Douglas Bader

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Squadron Leader Douglas Bader c.1940

Featured image: Bader in 1955

Group Captain Sir Douglas Robert Steuart Bader, CBE, DSO & Bar, DFC & Bar, FRAeS, DL (21 February 1910 – 5 September 1982) was a Royal Air Force (RAF) flying ace during the Second World War. He was credited with 22 aerial victories, four shared victories, six probables, one shared probable and 11 enemy aircraft damaged

Bader joined the RAF in 1928, and was commissioned in 1930. In December 1931, while attempting some aerobatics, he crashed and lost both his legs. Having been on the brink of death, he recovered, retook flight training, passed his check flights and then requested reactivation as a pilot. Although there were no regulations applicable to his situation, he was retired against his will on medical grounds.

After the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, however, Douglas Bader returned to the RAF and was accepted as a pilot. He scored his first victories over Dunkirk during the Battle of France in 1940. He then took part in the Battle of Britain and became a friend and supporter of Air Vice Marshal Trafford Leigh-Mallory and his “Big Wing” experiments.

In August 1941, Bader bailed out over German-occupied France and was captured. Soon afterward, he met and was befriended by Adolf Galland, a prominent German fighter ace. Despite his disability, Bader made many escape attempts and was eventually sent to the prisoner of war camp at Colditz Castle. He remained there until April 1945 when the camp was liberated by the First United States Army.

Bader left the RAF permanently in February 1946 and resumed his career in the oil industry. During the 1950s, a book and a film, Reach for the Sky, chronicled his life and RAF career to the end of the Second World War. Bader campaigned for the disabled and in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 1976 was appointed a Knight Bachelor “for services to disabled people “and continued to fly until ill health forced him to stop in 1979. Three years later, at the age of 72, Bader died on 5 September 1982, after a heart attack.

Early years, childhood and education

Bader was born on 21 February 1910 in St John’s Wood, London, the second son of Frederick Roberts Bader, a civil engineer, and his wife Jessie Scott MacKenzie. His first two years were spent with McCann relatives in the Isle of Man while his father, accompanied by Bader’s mother and older brother Frederick (named after his father but called ‘Derick’ to distinguish the two), returned to his work in India after the birth of his son. At the age of two, Bader joined his parents in India for a year; however, when his father resigned from his job in 1913 the family moved back to London, and settled in Kew. Bader’s father saw action in the First World War in the Royal Engineers, and was wounded in action in 1917. He remained in France after the war, where, having attained the rank of major, he died in 1922 of complications from those wounds in a hospital in Saint-Omer, the same area where Bader would bail out and be captured in 1941.

Bader’s mother remarried shortly thereafter to the Reverend Ernest William Hobbs. Bader was subsequently brought up in the rectory of the village of Sprotborough, near Doncaster, West Riding of Yorkshire.  Bader’s aggressive energy found a new lease of life at St Edward’s School, where he received his secondary education. During his time there, he thrived at sports. Bader played rugby and often enjoyed physical battles with bigger and older opponents. Bader’s sporting interests continued into his military service. He was selected for the Royal Air Force cricket team, to play a first-class match against the Army at the Oval in July 1931. He scored 65 and 1. In August, he played in a two-day game against the Royal Navy. He played cricket in a German prisoner of war camp after his capture in 1941, despite his later disability.

In mid-1923, Bader, at the age of 13, was introduced to an Avro 504 during a school holiday trip to visit his aunt, Hazel, who was marrying RAF Flight Lieutenant Cyril Burge, adjutant at RAF Cranwell. Although he enjoyed the visit and took an interest in aviation, he showed no signs of becoming a keen pilot. Still very sports minded, an interest which dominated Bader’s formative years, he took less of an interest in his studies. Bader received guidance from Warden Kendall and, with Kendall’s encouragement, he excelled at his studies and was later accepted as a cadet at RAF Cranwell. Soon afterwards, he was offered a place at Oxford University, but turned it down as he preferred Cambridge University.

His mother refused to allow Bader to attend Cambridge in December 1927, claiming she could not afford the fees.  A master at St. Edwards, a Mr. Dingwall, helped pay these fees in part. Due to his new connection with Cyril Burge, Bader learned of the six annual prize cadetships offered by RAF Cranwell each year. Out of hundreds of applicants, he finished fifth. He left St Edward’s in early 1928, aged 18.

Joining the RAF

In 1928, Bader joined the RAF as an officer cadet at the Royal Air Force College Cranwell in rural Lincolnshire. He continued to excel at sports, and added hockey and boxing to his repertoire. Motorcycling was tolerated at Cranwell, though cadets usually took part in banned activities such as speeding, pillion racing and buying and racing motorcars.

On 13 September 1928, Bader took his first flight with his instructor Flying Officer W. J. “Pissy” Pearson in an Avro 504.  After just 11 hours and 15 minutes of flight time, he flew his first solo, on 19 February 1929.

Bader competed for the “Sword of Honour” award at the end of his two-year course, but lost to Patrick Coote, his nearest rival.  On 26 July 1930, Bader was commissioned as a pilot officer into No. 23 Squadron RAF based at Kenley, Surrey. Flying Gloster Gamecocks and soon after, Bristol Bulldogs, Bader became a daredevil while training there, often flying illegal and dangerous stunts. While very fast for its time, the Bulldog had directional stability problems at low speeds, which made such stunts exceptionally dangerous. Strict orders were issued forbidding unauthorised aerobatics below 2,000 feet (610 m). Douglas took this as an unnecessary safety rule rather than an order to be obeyed. After one training flight at the gunnery range, Bader achieved only a 38 percent hit rate on a target. Receiving jibes from a rival squadron (No. 25 Squadron RAF), Bader took off to perform aerobatics and show off his skill. It was against regulations, and seven out of 23 accidents caused by ignoring regulations had proven fatal. The CO of No. 25 Squadron remarked that he would order Bader to face a court-martial if Bader was in his unit. The COs of Bader’s unit, Harry Day and Henry Wollett, gave the pilots more latitude, although Day encouraged them to recognise their own limits.

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Bader, Fl.Lt. Harry Day and Fl.Off. Geoffrey Stephenson during training for the 1932 Hendon airshow, with a Gloster Gamecock

No. 23 Squadron had won the Hendon Air Show “pairs” event in 1929 and 1930. In 1931 Bader, teamed with Harry Day, successfully defended the squadron’s title in the spring that year. In late 1931, Bader undertook training for the 1932 Hendon Air Show, hoping to win a second consecutive title.  Two pilots had been killed attempting aerobatics. The pilots were warned not to practise these manoeuvres under 2,000 feet (610 m) and to keep above 500 feet (150 m) always.

Nevertheless, on 14 December 1931, while visiting Reading Aero Club, he attempted some low-flying aerobatics at Woodley Airfield in a Bulldog Mk. IIA, K1676, of 23 Squadron, apparently on a dare. His aircraft crashed when the tip of the left wing touched the ground. Bader was rushed to the Royal Berkshire Hospital, where, in the hands of the prominent surgeon J. Leonard Joyce (1882–1939), both his legs were amputated — one above and one below the knee. Bader made the following laconic entry in his logbook after the crash: Crashed slow-rolling near ground. Bad show. — Douglas Bader

In 1932, after a long convalescence, throughout which he needed morphine for pain relief, Bader was transferred to the hospital at RAF Uxbridge and fought hard to regain his former abilities after he was given a new pair of artificial legs. In time, his agonising and determined efforts paid off, and he could drive a specially modified car, play golf, and even dance. During his convalescence there, he met and fell in love with Thelma Edwards, a waitress at a tea room called the Pantiles on the A30 London Road in Bagshot, Surrey.

Bader got his chance to prove that he could still fly when, in June 1932, Air Under-Secretary Philip Sassoon arranged for him to take up an Avro 504, which he piloted competently. A subsequent medical examination proved him fit for active service, but in April 1933 he was notified that the RAF had decided to reverse the decision because this situation was not covered by King’s Regulations. In May, Bader was invalided out of the RAF, took an office job with the Asiatic Petroleum Company (now Shell) and, on 5 October 1933, married Thelma Edwards.

Return to RAF

With increasing tensions in Europe in 1937–1939, Bader repeatedly requested that the Air Ministry give him a posting and he was finally invited to a selection board meeting at Adastral House in Kingsway. Bader was disappointed to learn that it was only “ground jobs” that were being offered. It appeared that he would be refused a flying position;  but Air Vice Marshal Halahan, commandant of RAF Cranwell in Bader’s days there, personally endorsed him and asked the Central Flying School, Upavon, to assess his capabilities.

On 14 October 1939, the Central Flying School requested Bader report for flight tests on 18 October. He did not wait; driving down the next morning, Bader undertook refresher courses.  Despite reluctance on the part of the establishment to allow him to apply for an A.1.B. (full flying category status), his persistent efforts paid off.  Bader regained a medical categorisation for operational flying at the end of November 1939 and was posted to the Central Flying School for a refresher course on modern types of aircraft. On 27 November, eight years after his accident, Bader flew solo again in an Avro Tutor; once airborne, he could not resist the temptation to turn the biplane upside down at 600 feet (180 m) inside the circuit area. Bader subsequently progressed through the Fairey Battle and Miles Master (the last training stage before flying Spitfires and Hurricanes).

Second World War

Phoney war

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Squadron Leader D R S Bader, DSO, DFC. (1940) by Eric Kennington

In January 1940, Bader was posted to No. 19 Squadron based at RAF Duxford near Cambridge, where, at 29, he was older than most of his fellow pilots. Squadron Leader Geoffrey Stephenson, a close friend from his Cranwell days, was the commanding officer, and it was here that Bader got his first glimpse of a Spitfire. It was thought that Bader’s success as a fighter pilot was partly because of his having no legs; pilots pulling high “g-forces” in combat turns often “blacked out” as the flow of blood from the brain drained to other parts of the body, usually the legs. As Bader had no legs he could remain conscious longer, and thus had an advantage over more able-bodied opponents.

Between February and May 1940 Bader practised formation flying, air tactics, and undertook flights over sea convoys. Bader found opposition to his ideas about aerial combat. He favoured using the sun and altitude to ambush the enemy, but the RAF did not share his opinions. Official orders/doctrine dictated that pilots should fly line-astern and attack singly. Despite this being at odds with his preferred tactics, Bader obeyed orders, and his skill saw him rapidly promoted to section leader.

During this time, Bader crashed a Spitfire on take-off. He had forgotten to switch the propeller pitch from coarse to fine, and the aircraft careened down the runway at 80 mph, ultimately crashing. Despite a head wound, Bader got into another Spitfire for a second attempt. Leigh-Mallory made Bader a flight commander of No. 222 Squadron RAF a few weeks later which also meant an advance from flying officer to flight lieutenant.

Battle of France

Bader had his first taste of combat with No. 222 Squadron RAF, which was based at RAF Duxford and commanded by another old friend of his, Squadron Leader “Tubby” Mermagen. On 10 May the Wehrmacht invaded Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Belgium and France. The campaigns went badly for the Western Allies and soon they were evacuating from Dunkirk during the battle for the port. RAF Squadrons were ordered to provide air supremacy for the Royal Navy during Operation Dynamo.

  • While patrolling the coast near Dunkirk on 1 June 1940 at around 3,000 feet (910 m), Bader happened upon a Messerschmitt Bf 109 in front of him, flying in the same direction and at approximately the same speed. He believed that the German must have been a novice, taking no evasive action even though it took more than one burst of gunfire to shoot him down. Bader was also credited with a Messerschmitt Bf 110 damaged, despite claiming five victories in that dogfight.
  • In the next patrol Bader was credited with a Heinkel He 111 damaged. On 4 June 1940, his encounter with a Dornier Do 17, which was attacking Allied shipping, involved a near collision while he was firing at the aircraft’s rear gunner during a high-speed pass.

Shortly after Bader joined 222 Squadron, it moved to RAF Kirton in Lindsey, just south of the Humber.

After flying operations over Dunkirk, Bader was posted to command No. 242 Squadron RAF as acting squadron leader on 28 June 1940, a Hawker Hurricane unit based at RAF Coltishall, mainly made up of Canadians who had suffered high losses in the Battle of France and had low morale. Despite initial resistance to their new commanding officer, the pilots were soon won over by Bader’s strong personality and perseverance, especially in cutting through red tape to make the squadron operational again. Bader transformed 242 Squadron back into an effective fighting unit. Upon the formation of No. 12 Group RAF, 242 Squadron was assigned to the Group while based at RAF Duxford. No. 242 Squadron only became fully operational on 9 July 1940.

Battle of Britain

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Bader sitting on his Hurricane, as commanding officer of No.242 Squadron after the Battle of France

After the French campaign, the RAF prepared for the coming Battle of Britain in which the Luftwaffe intended to achieve air supremacy. Once attained, the Germans would attempt to launch Operation Sea Lion, the code name for an invasion of Britain. The battle officially began on 10 July 1940.

  • On 11 July, Bader scored his first victory with his new squadron. The cloud base was down to just 600 feet while drizzle and mist covered most of the sky, and forward visibility was down to just 2,000 yards. Bader was alone on patrol, and was soon directed toward an enemy aircraft flying north up the Norfolk coast. Spotting the aircraft at 600 yards, Bader recognised it as a Dornier Do 17, and after he closed to 250 yards its rear gunner opened fire. Bader continued his attack and fired two bursts into the bomber before it vanished into cloud. The Dornier, which crashed into the sea off Cromer, was later confirmed by a member of the Royal Observer Corps.
  • On 21 August, a similar engagement took place. This time, a Dornier went into the sea off Great Yarmouth and again the Observer Corps confirmed the claim. There were no survivors.

Later in the month, Bader scored a further two victories over Messerschmitt Bf 110s.

  • On 30 August 1940, No. 242 Squadron was moved to Duxford again and found itself in the thick of the fighting. On this date, the squadron claimed 10 enemy aircraft, Bader scoring two victories against Bf 110s. Other squadrons were involved, and it was impossible to verify which RAF units were responsible for the damage on the enemy.
  • On 7 September, two more Bf 110s were shot down, but in the same engagement Bader was badly hit by a Messerschmitt Bf 109. Bader almost baled out, but recovered the Hurricane. Other pilots witnessed one of Bader’s victims crash.
  • On 7 September, Bader claimed two Bf 109s shot down, followed by a Junkers Ju 88.
  • On 9 September, Bader claimed another Dornier. During the same mission, he attacked a He 111 only to discover he was out of ammunition. Enraged, he thought about ramming it and slicing off the rudder with his propeller, but turned away when he regained his composure.

On 14 September, Bader was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for his combat leadership.

