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Arthur Ernest Abbott

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Gordon Roy Coe Jack Dunkley Gordon George Elderton Peter Gifford Felce

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Harold Philip Gardiner

Anthony Robert Gillitt

Ronald Douglas Hales

Norman Leonard Hornsey

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Colin Roderick Penness Douglas Arthur Prigmore John Harry Sharp Norman Perkins Sharpe
Robert Troath Died after Korean War: Raymond-Kimber Leslie Walters

107 Squadron         Bristol Blenheim IV   The Mosquito Aircraft      D Day 1944  No 2 group    Battle of the Bulge 

 Operation Bodenplatte   A member of 107 squadron in 1944   A Mosquito Pilots experience after Dunkirk        CWGC

 

GORDON ROY COE, born 25.3.1921, entered the School in September 1932.  In March 1936, he left and joined the Ideal Clothiers. 

In June 1941 he joined the RAF.  He served nearly three years in Canada, where he was a Flying Instructor and subsequently Pilot of a Mosquito aircraft.  He was reported missing on 27th January 1945.  He is buried in France. 

He was the son of Mr. and Mrs. G. Coe, 14 Strode Road, Wellingborough.    'In Memoriam' book

 

From the Commonwealth Graves War Commission, we are told that Gordon was a member of the Bomber squadron, number 107 (part of No.2 Group and 83 Wing Force) in June 1941. 

 What then happened has to be surmised because all we know is that he spent almost 3 years in Canada as a flying instructor.

 

Surmise of Gordon’s career early in the war

On the web a Flight Lieutenant Reg Everson who became an instructor in the UK, describes his own experiences which are summarised below.

If the preparation time before Gordon was sent to Canada is similar he would not have left the country until December 1941.  His nearly 3 years in Canada would have meant that Gordon would not return until, say, October 1944;  If he had a shorter stay in the UK of just 2 to 3 months, before going to Canada, then he would have returned at the earliest circa June/August 1944.

Name

Enlisted

Training

Dates

Instructorship

No 2 Grp

Reg Everson

March 41

in USA

Oct 41 to

Apr 42

Reg refused this in the USA, but accepted the role in UK

October 1944

Gordon Coe

June 41

in Canada??

Almost 3 years

Accepted the job in Canada:

Hence his length of stay

 

 

The key date here is the June 1944 – D Day.  Gordon’s squadron, part of the 2nd group, had been transferred earlier to the RAF’s Second Tactical Air Force (ie from Bomber to Fighter Command); which, five months later, became part of the Allied Expeditionary Air Force, an air force designed to support the American and British Armies on D Day and in Normandy.

 

Whichever date is relevant, Gordon wouldn’t have been able to fly with 107 squadron before going to Canada.  And, he would only just have had time to return if he was to support the landings on D Day.  The most likely estimate is that he ‘missed’ that experience and, like Reg Everson, replaced pilots killed early in Normandy.

 

If this analysis is correct then Gordon only flew in combat for a short time because he died on the 27th January 1945.  Since his squadron flew De Havilland Mosquito FB.VIs, that is the plane he flew.  His war promotions would have been to Sergeant, through Flight Sergeant to Warrant Officer. 

 

The Mosquito

The mosquito made of laminated plywood inspired admiration from all quarters.  A low-level attack on the main Berlin broadcasting station by Mosquitos kept Hermann Göring off the air for more than an hour.  The Reichsmarschall was not amused: “In 1940 I could at least fly as far as Glasgow in most of my aircraft, but not now! It makes me furious when I see the Mosquito. I turn green and yellow with envy.

The British, who can afford aluminium better than we can, knock together a beautiful wooden aircraft that every piano factory over there is building, and they give it a speed which they have now increased yet again. What do you make of that?

 

As a fighter/light bomber the plane flew very differently from the heavy bombers.  It rarely/if ever flew en masse at high level, the mosquito was a rapier rather than a bludgeon.  It flew in small groups or made individual sorties and picked out specific targets, often flying at a very low level.

 

Probable Experiences After Gordon Returned To Europe

Planning for the invasion of France meant that Bomber Command had to release some of its forces so that they could prepare prepare the ‘ground’ for the invasion and support the troops as and after they landed in Normandy.  As such Squadron 107, as part of Number 2 group, became part of the RAF's Second Tactical Air Force which consisted of four RAF Groups.

 

This force first struck against the Germans prior to D-Day. They attacked rail centers; cut the Seine bridges below Paris and Loire bridges below Orleans, they attacked airfields, ammunition dumps, military camps and headquarters, together with radar stations and defence posts along the Channel coast.  The fighter-bombers also had the speed, firepower, and maneuverability to evade and even dominate the Luftwaffe.   

 

Such was the destruction of repair, maintenance, and servicing facilities the Germans were forced to operate from bases a long way from the actual assault area reduced substantially the Luftwaffe’s impact at and after the landings.

