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15 October 2014
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Who's the Blankety-Blank with a Machine Gunicon for Recommended story

by Keith Wardell

Contributed by 
Keith Wardell
People in story: 
Ted Foster
Location of story: 
Western Desert circa 1942
Background to story: 
Royal Air Force
Article ID: 
A2323630
Contributed on: 
21 February 2004

My good and now late friend Ted Foster being part of a Photographic Unit attached to 208 Squadron meant that their movements were pretty fluid during
the North African campaign. Another fact involving fluid is that photo processing requires a lot of water, thus aside of their photograpic truck, a Ford V8 they also had a Bedford OY tanker.

The crew that manned this vehicle, and they took it in turns, would often be despatched to collect the required supply from a water point and on occasions they would return after several hours driving to find that the whole unit had up-stakes and gone to a new location; all that was often left for the Bedford crewwas a note with a map reference.

During a period of relative immobility, the Bedford would frequently go backwards and forwards to a particular water point. On the second morning of its journey the crew spied a newly belly-landed Junkers Ju 88/A4 that had come to rest about 200 meters off of the road.

Curiousity getting the better of them the two airmen left the cab of the Bedford, drew their side-arms and walked towards the damaged aircraft, all the time being aware that the crew, who would outnumber them, were possibly still around.

After checking that the Luftwaffe crew seemed to have made good their escape Ted, as corporal in charge, decided to have a nose around the Ju88, of course first checking for booby traps; there were none.

Much to his delight, still mounted in the aircraft were a couple of Rhine-Metall Borsig MG15, 7.9mm machine guns plus plenty of ammunition. Closer inspection revealled that one gun was useless but the other was in very good condition.

A tug here, a pull there and little bit of fiddling around and the Spandau, as they were more commonly known, came free. A few words with some of the "tin-bashers" and armourers on their return to the airstrip and they could have this little beauty mounted on top of the cab of the Bedford, thus giving them some serious weaponry to fire back at anyone getting aggressive with them: scorpions, snakes, camels, Arabs possibly even Germans.

Before going on about exploits with the machine gun, it is perhaps worth noting that each time Ted passed the Ju88, every couple of days or so he took a photograph of the wreck for gradually it was disappearing. The last shot was of just the upper part of the tailplane sticking out of the sand. (I consider myself lucky enough to have copy negatives of one or two of these pictures, but alas not the full set).

Time passed and the Bedford was now kitted out with an old Scarf ring and mounting, obtained from "somewhere" with the MG15 fitted to it. It had limited traverse, but pretty good elevation and depression; the latter was to be its downfall.

Again, they had recently moved location and not wanting to attract too much interest from passing senior N.C.O's or officers, the photographic boys had set themselves up on a quiet corner of the airstrip where they could carry out their duties at their pace without being hounded.

It was mid-morning, a photo-recce Hawker Hurricane taxied out for take-off and it was just possible to hear above the rumble of its Rolls-Royce Merlin the sound of another aircraft.

Just as the unfortunate pilot of the Hurricane opened his throttle and started to accelerate to get airborne, the scream of two Daimler-Benz DB601's racing at high speed split the air and a Messerschmitt Bf110d roared across the strip at dust-bin level with all its nose armourment blazing.

Sadly the Hurricane and its young pilot stood no chance. Puffs of sand and dust flew up all around the R.A.F machine as 20mm shells erupted in a line chasing the British aeroplane Flames appeared from around the engine cowling and ruptured fuel tanks of the Hurricane. Smoke billowed and flame roared from its cockpit, the canopy having been left open for take-off. Perhaps fortunately, the pilot was already slumped forward in the cockpit against his harness, he was now not feeling any pain and knew no more.

In anger at this intrusion, one of the photographic team jumped up behind the MG15 and another acted as loader. They literally blazed away at the Kette of four BF110's as they flew back and forth straffing the strip.

The Hurricane ended up a blazing wreck as did several other parked aircraft including a visiting Martin Baltimore. There was however to be no revenge against the Germans, as each Bf110 flew away home.

Those in the photo section felt good that they had been able to answer back, and with a German machine gun...

Shortly, as the aircraft were left to burn themselves out and the other casualties were being attended to, the sound of a motorcylce was heard approaching the photographic encampment; sitting on the machine was an officer in the R.A.F. Regiment. He dismounted and wanted to know who was the Blankety-Blank idiot here with a machine gun?

It appeared that while blazing away, the fall of shot had not been noted and many of the bullets from the gun in the photo section were falling all around the aerodrome defence 40mm Bofors located on the far side of the airfield on a slight rise in the ground. This caused the crews to take cover, luckily only one was slightly injured, and not to shoot at the Huns..

That very afternoon the unofficial and unauthorised macine gun was removed from the Bedford and the CO had some new armament on his Ford V8 "Woody" shootingbreak.

Keith Wardell

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