  • On 15 September, known as the Battle of Britain Day, Bader damaged a Do 17 and a Ju 88, while destroying another Do 17 in the afternoon. Bader flew several missions that day, which involved heavy air combat. The original combat report states that he destroyed one enemy aircraft, claimed no probable, but did claim several damaged. The Dornier’s gunner attempted to bail out, but his parachute was caught on the tail wheel and he died when the aircraft crashed into the Thames Estuary. Further detail suggests Bader took pity on the gunner and “tried to kill him to put him out of his misery”.
  • Another Do 17 and a Ju 88 were claimed on 18 September. A Bf 109 was claimed on 27 September. Bader was gazetted on 1 October 1940. On 24 September, he had been promoted to the war substantive rank of flight lieutenant.
As a friend and supporter of his 12 Group commander, Air Vice Marshal Trafford Leigh-Mallory, Bader joined him as an active exponent of the controversial “Big Wing” theory which provoked much debate in the RAF during the battle. Bader was an outspoken critic of the careful “husbanding” tactics being used by Air Vice Marshal Keith Park, the commander of 11 Group. Park was supported by Fighter Command Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding, the overall commander. Bader vociferously campaigned for an aggressive policy of assembling large formations of defensive fighters north of London ready to inflict maximum damage on the massed German bomber formations as they flew over South-East England. As the Battle progressed, Bader often found himself at the head of a composite wing of fighters consisting of up to five squadrons, known as the “Duxford Wing”. Achievements of the Big Wing were hard to quantify, as the large formations often took too long to form up, over claimed victories, and too often did not provide timely support of the over-committed 11 Group. The episode probably contributed to the departure of Park, who was replaced with Leigh-Mallory in November 1940, and Dowding. While it is not known whether Mallory and Bader were aware that the claims of the RAF and Big Wings were exaggerated, they certainly tried to use them as a potent tool with which to remove Park and Dowding from command and pursue the Big Wing tactic.  After the war, Bader insisted that both he and Leigh-Mallory wanted the Big Wing tactic enacted in 12 Group only. They both believed, according to Bader, that it was impractical to use it in 11 Group, as the command was located too close to the enemy and would not have enough time to assemble.

RAF ace Johnnie Johnson offered a balanced view of Bader and the Big Wing:

Douglas was all for the Big Wings to counter the German formation[s]. I think there was room for both tactics – the Big Wings and the small squadrons. It might well have been fatal had Park always tried to get his squadrons into “Balbos”, for not only would they have taken longer to get to their height, but sixty or seventy packed climbing fighters could have been seen for miles and would have been sitting ducks for higher 109s. Also, nothing would have pleased Göring more than for his 109s to pounce on large numbers of RAF fighters. Indeed, Adolf Galland and Werner Mölders complained about the elusiveness of Fighter Command and Park’s brilliance was that by refusing to concentrate his force he preserved it throughout the battle. This does not mean, as Bader pointed out at the time, that two or three Balbos from 10 and 12 Groups, gaining height beyond the range of the 109s, would not have played a terrific part in the fighting.

During the Battle of Britain, Bader used three Hawker Hurricanes. The first was P3061, in which he scored six air victories. The second aircraft was unknown, but Bader did score one victory and two damaged in it on 9 September. The third was V7467, in which he destroyed four more and added one probable and two damaged by the end of September. The machine was lost on 1 September 1941 while on a training exercise.

On 12 December 1940, Bader was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) for his services during the Battle of Britain. His unit, No. 242 Squadron, had claimed 62 aerial victories.  Bader was gazetted on 7 January 1941. By this time, he was an acting squadron leader.

Wing Leader

On 18 March 1941, Bader was promoted to acting wing commander and became one of the first “wing leaders”. Stationed at Tangmere with 145, 610 and 616 Squadrons under his command, Bader led his wing of Spitfires on sweeps and “Circus” operations (medium bomber escort) over north-western Europe throughout the summer campaign. These were missions combining bombers and fighters designed to lure out and tie down German Luftwaffe fighter units that might otherwise serve on the Russian front. One of the wing leader’s “perks” was permission to have his initials marked on his aircraft as personal identification, thus “D-B” was painted on the side of Bader’s Spitfire. These letters gave rise to his radio call-sign “Dogsbody”.

During 1941 his wing was re-equipped with Spitfire VBs, which had two Hispano 20 mm cannon and four .303 machine guns. Bader flew a Mk VA equipped with eight .303 machine guns, as he insisted that these guns were more effective against fighter opposition. His tactics required a close-in approach in which he felt the lower calibre weapons had a more devastating effect. At the time, RAF trials with wing-mounted cannons had also revealed many shortcomings that precluded a widespread acceptance of the armament.

Bader’s combat missions were mainly fought against Bf 109s over France and the Channel.

  • On 7 May 1941, he shot down one Bf 109 and claimed another as a probable victory. The German formation belonged to Jagdgeschwader 26 (Fighter Wing 26), which on that date was led in action by German ace Adolf Galland, and was also when Galland claimed his 68th victory. Bader and Galland met again 94 days later.
  • On 21 June 1941, Bader shot down a Bf 109E off the coast near Desvres. His victory was witnessed by two other pilots who saw a Bf 109 crash and the German pilot bail out.
  • On 25 June 1941 Bader shot down two more Bf 109Fs. The first was shot down between 11:58 and 13:35 off the coast of Gravelines; the pilot bailed out. In the same action he shared in the destruction of another Bf 109F. The second Bf 109 was shot down in the afternoon.

The following month was more successful for Bader.

  • On 2 July 1941, he was awarded the bar to his DSO. Later that day he claimed one Bf 109 destroyed and another damaged.
  • On 4 July, Bader fired on a Bf 109E which slowed down so much that he nearly collided with it. Squadron Leader Burton saw the entire combat and noted the Bf 109 “fell away in a sloppy fashion”, “as though the pilot had been hit”. It was marked as a probable.
  • On 6 July, another Bf 109 was shot down and the pilot bailed out. This victory was witnessed by Pilot Officers Johnnie Johnson and Alan Smith (Bader’s usual wingman).
  • On 9 July, Bader claimed one probable and one damaged, both trailing coolant or oil.
  • On 10 July Bader claimed a Bf 109 (and one damaged) over Bethune. Later, Bader destroyed a Bf 109E which blew up south of, or over, Calais.
  • On 12 July, Bader found further success, shooting down one Bf 109 and damaging three others between Bethune and St Omer. Bader was again gazetted on 15 July.
  • On 23 July, Bader claimed another Bf 109 damaged and possibly destroyed, even though the action resulted in two Bf 109s destroyed. The other was shot down by Squadron Leader Burton. Bader did not see his Bf 109 crash, so he claimed it as a damaged only, despite the fact pilots of No. 242 Squadron RAF saw two Bf 109s crash

Bader had been pushing for more sorties to fly in late 1941 but his Wing was tired. He was intent on adding to his score, which, according to the CO of No. 616 Squadron RAF Billy Burton, brought the other pilots and mood in his wing to a near-mutinous state. Trafford Leigh-Mallory, Bader’s immediate superior as OC No. 11 Group, Fighter Command, relented and allowed Bader to continue frequent missions over France even though his score of 20 and the accompanying strain evident on his features obliged Leigh-Mallory to consider his withdrawal from operations. Ultimately, Leigh-Mallory did not want to upset his star pilot, and did not invoke any restrictions.

Last combat

Between 24 March and 9 August 1941, Bader flew 62 fighter sweeps over France.

  • On 9 August 1941, Bader was flying a Spitfire Mk VA serial W3185 “D-B” on an offensive patrol over the French coast, looking for Messerschmitt Bf 109s from Abbeville or Wissant without his trusted wingman Alan Smith. Smith, who was described by fellow pilot Johnnie Johnson as “leechlike” and the “perfect number two”, was unable to fly on that day due to a head cold, so was in London being fitted for a new uniform ready for his officer commission. It is possible that this may have been a contributing factor as to how events unfolded. Just after Bader’s section of four aircraft crossed the coast, 12 Bf 109s were spotted flying in formation approximately 2,000 to 3,000 feet (600 to 900 metres) below them and travelling in the same direction. Bader dived on them too fast and too steeply to be able to aim and fire his guns, and barely avoided colliding with one of them. He levelled out at 24,000 feet (7,300 metres) to find that he was now alone, separated from his section, and was considering whether to return home when he spotted three pairs of Bf 109s a couple of miles in front of him. He dropped down below them and closed before destroying one of them with a short burst of fire from close range. Bader was just opening fire on a second Bf 109, which trailed white smoke and dropped down, when he noticed the two on his left turning towards him. At this point he decided it would be better to return home; however, making the mistake of banking away from them, Bader believed he had a mid-air collision with the second of the two Bf 109s on his right that were continuing straight ahead. Bader’s fuselage, tail and fin were gone from behind him, and he lost height rapidly at what he estimated to be 400 mph (640 km/hr) in a slow spin. He jettisoned the cockpit canopy, released his harness pin, and the air rushing past the open cockpit started to suck him out, but his prosthetic leg was trapped. Part way out of the cockpit and still attached to his aircraft, Bader fell for some time before he released his parachute, at which point the leg’s retaining strap snapped under the strain and he was pulled free.  A Bf 109 flew by some 50 yards away as he neared the ground at around 4,000 feet (1,200 metres).

Controversy over cause

Although Bader believed for years that he had collided in midair with a Bf 109, two other possibilities have later been put forward; that he was shot down by a German Bf 109, or alternatively that he may have been a victim of friendly fire.  Recent research shows no Bf 109 was lost to a collision that day, and there is also doubt that a German pilot was responsible for shooting him down. Feldwebel Max Meyer of II./Jagdgeschwader 26 flying a Bf 109 had claimed him shot down that morning and according to Luftwaffe records a Leutnant Kosse of 5./JG 26 and Meyer, of 6./JG 26 were the only German pilots to claim a victory that day. Furthermore, Meyer mentioned that he had followed the downed Spitfire and watched the pilot bail out, something which seems to match this passage in Bader’s memoirs:

I was floating in the sunshine above broken, white cloud … I heard an aeroplane just after I passed through. A Bf 109 flew past.

The quest to find Bader’s Spitfire, W3185, shed light on the demise of another famous wartime ace, Wilhelm Balthasar, Geschwaderkommodore of Jagdgeschwader 2, who was killed in action on 3 July 1941 when his Bf 109F crashed into Ferme Goset, Wittes, France. It was recovered in March 2004. Later, in the summer 2004, a further aircraft was discovered in Widdebrouch. It was found to be that of a Bf 109F, flown by Unteroffizier Albert Schlager of JG 26, who was reported missing during Bader’s last combat on 9 August 1941. A brief glimpse of hope was discovered later, when a Spitfire wreck was found. Inside was a flying helmet with the letters “DB” written on the top. It was later identified as a Spitfire IX, owing to the findings of a 20mm cannon (which Bader’s Spitfire did not have), and ammunition dated as 1943.

Bader’s aircraft was not found. It is likely that it came down at Mont Dupil Farm near the French village of Blaringhem, possibly near Desprez sawmill. A French witness, Jacques Taffin, saw the Spitfire disintegrating as it came down. He thought it had been hit by anti-aircraft fire, but none was active in the area. There were also no Spitfire remains in the area. The lack of any remains was not surprising, owing to the Spitfire breaking up on its descent. Historians have also been misled as to the whereabouts of the Spitfire because of a mistake in the book Reach for the Sky, in which Bader stated his leg had been dug out from the wreckage but was damaged, indicating a definite crash site. Bader’s leg had been found in an open field.

Prisoner of war

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Colditz Castle in April 1945. Bader was a prisoner here for nearly three years

The Germans treated Bader with great respect. When he bailed out, Bader’s right prosthetic leg became trapped in the aircraft, and he escaped only when the leg’s retaining straps snapped after he pulled the ripcord on his parachute. General Adolf Galland notified the British of his damaged leg and offered them safe passage to drop off a replacement. Hermann Göring himself gave the green light for the operation. The British responded on 19 August 1941 with the “Leg Operation” — an RAF bomber could drop a new prosthetic leg by parachute to St Omer, a Luftwaffe base in occupied France, as part of Circus 81 involving six Bristol Blenheims and a sizeable fighter escort. The Germans were less impressed when, task done, the bombers proceeded on to their bombing mission to Gosnay Power Station near Bethune, although bad weather prevented the target being attacked. Galland stated in an interview that the aircraft dropped the leg after bombing Galland’s airfield. Galland did not meet Bader again until summer 1945, when he, Günther Rall and Hans-Ulrich Rudel arrived at RAF Tangmere as prisoners of war. Bader, according to Rall, personally arranged for Rudel, a fellow amputee, to be fitted with an artificial leg.

Bader escaped from the hospital where he was recovering by tying together many sheets. Initially the “rope” did not reach the ground; with the help of another patient, he slid the sheet from under the comatose New Zealand pilot, Bill Russell of No. 485 Squadron, who had had his arm amputated the day before. Russell’s bed was then moved to the window to act as an anchor. A French maid at the St. Omer hospital attempted to get in touch with British agents to enable Douglas to escape back to Britain. She later brought a letter from a peasant couple (a Mr. and Mrs. Hiecques), who promised to shelter him outside St. Omer until he could be passed further down the line. Until then, their son would wait outside the hospital every night until there was a chance of escape. Eventually, he escaped out of a window. The plan worked initially. Bader completed the long walk to the safe house despite wearing a British uniform. Unfortunately for him, the plan was betrayed by another woman at the hospital. He hid in the garden when a German staff car arrived at the house, but was found later. Bader denied that the couple had known he was there. They, along with the French woman at the hospital, were sent for forced labour in Germany. The couple survived. After the war, French authorities sentenced the woman informer to 20 years in prison.

Over the next few years, Bader made himself a thorn in the side of the Germans. He often practised what the RAF personnel called “goon-baiting”. He considered it his duty to cause as much trouble to the enemy as possible, much of which included escape attempts. He made so many escape attempts that the Germans threatened to take away his legs. In August 1942, Bader escaped with Johnny Palmer and three others from the camp at Stalag Luft III B in Sagan. Unluckily, a Luftwaffe officer of Jagdgeschwader 26 was in the area. Keen to meet the Tangmere wing leader, he dropped by to see Bader, but when he knocked on his door, there was no answer. Soon the alarm was raised, and a few days later, Bader was recaptured. During the escape attempt, the Germans produced a poster of Bader and Palmer asking for information. It described Bader’s disability and said he “walks well with stick”. Twenty years later, Bader was sent a copy of it by a Belgian civilian prisoner, who had worked in a Gestapo office in Leipzig. Bader found this amusing, as he had never used a stick.  He was finally dispatched to the “escape-proof” Colditz Castle Oflag IV-C on 18 August 1942, where he remained until 15 April 1945 when it was liberated by the First United States Army.

Last years in the RAF

After his return to Britain, Bader was given the honour of leading a victory flypast of 300 aircraft over London in June 1945. On 1 July, he was promoted to temporary wing commander. Soon after, Bader was looking for a post in the RAF. Air Marshal Richard Atcherley, a former Schneider Trophy pilot, was commanding the Central Fighter Establishment at Tangmere. He and Bader had been junior officers at Kenley in 1930, while serving in No. 23 Squadron RAF. Bader was given the post of the Fighter Leader’s School commanding officer. He received a promotion to war substantive wing commander on 1 December and soon after was promoted to temporary group captain.

