Finding the Few – Flight Sergeant Smith

From the Estate of Hugh Furse

Flight Sergeant Smith was a pilot from Swansea.

He was featured in R. Emrys Jones’ album.

He is also here.

Collection Gil Gillis

Source Pilot Officer Nichols

Sgt Smith

Advertisements

September 1942 – A good set of lad…

From the Estate of Hugh Furse

IMG_1949

IMG_1950

R. Emrys Jones’ story about 238 Squadron was found on the WW2 People’s War Homepage. 47, 000 people told their story about WWII. R. Emrys Jones’ story is about 238 Squadron when it was stationed in the Middle East.

Western Desert

Contributed by R. Emrys Jones

I was born 8th May 1920 in Talsarnau, Meirionethshire, North Wales and when war broke out I was doing my apprenticeship as a Pharmacist in Penrhyndeudraeth. I realised in January 1940 that it would be impossible for me to go to college because of the war so I volunteered for air crew in the Royal Air Force but failed the Medical so joined the Royal Air Force Medical Department. I did my training at the Medical School at Halton and experienced the Battle of Britain and then was posted to the RAF Officers’ Hospital which had taken over the fine and famous Palace Hotel at Torquay.

Amongst the patients at the hospital were the most severely injured and maimed casualties of the Battle of Britain including severely burnt aircrew. The famous plastic surgeon Alex MacInode worked wonders to bring back some normality to severely scarred faces and limbs. From Torquay I was posted to join a forward fighter squadron at Chilbolton near Middle Wallop. The squadron had received an overseas posting and was equipped with Hurricanes. There were four of us medics who had been together at Halton and Torquay. We stayed together for another two and a half years in the desert and I couldn’t have wished for a finer bunch of lads to be with.

The main echelon left Middle Wallop at the end of May en route for the Middle East on the troopship “Duchess of Bedford”, a ship of the Canadian Pacific Fleet and because of the shallowness of the St. Lawrence River her keel was shorter than normal ships. Therefore in the “Roaring Forties” round the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa, she rolled and we called her “The Rolling Duchess”. We joined the ship at Greenock, near Glasgow, but it was a fortnight before we sailed as the German warship Bismarck was around and being chased. So as soon as she was sunk [27 May, 1941] we sailed. The voyage was almost out westwards towards America to escape the submarines. It was a large convoy with aircraft carriers, destroyers and cruisers. Some way out they left us for action and we then turned eastwards to Freetown to take water. There were over 4,000 troops on board so as soon as we joined the ship we were recruited for work in the hospital and sick bay and were busy all voyage. We were not allowed off the ship at Freetown and in the three days we were there many of the troops developed Malaria. At Capetown we were allowed on shore and the South African families took many of us into their homes and entertained us.

By the time we were in Mombassa one of the Malaria patients had developed Cerebral Malaria and had a very high temperature and died. We had the job of stitching him in canvas with weights at the feet and he was buried at sea. This was our first experience with death and it was very moving. The Welsh-speaking Padre, the Reverend Emrys Davies, took the funeral service; the ship slowed down for the service and the burial. The RAF Padre gave constant services throughout the voyage. He was very good for morale and organised a Welsh choir so that we could entertain the troops. All kinds of games, boxing etc. were also organised to keep the troops from getting bored and in the evenings Housey, Housey were played all over the ship. Hundreds slept on deck at night as the hammocked areas under sea level were extremely stuffy and smelly. We arrived at Port Tewfik near Port Suez, disembarked and were taken to the transit camp and slept on the sand. Most had Sand-fly Fever in a few days, which is a horrible sickness with very high temperatures and thundering, severe headaches. We were moved to El Firdan where the complete squadron had severe dysentery, over a third of the personnel had to be admitted to hospital at Alexandria. Within a month we were moved to Landing Ground 92 (South West of Alexandria).

The pilots under our Commanding Officer, Squadron Leader Fenton, had embarked on the Aircraft Carrier Victorious at Scapa Flow which after a skirmish with the German battleship Bismark, the ship arrived in the Mediterranean with a stop at Gibraltar. The Hurricanes took off near Majorca en route for Malta (Ta Kali) to re-fuel, then on to Landing Ground 07 Gerwala before finally arriving at Abu Sueir in Egypt. The squadron at that point had no aircraft of its own and the pilots were attached to 274 Squadron for operations. When the ground crews arrived the whole squadron got together again at L.G. 92 (Amariya) but did not become operational until October with Hurricane IIs flown in from Takaradi by the squadron pilots.

The War in the desert was very fluid which meant that the Squadron was constantly on the move. By September, the Hurricanes were flying patrols from the Sidi Haneish and Marten Bagulsh Landing Grounds. Advancing with the 8th Army, 238 Squadron was at L.G. 123 (Fort Maddelena on the Libyan border, well south in the desert), by November 1941, MSUS (where there was heavy fighting) by December and Antelat by early January 1942. It was then a case of trotting up and down the desert a couple of times as the Axis troops advanced and then the 8th Army pushed them back. Then there was a final retreat from the Torruck area all the way to El Alamein. The Squadron was re-equipped with the Older Hurricanes owing to lack of spares for the Hurricane IIs. It was very disappointing to have to retreat after all the fighting and gain of ground. Unfortunately as ground was captured the supply line got longer and transporting all supplies over rough desert roads, including fuel and water, was difficult.

By the eve of the El Alamein Push, the squadron moved to a desert-landing ground right behind the front line. The ground crew and all its equipment and supplies were all in place with all the vehicles heavily draped with camouflage netting and well dispersed but the Hurricanes were kept back until first light as it depended on the progress of the battle, whether we would be retreating or staying to become operational at first light.

At 9.40 p.m. on October 23rd, the opening of the battle was marked by the flash and thunder of a barrage fired simultaneously by 456 guns on the main front. This was a most terrific noise and the flashes of the guns lit the sky. We were ordered to bed to sleep as we had to be up before dawn to a long day’s work; somehow we slept in spite of the noise, as we knew from experience, we would soon be told if there was a retreat.

For the Desert Air Force, the battle had begun four days earlier, with a heavy bombing programme against enemy airfields. By this time we had gained air superiority almost before the battle begun. The Bomber Squadron of Bostons, Baltimores and Mitchells operated effectively in daylight with cover from the fighter squadrons against the Axis forces which presented attractive targets as they concentrated to meet the 8th Army’s attacks. The light bombers flew in tight formations of eighteen aircraft. We took pleasure in watching the “Eighteen Impenturnabables” go over and see our fighter squadron joining to escort them. On one occasion (October 28th) they went over seven times in the space of two and a half hours. It was therefore an admirable two-way operation with the Desert Air Force and the Eighth Army in complete partnership. The Western Desert Air Force consisted of almost the whole Allied Air Force in the Middle East.