 

107 Squadron in France

The 107 was one of the most cosmopolitan squadrons in the RAF.  “We had three Americans, a Norwegian, three Aussies, three New Zealanders and a guy from Southern Rhodesian. It was a great group of guys. We had a tremendous esprit de corps,” says Smith (107 Sq. pilot).  Unlike Spitfire squadrons which flew in formation, Mosquito pilots operated independently. They were given a predetermined area of operation with orders to shoot up anything that moved.  

 

What probably killed Gordon Coe

Whilst Gordon may have been shot down, the experiences of a 107 pilot and a Canadian mosquito pilot emphasised the danger of flying low:

We would take off singly and fly at 4,000ft to an area behind enemy lines. Here we would patrol for about an hour when another Mosquito would take our place. During the patrol we would search out signs of any movements on the ground. Once we spotted something we would go down lower and investigate. If the movement proved to be a train, lorries, tanks or barges we would then attack from low level with 500lb bombs, .303 machine guns or cannons. This could sometimes be a bit “scary” as there was always a danger of going too low. Most of our losses were due to hitting the ground or obstructions such as trees or power lines, and sometimes the object being attacked. If my navigator thought we were too low he would shout "Up!" I never argued, but immediately pulled back the stick to gain height as quickly as possible.   Canadian Mosquito Pilot

 

A 107 Mosquito Pilot:  It took a particular pilot to fly Mosquitos,” “We only operated at night and it was all low level stuff, just above the tree tops.”  107 Squadron lost an average of one or two pilots per week. While many were downed by enemy ground fire, many others perished as a result of having to operate so low in varying degrees of visibility.  “A lot of fellas flew into the ground,” says Smith recalling a close call of his own. “One time the weather was pretty bad so we were diverted to Manston. We were flying along in the clouds and it started to get a little brighter so I asked my navigator where we were. The next thing I know we drop out of the clouds and we were right in the middle of a balloon field. Well those things are designed to make it impossible to fly in. All I could do was fly straight, hope for the best and make myself feel as small as possible. The old drops were dripping off the armpits I’ll tell ya’.”

 

107 Squadron     www.raf.mod.uk/bombercommand/h107.html

Motto:Nous y serons” (“We shall be there”).
Badge: A double-headed eagle displayed, gorged with a collar of fleur-de-lys. The double-headed eagle is part of the armorial bearings of Salisbury, the district the squadron was formed. The fleur-de-lys collar refers to its service in France in the First World War

Disbanded in 1919, No 107 re-formed in 1936 again as a bomber unit - and at first flew Hawker Hinds.   It later flew Blenheims, then Bostons and, finally, Mosquitos.   Code Letters:     In WW2 the sqdn's a/c were coded “OM”.

 

It took part in scores of raids, including such other notable ones as the mass low-level daylight raid on the Knapsack and Quadrath power stations near Cologne, on 12th August 1941; the great combined raid on Dieppe on 19th August 1942 (its task on this occasion was to bomb hostile shore batteries and thus reduce enemy opposition to the landing force); and the low-level daylight raid on the Philips radio and valve factory at Eindhoven on 6th December 1942. For a brief spell in 1941/42 the squadron operated from Malta, whilst in the closing stages of the European war (from November 1944, onwards) it operated from the Continent.

 

In February 1944 the squadron received the Mosquito FB.VI, and began to fly night intruder missions over Germany and occupied Europe.  The squadron moved to Cambrai in November 1944, and remained there until the end of the war, still performing its night intruder duties.

 

Bristol Blenheim I and IV : Aug 1938-Jan 1942

Blenheim Mk IV

Rickard, J (26 June 2007), Bristol Blenheim Mk IV, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_bristol_blenheim_IV.html

Specifications

Compared to the Mark I, the principal differences were as follows:

Engines:

2x Bristol Mercury XV 9-cylinder radial. Single-stage supercharging to maximum 920hp using 100 octane fuel at +9lb boost (take-off limit 3 minutes, emergency limit 30 minutes). Using 87 octane fuel +5lb boost (take-off limit 3 minutes, emergency limit 5 minutes).

Armament:

Rear turret initially 1xVGO, then 2xVGO, later 2xBrowning .303in MG.

Rear-firing chin mount initially 1xBrowning, later in various forms 2xBrowning .303in MG, eg the Fraser-Nash FN54 mounting.

Range:

1,460 miles with 1,000lb bomb load. Maximum endurance: over 7 hours.

2x94 gallon outer wing tanks in addition to the 2x140 gallon inner tanks of the Mark I. Commonly, the outer tanks were used for the 100 octane fuel.

