The Torpedo Bomber, Recce and Trials Pilot turned Airline Entrepreneur - Jones

Reginald 'Jack' Jones joined the Royal Navy in 1926 but soon realised his true calling was aviation.  His application for the Fleet Air Arm rejected, he left the Navy and applied to the RAF, who also rejected his application.  Undaunted, he learned to fly with the Herts & Essex Aero Club at Broxbourne.  Jones' second application to join the RAF was successful; he reported to Brooklands Aviation at Sywell on 13 October 1936 where G-ADGT was his mount and Fg Off Grieve his instructor.

Following advanced training on the Hart and Audax at Netheravon, where he also flew the Avro 504N and Tutor, Sgt Jones trained at the Torpedo Training Unit, RAF Gosport, before joining 22 Sqn in March 1938 to fly the Vickers Vildebeest.


Vickers Vildebeest, RAF Gosport (IWM)

28 October 1939 saw Jones flying a Vildebeest on an anti-submarine patrol from RAF Thorney Island, his armament 6 x 100lb bombs.  On 10 November he was again on operations in his obsolete biplane, flying a convoy patrol, before attending a General reconnaissance course from 5 December.  By April 1940, 22 Sqn was re-equipping with the Bristol Beaufort and Jones was flying from both Thorney Island and RAF North Coates.  During May 1940, Jones flew 6 operations from North Coates, 3 of which were minelaying, with bombing attacks on Waalhaven airfield, oil tanks in Rotterdam and Motor Torpedo Boats in Ymuiden harbour.  


Bristol Beaufort (IWM)

Jones flew 5 bombing operations in June, typically armed with six 250lb bombs against shipping, the town of Ghent (twice) a Dutch aerodrome and Bergen in Norway.  22 Sqn's results were mixed during this period, due to non-sighting of targets and technical failures with the Beaufort, including engine unreliability and failed parachute flares.  

22 Sqn Beauforts North Coates 19 Jul 40

22 Sqn Beauforts at RAF North Coates, July 1940 (IWM)

By September 1940, Jones had been promoted to Pilot Officer and was commanding 'C' Flight of 22 Sqn.  On 2 September, he deployed to RAF Bircham Newton, from where his was one of 3 aircraft to bomb Flushing Aerodrome, returning to RAF North Coates.  On the 6th, 7th and 10th, Jones' target was Boulogne harbour, where much flak was encountered, one of 22 Sqn's 5 aircraft not returning on the 10th.  Later that day, Jones was minelaying, before returning to RAF Bircham Newton.  14 September was an attempted torpedo attack on shipping ,but no target was found.  Deploying to Thorney Island on the 17th, Jones released his torpedo through the mouth of Cherbourg harbour before firing guns at searchlights and warships; one of the six 22 Sqn aircraft failed to return.

22 Sqn Beaufort Mk XI Torpedoes North Coates

Mk XI Torpedos with 22 Sqn Beaufort, RAF North Coates, July 1940 (IWM)

Jones 4 remaining missions with 22 sqn were two anti shipping attacks, whose results were not seen and two final minelaying sorties.

22 Sqn Beaufort cockpit

22 Sqn Beaufort cockpit (IWM)

Pre-War, the French had ordered a batch of Glenn Martin Maryland bombers, which were subsequently diverted to the RAF and placed briefly with 22 Sqn.  With reconnaissance capability much needed in the Mediterranean theatre, Plt Off Jones found himself delivering one of these aeroplanes to Malta, before joining the famous 431 Flight, which later became 69 Sqn.

Maryland Malta

Martin Maryland at Malta (IWM)

On 7 November 1940, Jones carried out a recce of Taranto harbour, observing 4 battleships, 7 cruisers and 10 destroyers.  Three days later was the famous Battle of Taranto.  On 9 November, he carried out a recce of Sicily, Palermo and Messina, before returning to the UK to train as a flying instructor.

Instructing throughout 1941, he undertook an advanced instructor's course in 1942, before joining the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough, receiving an Air Force Cross in recognition of his work there.  Towards the end of the War, he became a transport pilot, flying - amongst other things - a Dakota over Yugoslavia.

