In July 1944 I was stationed at Hurn Airfield near Bournemouth, having
moved with 197 Squadron (Hawker Typhoons)
from Needs Oar Point near Beaulieu in the New Forest, our base for the
D-Day operations. At that time we were carrying out offensive
operations over France in support of the troops now based in Normandy.
On 11th July we flew from Hurn to make our first landing on French soil
at airfield B3 St. Croix as our base. This had been constructed with
Somerfield Metal Tracking to provide a base for refuelling, rearming,
plus tented accommodation. I later, carried out two operations over
France, the plan being to stay there until the 13th when we would
return to Hurn in the evening. On the 13th we were on standby end
eventually four of us were briefed for an armed recce in the Caen area,
the section being led by Wing Commander Baldwin, his No.2 and myself
with my No.2 We took off about 5 pm and headed in the direction of Caen.
Whilst in the area south of Le Havre I observed a German half track troop-carrier and requested permission to attack. This was given. The two of us turned towards the half track making a cannon attack on the way down. As we pulled away I queried if I could make another attacked as the vehicle had now been abandoned, however I was informed by the wing commander to rejoin him as they were being attacked by approx 30 ME 109's.
I quickly climbed up to about 4000 ft and spotted several 109's ahead of me just below broken cloud. I closed to make an attack but they had obviously seen us and broke to sweep past out of sight. By this time I was in cloud and on my own.
I broke cloud and noticed a solitary ME109 coming in my direction. I lined up for a head on attack firing my four cannons and, the next minute I realised I would have to break to avoid a collision As I did so my starboard wing collided with the wing of the 109. I felt my head hit the cockpit cover and my left shoulder the side of the cockpit, my helmet, oxygen mask, goggles and revolver holster were torn from my body and I hurtled into space with only my parachute intact. I realised I would have to pull my ripcord as my altitude was only about 3000 ft.
The next minute the canopy opened and I lost consciousness.
I came to find myself hanging from a tree in an orchard, surrounded by
several armed Germans, one of whom was attempting to release me from
the parachute harness. This he did and I fell on top of him to the
ground where I lay for a while.
The German NCO motioned me to stand up and put my arms up, it was then
that I felt that my left arm remained at my side, I could not move it
in any way. We proceeded across a stream and fields to a French
farmhouse where the Germans
had their HQ.
I was taken up some stairs and met a German officer seated behind a desk, I saluted him, a wise move, as I was then invited to sit down. After a brief interrogation I was asked if I felt well enough to be moved to hospital. I nodded and I then proceeded with an escort to an open top car parked in nearby farmyard. We set off with my escort and me in the back seat and after a few minutes we arrived in the village of Pont-l'Eveque where I was taken to a schoolroom. By this time I was feeling rather unwell and coughing up blood. The guard called for his superior and eventually I was moved to a nearby chateau, part of a German military hospital.
One can only speculate on the reaction to receiving such a telegram.
Over the next few weeks I was moved onto Evreux, Paris, Trier (Luxembourg) and finally arrived at Stalag Luft III, Sagan, Germany at the end of September.
Wing Commander Baldwin and his No.2 returned to B3.
My No.2 was badly hit by flak but managed
to get back to B3, but his aircraft was a write-off. Sadly he died last year (2001).
Wing Commander Baldwin stayed on with the RAF and was listed missing over Korea. The other pilot I understand survived the war. but I don't know any more about him.
Kens Personalkarte issued at Stalag XIID
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