The Lady in the Lake - a sunken Spitfire

by David Daniells in York, North Yorkshire, United Kingdom

Total raised £6,605

raised so far

93

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£5,500 has been spent on a successful magnetometer survey. The next step is raising £2,000 for a core sampling survey. More details below...

by David Daniells in York, North Yorkshire, United Kingdom

11.02.2024 - Update

It has been a while now since there has been any news on progress in the hoped for recovery of The Lady in the Lake, Supermarine Spitfire Vb AD377 QV-L, late of 19sq. The magnetometer survey undertaken last year, made possible by supporters of the project, revealed the presence and location of substantial remains. An exhaustive search of the site from the surface by Anglian Divers produced nothing except some 1.5v dry cell batteries from the TR.9 radio battery pack – the conclusion being that the returns on the magnetometer were from ferrous metal that had sunk beyond reach of the surface. Encouragingly, expert opinion held that the magnetometer readings matched what would be expected if the aeroplane as she appears in the 1942 photographs had sunk through the silt layer to the clay/gravel bed in the intervening years. 
Following on from this discussion with various authorities took place on the subject as to how to proceed. The magnetometer results, although confirming the location, give no depth information whatsoever and this is essential for the next stages. Core sampling was examined – driving plastic tubes to the bed and withdrawing samples to get the depth information and perhaps recover some parts of the airframe. This method is hit and miss, blind man’s buff, and is invasive and requires substantial equipment. Therefore a sub bottom profiling of the site was decided upon, a sophisticated ground penetrating radar capable of providing detailed imagery and the crucial depth data. 
I was approached in June last year by a company, who shall remain nameless, who had the necessary equipment and expertise and offered to do the job. This was excellent but as the weeks dragged on there was always some problem with availability of equipment or personnel and this dragged on until October until my patience was exhausted and I looked elsewhere. Thankfully I found GeoAcoustics of Great Yarmouth and a very competent ally in Richard Dowdeswell, the proprietor of the company which manufactures all manner of marine surveying equipment. I went to see him and he understood straightaway the nature and ethos of the project. I was to provide a boat and crew, thank you Sean and Ellie Sizeland of Anglian Divers and after consulting diaries and other commitments a date was settled on.
Saturday morning, the 3rd Feb, saw a team assemble in a nearby boatyard and during the next few hours the site was comprehensively mapped with some extremely sophisticated kit. I wish to place on record my indebtedness to the redoubtable Sean and Ellie Sizeland for supplying a boat and crewing it (and a bed for the night), to Richard Dowdeswell of GeoAcoustics for his understanding and expertise and his son Rory who was a great help on the day. Heartfelt thanks also are due to Amanda Prosser of Amanda Prosser Films who shot video and drone footage as a record of proceedings and a video will be prepared as time allows.
The hoped for results of our efforts are firstly to provide sufficiently detailed data to enable a physical recovery of AD377 – plans will have to be drawn up and submitted to the various authorities for approval. Secondly it is hoped that some parts of AD377 can be located at a depth which can be reached from the surface – something to see and hold would be precious. The data from the survey is now to be processed and hopefully married to the magnetometer survey and we should be a good step forward.
Finally I wish to thank all those who have continued to follow and support the project. Anyone wishing to contribute funds would be very welcome to do so – a lot of time has been spent and each trip is a mind and bum numbing 500 mile round trip for me (and Amanda). I can see that more expense is going to be incurred in the drawing up of plans and various other requirements and whilst I am happy to pay my own way in what is my own endeavour it would be a great shame to have progress slowed for lack of funds. All contributors in whatever capacity will be recorded and their names will go with the project in perpetuity. I am ever conscious that this is not about me but about those who gave their all for the freedoms we enjoy so carelessly today and on whose shoulders and graves we stand.

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18.07.2023 - Update

Further news of our Lady in the Lake...

Following discussions with Olympic Civils and Marine of Rackheath, Norfolk a core sampling of the site will take place as soon as the necessary permissions and notifications are made. This will involve a floating pontoon and coring equipment with the objective of retrieving an identifiable piece of Spitfire, as well as gathering information for the recovery of the entire remains. This step is necessary because although it is thought certain that the aeroplane is there – the magnetometer survey located the right returns in the right place – whatever the returns are, they are too far down to reach from the surface.

There are the batteries, which, I am pleased to say, have been confirmed as 99.9% from the aeroplane. 

Authorities are few and far between but, thanks to Allan’s Virtual Radio Museum, it is now known that the 120v battery pack which powered the TR9 radio did contain 80 1.5v dry cell batteries of the type recovered, arranged 10 x 8 in a waxed cardboard box (see pictures). I had thought by this date, April 42, all frontline Spitfires carried VHF sets which were powered from the main battery in the rear fuselage. However research had indicated that AD377, ordered as a MkII and completed as a Vb and delivered from Castle Bromwich in November ’41 would have been fitted with a TR9 and that there was a shortage of VHF sets well into ’42 until US made Bendix sets became available in quantity. Seemingly, when AD377 broke her back, the cardboard box split and scattered batteries on the surface. As they were found located in the middle of the magnetometer returns there is solid evidence of the presence of our Lady. All of this, with the associated research and paper trail, is well and good but solid proof is needed before proceeding to the main prize, a major step. Hence the core sampling which will cost approximately £1000 a day, which expense I am having to find as I go along. With the help of all those who have contributed so thoughtfully and generously good progress has been made and with your continued support I will do my level best to bring about the raising of AD377. Where the story goes then cannot be foretold but I am determined to set AD337 on the road to restoration and in the UK. 

Fascinatingly, recently two Spitfires, TE517 the famous AR501, flew together at Shuttleworth, both having been flown by Jaromir Strihavka operationally. Jaromir flew AD377 more than anyone and she was his favourite on 19sq. (July Flypast) How fabulous would it be to add a third! 

Finally, for those of you of a superstitious or romantic disposition, the site is presently inundated with twitchers due to the appearance of a black-winged kite, the first ever recorded in the UK. Some may even see the echo of a Spitfire’s wings in those of the kite. Whatever, I’m taking it as a good omen. 

Pictures

3 x battery

1 AR501, Jaromir Strihavka in cockpit

1 Black Winged Kite

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12.07.2023 - Update

The latest update on the quest to recover AD377 is that following several weeks of careful searching of the topside of the site by Anglian Divers, led by the redoubtable Sean, is that no further finds have been made following the recovery of the batteries on the first day and nothing that would account for the magnetometer returns on the survey by Land-Scope. (the current thinking on the seven 1.5v dry cell batteries is that they are from the 120v battery pack which powered the TR.9 radio located under the set in a cardboard case, approximately under the aerial in the fuselage - ie 80 x 1.5v. These would seemingly have burst from the battery case and scattered across the surface of the site as the rear fuselage broke).
Following consultation with several authorities including eminent professional marine archeologists, the conclusion is that the magnetometer returns are from a source too deep to reach from the surface and, assuming they are AD377, the aircraft has simply sunk to the bed of the Broad beyond reach of the surface. (a limitation of the magnetometer is the lack of depth data). 
Therefore the next step is to core sample the site with a view to getting accurate depth information and hopefully recovering something that will prove that what is down there is AD377.
A professional company has been approached to perform this operation and, after inspecting the site, have said that over two days they can core sample the magnetometer returns in order to obtain accurate depth data and crucially some part of the air frame in order to prove that there is indeed a Spitfire down there. 
As things stand there is the paper trail and associated evidence, the photographs, the magnetometer returns and the batteries which indicate we are in the right place. With some physical evidence from the bottom of the Broad a position will be reached from which a deal with a media outlet, tv or film, can be made which would facilitate the construction of a coffer dam and a complete excavation. (approaches have been made to me in this direction). 
In the meantime there is the problem of raising the £2000 that the core sampling will cost so I am appealing again to interested parties for contributions towards the cost – over the two years and more I have spent on this I have put in cash over and above that which was raised so generously by public subscription (not to mention the time and the grey hairs) and which made it possible to get the project to where it is today.
All contributors names (except those who wish to remain anonymous) are being collected on a roll of honour which will go wherever the aeroplane goes, the ambition is to have her back in the skies, in the UK, and a fitting tribute to and reminder of those incredible men and what they fought and died for. Contributions can be made at the crowdfunder site where updates on progress can be found, as well as on the Facebook page. Thank you all for your support and help.

