Journey

Everybody has a book in them, or so it's said. But it's something else again getting it onto the page and to a place where it might be shared.

I have been writing since I was a young child. Always, my dream was to see my name on the spine of a book. Books gave me life, a dream to live by. Through their portals I could escape so easily into other worlds. Books also saved my life ... yes, really!

This is the story of my books and my journey as an author, including a very personal view of my journey through Life. I hope it will inspire and give hope to writers and readers young and old.

Getting published can be a waiting game. It's hard .. and getting harder. But then sometimes it can happen in an unexpected way and suddenly, we truly are living our dream. And we realise that it isn't after all the winning that is important, but the journey that is ours along the way.

I would love to hear from anyone who connects with what is written here. A signed copy of any of my books is available. You have only to write and ask:

janineharrington53@gmail.com







Tuesday, 31 December 2019

IN MEMORY: ARTHUR REID & STAN FORSYTH DFC, 192 Squadron, RAF 100 Group


Veterans Arthur Reid & Stan Forsyth DFC, 192 Squadron, RAF Foulsham
Taken by Stuart Borlase, RAF 100 Group Association Reunion 2018
All through the year, I have thought of my two valued friends, Arthur and Stan pictured with me above, and as we prepare to cross the threshold into 2020, I feel compelled to share their stories as a mark of respect, honouring two distinguished gentlemen, passing on their legacy that others might come to know about their commitment and bravery in wartime. Meanwhile, their families remain equally loved as part of my worldwide Family of Kindred Spirits. 

Arthur and Stan both served in 192 Squadron, RAF 100 Group, under Bomber Command. Based in Norfolk, they returned to their wartime haunt in May 2018 to our RAF 100 Group Association Reunion held each year. On this occasion, they were to meet for the first and last time. From their first moment of coming together it was as if Time stood still. They were nineteen-year-old again, full of high spirits, with sparks of mischief twinkling in their eyes, making it easy to imagine them in uniform - scallywags, Joshing one another, vying to see who might win 'the lady'. They were an absolute joy to be with, and made Reunion 2018 all the more special for being there.

Sadly, Stan (right of the picture) died later that year, 22 September 2018. While Arthur slipped away at 12.49 on Saturday 14 September this year, 2019, just short of his 99th birthday.

Christmas will have been especially sad for both families, and my heart goes out to them as we remember the lives they touched with their laughter and merriment.

We WILL remember them ... Always!
  

The following writings offer a brief insight into Arthur and Stan's characters and lives, showing them as two very precious individuals who, despite being conquering heroes, committed to saving their country from tyranny, remained humble, yet defined by their experiences of the Second World War.


ARTHUR BAXTER REID
‘Per Ardua ad Astra: Through Hardships to the Stars’

Arthur Reid beside a Halifax prior to final operation

RAF SERVICE

Arthur was initially on Home Guard duties, waiting to enlist in the Royal Air Force, which came in Autumn 1940 when he joined as a Volunteer, training as a Wireless Operator and Air Gunner, known in the business as a WOPAG. However, unlike most other WOPAGs, he was posted to 192 Squadron, RAF 100 Group, Special Duties, at RAF Foulsham. He felt this a good omen at the time given his address was 192 Morningside Road, Edinburgh! The task of this very clandestine Squadron was the delivery of Radar Countermeasures in support of the Allies. Other tasks included carrying a German-Speaking civilian in the aircraft who operated behind a black curtain hidden from the rest of the crew. Their task was to lure Luftwaffe fighters away from the main Bomber Force, imitating their Radio Controller in their own language - German. In all these missions, Arthur and his crew never met this civilian who boarded the plane after all crew were in position, leaving before the crew exited. Using highly classified equipment, Arthur would search for and identify German Radars on ships, aircraft, and even German submarines, and jam them.

