolver bullet in the oil tank which drained leading to (engine) seizure and the propeller falling off'. Luckily the pilot was able to land safely in `friendly' territory but it was an amazing result for someone having a pot shot with side-arms at an aircraft.
It was shortly after this incident that Japan entered the war on 7th. December 1941 and before that month was out 113 was recalled to Helwan and re-equipped with 16 aircraft, (no doubt less war-weary then the ones given up)
From Helwan the squadron was then posted to Burma to strengthen the defence force there, already under great pressure from the new enemy. The aircraft and crews were ordered to proceed immediately with presumably some key personnel as passengers, whilst the remainder of the ground staff were shipped from Port Tewfiq.
This dramatic and surprising move must have taken a considerable amount of organizing but because of its extreme urgency and, no doubt, the efficiency of those involved it was put into effect as early as 30th. December when W/Cdr. Stidolph led off with a flight of six aircraft to be followed at 24 hour intervals by the other ten in flights of five. The route followed was in five stages: Cairo to Sharjah; Sharjah to Karachi; Karachi to Allahabad; Allahabad to Calcutta and finally Calcutta to Toungoo, with the last group joining up with the others at Toungoo on 7th. January 1942.
The distance that had to be covered is well over 4000 miles and this would have been an epic flight for a squadron in peacetime but in war conditions, with no casualties or failures en-route, and to an urgent timetable, it was a remarkable achievement showing the highest standards of airman ship and equipment maintenance worthy of praise from the highest quarter, but the only reward obtained by the squadron was more arduous work in another lost cause!
In fact the call to arms was immediate because, having flown all its aircraft from Toungoo to Mingaladon the Rangoon airfield, after joining up on the 7th. seven crews from 113 with two from 30 squadron were despatched the following day, 8th. January, to bomb Bangkok, a further 700 miles there and back, where it was reported that, `fires were started in the dock area' and that, `despite intense anti-aircraft fire all crews returned safely'.
(8.) Attack by 113 Sqdn. on the port of Akyab Sept. 1942. Photo taken from the aircraft of the C/O, W/Cdr. Walter, and showing Sgt. Reids' aircraft being shot down
Not surprisingly the next week was spent having all aircraft serviced but the squadron recommenced operations on 16th. January 1942 with continuous work against the invading Japanese in south Burma and Malaya with occasional longer trips to Bangkok.
On 30th. January because of `persistent enemy bombing of Mingaladon Airfield' the squadron was withdrawn to Zayatkwin were the `advance boat party' from Port Tewfiq at last rejoined their colleagues after being disembarked at rangoon, taken by train to Toungoo, and from there by truck to Zayatkwin. What a welcome they must have received as, by now, the retreat north was in full swing and it would appear doubtful weather they had enough time even to unpack there kit!
(9.) Ground Crew 113 Sqdn. Burma
Squadron HQ was now further back at Magwe with the aircraft still operating from Zayatkwin, and in the very late stages of the fighting from an emergency landing strip called `Highland Queen' near Mingaladon. This was a dangerous situation with the Japanese air forces so dominant and the last sortie from here took place on the 6th. March the crew returning to find the airstrip being strafed by enemy fighters. The next day the position was so critical that, with the `imminent fall of Rangoon' no further operations were possible', and on 12th. March the entry in the Operations Record Book, which must have been written up later, is worth quoting in full: `all remaining serviceable aircraft flown out to Dum Dum, Calcutta. Some ground personnel taken but most attached to 45 squadron which continued to operate for a short time. These men rejoined 113 at various intervals from the middle of April onwards, some by air, but most (a considerable number) trekked out over the difficult northern mountain track'. What a wealth of stories of hardship, privation and courage must lie behind this short statement bearing in mind that the distance involved is over 400 miles and those who known the terrain and climate in this part of the world can have nothing but respect and admiration for the gallant men who suffered so much to get back to their unit to fight again.
