An exciting week is ahead of me, but the past exciting week still feels as if it is following me behind, and somewhere in between the two my brain is trying to keep up with things!
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Ahead of me this week is a trip to RAF Manston, one of the earliest airfields, first used in 1915 by the Royal Flying Corps. Here Barnes Wallis spent time testing the ‘dambusters’ bouncing bomb nearby. From here one of the bravest and most poignant moments of the second world war occurred when six Fairey Swordfish biplanes, under the command of Lieutenant Commander Eugene Esmonde, RN, of 825 Squadron took off in a desperate mission to try and stop the passage through the Dover Straits of the two German battle cruisers, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. They were about the only unit available in the sudden emergency. Promised fighter cover of five squadrons of Spitfires did not materialise in time and with only 11 Spitfires in escort they gallantly but hopelessly flew into the fray. They were set upon by Fw190s and Bf109s, and flew through smoke screens into a tremendous barrage from destroyers, e-boats and battle cruisers. There were only five survivors. Esmonde was not one of them. The full story should be read, as it is astounding from many angles. Please have a look at this if you can: http://www.channeldash.org/swordfish17.html
The most touching, for me, is the fact that the CO at Manston, knowing that Esmonde and his crews were taking off almost certainly to their deaths, stood on the runway and saluted as they went.
The history of Manston is awaiting me, and I will be meeting Joe Bamford,(instigator of Dad’s memoirs being written) who is currently writing a series of books on that subject. I can’t go wrong! Much to look forward to!
2 responses to “Kent and Midlands tour ahead”
Dear Ian, how interesting, and how poignant that is. Scott took part in two of the most famous operations in the war; what a pity he did not survive the second one. I should think your boss will indeed be pleased to find out all the information about his grandfather’s story.
Hi Elizabeth. Interesting you mention the Channel Dash. My boss’s grandfather (WO Gerald Scott) flew a Hurricane in support of the Channel Dash that day, and I researched it earlier this year for him. He only knew that his grandfather flew Hurricanes in the war and had disappeared over the Channel some time in 1942. I was able to determine his squadron, pinpoint his crash site and date in Holland. He was flying in support of the second Thousand Bomber raid that night when his engine failed and he came down in one of the many waterways – his body was never recovered. I obtained copies of 1 Sqn’s Operational Record Book where his sorties in support of the Channel Dash Swordfish were recorded. I expect to get an outstanding appraisal and pay rise this year. 🙂