Monthly Archives: September 2017
Postwar – [5 July 1945 to 21 March 1946] – Base 174, Utersen, Germany – Part Three
Postwar – Base 174, Utersen, Germany,
[5 July 1945 to 21 March 1946]
The first twelve new Spitfire Mk. XIVEs began to arrived from No. 41 Squadron, at B.158 Lubeck, Germany, on 13 September 1945, and the old aircraft were ferried to Dunsfold, England. Conversion training began on 16 September, and three more Spit Mk. XIVE fighters arrived the following day. On 23 September, the whole squadron flew the new Mk. XIV Spitfires for the very first time, and by the end of the month, they had 16 on strength.
18 September 1945, five pilots from No. 416 and ten pilots from No. 486 Squadron [Disbanded 7 September 1945] flew the remaining Spitfire Mk. XVIs to No. 83 Disbandment Centre at Dunsfold, Surrey, England. This airfield was an ex-class “A” Bomber Base, built by Canadian Army Engineers, and named RCAF Dunsfold, from 1942-1944. In November 1944, No. 83 Disbandment Centre took over and this became the storage base for Spitfires, Typhoons, and Tempests in late 1945. That’s where the fifteen old No. 416 Spitfire Mk. XVIs were parked on 18 September 1945.
When 150 octane fuel was introduced by RAF Fighter Command in July 1944, the boost of the Griffon engine was increased to plus 25 lbs, allowing a top speed to be increased by 30 m.p.h.
Fuel capacity was increased by 26 gallons, with a new 13 gal. tank fitted into the leading edge of each wing. The engine was a Griffon 65 [above] or Griffon 66 which gave a top speed of 438 m.p.h. at 24,500 feet, or 400 m.p.h. at 2,000 ft. They were assigned to the 2nd Tactical Air Force and were being flown by six squadrons in late December 1944. The new Spitfire had many modifications the Canadians would have to adjust to in the next two weeks.
#1 – The Griffon 66 engine powered a five blade Rotol propeller. #2 – It had a cut-down rear fuselage and bubble canopy. #3 – Had extra 31-gallon fuel tank behind cockpit. #4 – Increased tail fin for control and #5 – larger tail rudder. #6 – Clipped “e” wings. #7 – Two larger under wing air-cooler radiators. #8 – F.24 oblique camera in fuselage. #9 – Anti-balance trim tabs on the tail wing rudders.
One of six images of a Spitfire Mk. XIVE taken by F/O Gordon Hill, and he never flew DN-H. Note the larger pointed tail fin with increased rudder height, and main wing clipped “e” wing-tips, with the five blade Rotol propeller.
The Mk. XIVE came with standard pilot armour protection “A”, however some units modified the bubble canopy with a second plate for pilot head protection “B.” No. 41 RAF Squadron were one of the first two squadrons assigned the Spitfire XIV in September 1994. They modified all their Spitfires, which in turn were received by No. 416 Squadron one year later, 13 September 1945.
Cockpit image Gordon took of the Spitfire Mk. XIV, November 1945
Gordon Hill flew his first Mk. XIVE Spitfire, MJ245, DN-Q on 24 September 1945, the flight lasted 30 minutes. This flight almost ended before it began, with his fighter veering left off the runway. Gordon has never revealed this private story until now, and he explains.
The Spitfire Mk. XVI was powered by a Merlin 266 [same as Merlin 66] built by Packard in the United States of America. The airscrew drive was clockwise or what the British called “Right Hand Tractor” with Rotal constant speed four blade propellers and 1,315 H.P. for take-off. Pilot Hill explains that before take-off, he would set the tail trim tab to the right to off-set the force of the propellers.
On 24 September, as he prepared for take-off, he set the tail trim tab to the right, and then began his take-off. The Spitfire suddenly veered to the left and almost left the runway surface. Gordon stopped and at once realized what he had done wrong. The new Spitfire XIVE was powered by the British made Rolls-Royce Griffon 66 and the airscrew drive was counter clock-wise or “Left Hand Tractor.” This new Spitfire had five Rotol propellers and 2,200 H.P. for take-off. Gordon placed the tail trim tab in the correct left-hand position, and took off with ease.
Gordon cannot recall, but this image was possibly taken on that first flight in DN-Q, 24 September 1945. This photo clearly shows the addition of the second armour plate for protection of the pilot head. This had been completed by No. 41 RAF fighter squadron who flew these aircraft from September 1944 until 13 September 1945. The next group of crash photos of Spitfire MJ245 again show the head armour protection. The date of the crash is not recorded, but this is the same Spitfire DN-Q which Gordon Hill first flew on 24 September 1945. Gordon flew DN-Q one more time on 12 December 1945, which I’m sure was another aircraft.
Colorised version done by Pierre Lagacé
The RCAF ground crew recovery team arrives on scene.
This head-on view of the Spitfire Mk. XIVE shows off another refinement on the Griffon engine aircraft.