Weights

Empty 9,800lb              All-up 14,500lb (Mk I: 12,200lb)

Overload (maximum take-off) variously quoted: 15,000lb or 15,800lb (Pilot’s Notes)

Speeds

Stalling speed, flaps and undercarriage down at 12,500lb: 60mph

Engine-assisted approach 75-80mph

Economical cruising (greatest range) 130mph

Endurance (greatest flight time) 100mph

Maximum cruising 220mph

Maximum loaded speed 266mph at 11,800ft

Maximum diving speed (Vne) 285mph

 

Mosquito Aircraft      http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_mosquito_VI.html

Somewhat ironically, considering that the aircraft had first been developed as an unarmed bomber, the most numerous variant of the Mosquito was the FB Mk VI fighter bomber, which combined the eight guns of the F Mk II with the capacity to carry a useful bomb load.

 

The FB Mk VI was armed with four .303in machine guns and four 20mm cannon, just as had been planned for the day fighter version. It could carry two 500lb bombs in the rear half of its bomb bay (the front half was used by the cannons). Additionally the Mk VI had two wing mounting points that allowed it to carry either 50 gallon drop tanks, or two more 500lb bombs, for a total bomb load of 2,000lbs.  Fully armed the FB Mk VI had an effective range of over 1000 miles.

Paintings of Squadron 107 aeroplanes:

Serial: OM-B (HR338)  Note: squadron insignia on the fin. Artist: unknown  Source: 'Mosquito in action', A Squadron/Signal Publications

 

Serial: OM-Q (NS855)  Based at Cambrai-Epinoy.  Artist: © Chris Thomas     Source: '2nd Tactical Air Force Volume Two Breakout to Bodenplatte - July 1944 to January 1945' by Christopher Shores & Chris Thomas, First published in 2005 by Classic Publications Limited ISBN 1-903223-41-5

 

 

 

 

Late in 1944 the Mosquito FB Mk VI was used to carry up to eight rocket projectiles.

The FB Mk VI entered service on 11th  May 1943. The FB Mk VI carried out some of the most daring Mosquito raids of the war, amongst them the famous attack on Amiens Prison on 18 February 1944.

 

Below:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_Havilland_Mosquito

The Mosquito was known by many nicknames from the “Mossie” to “The Timber Terror” .  It inspired admiration from all quarters, including the Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe, Hermann Göring.  In January 1943 Göring was due to address a parade in Berlin commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Nazis' being voted into power. Three 105 Squadron Mosquito B Mk. IVs launched a low-level attack on the main Berlin broadcasting station keeping Göring off the air for more than an hour.

The Reichsmarschall was not amused: “In 1940 I could at least fly as far as Glasgow in most of my aircraft, but not now! It makes me furious when I see the Mosquito. I turn green and yellow with envy.

The British, who can afford aluminium better than we can, knock together a beautiful wooden aircraft that every piano factory over there is building, and they give it a speed which they have now increased yet again. What do you make of that?

 

No 2 Group       http://www.raf.mod.uk/bombercommand/h2gp.html

Motto: “Vincemus” (“We will conquer”).
Badge: Perched on a helmet an eagle, wings expanded. The badge is symbolic of the Group's co-operation and close alliance with the Army.
Authority: Queen Elizabeth II, May 1952.

No. 2 (Bomber) Group was formed on 20th March 1936.  On the outbreak of war Group Headquarters were at Wyton and under their control were the following stations and squadrons organised into 5 Wings thus: No. 70 Wing, Upper Heyford, Nos. 18 and 57 Squadrons; No. 79 Wing, Watton, Nos. 21 and 82 Squadrons; No. 81 Wing, West Raynham, Nos. 90 and 101 Squadrons; No. 82 Wing, Wyton, Nos. 114 and 139 Squadrons; and No. 83 Wing, Wattisham, Nos. 107 and 110 Squadrons. Nos. 79, 81, 82 and 83 Wings formed the 2nd Echelon of the Advanced Air Striking Force, while No. 70 Wing was earmarked for service with the Field Force in France.

The Group bombed the advancing Germans following their breakthrough on the Continent in May 1940; bombed the German invasion barges lying in the Channel ports; operated against the Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Prinz Eugen during their famous Channel dash; supported the Commandos at the Dieppe landings; made the first daylight attack on Berlin; and bombed Gestapo headquarters and SS Barracks. Until the end of May 1943, the Group formed part of Bomber Command; it then left to join the new Tactical Air Force and came under Fighter Command control until the formation of the Allied Expeditionary Air Force five months later. In the closing months of the European war the Group was based on the Continent.

An official summary of No. 2 Group's wartime effort reveals that in all it flew just over 57,000 operational sorties at a cost of 2,671 men killed or missing and 396 wounded.