Jack Jones Crop

Sqn Ldr 'Jack' Jones

Demobbed from the RAF in 1946 as a Squadron Leader, and with the help of a £100 loan from his father, 'Jack' Jones formed East Anglian Flying Services with three war-surplus Puss Moth aircraft, offering pleasure flights from a field beside a holiday camp at Herne Bay, Kent.

Puss Moth

East Anglian Flying Services dH Puss Moth

On 5 January 1947, Jones became the newly-licenced Southend Airport's first operator.  By 1948, he was offering cross-channel holidays and charters with a fleet of dH Dragon Rapides.  By 1957, he was operating three Rapides, six Doves and two Bristol Freighters.

Vickers Viking Resize

Channel Airways Vickers Viking

DC 3 Resize

Channel Airways DC-3 at Rochester

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Channel Airways DC-4

The Rapides were replaced by Vickers Vikings and DC-3s and, in 1961, a DC-4.  During October 1962, East Anglian Flying Services became Channel Airways.  The Channel Airways story is well-documented elsewhere; suffice to say that by the early 1970s it had become a major charter / Inclusive tour airline, operating a fleet of BAC 1-11s, Tridents and Comets.

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Channel Airways BAC 1-11

Following its move into the jet era, Channel Airways opened an engineering base and moved much of its operation to Stansted Airport, with plans to operate transatlantic services using Boeing 707s.  However, the seasonal nature of its income and poor utilization of the Trident fleet were causing financial difficulties and it ceased trading during early 1972, at which point 'Jack' Jones retired to Cornwall, where he died in 2006, aged 94.

Comet Resize

Channel Airways Comet IV 

58 Missions then a Heavy Bomber Test Pilot - Denis Clyde-Smith

Clyde-Smith first flew Tiger Moth G-ADGG from Sywell on 10 May 1937 with his instructor, Fg Off Douglas.  He went solo on 24 May after 6 hrs 30 mins flying and transferred to Flt Lt Ramsden on 29 May for his subsequent training.  On 4 Jul 37, he flew G-ADGT for an 'RAF Test' with Flt Lt Chambers.  After 56 hrs on Tiger Moths, Denis Clyde-Smith moved to 5 Flying Training School at RAF Sealand to continue his training on the Hawker Hart.  Flying a 'CFS Check' with Sgt Upton on 23 Sep, he was authorized to wear RAF 'wings' on 19 Oct 37 before embarking on his advanced flying training on the Hawker Hart, Audax and Fury; Clyde-Smith left Sealand in mid-February 1938 graded 'Above Average' as an Audax pilot.

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dH82b Queen Bee (Clyde-Smith Collection / IBCC Archive)

Clyde-Smith's first posting was to No 1 Anti-Aircraft Co-Operation Unit, initally flying the Queen Bee, a pilotless development of the Tiger Moth, from RAF Henlow in Bedfordshire.  During April 1938, he spent a week at RAF Calshot to qualify as a Swordfish floatplane pilot, presumably to qualify him to fly the floatplane version of the Queen Bee.  On 19 May 1938, he joined Z Flt of the AACU, flying the Queen Bee from Watchet in Somerset.  By October 1938, Clyde-Smith had returned to Henlow, now flying mainly the Miles Magister and Westland Wallace before moving to Biggin Hill in early 1939 to fly the Hawker Henley target tug.  By May 1939, he was based at RAF Weston Zoyland in Somerset, flying the Henley from a location that he was to visit throughout the War.  His logbook records the outbreak of War on 3 Sep 1939, a day he flew a Henley from West Raynham in Norfolk to Weston Zoyland.

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Hawker Henley Target Tug (Clyde-Smith Collection / IBCC Archive)

During January and February 1940, Clyde-Smith was at RAF Benson in Oxfordshire, converting to the Fairey Battle light bomber with 63 Sqn and 52 Sqn, the Battle training units.  His final flights in early April were cancelled, which seems something of a blessing for him when one considers the casualties suffered by the Battle squadrons during the Battle of France.  A brief period with 110 Anti Aircraft Co-Operation Wing at Manchester (Ringway), during which Flt Lt Clyde-Smith was checked out on the Percival Q6 by Fg Off Innes Westmacott and during which he delivered a Fairey Battle to France, was followed by his joining Coastal Command's 15 Group Communications Flight, where he flew VIP passengers in a Percival Proctor and qualified on the Supermarine Walrus amphibian.  

