Michael Thomas "Mike" Judd

Mike Judd  


Mike was born in Sutton Scotney, on 19 September 1917
He attended Oxford U & joined the Univ. Air Squadron
He joined the RAFVR & was commissioned on 16 Nov.'37
Called up in 1939, he attended 7 FTS, Peterborough
Qualifying as a pilot on 1 December 1939 as F/O
In March 1940 he was posted to 1 Air Armaments School
In May he attended CFS on an instructor's course
He joined 8 SFTS, Montrose, & was promoted F/L in Nov.
In September 1941 he was sent to the Middle East
Instructed at 73 OTU, Sheik Othman, Aden
In mid December he was sent to AHQ, Western Desert
At the end of the month he joined 238 Squadron
He led 250 Squadron from 5 April to 23 July 1942
Then being posted away to 239 Wing
Back to lead 250 Sq. in early Sept. until 23 November
In January 1943 was promoted Acting W/C then
Attached to the RAF Delegation in Washington, D.C.
He returned to the UK early in 1944, briefly joining 83 GSU,
- before taking over 15(F) Wing as W/C Flying
In May he went to 22 Sector HQ, then
In July to 143 Wing (RCAF), on Typhoons
He transfered to 121 Wing on 31 October
In Jan. 1945 he joined the Main HQ of the 2nd TAF as G/C



MEMORIES 1936 - 1945

by Michael Judd


D DAY, JUNE 6, 1944, 5:45 A.M.
The sun rises early in June over the south coast of England. By 5:45 a.m. it was full daylight at landing ground 143, formally RAF Station Hearne, lying just inland from the English Channel. This in spite of low clouds being pushed along by a brisk wind from the northwest. L. G. 143 was host to two wings of Typhoon fighter-bombers. My job as wing-leader of 143 Wing was to plan and execute the operational orders coming from 83 Group, always leading the wing when all three squadrons, 438, 439 and 440 were involved, or leading individual squadron sorties as and when I saw fit.
I was about two months into my second tour of operations, so I was mentally "fresh." Flying over 120 miles of water on one engine and then meeting heavy flak and maybe enemy fighters was, to put it mildly, stressful, particularly when you saw one of your planes hit and crash without a parachute appearing.
When I was actually flying, I think I was too busy to feel fear. The fear everyone felt was on the ground - an anxiety that your next mission would be your last. This built up as the days and number of operational flights lengthened and after a while - say a year or 120 sorties - 99% of all fighter pilots suffered from disturbed sleep, involuntary tics and shakes (known as "the twitch"), and a growing reluctance to fly on operations. At this point, a pilot would be rested in some non-stressful job.
A fighter squadron was essentially an elite group of men and, in order to keep morale high, everyone had to pretend to be gung-ho all the time, volunteering for every mission and hiding his fear. Of course, this also required leadership by Wing, Squadron and Flight Commanders.
This morning there was great excitement among the pilots of 438 and 439. D Day, so long awaited, had finally arrived, and they were to play an important role in it.
On June 1st I had been summoned to 21st Army Group Headquarters near Portsmouth. I had driven the short distance in my jeep and had been conducted to an underground operations room. Here I was shown a scale model of a little French seaside town where the main element of the British invasion forces would go ashore. The model was exact in every detail. I could read the names of the hotels and the shops along the sea front; it all looked very peaceful except that at each end of the beach, which was slightly crescent shaped, there was a concrete emplacement containing an 88 millimeter gun sighted to cover the approach to the beach and the beach itself.
The German 88 was the best gun produced by either side during the Second German war and these could obviously inflict great damage to an invasion fleet. Why then had they not been taken out by bombs or commandos prior to D Day? The answer, of course, was that any such action would give the Germans a clue to the best-kept secret of the war-where the invasion was to take place. Therefore, I was told, my wing would attack the guns at H hour on D Day with armor piercing bombs. Tom Morgan, Group Captain Operations at 83 Group asked me if I could guarantee direct hits on the gun emplacements. I said we probably could succeed if the weather was okay. I was given a photo mosaic of the town clearly showing the guns and, storing this in a briefcase, I returned to the airfield. I was so terrified of losing the photo that I sat on it all the way back before locking it in a safe.
The Typhoon was a large, heavy fighter plane designed and built by Hawker Aircraft to replace the Hurricane which by this time was obsolete in the E.T.O., (European Theater of Operations). It was powered by a 2000 plus horsepower Napier Sabre engine, and carried four 20 millimeter cannons in the wings. In spite of its late design, as an air superiority fighter it proved inferior to the latest model Spitfire, the Mark 9A, so it was given to the Second Tactical Air Force as a fighter bomber. In this role, it carried either two 1000 pound bombs or eight 60 pound rockets slung outboard under the wings.
The role of the fighter bomber had been developed by the Desert Air Force in the campaigns of 1942 in Egypt and Libya. Once air superiority over the battlefield had been established, fighter sweeps tended to be unproductive. I had commanded a P 40 squadron at that time, the first to be fitted with a long-range tank. A 500 pound bomb was substituted for the tank and we were at liberty to attack targets of opportunity behind the lines. It soon became apparent that we could intervene in the ground battles, once communications were established, by directly engaging enemy formations in contact with our troops. The point was that if we encountered any enemy aircraft we merely jettisoned our bombs and resumed the fighter role. No escort was required and the time between the call for help and the help arriving was minimized.
During the months prior to D Day we had crossed the Channel almost daily, first attacking V-l bomb-sites under construction in the Pas de Calais, and more recently radar installations along the French coast. During this time, my main concern was to improve the accuracy of the bombing.
The best way to drop a bomb from an airplane is at a vertical dive over the target. This of course was the role of the dive bomber. However, the real dive bomber had air brakes to limit the speed in the dive, which gave the pilot plenty of time to take aim. The typhoon had no air brakes and in a vertical dive picked up speed very quickly. In view of this we had developed the following tactic: the lead aircraft flew directly over the target, and when it appeared at the left wing root, the pilot did a wing over, chopped the throttle and tried to get the spot of his gun sight on the target. This was easier said than done. As the speed built up the trim of the aircraft changed and it required skillful coordination of the rudder and stick. By the time you were passing through 4000 ft. the speed was approximately 500 m.p.h. and it was time to release the bombs and start pulling out of the dive in order not to hit the ground or black out in the process.
All of the pilots of 143 Wing were Canadians except for myself. They had arrived in the U.K. earlier in 1942 after spending two years flying in the Aleutians where they saw no action but greatly improved their flying skills. As a result, they were able to master this technique and achieve a remarkable degree of bombing accuracy. A squadron of twelve aircraft, each carrying two 1000 pound bombs, could expect to put at least one bomb inside a twenty five yard circle. This was good enough to destroy bridges, buildings and even tanks and guns. Of course we were vulnerable to anti-aircraft fire during the dive and pullout, and against heavily defended targets the casualties were very severe, 440 Squadron during the trek from France to Germany suffered over 80% casualties conducting these operations.
I had decided to lead 439 Squadron this morning. We would take the gun on the west end of the beach and Squadron Leader Frank Grant would lead 438 Squadron against the other one. But...we had a problem. Instead of the 8000 ft. ceiling we required, the cloud base was 2500 ft. This meant that the steepest practical approach to the target would be in a 45% dive. In order to hit the gun from this angle of approach it would be necessary to raise the nose of the aircraft just before releasing the bomb in order to throw it forward. Unfortunately, we had not practiced this maneuver, and since we could not go below 700 ft. without blowing ourselves up I was very doubtful of the outcome.
It was now 6:10 a.m. so we drove to the dispersal area. My aircraft, with my initials M. J. and the Wing Commander's pennant painted on the fuselage sat in the sandbagged revetment attended by my fitter and rigger. I climbed up on the wing and put a leg over into the cockpit. My parachute and dinghy were already in the bucket seat and as soon as I had let myself down, my rigger handed me the shoulder straps of my parachute which I clicked into the quick release. Next came the webbing straps to hold me firmly in my seat. My helmet was draped over the spade grip of the stick and I pulled this on noting the RT and oxygen cable were plugged in.
It was time to start engines. The Sabre had had teething problems but was reliable once it got started. However, it was notoriously difficult to start. Each engine had its own peculiarities as to throttle opening and the amount of octane to be injected into the manifold, given the outside air temperature. I gave M. J. two squirts and advanced the throttle half an inch on the quadrant, then flipped on the switches and pressed the button that fired the compressed air cartridge which in turn turned over the engine. The propeller rotated, black smoke poured out of the exhaust ports and suddenly the engine was running smoothly at 800 r.p.m.
I waved away the chocks and opened the throttle to taxi to the perimeter tract. Looking around I could see the other ten aircraft starting up and I noticed that my wing man, Red Two, was coming out to join me.
I checked the instruments. Oil and fuel pressures were normal, temperatures rising to the green area. The artificial horizon was settling down and everything seemed normal. Once on the runway I started the cockpit check. First, I ran the engine up to 2800 r.p.m. and checked the magnetos, just a hundred r.p.m. drop on each. I now pulled the pitch lever back and the r.p.m. dropped to a thousand, at which point I returned it to fine pitch position. Now, trim, elevator neutral, rudder, full right, mixture, full rich, pitch, fine, flaps down 15 degrees, radiator gills open. Set the gyro compass to agree with the liquid one between my knees. I looked over to my wingman who gave me a thumbs-up, so I closed the Perspex cockpit cover and turned into wind, taking the left side of the runway. The Sabre produced so much torque on takeoff that it required full right rudder and a strong right leg to keep it straight. For this reason, we didn't do close formation takeoffs. I opened the throttle to the gate and the speed picked up rapidly, even carrying two thousand pounds of bombs. At 85 m.p.h. air speed we became airborne, and I quickly retracted the wheels holding the nose down to gain speed in case of engine failure. At 125 m.p.h. I raised the nose, raised the flaps and started to climb. Red Two tucked in behind my right wing. At 1000 ft. I throttled back to slow cruise then started a wide circle of the field. Each succeeding pair of aircraft would cut inside and so form up quickly. I watched the rest of 439 take off and climb up to meet me followed by 438. By 6:30 both squadrons were in tight formation of three flights of four finger fours.
I calculated flying time to the French coast at 24 minutes, and I thought it would be better to arrive early than late, so I said, "Grader Leader setting course 150 degrees" and so we started to climb up to the cloud base. A moment later we crossed out over the Channel. "Fair stands the wind for France," I thought to myself, and wondered how Henry V felt setting out on a similar venture.
The first thing I noticed was the roughness of the sea. Big waves were beating against the east end of the Isle of Wight, sending up clouds of spray. The Channel was covered with whitecaps and I thought how bad it must be for the troops crowded in the landing craft.
We flew on and soon came upon the Invasion Fleet. It was an unforgettable sight. Ships of every size and shape were butting through the waves, leaving long white wakes behind them. They stretched as far as the eye could see, and were so close together that it seemed like you could step from one to another.
Visibility was good and about the time I could see the French coast, we flew over a line of battleships and cruisers lying broadside to the shore. Suddenly they erupted in flames and black smoke, and a moment later a huge cloud of black smoke arose behind the town. Evidently, they were interdicting movement to the town from inland.
Next, a barrage of rockets soared towards the coast, leaving long smoke trails behind them and adding to the cloud.
I put 439 into a deep echelon left and changed course a few degrees to bring me about three hundred yards east of my target, and at half a mile from the beach I armed the bombs, switched on the gunsight and did a sharp, 90% turn to the right taking me parallel to the shore. When I came opposite the western gun I gave the ship full throttle and made a diving turn to the left. I got the spot of my gunsight on the aperture where the gun protruded, at 1500 ft. I raised the nose about 15% and released the bombs, simultaneously starting a hard climbing turn to the right. My air speed, about 350 m.p.h. at this point, carried me over the town and into the cloud of smoke. I had expected heavy flack out but only two strings of tracer came up and they were not close. As I came back over the beach, I saw the last four aircraft drop their bombs, and all missed. The gun appeared to be undamaged although it was not firing. There was lots of smoke and dust around. Later we learned that its crew were asleep in their billets some miles away. Irony.
Half a mile offshore at 2000 ft. I orbited and waggled my wings to identify myself to the rest of 439 who joined me in a circle. I now had time to look down and see what was going on with the landings. There didn't seem to be much gunfire coming from the land, but there were explosions and towers of water as some of the landing craft hit mines attached to underwater obstacles. I saw a swimming tank disintegrate 200 yards from the beach.
I was tempted to stay and watch the proceedings, but at this time a squadron of Spitfires came and took a look at us. Since Spitfire pilots sometimes mistook typhoons for FW 190's, I thought it prudent to return. We joined up and were on our way. I knew this was an historic moment I would never forget, and I said to myself, "How on earth did you, Michael Judd, graduate of Oxford University, briefly a traveling fellow of Queens College, find yourself in this situation?" I realized that it had all begun eight years before, almost to the day, in the Summer of 1936.