The Griffon 65 and 66 engines necessitated two new underwing radiators, which were much larger than the standard Mk. XVI flown by the Canadians.
The RCAF career of Montreal born Group Captain Gordon Roy “Gordie” McGregor, can be found in many publications and on many internet sites. He gained vast experience as a Canadian fighter pilot overseas, came off operations and was appointed Director of Air Staff at RCAF H.Q. London, returning to Canada 17 April 1942. He next formed and commanded the RCAF Wing giving air support to the Americans in Alaska. On 1 January 1943, he was promoted to Group Captain and took over command of RCAF Patricia Bay, [1 April 1943] and the Canadian squadrons serving in defence of the west coast of Canada.
Coming in to land at RCAF Station Patricia Bay, B.C.
When pilot Gordon Hill arrived at No. 133 Boundary Bay, B.C., he would serve and fly under command of G/C McGregor. McGregor returned to England on 23 February 1944, spending four months at H.Q. No. 83 Group, and in mid-July was given command of No. 126 [RCAF] Wing. He earned the title of the oldest Canadian fighter pilot to see action over Germany in WWII. On 28 March 1945, he flew his last operation and destroyed a German locomotive. On 17 September 1945, McGregor would leave No. 126 Wing and returned to Canada, 21 October 1945, released from the RCAF on 27 November 1945.
In late September 1945, a special going away Mess dinner was held at B.174, Uetersen, Germany, and Gordon Hill attended this dinner. The honorary dinner was held in an ex-Luftwaffe Officers Mess building and the staff were all German civilian cooks and staff, under direction of the RCAF. Seven months earlier they were serving German Air Force Officers in the same Luftwaffe Mess.
German civilian staff before the Mess dinner. Enemy one month, friends the next.
German civilian staff viewed from the head table.
Group Capt. Gordon McGregor, DFC, OBE, MiB 
signs over his Command of No. 126 [RCAF] Wing.
The date is not recorded, believed to be around 27 September 1945.
Pre-dinner speech by G/C Gordon McGregor.
A toast to Group Capt. McGregor.
Canada’s fighter pilots late September 1945.
This will be the last Official RCAF Mess Dinner, as all members will soon return to Canada.
The winter snow arrives and no operational flying is conducted.
Total flying training for the squadron in October is 186 Hrs, and Gordon Hill flies 24 hour, seventeen trips in Spitfire DN-T. The war is over; however Canadian pilots will still be killed in flying accidents.
Pilot Hill explains another story for the very first time. The No. 416 pilots began to experience engine problems with the new 150 octane fuel, and Gordon kept a list, which surpassed 30 engines that cut-out when RPMs were increased. The problem was reported, and pilots were given instructions to slowly [open the throttle] increasing engine RPMs for every four minutes of flight, to clear the engines. The problem continued and the Americans were also affected, experiencing the same engine problems. A test was conducted and the American Command reported to the RAF, the fuel was not satisfactory for aircraft use, it was full of impurities. Were German civilians causing this problem?
When the engine in a Spitfire fighter quit, the pilot had two choices, if high enough he could jump, or make a crash landing straight ahead.
On 9 November 1945, F/O A. K. Price was taking off on a normal training flight, when his engine quit at 500 feet, and he was killed in the crash landing. On 28 November 1945, P/O Ken Williams lost an engine in Spitfire NH832 and made a crash landing, receiving minor injuries. Gordon Hill recalls his fellow pilots believed both engine failures were caused by bad fuel, which never appears in official RCAF cause of accident reports.
Sometimes one single photo image can capture a rare forgotten Canadian Squadron, and its small RCAF WWII history.
This cold December 1945 image was taken at B.174, Utersen, Germany, and Gordon wrote – “A Taylor Cub.”
A close-up reveals the under wing markings, which appear to read “HQ 664” and the history comes to life for an almost forgotten Canadian Army/RCAF serviced squadron, flying in the postwar months of WWII. The official title of the aircraft was Taylorcraft Auster, which lead to a long line of successive aircraft, including the famous American Piper Cub.
This classic aircraft was designed in 1929, at Rochester, New York, by the Taylor Brothers. In 1938, “Taylorcraft” Aeroplanes was formed at Thurmaston, England, located near Leicester. They built under American licence the model “A” aircraft powered by a 90 horsepower Cirrus Minor aircraft engine. In 1939, the R.A.F. took delivery of one single aircraft, for experimental use by the British Army in the role of Air Observation Post. At once, the value of the small aircraft became obvious to both the British Army and the RAF, which gave it the military official name “Taylorcraft Auster.” Adolf Hitler and the Second World War, gave the aircraft a huge boost in production and aviation history was made. By May 1945, 569 Mk. I, II, and III aircraft were constructed, with the British de Havilland Gipsy Major I engine, powering the last 467 Mk. III aircraft. The next 255 Mk. IVs and 780 Mk. Vs were manufactured with the American compact 130 h. p. Lycoming O-290-3 aircraft engine. Canadian Army pilots, in the Royal Canadian Artillery would fly these last two production models, which were administered and serviced by the RCAF in Europe, under control of the First Canadian Army.