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30.05.2023 - Update

Now to a puzzle if any of you Spitfire types can help. During the preliminary examination of the site the divers recovered seven of these dry cell 1.5 or 2v batteries (see photograph). They are 3 and a half inches x 1inch in zinc cases and have the remains of wire soldered on top, presumably where they were connected in series or parallel. They appear to have been packed tightly together and encased in rubber or tar. From their age and appearance and where they were fished out they would seem likely to come from our Lady of the Lake. I know such dry cell batteries were packed in a waxed cardboard case but I do not know of any application they might have been used for in a Spitfire, the main battery of which used a wet cell battery/accumulator clamped in the rear fuselage.

Has anyone seen these before? Ancillary battery pack? AD377 was delivered from Castle Bromwich in October 1941 having being ordered as a MkIIa and completed as a Vb with, as far as is known, a VHF radio fit.

(To view the image, please head over to our Facebook page OR click on the video above).

07.05.2023 - Update

29/30 March saw the magnetometer survey by Land-Scope on the area where AD377 came to her watery demise with the object of locating and pinpointing the site. The results produced significant returns in the area expected of the right characteristics and the returns mapped. It remained to be proven however that the returns were AD377. Further discussions with Land-Scope indicated that although further surveys of a different technique such as sonar or ultrasound would give more information and add to the picture it would still not be conclusive. It was decided therefore that, rather than spend more money on such an approach, the best way forward was to attempt to physically retrieve parts of the aeroplane. 

Enquiries led to Anglian Divers, a local diving club with specialist equipment and local knowledge, led by the indomitable Sean. A preliminary outing was arranged for the 1st May, the Bank Holiday, (another 430 mile round trip for me and Amanda Prosser) and Sean organised a boat, four divers including his lovely wife (with hot chocolate) and a local historian, and various detecting equipment. During the day they reconnoitred the site and recovered some parts which appear to be from an aircraft and are awaiting verification.  The general consensus is that whatever is giving the magnetometer returns is too far down for “bog snorkelling” and the team are considering the best way forward to search deeper. 

We were honoured on the day by a visit from Alexander Strihavka, whose father, Jaromir, flew AD377 more than anyone, indeed she was “his” aeroplane and his favourite. Out of the 163 hours recorded on the AM.78 Record Card Jaromir flew over 83 hrs in total on AD377, logging 80 separate sorties – over 40 of them operational. His logbook, which Alexander kindly shared, reveals that he was not flying AD377 on the 15 March 42, when she is recorded as suffering a flying accident. The repairs were carried on site by a Civilian Repair Organisation, who would undertake the work when it was beyond the capabilities of the squadron, and must have been substantial as she was not back on strength until the 21st. Jaromir flew an air-test on her on the 28th of 45 minutes followed by an aileron test, presumably having wanted some kind of adjustment following the re-rigging of the controls. This was the last time he would see AD377 because he went on leave, not flying again until the 4th April, during which time Rudolf Borovec had made his flight in AD377 with its unscheduled arrival in a Norfolk Broad. It is possible that the repairs and inevitable disturbance of the aeroplane’s systems have some bearing on the subsequent engine failure – if the recovery of the engine and the rest of AD377 is brought about perhaps we will find out!

Alexander is passionate about his father and his distinguished flying career and has assembled a mass of information, photographs and documents. He very kindly gave an interview to camera and was taken out on the boat with his wife to see the site. We were desperate to find something conclusive on the day for him but had to be content with the few unidentified parts that were recovered. The events of the day were recorded by Amanda Prosser and the film is being edited for publication. Thank you all again that are following and supporting the project – it is frustratingly slow progress but progress nonetheless.

26.04.2023 - Update

Following on from the magnetometer survey recently undertaken the good news is that we have positive results of the correct character in the expected place. Not so good is that this does not prove that what is down there is AD377, even though all the indications are that this is indeed the case.

Further discussions with Land-Scope have concluded that a different type of survey will give additional evidence but will still not be 100% so, rather than spend another £5500 and still not be certain, preparations are on-going for a dive on the site to physically investigate further and ideally retrieve a piece of the aeroplane.

Now that we have a pinpoint location this is the quickest and surest way forward. A full retrieval will be expensive and complicated and must therefore be based on concrete information and identification. I have had approaches from various media outlets, including Richard Hammond’s Chimp Television, exploring the possibility of a film or documentary about the proposed recovery of AD377 and these might oil the financial cogs when it comes to the main event but they too will need to be certain of what they expect to film.

Anyone so minded and generous as to contribute to the on-going project would be very much appreciated – I am spending an increasing amount of time and my own money and the funds so generously given so far are exhausted. I am happy to share with anyone copies of receipts for monies already spent, none of which has gone to me, but I expect to spend another £1500 or so over the next couple of weeks.

Looking down the road I have had much interest from interested parties such as the Czech contingent for whom Rudolf Borovec is a national hero and other plans for an exhibition of some kind in for example, the Museum of the Broads of anything not used in the hoped for restoration of AD377 to flying condition. A long way off I know so I have to concentrate on the next hurdle for now.

Many thanks again to you all for your continued help and support, I hope between us we can do right by the heroes of the piece, the young Spitfire pilots who flew AD377 in earnest and to whom we all owe so much. Lest We Forget.

16.04.2023 - Update

The long awaited magnetometer survey was undertaken on the 29th and 30th March and has produced exciting progress.

A two man team from Land-Scope Ltd brought a boat and magnetometer equipment from Shropshire and surveyed the area in sometimes challenging conditions. Although I had a location in mind a more extensive area was surveyed to cover off as much area as possible and avoid repeating the exercise. The initial data has shown substantial returns within 25ft of where I suspected AD377 lies. These returns are of the correct size and disposition and I am 95% certain we have found our aeroplane.

However the returns are not sensitive enough to prove that the returns are from a Spitfire and I am awaiting further processing of the results to see if this can be obtained. If not, now we have a precise location, a further survey using a different technique is under discussion and if a definitive result still cannot be obtained then options are under exploration to salvage a piece of the aeroplane in order to prove beyond doubt that AD377 is discovered. This is necessary to close off the possibility that the returns are not AD377 before a very complicated and expensive recovery is attempted.

This is a frustrating development as it was hoped the magnetometer would do more – we have proved that there is something in the right place of the correct size that is consistent with what would be expected but it is not yet proof that it is AD377 we have found.

I have had enormous interest from all sorts of sources and interested parties, the BBC and various media, not say continued financial support from followers of the project on the crowdfunding site – Thank You I couldn’t have got this far without you! I have personally paid for all my own expenses and outgoings and have taken nothing from the funds so far raised. Now either a further survey using sonar or ultrasound, or general metal detecting equipment seems the next step though now that we have a location it should be much quicker (initial discussions with Land-Scope decided that a magnetometer survey would be capable of covering a wider area more quickly).

The other option is to try and salvage a piece to prove that the indicated objects are AD377. Either option or both will involve more time and expense. Looking down the road I have received strong interest in making a TV documentary by Richard Hammond’s Chimp Television and that may well be a factor in funding a recovery attempt. However they will want proof positive that they will be filming a salvage operation on a WWII Spitfire and not something else unexpected before they will commission an expensive and complicated operation.

