No 72 Squadron Association

Subtitle

Books about 72 Sqn

 
 

RAF North Weald – A Pictorial History by David Eade

Published by AD Hoc Publications

ISBN 978-0-946958-55-9

Available from www.adhocpublications.com

Price: £17.95


This is an excellent full colour book covering the history of North Weald from WW1 until its closure as an RAF station in 1964. Details of its activity following this are also covered. For ex-72 sqn members who served here this is a ‘must buy’ and includes contributions to the story from Johnny, Meddows, Jim Dolder and Geoff Monahan. Full of lovely period colour and B&W photos as well as profile artwork of the types operated at North Weald. Recommended.


Tom Docherty

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Through My Eyes by Owen Hardy


I recently produced a book "Through My Eyes" dealing with the period of my life from 1941 to 1970 in the Royal Air Force. Regrettably, the book can only be obtained online by those who know about it and how to obtain same - a complicated process.


How to obtain a copy?


1.     On Google, type in Lulu.com

2.     On website. Click on Lulu.com (the paragraphing heading to self publishing)

3.     On webpage, in search bar type in Owen Hardy and click on Go

4      To purchase, click on Add to Cart. (take care as two types of purchase are available. Book @ £15 + p&p. Download @ £10).


I did not get a chance to proof the book before it went public. Hence, there are a few minor errors, mainly spelling, but most annoyingly many paragraphs were run together by the printers. However, those who have read the book give it glowing reports. Rodney Scrase and Tom Hughes have copies and could provide you with an assessment of it should you so wish.


Owen Hardy

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SPITFIRE SAGA – RODNEY SCRASE DFC’

by Angus Mansfield

This book follows Rodney Scrase’s time in the RAF from his initial selection; training in the USA; a false start on multi-engines; Spitfire conversion and posting to 72 Sqn; the campaigns in North Africa, Sicily and Italy; a tour as a gunnery instructor in Egypt and finally the last few months of WWII with 1 Sqn in England and Northern Europe.

It is Angus Mansfield’s second book and was instigated by him reading my mini-biography of Rodney Scrase that I had written for the 72 Sqn Archives. He was sufficiently interested to ask both Rodney and I if he could produce a similar book to the one he did on his grandfather, Barney Barnfather, and this is the result.

The format is similar to his first book by using the subject’s Log Book to initiate each entry which is backed up by excerpts from the Operational Record Book of the relevant unit plus comments on the events in the theatre of operations for that day/period gleaned from Angus’s detailed research.Unlike his first book, Angus has also used several additional sources in ‘Spitfire Saga’ by utilising other mini-biographies that I produced for the 72 Sqn archive and interviewing the subjects such as Tom Hughes, Laurie Frampton, Jimmy Corbin and Jack Lancaster. He has also used extracts from other books including his first publication.

Although the thread of Rodney’s story gets stretched a bit thin at times it is returned to at every opportunity and the overall read is much more fluid and wider in scope than his first book. Angus has done an excellent job in reporting the action in the local theatre of war in easy-to-comprehend paragraphs which relate to the individual’s recollections of the time.

Although I have known Rodney for several years now, a few surprises were revealed as I read through the pages and it was delightful to see how Rodney interacted with other members of the Squadron. The descriptions of the later part of his story, in a training role, is no less interesting than his time on 72 Sqn as it reveals the huge training effort behind the front-line units and the appalling (by today’s standards) accident and fatality rate. Also revealed all through the book are not only the dangers of warfare that the air and ground crew were facing but very emphatically the bad conditions in which they lived and worked as well as the extreme health risks. The final section describes a part of the War that I had little knowledge of when Rodney was involved in escort duties to large daylight raids of Lancasters and Halifaxes over northern Europe.

This book is a deserved accolade to Rodney and in a broader view another excellent study of 72 Sqn at war. It also reveals the less well known but vital effort of the training support given to the front line units and the later war use of the Spitfire in Europe. I would recommend it for your Christmas list!

Erik Mannings

72 Sqn Historian


 

 

 

REVIEW OF ‘SWIFT TO BATTLE Vol 1

 Many of you will know Tom Docherty and, if you have read any of his other previously published books, will be aware of how meticulously he researches each one.  ‘Swift to Battle Vol 1’ is no exception, and in addition to a comprehensive script he has included 11 detailed Appendices full of interesting facts.

 Volume 1 covers the period 1937 to 1942; more specifically the period from the reforming of the Squadron before to the Second World War up to the movement of the Squadron to Gibraltar prior to taking part in Operation Torch.

 The book is extensively illustrated and brings together material from many sources.  The majority of photographs are of Squadron personnel and emphasise that it is the people rather than the machines that give 72 Sqn its exceptional character.  The script is backed up by many eye-witness accounts and memories from those that both served and fought on the ground and in the air throughout this period.

 These personal insights are put into the perspective of the bigger picture of the RAF at war by Tom’s scene-setting background comments gathered from extensive research of both historical books and his access to the Squadron F540 Operational Records.  This combination of personal memories and official history make this a truly rounded view of the life of 72 Squadron.