In early September 1941, the Canadian Army saw the advantage to the Auster aircraft and sent three Canadian Army Artillery Officers on a British Air Observation Post course. After nine months training, the Canadian Army Senior Officers changed their mind and sent orders there would be no Canadian Air Observation Post, and the three Army pilots were posted to units of the British A.O.P. During the Italian campaign, these same senior high command officers realized the British Air Observation Squadrons were now a most important part of the modern fighting Army. In June 1944, the Senior Command of the Canadian Army, recommended to the Canadian War Cabinet, the forming of three Canadian Air Observation Post squadrons, in the Royal Canadian Artillery. In short, this was approved and the first squadron, No. 664 [RCAF] Air Observer Post was mobilized on 1 December 1944. It came into effect on 9 December 1944, at RAF Station Andover, Hants, England, under No. 70 Group, RAF Fighter Command, No. 43 Operational Training Unit. They trained in the Auster Mk. IV and Mk. V aircraft, and were sent to the continent at Tilburg, Netherlands, on 23 March 1945, under operational control of the First Canadian Army. Although the pilots and spotters were members of the Royal Canadian Artillery, they were administered and serviced by any local RCAF unit. They flew their first operation on 29 March 1945, Capt. G. M. Henderson in Auster Mk. V, serial RT564. The last operation was flown on 5 May 1945, Auster Mk. V, serial RT515, pilot Capt. D. G. Rouse. They should have had the motto – “Too Little, Too Late” but now they would soon become the male play-toy for Senior Army Military Officers in Europe. A total waste of taxpayer money, the RCAF continued to form two more Air Observation Squadrons, No. 665, on 22 January 1945, and No. 666, on 5 March 1945. Each squadron flew sixteen Auster Mk. IV and MK. V aircraft, which means 48 Auster unofficial “Taxi” cabs were flying Army Officers around England, and Europe. Those were the days.
Soon after the end to hostilities in Europe, 8 May 1945, No. 664 Air Observer Post Squadron was reduced to a full-time Senior Canadian Army Officer priority taxi service, from base to base over Europe. When you read the Daily Operations Diary, it records the Auster aircraft like a flea on a lawn, jumping all around to Paris, London, and back again to Europe. Good times for all and flying first class for free, until they were disbanded at Apeldoorn, Netherlands, 1 June 1946.
Pilot Gordon Hill captured the Auster at B.174, Germany, possibly landing for fuel, to drop off a senior officer, or minor engine problems. It appears two mechanics are working on the aircraft Lycoming engine.
The Daily Operations Record on No. 664 Air Observer Post Squadron 29 March 1945.
F/O Gordon Hill made his last flight in a Spitfire XIV on 20 December 1945, he had a grand total of 940 hours, and 35 minutes, flying time, mostly in Spitfires and Hurricanes.
4 January 1946, Gordon is going home to Canada.
Gordon Hill was sent to the RCAF Release Deport in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and met up with an old High School friend who was graduating from the University of Manitoba. Gordon became her escort for the evening, and had his photo taken after the dinner.
The other males at his table have spent the past four years studying at University, while Gordon was flying around the world, fighting for Canada. I wonder if they had any idea what he had seen and done for them.
Postwar – [5 July 1945 to 21 March 1946] – Base 174, Utersen, Germany – Part Two (PDF version)
Postwar – Base 174, Utersen, Germany, [5 July 45 to 21 March 1946] – Part Two
Postwar – Base 174, Utersen, Germany,
[5 July 45 to 21 March 1946]
This view shows the swimming pool at the Racing Club De France.
This is where Gordon met a Miss Elisabeth de Lallemand, her sister Anne, and a Governess who was chaperoning the two sisters. A friendship developed and Gordon was invited for another meeting when he returned to visit Paris in August.
Where the Germans had been drinking in 1944.
The Eiffel Tower, August 1945
Gordon and F/O “Burf” Burford at the Racing club pool after 24 August 45.
The famous bikini was invented by the French.
Burf takes Gordon’s photo, which in turn is recorded by Larry Straub.
The Canadian girls back home would never appear in a swimming pool like this in 1945.
Elisabeth de Lallemand in front of her apartment in Paris, August 1945.
Elisabeth lived with her parents in a large luxury apartment building located within a few blocks of the Eiffel tower in the center of Paris. Gordon and Larry were staying in a Hotel located just a few blocks from the de Lallemand apartment complex, and Gordon spent the evenings with Elisabeth for the next two weeks. Gordon recalls the family owned a wine and champagne vineyard near Paris, but he was more interested in Elisabeth, than what the family did for a living.