After single flights in the Gloster Gladiator and Westland Lysander, Clyde-Smith started his course to fly the Vickers Wellington bomber at Hampstead Norris during October 1940, graduating from 15 Operational Training Unit at RAF Harwell in Oxfordshire on 17 Jan 1941.

Clyde-Smith joined 115 Sqn at RAF Marham, flying his first 2 operations as second pilot to Plt Off Bois to Boulogne and Hanover on 7 & 10 February respectively.  His first target as captain was again Hanover on the night of 11 Feb 1941 as one of ten 115 Sqn aircraft.  On their return, fog precluded landing at Marham; 2 crews baled out due to lack of fuel and one crashed on the approach to Finningley.  Clyde-Smith diverted to Tangmere and landed after 7 hours' flying, returning to Marham on 14 February.  During his time on 115 Sqn, Flt Lt Clyde-Smith's targets reflected the priority of the time, the maritime targets of Brest, Lorient, Hamburg, Bremen and Kiel although Dusseldorf and Berlin were also attacked, the attacks on Hamburg on 13 March, Kiel on 7 & 8 April and Brest on 10 April being particularly successful.  That said, the overriding feature of Bomber Command's activity during this early period was its ineffectiveness, caused by difficulty in identifying targets due to weather.

Wellington R1008

Wellington (Clyde-Smith Collection / IBCC Archive)

Promoted to Squadron Leader, Clyde-Smith was posted to 218 Sqn, also flying Wellingtons from RAF Marham, flying his first operation against Cologne on 16 May 1941.  An attack on the warships Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Prinz Eugen at Brest on 13 June was folllowed by Clyde-Smith flying the Squadron's only Wellington Mk II against Hanover on 15 Jun.  During the return journey, North West of Amsterdam, Clyde-Smith's Wellington was attacked by a Messerschmitt Bf110 night fighter.  Cannon shells from the Bf110 hit the Wellington's port fuel tank, but Clyde-Smith manoeuvred his aeroplane such that both his nose and rear gunners caused serious damage to the attacker, which disengaged and landed at Bergen airfield, near Alkmaar in the Netherlands.  The pilot of the Messerschmitt was Leopold Fellerer, who had claimed his first victim, a Hampden, on 11 February 1941.  Fellerer continued to become a night fighter ace, claiming his 41st and final kill during October 1944; post war, he served in the Austrian Air Force and was killed in a flying accident in 1968.  Sqn Ldr Denis Clyde-Smith was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions.

Clyde-Smith's remaining targets with 218 Sqn were Kiel, Cologne, Bremen and Brest, with the usual 'mixed' results, before he was posted as a Wellington instructor with 27 Operational Training Unit (OTU), initially at RAF Lichfield and, from 5 February 1942, RAF Tatenhill.  Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris had taken command of Bomber Command on 22 February 1942 and was keen to demonstrate the capability of the bomber with a series of 1000 bomber raids, an effort that would require aircraft from both Coastal Command and the training units in addition to the Bomber Command squadrons.  Thus, on 30 May 1942, Denis Clyde-Smith achieved his 1000th flying hour during an air test on the Wellington he would fly the same evening as part of the first 1000 bomber raid of the War, target Cologne. He again flew his OTU Wellington on the second '1000 force' raid, against Essen on 1 June 1942.

Posted to 9 Sqn at RAF Honington to fly the Wellington III, Clyde-Smith's first operation here was another '1000 Plan', this time against Bremen on 25 June.  Clyde-Smith brought his bombs back to Honington due to cloud over the target; the RAF lost 48 aircraft from the bombing force.  The following night, his Wellington was hit by flak during a minelaying operation off St Nazaire; Clyde-Smith attempted a single-engined approach at RAF Abingdon, during which the second engine failed, resulting in a crash-landing on the airfield.  Throughout July, Clyde-Smith's targets included Bremen, Wilhelmshaven, Duisburg and Hamburg, with the by now customary mixed results, although bombing by use of the 'navgational aid' was starting to appear in post-sortie reports.