In the mean time I should explain that the image of the returns is cropped to avoid identification of the precise site at the request of the landowners. Although they have expressed their full support of the project they do not want the curious and the opportunistic disturbing the habitat. That then is the situation at present, please feel free with your comments and suggestions as to the way forward – [email protected]. Although I had hoped for a more definite result I could have been sitting here saying that unfortunately the survey came up with nothing. As it is we have something definite to go forward on and a way will be found.

Watch the full survey, search 'The Lady in the Lake - a sunken Spitfire' into YouTube and give it a watch on our channel.

03.04.2023 - Update

April 2023 Update - The Lady in the Lake.

The magnetometer survey of the calculated resting place of AD377 took place over the 29th and 30th March, courtesy of Landscope Ltd. The results have to be processed and modelled which will take approximately two weeks. However the early indications are of two significant returns in the expected area which it is hoped are the separated engine and the cockpit/fuselage.

The ideal result will be that the fully processed data will reveal something that is unmistakably a component of AD377, for example the seat armour or cannon. If this is not possible, now that we have a precise GPS location, plans are in hand to try and salvage a piece or part to prove beyond doubt that we have our prize. Hopefully this will be unnecessary as it would involve further time and expense.

A film has been made of the survey, courtesy of Amanda Prosser, and when this is ready and we have the processed magnetometer data then these will be published.

Encouraging progress then and I want to record my thanks to Martin and Nick of Landscope for their professionalism and hard work, also John Blackburn and Bob Morgan of Norfolk Wildlife Trust. 

26.03.2023 - Update

PROJECT UPDATE

We recently visited Landscope Engineering who are conducting the magnetometer survey to establish the precise location and disposition of AD377.

The results of the survey will be released in due course. In the meantime, we thought we would share a teaser of our visit to Landscope Engineering and what happened.

To watch the full video, search 'The Lady in the Lake - a sunken Spitfire' into YouTube and give it a watch on our channel. 

The Mission

I have, for many years, been involved in the research, recovery and restoration of Spitfires with various groups and individuals. Some are now flying, some are under restoration and some are awaiting their turn. There is one, probably the last in the UK, that remains where she came to rest. Various attempts have been made to locate AD377, a Spitfire Vb, known to have force landed in the Norfolk Broads. 

The paper trail is confused and contradictory, the eye witnesses are long gone. However by detailed examination of the evidence, patient untangling of the web, careful reconstruction of the circumstances and a fluke of good luck I believe I know where our Lady of the Lake lies patiently awaiting rescue. I must also acknowledge the role of the internet, that fount of information, if not necessarily wisdom. To add spice AD377 is a Vb, an early mark of the breed with a substantial operational history and her last pilot a revered Czech war hero with a back story worthy of a Hollywood film.

So That’s Why We Need Your Help!

The stage in the project has arrived at which the evidence must be tested and proved. The spot has been identified and visited. It consists of about 4 – 6ft of water with a thick layer of liquid mud and silt above a clay bed. It will require a full electronic survey to pinpoint the aeroplane and give a picture of the extent and disposition of the remains. Encouragingly the area is small and the aircraft should be well preserved and hopefully look something like the diagram below. 

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The owners of the site are supportive of the project and the Ministry of Defence have said they will issue a licence to recover should the project be successful. Landscope Engineering have quoted approximately £5,500 for a comprehensive survey by boat and drone. 

To Make You Aware...

If the amount required is not raised then whatever is raised will be donated to R.A.F.A. Should the amount required be exceeded then the balance will be rolled over to the next stage, which will be the recovery of AD377. This will not be easy, it never is. In the case of the project proving impossible further down the road then any remaining balance will be donated to R.A.F.A.

* All contributors, unless specified otherwise, will have their names added to a register of supporters which will go with the project and the aeroplane however far it goes

* Please note that I am a private individual, not a business, nor do I do this for profit. Thus far I have paid for the research, travel etc out of my own pocket but this next stage is beyond me. I do this out of respect and gratitude for the men and women who fought to the death for us, without whom none of us would be here today to enjoy our lives in freedom. I work with the help of like-minded people so that they are not forgotten.

                       THEY GAVE THEIR TODAY FOR OUR TOMORROW

FAQ's

What evidence is there that the aeroplane is there? 

The Accident Report states that the aeroplane was tasked to be recovered and the engine returned to 19sq at Ludham for strip down to determine the cause of the stoppage - ie can we blame the pilot! 54MU at Cambridge were given the job but as the site has no access by road and there was no slipway it was well nigh impossible, especially as the locals have said she would have sunk deep into the liquid mud in hours. Furthermore the Station Commander signed off the incident "no inspection of the engine has been possible because the forced landing finished in a Broad " ergo it is still down there.

Incidentally, as an insight into Britain in WW2, I came across an account of Spitfire Ia P9548 which came down from height into a bog in 1940, the pilot, Nobby Hargreaves baling out successfully. On being tasked with recovery " the RAF took what lay on the surface, slung some pieces back, then went to the pub" !!!!!!!!  

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What condition do you expect AD377 to be in should she be raised?

AD377 lies on the clay bed of a Norfolk Broad under 20-30ft of liquid mud, silt and shallow water. It is a reasonable expectation that due to lack of oxygen in these conditions that decay has been very slow, albeit the aeroplane is in three parts, port main plane, fuselage and starboard main plane and the engine torn off with the bearers. The damage is consistent with landing in water with undercarriage and flaps down. With the engine stopped F/O Borovec would have been unable to raise the undercarriage as would be the case for a normal forced landing. The good news, no doubt a nasty surprise for Rudolf, is that the arrival in water would produce a violent deceleration and therefore the wreck in within a small area.

My late friend and associate Jim Pearce told me that when he recovered the Fw 189 from Russia it was laid on its back in a bog. On being righted the top surface was in amazing condition, complete with original paintwork. The MG 15 machine guns and ammunition were found to be, after cleaning, entirely usable!

The Lady in the Lake

1st of April, 1942. Flying Officer Rudolf Borovec, a Czech national serving with 19sq RAF based at Ludham in Norfolk, is returning to base following a squadron exercise. In a trail of Spitfires making the curved approach to landing necessary to see past the aircraft’s long nose, he follows the lead aircraft and, seeing him land, makes his final checks. Ludham is abuzz with Spitfires - apart from his own Black Section of three there are five other Spitfires on the circuit and it pays to keep a lookout. 

A rain squall is approaching from the west and pilots are anxious to get down before the rain and blustery winds arrive. At 300 feet, configured for landing, wheels and flaps down, there appears from his right another Spitfire on a long flat approach, established on the runway heading. The Rules of the Air are that an aircraft on final has priority; regardless - there is going to be a collision without immediate action. Banking to the right to pass behind the other Spitfire the drill is to climb away and make another circuit and approach. An annoying and alarming incident, and, probably accompanied by some choice Czech invective, Borovec opens the throttle of the Merlin 45 to climb away. The result is that instead of a lusty roar and a throb of power the engine abruptly stops….

It may be that Borovec had allowed the engine to overcool during the descent into Ludham, a common occurrence with piston aero-engines. The aeroplane had recently spent a lengthy spell in the workshops due to a flying accident, perhaps it was something to do with that. Whatever, there wasn’t time to consider the matter. With a stopped or windmilling  propeller, wheels and flaps down, a Spitfire has a gliding angle approximating that of a traction engine. In these circumstances many a pilot has, under duress, mishandled the aircraft with catastrophic consequences. Above all, flying speed must be maintained to avoid a stall, a wing drop, and a spin into the ground. Borovec was an experienced pilot. 