His role in the aircraft was key to the whole operation and he even admitted that, most of the time, missions he flew from Foulsham, Norfolk, were so secret he had no clear idea as to their real purpose. Arthur would operate equipment such as 'Airborne Cigar' known as the 'ABC', and the 'Airborne Grocer'.  Using these advanced jamming measures he could deny the enemy use of their Radar and radio. It was a risky business for many reasons. Missions invariably involved Arthur and his crew to fly close to or over hostile territory for considerable periods. 192 Squadron operated between Norway in the north, and the Bay of Biscay in the south. These special Operations were 'Top Secret', far more so than those of the main bomber crews who could write in their Log Books detailed accounts of their targets. Most missions in Arthur's Log Book read 'Cross Country' - a typical understatement, as if he were out on a picnic on a very fine day!

These clandestine operations were often carried out at night, searching for and jamming Radars controlling Luftwaffe fighters who themselves were trying to create havoc with our main Bomber Force. One of Arthur's first operations in 192 Squadron was in support of a 1,000 Bomber Raid on Cologne. They lost 46 aircraft and 300 airmen in that night alone. But they could have lost more but for Arthur and his crew jamming crucial radio frequencies.

Special Duty Operations attracted particular attention from the enemy as powerful Jammers used often highlighted their own position and Luftwaffe fighters would be directed towards them. The term 'Hammer the Jammer' became well known, yet Arthur survived 34 of these highly dangerous missions.

When war ended in 1945, Arthur was posted to Ceylon for 12 months to open a new Wireless Communication Unit in Kandy (Camp name). This was to assist in bringing home all Far East members of the Forces. His Service ceased in 1946.

RANKS (in order of promotions)

AC2 VR (Aircraftsman Second Class)
AC1 (Aircraftsman First Class) – N/A
LAC (Leading Aircraftsman) – N/A
Sergeant
Flight Sergeant
Pilot Officer
Flying Officer
F/Lt (Flight Lieutenant)

DUTIES

Enlisted as a Wireless Operator (W/Op) and Air Gunner (WOPAG). Arthur progressed to F/Lt Signals Officer, remaining as such until demobbed in 1946.

MEDALS

Aircrew Star – (for Aircrew only)
Atlantic Star – (Coastal Command, for Naval Duties)
Italy Star – (in lieu of DFC)
Bomber Command Medal
1939-1945 Medal
Good Conduct Medal/Service Medal

In later years awarded:

Bomber Command Clasp
France's highest award: Legion d'Honneur








SQUADRON INFORMATION

The Squadron was made up of a fleet of 15 planes:

·         8 Wellingtons
·         4 Halifax
·         3 Mosquito

JOINING A CREW

On joining the Royal Air Force, recruits had to go through a three-day Medical in a building in Edinburgh. At the time, everyone wanted to be a Pilot and be the one in charge! Unfortunately, Arthur, who would have liked to fly a plane, was unsuitable as his mathematics were considered insufficient. However, RAF aircrew were among the fittest men in the war, so he felt it a privilege to fly with them.

All aircrew were volunteers. This was strictly adhered to and no-one was called up to the RAF. The RAF had a unique system of picking crews. After training was finished, aircrew were left on the Parade Ground. The now fully trained men stood until a Pilot asked if they wanted to join his crew. When on Operations, the Pilot was always in charge of the plane and the crew.

TRAINING

Morse code was taught in Blackpool tram sheds. There were so many thousands of trainees that most of the side streets in Blackpool were full of Squads learning all the drills. From there, Arthur went on a six-week Air Gunnery Course in Wales. The new crew was posted to an OTU (Operational Training Unit) and finally for more radio communications at Yatesbury Camp in Wiltshire.

Flight Sergeant Arthur B. Reid

THE CREW

Normally a Wellington crew consisted of:

·         Pilot
·         Wireless Operator
·         Navigator
·         Rear Gunner
·         Front Gunner


From left to right: Tosh Lines (Rear Gunner), Don Baird (Flight Engineer)
Jones (Pilot), Steve Tinkler (Navigator), Arthur Reid (Wireless Operator)


Arthur went on to become part of 100 Group Special Duties (SD) in the lead 192 Squadron. Another crew member was a civilian highly trained in the job he was doing. In Bomber Command, there were only a few Squadrons specially trained to carry out a Special Duty of Airborne Counter Intelligence, which was important top-secret work. This duty involved the seeking out of enemy frequencies (battleships, planes, submarines) and jamming them. This would nullify enemy communications. 

