Again, at Shobdon, I was talking to a lady whose relative had been a radio operator during the war, and this brought to mind a great book I have read recently: “Night Fighter Navigator: Beaufighters and Mosquitos in World War II” by Dennis Gosling DFC. I was particularly interested in his account because in many ways it mirrors that of my father, who also flew Beaufighters and Mosquitos as a night-fighter. His long-standing navigator was Flt Sgt Ralph Gibbons, and Dennis Gosling’s book gave me a rare glimpse of the story from the navigator’s point of view. My father’s experience of the RAF was almost universally positive and friendly; Dennis Gosling’s was not like this at the beginning of his wartime career but later he realised he had been unfortunate and his later squadrons were much more welcoming, with the social integration of rank and class more like that of my father’s remembrance. I found it a good page-turner, even though it’s not a traditional ‘action-packed’ account of war, and would recommend it for an interesting and touching read.
Category Archives: Aviation
Chattie and I have been very kindly invited to be present at the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) Fri 11th to Sunday 13th July at Fairford, Gloucestershire. Chattie will be proudly on display in the Cotswold Club area of the site, next to the runway. I would love to meet anyone who cares to say hello to me while I am there.
I have been asked why I pictured my father with a Spitfire when he flew Mosquitos during the war. There are two answers to that. The first is that Dad flew 14 different aircraft altogether (not including different marks of aircraft). The second is that it’s not a Spitfire, it’s a Defiant. Boulton Paul Defiants flew in the Battle of Britain, but were better designed for attacking slower bombers than interception in fighter combat. Yes, there is a similarity of outline to the Spitfire, and this meant that they could masquerade as Hurricanes or Spitfires in a crowded sky but were marked out when German fighters found them on their own, and shot down easily. The tell-tale giveaway is the perspex blister behind the cockpit on top of the fuselage: a gun turret housing the gunner, which means that is therefore a two-man plane not a solo job like the Spit and Hurricane. Defiants suffered heavy losses in the Battle of Britain, see http://www.raf.mod.uk/history/boultonpauldefiant.cfm , but the time Dad flew them in July 1941 in 456 Squadron at RAF Valley in Anglesey, and then 256 Squadron at Squires Gate, Blackpool, they were being used as night-fighter planes, defending cities in the North West from German bombing, for which they were better suited. There were still problems with them, however, and they were not universally popular.
Dad also flew Hurricanes and a few Spitfires in his time, as well as the aforementioned Mosquito. ©Elizabeth Halls 2014
Let me introduce you to Chattie Chu Chu, my Singer Le Mans 9 special, which is a similar model to the one my father, Bryan Wild, bought towards the end of the second world war, when he was a night-fighter pilot with 25 Squadron, based at Castle Camps in Cambridgeshire.
This is the car in which I will be visiting all of the airfields he landed at during the war – nearly 60 of them, raising money for the RAF Benevolent Fund as I go, together with a couple of other charities. This commemorative project will mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, and I am writing a book which will use the airfields to tell the story of how the RAF developed into a force that was crucial in winning the war.
I do hope you will follow me.
My father (Flt Lt Bryan Wild) learned to fly at Prestwick in 1940, on Tiger Moths. Amazingly, and thanks to some legwork by Ian Grace of Prewar Prescott, he has traced one of the Tiger Moths which my father flew back in those days, and it is still flying. Perhaps you can imagine how wonderful a connection that is for me. Moreover, its owner has kindly agreed to fly it overhead at Prewar Prescott, where Chattie will be on show. If only my Dad could see this! While working on his memoirs ‘Flying Blind: the story of a night-fighter pilot’ (to be published in August this year by Fonthill Media), I have discovered the networked world of aviation enthusiasts to be highly knowledgeable and helpful, and here is another case in point.
Ian Grace’s is from a family that worked for the De Havilland factory during the war, and he himself is restoring a Tiger Moth of his own. If you’re interested in Tiger Moths, visit http://www.n5490.org/.