Unfortunately for Bader, fighter aircraft’s roles had now grown significantly and he spent most of his time instructing on ground attack and co-operation with ground forces. Also, Bader did not get on with the newer generation of squadron leaders who considered him to be “out of date“. In the end, Air Marshal James Robb offered Bader a role commanding the North Weald sector of No. 11 Group RAF, an organisation steeped in Fighter Command and Battle of Britain history.  It is likely Bader would have stayed in the RAF for some time had his mentor Leigh-Mallory not been killed in an air crash in November 1944, such was the respect and influence he held over Bader, but Bader’s enthusiasm for continued service in the RAF waned.  On 21 July 1946, Bader retired from the RAF with the rank of group captain to take a job at Royal Dutch Shell.

Post-war career

Bader considered politics, and standing as a Member of Parliament for his home constituency in the House of Commons. He despised how the three main political parties used war veterans for their own political ends. Instead, he resolved to join Shell. His decision was not motivated by money, but a willingness to repay a debt. Shell had been ready to take him on, aged 23, after his accident.  He spent most of his time abroad flying around in a company-owned Percival Proctor and later a Miles Gemini. On one mission, between 15 August and 16 September 1946, Bader was sent on a public relations mission for Shell around Europe and North Africa with United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) General James Doolittle.

Bader became Managing Director of Shell Aircraft until he retired in 1969. He travelled to every major country outside the Communist world, becoming internationally famous and a popular after-dinner speaker on aviation matters. In 1975, he spoke at the funeral of Keith Park.

Personality

Bader’s controversial traits were touched upon by Brickhill in the book Reach for the Sky. “He is a somewhat ‘difficult’ person,” Brickhill told (Sir) Billy Collins, head of his publishing house William Collins and Sons, after spending over a year talking to him.  Nevertheless, Bader was received as a legendary figure by the wider public, who closely identified him as a leader of The Few in the Battle of Britain. Bader also wrote the foreword to Hans-Ulrich Rudel’s biography Stuka Pilot. Even when it emerged that Rudel was a fervent supporter of the Nazi Party, Bader said that prior knowledge would not have changed his mind about his contribution.

Personal life

Bader’s first wife, Thelma, developed throat cancer in 1967. Aware that her survival was unlikely, the two spent as much time with each other as possible. Thelma was a smoker, and although she stopped smoking, it did not save her. After a long battle, she died on 24 January 1971.  Bader married Joan Murray (née Hipkiss) on 3 January 1973. They spent the remainder of their lives in the village of Marlston, Berkshire. Joan was the daughter of a steel tycoon.  Bader campaigned vigorously for people with disabilities and set an example of how to overcome a disability. In June 1976, Bader was knighted for his services to disabled people. Actor John Mills and Air Vice-Marshal Neil Cameron attended the ceremony.

Other awards followed. Bader maintained his interest in aviation, and in 1977 he was made a fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society. He also received a Doctorate of Science from Queen’s University Belfast. Bader was also busy acting as a consultant to Aircraft Equipment International at Ascot, Berkshire. Bader’s health was in decline in the 1970s, and he soon gave up flying altogether. On 4 June 1979, Bader flew his Beech 95 Travelair for the last time, the aircraft having been gifted to him on his retirement from Shell. He had recorded 5,744 hours and 25 minutes flying time. Bader’s friend Adolf Galland followed Bader into retirement soon afterwards for the same reasons.

His workload was exhausting for a legless man with a worsening heart condition. On 5 September 1982, after a dinner honouring Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir Arthur “Bomber” Harris at the Guildhall, at which he spoke, Bader died of a heart attack while being driven through Chiswick, west London, on his way home.

Among the many dignitaries and personalities at his funeral was Adolf Galland. Galland and Douglas Bader had shared a friendship that spanned more than 42 years since their first meeting in France. Although Galland was on a business trip to California, he made sure to attend the memorial service held for Bader at the St Clement Danes Church in the Strand.

Peter Tory wrote in his London Diary newspaper column:
Certainly Bader, had he been present, would have instantly recognised the stranger in the dark raincoat. Stomping over to his side, he would have banged him on the back and bellowed: “Bloody good show, glad you could come!”— Peter Tory

Tributes

Douglas Bader House in Fairford is now the headquarters for the RAF Charitable Trust

A biography about Douglas Bader by Paul Brickhill, Reach for the Sky, was published in 1954. Some 172,000 copies were sold in the first few months alone. The feature film of the same title was released in 1956, starring Kenneth More as Bader, topping the box office in Britain that year.

Honours and awards

  • 1 October 1940 – Acting Squadron Leader Bader (26151) is appointed a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order:
  • This officer had displayed, gallantry and leadership of the highest order. During three recent engagements, he has led his squadron with such skill and ability that thirty-three enemy aircraft have been destroyed. During these engagements Squadron Leader Bader had added to his previous successes by destroying six enemy aircraft
  • London Gazette: 7 January 1941 – Acting Squadron Leader Bader, DSO (26151), No. 242 Squadron is awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross:
  • Squadron Leader Bader has continued to lead his squadron and wing with the utmost gallantry on all occasions. He has now destroyed a total of ten hostile aircraft and damaged several more.
  • London Gazette: 15 July 1941 – Acting Wing Commander Bader, DSO, DFC (26151) is awarded a bar to the Distinguished Service Order:
  • This officer has led his wing on a series of consistently successful sorties over enemy territory during the past three months. His high qualities of leadership and courage have been an inspiration to all. Wing Commander Bader has destroyed 15 hostile aircraft.
  • London Gazette: 9 September 1941 – Acting Wing Commander Bader, DSO, DFC (26151) is awarded a bar to the Distinguished Flying Cross in recognition of gallantry displayed in flying operations against the enemy:
  • The fearless pilot has recently added a further four enemy aircraft to his previous successes; in addition he has probably destroyed another four and damaged five hostile aircraft. By his fine leadership and high courage Wing Commander Bader has inspired the wing on every occasion.
  • London Gazette: 2 January 1956 – Group Captain Bader, DSO, DFC is appointed a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for services to the disabled.
  • 12 June 1976 – Group Captain Bader, CBE, DSO, DFC is made a Knight Bachelor for services to disabled people.

Combat credos

Bader attributed his success to the belief in the three basic rules, shared by the German ace Erich Hartmann:

  • If you had the height, you controlled the battle.
  • If you came out of the sun, the enemy could not see you.
  • If you held your fire until you were very close, you seldom missed.

DB5
Douglas Bader by Cuthbert Orde, March 1941
  • Nickname(s): Dogsbody
  • Born: 21 February 1910, St John’s Wood, London
  • Died: 5 September 1982 (aged 72) Chiswick, London
  • Allegiance: United Kingdom
  • Service/branch Royal Air Force
  • Years of service 1928–1933; 1939–1946
  • Rank: Group Captain
  • Service number 26151

Commands held

  • Tangmere Wing
  • Duxford Wing
  • 242 Squadron

Battles/wars

  • Second World War
  • Battle of France
  • Battle of Dunkirk
  • Operation Dynamo
  • Battle of Britain
  • Adlertag
  • The Hardest Day
  • Battle of Britain Day
  • The Blitz
  • Channel Front (POW)

Awards

  • Knight Bachelor
  • Commander of the Order of the British Empire
  • Distinguished Service Order & Bar
  • Distinguished Flying Cross & Bar
  • Mentioned in Dispatches

Other work

  • Aviation consultant
  • Disabled activist

Courtesy of Wikipedia.org

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Air Aces

Pilots of the warring nations in WWII who are acknowledged as aces, i.e., they have shot down opponent aircraft in a number which accords them the title.


Russia

 

101_2797101_2803101_2814101_2815101_2820101_2833 (1)

 

British

 

squadron-leader-andrew-mckenzie-raf-8-killswing-commander-douglas-ian-benham-raf-11-killswing-commander-geoffrey-page-raf-5-killswing-commander-peter-brothers-raf-11-killswing-commander-roland-beam-raf-10-kills

 

300px-ray_flying_legends_2005-1de-havilland-mosquitohurricane-3lancastersea-fury

  • Wing Commander Peter Brothers, RAF, 15 victories
  • Wing Commander Douglas Ian Benham, RAF, 11+ victories
  • Wing Commander Roland Beam, RAF, 10 victories
  • Squadron Leader Andrew McKenzie, RAF, 8+ victories
  • Wing Commander Geoffrey Page, RAF, 5 victories

American

 

capt-clayton-gross-usaaf-6-killscapt-donald-gentile-usaaf-21-killscapt-george-chandler-usaaf-5-killscapt-gerald-brown-usaaf-5-killsgabbylt-butch-varis-us-navy-7-killslt-col-john-mitchell-usaaf-16-killsmajor-james-goodson-usaaf-15-killsmajor-walker-bud-mahurin-usaaf-24-killsmajor-walter-beckam-usaaf-18-kills

 

 

 

  • Lt. Col. Francis “Gabby” Gabreski, USAAF, 28 victories
  • Capt. Joe Foss, USMC, 26 victories
  • Major Walker “Bud” Mahurin, USAAF, 24+ victories
  • Capt. Donald Gentile, USAAF, 21+ victories
  • Capt. Ken Walsh, US Marine Corps, 21 victories
  • Major Walter Beckam, USAAF, 18 victories
  • Lt. Col. John Mitchell, USAAF, 16 victories
  • Major James Goodson,USAAF, 15 victories
  • Capt. Jack Ilfrey, USAAF, 8 victories
  • Capt. Butch Varis, US Navy, 7+ victories
  • Capt. Clayton Gross, USAAF, 6 victories

 

French

 

georges-guynemere-wwi
Georges Guynemere

Pierre Clostermann

While serving with No. 341 Squadron RAF (right)

Pierre Henri Clostermann ((28 February 1921 – 22 March 2006) was a French flying ace, author, engineer, politician, and sporting fisherman. Over his flying career he was awarded the Grand-Croix of the French Légion d’Honneur, French Croix de Guerre, DSO, DFC and bar (United Kingdom), Distinguished Service Cross (USA), Silver Star (USA), and the Air Medal (USA).

Early life

Clostermann was born in Curitiba, Brazil, into a French diplomatic family. He was the only son of Madeleine Carlier from Lorraine and Jacques Clostermann from Alsace. After receiving flying tuition from German pilot Karl Benitz (died in 1943, Russia), he completed his secondary education in France and gained his private pilot’s licence in 1937.

Wartime service

On the outbreak of war, the French authorities refused his application for service, so he travelled to Los Angeles to become a commercial pilot, studying at the California Institute of Technology. Clostermann joined the Free French Air Force in Britain in March 1942.

After training at RAF Cranwell and 61 OTU, Clostermann, a sergeant pilot, was posted in January 1943 to No. 341 Squadron RAF (known to the Free French as Groupe de Chasse n° 3/2 “Alsace”), flying the Supermarine Spitfire.

Spitfires 1943–44

He scored his first two victories on 27 July 1943, destroying two Focke-Wulf Fw 190s over France. With 33 recorded victories to his name, he received at only 24 years of age, a Commendation by General Charles de Gaulle, who called him

“France’s First Fighter”.

While serving in Lincolnshire, Pierre met and married Lydia Jeanne Starbuck at St Denys Church in Sleaford.

In October 1943, Clostermann was commissioned and assigned to No. 602 Squadron RAF, remaining with the unit for the next ten months. He flew a variety of missions including fighter sweeps, bomber escorts, high-altitude interdiction over the Royal Navy’s Scapa Flow base, and strafing or dive-bombing attacks on V-1 launch sites on the French coast. Clostermann served through D-Day and was one of the first Free French pilots to land on French soil, at temporary airstrip B-11, near Longues-sur-Mer, Normandy on 18 June 1944, touching French soil for the first time in more than four years. Clostermann was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross shortly afterwards, after which he was reassigned to French Air Force Headquarters.

Tempests 1945

In December 1944, Clostermann returned to the front line on secondment to the RAF as a supernumerary flight lieutenant. Clostermann joined No. 274 Squadron RAF flying the new Hawker Tempest Mk V. In an aircraft which he dubbed Le Grand Charles, Clostermann flew an intensive and highly successful round of fighter sweeps, airfield attacks, “rat scramble” interceptions of Messerschmitt 262 jet fighters, and rail interdiction missions over northern Germany over the next two months.

In March 1945, Clostermann briefly served with No. 56 Squadron before a transfer to No. 3 Squadron. On 24 March 1945, he was wounded in the leg by German flak and after belly-landing his badly damaged aircraft, he was hospitalized for a week. From 8  April he was commander of “A” Flight, No. 3 Squadron RAF. Clostermann was awarded a bar to his DFC for his successful tour of duty. He had to bail out for the first time on 12 May 1945, when during a victory fly-past, another Tempest collided with his aircraft, and because of this horrific collision the four planes of his flight went down, with three pilots dying. Clostermann’s parachute opened just a few yards above the ground. Clostermann continued operations with No. 122 Wing RAF until he left the military altogether on 27 July 1945 with the rank of wing commander.

In his 432 sorties, Clostermann was credited officially with 33 victories (19 solo, 14 shared, most of them against fighters) and five “probables”, with eight more “damaged”. He also claimed 225 motor vehicles destroyed, 72 locomotives, five tanks, and two E-boats (fast torpedo boats). Many references credit him with 29 to 33 victories, although these probably include his “ground” kills of enemy aircraft. Recent, more detailed analysis of his combat reports and squadron accounts indicate that his true score was 11 destroyed, with possibly another seven, for a total of 15–18 victories.

Postwar

Clostermann wrote a very successful book, The Big Show (Le Grand Cirque), on his experiences in the war. One of the very first post-war fighter pilot memoirs, its various editions have sold over two and a half million copies. William Faulkner commented that this is the finest aviation book to come out of World War II. The book was reprinted, in expanded form, in both paperback and hardcover editions in 2004. He also wrote Flames in the Sky (Feu du Ciel) (1957), a collection of heroic air combat exploits from both Allied and Axis sides.

After the war, Clostermann continued his career as an engineer, participating in the creation of Reims Aviation, supporting the Max Holste Broussard prototype, acting as a representative for Cessna, and working for Renault. In parallel, Clostermann had a successful political career, serving eight terms as a député (Member of Parliament) in the French National Assembly between 1946 and 1969.

He also briefly re-enlisted in the Armée de l’Air in 1956–57 to fly ground attack missions during the Algerian War. He subsequently wrote a novel based on his experiences there, entitled “Leo 25 Airborne”.

During the 1982 Falklands War between Argentina and the UK, Clostermann praised Argentine pilots for their courage. Because of this perceived “betrayal” of the RAF, Clostermann attracted hostility from parts of the English press. He also attracted controversy in France for his vehement anti-war stance in the run-up to the 1991 Gulf War.

Tributes and honours: on 6 June 2004, a road in Longues-sur-Mer, near temporary airstrip B-11, was named after Clostermann.