Now, let’s see, the Allies have kicked the Germans out of Paris, the war is over, and a young RCAF pilot has met a French beauty, and it is summer time in France.
Gordon can’t recall, however, I believe I know the rest of the story.
Elisabeth de Lallemand, Governess, sister Anne de Lallemand on the beach.
1. F/L W. F. Schram [new]
2. S/L J. D. Mitchner
3. F/L Steve Straub
4. W/O 1 E. J. Henn [new]
5. G. Clarke
6. F/O Chuck Darrow
7. F/Sgt. D. Doherty
8. F/O K. B. Cox [new]
9. Unknown American War Correspondent
10. F/Sgt. W. C. Thompson [new]
11. W/O 1 H. J. Burke [new]
12. L. Orser
13. W. Marshall
14. F/O Larry Spurr
15. F/O Gord Hill
16. P/O L. J. R. Jean
17. F/O F. G. Picard
18. F/O W. L. McCallum
19. F/O Burford
20. F/O H. W. Lucas [new]
21. F/O Ken Williams.
Next time, the first twelve new Spitfire Mk. XIVEs arrive…
Postwar – [5 July 1945 to 21 March 1946] – Base 174, Utersen, Germany – Part One (PDF version)
Postwar – Base 174, Utersen, Germany – Part One
Postwar – Base 174, Utersen, Germany,
[5 July 45 to 21 March 1946]
On 2 July 1945, No. 416 [Lynx] Squadron came under control of British Air Forces of Occupation of Germany, No. 83 [Composite] Group, No. 126 [RCAF] Wing. This was their first day at Base 152, Fassberg, Germany, which was a total mess from Allied bomb damage.
No. 416 Spits parked at Base 152, Fassberg, 3 July 1945, departed the following day.
Gordon only recorded two images of what remained at Fassberg.
5 July 1945, modern clean ex-Luftwaffe barracks at Base 174, Utersen, Germany.
F/O Gordon Hill, P/O Larry Spurr, and P/O Chuck Darrow get some sunshine.
Inside the modern clean ex-Luftwaffe barracks at B. 174.
This abandoned Messerschmitt Me 262A, appears to have a large light colored “I” with a dark “7” near the tail, serial appears to be 418 543. It was being moved by road when the war ended, possibly being used by 9 Staffel, Jagdgeschwader 7, in the last Defence of the Reich. If that is the case the rear fuselage contained a front blue band, followed by a red band, and painted over the middle would be a large yellow “I”. Seems to fit, however I am not a Luftwaffe markings expert.
A captured Junkers Ju 88 in British markings, Base 174.
A Focke-Wulf Fw 200C Condor being painted over by the R.A.F., another war prize. Sadly, the code letters are gone, and the aircraft possibly went to England for testing.
A Heinkel He 111 showing her code letters.
Next, a large number of Focke-Wulf Fw 190 fighters under repair [or salvaged for parts] at Hamburg, Airport, July 1945. Used in the Defence of the Reich, until the end.
Gordon Hill captured this rare Junkers Ju 52/3mg6e, at Base 174.
This was a mine-clearing German aircraft equipped with large dural hoops under the fuselage, which are clearly seen in the image. The hoops were energised by an auxiliary motor which exploded enemy mines in harbors. The code appears to be IB, which possibly belonged to Gruppenstab, operating in the Gulf of Finland, 1944-45. The support pole and wires extending from front of the mid-upper gun show up very clear. I have no idea if this minesweeping aircraft had any effect on Allied mines in WWII, however it was still in use in May 1945.
Main entrance to Hamburg airport, July 1945.
Hamburg railway station had been bombed many times, in July 45, it was repaired and in full operation.
The bridge over the Elbe was untouched by bombing.
Major areas of Hamburg were destroyed. A German survivor takes home water.
Return to England, Air Firing course.
The pilots wait at Base 78 Eindhoven, Netherlands, 2 August 45, for the Spits to be refueled. Gordon is flying his DN-S, serial TD 187, seen in background. Four aircraft remain at base with engine trouble, and the rest of the squadron arrives at Warmwell at 19:00 Hrs.
The Golden Lion Hotel drinking spot
I call this image, “Dog-Fight” on the beach at Weymouth. It’s the 3 August 45, and they are on the beach doing Dinghy Drill, or just killing time until the course starts. Mascot “Peter” enjoys digging in the sand.
Peter [above] digging in sand on Weymouth beach, 3 August 45.
This is the cover art for October 1944 book – “RAF Parade” by Evelyn Thomas.
Romance in England during WWII, which Gordon found at Weymouth beach.
9 to 12 August 1945, Peggy [a redhead] appears again and again, Weymouth beach.
Weymouth beach and Peggy
14 August 1945, the big news arrived, Japan surrendered, its VJ-Day, and everyone gets two days off.
Gordon, Peggy, far right, and her sister, go East from Weymouth to a pub called “Smuggler’s Inn” at Osmington Mills. It’s still much the same today.
