Londoners sheltering during the ‘Blitz’ owe their saving grace to a South African engineer.

During the Second World War, Londoners used the “Tube” underground rail system for air raid shelters, highly effective the tube system saved thousands of lives, but did you know that Londoner’s owe their saving grace to a South African – James Henry Greathead (6 August 1844 – 21 October 1896)?

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James Henry Greathead

Greathead was born in Grahamstown, South Africa; of English descent, Greathead’s grandfather had emigrated to South Africa in 1820. He was educated at St. Andrew’s College, Grahamstown and the Diocesan College private school in Cape Town. After migrating to England in 1859, he completed his education from 1859 to 1863 at the Westbourne Collegiate School, Westbourne Grove.

He returned briefly to South Africa before finally moving to London in 1864 to serve a three-year pupilage under the civil engineer Peter W. Barlow, from whom he became acquainted with the shield system of tunnelling.

He spent some time (around 1867) as assistant engineer on the Midland Railway between Bedford and London (working with Barlow’s brother, William Henry Barlow).

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Barlow-Greathead Shield

Soon after, in 1869, he rejoined Barlow and they began work on designs for the Tower Subway, only the second tunnel to be driven under the river Thames in central London. Barlow was the engineer for the tunnel and Greathead was in charge of the actual drive.

The tunnelling shield for driving the Tower Subway, while designed by Greathead, was inspired by Barlow’s ideas for a circular tunnelling shield which he had patented in 1864 and 1868.

The Barlow-Greathead shield consisted of an iron cylinder 7 ft 3 in (2.21 m) in diameter fitted with screw jacks which enabled it to be jacked forward. In use, the shield was inched forward as the working face was excavated, while behind it a permanent tunnel lining of cast iron segments was fitted into place, itself an important innovation.

Greathead patented many of his improvements including the use of compressed air and forward propulsion by hydraulic jacks, both of which are now standard features of tunnel construction.  Without Greathead and his patents, London would simply not have the underground tube system it has, and it was this very system that ironically also provided ideal shelter from German bombing raids on London.

The tube tunnel system was accessible from just about anywhere in central London, the stations were well-known to just about every Londoner and it was deep enough so as to provide ideal cover from bombing.

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The mage shows a London Underground Station during the “Blitz”. This was one of London’s most popular shelters is that which is to be found in a section of the London underground system which has been converted by tearing up the tracks. The advertisements remain pasted on the wall. Hats and coats are hung on nails which have been driven in between the bricks on the wall. People sleep on the platform and on the space which was formerly the track, this part stretching for a quarter of a mile.

The featured image shows London’s Aldwych underground tube station being used as a bomb shelter in December 1940. The image illustrates just how basic and uncomfortable the facilities were, but considerably safer than being above ground during the London Blitz.

During the war, Aldwych station was a major air raid shelter which could accommodate up to 1500 people and was equipped with first aid facilities and a canteen. The train service to Holborn was suspended on the 22nd September 1940 from when the station was used as a shelter.

In all 79 tube stations were used as air raid shelters by Londoners.


Researched by Peter Dickens. Photo – Imperial War Museum copyright, reference Wikipedia. Colourised featured IWM Photo – Colourised by Royston Leonard, copyright

A USA claimed South African born ‘Battle of Britain’ Fighter Ace

In all the United States lay claim to eleven (11) American pilots who took part in Battle of Britain, but one of them is a pilot who was not born or educated in America at all, he was born in South Africa and he took up British citizenship after he was educated in England.  The link, both his parents were American – so by default he’s an American too. Not to detract at all from the praise of any of these pilots by splitting hairs over birthright and citizenships, all of them deserve our highest acclamations regardless, so let’s look at another South African born military hero.Screen Shot 2017-05-26 at 17.51.57

Flight Lieutenant Carl Raymond (Ray) Davis DFC (30 July 1911 – 6 September 1940) was a South African born flying ace of The Battle of Britain, having claimed nine enemy aircraft (and one shared) destroyed, four (and one shared) probably destroyed, and four damaged, before he was himself shot down and killed in action.

Early Life

Ray was born in Krugerdorp, South Africa to American parents, he was educated in England at Sherborne School and read a Bachelor of Arts at Trinity College Cambridge.  He continued his studies at McGill University in Canada qualifying as a mining engineer.

