...::: THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN WHITEWASH :::...
...::: VIEW HONOUR ROLL FOR 59 SQN MEMBERS OF THE FEW :::...

10 July 1940: The weather was typical, 9/10th's cloud cover over most of Britain. Heavy rain covered most of the west, midlands and the north. Showers were prevalant over the south, south-east and spreading over the channel. Well before No. 66 Squadron (the first Fighter Command pilots into action) got their call to scramble at 0730hrs, two Blenheim Bombers of No. 59 Squadron "TR-C" & "TR-A" had already returned from France after flying reconnaissance over the aerodromes at Cherbourg and Le Havre. At 0300hrs whilst battling the inclement weather , P/O A.D. Hopkin & Crew in "TR-C" crashed at Tenbury on return to Thorney Island with the loss of all crew. Soon after, facing the same predicament at 0420hrs, P/O J. Rex & crew in "TR-A" crashed at Peterstone (near to Cardiff), the aircraft bursting into flames and again with the loss of all crew. Both aircraft were plotted by R.D.F but with no answers in return, no D.F bearings could be sent... P/O Rex, Sgt's Jeffery & Liddle could well have flown the first RAF sortie of the Battle, taking off at 0005hrs, just four minutes after the "officially recognised" beginning at 0001hrs but sadly their sacrifice would not be remembered. In 1960, their names would be struck from the roll of the "Few" and cast into obscurity along with the those of P/O Hopkin, Sgt's Rowles & Falconer and indeed the names of all those who flew with 59 Sqn during the Battle...

These 50 crews comprised of 151 brave airmen, flew over 320 sorties against Unternehman Seelowe (Operation Sealion), the planned German invasion of Britain, sustaining the loss of 21 aircraft. Of these, 13 crews were posted as missing, 7 crash landed (no casualties) and 1 crashed into the sea killing the pilot. The Battle of Britain saw 41 aircrew from No. 59 lose their lives due to operations. The Air Ministry, having already neglected the participation of many throughout the 1940's & 50's, took a terrible course of action in 1960, by revoking the Battle honours of 59 Squadron veterans. To further add insult to injury, not only were the airmen of No. 59 removed from the honours list but also those of No. 53 Squadron. Here are two squadrons, who in July of 1940 transferred into Coastal Command, to undertake operational duties (trade protection) that had previously been tasked to Fighter Command. In the book Coastal Dawn (Andrew Bird, 2013), the author notes the following, "Commander-in-Chief of Coastal Command was elated to have 'some teeth' when the trade protection squadrons were passed to his command. However, the four squadrons were frequently called upon by Fighter Command to plug the gaps during the Battle of Britain (Royal Air Force Museum, London)". Bird also noted that 53 and 59 "would play a greater part (in the Battle) within the Command". As well as 53 and 59, the two other squadrons mentioned (to make up the four trade protection) are 235 and 236 (Blenheim Fighters), who had transferred to Coastal in February according to the History of War website. Today, veterans of these two squadrons are eligible for the clasp and have been since 1946.

The trade protection duties quickly put all four squadrons into the midst of the Battle and confrontation with the Luftwaffe over the Channel and France. Furthermore, these duties were considered even at the time, of the utmost importance in the fight against invasion. Yet all of the above, seemingly held no ground in 1960, for 53 and 59 veterans eligibility to proudly wear the Clasp. This page is therefore dedicated to the 'Forgotten Few' of not only 53 and 59, but to all those cast into the shadows...

__________________________________________________

The Battle of Britain - A Myth Is Created: There is a fantastically one-sided portrayal of the conflict today that has been in circulation since the 1940's, in which the Battle of Britain is fought and won by the efforts of "Fighter Command only". The prevalence of this blind belief amongst Britain's civilian population both during and after the war can be partially (but very importantly) attributed to the issue of their "morale" and the use of propaganda to boost it. In the book "The Battle of Hamburg", Martin Middlebrook looks at the importance of civilian morale in "winning the war", although it is more from the perspective of "the crushing of enemy civilian morale" by the use of strategic long range bombing and the belief that this would cause a collapse of infrastructure and lessen the ability of the enemy to wage war. I talk loosely of "the enemy" in this instance because the issue of civilian morale would inevitably become applicable to both Britain and Germany. At this point, it is not necessary to get "neck deep" into the political and social debate concerning strategic-bombing tactics during the war but I did want to highlight the recognised importance of civilian morale in respect of it. Furthermore, highlight that it was of the utmost interest in terms of tactics well before 1939 and already a very contentious affair. Thus in 1940, with the British Government and indeed the nation facing it's most dangerous

threat of recent times, the importance of maintaining and even "creating" a high level of civilian morale was a necessity. Even if it meant that the "truth" was somewhat arbitrarily disseminated, "re-worked" or even withheld by the relevant ministries and politicians, to get the job done. The job of maintaining morale ultimately fell upon the Ministry of Information, so perhaps the Air Ministry alone is not the single culprit in this case...