One day early in June of 1936, I drove my father's Ford V-8 coupe up the Newbury Road from Winchester to Oxford. I was nearing my nineteenth birthday, but I had left school in April of the preceding year. The intervening period had been spent mostly in South Africa, where I had hoped to settle. I'd loved that land of sunshine and mountains and open spaces so different from cold and wet England, but it hadn't worked out. The only likely occupation was growing grapes or citrus and I did not have the capital to do this.
Now, back in England, I wanted to complete my education. My long-suffering father was reluctant to stake me to another venture so I applied for a job at Gaumont British, the largest film company in England. Mark Orstrer, the managing director, told me that the only opening they had was as a makeup man trainee. When my father heard of this he capitulated and agreed to three years at the University.
My problem was to find a college which would accept me for the Michaelmas term starting in October. Oxford, unlike American universities, is a conglomerate of individual colleges, each of which houses, feeds and tutors its undergraduates. Around eleven o'clock I crossed Carfax into St. Aldates and seeing colleges on my right, I turned into Broad Street. I passed Balliol and Trinity and saw an old school friend walking towards me on the pavement, so I stopped the car and got out.
Bernard Floud was two years older than I but we had been in the same house and had played tennis together. After the usual exchange of civilities, I explained my position and asked him to recommend a college to which I might apply. He said that he was at Wadham which was a small college but had the best garden in Oxford. This seemed to be as good a reason as any other, so I drove to the end of the Broad, took a left on Park Street, and stopped in front of Wadham.
Wadham College was built by Sir Nicholas and Lady Wadham in the early seventeenth century. It's Jacobian facade, built of the local soft stone, now almost black from centuries of soot, was perfect. The porter directed me to the warden's lodgings in the northwest corner of the quadrangle, which was also architecturally pleasing, and I rang the bell. The door was opened by an elderly gentleman wearing a dog collar, who turned out to be the Rev. Mr. Stebbing, the warden, himself. I explained the nature of my visit, and he invited me in for a glass of sherry, which I thought was very civilized.
In his study he asked me about my educational qualifications and I told him that I had passed school certificate with the maximum seven credits at the age of fourteen, had spent the remaining two and a half years of school studying modern languages and English Literature, and had read extensively in the process.
Nothing could better emphasize the difference between getting an entrance to Oxford then and now than the fact that this seemed entirely adequate to him and he told me to come up on October the 1st.
I loved Oxford from day one. I had a room on staircase three on the south side of the quad. It was quite large, had a fireplace and an alcove containing a bed and washstand. There was no plumbing or running water. In the morning, my scout brought me hot water to shave with and removed my chamber pot, if necessary. The showers and loos were located through an opening in the southeast corner of the quad.
Wadham, when I arrived, was an undistinguished college with a few famous alumnae, including Lord Birkenhead, but it was about to start its ascent to the top tier under Maurice Bowra who became warden in 1937. I was very lucky to have chosen Wadham, for Bowra became a friend and strongly influenced me.
He was the greatest wit of his generation, his humor being of the sort, "So and so has no enemies but is hated by all his friends." Maurice was a classical scholar and had aspired to the Chair of Regius Professor of Greek. He failed in this quest and had to settle for Professor of Poetry. This was really quite suitable because he wrote some excellent poetry, most of it so scurrilous it could never be published. To a colleague who had not supported him in the Greek matter he wrote:

Once for you my love was strong
Honest as the day is long.
Now my love is growing thin
It's Autumn, and the days are drawing in.

He was incensed when the poets Auden and Isherwood left England for America to avoid the oncoming war and he wrote:

Behind the lines in China and in Spain
Expenses paid, they patronized the slain,
Then fortunes changed and rather than submit
To patronage themselves, they packed and quit.

