More fun and games and I return to Mill on Saturday 14th. One chap goes through Customs with two bicycle tyres under his arm. Reg Hodge and I dispose of mine for 65 guilders, the market having dropped from 100.
I do a TAC/R west of Apeldoorn where jet a/c have reported much M/T. I go right down to check up but am only able to identify the odd one or two – the rest are shelters. I think I spot an armoured car, and get fired on, seeing the cigar rings come up. Next day we move north to Twente a few miles from the German border. Quarters like Gilze, and I have a small room to myself, thank God.
I book a room at the Savoy, a double with a bath, and Monica and I end up there after dinner with Bill at Quaglinos. On Sunday she gives me tea and then I run dinner for Bill and his American dame and Bert Mann at the Brevet Club. I give them both German beer mugs. Monday I meet Mama and send her off to Elstree with J.J. and Monica gives me supper and sends me packing about 10.30pm. Tuesday I take her to ‘Three’s a family’ and then we go home and ‘Whoa!’
Yesterday Peggy and Mama and I go down to Farnham to see Francis (JDW: Peggy is his brother Hugh’s widow and Francis is his niece) but she won’t speak, we miss the train back, and I just get to the Brevet Club in time to give Uncle George a drink, and then go down to Chelsea and eat Monica’s tinned crab. I get to bed early and feel fine today, though with a bit of a cold. I get a bicycle tyre but the Customs will no doubt get it, but I cannot get Monica and wings brooch under 5 guineas anywhere.
Today I share a drink with Baffy (JDW: Baffy Dugdale) in the evening and later hope to visit Chelsea! We have a wonderful breakfast in bed in the Savoy on Sunday morning, and Monica manages to get her face cream on before I see her in the morning, so that I do not get the shock that she, not I, expected!!
Having lost 19 aircraft and 14 pilots in the Group the “press on regardless” attitude is abandoned. Dick Mitchell comes back as C.O. and says that David and I are to be his flight commanders. Fair enough says I – as Alan Clifton-Mogg is going home as he will not serve under Dick, as he reckons he should have been C.O. himself. I do one more sortie, abortive, with long range tanks, in the Zuyder Zee area, though after 15 minutes I open the engine, and it’s so rough I come home. Just as well, as I am in 5/10 cloud and miles off track.
I get on leave and am now in the “Wings Club”. We leave Gilze and reach Northolt around 6pm and I get up, but there is some mistake over beds and I have the ‘emergency’ one. I ring Monica, and she is waiting and says “come on down and I will cook something.” My God! I go down to the King’s Road with a bottle of “Cheval Noir 1937”, and get home at 3am after another passionate session.
Yesterday I take my battledress for wings etc to Flights, and then collect her from her office at 6.30pm. We have a drink in Shepheards and the Brevet Club, followed by dinner there and then get a bus home. It’s raining and makes her hair smell nice, and everything in the garden becomes lovely, so it’s with the greatest difficulty that I am made to go away at 11.30, having started nothing, so that we both get a good night’s sleep.
I had wired Bill at Camberley but find he is in town, and today meet him and arrange a party tonight. He is keen on night clubs so I expect I will end up in one, very tired and against my will. The G/C, Anderson, got a bar to his D.S.O. and I start to think I shall get a bar to my DFC for those forward facing oblique photos. But it’s too late now – and not even a mention. I should like an oak leaf!
I go up and try and loot Wesel but all I get is a bedside lamp. We pass ‘Monty’ himself on the way up. Down south of Welden the country is rich with German chickens etc and many undamaged farms. The Rhine is fast moving and we cross by an American built pontoon bridge.
I go out with Nick Bowen in Area 3 and we get alot of flak which I don’t see, though which he tells me about. Later I see flashes of light flak exploding, but a long way off. I had previously done a very successful shoot in the Stockhumer Bosch, north of Emmerich, on two camouflaged gun pits, with many direct hits, and seeing smoke issuing from an unobserved position nearby.
Today a signal from Group to the effect that armed recces, and presumably us, is to be pressed on regardless of weather conditions and crosswinds. Consequently we have to waive our ‘union rules’ of 3000’ and press on underneath. The result has been one spit (F/Lt Blundell-Hill), and two mustangs hit by flak. I have to do Area 3 and as the cloud is down 10/10 to 1000’, I send my No.2 home and press on. I get a bit lost at times, see nothing worthwhile, except one truck with its characteristic Bosch mottled camouflage, and near Wayringen I see a red golfball pass pretty close, so I leap into the cloud, cross the bomb line, and abandon the rest of my road.
But now? I have arranged to go on leave on the 5th, and had hoped to have seen Monica in Chelsea, but there are three days to go and I shall have indubitably have gone for a Burton by then…
The forward facing jobs are now postponed and cancelled thank God. Hamish Selkirk finishes his tour and there is the usual party with ‘B Flight’ drunks very prominent. I get attacked and have my tie chewed off twice and bruise a rib on a chair during a fall. It puts me off flying for two days. During one melee I grab Johnny Young by the seat of his pants and he jumps around screaming like a cat on hot springs. Later he tells me that I have a grip on his piles!