 

D Day  June 6th 1944   Air Power Over the Normandy Beaches and Beyond   Richard P. Hallion, Air Force Historian

 

 Air Support on the Beaches During the June 6 D-Day assault itself, a total of 171 squadrons of British and AAF fighters undertook a variety of tasks in support of the invasion. Fifteen squadrons provided shipping cover, fifty-four provided beach cover, thirty-three undertook bomber escort and offensive fighter sweeps, thirty-three struck at targets inland from the landing area, and thirty-six provided direct air support to invading forces. The Luftwaffe's appearance was so minuscule that Allied counterair measures against the few German aircraft that did appear are not worth mentioning.

 

Source Below:  http://www.nzetc.org/tm/scholarly/tei-WH2-2RAF-c9.html

The six Mosquito squadrons of No. 2 Group, were employed in both night and day operations during this period. Their main targets were enemy airfields on the Continent, against which a total of 442 sorties were flown in May, but there were also a number of attacks on rail and military targets and against flying-bomb sites. In their daylight operations the Mosquitos, usually flying in small formations, went in to attack their targets from low level with short-delay bombs. Such tactics demanded careful planning beforehand and strict discipline in flight. After preliminary preparation by navigators and pilots there would be a general briefing, at which the leader would give his crews all available information about the target and then discuss such matters as the tactics of approach and withdrawal, the use of ‘Gee’ as an aid to accurate navigation, and the technique of dive-bombing, which involved the correct spacing of the attacking aircraft in order to avoid damage from the blast of exploding bombs dropped by the preceding machines. The Mosquitos would take off singly and then form up in loose pairs at intervals of 300 yards, crossing the coast just above the house tops. The formation would head out to sea, pick up the appropriate direction line on their ‘Gee’ charts, and then fly along a radio beam towards the French coast. Some 20 miles from France the Mosquitos would climb to 500 feet, at which height landfall was made and course set for their target. Over France the intervals between the pairs of aircraft would be gradually increased to about a mile and a half and a weaving form of flight adopted to confuse enemy anti aircraft gunners. On reaching the target the first two Mosquitos would sweep down to the attack with cannons blazing and release their bombs.

 A mile or so between each pair allowed time for the explosion of the bombs before the next machines began their attack. After bombing, the Mosquitos would regain height to begin the homeward flight, which their superior speed usually enabled them to complete without interception. 

 

Battle of the Bulge

“Inoperable” flying weather closed in on the entire battle area from 19 until 23 December.43 During this period, the German penetration expanded to a 50-mile bulge-its maximum depth. Saint Vith was evacuated; but Bastogne, although surrounded, still held. On 23 December the skies cleared. Allied air and ground power were ready to strike.  Allied ground movements had secured the flanks of the penetration and blunted its expansion westward. Rested and ready, Allied air forces attacked.   In the next five days, they flew more than 16,000 sorties.46

The Allied effort maintained air supremacy to the point that the Luftwaffe did not significantly hinder a single Allied ground movement or operation during the battle.

Despite losses, the Luftwaffe managed to fly as many as 1,200 sorties on some days. However, the effort was one of “despair.”  Shifting operational priorities, the lack of coordinated air and ground planning, no clear doctrine of air power employment, and poor leadership at the top crippled the Luftwaffe's effective use. Other major contributing factors to the ineffectiveness of the Luftwaffe were

(1)        the inexperience of most of the German pilots compared to their American and British opponents,

(2)        fuel shortages,

(3)        the short operational range of their aircraft, and

(4)        the distance of their air bases from the area of the offensive.

The clear weather of 23 December unleashed the full power of the Allied air forces, and the Luftwaffe faced another dilemma. Allied interdiction was having a serious impact on German logistics.  Yet, Luftwaffe orders were to support the German army with ground attack sorties. They had to choose whether to comply with the air operations plan issued by Army Group B at the beginning of the offensive or to engage Allied air power.  Once again the decision was split and reactionary.  Pilot prisoners captured between 23 and 31 December stated that they had been ordered to attack ground targets but that these attacks had “not been pressed with skill or determination.”  It had become too deadly to challenge the Allied air forces' layered defense protecting the bulge. Meanwhile, other aircraft were sent to attack the heavily escorted medium and heavy bombers. The Luftwaffe achieved mass on neither objective.

With air superiority achieved, Allied air forces executed their air-to-ground operations to obtain four specific objectives. First, fighter-bombers were assigned to attack armored spearheads.  The IX TAC directed air action against the Germans' primary attack axis, which was the north side of the bulge. The XIX TAC ran operations in relief of Bastogne and along the southern side.  The second objective was to “isolate the Ardennes-Eifel area from rail traffic.” Responsibility for this “classic interdiction” went to the light and medium bombers of the Ninth Air Force's Bombardment Division, the XXIX TAC, and the RAF's Second Tactical Air Force.  (See map below; position of Second Tactical Airforce in blue)

 

Operation Bodenplatte

Mostly Second TAF spent its time supporting the British and Canadian forces on the left flank of SHAEF's command. One notable exception was the last great attack of the Luftwaffe, Operation Bodenplatte, mounted on New Year's Day 1945. It was an attempt to cripple Allied air forces in the Low Countries of Europe in order to keep the German Army on the offensive in the Battle of the Bulge. Hundreds of Luftwaffe planes were sent and 465 Allied aircraft were damaged or destroyed.  However, due to Allied fighter counterattacks, and an unexpected superfluity of Allied flak guns, the Luftwaffe lost 277 planes (62 to Allied fighters and 172 to flak guns, both Allied and German). Bodenplatte was a terrible failure, because the Allies were able to replace their losses quickly, but the Luftwaffe never recovered.   