As the Axis retreated, we advanced from landing ground to landing ground keeping up with the rapid movement of the tanks. These landing grounds were familiar to us as we had used them many times before in our pushes and retreats. They were just cleared airstrips in the desert wastes. Flat areas that had just been cleared of camel thorn and bumps in the ground.

By the time we reached Mersah Matruh, the front of the retreating vehicles had almost reached Antelat and Agedabia — too far for the Fighters’ fuel to take them there and back. Our Wing Commander Darwen had a brilliant plan. He decided that two hurricane squadrons (No. 213 and 238) would operate from far behind the Retreating Axis Army at a landing ground behind the German line. This was about 180 miles east of Agedabia deep in the desert. So on a significant date — Friday, 13th November — essential ground staff and masses of supplies were airlifted by Aircraft Hudsons and Bombays to Landing Ground 125 on the morning of November 13th and thirty six Hurricanes followed. By two o’clock in the afternoon, twenty four hurricanes took off immediately and began operations against the long lines of retreating vehicles of the unsuspecting Axis transport destroying or damaging three hundred vehicles. During the three days 156 sorties had been flown by the two squadrons. On the 16th November a German Recognisance Aircraft came over and spotted us so we had to make a retreat. However, on the final day our Commanding Officer, Squadron Leader Marples, led eleven aircraft of 238 Squadron to chafe the coast road by Agheila, during which 42 vehicles were hit. In the whole exercise only three of our aircraft were lost whilst a large number of Axis vehicles and 14 Axis aircraft were destroyed. Four Hurricanes were too badly damaged to return at the end so were destroyed so they could not be taken by enemy hands. By mid-day on the 16th November, the Hudsons had arrived to fly back the ground crews although some did travel back overland. For defence and support, a section of the Long Distance Desert Troops had joined us in the operation.

The Squadron Leaders of 238 and 213 Squadron, Roy Marples, D.F.C. (later the Member of Parliament and Transport Minister), and Peter Oliver, D.F.C., both earned an immediate Bar to their Distinguished Flying Crosses for these operations.

From then on the Squadron moved up with the advance of the Army, passing at all the familiar landing grounds such as Gambut, El Adarn, Gazala, Benina, finishing at Martuba on 28th November 1942.

13th January 1943 saw the Squadron moving back to the Canal Zone, to El Gamil Port Said during which time they were re-equipped with Spitfires, getting the IX Version. Their flying life consisted of convoy patrols and Delta defence scrambles, although in July they did some low level sorties over Crete.

In March 1944 the Squadron left for Corsica and operated over Monte Casino Viterbo, Genoa, Elba, Bolognia, Florence and Sienna. They also did bomber escorts to Leghorn, Pisa, Prato, Savonna and Spezia. The Squadron left Corsica for Southern France on 30th August 1944.

However, much against my wishes, before the Squadron left Egypt, I was posted to the Principal Medical Officer’s office at RAF Headquarters Levant, situated opposite Damascus Gate in Jerusalem and the staff were billeted in the Nunnery Notre Dame de France, a little up the hill just outside the City Wall.

This is another story, an experience I would never have missed.

June 1941 – Have a light Pal

From the Estate of Hugh Furse

IMG_1948

Have a light Pal…

IMG_1951

R. Emrys Jones’ story about 238 Squadron was found on the WW2 People’s War Homepage. 47, 000 people told their story about WWII. R. Emrys Jones’ story is about 238 Squadron when it was stationed in the Middle East.

 

Western Desert

Contributed by R. Emrys Jones

I was born 8th May 1920 in Talsarnau, Meirionethshire, North Wales and when war broke out I was doing my apprenticeship as a Pharmacist in Penrhyndeudraeth. I realised in January 1940 that it would be impossible for me to go to college because of the war so I volunteered for air crew in the Royal Air Force but failed the Medical so joined the Royal Air Force Medical Department. I did my training at the Medical School at Halton and experienced the Battle of Britain and then was posted to the RAF Officers’ Hospital which had taken over the fine and famous Palace Hotel at Torquay.

Amongst the patients at the hospital were the most severely injured and maimed casualties of the Battle of Britain including severely burnt aircrew. The famous plastic surgeon Alex MacInode worked wonders to bring back some normality to severely scarred faces and limbs. From Torquay I was posted to join a forward fighter squadron at Chilbolton near Middle Wallop. The squadron had received an overseas posting and was equipped with Hurricanes. There were four of us medics who had been together at Halton and Torquay. We stayed together for another two and a half years in the desert and I couldn’t have wished for a finer bunch of lads to be with.

The main echelon left Middle Wallop at the end of May en route for the Middle East on the troopship “Duchess of Bedford”, a ship of the Canadian Pacific Fleet and because of the shallowness of the St. Lawrence River her keel was shorter than normal ships. Therefore in the “Roaring Forties” round the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa, she rolled and we called her “The Rolling Duchess”. We joined the ship at Greenock, near Glasgow, but it was a fortnight before we sailed as the German warship Bismarck was around and being chased. So as soon as she was sunk [27 May, 1941] we sailed. The voyage was almost out westwards towards America to escape the submarines. It was a large convoy with aircraft carriers, destroyers and cruisers. Some way out they left us for action and we then turned eastwards to Freetown to take water. There were over 4,000 troops on board so as soon as we joined the ship we were recruited for work in the hospital and sick bay and were busy all voyage. We were not allowed off the ship at Freetown and in the three days we were there many of the troops developed Malaria. At Capetown we were allowed on shore and the South African families took many of us into their homes and entertained us.

By the time we were in Mombassa one of the Malaria patients had developed Cerebral Malaria and had a very high temperature and died. We had the job of stitching him in canvas with weights at the feet and he was buried at sea. This was our first experience with death and it was very moving. The Welsh-speaking Padre, the Reverend Emrys Davies, took the funeral service; the ship slowed down for the service and the burial. The RAF Padre gave constant services throughout the voyage. He was very good for morale and organised a Welsh choir so that we could entertain the troops. All kinds of games, boxing etc. were also organised to keep the troops from getting bored and in the evenings Housey, Housey were played all over the ship. Hundreds slept on deck at night as the hammocked areas under sea level were extremely stuffy and smelly. We arrived at Port Tewfik near Port Suez, disembarked and were taken to the transit camp and slept on the sand. Most had Sand-fly Fever in a few days, which is a horrible sickness with very high temperatures and thundering, severe headaches. We were moved to El Firdan where the complete squadron had severe dysentery, over a third of the personnel had to be admitted to hospital at Alexandria. Within a month we were moved to Landing Ground 92 (South West of Alexandria).