Being an undergraduate at Oxford in those last years before the second German war changed everything, was pretty close to being in Heaven. I was intellectually curious and chose for my degree Modern Greats which consisted of politics, philosophy and economics, or PPE. Politics, which meant constitutional law dating back to the Magna Carta was a bore, but economics and philosophy opened up ideas and thoughts which were immensely stimulating to my mind. I had a tutor for each subject and once a week I would spend an hour with each of them. At tutorial I would read an essay of two or three thousand words on the book I'd been given to study, after which my tutor would critique my work and engage in further discussion of the subject. Later, in 1937, Ian Gallie, my philosophy tutor at Wadham, suffered a nervous breakdown not, I believe, from tutoring me, so Bowra arranged for me to be tutored by Freddie Ayer, later Sir Alfred Ayer. This was a tremendous piece of luck. Freddie, only a few years older than myself, was a research fellow at Christ Church. He had just published a book entitled, Language, Truth and Logic, which introduced Logical Positivism to the Oxford School of Philosophy. This short, concise and brilliantly written treatise caused a sensation by claiming that metaphysics, over which philosophers had argued for centuries, was literally nonsense and that the only sensible propositions that could be made were based upon the experience of the senses. This is known as Empiricism. Although Freddie later abandoned some of the positions he'd staked out in his book, it was still of seminal importance. But apart from studies, Oxford offered a full life. I made dozens of friends, joined clubs, drank lots of beer, played field hockey, tennis and squash racquets, and generally enjoyed myself.
I came to Maurice Bowra's attention by another stroke of luck. One summer evening I watched a nighttime performance of Troilus and Cressida in the gardens of Exeter College, produced by an English Literature professor named Neville Coghill. He was a large, shambling creature with wild hair and pebbled glasses and was considered somewhat of a joke by his colleagues. Walking back into Wadham, I ran into Maurice who asked me where I had been and I told him. "What was it like?" he said. I replied, "There was a sound of Nevillry by night." This of course was a pun on the first line of the poem about the ball on the eve of Waterloo which said, "There was a sound of revelry by night." This joke, with a hint of malice in it, was very much to Maurice's taste and he roared with laughter. Shortly afterwards, I was asked to Sunday lunch at the warden's lodgings, the most sought after invitation at Oxford, and at this and subsequent lunches I met his friends who were later on known as "the wits." These included John and Penelope Betjeman, Isiah Berlin, Freddie Ayer, John Sparrow, Roy Harrod, Bill Deakin, Lord Berners and others, including occasional visitors from London or Berlin.
Easily the most original mind belonged to John Betjeman, who of course later became Poet Laureate. He had recently published his first slim book of poems called, Old Lights for New Chancels, which was full of the most absurd poetry. His hobby was wandering around the lanes of western England looking for Gothic and Gothic Revival architecture. He particularly loved old churches. His wife, Penelope, was even more eccentric than he was. She was the daughter of Field Marshall Sir Philip Chetwood, who had been Viceroy of India where she was brought up. She always referred to India as "Injah." She also preferred horses to cars and her method of locomotion was a trap pulled by her pony called Motie. She was devoted to Motie, and one day Lord Berners, who in addition to being a composer of classical music was an accomplished artist, said he would like to paint her and Motie. On the agreed date she and Motie arrived at the front door of Lord Berners's magnificent house and rang the bell. The butler opened the door and was surprised to see the two of them standing on the door step, so he asked them to wait a minute and went in to find Lord Berners, who was in the main drawing room, setting up his easel. "My Lord," said the butler, "Mrs. Betjeman and her horse are here." "Show them in, show them in," said Berners, and Penelope and Motie walked into the drawing room where they stood on the Aubisson carpet to be painted. Fortunately, both on this and subsequent sittings Motie behaved perfectly and the Aubisson was undamaged. Lord Berners himself had his share of eccentricities: he dyed his flock of white pigeons different colors and every night when we went to bed he wrapped his bed in cotton wool because he was afraid he might break it like an egg against the bedpost.
Penelope Betjeman, although she was almost tone deaf, liked to play the organ at the church services on Sunday in the little village of Uffington where they lived. That is, until the parson asked her to desist on the grounds that her playing was "prejudicial to devotion."
Isiah Berlin was almost as funny as Bowra. Being a Russian Jew he actually spoke Russian and the first two years of the war he was appointed to the British Embassy in Moscow until the Russians got rid of him because they didn't like to have somebody who spoke Russian in the British Embassy. Later in America I ran into him in Washington in 1943 and I asked him about conditions in Moscow while he was there. "Ah!" he said, "Politics in Russia is like sex in an English Public School, two Russians get behind the gym and one says to the other, ‘I say, old boy, I just discovered how people vote.'"
The talk at lunch was always hilarious. It was led but not dominated by Bowra; everybody had to contribute and I somehow managed to keep my end up. The food and drink were good and one left around three o'clock weak with laughter.
Bowra at one time was Head Proctor, chief of the University police. I asked him what was his policy toward erring undergraduates and he replied, "Justice tempered by prejudice." Another time I asked him if he ever played poker. He said, "In the war I was an artillery officer. One day I was playing poker in a dugout, and went outside to take a leak. While I was doing this a shell demolished the dugout, my winnings, and my three colleagues. I considered this a clear sign from God to give up poker."
An unexpected dividend was the discovery of the Oxford University Air Squadron which had been formed in 1935. This was part of the RAF Volunteer Reserve formed to start training reserve pilots for the coming war with Germany. I had longed to learn to fly since I was a little boy and had taken trips with barnstorming pilots in old World War One planes. Also I had determined that when the war came, I didn't want to spend it in the mud or in the water and wanted to be an airman; the fact that one would live in reasonably comfortable surroundings made up for the greater likelihood of being killed, or so I thought.
I joined the OUAS in February, 1937, and if I remember correctly, about twenty-four new members were admitted each year, so that in my three years I got to know about seventy of my colleagues. Regrettably only a handful of us survived the war. Two became famous: Richard Hillary, who was badly burned in the Battle of Britain, wrote a book called The Last Enemy, which was a best seller. He was later killed in a flying accident. Another remarkable figure was Leonard Cheshire, the most highly decorated military person of all time, winning the Victoria Cross, two or three DSO's and DFC's. He was incredibly brave and must have been equally lucky to have survived. He was a bit rackety as an undergraduate but the war sobered him up and after it was over he devoted himself to good works.
Once a week, weather permitting, five or six of us would be driven out to an airfield at Benson, a few miles from Oxford; there we met our RAF instructors and did our preliminary training on a little yellow biplane called the AVRO Tutor. The Tutor was easy to fly once it was in the air, but it was a problem on the ground, having no brakes or steering tail wheel so it always tried to weather cock into the wind. Taxiing across wind required frequent bursts of engine power with full opposite rudder.
One day after the usual seven or so hours of dual instruction, my instructor got out of the plane and said, "Take it around." One's first solo has been favorably compared with all the other firsts in one's life. It was a beautiful June day with a few little puffy clouds at about 4,000 feet. Flying a circuit of the field at a thousand feet by myself was absolutely thrilling. I moved the stick to the left and the left wing went down, I pulled the stick back and the nose went up. In no time I was gliding in for my first solo landing, adding a little power occasionally so as not to undershoot. Then it was time to flair out and at the right moment pull back the stick and stall the airplane onto the ground. If this was done just right it settled without bouncing on what was known as a three point landing. The wheels and tailwind all touching the ground at the same time. Any deviation resulted in a bounce which required further corrective action. My first solo landing was not perfect but it wasn't bad either. My instructor was a sergeant pilot, a man of few words. If I made a good landing he said, "Noice," and if I bounced, he said, "Chroist."
In June of each year we spent two weeks in camp at an airfield in Kent. During this time we flew more advanced but still obsolete aircraft. By the time I went down from Oxford I had about 220 flying hours in my log book.
During my last term Bowra suggested I enter the competition for a Laming Traveling Fellowship at Queens College. Two of these were given each year to members of the University graduating class. These fellowships provided one with funds to live abroad for two years, perfecting two or three foreign languages. I was already fairly fluent in French and less so in German. It sounded wonderful but I thought the competition would be a bit stiff. Maurice assured me that his sponsorship would help, so I duly took an examination translating English into French. Then came an interview with the Fellows of Queens. Bowra informed me that there was a Fellow named Lord E. who was detested by his colleagues, and told me that if I could manage to be rude to him the others would look upon it favorably. One evening I reported to the senior common room at Queens and was seated outside together with a decanter of vintage port while the Fellows interviewed another candidate. I decided to take in some Dutch courage and consumed two glasses of port before being shown in. I found a dozen elderly gentlemen seated around a large table with the port circulating. They started asking questions and I recognized Lord E. immediately from the description Bowra had given me. Finally he asked me what I would do following my two years as a Fellow. I said I would sit for the Foreign Office Exam. He asked me if I could afford the life of a diplomat since they were poorly paid. I replied that I would not be wasting his time if I could not. This brought smiles all around and I got my fellowship. My three years were up now; I took my final exams, got what was called a good second class degree in PPE and had to decide where I would start my foreign travels, after I had finished camp with the Oxford University Squadron.
The Resident Laming Fellow at Queens had the name of some people who lived outside of Toulouse called Matthieu and said that previous Fellows had stayed there and found it very satisfactory. It so happened that Maurice Brown and Guy Chilver, the Dean of Queens, were intending to take a gastronomic tour in Guy's little car which would start at Le Havre and go all the way down to Cannes, so they invited me to go with them and said they would drop me off to Toulon.


On the first of August, Maurice and Guy Chilver picked me up in Guy's tiny car and we drove, that is, Guy drove to Southampton to catch the ferry. Guy knew more than anybody else about the 4th Century, B.C. in Rome, but he was a terrible driver, and by the time we finally got onto the boat it was decided that since Maurice didn't drive at all, I would take the wheel once we arrived in France. We arrived at Le Havre in the late afternoon and drove to Lisieux where there was a restaurant which boasted two stars in the Guide Michelin. We had a splendid dinner and during dinner it occurred to us that we would have to arrange some sort of exercise in order to eat two meals a day like that, or our livers would explode, and we would put on twenty pounds. Maurice therefore invented the points system. The idea of the points system was that you had to win five points between breakfast and lunch and another five points between lunch and dinner. Failure to do so meant no wine at the ensuing meal. Once we got down into the Loire Valley it was pretty easy to score points by walking over various chateaux and cathedrals; Chambord, being enormous, was worth five points itself, and with others we could manage somehow to get our points up. However, as time went on, cheating became rampant and we had to get additional categories to points being scored. In the ruins of the Chateau of Chinon I scored a possible ten by observing a nun relieving herself behind a stone wall. This was very well accepted. After five or six days of this we decided that we should make a trip to the ocean for a little swimming in cold water which in itself would be worth some points and would be good for our health, so we went to a resort on the Bay of Biscay called Les Sables d'Olonne. First thing we discovered when we arrived there was that the place was full of unattached women of various ages from their teens to their forties. This was because it was the place where all the Parisian whores headed for their August holidays. There must have been hundreds of them and they all behaved with extreme decorum, dressed to the nines and addressing one another as "Madame." The only time they undressed was to lie on the beach where they did a little sunning. A few of them brought their pimps with them, one of which tried to borrow some money from me. In the evening they went to the local casino to play boulle and I get into conversations with several of them. They were all quite charming.
After Les Sables d'Olonne we proceeded to Poitiers where I remember an incredible seven-course dinner on top of a hill looking over the town and from Poitiers we proceeded to Bordeaux where of course it was easier to score points walking over the vineyards. Fortunately it was permitted to sample the wines while there before lunch and before dinner. After Bordeaux we went to a place called Les Eyzies in the Dordogne. This is the center of the area where fois-gras is made and the place was stiff with geese. We stayed at a hotel called the Cro Magnon, so named because Les Eyzies is where the famous caves are where the prehistoric paintings were found of animals done by people some six thousand years ago. Crawling about inside the caves of course scored a great many points.
The food at Cro Magnon was unusual, the specialty being goose's neck. This was a section of the goose's neck with the bone removed and sauteed in garlic and olive oil. It was delicious. From Les Eyzies it was about a two-day drive into Toulon where I was dropped off at the Chateau of the Matthieux. This was of modest size and was in a park of about twenty acres. The family consisted of Monsieur and Madame and their very pretty daughter called Aimee. Aimee, whose husband was off somewhere in the army, had a yellow Citroen convertible in which she showed me the countryside. We toured as far as Carcasonne and my French improved rapidly. I may say I learned a large number of words that I had never heard before. I was just beginning to think that I was going to spend a very nice six to nine months, when Hitler and Stalin signed their notorious pact and the French army mobilized. It was obvious that there was going to be a war, and I knew I must get back to England, so I had Aimee drive me, very kindly, to Bordeaux where I got on a train packed with French troops reporting to their units and eventually arrived in Paris. I transferred to the Gar du Nord, caught another train to Le Havre and the ferry back to Southhampton. When I got there I called my father to pick me up, and there I was back in England again, having been a Laming Traveling Fellow for exactly one month.


