Archive for the ‘WW2’ Category

Air Commodore Christopher Paul, of Old Alresford

The Obituary below was published in the Telegraph on 27 March 2003, after the passing of Air Commodore Paul, who lived in Old Alresford. I was privileged to meet him only once, when I delivered post around Old Alresford, and I showed him some of my old aviation photos. He was what you imagined a Spitfire pilot had to be: slight of build, long piano player type fingers, a delicate touch. At that time he was 92 years old. But the following account does not mention Spitfires – maybe I saw him in his Turbulent, touring Britain – I at that time was supplying various photos of interesting aircraft to Air Pictorial.

It showed me, at that time, that you never realise the history behind the people you see or meet or serve in the local shops, cafes, pubs or wine bars, and Air Cdr Paul certainly visited the Bodega Wine bar many times back in the 1980s. Think of that when greeting the next 90 year old contact you make!

Nick Denbow

 

The Telegraph said:

“Air Commodore Christopher Paul, who has died aged 95, was a wartime bomber pilot who became involved in promoting gliding and other aspects of the boom in private flying after the Second World War.

Paul was given his first operational command in 1940 with No 150 Squadron, which was re-equipping with Vickers Wellingtons following the costly losses of Fairey Battles in France.

After a frustrating period when navigational aids were insufficient to conduct satisfactory night-bomber operations, he was posted to “Bomber” Harris’s headquarters as a watch keeper. He then moved to Flying Training Command, converting trainers into makeshift bombers.

When Paul joined the directing staff of the Army Staff College at Camberley he was at first disconcerted to discover that his RAF students included some highly decorated officers who had seen far more action than he had; but he took the opportunity to milk them of their experience for his eventual return to operations.

In early 1944 he was posted to No 13 Operational Training Unit to learn to fly Mitchell light bombers, where he attracted the attention of Air Vice-Marshal Basil Embry, the holder of a DSO and three Bars, who was preparing the 2nd Tactical Air Force to support the forthcoming Normandy invasion.

On taking over No 98 Squadron at Dunsfold, Bedfordshire, Paul was delighted by the presence of so many Canadians. Their food parcels and camp fire parties were especially appreciated, though they had a disconcerting habit of shooting at empty beer cans for revolver practice during their late night revels. Nevertheless, he noted with pleasure that the nightingales of Dunsfold Woods seemed to be inspired in their singing by the hum of the squadron’s two-engine Mitchells.

When the invasion was launched, Paul was awarded a DFC for the way in which he led the squadron in day and night attacks on tactical targets. His citation stated: “He has at all times maintained a high standard of determination, keenness and accuracy and has developed a fine fighting team which strikes the enemy with great precision and concentration.”

Gerald John Christopher Paul was born on October 31 1907, and educated at Cheltenham and St John’s, Cambridge, where he learned to fly with the University Air Squadron.

He was commissioned in 1929 and joined No 13, an Army Co-operation Squadron, equipped with Armstrong Whitworth Atlas biplanes. The following year, when RAF pilots were serving in aircraft carriers, he joined No 446 Flight in Courageous. When the Navy recovered its air arm, Paul came ashore in 1938 to No 90 Squadron, flying two-engine Blenheim aircraft.

After the war, Paul became commanding officer of No 13 OTU at Middleton St George, Yorkshire. He was delighted to discover a neglected Tiger Moth on the station, after which he enjoyed flights before breakfast – until the morning he hit a low coaxial cable linking two masts and crashed. He reported that he was showing off and entirely to blame. Years afterwards, when he lost the sight in his left eye, doctors attributed it to the accident.

In late 1946 Paul joined the headquarters of the diminished remnants of 2nd Tactical Air Force at Bad Eilsen in Germany. The base’s previous Luftwaffe occupants had accumulated looted Cognac, Champagne and other wines, so Paul and his fellow officers charged themselves a token penny a tot.

Paul also took advantage of the splendid gliding facilities which had formed the basis of Luftwaffe training since the end of the First World War, and which had been developed to allow the Germans to circumvent the rearmament restrictions of the Versailles Treaty.

His next move was to the United States, where he served with the Joint Services Mission in Washington and at the USAF War College at Maxwell Field, Alabama.

In 1949 Paul returned to the Air Ministry for Intelligence duties which centred on countering the developing Soviet bomber force. He regarded tête à tête background briefings for Aneurin Bevan as light relief.

Paul was discussing the joys of gliding with RAF colleagues in a London cab when he hit on the idea of launching a gliding and soaring club in the Service. A year at the Imperial Defence College followed from 1953. Paul then went on to become commandant of the Central Flying School at Little Rissington, Gloucestershire, and at the same time qualified as a Meteor jet pilot.

At the beginning of 1956 Paul arrived in Aden as Senior Air Staff Officer. A year later he returned to the Air Ministry for his final appointment as director of operational training. In October 1958 he took advantage of a “golden bowler” retirement, with the proceeds of which he paid off his children’s school fees and bought a small Druine Turbulent aeroplane.

Paul was appointed secretary general of the Air League of the British Empire, which required him to travel throughout Britain both by car and his own aircraft. He made a major contribution to the post-war increase in private flying, not least by converting an Air League journal into the aviation magazine Air Pictorial.

In time he was welcomed to the Royal Aero Club, the Gliding Association and the Tiger Club committees, becoming president in 1968 of the Popular Flying Association, which encouraged group ownership of private aircraft.