The pilots under our Commanding Officer, Squadron Leader Fenton, had embarked on the Aircraft Carrier Victorious at Scapa Flow which after a skirmish with the German battleship Bismark, the ship arrived in the Mediterranean with a stop at Gibraltar. The Hurricanes took off near Majorca en route for Malta (Ta Kali) to re-fuel, then on to Landing Ground 07 Gerwala before finally arriving at Abu Sueir in Egypt. The squadron at that point had no aircraft of its own and the pilots were attached to 274 Squadron for operations. When the ground crews arrived the whole squadron got together again at L.G. 92 (Amariya) but did not become operational until October with Hurricane IIs flown in from Takaradi by the squadron pilots.

The War in the desert was very fluid which meant that the Squadron was constantly on the move. By September, the Hurricanes were flying patrols from the Sidi Haneish and Marten Bagulsh Landing Grounds. Advancing with the 8th Army, 238 Squadron was at L.G. 123 (Fort Maddelena on the Libyan border, well south in the desert), by November 1941, MSUS (where there was heavy fighting) by December and Antelat by early January 1942. It was then a case of trotting up and down the desert a couple of times as the Axis troops advanced and then the 8th Army pushed them back. Then there was a final retreat from the Torruck area all the way to El Alamein. The Squadron was re-equipped with the Older Hurricanes owing to lack of spares for the Hurricane IIs. It was very disappointing to have to retreat after all the fighting and gain of ground. Unfortunately as ground was captured the supply line got longer and transporting all supplies over rough desert roads, including fuel and water, was difficult.

By the eve of the El Alamein Push, the squadron moved to a desert-landing ground right behind the front line. The ground crew and all its equipment and supplies were all in place with all the vehicles heavily draped with camouflage netting and well dispersed but the Hurricanes were kept back until first light as it depended on the progress of the battle, whether we would be retreating or staying to become operational at first light.

At 9.40 p.m. on October 23rd, the opening of the battle was marked by the flash and thunder of a barrage fired simultaneously by 456 guns on the main front. This was a most terrific noise and the flashes of the guns lit the sky. We were ordered to bed to sleep as we had to be up before dawn to a long day’s work; somehow we slept in spite of the noise, as we knew from experience, we would soon be told if there was a retreat.

For the Desert Air Force, the battle had begun four days earlier, with a heavy bombing programme against enemy airfields. By this time we had gained air superiority almost before the battle begun. The Bomber Squadron of Bostons, Baltimores and Mitchells operated effectively in daylight with cover from the fighter squadrons against the Axis forces which presented attractive targets as they concentrated to meet the 8th Army’s attacks. The light bombers flew in tight formations of eighteen aircraft. We took pleasure in watching the “Eighteen Impenturnabables” go over and see our fighter squadron joining to escort them. On one occasion (October 28th) they went over seven times in the space of two and a half hours. It was therefore an admirable two-way operation with the Desert Air Force and the Eighth Army in complete partnership. The Western Desert Air Force consisted of almost the whole Allied Air Force in the Middle East.

As the Axis retreated, we advanced from landing ground to landing ground keeping up with the rapid movement of the tanks. These landing grounds were familiar to us as we had used them many times before in our pushes and retreats. They were just cleared airstrips in the desert wastes. Flat areas that had just been cleared of camel thorn and bumps in the ground.

By the time we reached Mersah Matruh, the front of the retreating vehicles had almost reached Antelat and Agedabia — too far for the Fighters’ fuel to take them there and back. Our Wing Commander Darwen had a brilliant plan. He decided that two hurricane squadrons (No. 213 and 238) would operate from far behind the Retreating Axis Army at a landing ground behind the German line. This was about 180 miles east of Agedabia deep in the desert. So on a significant date — Friday, 13th November — essential ground staff and masses of supplies were airlifted by Aircraft Hudsons and Bombays to Landing Ground 125 on the morning of November 13th and thirty six Hurricanes followed. By two o’clock in the afternoon, twenty four hurricanes took off immediately and began operations against the long lines of retreating vehicles of the unsuspecting Axis transport destroying or damaging three hundred vehicles. During the three days 156 sorties had been flown by the two squadrons. On the 16th November a German Recognisance Aircraft came over and spotted us so we had to make a retreat. However, on the final day our Commanding Officer, Squadron Leader Marples, led eleven aircraft of 238 Squadron to chafe the coast road by Agheila, during which 42 vehicles were hit. In the whole exercise only three of our aircraft were lost whilst a large number of Axis vehicles and 14 Axis aircraft were destroyed. Four Hurricanes were too badly damaged to return at the end so were destroyed so they could not be taken by enemy hands. By mid-day on the 16th November, the Hudsons had arrived to fly back the ground crews although some did travel back overland. For defence and support, a section of the Long Distance Desert Troops had joined us in the operation.

The Squadron Leaders of 238 and 213 Squadron, Roy Marples, D.F.C. (later the Member of Parliament and Transport Minister), and Peter Oliver, D.F.C., both earned an immediate Bar to their Distinguished Flying Crosses for these operations.

From then on the Squadron moved up with the advance of the Army, passing at all the familiar landing grounds such as Gambut, El Adarn, Gazala, Benina, finishing at Martuba on 28th November 1942.

13th January 1943 saw the Squadron moving back to the Canal Zone, to El Gamil Port Said during which time they were re-equipped with Spitfires, getting the IX Version. Their flying life consisted of convoy patrols and Delta defence scrambles, although in July they did some low level sorties over Crete.

In March 1944 the Squadron left for Corsica and operated over Monte Casino Viterbo, Genoa, Elba, Bolognia, Florence and Sienna. They also did bomber escorts to Leghorn, Pisa, Prato, Savonna and Spezia. The Squadron left Corsica for Southern France on 30th August 1944.

However, much against my wishes, before the Squadron left Egypt, I was posted to the Principal Medical Officer’s office at RAF Headquarters Levant, situated opposite Damascus Gate in Jerusalem and the staff were billeted in the Nunnery Notre Dame de France, a little up the hill just outside the City Wall.

This is another story, an experience I would never have missed.

R.A.F. Bacteriological Laboratory

From the Estate of Hugh Furse

R. Emrys Jones’ story about 238 Squadron was found on the WW2 People’s War Homepage. 47, 000 people told their story about WWII. R. Emrys Jones’ story is about 238 Squadron when it was stationed in the Middle East.

Western Desert

Contributed by R. Emrys Jones

I was born 8th May 1920 in Talsarnau, Meirionethshire, North Wales and when war broke out I was doing my apprenticeship as a Pharmacist in Penrhyndeudraeth. I realised in January 1940 that it would be impossible for me to go to college because of the war so I volunteered for air crew in the Royal Air Force but failed the Medical so joined the Royal Air Force Medical Department. I did my training at the Medical School at Halton and experienced the Battle of Britain and then was posted to the RAF Officers’ Hospital which had taken over the fine and famous Palace Hotel at Torquay.