One day after I returned to England the Germans invaded Poland. Two days later, England and France declared war on Germany in keeping with their guarantee of Polish independence, which had been made a year earlier, after the Munich Crisis. I had very mixed emotions about the whole thing. First of all it was highly inconvenient because I had just started what had promised to be an exciting and interesting two years, and it was anybody's guess how long the war would last. On the other hand, the cloud of war had been sitting over my head for the last three or four years and in a way it was a relief to have the thing finally settled. Now perhaps we could get it over with and get on with our lives. We had little concept of what the war would be like; the most recent experience was the Civil War in Spain when the greatest publicity had been given to the bombing of civilians and we believed that London would soon or immediately become a target of the German air force. We thought that the French army was very large and well equipped. They had built the Maginot Line from the Swiss border up almost to Belgium and while we assumed that this was a more or less impregnable fortification, there was a gap from there to the Channel. But the British and some French troops would soon fill that up. The British had a large navy, a small but professional army and a small but very professional air force which was just beginning to get modern equipment in the form of Hurricanes and Spitfires.
It soon became apparent that the allies had a purely defensive strategy. While the Germans were plundering Poland, the French and British armies simply dug in along the eastern boundary of France and Belgium and waited for the Germans to come. This was the beginning of what became known as the Phony War which went on until May of the following year. In the event, London was not bombed and everything went on more or less as usual. I waited at New Barn to be called up since I was an officer in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve and towards the end of September I was told to report to Downing College, Cambridge. There I found all present and past members of the Oxford University Air Squadron assembled preparatory to being sent to various training school around the country. It was a very pleasant reunion; there wasn't much to do in Cambridge so I rented the lounge of one of the hotels and turned it into an officers' club charging everybody half a crown a week for membership. This was my first successful commercial venture. Around the end of September or early October I was posted to No. 7 Flying Training School in Peterborough, about a hundred miles north of London. Peterborough lies in a flat, uninteresting countryside and the airfield consisted of a large grass area with old-fashioned accommodations. However, it wasn't too bad except that it was one of the coldest and wettest winters on record and we spent a lot of our time bogged in, iced in or snowed in. Social life wasn't too bad; I got to know some of the local farmers who invited me to shoot their pheasants and partridges and I became friendly with a lady called Lady Romaine Cecil who was the daughter of the Marquis of Exeter and lived in a fine house about fifteen miles away. He had an excellent cellar and I had a good many meals there and enjoyed his port.
I found we were flying the same old Hearts and Hinds that we had flown in camp and at the OUAS, but to our previous curriculum was added night flying, instrument flying, air to air firing, using a camera instead of a gun, and a lot of formation flying and aerobatics. I was slowly becoming more proficient. Learning to fly is like learning to play golf or to play tennis. It takes lots of training, lots of practice, and the more you do it, the better you get. There was very, very few natural pilots. The thing has to be learned. What is needed is perfect coordination of hands and feet and eyes. Your right hand is on the stick, your left hand's on the throttle, your feet are on the pedals and all these have to be moved in the right synchronous manner in order to achieve the proper attitudes and things that you're trying to do. Obviously, if you're involved in dog fights you have to be able to fly the airplane without thinking about what you're doing, whatever attitude you may find yourself in, upside down and whatever.
I bought an ancient Humber car which worked fine for about the first two weeks and then developed the annoying habit of refusing to get into reverse gear. I therefore had to plan my visits and drive accordingly so I never had to back out. This made life interesting when visiting people.
I was awarded my wings on the first of December, 1939 and was rated above average as a single engine pilot. My notice on my flying log book said: Any special faults in flying which must be watched: Nil. Our course completed, everybody was hoping to be posted to a Fighter Command Operational Training Unit where they would graduate onto Spitfires and Hurricanes and learn Fighter Command tactics. Of course the Phony War was still going on so nobody was shooting at anything but those were the glamorous units to be in. Some of them got their wishes, some went to bomber command, but I was told to become a flying instructor. I was very disappointed at the time, but looking back it almost certainly saved my life because if I had gone into a fighter squadron I would probably have been killed in the Battle of Britain like nearly everybody else I knew.
The Central Flying School was at Up-Avon near Salisbury in the south of England. On May 1st for the first time I flew a modern airplane. This was the North American Harvard, or AT 6, and unlike the old bi-planes I had been used to flying it had a retractable undercarriage, flaps, a constant speed propeller, mixture controls, an artificial horizon, a gyro compass and all the other bells and whistles that went on operational aircraft at that time. It was a fairly easy airplane to fly, but unfortunately I didn't get on very well with my instructor. Flight Lieutenant Bragg was a regular Air Force Officer, and he had little use for us university fellows in the RAFVR who hadn't been through Cranwell, which is the equivalent of West Point. He was quite an unpleasant little man and he was also frightened of the airplane, so he refused to demonstrate either spins or stalls because he believed they could not be recovered, which actually was pure nonsense. However, I soon got one up on him. One day he was demonstrating simulated forced landings and we came gliding into a field with the engine cut and he landed, having forgotten to put the wheels down. This of course bent the airscrew and tore up the airplane, without damaging either of us. However, if this had been reported to the staff he would undoubtedly have been posted immediately to fighter command which wouldn't have suited him at all. I therefore agreed to go along with the fiction that we actually had had engine failure and that the field was too small to land in wheels down. After that he was noticeably more polite to me and gave me a very good rating when I graduated.
During the time I was at Up-Avon, the Germans invaded France, having come through Belgium and Holland as anybody might have guessed they would, and the fighting in France began, culminating in the British army being evacuated from Dunkirk.
On June 6, I was posted as an instructor to RAF Station Montrose, Flying Training School No. 8. Here we were flying the 2-seater Miles Master which was a very nice airplane with all the same flying characteristics as a Hurricane or a Spitfire, except it had a smaller engine and was not as fast. It was also made of wood and nobody knew exactly how many G-forces it would take before the wings came off. We were to learn rather bitterly later that it didn't take too many. I rather enjoyed teaching people how to fly, but there is a certain art to it. What you do is you demonstrate a maneuver to the pupil while he keeps his hands and feet lightly on the controls. You then tell him to do it and you keep your feet lightly on the controls ready to take over at the last moment to avoid disaster. Some people learn very quickly and some very slowly, but I only ever had one pupil who did everything right the first time. He went from Montrose to OTU to fighter command and was killed in the first week of operations during the Battle of Britain. Teaching flying by day was not particularly stressful, in fact it was rather enjoyable. The weather at Montrose was somewhat changeable with frequent fogs which made life a little difficult, but teaching night flying was another matter. Since German airplanes were flying over at night and bombing anything they could see we were not allowed to use the proper flare path. Instead we had a flare path composed of what were known as glim lamps which were only visible on final approach. This meant that you took off on a black night, went immediately on to instruments, climbed straight ahead to 1,000 feet, leveled off, turned left 90 degrees, flew for a couple of minutes, turned left again and flew downwind until you figured you were in the right position to do another left hand turn, at which point you started to descend to 500 feet, putting the flaps and wheels down and looking anxiously over your left shoulder to see the glim lamps. These fortunately usually showed up. You then had to go into final approach and since the forward visibility from the back seat was almost nil, it was fairly difficult to get the airplane in the right place at the right time. With lots of practice it became more or less a habit, but what was really hair raising was letting the pupil do it, because as I said, you had to let him do it and make his own mistakes and take over only at the last minute or he would never learn. You had to get him up to the point where you could safely get out of the back seat and say, "Okay, take her around by yourself," and watching him do that was enough to give one heart failure.
I rose slowly through the ranks, became a flight lieutenant with my own flight which consisted of six instructors and twelve pupils This went on and apparently the strain must have been considerable because one day, early in December of 1940,1 got out of bed and fell flat on my face. Trying to stand up, the room was whirling around and I had double vision. The doctor was called and had no idea what was wrong with me, so I was shipped off to a hospital which was a converted castle belonging to the Earl and Countess of Airlie who had moved into the dower house. There again they didn't know what to do with me, so I just stayed in bed and slowly but surely the room stopped going around, my double vision recovered and after about two weeks, I was able to go back to flying. I still had a problem standing up; if I turned my head quickly I got dizzy, but I was okay sitting down so flying was no problem.
Just before Christmas around six o'clock in the evening, a German Heinkel bomber dropped a stick of bombs across the air field. The third one landed in the kitchen of the officers' mess. The noise was tremendous. I was playing snooker at the time, the snooker balls jumped into the air and landed on the ground and I quickly joined them. The kitchen of course immediately caught fire and the whole officers' mess was burned down in a hurry. Our sleeping quarters were separate from the mess and we were able to spend the night in our own beds. However, we were then shifted for eating and sleeping purposes to a house about a mile and a half away. This was made of stone and had no central heating and it was bitterly cold. We lived in fur-line flying boots, sheepskin fleece jackets and all the underwear that we could find, plus balaclava helmets and scarves wrapped around our necks.
There was a lot of sitting and waiting for the weather to clear so I decided to take up knitting and make myself a scarf.
I purchased a quantity of blue wool, some needles and the lady who sold them to me demonstrated one plain one pearl. Unfortunately, I never got the hang of it and kept dropping stitches. After a week, the scarf was only six inches long. I explained my problem to a girl called Moira Guthrie who said "give me the thing and I'll finish it." When I did, she said, "You've got enough wool for three scarves." "Knit this until it's all gone," I said.
Two weeks later, she called and told me it was finished so I drove to Guthrie Castle to pick it up. Surprisingly it was twelve feet long. It went twice around my neck and circled my chest in layers, keeping me deliciously warm!
About this time we received a contingent of Polish pilots who had somehow found their way from Poland to England and had come to us for final instructions before joining fighter squadrons. They spoke almost no English, and we had no idea what they could do and what they couldn't do. It quickly became apparent, however, that they were very good pilots, but they were incredibly ham-fisted. We had always been brought up to believe that one should fly an airplane smoothly and not subject it to unnecessary strains and stresses. However one day we saw Peter Parker, who was one of my closest friends, fly close to the airfield, his pupil pulled out of a dive much too hard and one of the wings came off. Neither of them got out and the plane crashed to the ground. I had the unpleasant responsibility of accompanying his coffin to Edinburg where it was forwarded to his family.
There was one good outcome to this, however; Peter's father, a retired Royal Naval Captain who arrived at Montrose to meet his friends and collect some of his belongings made over the title of his Riley car to me. Since I had formed a close bond of myself, Peter, a fellow called Hardwick Holderness from Rhodesia and Michael Birkin (who later became Sarah's godfather), I decided that the car really belonged to all of us, so we used it indiscriminately, stealing aviation fuel when we couldn't get petrol. Social life wasn't too bad. I got to shoot grouse on some of the famous moors up there, one belonging to Mr. J. P. Morgan, and another one belonging to an earl whose name I can't remember. We were also entertained somewhat by the local ladies and gentlemen and had quite a good time.
After a while, the business of training began to get very boring and since the war was still heating up, even though the Battle of Britain was over, I was anxious to get into operational flying and, starting in the spring of 1941,1 kept applying for transfer. However I was told that flying instructors were more important and more rare than fighter pilots and I was constantly refused. Then, in August, volunteers were called for to start a new flying training school in Aden on the end of the Arabian Peninsula and this seemed to be at least a way of getting out of training command and near the Middle East, where fighting was going on in the Western Desert, so I volunteered, and on my birthday, September 19th, I embarked on a ship in Liverpool with units from the Essex Yeoman, which my brother belonged to. We sailed in convoy around the Cape of Good Hope and arrived duly at Aden. In Aden I found that the flying training school did not yet exist. There were no airplanes, no pilots and no pupils So I immediately suggested to the station commander that I should be posted to the Middle East where the fighter squadrons obviously needed pilots. He agreed to this and I caught another boat up the Red Sea, landed in Suez and got to Cairo, checked in to Shepherd's Hotel and the next day I reported to air headquarters, Middle East.


