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15 October 2014
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My Flying Boots - Channel Dash

by raftype

Contributed by 
raftype
Background to story: 
Royal Air Force
Article ID: 
A2936397
Contributed on: 
21 August 2004

I served as a wireless operator/air gunner with B flight 49 squadron at RAF Scampton from September 1941 to November 1942 on Hampdens, Manchesters and Lancasters.

About midday on 12th February 1942 we were ordered to an urgent briefing and take-off to lay mines in the path of the 3 German cruisers ( Scharnhorst, Prince Eugen and Gneisenau )who were sailing up the channel from Brest to Bremen under cover of bad weather - the channel dash,

As we scrambled in the flying clothing locker room getting kitted up, Flt.Sgt.Jack Gadsby DFM came in to tell me my detail was a scrubbed as our aircraft was unserviceable. Sgt Brian Hunter, a fellow wop/ag, was doing some cursing as he had left his flying boots back at his billet - incidentally against orders - and how prevailed upon me to lend him mine as I would not be needing them.

Brian hunter and his crew did not return nor did 3 other b flight crews.

John Wards` excellent history of 49 Squadron - beware of the dog at war - records on page 122 that Hampden p5324 pilot Sgt Downs came down in the sea but the cause not known. He was not found but the bodies of 3 crew, Sgts Poxon, Wood and Brian Hunter were recovered from a Dutch beach several days later.

My flying boots were clearly marked 1051928 Sgt W E Clarke on the upper rim but obviously Brian would be identified by his `dog tags`. Harry Moyles’ book `the Hampden file` records on page 118 that the 3 crew are buried at The Hague.

I reported the loss of my flying boots, and the circumstances,to my flight commander and the following day I was called in and given Brian Hunters` boots, in time for my next operation on 16th February, laying mines off Heligoland.

I wore Brian`s boots until the end of my flying duties and demobbed in November 1945

I still mourn Brian - and the 955 bomber crewmen of 49 Squadron

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Message 1 - My Flying Boots - Channel Dash

Posted on: 21 August 2004 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

Dear Sir

I was very moved by your story, I have made a note of it in my copy of "Beware of the Dog at War" (I fully agree with you that it an excellent book). W.R. Chorley in "RAF Bomber Command Losses" says that "Sgt Wood has no known grave, but his three companions are buried in cemeteries along the Dutch coast", contrary to Harry Moyles book. But neither is entirely right.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission
records that:

Sgt Douglas Guy Poxon, age 28, is buried in Allied Plot 1, Grave 15, in the General Cemetery (Westduin), The Hague.

Sgt Thomas Kenneth Downes, age 22, is buried next to him in Grave 16.

Sgt Brian Hunter, age 27, is buried in Row F, Grave 22, Hook of Holland General Cemetery.

Sgt Thomas Henry Forrest Wood, age 24, no known grave, is commemorated on Runnymede Memmorial.

I felt immensely sad looking up these facts. Many thanks to you.

Best wishes,

Peter

 

Message 2 - My Flying Boots - Channel Dash

Posted on: 23 October 2004 by raftype

DearPeter

Many , many thanks for your rsponse to my WW2 article, and what a response !! My apologies for the delay in acknowledging, off the air and lack of skill etc and I am now so grateful thagt I can correct and update my records and my 49 Sqdn Association records.

It goes to show not all `documentaries` are accurate.

I shall always grieve that I was unable to make contact with Brian Hunter`s family but at the time I was busy trying to earn my bread and butter, studying and bringing up a family.

Thank you again, will endeavour to make necessary amendments wherever.

Most si ncerely

Eric Clarke

 

Message 3 - My Flying Boots - Channel Dash

Posted on: 23 October 2004 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

No, no, no, Eric. Thanks are entirely due to you and your comrades in arms.

You did all that was asked of you and more.

Kindest regards,

Peter

 

Message 4 - My Flying Boots - Channel Dash

Posted on: 13 November 2005 by raftype

Co-incident with this special commemmorative year of the end of WW2, and 63 years on I have received a communication from a relative of Sgt Brian Hunter who happened to be reearching his family history and I am able to give him factual personal information.
Particularly poignant at this time.
I thought odays BBC presentation of the Cenotaph Service was superb. In my 93rd year , housebound, caring for my invalid and blind wife I very much appreciated to viewing - it certainly toucherd the emotional chords. Thank you

Eric Clarke

 

Message 5 - My Flying Boots - Channel Dash

Posted on: 13 November 2005 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

Dear Eric

I am very pleased that you were able to give Sgt Brian Hunter's relative a little more information.

I agree with you about this morning's Cenotaph Remembrance service, I watched it on television. I thought of all of you as I stood in silence.

It saddens me to hear of your present predicament, Eric. I do hope that you are getting help; you more than deserve it.

Kindest regards to you and your wife,

Peter

Message 1 - Brian Hunter

Posted on: 10 October 2005 by bkrippon

Brian Hunter was married to my mother's first cousin, who was my favourite aunt. Although he died some thirteen years before I was born, he was always remembered fondly and indeed I was given my own name after him.

I have just been updating the family history and adding the detail of Brian's grave from the Commonwealth War Grave Commission. I then searched in the hope of finding out more about 49 Squadron and came across your fascinating article, details of which I shall pass on to my family. I am sure they will be as moved as I am.

Brian Rippon

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