Smuggler’s Inn, 14 August 1945
On 15 August 45, a huge “Victory” party, [VJ-Day] was held in the Mess at No. 17 A.P.C. Warmwell, and the R.A.F. was kind enough to allow the Canadian NCO pilots to join their fellow officer pilots in the celebration. On 18 August, the Spitfires took off in the afternoon for B.174, Germany. The next day “B” party left by air to Scheswig, Germany, and then by truck to base 174, arriving at 19:30 hrs.
On 23 August, F/L Straub and F/O Gordon Hill left for Paris on two weeks leave. Gordon and Larry Straub had spent their first two weeks leave in Paris from 18 May to 1 June 1945.
This tour photo was taken 30 May 1945, Larry and Gordon in center, 10th 11th from the left.
Gordon and Larry Straub were staying in a Hotel in the center of Paris, and while walking around taking photos, they were stopped by a French citizen. This person was a member of the Paris Racing Club de France and he extended an open invitation to the Canadian pilots to join him at his famous club. This was a private club operated by the wealthy and elite French V.I.P.’s.
F/L Straub in front of the “Racing Club De France, around 24 May 1945.
Gordon and Larry were made honouree members of the club and informed they could attend any time they wished.
The pilots had time to meet an American female officer, however Gordon can’t even remember taking her photo, twice. That’s possibly because he also met a French lady at the Racing Club de France…
To be continued…
The Making of a WWII RCAF Spitfire Fighter Pilot Part Six (PDF version)
The Making of a WWII RCAF Fighter Pilot Part Six
Spitfire Mk. XIV E, October 45, B.174 Utersen, Germany.
The Making of a WWII RCAF Spitfire Pilot – Part Six
The Making of a WWII RCAF Spitfire Pilot
P/O Gordon Hill J37340
The move into Germany begins on 11 April 1945, when thirteen squadron Spitfires depart for B.100 Goch, Germany, [76 on map] where they will remain until 14 April.
The ground party moves out on 12 April, and follow the blue line on map. They cross the Rhine River at Wesel, [#57 on map] and proceed to B.108 at Rheine, Germany, where they spent the night. Gordon was running the Orderly Room while Adjutant Howe was away, and requested to drive the squadron Jeep, so he could take photos of crossing the Rhine into Germany.
Crossing the Rhine [looking south] at Wesel, Germany, blue circle #57 on map
North bound to Wesel, Germany
On 24 March, the American 9th Army and British Second Army forces swept across the Rhine at this point and the city of Wesel was secured. At the same time airborne troops landed on the German plain north of the Ruhr.
No 416 RCAF ground “A” convey crossed at the same spot on 12 April 1945. Gordon returned to B.100 Goch and rejoined his flight.
The river banks were still heavily mined by the retreating Germans.
The pilots and thirteen 416 Spitfire fighters flown to B.100 Goch, Germany, on 11 April 1945. Gord flew patrol the next day, attacking buildings, and trains, from 06:48 until 09:16 hours.
Welcome to Germany, flak damage at B.100 Goch, Germany, 13 April 1945
No. 440 RCAF Typhoon at B.100 Goch
Gordon’s April trip to Dusseldorf clearly shows the effects of the Allied bombing campaign.
On 14 April 1945, the Spitfires arrive at B.114 Diepholz, Germany, and Gord records the fighters. It snowed on 21 April, and this image was taken some time later, with still snow on the ground. No. 416 [Lynx] Squadron left B.114 on 26 April and arrived at B.154 Reinsehlen, Germany, where they remained for the next two months.
Gordon with his camera
B.114 Diepholz was a former Luftwaffe base and contained excellent hangars and aircrew living quarters. They only stayed for twelve days and then departed North West 100 miles to B.154.
The ground “A” party left at 8 am 26 April 1945, and the Spitfires left just after 1 pm. The new drome was located 35 miles south east of Hamburg, Germany, near Schnenerdinge, Germany. Twenty miles south was the village of Bergen, Germany.
The fighter pilots were ordered to taxi to the end of the runway, park, and remain beside their aircraft, as the airfield had not been cleared of mines. Around 4 pm the British Army arrived and commenced to clear the area of German mines. By the time the area was secured, ground party “A” arrived and began to unload tents and supplies.
Ground party “B” arrived on 28 April 1945, and found they would be living in tents, and working out doors from their mobile hangar trucks. The Daily Diary made note the billets were not as good as the last ones, they would have to make the best of it.
The mobile aircraft hangar repair shop at B.154 Reinsehlen
The squadron group photo at B.154/ Reinsehlen, Germany, June 1945
Baseball game at B.154
On 2 May 1945, the pilots learned the village of Bergen was just 20 miles south of their location and two miles away was a large concentration camp named “Bergen Belsen.”
