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FIGHTER COMMAND V1 KILLERS THE EXPENDABLES Fo r Royal Auxiliary Air Fo rce u nit

FIGHTER

COMMAND

FIGHTER COMMAND V1 KILLERS THE EXPENDABLES Fo r Royal Auxiliary Air Fo rce u nit No

V1 KILLERS

THE
THE

EXPENDABLES

FIGHTER COMMAND V1 KILLERS THE EXPENDABLES Fo r Royal Auxiliary Air Fo rce u nit No

Fo r Royal Auxiliary Air Fo rce u nit No 5 01 Squadron with its ne w H awker Tempest Vs, t he task was a stark one: destroy V1 y ing bombs at any cost

WO RDS: TO M S PENCER

its ne w H awker Tempest Vs, t he task was a stark one: destroy V1
O n we 13 June 1944, the 501 had its full complement of Te mpests

O n

we

13 June 1944, the

501 had its full complement of

Te

mpests by the 29th and moved

to

Ma nston. Arriving on 2 August,

the 29th and moved to Ma nston. Arriving on 2 August, other units we re grounded.

other units we re grounded. Ho me defence meant exactly what it said. As the leading anti-V1 pilot, Be rry was instructed to attend a p re ss facility, w here he s aid: “Our chief

di ffi culty was that, though we could

see the bombs much further away at night, we could not easily judge how

far [away] they we re . A ll we could do

at fi rst was to fl y alongside the fairly

slow b ombs and re member what they

looked like at lethal range. In this way

a ver y g ood interception system was

worked out before t he ne w r ange- fi nder was issued.” Pl t O ff Ro n Bennett explained the stark reality of the Ministr y’s

ABOVE: The rst V1 encountered by No 501 Squadron was by Flt Lt Warren Pe glar, whose attack wa s thwarted

by a Tempest! Here he is standing in front of Spit re V

BL688.

WA RREN PEGLAR

Ge rmans fi re d t he fi rst of their long-awaited secret

apons against southern En gland. On e e xploded in Be thnal Green, east London, killing six people and seriously wounding nine. Th e a ge of missile warfare h ad begun. Th e n ew menace was the Fi eseler FZG 7 6, usually called the V1 (V for

Ve rgeltungswa ff e, or ‘revenge we apon’) in enemy propaganda, and nicknamed the ‘buzz-bomb’ or ‘doodlebug’ by t he Br itish. Th e s cale of the attack grew quickly and became an overriding priority for the Air De fence of Great Br itain, as the re mnants of Fi ghter Command left on home shores became known in 1943. ADGB quickly re- organised its defences, deploying new high-performance fi ghters. Howeve r, with such large numbers of Allied fi ghters across the Channel, there were many ad hoc encounters with the sinister we apon.

it was soon engaged on anti-V1 operations. Fg O ff Bi ll Po lley claimed

the squadron’s fi rs t v ictor y w ith its powe rf ul ne w m ount on the evening

of the 5th and shared a s econd with

Fl t S gt Ry man. Po lley re membered the dangers of V1-hunting: “Very often we were t oo close to our targets before we g ot the opportunity to

fi re , a nd the big danger was getting

an air-burst. On one occasion I w as

chasing a V 1 t oo quickly, a nd I k new that I w as overhauling the bomb too quickly and that I w as ve ry close

to the armoured balloons. I fi re d a

long burst and pulled up steeply to

starboard, almost above the V1, just

as it exploded. Th e b last caught my

left wing and tumbled the aircraft in a

series of snap ro lls. After what seemed

an eternity the aircraft re gained its

stability. As my g yros had tumbled it was many ageing moments before I re alised that I w as upside-down.” Fg O ff ‘Lulu’ Deleuze, a Free French pilot, claimed another V1 two days later, b ut on 10 Au gust 501 under we nt a s igni fi cant and complicated change. Ba rnett and many of his pilots move d a cross to No 274 Sq uadron, which was being re -equipped with the Te mpest in the

day fi ghter ro le.

