Sunday, October 14, 2012

AVM Henry Algernon Vickers Hogan DSO AFC 1909-2003

Son of a colonel in the Indian Army, Henry Algernon Vickers Hogan was born on Oct 25 1909 and educated at Malvern and the RAF College Cranwell. Commissioned in 1930 he joined 54 Squadron at Hornchurch where he flew Siskins and Bulldogs, in 1932 he joined 404 Fleet Fighter Flight and served in the aircraft carrier ‘Courageous’. The next year he moved to 800 Squadron. After qualifying at the Central Flying School he was posted as an instructor to No 1 Flying Training School, Leuchars.
In 1938 the RAF launched an attempt on the Soviet Union's non-stop long-distance record of 6,306 miles, and Hogan joined 1 Group's Long Range Development Unit. Three Vickers Wellesleys took off from Ismalia on November 5th 1938. Led by Squadron Leader Richard Kellett, the pilots made the challenge even more daunting by deciding to fly in formation. Bad weather over the Bay of Bengal and the South China Sea obliged Hogan to land at Kupang in Timor and refuel but the Wellesleys still handsomely beat the Russian record, covering the 7,157 miles to Darwin in 48 hours.

In 1939 Hogan was at the Air Ministry. He was then posted to No 15 Flying Training School as chief flying instructor and moved to 60 Operational Training Unit shortly before receiving command of 501 squadron.On June 21 Hogan was posted to Croydon to command 501 (City of Gloucester) Squadron, an Auxiliary Air Force unit. On July 10, the first day of the Battle of Britain, the Squadron was stationed at Middle Wallop. As the sun rose on the second day of the battle, 501 scrambled to engage 10 Ju87 Stuka dive-bombers and 20 Me109 fighters heading in from the Cherbourg area. In the engagement Hogan lost a Hurricane and was obliged to come to terms with both the numerical odds against 11 Group and the Hurricane's inferiority to the 109.

On August 15, at the height of the Luftwaffe's much trumpeted "Eagle Offensive", Hogan led 501 (by now based at Gravesend) in an attempt to save coastal fighter fields at Lympne and Hawkinge from destruction. Heavily outnumbered, 501 fought valiantly to break up large Luftwaffe formations.
Three days afterwards Hogan and the squadron, now almost continuously in action, shot down two Me110’s at the cost of seven Hurricanes.

As losses mounted Hogan and his surviving pilots grew ever more skilful. Foremost among them was the ace Sgt Ginger Lacey who ignored the flames engulfing his Hurricane and before baling out persisted in shooting down an He111 which had bombed Buckingham Palace. The replacement pilots had an average age of 21 and were inexperienced in combat; it troubled Hogan that they were so vulnerable. Flying Officer Arthur Rose-Price was typical. A former instructor, he joined 501 squadron on September 2, flew a morning patrol, and that afternoon failed to return from combat over Dungeness.

Hogan continued to lead the Squadron throughout the daily assaults on London. On September 18 he was shot down by a Me109 over West Mailing. He baled out and resumed command, none the worse for the experience. He completed the Battle of Britain with at least five enemy aircraft to his credit.
It was Hogan's excellence as a fighter squadron commander which subsequently ensured him a senior role in the vital business of training a generation of fighter pilots who would succeed the veterans of the Battle of Britain.
After the Battle of Britain he commanded 54 OTU until posted to Maxwell Field, Alabama where he was a key figure in the Arnold Scheme for training RAF pilots in the USA. He was also a member of the RAF delegation to Washington.In 1944 he returned home as assistant commandant at the Empire Central Flying School. The next year he commanded No 19 Flying Training School at Cranwell.
After the war Hogan was successively Sector Commander, Northern Sector; Air Officer Commanding 81 Group, then 83 Group 2nd Allied Tactical Air Force, Germany; then Senior Air Staff Officer Flying Training Command. He retired in 1962 and served as Midland Regional Director, Civil Defence, from 1964 to 1968.
Hogan was awarded the DFC in 1940 and appointed CB in 1955.

