Canadian Press Article – reproduced in the Moose Jaw Times-Herald

Moose Jaw Times Herald

Friday, March 7, 1941

Poignant Ending to last 15 Days R.A.F. Ace Life

Released in London, March 7, 1941  –(CP) –

First Day – (September 2, 1940 – Firs day at our new station, leaped fro our virgin couches at 0650. This shook me a bit. Was still slightly dopey when at 15,000 feet we sighted a large lump of blitz. Solid block of 20 Dornier 215s with large fighter escort. Attacked en masse, then dived away as fighters came down. Joined Butch again after a frantic tail-watching break – away, and started after the bombers again.

Suddenly we see a Dornier coming towards us – running for home. We jump on it – Butch sits on its tail, pumping lead at it. I do quarter attacks. He doesn’t like this, lumps fal off and smoke pours out, I am awake now and feeling hungry.

Butch says, “Don’t waste any more ammunition on him – this guy’s finished.” I say “Okay Bud,” and format on the Dornier as he heads for Rochford (small town in Essex). He is a wreck – rubbers in ribbons and pieces falling off all the time. One guy comes out at 100feet. Parachute streams as he hits the ground – bounces. Butch and I are very cocky, go home and shoot a horrid line.

(“Shooting a line” is R.A.F. slang for boasting of one’s exploits).

Run Into “Whole Pile”

Two more quick sorties seeing nothing and then more blitzkrieg on the fourth do. We run into a whole pile of Messerschmitt 110s and Dorniers. Too far to attack the bombers, so we start mixing it with the 110s. They circle and a lot come down vertically behind us.

I lose butch and everyone else as I turn round and round, watching my tail. Then a 110 rears up in front of me, plain view and does a steep turn. Range is almost pointblank as I turned inside and plug him. He disappears under my nose and, when I see him again, he is diving vertically starboard, engine and wing blazing.

I feel very cocky again, look for the fight and it is out of sight. I go home and find that I’ve only fired 300 rounds.

 

Second Day – (September 3, 1940)

Unsuccessful day – made no contact.

 

Third Day – Two patrols – 0920 and 1230 – but no contact made and no fun at all. Just roaming around looking for the “Hun in the Sun.” Watched night bombers in the dark; parachute flares and A. A. burst all over the sky. Slept well.

 

Fourth Day – Another big day – Over Thames-haven we meet 25 bombers and scores of Messerschmitt 109s. Fired at a Dornier215, but had to break away when fighters came down en masse. Chased bombers for 10 minutes, but couldn’t catch up. Came home and found Butch had bailed out and landed in a garden, where a terrified woman looked at him and then ran into the house. No more action today.

 

Fifth Day – Up in the morning over the Thames Estuary to meet another raid. We nip in before the Hun fighters can get at us and I do a quick flank attack. Fighters follow at once. I follow behind the bombers, watching two Messerschmitt 109s coming up behind me.

Before they get into range I turn a sharp left and whip under them. Unfortunately C______, who is following me, gets plugged by one of these guys and had to crash-land. I get into a circle with two 109s and shoot at the second. He starts to dive, so I chase him. Third burst sets him on fire, whole of starboard and fuselage. We are down to 50 feet so I leave him to burn and climb to 10,000 feet at full bore.

Work in Pairs

Fighting is still going on and two more 109s come for me. They work I pairs and it seems fairly easy to get number two. Again I pick him out and we tear down to 0 feet. We race along the Pilgrim’s Way (Chaucer’s old road to Canterbury), and I fire the rest of my ammunition into him.

Both radiators stream glycol. I formate on him when I finish my rounds and he has his oxygen mask off, looking out at me. I leave him to go home and see him crash-land a few miles on.

Going home I see a parachute and circle it – a British one. Later it turns out that it was the C.O., who got shot down by the 109s. In the evening a party, then on to a dance with the boys of another squadron. Slept at ____________ and stayed in bed until nine!

 

Sixth Day – (September 7, 1940) –

I have the rest of the day off – a very good ting, too. Squadron gets into big London raids and loses quite a few. F_________ died in hospital, W_________ missing, several more shot down and bailed out. S__________ and I drove down to Maidstone Hospital to pick up the C.O. Coming back we get to the Blackwall Tunnel (connecting north and south London under the Thames), when the trouble starts raining down all round us – no time to get to a shelter. We stand under an arch and watch the bombers approaching in waves, hear the bombs whistle down, and then the explosions.

Molotoff bread-basket shower incendiaries around us, several in gas-works, which fortunately does not go up. Watch cockneys put out one incendiary, discover a gloomy type, leaning against a lamp post, who discloses he is waiting for the pub to open!