Ba sed at Fr iston, near Eastbourne

on the Su ssex coast, and fl ying Sp it fi re Vs, No 501 (County of Gl oucester) Sq uadron under its Ne w Zealand CO Sq n L dr Ga ry Ba rnett was engaged in cross-Channel suppor t f or the invasion. Its fi rst encounter with a V1 came on 19 Ju ne, as Fl t L t Warren Pe glar re called: “W hile on coastal patrol over the Dove r a re aIw as

ve ctored onto a b uzz-bomb headed

for London. I c aught up with it and,

just as I w as about to fi re , a Te mpest cut inside me and ble w t he wing o ff it. Dow n it went and exploded in a farmer’s fi eld”. A week later the CO was airborne on an air test in Sp it fi re Vb W3702/SD-M when he shot down a V 1 n ear Be xhill to open his squadron’s fl ying bomb account. Among the units dedicated to countering the V1 was the Fi ghter

In terception Un it (FIU), whose

Te mpest Fl ight was forward-based at Ne wc hurch in Ke nt. It achieved some

spectacular successes, mainly at night, albeit at some cost. No netheless, in little over a m onth it had destroyed more t han 80 fl ying bombs, almost half of them by Fl t Lt Joe Be rr y. To assist in such operations, trials of the Mo nica IIIE tail warning radar as a r ange indicator we re carried out during early Ju ly. Encouraged by the re sults, the Te lecommunications Re search Establishment at De ff ord fi tted Te mpest V E J535 with the equipment for operational trials that began in early Au gust.

Th e e xperienced and elite FIU

Te mpest Fl ight was absorbed into

what was e ff ectively a n ew squadron and Fl t Lt Joe Be rr y w as promoted

to squadron leader as 501’s C O. He

brought with him Fl t L ts Ja ckson

Ro bb and Cy ril Th ornton, Fg O ff s

‘Lucky’ Lucas and Leo Wi lliams, and

US A AF exchange pilot Fl t O ff ‘Bud’

Mi ller, a ll of whom prov ided an able

and experienced core. So me of the original No 501 Sq uadron members who we re we ll-versed in night fl ying,

‘Our ex pendability wa s b rought home to us on man y o ccas ions wh en we we re sent of f i n a ll sorts of we at her conditions’

such as Bi ll Po lley, remained while others we re posted in. Ha ving formed his squadron

speci fi cally for night anti-V1 duties,

Be rr y w as summoned to London

where he w as told bluntly what

was expected of it. What he briefed

on his re turn was chilling and

demonstrated the ru thless approach

to total war on the par t of Britain’s

instructions, particularly for a s ingle- seat fi ghter unit: “ Th e p atrols we re quite long — t wo hours or more, fl ying between searchlights which marked the patrol boundaries. Our expendability was brought home to us on many occasions when we we re sent o ff in all sorts of we ather, ver y o ften with the re al probability that by the

end of the patrol the air fi eld would be cove re d in f og or low c loud. In fact, on one occasion, I went o ff when the met forecaster had predicted that the

only air fi eld open at the end of the

period would be Va lley in Anglesey.

OPPOSITE: No 501 Squadron put up this trio of Te mp est Vs in October 1944. Nearest the camera is EJ763/SD-X, accompan ied by EJ599/SD-W ( wh ich scored fo ur V1 kills, the nal one being the squadron’s last ever) and six-kill example EJ589/SD-J. AEROPLANE

last ever) and six-kill example EJ589/SD-J. AEROPLANE A f urther Te mpest V u nit was

A f urther Te mpest V u nit was

now p re paring for action. No 501 Sq uadron had move d b rie fl y to We sthampnett and begun to re place

its Sp it fi re Vs. Among the pilots was Sgt ‘Ben’ Gunn, who re membered the fi rst Te mpest being delivered by

a

s omewhat slight female ATA p ilot:

political leadership. He w as told that

Th e CO l ooked at me and said, ‘If s he

can fl y i t, so can yo u. Ge t a irborne’.’