Amongst the patients at the hospital were the most severely injured and maimed casualties of the Battle of Britain including severely burnt aircrew. The famous plastic surgeon Alex MacInode worked wonders to bring back some normality to severely scarred faces and limbs. From Torquay I was posted to join a forward fighter squadron at Chilbolton near Middle Wallop. The squadron had received an overseas posting and was equipped with Hurricanes. There were four of us medics who had been together at Halton and Torquay. We stayed together for another two and a half years in the desert and I couldn’t have wished for a finer bunch of lads to be with.

The main echelon left Middle Wallop at the end of May en route for the Middle East on the troopship “Duchess of Bedford”, a ship of the Canadian Pacific Fleet and because of the shallowness of the St. Lawrence River her keel was shorter than normal ships. Therefore in the “Roaring Forties” round the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa, she rolled and we called her “The Rolling Duchess”. We joined the ship at Greenock, near Glasgow, but it was a fortnight before we sailed as the German warship Bismarck was around and being chased. So as soon as she was sunk [27 May, 1941] we sailed. The voyage was almost out westwards towards America to escape the submarines. It was a large convoy with aircraft carriers, destroyers and cruisers. Some way out they left us for action and we then turned eastwards to Freetown to take water. There were over 4,000 troops on board so as soon as we joined the ship we were recruited for work in the hospital and sick bay and were busy all voyage. We were not allowed off the ship at Freetown and in the three days we were there many of the troops developed Malaria. At Capetown we were allowed on shore and the South African families took many of us into their homes and entertained us.

By the time we were in Mombassa one of the Malaria patients had developed Cerebral Malaria and had a very high temperature and died. We had the job of stitching him in canvas with weights at the feet and he was buried at sea. This was our first experience with death and it was very moving. The Welsh-speaking Padre, the Reverend Emrys Davies, took the funeral service; the ship slowed down for the service and the burial. The RAF Padre gave constant services throughout the voyage. He was very good for morale and organised a Welsh choir so that we could entertain the troops. All kinds of games, boxing etc. were also organised to keep the troops from getting bored and in the evenings Housey, Housey were played all over the ship. Hundreds slept on deck at night as the hammocked areas under sea level were extremely stuffy and smelly. We arrived at Port Tewfik near Port Suez, disembarked and were taken to the transit camp and slept on the sand. Most had Sand-fly Fever in a few days, which is a horrible sickness with very high temperatures and thundering, severe headaches. We were moved to El Firdan where the complete squadron had severe dysentery, over a third of the personnel had to be admitted to hospital at Alexandria. Within a month we were moved to Landing Ground 92 (South West of Alexandria).

The pilots under our Commanding Officer, Squadron Leader Fenton, had embarked on the Aircraft Carrier Victorious at Scapa Flow which after a skirmish with the German battleship Bismark, the ship arrived in the Mediterranean with a stop at Gibraltar. The Hurricanes took off near Majorca en route for Malta (Ta Kali) to re-fuel, then on to Landing Ground 07 Gerwala before finally arriving at Abu Sueir in Egypt. The squadron at that point had no aircraft of its own and the pilots were attached to 274 Squadron for operations. When the ground crews arrived the whole squadron got together again at L.G. 92 (Amariya) but did not become operational until October with Hurricane IIs flown in from Takaradi by the squadron pilots.

The War in the desert was very fluid which meant that the Squadron was constantly on the move. By September, the Hurricanes were flying patrols from the Sidi Haneish and Marten Bagulsh Landing Grounds. Advancing with the 8th Army, 238 Squadron was at L.G. 123 (Fort Maddelena on the Libyan border, well south in the desert), by November 1941, MSUS (where there was heavy fighting) by December and Antelat by early January 1942. It was then a case of trotting up and down the desert a couple of times as the Axis troops advanced and then the 8th Army pushed them back. Then there was a final retreat from the Torruck area all the way to El Alamein. The Squadron was re-equipped with the Older Hurricanes owing to lack of spares for the Hurricane IIs. It was very disappointing to have to retreat after all the fighting and gain of ground. Unfortunately as ground was captured the supply line got longer and transporting all supplies over rough desert roads, including fuel and water, was difficult.

By the eve of the El Alamein Push, the squadron moved to a desert-landing ground right behind the front line. The ground crew and all its equipment and supplies were all in place with all the vehicles heavily draped with camouflage netting and well dispersed but the Hurricanes were kept back until first light as it depended on the progress of the battle, whether we would be retreating or staying to become operational at first light.

At 9.40 p.m. on October 23rd, the opening of the battle was marked by the flash and thunder of a barrage fired simultaneously by 456 guns on the main front. This was a most terrific noise and the flashes of the guns lit the sky. We were ordered to bed to sleep as we had to be up before dawn to a long day’s work; somehow we slept in spite of the noise, as we knew from experience, we would soon be told if there was a retreat.

For the Desert Air Force, the battle had begun four days earlier, with a heavy bombing programme against enemy airfields. By this time we had gained air superiority almost before the battle begun. The Bomber Squadron of Bostons, Baltimores and Mitchells operated effectively in daylight with cover from the fighter squadrons against the Axis forces which presented attractive targets as they concentrated to meet the 8th Army’s attacks. The light bombers flew in tight formations of eighteen aircraft. We took pleasure in watching the “Eighteen Impenturnabables” go over and see our fighter squadron joining to escort them. On one occasion (October 28th) they went over seven times in the space of two and a half hours. It was therefore an admirable two-way operation with the Desert Air Force and the Eighth Army in complete partnership. The Western Desert Air Force consisted of almost the whole Allied Air Force in the Middle East.

As the Axis retreated, we advanced from landing ground to landing ground keeping up with the rapid movement of the tanks. These landing grounds were familiar to us as we had used them many times before in our pushes and retreats. They were just cleared airstrips in the desert wastes. Flat areas that had just been cleared of camel thorn and bumps in the ground.

By the time we reached Mersah Matruh, the front of the retreating vehicles had almost reached Antelat and Agedabia — too far for the Fighters’ fuel to take them there and back. Our Wing Commander Darwen had a brilliant plan. He decided that two hurricane squadrons (No. 213 and 238) would operate from far behind the Retreating Axis Army at a landing ground behind the German line. This was about 180 miles east of Agedabia deep in the desert. So on a significant date — Friday, 13th November — essential ground staff and masses of supplies were airlifted by Aircraft Hudsons and Bombays to Landing Ground 125 on the morning of November 13th and thirty six Hurricanes followed. By two o’clock in the afternoon, twenty four hurricanes took off immediately and began operations against the long lines of retreating vehicles of the unsuspecting Axis transport destroying or damaging three hundred vehicles. During the three days 156 sorties had been flown by the two squadrons. On the 16th November a German Recognisance Aircraft came over and spotted us so we had to make a retreat. However, on the final day our Commanding Officer, Squadron Leader Marples, led eleven aircraft of 238 Squadron to chafe the coast road by Agheila, during which 42 vehicles were hit. In the whole exercise only three of our aircraft were lost whilst a large number of Axis vehicles and 14 Axis aircraft were destroyed. Four Hurricanes were too badly damaged to return at the end so were destroyed so they could not be taken by enemy hands. By mid-day on the 16th November, the Hudsons had arrived to fly back the ground crews although some did travel back overland. For defence and support, a section of the Long Distance Desert Troops had joined us in the operation.

