February 24th 1942

Shot down by 17th Indian Division, Times of India cartoon cut out and pasted into the Pilot’s Log Book . See also matching entry.

I go to Bassein and back in a Lysander. F/Sgt Falconer and his men drive off to Magwe, after I have gone down to docks the night before and stole what rations they want. Yesterday we are all packed up to go, and Mann is sent on a recce to find out if the Japs have crossed the Sittang or not. If they have we are to go off at once and evacuate the joint. Mann has a squirt at a Jap “Army 97” and sees it enter a fog bank at about 100′ with smoke coming out of its wings. But not confirmed. I am trying to fuel up the Lysanders and though I find some 230 (JDW: octane, fuel) I can’t get a bowser and eventually put 100 octane fuel in. Then I am sent on a recce. (JDW: in a Hurricane 11b) I go at 500′ over river and find no troops crossing, a look over our lines and then I make for the railway station across the bridge at about 1000′. Suddenly, bang! by my right elbow and the cockpit fills with hot smoke. I recognise it as Glycol, my goggles mist over, but I head for our lines and try to climb, undoing my straps for a “bale out”. At about 2000′ the engine gets hoarse, oil pressure drops to 50 lb and the glycol stops pouring up. I look over side, funk jumping, then see a small river with a stretch of sand by it. I lower the wheels, forget to do up my straps again, throttle back and make for it. I switch off and notice smoke coming from engine, so she is about seizing up. I just can’t make the sandbank, “pull the nose up to lengthen the glide” and suddenly the light disappears and I am under water. I have failed to reach sand, and stalled into two and a half feet of water short of it. Only damage, one of my precious lenses broken in my goggles.

I wade ashore, met some locals to whom I chat, when Pete Jennings and some soldiers arrive. They burn the aircraft, we walk back to 17 Indian Division HQ and find they have shot me down and were still firing when I was trying to land!

Beer, lunch and I get back in Pete’s car to Pegu, and get a lift to Mingaladon aerodrome from there. Situation chaotic at the front. Most of the division on wrong side of the river, the bridge blown and HQ not knowing who is where. They fire at all aircraft, having been shot up by Blenheims, Hurricanes and P40s. Tea with some 12 ton American tanks. Met Kinnarid on 17 Division staff.

JDW: This episode became part of  family legend – my father would often tell me how he was shot down and had to crash land in a ‘crocodile pond’. Technically I suppose he was right – sort of – but no sign of crocodiles here dad!


Published by

9 responses to “February 24th 1942”

  1. Harrowing stuff. I’m sdduming he was flying a Hurri if the smoke was glycol?

  2. “assuming” not “sdduming”. LOL, I’m on an unfamiliar laptop with full number pad to the right so the keys are out of line!

    1. James Dunford Wood Avatar
      James Dunford Wood

      Hi Andy
      Well spotted. I had assumed this was in his Lysander, but just checked his log book, and in this period he is alternating between Lysander and Hurricane 11b, and in fact throughout February until May 1942 it was mostly Hurricane flying. So yes, the log book shows he was shot down in a Hurricane 11b.

  3. Once february is over, Would it be possible to post the logbook scan for Feb 42? That would be a treat

    1. James Dunford Wood Avatar
      James Dunford Wood

      Hi – sure. I also has a nice cartoon of the period showing a Hurricane being shot down by a British gunner who mistakes it for a Japanese Navy ‘0’
      Will scan something and post over next few days.

    2. James Dunford Wood Avatar
      James Dunford Wood

      Hi there – I have now published the relevant extracts from the log book here https://storyofwar.com/background/pilots-flying-log-book/
      You might also be interested in these scanned intelligence reports from Habbaniya, May 1941 – https://storyofwar.com/background/raf-habbaniya-daily-intelligence-bulletins/

  4. James, Thanks very much!! Great material as always!

  5. Great stuff, James! I had seen mention of Habbaniya in the Indian/Burmese entries but didn’t equate his time there as during the rebellion. Thought he had transited through as I hadn’t got to read that far back yet. One of the most fascinating RAF actions of the war and one that never ceases to amaze.

    1. James Dunford Wood Avatar
      James Dunford Wood

      Hi Andy – yes, that Habbaniya episode is fascinating. Little reported, and indeed underplayed, in the official WW2 histories. I am halfway through a book on the subject, based on these diaries. There have been a couple, but none that has really done it justice I don’t think. My father was one of the few pilots who got a medal that in part acknowledged this campaign – later in 1942 (or maybe early 1943) he gets a DFC, for flying in Burma and Iraq. For a few grainy images of Habbaniya and the battle, see https://storyofwar.com/photos/photos-from-the-habbaniya-campaign-may-1941/ and https://storyofwar.com/photos/photos-from-habbaniya-march-april-1941/
      For diary entries, see https://storyofwar.com/category/194105/, and my favourite, https://storyofwar.com/2011/05/03/may-3rd-1941/, where he forgets his parachute on the first day of war.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: