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15 October 2014
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Night Fighters

by duxford04

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Archive List > Royal Air Force

Contributed by 
duxford04
People in story: 
Albert Gregory
Background to story: 
Royal Air Force
Article ID: 
A3197919
Contributed on: 
29 October 2004

I joined the volunteers RAF before the war and when the war broke out we were mobilised, put into uniform. I was partly trained as an air gunner and was posted away to Aldergrove in Northern Ireland to do my air gunnery course and get my brevie, half wing. I went straight from there to a squadron which was 141 Squadron in Greensborough up in Scotland. Before they became operational they had to convert into Defiants. I was deemed to be too tall for the turret. The air ministry said that any air gunner above the height of about 5’10 was too tall for the turret; I was 6’1, so I was the only air gunner that was posted off the squadron. I was posted from that squadron, who were originally Blenheims in the beginning of May in 1940, to another Blenheims Squadron 219 at Ketterick who were operational.

I was there right from the start as an air gunner on operations off the East coast, stationed at Ketterick. We used to fly to what they call a forward base, West Hartlepool, Lemming, on day work and night work. the Blenheims as a whole, not just our squadron. They lost such a lot that they took us off day work and put us on night only so that was a bit of a relief. If the German bombers came over, they very rarely came on their own but with a fighter escort. The ME109s, well, they were a far superior aircraft from what our Blenheim was, much faster, more manoeuvrable so we virtually had to keep out of the way.

As far as the day time was concerned, if we did get involved it was virtually suicide, not being any where near as good as the German fighter. When they took us off day work and put us on night only, it wasn’t so bad because when the bombers, they came on their own, they didn’t have an escort. So if we were placed anywhere where there was any hostility we were quite happy to have ago because we at least we were down to their level, as far as speed and manoeuvrability were concerned.

So we moved from Ketterick down to Redhill, on the outskirts of London doing night work again there then we converted to Boer fighters. Near the end of the Battle to Britain we operated from Redhill doing night work, getting involved with night activity coming from the Luftwaffe. From the end of October to November we moved down to Tangmere.

The plane that I flew in, in the Battle of Britain, was a short nosed Blenheim, it had a mid-upper turret. I was the air gunner, I just had one gun - a 303. It wasn’t particularly uncomfortable but it was a bit cold because there was no such thing as central heating in those days, we didn’t have any uniform that was heated, so the higher you went the colder it got, cold and drafty.

I didn’t think anything at all really. I personally thought at the time that there was nothing personal involved. If we were involved with any of the German aircraft, it wasn’t me against any individual, it was our aircraft against their aircraft, so it didn’t mean anything to me, I just got on with it.

I left 219 Squadron which were Blenheims near the end of 1941. Just prior to going away from the squadron I was flying in a Boer fighter one night, and we got involved with a Heinkel 111 and we shot that down, that was one night over the South East coast of England.

Shortly after that I was posted to a night intruder squadron, flying Bostons. We were stationed at Tangmere in Sussex, and were flying over France taking off at 0 feet across the channel and flying over to the various German squadrons where they were based in Northern France. Anything that was moving about, we were to have a go at, convoys, trains. We had a bomb load of about 2000lb so we were actually about a fighter bomber so I did over 40 trips of night intruding.

I was very fortunate, I got back safe every time and had no trouble. We kept very low to avoid the possibility of being attacked by any of their aircraft, the only problem we had was ack-ack from their ground firing. The Germans were coming over to the South Coast of England and doing exactly the same, attacking everything that they could see moving here, it was tit-for-tat, we were doing the same over there as they were doing over here.

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Message 1 - Albert Edward Gregory DFC

Posted on: 29 October 2004 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

Dear Mr Gregory

It is indeed an honour to read your contribution. You have a prominent entry, with your photograph, in "Men of the Battle of Britain" by Kenneth G. Wynn. Which for the benefit of other website members I shall respectfully give in full:

"13305 Sgt Air Gunner 219 Squadron.