the squadron had to consider itself expendable and thus must take o ff

Gu nn noted in his logbook, “ Th is is a

to

tr y to e ff ect interception in any

re

al aeroplane — A ND HOW!”

we

ather conditions, even when all

FIGHTER COMMAND V1 KILLERS Lu ckily the timing was wrong and I managed to get

FIGHTER

COMMAND

FIGHTER COMMAND V1 KILLERS Lu ckily the timing was wrong and I managed to get back

V1 KILLERS

Lu ckily the timing was wrong and I managed to get back before t he fog

ro lled in.” Th e ‘ne w’ 501 was, of course, immediately operational. Th e n ight after it re -formed it shot down eight fl ying bombs, three falling just before m idnight to Fl t Lt Cyril

the 12th he shot one down; the next day he despatched two in daylight,

then another on the 14th, and two more on t he 16th. Hi s m arksmanship was re markable, so accurate that on occasion he destroyed a V 1 w ith the expenditure of j ust 60 ro unds. Gu ns brought down the bulk of the

‘Having ru n o ut of ammunition, ‘Snowy’ Bonham claimed three V1s by tipping their guidance systems with his wingtip’

BELOW: The ra ther primitive surroundings at Bradwell Bay shortly after 501 and its Te mpests moved in. From this aireld the unit could more effe ctively co unter He 11 1-launched V1s and long-range va riants red from the Netherlands.

AEROPLANE

va riants fi red from the Netherlands. AEROPLANE Th ornton. ‘Bud’ Miller was also successful: “I

Th ornton. ‘Bud’ Miller was also successful: “I was patrolling under

Wa tling control. Th e fi rst ‘d iver’ w as seen at 00.17hrs coming from the south-west at 1,000ft, 350mph, on

a c ourse of 235°. I fi re d t hree two-

second bursts from 50 yards and saw pieces fall o ff , a nd the ‘d iver’ went down and crashed eight miles east of To nbridge. Th e s econd ‘d iver’ w as at 01.25hrs with the same height and

speed as the fi rst. I fi re d f ro m 1 00 yards astern. Th e ‘diver’ c rashed and exploded a f ew miles north east of

To nbridge

seen north of Sa ndwich at 8,000ft on a c ourse of 290° at 280mph. I

attacked and fi re d f our two-second bursts 500 yards astern. I s aw the

‘d iver’ e xplode on the ground at

01.35hrs, approx imately 30 seconds after my last burst.” Be rr y c ontinued to har ve st his

re gular crop of fl ying bombs. On

Th e t hir d ‘diver ’ w as

fl ying bombs destroyed on the night of the 19th, though 501’s ‘ Mo nty’ Bu rt on fl ying Te mpest EJ603/SD-M got one. ‘Doodlebugs’ c ontinued to fall

on London, albeit with signi fi cantly re duced intensity. At Feltham, 11 people we re killed in one explosion at lunchtime on the 20th as they we re re turning from Su nday worship. 5 01’s CO was up early, a nd fl ying over central Ke nt at 06.30hrs he brought down his penultimate V1.

Th e r isks the pilots we re expected to take we re brought home brutally the following day. Having got

airborne in bad we ather, Th ornton died when his Te mpest hit the ground near Wo odnesborough in Ke nt while trying to descend through thick fog, a

victim of 501’s ‘expendability’.