The British home front was as important as any battle ground. Throughout the war, the Ministry of Information (under Alfred Duff Cooper and later Brenden Bracken) tried to boost public morale through propaganda campaigns. It also frequently prevented (or at least delayed) the press from publishing information that would damage public spirits, such as photographs of bomb-damaged houses in poor parts of London. (www.history.co.uk)

Fighter pilots were already heroes in the eyes of many well before hostilities broke out in 1939. Since the Great War many had grown up marveling at the glorious stories, of fighters dueling in the skies above France. Many had witnessed the "coming of age" of the aeroplane with many "firsts" in flight... Such as the transatlantic crossings by various aircraft (the first being in 1919), the first round-the-world flight in 1924 and people of the likes of Amelia Earhart, who in 1932 was the first aviatrix to cross solo in a Lockheed Vega 5B. As such, the powers that be in 1940 had little work to do in terms of promoting Fighter Command's efforts during the Battle to boost morale. The fighter pilots were already heroes to many but the chance to elevate them to a status behind "hero", that was well worth its weight in gold for morale. However it came at a cost and this meant that most airmen would have to be overlooked and forgotten...

So on August 20th 1940, when the Prime Minister of Britain, Winston Churchill addressed this fact by reminding the people of Britain "not" to forget them...

"...we must never forget that all the time, night after night, month after month, our bomber squadrons travel far into Germany... On no part of the Royal Air Force does the weight of the war fall more heavily than on the daylight bombers..." Winston Churchill - to the House of Commons - Aug 20, 1940.

This may have been more in the aid of boosting the morale of the bomber crews (not the civilians), as it appears that by and large the people of Britain forget them

regardless... Perhaps Churchill's aim was more in the vain of bringing at least "some attention" to the efforts of the bomber crews, due to their lack of public acknowledgement being echoed in the already low moral on the bomber squadrons. Of course civilian morale was very important, a point that Churchill new all to well but so too was the morale of the troops, in this case, the airmen of the "daylight bombers" of Coastal Command... The War Cabinet seemed keen to address the issue of "morale" when they sent out the following signals to the C.in.C, Coastal Command in Sept. 1940...

Whilst it cannot be denied that during wartime, to boost the moral of one's people is paramount to a war effort and that using examples of bravery, courage and loyalty that they can relate to and that they often see (such as the fighter pilots in battle) and other forms of propaganda is understandable, it is a flagrant abuse of power to continue on with such "created myths" post-war, when the question of "morale" in no longer a consideration in terms of a "war effort". It is certainly not acceptable to further promote "one group" to an elite status whilst blatantly denying and refusing to acknowledge the participation of many others, namely "the bomber crews". Obviously post-war, the question of "morale" was no longer an issue in terms of "aircrew well being" for the Air Ministry... So in 1960, when they officially revoked the clasps from veterans of the only two bomber squadrons honoured in 1945, they did so with blood on their hands...

__________________________________________________

The Naming of The Few: No other undertaking involved in preserving the history of the Battle of Britain, has corrupted it more so than the process to name the Few. In the summer of 1942 Bruce Ingram (pictured left - in 1963) the proprietor of The Illustrated London News contacted Archibald Sinclair (Secretary of State for Air) suggesting that a permanent record of names of those (airmen) who had played "an active roll" in the battle should be preserved for the nation. On 19 August 1942, an Air Council meeting concluded that the intention might be to feature only those who had flown with Fighter Command but it might be undesirable to highlight one group out of the whole RAF, as all units had been connected to the battle in one way or another. They then proposed that the list contain only the names of those who had died from Fighter Command...

So after appearing to try and avoid the singling out one of group, the Air Ministry then suggested that very same scenario as a reasonable solution... It appears that Ingram also picked up on the "Fighter Command" theme proposed by the Air Ministry as his next letter of proposal to Archibald Sinclair, has lost the inclusive note of "all those who had played an active roll" to now play to the tune of "all the fighter pilots - lost and living"...