The Squadron Leaders of 238 and 213 Squadron, Roy Marples, D.F.C. (later the Member of Parliament and Transport Minister), and Peter Oliver, D.F.C., both earned an immediate Bar to their Distinguished Flying Crosses for these operations.

From then on the Squadron moved up with the advance of the Army, passing at all the familiar landing grounds such as Gambut, El Adarn, Gazala, Benina, finishing at Martuba on 28th November 1942.

13th January 1943 saw the Squadron moving back to the Canal Zone, to El Gamil Port Said during which time they were re-equipped with Spitfires, getting the IX Version. Their flying life consisted of convoy patrols and Delta defence scrambles, although in July they did some low level sorties over Crete.

In March 1944 the Squadron left for Corsica and operated over Monte Casino Viterbo, Genoa, Elba, Bolognia, Florence and Sienna. They also did bomber escorts to Leghorn, Pisa, Prato, Savonna and Spezia. The Squadron left Corsica for Southern France on 30th August 1944.

However, much against my wishes, before the Squadron left Egypt, I was posted to the Principal Medical Officer’s office at RAF Headquarters Levant, situated opposite Damascus Gate in Jerusalem and the staff were billeted in the Nunnery Notre Dame de France, a little up the hill just outside the City Wall.

This is another story, an experience I would never have missed.

 

Lofty Cooper

From the Estate of Hugh Furse

IMG_1958

Lofty Cooper looking into the cockpit of a Junkers Ju 87.

R Emrys Jones took the time to add a caption.

IMG_1959

 

R. Emrys Jones’ story about 238 Squadron was found on the WW2 People’s War Homepage. 47, 000 people told their story about WWII. R. Emrys Jones’ story is about 238 Squadron when it was stationed in the Middle East.

 

Western Desert

Contributed by R. Emrys Jones

I was born 8th May 1920 in Talsarnau, Meirionethshire, North Wales and when war broke out I was doing my apprenticeship as a Pharmacist in Penrhyndeudraeth. I realised in January 1940 that it would be impossible for me to go to college because of the war so I volunteered for air crew in the Royal Air Force but failed the Medical so joined the Royal Air Force Medical Department. I did my training at the Medical School at Halton and experienced the Battle of Britain and then was posted to the RAF Officers’ Hospital which had taken over the fine and famous Palace Hotel at Torquay.

Amongst the patients at the hospital were the most severely injured and maimed casualties of the Battle of Britain including severely burnt aircrew. The famous plastic surgeon Alex MacInode worked wonders to bring back some normality to severely scarred faces and limbs. From Torquay I was posted to join a forward fighter squadron at Chilbolton near Middle Wallop. The squadron had received an overseas posting and was equipped with Hurricanes. There were four of us medics who had been together at Halton and Torquay. We stayed together for another two and a half years in the desert and I couldn’t have wished for a finer bunch of lads to be with.

The main echelon left Middle Wallop at the end of May en route for the Middle East on the troopship “Duchess of Bedford”, a ship of the Canadian Pacific Fleet and because of the shallowness of the St. Lawrence River her keel was shorter than normal ships. Therefore in the “Roaring Forties” round the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa, she rolled and we called her “The Rolling Duchess”. We joined the ship at Greenock, near Glasgow, but it was a fortnight before we sailed as the German warship Bismarck was around and being chased. So as soon as she was sunk [27 May, 1941] we sailed. The voyage was almost out westwards towards America to escape the submarines. It was a large convoy with aircraft carriers, destroyers and cruisers. Some way out they left us for action and we then turned eastwards to Freetown to take water. There were over 4,000 troops on board so as soon as we joined the ship we were recruited for work in the hospital and sick bay and were busy all voyage. We were not allowed off the ship at Freetown and in the three days we were there many of the troops developed Malaria. At Capetown we were allowed on shore and the South African families took many of us into their homes and entertained us.

By the time we were in Mombassa one of the Malaria patients had developed Cerebral Malaria and had a very high temperature and died. We had the job of stitching him in canvas with weights at the feet and he was buried at sea. This was our first experience with death and it was very moving. The Welsh-speaking Padre, the Reverend Emrys Davies, took the funeral service; the ship slowed down for the service and the burial. The RAF Padre gave constant services throughout the voyage. He was very good for morale and organised a Welsh choir so that we could entertain the troops. All kinds of games, boxing etc. were also organised to keep the troops from getting bored and in the evenings Housey, Housey were played all over the ship. Hundreds slept on deck at night as the hammocked areas under sea level were extremely stuffy and smelly. We arrived at Port Tewfik near Port Suez, disembarked and were taken to the transit camp and slept on the sand. Most had Sand-fly Fever in a few days, which is a horrible sickness with very high temperatures and thundering, severe headaches. We were moved to El Firdan where the complete squadron had severe dysentery, over a third of the personnel had to be admitted to hospital at Alexandria. Within a month we were moved to Landing Ground 92 (South West of Alexandria).

The pilots under our Commanding Officer, Squadron Leader Fenton, had embarked on the Aircraft Carrier Victorious at Scapa Flow which after a skirmish with the German battleship Bismark, the ship arrived in the Mediterranean with a stop at Gibraltar. The Hurricanes took off near Majorca en route for Malta (Ta Kali) to re-fuel, then on to Landing Ground 07 Gerwala before finally arriving at Abu Sueir in Egypt. The squadron at that point had no aircraft of its own and the pilots were attached to 274 Squadron for operations. When the ground crews arrived the whole squadron got together again at L.G. 92 (Amariya) but did not become operational until October with Hurricane IIs flown in from Takaradi by the squadron pilots.

The War in the desert was very fluid which meant that the Squadron was constantly on the move. By September, the Hurricanes were flying patrols from the Sidi Haneish and Marten Bagulsh Landing Grounds. Advancing with the 8th Army, 238 Squadron was at L.G. 123 (Fort Maddelena on the Libyan border, well south in the desert), by November 1941, MSUS (where there was heavy fighting) by December and Antelat by early January 1942. It was then a case of trotting up and down the desert a couple of times as the Axis troops advanced and then the 8th Army pushed them back. Then there was a final retreat from the Torruck area all the way to El Alamein. The Squadron was re-equipped with the Older Hurricanes owing to lack of spares for the Hurricane IIs. It was very disappointing to have to retreat after all the fighting and gain of ground. Unfortunately as ground was captured the supply line got longer and transporting all supplies over rough desert roads, including fuel and water, was difficult.

