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Enemy Coast Ahead - Guy Gibson VC

Joshua Slocum

LE
Book Reviewer
There was a Czech pilot - Josef František - who fought with 303 Polish squadron during the Battle of Britain. But he was too wild even for the Poles - who fought in a highly disciplined way in the air. So František fought a unique war.

Josef František - Wikipedia


He was killed when his Hurricane crashed on 8 October 1940.

Wordsmith
he is featured in the new film to be released soon

 
There was a Czech pilot - Josef František - who fought with 303 Polish squadron during the Battle of Britain. But he was too wild even for the Poles - who fought in a highly disciplined way in the air. So František fought a unique war.

Josef František - Wikipedia


He was killed when his Hurricane crashed on 8 October 1940.

Wordsmith
"as and when"? I don't imagine he took many days off. The notion of patrols specifically mopping up stragglers is a new one on me. It adds an element of pursuit and destruction that i have not seen elsewhere. Perhaps @Archimedes could add something.
 
Dad did his National Service in the mid-fifties as an MO with a Bomber Squadron. As part of that commitment he did some years AuxAF as well.
Some of his friends were old bomber pilots, very quiet about what they did, and all of them drank heavily.
(One of them gave a seven year old Dwarf his flying helmet which I wish I still had and which spent many an hour in my cockpit on my bed to the sound of 633 Squadron.)
Very nice, politemen. Curiously they didn't have a high opinion of Gibson as a person either.

I have the greatest respect for them, as has been pointed out they were ordinary men who did the job they felt they had to do. Yet I ask myself what about the men at the sharp end in any arm? The infantrymen that landed at D Day had a small chance of ending up unscathed at the end of the war. I remember reading about one Officer who realised that at the ceasefire there were just six originals left in the company, and none in the rifle platoons.
Ordinary men too, but whose only chance of getting out of it was death or wounds.

In today's modern society, would we still have that level of duty, commitment, honour or selfless bravery on such a widespread level?
 

Wordsmith

LE
Book Reviewer
I've recently read 'Bomber Offensive'. Written by Bomber Harris in 1947, it is a proper eye opener of how and why tactics and planning happened as they did. As primary source evidence, you will see bias - but what I found really interesting, and is not widely understood (I think) is the level to which not Bomber Cmd, not the RAF - but the government and Churchill in particular, influenced policy, in terms of both targetting and amount of resource dedicated to the bomber campaign.
It's an interesting read, but Harris 'remembered with advantages' when he wrote it, and you need to compare it against the official and staff histories.

For example, the attack on Lubeck in early 1942 was one of the Command's first real successes against a German target, but Harris doesn't mention it was on a relatively short list supplied by the Air Ministry. Nor does he mention he had to be effectively ordered to use a high proportion of incendiaries. The Air Ministry had PR coverage of UK and German towns analysed - there was more damage in the UK towns and it was caused by incendiaries. Harris wanted to drop largely HE - not 60% incendiaries as he was ordered to.

Similarly, Harris failed to mention his worst disaster of the war - Nuremberg, when he lost over 100 aircraft.

Harris was a great commander who made Bomber Command the weapon it was. But like all of us, he was not adverse to glossing over some of this mistakes.

Wordsmith
 

Wordsmith

LE
Book Reviewer
"as and when"? I don't imagine he took many days off. The notion of patrols specifically mopping up stragglers is a new one on me. It adds an element of pursuit and destruction that i have not seen elsewhere. Perhaps @Archimedes could add something.
The aircrew from eastern European countries like Poland and Czechoslovakia had begun to hear rumours of what the Germany were up to in their home countries. The RAF pilots were determined to defend the UK, but the Poles and Czechs flew with a special kind of hatred.

The station commander at RAF Northholt (where 303 Polish squadron were based) didn't believe their claims, so he joined them on one scramble.

One section of Poles gained a couple of thousand feet of height over the rest of the squadron. When the bombers were sighted, that section dived at the bombers in a head on attack. You have only to imagine sitting in the glazed nose of a He 111 to imagine the effect three Hurricanes coming at you with 24 machine guns firing had. When the bomber formation had been broken up, the rest of the Poles piled in.

RAF pilots often broke off firing at 250 yards. That was the range the Poles opened fire, some closing to as close as 25 yards before breaking off. At that range, they accepted that if they touched off the bomb load, they'd die alongside the bomber crew. The Group Captain (Victor Beamish) came back a very shaken man indeed and told Group that what the Poles claimed, they got.

The bomber crews had a similar attitude. They had no scruples about area bombing. They were just happy to have the ability to kill large numbers of Germans.

Wordsmith
 
and you need to compare it against the official and staff histories...
To a degree... I saw earlier in the thread someone mentioned the dreaded F540... my life I had forgotten filling in those... and have no intention of perusing them in my own time.

Some of Harris's bitterness comes through - but to a degree rightly so because he and his command were treated very poorly when compared to others in the post war largesse of rewards.
 
The aircrew from eastern European countries like Poland and Czechoslovakia had begun to hear rumours of what the Germany were up to in their home countries. The RAF pilots were determined to defend the UK, but the Poles and Czechs flew with a special kind of hatred.