The Air Ministry rejected Ingram's second request informing him that it would serve as the most "uncontroversial" tribute to name only those killed, reasoned by the fact that there was a war on and that time and resources were very limited. Ingram was still not satisfied as his initial intention had been to "create a complete historical record of all the pilots who had fought the Battle of Britain" although he ultimately accepted their proposal... And so the first proposed list of the "Few" became those who had died from Fighter Command only. Perhaps it would be prudent to note here that Ingram did eventually add the names of the airmen who died with Bomber and Coastal Command's (against the Air Ministry's recommendations) by the time the memorial was unveiled at Westminster Abbey in 1947 (pictured left). One could argue that in favouring Fighter Command the Air Ministry were only "voicing" public opinion of the 1940's but as the authoritative branch on air operations who more so than any other had the most detailed perspective of the conflict in the air, it is likely that public opinion only played a part in terms of civilian moral. A more likely scenario is that the personal beliefs and opinions of those who held positions of power within the Ministry itself, formed the basis for these recommendations. The continual validation (whether forced or not) of the Air Ministry's stance on "fighter pilots only" in the 1940's, set the standard for future recognition and research of the Few... (www.bbm.org.uk)

__________________________________________________

No. 53 & 59 Squadrons

Awards Revoked

The Air Ministry Order - AMO741/1945 - states the following in relation to those eligible for the clasp.

"CO’s are not to admit claims for this highly-prized emblem which are open to any possible doubt. The clasp is not available for personnel who flew in aircraft other than fighters, notwithstanding that they may have been engaged with the enemy in the air during the qualifying period"

This alone, renders both 53 & 59 Squadron aircrews "not eligible" for the clasp but for some unknown reason they were included in the preceding list of eligible squadrons. Perhaps an oversight by those responsible for creating the list in 1945 and thus (apparently) a second order in June 1946, removed them... but did it?

The Battle of Britain Monument London site, states that it is believed that a change of "Command" between the 1st and 10th of July, was the probable cause that denied the two squadrons and their respective aircrew what was rightfully theirs to claim. The site goes on to further state that it was in an AMO released in June 1946, that both 53 & 59 Sqn's were taken off the list , however it appears that in a reply to Henry Strickland (pictured right) from the RAF Record Office, dated 5 November 1948 he was still eligible for the "Clasp to 1939/45 Star"... (view) So it appears that the order in 1946 had not struck 59 Sqn (and most probably 53) aircrews from the list and thus eligibility for the clasp. So when did this actually occur? It appears that this occurred as a result of another AMO in 1960. (view AMO of 1945 - AMO of 1960). Andy Saunders - Author of "Convoy Peewit" writes the following of the removal of 59 Sqn from the Honours list...

Sgt Henry Strickland flew his first operation on 23rd July 1940 as a WAG. He was injured during his crews third sortie on the 25th and was hospitalised. The next day P/O Turnbull and Sgt. Rowe went out with a replacement and failed to return...

"In Air Ministry Order AMO A.741/1945 the accredited squadrons were initially set down and were those units from which pilots and aircrew could claim entitlement to the Battle of Britain bar if they had flown at least one operational sortie on one of those squadrons. Clearly and specifically included within that official list is 59 Squadron. Consequently, this meant for example that all of the pilots and aircrew from that squadron who participated in the actions of 8 August 1940 would, most certainly, have qualified for the award of the bar. Indeed, one such was Plt Off C M M Grece who had flown on a search operation over CW9 Peewit during the morning of 8 August and who was subsequently awarded the bar in line with the requirements laid down under Air Ministry Order number A.741 of 1945. On 12 July 1954 Grece was tragically killed in a flying accident in a private light aircraft at Southampton (Eastleigh) Airport whilst serving as station commander of RAF Middle Wallop. Then a Group Captain, Grece was certainly the recipient of a Battle of Britain bar at the time of his death. Another such recipient was Plt Off P A Womersley who flew another search that morning with 59 Squadron. Indeed, Pat Wommersely certainly flew a good many other operations with 59 Squadron during the Battle of

Britain period that would also have been considered to be qualifying operational sorties. However, Wommersley, Grece and every other pilot or aircrew who flew with 59 Squadron would ultimately have their entitlements revoked – and this included Plt Off L N Davis, Sgt G H Coulton and Sgt B W Beaumont of 59 Squadron who had all paid with their lives for their participation over CW9 Peewit...