G/Capt Maurice Larwood Gaine DSO AFC 1910-2003

Maurice Gaine — “Larry”, as he was known throughout the RA. He was one of the Second World War’s acknowledged torpedo bombing experts. He was awarded the DSO for his resolute precision attacks on Axis shipping in the Mediterranean in 1942 and 1943.
He also has a place in aviation history for participating in the remarkable two-day flight of Vickers Wellesley bombers that in 1938 broke the world long-distance record with a non-stop journey of 7,162 miles from Ismailia in Egypt to Darwin, Australia. This beat by 856 miles the previous record, which had been claimed by three Soviet aviators with a flight from Moscow over the polar route to San Jacinto, California, in July 1937.

The three single-engined Wellesleys that took off from a specially lengthened runway at RAF Ismailia at 03.55 (GMT)on November 5, 1938, were part of the Long Range Development Flight to which Gaine had been posted the previous year. The first aircraft to feature the revolutionary and robust geodetic construction designed by Barnes Wallis, they were effectively standard machines, though modified to carry much extra fuel and lubricating oil to see them through their mammoth task.

From Ismailia they flew across the north of Arabia, the Gulf, India, the Malayan peninsula and Borneo before the No 1 aircraft, of which Gaine was signals officer and relief pilot, touched down at Darwin at 04.00 (GMT) on November 7 after 48 hours and 5 minutes in the air. The No 2 aircraft was compelled to land at Koepang on Timor Island in the Dutch East Indies. For the two successful machines the feat was a tribute to the remarkable Bristol Pegasus engine. For his part in this historic achievement Gaine was awarded the Air Force Cross.

Maurice Larwood Gaine was born in Grimsby in 1910 and educated at Wintringham Grammar School. At 16 he entered the RAF as an apprentice wireless operator, passing out as a leading aircraftman in 1929. For the next six years he served as a wireless operator mechanic before in 1931 being selected for flying training. From 1932 he specialised in torpedo bombing and spent four years from 1933 with a Vickers Vildebeest squadron, No 36, based at Seletar, Singapore. During this time he also flew on operations on the North West Frontier of India.

His nickname “Larry” came about through association with the popular Canadian boxer Larry Gains, who was Commonwealth heavyweight champion from 1931 to 1934. Gaine was himself a keen boxer.

He was commissioned in 1938, and had the rank of pilot officer for the record-breaking Wellesley flight that year. When war came he had two spells as a torpedo bombing instructor before being sent to Malta to command 39 Squadron of Beaufort torpedo bombers in the crucial summer of 1942.

This was his first wartime operational posting after two years of training, and he brought to the squadron a notion of tactics that did not at first recommend itself to many of the squadron’s pilots, who had come through a bad patch in which No39 had had several aircraft lost and many others badly shot up. They had been taught to take violent evasive action before and after dropping their torpedoes. Gaine argued that this made no difference to the likelihood of their being hit by flak, and certainly greatly increased the chance of their missing the target. He went in resolutely straight and level as he would have done in training, and aimed his torpedoes with great accuracy.

Accurate or not, few of his pilots thought him likely to survive for long with these methods. Gaine proved them wrong and soon built a reputation for his success in ship-busting at a time when every supply vessel lost to Rommel was vital in tilting the balance in the North African struggle.

In September 1942 he led his squadron on an attack that destroyed a freighter, flying straight through the flak from its three escorting destroyers. In November he sank a large tanker outside Tobruk. In March the following year he again sank a destroyer-escorted merchantman and at the same time shot down an enemy fighter, which attacked his Beaufort.

In April 1943 he was awarded the DSO for his outstanding skill and leadership. He was then rested from operations and posted to an operational training unit. He remained on training for the rest of the war.

After the war he had a spell in charge of air signals plans at Combined Operations HQ at Westward Ho! in North Devon, before passing through the Staff College, Bracknell. From 1956 to 1959 he was station commander of RAF Yatesbury in Wiltshire.

During this time he was instrumental in preserving one of the nine Gloster Meteor prototypes, DG202G, which he saved from destruction after it had been used as an instructional airframe for 12 years. For many years the restored aircraft stood in a position of honour at the station entrance. Yatesbury is now closed as an RAF station, but DG202G lives on as part of the RAF Museum’s collection at Cosford in Shropshire.

Among Gaine’s later appointments were that of UK member of the Nato communication committee, and from 1961 to 1963 he was in another Nato appointment, in Norway, as chief signals officer responsible for air defence, communication and radar stations from Oslo to the North Cape. He retired from the RAF in 1965 in a technical Intelligence post at the Ministry of Defence.