Wi th the coming of dawn on 24 Au gust, the squadron’s Te mpests shot down three V1s. Among the pilots making claims was De leuze, who shared his second with Fg O ff Bob St ockburn. Th e latter downed two more 48 h ours later. Th e b ulk of the ‘d ivers’ d estroyed on the night of 27 Au gust fell to 501 — m ost unusually, t here w as none for its CO. Th e n ight’s top honours belonged to a young Ne w Zealander, Fl t Lt Gordon ‘Snow y’ Bonham. He had been awarded the Di stinguished Fl ying Cross when fl ying Brew ster Bu ff alos on operations over Ma laya, during which campaign he was badly wounded. Pa trolling around dawn on the 27th, he brought down four; most re markably, h aving ru n o ut of ammunition, three of them we re claimed by ‘t ipping’ t he V1’s g uidance system with his wingtip. Th is hat- trick is thought unique. As if the sortie had not been eventful enough, Bonham then had to force-land, out of fuel, and call Ma nston for some to be brought over. Polley, m eanwhile, claimed another V1. Ju st before d awn on the 28th, ‘Snow y’ Bonham shot down his fi fth and last ‘d iver’ n ear Rye, Su ssex. Although the campaign was perceived to be ru nning down, almost 100 bombs we re launched against Br itain that day, of w hich just four re ached London. Th e a ctivities we re witnessed by the ADGB C-in-C, Air Ma rshal Si r Roderick Hi ll, who was airborne in his personal Te mpest. He said: “ Th e w hole was [as] fi ne

[a] spectacle of co-operation as any commander could wish to see.” Th e m ost

[a] spectacle of co-operation as any commander could wish to see.” Th e m ost successful anti-V1 pilot made his 61st and fi nal claim on the 31st. Be rr y w ro te: “I saw a ‘diver’ in the Sa ndwich area at 3,000ft and 250mph. I c losed in to 3,000 yards dead astern and fi re das hort burst, which knocked pieces o ff the propulsion unit. I fi re d a gain from 150 yards and saw more s trikes. Th e ‘d iver’ e xploded on the ground in the Fa ve rsham area.” Mi ssiles continued to be launched against En gland, but the crisis had passed. Wi th the fi nal break-out from No rmandy and the ro uting of the

fi nal break-out from No rmandy and the ro uting of the We hrmacht, the sweeping

We hrmacht, the sweeping Anglo- Canadian advance towards the launch sites in the Pa s de C alais area saw the evacuation of V1 units to ne w s ites in the Ne therlands. As Se ptember

dawned, most Te mpest and Sp it fi re

XIV squadrons joined the Se cond

Ta ctical Air Fo rc e on t he Continent. Howeve r, as a s pecialist unit No 501 Sq uadron re mained with ADGB, and on 22 Se ptember move d to Bradwell

Ba y to c over the ne w t hreat axis for V1 attacks. Th e e nd of the main V1 assault on En gland merely presaged a n ew horror: the V2 ro cket. Th e fi rst of these fell on London on 8 September,

and there w as no obvious defence

except to attack the principal launch

sites in north-west Ho lland, which

re mained in Ge rman hands until the

war’s end.

Th e R AF was now a ware of t he use of He inkel He 111s for air-

launching V1s, and patrols to counter them began during Au gust. Re gular launches, while in no way re aching the intensity of previous months,

kept the defences alert. Early on 4

Se ptember, 5 01’s Flt Lt Ke ith Pa nter

and Fg O ff ‘Lulu’ Deleuze e ach shot a

‘d oodlebug’ d ow n. Th ere were o nly occasional intercepts from then until the 16th, when ‘Bud’ Miller was airborne from Br adwell Ba y s oon after dawn against contacts re ported north of Fe lixstowe:

“I climbed to 7,000ft and saw a ‘diver’ coming in on a c ourse of 285° at 2,500ft [and] 340mph. I d ived down on it and closed in from 500 yards astern and opened fi re .Is aw strikes on the tail unit. Control told me to break o ff the engagement and I d id so.Is aw the ‘d iver’ l osing height and

ABOVE: A Tempest

V of No 501

Squadron is re- armed at Bradwell Bay, Essex, during the autumn of 1944.