COASTAL & BOMBER COMMAND

Strictly speaking, an operational tour consisted of 30 missions. However, in late Spring 1944 near the end of Arthur’s tour, the RAF Higher Command temporarily extended the number of Ops required to complete a tour. Arthur completed 34 operations, recalling two types of operations:

Bomber Command - flying into enemy territory,
Coastal Command - from Norway to the coast of Spain.

·      OPERATIONS


Enigma Machine

A combined Air Force and Navy operation in the Bay of Biscay obtained the surrender of a German submarine. The Naval Captain, on searching the submarine, was intrigued by a strange-looking instrument (above). He had no idea what this machine was used for but brought it back to port. When handed over to the RAF, it turned out to be so valuable it became one of the main reasons for the war ending. It was called the ‘Enigma Machine’. At the time, no-one had any idea what it was used for, but when given to Back Room civilian people, it took a long time to find its purpose, but ultimately discovered it was the German method of issuing information by code. From that point on, nearly every German order was decoded by experts at Bletchley Park. At the same time, the enemy never found out the RAF had broken their code.

Arthur was involved in this complex Operation, working closely with the Royal Navy. When a German submarine was disabled in the Bay of Biscay the Enigma Machine was captured. This was a huge asset to the Allies and arguably shortened the war, although Arthur wasn't aware of this at the time, or just how important the 'find' would prove to be. Only after the war was it recognised that, had it not been for the stoic, dedicated and skilled Operations of men in 100 Group of which 192 Squadron was a key element, 1,000 more of our bombers and 7,000 aircrew would have been lost.

Excerpts from Arthur's Log Book highlight stressful moments characteristically with one or a few words inserted in pencil. After a daring and stretched mission of 8 hours, 40 minutes, to the Bay of Biscay; Arthur had pencilled 'engine' in his Log Book. On the lengthy return flight, one of the Wellington's engines just ran out of oil! On another operational mission he nonchalantly wrote in his Log Book: 'landed with the main spar cracked'.  Unbelievable! There is no doubt Arthur was fortunate to survive. 


OPERATION HYDRO

A Mosquito from 192 Squadron discovered and photographed ‘Peenemunde’ which was the area used to develop the V-Bombs (Flying Bombs). 596 heavy RAF Bombers were deployed on the mission where 40 of these were lost. The partial success of this mission proved to delay the V-Bomb attacks on England by six crucial months.

SECOND OPERATION

Flew from Feltwell – Lossiemouth – Thurso. Arthur wrote in his Log Book: ‘In Ambush. Bad start!’
The crew had dinner at Thurso, then joined another raid of 70 planes to discover a German battleship. The crews had to fly at 50 feet off the water, which was the only method of flying under enemy Radar screen. Arthur’s plane broke down halfway, meaning they had to turn back. The rest of the raid continued, but when they arrived in Norway, there was no battleship, just a large number of German planes. This resulted in 14 planes being lost.

DRESDEN RAID

At this time, the Russians had invaded Germany. They demanded that the British were not doing enough, so the RAF were sent on a raid. During this raid, the RAF used 450 planes at night, while Americans bombed in daylight with 250 planes. Dresden was an old city mainly built of wood. When the raids began, there were so many Incendiary Bombs they caused a flash fire.

Following the Dresden raid, which lost so many lives, Prime Minister Winston Churchill who had always stated that his bombers were the main part of the war effort, effectively turned his back on them. This was probably because a General Election was due, and he felt it prudent to distance himself from any further involvement. His Victory Speech when war ended highly praised his ‘Battle of Britain fighters’, without one word of praise for Bomber Command.

It meant that many thousands of men and women such as Arthur and Stan Forsyth received no recognition or reward in the aftermath of war, and today remain in the shadows. Too many have taken their secrets to the grave, and we are indebted to those like Stan and Arthur for having told their stories that we can come to know and understand that which would otherwise be lost to us forever.

NUREMBURG RAID

Nuremburg was home to the German Army. This was one of the costliest raids in Bomber Command’s history. Everything went wrong that night. During Briefing, crews were told there would be heavy cloud providing shelter, winds would be mild, temperatures normal. However, on arrival, the skies were clear. Winds had changed direction. Temperatures were ice cold. This resulted in the heaviest losses Bomber Command had endured. In total, 97 planes were lost, with a further 100 crashing on their return or on landing. Losses were so heavy that, next morning, Bomber Command were in shock!!