ACM Brian Kenyon Burnett DFC AFC 1913-2011

Brian Kenyon Burnett was born on March 10 1913 in Hyderabad, India, where his father was principal of Nizam College. He was educated at Charterhouse School, Heidelberg University and Wadham College, Oxford, gaining a degree in Modern Languages. An outstanding sportsman, he gained a double blue at squash and tennis and also represented the university at hockey. In the 1933 tennis match against Cambridge University, he beat his elder brother Douglas.

After learning to fly with the Oxford University Air Squadron, Burnett joined the RAF in September 1934. On gaining his wings he was posted to No 18 Squadron to fly the biplane Hart bomber – the beginning of a long association with RAF bombers. Following completion of a specialist navigation course, Burnett was selected to join the LRDU in December 1937.

Burnett’s name came to world prominence in 1938, when he was the navigator and second pilot of a Wellesley bomber that completed a record-breaking non-stop flight from Ismailia in Egypt to Darwin in Australia. On October 24 four single-engine Wellesley aircraft of the RAF’s Long Range Development Unit (LRDU) arrived in Ismailia to prepare for the flight. Three were selected for the record attempt, and these included Burnett’s aircraft, whose first pilot was Flight Lieutenant Andrew Combe, with Sergeant Gray as the third pilot and wireless operator. Each took it in turns to fly the aircraft during the epic journey.

The three aircraft took off at dawn on November 5. There were immediate problems as the undercarriage of Burnett’s Wellesley would not retract. For an hour the crew cut a hole in the side of the aircraft through which they thrust the long arm of a fishing net (carried to pass messages between them in the narrow fuselage). After some wiggling, the undercarriage retracted. The route took the aircraft over the Persian Gulf, India and Singapore. Over Timor, one aircraft was forced to land with a shortage of fuel.
The two remaining aircraft arrived at Darwin with 20 gallons of fuel, having completed the non-stop flight of 7,158 miles in just over 48 hours to establish a new world record. The crews were decorated, Burnett being awarded an AFC.
At the outbreak of war, Burnett left for France with the Advanced Air Striking Force, based at Rheims, returning to HQ 4 (Bomber) Group in 1940. Anxious to gain operational experience, he was posted as the flight commander of a Whitley bomber squadron and attacked the docks at Kiel and Hamburg before bombing the German battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau at Brest. Promoted wing commander in May 1941, he took command of No 51 Squadron. 

According to one of his crew Burnett soon established a reputation as a “press on type”. On a final bombing run over Hamburg, for example, his Whitley was caught in searchlights and he had to take violent evasive action to escape. Forced to abandon the run, he told his startled crew he was making another attempt. The majority of aircraft had left, and his aircraft attracted the attention of all the searchlights and anti-aircraft fire. He completed the attack and flew his damaged bomber back to base.

After seven months in command, Burnett was awarded a DFC and left for Canada to command an air navigation school. In the early postwar years, tennis continued to feature large in his life. He was captain of the RAF team that beat the Army, played in the Wimbledon Championships and was selected for an England team that toured Germany.

After three years in New York on the staff of the United Nations Military Staff Committee, Burnett returned to the Ministry of Defence on the Joint Planning Staff, helping with the implementation of the Marshall Plan and the establishment of Nato. He found time to win the RAF squash championship for the fifth time and beat his brother in the inter-service championships. In 1950 he and his brother had the rare distinction of being Army and RAF champions in the same season.

In 1951 Burnett returned to the bomber role as the senior air staff officer at No 3 Group, at a time when the RAF’s first jet bomber, the Canberra, was entering service and preparations were being made for the introduction of the V-bombers. In June 1954 he took command of RAF Gaydon as it opened as the RAF’s first V-bomber base .

With his promotion to air commodore and appointment as Director of Bomber Operations at the Air Ministry in June 1956, Burnett’s steady rise to the top continued. He observed the dropping of Britain’s first thermonuclear bomb at Christmas Island and was heavily engaged in the policy aspects of bomber operations during the Suez Crisis.

Senior appointments at HQ Bomber Command and as Air Officer Commanding No 3 Group followed, during which Burnett had the opportunity to fly the Victor bomber. In 1964 he was appointed Vice-Chief of the Air Staff.