French decorations

Grand Croix de la Légion d’Honneur; Compagnon de l’Ordre de la Libération – 21 January 1946; Médaille Militaire; Croix de Guerre 1939-45, with 19 citations including 17 to the level of the army (palms) and 2 stars; Croix de la Valeur Militaire with 2 citations; Médaille de la Résistance with rosette; Médaille de l’Aéronautique; Médaille Commémorative des Opérations de Sécurité et de Maintien de l’Ordre; Insigne des blessés militaires; Médaille commémorative des services volontaires dans la France libre; Médaille commémorative de la guerre 1939–1945; 

Foreign orders and decorations

 Grand Officer of the Nichan Iftikhar (Tunisia); Commander of the Order of Ouissam Alaouite (Morocco); Knight of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre (Vatican); Croix de guerre (Belgium); Distinguished Service Order or DSO (United Kingdom); Distinguished Flying Cross or DFC (United Kingdom) with bar (United Kingdom) – Well known as DFC and bar; Distinguished Service Cross (USA)Silver Star (USA)Air Medal (USA)Santos-Dumont Merit Medal (Brazil)

——————————————————————————————————————————

 

RM1
René Mouchotte and Sqn Ldr “Jack” Charles at RAF Biggin Hill in May 1943

Commandant René Mouchotte DFC (21 August 1914 – 27 August 1943) was a World War II pilot of the French Air Force, who escaped from Vichy French–controlled Oran to join the Free French forces. Serving with RAF Fighter Command, he rose to command a fighter wing before being shot down and killed on 27 August 1943.

Born into a wealthy family on 21 August 1914 in Paris, Mouchotte began his military service in October 1935 with the French Air Force at Istres, where he was promoted to corporal (April 1936), master corporal (March 1937) and sergeant (April 1937); he qualified as a pilot in February 1937. In January 1939, he transferred to the reserve and resumed civilian life. Recalled in September 1939, he was posted to training establishments at Salon-de-Provence and Avord as a flying instructor. Despite several requests to join a fighter squadron, he was transferred to Oran in May 1940 for a conversion course to twin-engined aircraft. After the Armistice, the pilots on the base were ordered not to escape to join the Free French and the aircraft were placed under armed guard. Despite this, Mouchotte and five comrades (including Henry Lafont) escaped in a twin-engined Caudron Goéland aircraft, only to find that the controls for the variable-pitch propellers had been disabled, making the take-off hazardous. However they did manage to land in Gibraltar and later transferred to the Free French armed trawler, Président Houduce and sailed to England.

In Britain

RM2
Hurricanes of 615 Squadron land at RAF Northolt in November 1940

After arriving in Britain Mouchotte trained at RAF Old Sarum and RAF Sutton Bridge on Hawker Hurricanes, before being posted to No. 615 Squadron RAF at RAF Northolt in northwest London. He carried out his first operational sortie on 11 October 1940. The squadron moved to RAF Kenley in December 1940 and in August 1941 Mouchotte participated in the shooting-down of a Junkers 88. In November 1941 he transferred to RAF Turnhouse, where the Free French No. 340 Squadron RAF was training on Spitfires; he became a flight commander in February 1942 and subsequently squadron commander of No. 65 Squadron RAF, the first RAF squadron to be commanded by a non-Commonwealth officer. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross on 1 September 1942.

Finally he took command of No. 341 Squadron RAF (Groupe de Chasse n° 3/2 “Alsace”) with the Biggin Hill Wing. On 15 May 1943, S/L ‘Jack’ Charles (611 squadron) and Mouchotte both destroyed a Fw 190 of I./JG 2, as the Biggin Hill Wing’s 999th and 1,000th kill claim.

He was shot down and killed in combat with Fw 190s of JG 2 during Ramrod S.8, escorting Flying Fortresses on the first daylight raid to Blockhaus d’Éperlecques in the Pas de Calais on 27 August 1943. His body was later washed ashore on 3 September and was buried in Middelkerke, Belgium. After the War in 1949, his body was exhumed, repatriated and buried in the family tomb at Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris on 3 November after a memorial service with full military honours conducted at Les Invalides in Paris.

He had accumulated some 1,748 flying hours, including 408 operational hours flying 382 war sorties. He had claimed two aircraft destroyed (with a further one “shared”), one “probable” and one damaged.

German

12529_10152326199576701_7435841505229164606_n13982_10152326178356701_8847103088706952765_n10455058_10152326182516701_5752663014123400017_n10557450_10152326184281701_2953713942176288009_n10647227_10152326205986701_3601152906146113656_n10649789_10152326173206701_6866606696200348524_n10653849_10152326180056701_5586122016192369861_n10696259_10152326204661701_517879451494325570_n

  • Major Erich Hartmann, 352 victories
  • Major Gunther Rall,  275 victories
  • Col. Johannes “Mackie” Steinhoff 176 victories
  • Lt. Col. Dietrich Hrabak, 125 victories
  • Major Walter Krupinski, 107 victories
  • General Major Adolf Galland, 104 victories
  • Major Wolfgang Spate, 99 victories
  • Lt. Col. Hans-Joachim Jabs, 50 victories
  • Major Fritz Losigkeit

 

Walter Nowotny

 

WN
Walter Nowotny 
  • Born  7 December 1920, Gmünd, Austria
  • Died  8 November 1944 (aged 23), Hesepe, Nazi Germany
  • Buried: Zentralfriedhof Vienna
  • Allegiance: Nazi Germany
  • Service/branch: Luftwaffe
  • Years of service: 1939–44
  • Rank Major
  • Service number NSDAP 6,382,781
  • Unit   JG 54, JG 101 and Kommando Nowotny

Commands held: /JG 54, JG 101, Kommando Nowotny

Battles/wars

  • World War II
  • Operation Barbarossa
  • Eastern Front
  • Defense of the Reich

Awards: Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds

 Walter Nowotny (7 December 1920 – 8 November 1944) was an Austrian-born fighter ace of the Luftwaffe in World War II. He is credited with 258 aerial victories—that is, 258 aerial combat encounters resulting in the destruction of the enemy aircraft—in 442 combat missions. Nowotny achieved 255 of these victories on the Eastern Front and three while flying one of the first jet fighters, the Messerschmitt Me 262, in the Defense of the Reich. He scored most of his victories in the Focke-Wulf  Fw 190, and approximately 50 in the Messerschmitt Bf 109.[1]

Nowotny joined the Luftwaffe in 1939 and completed his fighter pilot training in 1941, after which he was posted to Jagdgeschwader 54 “Grünherz” (JG 54) on the Eastern Front. Nowotny was the first pilot to achieve 250 victories – 194 in 1943 alone – earning him the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds (Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds) on 19 October 1943. For propaganda reasons, he was ordered to cease operational flying.

Reinstated to front-line service in September 1944, Nowotny tested and developed tactics for the Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighter. He was credited with three victories in this aircraft type before being killed in a crash following combat with United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) fighters on 8 November 1944. After his death, the first operational jet fighter wing, Jagdgeschwader 7“Nowotny”, was named in his honour.

Luftwaffe career

Nowotny’s military basic training began at the 2. Flieger-Ausbildungsregiment 62 in Quedlinburg (1 October 1939 – 15 November 1939) and continued at the Luftkriegschule 5 in Breslau-Schöngarten (16 November 1939 – 30 June 1940). He was promoted to FahnenjunkerGefreiten on 1 March 1940 and shortly afterwards, on 1 April 1940, to Fahnenjunker-Unteroffizier. On 1 July 1940, Notwotny was promoted again, to the rank of Fähnrich. He completed his pilot training and received the Pilot Badge on 19 August 1940. Nowotny also trained as a fighter pilot at the Jagdfliegerschule 5 in Wien-Schwechat (1 August 1940 – 15 November 1940), the same school that Hans-Joachim Marseille had attended one year earlier. One of his teachers at the Jagdfliegerschule 5 was the Austro-Hungarian World War I ace Julius Arigi. Here Nowotny befriended Karl Schnörrer and Paul Galland, the younger brother of General der Jagdflieger Adolf Galland. After graduation from the Jagdfliegerschule 5, Nowotny was transferred to the I./Ergänzungs-Jagdgruppe Merseburg on 16 November 1940, flying fighter cover for the Leuna industrial works.

 With Jagdgeschwader 54

WN2
Focke-Wulf Fw 190A-4 JG 54

Nowotny was posted to the Ergänzungsstaffel (Training/Supplement Squadron) of Jagdgeschwader 54 (JG 54) on 1 December 1940. JG 54 at the time was under the command of Major Hannes Trautloft. Nowotny was transferred again, this time to the 9th Staffel of JG 54 (9./JG 54), the so-called Teufelsstaffel (Devils’ Squadron) where he was further trained by veterans from the front line (23 February 1941 – 25 March 1941). From 25 March 1941 to 10 March 1942, Notwotny flew with the Stabsstaffel of the Ergänzungs-Jagdgruppe JG 54 where he was promoted to Leutnant on 1 April 1941, effective as of 1 February 1941.

Nowotny flew a Messerschmitt Bf 109 E-7 “White 2” on his 24th operational mission on 19 July 1941 and claimed his first two enemy aircraft, both Polikarpov I-153 biplanes of Voenno-Vozdushnye Sily (VVS—Military Air Forces) KBF’s 12 OIAE/61 BAB, over Saaremaa. He was shot down in the same engagement by Aleksandr Avdeyev, also in a Polikarpov I-153. According to Soviet archives, no Soviet aircraft was lost in the engagement. Nowotny spent three days in a dinghy in the Gulf of Riga – on one occasion almost being run down by a Soviet destroyer – until finally being washed ashore on the Latvian coast.

Nowotny quickly recovered from his ordeal and on 31 July claimed a Beriev MBR-2 flying boat north-west of Saaremaa and an Ilyushin DB-3 bomber south of the island. For the rest of his combat career, Nowotny always wore the trousers (German: Abschußhose roughly “shoot down pants” sometimes also referred to as “victory pants”) that he had worn during those three days in the Gulf of Riga – with one exception, his last sortie, at Achmer on 8 November 1944, when he was killed flying the Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighter.

In 1942, Nowotny increased his tally of victories and claimed his 30th and 31st kills on 11 July over the Wolchow bridgehead, which earned him the Luftwaffe Honor Goblet on 14 July 1942. Nowotny shot down a further five aircraft on a single day (32nd – 36th victories) on 20 July and seven (48th – 54th victories) on 2 August. After having downed three enemy aircraft on 11 August, Leutnant Nowotny carried out three victory passes over the airfield, despite having sustained combat damage to his own Bf 109 “Black 1”. In the subsequent landing, his aircraft somersaulted and he sustained moderate injuries. Walter Nowotny was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross on 4 September, after 56 aerial victories. The Knight’s Cross earned him a home leave to Vienna. Here, the brothers Hubert and Walter met for the last time before Hubert was killed at Stalingrad.[3][16] LeutnantNowotny was made Staffelkapitän of 1./JG 54 on 25 October, replacing Oberleutnant Heinz Lange.

In January 1943, JG 54 started converting to the agile Focke-Wulf 190 fighter. With the new aircraft, Nowotny scored at an unprecedented “kill” rate, often averaging more than two planes a day for weeks on end. As of 1 February 1943, Nowotny, Karl Schnörrer, – Nowotny’s wingman since late 1942 – Anton Döbele and Rudolf Rademacher, formed a team known as the “chain of devils” (Teufelskette) or the Nowotny Schwarm, which during the course of the war was credited with 524 combined kills, making them the most successful team in the Luftwaffe.

Nowotny scored his 69th to 72nd victory on 16 March. He reached the century mark on 5 June 1943, on his 344th combat mission. He was the 42nd Luftwaffe pilot to achieve the century mark. By 24 June, he would accumulate a further 24 victories increasing his total to 124. On 21 August, Nowotny was made Gruppenkommandeur of I./JG 54. In August alone, he shot down 49 aircraft – a number matched exactly by Jagdgeschwader 52‘s (JG 52) Erich Hartmann – bringing Nowotny’s total to 161  victories. On 1 September, he scored ten victories in two sorties, which took his tally to 183. Seventy-two hours later, that number had risen to 189, earning him the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves on 8 September. The award was to be personally presented by the FührerAdolf Hitler, on 22 September 1943. However, by this date Nowotny had claimed his double century (200) on 8 September, and, on 15 September, his 215th victory, making him the highest-scoring pilot in the Luftwaffe to that time. Two Lavochkin La-5s and a Yakovlev Yak-9 on 17 September brought his score to 218 victories, earning him Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords on 22 September 1943. The planned “Oakleaves” (Eichenlaub) presentation thus became a Swords (Schwerter) ceremony.[25]

 Diamonds

Nowotny was promoted to Hauptmann on 21 September 1943, effective as of 1 October, following his 225th victory. On 14 October 1943, he became the first pilot to reach 250 victories, following his 442 combat missions. Nowotny was celebrating this feat in the Ria Bar in Vilna when he received a phone call from Hitler himself, announcing that he had been awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds, making him the eighth of 27 men to be so honored.

The Brillanten (Diamonds) were presented by Hitler at the Wolfsschanze, near Kętrzyn (German: Rastenburg) on 19 October 1943. Nowotny immediately went on a short vacation to Vienna before returning to his front-line unit. On 29 October 1943, Nowotny presented the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross to Oberfeldwebel Otto Kittel. In the days following, Nowotny flew as wingman to Karl Schnörrer, helping him accumulate further victories. On 11 November, Anton Döbele was killed when he rammed an Il-2 Sturmovik. The next day, 12 November 1943, Schnörrer was severely injured after bailing out at low altitude. Schnörrer was replaced as Nowotny’s wingman by Unteroffizier Ernst Richter. With Richter, Nowotny claimed his final two aerial victories on the Eastern Front on 15 November 1943. In total, Nowotny had claimed 255 confirmed kills plus a further 50 unconfirmed, before he was taken off combat duty.

Nowotny was sent on a propaganda tour in Germany, which included the presentation of the Knight’s Cross of the War Merit Cross to the railroad engineer August Kindervater on 7 December 1943 – Nowotny’s 23rd birthday. Shortly before Christmas, he visited the Focke-Wulf production site at Bad Eilsen, where he was met by Professor Kurt Tank. The mayor of Vienna, Dipl.-Ing. Hanns Blaschke awarded Nowotny the city’s ring of honor on 11 January 1944, the presentation taking place a week later. It was a token that Nowotny accepted reluctantly, feeling that he did not deserve it. His next official visit was the Büromaschinenfabrik (office machinery factory) at Zella-Mehlis, before he briefly returned to Jagdgeschwader 54. Nowotny was made Geschwaderkommodore of Jagdgeschwader 101 (JG 101) and commander of the Jagdfliegerschule 1, a Luftwaffe fighter pilot training school at Pau in southern France, in April 1944.

 Kommando Nowotny and death

WN3
Me 262 A, 25 April 1945

In September 1944, Nowotny was made commander of a specialist unit dubbed Kommando Nowotny, flying the newly developed Messerschmitt Me 262 out of airfields near Osnabrück. The unit not only had to contend with the enemy, but also with working through the ‘teething’ phase of the Me 262 and developing the tactics appropriate for a jet unit. On 7 October, Nowotny downed a B-24 Liberator bomber, his first aerial victory on the Western Front.