On 9 November 1960 the RAF issued a revised list of those squadrons considered to qualify for the Battle of Britain bar and 59 Squadron was no longer on it. At a stroke, or arbitrarily as Dowding might have put it, all of those to whom the award had originally been issued on 59 Squadron were told to take down the bar forthwith and to duly return them to the RAF medals branch. Further, any subsequent claims for the award by those who had served on 59 Squadron during the qualifying period, but who had not yet received their award, would not have their applications entertained. Under the circumstances it all seems exceptionally harsh.

What led to this reversal of entitlement for the aircrew of 59 Squadron might be explained by the fact that 59 Squadron was, in fact, a Coastal Command Squadron as opposed to a Fighter Command Squadron. That said, however, 59 Squadron fell under the control of Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain as did 235 Squadron – another Blenheim squadron that was also another Coastal Command Squadron. 235 Squadron flew broadly similar operations throughout the battle to those flown by 59 Squadron and it also participated in the actions of 8 August 1940. Unlike 59 Squadron however, its aircrew rightfully continue to be recognised as Battle of Britain participants, are entitled to wear the bar and rosette and also have their names recorded on the official Battle of Britain roll. As one 59 Squadron pilot later put it when writing of the withdrawal of the award: “….the feelings about this change ran pretty high at the time, I can tell you!” (blogs.independent.co.uk)

The 1939-1945 Star, onto which the Battle of Britain Bar (pictured above) was added to the ribbon . There was also a gilted rosette created for when the ribbon bar alone was worn.

 
:::::: The 59 Sqn Crews - 08/08/1940 - Convoy CW9 "Peewit" :::...

The Convoy: The 8th of August, the first day of the second phase of the battle, seven squadrons from 11 Group and two from 10 Group would be engaged in fierce combat that would prove costly to the RAF, said by many as the first day of the 'real Battle of Britain'. This day saw a huge British shipping convoy of about 25 merchant ships with armed Royal Navy escort being detected (by German radar) coming through the Straits of Dover and heading westwards towards the Atlantic Ocean. This was to be the first time for two weeks that a merchant convoy was going to attempt passage through the English Channel. The convoy had assembled at Southend the previous evening ready to pass through the Dover Straits during the hours of darkness en route for Swanage in Dorset.

It was a costly business for both sides in the "Peewit" battle, especially as it was an unplanned battle, it was really just that "Peewit" was a target of opportunity that the Luftwaffe could not resist and that Fighter Command were obligated to respond. But it was the convoy Peewit that had suffered most. Of the 23 ships that had commenced the journey the previous night, only four had managed to limp into either Poole and Portsmouth harbours without damage. (www.battleofbritain1940)