The air officer commanding in chief Middle East airforce was an unusually intelligent and charming man named Arthur Tedder, who I eventually got to know quite well. He called in an aide whom he asked what squadrons needed a replacement pilot and the aide said that the 238 Hurricane Squadron had just lost a pilot and that I should be posted there as a replacement.
I collected a bed roll containing a collapsible bed, washstand and canvas chair, plus two blankets, bought some khaki shorts and desert boots, left my blue uniforms in a suitcase in Shepherd's Hotel and next day set off for Msus as a passenger in a three ton truck. The road from Cairo goes northwest across the desert, parallel to the west edge of the Nile delta until it meets the road which follows the coast all the way from Alexandria to Tripoli.
The western desert is that part of Egypt which lies west of the delta, and part of Libya, was not quite what I expected. Instead of rolling sand dunes I found the ground was flat, although broken by occasional bodies of dry stream beds and escarpments. The surface was dark brown, packed dirt, and little bushes which grew every few yards. These could be burned to boil water with and let off the strong smell of ammonia when you did so. Wherever wheels or tracks had been the surface was reduced to a fine powder which permeated everything.
The coast road was only two lanes wide and the traffic was so heavy we moved very slowly. We took a full day to cover the two hundred miles or so to Msus.
The western desert war was fought on a narrow strip of land not more than thirty or forty miles wide between the Mediterranean on the north and the soft sand desert, and the Quattara Depression, on the south. This latter was impassable to most vehicles. The Allies had their supply bases in Cairo and the German army had theirs in Tripoli and Benghazi. Both of these were difficult to supply, Cairo being so far from England and America, and the German bases had to be supplied across the Mediterranean from Italy. Of course their shipping was subject to frequent sinkings by our submarines. One side would build up a supply of fuel and munitions and stage an attack. This would be successful for a while and as the attacking force got farther and farther away from its base it got harder and harder to supply it and eventually it would run out of steam. Finally the attacker was exhausted and both sides would then dig in and refurbish. Next it was the turn of the other side having built up a supply of offensive power to roll the enemy back to where he started in the first place until they too ran out of steam. This happened three or four times during the campaign.
When I arrived, the British, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Indian units were attacking and approaching the Libyan frontier. Both sides tried to maintain air superiority over the battlefield in order to prevent aerial reconnaissance and bombing. In this we were marginally successful even though our old Hurricanes were outclassed by the newer 109F's and Macchi 202 fighters belonging to the Germans and the Italians, but somehow we were able to keep them away most of the time.
When I reached 238 Squadron I was delighted to find that two of my ex pupils were both flight commanders. Actually we had become great friends at Montrose. Living conditions were primitive. The pilots' mess was in a large tent with a minimum of furniture. We had to pitch our own sleeping tents. It took me some time before I mastered the art so that my tent didn't blow down every time the wind got up. The airfield itself was just a patch of desert scraped free of rocks and bushes and whenever we took off a huge plume of dust followed us across the airfield. Food consisted of cans of bully beef, biscuits and strong tea. Water was severely rationed.
For years I had been wondering what it would be like to fire and to be fired at in anger, and I figured that it must be a unique experience. I wondered very much how I would react to it. I was obviously anxious to find out as quickly as possible, having spent two years in a non-combatant position, so I told "Peggy" O'Neil who was the squadron commander that I wished to be included on as many missions as possible. Therefore, after a familiarization flight on a Hurricane the day I arrived when I fired my guns at some birds in a salt pack on the ground, I did my first operation on the following morning. This consisted of a fighter sweep behind enemy lines to try and rid them of any German aircraft that might be in the vicinity. I flew as wing man to O'Neil, my number being Red 2. We took off about 8:30 in the morning, climbed due west to about 15,000 feet and then flew steadily westward towards and beyond the line. I discovered about this time which I had not realized before, that I had extraordinary eyesight. I think it worked out at 40/20 or something, anyway, I was the first to see, on the ground and in front of us, at about one o'clock, some little tiny things about the size of mosquitoes moving across the ground which I realized were enemy fighters taking off, probably ME 109's. I hit the RT switch and said, "Bogey's taking off at one o'clock about three miles in front of us." O'Neil, after a while, came back and said, "Ah, I see them, well done, Red 2, we'll keep an eye on them." We watched them as they took off. The 109 had superior speed, climbing ability and altitude to our Hurricanes and we watched them climb up on a reciprocal course to our own in a position to get up, behind and above us, which would be the classical approach in making an attack. Since the sun was also behind us, we altered course slightly to the north so that we would be able to see them. We watched them, and pretty soon we saw them start to come down. O'Neil said, "Get ready to break, get ready to break," and then suddenly, "Break." So we all went into a steep climbing turn. As the 109's saw us do this, since they didn't wish to meet ninety-six machine guns firing at them, they pulled up over us. I did a hard, almost inverted turn and got my sights on one as he went away. I opened fire at about 300 yards with a long burst, didn't see anything come off, and in a moment, since he was traveling so much faster than I, he was out of range. I continued to turn to watch my tail and then straightened out and experienced what every fighter pilot does to his amazement the first time, I found the air was completely empty, there was not an airplane in sight. "Oh my God," I thought, "how am I going to find my way back to the airfield?" There was absolutely no features on the desert which I could map read by, and I hadn't paid too much attention anyway on the way out. So I thought to myself, "Well, we flew for x number of minutes on a course of about 270, so I will fly on a reciprocal of 90 and allow for the fact that I'll be losing height rather than gaining it, therefore I figured that in about 15 minutes I should be back somewhere near the base. Of course I had to weave to be sure that there was nobody trying to bounce me on the way back, but I became quite anxious because everything just seemed to be flat and brown and undifferentiated. Finally to my immense relief, when I was down to about 3,000 feet, I saw a brown square in the desert off to my right and some airplanes sitting on the south end, also others on the north end. I went down, circled the field at 500 feet and was delighted to see our squadron markings on the airplanes on the south end of the field. So I came in and landed. I was the first one home. This was the end of my first operation, and when I had time to think about it, I realized that it was in no way a unique experience, it was almost exactly the same feeling that I had before a rugger match or something similar in school, a slight loosening of the bowels, a rush of adrenaline, but no unique and extraordinary sensation.
We were still advancing and a few days later we flew up to a further landing field. Our operations consisted mostly of fighter sweeps, but also of convoy patrols. At that time the British were still sending convoys through the Mediterranean to Alexandria escorted by anti-aircraft cruisers and destroyers. They would normally sail about twenty-five or thirty miles north of the coast, keeping as close as they decently could, and we were supposed to cover them against attacks by the German air force from Malta or Crete. I did several of these and on one of them I set out in the morning early with a wing man. He had engine trouble and came back and I spent an hour circling over the fleet. When I came back I discovered to my horror that a sand storm had blown up. The sand was up to 3,000 feet and visibility down to less than 50 yards. There was no possible way of finding my way back to the airfield, so I came in very low over the cliffs which lined the beach. I flew over the road on which I saw some vehicles moving, and since the head wind was about 45 to 50 miles an hour my ground speed was only about 40 miles an hour, I let down the wheels and the flaps and landed successfully in the desert. I got my parachute on my back, closed the canopy and walked back towards the road. When I got within sight of the road I had to stop and see what sort of vehicles they were because I wasn't sure whether I was behind the German or the Allied lines. This was further complicated by the fact that we had captured a lot of German vehicles, and they had captured a lot of British ones. So the question was, what's the preponderance? Well, the preponderance with British. They seemed to be moving in a westerly direction, so I decided that I would risk it. I walked up the road and found a friendly lorry driver and he took me about five miles along the road and I then found my way back to the airfield. I was congratulated for saving the aircraft, but this was somewhat spoiled because the next day when the sand had died down I went back to recover the airplane. I taxied back to the road, opened up the throttle, took off and had just got the wheels and flaps up when the engine died. Right in front of me was a small cliff. I crashed into it, swinging sideways so that my left wing would hit first. Fortunately I wasn't going very fast and the airplane crumpled. I was not damaged. What had happened of course was that I had run out of fuel. I hadn't thought when I got into the thing that I should have switched tanks before taking off. So my congratulations on saving the airplane the day before were cancelled by the fact that I had ruined it the following day.
On another occasion I went out with three other aircraft to cover a convoy which was sailing towards Alexandria. We came in as arranged at 8,000 feet, just astern of the convoy keeping radio silence, and turned right. To my surprise I heard somebody say, "Numbers 1,2,3 turrets, fire!" and I thought, "The Germans must be here," and suddenly we were surrounded by black bursts and loud bangs and I realized that we were firing at us. A moment later one of my colleagues said, "Judd, you're losing Glycol." There was a stream of white stuff coming out from my radiator and I realized that I would have to hurry back to the coast before I used all the coolant up and the airplane burned up. So I put into maximum power and a steep dive and as I approached the coast the coolant temperature and the oil temperature started to go off the clock. I cut the engine and landed wheels up on the beach, or rather cursing the navy all the time. On yet another occasion I was coming back, this time all by myself, from a convoy patrol, and as I approached the coast I saw two bombs explode next to a merchant ship which was hugging the coast. Looking up I saw a JU 88 on a reciprocal course at almost my exact height and about half a mile in front of me. This was a classical interception which I had practiced, however in a much slower aircraft. This problem was to turn at just the right moment so I could come in underneath the JU 88's tail and be within good range of my machine guns. I turned a little bit too late, by the time I was finished I was about 300 yards behind him. His rear gunner was firing at me. I could see the tracer whizzing by, and I gave him a long burst. I thought I saw some smoke coming from his left engine but I couldn't be sure. I ran out of ammunition and as I was also short of gas, didn't follow him any further, went back to base and claimed a JU 88 damaged. Some weeks later, word filtered through that the convoy had arrived in Alexandria and reported a JU 88 down at sea in a position and on a date and at a time which meant it just about had to be mine, so I was credited with my first victory, a JU 88 destroyed.
In between these events we had various encounters with German fighters but I did not get a good shot at anything. On March 26,1 was posted to No. 33 squadron as a flight commander which I guess was some sort of a recognition, and flew with them for a short time until the beginning of April when I was again posted, this time to command No. 250 squadron which consisted of P-40 Kitty Hawks. This was the first fighter squadron in the Middle East to be fitted with long-range tanks. The squadron was formed in Port Said where we got used to the aircraft and one another, and then were posted to the western desert. Being the CO of a fighter squadron was really rather fun. I still have a letter which I wrote to my mother at this time or shortly after which says,

"250 Squadron, Middle East, 11/4/42. Dear Family, I trust you got my cable informing you that I'd been made CO of 250 Squadron and have become a squadron leader. I have been with my new squadron for five days now and very much enjoy the position. It is quite a large command and the responsibility is alarming, but it's fun to be cock of a roost and the CO of a fighter squadron gets fussed over and generally spoiled. Recently I had a very peaceful time and have done very little at operations. But I expect that there will be plenty to do before the summer is out."

Another letter dated 29th of May, 1942 says,

"I am writing during a free hour in the middle of our blitz. This as you know started a week ago, finally flaring up two days ago. Since then we have been almost continuously engaged in various useful pursuits such as straffing enemy transport, straffing tanks and troops, escorting bombers, etc. Of the Luftwaffe we have seen very little. On the whole it is a relief that it has started, the anticipation was rather trying."

