June, 1944 - (this story is also captured in Louis McBride’s journal entries here)
We were flying Typhoons. They were single-seater fighter aircraft used in the North European
campaign. We had taken off from a makeshift airfield at Needs Oar Point 1 near Southampton.
Over Cherbourg, the Hun had engaged us and we were now pointing homeward. One by one the aircraft
touched down and taxied to the flights area. Ned 6 was missing. He had last been seen spinning down
towards earth at the time of the dog fight. There had been no call on the radio. He was probably
lost but you could never tell. We all liked Ned. He was a Geordie [someone from northeast England]
with a baby face and fair hair. He was only about 5’3" high and quite as gentle as a lamb. But he
was tough and strong when he had made up his mind to be. The Fathers sat around occasionally looking
into the sky while we went off to the briefing tent to give our reports.
The general buzz of voices died as the CO lifted the tent flap and said "Ned has his tail
flap shot off." We all looked toward the ground. "John, take the jeep and nip over to
Beaulieu [5 miles northeast] to pick up Ned will you - he thought it safer to land there
with no tail - he didn’t want to make a mess here. God knows how he got it back."
"I joined 193 early in April  and had my first flight with them on the 18th. They were
based on a strip just near the Solent [a stretch of sea on the southern shore of central England
separating the mainland from the Isle of Wight; (map)] at a place called Needs Oar Point, just
south of Beaulieu and in fact in nearly every case we took off from the airfield straight over the Solent,
about 3-400 yards from the end of the runway. This proximity to the water did in fact present one or two
problems as we neared D-Day, because all those damn boats had their balloons flying!"
- Pilot Officer Jimmy G. Simpson, 193 Squadron 9
[60-foot long silver barrage balloons were flown over the coasts of
England to deter low-flying aircraft. They were filled with helium gas and tethered by
steel cables which allowed them to be raised to up to 10,000 feet. The cables were a threat
to aircraft, capable of shearing off their wings and propellers. Balloon Comand units
crossed the Channel on D-Day to protect the harbors, captured ports, and Allied troops and
supplies against low-level aircraft attack.
Photo of balloons being prepared at Southampton in preparation for D-Day;
Balloon over Tower Bridge;
Barrage balloons at D-Day tethered to British LCTs (Landing Craft Tanks) at Normandy,
at Omaha Beach.]11
Aug 9, 1944
Some of the 193 Squadron playing cards: Ian Ross; Peter Thorne (?);
Eric Horace "V-J" Vernon-Jarvis (wearing goggles to protect his night
vision) [KIA Feb 3, 1945 8]; Will Kilpatrick; Rod Davidge (dealing); Johnnie "Zip" Button;
Lowe; Eddie Richardson; Bill Switzer; unknown.
The Army were having trouble with the Hun in the woods near Caen [10 miles from the beach, Caen
was a major city in the D-Day campaign that took over a month to capture.] An urgent request was
made for us to dive bomb the woods. Army Intelligence Office briefed us and off we went.
After the job was completed, we gave our reports - and a dismal lot of reports they were.
The woods were bombed alright, but we were used to more precise work - crossroads or a single
building. These woods were quite a large target from our point of view and so the bombs dropped
all over the place.
Each one reported scattered bombing. Ned’s face was particularly grim but it grew brighter as he
heard the other’s reports. His bombs were all over the place - hopeless.
The field telephone rang: a message from Sector HQ. "Bombing of woods a complete success!
The neatest bit of scattered bombing that had been seen. All mortar positions silenced.
Congratulations to all!"
We didn’t know they were mortar positions - who would have expected mortars in the woods anyway?
[In his flight log for this day, he has: "Bombing mortar installations" / "0:30" /
"Highly successful (congratulations received from army)]
Aug 11, 1944
We normally carried two 500 lb bombs on the wings of the Typhoons and the squadron operated in
very close liaison with the Army. The beachhead had been established at Avranches [100 miles
southwest of Caen] and the army was tied up at Caen. Our job was to back the Hun out of his
strong points by dive bombing. The operation had been carried out and the squadron returned to
our temporary base at Tangmere 2. All aircraft were in except Ned’s. Someone had reported
seeing his aircraft hit by light flak and he had side skipped to earth at the beachhead. The
CO said we would allow time for him to get back or to report from the beachhead. But by the
time midnight came, we had had no news. The signal was sent to his parents and his personal
effects were packed.
Twenty four more hours passed with still no news - not even of a crashed
aircraft at the beachhead. The CO was worrying about a replacement when his door was sharply
rapped and opened. "Sorry I’ve been so long sir, I had to cross the channel in a ‘duck’ -
I couldn’t borrow an aircraft." Ned was back.
257 Sqdn with Typhoon at Warmwell, May 1942
photo: Charles E. Brown © RAF Museum
(Warmwell is on England’s southern coast, 60 miles west of Southampton)
Aug, 1944 - St. Croix Sur Mer [the beach near Caen], France. (photo)
The Germans had used many horses and horse drawn carriages in the North European Campaign and
from time to time as they withdrew to new positions, they would leave equipment behind.
Killy [Will Kilpatrick] had found a motorbike which was in working condition.
Felix [Cryderman] had found a fine and
spirited stallion and others of us had found items of interest. Of course we couldn’t hope
to hold on to them, but for a little while until we moved on again we could amuse ourselves.
Ned had found a cat. A wild and scabby looking thing it was too. It seemed happy enough to
accept the odd scraps he offered in his tent and Ned amused himself watching the cat stalking
seagulls in the long grass.