Aircraft Time Up - Down Duty Crew
TR-N 0420hrs - 0730hrs Convoy P/O E.L. Archer (pilot) Sgt Walker (obs) Sgt Vale (WAG)
Details
Convoy was located and recognised. Search was made almost to Cherbourg for reported damaged "E" boats. Nothing unusual seen. More Info: First attack on convoy was by German torpedo boats in the half light of dawn. They sank three ships and damaged another three before full light of morning.
Aircraft Time Up - Down Duty Crew
TR-M 0605hrs - 0855hrs Convoy P/O H.D. Carruthers (pilot) Sgt Shelton (obs) Sgt Salmon (WAG)
Details
Nothing unusual seen.
Aircraft Time Up - Down Duty Crew
TR-K 0810hrs - 1100hrs Convoy P/O P.A. Womersley (pilot) Sgt O'Connor (obs) Sgt Dunlop (WAG)
Details
Nothing unusual seen.
Aircraft Time Up - Down Duty Crew
TR-L 0915hrs - 1125hrs Search P/O C.M.M. Grece (pilot) Sgt Ryan (obs) Sgt Frost (WAG)
Details
Wreckage sighted but no survivors or bodies.
Aircraft Time Up - Down Duty Crew
TR-P 0935hrs - 1345hrs Convoy P/O R.A. Ullman (pilot) Sgt Thirkell (obs) Sgt Lewis (WAG)
Details
Convoy attacked by 30 dive bombers. Withdrew about 4 miles and wirelessed for help. Chased one single engined into Portsmouth A.A. area. Signalled to RAF boats and they proceeded to convoy.
Aircraft Time Up - Down Duty Crew
TR-O 1205hrs - 1510hrs Convoy P/O B. Reynolds (pilot) Sgt Whiting (obs) Sgt Wilkinson (WAG)
Details
Convoy attacked by large formation of dive bombers. S.O.S went out by W.T and photographs taken. Convoy considerably damaged.
Aircraft Time Up - Down Duty Crew
TR-E 1400hrs - 1705hrs Convoy F/L G.T. Palmer (pilot) Sgt Wells (obs) Sgt Buckley (WAG)
Details
Convoy damaged on arrival. Nothing more unusual seen.
Aircraft Time Up - Down Duty Crew
R2783 1415hrs - 1545hrs Search P/O L.D. Sandes (pilot) Sgt Crosher (obs) Sgt Gates (WAG)
Details
Scene (of convoy attack?) revealed nothing. One German seaplane and one ME.109 seen near French Coast.
Aircraft Time Up - Down Duty Crew
TR-F 1550hrs - HACH P/O L.N. Davis (pilot) Sgt Coulton (obs) Sgt Beaumont (WAG)
Details
Aircraft failed to return - crew reported missing. More Info: At about 1630hrs - the convoy was attacked by a large formation of Ju87 Stukas (90 plus) that were escorted by 70 Bf109's and Me110's.
Aircraft Time Up - Down Duty Crew
TR-E 1550hrs - 1915hrs Convoy P/O K.V. Palmer (pilot) Sgt Robinson (obs) Sgt Walters (WAG)
Details
Nothing unusual seen, but convoy split up by previous raiders.
Aircraft Time Up - Down Duty Crew
-- 1800hrs - 2200hrs Convoy F/L G.T. Palmer (pilot) Sgt Wells (obs) Sgt Buckley (WAG)
Details
Convoy had been bombed. Some ships burning but nothing else seen. More Info: At about 1630hrs - the convoy was attacked by a large formation of Ju87 Stukas (90 plus) that were escorted by 70 Bf109's and Me110's.
Aircraft Time Up - Down Duty Crew
TR-U 1900hrs - 2055hrs SAII P/O J. Dellow (pilot) Sgt Edwards (obs) Sgt Bettis (WAG)
Details
Nothing unusual seen.
 

 

__________________________________________________

A Question of Command? Although Andy refers above to 59 Sqn coming under the control of Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain, information provided by Ross McNeill and Andrew Bird states otherwise, that on June 26th 1940, both 53 & 59 Sqn were reassigned to Coastal Command, effective immediately. The 59 ORB and appendices make no mention of reassignment specifically but movement orders to Thorney Island and subsequent official reports after the date of July 5th (date of arrival to Thorney Island), show them as under No.16 Group (Coastal Command).

Assigned Task: Ross McNeill notes the following in relation to the transferral of 53 & 59 Sqn's from Fighter Command to Coastal Command in June 1940.

 

"Fighter Command was committed to the Dowding system of RDF contacts to reduce the need for standing patrols. However low level attacks on shipping were only being detected by RDF when the raiders were 10 to 15 miles from the convoys. Fighter Command could not scramble fighters and vector to attack in time to intercept the raiders. The withdrawal of Allied forces in Norway in June 1940 released the new Coastal Blenheim units for new tasking and Coastal used these, along with Hudson, to take over the duty from Fighter Command. Coastal asked for some contribution of equipment from Fighter Command to aid their overstretched resources and this was given at the meeting of the 26th in the form of the recce units that Fighter Command/new Army Co-op Command no longer had an immediate use for. Hence the transfer of No.53 and No.59 was mainly to recognise tasking movement rather than tidy up of Command establishment." (www.ww2talk.com)

What Ross makes notes of briefly is the "the new Army Co-operation Command"... Previously, both 53 & 59 had come under the control of No.22 Group (Army Co-operation) which inturn, came under the control of Fighter Command. On the 24th of June, No.22 Group, was raised to command status and although the 59 Sqn records make no mention of it, the 53 records show that they were to come under the control of the new command, as of the 24th. So whether both 53 & 59 Sqn were still part of Fighter Command in the couple of days prior to the 26th or had recently both become part of Army Co-operation Command is unknown at this stage. Regardless, on the 26th they were both reassigned to Coastal Command.

