Monday, November 19, 2012

Barry Hamblin - No. 242 Squadron

Shortly after I arrived at 242 Squadron in Turnhouse, (April 1942) an experienced Flying Officer named “Benny” Benham arrived, and was promoted to Flight Lieutenant of our flight – a capable person who survived the War. Well we soon moved from Edinburgh to Drem (June-August 1942), and on occasion to other airfields in Scotland, depending on what had to be protected. After a few days at Ouston by Newcastle, we were sent by the R.A.F. as a Squadron down to North Weald (August 1942) in Essex. At North Weald we were the newest Squadron – the two senior squadrons were Norwegian and very experienced. The whole wing of 4 Squadrons was led by Wing Commander (Francis David Stephen) Scott- Maldon. At the start of the War he had been reading Classics at Cambridge, but had been in the University Air Squadron and so was collected by the RAF at the outbreak of War. He fought in The Battle of Britain in 1940 and was lucky to survive. Due to heavy casualties among pilots he made rapid promotion, and would finish as an Air Vice-Marshall at the end of the War. I envied him his job then responsible only for tactics, and leading the wing when attacking the Germans – but I did not have his luck. Later I saw his obituary, and he lived to be 80 years old. For these air engagements we knew the Germans were equipped with Focke-Wulf 190 fighters, which were superior to our current Spitfires in rate of climb, and very steep turning thanks to their ball bearing ailerons. However, we had practiced very hard to compensate for the disadvantages, and we made a number of attacks against the so-called ‘Fortress Europe’. Then we were sent down to Manston near Ramsgate. A tricky airfield so close to the Channel that it was very difficult to protect against hit and run raids. A road ran Across the airfield to camouflage it, so we had to land on top of it. The next evening we were briefed very precisely. We would invade the port of Dieppe in the morning with some 10,000 Canadian infantry who would hold the port for half a day and then return to England. Sadly half of them never returned. Our instructions were to operate between 3,000 and 10,000 feet only – above Spitfire Mark 9 would be superior to the Focke-Wulf 190s – and below the Navy would attack all aircraft. The R.A.F. and the Luftwaffe each lost about 50 aircraft – and this left the Luftwaffe noticeably short of aircraft and ammunition for several days – but the R.A.F. was better supplied. The facts we discovered were firstly that the Germans were too strong for us to succeed in invading a port our 8 destroyers were incapable of destroying enemy guns on top of cliffs and we had not been given any more powerful vessels; and the Canadians had little chance of success. Politically there was some success, the Russians were encouraged by the hope of a second front. The Germans had to strengthen their aircraft and forces to protect the Atlantic Coast which again pleased the Russians. We were not heavily engaged, but on that day I flew 4 sorties (the latter of which was to protect the returning convoy of ships and troops). I am sure the Allies learned many invaluable but costly lessons, which were to help the invasion in June 1944.

1 comment:

  1. Warfare is a fascinating subject. Despite the dubious morality of using violence to achieve personal or political aims. It remains that conflict has been used to do just that throughout recorded history.

    Your article is very well done, a good read.