It would be tedious to recite the advances and retreats that were made during this time, but we always seemed to be either moving forwards or backwards and slowly but surely we were developing the art of close air support to the army. The Kitty bombers being the leaders in this thing, I therefore becoming an authority on the subject. One day in May we attacked an airfield and I was coming in I noticed at JU 57 taking off, and I came down almost to ground level and fired at him head on. He cartwheeled into the ground and that was my second victory, so I now had two to my credit.
Later in May we hit the jackpot. Our long-range Kitties, which could fly for over three hours, took off across the Mediterranean to intercept a flight of twelve German troop-carrying planes flying from Crete to North Africa. This had been discovered by what was known as the Y intercept which were a bunch of young ladies in Middle East headquarters listening in on German radio transmissions. Our first attempt failed. We went to the supposed point of interception, found nothing and came back again. The second time we had been flying for about an hour and a quarter, and suddenly, there on the horizon like a flock of partridges, were these twelve great big lumbering three-engined German transports. I said, "Tally ho!" and we went in and there was a great slaughter. They were, of course, slow and relatively unarmed. I knocked down two of them, and on the second one I made an approach from the side and I noticed that the paratroopers inside the plane had knocked the windows out and were firing at me with tommy guns. I didn't think too much of it at the time, but just as I was turning away my engine stopped cold. I was about 200 feet above the water, and I thought, "Oh, my God!" and suddenly realized I had forgotten to change over from my long range tank to the regular tanks, so I had run it dry. The propeller was still windmilling, I switched the tanks, turned on the fuel booster pump and after about two seconds the engine picked up again, with my heart, which had practically stopped.
This interception was reported in all the English newspapers and my father said, "Well, that must have been Michael because nobody else would have described twelve German airplanes as looking like a flock of partridges." This brought my score up to four and I needed only one more to be an ace. When I landed I found the front part of my plane riddled with bullets from tommy guns. They hit everything except my radiator - one bullet in that and I would have been down in the Med, a hundred miles from shore. My first lucky escape.
One of the things which was annoying was that the P-40's we were flying were not only unsuitable for the desert because they were too susceptible to the dust, but also they had a low ceiling and were relatively slow. The only good think about them was they had six 50 caliber machine guns which did quite a lot of damage as long as they kept firing, which they didn't all the time. I was so tired of being bounced by 109's from above that one day I said, "You know, I believe that we could flog these things up to about 22,000 feet and we might catch some 109's unawares looking down. So I got the squadron up to 22,000 feet where we were just about hanging on and as we flew, coming in the opposite direction, were three 109's about a thousand feet below us and obviously looking down rather than up. We turned down on them and I got about 200 yards behind the lead aircraft when my reflector sight went out. I therefore waited until I was practically on his tail before opening fire and he practically disintegrated. This was my fifth victory and made me an ace.
My second narrow escape occurred when I was returning alone after straffing some motor transport. I wasn't watching my tail and I suddenly saw tracer bullets pass my left wing-tip. I immediately took violent evasive action and lost my attacker. If he had been an experienced pilot, I would have been dead. I learned something from that.
One amusing interlude occurred some time in mid-summer, when I was given a week's leave and told that I might fly my airplane up to Beirut to visit my brother. George was on the staff of General Wilson in Beirut. Beirut was some 500 miles away and would require one refueling stop on the way, which would be Lidda. However, this was just after we had been pushed all the way back to the delta by the Germans, and General whoever-it-was had announced that all maps east of Suez would be destroyed, so there was no chance of our retreating. You can't retreat without a map Therefore when I went to air headquarters to get a map in order to fly to Beirut, which is about halfway up the coast between Turkey and Egypt, I was told there were no maps. I didn't know how to find my way there without one. I was sitting in my tent one evening disconsolately, when I saw a little cloud of dust on the horizon and up came the interdenominational padre, a charming Irish Catholic who administered to whatever religion anybody had. He also had a remarkable nose for when the squadron had a supply of beer. He came into my tent and I had a brilliant idea. I said, "Padre, have you got your Bible with you?" Well, he had a great big Bible, so I looked at it and there, of course, in the fly leaf was a pasted map of the Middle East. I said, "May I borrow this, because I need to fly up to Beirut and that's the only map there is." "Certainly, me boy," he said, "certainly," and we eased it out of his Bible and in God's truth I used it to fly up to Beirut. When I got there George was already having a splendid time with the local nobility and we lived in great luxury, being ferried around up and down the mountain by various rich ladies and their daughters in Mercedes-Benz cars. However, this was too good to last and after a week I had to fly back again.
And now looking at another letter written in June which says:

"The apple of my life is a kitten which we collected from some Italians. A very small and plain tabby with amazing vitality and character. She completely ruined an inspection of the squadron by royalty one day by tripping royalty up. We are now experiencing the fifth consecutive day of sand storm and becoming a little weary of it. Last night, or rather, evening, visibility was down to ten feet. It is getting hot also and generally more desert-like."

In October, the final great offensive known as the Battle of El Alamein started and I see a letter written on the 24th of October. It says:

"Well, the war has started again and we've been very busy. The RAF is pleased with itself and its efforts over the past week and we were tremendously interested in the outcome of the present battle. It is amusing to think that by the time you get this you will know this news will be old history."

It now of course is old history and we advanced rapidly up the coast and into Libya. I see on the 14th of October I wrote:

"I am extremely well and feeling on top of the world at the moment. The squadron has been doing well and is in as good a state as it has ever been. This naturally gives me a kick. I am proud of the outfit. There's no doubt that whatever the snags of being an operational commander, they are more than made up for by the spirit and feeling of satisfaction you get out of it. After a final burst of frightfulness the weather is now definitely cooler and it has rained a couple of times. It's fine to fly among the great banks of white cumulous clouds.

Sanitation was a problem in the desert. The latrines stunk and were full of flies. I would take two empty six gallon petrol cans out to a point a couple of hundred yards from the airfield, place them four inches apart and I had a private privy. Early one morning, I was thus engaged when a Messerschmitt 109 came to strafe the airfield. Apparently, he had a sense of human because he picked me out instead.
With my shorts around my ankles, all I could do was shake my fist as his cannon shells dug a furrow a few yards to one side of me. Our diet of bully beef and biscuits tended to make me constipated, but not on this occasion.
In mid-December, I developed yellow jaundice. I came into the mess for breakfast one morning, and everybody hooted with laughter because my face was a brilliant yellow. I was immediately sent back to the Delta in a passenger plane and put in the hospital in Cairo where I made a record recovery in about five or six days in spite of indulging in eggs against everybody's advice. When I was well I was told to begin to report to RAF Middle East and went to see Tedder. Tedder said, "Judd, you know these American airplanes don't work very well in the desert. We can't get the manufacturer's reps to listen to us. How would you like to go to the States for a month and talk to them and try and get these things straightened out? And while you're about it, fly all of the new fighters that are being developed and see which ones will be suitable for the desert." Well, of course I'd never heard of anything that had pleased me more in my life and I said, "Yes, sir!" That was the end of my sojourn in the Middle East. Or not quite, because before I was to go to America I had one more mission to fulfill. On the east coast of Kenya there is a port called Mombasa which harbored the British sixth fleet which had been chased out of Ceylon by the Japanese. The fleet consisted of 2 battleships, an aircraft carrier and some destroyers. Mombasa had an airfield and the total strength of its air defenses was a squadron of Hurricanes, rather old ones, manned by pilots who had seen no action; they were mostly Rhodesians and South Africans. My job was to go down to Mombasa, organize the defense of the Port of Mombasa in conjunction with the fleet and when this had been accomplished and a satisfactory exercise had been carried out, I could then proceed to Washington. I was given a farewell party in Cairo by my friends and when I got on the flying boat on the following morning I was barely conscious. We flew down the Nile, stopped at Luxor and various other places, and I was very nearly ill on the plane, much to the consternation of several elderly civilians who were traveling with me. We spent the night on the way down to Khartoum and since my squadron was called the Sudan Squadron, Khartoum being the capital of the Sudan, I found that the Governor General was giving a party for me. This was very much unexpected and I was feeling extremely unwell, however I was just able to drag myself to it and not disgrace myself. From there we flew on to Nairobi where I spent one night. I was invited to a party and discovered immediately that it was true the stories about how dissolute the white hunters and their group were in Nairobi. My hostess told me proudly that her four year old son had learned to say Fuck Off in Swahili. However, I survived that, went down to Mombasa and the first thing I noticed was that the troops were going around wearing hard hats. This was because they were all being brained by coconuts falling out of the trees. The main problem in coordinating the defenses of Mombasa was the head of the navy, Admiral Sr. James Summerville, who was the archetypical crusty old salt who didn't feel at all comfortable discussing strategy with a junior person like me, although I was now a Wing Commander. We did discuss what would happen if the Japanese sent in a bombing attack and tried to coordinate the actions of the fleet air arm and the RAF. Having done all this we put on an exercise which was a total failure. However, I reported it to Nairobi as being a total success and they said, "Well, okay Judd, report to Cairo and take the next flight to Washington."