From Calcutta the squadron moved to Fyzabad, then shortly after to Asansol where retraining was started on 31st. March 1942 under new CO, W/Cdr. Grey, and was able to recommence operations as early as 12th. April. These were mostly against Japanese army concentrations, airfields and lines of communication, the latter sometimes being `bullock trains', a target which must have given `pause for thought' to some of the crews. Another CO, W/Cdr. Walter took over on 31st. July and shortly after his arrival a further task was given to 113, quite outside anything it had been involved in previously, which was to support the Civil Authority. As the Operations Record Book entry for 14th. August puts it: `Because of rioting and incendiarism among the people of India, internal security patrols were started'. This sort of aerial policing probably didn't go down well with operational air crew and no doubt they were even more upset when, on 20th. August, one of a two aircraft patrol on such work, piloted by F/Sgt. Goss, failed to return and, again quoting the Record Book: `when the aircraft was found it was discovered that Goss had been killed in the crash but the navigator and Air Gunner were murdered by the local inhabitants'. These were not the only British and Commonwealth servicemen to meet such a fate in a country seething to be free of the `Imperial Yoke', and 113 was to suffer one other such loss when their last adjutant, F/Lt. Mooney, DFC DFM, was murdered in Calcutta in late 1945, having survived two operational tours in Bomber Command as a Flight Engineer, before being grounded and transferred to administrative duties.
No squadron identification markings were shown during the Battle of Imphal, only individual aircraft letters. The aircraft carrying one certain letter had such a bad habit of not returning from sorties that pilots were loath to use it and it was changed to a ?.
(11.) Operations Room Yazagyo Burma 1945
Apart from the awful hazzards of operational work over the unforgiving jungle in foul weather, against an enemy that took few prisoners, and the extra worry about political support flights, the squadron had its fair share of accidents plus the medical problems associated with living in the tropics, especially under active service conditions. For instance on 25th. August 1942 P/O Whiteside `died from an abscess on his appendix'. Three weeks later, Flt/Sgt. Ffolliett-Forte who, despite his name, was an American in RAF, (113 was a very cosmopolitan unit) had `2 bombs fall from his aircraft and explode whilst he was taxying out prior to a raid on Mandalay. He was badly hurt and his navigator killed'. Then on the 28th. September two aircraft collided `accidentally taking off together'. However the attacks against Japanese forces continued unabated right through 1942 in the face of strong opposition from ground fire, trip wires, and in the air where fighters were active. On 29th. October during an eight aircraft attack on Shwebo there was heavy anti-aircraft fire followed by an attack by 3'Army 01' fighters (most probably the early name used to describe what became known as the Zero or perhaps the Oscar) which lasted for 23 minutes and resulted in one enemy aircraft shot down and another damaged with no loss of Blenheims, although there was some minor damage.
By this time the aircraft used by the squadron were gradually being replaced by the Mk. V version of the Blenheim, known as the Bisley, but there was no change in the work carried out. One interesting change in personnel recorded on 20th. October was the departure on promotion of the squadron Intelligence Officer, F/O Bryer-Lloyd, who had been with the unit for a period of 20 months in the Western Desert, Greece, Crete, Burma and India, thus becoming the longest serving officer in the life of the squadron till that time. He was followed shortly by W/Cdr. Walter whose replacement as C/O was, as recorded in the signal confirming the change, F/Lt. (Act. S/Ldr.), (Act. W/Cdr.) Jones who was to be the last commander of the squadron in its bomber role. One of the last operations from Asansol on 12th. December was a big one when ten aircraft from 113 plus five from 60 squadron, escorted by no less than 21 Hurricanes bombed Mandalay without loss. Several raids were provided with escorts at this time, mostly Hurricanes, but there is occasional mention of the Curtis Mohawk, a rare aircraft in RAF use but undoubtedly a very welcome sight to the bomber crews.
The squadron moved to Jessore on 19th. December 1942. The period at Jessore lasted only a month but saw another remarkable demonstration of the fighting quality of 113 when, on 19th. January 1943 during an attack on Akyab, a most important supply port for the Japanese, the flight of five aircraft, led by F/O Giles, was intercepted at 15,000ft. by two enemy fighters. During the course of three separate attacks the evasion tactics of the leader, including diving rapidly to a height of 10ft. above the sea, were so successful that all aircraft returned safely and undamaged.
(12.) and Flying Control Tower Yazagyo 1945
Other moves followed, first to Feni, then Chandina and on 4th. May to Comilla Main for what is described in the Record Book as the `monsoon period' during which in 1943 the RAF was ordered to remain operational over Burma. This doesn't seem to have been a very successful deployment for the squadron as on 30th. May it was reported that, `only two aircraft were ready for immediate use, the remainder being bogged down in the mud'! Despite such difficulties, well known to all who served in South East Asia Command, and the upheaval of no less than five changes of base in six months the squadron operated continuously until returning to Feni on 27th. June.
