Issue 3, Spring 2004


Newsletter of the 14 Squadron Association

Mike Napier

Last Reunion

The last Reunion was held at the Victory Services Club on 11th October 2003. I am sorry to report that we were rather thin on the ground this year with only 21 attending; there were also 15 apologies. However, those who were there had a very enjoyable evening. I was particularly pleased to see Deryck Stapleton, Dick Maydwell and John Kennedy representing the "old brigade", and also Dave Wightwick and Martin & Linda Spanswick redressing the aircrew/groundcrew balance!


Pub Night

An informal pub night in London on 6th February attracted about 30 and we'll look to arrange similar informal gatherings in future.


New Website

We have zoomed into the 21st Century and now have a 14 Squadron Association internet website: if you haven't seen it already, log onto:

The site is still being updated, and in particular the photo gallery could do with your contributions!


In this Issue

I hope that there's something of interest for everyone in this issue - I've expanded the format somewhat, and I hope that the "new look" will encourage those of you with a story to tell or a picture to show, to put pen to paper or look through your photo albums. I am aware that the wartime generation are finding it more difficult to attend our reunions these days, so the newsletter has become the main way of keeping in touch for them. Contained in this newsletter are:

- News of the last couple of reunions and advance notice of the next one

- Some words of wisdom from Joe Lowder

- A few stories sent in response to my last plea. I've also kept a couple back for next time, including the tail gunner's view of the incident described so vividly by Dick Maydwell in the last issue.

- The start of Mike Levy's Memoirs of a Sprog Mosquito Pilot - A great story, and a particularly appropriate one at this time as the Imperial war Museum at Duxford (says Vic Blackwood) is about to repaint its Mosquito Mk35 in 14 Sqn colours.

- A couple of pleas for information (both about Marauder incidents) - if you can help please let me know.

- Some great photographs of Squadron aircraft past and present. I have been lucky enough to obtain copies from G Stuart Leslie's extensive collection of photographs of First World War aircraft, and reproduce some in the gallery with his kind permission. If you have any interesting photos of Squadron people or aircraft please let me have a copy!



A pair of 14 Squadron Venoms starting up in late '54 or early '55. Sandy Sanderson writes: the fitter stood at the rear of the Venom to remove the asbestos blanket that was over the tailplane. The blanket was there as sometimes the engine didn't start straight away and the fuel stayed in the jet pipe and when it did start it was a very large blow torch. Either way the fitter got a trifle warm! This could be where the origin of 'Sooty' came from! If the engine didn't fire first time it was usual for the ground crew to lean on the tailplane to tip the aircraft backwards to try to drain the excess fuel from the jet pipe, if a large amount came out the aircraft had to be moved. photo Sandy Sanderson



Marauder "T" crashed into the sea off Mataro near Barcelona on 29th March 1944 with the loss of its Australian crew Fg Off W MacDonald, Fg Off J Lewis, FS C Peedom, FS R Lanham, FS F Lamond and FS M Woods. Peter Dawson, a boyhood friend of Ron Lanham (who was a Wireless Operator/Air Gunner in the crew), has done a lot of research into the incident and has visited Mataro on a number of occasions. His most recent visit was in September last year where, once again, he witnessed the extraordinary care which the locals still take of the airmen's graves in Mataro cemetery. He also placed a small plaque in memory of Bill Lamond, the one crewmember whose body was never recovered. In a future newsletter I will write up Peter's research, but in the meantime there are a couple of questions which someone may have the answer to:

1.There is some evidence to suggest that the aircraft was investigating a U-boat support ship immediately before it crashed. Does anyone know about such vessels? Can anyone remember any intelligence reports about U-boat support vessels operating in that area?

2. Marauder "T" also carried the serial number 117780, identifying it as an ex-USAAF aircraft. Can anyone recall whether or not it carried any "nose art" from its previous owners? I understand from Gil Graham that some other ex-USAAF aircraft on Squadron charge did have such decoration - eg 118041 "Daisy June II" 117978 "Flak Eater" and 118017 "Captain Blood".


In Memoriam

I am sorry to report the passing of the following members of the Association:

Norm Storey (died in Jan 1999, but I have only recently been informed by his son-in-law)

Hugh Bates DFC (died last June after a long battle with cancer)

Teddy Kemp MBE (died last October of a heart attack)



Information Wanted!!

Norman Gilchrist

Does anyone remember FS Norman Gilchrist, one of Plt Off Reid's crew, who were killed in Marauder FK142 "R" on 1st Feb 1944? His cousin Patrick King has been in touch with me asking if anyone can tell him any information about Norman's time on 14 Squadron.