On January 21st I embarked on the return flight, going via Nairobi, Lake Victoria, Malakal, Juba, Luxor, Khartoum, and finally Cairo, the whole thing taking about two days. I then spent five days in Cairo getting various documents ready, getting my clothes and finally set off on the journey to America. This was also done in various stages: I took an American Airforce DC 3 from Cairo across Africa, making three stops in the middle of it, arriving about a day and a half later in Accra on the West Coast. Here we transferred to a Boeing Stratoliner which took us to Natal on the East Coast of Brazil. We changed again to a DC 4 and flew via Trinidad and Puerto Rico to Miami. This took a couple of days. I spent the night in Miami. In the morning I was due to fly to Washington on Eastern Airlines and since it was 80 degrees in Miami, I continued the journey just wearing a bush jacket and khaki shorts, checking my warm clothes in my suitcase. As we went north I was somewhat alarmed to see the ground beginning to turn white, and by the time we arrived in Washington the snow was deep and it was freezing cold. Fortunately I had my RAF great-coat in the cabin; I put this on hurriedly and got unscathed into the terminal. At the terminal I was met by a young officer who took me to the Statler Hotel which had only been open about a week, and where I was to stay. The contrast between the luxury of the Statler and conditions in the Middle East were almost overwhelming: fresh orange juice, baths, hot water, clean sheets, all the steaks you could eat. It was marvelous and I spent the first twelve hours enjoying all of them. The next morning I reported to the RAF delegation which partly consisted of three test pilots whose job it was to help develop the new American aircraft that were being turned out. It was their job to decide which aircraft should be bought by the RAF and since none of them had any experience of operational flying, they said they would be interested to get my reactions to these aircraft in their combat role. It was therefore decided that I would go to Bell Aircraft, Curtis Wright, Republic, North American and Lockheed, but before I did this I was told I had to go to New York and report to the British Information Service.
The British Information Service existed to bring the British war effort to the attention of the American people via the media, and it began to dawn on me that the real reason I had been sent to the States was to do P. R. work. The BIS arranged for a press conference to which most of the New York newspapers came, and I spoke at length about the war in the desert and the role that the RAF had played, particularly in supporting the ground forces and how we had worked out an organizational system of communications, and could actually attack targets within a few hundred yards of our own troops. This resulted in long articles in both the New York Times and the Herald Tribune with my photograph and rather flattering remarks and headlines. In addition to this, I talked to several civic groups including dinner at the Explorers' Club. I addressed a group of ladies in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. I can't imagine why. I spoke on the Armed Forces Radio, and even addressed a high school in Brooklyn where at the end of my talk I was delighted when the principal announced that the school choir would then sing God Save the King to the tune of My Country Tis of Thee. The first day I was in New York I learned that Freddie Ayer was there working for British Intelligence, so I called him up and he invited me to lunch the following day at the Colony Club. When I arrived I found he was having lunch with a particularly pretty girl called Jean Gordon Duff who had just arrived from California. In addition to being pretty, she was amusing and quick and we got on splendidly, in fact so well that I spent most of my spare time in New York with her. We visited most of the restaurants and night clubs and it seemed that wherever we went either the management picked up the ticket or somebody would send us a bottle of champagne. Whether it was her or my uniform and medals of course we'll never know. I spent about two weeks in New York and at the end of that time Jean and my relationship had reached the point where, under normal circumstances, we would have thought of getting engaged. But as I expected to go back to the Middle East in two weeks this was out of the question. So I went back to Washington and started on my tour of the aircraft factories. I flew the newest P-40 which wasn't much better than the old one, the P-39, which was a horror. The P-47 I flew at Wright Field; this was an interesting airplane in that, by previous fighter standards, it was enormous and weighed about twice as much as anything I was used to. It was powered by a huge radial engine which dictated the size of the fuselage and therefore the cockpit which resembled the front seat of a sports car, so instead of sitting in an enclosed space with your shoulders touching the side, you sat on a chair in the middle of what was almost a room, and you had to reach for the controls which were attached to the side of the fuselage. I took the thing up to 45,000 feet, put it through all sorts of maneuvers and came to the conclusion that it was not a particularly good fighter since it had a slow rate of roll and was not all that maneuverable. However, having a radial engine which was able to take a lot of punishment and being able to carry a large bomb load if necessary, plus eight 50 caliber machine guns, I recommended that it would make an excellent ground attack aircraft, which is what it was eventually used for. After returning to Washington and reporting, I set out on my visit to the West Coast, taking the southern route, American Airlines. We stopped in Atlanta, Dallas, Tucson, and arrived in Los Angeles. I was amazed and astonished by the size of the huge desert that stretched all the way from the central part of Texas to California. It was like the surface of the moon. I'd never seen anything like it, it was entirely unlike anything I'd seen in Africa. We landed at the Los Angeles Airport and I was met by representatives of North American Aviation, who, thinking I was more important than I was, put me up in a suite at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Beverly Hills in those days was a little piece of paradise. The climate was perfect, the place was festooned with palm trees and flowers, bougainvillea, jacaranda, and everybody's house sat behind a perfectly kept lawn opened to the street with no hedges or fences in front.
I had had an introduction to Nigel Bruce who played Dr. Watson in the Sherlock Holmes series of movies and he and his wife, Bunny, and their two pretty daughters, took care of my social life, as did Albert and Maxine Ralphs who were friends of Jean's. The second day Nigel Bruce invited me to lunch at Romanoff's which was the restaurant where all of the movie people went, and I was surprised to see the dining room full of beautiful young women and almost no men at all, because they were all off in uniform somewhere, either training or overseas. Nigel asked me if I would like to meet any of them, so I picked out the table with the three prettiest ones and suggested that we join them. We had an agreeable lunch and the young ladies all asked me where I was staying and if I had a car. The answer, of course, was that I was staying at the Beverly Hills Hotel and no, I didn't have a car. They all sort of smiled knowingly and said, "Well, we'll take care of that!" The next morning when I came down I learned that I had at my disposal a Packard, a Cadillac and a Chrysler. Fortunately, in California the owner's name was written on a piece of paper which is wrapped around the steering column, so I was able to tell which one belonged to whom.
In between playing tennis with the Braces and going out with the young ladies and being entertained by the Ralphs, I did quite a bit of flying. I flew the P-51 extensively, and found it an excellent airplane lacking only having the right sort of engine until it was fitted with Rolls Royce Merlins manufactured by the Packard Motor Company. I also flew the P-38 which was a twin engine, twin-boomed fighter and which was not much good for anything but flying long distances over the water when it was always more comfortable to have two engines than one.
After two glorious weeks in California, I took the train east, stopping in Chicago, again to give a couple of talks, and then on to Washington where I expected to be sent immediately back to Cairo. However it seemed that the articles which had appeared in the New York Times and the Tribune had caused quite a stir in the Pentagon. At that time the American Air Force was part of the Army and they were trying to decide how the air support of the American Army, which would be going into Northern Europe the following year, would be organized. Since no one there had any experience, or even a clue as to how to do it, I was the out-of-town expert. I was therefore asked to address a group of very senior officers in the Pentagon. This resulted in a long question and answer period and caused quite a stir. The next day I was informed that instead of going back to Cairo I was to go to Orlando for three months where they were forming the first tactical air commands, and where I would act as advisor to the General. This changed the outlook completely, so I called Jean and said I was going to be there for three months, and of course, in wartime three months seemed like three years, so we decided to get married. Her mother, Ruthie, had just arrived from California, and she arranged for a quick wedding, so I went to New York and we got married. We spent our honeymoon on the train going down to Florida.
In Orlando we found a nice little apartment. It was a very small town with lots of lakes and a great big airfield. My job was made more difficult by the fact that the previous RAF officer attached to the place had been caught in bed with the General's wife, and the General was therefore anti-British, to put it mildly. Almost anything I suggested he disagreed with, or decided to do the opposite. So I started advising the opposite of what we wanted and we finished up very much with what we did want. The aircraft we were flying were P-47's, and I put in a lot of time with these three or four squadrons working with the local army unit, so that the whole thing was quite realistic. At the end of my three months again I was expecting to go back East, but I was told no, I was to go to the Command and General Staff School in Fort Leavenworth. There they were turning out two thousand staff officers - most of whom had been civilians only a few weeks before - every two months. So Jean and I embarked on the long train trip to Kansas, arriving in August when it was about 110 degrees. Kansas is not a garden spot, and Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, was not the center of the garden. However, the work was not particularly irksome; I had to get up in front of two thousand people in a huge hall which had previously been a riding school, and was known as Gruber Two. I gave them my spiel about air support and found they weren't very interested. At the end of the talk, somebody got up and said, "Commander, what was the terrain like in North Africa for armored vehicles?" Well, having flown from Dallas to Tucson and seen plenty of desert, I had a moment of inspiration and said it was like Texas with A-rabs. This brought down the house and from then on I had no trouble getting their attention. Since I was to be there for three or four months, I thought I might as well take the course myself, so I did, and I was astonished by the ineptitude and ignorance of my instructors. Jean and I lived in officers' quarters on the base which consisted of a large living room with a fireplace, a bedroom and a bathroom, but no kitchen. Every day a large black man arrived bearing a block of ice which he put into the ice box; this was before refrigerators had hit the post. We ate out of cans in our room or at the local married officers' club and life was not too bad. I made some interesting and useful friends there, including Winthrop Rockefeller and some young officers from Houston, Texas, whom I was to run into later.
Right after the first of January, I traveled back to Washington and was then told I was to proceed this time to England, not Cairo, and was to take the Queen Mary. The Queen Mary used to make trips by herself at high speed, which apparently was good enough to avoid submarines. Jean was determined to come too, even though she was two months pregnant with Sarah, which I thought was rather brave of her. Somehow, we were able to wrangle her a passage on a freighter which was part of a convoy leaving New York. I left before she did, got home and had three weeks leave at New Barn, at the end of which I went up to Liverpool to meet her.


My leave being finished, I reported to Headquarters, Second Tactical Air Force, south of London. Here I found Air Marshall Coningham who had commanded the Desert Air Force and whom I had got to know well, also Harry Broadhurst, another veteran of the Desert Air Force. He commanded 83 Group which was one of the three groups comprising Second Tactical Air Force. He told me he wanted me as a wingleader in his group and that I would fill the first vacancy. Since 83 Group flew Spitfires, Typhoons and Mustangs it was necessary that I be competent on all three types, so I was posted to a pool in Red Hill, Surrey where I familiarized myself with these aircraft. I fell in love with the Spitfire 9 and hoped I might get a spitfire wing. Of course, it was also true that air fighting at this stage of the war was a lot less dangerous than the business of ground attack because in the latter case your only defense against anti-aircraft fire was luck.
However this was not to be.

Judd Meets Churchill
Harry Broadhurst introduces Winston Churchill to the boys of 143 Wing.
From the left - John McElroy [face hidden], Wally McLeod, Wally Conrad & Mike Judd.