The loss of any raid was felt most in the morning. At breakfast, there would usually be 80 or so men, but with so many empty seats, everyone knew a raid the night before had suffered heavy losses. The RAF was so efficient that, by lunch time, these seats were usually refilled.

Arthur counted himself lucky to be part of the Special Duties Squadron. Most of their operations were carried out in daylight. Also, the civilian on board could speak German, and on a few occasions, when near enemy planes, was able to divert them, giving false messages which did not please enemy Controllers. In total, Arthur was credited with 34 operations. Every recruit kept a Log Book of Operations. Daylight operations were marked in blue ink, night-time operations in red.

Arthur’s first Operation was a 1,000 Bomber Raid on Cologne during which 45 planes were lost.

OFF DUTY

Once Arthur finished his training, he was posted to Lossiemouth for a year in a Ground Radio Station. One thing Arthur remembers is that a plane required a Test Flight for a raid the next day. A Pilot and Arthur were detailed to carry out this Test. The Pilot was anything but pleased, and after carrying out this required Test, decided to fly very low over the Officers’ Mess. This was called a ‘shoot up’. Unfortunately, he overshot the runway, ending up in an adjacent field. The plane started burning. The Pilot escaped through his escape hatch, leaving Arthur in the plane on his own. He eventually got out okay and gave a Report of what had happened. Next morning, Ground Crews were sent out to strip the plane to find that the front gunner guns were gone. This was most unusual and puzzled everyone. So, they were sent to investigate and, in the village, nearby, eventually discovered them in a cottage mounted in a cross shape above the fireplace.

On another occasion, Arthur was grounded by the doctor for a few days with Conjunctivitis. The crew he would have flown with the next day did not return!

FINALLY …

The 1939-1945 conflict caused Bomber Command to lose the lives of 59,000 men, with hundreds more missing. Arthur always said that these men were the bravest of the brave and it was disgraceful how their country turned against them. He shared his experiences, with the help of Sarah Reid, his granddaughter, in order to keep alive the memory of these brave men. He remained passionate to the end that they should never be forgotten, nor the sacrifice they made.


Arthur and Sarah Reid


NOTE: It was just as I finished writing up dear Arthur’s story in our RAF 100 Group Association magazine, that Arthur's son shared sad news:

Arthur Senior has gone Home to Our Father. Very peacefully, he is at rest in the arms of our Lord and with Stan (Forsyth). He slipped away at 12.49 on Saturday 14 September, just short of his 99th birthday in October …’

I write now, just as I wrote then ... My thoughts and prayers remain with you, my Angels of the North, during this sad time. Your precious father will not be forgotten, and retains a special place in my heart xxx



In addition to the above, something further happened this year, reported in The Mail, 9th September 2017. Boultbee Flying Academy are establishing a new Base in Scotland, and were seeking from the RAF Benevolent Fund a WWII Scottish Veteran to assist them. The Reid family were already involved in working with the RAFBF, and Arthur was approached. After giving it a bit of thought, he volunteered for a flight in a Spitfire. This was to be his first flight since 1st June 1945, 72 years ago. He was 97 years old the following month, so it came as an unforgettable day out.

The day’s full events are recorded on:



At war’s end, Flight Lieutenant Arthur Reid stepped out of an Avro Anson aircraft believing he would never fly again. The date was 2 June 1945. That part of his life was over. He had lost friends, seen things he would never want to see again. Now all he needed was to get back to loved ones and live a ‘normal’ life.

Yet at 96 years old, this 192 Squadron Signals Officer was again airborne … and in the cockpit of a Spitfire!

The irony is that, in seven decades, his family had been unable to convince him to return to the skies, even for a holiday. So why now? The answer lies in the fact that it was his ‘other family’ who was asking … his RAF Family. The RAF Benevolent Fund asked if Mr Reid would fly in a refurbished Spitfire, marking the launch of an Operation aimed at giving Scots the opportunity to fly in classic fighter aircraft from Cumbernauld Airport, Lanarkshire. At first, he declined. But then, because it was on behalf of the RAF, he changed his mind.

