Last of the Few - 85 Squadron

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This section is devoted to the Pilot Officers. Lewis received his DFC in July 1940 and his citation read that during the Battle of France he shot down 5+ enemy aircraft single-handed in one day. He also destroyed in all a total of 7+ enemy aircraft and by his bravery and fortitude, was an inspiration for all the young 85 Suqadron pilots.

We have recently discovered in the archives that 'Dickie' Lee DSO DFC, Lewis, Hemmingway and Deacon flew early L-series MkI aircraft in the Battle of France along with other pilots.

I understand that my father, in his early days of the Battle of France and the Battle of Britain, looked after Lewis and others' early MkI Hurricanes including the L-series. There is great reference to 85 Squadron in 'Fighter Squadrons at War' (Brookes).

Ellis
Sgt J. M. Ellis
Photo of Dickie Lee and Pilot Officer Lewis
Lee and Lewis
Sammy Allard
P/O Sammy Allard

Townsend and Oliver

Sqd Leader Townsend and Sqd Leader Oliver

Peter Townsend
Sqd. Leader
P. Townsen

 

Reference J.M. Ellis, Sergeant of 'A' Flight 150.200 E/A Me109, Me110 at 10,000-15,000 ft, attacked at 17.50 hrs, 109 destroyed and 110 damaged. Later on that day, 11 Hurricanes got airborne to intercept approaching enemy over Tunbridge-Kenley area. Sited 150-200 aircraft near Biggin Hill at 15,000 ft. Dornier 17s and 215s, 109s and 110s. 85 was at 5,000 ft below. Enemy losses were 6 destroyed. Squadron casualties 4 Hurricanes down, 2 damaged. Pilot Wood Scawen's killed. Sgt Ellis missing - no trace of him or his machine found, therefore he is missing believed killed. PO Gowers wounded. Sgt Booth also wounded. 6 aircraft landed back at base - 1 landed with undercarriage retracted (PO Lewis).

On 30 September, 6 of the best remaining pilots of 85 Squadron -- Townsend, Allard, Marshall, Hemmingway, Hodgson and Goodman - flew in formation over Halifax to raise subscriptions for a Spitfire fund. This sextet accounted for 24 of the 85 Squadron bag in the Battle of Britain, but even more important, 3 of these survived the Battle of France.

On the afternoon of 13 March 1941, Allard (now Flight Lieutenant and then Flight Commander) decided to fly a Havoc DB& Mk1 (serial number BJ500, believed to have been VY-S) from Debden to the Ford aerodrome. Unfortunately for Sammy and the crew, a small nose panel became loose and jammed in the aircraft's rudder. It spun out of control, killing all on board. Allard's body lies in Saffron Walden's Borough Cemetry, Essex along with his friends Bill Hodgson and W/O Walker-Smith.

 


The following was provided by Dave Bieber, son of Flt Lt 'Monty' Bieber , MO.

In France 1940 (where Lee was shot down and successfully found his way back to  base through enemy lines) and thence at various UK stations and satellites during the battle of Britain.

(The old man then spent much of the rest of the war in India and Burma.)

After giving a display for a visiting group of 'Brass' at Debden, the ground crew had to remove grass from the antenna of Lee's Mk1 Hurricane (the one on the upper fuselage!)

Chasing two Me 109's eastward it was suspected that Lee ran out of fuel.

85 Squadron

This photograph shows 85 Squadron pilots and the MO at Castle Camps in July 1940, shortly before Leonard Jowitt was killed. The Squadron code VY can be seen on the Hurricane behind the men.

Len Jowitt is fifth from left, with the shorn head ( lost a bet during a boisterous party). Of the six pilots shown, three others were killed in the Battle of Britain, and another in 1942.

Only one survived the war.

 

Peter Townsend was posted from 43 Squadron to 85 Squadron in May 1940 to take command at Debden and to proceed with the task of reforming the squadron and bringing it up to operational efficiency. Townsend did many operational sorties and one timely escape from a canon shell which went through glycol tank and exploded in the cockpit, injuring his left foot. He survived the Battle of Britain and was doing operational duties as a night fighter. Later on, 17 July 1941, he married Rosemary and the reception was held at the Lordship's Pub in Much Hadham, Bishops Stortford. He is well-known for his post-war life when he became equiry to King George VI in 1944 and spent eight years in the royal household. His name became synonymous with the association of Princess Margaret.

 

Footnote: Our second restoration is a tribute to Townsend and 43 Squadron as the famous 1930's bi-plane, the Hawker Fury.

 

Hemmingway

We understand that PO Hemmingway flew L1639 in the Battle of France.

MONDAY AUGUST 26TH 1940 16.00 hrs

Pilot officer J.A. (Paddy) Hemmingway. D.S.O. baled out of his Hawker Hurricane over the Thames Estuary After combat with Me 109 fighters. He landed safely near the Barge Public house in Pitsea, and his aircraft crashed into the marshes at Fobbing Essex.

Just eight days earlier at 17.45 hrs on the 18th August 1940, P/o Hemmigway in Hurricane V7249, had been shot down by return fire from a Ju 88 over the Thames Estuary. He baled out of the aircraft and was rescued by a light ship12 miles East of Clacton, Essex.

In this combat Hemmigway lost one of his best pals, Flying Officer R.H.A. (Dicky) Lee.

 

Dicky Lee

Dicky Lee had come through flight training with Paddy Hemmingway, and then they had both gone onto 85 squadron together.

Lee was last seen at 17.50 hrs in pursuit of the enemy formation thirty miles out to sea, Lee and his Hurricane P2923 coded VY-R. were never found and this was to have a lasting effect on Paddy Hemmingway.