Marauder FK 131/Gordon Ready

I have had a request from a Major Wylie of the Canadian Air Cadets in Hamilton Ontario asking for details of the markings of Marauder FK131 in which WO Gordon Leonard Ready was killed on 15th December 1943. It is so that he can finish a model of the Marauder in the correct colours to present to WO Ready's son Wayne. Anyone got any ideas, please!



Joe's Bit!

Hullo chaps, your old scribe Joe is still around. After a "wobberly" time in our local maintenance unit (Queen Mary's) at the end of October last the "mechanics" (wonderful team in A&E and Intensive Care Unit) succeeded in getting me out from a collapse. A worrying time for the family. In the ambulance I apparently went into a seizure, trousers and shirt cut to ribbons whilst the doctors resuscitated me. I didn't know what it was, just said to Marjorie that I didn't feel well. 999 call and off I went. Next thing I remember was a young lady doctor saying to me "Mr Lowder, you have been very ill!" The time was 0230 hrs and a sea of family faces peered down. Somehow it seems to have been a total mystery - it wasn't heart or stroke or some sort of defibrillation problem. There were wires and pipes to all extremities (other than those parts most precious!). I became very normal, joking remarks to those round; in fact one said "I wish I had a dose of what you've been given - you really are up in the air!" Satisfying themselves I was now "back in the land of the living" I continued to make good progress and then transferred to the ward. After 5 days it was lovely to lose the encumberment of the "drain bag" - someone signed the F700 and I walked out into the fresh air! I was due to have my undercarriage replaced this month, but that is now on hold until they are satisfied with the "fuel and boost pressures"!

A last minute bit of news for the old "Wrinklies". I have been reading V E Tarrant's book "The Last Year of the Kreigsmarine, May 1944-May 1945". A detail struck my eye about the episode we (Hornby's) crew reported in our book. There were 4 U-boats sunk in the Channel in March by surface forces - U683, U399, U246 and U1195, and another, U681 was bombed by aircraft. At 0900 on 11th March, U681 was proceeding into the Channel past the Scilly Isles at a depth of 80 feet when she hit outlying rocks. The damage sustained forced her commander, Oberleutnant Werner Gebauer, to surface. Realising that he could not continue submerged for any length of time, he made for the Irish coast at full speed. At 0926, U681 was sighted by a USN Liberator which attacked immediately. Gebauer took violent evasive action and the stick of 8 depth charges fell short, but one exploded close enough to the stern to cause further leaks. Deciding that his position was hopeless, Gebauer gave the order to abandon ship. This was done while the ship was still under way at full speed; the ballast tank vents were opened and demolition charges were activated. The U-boat had already disappeared beneath the waves before the charges exploded, causing a great upheaval of oil and water to mark U681's violent end. The U-boat's entire crew of 40 was rescued some hours later by a British escort group. So, chaps, there is another loose end being tied up.

Apart from the Mataro affair, there is one other puzzle I would like to clear up. Whereabouts was the site of Flt Lt Hogg's crash into the cliffs of St Eval on the night of 19th April 1945? 36 Squadron managed to locate the site of one of their kites near Chivenor and recently had the site landmarked with a suitable stone.

So far as the Association's work I have been in touch with Mike and passed on lots of material to him and to Lossiemouth. I will be transferring the accounts to Dougie Potter.

Cheerio for now - All the Best for the New Year



A Selection of Titbits …

Lord Deramore writes:

In 1943 14 Squadron moved from the Middle East to North Africa. The Squadron cook was a German from Palestine, whom we called "Fritz". We also had several Italian PoWs who were all addressed as "Tony", and one German PoW who had been in the Afrika Korps. His smartness and military bearing were in sharp contrast to the happy-go-lucky Italians. He and Fritz jabbered away and seemed to get on well.

The Italians were the "dhobi wallahs". Before lunchtime one day "Tony" returned a pile of laundered, but still wet, clothing to a Flight Commander who hastily strung a line between his tent and his jeep and pegged up the washing to dry. After eating he lay down on his camp bed for a siesta. ("From two til four the camp shall snore" mocked the Americans). The Sqn Ldr woke with a start, remembered an urgent task and hastily jumped into his jeep. He fired the engine, engaged the clutch and drove off in bottom gear, dragging his tent and washing line behind him.