August 1942 saw 9 Sqn transferred from 3 Group to 5 Group and Clyde-Smith detached to 1654 Conversion Unit at RAF Wigsley to fly Avro Manchesters and Lancasters before rejoining 9 Sqn at RAF Waddington.  August 1942 was a significant month for the bomber offensive, with the formation of the Pathfinder Force and the arrival of the US 8th Air Force, which made its first daylight heavy bomber raid.


Lancaster and crew (Clyde-Smith Collection / IBCC Archive)

Between 10 and 19 September, Sqn Ldr Clyde-Smith attacked Dusseldorf, Bremen, Essen and Munich, his bomb load typically a 4000lb 'cookie' together with incendiaries.  Substantial damage was caused to the first 3 targets, but Bomber Command lost 7.1 %, 4.6%, 10.1% and 6.7% of its force on each night respectively.  On 23 Sep, the target was the Dornier aircraft factory at Wismar.  9 Sqn sent 10 of the 83 aircraft on this raid and lost 2 of the 4 lost in total; Clyde-Smith bombed from extremely low level (50') due to being held by searchlights.  After attacks on Aachen and Kiel, Clyde-Smith contributed to a successful raid on Genoa on 22 October, timed to coincide with the opening of the Battle of El Alamein.  Clyde-Smith's 52nd operation was his first in daylight; an attack on Milan on 24 October 1942 which came as some surprize to the locals.  November saw 4 further raids on Genoa, one on Hamburg with Sqn Ldr Denis Clyde-Smith flying his 58th and final mission against Turin on 18 November 1942, during which his gunners sprayed gun positions from all three turrets.


Turin Raid (Clyde-Smith Collection / IBCC Archive)

Joining the Performance Testing Squadron at A&AEE Boscombe Down in December 1942, from Feb 1942 until May 1944, Clyde-Smith was tasked with ‘production testing’ heavy bombers, as a result of concerns that some aircraft were underperforming due to wartime construction methods.  Accompanied by a Senior Technical Officer (Mr C S Wills and, from mid 1943, Mr R ‘Bobby’ Marsh), he travelled to the bomber stations, according to Tim Mason’s ‘The Secret Years’, the journeys home often “at breakneck speed, at night”!!  Summer 1944 was spent testing developments of the Lancaster and Halifax.  On 11 Sep, Sqn Ldr Clyde-Smith set off for Khartoum in Halifax LW125, performing trials there until 5 November, when he set off for South Africa via Nairobi.  He left South Africa on 11 Dec, arriving at Boscombe Down on the 19th.


Halifax in Africa (Clyde-Smith Collection / IBCC Archive)

During 1945, the 4-engined aircraft test flown by Clyde-Smith were the Lancaster, Halifax, Liberator, York, Skymaster, Fortress, Lincoln and Stirling, with his final recorded flight being a Warwick on 20 August.

The PoW - Wootton

Bill Wootton joined the RAF Volunteer Reserve aged 18 in 1937 and began his flying training at 6 E&RFS, Sywell. Although he carried out much of his early training on G-ADGS, he flew G-ADGT on 3 October 1937, carrying out aerobatics with his regular instructor, Fg Off Dalrymple, who sent Bill off to practice solo aerobatics, also in G-ADGT.


Bill Wootton standing with a Brooklands Tiger at Sywell

Wootton continued his training at Sywell, flying the Hawker Hart and Hind biplanes, before joining 44 Sqn at RAF Waddington here he continued his training on the Avro Anson. His training continued on the Handley Page Hampden bomber with both 44 and 76 Sqns before he joined 61 Sqn at RAF Hemswell, where, although qualified to Captain the Hampden, he operated as second pilot to FS Ross on operations. Wootton’s first operational mission was to Northern Germany on 24 March 1940, carrying out reconnaissance of Warnemunde and Rostock and dropping leaflets on Gustrow; the crew commented on the accuracy of German searchlights and were fired on by a flak ship. On 11 April, Wootton’s was one of 6 crews tasked with attacking enemy shipping at Kristiansund in daylight; the weather over the target was too clear to provide cover and the mission was abandoned. On 17 April, the crew was tasked with a night minelaying operation, but returned early due to unserviceable radio equipment. On 23 April, the task was again night minelaying (‘gardening’), with the crew successfully dropping their ‘vegetable’ near Schleswig in Northern Germany before landing at RAF Bircham Newton in Norfolk.


