Tag Archives: Patrol

In memory of Sgt Jimmy Thornton

As we spend the day remembering and giving thanks to those who gave their lives in conflict, I thought it timely to share another poem that was included in my grandfather’s collection of war memorabilia.

As with the last poem I published, I am not sure of the author. It is unlikely that my grandfather was the author, as the poem makes reference to time spent in Canada and Harrogate. Broody was not stationed at either of these locations.

“Jimmy”

(In memory of Sgt Jimmy Thornton)

From forty one to forty three
We lived our lives as one.
We trained and talked, drank and walked.
Our lives were in the sun.

From Blackpool, Brid to Heaton Park
And Aston Down as well.
Each station brought us near our goal
‘Though some of it was hell.

Wintered in Canadian snows
Our brevets and tapes to earn.
Then back home to Harrogate
And still much more to learn.

Then the parting of the ways,
Our paths no more to cross.
From OTU to HCU
Then a crew for a squadron loss.

We flew, we fought by night and day
Our duty must be done
Without a thought for future years
Till the fight was won.

I tried to found out where you’d gone,
‘Gone missing ‘, so they said.
Then I found in later years
Your name among the dead.

Your name is now emblazoned
On Runnymede’s great wall
In letters clear of shinning gold
Your death reminds us all –

You lie in some forgotten field
Or in a watery grave.
Now I, who live, am humbled
By your young life you gave.

I’m sure you’ll agree this is a very moving piece of writing – a personal tribute from one airman to another who trained together and then went their separate ways to fight in the air war.

Some research of the CWGC database only lists one James Thornton as remembered on the Runnymede Memorial [Panel 277], a Sgt. James Dennis Thornton (1317255) of 36 Squadron.

For much of the war, 36 Squadron had been based in the Mediterranean and North African theatres, but in January 1945 the Squadron was flying Wellington Mk XIVs out of RAF Chivenor, on Anti-Submarine patrols with RAF Coastal Command.

The Squadron’s Operations Record Book for 24/i/45 reports that at 01:39, aircraft NB880 took off on patrol duty LV42. The crew for that flight were:

F/Lt Walter George Edward Becker (62695)
F/O Harry Edwin Hastings (189139)
F/Lt Stanley Walton (125847)
W/O Henry Thomas Large (1384700)
F/Sgt James Murray Smith Richie (656758)
Sgt James Dennis Thornton (1317255)

There is no “Down” time recorded in the ORB. The entry reads:

“This aircraft failed to return. F/Lt Becker and his crew are missing. Later reports state that a fire was seen at sea. P/407 sighted oil patches and wreckage (thought to be pieces of fabric) in position 5302N 0450W.”

(This is a position approximately 18 Nautical Miles SSW of RAF Valley on Anglesey)

Please spare some time today to remember, among the thousands of others, these 6 young men who have no grave except the Irish Sea and who gave their lives so we could have a better tomorrow.


02/ix/44 – Last Patrol of the Tour

2nd September 14:10
DH Mosquito XIII MM558 ME-E (A/I Mk.VIII)
Pilot: F/O Scott
Navigator (R): Self
NFT, CINE-GUN & A/I PRACTICE
With S/Ldr Watts. A/I rather poor
1:00

21:00
PATROL – GCI 15083 (Radox)
10m off Normandy coast, between Avranches & Le Havre. At 6000ft over cloud. Bright moon & not a thing about.
3:55

And so almost a year to the day that he arrived at RAF Bradwell Bay to join 488(NZ) Squadron, Broody flies his last Operational Patrol of the tour. Today is also his final flight in “The Mighty E”.

In all, Broody has now flown a total of 176 hours 5 minutes on Operations. Of these, all were night operations apart from 35 minutes of daytime ops when he was scrambled to search for lost B17 Fortresses of the 8th USAF in January.

In that time, although he never had any “success” in destroying an enemy aircraft, the countless bogies discounted as friendly due to his interceptions played a valuable part in the war effort. There were, of course, some hairy moments. He was shot at a number of times (by allied aircraft); suffered mechanical failure; got coned in a German searchlight; and had a near miss with the French coast.