I hope Colin Campbell will forgive me for including part of a letter he wrote to Joe last year:

I can recall some other correspondence and mention was made (if I recall correctly) to radio altimeters. We never had such luxuries - only our own visual judgement, unless perhaps the circumstances which woke Bill Mailer and I one day. We were heading towards Marseilles area from the East one day. All of a sudden we had the s*** frightened out of us. Due to the glass top water, Bill had slipped down a bit, so to let us know that we were making a wake a raucous "Wakey wakey! Wakey wakey!" came from that learned Australian Bushey Stewart.


Many thanks to Brian Dutton for this one for a tale which will strike a chord with those who have worked with our illustrious allies!

I was with 14 Squadron when they flew Blenheims (an observer as navigators were called then) and was there when we converted to Marauders. The Marauders had just arrived to replace our Blenheims and in the Sgt's Mess tent we were indulging in a little horseplay. Some Americans arrived in the entrance armed to the teeth. Someone (with his shirt already removed) shouted "off with their shirts!" They immediately drew their revolvers!


Contact The Editor!

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Memoirs of a Sprog Pilot on 14 Squadron 1948-50

Mike Levy


After an eventful passage through flying training and conversion to the Mosquito, Mike was posted to 14 Squadron at Wahn, near Cologne. We join him having just crossed the North Sea by troopship, in company with eighty sewer workers who were en route to rectify the damage caused by Bomber Command…

I arrived at Wahn by troop train on 2nd July 1948, and on reporting to 14 Squadron was greeted with astonishment. They claimed never to have seen a Plt Off before! Certainly there were one or two Fg Offs, but the rest were either Flt Lts or NCOs. Many were seasoned wartime Mosquito aircrew and quite a few had been regulars before the war, having started on Fairey Battles or Blenheims. I do not wish to imply that I was made unwelcome by these veterans; the comradeship on the Squadron was fine but there was a difference in attitude between the older members and the new boys like myself and other later arrivals. We, having been trained in peacetime, thought it routine to practise single-engined landings, or dive the aircraft to its maximum permissible speed. The older hands took the view that God had not made twin-engined Mosquitoes to be flown on one engine, except in the event of a real engine failure. Likewise, when I practised high speed dives there were dark comments about old wooden aircraft with glued on joints not being meant for that sort of thing. Perhaps they were right after all: the only landing accident during my 2? years on the squadron was when a young NCO pilot (flying my aircraft VP202 or CX-B) approached too low and slow on a practice single-engine landing and wrote the aircraft off. Again the smile was quickly wiped off my face during a high speed dive when the escape hatch on top of the canopy blew off and struck the tail, luckily only knocking a few holes in it!

The aircraft that we flew were Mosquito B35s, which were similar to the B16s I had flown at Coningsby. We shared a hangar with 98 Squadron, who also flew Mosquito B35s - and were therefore deadly rivals. Also on the station were two Mosquito FB6 Squadrons, numbers 4 and 107 (later renumbered 11) and 2 Squadron Spitfire FXIV and PRXIX; the only other station in Germany with operational aircraft was Gütersloh which had four Tempest squadrons and one of Spitfires. The "Clutch" airfields at Laarbruch, Brüggen, Wildenrath and Geilenkirchen were not constructed until several years later. All the other ex-Luftwaffe airfields in the British Zone were crammed with transport aircraft flying the Berlin Airlift.

When I arrived at Wahn, the single concrete runway was under repair and we used a strip of about 1000 yards of pierced steel planking (PSP). The rest of the airfield was a rough uneven surface, which encouraged pilots not to veer off the runway during take-off. The Mosquito was very prone to swinging both on take-off and landing, so it needed watching on an airfield like Wahn. Certainly one could not open up to full power immediately at the start of a take-off run, since the engines would induce a swing and the rudder was totally ineffective until enough forward speed had been gained. The most critical stage on take-off was when the tail rose, causing a strong gyroscopic effect that had to be controlled by rudder. My own technique was to "walk" the throttles up the quadrant, steering by differential engine power. By the time I had applied full power, I had built up enough forward speed to make the rudder effective before the tail rose. Likewise on landing, the aircraft could swing wildly as the tail dropped following a wheeler landing. At this stage the rudder was still effective, but the pilot needed to be alert to control an incipient swing. Taking off, or more particularly landing, on PSP was quite an experience. It could get slippery with rain or ice on it, but the really unnerving thing about it was the noise. When a heavy aircraft travelled over it, the metal plates clanked like mad and you would think that you had landed on a scrap metal heap!

In the air the Mosquito was a lady, although the bomber versions with their spectacle control columns were far heavier on the ailerons than the trainers or fighter-bombers which had fighter-type sticks. At cruising speed the aircraft flew beautifully on 2 engines or one. It was only at circuit speeds on one engine that things became more hairy. Safety speed after take-off was 160 knots or so; the technique was to hold the aircraft low while retracting the gear so as to accelerate as quickly as possible, since below safety speed it was impossible (in theory at least) to maintain control on one engine and climb away. Landing on one engine also needed care and once below 600 feet you were committed to landing. During an overshoot the gear retracted slowly and caused excess drag until the aircraft was clean and it took up 600 feet to do this and accelerate to 160 knots.

The role of 14 Squadron was bombing. We used 25lb smoke bombs for practice, carried in the bomb-bay, which could accommodate a 4000-pounder or several 500- or 1000-pounders in anger. Low-level and shallow-dive bombing were both pilot-aimed with no aids, not even a gun sight! Even so, the accuracy attained by most people was in the order of 20-30 yards. Medium-level bombing involved use of the T1 bomb sight, operated by the navigator lying prone in the nose. It meant accurate flying by the pilot, following heading corrections called out by the navigator. However, medium-level bombing was not too accurate. In spite of calculating the wind velocity at release height before commencing bombing, miss-distances from the target could well be 200 yards or so, even if the 16 bombs typically dropped on one sortie might be quite tightly grouped. Mobile Radar Control Post (MRCP) was a means of bombing through cloud. Typically the aircraft flew at 12,000 feet and often in formation. A ground controller, tracking the aircraft on radar, would aim to bring the aircraft over an in initial point on a predetermined heading. The controller would then count down an elapsed time to bomb release, with only minor heading corrections ordered during the countdown. At the end of the countdown the navigator would release the bombs. Once a year the Squadron would do an MRCP demonstration for the School of Air/Land Warfare on Salisbury Plain. For this, salvoes of live HE bombs were dropped by a formation of 4-6 aircraft. The results were pretty accurate and quite impressive for the audience: all that could be heard would be the drone of aircraft flying high above complete cloud cover, then suddenly 16 HE bombs would explode on the target.

Another role of the Squadron was the morning meteorological climb to about 30,000 feet. This was carried out by one aircraft and the duty rotated between 14 and 98 Squadrons each month. The aircraft was fitted with an aneroid barometer reading in millibars and with wet and dry bulb thermometers. The climb started with levelling out at 500 feet QNH and again 1000 feet, letting the speed settle at each altitude and then noting the thermometer readings. The climb then continued with levelling of every 50 millibars on the aneroid barometer and taking the thermometer readings at each step. This was continued up to 300 millibars which was roughly equivalent to 30,000 feet. The met climb normally took 60-75 minutes to complete thoroughly. With 2 rival squadrons doing the met climb alternately it was a matter of intense squadron pride that the sortie was completed, as failure would draw derision from the other squadron. Hence scant regard was paid to the weather minima for the duty pilot's instrument rating, at least until one of the flight commanders Flt Lt Jock Lewis with Nav2 Bert Fulker were killed flying a met climb in poor weather in 1949. It was believed that they had tried to take the first readings at 500 feet while still in cloud and unfortunately found a cloud with a hard centre, there being quite a few hills in the area just east of Wahn.

The met climb was flown every day of the week throughout the year. Everyone worked on Saturday mornings, but the climb on Sunday was not popular amongst those who wanted to go to Saturday night parties or wanted to go off the Station for the weekend! I was at that time engaged to the girl in England whom I subsequently married and, being a clean living young lad, was not at all interested in staying out on Saturday night. As a result I had nothing against Sunday met climbs and often flew them. Typically the flight would be authorised on the Saturday morning and it was left to the pilot to make his own decision on the Sunday morning. One Sunday my flight commander, who had authorised me, awoke in Düsseldorf, looked out of the window to see thick fog, and was horrified to hear a Mosquito droning overhead! In fact visibility at Wahn was about 20 yards. By taxiing out with the direct vision panel open I could just detect the difference between the grass and the concrete of the taxiway, so I followed it round until I found the runway. I then lined up hard on the left hand side of the runway so that I could again just detect the grass alongside and then ran forward a few yards to make sure I was running parallel. I reset the Direction Indicator and then took off totally on instruments, making absolutely certain that I did not deviate to the left by as much as a fraction of a degree, since I was already on the very edge of the runway. Being still in cloud, we opted to omit the readings at 500 1000 feet, but completed the climb otherwise. We had been told before take-off that there were no diversion airfields in Germany, but that the UK was alright. In fact when we reached 300 millibars, Air Traffic Control reported that Gütersloh could take us, so we carried out a QGH let-down there, breaking cloud below 500 feet. The climb had been completed - but perhaps more by luck than common sense!