The beachhead had been open about 10 days. We were instructed to fly to
B15 [a temporary airfield set up by the British at St. Croix Sur Mer, near Ryes on the
beachhead where the D-Day invasion took place: 15 miles northwest of Caen 1] and there
to tie up with the Army Intelligence for close support work. B15 consisted of a field with a
strip of Sommerfeld Tracking and half a dozen tents. [Incidentally, B15 was where the Squadron
took off from on the mission that injured Rommel - see this article.]
Jim Darling with the "new" MN912 DP-J at B3 [St. Croix],
probably Sept. 1944.
He first flew the new "J" Aug 25; Pete Langille
was KIA in it in Nov 1944.
"We didn’t get to France as either a wing or a squadron until 17th July . Prior to that,
we used a strip at B15 - fly over, do a trip, land on the strip, do another op, then fly home.
If I remember rightly this strip was really a runway laid across the middle of a valley.
If you didn’t get off in the first 2-300 yards, you had to thunder down the hill,
go up the other side and launch yourself into the bright blue yonder. It was rather hazardous
and one or two of us [caught our propellers on the ground]... But I can confirm that a Typhoon
can fly around the circuit with all four tips of its four propeller blades bent inwards
and still manage to land again!" - Pilot Officer Jimmy G. Simpson, 193 Squadron 4
We had dispersed the A/C [aircraft; dispersed to the aircrew - the grounds crew who fixed, rebuilt,
and maintained their aircraft] and were standing round and smoking and talking and
speculating when the next shell would drop when Ned let out a yell. He pointed to the end
of the field where cows were grazing. A donkey was waddling slowly towards the cows. On his
back were two milkmaids sitting back to back. Each of them had a yolk on her shoulders from
which were suspended buckets and each carried a stool.
The donkey stopped and the girls with all their paraphernalia got off and proceeded to milk the cows.
In the meantime, the donkey gradually became ‘on heat’ and by the time the girls again took
up their positions on his back, his organ extended right to the ground. As he waddled out of
the field with his load on his back, his organ swayed from side to side followed by the chuckles
of eight very amused young men. From that day on, the male organ of man or beast was always
referred to as a ‘donk’ by the squadron.
Shelling intensified and we were ordered to fly to Hurn [along the southern coast of England,
20 miles west of Needs Oar Point].
Ned’s tent was the place we gathered to tell yarns - for the real gem! While Ned baked potatoes,
me or others would tell the tale. From time to time, one of our number lost on an earlier operation
would turn up and Ned’s tent was where we got the truth, good or bad.
John had been missing about 10 days. He suddenly appeared one evening in the mess tent and after the
usual exchanges and drinks, we adjourned to Ned’s tent. John had bailed out near Pisuex [100 miles
west of Paris and 100 miles south of Caen] and had contacted a French farmer who promised to help.
He had given John clothes and told him to work round the farm.
Hardly had he begun this life when the German Army decided to put some troops on the farm. John was
scared but the farmer told him that his French was as good as the German’s. He should mix with them.
He did, and he taught them how to play poker. He had relieved them of over 7,000 francs [equivalent
to about $750 US dollars in 2003 4]. He had given some to the farmer but had kept the rest to prove
The German troops had actually given John a lift part of his way back. The Maquis had done the rest.
[The Maquis were local groups who
illegally resisted the German occupation, as officially, France had surrendered to them.]
Cockpit of a Typhoon
Sept 18, 1944 - (this story is also captured in Louis McBride’s journal entries here)
The campaign had gone well and the army had advanced to northern France but odd pockets of resistance
had been left behind. We had taken over and were operating from Vendeville, the aerodrome outside
Lille [in France, near the Belgium border; one of the closest points to England]. Ops ‘B’ told us to pull out
and report to Fairwood Common [at Swansea on the west coast of UK/Wales,
the site of this photo].
We couldn’t safely make
the journey in one hop so we decided to stay the night at Tangmere. We all took off - beautifully
and held tight formation because the visibility was so poor. We were flying west towards Bologne
which was still in enemy hands. The CO decided to climb through the cloud. Up and up we went, still
trying desperately to hold formation. Then the CO’s voice over the radio told individual section
leaders to break off with their own formations and get to Tangmere separately.
Three sections continued upward. One went back down to sea level. No one really knows where Ned
went. When we landed at Tangmere, Ned was missing.
S/L Johnny Button with his ground crew13
At 8 AM the following morning, an Anson landed and out jumped Ned, dressed in his best blue and
carrying his little attaché case.
He told us that he had had to force land with engine trouble. Unfortunately, this occurred over
"no man’s" land between the Hun forces at Bologne and our own troops surrounding the area.
He had been dressed in his best blue to fly back to England. The shattered soldiers on either
side must have thought it queer that the RAF could fly clean showered in best blue with a
weekend case! Allies had sent out a patrol which picked Ned up, took him to . . . . and
Transport Command had taken over from there.
Oct 6, 1944 - Antwerp, Belgium
Ned and I were to have a rest, and when we arrived at Antwerp [on the Belgium coast], the CO
asked us to get some unused houses ready for occupation.
We needed to bring several items and so we made a trip into Antwerp town. We had wandered
around for some time going into shops and trying out our Flemish and our French and usually
ending up in English when Ned said, "look there’s a zoo - let’s go and have a look."
What a moth-eaten looking lot of animals they were too - we were told that the rest had been
eaten! We decided to go to the lion house and there we were surprised to see people in the
cages. All men and women were completely bald and they leered out at us like monkeys.
On enquiry we discovered that this was the way the people of Antwerp had decided to deal with
the German collaborators!
We left there in a hurry and finished the evening in a pub drinking green beer while the locals
delighted in singing "It’s the wrong way to tickle Mary" 5, etc.