Thursday, December 20, 2012

Desmond Ossiter Sands DFC 1911-1999

Pilot-Officer Desmond Ossiter Sands was  awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for gallantry over Augsburg. His squadron leader, J. D. Nettleton, received the Victoria Cross.
Pilot-Officer Sands was the navigator to Nettleton's plane, and it was the only one of the six Lancasters that got back, after having done its job despite terrific opposition, the raid involving a flight of 1,000 miles over
hostile country.
The target was one of great military importance, and the Lancaster did its job, flying as low as 50 feet from the surface. Desmond Sands went to London with his siste and was a partner in an architectural firm there at the time of his enlistment in 1940. He was commissioned in 1941, and participated in many raids over Germany, including the Ruhr, Hamburg and Kiel.

G/Capt Sir Douglas Bader CBE, DSO* DFC* 1910-1982

Douglas Robert Steuart Bader was born in London, England on February 21, 1910. The son of civil engineer Frederick Bader and his wife Jessie, Douglas spent his first two years with relatives on the Isle of Man as his father had to return to work in India. Joining his parents at age two, the family returned to Britain a year later and settled in London. With the outbreak of World War I, Bader's father left for military service. Though he survived the war, he was wounded in 1917 and died of complications in 1922. Re-marrying, Bader's mother had little time for him and he was sent to Saint Edward's School.

Excelling at sports, Bader proved an unruly student. In 1923, he was introduced to aviation while visiting his aunt who was engaged to Royal Air Force Flight Lieutenant Cyril Burge. Interested in flying, he returned to school and improved his grades. This resulted in an offer of admission to Cambridge, but he was unable to attend when his mother claimed she lacked the money to pay tuition. At this time, Burge also informed Bader of six annual prize cadetships offered by RAF Cranwell. Applying, he placed fifth and was admitted to the Royal Air Force College Cranwell in 1928.

During his time at Cranwell, Bader flirted with expulsion as his love of sports had branched into banned activities such as auto racing. Warned about his behavior by Air Vice-Marshal Frederick Halahan, he placed 19th out of 21 in his class examinations. Flying came easier to Bader than studying and flew his first solo on February 19, 1929 after just 11 hours and 15 minutes of flight time. Commissioned as a pilot officer on July 26, 1930, he received an assignment to No. 23 Squadron at Kenley. Flying Bristol Bulldogs, the squadron was under orders to avoid aerobatics and stunts at less than 2,000 ft. of altitude.

Bader, as well as other pilots in the squadron, repeated flaunted this regulation. On December 14, 1931, while at the Reading Aero Club, he attempted a series of low altitude stunts over Woodley Field. In the course of these, his left wing hit the ground causing a severe crash. Immediately taken to Royal Berkshire Hospital, Bader survived but had both his legs amputated, one above the knee, the other below. Recovering through 1932, he met his future wife, Thelma Edwards, and was fitted with artificial legs. That June, Bader returned to service and passed the required flight tests.

His return to RAF flying proved short-lived when he was medically discharged in April 1933. Leaving the service, he took a job with the Asiatic Petroleum Company (now Shell) and married Edwards. As the political situation in Europe deteriorated in the late 1930s, Bader continually requested positions with the Air Ministry. With the outbreak of World War II in September 1939, he was finally asked to a selection board meeting at Adastral House. Though he was initially only offered ground positions, intervention from Halahan secured him an assessment at the Central Flying School. Quickly proving his skill, he was permitted to move through refresher training later that fall. In January 1940, Bader was assigned to No. 19 Squadron and began flying the Supermarine Spitfire. Through the spring, he flew with the squadron learning formations and fighting tactics. Impressing Air Vice Marshal Trafford Leigh-Mallory, commander No. 12 Group, he was moved to No. 222 Squadron and promoted to flight lieutenant. That May, with Allied defeat in France looming, Bader flew in support of the Dunkirk Evacuation. On June 1, he scored his first kill, a Messerschmitt Bf 109, over Dunkirk.
With the conclusion of these operations, Bader was promoted to Squadron Leader and given command of No. 232 Squadron. Largely composed of Canadians and flying the Hawker Hurricane, it had taken heavy losses during the Battle of France. Quickly earning his men's trust, Bader rebuilt the squadron and it re-entered operations on July 9, just in time for the Battle of Britain. Two days later, he scored his first kill with the squadron when he downed a Dornier Do 17 off the Norfolk coast. As the battle intensified, he continued to add to his total as No. 232 engaged the Germans.

On September 14, Bader received the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for his performance through the late summer. As the fighting progressed, he became an outspoken advocate for Leigh-Mallory's "Big Wing" tactics which called for massed attacks by at least three squadrons. Flying from farther north, Bader often found himself leading large groups fighters into battles over southeastern Britain. This approach was countered by Air Vice Marshal Keith Park's 11 Group in the southeast which generally committed squadrons individually in an effort to conserve strength.