Keeping the aircraft straight, trimming for 120mph airspeed for best glide he quickly tried to restart the engine. At a height of well under 300 feet now it was only a matter of seconds before gravity had its way - time to tighten the straps, get rid of the Perspex hood, in case the aircraft overturned and he was trapped inside, and to pray for as smooth an arrival on terra firma as possible. It may be that Borovec was heartened to see level grass just before touchdown but there was nothing to be done about it when the grass turned out to be the spring green reeds of one of the Norfolk Broads. The Spitfire slewed into the water, tearing off the port wing, breaking off the tail and engine, and settling on the muddy lake bed, 6ft below. 

In 1940, during the Battle of Britain, a German bomber crewman left his doomed aircraft by parachute only to arrive on earth in a pig sty. Emerging, liberally covered in manure, he addressed his captors in perfect English - “I seem to have come from the sh*t into the sh*t”. Flying Officer Borovec may well have echoed these sentiments as he clambered out of his dismantled steed. Five minutes ago he was contemplating a mug of tea and a cigarette in the officer’s mess. Now, following his abrupt fright in the air, the frantic attempt to restart the engine and his unexpected and violent watery arrival he took stock as he clambered out.

At lake level there is nothing to be seen in a Norfolk Broad except reeds and expanses of water and sky; a different and disorientating world. Climbing out and into the water he found no footing in the liquid mud and was forced to break out the dinghy from the aircraft’s wing and take to that. The rain and wind had arrived, blowing the dinghy about, and it was half an hour before he was able to find somewhere to scramble ashore and squelch his way to a nearby house to enquire of the no doubt startled occupants if he might use their telephone…

Back at Ludham F/O Borovec was required to submit a written report and the squadron’s engineering officer dispatched to examine the damage, which he did the next day. He reported back that the aircraft had suffered catastrophic damage with the port wing torn off. The engine had come away with the bearers and was lying propeller down in 4ft of water and the tail broken away. He declared the aircraft beyond repair. 

The circumstances were reported to the Ministry who instructed that the aircraft be salvaged with the engine being returned to the squadron for examination to determine the cause of the stoppage and, if necessary, apportion blame. 54 Maintenance Unit at Cambridge were assigned the task and soon discovered that this was easier said than done. The site was inaccessible except by boat, there was no slipway or roadway nearby. The aircraft was in 4-6ft of water and already sinking into the liquid mud and silt, 20 – 30ft deep. Not surprisingly they decided that an attempt was not viable. Five “bits” of the Spitfire, the tail and rear fuselage, were recovered by a Norfolk wherry and dumped at Potter Heigham bridge for the RAF to collect. With no engine to examine F/O Borovec was given the benefit of the doubt, exonerated of blame, and the matter closed. Meanwhile at Heigham Sound, the aeroplane settled into her muddy tomb. At the time the area was a private estate with little traffic on the Broad, especially in wartime. The Spitfire settled into the liquid mud,  sinking out of sight and, eventually, out of memory….

The Aeroplane

Vickers Armstrong Supermarine Spitfire Vb AD377

Below is the AM78 for AD377. The fields read

1. 9 Maintenance Unit   Either Cosford or Weston Park

2. 19sq – 23.10.41 – 1623A

3. Cat.ca Flying Accident 12.3.42 (repair is beyond the unit capacity but can be repaired onsite by another unit or contractor) .repaired on site 19.3.42 Civilian Repair Organisation

4. 19sq 21.3.42 CRO (A)

5. Cat.E (write off) 1.4.42. Flying Accident A222

6. SOC (struck off charge) 1.4.42 439/11

7. FOR 149 – 19sqn - ?????? – Flying Hours 168                                                        

* the staff at Hendon have examined the original and cannot decipher the text in column 7, my best guess 1/5/42. Nor is it known what FOR 149 means. Answers welcome!

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1. 9 MU Either Cosford or Weston Park 2. 19sq - 23.10.41 - 1623A 3. Cat.ac (repair is beyond the unit capacity but can be repaired onsite by another unit or contractor) Flying Accident 12.3.42. Repaired on Site 19.3.42. Civilian Repair Organisation. 4. 19sq - 21.3.42 CRO (A) 5. Cat.E (write-off) 1.4.42. Flying Accident A222 6. Struck off Charge 1.4.42. 439/11 7. FOR 149 - 19 Sqdn - ?????? - Flying Hours 168

* the staff at Hendon have examined the original and cannot decipher to missing text in (7) my best guess is 1/5/42. Nor is it known what FOR 149 means.

AD377 was ordered as a Mk II and completed as a Mk Vb in the shadow factory at Castle Bromwich where Jaguar cars are built today. She was issued to No 9 Maintenance Unit and thence to 19 Squadron at RAF Matlask on the 23rd October 1941, a Spitfire squadron then converting onto the Vb. The squadron was the first to be issued with the revolutionary  Supermarine Spitfire, in 1938, and was part of 12 Group.

During the Battle of Britain the squadron was in the thick of it from Dunkirk and throughout with luminaries including  Douglas Bader. By late 1941 19 squadron, now at RAF Ludham, was tasked with the protection of the shipping plying its’ trade off the east coast against the attentions of the Luftwaffe. From the 2nd November 1941 until her demise in April ’42 she flew 77 operational sorties, often twice a day and on one occasion, four. These consisted of convoy patrols, offensive patrols, intercepts, fighter cover and reconnaissance, often at nought feet in filthy weather.

AD377 was flown by several pilots but most regularly by Flying Officer Jaromir Peter Strihavka, a Czech national. Indeed she appears to have become “his” aeroplane  so his chagrin can be imagined when, returning from leave in April 1942, his favourite Spitfire was at the bottom of a Norfolk Broad, and at the hands of his compatriot Flying Officer Rudolf Borovec. 

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                A contemporary Spitfire Vb, BM252 of 122sq

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The Pilots

Flying Officer Rudolf Borovec RAF 81885

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F/O Rudolf Borovec was a remarkable man with an even more remarkable story.

Born in 1915 in Czechoslovakia he started flying in the East Bohemian Aero Club and, amidst the gathering storm of WW2 was drafted into the Czech Air Force, completing a Reserve Flying Officers Course. As the Germans occupied his homeland the underground smuggled him to Poland in August 1939 where he joined  the Czech military component. The rising tide of war forced his relocation to France where he received air gunnery and pilot training on Morane 406 fighters with the French Air Force. Wherever he went the Germans seemed to follow and with the fall of France he was evacuated to England and admitted into the RAF Volunteer Reserve.

Following  training at RAF Benson on Fairey Battles he was posted to No 6 Operational Training Unit at Sutton Bridge in Lincolnshire where he completed a fighter conversion course onto Hawker Hurricanes. On the 19th February 1941 Rudolf was posted to 601 squadron at Northolt flying Hurricanes in the defence of London and on shipping patrols. Rudolf is recorded as taking off the undercarriage of Hurricane Z2818 landing at Northolt on the 10th April 1941. In May 601sq relocated to Manston where the unit was tasked with escorting bombers in daylight over occupied France.

In June 1941, by way of a “rest” from combat flying, Borovec flew navigational instructors and students in Avro Ansons from RAF Millom in Cumberland and then was posted to No 9 Air Gunners School at Llandwrog, Wales where he flew students in Armstrong Whitworth Whitleys. In November he was sent to No 55 Operational Training Unit at RAF Unsworth teaching combat tactics to students on Hawker Hurricanes.

In January 1942 he was back in the front line, being posted to 19sq at Ludham on Spitfire Vbs, where his watery incursion into the Norfolk Broads in AD377 occurred on the 1 April. 9 May 1942 saw him posted again, this time to the famous 310sq, also equipped with Spitfire Vbs. 310sq was the first RAF squadron raised crewed by foreign nationals, in this case Czechoslovakians and during Borovec’s posting the squadron was having a hectic time. Borovec participated in the ill starred Dieppe landing, when 310’s Spitfires were part of the air cover.