53412846_1496615028When he turned 21 in 1932, he applied for and became a British citizen.  From a very well to do family background he met and married Anne Hope, Anne was the sister of Sir Archibald Hope. The marriage was celebrated in the local media such was the profile of the families.

601 Squadron

d386c471cd5f723b8f0bf177e9b09b7bRay learned to fly whilst visiting his sister in New Jersey and returned to the United Kingdom in 1935.  Living in London he joined 601 squadron, to serve along with his now brother in law, Sir Archibald Hope. He was commissioned in 601 Squadron in August 1936.

The Royal Air Force’s 601 Squadron was something apart from other RAF Squadrons, it was known as the ‘Millionaires Squadron’ and some notable pilots flew in it, Roger Bushell, another South African who became ‘Big X’ in The Great Escape (see earlier Observation Post article on him The Great Escape … led by a South African!), Billy Fiske another American who was a Bobsleigh champion and Max Aitken, the future Chairman of the Express Newspaper Group.

601 Squadron was formed when a group of wealthy aristocratic young men, all of whom were amateur aviators, decided to form themselves into a Reserve Squadron of the RAF after a meeting in White’s Club, London. The original officers were picked by the first commanding officer, Lord Edward Grosvenor, youngest son of Hugh Grosvenor, the 1st Duke of Westminter.  Grosvenor tested potential recruits by plying them with alcohol to see if they would behave inappropriately as gentlemen when drunk. They were required to consume a large amount of port. Gin and tonics would follow back at the club.

Grosvenor wanted officers of sufficient presence not to be overawed by him and of sufficient means not to be excluded from his favourite pastimes, eating, drinking and White’s (Gentlemen’s club).

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Ray Davis in 601 Squadron

The nickname “the millionaires squadron”, was gained because of the Squadron’s reputation for filling their ranks with the very ‘well-heeled’, and not just aristocrats but also sportsmen, adventurers and self-made men.

There would be no time for petty rules or regulations. But Grosvenor was nonetheless intent on creating an elite fighting unit, as good as any in the RAF and the pilots took their flying and fighting very seriously. Had it not been their reputation as very good, effective and efficient fighting unit, they would never have got away with all the flamboyant antics they got up to (some wealthy enough to buy cameras, the pilots even took to filming their escapades).

Most of these affluent young pilots had little regard for the rigid discipline of the regular service; they lined their uniform tunics with bright red silk, wore red socks and wore blue ties rather than the regulation black. They played polo on brand-new Brough Superior motor cycles, drove fast sports cars and most of the pilots owned their own private aircraft.

Becoming a ‘Ace’

When war broke out Ray Davis was called to full-time service on 27 August 1939. On 27 November 1939, he flew one of the six 601 Squadron initial Blenheims (they were later equipped with Hurricanes), which attacked the German seaplane base at Borkum.

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The feature image above shows “Hurricane Mk I UF-K of No 601 Squadron RAF while it is been serviced on the perimeter dispersal at RAF Exeter in mid-September 1940. This aircraft saw success with both Sgt Leonard N Guy and F/O Carl Raymond Davis.

On 11 July 1940, he shot down his first German Messerschmitt Bf110, and he added two more Bf 110s a month later on 11th August 1940 and quicky followed that with three more Bf 110s on the 13th August 1940.  With that his status of ‘Ace’ was secured.

Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC)

DFCLGHe awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross later that month on the 30th August 1940.  His citation reads:

“Flying Officer Davis has been engaged on operational service since 3rd September 1939.  He has taken part in nearly all patrols and interceptions carried out by his squadron.  He has been a section leader for the last two months, and on several occasions led his flight. F/O Davis has personally destroyed six enemy aircraft, and severely damaged several others. He has shown great keenness and courage”.

Ray went on to down five more German aircraft before his last fateful mission.

Ray’s last flight

F/O Carl Raymond Davis DFC was killed in action on the 6th September 1940.  Combat took place over Redhill, Gatwick, and Hayfield.  11 Hawker Hurricans from 601 Squadron were on patrol, including Ray flying in Hawker Hurricane P3363 code UF-W.

About 9am in the morning 50 German Messerschmitt 109’s were spotted at 20 000 feet, no enemy bombers were in the area.  The weather was very good and the 601 Squadron RAF fighters climbed to attack, a series of dog fights followed.   Ray was shot down by one of the Me109’s, he was killed instantly by two bullets to the head, his Hurricane crashed while inverted, with this his aircraft burned out in the back garden of Canterbury Cottage at Matfield near Tunbridge Wells. He was 29 years old.