Generals Alfred Keller and Adolf Galland had scheduled an inspection at Achmer for the afternoon of 7 November 1944. Galland had already visited Kommando Nowotny several times and was deeply concerned over the high attrition rate and meager success achieved by the Me 262. After inspecting the two airfields at Achmer and Hesepe, he stayed in the Penterknapp barracks discussing the problems of the past few weeks. Several pilots openly expressed their doubts as to the readiness of the Me 262 for combat operations.

The next morning, 8 November 1944, the Generals arrived again at Nowotny’s command post and Keller declared that the aces of the past years had become cowards and that the Luftwaffe had lost its fighting spirit. Shortly after, news reached the command post of a large bomber formation approaching.

Two Rotten of Me 262 were prepared for take-off, Erich Büttner and Franz Schall at Hesepe, and Nowotny and Günther Wegmann at Achmer. At first only Schall and Wegmann managed to take off because Büttner had a punctured tire during taxiing and Nowotny’s turbines initially refused to start. With some delay, Nowotny took off and engaged the enemy on his own, Schall and Wegmann having since retired from the action after sustaining battle damage. Nowotny radioed that he had downed a B-24 Liberator and a P-51 Mustang before he reported one engine failing and made one final garbled transmission containing the word “burning”. Helmut Lennartz recalled:

“I remember Nowotny’s crash very well. Feldwebel Gossler, a radio operator with our unit, had set up a radio on the airfield. Over this set I and many others listened to the radio communications with Nowotny’s aircraft. His last words were, “I’m on fire” or “it’s on fire”. The words were slightly garbled.

It remains unclear whether Nowotny was killed due to engine failure or whether he was shot down by United States Army Air Forces(USAAF) Captain Ernest Fiebelkorn (20th Fighter Group) and 1st Lieutenant Edward “Buddy” Haydon (357th Fighter Group) east of Hesepe. In recent years, United States military historians proposed that Nowotny’s victor may have been P-51D pilot Lieutenant Richard W. Stevens of the 364th Fighter Group. Many witnesses observed Nowotny’s Me 262 A-1a Werk Nummer 110 400 (factory number) “White 8” dive vertically out of the clouds and crash at Epe, 2.5 kilometres (1.6 mi) east of Hesepe. The Wehrmacht announced his death on 9 November 1944 in the daily Wehrmachtbericht.

 

Japan

 

101_2879

 

101_2692101_26911

 

Courtesy of Wikipedia.org for some photographa

A Tribute to a Pakistan Hero

Soldiers of Pakistan; men of honour; defenders of the motherland: they are aplenty, as are their stories. Each story unique, each man precious, each one a hero. But some of them stand out even among the multitude of heroes.

M1
Middlecoat with Nur Khan C-in-C

Mervyn Lesley Middlecoat was one such hero — a martyr. a patriot, a non-Muslim defender of the land of the pure. It is almost symbolic how this story begins. The war hero Mervyn Lesley Middlecoat was born aboard a train as it stopped in Ludhiana while travelling to Lahore from Delhi on a warm July morning in 1940. This was to be his destiny: to move from one point in time to another; to shuttle between one expedition and another. The fourth child of Percy and Daisy Middlecoat, he never had the chance to know his father, an Anglo-Indian railway officer, who passed away when little Mervyn was only two years old.

Lahore was Mervyn’s home now, and he received his early education at St. Anthony’s High School and joined the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) after graduation. Very early on, he started to shine bright among his contemporaries. As he passed out of his 16th General Duty Pilot (GDP) Course in 1954, he won the Best Performance Trophy in ground subjects — an honour for any cadet.

An officer and a gentleman, Mervyn also set the bar high when it came to moral standards. He was a fearless warrior but was soft spoken when it came to personal interactions, and had good conversational abilities. Milestones were to follow. On September 27, 1957, young Mervyn married Jane, the daughter of a Christian Anglo-Indian family from Karachi. The couple was popular and happening, known for being attractive, cultured and well-liked throughout the PAF. They were often chosen as hosts, alongside the Air Chief, for the official guests of the Air Force. An addition to this storybook family came when, on October 21, 1959, a daughter named Leslie Ann Middlecoat was born to the couple.

Six short years later, war broke out. The 1965 war was a difficult time for the young nation. It not only brought us face to face with our greatest fears, but it also brought to the surface the palpable presence of heroes whom Madam Noor Jehan dubbed “humaray watan ke sajeelay jawano” in her morale-boosting songs. Mervyn, then Flight Lieutenant (better known as Commander Lesley), was deployed at Masroor Base, Karachi at the onset of the hostilities. It didn’t take long for the war to come home. When the Indian Air Force attacked Karachi, the PAF sent F-86 Sabre aircrafts to defend the skies. True to form, Mervyn was flying one of those aircrafts. In the dogfight that followed, Mervyn shot down two enemy aircrafts, a feat for which he came to be known as the ‘Defender of Karachi’. He was then deployed at Mushaf Air Base, Lahore, where he was given the command of Squadron 9. During the three-week war, he kept his squadron’s spirits high with the firm conviction of a commander who leads from the front. He performed an impressive series of seventeen ‘Air Sorties’ and three ‘Photo Reconnaissance’ missions. At the end of the war, he was awarded the richly deserved “Sitara-e-Jurat” for his bravery and professional leadership.

But bias and bigotry does not spare even heroes and patriots. In 1967, while Mervyn was deployed at Sargodha Air Base, his 8-year-old daughter Leslie was rehearsing for a debate competition in her school about ‘Love for the Country’. As she spoke, another child stood up and said:

“This country is ours, not yours!”

These six words struck little Leslie like a bombshell.  Ours?  Yours? Didn’t Pakistan belong to all those who loved her? She slapped the child hard.

“How dare you say this is not my country?”

she shouted at the boy who had interrupted her so rudely. As a child born to fierce patriots, she had always heard her parents expressing their love for the country. Once, Jane had suggested to Mervyn that they move abroad, saying:

“All your siblings and my family have emigrated, and we are alone in this country. Maybe we should also think about this.”

To this, Mervyn had replied firmly:

“Listen, this is my country; I was born here; my ancestors are buried here. I have spent my life defending my country; perhaps I will sacrifice my life for this country one day as well. I am not going anywhere.”

No wonder then that when Leslie heard that child, it shocked her into tears of rage that continued to fall even as she returned home. “This is my country,” were the words she kept repeating like a mantra. In the afternoon when Mervyn got back home from work, his wife told him about Leslie’s traumatic day. He tried consoling his 8-year-old daughter as best as he could:

“Listen my child, don’t quarrel with such people; rather forgive them and make your own morals and character so high that their voice does not disturb you, and that your energy does not get consumed in these petty matters. Secondly, this is our country. Look at the flag of Pakistan — this green part belongs to your friend, who was beaten by you, and that white part is yours, which is connected with the pole through which this flag is hoisted. Therefore, we should continue to hold on to this white part firmly, so that the green part would continue to remain hoisted in free air.”

There was never a dull moment in the life of this war hero. Prior to the 1971 war, Mervyn was the Commanding Officer of the 26 Squadron, deployed at Peshawar Base before going on a deputation to Jordan. When war broke out once again, he left this attractive post and returned to Pakistan to fight alongside his comrades.

Early in the war, the PAF high command devised a plan to take out the Indian Air Force’s radar capability by attacking the heavily defended Jamnagar airbase. Of the six pilots selected for this near-impossible mission, one was Mervyn, who now held the rank of Wing Commander. On 12 December 1971, a day after he returned to Pakistan, Operation: Amritsar Radar was launched. When Mervyn, together with his colleagues, was busy strafing aircrafts of the Indian Air Force at the base, they were set upon by IAF MiGs. Forced to abort the mission, Mervyn narrowly avoided two incoming missiles by lowering his altitude and increasing his speed. But when his aircraft was near the Gulf of Kutch, a third missile hit him. According to Flight Lieutenant Bharat Bhoshan Soni, the pilot who shot him down, Mervyn managed to eject from the aircraft and fell into the sea below. Soni radioed for a rescue team, but by the time they got there, Commander Lesley was nowhere to be found and was declared ‘Missing in Action’.

Upon his martyrdom, he was awarded the Sitara-e-Jurat  for the second time. His widow also received a personal letter from King Hussain of Jordan, praising Mervyn for his heroic services. He wrote,

“Sister, the passing away of the Shaheed is not only the loss of you and Pakistan, but also mine. It is my wish that when he is buried, his body will be wrapped up in Pakistan’s flag, but the flag of my country Jordan must be placed below his head.”

His daughter, the indomitable Leslie, still has this letter in her possession, guarding it like a precious treasure.

For five long years, this martyr’s wife and daughter waited for him at 57/II, Khyber Road, the home they shared with Mervyn at the Peshawar base, in hope and anticipation of his miraculous return. They would make sure that his clothes were ironed and his slipper was placed in front of the bathroom — as if he would walk through the door any minute. But he did not return, and after years of fruitless waiting, his loyal wife passed away on June 27, 2011. Their daughter Leslie recalls that whenever her relatives would call and insist that she move abroad with her daughter, her reply would always be the same: “This is my country.” As for Leslie, she has never forgotten the words her father spoke to her when she was eight.

“I cannot leave my country,” she says to this day. “I must uphold the pole which hoists the white part of Pakistan’s flag, so that the green part can continue to remain high in free air till the end of time.”
Born July 1940
Died 12 December 1971 near Okha India
Buried at Remains not found
Allegiance Pakistan
Service Branch Pakistan Air Force
Years of service 1954-1971
Rank Wing Commander (Lt. Colonel)
Service # PAF 3550
Unit #9 Squadron Griffins
Commands Held #9 Squadron Griffins
Wars/Battles India-Pakistan 1965

Arab Israeli War 1968

India-Pakistan 1971

Operation on Amritsar Radar

Awards Sitara-e-Jurat (1965)
Sitara-e-Jurat (1971)
Sitara-i-Basalat (1971)

Courtesy:

  • Wikipedia.org
  • The Express Tribune
  • Pakistan Air Force Wall Paper

 

 

 

Straight shooting on the 1965 war

As we honour the men who fought against all odds in 1965, we must also acknowledge the miscalculations of the army’s high command. Air Commodore Retd. Sajjad Haider sets the record straight.

Come September, Pakistanis are told how the gallant Pakistan Armed forces fought and thwarted the Indian Juggernaut which invaded Pakistan in a surprise move on September 6 ‘without any provocation’. For 49 years, the nation has been regaled by the stories of valor and ‘victory over the evil enemy’. These stories are true, but the whole truth has not been told.

Seldom has any attempt been made to tell the nation that the fighting elements of the armed forces achieved this spectacular success not because, but in spite of the vision-less leadership which had perpetrated this senseless war on a flimsy, unprofessional and immature hypothesis. A soldier’s duty is to obey commands; theirs’ is not to question why. So it was for 99 per cent of the Pakistani armed forces, professional fighting men who obeyed orders, often paying the ultimate price, while the one per cent issued orders from their safe bunkers and palaces, far from the discordant sound of guns, planes and the rattle of tanks. These knights in shining armour gave their lives so that their leaders, wearing suits of rusted mail, could cover themselves in glory.

 

SS8
A scene inside a field air ops room during the Indo-Pak War 1965. Squadron Leader M M Alam is seen in the centre

In India, there is now a clear and coordinated attempt to paint the 1965 war as a great victory. Encouraged by the Modi government, which seeks to reverse historical humiliations by rewriting history, the Indian armed forces, top media outlets like the Indian Express and India Today, along with even renowned writers like Kuldip Nayyar are going all out to ‘prove’ that India came out on top in the ’65 war. This is an uphill task, given that even histories recorded by renowned Indian scholars say the opposite. Ignored is the defeat of the Indian 31 brigade at Kanjarkot, the Indian losses in the Kutch skirmish, the capitulation of its fighters to PAF interceptors in May 1965. The hopeless performance of the IAF in both the East and West, and the strident drubbing it received at the hands of a PAF that was one-third its size in particular stands out when you consider that our air force inflicted several times the attrition caused by the IAF.

 

SS7
The Pathankot team of Sherdils

The official IAF losses are chronicled in an award-winning air war history by military historian P.V.S Jagan Mohan and Samir Chopra, which details the 66 IAF operational aircraft lost to PAF action and the nine aircraft lost to accidents. By contrast, PAF attrition was 12 aircraft destroyed due to enemy action and five lost to accidents. This means that an air force 3.5 times the size of the PAF suffered an attrition ratio of 5:1 in favour of the PAF. Thus, the ‘Big Picture’ that sections of the Indian media is trying to project vis-à-vis the ’65 war is in fact an ‘unreal picture.’ One can understand their frustration and the need for Indian Prime Minister Modi to rewrite history, but such fabrications cannot stand in the face of facts.

But let’s leave India aside and focus on the facts about the war that we have not been told in Pakistan. After all, the first step in learning from your mistakes is to acknowledge those mistakes in the first place, and that is something we have not done. Having been in a key operational command in both 1965 and 1971, I say with full confidence that irrespective of which branch of the armed forces they served in, the fearless spirit and valor of our fighting men was exemplary. Sadly, the laurels of victory in Pakistan were placed largely on undeserving heads, while the real achievers and heroes still remain deprived of their due accolades. This was done due to the efforts and the pervasive propaganda unleashed by those at the highest echelons of the army and all the ‘King’s Men’ who, immediately after the cease fire, set out to successfully create a massive cover-up to bury deep the blunders that cost thousands of lives even before September 6. This may come as a surprise to many because the secret of those martyrs sent on Operation: Gibraltar, a one way mission to capture Kashmir, does not find mention during the celebration ceremonies.

Who was it who thought that an operation to capture Kashmir would not invite ferocious Indian action? It was Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto who, with Aziz Ahmed in tow, propounded

“The plan to create an Algerian type revolution in the vale”,

a plan that field marshal-turned-president Ayub Khan and his selected Commander in Chief (C-in-C) Musa Khan swallowed hook, line and sinker. Thus, 8,000 or so men (mostly non-soldiers) were thrown into the fray without a thought as to the consequences of this action. These men were recruited largely from the Muzaffarabad area with the guidance of a single regular Azad Kashmir battalion and were interspersed with a smattering of highly trained commandoes. It was a folly reminiscent of Field Marshall Raglan’s ordering the light brigade to charge into the Russian guns during the Crimean War.

 

SS6
A PAF squadron ready to take on an adversary thrice its size

The C-in-C at the time writes in his memoirs that the Azad Kashmiri irregulars were trained for six to eight weeks at Rawalpindi in the art of guerilla warfare. Let that sink in for a moment: six to eight weeks only. Ho-chi Minh, Chou en Li, Ben Bella and Che Guevara must have turned in their graves at this. And so it was that, without a modicum of strategic vision or proper contingency planning or preparation; without any known networking with local elements or even their sympathy, Operation Gibraltar was launched.