The squadron carried out “Rhubarbs” – free ranging offensive patrols over occupied France and “Circuses” – mass fighter formations escorting RAF and USAAF bombers. Convoy patrols and reconnaissance were regularly carried out and eventually the squadron was engaged in preparations  for the Normandy landings and fighter support thereafter. The tide of war was turning and Borovec responded to an appeal for Czech exiles to join a unit being formed in the USSR of Czech nationals to fight on the Soviet front.

On the 21 Feb 1944, under the command of Staff Capitan Frantisek, the group of Czech pilots set sail from Glasgow to Port Said, Egypt. Borovec travelled by land through Syria, Iraq and Tehran, being flown from there to Moscow. 122 Czech pilots were formed into No 1 Czechoslovak Independent Fighter regiment, converting onto the Lavochin LA-5, a heavy duty fighter aircraft and under the command of 2nd Air Army.

In August 1944 there came the Slovak national uprising against the Germans and a detachment of 21 Lavochins and pilots ferried to Slovakia in support and were soon in pitched battle with the Germans. The detachment was overstretched and under resourced however and when Rudolf’s aircraft was damaged by ground fire and damaged in a forced landing there was no replacement and he spent a spell working for Soviet forward control directing ground attacks against the Wehrmacht.

Subsequently he was back in the fight and flew dozens of ground attack sorties in treacherous conditions, lacking proper support, spares and servicing. The uprising was being gradually suppressed however and the Slovak enclave shrank to a point where air operations were unsustainable. The 12 remaining LA-5s were forced to escape back to Russia but a superior officer’s aircraft crashed on take off and Borovec ceded his own aeroplane and was left behind. He had no choice now but to join the retreating rebels as they headed for the inhospitable mountains to continue the fight as partisans.

On the 9th November 1944, in a snow blizzard, elements of his unit, the 2nd Czechoslovak Parachute Regiment approached a German mobile radio vehicle near Solisko hoping to acquire radio parts. As they neared it a volley of shots rang out from within the vehicle and Rudolf Borovec fell dead……….

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Jaromir (Peter) Strihavka

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What breed of men were these, we can only stand in awe and know we will not see their like again. Jaromir was born on 7th June 1914 in Trutnov, Czechoslovakia. On 1st October 1932 he joined the Military Aviation Academy at Prostejov as a cadet. He completed his training in 1934 and was assigned to the 3rd Aviation Regiment at Piestany. In 1938 he was sent as a reconnaissance pilot to the 13th Squadron of the Regiment at Spisska Nova Ves. With the German occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1939 Jaromir was demobilised and escaped to Poland, intending to join the Polish Air Force, reporting to the Czechoslovak Consulate in Krakow. With the looming collapse of Poland under the Germans and Soviets they arranged for him to travel by train to Gydnia from where he sailed to France. Jaromir, being a foreign national, was required to join the French Foreign Legion but, following the outbreak of war, as a trained and experienced fighter pilot, was posted to L’Armee de L’Air for conversion to French aircraft. On 16th January 1940 he was transferred to CIC Chartres for retraining on French equipment, which he completed on 23rd May. He was then posted to Cazaux airfield near Bordeaux but the French capitulated before he could join an operational unit. He was evacuated by ship from Bordeaux to England.

Shortly after his arrival in England he was transferred to the Czechoslovak Airman's Depot at Cosford and on 2nd August he was enrolled into the RAFVR. He went to 6 OTU at Sutton Bridge to convert to Hurricanes and was posted from there to 85 Squadron. On 23rd October he was posted to 310 Squadron, who were then exchanging  their Hurricanes for the Spitfire II.

Strihavka stayed with 310 Squadron until 15th August 1941 when he was posted to 19 Squadron and, on their re-equipment with Spitfire Vbs made his lasting acquaintance with AD377.   On 12th June 1942 he returned to 310 Squadron, reformed as an all Czech squadron whose legendary exploits are well known. On 23rd June Strihavka's Spitfire BL265/NN-L was struck by another during a scramble from Bolt Head. He was unhurt.

Having completed his tour he was posted to 56 OTU at Sutton Bridge as a flying instructor. On 1st February 1943 he returned to 310 Squadron. His last operational flight was on 30th June 1944 after which he was posted on flying instructor duties at 56 OTU Tealing. On 15th May 1945 he was posted to 313 Squadron where he remained until August. On 7th August he flew one of a group of fifty-four Spitfires back to Czechoslovakia and rejoined the Czech Air Force, in which he attained the rank of Staff Captain.

Following the Communist takeover in February 1948 Strihavka was dismissed from the Air Force. Jaromir was now an enemy of the Soviet State as having served with the Western powers and he and many others began to suffer persecution, imprisonment and execution. This was the thanks they got for their love of their country and the endeavors and sacrifices they made in their bitter fight for freedom wherever it took them.

On 18th June 1948 he escaped across the border to the American Zone in Germany. He married a Miss Wurr December 1943 in Cambridge. Later he returned to England and changed his name to P J Scott. He died on 9th July 1994 in Cambridge. His RAF career is impressive indeed –

RAF Czech Depot Cosford

6 OTU Sutton Bridge

85sq 

310 sq Duxford 23rd Oct 1940

19 sq Matlask/Ludham 15th Aug 1941. See appendix for ops on AD377

310 sq Bolt Head 12th June 1942

56 OTU Sutton Bridge

310 sq Exeter 1st Feb 43

313 sq Manston 15 May 1945

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P/O Jack Henderson DFC RAFVR 106193

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Pilot Officer Jack Henderson, born in Bispham Lancashire, was another stalwart of 19sq and flew AD377 on at least four patrols, convoy patrols and sweeps over the North Sea. He was awarded the DFC later in the year, the citation reads

Citation for the DFC September 1942

Flying Officer Jack HENDERSON (106193), Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, No. 19 Squadron. This officer has participated in numerous sorties over enemy-occupied territory in several shipping reconnaissance’s and took part in the combined operations at Dieppe. Throughout, he has displayed coolness and determination. He has destroyed 1 and probably another 2 hostile aircraft

On the 22nd Dec 1942, whilst flying with 234sq from Portreath on an “Instep” shipping patrol, Jack was lost in the Channel in Vb EE688 following combat with Focke Wulf 190s. He was 23 years old…….

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Sergeant Donald Reid 778394

Sgt Donald Reid was a South African from Stutterheim, Cape Province, about whom little is published. He features prominently in the Operations Record Book for 19sq during the span of AD377’s service and indeed flew her operationally at least seven times (see appendix). 

The well documented Channel Dash was the daring and desperate passage through the English Channel of the capital German ships Gneisenau and Scharnhorst with a strong surface and air protective escort from Brest to Germany. The chosen weather was successful both in shielding the convoy and hampering the efforts of the Royal Navy and the RAF to interfere. As part of the operation, codename “Fuller”, Sgt Reid took off at 15:26 on the 12 Feb 1942 in AD332 to cover RAF bombers attacking the German convoy, part of a formation of ten Spitfires put up by 19sq. The weather that day was trying, with cloud down to 2000’ and below that haze down to 600’. The squadron operations book says “Sgt Reid, D T E (Rhodesian) White 2 became separated in cloud soon after take off and information was later received that he had been picked up by a trawler and that he was dead”

Seemingly Sgt Reid had either parachuted or ditched into the sea following a loss of control but whatever the reason he would have lasted only minutes in the North Sea in February. Those of us who have done some instrument flying know how difficult a lively single engined aircraft can be to fly on instruments compared to a twin or larger, they being much more stable. Sgt Reid, and the others, had to do this and keep formation. I can imagine him trying to re-establish visual contact with the others whilst turning and perhaps overbanking. For those who have never experienced it, to fly in cloud means there is no external reference whatsoever, no sky, no horizon, no ground, just an opaque void. To look outside you could be banking, climbing, upside down – it will look exactly the same. Worse, the inner ear and the brain conspire to play hideous tricks - you can turn, stop the turn and level out but the eyes and brain, having no visual clues, will tell you, utterly convincingly, that you are still turning. The only source of reliable information is the instrument panel and by continually monitoring airspeed, attitude, turn and bank indicator and height. You must believe the instruments even when the brain says they are wrong and to lose your mental “picture” of what the aeroplane is doing means very quickly losing control. Sgt Reid had to do this and look outside for the others, it makes me sweat to think of it. He was 21 years old……….