 If the remaining 2 Volumes are as well put together as this one, then every member of the Association and many members of the general public should make room on their bookshelves for the complete set of ‘Swift to Battle’.  I hope that Tom will be encouraged to counter my only minor criticism in that the period both before and after the dates covered in his history in these 3 books will be complemented by a Volume on WW1 and the all important ‘Rotary years’ up to the disbandment in 2002 (as soon as those classified items become available to the general public).

 We can look forward to Volume 2 in September 2009 that covers 1942-47 including operations in North Africa, Malta, Sicily, Southern France, Italy and Austria, whilst Volume 3 is expected in 2010 to cover 1947-1961 and the Cold War period.

 Reviewed by Erik Mannings

 

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THE BIGGIN HILL WING 1941: From Defence To Attack

By Peter Caygill

ISBN 978 1 84415  746 4

Published by Pen & Sword

£19.99

 This book covers the period during which Fighter Command went over to offensive operations with the intention of drawing the Luftwaffe into pitched battles in the hope of wearing them down.  The Biggin Hill Wing was heavily involved in these battles and the squadrons who flew from Biggin during the period included 66,72,74,92,124 and 609 as well as 264 (night fighter) Squadron.

 The book covers the period fairly comprehensively if you are interested in 66, 92 or 609 Squadrons, but you will find little here of the exploits of 72 Sqn.  That said, you will find 72 Sqn listed in the appendices which cover Air Combat Claims by the Wing, Operational aircraft losses and details of selected operations carried out by the Biggin Hill Wing.  There are further appendices on Escape & Evasion and The Great Escape.

 Overall this is a useful addition to the history of Biggin Hill and its squadrons, but do not expect to find much about 72 Sqn.

 Reviewed by Tom Docherty

 

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Barney Barnfather

Life on a Spitfire Squadron

 

This book was written by Barney’s grandson Angus Mansfield.  It covers Barney’s Service in the RAF from August 1940 to October 1945. With access to Barney’s log books and including relevant information from campaigns on the Home Front and in Europe, Angus has produced a text which you will find very readable.

 After completing his pilot training in this country, Barney was posted in January 1942 to No 234 Squadron based at Ibsley near Bournemouth.  Much of the operational flying at that time was of a routine nature for example ‘providing convoy protection in the Channel’, but it was the passage of the German capital ships Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Prinz Eugen in February 1942 which tested the ability of the RAF.  In difficult weather conditions our response was slow, inadequately planned, and badly executed.

 In April Barney was to receive an immediate posting to 603 Squadron. First   he was to join the USS Carrier Wasp taking Spitfires in to Malta.  A first batch of carrier borne Spitfires had been savagely treated by the Luftwaffe.  This time proper arrangements were made so that an arriving plane could be refuelled, re-armed and provided with a pilot who knew the location and would be able to fight any attacking German aircraft, all in 10 minutes.

 Happily on this second trip the operation covering a 660 mile trip East along the Med was a compete success.  61 reinforcement Spitfires were available to take up the battle.  So began a few weeks of operational flying.  Barney was in the thick of operational activity.  On the 11th May he and his Flight Commander Bill Douglas were in collision while chasing a Me 109. The Me went down but so did the two 603 Squadron aircraft.  All 3 pilots were able to bale out with but only minor injuries. In June and at the end of a long period of ‘ops’ Barney suffered the ‘facial twitch’ an involuntary contraction of the face and an indication that you were operationally tired.  So it was home to Blighty and to complete a tour as instructor at the Operational Training Unit, Aston Down in Gloucestershire.   

 In April 1943 and this time by sea, Barney went back to the Mediterranean.  This time to join the Allies in Tunisia.  He was posted to No 72 Squadron then equipped with the Mark IX Spitfire.    The campaign came to an end in early May with the Germans and their Italian allies surrendering in vast numbers. Next it was a return to Malta – and for Barney not such a happy return because he contracted impetigo and was confined to Hospital at Imtarfa.

 The summer months were spent flying from a number of bases both in Malta and after the landings in Sicily from various airfields and strips on that island. The planned conquest of Italy began with landings at Salerno and by mid-September the Squadron could move to Tusciano – an airstrip on the Italian mainland and only 4 miles behind the allied front-line.  The gun-line firing from 25 pounders was directly behind us – sleep was virtually impossible. It was on the 15th of the month that Barney was to claim a Me 109 damaged.  The 11th October saw the Wing move to Capodichino still to-day the airfield for Naples.  A few days later Barney was able to get on the tail of a Me 109 firing two bursts of 1 second duration.  The Me was hit and crashed into the hillside. Claim Me 109 destroyed.

 30th November was a great day for Barney.  He was promoted to Flt Lt and OC of a Flight and the next day he received news of the birth of his daughter – Sarah.

 Just before Christmas we lost Tom Hughes.  He was leading a flight, then had engine trouble and handed over responsibility to Barney.  All seemed well again.  Tom thought before returning he would look at the Battle scene at Monte Cassino. He fired at a flak gun and was shot down.  The next he knew he woke up on the operating table of a German field hospital.  Tom did make a recovery but happily he was one of the last POWs to be exchanged with Germans through the Swiss Red Cross in Geneva.