Shortly afterwards another crew had a less happy experience, though not as a result of bad weather. By design there should never be any petrol fumes in the Mosquito cockpit, since the tanks and pipes were remote from it, and the tanks were selected by fuel switches in the cockpit which were on the end of long rods connected to the valves. In fact all the Squadron aircraft reeked of petrol in the cockpit, so we thought nothing unusual about it. One Saturday morning while the rest of us were on parade, P3 Cocks and Nav2 Bolton took off on the met climb. Normally both to keep the aircraft in the same column of air and to give practice to the fighter direction post, the aircraft would be given vectors to fly by the FDP. On this occasion the FDP radar went u/s when the aircraft was at about 15,000 feet, and the controller asked the crew to carry on under their own steam. Bolton switched on the Gee radar set and the next second the cockpit was in flames. Ray Cocks said later that the first thing he noticed was Nobby Bolton sitting by the escape hatch in the floor, chest parachute pack already clipped on, hatch jettisoned and awaiting the order to go! Cocks did not hesitate to give it and both of them were quickly out. Cocks landed not far from the autobahn to Düsseldorf, unharmed apart from having all the hair burnt off from the back of his head. He hitched a ride in a passing car back to Wahn. Bolton descended unhurt but landed on a roof, rolled off and broke his back. Regrettably he had to be invalided out of the Service as a result of his injuries. I felt badly about this incident as I had flown the aircraft the night before and had not reported the smell of fuel in the cockpit. However, the Board of Inquiry disclosed that faulty seals had allowed fumes to seep up past the control rods from the valves into the cockpits of all of our and 98 Squadron's aircraft. This fault was quickly cured and I do not remember any recurrence. Nevertheless this accident had happened because fuel fumes were present when a spark occurred as the radar was switched on.

On 27th October 1948 I took off on a met climb, breaking through low cloud into the clear soon after take-off. Looking back, I saw another of our Mosquitoes break through the cloud behind me, and climb away bound for Malta. It was flown by my room-mate, Fg Off Nev Cornwall, flying with my regular navigator Flt Lt Willie Williams. Willie was an ex-Lancaster bomb-aimer, who had retrained as a navigator, and with whom I had been crewed up since the OCU. A couple of days later, I went home on my first leave. Almost immediately I had a telegram ordering my return to Wahn. I did not know why, but within hours I was on a Dakota flying to Buckeburg, where I had the luck to find one of our crews just walking out to their aeroplane. I thus got a ride directly back to Wahn where I found out why I had been recalled. Nev and Willie had crashed into the sea off Gozo on their return from Malta, and I had to separate my kit from Nev's in our room. I don't think that the Board of Inquiry decided on the cause of the crash, although there was some indication of fire in the air. Perhaps it was another case of fumes in the cockpit,

Next time I went on leave, our flight commander Jock Lewis and Bert Fulker were killed on the met climb crash already mentioned. The time after that, a crew from one of the Mosquito fighter-bomber squadrons hit a hill above the Rhine down near Bonn. By this time people were beginning to notice that nasty things tended to happen whenever I went on leave. Hence my applications for leave were not too well received by my fellow aircrew!

Mike's adventures continue in the next issue…


News from the Squadron

14 Squadron is now under the command of Wing Commander Colin Basnett, who took over from Wing Commander James Klein last summer. The last few months have proved a busy period, including operations in the Middle East and culminating in a three-week detachment to Nellis Air Force Base near Las Vegas for Exercise "Red Flag". I hope that in the next issue of the Old Crusader the Squadron will find time to provide us with a little more detail of what they are up to these days!


More Information Wanted!

I have just received yet another enquiry about wartime personnel who served with 14 Squadron, this time about Sgt (later W.O.) Alfred Hundley, an air gunner who served with 14 Sqn from Aug '42. I believe that he was the tail gunner in O'Connor's crew. There is a photo below, taken in Egypt in October '42; Hundley was a pre-war regular, a tall lad (6' 1") and would have been about 28 years old while serving with the Sqn. Can anyone remember him? A researcher in Canada is trying to find out about Hundley's time with 14 Sqn - any help gratefully received!