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Pilot Officer Vojjech Lysicky 169985

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Another of 19sq core pilots Vojjech flew AD377 on a number of occasions, see appendix below, and ended up with the famous 310sq under Frantisek. He hailed from Olomouc, Czechoslavakia and is buried in Chichester Cemetery, Square 159, CofE plot, Grave 3. The published information is sketchy and contradictory…..

Lost in Spitfire LFIX MK150, 4 April 1944 aged 28 whilst serving with 310sq 26 April 1944     Royal Air Force Commands

Killed attempting an emergency landing during a training flight, shot down by own defense (sic) 2 May 1944  * translated from Czech, the following text is probably correct   Czech website fallensoldierdatabase

Spitfire LFIX MK150 of 310sq.  Damaged by the detonation of it’s own bomb during a ground attack training sortie and crashed At Appledram 26 April 1944.    All Spitfire Pilots

Spitfire LFIX MK150 – damaged by explosion of it’s own bomb and crashed during training 26.4.44      Andrew Pentland’s Spitfire Production Site

MK150 – built Castle Bromwich, delivered 12.2.44 to 310sq, Cat FACE 26 April 1944        Spitfire the History, Shacklady

19 Mar 2022 — LYSICKY, VOJJECH (169985) age: 28 RAFVR ... He was killed whilst flying in Liberator V, BZ882 of No 547 Sqn, which crashed into the sea off ...  RAFweb.org  * Cannot be correct

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Sgt Josef Sokol 787253

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Josef Sokol (under propeller boss) 1946

Little is available about how Josef Sokol came to be flying in the RAF, hopefully more details will emerge. What is known is that Josef flew in excess of 53 operations during the life of AD377 whilst on 19sq, including The Lady in the Lake herself. Details of two of these ops below

6th November 1941
Two Spitfire Vbs took off from Matlask at 0825 hours to intercept an enemy aircraft over the sea. Sergeant Sokol’s (White 1) AD184 RT went u.s. shortly after crossing the coast, so Sergeant Watson (White 2) AD332 took the lead. At 0855 hours Sergeant Sokol sighted a Ju88 at 30 to 50 feet and was unable to attract Sergeant Watson's attention.


Sergeant Sokol dived to attack, as the enemy aircraft turned east. He gave chase closing to 300 to 400 yards and opened fire with cannon and machine guns in a high quarter attack. The enemy aircraft then disappeared into the haze and Sergeant Sokol turned towards oujr coast, when almost at once he saw another or the same Ju88 coming from the east at sea level. He attacked the Ju88 which started weaving, closing to 200 yards astern he fired two short bursts. His first burst was cannon then machine gun only, having expended his cannon ammunition. The enemy aircraft was then lost in the haze. During the combat Sergeant Sokol's Spitfire received a bullet through the mainspar which punctured his wheel but he landed safely.


27 Dec 1941
Two Spitfires Vb scrambled from Ludham at 1010 hours and then given vectors taking them in the neighbourhood of Shipwash Lightship. At 1050 hours they saw a Ju88 approaching from the east at 9'000 feet. A Spitfire from 11 Group was seen diving to attack.

Sergeant Netopil (White 1) AD307 closed to 400 yards and opened fire from dead astern with cannon and machine gun. The enemy aircraft dived for cloud cover which was below, and as it entered, black smoke was seen coming from the starboard engine. The enemy aircraft was dodging from one cloud to another, but Sergeant Netopil was able to get in a second burst of cannon and machine gun. The enemy aircraft was last seen with smoke still coming from the starboard engine.

Sergeant Sokol (White 2) AD184 was waiting patiently behind his leader to get into a favourable position to attack. He was just about to open fire when a Spitfire from 11 Group appeared in his sights 50 yards ahead.

The enemy aircraft was chased by Spitfires from 11 Group as well as our Squadron and the result was a shared damaged Ju88.

It is understood that the Y service has reported that the enemy aircraft landed at Montdidier in a damaged condition.

To 313sq


16-05-1942 Supermarine Spitfire Vb AD476 (QV-?), 19 Sqn based at RAF Perranporth hit a fuel bowser while taxying, injuring the pilot Sgt Josef Sokol (Czech), RAF No.: 787523/149566

On the return of the Czech pilots home Josef, now Lt Sokol, was flying ex RAF Spitfire IXs with Aviation Regiment 12. The following is from a Czech website translated somewhat haphazardly into English, the gist of which is that on the 17 July 1946 he undertook a test flight in TE572 TZ-3, seen below, following an oil cooler change. 

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After take-off, at about 300’, the Spitfire was seen to drop a wing and spin to the ground. The impact with the ground was severe and the right wing was torn off and the fuselage broken in the cockpit area, Josef dying at the scene. Witnesses reported that the engine stopped in the climb out and it appeared Josef was trying to return to the airfield and spun in, instead of landing straight ahead. There are some documents from the original accident report in Czech if anyone wants to see them. 

* TE572 39MU 15 June 1945, 310sq 2 Aug 1945, Czech AF 9 Aug 1945

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Wing Commander Lloyd Vernon Chadburn RCAF J2976  DSO and Bar, DFC, Chevalier of the Legion of Honour, Croix de Guerre and Palm

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The Lady in the Lake has another distinguished fighter pilot with AD377 in his logbook. 

A Canadian pilot with a stellar career on Spitfires, a fighter ace with five victories, the first airman to destroy an E-boat with cannon fire, the youngest Squadron Leader in the RCAF at 21, an action packed career, a fabulous set of medals – yet before he enlisted he was a bank clerk and sold tea! Maybe it is war, not clothes, that makes the man. 

Lloyd Vernon “Chad” Chadburn was born in Montreal, Quebec, and grew up in Oshawa, Ontario. He worked as a bank clerk, sold tea and for the Bank of Toronto before being accepted as an air gunner u/t in the RCAF in April 1940, remustering as a pilot and graduating from No 2 FTS at Ottowa, on the 19 Oct 1940, as a Pilot Officer. In December that year he was posted to No 112 Sq RCAF on Hurricanes.

Lloyd was posted to the UK later in the year, joining 412sq, 19sq in September, and to 416sq at Peterhead, Scotland in Feb 1942 as a Flt Lt. He took over command of the squadron days later, and shortly after became the youngest RCAF Squadron Leader at 21 years of age.

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416sq participated in the ill starred Dieppe raid on 19 Aug 1942 and here he claimed his first aerial victories and the DFC. After a period of leave in Canada Lloyd was posted to 402sq, then 403sq prior to his promotion to Wing Commander and command of the Digby Wing.  

CHADBURN, S/L Lloyd Vernon (J2976) - Distinguished Flying Cross - No.416 Sq.
Award effective 2 September 1942 as per London Gazette dated 22 September 1942 and AFRO 1653/42 dated 16 October 1942.