By this time W/Cdr. Jones had been posted but he was not replaced, the squadron being led in this last period as a bomber unit by Major Viney, a South African Air Force officer, who had been one of the flight commanders under W/C Jones and a prominent member of the squadron for a long period. Although nothing is stated in the Operations Record Book about the reasons behind the decision to change the status and the aircraft of the squadron at this time, it is clear that many of the personnel were disappointed at the proposed break-up of what had become a very close knit and efficient fighting unit with a long and proud combat record from the commencement of the war.
The most obvious reason for the change must have been the aircraft for by now the Blenheim was, in modern parlance, `well beyond its sell-by date', more succinctly known at the time as `clapped out', and no longer a front line weapon. A state of affairs summed-up neatly in the official history of the air war in Burma thus: `Almost obsolete, the Blenheims were based throughout the monsoon on the wet field of Feni, attacking chosen points through which the Japanese were bringing supplies to their front from Rangoon. So old were these aircraft now, with spares almost unobtainable, and so excellent the squadron spirit, it was said the Blenheirns flew on happiness alone'! Unfortunately happiness doesn't win a war and with modern aircraft such as the Beaufighter and Mosquito becoming available, the latter carrying easily and at much greater speed four times the bomb load of a Blenheim, the role of the old `medium' bomber was finished and far fewer of the newer types would be needed to carry out the same amount of work.
(13.) The last Hawker Hurricanes used by 113 April 1945
The change of its role in the war for 113 was effected in August, and it was from Feni that the last operational flights as a bomber squadron took place on the 14th. and 15th. August 1943 with the official Stand Down and a squadron farewell dinner (not, as it happened, to be the last of these) the following day. So the squadron was in action to the very end of its sixteen month period of activity from bases in India during which, according to the Record Book, 1130 daylight operations (sorties) were carried out, an outstanding achievement. This figure was confirmed in an odd way by `The Statesmen' magazine which is said to have featured an account of the squadron in its issue on 10th. June 1943 in which it is stated that 113 was the only unit in the area to have carried out over 1000 sorties and to have dropped over a million lbs. of bombs.
(14.) The first P47. A Mk.l. Myingan Burma May 1945
Another bit of publicity for the squadron at this time was a visit by a cameraman from the `Pathe Gazette', Mr. Bovill, who took `many action shots - all in the rain' of various activities and was `hoping to go on a raid'. It would be nice to think that this film still exists in some archive and will surface again one day.
(15.) Accommodation Burma. F/O Bott
With postings for all navigators, air-gunners, and some of the pilots to other duties, the balance of the squadron moved via Khargpur to Yelahanka, near Bangalore and on 31st. August, commanded by S/Ldr. Aitkens, commenced conversion to the Hawker Hurricane for use in what at first was expected to be a fighter role as part of the defence of India. This took all of September followed by other periods of intensive training at St. Thomas' Mount Madras, and Cholavarum. It would be interesting to know the details of this period, especially the changes of personnel that had to be made, but this is not possible as once again, regretfully, the squadron records for September and October were lost, not this time because of enemy action, but, as stated in the Operations Record Book when it was restarted in November, `in a devastating monsoon flood' which hit the airfield at Madras. The account also mentions, probably with tongue in cheek, the sad fact that all the Officers' Mess bar stock was lost at the same time!
With training and working-up completed during November and December 1943 the squadron was accepted as operational once again and on 20th. December 15 Hurricanes left Cholavarum flying over 2 days by way of Vizag, Alipore and Digri to the front line airstrip at Manipur Road. There the initial activity was further training in fighter tactics: battle formation, interceptions, air-to-air firing and the like, but the first operational sortie in January 1944 was in fact a low level strafing attack along the River Chindwin which was to set the pattern for the future deployment of the squadron as a close support unit for the army in a ground attack role during the remainder of the Burma campaign. But whatever was to be expected of it 113, with a new C/O, S/Ldr. Courtney, was in position and ready in time to play a vital part during the great battle of Imphal for which the Japanese army amassed a total of 100,000 crack troops with air support whose purpose was to defeat the British and Allied forces as a prelude to the conquest of India and, as their battle plan put it, `To march to Delhi'.