Born in Derby on May 9 1917, Gregory joined the RAFVR there in April 1939 as an Airman u/t Wop/AG (747888). Called up on September 1, he was posted to Aldergrove in October for an air gunnery course.

In December Gregory joined 141 Squadron at Grangemouth to fly in Blenheims. When 141 began to convert to Defiants in April 1940, it was found that Gregory was too tall for the turret and in May he was posted to 219 Squadron at Catterick.

He served with the squadron throughout the Battle of Britain and with the advent of radar-equipped Beaufighters from September 1940, Gregory retrained as a Radio Observer. He assisted in the destruction of a He 111 in March 1941. In May he went to No.2 Radio School at Yatesbury for a wireless operator's course, which he completed in September.

Gregory joined 23 Squadron at Ford in December 1941. He flew from Tangmere in Boston IIIs on intruder patrols over France, Belgium, and Holland, bombing and strafing airfields, marshalling yards and other targets. On April 2 1942 he damaged two Do 17s.

In July Gregory went to a Gunnery Leaders' course at CGS, Sutton Bridge, was commissioned in August and after the course ended he rejoined 23 Squadron. He was posted away to 275 (ASR) Squadron at Valley in March 1943 and was awarded the DFC (13.7.43).

Gregory later served with 278 (ASR) Squadron and was released from the RAF in November 1945, as a Flight Lieutenant. He rejoined in July 1947, did radio refresher and jumping courses and in February 1948 he was posted to 52 Squadron in Changi, Singapore. The squadron was engaged in Army support, supply-dropping and troop-carrying in the anti-terrorist campaign in Malaya. In late 1950 Gregory returned to the UK and became a signals instructor. He retired from the RAF in May 1955."

The book lists you as: PO 31.8.42; FO 3.3.43; FL 3.9.44; and FL 2.7.47.

Kindest regards, thank you, and best wishes,

Peter

 

Message 2 - Albert Edward Gregory DFC

Posted on: 29 October 2004 by Trooper Tom Canning - WW2 Site Helper

Sir,
I can only add my tribute to that of Peter's and quote a "well done that man". We always held the RAF in very high regard not only for their exploits at the Battle of Britain but in their service to us - mainly by the Desert Air Force in Italy....until one day at the Gothic Line when the day before the Artillery had a go what we thought was one German 88mm on the Rimini Airfield, there were in fact three ! - no luck so the RN sent up two either frigates or destroyers, again - no luck... so it was the RAF's turn, they came up and strafed everything around but as the sun was heading west - they radioed that they would be back in the a.m.
Sure enough three aircaft appeared while we were at breakfast - served by the cooks for a change - and strafed the hell out of us ! Our fancy breakfasts went flying dodging a hail of bullets...as I understand it ... a case of Scotch was delivered to the Officers Mess in apology...but no beer for the lads who had lost their breakfasts ! What cheek !
Good luck

 

Message 3 - Albert Edward Gregory DFC

Posted on: 21 January 2005 by nick8858

Dear Peter
Thank you for your very kind words about Albert Gregory. Albert is my uncle and last year I was privileged to be able to spend many days recounting his experiences during the Battle of Britain which eventually was comitted to print. At some point there may be a reprint. For the time being though I am grateful to have been able tos pend this time with him, appreciate his sacrificial contribution towards the war effort and to get to know a truly humble, grateful man.

Message 1 - Night Fighters,

Posted on: 29 October 2004 by Frank Mee Researcher 241911

Hello Albert,
A very good story, We lived almost under the flight path from Catterick and I can well remember looking up as a lad and watching those Blenheims and Beaufighters as they flew over during the day. We all thought they were the best especially when we were getting bombed many nights at the time.
As for night fighters all I remember is a fire works display night after night as the guns rockets and flaming onions lit up the sky so if you were up there you were in more danger from our lot than the Germans.
It is good to hear from people who may have been very close to us and what you did, we watched in awe and wondered, so many never came back.
Regards frank.

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