SS5
Three Pakistani officers pose for a picture in front of the imposing structure of the ancient Rajasthan Fort at Gotaro. This was one of the chain of forts and other fortifications captured by Pakistan’s Desert Force during September 1965

 

In the last brief at Kharian, I think in late July, the President had asked for a brief on Operation Gibraltar. Two most significant things happened in this briefing, as I learnt from General Gul Hassan as well as General Akhtar Malik separately much after the war. The President asked General Akhtar Malik why he does not go for Akhnur, the sole entry point and the jugular vein of the valley known as the ‘Chicken’s Neck’, and block off India from the Vale. Akhtar Malik replied that he could take Akhnur provided he is given a task force. According to history, the 12 Div. was then allocated additional forces for Operation: Grand Slam. Resultantly, the capture of Akhnur through Operation Grand Slam came on the menu only at that time.

The second point would surprise many:

General Sarfraz, the General Officer Commanding (GOC) of 10 Division, meant for the defense of Lahore, implored the C-in-C to allow them to take full defensive measures in case of an inevitable escalation. He was curtly told ‘No, do not provoke the enemy; do not escalate a local operation (meaning the occupation of Kashmir)’.

 

SS4

The panic which prevailed amongst the Indian troops while fleeing from Chhamb can be seen from this picture. It shows an Indian Army Truck, a jeep with a trailer and AMX tank abandoned in the middle of the river Tawi. The gun of the tank is facing to Pakistan side ready to fight. But the tank crew along with other occupants of the truck and the jeep would rather choose to run for their life than fire their guns

General Gul Hassan told me years later at my home that he had instructions from the C-in-C that every signal to operational units must end with “Do Not Provoke, Do Not   Escalate”. Thus a disaster foretold ominously was made reality by the national leadership and army high command. They thought in their limited ‘barrack to battalion’ knowledge of military strategy that India will lose Kashmir without a whimper, and will not dare to escalate the war. They believed that this resulting victory would then cement the insecure president’s position and ensure a bright future for all his courtiers.

How ironic that despite all the blunders and the lives lost to their callous incompetence and utter stupidity, yet these men flourished and remained unaccountable. In shameful contrast, the martyrs of Op Gibraltar who were sent on a one way mission were removed from the radar in perpetuity. What about their kith and kin? Should they not deserve the acknowledgement of their martyrdom? Indubitably, the Indian invasion was not unprovoked; it was the  direct consequence of the failed Operation: Gibraltar and the imminent threat posed by Operation Grand Slam to Akhnur, the sole entry and the jugular of the valley known as the ‘Chicken’s Neck’.

General Akhtar Hussain Malik almost achieved that herculean task. In his war diaries, general officer commanding-in-chief (GOC-in-C) of the western front, General Joginder Singh writes:

“General Akhtar Malik had steam rolled over Chamb and was heading for Akhnur with tremendous velocity; Akhnur lay like a ripe plum and undoubtedly he would head for Jammu after securing Akhnur; even today we hang our heads in shame that the officers and men of the 161 artillery regiment, stationed for the main defense of Akhnur had defected after hearing the news of Akhtar Malik’s onslaught on Chamb and heading for Akhnur. But suddenly there was eerie quiet and we wondered what Gen Malik was planning. A whole day passed and Providence came to our help as we heard the news that General Malik had been replaced.”

This has been a heart breaking event which my fingers quiver to write about even today. History would have been very different had the high palace intrigue not deprived the brave General Malik of his red letter day. Brigadier Amjad Hussain, Commander Artillery describes vividly the shock and rage at the removal of  General  Akhtar Hussain Malik and the turning of a victory foretold into a tragedy in perpetuity.

 

SS3
The F-86 Sabre served as the main workhorse for the Pakistan Air Force and virtually ruled the skies during the war

Yahya Khan, in a high intrigue drama was given command. In Yahya’s own words, spoken at the Quetta Staff College when he was the President and questioned by an irate chief instructor on why he did not take Akhnur on Sept 1, he replied curtly,

“Because I was ordered not to do it”.

That day, we lost Kashmir forever, not due to the enemy’s strong riposte but due to the deceit and incompetence of our own leadership. It was not the high command, but the courage and resolute will of the fighting elements of the armed forces that saved the country. As the Indian blitz on the 6th of Sept was developing against the city of Lahore, the heart and soul of Pakistan, it was met with the indomitable spirit, resolve and blood of a handful of soldiers (officers and men) who stood like the rock of Gibraltar to defend the their homeland with their blood, looking death in the eye.

Numerically, India had 4:1 superiority on land and 3.5:1 in the air. Besides, it had great geographical depth and a huge resource fountain. But what the enemy did not know was the fact that they had an unknown advantage accruing from Pakistan’s leadership. It would be instructive to understand the disadvantage our forces had suffered owing to the same failure of leadership and mindset. When Operation Gibraltar was launched, 25 per cent of the army personnel were on home leave. The Divisional Commanders at Lahore, Kasur and Sialkot were not permitted to place defensive mines and other measures for the defense of the border; nor allowed full deployment on the border. The idea being not to provoke the Indians to avoid escalation, as the occupation of Kashmir was in progress. Another colossal mishap requires attention: the president, in his infinite wisdom, along with his army chief decided not to bring PAF leader Air Marshall Asghar Khan, the father of a force he had trained to be amongst the best in the world, into the Kashmir misadventure loop.

 

SS2
Army Chief Gen Musa visiting infantry elements in their trenches during one of his inspection visits

Ayub Khan’s information czar, Altaf Gauhar, writes that the reason was that Ayub knew that Asghar Khan would give meaning and content to the war and make it decisive. I have these comments if anyone is interested.

It was on the fateful day that Asghar Khan was completing his eight years of service on July 23, 1965, and handing the PAF command to Air Marshal Nur Khan, a brave and great fighter himself, but one who had been away for eight years winning laurels for his successes and who only took command when war was imminent. But national security was apparently an idea which had to be the exclusive domain of the supreme commander; everyone in crucial positions had to be amenable to the President. Luckily, Air Marshall Nur Khan inherited a formidable fighting machine.
As opposed to the depleted operational readiness status enforced by the design of the army leadership, the PAF had been kept on Phase 1 Operational Alert since the Rann of Kutch episode and it was buzzing with operational vibrancy. I often felt sorry for our gallant and professional army, where I knew lots and lots of great officers, who were not lucky enough to have leaders like the PAF had since its inception. The PAF doctrine for war had been the master-mind of the visionary Air Marshall Asghar Khan and the operational strategy the work of a team working under the guidance of Air Marshall Rahim Khan, Chief of Operations. We, as young squadron commanders had been summoned to Air Headquarters along with Officers commanding, Wings and Base commanders on June 6, 1965 and given a comprehensive brief into the concept of air operations as the C-in-C opined that he saw war clouds on the horizon. Air Marshall Asghar Khan had no inkling about the Kashmir Committee plan to de-freeze Kashmir.

Finally, each commander present was allocated his war missions. The tactical aspects of mission accomplishment were left to each squadron commander; such was the confidence level of the PAF high command in the junior commanders. This is leadership and the loyalty it evokes in the hearts of fighting elements to do and die for the country. After the air battle over Kashmir, where the IAF lost five fighters, the next air action of the 1965 war came on September 6, at 9.30am. It was the first mission of war assigned to No. 19 Sherdil Squadron, which I had the honour to command. The target assigned was an enemy artillery regiment across the Jassar Bridge in the Sialkot-Shakargarh bulge. The squadron had been custom trained to be second to none. Each pilot wore this dedication to excellence on his sleeve and understood well that excellence was not an option but an instinct in mission accomplishment.

The narrative will prove what I mean here: five minutes away from the target area, the radio crackled and the voice of our Air Defence Commander was discernible. He instructed us that our primary mission is cancelled and that we were to proceed to village Attari area and destroy enemy forces about to enter Lahore. He may as well have transmitted a million watts electric shock to us with the word ‘Lahore’. Here it would be prudent to mention that the Indian Express in its 23rd issue carries an irresponsible and highly manipulative article based on twisted facts which needs a strong riposte. It reads,

“In Punjab, the army reached close to the outskirts of Lahore but did not press on.”

This is yet another fabrication, and a very condescending and flimsy one at that. I don’t want to dwell too much on my own role in a war where so many gave their all, but I was at the scene leading 6 Falcons of 19 Squadron as we were diverted to the GT road. Why would the Indian General Chaudhary risk invading the heart of Pakistan and then circumvent it for some odd reason?

 

SS1
Armour on the move in Chhamb Sector during 1965 war

On the contrary, General Chaudhary had held a conference late at night in which several foreign correspondents, including Mark Tully of the BBC, were invited to the Lahore Gymkhana for a victory drink. What really happened is best described in an account about our air action at Wagah by none less than General Lachhman Singh, Gen Sukhwant Singh and award winning historians Jagan Mohan and Samir Chopra, quoted here in parts:

“No.19 Sqdn. From Peshawar, led by (my name), flew a six aircraft strike mission at 0930 hours against the leading elements of Indian army thrust towards Lahore. The leading battalion of the division, 3 Jat, led by Col. Desmond Hyde had its columns strafed and rocketed by PAF Sabres. The unit lost all its Guns and Sherman Tanks … (Lachhman) …. It was about 9.30 am and the enemy aircraft shot up every vehicle for about 15 minutes undeterred by fire from our troops.”

I also read that after the drubbing at the hands of PAF there was a rout in the leading echelons of the Indian Strike force. Quoting General Sukhwant Singh,

“the C.O. of the battalion ran back with just one sock and one shoe, deserting the battalion. His 2nd in command followed suit and escaped on a bicycle and took refuge in Amritsar.” 

Here’s an interesting anecdote I would like to share:

I was asked by Pushpindar Singh, a top air war historian if I knew whose Flag Jeep I had fired upon at Wagha on the morning of September 6. I replied that I recalled it was my sixth and last attack and while exiting the theatre, I saw a jeep with a flag which I shot at and saw a figure jumping out before the bullets hit the jeep. Pushpindar confirmed that this was Major General Nirindera Parshad, the Divisional Commander who abandoned his Division. Having set out for the Lahore Gymkhana, he instead ended up in Amritsar to be court martialled.

That same evening in our third mission of the day we obliterated the IAF base at Pathankot, destroying 13 fighters as part of the tragically failed magnum opus of the PAF planned by venerable Air Marshall Asghar Khan. It failed because his June 6 strategic plan was not followed through, owing to the negativity of a couple of timid air staff officers who misled the newly appointed C-in-C. Had the plan, which had been fully rehearsed with aircraft and the best pilots of the PAF made available, the IAF would have incontrovertibly lost over 50 fighters. Sadly, the command at two prime bases failed in their mission.

We expect nothing from the Indians, but this nation and its rulers (I didn’t say leaders) owe so much to such few gallant fighters for their strident commitment to their country, a commitment they have always fulfilled with their blood, sweat and the tears of the families. As we fight a different war even today, we must not shy away from acknowledging the mistakes of the past. It is only by doing so that we can secure our future.

By courtesy : Straight shooting on the 1965 war by Air Commodore Retired Sajjad Haider. The writer is a retired air commodore and author of the bestseller Flight of the Falcon: Demolishing Myths of 1965-1971 Senseless Wars. Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, September 6th, 2015.

Courtesy of Dawn.