The C.O. feels a bit hard done by as he’s been shot down and wounded yesterday, then gets bombed today. S__________ drives like a demon along a street and skids to a stop. Bus-driver pulls up beside us and says, “Come on nah, turn it up mate, you’re on the blinking floor this time!” Laughter mingles with the bomb crashes.

Back in the Dark

Go back in the dark via Hampstead Heath. Fires light up London and the fire engines are coming from all the suburbs into docks.

Stop at pub just outside Edmonton and get a riotous reception and lots of beer from excited public bar. I shake hands with everybody and get quite merry.

 

Seven, eight and ninth days uneventful

 

Tenth Day – First sortie in the morning brought us head-on into a bunch of Heinkel 111s. I do such a violent breakaway that I do an inverted spin. I lose 5,000 to 6,000 feet before I can get out of that. Can’t find the fight at all after that, so I go home fed-up. All set to get my own back at the second, (sortie) but all we see are one or two 109s miles away. No fun.

 

Eleventh Day – Another cloudy day and patrolling in ones and twos to try cloud interceptions.

 

Twelfth Day – thirteen, and a Friday. More cloud flying, and everybody testy about it. Went to B__________ ’s house about 2200. Bombing and A. A., fire all the time, as it was a beautiful night.

 

Thirteenth Day – A trip down into Sussex with another squadron and saw more of our fighters than I’ve ever seen before. I got attacked twice and everybody split up and came home singly or in pairs. Those attacking me must have been 113s, but every time I went to attack what I thought were these guys, they were Spitfires! Most foxing!

 

Fourteenth Day – (September 15, 1940) – The best day we’ve had. We got off at lunch-time with another squadron to meet 16 Dorniers and lost of 109s. We go into the bombers, but Butch breaks early as he gets hit. I break with him, lose him, then go for the bombers again. See them coming home and no Messerschmitts in sight. So I attack one on the edge of the formation. Get him straight away and he leaves the rest of the boys. Follow him, plugging all the time. A quarter attack comes off beautifully, see bullets going in, in a line from the nose back to the tail, at intervals of a foot all the way down. See that rear-gunner is lying back in his seat, probably dead. Dornier is smoking like a chimney, oil come back on to my aircraft and pieces fly past me.

Then three blasted Spitfires horn in and rive me away from my own private and personal Dornier. One guy bails out from the Jerry. He has his arms folded and seems quite resigned. His ship crashes in flames and Spitfires shoot a line all round it, probably dropping visiting cards.

I did this myself. “See you in the brassiere 8:30 Saturday” king of things. They’re getting quite a reputation for pinching a bomber when a Hurricane has got it on the run. So I go home first and claim it before they can.

Afternoon brings even better pickings. Again we attack Dornier formation and break it wide open. They scatter all over the sky and go for the clouds. I get one straight away with a long burst. He catches fire and goes straight in.

But He Misses

Chase another in and out of the clouds. Port engine catches fire and Butch and I claim his as a probable; damned sure he was finished. Then I see two Messerschmitt 109s behind me and whip around in a left-hand climbing turn.

Horrid moment as I see his cannon winking at me, but he misses. Turn and start circling with the two of them. Gradually tighten the turn till I get a shot at number two from above. See my bullets hit his left wing and he is so shaken he dives into a cloud.

Chase these two again and lose them. Then see two fighters coming straight for me. I think they re Spitfires so I don’t fire. Dodge under them and find they are the same two yellow-nosed Messerschmitts! Annoying because they make off and I can’t catch them.

Most successful day for the squadron, a bag of 10 destroyed, 13 probable, and other damaged. Our losses – nil. My bag – two destroyed, one probable and one damaged. Beginning to shoot a bit of a line. Celebration in the evening.

Editor – his fourteenth day was September 15, 1940 – now considered Battle of Britain Day – because so many enemy aircraft were shot down.

 

Fifteenth Day – scrabbled out of bed in absolute confusion. Cloudy up to 20,000 and might cold. We see dozens of Vortices but no enemy aircraft.

– – – – –      – – – – –

(Here the diary entries end. A few hours later its author had been killed when his Hurricane crashed in battle.)

 

 

NOTES

The Squadron – RAF No. 249 Fighter Squadron

Commanding Officer Flight Lieutenant Robert Alexander Barton, a Canadian and known to everyone as “Butch” (SURVIVED THE WAR)

Butch referred to in the Diary is Robert Alexander Barton, commander of No. 249 Squadron, equipped with Hurricanes and stationed in Yorkshire and then moved to Boscome Down on August 14, 1940.

By September 3, 1940 249 RAF Squadron was flying out of North Weald in Essex. Butch Barton was hit by fire from a Dornier Bomber and bailed out – as is referenced in the Diary.

posted by Richard Dowson

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