The first serious moves by the Japanese came in mid March 1944 and very soon the ground lines of communication were cut this starting the siege that lasted several months during which vital supplies and replacement personnel could only be brought in by air. Details of this momentous period and turning point of the war are well recorded elsewhere and 113 played a full part in constant and close (very close at times) support of the army throughout the siege. Losses were incurred and almost at the start of the battle, on 23rd. March, three aircraft did not return to Tulihal from an attack on Layshi, `a very sad day for 113' says the Record Book. One of the pilots, F/Sgt. Clement, got back to the British lines but the other two were lost.
Harry Clement has given this fuller version of the incident:- The other two pilots were Flying Officers Herbert and Illman. Whilst returning from an attack on Layshi in bad weather, and running short of fuel, the section leader became unsure of his position (although close to base on timing) and spotting an airship (Tamu, as it turned out, only 30 miles from Tulihal) decided to land. Unfortunately Tamu had just been reoccupied by some Japanese soldiers of the 33rd. Division in the early stages of their push north to Palel, but there was no sign of the enemy as the aircraft landed and in complete innocence the two officers went off to find some airmen and petrol leaving Clement to guard the three Hurricanes. After a while he heard gunfire and then noticed some men `in strange helmets' watching him from nearby bushes. Guessing at once the real situation, and that the officers may have been shot, Clement moved quickly into the surrounding jungle where he `laid low' for 2 days without being discovered and then trekked back through the jungle to the British lines which took another fortnight. A remarkable feat.
(Diagram of a Map)
(15.) And bathing facilities. F/O Bott, F/Lt. Slinger. At rear F/O Mason 34Sqdn.
At about this time Tulihal itself was strafed by six Japanese aircraft and because of this obvious danger to precious aircraft on the ground with little protection from such attacks it was decided that they should be operated further back from that front line, first at Silchar in Assam and later Patharkandi with Tulihal being used during daylight hours for quick refuelling and rearming between sorties. Ground staff had to stay on for this purpose and as the airfield was `boxed in' for a period with the enemy close around they had a busy time servicing aircraft during the day and taking their share of guard duties at night to combat infiltrators.
(17.) F/O Woodward, F/O Ellis and F/Lt. Mooney. Meiktila Burma August 1945
This arrangement lasted about seven weeks when the squadron was ordered forward again to Palel, described officially as `monsoon quarters', but the move was only to take place `as soon as the bombing stops', as the Operations Record Book puts it, an odd order in view of the danger everywhere in the siege area, but after a few days the final move to the new base took place on 25th. May and from Palel the frantic daily action in support of the ground troops continued with the enemy literally just outside the perimeter. In fact during one night early in July some Japanese soldiers broke into the dispersal area and using `sticky' bombs managed to destroy seven aircraft. Despite this terrible set back the squadron flew 572 operational sorties during July and increased their work month by month to a massive 800 plus in October, and this despite a chronic shortage of pilots and great difficulty for the ground crews keeping old aircraft serviceable for quick turn rounds in appalling climatic conditions and with a very limited supply of spare parts. A quite staggering achievement.
The spirit of the squadron never faltered despite there being little in the way of entertainment to relieve the monotony of work, but one extraordinary event recorded officially is worthy of mention. On 26th. August, the squadron Welfare Officer, W/O Williams `returned from Calcutta with drums, an accordion and a trumpet - the beginning of the squadron band'. Shortly afterwards a violin and saxophone also arrived, as did a `good pianist' among the replacement personnel and there was hope of some live music. Weather this materialized in not recorded but during this period there is also official mention of `a gramophone recital of classical music in the Airmens' Dining Hall'. A fine example of culture amid the chaos of war.