Chronology of the Battle of Britain

img_1397 

July 10 to Oct 31, 1940

Date
Weather
Main targets and Events
Losses
Luftwaffe
Losses
RAF
July 10
Cloudy,clearing
Channel convoy. First dogfight of over 100 aircraft
13
6
11
Cloudy
East-coast shipping. Portland, Portsmouth
20
4
12
Fog, then thundery
East-and-south-coast shipping. Aberdeen, Portland. (Night) Bristol, S Wales
7
6
13
Fog, cloudy
Shipping off Dover and Portland. HQ  10 Group opens at Box
7
1
14
Light cloud, clear
Shipping off Dover and Swanage
2
4
15
Cloudy
Shipping off Norfolk coast.
3
1
16
Fog and cloud
Little activity. Hitler’s directive (#16) formally orders invasion preparations.
3
2
17
Light rain
Shipping off Dundee and Beachy Head
2
1
18
Light rain
Shipping off south-east coasts. South-coast ports. Some French and British airfields waterlogged.
4
3
19
Clear, showers
Dover. Bad day for Defiants of 141 squadron. Hitler’s ‘peace offer’ in Reichstag speech
2
8
20
Cloudy, clearing
Heavy raids on shipping at Dover and Lyme Bay. Me 110 appears as a fighter-bomber
9
3
21
Clear, showers
Heavy raids on shipping in Channel and Straits
9
6
22
Clear, few showers
Shipping off south coast. British rejection of ‘peace offer’.
1
0
23
Cloudy, rain
A few attacks on east-coast shipping
3
0
24
Cloudy, rain
Convoys in Channel
8
3
25
fine
Very heavy attacks on Channel convoy in cooperation with E-boats. 11 of 21 ships sunk or badly damaged.
18
7
26
rain
South-coast shipping. Channel convoys suspended in daylight hours
4
2
27
Clear, then stormy
Shipping. Two destroyers sunk and one damaged
4
1
28
fine
Shipping off Dover. South-coast ports. Destroyers withdraw from Dover to Portsmouth. Malan’s 74 squadron in heavy combat, the CO forcing Moelders into crash-landing
18
5
29
fine
Heavy attacks on Dover harbour and convoy; one destroyer sunk.
8
3
30
Cloud, light rain
Shipping off east –coast. Hitler instructs Goering to be ready for intensive operations at 12 hours notice
5
0
31
fine
Dover balloon barrage. Shipping off south-east and south-west coasts
5
3
August 1
Fine, haze
Shipping off south and east coasts. Norwich (aircraft factory). (Night) S Wales, Midlands. Hitler directive # 17 to Luftwaffe to ‘overpower the English air force with all the forces at its command, in the shortest possible time.’ Invasion preparations to be complete by 15 September.
9
1
2
Fine, drizzle over sea
Shipping off south-east coasts (Night) S Wales, Midland. Goering’s Adlerangriff directive to Luftwaffe.
4
0
3
Cloudy, bright intervals
Shipping. (Night) S. Wales, Crewe, Liverpool
4
0
4
Mainly fine
Little activity
0
0
5
fine
Shipping in Straits
6
1
6
Cloudy, windy
Little activity. Shipping. Goering orders Adlertag for 10 August.
1
1
7
Cloudy
Convoy off east coast
2
0
8
Cloudy, bright intervals
Heavy attacks on Channel convoy (the first westbound since 25 July) off Dover and Wight. Heaviest air fighting so far, involving 150 + plus aircraft. Ju 87s prove very vulnerable. (Night) Liverpool, Leeds, Bristol, Birmingham.
31
20
9
Cloud and rain
East-coast shipping. Dover balloons. Adlertag postponed.
5
4
10
Cloud and rain
Little activity
0
0
11
fine
Dover & Portland heavily attacked. Several senior Luftwaffe officers killed or captured. Convoys off east coast. (Night) Merseyside, Bristol Channel.
38
32
12
fine
Several RAF airfields (Manston, Lympne, Hawkinge) and radar stations (Dover, Rye, Dunkirk, Ventnor) attacked in preparation for Adlertag next day.
During this preparatory phase of the Battle the Luftwaffe attacked shipping on most days and laid mines on most nights, but sank only 30,000 tons out of the nearly 5 million tons which passed around the coasts. It lost 286 aircraft as against Fighter Command’s 148 (plus 2 at night). Except on five days, most raids were undertaken by small forces. The widespread raiding at night was mainly by very small numbers of aircraft.
31
22
13
fine
Adlertag postponement to afternoon causes confusion in Luftwaffe, which nevertheless flies almost 1,500 sorties in 24 hours. Attacks on Southampton, Portland, airfields at Detling, Andover, Eastchurch, Lympne). (Night) Castle Bromwich (aircraft factory).
45
13
14
Cloudy, bright intervals
Dover, airfields (Manston, Middle Wallop, Sealand).
19
8
15
Fine
Heaviest day’s fighting so far, with Luflotte 5 joining in from Scandinavia at heavy cost to its bombers and Me 110s. Many airfields damaged (Lympne, Hawkinge, Middle Wallop, West Malling, Eastchurch, Croydon, Martlesham, Driffield), but north of England never attacked in strength by day again. Fighter Command flies 974 sorties. Germans more strongly escorted. Hitler confirms invasion preparations to be completed by 15 September.
75
34
16
Fine
Heavy raids on airfields (in Kent, and at Gosport, Tangmere, Brize Norton). Ventnor radar station. Luftwaffe flies over 1,700 sorties. (Night) Home Counties, British Channel, East Anglia.
45
21
17
Fine
Lympne, otherwise mysterious silence from Luftwaffe. Shorter courses introduced for British fighter pilots. (Night) Mersey, S. Wales, Midlands.
3
0
18
Fine at first
Heavy fighting in course of intensive bombing of airfields in south and south-east (Croydon, Gosport, Ford, Thorney Island). Portsmouth. Big damage at Kenley airfield and Poling radar station. #
1(Royal Canadian Air Force) squadron’s first operations.
71
27
19
Cloudy
Southampton area, Pembroke docks. Goering issues orders for renewed attacks on Fighter Command. He orders stronger escort to Luftflotte 2’s bombers, and transfers single-engined fighters for this purpose from Luftflotte 3, which is to concentrate more on night bombing. Ju 87’s to be conserved for the invasion and special tasks.
6
3
20
Cloudy, windy over land, becoming rainy
Weather restricts German activities. Manston, Martlesham. Polish 302 squadron in action for first time, vengeful and effective. Churchill’s ‘Never . . . has so much been owed by so many to so few.’
7
2
21
Cloudy, rainy
Enemy operations mainly limited to fighter ‘tip and run’ raids. Airfields in East Anglia
14
1
22
cloudy
Convoys in Dover Straits. Manston. (Night) Aberdeen, Yorkshire, Hampshire, S. Wales, Bristol, Filton airfield and Bristol Co’s works).
3
5
23
Cloudy, showers
Minor activity. (Night) Bristol, S. Wales, Cardiff.
2
0
24
fine
Violent increase in Luftwaffe activity. Ramsgate, Dover, Portsmouth, and airfields (Manston five times, Hornchurch, N. Weald). (Night) S. Wales, Birmingham (aircraft factory), north-east coast and unintentional bombs on central London.
38
22
25
Fine, then cloudy
Driffield. Airfields in south-east, south and south-west (Warmwell), the bombers heavily escorted. (Night) RAF bomb Berlin in retaliation for bombs on London.
20
16
26
Cloudy, brighter later
Fierce and effective raids on airfields (especially Debden) mark the period of Fighter Command’s greatest strain. Dover, Folkestone. Ineffective attacks on Hornchurch and Portsmouth. (Night) Coventry, Birmingham, Plymouth.
41
31
27
Cloudy, rain
Weather restricts enemy action. (Night) Widely scattered raids on airfields and industrial areas. German army invasion plan settled.
9
1
28
Fair over land, cloudy over sea
Airfields (Eastchurch, Rochford). Luftwaffe fighter in sweeps. After further heavy losses the Defiant fighter is pulled out of the daylight battle.(Night) Much heavier night raiding begins—160 bombers against Merseyside, 180 elsewhere. In 600 sorties by night, Luftflotte 3 has lost only 7 aircraft.
30
20
29
Cloudy, clearing later
Some 700 Luftwaffe fighters in provocative sweeps to which RAF do not respond. The Chief of Kesselring’s fighter organization claims unlimited fighter superiority has been achieved. South and south-east airfields. (Night) Heavy raiding continues against Merseyside (176 sorties) and elsewhere (44 sorties).
17
9
30
Fine
Very heavy bombing of airfields (Lympne, Biggin Hill twice, Detling). Vauxhall works at Luton, (Night) Heavy bombing again on Merseyside
36
26
31
Fine
Very heavy bombing of airfields (Detling, Eastchurch, Croydon, and sector stations Biggin Hill, Hornchurch twice, and Debden). Some close to unserviceability. Radar stations also attacked. (Night) Merseyside heavily, Midlands
41
39
Total
808
428
September 1
Fine
Tilbury, Chatham. South-east airfields (Debden, and severe damage at Biggin Hill, Eastchurch, Detling). (Night) Bristol, S. Wales, Midlands, Merseyside.
14
15
2
Fine
Several airfields (including Biggin Hill, Lympne, Detling, Eastchurch three times, Hornchurch twice, Gravesend). Rochester (aircraft factory). (Night) Merseyside, Midlands, Manchester, Sheffield.
35
31
3
Fine
Airfields again (Manston, West Malling, much damage at North Weald) and heavy fighting. (Night) Merseyside, S. Wales, south-east England. Hitler moves target date for invasion from 15 to 21 September. Decision to be taken ten days beforehand.
16
16
4
Fine
Airfields. (Bradwell, Lympne, Eastchurch twice). Medway towns (aircraft factory at Rochester), Weybridge (aircraft factory). (Night) Liverpool, Bristol, south-east England. Hitler publicly threatens invasion also reprisals for British bombing of German towns.
25
17
5
Fine
Biggin Hill yet again and Detling. Thameshaven oil tanks set on fire (extinguished).
23
20
6
Fine
Airfields in south-east including Biggin Hill. Rochester and Weybridge (aircraft factories). A few Ju 87s employed again, and roughly handled, as were the Poles of 303 Squadron. Heavy and accurate attack on oil targets at Thameshaven: fires not extinguished attract further attack during the night. Coastal Command’s Photographic Reconnaissance Unit during the week has photographed steadily growing numbers of invasion craft in the Dutch, Belgian and French Channel ports, which from 5 September have come under attack from Bomber Command. British order Invasion Alert # 2-atttack probable within three days.
In the period from Adlertag on 13 August to 6 September, characterised by repeated attacks on the British airfields, the Luftwaffe has lost about 670 aircraft, Fighter Command 400. Fighter Command is holding its own, but is running down. The danger-points are that wastage of fighters is exceeding production, that a shortage of skilled pilots has developed, and that there has been much damage to the sector stations. Fortunately the Germans are about to switch to a different main objective.
35
23
7
Fine
The Luftwaffe switches to London, granting relief to the airfields: the turning point in the Battle. Some 1,000 enemy aircraft over and around the capital by day, followed by heavy night raid. Thameshaven and London docks the main objective in both cases. Code-word ‘Cromwell’ brings British forces to highest pitch of readiness and action stations.
41
28
8
Fine
Lull by day. London bombed heavily by night. Dowding’s ‘Squadron Stabilization’ scheme introduced.
15
2
9
Fine
Thames Estuary, Southampton. Major attack with some 200 bombers on London frustrated by 11 and 12 Groups, jettisoned bombs damaging suburbs widely.
28
19
10
Cloudy, rain
Slight activity. (Night) London, S. Wales, Merseyside. Bomber Command raid on Eindhoven airfield knocks out ten He 111s. Hitler postpones taking decision on the invasion until 14 September.
4
1
11
Cloudy, then fine
Four airfields. London, Southampton, Portsmouth. (Night) London, Merseyside.
25
29
12
Rain
Slight activity. The German barge concentrations still growing. (Night) London, S. Wales, Midlands, Merseyside.
4
0
13
Showers, bright intervals
Small raids only on London-little damage. (Night) London. All forces of Bomber Command, day and night, attack invasion ports and continue during next fortnight.
4
1
14
Showers, bright intervals
South London and radar stations. (Night) London, S. Wales. Hitler still pining his faith on the Luftwaffe postpones invasion decision for three more days, i.e. until 17 September. Earliest date for invasion would then be 27 September.
14
14
15
Fine
Largest ever German formations over London and south-east, in two big raids, but mainly broken up by the 24 Fighter Command squadrons operating on this day, since known as the Battle of Britain Day. An undisputed victory. Attacks also on Portland and Southampton. (Night) London, Midlands.
60
26
16
Cloudy, rain
Slight activity, mainly in south-east and East Anglia. (Night) London, Midlands, Merseyside.
9
1
17
Cloudy, showers
Activity as for the previous day, few bombers but fighter sweeps. British bombers sink 84 barges at Dunkirk. (Night) London, Merseyside. Hitler postpones invasion indefinitely, but orders preparations to continue.
8
5
18
Showers
The few daylight bombers, some attacking oil targets in the Estuary, suffer badly, nine Ju 88s of III/KG77 being shot down in 2 or 3 minutes. (Night) London, Merseyside. Germans begin to disperse invasion fleet to avoid further damage from bombing.
19
12
19
Showers
Little daylight activity. (Night) London, Merseyside and routine minelaying.
0
0
20
Showers
Heavy fighter-sweep towards London leads to dogfights, the outcome favouring the Luftwaffe more than usual. (Night) London.
7
7
21
Fine later
Fighter sweeps in east Kent. (Night) London, Merseyside.
0
0
22
Fog, showers
Slight activity. (Night) London, Merseyside.
1
0
23
Fine
Sweeps towards London. (Night) London, Merseyside.
9
11
24
Fine
Tilbury, Southampton (Woolston Spitfires factory damaged by fighter-bombers). (Night) London, Merseyside.
11
4
25
Fine
Plymouth, Portland, Bristol (filton). Further attack by heavily escorted bombers on aircraft factories. (Night) London, S. Wales, Lancashire.
13
4
26
Fine
Southampton. Woolston factory gutted but Spitfire production now well dispersed.
9
9
27
Fine
London, Bristol. Heavily escorted bomber raids on London and Filton largely frustrated with big losses to Ju 88s and Kesselring’s fighters. (Night) London, Midlands, Merseyside.
55
28
28
Fine
London, Solent. Scattered bomber raids massively escorted, with inevitable consequences. Hurricanes particularly suffering. (Night) London.
16
16
29
Fine
Some activity, reduced in south-east and E. Anglia. Liverpool bombed in daylight from the west but raid intercepted. (Night) London, Merseyside.
5
5
30
Fine
London, Westland factory at Yeovil (attack defeated). On this last day of mass daylight bomber raids that Luftwaffe re-introduces expensively discredited tactics and pays a heavy price in bombers and fighters for negligible damage. (Night) London.
48
20
October 1
Fair
A new phase opens in which the Germans use their main bomber force almost entirely under cover of darkness. In daylight they send over only small numbers of fast Ju 88s together with Messerschmitt fighters at high altitude carrying bombs protected by further fighters above. This activity occurs every day and proves extremely difficult to deal with, but strategically is of little benefit to the Germans. At night London is bombed heavily (by average of 150 bombers) every night of the month except one. ‘Fighter-bomber sweeps’ and ‘London’ are the entries to be understood for each date in this month.
6
4
2
Fine
10
1
3
Rain
Within the standard activity, a single Ju 88 hits the de Havilland factory at Hatfield.
9
1
4
Fog, rain
At their meeting Hitler informs Mussolini that only the lack of five days of consecutively good weather has frustrated his invasion plans.
12
3
5
Showers, bright periods
West Malling and Detling airfields. Southampton bombed without opposition in the air.
13
8
6
Rain
Small raids penetrate to several airfields (Middle Wallop, Northolt, Biggin Hill).
6
1
7
Cloud, showers
Heavier raid by escorted Ju 88s on Westland factory at Yeovil. Little damage and 7 of the enemy shot down.
21
17
8
Fair
Attack on Rootes’ works at Speke.
14
4
9
Cloud, rain
Airfields in the south-east.
9
3
10
Showers, bright intervals
Fighter-bombers in streams, great difficulty in intercepting.
4
4
11
Fair
7
9
12
Fog, clearing
Biggin Hill, Kenley. Hitler postpones invasion until-if then thought advisable-the spring of 1941
11
10
13
Fog, clearing
5
2
14
Rain
(Night) Heaviest raid on London thus far. Coventry also bombed.
4
0
15
Fair
For once RAF fighters bounce high-flying Me 109s out of the sun, shooting down 4. (Night) Heavier still on London 400 + bombers. Much damage and many railway termini out of action.
14
15
16
Cloudy
With the autumn weather, accident casualties on both sides from now on often exceed combat casualties.
13
1
17
Showery, bright intervals
15
3
18
Fog
Goering praises his fighter pilots for inflicting such terrible losses on Fighter Command, and his bomber pilots for having ‘reduced the British plutocracy to fear and terror.’
15
4
19
Cloud
5
2
20
Cloud
High-flying fighter-bombers revert to mass in place of streams
14
4
21
Fog
6
0
22
Fog
Five German crashes lead to loss of several senior officers. (Night) Glasgow as well as London.
11
5
23
Cloudy
3
1
24
Cloudy
8
4
25
Cloudy
Airfield at Montrose. (Night) Italians reluctantly allowed by the Germans to join in the bombing (Harwich), but with dismal results.
20
10
26
Cloudy, showers
10
4
27
Cloudy
Seven airfields attacked. Continuing fighter-bomber raids and individual tip-and-run bomber attacks force Fighter Command to fly over 1,000 sorties. That it can do so is proof of its continuing strength.
15
10
28
Cloudy
11
2
29
Fair
Portsmouth, Ramsgate, N. Weald. Tactical foresight leads to the shooting down of 11 high-flying Me 109s in 6 minutes. The Italians appear briefly by day with 15 bombers and 73 fighters, the CR42 biplanes causing more puzzlement than anxiety.
19
7
30
Rain
Unsuccessful attempt to penetrate to London by day
8
5
31
Rain
The great Battle fizzles out damply, the Germans having exhausted every tactical alternative, after being deprived of their best chance of victory by the inept decision of their Supreme Command to attack London rather than continue with the direct offensive against Fighter Command and its ground installations.
0
0
1636
922
The losses are basically given in the official history, The Defence of the United Kingdom (HMSO, London, 1957). They were compiled from Fighter Command sources on the British side, Luftwaffe Quartermaster-General sources on the German. Since then further work has been done, notably by Francis K. Mason in his Battle over Britain (McWhirter Twins, London 1969) and by researchers for the After the Battle publications, to refine and correct these figures, in particular by distinguishing losses in combat from those ariring from other causes. However, no other set of figures has been given official status, and these from the official history, if not unchallenged in detail, give a sufficiently clear indication of the scale of activity and the ratio of success.
Basic Statistics of Fighter Command and Luftwaffe Aircraft engaged in the Battle of Britain
BRITISH
 