By the eve of the El Alamein Push, the squadron moved to a desert-landing ground right behind the front line. The ground crew and all its equipment and supplies were all in place with all the vehicles heavily draped with camouflage netting and well dispersed but the Hurricanes were kept back until first light as it depended on the progress of the battle, whether we would be retreating or staying to become operational at first light.

At 9.40 p.m. on October 23rd, the opening of the battle was marked by the flash and thunder of a barrage fired simultaneously by 456 guns on the main front. This was a most terrific noise and the flashes of the guns lit the sky. We were ordered to bed to sleep as we had to be up before dawn to a long day’s work; somehow we slept in spite of the noise, as we knew from experience, we would soon be told if there was a retreat.

For the Desert Air Force, the battle had begun four days earlier, with a heavy bombing programme against enemy airfields. By this time we had gained air superiority almost before the battle begun. The Bomber Squadron of Bostons, Baltimores and Mitchells operated effectively in daylight with cover from the fighter squadrons against the Axis forces which presented attractive targets as they concentrated to meet the 8th Army’s attacks. The light bombers flew in tight formations of eighteen aircraft. We took pleasure in watching the “Eighteen Impenturnabables” go over and see our fighter squadron joining to escort them. On one occasion (October 28th) they went over seven times in the space of two and a half hours. It was therefore an admirable two-way operation with the Desert Air Force and the Eighth Army in complete partnership. The Western Desert Air Force consisted of almost the whole Allied Air Force in the Middle East.

As the Axis retreated, we advanced from landing ground to landing ground keeping up with the rapid movement of the tanks. These landing grounds were familiar to us as we had used them many times before in our pushes and retreats. They were just cleared airstrips in the desert wastes. Flat areas that had just been cleared of camel thorn and bumps in the ground.

By the time we reached Mersah Matruh, the front of the retreating vehicles had almost reached Antelat and Agedabia — too far for the Fighters’ fuel to take them there and back. Our Wing Commander Darwen had a brilliant plan. He decided that two hurricane squadrons (No. 213 and 238) would operate from far behind the Retreating Axis Army at a landing ground behind the German line. This was about 180 miles east of Agedabia deep in the desert. So on a significant date — Friday, 13th November — essential ground staff and masses of supplies were airlifted by Aircraft Hudsons and Bombays to Landing Ground 125 on the morning of November 13th and thirty six Hurricanes followed. By two o’clock in the afternoon, twenty four hurricanes took off immediately and began operations against the long lines of retreating vehicles of the unsuspecting Axis transport destroying or damaging three hundred vehicles. During the three days 156 sorties had been flown by the two squadrons. On the 16th November a German Recognisance Aircraft came over and spotted us so we had to make a retreat. However, on the final day our Commanding Officer, Squadron Leader Marples, led eleven aircraft of 238 Squadron to chafe the coast road by Agheila, during which 42 vehicles were hit. In the whole exercise only three of our aircraft were lost whilst a large number of Axis vehicles and 14 Axis aircraft were destroyed. Four Hurricanes were too badly damaged to return at the end so were destroyed so they could not be taken by enemy hands. By mid-day on the 16th November, the Hudsons had arrived to fly back the ground crews although some did travel back overland. For defence and support, a section of the Long Distance Desert Troops had joined us in the operation.

The Squadron Leaders of 238 and 213 Squadron, Roy Marples, D.F.C. (later the Member of Parliament and Transport Minister), and Peter Oliver, D.F.C., both earned an immediate Bar to their Distinguished Flying Crosses for these operations.

From then on the Squadron moved up with the advance of the Army, passing at all the familiar landing grounds such as Gambut, El Adarn, Gazala, Benina, finishing at Martuba on 28th November 1942.

13th January 1943 saw the Squadron moving back to the Canal Zone, to El Gamil Port Said during which time they were re-equipped with Spitfires, getting the IX Version. Their flying life consisted of convoy patrols and Delta defence scrambles, although in July they did some low level sorties over Crete.

In March 1944 the Squadron left for Corsica and operated over Monte Casino Viterbo, Genoa, Elba, Bolognia, Florence and Sienna. They also did bomber escorts to Leghorn, Pisa, Prato, Savonna and Spezia. The Squadron left Corsica for Southern France on 30th August 1944.

However, much against my wishes, before the Squadron left Egypt, I was posted to the Principal Medical Officer’s office at RAF Headquarters Levant, situated opposite Damascus Gate in Jerusalem and the staff were billeted in the Nunnery Notre Dame de France, a little up the hill just outside the City Wall.

This is another story, an experience I would never have missed.

More from the Estate of Hugh Furse

A few captions of the “Few”


Ben and Griff
Amongst the flowers of our desert garden



A bombed hangar at Benina airport Benghasi

Air Commodore Harold Fenton at our 50th year anniversary

Viewing the painting ot 238 Squadron in the Battle of Britain

More on Air Commodore Fenton

http://www.bbm.org.uk/airmen/FentonHA.htm

S/Ldr. H A Fenton

Air Commodore (Squadron Leader during the Battle) Harold Fenton, who has died aged 86, was appointed to command 238 Squadron, a Hurricane unit, in June 1940. This when he had only 15 hours operational training to his credit – and that in Spitfires. From 1928 to 1933 “Jim” Fenton held a RAF short service commission but then left to become a civil flying instructor. Immediately before the Second World War he was chief flying instructor at Air Service Training on the Hamble in Hampshire.

In later years it amused him to think of the future RAF aces who received such dismissive reports as ‘This officer would make a perfect NCO’ and ‘The only thing this officer is likely to pass is water’.

In February 1940 Fenton was recalled to the RAF and posted to No 8 Flying Training School at Montrose as a flight commander in the Advanced Training Squadron. By June trained pilots were at a premium and Fenton was appointed to command 238. Fenton led the squadron throughout much of the Battle of Britain. On 8th August shipping in the Channel was subject to intense attacks and 238 was scrambled repeatedly.

In a lunchtime melee over the sea, Fenton’s pilots shot down two Me109’s, damaged a third and destroyed two Me110 twin-engined fighters. The squadron lost two Hurricanes and Fenton was “wave-hopping” for survivors when he spotted a Heinkel 59 seaplane. He attacked it successfully but was hit by return fire and had to ditch in the sea. In the course of his escape from the cockpit, Fenton’s parachute broke free. It floated and he clung to it until he was picked up by the armed convoy escort trawler ‘Bassett’. Fenton shared the skipper’s cabin with a rescued German pilot.

After a spell in hospital Fenton returned to 238. Towards the end of September the squadron was reduced to five serviceable aircraft; Fenton’s impassioned plea produced eight replacement Hurricanes.