There are still a few more entries in the journal, and another month with the Squadron, but the Operational side is over – Broody has survived his war.


24/viii/44 – More A/I Mk.X training and a patrol off Le Havre

24th August 14:20
VICKERS ARMSTRONG WELLINGTON XI MP535 (A/I Mk X)
Pilot: F/O Collier
Instructor: F/Lt Clemo DFC
U/T Navigator (R): Self
U/T Navigator (R) F/O Skudder
U/T Navigator (R): F/S Brock
U/T Navigator (R): Sgt Tuffill
A/I Mk X – EXERCISE II
Crossing flights – target straight & level
2:00

19:50
DH Mosquito XIII MM558 ME-E (A/I Mk.VIII)
Pilot: F/O Scott
Navigator (R): Self
NFT & A/C TEST
All Ok.
0:35

23:45
PATROL – GCI 15121 (Legion)
On North & South line, South East of Le Havre at 8000ft. Lively sea activity, but nothing in the air.
2:40


21/viii/44 – Patrol in very bad weather

21st August 03:20
DH Mosquito XIII MM558 ME-E (A/I Mk.VIII)
Pilot: F/O Scott
Navigator (R): Self
PATROL
– GCI 15121 (Legion)
Le Havre & Liseaux area. Mostly at 7000ft, but between 5 & 12,000ft trying unsuccessfully to get out of Cu & Cu Nimb clouds. Very bumpy & severe electrical storm. Two bogies – both discounted on IFF before contact. Down to 500ft over Isle of Wight & rest of the way home. Bumpier still!
3:50

20:00
NFT
With W/O Moore, in poor weather.
0:30


18/viii/44 – Patrol off Le Havre with F/Lt Cook

18th August 03:20 
DH Mosquito XIII MM558 ME-E (A/I Mk.VIII)
Pilot: F/Lt Cook
Navigator (R): Self
PATROL – GCI 15121 (Legion)
N & S Patrol @ 8,000 ft on a 20 mile line Soth East of Le havre. Nothing at all in the air, but much ground activity.
Starboard CSU fully coarse (1800rpm) while setting course for home – linkage broken. All Ok.
3:25


15/viii/44 – 50th kill for the Squadron

Just after midnight on 15/vii/44, F/Lt Johnny Hall DFC and F/Lt Jock Cairns DFC were on a Patrol in the Caen area of Northern France under the control of CGI station 15083 (Radox). Contact was briefly made on a JU188, which despite coming under 3 short bursts of fire from the Mosquito’s 20mm cannon, evaded destruction.

Shortly afterwards, Cairns picked up a freelance contact, and the crew homed in on and destroyed a JU88. Two 2 second bursts of cannon fire destroyed the enemy aircraft, which spun and crashed to the ground in flames, but not before the JU88’s dorsal gunner managed to return fire (ineffectively) on the Mosquito.

This kill chalked up the 50th victory for 488(NZ) Squadron.

“A “Fiftieth” victory party was held. A bounty of Fifty pounds had been offered to the ground crew of the aircraft that achieved the fiftieth kill for the squadron and Hall and Cairns were pleased to be able to win it for their support crew and the pair of them no doubt played a big part in the celebrations.”
(Graham Clayton – “Gone the Dark Night”)

The 15th also saw F/Lt Jamie Jameson leave the Squadron for repatriation to New Zealand. From the ORB:

“He is our most successful pilot, and is now being repatriated to New Zealand having completed two tours of operations. We are indeed sorry to lose such a gallant comrade and wish him ‘Kai Ora’ in his new sphere.”


12/viii/44 – Patrol over France

12th August 14:40
DH Mosquito XIII MM558 ME-E (A/I Mk.VIII)
Pilot: F/O Scott
Navigator (R): Self
NFT, CINE-GUN & A/I PRACTICE
With P/O McCabe.
0:55

21:35
PATROL – GCI 15121 (Legion)
South East if Le Havre & Seine Estuary. One bogey – Mitchell. Engaged by Hun searchlights while breaking away after identifying it. Considerable activity on the ground to the West.
3:35

Also on this day, the body of P/O Oliver Hills was interred at Epsom Cemetery. You may remember that Hills was one of the early casualties of Broody’s tour. He and S/Ldr Dudley Hobbis were killed on 25/xi/43. F/O Jack Warner represented the Squadron at the burial.