F/O Richard Hugh Anthony 'Dickie' Lee of No 85 Squadron opened the score for the Squadron in World War II. He was Lord Trenchard's Godson was killed while he was on patrol on the 18th of August 1940. He was lost in his Hurricane I (2923)  after chasing three Bf 109's off the east coast, at 17:50hrs. F/L R.H.A.Lee D.S.O.- D.F.C. was aged 23.

VYR
VYR take off

Dickie Lee taking off at Castle Camps on yet another sortie over the channel, to intercept the enemy.

 

Bickerdyke

P/O John Bickerdyke was born in Christchurch, New Zealand on the 11th of February 1919. He was a policeman's son and was educated in Auckland.

John joined the N.Z.A.F. in the June of 1939. He joined No 85 Squadron in the April of 1940. On the 12th of July 1940 he shot down a German bomber whilst protecting the 'Booty' Convoy. He died some 10 days later in a flying accident at Castle Camps.

In our museum section, we have remains of this aircraft and a portfolio of this pilot.

Woody

F/O Patrick  'Woody' Woods-Scawen, was born at Karachi, India and flew with No 85 Squadron. He had scored 14 kills and was awarded the D.F.C. In a tragic incident, P.P.Woods-Scawen baled out of his Hurricane ( P3150) after a combat with a Bf 109 on the 1st of September 1940, and was killed when his parachute failed to open. His body was found on the 6th of September1940 near Kenly. He was 24.  His brother C.A. 'Tony' Woods-Scawen also died in a similar incident on the 2nd of September.


P/O James Lockhart was commissioned in the R.A.F in the November of 1939 and was posted to No 85 Squadron on the 24th of May 1940. He was slightly wounded on the 24th of August 1940 by the Dover A.A. He moved to No 213 Squadron at Tangmere on the 16th of September 1940 where he became its commander from November 1941 to January 1942. He then moved to No 258 Squadron and on the 5th of April 1942 was killed at the age of 26. He is buried in Kannette Cemetery at Columbo, Sri Lankar.


Jowitt

Sgt. Leonard 'Joey' Jowitt joined the R.A.F. at 16 as an aircraft apprentice. He served in India and on his return in 1937 trained as a fighter pilot. He then joined No 85 Squadron and was flying patrol on the 12th of July 1940 in his Hurricane I (P2557). He crashed into the sea off Felixstowe at 08:50 after attacking a Heinkel He 111 of II Gruppe of KG 53 and was killed. His body was never recovered.

On 12th July 1940 - in the early phase of the Battle of Britain - Leonard Jowitt of 85 Squadron, Royal Air Force took off in his Hawker Hurricane from Martlesham Heath on a mission to protect a convoy in the North Sea. He was shot down by fire from a Heinkel 111, and crashed into the sea off Felixstowe. Leonard is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial and in the Roll of Honour in Westminster.


Webster

Sgt. Earnest 'Reggie' Webster was born in 1917 and joined the R.A.F. in September 1939. He was posted to No 85 Squadron in Hurricane's at Debden on the 24th of May 1940. He was later promoted to Flying Officer and served with the R.A.F. until 1947.


'Monty' Bieber

Flt Lt 'Monty' Bieber , MO
Quote from page #100 'Eagle Day' by Richard Collier???.

'At Wallops' forward base , Warmwell, the canny station doctor , Flight Lieutenant Monty Bieber , was forever fixing up 'harmless' pink drinks to quieten morning-after stomachs-in reality , near-neat alcohol which kept the pilots grounded for safety's sake.In fact Dad used to knock out those guys who had had so many operations that they literally could not sleep and were dead on their feet. (D.B.)

(Earlier at Debden & Castle Camp, the boss was Sq Ldr Peter Townsend. Other friends of the 'old man' were Sammy Allard , Roland 'dimmy' Beaumont (P1 lightening & TSR2  test pilot, ex hurricanes ) & Bob Stanford Tuck.)


Townsend, Allard etc 

Sq Ldr Peter Townsend (centre), Sammy Allard (far left) on returning to the Squadron at Church Fenton in 1940.


Pete & Joe Joe holding the sutton harness for Peter Townsend in his night fighter at Debden.


Gowers image

Sqn Leader Gus Gowers DFC
By 1st November the squadron had moved again to Lille Seclin, but sections were detached to Le Touquet and St Inglevert to maintain patrols over the Channel. During one such patrol over the Boulogne area, while pursuing a Messershmitt over the Channel, Gowers reported that his oxygen supply had cut out. This fault was fortuitous as he had conveniently crossed the Essex coast and landed at Bradwell on Sea.

During the winter of 1939 the RAF squadrons endured atrocious weather: after heavy autumn rains first the countryside was flooded, and then in the New Year the grass track airfields were blanketed by snow and the ground froze.

The Imperial War Museum holds a photograph of Gus Gowers which says "An Essex fighter pilot, Squadron Leader A.V Gowers DFC joined the RAF in 1937 and went to France in the first week of the war. he bagged his first hun over Tournay during the invasion of the Low Countries".

Gowers and Hemingway Gowers and Hemingway


Townsend, Oliver, Raphael and Cunningham
Sqd Leaders Townsend, Oliver, Raphael and Cunningham

Peter Townsend and Group

Taken in 1941, Hemmingway, Howitt, Marshall, Townsend and Carnaby whose holding the propellor blade, with the 85 Squadron mascot, Kim. This original picture was donated.


L1639 and L1644 of 85Squadron
L1639 and L1644 of 85 Squadron before the battle.
Hurricane L159....
This Hurricane is a much earlier version than L1639 as you can see by the slightly different undercarriage fairing and also no anti-spin fin underneath.
Hurricane in the skies
This is L1639 in flight

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