Wootton piloting the Hawker Hind

The German offensive in the West started on 10 May, with German troops entering Belgium and Holland. On the night of 11 May, Wootton’s crew was one of 37 tasked to attack road and rail communications at Monchengladbach, the RAF’s first raid of the War against a German town. They returned shortly after departure due to an unserviceable generator; 2 Hampdens and one Whitley were lost during the attack. On the night of 17/18 May, 48 Hampdens bombed Hamburg, FS Ross dropping his four 500lb bombs from 16000 feet to cause fires at the edge of the oil tanks; they landed at Abingdon at 5.05 am after 7 hrs 10 min airborne. The night of 19 May saw the crew deliver another four 500lb bombs against a German industrial / railway target.





On the night of 23/24 May, 122 aircraft were tasked with attacking German communications to the battlefront. The Hampdens were targeted against trains, railway lines and junctions to the West of the Rhine and in Holland. FS Ross’ crew communicated with Hemswell at around the time of their expected return, which confirms suspicions of a navigational error, as does the location of their forced landing in Germany, in the Black Forest between the towns of Horb and Rottweil, well to the South East of the targets attacked by 61 Sqn that night. The crew were taken prisoner, with Sgt Eugene Corrigan dying in captivity. Bill Wootton kept an immaculate record of his transfers between PoW camps until his liberation on 2 May 1945.


Map showing the approximate location of Wootton's downed Hampden



Wootton's record of PoW transfers and eventual liberation

Post War, Wootton returned to the family construction business but resumed flying Tiger Moths at Sywell as an RAF reservist with No 6 Reserve Flying School. He qualified as an instructor and was recalled to RAF service at the time of the Korean War, serving as an instructor at No 7 FTS, RAF Cottesmore, flying the Harvard. He also flew the Prentice, Chipmunk and Balliol and made one solo flight in the Gloster Meteor jet. His last flight as an RAF pilot was on 18 December 1952. Finest Hour is indebted to Bill’s cousin Colin and especially his daughter Olivia for allowing us access to his records and pilot’s logbooks.

His full story, including his time as a PoW at Stalag Luft 1 can be found here.


The Fighter Pilot - Edworthy

Sgt Gerald H Edworthy learned to fly at No 6 E & RFS during 1938. Much of his initial training was carried out in G-ADGT and extracts from his Pilots' Flying Logbook are reproduced here.


gadgt Barber Edworthy 38i

Sgt Edworthy went on to join 46 Sqn at North Weald, flying the legendary Hawker Hurricane. Sadly, he was killed in action on 3 September 1940, at the height of the Battle of Britain.

However, the story does not end here. Sgt Edworthy's nephew, Paul Carr, is an ex-RAF pilot who flies both the CAP10 and the Tiger Moth with Finest Hour. You may find him hosting you on your special day or he may even be the instructor introducing you to the delights of the Tiger Moth vintage biplane.

The Fighter Leader - Bartlett

Leonard Bartlett commenced his flying training on Tiger Moths at 21 E & RFS, Stapleford in May 1939, where his instructors included a Mr Browning, possibly the famous Neville Browining. Moving to 6 EFTS at Sywell in during October 1939, Bartlett carried out much of his flying training in G-ADGT, flying her first, for 4 flights, on 27 October 1939. He progressed from circuits, through spinning, forced landings, aerobatics and instrument flying on ‘GT, usually receiving instruction from Fg Off Ayling. Bartlett’s last flight on G-ADGT was on 4 January 1940.

Advanced training at Montrose on the Miles Master followed, where his instructor was the subsequently famous Ranald Porteous. Sgt Bartlett joined 17 Sqn at Debden, flying the Hawker Hurricane during July 1940, as the Battle of Britain approached its peak. Bartlett’s logbook for September 1940 shows clearly the high pace of operations and contains such comments as ‘Ops take off - shot up by 3 Me 109s. Intercepted 30 He111s and 40 Me109s. Dived through bombs’ on 5 September.  Bartlett was clearly in the thick of the action and was claiming enemy aircraft as kills, ‘probables’ and ‘damaged’. 18 September’s entry includes a cryptic ‘Collided with CO’. Throughout October, his logbook continues with patrols and scrambles while November saw an increase in the number of convoy patrols. Throughout this active period, Bartlett’s contribution towards enemy aircraft damaged continued to increase, as did the number of his colleagues killed or posted missing. On 18 March 1941, he got airborne to carry out a ‘height climb’ and gun test. He was shot down and baled out after being attacked by 6 Me109s. His next flight was a convoy patrol on 25 March.