On December 12, Bader was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his efforts during the Battle of Britain. In the course of the fighting, No. 262 Squadron downed 62 enemy aircraft. Assigned to Tangmere in March 1941, he was promoted to wing commander and given Nos. 145, 610, and 616 Squadrons. Returning to the Spitfire, Bader began conducting offensive fighter sweeps and escort missions over the Continent. Flying through the summer, Bader continued to add to his tally with his primary prey being Bf 109s. Awarded a bar for his DSO on July 2, he pushed for additional sorties over occupied Europe.

Though his wing was tired, Leigh-Mallory allowed Bader a free hand rather than anger his star ace. On August 9, Bader engaged a group of Bf 109s over northern France. In the engagement, his Spitfire was hit with the rear of the aircraft breaking away. Though he believed it was the result of a mid-air collision, more recent scholarship indicates that his downing may have been at German hands or due to friendly fire. In the course of exiting the aircraft, Bader lost one of his artificial legs. Captured by German forces, he was treated with great respect due to his accomplishments. At the time of his capture, Bader's score stood at 22 kills and six probables.

After his capture, Bader was entertained by noted German ace Adolf Galland. In a sign of respect, Galland arranged to have the British airdrop a replacement leg for Bader. Hospitalized in St. Omer after his capture, Bader attempted to escape and nearly did so until a French informer alerted the Germans. Believing it his duty to cause trouble for the enemy even as a POW, Bader attempted several escapes during the course of his imprisonment. These led to one German commandant threatening to take his legs and ultimately to his transfer to the famous Oflag IV-C at Colditz Castle.

Bader remained at Colditz until liberated by the US First Army in April 1945. Returning to Britain, he was given the honor of leading a victory flyover of London in June. Returning to active duty, he briefly oversaw the Fighter Leader's School before taking an assignment to lead the North Weald sector of No. 11 Group. Considered out of date by many of the younger officers, he was never comfortable and elected to leave the RAF in June 1946 for a job with Royal Dutch Shell.

Named Chairman of Shell Aircraft Ltd., Bader was free to keep flying and travelled extensively. A popular speaker, he continued advocating for aviation even after his retirement in 1969. Somewhat controversial in his older age for his outspoken conservative political positions, he remained friendly with former foes such as Galland. A tireless advocate for the disabled, he was knighted for his services in this area in 1976. Though in declining health, he continued to pursue an exhausting schedule. Bader died of a heart attack on September 5, 1982 after a dinner in honor of Air Marshal Sir Arthur "Bomber" Harris.

W/Cdr Robert Stanford Tuck DSO DFC** 1916-1987

Robert Roland Stanford Tuck was born on July 1st 1916 at Catford, London. After leaving St. Dunstan’s College, Reading in 1932 he became a sea cadet before joining the RAF in 1935 with a posting to 3 FTS (Flight Training School) at Grantham. Tuck then joined 65 Squadron in September 1935 until May 1940 when he was posted to 92 Squadron, based at Croydon, as a Flight Commander

During combat on May 23rd 1940, over Dunkirk, Tuck claimed three Bf110’s destroyed and a Bf109. The following day he shot down two Do17’s, on May 25th he shared a Do17 and on June 2nd he shot down a Bf109, a He111 and damaged two more Bf109’s. Due to his bravery Tuck was awarded the DFC on June 11th and received it from King George VI at Hornchurch on June 28th

His combat successes continued with a shared Do17 on July 8th, a damaged Ju88 on July 25th, a shared Ju88 on August 13th and two destroyed Ju88’s the following day. On August 18th Tuck attacked a group of Ju88’s over Kent where he shot one down and damaged another. During the exchange his Spitfire was hit by return fire and he baled out just east of Tunbridge Wells where he was slightly injured from the landing

Tuck was again involved in another incident on August 25th when his Spitfire was badly damaged during combat with a Do17, which he destroyed, 15 miles off the coast. The aircraft had a dead engine but he glided it back to make a forced landing

On September 11th, during the height of the Battle of Britain, Tuck was posted to command 257 Squadron based at Debden. Leading the Hurricanes into combat on the 15th he shot down a Bf110 and a probable Bf109. On September 23rd he claimed a Bf109, October 4th a Ju88, October 12th a Bf109, October 25th a Bf109 and two more damaged. His last two victories of the Battle were on October 28th where he claimed two “probable” damaged Bf109’s

He received a Bar to his DFC on October 25th

During December he shot down a Do17 on the 12th, a Bf109 on the 19th and a Do17 on the 29th. In January 1941 Tuck was awarded the DSO and continued his “scores” in March with a Do17 on the 2nd and another on the 19th. On April 9th, during the night, he shot down a Ju88 and claimed another on April 27th after he had received a second Bar to his DFC on the 11th. Two more victories followed during night operations on May 11th when he shot down a Ju88 and probably another

Tuck was involved in a dogfight with Bf109’s, on June 21st, where he claimed two and damaged another before he himself was shot down into the Channel. After spending nearly two hours adrift in a dinghy, he was picked up by a barge and taken to Gravesend, Kent.