This officer has led his squadron with great skill. During combined operations at Dieppe on 19th August the squadron destroyed three enemy aircraft, probably destroyed one, and damaged seven others without loss to themselves. This achievement reflects greatest credit on this officer's excellent leadership and he has inspired confidence in those under his command. He has personally destroyed one enemy E-Boat, probably destroyed a Junkers 88 and damaged other enemy ships and aircraft

By the time “Chad” left the Digby wing in December he had been awarded the DSO twice, the first RCAF officer to do so and only one in four in history and reputedly earned the nickname “Angel” among the bomber crews his pilots protected.

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In 1944 he was promoted Wing Commander and, after a tour in Canada promoting War Bonds, returned to be put in charge of 127 Wing comprising 403, 416 and 421sqs.

On the 13 June 1944, in the chaos following D-Day Chad was killed in a mid air collision (with F/L Frank Joel Clark J4924) taking off from a landing strip in Normandy. He was 24 years of age………….

He lies in Ranville war cemetery, Normandy, plot V.F.2.

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A flavour of the man in his own words

Chadburn destroyed the E-boat while with the R.A.F. squadron, as a flight commander. The action took place about twenty miles off the Netherlands coast.
"There were three E-boats together," he related. "I picked off one and sank it with cannon fire. Then I damaged another and might have been able to do a job on the third but I ran out of ammunition."
It was really an accident that the Aurora airman damaged the destroyer.
"I was supposed to shoot up an airdrome not far from Flushing but I missed it and landed smack over Flushing harbour," he said, pushing a map into the side of one of his heavy black flying boots,
"The destroyer was anchored in the harbour. Their radio-location had picked us up and the guns around the harbour opened up on us and let go bundles of stuff.
"I sprayed the destroyer with cannon and machine-gun fire and knocked off a few of the sailors standing on the decks. A couple of their guns were knocked out too.”
Chadburn was on dusk patrol off Yarmouth, on the east coast, when he damaged the Junkers. He smiles when he tells the story because the intelligence officers told him afterwards they had heard the Nazi pilot report by wireless to his base that he had been damaged but he had shot down a Spitfire. Chadburn's Spitfire wasn't even scratched.
"He had some close misses," Chad said, "but certainly nothing hit me. Anyway, I squirted him all over and saw something fly off so if he did get home he wasn't all in one piece.”

In January 1941, Chadburn flew on the first sweep by a Canadian squadron over enemy territory and altogether put in more than 1,000 hours on Hurricanes and Spitfires.
He flew more than 200,000 miles and, although his aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft shells, he escaped being wounded. He admitted in one interview, though, that he was "frightened a couple or times."
"When you are 120 miles from England and feel a thump in your tail, you are shaken quite a bit," he smiled.

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Pilot Officer Kenneth Henry Cockcroft RAFVR 114179

Kenneth was from Pinner, Middlesex, where his grave can be seen today. Little published information is available though he features strongly in the Operational Records of 19sq. From the ORB 540 it would appear that he was returning from a non - operational flight, possibly an air test or some such, seemingly unaware that in his absence the runway in use at Ludham had been changed. The Station 540 reads

19 Feb 1942 11:45

P/O Devereaux, BL682, when taking off from the N/S runway, collided with P/O Cockcroft, AD323, who was landing on the E/W runway. Both aircraft caught fire and both pilots were killed. 

Ken was 21 years old. 

P/O Donald George Reid DFM RCAF R/67906 (NCO) J/15968 (Commissioned)

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The Son of William Morris Reid and Maude Geraldine Reid, Donald was born in Lacombe, Alberta, 6 June 1922 and lived in Windsor, Ontario, enlisting there on the 28 October 1940.


Training
No.1 ITS (16 January to 21 February 1941),
No.10 EFTS (22 February to 22 April 1941), here he was described as “excellent pilot material, aggressive, bright and keen, an energetic battler who should be excellent as a fighter pilot”
No.9 SFTS (3 May to 16 July 1941).
Posted to England, arriving on 30 August 1941.
No.57 OTU (5 September to 21 October 1941) Operational
No.152 Squadron (21-28 October 1941),
No.412 Squadron (28 October to unknown date, 1941),
No.161 Squadron (unknown date to 15 December 1941),
No.601 Squadron (15-23 December 1941),
No.19 Squadron (23 December 1941 to 30 April 1942).
Posted to Malta, arriving with major reinforcement of eleven Spitfire Vcs(Operation "Bowery") via aircraft carriers, arriving on Malta on the 9th May 1942 and assigned to 185sq. He crashed a Spitfire at Hal Far on the 2 July 1942 when the port tyre burst, the wingtip dug in and the aircraft overturned.                                                            Commissioned 7 July 1942 (but not gazetted until November). The Citation reads;

REID, FS Donald George (R67906) - Distinguished Flying Medal - No.185 Squadron, award effective 25 July 1942 as per London Gazette dated 28 July 1942 and AFRO 1243/42 dated 7 August 1942.

“this airman has displayed skill, courage and determination in the face of the enemy. On two occasions recently he has been detailed to attack enemy fighters escorting bombers and although greatly outnumbered, he destroyed one fighter on each occasion. In June 1942 he encountered a force of Italian bombers which were heavily escorted by fighter aircraft. Diving through the fighters he attacked one of the bombers and set it on fire and then destroyed one of the fighters which had attacked him. Flight Sergeant Reid has destroyed at least five enemy aircraft in a period of seven weeks”.


Killed in action on the 22 July 1942 in Spitfire BR203 coded GL-X during combat with Bf.109s, - one of which he may have shot down; the squadron diary reads “we announce, and I speak for every pilot of 185, with deepest regret, that one of the ablest, keenest and most popular pilots on the island. F/Sgt “Shorty” Reid DFM, a Canadian, is missing”. George came down in the sea and no trace of him was found so he has no grave, only his name on El Alamein Memorial.

George’s mother had died in 1937, and his father in January 1941 and he left his estate to his siblings, three older brothers, another who was younger, and his two younger sisters who were twins.

Victories

2 June 1942,   one Z.1007 damaged (citation says Italian bomber destroyed) one Re.2001 probably destroyed

6 June 1942,   one Re.2001 destroyed, one Re.2001 damaged plus one Z.506B destroyed (third share)

7 June 1942,   one Bf.109 probably destroyed;

22 June 1942, one Bf.109 destroyed (Spitfire coded GL-O);

1 July 1942,    one Bf.109 destroyed plus one Bf 109 damaged (Spitfire BR294);

2 July 1942,    one Bf.109 destroyed (BR294);

6 July 1942,    one Bf.109 probably destroyed plus one Ju.88  damaged (half share - both on BR317)

17 July 1942,  one Bf.109 destroyed plusone Bf.109 damaged (BR380).

Colin Henry Parkinson RAAF DFC 402877

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Colin was born on the 29 Dec 1916 and trained to fly in his native Australia. On arrival in England he was posted to 19sq and features frequently in the Operational Records flying many ops in various Spitfires including AD377. Later that year he was posted to Malta as part of Operation Salient with 602sq. 32 Spitfires took off from HMS Eagle on the 6th June, including Colin and the famous George “Screwball” Beurling – all arrived safely.

In August he was part of Operation Baritone, in which a further 32 Spitfire Vcs were flown off HMS Furious. One aircraft was lost on take off (F/L J R S Halford), two were lost en route and of the remaining 29, eight of their pilots were never to leave Malta. Commissioned, and now with 229sq, Colin ended his Maltese tour in that November having claimed 10 and one half victories and two probables. He also took part, with Screwball Beurling, in a three aircraft beat up and aerobatic display over Valetta harbour to mark the award of the George Cross to the island of Malta and her people.

Colin died in March 2006 aged 86.