AEROPLANE

ABOVE LEFT: With over 60 destroyed,

the most succe ssful anti-V1 pilot by some margin was Flt Lt Jo e B erry. Initially he ew

Te mpests with the

Fighter Interception

Unit , b ringing down his rst when he shot down two

ying bombs on

the afternoon of 28

Ju ne 1944. He later

co mmanded No

501 Squadron.

NO 501 SQUADRON ASSOCIATION

of 28 Ju ne 1944. He later co mmanded No 501 Squadron. NO 501 SQUADRON ASSOCIATION

www.a er opla ne mo nthl y.com 61

FIGHTER COMMAND V1 KILLERS ABOVE: One of 501’s Tempests, possibly EJ538/SD-R , was stripped of

FIGHTER

COMMAND

FIGHTER COMMAND V1 KILLERS ABOVE: One of 501’s Tempests, possibly EJ538/SD-R , was stripped of its

V1 KILLERS

FIGHTER COMMAND V1 KILLERS ABOVE: One of 501’s Tempests, possibly EJ538/SD-R , was stripped of its

ABOVE: One of 501’s Tempests, possibly EJ538/SD-R , was stripped of its camou age in an attempt to gain some additional speed. In October 1944 it acted as a backdrop fo ra‘ team shot’. Rear, l eft to right : u nknown, Fg Off Keith Panter (four V1s destroye d), Fg Off Josef Maday RCAF (one-and-a-half), Fg Off Joe Jo hnson RCAF (four), Flt Lt ‘Monty ’ Burton (six), Fg Off B ob Stockburn, Fg Off B ill Po lley ( six), Fg Off Ron Be nne tt (four), unknown. Front , l eft to right : WO E dward Wo jczynski (three), Capt Payne, Flt Lt Jackson Ro bb (13) , Flt Lt Horry Hansen RNZAF, Sqn Ldr Alastair Parker-Rees (nine), Flt Lt Ollie Willis, Flt Lt Birks, WO S. H. Balam (one), Flt Lt To ny Langdon-Down (two-and-a-half), Fg Off Jimmie Grottick (two), Fg Off Harte. NO 501 SQUADRON ASSOCIATION

crash and explode on the ground near RAF Castle Camps 30 seconds after my attack at 06.06hrs”. Tw o m inutes later he spotted another V1 over his home air fi eld and, fi ring from astern, caused it to explode in mid-air. Mi ller claimed his last V1 during the early hours of 25 Se ptember. ‘Snow y’ Bonham had also scrambled from Ma nston and was ve ctored out to sea despite bad we ather, b ut later radioed that he had a c ompass fault and was re turning. Tr agically the New

Fi ghters downed 19 V1s that month, a q uarter of them falling to 501’s g uns. Th ro ugh Oc tober, when ADGB was re -designated as Fi ghter Command, increased activity by the He inkels of KG 53’s t hree Gr uppen and the fi ring of some ground-launched long-range V1s saw a m arked ‘s pike’ in k ills. Fi ghter Command shot down 43 V1s, the Te mpests of 501 claiming 26 of them. In an attempt to interdict the V1-launching He inkels, early on 2

‘I wa s f ar too close and the V1 ex ploded in my fa ce, w ith pieces hitting my aircraft. I was completely bl inded by the ex plosion’

Ze alander, fl ying Te mpest EJ590/ SD-L, crashed in Essex and was killed. He was acknowledged to have been a s uperb pilot, but also had a re putation for being “m ad as a h atter” and for having “a n a lmost cherubic smile”.

Oc tober Sq n L dr Be rr y l ed a t rio of 501’s Tempe sts to attack them at their bases. Howeve r, during the re turn fl ight his aircraft was struck by light fl ak over Ho lland and he crashed to his death. It was a t ragic blow f or the squadron to lose its charismatic CO,

who was by some considerable margin the RAF’s m ost successful ‘a nti-diver’ pilot. He was re placed by Sq n L dr Alastair Pa rk er-Rees. Op erations continued, with Fg O ff Jo hnny Jo hnson bringing down a s ingle fl ying bomb on the evening of the 5th, and De leuze d oing so on the 6th. Th e n ext day, Flt Lt Leo Wi lliams at the controls of Te mpest EJ590/SD-L shot down his fi fth V1, adding two more on t he successive nights of the 11th and 12th. Fo ur other V1s we re destroyed on the latter night, one by Fl t Lt ‘ Ju mbo’ Bi rbeck, who got another later that month. On e of t he FIU’s a nd 501’s most successful V1-hunters was Fl t Lt Ja ckson Ro bb, w ho on the night of 25 Oc tober shot down his 13th and last fl ying bomb. Wi th night fi ghters active a gainst the He 111s, 501’s Tempests continued to knock out many of the V1s that they launched. Early in Nove mber came another increase in activity, s even being downed. Flt Lt ‘Monty’ Burton scored a f urther pair on the 22nd and 23rd. He wrote