He had faced appalling odds in wartime. There was a time when he came down with conjunctivitis and had to miss an operation with his crew. All who did fly on that operation were killed and never returned home. There was also a time during a training exercise when the crew of a Wellington perished as its wings came off on landing, with the aircraft exploding. When his own Wellington came down moments later, the same fractures were discovered on its wings.

Despite these memories, just over a week on from being asked to participate, Arthur Reid climbed into the rear compartment of a two-seater version of the Spitfire. It was raining. But nothing was going to spoil his day! His family watched, wondering what he was thinking and how he felt. Then after a circular tour, he was back over the runway, chuckling, having thoroughly enjoyed his trip.

Veteran Arthur Reid after Spitfire ride

Veteran Arthur Reid with his family on day of Spitfire ride

Armed Forces Day 25 June 2016, representing RAF Benevolent Fund 

Receiving Legion d'Honneur, French Consulate, Edinburgh,
10 November 2018

Legion d'Honneur: France's Highest Order for
Military Activities - awarded for part played on D-Day


*   *   *   *

THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD
Memories of Stan ‘Ginger’ Forsyth, DFC

As a family we all knew Dad, now 93, was in the RAF during the war and been awarded the DFC.  He never spoke of his war experiences, but he talked about returning to Norfolk to find old air bases where he was stationed. A few years ago we took Dad back to Norfolk and it was on that trip we discovered and joined the RAF 100 Group Association which he’s been involved with ever since. It’s a long journey by car from Norwich to Liverpool. On the journey home after our first 100 Group Reunion weekend he started to share war experiences with us. It was clear Dad didn’t feel his story was special enough to put to paper - he was ‘just doing his job’ like other young men in Bomber Command. Meeting other Veterans at that first 100 Group Reunion we attended, listening to their stories, had a profound effect on my family. It made us realise how lucky we were that Dad had made it through the war and appreciated what sacrifices so many of Dad’s generation made. After much persuasion Dad agreed to let us record his memories so the men of 100 Group will never be forgotten, in tribute to those ‘who never made it home’.

Stan joins RAF in 1941, RAF West Kirby

'When war was declared I was 18, working as a postal telegraphist in Liverpool Head Post Office. Like many other working-class lads from the area I was keen to volunteer for Service and, gaining my employer’s permission to sign up. Completing necessary paperwork, I applied to join the RAF. The main reason for choosing the RAF over other Services was the idea of flying, something I’d never done. It seemed an exciting prospect. My dad served with the Cold Stream Guards in the First World War. He told me about his awful experiences in the trenches. I didn’t fancy that!

On joining the RAF in January 1941, I was posted to RAF West Kirby and on to RAF Skegness to complete basic training. I remember that time with feelings of excitement mixed with homesickness at being away from family for the first time. Like many others, I wondered where I would be sent next. This was decided when a superior discovered I’d been a telegraphist and told me this ‘made me a natural for wireless training’. I was duly posted to Blackpool for initial Wireless Operator training and later to Wiltshire for advanced wireless training.

Qualified as a Wireless Operator, I completed a Flying Course at RAF Mallom in Cumberland and a Gunnery Course at Stormeydown, South Wales, at the end of which I was promoted to Sergeant and given my ‘wings’. I was granted a week’s leave prior to reporting to RAF Cottesmore for Bomber Training and remember how proud I was returning home to see my family and fiancée with my ‘wings’ proudly on show.

The Liverpool I returned to was greatly changed having suffered severe damage from Blitz bombing. My family lived near the city centre and sights of bomb damage in my neighbourhood were a stark reminder of what war could do. It made me feel I’d been protected from the realities of war and began to realise just what I was about to get involved in. During that Leave I remember taking my fiancée Gertie to the Cinema and, because of a heavy bombing raid, ended up getting stuck overnight in the Cinema, unable to get home until the following day. Being young and in love we made the most of our time together, but emerging from the Cinema in daylight it seemed half the city had been destroyed. I’ll always remember the walk home, being met by my mother and future mother-in law who worried all night for our safety - they met us with tears of relief, mixed with anger at our stupidity for going to the ‘Pictures’ on the night of one of the worst bombing raids Liverpool endured.