Max.  Speed
Ceiling in feet
Armament
Fighters
 
 
 
Hurricane I
316 mph@ 17,500 feet
32,000
8 x .303 mg
Spitfire I
355 mph @19,000 feet
34,000
8 x .303 mg
Defiant
304 mph @ 17,000 feet
30,000
4 x .303 mg
Bombers
Blenheim IV
266 mph @ 11,000 feet
26,000
7 x .303 mg
 

IMG_0069 (Edited)
Fairey Battle

 

IMG_0070 (Edited)
Defiant
img_0068-edited
Hurricane
IMG_0062 (Edited)
Supermarine Spitfires Mk 1 of 19 Squadron
IMG_0089 (Edited)
Air Vice Marshall Trafford Leigh-Mallory 12 Group Commander
GERMAN
Fighters
Messerschmitt 109E
355 mph @ 18,000 feet
35,000
2 x 7.9 mm mg;
2 x 20 mm cannon (variable)
Messerschmitt 110
345 mph @ 23,000 feet
33,000
6 x 7.9 mm mg;
2 x 20 mm cannon
Bombers
Junkers 87B
245 mph @ 15,000 feet
23,000
3 x 7.9 mm mg
Junkers 88
287 mph @ 14,000 feet
23,000
3 x 7.9 mm mg
Dornier 17
255 mph @21,000 feet
21,000
7 x 7.9 mm mg
Dornier 215
Slightly enhanced performance
Heinkel 111
240 mph @ 14,000 feet
26,000
7 x 7.9 mm mg
IMG_0137 (Edited)
Stuka Ju 87
 
img_0087-edited
Messerschmitt Me 109 
IMG_0085 (Edited)
Junkers Ju 88
IMG_0080 (Edited)
L-R: Field Marshall Albert Kesselring; Lt. General Wilhelm Speidel; Field Marshall Hermann Goering
HIGHER COMMAND SUMMER 1940
WAR CABINET  advised by Chiefs of Staff
Admiralty
Air Ministry
War Office
Home Fleet
Naval Commands
(routine operational control)
Coastal Command
Bomber Command
Fighter Command
GHQ Home Forces
Area Combined HQs
Coastal Groups
ƒ
Bomber Groups
Fighter Groups
Observer Corps
Radar Group
Balloon Command
Operational control
A A Command
 
A A Divisions
Guns
Searchlights
 AIR DEFENCE HIGHER FORMATIONS JULY-SEPTEMBER 1940 ( Fighter Command)
Command
 
Operational Control
 
 
A A Command
# 10 Group
S.W. England
cooperation
5th AA Division
S. Wales & S.W. England
# 11 Group (S.E. England)
 
6th A A Division (S.E. Counties)
# 12 Group (Eastern Counties and Midlands)
 
1st A A Division (London)
# 13 Group (Northern England, Scotland and N. Ireland)
 
2nd A A Division (Eastern Counties & East Midlands)
# 60 Group (Radar Chain)
 
4th A A Division (N.W Counties, West Midlands & N. Wales)
Observer Corps
 
7th A A Division (N.E. Counties)
Balloon Command
 
3rd A A Division (Scotland & N. Ireland)
 
 
OSDEF (Orkneys & Shetlands)
OPERATIONAL CHAIN OF COMMAND IN THE LUFTWAFFE
OBERKOMMANDO DER WEHRMACHT (OKW)
(Armed Forces High Command)
OBERBEFEHLSHABER DER LUFTWAFFE (ObdL)
Luftwaffe Commander in Chief
LUFTFLOTTEN 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5 (Air Fleets)
Administrative
Signals
Flak
Operational
Luftgau
 
 
Fliegerkorps I, II, IV, V, VIII, IX, etc. Assigned to each Luftflotte according to Operational Requirements
Airfields, Personnel, Medical, Maintenance, Supply & Training
1 to 6 assigned to each Luftflotte as required
 
 
Geschwader
Assigned to each Fliegerkorps according to Operational Requirements:
Kampfgeschwader (KG) Bomber
Stukageschwader (StG) Dive Bomber
Jagdgeshwader (KG) Fighter
Zerstoeregeschwader (ZG) Destroyer
Lehrgeschwader (LG) Operational Training etc
Airfield Regional Command
2 to 12 in each Luftgau as required
 
 
Gruppen
 (3 or 4 to each Geschwader)
Operational Airfield Command
One for each airfield
 
 
Staffeln
 (3 or 4 each Gruppe)
Nearest RAF equivalents
Geschwader = Group  
Gruppe = Wing  
Staffel = Squadron

 

Equivalent Commissioned Ranks: RAF and Luftwaffe
Air Chief Marshall
Generalfeldmarschall and Generaloberst
Air Marshall
General der Flieger
Air Vice-Marshall
Generalleutnant
Air Commodore
Generalmajor
Group Captain
Oberst
Wing Commander
Obersleutnant
Squadron Leader
Major
Flight Lieutenant
Hauptmann
Flying Officer
Oberleutnant
Pilot Officer
Leutnant
 FIGHTER COMMAND ORDER OF BATTLE 8 AUGUST 1940
HQ Bentley Priory, Stanmore; Air Chief Marshall Sir Hugh Dowding
# 10 Group, Box, Wilts; Air Vice-Marshall Sir Quintin Brand
Squadron
Aircraft
Station
Pembrey Sector
92
Spitfire
Pembrey
Filton Sector
87
Hurricane
Exeter
213
Hurricane
Exeter
St Eval Sector
234 Spitfire St Eval
247 (one flight) Gladiator Roborough
Middle Wallop Sector
238 Hurricane Middle Wallop
609 (West Riding) Spitfire Middle Wallop
604 (County of Middlesex) Blenheim Middle Wallop
152 Spitfire Warmwell

# 11 Group, Uxbridge; Air Vice-Marshall K.R. Park

Squadron Aircraft Station
Tangmere Sector
43 Hurricane Tangmere
601 (County of London) Hurricane Tangmere
145 Hurricane Westhampnett
Kenley Sector
6i5 Hurricane Kenley
64 Spitfire Kenley
111 Hurricane Croydon
Biggin Hill Sector
32 Hurricane Biggin Hill
610 (County of Chester) Spitfire Biggin Hill
501 (County of Gloucester) Hurricane Gravesend
600 (City of London) Blenheim Manston
Hornchurch Sector
54 Spitfire Hornchurch
65 Spitfire Hornchurch
74 Spitfire Hornchurch
41 Spitfire Hornchurch
Northolt Sector
1 Hurricane Northolt
257 Hurricane Northolt
North Weald Sector
151 Hurricane North Weald
56 Hurricane Rochford
25 Blenheim Martlesham
Debden Sector
17 Hurricane Debden
85 Hurricane Martlesham

# 12 Group, Watnall, Notts; Air Vice-Marshall T.L. Leigh Mallory

Squadron Aircraft Station
Duxford Sector
19 Spitfire Duxford
Coltishall Sector
242 Hurricane Coltishall
66 Spitfire Coltishall
Wittering Sector
229 Hurricane Wittering
266 Spitfire Wittering
23 Blenheim Colly Weston
Digby Sector
46 Hurricane Digby
611 (West Lancashire) Spitfire Digby
29 Blenheim Digby
Kirton-in-Lindsey Sector
222 Spitfire Kirton-in-Lindsey
264 Defiant Kirton-in-Lindsey and Ringway
Church Fenton Sector
73 Hurricane Church Fenton
249 Hurricane Church Fenton
616 (South Yorkshire) Spitfire Leconfiel

 # 13 Group, Newcastle Upon Tyne; Air Vice-Marshall R.E. Saul

Squadron Aircraft Station
Catterick Sector
219 Blenheim Catterick
Usworth Sector
607 Hurricane Usworth
72 Spitfire Acklington
79 Spitfire Acklington
Turnhouse Sector
232 Hurricane Turnhouse
253 Hurricane Turnhouse
605 (County of Warwick) Hurricane Drem
141 Defiant Prestwick
Dyce Sector
603 (City of Edinburgh) Spitfire Dyce & Montrose
Wick Sector
3 Hurricane Wick
504 (County of Nottingham) Hurricane Castletown
232 (one flight) Hurricane Sumburgh
Aldergrove Sector
245 Hurricane Aldergrove
55 ½ squadron; 28 Hurricane, 19 Spitfire, 6 Blenheim [night], 2 Defiant, ½ Gladiator
 LUFTWAFFE ORDER OF BATTLE AGAINST BRITAIN 13 AUGUST 1940
High Command Berlin (Reichmarschall H. Goering)
LUFTFLOTTE 2
HQ Brussels
(Generalfeldmarschall A. Kesselring)
LUFTFLOTTE 5
HQ Oslo
(Generaloberst H.-J. Stumpff)
LUFTFLOTTE 3
HQ Paris
(Generalfeldmarschall H. Sperrle)
FLIEGERKORPS 1
HQ Beauvais
KG1 (He 111)
KG 76 (Do 17 & Ju 88)
FLIEGERKORPS X
HQ Stavanger
I & III/KG26 (He 111)
I& III/KG30 (Ju 88)
I/ZG76 (Me 110)
FLIEGERKORPS IV
HQ Dinard
LG1 (Ju 88)
KG27 (He 111)
StG3 (Ju 87)
FLIEGERKORPS II
HQ Ghent
KG2 (Do 17)
KG3 (Do 17) KG53 (He 111)
II/StG1 (Ju 87)
IV/StLG1 (Ju 87)
Erprobungsgruppe 210
(Me 109 & 110)
 
FLIEGERKORPS V
HQ Villacoublay
KG 51 (Ju 88)
I & II/KG54 (Ju 88)
KG55 (He 111)
Fliegerdivision 9
HQ Soesterberg
KG4 (He 111 & Ju 88)
I/KG40 (FW 200)
KGr100 (He 111)
 
FLIEGERKORPS VIII
HQ Deauville
I & III/StG1 (Ju 87)
I & II/StG2 (Ju 87)
StG77 (Ju 87)
V/LG1 (Me 109)
Jagdfliegerfuehrer 2
HQ Wissant
JG3 (Me 109)
JG26 (Me-109)
JG51 (Me 109)
I & II/JG52 (Me 109)
JG54 (Me 109)
ZG26 (Me 110)
II & III/ZG76 (Me 110)
I/LG2 (Me 109)
 
Jagdfliegerfuehrer 3
HQ Cherbourg
JG2 (Me 109)
JG2 (Me 109)
JG27 (Me 109)
JG53 (Me 109)
I & II/ZG2 (Me 110)
Plus reconnaissance aircraft in all Luftflotten

 

TOTAL STRENGTH AND SERVICEABILITY 10 AUGUST 1940
Long-range bombers
1360
998
Dive-bombers
406
316
Single-engined fighters
813
702
Twin-engined fighters
319
261
Long-range reconnaissance
113
78
FIGHTER COMMAND ORDER OF BATTLE 7 SEPTEMBER 1940
HQ Bentley Priory, Stanmore
(Air Chief Marshall Sir Hugh Dowding)
 # 10 Group, Box, Wilts (Air Vice-Marshall Sir Quintin Brand)
Squadron
Aircraft
Station
Pembrey Sector
92
Spitfire
Pembrey
Filton Sector
87 Hurricane Exeter & Bibury
213 Hurricane Exeter
St Eval Sector
238 Hurricane St Eval
247 (one flight) Gladiator Roborough
Middle Wallop Sector
234 Spitfire Middle Wallop
609 (West Riding) Spitfire Middle Wallop
604 (County of Middlesex) Blenheim Middle Wallop
56 Hurricane Boscombe Down
152 Spitfire Warmwell
 

# 11 Group, Uxbridge

(Air Vice-Marshall K.R. Park

Squadron Aircraft Station
Tangmere Sector
43 Hurricane Tangmere
601 (County of London) Hurricane Tangmere
602 (City of Glasgow) Spitfire Westhampnett
Kenley Sector
66 Spitfire Kenley
253 Hurricane Kenley
72 Spitfire Croydon
111 Hurricane Croydon
Biggin Hill Sector
79 Spitfire Biggin Hill
501 (County of Gloucester) Hurricane Gravesend
Hornchurch Sector
222 Spitfire Hornchurch
603 (City of Edinburgh) Spitfire Hornchurch
600 (City of London) Blenheim Hornchurch
41 Spitfire Rochford
Northolt Sector
1 (Royal Canadian Air Force)
Hurricane
Northolt
303 (Polish)
Hurricane
Northolt
504 (County of Nottingham)
Hurricane
Northolt
1
Hurricane
Heath Row
North Weald Sector
249
Hurricane
North Weald
46
Hurricane
Stapleford Abbots
Debden Sector
17
Hurricane
Debden
257
Hurricane
Martlesham & North Weald
25
Blenheim
Martlesham
73
Hurricane
Castle camps
 # 12 Group, Watnall, Notts. (Air Vice-Marshall T.L. Leigh Mallory)
Squadron
Aircraft
Station
Duxford Sector
19
Spitfire
Duxford
310 (Czechoslovak)
Hurricane
Duxford
Coltishall Sector
242
Hurricane
Coltishall
616 (South Yorkshire)
Spitfire
Coltishall
266
Spitfire
Coltishall & Wittering
Wittering Sector
229
Hurricane
Wittering
23
Blenheim
Wittering
Digby Sector
151
Hurricane
Digby
611 (West Lancashire)
Spitfire
Digby
29
Blenheim
Digby
Kirton-in-Lindsey Sector
74
Spitfire
Kirton-in-Lindsey
264
Defiant
Kirton-in-Lindsey and Ringway
Church Fenton Sector
85
Hurricane
Church Fenton
302 (Polish)
Hurricane
Church Fenton
64
Spitfire
Church Fenton & Ringway
 # 13 Group, Newcastle Upon Tyne  (Air Vice-Marshall R.E. Saul)
Squadron
Aircraft
Station
Catterick Sector
219
Blenheim
Catterick
54
Spitfire
Catterick
Usworth Sector
607
Hurricane
Usworth
610 (County of Chester)
Spitfire
Acklington
32
Hurricane
Acklington
Turnhouse Sector
65
Spitfire
Turnhouse
615
Hurricane
Prestwick
605 (County of Warwick)
Hurricane
Drem
141
Defiant
Prestwick
Dyce Sector
145 (City of Edinburgh)
Hurricane
Dyce & Montrose
Wick Sector
3
Hurricane
Castletown
232 (one flight)
Hurricane
Sumburgh
Aldergrove Sector
245
Hurricane
Aldergrove

IMG_1398

 By courtesy of the authors and publisher

IMG_0139 (Edited)
By courtesy of the author and publisher