After a period as an instructor, Flt Lt Bartlett joined 137 Sqn at Matlaske, flying the Westland Whirlwind claiming a Ju88 damaged during this period. He also destroyed a Lysander by colliding with it during a an overshoot in bad weather, resulting in an interview with the AOC 10 days later. Bartlett returned to the Hurricane in September 1942 as the Commanding Officer of 253 Sqn, which deployed to North Africa in November. Sqn Ldr Bartlett destroyed a Ju 88 in January 1943 and 253 Sqn moved with the fighting to Italy in October 1943. Bartlett was awarded the DSO in March 1944.

Gp Capt Leonard Bartlett retired from the RAF in 1966 and now lives in Australia.

The Night Fighter Pilot - Staples

Lionel Staples first flew a Tiger Moth during 1938 at No 18 Elementary and Reserve Flying School at Fairoaks. One of his instructors was Flt Lt Cyril Arthur, who served as the School’s Commanding Officer for 18 years until its closure as 18 EFTS in 1953. Staples left Fairoaks at the end of August 1938 with a grading of ‘Above Average’.

By March 1940, Staples had resumed training at No 6 EFTS at Sywell making his first flight in G-ADGT on 10 April 1940, under the instruction of Pilot Officer James, who sent Staples for solo circuits following dual instruction in instrument flying. Staples few ‘GT again during May 1940 for forced landings and aerobatics.

Following his course at Sywell, Staples continued his training on the Miles Master with 8 FTS and the Spitfire with 7 Operational Training Unit, whose course he completed on 30 August 1940. September 1940 was the height of the Battle of Britain and saw Staples complete a few days’ Hurricane flying with both 85 and 242 Sqns. From 22 September 1940 onwards, Staples had settled with 151 Sqn flying the Hurricane, initially from Stapleford and later from RAF Digby in Lincolnshire.  In early October the Squadron was informed that it was to specialise in night fighting, a move welcomed with little enthusiasm by its pilots. By December, Sgt Staples’ logbook was showing a mix of the Hurricane and Boulton Paul Defiant, the latter predominating by February 1941. On the night of 9/10 April 1941, the Luftwaffe targeted Fort Dunlop in Birmingham, a factory important to the British War Effort. As the attackers approached Birmingham, Sgt Staples and his gunner, Sgt Parkin, spotted what they thought was a Dornier 17, with Sgt Parkin firing into the German’s port wing and engine. As the German went into a steep, twisting dive, Staples followed but was unable to fire any further. As both aircraft hurtled earthwards, Staples realised he was getting perilously close to the deadly balloon barrage around Birmingham and broke off the attack. A kill was claimed.

This was not Sgt Staples’ final encounter with enemy aircraft. Leaving 151 Sqn at the end of August 1941 for a period as an instructor, he joined 1426 (Enemy Aircraft) Flight during August 1942. This unit’s role was to evaluate captured enemy aircraft and to demonstrate their characteristics to other Allied units. Staples’ logbook shows him flying captured Junkers 88, Heinkel 111, Messerschmitt 110 and Focke-Wulf 190 ‘on tour’ in East Anglia and in co-operation with the BBC Film Unit.

By August 1947, Flt Lt Staples had returned to flying with 18 RFS at Fairoaks, again flying the Tiger Moth with Cyril Arthur who was now a Wing Commander.

50 years to the day after the encounter East of Birmingham, Lionel Staples was introduced to Willi Vogt, a member of the crew of the aircraft he shot down, actually a Junkers 88 which had come down near Hitchin in Hertfordshire. The 2 men visited the Junkers’ crash site and remained friends until Lionel’s death some years later.

