Paying Homage to Pilot Officer Donald Hickson

About an unsung hero who flew with RAF 203 Squadron.

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Pilot Officer Donald Hickson was assigned to RAF 203 Squadron he completed 23 reconnaissance sorties as observer / navigator / second pilot flying in Martin Maryland IIs and Baltimores over the Mediterranean Sea.

His story will be told by his son on a new blog.

RAF 203 Squadron

Dedication

This site is dedicated to the memory of all those aircrew that served in the Commonwealth Air Forces during World War Two. The numbers are astounding. Some 185,600 aircrew served and approximately 70,200 made the ultimate sacrifice. The number of sorties flown and the number of aircraft lost is also difficult to comprehend.

  • Bomber Command – 392,100 sorties and 9,100 aircraft lost
  • Fighter Command – 700,200 sorties and 3,500 aircraft lost
  • Coastal Command – 235,700 sorties and 1,600 aircraft lost

To the best of my knowledge, there were about 126 Squadrons in the RAF, RCAF, RAAF, RNZAF and other Commonwealth Air Forces.

Obviously, the subject is much too broad to cover in any meaningful way in a single blog.

In particular, this blog is dedicated to those who served with RAF 203 Squadron during World War Two and all relevant submissions are welcomed.

I will make periodic posts about…

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CAM Ships – Protecting the Convoy from the Condors – Redux

Can anybody help?

I am trying to find a print quality image of the EMPIRE MORN CAM ship for use in a chapter about Arctic Convoys PQ15 and return convoy QP12 when Flying Officer Kohn B Kendall, the CAM pilot on the EMPIRE MORN, was killed after shooting down a Ju 88 bomber. He was the only CAM pilot to be killed after launch.

CAN ANYBODY HELP?

Bill Forster

Lest We Forget

Great post about a little piece of history on naval warfare in WWII.

Click here.

Norman Taylor was one of the pilots who flew the Hurricat.

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Hurricat

Source here

Hurricat log book

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Col. Ashley Woolridge; 106 Missions in a B-26

Great tribute to one who got back.

Aviation Trails

At the height of the war, the life expectancy of a fighter pilot was measured in weeks, for a bomber crew it was perhaps even less. With tours of duty standing at around 30 missions, it was rare to find anyone who survived these tours without at least serious injury or mental health issues. Many paid the price with their life.

Whilst aircraft could be salvaged, patched up, repaired and put back into the air, it was not  so easy for crewmen to be returned to battle so quickly. It was therefore, very rare to find anyone completing one or even two missions in a front line aircraft. Of course the subject of what constitutes a mission is in itself open for debate, ‘milk runs’ leaflet drops etc all create fractions of a mission, but this aside, for any airman to surpass 100 missions was indeed rare.

We have seen…

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All Quiet on the Western Front (4)

All Quiet on the Western Front… Part Four

John Knifton

This is Part Four of a dialogue taken from “All Quiet on the Western Front”. A group of German soldier discuss their plight:

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“I’ll tell you how it should all be done.
Whenever there’s a big war comin’ on, you should rope off a big field…”

“And sell tickets.”

“Yeah.”

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“And on the big day, you should take all the kings and their cabinets and their generals, put ’em in the centre dressed in their underpants, and let ’em fight it out with clubs. The best country wins.”

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Unfortunately, only one war has ever been carried out like that. It was the Israelites and the Philistines in the Old Testament when one side chose a champion and so did the other:

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It would certainly be something to think about, especially where wars are just dragging on in pointless fashion as the First World War and the now long forgotten Iran-Iraq War…

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All Quiet on the Western Front (3)

Why there are wars…
So simple to understand.

John Knifton

This is Part Three of a dialogue taken from the film “All Quiet on the Western Front”:

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A group of German soldiers discuss their plight:

“Somebody must have wanted the war. Maybe it was the English. No, I don’t want to shoot any Englishman. I never saw one ’til I came here. And I suppose most of them never saw a German ’til “they” came here. No, I’m sure “they” weren’t asked about it.”

“No.”

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“Well, the war must be doing somebody some good.”

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“I think maybe the Kaiser wanted a war.”

“I don’t see that. The Kaiser’s got everything he needs.”

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“Well, he never had a war before. Every full-grown emperor needs one war to make him famous. Why, that’s history.”

“Yeah, generals, too. They need war.”

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And Prime Ministers and even Presidents come to that. They think it will make them look good when somebody else takes the risks on…

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73 years ago today…

Albert Dugal received posthumously the medal of l’Assemblée nationale du Québec November 11th, 2016. His sister Claire received it.

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RCAF 425 Alouettes

Jacques Desjardins had written a tribute to his uncle Albert Dugal. What he had written  in French was so touching that I had told him it had to be translated in English.

Jacques had a cousin who did just that…!

Her name is Thérèse Kirouac. She too wanted to pay homage to her uncle…

***

I would like to talk to you about my uncle, Flight Sergeant J. J-B. Albert Dugal, member of l’Escadron 425 Les Alouettes during the last World War. He died on March 3, 1943 during a bombing mission on Hamburg; he was the «bomb aimer» during this mission.

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I never knew my uncle, as I was born 11 months after he passed away. My grandmother and my mother, his sister, kept his memory alive for me. He was that brave hero who sacrificed his life for his country and liberty. But who was he exactly?

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I…

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History – Attention Must Be Paid

History – Attention Must Be Paid

History is sadly repeating itself…

Envisioning The American Dream

Vanity Fair cover 1933 July Despondent Sam Illustration by Paolo Garretto We need to take a hard look at history. A Vanity Fair cover from July 1933 showing a despondent Uncle Sam seated on the Western hemisphere with storm clouds above can serve as a somber harbinger for our own times. Illustration by Paolo Garretto

History has never seemed more relevant.

