Ground Control and I are going back to Kidderminster tomorrow to pick up the Sprinter (still loaded up with Chattie) after its service. A rather expensive service, as it turns out, but at least we know the Sprinter is good and roadworthy. We had to take it to the Mercedes-Benz dealer, and as I chatted to their Service Advisor, Andrew Brown, he said, ‘My father was in the RAF, too’. Turns out his father, Thomas Royster ‘Roy’ Brown, was a Ground Crew engineer with one of the reconnaissance squadrons. ‘In fact,’ said Andrew, ‘It’s funny you should come today, because I’ve got this with me; it’s from a Spitfire’ and he reached down beside the desk and picked up a piece of equipment that looked like something you might use for technical drawing. See photo:
Andrew Brown, with equipment from his father’s Spitfire reconnaissance squadron, used to translate the photographic information into accurate compass bearings and miles to target.
Andrew explained that his father worked on the photographs brought back by the reconnaissance Spitfires, taking the plates off the aircraft and analysing them, in order to work out the distances and degrees on the photographs and translate them into miles and readable navigation routes. These would then be fed back to the bomber squadrons, pinpointing the target and how they were going to reach it: a vital part of the ability of Bomber Command to get its planes to target successfully. This piece of equipment Andrew is holding, calibrated for this purpose, was used in this way by his father.
Meanwhile, Chattie is in good – if rather overwhelming – company!
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.
The photo shows pilot Bryan Wild and his gunner, Stanley (Ack) Greenwood, preparing for take-off in a Defiant at Squires Gate, December 1941.
Dad also flew Hurricanes and a few Spitfires in his time, as well as the aforementioned Mosquito. ©Elizabeth Halls 2014