In July, 1941, he was appointed Wing Leader at Duxford and claimed two victories over Bf109’s, on the 7th and 8th with another Bf109 probably damaged

After a brief trip to America, with several other RAF Fighter Command pilots, he returned to a posting at Biggin Hill as Wing Leader. It was during this posting that saw Tuck’s last aerial combat of the war. On January 28th, 1942, while on a low-level mission over northern France, his Spitfire was hit by enemy flak near Boulogne and he was forced to crash land

He was captured by German troops and spent the next three years in several POW (prisoner of war) camps until he made a successful escape on February 1st 1945. After spending some time fighting alongside the advancing Russian troops as an infantry officer he found his way to the British Embassy in Moscow. He eventually boarded a ship from Russia to Southampton, England

With the war now over, he received his final decoration, a DFC (US Air Force) on June 14th 1946, before he finally retired from the RAF and active service on May 13th 1949 as a Wing Commander.

W/Cdr James Eric Storrar DFC 1920-1994

James Eric Storrar was born at Ormskirk on June 24 1920. His family had run a veterinary practice at Chester since the early 18th century and he was educated at Chester City and County School. In October 1938 he joined the RAF on a short service commission. The next year he was posted to No 145, then flying Blenheim bombers from Croydon. In March 1940 the Squadron converted to Hurricanes. After the Battle of Britain, the depleted squadron was sent to Drem in Scotland to rest and re-form and Storrar served briefly with 421 Flight, a specialised interception unit, before moving to No 73, another Hurricane squadron. In November 1940 the squadron sailed to Takoradi on the coast of West Africa, aboard the aircraft carrier ‘Furious’. It then flew the "stepping stone" route across Africa to Egypt. After a brief detachment to No 274 the pilots returned to their own unit.

On April 4 1941, Storrar spotted a Lockheed Lodestar which had made a forced landing in the desert. He put down and discovered the Lodestar was General Wavell's personal aircraft. After Storrar had helped the Lodestar's pilot to get his engine going, he found that his own aircraft would not start. He was obliged to walk across the desert to Tobruk. A few days later Storrar was enjoying a rest at Takoradi when he was asked to ferry a Hurricane to Freetown. Bad weather forced him down in the jungle; it took him two days and three nights to walk more than 70 miles to the Firestone rubber plantation near Monrovia. In 1943 he returned to Britain. Aged 22, he received command of No 65, a Spitfire squadron flying bomber escorts and fighter sweeps over France and the Low Countries.
In the course of a screaming dive on a Me109 Storrar overstressed his Spitfire which had to be written-off after landing. The next year he moved to a Transport Command unit flying an air delivery service, but returned to operations in the autumn of 1944 as commander of No 64. He later commanded Nos 165 and 234 squadrons and in 1946 was posted to Italy to command No 239 Wing, equipped with Mustangs.

The next year Storrar was offered an extended commission. He opted instead to study veterinary science at Edinburgh University and later joined the family practice. In 1949 he joined No 603, a Royal Auxiliary Air Force squadron and resumed flying. He went on to command No 610, the County of Chester Auxiliary Squadron.

Storrar was awarded the DFC in 1940, a Bar in 1943. He notched up 15 confirmed kills as a Hurricane pilot during the Battle of Britain.

"Jas" Storrar was a giant of a man. Well over 6ft tall, he was barely able to squeeze into the cockpit of his fighter. Over the years he retained something of the flamboyant style of a Battle of Britain pilot. His jackets were lined with red silk and his Jaguar XJS 12 bore the registration JAS.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Douglas Campbell 1896-1990

The son of astronomer William Wallace Campbell, Douglas Campell graduated from Harvard University in 1917. On 18 May 1917, he enlisted in the United States Signal Corps, Aviation Section. After training at the School of Military Aeronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology he embarked for France on 23 July 1917. He was promoted to 1st Lieutenant on 29 September 1917. After additional training in early 1918 at Issoudun and Casaux, Campbell was assigned to the 94th Aero Squadron on 1 March 1918. He and Lt. Alan Winslow shared the squadron's first official victory over an enemy aircraft on 14 April 1918. Flying the Nieuport 28, Campbell was the first United States Air Service pilot trained in the United States to score five confirmed victories. Scoring his final victory on 5 June 1918, he and James Meissner shot down a Rumpler near Nancy, but Campbell was wounded in the back by an explosive bullet and sent home to recover. Promoted to Captain, he returned to France on 8 November 1918 and served with the Army of Occupation in Germany. Returning to the United States on 1 January 1919, Campbell was discharged from the army on 24 February. On 7 June 1919 he accepted a Captain's commission in the Air Service Officers' Reserve Corps.