Source: http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/Operation-Bodenplatte 

  

A member of 107 squadron in 1944

http://www.orleansonline.ca/pages/N2004111103.htm

Eric Smith, DFC is one of only a handful of Canadian pilots to have flown a full tour of duty in WWII and at least 50 combat missions in the Korean War. Fred Sherwin/Photo

 

After spending a year teaching at Carlsbad S.S. #12, Smith drove into Ottawa on July 13, 1941 with the intention of enlisting in the Royal Canadian Air Force. 

There was no damn way I was going to be in the war unless I was in the air force. I had heard enough about living and fighting in the mud from my father,” says Smith who very nearly didn’t get his wish when it was discovered that his legs were a half-inch shorter than the required length to be a pilot.  “They were going to say no at first but they let it go,” says Smith.

 

As one of the top students in the flight training course, Smith was made a flight instructor and sent to 2STSF Uplands where he taught pilots on the famous Harvard trainer.  After 18 months Smith applied for a transfer to an operational unit.  On Dec. 1, 1943 he was summoned before the Chief Flight Instructor and informed that his request had been granted. He was going overseas to join in the war.  “I was thrilled and confident at the same time,” Smith remembers. “I wanted to be a combat pilot and I was ready to do my part.”

 

Following operational training at CFB Greenwood in Nova Scotia, Smith was assigned to a RAF 107 Squadron in Lasham, England in March, 1944.  The 107 was a Mosquito squadron that flew night intruder missions over Europe going after trains, transports and other targets of opportunity.

 

It took a particular pilot to fly Mosquitos,” says Smith. “We only operated at night and it was all low level stuff, just above the tree tops.

 

Smith recalls the 107 as being one of the most cosmopolitan squadrons in the RAF.  “We had three Americans, a Norwegian, three Aussies, three New Zealanders and a guy from Southern Rhodesian. It was a great group of guys. We had a tremendous esprit de corps,” says Smith.  Unlike Spitfire squadrons which flew in formation, Mosquito pilots operated independently. They were given a predetermined area of operation with orders to shoot up anything that moved.

 

During the remainder of the war, the 107 Squadron lost an average of one or two pilots per week. While many were downed by enemy ground fire, many others perished as a result of having to operate so low in varying degrees of visibility.  “A lot of fellas flew into the ground,” says Smith recalling a close call of his own. “One time the weather was pretty bad so we were diverted to Manston. We were flying along in the clouds and it started to get a little brighter so I asked my navigator where we were. The next thing I know we drop out of the clouds and we were right in the middle of a balloon field. Well those things are designed to make it impossible to fly in. All I could do was fly straight, hope for the best and make myself feel as small as possible. The old drops were dripping off the armpits I’ll tell ya’.”

 

All told, Smith flew 58 missions during the war, not once receiving so much as a scratch.  “A lot of it was luck and a lot of it was ability,” he says half in explanation.

 

The 107 Squadron’s base of operation was eventually transferred from Lasham, England to Cambrai, France where Smith often strolled through the Allied cemeteries containing the remains of soldiers killed in the First World War.  When the end of the war came Smith was on leave in Paris.

 

 

A Mosquito Pilots experience as Instructor and Pilot after Dunkirk

http://www.bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar/stories/45/a2261945.shtml

'WW2 People's War is an online archive of wartime memories contributed by members of the public and gathered by the BBC. The archive can be found at bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar'

The experiences of an R.A.F. pilot   Flight Lieutenant Reg Everson AE. KZ. AM(P).

Initial training

I joined the Royal Air Force on 10th March 1941. After tests and a medical I was enlisted as Pilot U/T (under training) and put on the Reserve awaiting training, until 5th July 1941 when I reported to Babbacombe. Here I was initiated into the ways of the R.A.F.- lectures, kitting out, kit layout, inoculations and vaccination, marching at 140 paces per minute, and saluting. Seven days later I was posted to Number 2 ITW Cambridge. There was more marching, this time at 160 paces per minute, aircraft recognition lectures, mathematics, navigation, and Morse Code (8 words per minute). Physical training kept everyone here busy, until halfway through the course when we were suddenly promoted to Leading Aircraftmen and posted to Gourock.