The station commander at RAF Northholt (where 303 Polish squadron were based) didn't believe their claims, so he joined them on one scramble.

One section of Poles gained a couple of thousand feet of height over the rest of the squadron. When the bombers were sighted, that section dived at the bombers in a head on attack. You have only to imagine sitting in the glazed nose of a He 111 to imagine the effect three Hurricanes coming at you with 24 machine guns firing had. When the bomber formation had been broken up, the rest of the Poles piled in.

RAF pilots often broke off firing at 250 yards. That was the range the Poles opened fire, some closing to as close as 25 yards before breaking off. At that range, they accepted that if they touched off the bomb load, they'd die alongside the bomber crew. The Group Captain (Victor Beamish) came back a very shaken man indeed and told Group that what the Poles claimed, they got.

The bomber crews had a similar attitude. They had no scruples about area bombing. They were just happy to have the ability to kill large numbers of Germans.

Wordsmith
I'd heard of that (possibly from you elsewhere) and although they clearly were pressing home their attacks to a degree unmatched by their colleagues it was still part of the process of intercepting inbound formations. It was the notion of screwing a few extra percent out of each raid by pursuing and destroying the stragglers that seemed novel to me.
 
To a degree... I saw earlier in the thread someone mentioned the dreaded F540... my life I had forgotten filling in those... and have no intention of perusing them in my own time.

Some of Harris's bitterness comes through - but to a degree rightly so because he and his command were treated very poorly when compared to others in the post war largesse of rewards.
F540's and the like really ought to be scanned and subject to one of those citizen science data capture efforts.
 
Talking about RAF heroes, this is from a very good book I am currently reading, The Most Dangerous Enemy by Stephen Bungay:

Thanks to his early career in the Merchant Navy, Adolf Gysbert Malan was
known, fortunately perhaps, as 'Sailor' rather than as Adolf. Like his other
namesake Adolf Galland, Malan traced his ancestry to French Huguenots.
Given the uncertainties of maritime life, he decided to join the RAF in 1935.
Passing out as 'above average', he was posted to 74 Squadron in November
1936. His qualities were recognised early on, so it is not surprising that the RAF
did not allow the wrath of a young mother to blight his career. Following his
Squadron Leader's posting to Fighter Command HQ, Malan took over 74 on 8
August 1940, having effectively led it in the air for some time.

With sixteen claims and two DFCs to his credit, all gained over the previous
ten weeks, Malan was by then already a leading ace. Just coming up to
thirty, he was older than most pilots and this, together with his solid physique
and Sean Connery-style good looks, added to his natural authority. He was
quiet and serious, but had powerful charisma. One of the squadron's fitters has
recalled: 'I think Malan was the most wonderful man 1 ever met. Certainly, in
all my long service in the RAF, 1 never met another like him.'39

There was, by all accounts, something deeply impressive about this man.
He was modest and unfussy, an expert and a professional, but above all a teambuilder.
He was not interested in scores, although when the battle ended he was
the RAF's top-scorer. One of his Flight Commanders, Harbourn Mackay
Stephen, has commented:

I don't really know how many I shot down. Much has been written
about the competition between individuals in their quest to be top
scorer. Such competition in my experience did not exist. We all did
our job, which was to destroy as many of the enemy as we could. If
the opportunity presented itself then we took it as an individual, a
section or a squadron ... We were not in there for personal glory but
as part of a team, and in 74's case a very well disciplined team.40

Malan's pilots held him in awe and he drove them hard with constant practice.
Under his leadership his Flight Commanders, John Mungo-Park and Stephen,
became a formidable fighting pair and excellent leaders in their own right.
Malan was extremely aggressive in the air and unusual in being driven to some
extent by a hatred of the Germans.

He learned very fast and gave clear and insistent voice to his opinions.
After action over Dunkirk he had 74's guns re-harmonised at 250 yards instead
of 400. Based at Hornchurch, he discussed tactics with the CIOs of the other
two squadrons there, abandoned official RAF tactics and had 74 fly in loose
fours instead of vies of three. After the Battle of Britain he formulated his
famous 'Ten Rules of Air Fighting' which were widely circulated within Fighter
Command. Unfortunately, during the Battle itself his views were unofficial.
 

Wordsmith

LE
Book Reviewer
I'd heard of that (possibly from you elsewhere) and although they clearly were pressing home their attacks to a degree unmatched by their colleagues it was still part of the process of intercepting inbound formations. It was the notion of screwing a few extra percent out of each raid by pursuing and destroying the stragglers that seemed novel to me.
The Poles went about it in a very disciplined manner, getting into a suitable position before they attacked, with one section high and the rest in a position to pile into the bombers as soon as the formation had been broken up. František didn't care about tactics - he just broke formation as soon as the bombers were sighted and went for them. Hence being invited to fly as a 'guest of the squadron'.

František's tactics were his own - he just went where he could kill Germans.

I doubt they were officially sanctioned. Park, commanding 11 Group, constantly evolved his tactics throughout the battle. He was certainly flexible enough to have assigned a few more pilots to do what František was, had he heard about it. But I suspect Kellett - the English officer commanding the squadron - wisely kept the arrangement to himself. František was destroying a large number of German aircraft, and both he and Kellett were happy for their private arrangement to continue, untroubled by higher authority.