Gordon and four other RCAF pilots took the squadron Jeep and drove south to the large concentration camp. Gordon stated – “No amount of words can give a true impression of what we saw, heard, and smelled that horrible day. I still wish I had never gone, and it really bothered me for the next twenty years of my life. Nazi Germany conquered, enslaved, and plundered Europe, but we five pilots had no idea what to expect, and it defied any description, even still today.”
The entrance sign erected by the British Army around 29 April 1945.
Original black and white colorised by Pierre Lagacé
Bremen bombed docks seen from a Canadian Spitfire, 3 May 1945.
F/O Picard and F/O McCallum
On 4 May 1945, F/O G. M. Hill was one of six Spitfires [TB237 – SM200 – SM191 – SM466 – SM470 – and his “S” TD187] attacking German shipping off shore at Eckerrerde Bay. They returned to base at 14:20 hrs. and were informed the war in Europe was over. This was later confirmed by radio at 20:30 hrs that evening.
On 5 May 1945, No. 416 was assigned a special escort of 14 Dakota transport aircraft to Copenhagen, Denmark, and the signing of the German surrender of Northwest Germany. Gordon flew DN-S, serial TD187, and the return trip took 2 hrs. and 25 minutes. The RCAF Spitfires could not land, as they did not have a self starter like the American P-51 fighters, who were also conducting escort of VIPs.
The 492nd Bombardment Group of the American 8th Air Force arrived at North Pickenham, England, on 14 April 1944, and flew a total of 64 missions until 7 August 1944. They were withdrawn from combat on 5 August and assumed special operations at Harrington, replacing the 801st Bomb Group. On the afternoon of 6 May 1945, Col. Robert W. Fish was assigned a secret mission to fly an American C-47 from Harrington, England, to Copenhagen [Kastrup] Denmark. The passengers were members of the Danish Government and two members of the Danish Royal Family. This was for a secret unconditional signing of the German surrender documents, as the Germans Forces had surrendered on 5 May 1945. The V.I.P.s arrived at Harrington on 7 May 1945, and the C-47 took off at 10:00 hrs, stopping for fuel at Eindhoven, Belgium. They were then joined by two American P-51 fighters who escorted the C-47 to the airport at Copenhagen, Denmark. They were cleared to land, and found the airport was still partly in control of the Germans. The V.I.P.s departed and the flight crew were treated to a huge meal by the Danish, then returned to England.
On 7 May 1945, “B” flight, No. 416 Squadron was informed four pilots would be flying escort for a single RAF Mosquito fighter to Copenhagen-Kastrup, Denmark. The Mosquito was transporting a special VIP for the unconditional surrender of North-West Germany, Denmark, and Heligoland. The No. 416 escort pilots selected were – P/O L. E. Spurr, [TD251 “F”] F/O K.J. Williams, [TB905 “K”] F/O R.O. Brouillard, [SM466 “Y”] and F/O Gordon Hill, [TD187 “S”].
These four pilots flew – “The last No. 416 Squadron operation in World War Two.”
This special escort took place from 16:05 hrs to 18:25 hrs, 7 May 1945. The special Danish V.I.P. is unknown. F/O Hill had aircraft problems and returned to base, recorded as [D.N.C.O.] Duty Not Carried Out. Gordon is unable to recall the events.
The total number of special escort operations completed by No. 416 Squadron on 7 May 1945.
This image was taken by Canadians at Fleasburg airfield, Denmark, 5 May 1945. The Danes had removed all the propellers and spinners from the German fighters, preventing them from being flown out.
Copy of the final WWII newsletter – ‘WINGTIPS XTRA.”
On 8 May 1945, the war was officially over, and all RCAF ranks had the day off. Gordon, two other pilots, and three ground crew, drove north from Hamburg to an airfield [B.164/Schleswig] south of Flensburg, Germany. They were looking for German aircraft to bring back to the squadron and German guns. They loaded two cases of rum [12 – 16 oz. bottles] and headed off into northern Germany.
The original history by F/O Gordon Hill in his photo album.
The ex-Luftwaffe airfield was now home to a unit of British Marines, and they loudly advised – “No Bloody way you’ll get any guns, let alone any German aircraft.”
While standing on the airfield a German two engine bomber appeared, landed, and the two crew surrendered to the RCAF pilots. Gordon Hill took three photos.
The German pilot [right under engine] stated he came from Norway then Denmark. Possibly Junkers Ju188D-2 from 1. Fernaufklarungsgruppe 122, Kirkenes, Norway. Number on nose appears to be 032.
Standard green camouflage with pale blue-grey over spray, code white H and black letter R.
The Canadians requested lodging for the night, and that evening invited the British Marine Captain in charge, and two of his officers over for a few drinks of rum. The morning of May 9, 1945, the two ground crew returned to base driving the squadron Jeep. The three RCAF pilots each flew off in a German aircraft, loaded with German guns, and Gordon stated – “The remainder of the rum was left with the British Captain for medical use.”
