March 24th 1945 – Operation Varsity


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)

Mick 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.

 

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March 18th 1945


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).

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March 13th 1945


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.

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March 9th 1945


We move to Mill – a pressed steel plate strip with a perpetual crosswind and I take up residence with the A.L.O.s in the hope of sneaking a cup of their hot water to shave in the morning. Today I do a photo trip up by Leiden and don’t like it as I cannot get higher than 4000′. The engine is damn rough on the way home too.

There is a farm within 30 feet of where my washing is done, and I hope to get hot water there too. Tomorrow my first effort at the dreaded Area 7 down by the Ruhr, and I am not looking forward to it. What with one thing and another it seems too much to expect that I can get through to my next leave and go and see Monica again! God – what a thought. However there is nothing I can do about it, and I hope I can keep my nerve.

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March 8th 1945


What a night – We have supper and a drop of scotch in Monica’s flat, and eventually I get talking and out it all comes! Surprise! The most sympathetic and understanding woman I ever met, despite her claim to be 34. I leave at 1.30am after a passionate two hours or so, with ideas of returning on my next leave, if there ever will be one, and with Monica’s wholehearted co-operation. I could write a screed on her, but as I hope she will take the opportunity of reading it, I won’t.

I leave by Dakota the next day from Northolt, after a final telephone call, though doubts are expressed that I shall get on the aircraft due to the loss of my wallet plus identity card, 700 Belgium francs, some guilden and 30/-. Not to speak of clothing coupons.

I find the Wing about to move further up, but no other change, except that Woodbridge had to bail out at 6000’ above cloud, and only just came down inside our lines. Much mail and papers and my bed is broken by these damn drunks. Of course after this, something will happen to stop me going back on leave – it’s bound to. And to a kiss like a…. I can’t describe it.

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March 5th 1945


This Gay dame  (JDW: Gaye Priestley) is pretty grim and I have to cope with a tea dance in the Piccadilly hotel. Later, thank God, she suggests Shepheards and then we go to the Brevet Club and I give her a couple of gins and have quite a good time myself talking to other people. I pack her off out of my life on the tube about 10.50pm and she is annoyed I don’t kiss her.

Next (plus one) night I go with Baffy Dugdale (JDW: niece of Arthur Balfour) to Lady Sinclair’s flat after a drink at the Allies Club, and am very pleased to find myself talking to Mr Churchill’s brother. Bernard Fergusson is also there, and I had had a drink, quite a few gins in fact, with him the previous night in the Senior Service Club, after giving Monica lunch in the Brevet Club. I leave about 7.30pm and rush off to meet Monica at the Wings Club. We go to Mirabel in Curzon Street but the floor is so crowded it is difficult to dance, and there is so much noise you cannot talk. Next day, Friday, I dash down to Harrow, and it seems much the same, though I feel like capping all the old beaks. J.W. Thompson tells me Peter Petit is home, so I go to call, meet his mother, and we go up to join him and a peculiar wife and June Petit at Scotts, later having lunch in Berkeley.

I seem to have got my days muddled up. Saturday I meet Marny and Bill who come up for the night – I collect Gigs and we dine at the Brevet Club, and fool about upstairs, later going on to the “Nuthatch” Club in Regent Street, a low joint full of Yanks and French SAS. A French Canadian sailor sings most magnificently and I get to bed at 3am.

Sunday I take Bill and Marny to lunch at the Brevet and then we walk around the park and feed the ducks. I lose my wallet somewhere and identity card. I then take a bottle of champagne to Monica’s flat in Chelsea and she cooks up steak and eggs and gives me some brandy. We talk and drink and smoke and she sits on my lap and I almost make some proposal which would put an end to it for ever, but don’t. She gives me a red silk scarf to fly in – or rather I ask for one and get it – I am pretty warm and so seems she, but I don’t know how to go about it, as some others I know would. She is like a Varga girl from ‘Esquire’, and more lovely than anyone I can recall to mind that I know – with a VOICE – oh my God! Gigs says she is her second cousin and older than her (Gigs 30+) and has just had her second divorce. I am going to see her tonight, but we have nothing to drink, and I shall undoubtedly make a fool of myself and get nowhere – how it will pain me tomorrow, going back to th War.

I get some sheets today for 22/- and no coupons and my battledress smartened up a bit.

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February 28th 1945 – London


I set off with a bottle of champagne and six eggs on the Dakota on the 26th, and am now in town on 7 days leave. I stay at the Wings Club, where I meet S/L Pallot, ex 268, on his way to India. First night I try Gay Priestley, but nought doing, so I take Gigs out to the Berkeley Buttery and the Brevet Club (JDW: 11 Chesterfield Street, Mayfair), but she is not in very good form, and I leave her home at about 11pm and rush off in a sort of fit to spend £3 somewhere off Curzon Street. I don’t even enjoy it much, but feel I have to, so that’s that and pray God no consequences.

Yesterday I have a drink with Baffy Dugdale and then to Gig’s for a party and on to Choy’s Chinese restaurant in Soho. There is one Monica Peck, who might have stepped out of “Esquire”, whom I see home to Chelsea, all the way on foot, and am enchanted – (divorced twice.) I arrange to give her lunch tomorrow, and get no sleep and all the usual over her. Today I have to meet Gay Priestley in Piccadilly Underground at 1600hrs with a view to going to a tea dance. I try to get Monica this morning, but she has a date, or I would have switched, and am now feeling a bit depressed over her, and have to go off and make hay with this Gay dame in about one hour.

I wire Marny and Bill but no replies as yet. I also get 20 clothing coupons and see a good RAF dentist about my mouth and am a bit shaken about his treatment. Of course this Monica dame will be booked up all the week, or I shall have her and Marny on my hands or something – and I get miserable.

 

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