Saturday, 29 October 2011

The Woods-Scawen brothers

Growing up in Farnborough, Hampshire, I often passed 55 York Road, a red-bricked semi-detached house, on my way to playschool or when visiting an old friend’s house along that same narrow road. Back then I would not have even noticed number 55, because it looked like any other ordinary house at the time, just like it does today. It was not until recently, when I discovered who used to live in that house that it became of interest to me and now whenever I find myself on York Road I am reminded of the sacrifice of two brave young men. During the 1930’s, 55 York Road was the home of two brothers, Patrick and Tony Wood-Scawen. The two boys were educated at Salesian College on Reading Road, which is located just around the corner from their old home. Patrick was the eldest of the two brothers, born in Karachi, India on 29 June 1916. Tony was also born in Karachi, on 18 February 1918. The Wood-Scawen’s returned to England in 1924, after Patrick's and Tony’s mother fell ill. To begin with the two brothers boarded at the Salesian College but when their mother passed away they moved into 55 York Road to live with their Aunt Nellie. When their education was completed Patrick was employed as a storekeeper and Tony as a clerk. The jobs were steady enough but dissatisfactory for the adventurous spirits of the Wood-Scawen brothers. Living close to the Royal Aircraft Establishment in Farnborough it was almost impossible for the two boys to avoid falling in love with the idea of a flying career. Both Patrick and Tony were already known for their interest in fast machines. My Grand-Mother, Edna Roberts, lived near the Wood-Scawens at this time and recalled many occasions when the two brothers were seen racing around the town on motor-bikes. The two of them were very playful characters and very popular amongst their peers. Their wit and charm soon won the affections of one local young woman in particular, a pretty blonde called Una Lawrence, also known as 'Bunny' or 'Bun-Bun' to Patrick and Tony. It was almost impossible for the two boys to avoid falling in love with her. Patrick was the first to join the RAF in October 1937. After training was completed he was posted to No.85 Squadron at Debden. Tony soon followed his brother's footsteps and joined up in March 1938 before joining No.43 Squadron at Tangmere. In May 1940 Patrick served in France with his squadron flying Hurricanes where he succeeded in shooting down a variety of enemy aircraft. On 22nd the squadron was withdrawn and returned to England to reform. In the meantime Tony flew Hurricanes with No.43 Squadron over Dunkirk where he saw action against the Luftwaffe. On 7 June 1940 Tony shot down a Bf 109 but was also shot down himself over enemy territory. He walked twenty miles before falling in with a retreating British column and returned to Tangmere eight days later. Both Patrick and Tony were actively involved in the Battle of Britain, flying many patrols and scrapping with the enemy despite unfavourable odds. They succeeded in destroying and sharing in the destruction of enemy aircraft as well as damaging additional others. Patrick was awarded a DFC on 25/6/1940 and Tony was awarded a DFC on 6/9/1940. On 1 September 1940, Patrick was shot down in combat with enemy fighters near Kenley. He baled out of his Hurricane but his parachute failed to open and he was killed on impact. The following day, Tony was also shot down by Bf 109s and was forced to bale out, but he was far too low and was subsequently killed at Fryland, near Ivychurch. Patrick is buried in St Mary's Churchyard, Caterham-on-the-Hill, Surrey and Tony is buried in Folkestone New Cemetery, Kent. The tragic loss of both Patrick and Tony was devastating for the Woods-Scawen family, and of course Una Lawrence, whom they both loved dearly.

Patrick & Tony Woods-Scawen

No.85 Squadron Hurricane

Right - The love of both Patick & Tony's life, Una 'Bunny' Lawrence.
Left - Cousin Gerald (KIA with 92 Sqn in Oct 1941), Bunny and Pop Woods-Scawen
collecting Pat & Tony's DFCs in June 1941

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Spitfire Type 300 K5054

On 4 September 1939, the day after war was declared, Vickers Supermarine Spitfire Type 300 'K5054' crashed at the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough. Flight Lieutenant 'Spinner' White misjudged the landing and the light blue prototype Spitfire nosed over. The cockpit was crushed and Flight Lieutenant White was tragically killed. For more information on K5054's history click HERE


'Rhapsody in blue'  by Gerald Coulson

K5054's crushed cockpit.
The aircraft was written-off

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Junkers Ju 88 (PJ876)

Several years ago I was at a signing event at the RAF Hendon museum with Wing Commander John Freeborn. During the afternoon we had a look around the Battle of Britain hall together where John talked to me about each aircraft on display. One of the aircraft in the hall is a Junkers Ju 88 R-1 (Serial number PJ876). I remember it well as John told me it was an absolute burden to shoot down because of its heavy armour. As I have mentioned before I have recently been looking into aircraft tested at the RAE Farnborough, and I was surprised to discover that this particular Ju 88 (PJ876) was in fact extensively tested at Farnborough in May 1943. The story behind this Ju 88's arrival is fascinating.