In the late 1960s Paul fell out with council members at the Air League, and was dismissed in 1971. He busied himself with village affairs at Old Alresford in Hampshire and with the Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen’s Families Association, while writing for Air Pictorial, by this time an independent publication.

He also carried out extensive research on behalf of the Fleet Air Arm Museum, and produced a history of No 90 Squadron. In 1989 he became president of the Central Flying School Association.

Paul, who died on January 11, was appointed CB in 1956. He also held the Belgian Croix de Guerre and the Czech Military Cross, and was a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society.

In 1937 he married Rosemary Lane, with whom he had two sons and a daughter. She died in 1975; he married, secondly, in 1985, Mollie Samuels, who survives him.”

 

The crash of Lady Luck, 1943

Lady Luck scale model by Tim Barnes

Lady Luck scale model by Tim Barnes

Much has been written about the crash of Lady Luck, a Flying Fortress in WW2, in or near Alresford pond: so it is difficult to write anything new. Already on this website we have had personal reports from people who were there at the time, like George Watson and Jim Smith.

There are also several reports and photographs publicly visible in the Globe Inn, down at the end of Broad Street, on the Soke: this is a fitting lasting tribute to the USAF airmen who were flying from UK bases at that time. Another memorial plaque is located at the end of the Soke, next to the pond, near the gate to the garden of the Globe Inn.

IMG_7638 strtHilary Cornford, from Old Alresford, an enthusiastic Lady Luck supporter, has enabled the Alresford Museum to retain and display an interesting modern memento of the event, which is an aeroplane panel painted up to make a replica of the tail of USAF Flying Fortress 25434. Known as “Lady Luck”, the tail was decorated, as many wartime aircraft were, with a mascot. Their original mascot was painted by Sgt Sam P Rodman, of the US 303rd Bomb Group, when he was based at the Molesworth USAF aerodrome in the UK.

The account below is of unknown origin, but a printed copy is glued to this modern reproduction of this tail panel, now in the custody of the Museum: this repro tail panel was painted by and is on loan from Tim Barnes, produced when he was working at the Lasham aircraft works near Alton. His employers kindly donated an aircraft panel from a modern Boeing 757 airliner, to make the repro tail panel look more authentic.

 

The painted ‘Tail Art’

“This is one of the two known tail art paintings done by Sam Rodman.

This languishing beauty adorned the tail fin of a Fort which carried the simple title of ‘Lady Luck’ on the nose – perhaps one of the most popular and understandable names chosen by the numerous air crews around the world. Standing on the horizontal stabiliser of the Fort and painting onto the huge tail would have made the task of painting much easier for Rodman (and other artists), and it is surprising that the tail was not used more often for embellishment.

This particular B17F arrived at Molesworth, Cambridgeshire, via the South Atlantic route to England, having passed through Marrakesh, North Africa. Assigned to 303 BG on 6th March 1943, it began combat flying with a mission to Wilhelmshaven on the 22nd, under the command of Lt Griffin. It was lucky 13 for First Lt Loyd Griffin, later made Captain, as he completed that number of sorties in Lucky Lady before finishing up in mid-July. Thereafter, 9 different crews took the Fort to targets across France and Germany until misfortune overtook Robert Cogswell’s crew.

On a recalled mission to the Nantes submarine pens in France on 26th September 1943, they experienced a runaway prop on #4 engine, which subsequently caught fire and forced them to abandon the aircraft over Southern England. The pilot, Lt Cogswell, stayed with his ship until all the crew had baled out safely, and then jumped himself – too low by then – and he sustained severe back injuries as a result. Lady Luck crashed near Alresford pond – a sad end for a veteran of some 25 missions.

Robert Cogswell returned to combat flying, but was tragically killed in action, flying a B29 during the Korean conflict in 1951.”

The picture on this text, attached to the painted panel. shows Sam Rodman painting the original artwork on the B17 tail, earlier in 1943. Lady Luck was a Boeing B-17F-50-BO, with the USAF registration 42-5434.

IMG_7631

USAF Molesworth

303-bgMolesworth in Cambridgeshire is now a non-flying facility under the control of the United States Air Force, and is one of the two Royal Air Force (RAF) stations in Cambridgeshire currently used by the United States Air Forces in Europe (USAFE). In WW2, from November 1942, Molesworth was occupied by the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses of the 358th Bombardment Squadron, the first of four squadrons that would comprise the 303d Bombardment Group. The 303d remained at Molesworth until shortly after V-E Day in late May 1945.

The 358th flew the first mission for the group on 17 November 1942. The group became one of the legendary units of the Eighth Air Force. Initially missions were conducted against targets such as aerodromes, railways, and submarine pens in France until 1943, when flying missions commenced into Germany itself.

The Library display of 2013

Seventy years after the event, Hilary and Ray Cornford set up a library display, in the Alresford Library on Broad Street, showing the stories and artefacts available surrounding the B17 crash in Alresford. The file of documents they collected has been passed over to the Alresford Museum, so that they are all available for future researchers (Accession number D1031a). Anyone joining the newly established Membership of the NATT will have access to the Museum resources, by arrangement.

Lady Luck window161

The tail panel is Alresford Museum item A1060.

In the Alresford Library there are other locally produced documents about the event, such as Nelson Trowbridge’s April 2001 essay, called ‘Lady Luck – What Really happened?’, a copy of this paper is also held in the Museum (Accession Number D1031b). Other comments from Nelson about the Lady Luck crash were quoted in an earlier Alresford Memories story – https://alresfordmemories.wordpress.com/2013/01/18/flying-fortress-crash-in-alresford-pond/