He is buried near his family home in Storrington, West Sussex at St.Mary’s Church.

A brave man, a son of South Africa and one of Churchill’s ‘few’ who laid down his life for freedoms we enjoy today.  Lest we forget.

 


Researched by Peter Dickens.  Sources, Wikipedia, Aircrew remembers and 601squadron.com.  Featured image Imperial War Museum copyright, Colour By Doug Banks

 

South African Battle of Britain Heroine -Jackie Moggridge

jackie-moggridge-woman-pilot-close-3-useThis is a very special South African military heroine. Jackie Moggridge (born Dolores Theresa “Jackie” Sorour), during the Second World War she left South Africa for England and joined the ATA Hatfield Ferry Pool on 29 July 1940, being the youngest of the female pilots to take part in the Battle of Britain, aged just 18.

The ATA “The Air Transport Auxiliary” was charged with delivering new and repaired aircraft to front-line Royal Air Force squadrons and were flown by civilian commercial pilots and female pilots excluded from flying roles deemed as “combative” service at the time.

The initial plan was that the ATA would carry personnel, mail and medical supplies, but the pilots were immediately needed to work with the Royal Air Force (RAF) ferry pools transporting aircraft. By 1 May 1940 the ATA had taken over transporting all military aircraft from factories to Maintenance Units to have guns and accessories installed. On 1 August 1941 the ATA took over all ferrying jobs. This freed the much-needed combat pilots for combat duty. At one time there were 14 ATA ferry pools as far apart as Hamble,  Southampton, Portsmouth, and Lossiemouth near Inverness in Scotland.

The ATA recruited pilots who were considered to be unsuitable for either the Royal Air Force or the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm by reason of age, fitness or gender. A unique feature of the ATA was that physical handicaps were ignored if the pilot could do the job, thus there were one-armed, one-legged, short-sighted and one-eyed pilots, humorously referred to as “Ancient and Tattered Airmen”. However, most notably, the ATA allowed women.

Initially, to comply with the Geneva Convention, as many of the ferry pilots were nominally civilians and/or women, aircraft were ferried with guns or other armament unloaded, however I due course after encounters with German aircraft in which the ferried aircraft were unable to fight back, RAF aircraft were ferried with guns fully armed.

As part of unique and very brave bunch of pilots, mainly women, Our South African hero, Jackie safely handed over 1,500 aircraft during the war, 83 different types and 200 more than any other ATA pilot.

She had a very lucky escape on 5 January 1941 when ferrying an Oxford Mk I to RAF Kidlington, Oxfordshire, with no R/T to meet up with 1st O Amy Johnson who was bringing one in from Blackpool. Both went off course in adverse weather conditions, with Johnson following the rules, bailing out and drowning in the Thames Estuary. Sorour went down to a few hundred feet and found herself over the Bristol channel with 20 minutes fuel remaining. She claimed that she did not want to take to the chute because she had broken her leg during a parachute jump in 1938.

16195937_1899005106995145_1188220574573390828_nJackie also encountered a V-1 flying bomb in the air over Surrey while flying a Tempest. She altered course, fully intending to attempt to topple it with her wing tip but failed to catch up to it.  The standard practice in dealing with a ‘doodlebug’ (as the V1 was nicknamed) was a wingtip topple, it threw the flying bomb’s gyro off its intended target and sent it into open countryside instead of a city.  However the trick was to fly faster than the rocket to do it.  The picture featured shows this remarkable manoeuvre between a Spitfire and an unmanned V1 flying bomb.

Jackie was also the first woman in South Africa to make a parachute jump. (4,000 feet). She was South Africa’s youngest pilot of her time age 17 years. November 1959 was awarded Jean Bird trophy as Woman of the Year . She flew Lancasters, Spitfires and a variety of other planes as a RAF pilot during World War 2. She logged over 4,000 hours flying over Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.

She is best described by her Daughters “Jackie was like two women in one: artistic, romantic, forgetful and disorganised, but when she climbed into an aeroplane she became focused, calm and very capable – not our mother at all! She loved many things: singing, dancing, sewing and painting, but her main passion in life was flying. Up in the sky is where she belonged.”