 


09/viii/44 – Patrols at either end of the day

9th August 01:20
DH Mosquito XIII MM558 ME-E (A/I Mk.VIII)
Pilot: F/O Scott
Navigator (R): Self
PATROL – COL 15074 (Tailcoat One)
St Malo & Mont St Michel area at 5,000ft. One bogey – Stirling which kindly fired on us, without effect.
GCI 16081 (Tailcoat)
Rennes & Laval area at 4,000ft. Two bogies – a Stirling & a Lancaster. Otherwise very dull.
3:40

14:15
NFT, CINE-GUN & FORMATION
With F/O Robinson. Long run as target for W/O Addison DFC DFM & then formation beat-up of Robbie’s house & formation home. A/I switching circuit U/S on the way home.
1:15

21:40
NFT & IFF CHECK
On Robbie again – his IFF apparently U/S
0:15

PATROL – COL 15073 (Yardley One)
Cap de la Hague & Alderney area. No activity whatsoever.
2:50


06/viii/44 – Avranches patrol

6th August 03:20
DH Mosquito XIII MM622 (A/I Mk.VIII)
Pilot: F/O Scott
Navigator (R): Self
PATROL – GCI 15081 (Tailcoat)
At 8,000 ft East & West in Avranches area. No activity whatsoever.
3:10
(1 Do217 destroyed by F/Lt PFL Hall & F/O Rd’A Marriott
1 Do217 destroyed }
1 Do217 damaged } by F/S TA MacLean & F/O BC Grant)

This morning’s victories for the squadron came off the back of 9 kills already recorded for the month, and overtook the Squadron’s previous “monthly best” a mere 6 days into the month. Peter Hall’s victory was his eighth since joining the Squadron, and MacLean’s was his first.

The Do217 damaged by MacLean was a “freelance” attack after they lost contact with the GCI station following their earlier kill.


04/viii/44 – Starboard engine fire

4th August 14:50
DH Mosquito XIII MM558 ME-E (A/I Mk.VIII)
Pilot: F/O Scott
Navigator (R): Self
NFT & A/C Test
A/C just out from a minor. Nice afternoon. NFT on a Lancaster & Supercharger test at 8,000ft, 50 miles SW of base. Tried to feather starboard motor. Prop feathered instantaneously & went into full fire. Losing 500 ft/min & just managed to get in on 1100yds downhill at Lulsgate Bottom. New motor & CSU!
0:40

AIRSPEED OXFORD II X6863
16:30
Pilot: F/O McKenzie
2nd Pilot: FIS Instructor
Passengers: F/O Scott & Self
LULSGATE BOTTOM ~ BASE
A lift home
0:40

DH Mosquito XIII MM515 ME-Z (A/I Mk.VIII)
18:20
Pilot: F/O Scott
Navigator (R): Self
NFT & FEATHERING TEST
Check with W/O Mallon. This on OK
0:35

22:10
PATROL – COL 15074 (Tailcoat One)
At 4,000ft in Alderney, Cap de la Hague, Jersey & Guernsey area. No activity at all. BUT we had swapped patrols with F/O Shaw owing to the un-serviceability of his A/C
(1 Ju88 destroyed by W/Cdr RC Haine DFC & F/Lt AP Bowman
1 Ju88 destroyed } by F/O AL Shaw & F/Sgt L Wyman
1 Ju88 damaged }
2:45

Another drama filled day! Once again, an aircraft test just after a service resulted in a near catastrophic situation. The approximate position given by Broody of 50 miles South West of RAF Colerne puts him just north of Taunton when the engine caught fire. From there it is 30 miles North East (and most likely with favourable South Westerly winds)  to RAF Luslgate, which is nowadays better known as Bristol international Airport. The airport is less than 7 miles as the crow flies from where I sit writing this!