This No. 416 captured Messerschmitt Bf 109, was now joined by three more German aircraft.
This is the original note given to F/O Gordon Hill from the British Marine Captain, to take the two Bücker Bü 181 aircraft, which he identified as Me 108s. It’s amazing the power a bottle of rum has in making a deal. F/O Hill flew one of the captured Bü 181s back to base, and this unofficial flight is not recorded in his log book. The German aircraft [RL-E1] were given the code DN-X and Gordon flew it on 11 May 1945, 6 and 19 June 1945, recorded in his log book.
RCAF Batman LAC Grieve, [left] on right is “Jules” the No. 416 Flemish civilian Batman,
who received a ride in the German aircraft Bucker Bü 181 courtesy of pilot “Pic” Picard.
The third captured German aircraft, a Bf 108, was taken by the C.O.
It became the new squadron ‘pet’ as this Messerschmitt Bf 108, was flown by all the squadron pilots, who loved her soft leather seats. F/O Hill flew it one time on 15 May 1945, with F/L Parry, F/L Commerford, and the C.O. S/L Mitchner as passengers. Marked with 127 Wing and the initials of 416 Squadron C.O. S/L J.D. Mitchner used it to fly around bases in Europe and even to England for meetings.
On 30 May 45, F/O Chuck Darrow was flying too low in one of the Bü 181s and hit wires, taking off the tail and made a crash landing. His punishment was one-week Duty Pilot and one-week of Orderly Officer. The second aircraft had her engine destroyed by using 150 octane aviation fuel from the squadron Spitfires.
F/O Gordon Cameron, S/L Jack Mitchner, F/O Picard, and Dove, with war trophies.
Trap-shooting was used to keep fighter pilots eye-sight keen, and for pleasure.
F/L Walter Norman Douglas J2933, age 24, from Halleybury, Ontario, was accidently shot and killed by a shotgun blast. He is buried in the Becklingen War Cemetery at Soltau, Germany. F/O Gordon Hill witnessed this accidental shooting and was confined to barracks until the enquiry was completed. The official statements follow.
Now that the hostilities in Europe have ended, No. 416 is one of four RCAF day fighter units selected to remain in Germany under the British Air Forces of Occupation. They fly to Base 152, Fassberg on 2 July 1945, now under command of No. 83 [Composite] Group, No. 126 [RCAF] Wing.
The RCAF grave site at Eindhoven, Holland, June 1945
End of Part Six
Next chapter: Postwar Germany
The Making of a WWII RCAF Spitfire Fighter Pilot – Part Five (PDF version)
The Making of a WWII RCAF Fighter Pilot Part Five
Spitfire Mk. XIV E, October 45, B.174 Utersen, Germany
The Making of a WW II RCAF Spitfire Pilot – Part Five
The Making of a WWII RCAF Spitfire Pilot
P/O Gordon Hill J37340
From 1 January 1945 to January 16, the squadron were operational for 44 sorties, 64 hours and 40 minutes. On 1 January F/L David William Armstrong Harling DFC, took off to attack 30 German fighters who were strafing the airfield, but was killed when he was shot down and crashed in Brussels, Spitfire SM304. Harling came from Westmount, Quebec, age 23 years, buried in the Brussels Town Cemetery, Belgium, on 3 January 1945, with most of squadron attending to pay their respects.
The weather throughout the end of the month was unfavorable and few operations were flown. In five armed recons several German transports were destroyed.
On 13 January, F/O William Frederick Bridgman failed to return from patrol, when his Spitfire SM279 was hit by flak. Bridgman came from London, Ontario, and is buried in the War Cemetery, Hotton, Luxembourg, Belgium.
P/O G.W. Haines and F/Sgt. McGregor were posted in as replacements for the two pilots killed in action.
This picture was taken at the end of December 44.
On the left is F/O M. R. “Mush” Sharun. On the wing is F/L D. W. Harling . Below is F/O W.F. Bridgman, then F/O W.D. “Wally” Hill and F/O Gordon “Gord” Hill, W/O L. J. “Lou”Jean, F/L W. R. “Webb” Harten, F/O J. Leyland and F/O R.W. “Tap” Tapley.
Colorised picture by Pierre Lagacé
On 1 January 1945, the Germans attacked all RCAF fighter units.
“Harpy” was code letter H, with black outline under nose, TB756. Next is the Spitfire of American F/L Steve Straub.
Seen above is a cold morning Spitfire start for “Sweet Sixteen” in late January 1945. F/O Gordon Hill flew 14 sorties in January, assigned seven different Spitfire fighters. SM466, [twice], SM404 [four times], SM248, SM389 [[twice], SM503 [three times], SM191, SM308, and his SM403.
On 1 March 1945, Lynx Squadron moved by road 55 miles north to Base 90 at Petit Brogel, Belgium. The squadron 17 Spitfire Mk. XVI aircraft were flown in the next day.