Junkers Ju 88 at Hendon museum

On Sunday 9 May 1943 this aircraft took off from Aalborg, Westerland, Denmark at 1503 hours and landed at Kristiansand, Norway for refuelling at 1603. It took off again at 1650 for a mission over the Skaageraak. The Ju 88's crew of three were: Oberleutnant Heinrich Schmitt (Pilot), Oberfeldwebel Erich Kantwill (Flight Engineer) and Oberfeldwebel Paul Rosenberger (Wireless Op/Gunner). At 1710 hours Rosenberger sent a bogus message to Night fighter HQ at Grove, Denmark, saying the aircraft's starboard engine was on fire. Schmitt took the aircraft down to sea level to get below German radar and dropped three life rafts to make the Germans think the plane and crew were lost at sea, then headed for Scotland.
      Two Spitfire VBs of No.165 Squadron were scrambled  from Dyce with orders to intercept Schmitt's Ju 88 near Peterhead. Flight Lieutenant Arthur Roscoe was flying as 'Blue 1' and Sergeant Ben Scamen was 'Blue 2'. The Spitfire pilots made contact with the Junker's at about 1805 hours 13 miles north west of Aberdeen.
      No.165's Squadron Diary recorded the following about what happened next: `Arthur Roscoe and Ben Scamen were scrambled today to investigate a raider plotted due east of Peterhead. The raider turned south and eventually started to orbit as though lost. The section identified the raider as a Ju88 and when Arthur approached, the Hun dropped his undercart shot off very lights and waggled his wings. Blue 1 waggled his wings in turn and positioned himself in front of the enemy aircraft - Ben Scamen flew above and behind and the procession moved off to Dyce aerodrome where all landed safely causing a major sensation'.
     Schmitt landed his aircraft at Dyce at 1820 hours. He had delivered the Ju88 (that was fitted with the latest FuG 202 Liechtenstein BC A.I radar, as well as associated signals documents) into British hands. It is thought that both Schmitt and Rosenberger had been working with British Intelligence for some time.

Further details surrounding this incident can be found by clicking HERE

Schmitt's Ju 88 was soon flown from Dyce to RAE Farnborough by Squadron Leader R A Kalpas, escorted by Beaufighters. Once at Farnborough the aircraft was given RAF markings and the serial number PJ876. It was thoroughly tested making 83 flights, totalling 66 hours 55 minutes with the RAE, mostly from Farnborough.

Today Schmitt's Junkers Ju 88 can be seen at RAF Hendon.

PJ876 - Note the RAF Roundels

Close up of the FuG 202  antennas

Heinkel Down

On 30 August 1940 the Battle of Britain continued to rage on over the Channel and the South of England. During a morning patrol with No.253 Squadron, nineteen year old John Greenwood engaged a formation of Bf 110s in a head-on attack near Kenley. He fired a quick burst of ammunition at one of the twin-engined fighters and then dived down to avoid a collision. He then noticed a Heinkel 111 bomber (that had carried out an attack on Farnborough's aerodrome) flying at about 12,000 feet. Greenwood attacked the enemy aircraft from the rear and fired all the remaining ammunition he had left in his Hurricane fighter. Greenwood recalls that he 'pounced on him from the port quarter and knocked both engines out. I followed him down and watched him make a good forced landing on the North Downs. Circling low down about 200 feet, I saw the crew of five leave their aircraft; one I saw covered in blood and lifted out by his comrades. Many years after the war, I discovered he died and another of the crew were wounded but lived. They were made POWS.' (Quote from 'A Dream Realised' by C Yeoman, Fighting High Volume 2)

The He 111 Greenwood downed on Haxted Farm, Lingfield
Pilot Officer John Greenwood

John Greenwood today with his portrait
painted by David Pritchard

FW 190 tested at RAE Farnborough

On 23 June 1942, the RAF received an unexpected 'gift' from the Luftwaffe, when this Focke-Wulf 190A-3 fell into its hands. Following combat with Spitfires over the Channel, Oberleutnant Arnim Faber, the adjutant of III./JG 2, mistakenly landed this aircraft at Pembrey in South Wales. This 190 was soon sent to the RAE at Farnborough where it was examinated, evaluated and tested.

Fw 190 at Pembery, South Wales
     Fw 190 with RAF markings at the RAE, Farnborough
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Bf 109 E-3 'White 1' - AE479

I have recently come across some photographs that are particularly interesting for me from a local history point of view. Living in Farnborough, home of the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE), I have always been aware of the important role carried out by the RAE during the Second World War for its aviation research and development history, but until a recent visit to the FAST museum in Farnborough, I have not really looked into the aircraft that were captured and tested there. So after some digging I thought I would post some brief information that I have found. 
Below are some photos of a Messerschmitt Bf 109E-3 known as 'White 1' of the 1. Staffel of JG 76. This aircraft was captured by the French on 22 November 1939 after Feldwebel Karl Hier was forced down after combat between Hornsburg and Bitche. Hier force-landed 'White 1' at Goersdorf, near Woerth and the aircraft was soon repaired and evaluated by the French at the Centre d' Essais en Vol at Orleans-Bricy. This aircraft was then given to the RAF at Amiens in May 1940, where it was flown by Flying Officer Eric Brown of No.1 Squadron in mock combat with a Hurricane and a Curtiss Hawk. White 1 was subsequently transferred to Boscombe Down for initial flight tests and then moved to the RAE Farnborough for additional tests and evaluation on 14 May 1940. It was in Farnborough that White 1 was given the serial number AE479. On 13 June 1940, famous fighter ace 'Sailor' Malan (No.74 Sqn) flew this 109 over Farnborough to test its performance. I believe Bob Stanford Tuck (No.92 Sqn) also flew AE479 over the RAE to compare it to the RAF's own fighters. This aircraft was eventually shipped to the USA on 7 April 1942 but it crashed during a test flight in November that same year and was finally scrapped at Chanute Field on 26 November 1942.

Down near Woerth
White 1 captured in France
White 1 with RAF roundels and british serial number
In flight