During that week’s Leave I received a telegram cancelling my planned posting for Bomber Training, telling me instead to report to RAF Penrhos, Wales, to commence as a Flying Instructor. I was there from December 1942 until January 1944, during which time I was promoted to Flight Sergeant. It seemed my skills at Wireless Ops had also been noted during my training hence my posting as an Instructor. I was initially disappointed not being able to complete Bomber Training because, like most of my colleagues, I wanted a more ‘active’ role in the war. But I understood the RAF knew what was needed to win the war and we had to accept orders and the role we would play.

I made the best of the time in Wales with a great bunch of lads, enjoying the hospitality of farmers in the area and local produce. I even indulged my love of singing, joining two other lads to form our own Acappella ‘group’, performing at camp concert nights. Such was our success that our reputation spread and we were even asked to perform at concert nights at local Army bases!

I remember one particular training flight in an Avro Anson whilst at Penrhos which turned out to be very eventful. On our return flight we encountered severe fog and suffered equipment failure. We had no idea where we were. Flying as low as we safely could, we tried to find a landmark to establish our location. After what seemed an age, we finally found something - a Tower which loomed out of the fog so close we nearly demolished it – Blackpool Tower!  Using this landmark we followed the coastline down to Penrhos where I experienced my first crash landing, overshooting the runway directly adjacent to the sea. Thankfully the Pilot did a great job of putting us down safe on the beach and we climbed out of the plane and walked across the beach towards Camp. As we neared the fence, we were met with lots of staff waving madly at us - we thought they were just glad to see us, but then realised they were frantically trying to warn us we were walking through a live minefield!!! We all reached Camp safely and I remember feeling I had must have a Guardian Angel looking out for me - a feeling that stayed with me for the rest of the war.

In January 1944 I was called for an interview at the Air Ministry in London for ‘Special Duties’. I remember feeling excited. I’d never been to our Capital City and had no idea what ‘Special Duty’ had in store. After a successful interview, I was posted to 192 Squadron at RAF Foulsham with Bomber Command.

I didn’t see much of Norfolk the first 3 months as I was put immediately onto an intensive course of training with new Radar equipment, essential in my future role as a ‘Special Operator’. Along with other lads we commenced training, which I was told would normally take a year, but we had only three months to complete! We worked day and night, breaking off only for meals and a few hours’ sleep. We didn’t mind as we knew we had an important role to play in helping win the war. As part of the training we were sent to various RADAR stations along the Kent coast to observe Operations. Here I experienced the awful shelling from Germans across the Channel, reinforcing my view that I was glad I joined the RAF, giving more respect for lads in the Army who faced that kind of ordeal all the time.

Upon completion of my special training, I had three Air Experience trips where I practiced new techniques learned before finally joining up with my crew. I was attached to an established crew at Foulsham consisting of F/O Ken Macdonald a Canadian pilot, F/S Stan C Crane a Canadian Navigator and fellow Canadian Bomb Aimer F/S Barney E Vanden (later nick-named: ‘Vital’ as we never actually carried any bombs on operations, but he was invaluable in many other ways!). The British part of my crew comprised: F/S Don Maskell Mid-Upper Gunner, Sgt Paddy Nevin Rear Gunner, Flt/S Geordie W McCann as Wireless Operator and Sgt Les Coggins our Flight Engineer.

Stan Forsyth, left on front row, with crew

Joining an established crew was a daunting prospect for all of us. Aircrews bonded like a family unit with established ties and rituals. But I couldn’t have wished for a better bunch of lads who accepted me into the fold quickly. I was nicknamed ‘Ginger’ being the only redhead in the crew. We lived, worked and slept together and established friendships like no other I have made since. I was to complete all but two operations of my first Tour with this crew and grateful to do so as we were lucky to come home unscathed from most of our flights.