Adjutant F/O Rod J. Howe, in his tent office at B.90, Petit Brogel, Belgium.
P/O Larry E. Spurr arrives on 2 March 1945.
The weather was good for two weeks and they flew 190 operational sorties, totalling 240:40 hours. They did not encounter any enemy activity, and only P/O E.D. Downer made a successful crash landing when his engine gave out. S/L J. D. Mitchner, DFC, received the Dutch Bronze Cross by Dutch authorities.
Two of the French Connection, Roland Brouillard, an unidentified ground crew, and Louis Nault.
F/L L.L. Nault, F/O F.G. Picard, F/O J.J.M. Menard, and F/O R.C. Brouillard, were called the “French Connection.” by Gordon Hill. On 25 February 45, F/O Jacques “Jack” Menard had to force-land his Spitfire due to an engine failure, and became a P.O.W.
Spitfire Mk. XVI, DN-H, serial TB756, showing the clipped wing-tips.
Aerial view of B.90 Petit Brogel, Belgium
The airfield B.90 Petit Brogel, Belgium, 15 March 45.
Some of the ground crews, unsung heroes
Gordon Hill with Adjutant Howe
The squadron pilots are now living in three British Nissen Huts, a big change from the house in Brussels. Stu Hartley combs his hair.
An American battery fires at them, and then an American P-51 attacks them.
Two fighters lost to the Americans and none to the Germans. Trigger happy Americans again but no lives lost this time.
Arming a Spitfire in the rain and mud at B.90 Petit-Brogel, Belgium.
P/O Chuck Darrow and his German uniform
This 416 Squadron pilots photo was taken between 16-30 March 1945, showing 24 of 28 pilots. All of them were identified by Gordon Hill.
The squadron’s ground crew and personnel, photo taken at B.90 Petit Brogel, Belgium, mid-March 1945.
1. F/O Chris Preston J44034, arrived 21 February 1945.
2. F/O Gordon Hill, [Gordie] arrived 2 October 1944.
3. F/O W.D. Hill J35989, [Wally] arrived 14 November 1944.
4. F/O K.J. Ken Williams J9261, arrived 26 December 1944.
5. F/O Jack Leyland J26993, arrived 18 October 1944, ex-421 Squadron.
6. F/O Keith F. Scott J21239, arrived 27 February 1945.
7. F/O S.H. Steve Straub, arrived early October 1944.
8. P/O Chuck Darrow, arrived early October 1944.
9. F/L Larry L. Spurr, arrived 23 August 1944.
10. F/O B.E. Parry [Bert] J14717, arrived 13 January 1945.
11. F/O C.W. Haines [Cliff] J49322, arrived 21 January 1945.
12. F/Sgt. N.M. McGregor [Mac] R193516, arrived 21 January 1945.
13. F/O L.P. Comerford [Len] arrived 4 October 1944, ex-403 Squadron.
14. F/L Neil G. Russell J8136, arrived 4 July 1944, ex-Malta, 2nd tour.
15. F/O W.I. Gordon [Rocky] J6718, arrived 27 February 1945, 2nd tour.
16. S/L J.D. Mitchener DFC, [Jake] J16799, assumed command November 1944, replacing S/L J.F. McKiroy, DFC, end of tour.
17. C.O. F/O G. A. Cameron [silent Joe] arrived 3 July 1944, ex-Malta, 2nd tour.
18. F/O Vernon W. Mullen [Moon] arrived 15 March 1945. Shot down by American P-51, 31 March 45.
19. F/O L.J.R. Jean [Lou] arrived 20 October 1944.
20. F/O S.A. Round [Sam] J42360 arrived 3 February 1945.
21. F/O W. L. McCallum [Mac] J37906, arrived 3 February 1945.
22. F/O Walter Norman Douglas. [killed on 14 May 1945, accident, shotgun blast to face].
23. F/O F.G.H. Picard [Pic] arrived 29 September 1944.
24. P/O W.G.D. Roddie [Bill] J86972, arrived 9 August 1944
25. Sgt. Brechnel, ground crew member.
A dummy German Ju 88 mock-up at B.90 Belgium 1945
The squadron pilots were up at 03:45, 24 March 45, and in the air at first daylight. The C-47s with airborne troops and paratroopers passed directly over the base to Germany, crossing the Rhine.
Crossing the Rhine
Returning to England
Trap-shooting at B.90
P/O Chuck Darrow taking bath.
31 March 1945, the new home at B.78 Eindhoven, Holland.
Batman LAC Wally Grieve
The RCAF Squadron Jeep
Fueling a Spit from “Jerry” cans
Jules, our Flemish Batman
Ken Williams and Webb Harten
Group of pilots. Pilot [second from the left] “Webb” John Edmund Harten.
John Edmund Harten, age 24, was killed in Spitfire RR256, 19 April 1945, hit by German flak and crashed in flames Wilster, Germany.
End of Part Five
Next time, The move into Germany