“She really was two women in one. She was a real battler for women to get on in life and just could not imagine that there was anything she could not try to achieve. But she knew, and said, that as a woman she had to have the best results to be taken seriously.”

21265949._UY630_SR1200,630_She was a member of one very elite group and one of only five women to be awarded full RAF wings during the war, Jackie even campaigned to become the first woman to break the sound barrier but was prevented from doing so by the powers that be.

The actions of the ATA are best summed by Lord Beaverbrook in 1945 who said;

“Without the ATA the days and nights of the Battle of Britain would have been conducted under conditions quite different from the actual events. They carried out the delivery of aircraft from the factories to the RAF, thus relieving countless numbers of RAF pilots for duty in the battle. Just as the Battle of Britain is the accomplishment and achievement of the RAF, likewise it can be declared that the ATA sustained and supported them in the battle. They were soldiers fighting in the struggle just as completely as if they had been engaged on the battlefront.”

After she died, aged 81, in 2004, Jackie took to the skies one last time, for her ashes were scattered from the ‘Grace’ Spitfire ML407.

She is now proudly acclaimed as one of ‘The Female Few’ whose actions in The Battle of Britain and for the duration of the war brought us the freedoms we know today.


Reference Jackie Moggridge’s obituary and Wikipedia.   Researched by Peter Dickens

South African sacrifice in The Battle of Britain – P/O Frederick Posener

P/O Frederick Hyam POSENER, born on the 11th August 1916 in East London South Africa, a Jewish lad, son of Jack and Cissie Posener.  His father was an insurance agent and the family traveled regularly between South Africa and the Great Britain. He was educated at St. Andrew’s College, Grahamstown.

15284901_10210159757088884_3824330762325074957_nIn 1938 Frederick moved to Great Britain and joined the Royal Air Force (RAF) on a short service commission as part of the Empire Flying Training Wing.

He trained at 3 Flying Training School, South Cerney flying Hawker Harts, on completing his training he joined No. 152 squadron on the 1st October 1939, which was equipped at the time with Gloster Gladiators.

No 152 Squadron became the gift squadron of Hyderabad and took as its badge the head-dress of the Nizam of Hyderabad. Motto “”Faithful ally”

Frederick Posener was one of the first seven Pilot Officers to join the Squadron, and on the 25th November 1939 the “Blue Section” of B Flight, 152 Squadron went to Sumberg to reinforce the Orkney Islands 100 Wing.

On the 15th December 1939 Blue section at Sumberg was handed over to Coastal Command, however in the same month, on the 23rd December, whilst flying Gloster Gladiator N5701, Posener overshot on landing and spun in from 100ft, he was seriously injured in the accident and on recovery he rejoined 152 Squadron at Acklington.

Posener transferred with the Squadron on the 12th July 1940 to the forward Fighter Station at RAF Warmwell in Dorset, the squadron by this time had been equipped with Mk 1 Spitfires.

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Taking a break: July 1940, Pilots of 152 squadron based at RAF Warmwell in Dorset

Death

On the 20th July 1940 in Spitfire K9880 P/O Frederick Posener took off at 12:45 as “Green 3” of B Flight to cover petrol convoy Bosom just off Swanage, 7 miles south east of the coast line in the English Channel, he was acting as a “weaver”.

He was seen still in his position at 10,000ft as the convoy was reached, he was about 200 to 300 yards behind RAF Spitfire “Green 2”.  At this position he was shot down by Oberleutnant Homuth flying Messerschmitt Bf 109 3/JG 27, the lasts word heard from him was “tail”, he then baled out of his Spitfire which then crashed into the sea. He was seen to land on his parachute in the sea near to the convoy but to the rear and starboard of it, this went unseen by the convoy and he was never seen again, he was 23.

Gerhard_HomuthOberleutnant Gerhard Homuth was one of the top scoring German Luftwaffe aces in the Second World War. He scored all but two of his 63 victories against the Western Allies whilst flying the Messerschmitt Bf 109, especially in North Africa, he was later promoted to the rank of Major.  He was last seen on 2 August 1943 in a dogfight with Soviet fighters in the Northern sector – Eastern Front whilst flying a Focke Wulf 190A. His exact fate remains unknown.

P/O Frederick Posener is named on the Runnymede memorial, Panel 9, one of the “South African FEW”, lest we forget.