Wordsmith
 
The aircrew from eastern European countries like Poland and Czechoslovakia had begun to hear rumours of what the Germany were up to in their home countries. The RAF pilots were determined to defend the UK, but the Poles and Czechs flew with a special kind of hatred.

The station commander at RAF Northholt (where 303 Polish squadron were based) didn't believe their claims, so he joined them on one scramble.

One section of Poles gained a couple of thousand feet of height over the rest of the squadron. When the bombers were sighted, that section dived at the bombers in a head on attack. You have only to imagine sitting in the glazed nose of a He 111 to imagine the effect three Hurricanes coming at you with 24 machine guns firing had. When the bomber formation had been broken up, the rest of the Poles piled in.

RAF pilots often broke off firing at 250 yards. That was the range the Poles opened fire, some closing to as close as 25 yards before breaking off. At that range, they accepted that if they touched off the bomb load, they'd die alongside the bomber crew. The Group Captain (Victor Beamish) came back a very shaken man indeed and told Group that what the Poles claimed, they got.

The bomber crews had a similar attitude. They had no scruples about area bombing. They were just happy to have the ability to kill large numbers of Germans.

Wordsmith
My uncle came over from Poland during the 2nd half unpleasantness and was ground crew for spits - he stayed afterwards and married my aunt - a nicer man you not meet and would do anything for anyone, until someone mentioned the Germans and his face changed to one of raging anger and would go on a rant in Polish for about 10 minutes - and the one that did it most was my other uncle who served in the DLI in N Africa
 
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I've recently read 'Bomber Offensive'. Written by Bomber Harris in 1947, it is a proper eye opener of how and why tactics and planning happened as they did. As primary source evidence, you will see bias - but what I found really interesting, and is not widely understood (I think) is the level to which not Bomber Cmd, not the RAF - but the government and Churchill in particular, influenced policy, in terms of both targetting and amount of resource dedicated to the bomber campaign.
Churchill actively encouraged Harris in his area bombing campaign throughout, then distances himself from it at the end, as I’m sure we all already know. A bit of a low thing to do. The fact that Bomber Cmd went officially unrecognised for all those years is a travesty.
 
Here's a great quote from the book mentioned above , The Most Dangerous Enemy : " It was all beer , women and Spitfires, a bunch of little John Waynes running about the place. When you were nineteen , you couldn't give a monkey's " - Paddy Barthropp, 602 Squadron. Perhaps slightly tongue-in-cheek but nevertheless indicative. The lads joked about mates being killed or wounded , and there was no shame in throwing up before you got into the cockpit, which Ginger Lacey apparently did almost every time.
 

Wordsmith

LE
Book Reviewer
Churchill actively encouraged Harris in his area bombing campaign throughout, then distances himself from it at the end, as I’m sure we all already know. A bit of a low thing to do. The fact that Bomber Cmd went officially unrecognised for all those years is a travesty.
The situation was not helped by government policy during the war, which was to effectively deny area bombing was going on by indirectly implying that the attacks were targeted against German industry.

The first post war pictures of acres of destroyed housing in the German city centres provoked adverse public opinion, which led members of the War Cabinet - who had sanctioned area bombing in the war - to distance themselves from it and point the finger at Harris.

Although you might criticise Harris for continuing area bombing in the closing months of the war - when the German cities were effectively defenceless - for much of the war, he executed the policy determined by the War Cabinet and hence the Air Ministry.

Wordsmith
 
The situation was not helped by government policy during the war, which was to effectively deny area bombing was going on by indirectly implying that the attacks were targeted against German industry.

The first post war pictures of acres of destroyed housing in the German city centres provoked adverse public opinion, which led members of the War Cabinet - who had sanctioned area bombing in the war - to distance themselves from it and point the finger at Harris.

Although you might criticise Harris for continuing area bombing in the closing months of the war - when the German cities were effectively defenceless - for much of the war, he executed the policy determined by the War Cabinet and hence the Air Ministry.

Wordsmith
Yes indeed but didn't Portal have to eventually directly order Harris to cooperate with the Americans on attacking German oil and transport facilities, which he hadn't been keen to do?
 
The situation was not helped by government policy during the war, which was to effectively deny area bombing was going on by indirectly implying that the attacks were targeted against German industry.

The first post war pictures of acres of destroyed housing in the German city centres provoked adverse public opinion, which led members of the War Cabinet - who had sanctioned area bombing in the war - to distance themselves from it and point the finger at Harris.

Although you might criticise Harris for continuing area bombing in the closing months of the war - when the German cities were effectively defenceless - for much of the war, he executed the policy determined by the War Cabinet and hence the Air Ministry.

Wordsmith
If you ever go to RAF Cranwell, go to the Daedalus Officers' Mess, they have copies of the Bomber Command 'Blue Books' in glass cases outside the bar where you can see the % of every target destroyed - I think the King was given the other copies:

unnamed.jpg



Very sobering - and very satisfying.
 

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