Interestingly, they would be taking on duties with Coastal Command that were originally tasked to Fighter Command... and according to the "Coastal Command" page on Wikipedia they were taking on duties that were deemed "top priority"...

"Priority was anti-invasion operations. With the Battle of Britain underway, the Command was ordered to disrupt German preparations for Operation Sea Lion. In this respect, former RAF-Army co-operation squadrons, No. 53 and 59, were handed to Coastal Command in July 1940 for these tasks." (wikipedia)

Although "command" ultimately played no role in the decision to remove these two squadrons from the "eligible list", I feel that this scenario is tainted with a touch of irony... Whilst this may have contributed in-part to their initial inclusion on the list and also (as mentioned by Andy) the "similarities" in operational duty with other "recognised" Coastal Command squadrons. Ultimately it was the "type" of aircraft they were operating that eventually saw them removed...

__________________________________________________

 

The Question of Duty!

(above) A Bristol Blenheim MK.IV of No.59 Sqn - Coastal Command
(above) A Bristol Blenheim MK.IVF of No.235 Sqn - Coastal Command

The Coastal Command "Few": The Coastal Command units that are recognised are the designated "fighter squadrons". As mentioned above, one of them was No.235 Sqn (also 236 Sqn) and they operated on the Blenheim MK.IVF during the Battle of Britain. The Mk.IVF variant was essentially just a converted Mk.VI with the addition of a "four-pack" of .303in machine guns added to the bomb bay area of the fuselage... Andy also states that they flew "broadly similar" missions to 59 Sqn, the History of War site states the following of 235 Sqn...

 

"In February 1940 the squadron received its first operational aircraft, the Bristol Blenheim, and on 27 February 1940 it joined Coastal Command. During 1940 the squadron was used for fighter-reconnaissance duties. During the German invasion of the Low Countries it was used to patrol over Holland. During the Battle of Britain in was used for convoy protection and reconnaissance over the North Sea, taking it a little away from the scene of the main convoy battles in the English Channel."

The History of War site states the following of 59 Squadron's operations....

 

"After its return to England (May 1940) the squadron continued to fly reconnaissance missions for five months, before in October that task was taken over by the Photographic Reconnaissance Unit. Bombing raids against the German invasion ports began in July 1940, as did anti-submarine patrols."

So both 235 & 59 Sqn's were flying reconnaissance missions and although the History of War site does not make mention of it, the 59 ORB confirms that 59 were also flying convoy patrol sorties as from the 21/07/1940. On this day, 59 flew four convoy patrols and during the fourth, it is noted that the convoy was attacked by 80 enemy aircraft . So the only real difference is in the designation of duty, "convoy patrol" and "convoy protection". Whilst the 59 crews would patrol the convoy and call in any immediate threat (to which Fighter Command would be asked to respond), the 235 crews were the fighters sent to protect because the Fighter Command squadrons were already stretched thin and well out of range... Having said that, the 59 crews were detailed to attack any enemy shipping (including U-boats) that threatened the convoy, so realistically they were also carrying out the duty of "convoy protection"... Sounds like semantics to me...

However, it should be noted that designation of duties between Blenheim fighters and bombers, although similar at times, the differences are important. When the Blenheim fighters and bombers flew together, the differences in "duty" became much more evident. 235 and 236 regularly flew "fighter escort" patrols with 53 and 59, when the latter were designated for strike missions. The fighters were there to not only protect the bombers and their crews from enemy aircraft, but also draw attention away (A.A fire) from the bombers as they went in on their "runs" and/or attack ground artillery positions prior. When the Luftwaffe arrived, it was the Blenheim fighters duty to engage them, whilst the bombers completed their bombing runs and then headed for home. Once the bombers had dropped their payload, mission complete (return to base). In theory, it wasn't mission complete for the fighters until all the bombers (or those left) were heading for home "safely". If a bomber was under attack on return, it was a fighters duty to protect them. I stated "in theory" because reality more often eventuated with the bombers being scattered all over the channel, at low altitude and in cloud cover (if they were lucky) to evade the enemy. Given these circumstances, if a bomber was under attack, it would be hard for any escort fighter to aid them, let alone find them in the first place. Paramount to this, the fighters (dependant on the number of enemy a/c) would be the primary target for the Luftwaffe, only turning on the bombers if and when the fighters no longer presented a challenge. Thus, the fighters were presented with their own fight survival and would themselves if possible, make the very same escape as the bombers, "hit the deck and pray for cloud cover". This is in no way a negative reflection of the integrity of the Blenheim fighter crews, more a reflection of their aircraft and the fact that it was drastically underpowered compared to the German fighters of the time. As were the bombers.