During Burnett’s time as VCAS there were many significant new developments in the RAF’s capabilities and tasks, including planning for the introduction of a new generation of combat aircraft. In addition, following Denis Healey’s decision not to replace the Royal Navy’s aircraft carriers, Burnett was charged with developing policy to provide land-based air support for the Fleet.

Three years as the Air Secretary responsible for the career planning, promotion and appointments of RAF officers was followed by promotion to Air Chief Marshal and an appointment as Commander-in-Chief Far East in May 1970. Based in Singapore for this tri-Service appointment, Burnett had a huge parish extending from the Beira Patrol off East Africa to Australia and New Zealand.

He arrived just after it was announced that the Wilson government planned to withdraw British Forces from the Far East. While his main task was to implement this, he was ordered to organise a small UK, Australian, and New Zealand (ANZUK) force in conjunction with the Malaysian and Singapore Armed Forces. He was also the British representative at the South East Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO) conferences.

As the time for withdrawal approached, the company of Burnett and his wife was in great demand among political and military leaders in the region. Finally, on October 29 1971, he took the salute at the final closure of the Command at a multinational parade and fly-past. Two days later 16 ships of the Far East Fleet steamed past while Fleet Air Arm aircraft flew overhead. In March 1972 Burnett retired from the RAF.

His services were much sought after and, in April 1974, he was appointed chairman of the All England Lawn Tennis Club. A year earlier, 81 players of the Association of Tennis Professionals had boycotted the Wimbledon Championships, and relations between the players and the club were still strained. Burnett’s calm manner and his patient and tactful approach smoothed the way for reconciliation.

He made it clear more than once that he questioned the wisdom of escalating prize money but he, like Wimbledon, was reluctantly forced to go along with the American-led trend. There were times when, with his military background, he found it difficult to accept indiscipline as players increasingly flaunted their new found independence. However, what many players and their representatives regarded as coolness towards them on his part stemmed from a basic shyness, which masked a generosity of spirit and many acts of kindness.

In 1977, when the 17-year-old John McEnroe arrived at Wimbledon for the first time, it was Burnett who tried to steer him in the right direction as umpires repeatedly reported him to the referee’s office for his extravagant outbursts. Burnett was also keen that the Royal Box should be utilised when members of the Royal family were not in attendance. On one occasion there was an IRA scare at the box, with a bomb apparently timed to detonate at 3pm. But a search found nothing, so Burnett remained in situ with some of his guests and, with one minute to go, calmly suggested that they should take off their spectacles to avoid flying glass.

Much was achieved to develop Wimbledon before Burnett finally retired in March 1984 after 10 years’ service as chairman of the Championships Committee. He finally gave up skiing at 80, golf at 88 and tennis at 94. In 2009 he published his memoirs, A Pilot at Wimbledon. An avid bridge player, he played twice a week until he died on September 16, having just returned from a holiday in the south of France.

Burnett was appointed CB (1961), KCB (1965) and GCB (1970). In 1969 he was appointed Grand Officer of the Order of the White Rose of Finland.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

A/Cdre Edward Barnes Sismore, DSO, DFC, AFC, AE 1921-2012

Air Commodore Edward Barnes Sismore, DSO, DFC, AFC, AE

AVM Sir Harold Brownlow Morgan "Micky" Martin, KCB, DSO *, DFC** AFC 1918-1988

Air Marshal Sir Harold (Micky) Martin, KCB, DSO and Bar, DFC and two Bars, AFC, was the RAF's greatest wartime exponent of low level bombing.

Though his name is less familiar to the public than those of men like Guy Gibson and Leonard Cheshire, to those who flew with him Micky Martin was the exemplar of the low-flying skills which were so daringly demonstrated in the famous Dambuster raid of May 1943.

Martin possessed in abundance those qualities which are the hallmark of the best fighting troops. He was swashbuckling and brave, with scant respect for authority, but with a compelling desire to be at grips with the enemy. But his bravery had nothing about it of bravado. He was highly professional and knew that gallantry was of no avail without skill and tactical sense. As a flight, and, later, squadron commander, his insistence upon rigorous flying standards enabled many young pilots to stay alive who might otherwise have died.

Martin was one of the most important members of the 617 Squadron team which Gibson assembled especially for the Dambuster raid. Born in Sydney on February 27, 1918, he had been pronounced unfit to fly in Australia, because of asthma, but he worked his passage to England, where he joined the RAF in 1940.