Travelling

At Gourock we boarded the Duchess of Athlone. No sooner had we set sail when we returned to harbour, the degaussing equipment (protection against mines) had failed. We went by train to Wilmslow and were sent on leave (our first since joining up). We had hardly arrived home before we received a telegram instructing us to return to Wilmslow. Here I learned that I had been selected for flying training in America. Back to Scotland again, this time to embark on the Stratheden. We set out in convoy, but after 2 days left the convoy and proceeded at full speed to St. John’s Newfoundland. During the voyage we had a boat drill wearing lifebelts and were somewhat “miffed” to see the “Long haired boys” (university Air Squadron recruits) wearing their own “Mae Wests” (life vests). Little did I know at the time that much later I would have one of these as my navigator and best friend.

An unconvincing disguise

From. St John's we went to Toronto. This was a short stay while we were kitted out with grey suits, as we were to travel to America as civilian “Aeronautical Students.” America at that time was a neutral (it was before Pearl Harbour). Some of us took time out to hitch hike to Niagra Falls before the long train journey to Georgia. It was a slow journey of about five days and at each stop we were welcomed with fruit and cookies, and enquires about the “Old Country;” so much for our disguise as civilians. We arrived at Darr Aero Tech, Albany Georgia (a civilian flying school taken over by the U.S. Army Air Corps) on 2nd October, some two months before Pearl Harbour. On base we wore khaki shirts and slacks and were treated like “West Point” U.S. cadets but on excursions into town we wore our “civilian” clothes.

Food and goggles

Probably our first impression of U.S. Army Air Corps life was the food. We soon learned to appreciate southern fried chicken, french fries, pumpkin pie, peaches and pecans, but the iced tea was not for me! It took a bit of getting used to eating “Square Meals”- fork up vertically then horizontally to mouth- and wearing flying goggles around the neck at all times, except when eating grapefruit when they were worn over the eyes. Goggles were no longer worn once we had flown solo.
The flying instructors

Perhaps the first thing we noticed after gazing with awe at the Stearman aircraft on the “Line” were the names of the civilian flying instructors: Goethe, Schmidt, Burkhalter, Frize, Haut, and Schellenberger. It was a bit of a shock to meet so many Germanic names, but despite their names they were third and fourth generation Americans. I was lucky enough to be assigned to the most patient and understanding of all instructors, Mr. J. E. Nill.

From bumpy beginnings to flying solo

Nothing will ever surpass the first flight I made on 6th October 1941. Dressed for the first time in overalls, helmet and goggles, I sat in the rear seat and bumped across the grass until the aircraft suddenly stopped bumping and we had left the ground behind. 35 minutes of ecstasy until we touched down. Apart from a feeling of euphoria, I was left with the conviction that I would never master the art of flying this machine- how nearly right I was! I managed to fly solo after about ten hours dual instruction, but I must have driven my instructor to near distraction. I was so “ham-fisted” that he was forced to put me up for a “Progress Check,” a misnomer if there ever was one, since it was for lack of progress. The Flight Commander, G. W. Kimble, decided that maybe I would eventually make it and returned me to Mr. NiII for further instruction. This was obviously a good decision as I passed the Flight Commander 20 hour and 40 hour checks with no further problems, and also the Army 60 hour with Lieutenant Brice.

An early casualty

Early in the course we had the only fatality during our time at Darr. A student who had recently soloed took off and climbed, colliding with a dual aircraft ahead of him. The instructor and the pupil in the dual aircraft survived without serious injury but the solo student crashed and caught fire. This event cast its shadow over us, and we attended our first Military Funeral, which was held at St. Paul's Church in Albany.

The theory and practice of flight

The flying instruction was first class and all flying was done “by flying with the seat of your pants”- in other words without airspeed indicator. Everything was judged by the “feel.” Loops, slow rolls, “flick” rolls and other aerobatics were used to make us feel at one with the “ship,” as the Americans called the aircraft. Ground School instruction alternated with the flying, and Mr A. L. Clark introduced us to the mysteries of the “Theory of Flight.” His mildly Southern accent was pleasant to the ear and we enjoyed his lectures. They were delivered with touches of humour to enliven what could have been a boring subject.

First hand meteorology lesson

Mr H. D. Goodman, nicknamed Benny, taught Meteorology. He was in his element when a hurricane hit Darr; he knew it was coming and was able to forecast its arrival with great accuracy. Most of us had never experienced such a phenomena before and were somewhat amused by the apparent panic to get the aircraft into the hangers and everything else movable tied down. Watching from the comfort and safety of our barracks we were impressed by the ferocity of the wind, the deluge of rain, and the sudden calm in the middle as the eye of the hurricane passed directly overhead- a most impressive Meteorology lesson.