To maintain our good luck we had our own special rituals, including everyone urinating on the rear wheel before take-off - probably as much from nerves and a desire to avoid using the bucket on-board reserved for anyone caught short! Our Pilot Ken had a little old doll he wouldn’t fly without and I remember our driver being sent back to the locker room on more than one occasion when he forgot to bring it with him - we never flew without it and she certainly was our lucky mascot. Ken was a man short in stature but large in character and he almost had to stand up to reach the pedals when landing the plane. He was affectionately nicknamed  ‘Gill’ - Canadian lads called him ‘half-pint’, but us British lads soon changed that to ‘Gill’ a smaller measure being too short for a ‘half-pint’!

My own lucky charm was an English pound note I carried on every operation. Before each flight we were issued with a sealed pouch containing foreign currency so that, if we had to bale out, we had local money to assist our plight. I also believed an English pound note would help if I needed to prove I was British. I hid it in my flying gear each trip. Thankfully I never needed it, but to this day, more than seventy years on, I still carry that same note in my wallet as my own lucky charm.

Despite our lucky charms we had a few hairy moments during our Tour. I remember an encounter with a German FW190 over France which our Rear Gunner spotted attacking us from the rear. Whilst firing at the attacker, he ordered the Skipper to corkscrew to starboard and continued to fire, the fighter closing to within 200 yards. The German FW then dived away deeply to port and exploded on the ground, later claimed as ‘probably destroyed’.

As Special Operator, my location in the Halifax meant I couldn’t see much of what was happening inside and out during flights. This highlights in my memory one of only two Operations I carried out flying with a different crew.

I was already anxious because I wasn’t flying with my own crew, when I found I was to take part in a daylight raid to Essen with Squadron C/O: W/C Donaldson as Pilot. During the raid we flew above the mainstream, when one of our Lancasters a hundred yards below took a main hit from German A/A guns, exploding in mid-air. All I remember from my location on the aircraft was the noise and smell of the explosion. The Flight Engineer scrambled round the plane checking we were all okay and told me what happened - we were lucky to make it home, unlike the crew of the Lancaster who were all killed. When we left the craft that day and I saw how much damage we sustained I thanked God for our safe return and for once was glad that, as a Special Operator, I didn’t have a window to look out!

The equipment and Special Duties part of my role was regarded by Air Ministry to be of such importance I was not even allowed to let the rest of my crew know what I was doing. This resulted in much leg-pulling by the crew about my ‘activities’, especially as I was left on the plane under special guard. If we made any unexpected landings at other RAF Bases because of weather problems or refuelling needs, I had to stay on the plane with my ‘special equipment’ whilst they were off for refreshments etc. After any Operation, the first port of call for any Special Operator was to take all information gathered during the flight to our Superiors for debriefing purposes. At the time we didn’t realise just how important that information was or how it was used. Only many years later was it evident that Special Duties performed by RAF 100 Group actually served to alter the course of the war. Using information we retrieved, others working behind the scenes at places like Bletchley Park came up with targets and plans to ultimately defeat the enemy.

One such target was to prove my most memorable operation involving a trip to the Arctic Circle.

Stan Forsyth in position on Halifax aircraft

On 31 August 1944 my crew and four other Halifaxes were dispatched to RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland, instructed to perform a ‘signal search’ of Norwegian Fjords. Each Halifax had to investigate specific wireless frequencies and allocated its own individual waveband to search and monitor. We soon realised this Operation to be a ‘big one’ as each craft was fitted with three additional fuel tanks in the bomb bays to enable larger distances to be covered.

From my Log Book I recorded our take-off at 22.21 hrs and our return 07.17 hrs next day. I remember clearly the freezing conditions as the coldest ever experienced. With very low cloud most of the way up to Norway, we flew below cloud level to avoid wing flaps icing up. For much of the flight, visibility over the water was so limited the Rear Gunner had to regularly drop smoke bombs to determine the wind drift. Whilst the rest of the crew were working to get us safely to our target, my job was to keep my eyes glued to Radar screens and equipment, logging every signal I detected. I was so cold it was difficult to concentrate on the screens for over nine hours!

I was fortunate to pick up the hoped-for signal both on our outward and return flight over the target and duly recorded the location in my Logs. We made it back safely to Lossiemouth with the information, not realising until much later that the location I found was a gap in the enemies’ defence Radar. This information later led to successful sorties against enemy ships, the most important being the famous 'Tirpitz'.

I was later awarded the DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross) for my part in this Operation - an achievement of which I was very proud and I will always be grateful to the rest of my crew who I believe deserved to share it.

It was the skill and spirit of this crew that only a month or so earlier, 12 July 1944, kept us all alive when we were forced to crash-land on return from an Operation to Revigny in France. The port engine of the Halifax failed. We limped back to Foulsham to discover our braking system had also suffered damage. Our Pilot ‘Gill’ managed to get us down and we ended up off the end of the runway in the adjacent field, the undercarriage wrenched free and the aircraft practically on its side. Fearing a fire, we evacuated through the roof of the craft and scrambled to safety via the upturned wing, not realising we then had a 20-foot leap to the ground. Needless to say, we never let ‘Gill’ forget that landing and many a pint was sank to celebrate our safe return in local Foulsham pubs.

At the end of my Tour of Operations at Foulsham I was sad to be separated from my crew as I was chosen to be posted to RAF 100 Group HQ at Bylaugh Hall as Assistant Controller in the Operations Room, commissioned as a Pilot Officer. My role here was to co-ordinate information and orders between various Bases comprising 100 Group and Bomber Command and to prepare daily Reports on activities for the AOC at Bylaugh. I adapted to my new role and enjoyed the more luxurious surroundings of this lovely Estate. I even took up ‘hunting’ as the AOC had a habit of supplementing our diet with fresh rabbit and pheasants he shot on the Estate. I was taken along on these trips to carry the ‘spoils of the hunt’ back to the kitchen - needless to say for a lad from Liverpool these were not usual dishes on my menu!

In order to maintain our skills and additional pay received for ‘flying duties’, staff at Bylaugh were encouraged to keep up their flying hours using a few Tiger Moths kept at nearby RAF Swanton Morley. Naturally we all availed ourselves, flying to Bases up north, using it as an opportunity to have a quick unofficial visit home to loved ones. Whilst at Bylaugh I had the opportunity to meet a number of my war heroes including W/C ‘Tirpitz’ Tait who completed the task I started when locating the German battleship: 'Tirpitz'. The most amusing hero I met was Squadron Leader Micky Martin of the Dambusters who used a Tiger Moth from Swanton to perform the best low- flying aerobatics display I have ever seen over Bylaugh Hall, much to the AOC‘s dismay. I was ordered to find out ‘who that bloody fool was and tell him to report to the AOC on landing’. At the time I didn’t know the culprit, but when I found out I made sure his identity was never revealed. Both W/C Tait and S/L Martin went on to become regular staff at Bylaugh Operation Command.

At the end of the war in Europe I was posted to RAF Watton and resumed flying duties as a Special Operator. The war in Japan was still ongoing and we were preparing to move the Unit and Operations to Ceylon when the Atom bomb was dropped in Japan and all postings to the Far East postponed.

In 1946 I was finally demobbed as a Flying Officer and married my fiancée Gertie that year, returning to work for the Post Office.



Stan & Gertie, 1946, Wedding Day

In 1951, I was approached by the Army Postal Services and offered a Commission in the Army which I accepted and served for over seven years, enjoying the opportunity to travel and see the world. My family joined me for some postings and I earned the General Services Medal for my time in Malaya. Although I was to wear the uniform of an Army Officer, I always remained a ‘Fly-Boy’ at heart, much to the chagrin of my Army colleagues. I eventually left the Army in 1958 and returned to the Head Post Office in Liverpool where I remained until I retired in 1981 as Assistant Head Post Master.

I was happy to have further involvement with the RAF when my son persuaded me to join his local ATC Squadron in Liverpool and I was re-commissioned as Flying Officer for a 6 year period from 1965.It was a great time helping young people experience activities and benefits the RAF offered and made me value even more the friendships made as a result of my involvement with the RAF over the years.

Stan Forsyth DFC taken at RAF 100 Group Association Reunion 2017
with current serving Officers of RAF Marham who attended our day

May 2017 with my dear friend Stan Forsyth DFC

 Stan Forsyth DFC 
died 22 September 2018 

Arthur Baxter Reid 
died 14 September 2019, just short of his 99th birthday


WE WILL REMEMBER THEM!





















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