The Halifax Instructor - Waite

At the outbreak of War, Ron Waite was married with one daughter and running his own business as an opthalmic optician in Bristol. As a result of the first bombing raid against Bristol, he felt an overwhelming desire to seek revenge and, despite his age and reserved occupation, he volunteered and was accepted for RAF pilot training. Undergoing elementary flying training at No 6 EFTS, Sywell, his first flight was on 21 April 1941. On 12 May, he flew BB697 for the first time with his regular instructor, Plt Off Maxwell. 20 mins dual forced landings and 35 min dual navigation were followed by a solo flight of 1 hr and 5 mins.  In his 1991 book, ‘Death or Decoration’, Waite documents with affection his time at Sywell and his experience of the Tiger Moth.

Waite’s next course was ‘Service Flying Training’ at the RAF College Cranwell, flying the Airspeed Oxford. During the final stages of his approach to land at Barkston Heath during his first solo on the Oxford, another solo student approached Waite from behind and collided with him, causing both aircraft to crash.  Waite’s only injury was a cut hand; the other student pilot was less fortunate, and never flew again.

By September 1941, Waite was learning to fly the Whitley bomber at 19 Operational Training Unit, RAF Kinloss. This course lasted until November 1941, after which he joined 76 Sqn at RAF Middleton St George (now Teeside Airport). Pilot Officer Waite’s first flight in the the Handley Page Halifax 4-engined heavy bomber was on 7 January 1942 as second pilot to Sgt Dennis Stark and his all-NCO crew. Waite’s transition to the status of an operational bomber pilot was slow; the policy of training crews together prior to their posting to a squadron had not yet been introduced and 76 Sqn had suffered heavy losses, so Waite found himself in the situation of being a partly-trained pilot without a crew of his own. Nonetheless, Waite was pleased to be initiated into the Squadron in its traditional ‘Jugalug’ style, downing his pint of beer in 3 and a half seconds. In April 1942, he was sent to 1652 Conversion Unit at Marston Moor, where one of his fellow students and instructor in the game of ‘liar dice’ was a Belgian, Count D’Ursell, who was killed on operations very shortly afterwards.  Waite did not complete his Halifax conversion as he was recalled to 76 Sqn to to join FS Kenny Clack’s crew as 2nd pilot for forthcoming operations. Clack was barely 19 years old and sported adolescent pimples; he was already an accomplished heavy bomber captain.

Waite did not have to wait long. On 22 April, the Squadron deployed to Tain in Scotland, awaiting suitable conditions for the planned raids. On the night of 27 April, armed with one 4000lb bomb and six 500 pounders, Clack and his crew set off for Trondheim in Norway, their target the Tirpitz and other battleships. Due to some navigation difficulties, they arrived in the target area too late to attack the Tirpitz as low-level attacks by other aircraft would be in progress. Therefore, they made for the Von Scheer and Prinz Eugen, which were in a fjord south of the Tirpitz. The crew worked hard to avoid both flak and the wall of the fjord, only to find that their 4000 pound bomb did not release, ‘hung up’. A second attack was made but, just as they turned off-target after releasing their bomb, they found themselves over the Tirpitz and, running late, the sole target for its heavy flak. Waite describes this moment as akin to putting one’s foot into a hornet’s nest. With one engine damaged and shut down, a fuel tank holed with the consequent loss of fuel and the bomb doors stuck open causing extra drag, the crew was faced with a choice between diverting to neutral Sweden or attempting to return to Scotland on 3 engines, low on fuel in a damaged aeroplane, with the strong risk of ditching in a very cold sea.  Over 9 hours after taking off from Tain, Kenny Clack squeezed the aeroplane onto the runway at Wick; Waite had survived his baptism of fire. Shortly after landing all three engines cut as the last fuel tank emptied. Clack was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal for this operation.

Apart from the damage already described, the aeroplane sported 58 holes caused by shrapnel, so the crew took a different aeroplane for their next visit to Trondheim, the very next night. During this raid, one of the Halifaxes shot down was flown by Wg Cdr Don Bennett, who managed to land on the frozen fjord and, with four of his crew, escape to Sweden. Bennett later achieved fame as the leader of the Pathfinder Force.

Sqn Ldr Ken Clack was shot down and killed during his second tour of operations with 76 Sqn, during the infamous Nuremburg raid of 31 March 1944, the night Bomber Command suffered its heaviest losses of the War.