The Chief Ground Instructor L. R. Johnson, irreverently known to all as “Grandma” due to his age and appearance, introduced us to “multiple choice” type questions. Some of the wrong answers kept us amused for days.

The jitterbug

Thanksgiving Day in November was a new experience, and we enjoyed the turkey and cranberry sauce with all the trimmings. In the evening there was a dance arranged and bus loads of local “Georgia Peaches” (Southern beauties) were imported to supplement the ones who worked on the base. I think our dancing was rather staid by American standards, but the girls soon introduced us to jitterbugging and some of the more agile and extrovert cadets performed quite creditably under their tuition.

Playing rugby during Pearl Harbour

Having seen American Football at the stadium, a number of cadets conceived the idea of staging a British Rugby Football match. Two teams of cadets met at the stadium on the 7th December and impressed the locals, who were particularly surprised that the players wore no helmets or protective padding for such a physical game. After the game the public address system brought the news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. This brought the entry of America into the war, and it brought a change in regime. From now on we wore
R.A.F uniform and security was increased, as was the tempo of our training.

Memories that will not be forgotten

By the 11th December 1941 the 45% of us who had survived the rigorous course, and completed our 60 Hours flying in the Stearman aircraft, left Darr to start the next stage of our training at Cockrane Field Macon. The excitement and anticipation was tinged with regret at leaving the town where we had been introduced to the American way of life. We had received such a warm welcome and experienced Southern hospitality, the memory of which has not faded even after all these years.

A new challenge

Having completed our Primary Training, we moved to Cockrane Field Macon to start our Service Flying Training with U.S. Army instructors on Vultee BT13A aircraft. Having learned how to fly we now had to apply our skill and knowledge to service requirements. The Vultee was a monoplane with fixed undercarriage and two-speed propeller. It also had some flying instruments- airspeed indicator, altimeter, compass, needle and ball indicator, but no artificial horizon. We practised “Blind Flying” on instruments, aerobatics, formation flying, night flying, and day and night cross-countries. There was some excitement on one solo flight - the elevator bush jammed and I had to control the aircraft for landing on the trimming tab only.

The course was very intensive: reveille at 6am, breakfast at 7am, flying or ground school from 8am, a brief break for lunch and then working until about 6pm. After the evening meal there were often further lectures. We flew up until the 24th December, had Christmas Day off, and restarted flying again on Boxing Day. We got one weekend leave, which we spent in Atlanta.

The “Rat Race”

We completed Basic Training on the 12th February 1942 and moved to Napier Field, Dothan Alabama, where we flew AT6A Harvard aircraft- a much more advanced aircraft with retractable undercarriage, variable speed propeller, full set of blind flying instruments, and capable of flying much faster. Two days after dual flying with Lieutenant Gray, I went solo. Formation flying took place at night as well as during the day. On one daytime formation flight the engine “cut” and I had to use the hand pump to keep the aircraft flying. Tactical formation flying consisted of a “Rat Race”- chasing the instructor and trying to keep on his “tail.”

Back to the “Old Country”

On the 17th April we graduated, received our American Wings and became 'honorary' 2nd Lieutenants in the U.S. Army Air corps. Most of us declined an R.A.F. Commission, as it meant staying in America and instructing future R.A.F. Cadets. By May 1942 we were back in England and sent to Bournemouth. During our brief stay here a “Hit and Run” raid demolished a hotel near where we were staying. We found ourselves as “Navvies,” removing rubble and trying to find survivors.

After 5 days leave we discovered that due to the excellent training we had received in the U.S.A, and because we had declined commissions in America, we were to become Sergeants and pass on our knowledge by instructing others to fly. A month long conversion course on to twin engine Oxford aircraft followed. I went to Pilot Advanced Flying Unit at Little Rissington, Gloucestershire, on 17th June 1942, and then to No. 2 Flying Instructors School at Dalcross, Inverness, Scotland. Here I flew Oxford Aircraft and Avro Tutor single engine bi-planes. Next port of call was a No. 2 Flying Instructors Course at Perth flying DH Tiger Moths.

Instructing others

In September 1942 I was posted as an Instructor at the No. 9 Elementary Flying Training School, engaged mainly in assessing recruits for flying training and then elementary flying training. For this we flew in de Havilland Tiger Moth aircraft. I did not like this- flying in an open cockpit aircraft from September 1942 to April 1943; it was a cold winter and spring in England!

In April 1943 I managed a posting to No. 15 Pilot Advanced Training Unit at Greenham Common, Berkshire as an Instructor on Oxford Aircraft. This was much more comfortable and more to my liking. Here I taught advanced flying, night flying, instrument flying, radio and Dead Reckoning Navigation, and Beam Approach Systems. I was assessed as an ‘above average pilot’ on Multi-Engine Airplanes. Between May and October 1944 I instructed on advanced Beam Approach Systems in Lincolnshire. By this time I had progressed from Sergeant through Flight Sergeant to Warrant Officer.