As a pilot in the days of Bomber Command's early attempts to hit targets and avoid getting shot down, he quickly appreciated the effectiveness of low flying as a method of evading enemy fighters, and he applied himself with relentless concentration to mastering the skills required.
To fly with Martin aircrew needed nerves of steel. On one occasion his Hampden bomber returned to base with a length of power line wrapped round one of its wings. When he went on to Lancasters his bomb aimers soon became used to the sight of foliage disconcertingly close beneath their noses.
As a result, by the time the Ruhr dams raid was mooted early in 1943, Martin was one of the most experienced 'on-the-deck' pilots in the RAF. He was therefore a natural choice to help in training for an operation which meant flying all the way to the target at 150 feet, and bombing from exactly 60ft to ensure that the dambusting weapon, the revolutionary 'bouncing bomb', devised by Barnes Wallis, could clear the anti-mine nets and hit the dams at the right angle.

In the weeks leading up to the raid 617's Lancasters were out night after night, roaring over the countryside at ever lower and lower level, stampeding the flocks in the fields, and causing floods of angry letters to pour into RAF Scampton. In his beloved 'P for Popsie', Martin was always at hand, to pass on invaluable advice over the intercom to the squadron's pilots as they got used to hair-raising manoeuvres, dodging pylons, treetops and power lines in the darkness. On a notable occasion, having returned to base with portions of a tree lodged in his aircraft's anatomy, one pilot observed shakenly to Martin: 'Christ, this is bloody dangerous'.

On the evening of May 15, after flying 2,000 hours of practice sorties which had involved the dropping of 2,500 practice bombs, the raid was ready to go. Eighteen Lancasters rolled out onto the runways at Scampton, the belly of each bulging with the secret weapon which was to test the meticulously thought-out defences of three of the Ruhr's great dams, the Mohne, the Eder and the Sorpe.

To attack a heavily defended target at low level, flying at a fixed speed, and showing the spotlight altimeter beams which were necessary to guarantee a consistent height was a formidable proposition, and the gunners in the Mohne's flak towers were soon busy. Gibson went in first and delivered his bomb satisfactorily. His second-in-command, Hopgood, was shot down during his approach, and his bomb burst harmlessly. Then it was Martin's turn; coming in hard and low he bombed with pinpoint accuracy.
But the dam still held, and as successive aircraft bombed, Gibson and Martin flew up and down the Mohne lake, drawing the German fire and spraying the flak towers with bursts from their own turrets.
At last, peering through the mist which had settled over the scene, they were aware that the parapet had crumbled, and soon a torrent of water began to pour through an ever widening breach. The code word for the dam's destruction Nigger was flashed back to the Group Operations Room at Grantham, where Barnes Wallis, until then regarded with some suspicion as men of genius often are, heard it with delighted relief.

Though the raid, which also breached the Eder dam and damaged the Sorpe, causing widespread destruction, did not deal the mortal blow to the Ruhr's power and water supplies that had been intended, it nevertheless caught the public imagination for its combination of scientific planning and cool courage, and has passed into Royal Air Force mythology.

Martin remained with 617 for a year after the dams raid, becoming acting commanding officer and passing on his knowledge to a succession of pilots who joined the Squadron. Leonard Cheshire, one of 617's most successful commanding officers and a low level expert himself at the time he took over from Martin, has attested: 'Much of what I learned about operational low flying I owed to Mick'.

After a raid on the Antheor viaduct in the South of France, during which his bomb aimer was hit by flak and killed, as he was making the approach, Martin was rested from operations for a while. But he was impatient to get back, and wangled his way onto 100 Group of night intruding Mosquitoes, where his skills were again put to good use.

Before the war was out he had added another Bar to his DFC.

But peacetime did not mean an end of the medals for Martin. On April 30 1947, piloting a Mosquito with Squadron Leader E. B. Sismore as navigator he set up a record for the flight from London to Cape Town, covering the 6,717 miles in 21hr 31 min, at an average speed of 310mph. This feat gained him an Air Force Cross, and was not in fact surpassed until the jet age, when a Canberra bomber set a new mark.

Though granted a permanent commission only in 1945, Martin had an immensely successful post-war career, and he rose to high rank. He commanded 2nd Allied Tactical Air Force and RAF Germany from 1967 to 1970, and retired in 1971 after a year on the Air Force Board as Air Member for Personnel.