Waite remained a second pilot, flying on an operation to Cologne on 30 May, where a failed engine caused the crew to jettison their bombs and return early, Essen on 1 June, which he describes in his logbook as a ‘very nice trip’ with ‘defences slight’, Bremen on 3 June, also a ‘very good trip’ where ‘defences seemed erratic’ and Essen again on 5 June: “Defences very intense - many large cones. Accurate ‘flak’ but avoided trouble”.

During July 1942, most of 76 Sqn’s experienced operational pilots were sent on detachment to the Middle East, as a result of Rommel’s Afrika Korps’ offensive against the 8th Army.  Sqn Ldr ‘Jock Calder’ took command of 76 Sqn and sent Waite on his first night solo in a Halifax, bringing his total solo night flying time to 10 hrs 20 minutes, all of which had been in the aerodrome circuit. Thus, Waite was more than  little surprised to find himself nominated as the Captain for a raid on Hamburg on 26 July. After evading a fighter attack, the port inner engine overheated and had to be shut down.  Hydraulic controls for the undercarriage and flaps were powered from the now shut down port inner engine, so could not be retracted once deployed; thus, Waite had only one possible attempt to land from his first ever 3-engined approach, which he did, but not without drama and help from adrenalin.

29 July saw Waite attacking Saarbrucken without incident, but on 31 July his crew were sent to Dusseldorf. Their aeroplane was under performing to a gross degree to the extent that Waite could not make it climb higher than 8000 feet, making it very vulnerable to both flak and fighter attack. The sluggish aircraft came under attack from 2 German fighters, killing Sgt ‘Mac’ McAuley, the mid-upper gunner and injuring Bob Pool, the navigator. Waite himself was saved by the bullet-proof glass fitted behind his head.  Several of Waite’s instruments, including the airspeed indicator, had failed; Waite released his bombs over what he hoped was an enemy airfield in the Netherlands before turning for home, at which stage he realised that the controls had a ’sloshy’ feel and were not responding normally.  The injured navigator refused morphine in order to take star shots, the only way of guiding the crippled bomber back to England. Waite assessed the situation and decided that to land the aeroplane was not an option, so he ordered his remaining crew to bale out, following shortly afterwards and landing in Essex.

Waite’s last operational mission was on 20 August. By this time, Leonard Cheshire had taken command of 76 Sqn. Waite was tasked for a leaflet dropping operation, ‘Nickel’, with the target as Dijon, in mid France. The main purpose of the raid was to test ‘Gee’, a new aid to navigation and target identification. Waite’s was the only crew to operate that night. On spotting the Alps, Waite realised that his crew were experiencing problems in the navigation department. After a major correction, the leaflets were dropped over the target; the crew headed back towards England, crossing Northern France the day after the unsuccessful commando raid on Dieppe.  Short of fuel, Waite landed on the short runway at Sutton Harcourt in Oxfordshire, a flying training station.

Some days after returning to Middleton St George, Cheshire probed Waite as to what went wrong with the Dijon operation. Cheshire appeared to have very strong views on the leadership role of an aircraft Captain and, as a result, Waite was told he was to be posted to twin-engined aircraft.  In fact, he spent most of the remainder of the War as an Halifax instructor with 1658 and 1663 Heavy Conversion Units at Riccall and Rufforth.

Sqn Ldr Waite was released from the RAF in December 1945, having made his last flight in his favourite aeroplane, the Dh84 Dominie. Post war, Waite ran an Inn in Weymouth, a country hotel and a sub post office. In retirement, he re-qualified as an opthalmic optician.

The Lancaster Pilot - Fullelove

Sgt Desmond E Fullelove flew his first solo on BB697 during November 1941, a few weeks before his 20th birthday. On a subsequent solo flight in the same aeroplane, he became 'temporarily uncertain of his position' and made a precautionary landing in a field.  He left the aeroplane with its engine idling and ran over to a worker in the next field to ask where he was. The chap told him that the church spire in one direction was North and that in the opposite South. Fullelove replied that he was aware of that fact, to which his helper clarified "no, I mean that church is North Kilworth & that's South Kilworth". With this information, it seems Fullelove took off again and found his way back to Sywell to continue his training under the instruction of a French Air Force officer. Fullelove continued his training in the USA before returning to join 207 Sqn, flying the Lancaster bomber from RAF Langar in Nottinghamshire. His first mission was on the night of 25/26 June 1943 against a very heavily-defended Gelsenkirchen.    


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