Combat practice and another casualty

At last in October 1944 I was posted to No. 2 Group Support Unit at Swanton, Morley, Norfolkshire for a conversion course onto Mosquito aircraft. I flew Mosquito Mark 3 and Mosquito Mark 6 Fighter Bombers. I was “crewed-up” with a navigator, Sergeant Tony Rudd (ex University Air Squadron), and as we could “get along” with each other on the ground and in the air we agreed to fly together for our operational tour. On the course we concentrated on low level flying at day and night, air-to-ground and air-to-air gunnery, bombing, and “Gee Navigation” - a form of radar.

On the 10th December Exercise Peashooter, an army co-operation exercise against army tanks, was held. We were detailed to fly No. 2 to Squadron Leader Tennant. The exercise involved attacking tanks at low level with .303 machine guns. Unfortunately Squadron Leader Tennant flew so low that his aircraft hit a tank, burst into flames and he and his navigator were killed instantly. Observing this made us realise that flying too low can be a dangerous business! We reported the accident on the radio and the exercise was then cancelled. We had to give evidence at the enquiry and were offered the opportunity of taking a rest from flying; this we declined.

 

Into battle, France 1945

We were posted to 305 (Polish) Squadron at Epinoy, France on 7th January 1945. The airfield was snow bound and we spent the first two weeks clearing the runways. Our first flight was an air test on 23rd January.

Let me tell you something of the type of operation (mission) that we were engaged on. 305 Squadron was part of 2nd Tactical Airforce and our main task was to bomb and disrupt enemy transports. Apart from one daylight operation all the other flights were at night. In the late afternoon or early evening we would be briefed by Wing Commander Grodzicki- giving details of patrol areas and enemy activity to be expected, bomb load carried and take off times. The Meteorological Officer would give details of the weather and possible diversions if the weather was bad on the return to base. The Intelligence Officer gave details of enemy troop and transport movements and the “bomb line.” This was the line between the enemy and the allied troops. No bombs were to be dropped or any attacks made on our side of the bomb line. Routes to the patrol areas were suggested to avoid major “flak” areas. After briefing Tony and I would plan our route and study a topographical map noting any high ground or major obstructions, and any known flak areas.

The dangers of flying low

We would take off singly and fly at 4,000ft to an area behind enemy lines. Here we would patrol for about an hour when another Mosquito would take our place. During the patrol we would search out signs of any movements on the ground. Once we spotted something we would go down lower and investigate. If the movement proved to be a train, lorries, tanks or barges we would then attack from low level with 500lb bombs, .303 machine guns or cannons. This could sometimes be a bit “scary” as there was always a danger of going too low. Most of our losses were due to hitting the ground or obstructions such as trees or power lines, and sometimes the object being attacked. If my navigator thought we were too low he would shout "Up!" I never argued, but immediately pulled back the stick to gain height as quickly as possible.

Some details of our operations

9-10th January 1945: cloud-bombed a railway at Puderbach.

3rd February: flew a Mosquito NS 844; patrolled Puderbach, Siegburg, Betzdorf, and Hagar. Bombed an enemy transport

10th February: cloud-bombed a railway junction at Daun. 10/10ths cloud at base at 200ft above ground. We were offered a diversion, but declined as the Gee (radar system) was now not working. We made a “dodgy” approach and landing (all in one piece) while everyone held their breath.

22nd February: flew a Mosquito HR202 in a daylight operation called Clarion. We flew a formation of 18 Mosquitoes (I was Number 18, the most vulnerable). As we crossed the enemy lines at 4000ft, we were fired on from the ground. We broke formation and re-formed again as soon as possible. We patrolled Stadt, the River Elba, and the River Weger. We bombed railway trucks and encountered some flak, but avoided any damage to our aircraft. We left the area flying formation on W/O Smith, who flew over a German gun emplacement and was hit, crashing to the ground in flames. We decided that it might be safer to fly at about 4,000ft, which proved to be true although we did run into heavy anti-aircraft fire over Bremerhaven. We managed to avoid getting hit, and returned safely back to base in France……

 

CWGC

Name: 

COE, GORDON ROY

Initials:

G R

Nationality:

United Kingdom

Rank:

Warrant Officer (Pilot)

Regiment/Service:

Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve

Unit Text:

107 Sqdn.

Age:

23

Date of Death:

27/01/1945

Service No:

1219483

Additional information:

Son of Gordon and Maud Coe, of Wellingborough, Northamptonshire.

Casualty Type:

Commonwealth War Dead

Grave/Memorial Reference:

Plot 2. Row B. Grave 8.

Cemetery:

CAMBRAI (ROUTE DE SOLESMES) COMMUNAL CEMETERY