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Reference: The Kent Battle of Britain Museum and Battle of Britain London Monument and Wikipedia.  The featured image shows P/O Frederick Posener on the left, E.S. Hogg and W. Beaumont are to the right of him.

‘Stapme’ the handlebar moustached South African & Battle of Britain icon

Squadron Leader “Stapme” Stapleton DFC Dutch FC was born on May 12th 1920 in Durban, South Africa, he died on April 13th 2010, aged 89.  He was truly one of the most remarkable characters ever to fly for The Royal Air Force in the Battle of Britain, D Day and Operation Market Garden, as this Daily Telegraph “Aircrew Remembered” obituary column outlines:

1307_10153714899566480_6236182998249877025_n“Tall, blond and sporting a splendid handlebar moustache, Stapleton was the epitome of the dashing fighter pilot. As the Battle of Britain opened in July 1940, he was flying Spitfires with No 603 (City of Edinburgh) Squadron and saw action off the east coast of Scotland. He shared in the destruction of two German bombers before his squadron moved to Hornchurch in late August as the Battle intensified.

Within a few days Stapleton had engaged the enemy fighter force escorting the Luftwaffe’s bombers, and was credited with probably destroying two Messerschmitt Bf 109s. By the beginning of September No 603 was one of the most heavily involved squadrons, and Stapleton accounted for a Dornier bomber on September 3 and a Bf 109 two days later – the latter flown by Franz von Werra, who later became famous as “The One who Got Away”, being generally regarded as the only Axis PoW to escape from Canada and make it back to Germany.

On September 7 Stapleton’s Spitfire was hit by enemy fire, but he managed to force-land his badly damaged aircraft. A young couple having a picnic in an adjacent field gave him a restorative cup of tea before driving him back to his airfield.

On September 15 (Battle of Britain Day) Stapleton shot down a Dornier bomber and damaged a fighter. By the end of the Battle on October 31, he had destroyed two more Bf 109s and probably a further three. On November 11 he gained his final success when he shot down a Bf 109 over Ramsgate. A few days later he was awarded a DFC.

During that summer of 1940, 13 of his colleagues were killed and others seriously wounded – including his friend Richard Hillary (later the author of The Last Enemy), who was badly burned.

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A day with No. 603 (City of Edinburgh) Fighter Squadron who have 128 German aircraft to their credit. The picture shows: Pilots of City of Edinburgh Squadron with their latest addition, a Spitfire presented by natives in Persia.

When reflecting on the Battle in later life, Stapleton observed: “Despite the casualties, when I look back, I recall we also had great fun. It was an exciting time and we made the most of our opportunities to live it up. We tended to treat each occasion as if it were our last.”

Basil Gerald Stapleton was born in Durban, South Africa, on May 12 1920 and educated at King Edward VI School in Totnes, Devon. He entered the RAF on a short service commission in January 1939 and, after a brief spell flying Blenheim night fighters, joined No 603 Squadron.

It was while he was with 603 Squadron that Stapleton got his nickname, “Stapme”. It derived from the exclamation habitually uttered by the newspaper cartoon hero “Just Jake” whenever he spotted an attractive girl. Much to the irritation of his flight commander, Stapleton would pin the daily cartoon strip to the squadron’s notice board.

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Captain A.R.P Reilly-Ffoull was from the wartime cartoon strip ‘Just Jake’. Just Jake ran for 14 years in the Daily Mirror newspaper.

In March 1941 Stapleton was rested, but he soon volunteered to fly Hurricanes catapulted off the deck of a merchant ship sailing with the North Atlantic convoys. He completed four trips without seeing any action before embarking on a second tour of operations as the flight commander of a Hurricane squadron (later Typhoon), flying bomber escort operations over France.

In August 1944, after a period as a gunnery instructor, he was put in command of No 247 Squadron, operating from advanced landing grounds in Normandy – where he discovered ample supplies of Calvados; he not only enjoyed drinking it, but also found it effective fuel for paraffin lamps and his Zippo lighter.

He soon arranged for the squadron intelligence officer, an excellent artist, to paint a logo on the nose of his Typhoon. It showed a Nazi swastika topped by a burning eagle – the result of a strike by a 60lb rocket in the centre of the swastika. He named it “Excreta Thermo”, but the more prudent intelligence officer did not include this wording in case Stapleton crash-landed in enemy territory. In the event, this proved a wise decision.