That anti-Semite Steve Bannon who made white nationalism mainstream through Breitbart, is now to be President Elect Donald Trump’s Goebbels…er…Chief Strategist.

This past summer with  the weight of history hanging heavy as the Republicans nominated Donald J. Trump as their candidate for president, historians spoke out as never before.

We didn’t listen then.

We need to listen now.

It’s a post worth repeating, so we don’t repeat history.

It’s Worth Repeating

A dozen distinguished  historians from David McCullough to  Ken Burns have bonded together to create a Facebook page called Historians on Donald Trump, dedicated to educating the voters…

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All Quiet on the Western Front (2)

Part Two…

John Knifton

This is Part Two of a dialogue taken from “All Quiet on the Western Front”:

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A group of German soldiers in World War One discuss their plight:

“Well. how do they start a war?”

“Well, stupid, one people offends another.”

“Oh, well, if that’s it, I shouldn’t be here at all. I don’t feel offended.”

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“It don’t apply to tramps like you.”

“Good. Then I could be goin’ home right away.”

“Ah, you just try it.”

“Yeah. You wanna get shot?”

“Me and the Kaiser felt just alike about this war. We didn’t either of us want a war, so I’m going home. He’s there already”

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Would it were so simple:

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You can see why Hitler’s Nazi Party sabotaged showings of this film in 1930s Germany. It would have brought home the grim reality to many of those willing to die for the Führer at the first glorious opportunity.

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Lest We Forget – Victor Alfred Knox

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Click on the poppy.

Crew of Halifax HX189
T/S Charles A. Thomas (USAAF) known to his crew as Chuck arrived at 419 squadron on April 17th 1944. Listed sometimes as T/S, although on his flight as 2nd Pilot it appears as he had an unusual rank designation “Flight-Officer”. Among the crew was Air Gunner Sgt. Victor Knox whose brother F/O John Knox was already a member of 419 squadron as WAG.
The original crew included Sgt. Ritchie as the Bomb Aimer. Ritchie became hospitalized with jaundice while at Middleton St. George which left the crew short one trade.
Normally there was a week or so before a crew became operational, their time would have been spent carrying out squadron exercises while their pilot completed two sorties as 2nd. Pilot. For Thomas’s crew this was cut short, the 2nd. Pilot sorties came one after the other so that by April 21st Thomas had completed this training.
With their Bomb Aimer not available, veteran B/A F/O John Neal asked to go with the new crew on this their first operation. For Neal and the crew their first meeting was at the Briefing Hut only minutes before takeoff. Neal records in his book “The Lucky Pigeon” he was glad when the target was revealed as Laon, he mentions that it was only a four hour sortie and would be a “Milk Run” . Laon was also a target he had been to before.

Over Laon -April 22/23 1944

The marshalling yards of Laon were an important target to help disrupt the supplies reaching the front lines on what soon would be the beaches of the D-Day landings. The mission was assigned to a small force of aircraft, even so nine aircraft were to be lost including one of Moose squadron, Halifax HX189.

No incidents occurred on the dog legged path to the target area and the Halifax was on the approach to the flare outlined drop zone. As the Bomb Aimer had his finger on the release button the aircraft was hit. Before any evasive actions could be put in place the aircraft was hit again a number of times by louder bangs. The damage done had both port engines on fire and flames spreading along the port fuselage.
The fog of time has left us with two versions of what happened. Sgt. Knox the tail gunner is reported to have called for the evasive action just as they were hit. In John Neal’s book he mentions he was within an instance of pressing the release when they were hit. It could have been, and this is just a theory that while Neal was communicating on the intercom with Thomas and guiding the aircraft over the target, Knox was not heard. The intercom was then destroyed in the second more devastating round of cannon fire seconds later.

 

Jumping into the Night

The Halifax’s pilot ,Thomas had been hit and wounded in the attacks, WO Pat Murphy had also been hit, a total of three times in the leg. F/O Neal also reported that Murphy had blood running down his face when he last saw him. Thomas was able to keep some control of the aircraft and had already shouted to everyone to “get the hell out”. Murphy worked on getting one of the hatches open even though he was injured. Neal went forward to Bomb Aimer position in the nose and set the bombs to “Safe” then released them as the Halifax took a Northward path.
F/S Lindsay and P/O John Neal left by the nose hatch, Neal smacking his chin on the hatch as he moved to jump out. After what seemed like forever Murphy forced the hatch open and he and Thompson jumped as the aircraft burned and started to fall. Sgt. Greene is reported to have jumped from the rear entrance hatch after possibly trying to make contact with Sgt. Knox who no one could communicate with. Eventually Thomas made it out of the aircraft, only Sgt. Victor Knox was left on board. In his position as tail gunner he was almost half the aircraft’s length away from everyone. From the style of the attack and no sign of return fire from Knox it was strongly felt that he had been killed in the first round of fire from the enemy night fighter.

 

On the Ground

Of the surviving six members of the crew WO Murphy and Sgt. Thompson who had both found each other once on the ground were captured by a German patrol. For WO Patrick Murphy the scenes of death from aircraft gun fire was to be repeated, when he experienced the devastation of the attack on a column of PoWs by RAF Typhoons near Gresse on April 19th 1945.
For Murphy and Thompson their imprisonment delayed their return home until the war was over. Lindsay, Thomas, Neal and Greene became evaders. Neal worked with the French Marquis and eventually made it back to Britain, Thomas made his way through Spain and was already in an Army hospital in Florida by the time Neal had made it back to Britain. Bob Lindsay returned to Britain in September of 1944 while Greene was home long before the others, June 23 1944.
Very tragically their first operation together on the night of 22/23rd April only a few short days after arriving at 419 Squadron would be the crews only operation.