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John Rosher Stirling Halford RAFVR 102147

Born in Bulwell, Nottinghamshire, John joined the RAFVR in the winter of 1940. Following OTU at Grangemouth “Johnny” was posted to 19sq at Matlask, later Ludham, his arrival co-inciding with that of the Vb Spitfire replacing the Mk II. His first operational flight was on the 26 Oct 1941, a Blenheim bomber escort off the Dutch coast. He features regularly in the 19sq ORB, including AD377 The Lady in the Lake until the 30 April and his posting to Malta. Johnny flew off HMS Eagle in May to join B Flight in 185sq and his combats and victories are recorded in the squadron diary. 

“On 8 May 1942 he flew a Spitfire off USS Wasp to Malta where he joined 185 Squadron. On 12th May he collided with another Spitfire whilst taking off in BR136 both pilots surviving unhurt. During a fight with Italian Re 2001 fighters on 2 June, his Spitfire BR285 was shot down and he ditched in Kalafrana bay, being rescued by a seaplane tender. He was promoted to Flight commander at the start of July and on 21 of that month was transferred to the new 1435 Squadron. He was flown out to Gibraltar during mid August, returning on HMS Furious on the 17th to assist in leading in a further reinforcementof of 32 Spitfires. He later flew a second tour with 274 Squadron, receiving a DFC, gazetted on 27 October 1944. The citation credited him with the destruction of four enemy aircraft. Those other Eagles – Christopher Shores

SUPPLEMENT TO THE LONDON GAZETTE, 20 AUGUST, 1943

ROYAL AIR FORCE VOLUNTEER RESERVE. GENERAL DUTIES BRANCH. The undermtd. are granted the rank of Sqn. Ldr. (war subs.): — Sqn. Ldr. (tempy.)

J. R. S. HALFORD (102147). 26th July 1943

SUPPLEMENT TO THE LONDON GAZETTE, 27 OCTOBER, 1944

Flight Lieutenant John Rosher Stirling HALFORD (102147), R.A.F.V.R., 274 Sqn. Flight

Lieutenant Halford is an energetic and fearless leader who has completed a very large number of operations with gallantry and determination. Among his successes is the destruction of 4 enemy aircraft

John survived the war and had a successful business career, filing a patent. He died in Somerset in 1989.  

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Appendix - AD377 Operations 19 Squadron RAF Ludham Norfolk 

02 Nov 41 Pilot Officer Halford    Convoy Patrol

                  Flt Lt Chadburn           Convoy Patrol

04 Nov      Sgt Sokol                     Convoy Patrol

05 Nov      Flt Sgt Strihavka         Abortive intercept of a German                  

                                                       recce aircraft

06 Nov   Flt Sgt Strihavka            Scramble and patrol

08 Nov   Flt Sgt Strihavka            Sweep out to sea and return

10 Nov   P/O Buchan                   Convoy Patrol

               Flt Sgt Strihavka            Convoy Patrol

13 Nov   Sgt Liggett                    Coastal Patrol

15 Nov   Sgt Cockcroft                Shipping lane sweep

                P/O Vernon                  Dusk sweep out to sea

16 Nov    P/O Buchan                 (unsuccessful) interception

19 Nov    Sgt. Parkinson             Shipping patrol

                Sgt Turner                    Coastal patrol

20 Nov    Flt Sgt Strihavka          Dawn shipping sweep at zero feet

21 Nov    Sgt Hindley                  Convoy patrol

22 Nov    Flt Sgt Strihavka          Convoy patrol

23 Nov    Sgt Lysicky                   Sweep of shipping lanes

24 Nov    Flt Sgt Strihavka          Dawn sweep

                Flt Sgt Strihavka          Convoy patrol

27 Nov    Flt Sgt Strihavka          Dusk patrol

30 Nov    Flt Sgt Strihavka          Dawn Sweep

01 Dec    Sgt Cockcroft              Patrol off Gt Yarmouth

08 Dec    Sgt Netopil                  Patrol

09 Dec    Sgt Hindley                  Patrol

                Sgt Hindley                 Scramble and (unsuccessful) 

                                                     Interception

10 Dec   P/O Halford                  Patrol

               P/O Halford                  Dusk sweep

16 Dec   Flt Sgt Strihavka           Rear cover for returning bombers

17 Dec   Flt Sgt Strihavka            Patrol

               Flt Sgt Strihavka            Shipping reconnaissance

18 Dec   Flt Sgt Strihavka            Scramble and patrol at 15,000ft

21 Dec   Flt Sgt Strihavka            Patrol

               Flt Sgt Strihavka            Patrol

24 Dec   Sgt Lysicky                     Patrol shipping lane

25 Dec   Flt Sgt Strikavka            Sea search for ship damaged by  

                                                      mine, oil patches seen

27 Dec   Flt Sgt Strihavka           Shipping Recce. Nought feet to 

                                                     Ostend, north along coast at

                                                     240mph

29 Dec  Sgt Reid                         Patrol

03 Jan 42 Flt Sgt Strihavka         Patrol

16 Jan    Sgt Lysicky                    Scramble and patrol

               Sgt Lysicky                    Shipping Patrol

20 Jan    Sgt Lysicky                    Convoy Patrol

22 Jan    P/O Henderson           Dawn sweep and patrol

28 Jan    Flt Lt Chadburn           Dawn patrol and sweep

               Sgt Lysicky                   Scramble and patrol

               Flt Lt Chadburn           Convoy patrol

01 Feb    Flt Sgt Strihavka          Convoy patrol

                Flt Sgt Strihavka          Scramble and patrol

02 Feb    Flt Sgt Strihavka          Scramble and patrol

04 Feb    P/O Henderson           Patrol

05 Feb    Flt Sgt Strihavka          Convoy patrol

                Flt Sgt Strihavka          Convoy patrol

06 Feb    Flt Sgt Strihavka          Patrol

                Flt Sgt Strihavka          Patrol

                P/O Strihavka              Scramble and patrol

                P/O Strihavka              Dusk sweep

10 Feb    P/O Strihavka               Patrol convoy Merit

                P/O Strihavka              Patrol

11 Feb    Sgt Hutt                       Patrol

12 Feb    Sgt Reid                      Patrol Yarmouth

               Sgt Reed                     Air cover for bombers attacking

                                                    Scharnhorst and Gniesenau during

                                                    the “Channel Dash”

                Sgt Reid                     as above

13 Feb    Sgt Reid                     Shipping recce patrol

15 Feb    P/O Strihavka            Patrol convoy Agent

18 Feb    Sgt Reid                    Patrol

                Sgt Reid                    Patrol 

19 Feb    P/O Henderson        Patrol convoy Merit

20 Feb    P/O Strihavka            Scramble

23 Feb    P/O Henderson         Dusk patrol

26 Feb    P/O Strihavka            Scramble, investigate “bogey”

27 Feb    P/O Strihavka            Shipping patrol

               P/O Strihavka            Patrol Yarmouth Roads 

03 Mar    P/O Strihavka            Patrol

08 Mar    P/O Strihavka            Convoy Patrol

09 Mar    P/O Strihavka            Fighter sweep by 12 a/c, Pas de

                                                  Calais at 25,000ft, engaged by flak

                P/O Strihavka           Fighter sweep by 15 a/c, Pas de 

                                                  Calais

                P/O Strihavka           As above

10 Mar    P/O Strihavka           Dinghy search, nothing found

* the AM78 records a Flying Accident on the 12 March, pilot and details unknown, with the aircraft being repaired on site by a Civilian Repair Organisation on the 19 March and returning to the squadron strength on the 21st

28 Mar   P/O Strihavka            Dusk convoy patrol 1hr 20min

01 April  F/O Borovec             Squadron exercise, engine failure

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