Stapleton flew his first operation on August 27, when his rocket-firing Typhoons attacked barges on the river Seine. Within days, No 247 started heading eastwards to occupy abandoned German airfields as the Allied armies advanced towards Paris and Brussels. Stapleton and his pilots attacked enemy transports and armour against fierce anti-aircraft fire.

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Ground crews loading 3-inch rocket projectiles onto Hawker Typhoon Mark IB, MN317 ‘ZY-B’, of No. 247 Squadron RAF at B2/Bazenville, Normandy.

On September 17 the squadron was briefed for “a very important task”: the support of the airborne operations at Nijmegen and Arnhem. Stapleton led the initial attack by eight Typhoons against German gun positions threatening the British Second Army’s advance along the road to Eindhoven.

Over the next two days Stapleton led more formations against the enemy, but bad weather forced some sorties to be aborted. The squadron then moved to Eindhoven, where the Typhoons landed between the bomb craters.

After a rowdy night, when much champagne was consumed, his Jeep ran out of fuel returning from the officers’ bar and he had to jump clear as the following vehicle failed to stop in time. Stapleton hit his head on the kerb and needed eight stitches above his eye.

For the next two months Stapleton led many formations against gun emplacements, road and rail traffic and ferries before the German Army launched its counter-attack in the Ardennes on December 17. For days the weather prevented any flying; but finally it cleared sufficiently for eight Typhoons to carry out an armed reconnaissance sortie on December 23.

Despite still dreadful weather, Stapleton pressed on and attacked a train at low level with rockets; but the flying debris from the exploding steam engine punctured the radiator of his Typhoon and his engine failed. He was fortunate to find an area of open farmland in which to make a forced landing.

He had come down two miles on the wrong side of the battle lines and was taken prisoner. He was taken to Stalag Luft I, and remained a PoW until May 2, when the camp was liberated by the advancing Russian Army.

On January 1 1946, Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands awarded Stapleton a Dutch Flying Cross for his part in the operations at Arnhem. A month later he left the RAF, believing that he would not fit in with a peacetime air force.

Stapleton joined BOAC, flying West African routes for three years before returning to South Africa. There he spent six years as a technical representative with Dunlop, then seven years as works engineer with Sprite Caravans. Whilst living in Botswana he escorted tourists on photographic safaris in southern Africa before returning to Britain in 1994.
DSC_0208_galleryTo many people Stapleton was one of the real “characters” to survive the war. His favourite aircraft was the Spitfire, and when a colleague described it as “beautiful and frail, yet agile, potent and powerful” Stapleton responded: “I always wanted a lady like that.”

He was a great supporter of the RAF’s Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, and in 2007 one of the Flight’s Spitfires carried his personal markings. He was also a regular at many Battle of Britain commemorative events; but his greatest devotion was to the No 603 Squadron Association. With his flamboyant ties, large floppy hat and luxuriant moustache, he was immensely popular at the many events he attended.

A biography, “Stapme” by David Ross, was published in 2002″.

Reference Daily Telegraph Obituary Column, wikipedia, Image copyright Imperial War Museum

South African Battle of Britain hero: David Haysom DSO DFC

South African Durban High School Old Boy, Wing Commander Geoffrey David Leybourne Haysom DSO DFC, seen here during the Battle of Britain in the leading Hurricane is another very unsung South African hero.  Read on for his remarkable story.

David Haysom was born in Durban, South Africa in 1917. He was educated at Durban High School (DHS) and then went on Natal University College and Edinburgh University in 1936, where he gained a BSc. He intended to continue his studies in medicine, but after enjoying a chance opportunity to fly an airplane, flying became his passion. He gave up medicine in early 1937 and enrolled as a cadet officer in the Royal Air Force. He was commissioned in late 1937 and began his initial training on 18th March 1937.

Haysome went to No. 1 RAF Depot Uxbridge on 18th May for a short induction course before being posted to 2 FTS Brize Norton on 5th June. After completing his training he joined the staff of the School of Naval Co-operation at Ford on 8th January 1938. He joined 79 Squadron at Biggin Hill on 1st November 1938.

Haysom was detached from 79 Squadron to the School of Air Navigation St. Athan on 6th May 1940 for No. 6 Short Navigation Instructors Course. He rejoined 79 Squadron on 31st May.