By the end of the Battle of Britain he had destroyed a Dornier 17 bomber and a Me110.
In May 1941 238 was sent to the Middle East where fighter reinforcements were desperately needed. The Hurricanes and air crew were embarked in the carrier ‘Victorious’ at Scapa Flow.

‘Victorious’ was diverted to hunt for the battleship ‘Bismarck’ and Fenton and his pilots had to kick their heels while the Fleet Air Arm went into action. After the German battleship had been sent to the bottom ‘Victorious’ proceeded via Gibraltar to Majorca where 238’s 24 Hurricanes made deck takeoffs. They staged at Malta, en route for Egypt.

Fenton distinguished himself with the Desert Air Force and in September 1941 received command of 243 Wing, comprising 238 and three further Hurricane squadrons. He celebrated the move in memorable fashion, flying in chrysanthemums and alcohol from Alexandria; his boss, Air Commodore “King” Cole removed his rank stripes lest anyone should feel inhibited. Under Fenton’s command, the wing was credited with 100 enemy aircraft destroyed and 50 “probables”.

A doctor’s son, Harold Arthur Fenton (always known as “Jim”) was born at Gallegos in Argentina on 9th February 1909. He was brought up in County Sligo and educated at Sandford Park School and Trinity College, Dublin. In 1928 he was accepted for pilot training. The next year he was posted to 4 Squadron at Farnborough, equipped with Bristol and Atlas fighters. Exercises with the Army on Salisbury Plain ended close to a pub called The Pheasant.

In 1930 Fenton sailed for India to join 5 Squadron, an Army Co-Operation Squadron re-equipping from Bristol fighters to Westland Wapitis. Fenton was stationed at Kohat on the North West Frontier and detached to join the Tochi scouts at Miranshah, a small fort south of the Khyber Pass, to quell dissident Afridis and other tribesmen. Fenton took riding lessons and hunted with the 17th Light Cavalry. Back in Britain, he towed targets for novice pilots and air gunners until placed on the Reserve in 1933.

In command of 243 Wing, Fenton gained a reputation for rustling up an unexpected feast. Churchill dropped in for lunch and was astonished to be treated to Red Sea prawns. When the Crusader campaign opened in November 1941, Fenton’s wing fought doggedly in support of the 8th Army. The next July Fenton put up the four stripes of a group captain and took command of 212 Group, comprising 12 squadrons of Hurricanes, which supported the Army’s pursuit of the Afrika Korps.

In 1943, Fenton returned the Britain to take command of the Kenley fighter sector. That summer he moved to the post of Group Captain Operations at 2nd Tactical Air Force, Bracknell. As preparations developed for D-Day, Fenton was successively commander of Nos 84 and 83 Group Control Centres. He was the first senior RAF officer to land in France on D-Day, and was appointed Senior Air Staff Officer, 83 Group.

Fenton found time to maintain his reputation as a supplier of delicacies and claimed to have invented “aerial mushroom hunting” – spotting mushroom rings from an Auster light aircraft. He also raided the Dutch coast and returned to the mess with barrels of oysters.

After refusing a regular commission he was released in late 1945 and the next year was appointed managing director of Deccan Airways. He was later general manager of Airways Training and Operations Manager of BOAC from 1949 to 1952, when he became managing director of Peter Jones.

He retired in 1958 and moved to Jersey where he created a splendid garden at his home at Saint Brelade.

Fenton was awarded the DFC in 1942, the DSO in 1943, and appointed CBE in 1946. He was mentioned in dispatches three times.

He married, in 1935, Helier de Carteret. There were no children of the marriage.

With acknowledgments to the Daily Telegraph

Next time, still more photos from the Estate of Hugh Furse.

Intermission – R. Emrys Jones Is Remembeing 238 Squadron – Update

This is just a part of a photo album shared by a reader who had written this comment…

I have an item which I believe was a gift of some sort from Emrys ‘Taffy’ Jones to my late father, who served with him through WWII. Are there any contact details i.e. from family that can be privately provided?

Thanks

Chris

All photos are courtesy of the Estate of Hugh Furse.

Flight Sergeant Jarman in charge of A Flight

Captured Me 110

John Parry washing clothes outside our Jerry bivouac 1942 (Martuba)

This was the original post.

R. Emrys Jones’ story about 238 Squadron was found on the WW2 People’s War Homepage. 47, 000 people told their story about WWII. R. Emrys Jones’ story is about 238 Squadron when it was stationed in the Middle East.

Collection Gil Gillis (Egypt 1942)

Western Desert

Contributed by R. Emrys Jones

I was born 8th May 1920 in Talsarnau, Meirionethshire, North Wales and when war broke out I was doing my apprenticeship as a Pharmacist in Penrhyndeudraeth. I realised in January 1940 that it would be impossible for me to go to college because of the war so I volunteered for air crew in the Royal Air Force but failed the Medical so joined the Royal Air Force Medical Department. I did my training at the Medical School at Halton and experienced the Battle of Britain and then was posted to the RAF Officers’ Hospital which had taken over the fine and famous Palace Hotel at Torquay.

Amongst the patients at the hospital were the most severely injured and maimed casualties of the Battle of Britain including severely burnt aircrew. The famous plastic surgeon Alex MacInode worked wonders to bring back some normality to severely scarred faces and limbs. From Torquay I was posted to join a forward fighter squadron at Chilbolton near Middle Wallop. The squadron had received an overseas posting and was equipped with Hurricanes. There were four of us medics who had been together at Halton and Torquay. We stayed together for another two and a half years in the desert and I couldn’t have wished for a finer bunch of lads to be with.

The main echelon left Middle Wallop at the end of May en route for the Middle East on the troopship “Duchess of Bedford”, a ship of the Canadian Pacific Fleet and because of the shallowness of the St. Lawrence River her keel was shorter than normal ships. Therefore in the “Roaring Forties” round the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa, she rolled and we called her “The Rolling Duchess”. We joined the ship at Greenock, near Glasgow, but it was a fortnight before we sailed as the German warship Bismarck was around and being chased. So as soon as she was sunk [27 May, 1941] we sailed. The voyage was almost out westwards towards America to escape the submarines. It was a large convoy with aircraft carriers, destroyers and cruisers. Some way out they left us for action and we then turned eastwards to Freetown to take water. There were over 4,000 troops on board so as soon as we joined the ship we were recruited for work in the hospital and sick bay and were busy all voyage. We were not allowed off the ship at Freetown and in the three days we were there many of the troops developed Malaria. At Capetown we were allowed on shore and the South African families took many of us into their homes and entertained us.