of the latter success: “I particularly

re call the one on 23 Nove mber. Th at

night it was ve ry dark w ith thick low cloud. I t racked a V 1 at 7 00ft and eagerly watched the light centring on the glass gadget; when the light became a c entral unit, I fi re d. Of course, I w as far too close and the bomb exploded in my face, with pieces hitting my aircraft in va rious

places. Wo rst of all, I w as completely blinded by the explosion and couldn’t see my instruments, so at 200ft I w as fl ying at great speed, not knowing if

I w as going upwards, sideways — or downwards! Eventually my sight

re turned and I went back to base”.

De spite his traumatic experience, Bu rt on landed safely. KG 53’s Heinkels launched 15 V1s on the evening of 5 December. Of the seven that re ached the En glish coast, four we re shot down by fi ghters — o ne we nt to 501’s C O, Alastair Pa rk er-Rees, while Bu rt on and Jo hnson claimed two others. Tw o n ights after that, a p air of 501’s Te mpests in the hands of Fl t L ts Po rt er and Langdon-Brown we re scrambled from Br adwell Ba y to go after an inbound ‘d iver’—t hey shot it down between them. Th eir French colleague De leuze n otched up his eighth and last fl ying bomb kill on 17 De cember, w ith Fl t Lt L ilwall and WO Ba lham adding further V1s that night. Th ese we re the squadron’s last victories of 1944. Langdon-Brown opened 501’s V1 account for the ne w year on the night of 13 Ja nuar y 1 945, but hea v y l osses

and a c ritical shortage of fuel saw KG 53’s Heinkels being withdrawn from operations two we eks later. Th ere w as thus a m arked re duction in fl ying bomb activity, a nd while

a m arked re duction in fl ying bomb activity, a nd while some long-range V1s

some long-range V1s from the Du tch launch sites continued to be fi re d at London, the campaign was largely over. Th e s quadron did not fi nd another V1 until 7 March when Fg O ff Jo hnson spotted one at 4,000ft near Chelmsford. Op ening fi re from about 300 yards, he saw it come down near No rt h Weald.

Ap propriately, t he last V1 claimed by Fi ghter Command fell to its so-called ‘e xpendable’ u nit, as Flt Lt Ji mmie Grottick re called: “My second V1 was shot down on the night of 26 Ma rc h 1 945, when I w as

operating out of Hu nsdon. It was an interesting kill, both for myself and No 501 Sq uadron. Th e V 1 c rashed and exploded near No rt h Weald, and as far as I c an ascertain was the last scored against an intruder over Br itain.” Th e t errifying V1 threat had gone. Of approx imately 10,000 fi re d at En gland, almost 2,500 re ached London and other cities, killing more than 6,000 people and seriously wounding nearly 18,000 more. No 501 Sq uadron had been at the ve ry forefront of the campaign, during which it shot down 84 V1s — and possibly as many as 95 — at a c ost of four pilots killed.

possibly as many as 95 — at a c ost of four pilots killed. ABOVE: USAAF

ABOVE: USAAF

pilo t ‘ Bud ’ Miller shot down his ninth and last V1 when

ying this Te mp est

V, EJ558/SD-R , f rom Bradwell Bay. It carried his ‘score’ under its co ckpi t.

VIA C. H. THOMAS

BELOW: A Tempest V f ro m 5 01 between sorties at Bradwell Bay, with another taxiing in the background.

AEROPLANE

THOMAS BELOW: A Tempest V f ro m 5 01 between sorties at Bradwell Bay, with
THOMAS BELOW: A Tempest V f ro m 5 01 between sorties at Bradwell Bay, with