(18.) Wheels-up landing by F/Sgt. Smart in a Mk.ll Thunderbolt, Zayatkwin Burma Sept. 1945. F/Lt. White, F/Lt. Slinger, S/Ldr. Paddle, F/Sgt. Smart and F/O Proud
The break-out from Imphal occurred in late June 1944 and after a terrible mauling the Japanese began to pull back south through Burma fighting all the way, with the triumphant allied forces, including 113, on their heels. For this part of the campaign the squadron remained at Palel until 19th. December 1944 when, under its penultimate wartime C/O, S/Ldr. Rose, a move was made to Yazagyo to be nearer the front line. Further moves followed quickly on 23rd. January 1945 to Onbauk and on 14th. March to Ondaw but now, after continuous combat use for over a year in tropical conditions, the Hurricanes were rapidly reaching the stage where a replacement aircraft was essential if 113, and other squadrons in a similar plight, were to remain effective. The last operations with the old aircraft were carried out on 5th. April 1945. Production of the Hurricane had ceased and as its rumoured successor, the Hawker Tempest ll, had no chance of becoming available in the Far East because of development problems the RAF, as an alternative, obtained a supply of the Republic P47 Thunderbolt from the USA for use in the latter stages of the Burma campaign and to spearhead the subsequent invasion of Malaya, operation Zipper, now being planned and in which 113 squadron was going to be involved. Some of the Hurricane pilots were not retrained and posted out to be replaced by others who had completed a course on the P47 at an Operational Training Unit in Egypt.
With the arrival of the P47 Thunderbolt in early April, the squadron was withdrawn from action to Wangjing for conversion to the new type which, despite being a more complicated aircraft then the Hurricane and, incidentally, heavier than the Blenheim bombers of the earlier era, was completed, with only one serious incident. This must have been an extrordinary flurry of activity because within a couple of weeks, operations restarted from a new base at Kwetgne on 24th. April. With further moves south, first to Kinmagon and then Meiktila the squadron, now commanded by S/Ldr. Paddle, played a full part in the last great battle of the Burma war at Sittang and was just preparing for its next challenge during the invasion of Malaya when the use of atomic bombs against the Japanese homeland brought hostilities to an abrupt end.
Pending a decision about its future 113 was moved on 18th. August 1945 to Zayatkwin, which was to have been its base in the early stages of the Malaya campaign and a poignant return to the place from which the squadron fought so hard in early 1942. Even in 1945 there was still plenty of work to be done from dropping leaflets on isolated Japanese units to persuade them that the war had finished, to reconnaissance flights over P.O.W. camps to make sure they had been emptied of allied troops who had suffered so much, some of whom actually flew through Zayatkwin after their liberation. This was dangerous work in monsoon storms and there were several casualties among the many aircraft taking part, but luckily none suffered by 113.
The last of these flights by 113 took place on 12th. September, shortly after which it was announced that the squadron was to be disbanded and on 4th. October, for the second time in its history, a farewell dinner for all ranks was held. Personnel were gradually dispersed and the final move for the aircraft came on 13th October 1945 when they were all flown via Calcutta to Allahabad and returned to the American Army Corps. It is interesting to reflect that this final flight mirrored almost exactly the last two stages flown by 113 when it was sent urgently to Burma from Egypt in January 1942, and on the leg to Allahabad the formation passed within 10 miles of Asansol which had been home to the squadron for so long in that year when victory must have seemed such a distant goal. Now it had been achieved and all members of 113 can rightly be proud of the part played by the squadron continuously from 1939 to 1945 to bring it about. Velox et Vindex!
There is in fact a short postscript to add as, by another of those odd happenings, on 1st. September 1946 the Air ministry changed the number of 620 squadron at Aqir in Palestine to 113 where it was engaged, in the country of its birth in 1917, carrying out transport duties using Douglas Dakotas and a late version of the Handley Page Halifax. Disbandment of the squadron took place on 1st. April 1947 only for it to be reformed in a similar role a month later at Fairford, Gloucester. This short life ended on 1st. September 1948 but 113 was resurrected yet again at Mepal on 22nd. July 1959 as a Thor intermediate range ballistic missile squadron, lasting for this purpose until yet another disbandment on 10th. July 1963 when the number of disappears finally from Air Ministry records.
P.G.W. (F/O Pat G. Woodward)
Revised with photographs added march 2001
The help and encouragement I have received in the compilation of this booklet from all ex 113 squadron members is acknowledged with thanks particularly:
Norman Lamb Western Desert; Greece; Crete; Burma and India. 1940/41/42
George Checkletts Greece and Western Desert. 1941
Ron Lockwood India and Burma. 1942/43
Harry Clements India and Burma. 1943/44
Stan Chilton India and Burma. 1943/44/45
Alan Proud India and Burma. 1944/45, and for keeping us all in touch.
NOTE: The book in it's original format contained two inserts in the back cover, a late entry by Norman Lamb, and a copy of Pats own Farewell Booklet. Both of these are also within the site for reading.
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