________________________________________________

Bombers & Fighters Side by Side: Let us not forget that Blenheim fighters and bombers regularly flew missions together. One such mission was on the 01/08/1940 when 13 bombers of 59 Sqn were escorted by a force of Blenheim fighters of No. 236 Sqn... 1 Blenheim of 59 Sqn and two of 236 were lost.

Commanding Officer Morgan-Weld-Smith (pictured left) and his crew, P/O D.H. Davis (observer) and Sgt P. Pryde (WAG), of 59 Squadron RAF in Blenheim L8792 "TR-A" had taken off from Thorney Island and failed to return from an attack on Cherbourg. (www.unithistories.com)

At 1500hrs Belnheim bomber L8792 TR-A took off from RAF Thorney Island it being one of 13 bombers (of 59 Sqdn) assigned to the raid (on Cherbourg)... At 1540hrs a break in the cloud appeared just as the Blenheim bombers of 59 approached the French coast on course, the aerodrome and the peninsula could be seen by the crews as they approached their bombing runs. Not far behind was the second wave of Blenheim fighters of 236 Squadron. 59 managed to drop their bombs amidst heavy anti-aircraft fire causing considerable damage. TR-A failed to return, the cause is unknown. Two fighters of 236 Squadron were also lost (Smarden War Memorial)

"Returning to Thorney Island, the crews are briefed about the mission, and it undergoes scrutiny. Itself, it was a success, considerable and severe damage had been done, but at a price. One of the Blenheim's of 59 Squadron fails to return, it was piloted by the squadron commanding officer Wing Commander Weld-Smith. Two Blenheim's of 236 Squadron also fail to return. A number of Bf109's of III/JG27 got into the air and could have been responsible for shooting down the Blenheim's of P/O McDonough and S/L Drew, or they may have been hit by gunfire from ground defences" - (www.battleofbritain1940.com)

Whilst the pilots of 236 Sqn are remembered as members of the Few... The C/O of 59 Sqn and his crew have been forgotten... Despite their shared undertakings and having fought side by side...

__________________________________________________

Only Fighter Pilots? - A Distorted Rememberance! With the utmost respect, I'd like to make note of a certain member of the Few, to highlight how factual history has been distorted and continues to be so today... I have chosen to highlight the duties of Sgt. Geoffrey Garside during the Battle of Britain for serveral reasons... The first being that he served with Coastal Command throughout the Battle (not Fighter Command), operating in Bristol Blenheim Mk.IVF fighters with the above mentioned 236 Sqn, (later posted to 59 Sqn to fly the bomber variant of the Blenheim in 1941)... Secondly, Sgt Garside was not a pilot, he was an observer... If one visits the website of the Battle of Britain Historical Society, there is little indication to highlight that some of those named, in this case Sgt. Garside, were not pilots... I scanned the site for mention of this fact and was only able to turn up one "very vague" paragraph within "Document 18, The Battle of Britain Clasp to the 1939-45 Star", that states,

"It will be noticed from the above, that three Coastal Command Squadrons were included with the squadrons that were able to claim the Clasp to their 1939-45 Star. It can only be assumed that these Coastal Command squadrons flew on operational duties with Fighter Command and therefore their personnel were entitled to the Clasp. "

That some were not pilots, seems to be a fact that holds little value to the Society, in perpetuating their version of history, the "fighter pilots only" version that is. The lack of representation for airmen such as Sgt. Garside, easily leaves the reader with the impression that these Coastal airmen, were all pilots... Geoffrey Garside himself made no attempt to hide the fact that he was not a pilot during the Battle when he was interviewed

 

I believe that it should be a question of duties undertaken by aircrews during the Battle of Britain that qualify them for the clasp, not the type of aircraft they operated... Furthermore, I feel that it was under dishonourable pretences that the airmen of both 53 & 59 Squadron's were asked to return their battle honours...

It is hardly honourable that in the act of remembering the Few, there remain many Others forgotten...

 

No. 59 & 53 Squadron - The Forgotten Few

rr
This site was created by and information compiled by L.Del Mann - © 2008