By the time we were in Mombassa one of the Malaria patients had developed Cerebral Malaria and had a very high temperature and died. We had the job of stitching him in canvas with weights at the feet and he was buried at sea. This was our first experience with death and it was very moving. The Welsh-speaking Padre, the Reverend Emrys Davies, took the funeral service; the ship slowed down for the service and the burial. The RAF Padre gave constant services throughout the voyage. He was very good for morale and organised a Welsh choir so that we could entertain the troops. All kinds of games, boxing etc. were also organised to keep the troops from getting bored and in the evenings Housey, Housey were played all over the ship. Hundreds slept on deck at night as the hammocked areas under sea level were extremely stuffy and smelly. We arrived at Port Tewfik near Port Suez, disembarked and were taken to the transit camp and slept on the sand. Most had Sand-fly Fever in a few days, which is a horrible sickness with very high temperatures and thundering, severe headaches. We were moved to El Firdan where the complete squadron had severe dysentery, over a third of the personnel had to be admitted to hospital at Alexandria. Within a month we were moved to Landing Ground 92 (South West of Alexandria).

The pilots under our Commanding Officer, Squadron Leader Fenton, had embarked on the Aircraft Carrier Victorious at Scapa Flow which after a skirmish with the German battleship Bismark, the ship arrived in the Mediterranean with a stop at Gibraltar. The Hurricanes took off near Majorca en route for Malta (Ta Kali) to re-fuel, then on to Landing Ground 07 Gerwala before finally arriving at Abu Sueir in Egypt. The squadron at that point had no aircraft of its own and the pilots were attached to 274 Squadron for operations. When the ground crews arrived the whole squadron got together again at L.G. 92 (Amariya) but did not become operational until October with Hurricane IIs flown in from Takaradi by the squadron pilots.

The War in the desert was very fluid which meant that the Squadron was constantly on the move. By September, the Hurricanes were flying patrols from the Sidi Haneish and Marten Bagulsh Landing Grounds. Advancing with the 8th Army, 238 Squadron was at L.G. 123 (Fort Maddelena on the Libyan border, well south in the desert), by November 1941, MSUS (where there was heavy fighting) by December and Antelat by early January 1942. It was then a case of trotting up and down the desert a couple of times as the Axis troops advanced and then the 8th Army pushed them back. Then there was a final retreat from the Torruck area all the way to El Alamein. The Squadron was re-equipped with the Older Hurricanes owing to lack of spares for the Hurricane IIs. It was very disappointing to have to retreat after all the fighting and gain of ground. Unfortunately as ground was captured the supply line got longer and transporting all supplies over rough desert roads, including fuel and water, was difficult.

By the eve of the El Alamein Push, the squadron moved to a desert-landing ground right behind the front line. The ground crew and all its equipment and supplies were all in place with all the vehicles heavily draped with camouflage netting and well dispersed but the Hurricanes were kept back until first light as it depended on the progress of the battle, whether we would be retreating or staying to become operational at first light.

At 9.40 p.m. on October 23rd, the opening of the battle was marked by the flash and thunder of a barrage fired simultaneously by 456 guns on the main front. This was a most terrific noise and the flashes of the guns lit the sky. We were ordered to bed to sleep as we had to be up before dawn to a long day’s work; somehow we slept in spite of the noise, as we knew from experience, we would soon be told if there was a retreat.

For the Desert Air Force, the battle had begun four days earlier, with a heavy bombing programme against enemy airfields. By this time we had gained air superiority almost before the battle begun. The Bomber Squadron of Bostons, Baltimores and Mitchells operated effectively in daylight with cover from the fighter squadrons against the Axis forces which presented attractive targets as they concentrated to meet the 8th Army’s attacks. The light bombers flew in tight formations of eighteen aircraft. We took pleasure in watching the “Eighteen Impenturnabables” go over and see our fighter squadron joining to escort them. On one occasion (October 28th) they went over seven times in the space of two and a half hours. It was therefore an admirable two-way operation with the Desert Air Force and the Eighth Army in complete partnership. The Western Desert Air Force consisted of almost the whole Allied Air Force in the Middle East.

As the Axis retreated, we advanced from landing ground to landing ground keeping up with the rapid movement of the tanks. These landing grounds were familiar to us as we had used them many times before in our pushes and retreats. They were just cleared airstrips in the desert wastes. Flat areas that had just been cleared of camel thorn and bumps in the ground.

By the time we reached Mersah Matruh, the front of the retreating vehicles had almost reached Antelat and Agedabia — too far for the Fighters’ fuel to take them there and back. Our Wing Commander Darwen had a brilliant plan. He decided that two hurricane squadrons (No. 213 and 238) would operate from far behind the Retreating Axis Army at a landing ground behind the German line. This was about 180 miles east of Agedabia deep in the desert. So on a significant date — Friday, 13th November — essential ground staff and masses of supplies were airlifted by Aircraft Hudsons and Bombays to Landing Ground 125 on the morning of November 13th and thirty six Hurricanes followed. By two o’clock in the afternoon, twenty four hurricanes took off immediately and began operations against the long lines of retreating vehicles of the unsuspecting Axis transport destroying or damaging three hundred vehicles. During the three days 156 sorties had been flown by the two squadrons. On the 16th November a German Recognisance Aircraft came over and spotted us so we had to make a retreat. However, on the final day our Commanding Officer, Squadron Leader Marples, led eleven aircraft of 238 Squadron to chafe the coast road by Agheila, during which 42 vehicles were hit. In the whole exercise only three of our aircraft were lost whilst a large number of Axis vehicles and 14 Axis aircraft were destroyed. Four Hurricanes were too badly damaged to return at the end so were destroyed so they could not be taken by enemy hands. By mid-day on the 16th November, the Hudsons had arrived to fly back the ground crews although some did travel back overland. For defence and support, a section of the Long Distance Desert Troops had joined us in the operation.

The Squadron Leaders of 238 and 213 Squadron, Roy Marples, D.F.C. (later the Member of Parliament and Transport Minister), and Peter Oliver, D.F.C., both earned an immediate Bar to their Distinguished Flying Crosses for these operations.

From then on the Squadron moved up with the advance of the Army, passing at all the familiar landing grounds such as Gambut, El Adarn, Gazala, Benina, finishing at Martuba on 28th November 1942.

13th January 1943 saw the Squadron moving back to the Canal Zone, to El Gamil Port Said during which time they were re-equipped with Spitfires, getting the IX Version. Their flying life consisted of convoy patrols and Delta defence scrambles, although in July they did some low level sorties over Crete.

In March 1944 the Squadron left for Corsica and operated over Monte Casino Viterbo, Genoa, Elba, Bolognia, Florence and Sienna. They also did bomber escorts to Leghorn, Pisa, Prato, Savonna and Spezia. The Squadron left Corsica for Southern France on 30th August 1944.

However, much against my wishes, before the Squadron left Egypt, I was posted to the Principal Medical Officer’s office at RAF Headquarters Levant, situated opposite Damascus Gate in Jerusalem and the staff were billeted in the Nunnery Notre Dame de France, a little up the hill just outside the City Wall.

This is another story, an experience I would never have missed.