Wing Commander Davidson, who was wing-leader of 143 Wing Typhoons was shot down over France and I replaced him as indicated in the first chapter of this book. It was probably a good thing that I had spent time in America because Canadians and Americans have something in common and it was easier for me to relate to the Canadians, having already learned how to relate to Americans. Our primary job as fighter bombers of this point was attacking flying bomb sites under construction in the Pas de Calais. These consisted of a strip of concrete shaped like a ski and a building hidden in the woods some ten to twenty miles inland. They were hard to find but fortunately I was an extremely good map reader and we had detailed maps of France. Therefore I was able to take our aircraft directly to the target, attack it and get out again without having to hunt and search for the thing as my predecessor had had to do, since he had been brought up to fly on radio beams. This went down very well with the pilots, and made me popular.
These sites were not heavily defended. I don't remember that we had any casualties during the first three weeks of May, but then starting on about the 21st we started to attack radar installations along the French coast all the way from Cherborg to Dunkirque and these were heavily defended. We succeeded in knocking out all but one which was left on purpose near Calais in order that some deception program might proceed, but we lost four or five aircraft in the process. Unfortunately if you were diving on a target between four and five hundred miles an hour and an anti-aircraft shell hit your airplane it more or less disintegrated and there was almost no chance of the pilot getting out and using his parachute.
This brings us up to the point where the narrative began and the first flight which I made at H hour on D Day. On the morning of D Day + 1 the wing was ordered to make a tactical reconnaissance around Caen which the British army was supposed to have captured on the first day, and the 21st Army Group apparently didn't know what was going on. So, I took 438 Squadron and we proceeded to go and have a look. As we approached the beach we saw this extraordinary spectacle of dozens of ships lying offshore and hundreds of amphibious vehicles plying backwards and forwards between them and the beach, carrying supplies. The beachhead was still very narrow and we had only just passed over into enemy territory when there was a tremendous bang. The perspex canopy over my cockpit disappeared, and when I looked to my right I saw a very large hole in the middle of my right wing. I realized I had been hit by a thirty or forty millimeter anti-aircraft shell. Instinctively I pulled up and to the left keeping the damaged wing on the outside of the turn where it would have more lift than the one on the other side. I hit the RT button and said, "This is Grader Leader," (that was my call sign), "I've been hit and we're going home." We set a course back, and I hoped to get at least back over our own lines before I would have to bail out. However, to my surprise the airplane flew reasonably well with only a modest amount of pressure on the stick to keep the right wing up. The engine seemed to be behaving okay so, as we crossed out over the water, I asked my wing man to slide underneath me and take a look. He did so, and he said, "Well, Sir, I can see right through your wing but it doesn't seem to have damaged either your flaps or your ailerons. I don't see any fuel leaking out of the gas tank, which was in the wing root, but," he said, "your bomb is missing, it must have been knocked off." I realized then that the airplane was flying as well as it did because the lack of lift caused by the hole in the right wing was partially offset by a thousand pound bomb hanging under the left wing. This was encouraging, and I thought I could probably get the thing back to England and maybe even land it. So we flew steadily back and in about twenty-five minutes we passed the Needles. I told the squadron to go ahead and land ahead of me and get out of the way. While they were doing so, I started to experiment to see what the airplane's flying characteristics would be like at low speeds. I dropped down to 120 miles an hour and still found it was controllable, let down the wheels and two green lights came showing that they were locked down. I tried 15 degrees of flap and these went down normally, so I then throttled back to 100 miles an hour and found that I could still control the airplane. I decided I would land it, so I called the tower and told them what I was doing and asked them to have the fire engine and the ambulance by the runway in case something went wrong. I made a wide circuit and instead of coming in with the nose up and lots of power on, I flew the thing onto the ground with the tail up and kept the tail up until we lost speed and it dropped down. I was able then to use the brakes and we stopped before the end of the runway. I taxied over to the service area where a crowd was gathered. When I stood up and looked at the hole in my wing I realized how incredibly lucky I had been. A few feet in either direction and it would have knocked off my controls, or it would have hit the gas tank in the wing root or it would have hit me. But as it was, it had chosen the one spot where it did relatively little damage. The adrenaline was really pumping at this point, and when I got out I found my hands were a little shaky. The station commander, Paul Davoud, suggested that I take the rest of the day off, but I remembered the old adage about getting back on a horse after you had fallen off, so I decided that I would fly again that day. In the afternoon I did another armed recce over Caen. We were quite unable to figure out what was going on, all we could see was smoke and fires, but at least nothing hit us and we did discover a convoy of vehicles approaching Caen from the south, which we attacked with cannon fire and destroyed.
For the next three weeks we were very busy flying every day once or twice either attacking enemy ground forces or taking out bridges, or whatever else might be called for by second T.A.F. The flack, when attacking a German armored division was something appalling. It was like flying down through a series of red bead curtains as these things came slowly up towards you and suddenly accelerated and went flashing by. We lost several aircraft while this was going on.
On the 27th, I took the wing to France where an airfield had been constructed using pierced steel planking on a hay field. A servicing commando had gone ahead to service the aircraft and somebody had erected tents for us to sleep and eat in, and from then on we operated out of the beach-head. It was only a few miles deep and we were subject to occasional shelling from German guns, therefore when on the ground it was prudent to be in a slit trench reading a book. Suddenly a runner came dashing across the airfield and presented me with a letter from Jean whom I had parked in a house in Compton near New Barn. It said,

"Dear Michael, you've got to get me out of this place, I'm going nuts. There's a goddamn cookoo that goes, 'cookoo, cookoo, cookoo' all day and I simply cannot stand it. You must get rid of it."

However, I was unable to do anything about it until, on the first of July, I got a signal from the group of an operation order which gave a map reference, a time, a date, and said, "Girl, weight and fusing unknown." This particular paragraph normally applied to the bomb load and I realized that Sarah had arrived. I got two days leave, flew back to Worthy Down and saw mother and child, both of whom were doing well.
Looking at my log book I see that on the 29th I scored a direct hit on a bridge at a little place called Thiery Harcort. 143 Wing, it said, gets three bridges in three shows. Very good bombing.
Apparently, there was some argument at Group as to which was the most effective weapon against tanks, rocket firing typhoons or bombers. So they decided to put on a demonstration. A tiger tank which had been captured was towed into the middle of a large field and the brass took up position a few hundred yards away. Charles Green who commanded the rocket firing typhoon wing made the first attack, I was circling above at about 8000 feet and watching. I saw a cloud of smoke and dust appear where his rockets hit, but I couldn't tell whether he'd hit the tank or not. Once he was safely out of the way I made my own dive, released the bombs and pulled out. Later it turned out that by some extraordinary piece of luck I had scored a direct hit on the tank and he'd missed. In spite of this, they continued to use rockets mainly against tanks much to my relief because they were always so heavily defended.
Around the middle of August the stalemate broke; the American Fifth Army almost surrounded the Germans and they were in full retreat through what was known as the Falaise Gap. We played our part by making individual sorties and strafing everything that moved. I notice that I made two flights on the fifteenth, three on the eighteenth, and three on the nineteenth; all beating up transport or armored vehicles. It says, "Two flamers. I saw a tree doing forty miles an hour."
That's out of my log book. What had happened was, an armored car had struck a tree in the turret and was racing along the road. When it saw me it stopped and pulled into the side, but I was able to give it a good burst with my 20 millimeters and it went up in flames. This went on for several days and then, on September 5th, the wing moved to Amiens and then from there, a few days later, to Brussels. I got into serious trouble because we were ordered rather late in the day to go to Brussels. There wasn't time to organize squadron flights, so I gave everybody a map and told them to fly to Brussels Maelsbroek and land there. It should have been simple because all they had to do was follow the railway line, but these Canadians weren't used to map reading, the weather was bad, the visibility was poor and half the wing finished up forced landing with their wheels up all around Brussels. This was not well received by the group, but somehow I was forgiven.
We spent three weeks in Brussels and moved to Eindhoven in Holland after Nijmegen was taken. On October 20, the Canadian government decided they should have a Canadian wing-leader and as Frank Grant, CO. of his squadron, was now fully qualified, I was asked to move to 121 Wing, which was equipped with rocket firing Typhoons, to replace a wing-leader who was deemed insufficiently aggressive. They were stationed at Voelkel a few miles away.
This was another piece of good fortune because at dawn on January 1, 1945, every available German fighter, coming in on the deck, attacked all of our forward airfields. Einhoven was decimated and several pilots of 143 wing were killed. Voelkel got off lightly and we had only 5 aircraft damaged. It being New Year's Day, we were all hung over and I was asleep.
The next couple of months we were busy attacking trains, cutting railway lines to try and stop the movement of V-2 rockets into Holland and generally doing whatever damage we could. The only time we made the newspapers was when we got word through intelligence that a meeting of German generals was taking place at lunch time in a large house on the borders of Holland and Germany, so at one o'clock the entire wing attacked it with rockets. We destroyed the house and apparently killed a large number of German generals. This got good press in England and my name was mentioned once more.
By the end of February I was getting rather tired of all this, and was greatly relieved when I was told that I was to be posted to a staff job in Brussels. So I and my faithful batman drove a jeep along icy roads and found ourselves staying in a large hotel in Brussels where life was a great deal more comfortable than it had been in the field.
I thought my period of encountering danger was over, but it wasn't. Shortly after arriving in Brussels I was given a week's leave to fly back from Brussels to London as a passenger in a small service transport that carried about eight passengers. When we got on board the cloud base was only about 200 feet, so as soon as we were off the ground the pilot climbed up above the muck and set course. We flew for what seemed to be ages, I got a little nervous, and went up front and said, "Where are we?" and he said, "Well, I don't really know, sir, the radio isn't working." So I said, "Well, let's go down and take a look." We went down through the clouds and found we were over the sea. We didn't know whether we were over the channel or the North Sea or what, so I said, "Well, something is wrong. Let's get up above the cloud again," and when we did I checked our direction by using my watch as a compass against the sun and found that the compass on the plane was about 40 degrees out. I asked him what was in the nose and he said, "Oh my God, I just realized they put a large tin trunk in the nose of the airplane and that has buggered up the compass." Well the only thing to do was to fly back south so as to hit the French coast. We got down under the cloud again, flew due south and in about 30 minutes flew right over the middle of Dunkirque which was still occupied by the Germans. They let fly with everything they had, including throwing things, the plane was riddled with bullet holes, the navigator was killed and both tires were punctured, but we somehow by jinking got over Dunkirque and found a small airfield where we landed. From here I got another transport the following day, when the weather was better, did get back and had two weeks leave with Jean, who had moved to London.
The rest of the war was spent doing staff work which entailed flying a Tempest or a Spitfire back to London twice a month until the end of the war which occurred in May. I was demobilized in November, the war was over, and by some extraordinary circumstance, I was still alive.


Victories Include :

13 Feb 1942
12 May 1942
6 June 1942

8 July 1942
19 July 1942
22 Oct 1942
one Ju88
two Ju52/3Ms
one Me109
one MC202
one Ju87
one Ju87
one Me109F
damaged OTG
238 Sqn.
250 Sqn.

5 - 4 / 0 / 3  plus 1 damaged OTG

He claimed 5 destroyed but no confirmation available at this time

Score from 'Aces High' by Shores & Williams


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--- English Aces ---

--- Canadian Aces ---


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Photos and "Memories" kindly submitted by Mike Jr. Thanks mike !

On these pages I use Hugh Halliday's extensive research which includes info from numerous sources; newspaper articles via the Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation (CMCC); the Google News Archives; the London Gazette Archives and other sources both published and private.

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