 In February, OTE (operationally tour expired) Barney was posted.  His appointment was as an instructor at 71 OTU Ismailia in the Suez Canal zone.  In June there was quite a reunion for ex 72 guys with Danny Daniel,  Rod Scrase,  Barney and Hoot Connolly all together again.  For Barney the next posting was to 94 Squadron in Greece where theunit was involved in helping Greece avoid the clutches of a communist coup

 These last few months of the War in Europe would see some strange political activity and after the disbanding of 94 a move back to 72 Squadron for the last period of Barney’s war service. With grand celebrations from Klagenfurt and Lavorino it was a question of waiting for your ‘demob’ In August 1945 Group Captain Barney Beresford signed off  Barney’s log book “Rated exceptional as a fighter-bomber pilot and flight commander.” No wonder Angus Mansfield would sign off his book to Barney with

       ‘For Grandad- I wish I had listened some more’

 

Barney Barnfather –

          Life on a Spitfire Squadron 

By Angus Mansfield

RSP £18.99

 ISBN-978-0-7509-4688-9

 

Reviewed by Rodney Scrase

 

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Jimmy Corbin – His Story in ‘The Last of the Ten Fighter Boys’

 

In 1940 Jimmy then a Sergeant Pilot was serving with No 66 Squadron at Biggin Hill.  The C.O. Sqn Ldr Athol Forbes asked 10 of his pilots each to write a chapter in a book describing their experiences as Spitfire pilots in the Battle of Britain.  The book was published in 1942 under the title ‘The Ten Fighter Boys.’ Now more than 60 years later the present volume ‘The last of the Ten Fighter Boys’ describes not only Jimmy’s experiences in the Battle of Britain but his home life in the years before the War, his career in the RAF – particularly his time with No 72 Squadron in the North African campaign in 1942-3 and then later as an instructor at the Armament Practice Camp at Fairwood Common near Swansea.

 Jimmy left the RAF in January 1946 and although offered a permanent commission he was to return to the job he had held before the war as a teacher at a local school.  There he taught for 10 years.  And it was something he coupled with his love of flying as a member of the RAF Reserve but this time Tiger Moths, not Spitfires. At the end of the book is a sentence which Flt Lt Jimmy Corbin – the last survivor of the 10 - says applies to many of the pilots of WW2    “I don’t know how hundreds of us managed to climb into our aeroplanes time after time to fly straight into the face of the enemy, never knowing if it was to be our last day on earth. We just did.”

 Last of the Ten Fighter Boys -Published by Sutton Publishing -240 pages

RSP £18.99  ISBN 978-0-7509-4805-0

 Reviewed by Rodney Scrase 

 

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Don Kingaby and a new Battle of Britain Book

 By

 Robert Hawkins

 Don Kingaby was 72 Squadron leader on Vampires when I joined the Squadron in 1948.  I also enclose Don’s war record.

 The Battle of Britain has been well documented but few realise that much of the battle took place over Surrey or that aircraft were shot down near their homes.  The dramatic and pivotal events of the Second World War left their mark on every corner of the county but details of these many events have, until now, not been recorded.  No other source exists detailing the air activity over the county.

 Now a fascinating book has been published that chronicles that momentous period in Surrey’s history with the aid or rare wartime photos, compelling eye-witness accounts and detailed local research.  Apart from featuring airfields and other notable aviation locations, it also lists aircraft crash sites, several of them in Mole Valley, with comprehensive details and investigations into the most notable events. 

 Simon Parry is the author who is now one of Britain’s leading aviation historians but his roots are in Surrey where he began his research into the battles and aircraft crashes in the county 30 years ago, a time it was possible to interview many witnesses to the events.  Simon says a chance remark in 1976 set him on a trail that dictated the course of his life from then on: “We used to play in a hole where a German plane crashed in the war” a friend told him, which was all it took.

 “Completely absorbed by the idea of being able to find a tangible reminder of the war, I set off to discover the German bomber, then its history, then the other aircraft that crashed in Surrey and then all the Luftwaffe aircraft and airmen in Britain” explained Simon.

 After writing and publishing many aviation books over the past 30 years he finally decided to return to his roots and do what he always said he would do one day; write a book about Surrey in the Battle of Britain.

 ‘War Torn Skies of great Britain, Surrey in the Battle of Britain’ is published by Red Kite Books and costs £14.95.

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This biography of Hugh Dundas is a reprint of the book first published in 1988. It spans Dundas’ whole wartime flying career but of particular interest to members of 72 Sqn Association will be the chapters covering his service with 324 Wing (of which 72 Sqn was part). Dundas joined 324 Wing in February 1943 as supernumerary Wing Leader before becoming acting Wing Leader in June and ultimately Wing Leader from July 1943 until January 1944. The book is only let down by the reproduction quality of the photographs but is still recommended to those with an interest in the Battle of Britain, 324 Wing and 72 Sqn.

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