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Week 16: Air

Flying, civilian pilots and air crew, RAF & Fleet Air Arm, ornithologists, fresh air ….

When I saw this week’s prompt I wasn’t sure I had anything to really write about and was intending to write about fresh air as most of the world including me are under lockdown in varying degrees and fresh air is something of a commodity for many people at the moment. I’m lucky, I have a garden and as the weather has been mostly kind I have made the most of it. Although only a short drive to the beach we are obeying the rules and not driving there for a walk, neither are we driving the short distance to the nearby South Downs.

Comparisons have frequently been made between the conditions now and those in wartime and as Terry Waite, held captive for 5 years said, “Change your mindset, you’re not stuck at home, you’re safe at home.” Writing about fresh air suddenly seemed trivial to say the least.

Two people who made the decision to sign up to fly in wartime had very contrasting fortunes.

These pictures are from different eras – the right hand side picture is of my maternal grandfather who joined the Royal Flying Corp in 1916 and was discharged as medically unfit for duty in September the following year. I have been told that he had pneumonia and spent much of his time in and out of hospital before he was eventually discharged. His casualty card also says that he was “liable to be sent a statutory order on 21/9/18 requiring him to present himself for medical re-examination under the Military Service (Review of exceptions). He was clearly very lucky that he war was almost over by that time.

Looking at his Casualty Form is interesting – his date of enlistment shows that he was just shy of his 17th birthday (14th March) and his service wasn’t reckoned until the month after his 18th birthday. His occupation on joining was a farmer and  his Corps or Trade was given as a ?? aviator.

His younger brother was too young to join up, but he gained his Royal Aero Club Aviators’ Certificates in September 1929 at the Phillips & Powis School of Flying; Reading and the certificate was taken on a D.H. Moth 60 h,p, Mark 1.

On the left is my paternal uncle Flying Officer Peter Lewcock.

He and his plane were presumed lost at sea on a mission between Fife and Norway in October 1944. He was 22, this was just two days before his first wedding anniversary and he left behind a pregnant wife – their daughter was born in the following June.

No. 547 Squadron

This squadron was formed in Coastal Command at Holmsley South on 21 October 1942. It was equipped with Wellingtons and was intended to operate in the anti-shipping role using both bombs and torpedoes. However in May 1943, it converted to the anti-submarine role by which time it was based at Davidstow Moor. A move to Thorney Island in October also brought re-equipment with Liberators, which it operated over the Bay of Biscay.

A further move occurred in September 1944, this time to Leuchars in Scotland, where it conducted anti-submarine patrols and anti-shipping strikes of the Scandinavian coast. It finally disbanded on 4 June 1945.

Liberator EW 299 of 547 Sqn (RAF) took off at 1604 hours on 27 October 1944 from (RAF) Station Leuchars, Fife, Scotland, to carry out an anti-submarine patrol close to the Norwegian coast from the Bergen area to the Skagerrak. The aircraft was due to return at 0345 hours on 28 October 1944 and failed to do so. No signals or messages were received from the aircraft. Assumed that aircraft and crew were lost at sea.                                                               

CREW MEMBERS

F/O Peter Frank Lewcock, RAFVR (55053) age 22, Pilot from New Malden, Surrey, England. 
P/O Thomas Keith Montgomery, RCAF (J35549) age 22 , 2nd Pilot from Lanark, Saskatchewan Canada.
F/O Robert Morse Cooper, RCAF (J17156) age 21, Navigator/Bomb aimer  from Montreal, Quebec Canada.  
WO Henry Charles White, RAFVR (1307039)  age 29, Wireless Operator/Air Gunner.                                         
P/O David Kenneth Caldwell, RAAF (422408) age 28, WO/AG from Goulburn, New South Wales, Australia.
WO Jack William Steed, RNZAF (40585) age 24, WO/AG from Mt. Albert, Auckland, New Zealand.
P/O Gordon Harries Tindall, RAFV (55920) age 25, Navigator/Bomb aimer from Liverpool, England.
F/O Robert McNaughton Buist, RAFVR (170647) age 30, Air Gunner from Rutherglen, Larkshire, England.       
F/S Peter Ashley Noel, RAFVR . (910694) age 24. Flight Engineer from Coventry, England.                           
WO1 Robert William Richard Shaw, RCAF (R110325) age 32 Wireless Operator/Air Gunner from Powell River, British Columbia, Canada.


British Royal Air Force, Airmen’s Service Records 1912-1939

Great Britain, Royal Aero Club Aviators’ Certificates, 1910-1950

Extract from: Powell River’s Unsung Heroes Of World War II

No. 547 Squadron RAF

No 541 – 598 Squadron Histories

This squadron was formed in Coastal Command at Holmsley South on 21 October 1942. It was equipped with Wellingtons and was intended to operate in the anti-shipping role using both bombs and torpedoes.

However in May 1943, it converted to the anti-submarine role by which time it was based at Davidstow Moor. A move to Thorney Island in October also brought re-equipment with Liberators, which it operated over the Bay of Biscay.

A further move occurred in September 1944, this time to Leuchars in Scotland, where it conducted anti-submarine patrols and anti-shipping strikes of the Scandinavian coast. It finally disbanded on 4 June 1945.

 

 

 

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