I go down to Oysterwick and visit Griffiths, Ma’s Canadian friend of Tregunna days, and he gives me a meal and quite some hooch. He is Adj, commander 4th Canadian Armoured Division. I get two letters from Monica, with some very nice bits in them! I am flight commander pro-tem as Alan Clifton-Mogg is acting C.O. and I am enjoying myself with the first job of work for over 12 months! Today the Allies attack across the Rhine. (JDW: Operation Varsity)
Nick Bowen and I do an anti-flak patrol between Wesel and Bocholt to try and spot the gun flashes and get the “cab-rank” Typhoons on to them. There are masses of 88.8mm and 40mm about but nary a flash do I see, and we reckon they are using flashless ammunition. We are expecting to see paratroops about and at 10h I see them just as Mick calls up “Aldershot Tattoo”, our agreed call. We go and watch and take some photographs but due to the haze they are not up to much. The first drop seems unopposed but the second comes through a hail of 40mm flak. The leading Dakota catches fire but continues his run, turns, and then the crew bail out. I see about 6 Dakotas burning, some crash, one puts out its fire in an engine, and one I see crash our side of the Rhine, with one of the crew about to come down in the river. I see a Typhoon smoking for a bit, and get caught up in the flak myself whilst trying to get photographs.
On the way home I pass a stream of tugs and gliders going out – the Dakotas of the previous drop passing underneath them on their way home. Later we do a TAC/R together and I make a pass at a truck, unsuccessfully. My shooting is bad these days and I have missed an m/c, a jeep, and today’s truck.
Steve and Bob Mackelswain pick my wallet up at the Brevet Club and bring it back to me. The last four days have been hot with not a cloud in the sky, reminiscent of India, and I do a little sunbathing – when time.
Yesterday I do a job of work. The Army want forward facing obliques along the roads north of Emmerich for their next attack, and I take some. Chris Blundell-Hill (JDW: he was to be shot down and killed two weeks later on April 1st) takes the first lot at 1000 feet, and I am briefed for two runs later on, the first over a 12 gun flak position. I go out with Varley and dive down on the first stretch of road from 6000′. I level out at 420 mph and find I am at 500′ so just keep here there, follow the road round a forest, until I see a church spire, which comes at the end of my run, then pull up and jink through the gate and into cloud. I forget to turn the camera off and nearly ruin everything. I then look around for my second stretch but the area is 9/10 cloud at 5000′ and I stooge about for too long until I suddenly see it through a gap and down I go. I skid around bends and then see Wehl, the end of my run, and pull up and around, but no friendly cloud. On a starboard bank I see two gun pits – flashes and rings of smoke – and tracer comes up past me from both sides. I twist and skid and turn and climb, and feel a little more comfortable at 4500’, but still no cloud. Eventually I get clear and go home.
Today I see the pictures – perfect and congratulations from all sides. There is one car, 16 HDT (JDW: anyone know what this is?), one flak gun, and an empty flak position. One nun getting off her bicycle, two men running away from the horse and cart they are leading, and many other pedestrians. Some cool and collected, others with guilty consciences. Today Colin Maitland, the C.O., goes out for a further portion of the job and gets shot down. (JDW: killed). So it looks as if I shall have to do some more – and probably follow him too – as they are now well shaken up in that area and on the qui vive. (JDW: on the lookout).
I cope with Area 7 as it’s raining, and low cloud, and no one shoots at me. I see the Ruhr steaming in the distance. I then do a contact recce with the 11th Armoured Division, but do not see anything for them, except our tanks and S.P.s in action on the front, as it then is. The C.O. and two others are later attacked in the same area by 109s. Today I go out Arnhem way but the haze is so bad I get lost several times and have great difficulty.
Reg Cooper arrives here to join 4 Squadron, and yesterday he, I, Reggie Hodge, Moss, Jimmy Chun and Jeff take a “cummer” after lunch and go out to loot Germany. We cross the Gennap bridge and go via Goch and Weeze to Kevalear. Here we enter one or two houses and collect some chairs and crockery. I have a chair and some glasses, others have cut glass and an odd carpet or two. Goch in ruins and most houses everywhere holed. Mines abound on the roadside, a few dead tanks on both sides, dead cattle, and two or three graves are passed. The Germans left have to pin a piece of paper on their front door, with name, date of birth etc of the inmates.
I go to a local farmhouse and organise hot water for my camp bath, which I take in a clean (or was last time) stall in a sort of pigsty-cum-manger, in company with some pigs and one horse. I give the women seven cigarettes and one wants more. I sleep in the ALOs nissen (hut) and take a cupful of hot water for shaving in the morning, and they always come to bed early and sober, so I am well in. They expect to expand and want to kick me out.