Near Abbeville on 8th June 1940 Haysom shot down a Me109 over Le Treport. He was appointed ‘B’ Flight Commander on 17th June with the rank of Acting Flight Lieutenant. He took temporary command of the squadron from 7th to 11th July after the CO, S/Ldr. JDC Joslin, was killed.

On 15th August Haysom claimed a Me110 shot down, on the 28th he made a forced-landing at Appledore Station, near Tenterden, when his glycol system was damaged in combat over Hythe.

On 30th August he probably destroyed a Me109, on the 31st shot down another and on 1st September damaged a Do17. Haysom shot down a Ju88 on 20th November 1940 which had been photographing damage caused in the German raid on Coventry.

DFCLGOn 1st April 1941 he destroyed a He111 and on the 4th he shared in damaging another. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross DFC (gazetted 29th April 1941) and commanded 79 Squadron from June to 25th September 1941, when he was posted away to 51 OTU at Debden for Controller duties.

His DFC Citation:
“This officer has been engaged on operational flying since the war began. He has displayed great keenness in his efforts to seek and engage the enemy and has destroyed at least five of their aircraft.”

In mid-1942 Haysom was posted to the Middle East and he joined 260 Squadron on 19th July, possibly as a supernumerary to gain experience on Kittyhawks. Three days later he was promoted to Acting Wing Commander, to become Wing Leader 239 Wing in the Western Desert. At the end of his tour Haysom was awarded the Distinguished Service Order DSO (gazetted 16th February 1943), being then credited with at least six enemy aircraft destroyed.

His DSO citation:

“Wing Commander Haysom has been on operational flying since the commencement of the war. He has destroyed at least six enemy aircraft and has twice been shot down himself. He has led his wing on many fighter-bomber and long distance flights. He has always displayed the utmost determination. The success achieved by the wing has been largely due to this officer’s skill and courage.”

Distinguished_Service_Order_correctHe went on to the Italian Campaign where he was working in operations command, and privy to the Ultra Secret. Here he devised the air-born strategic planning system that became known as “Rover David”  – an instant success that was used against enemy aircraft in the invasion of 1944. (Called “Rover Joe” it is still used by the United States Air Force, which acknowledges David Haysom as the originator of the air support system.

He ended the war at the rank of Group Captain (the Royal Air Force equivalent of Colonel in the Army) and was released from the RAF in 1946.

A typically unassuming hero, he never spoke to his children of his war experience, he never considered himself a hero or boasted about being an fighter ace. He died in 1979.

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The featured image shows three Hawker Hurricane Mark IIBs of No 79 Squadron RAF based at Fairwood Common, Glamorgan, flying in ‘vic’ formation above South Wales. The pilots were, the South African Commanding Officer, Squadron Leader G D Haysom (leading aircraft, Z3745 ‘NV-B’), and his flight commanders, Flight Lieutenant R P Beamont (nearest aircraft, Z2633 ‘NV-M’), and Flight Lieutenant L T Bryant-Fenn (furthest aircraft, Z3156 ‘NV-F).


Researched by Peter Dickens.  Image copyright – Imperial War Museum. Geoffrey David Leybourne Haysom – Spitfire Society Trust ZA by John Mackenzie

The RAF ‘South Africa’ title worn during The Battle of Britain

This is a famous ‘Battle of Britian” photograph of Squadron Leader Adolph “Sailor” Malan from South Africa sitting in a Royal Air Force Spitfire,  have a close look at his shoulder tab.

It’s a shoulder title issued to Royal Air Force (RAF) officers from South Africa, being ‘SOUTH AFRICA’ embroidered in light blue onto a RAF blue/grey arc of fabric.

During the Second World War many from Empire and Dominion countries joined the Royal Air Force, as did men from occupied countries such as Poland.

Shoulder titles were worn to signify the wearer’s country of origin. The titles were usually embroidered in pale blue capitals on a black background, or red on khaki drill for tropical kit.

Titles for officers were usually curved, and rectangular for other ranks. Excluding those worn by personnel from occupied countries, there were 42 titles issued officially, plus a number of unofficial ones. The wearing of such titles was abolished in the RAF April 1948. A title for South Africa was authorised in March 1941.

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Images – Imperial War Museum copyright