July 22, 2005

Battle of Britain - July 22

Sgt. Campbell joins his squadron.

Sorry this took an extra couple of days to get started, Mum and Kate. Airman Polford was going to lend me his Macintosh, but I've been posted to a "Satellite" field, so we couldn't find a proprietary "Apple" power cord. Finally, I'm running on a PC running off a diesel generator.

Where were we?

Oh, I finally made it to Debden. There are two squadrons here - my lot, 85 Squadron, was in the thick of it all through France, and it shows. Also 17 Squadron - more about that lot later. The planes are mostly new, but most of the lads are pretty tossed after their adventures.

I'm the leading airframe artificer. I make sure all the aircraft are ready to fly, and try to patch up the ones that aren't. Both 85 and 17 fly the Hawker Hurricane. You at home probably hear about all the posh lads in their Spitfires, but the Hurri gives up not a jot, and is, I think, a much stronger plane, although I fancy we'll find out soon. I do the airframe. I don't do engines - that's for the Motor blokes, and good on 'em - the planes all have Rolls Royce Merlins, which are a far bloody cry from the engines on the old Vildebeests. I don't handle the guns, either - the Armorers are for that.

The Squadron Leader (S/L) is S/L Peter Townsend. He's already had a busy war - he shot down the first enemy plane to fall on English soil since 1918, a Heinkel a few weeks back. They've been in the thick of things since then; the Huns are attacking convoys in the Channel and the Western Approaches. So the lads spend their days patrolling over the Channel, trying to keep air cover over the coastal convoys. There are more convoys than aircraft - a Hurri can only stay on patrol an hour or so, and then it's back on the deck for fuel, ammunition and maybe a sandwich.

I picked a bad time to report on base; as my lorry pulled up at Castle Camps (a satellite field a few miles from Debden, where they dispersed part of the squadron), a Hurri came in for a landing, stalled, and crashed. The pilot, a Pilot Officer (P/O) Bickerdale, bought the farm. Not the squadron's first casualty since France - another poor sod, Sergeant Jowett, was lost at sea a few weeks ago.

Sergeant Leonard Jowett, third from right

That's the hard part, says the lads; you only have one engine, and if it chuffs it over the Channel, you're pretty much for it. So the motor mechanic blokes take a lot of extra care.

More patrols. Cheers. More tomorrow.

Posted by Mitch at July 22, 2005 08:04 PM | TrackBack

Ever read Enemy In the Sky? one of the best Battle of Britain memoirs. Written by Sandy Johnstone, later an air admiral. Very enjoyable reading.

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