PETER GELDART pilot and later Air Traffic control officer with 611 passed away on 10 October 2004. Peter flew with 611 post war from Woodvale and had an unfortunate accident when he was on a cross country from Woodvale to Morpeth in Northumberland on 3 June 1948. He had some problem with the aircraft near Kirkby Stephen in Westmoreland and he came down in cloud from 6,000 ft to 3,500 ft but realised he was near high ground. He decided to bale out and landed with only a strained ankle but Spitfire NM814 was written off. This appeared to put Peter off flying and he spent the rest of his time with the Squadron as an Air Traffic Control officer. I spent a day with Peter and his wife several years ago when he kindly let me copy his squadron memorabilia.
Howard Green from Banbury, Oxfordshire wrote about his father JOHN GREEN who served with 611 before and during early WWII. He sent an amazing collection of photos showing the Squadron at work including one of himself wrapped in ammunition ready to be loaded into a Spitfire at Digby; a line up of Hinds on detachment at Belfast in 1938 and Spitfire I FY-R on its nose at Digby in 1940.
BRIAN 'GROUSE' PARTRIDGE (ex Fg Off 611 Sqn) wrote from Australia with some excellent material about his time with 611. He flew Spitfires and later Mustangs with 611 and sent copies of his log book from 21 June 1944 when the Squadron was at Deanland, on to Harrowbeer, Predannack, Bolt Head, Bradwell Bay, Skaebrae, Hawkinge, Hunsdon until his final sortie on 7 June 1945 from Peterhead where he was with the squadron when it disbanded. After the war he served in the Far East. He flew 97.2 operational hours with 611. On 16 April 1945 he was escorting 25 Lancasters to Berlin when they made their first acquaintance with Russian aircraft meeting six YAK 9 fighters and 2 Stormovik bombers. Later they spotted 10 Fw190s and he claimed 1 destroyed and 1 damaged. Earlier, on 31 March he reported the Squadron was escorting bombers to Hamburg when they were "attacked by 20 plus Me262 jet fighters which left the Mustangs standing. 11 Lancs missing". Brian converted onto the Mustang on 2 March 1945 at Hunsdon.
By the end of the war he had 138 hrs dual, 559.4 solo, 14.55 dual night, 30.5 solo night, 52.24 passenger, 30.45 instrument dual, 10.10 instrument solo and 56.45 link trainer
Brian wrote the following:
Above 20,000 feet, the outside temperature drops to the minus twenties. While flying at these altitudes for five hours or more escorting a force of R.A.F. bombers in daytime attacks on Germany, the fuselage of a Mustang P51D aircraft quickly cooled to the ambient temperature and the cockpit became very cold indeed. We wore warm flying clothing and our gloves and flying boots were electrically heated. But our nether regions were sorely afflicted as a bag containing very cold emergency water supplies separated our bums from the cushion of the dinghy and parachute pack.
After a few weeks of this chilling Arctic experience, the pilots in my squadron, myself included, were complaining bitterly about the symptoms of piles. My wife reported this to her aunt who was a hospital nurse. The angelic aunt procured a rubber inflatable ring cushion which I tried out a few days later on a sortie to Stettin. Fully inflated, the cushion was blissfully comfortable as we taxied out for takeoff.
We were climbing through 10,000 feet in loose finger four formation on a perfect spring day in 1945 when I noticed that the cushion was becoming very hard, uncomfortably so. Then as we passed 15,000 feet I found that my right hand had slid up the pistol grip of the control column and my left hand was touching the tip of the throttle control. When I felt pressure on my neck as my flying helmet pressed against the cockpit canopy, I realized what was happening. In the low ambient air pressure, the rubber cushion was over-inflating. I was literally going up in the world. In danger of losing my grip of the control column and throttle lever, my feet even had trouble in reaching the rudder pedals. With no autopilot to keep the aircraft flying straight and level, I had to do something quickly before I lost control. My first thought was to feel inside the wool lining of my flying boot to find the little knife supplied to stab the dinghy in the event of accidental inflation putting the pilot in a situation similar to mine. Then I remembered the angelic aunt's warning about the cushion. "These are as scarce as hen's teeth, real rubber and imported from America!" I frantically wriggled and scrabbled, searching for the valve, found it under my right buttock, unscrewed the head to release the air, just in time to allow me to grab the stick as the port wing went down. With a deep sigh of relief, I concentrated on regaining my place in the formation which I had started to lag behind.
Needless to say there was great mirth on return to our base north of London, when I explained the cause of my problems. On future sorties, pre takeoff checks included the cautionary 'check cushion for partial inflation, valve accessible between legs next to pilot relief tube'.
A picture of a Spitfire Mk Vb AB984 'West Borneo III' with an unknown pilot. Ian Simpson, who has been researching the life and death of Sgt W Philip Dales has identified the pilot as SGT E E 'CHIPS' CARPENTER (RNZAF) who served with the squadron at Hornchurch
MALCOLM FIFE is writing the history of Drem Airfield in Scotland, is looking for photos of it in its operational days and I have sent him some photos of 611 Squadron when they were there. Malcolm can be contacted at Malcolm@fife1334.freeserve.co.uk
ROB VAN DEN NIEUWENDIJK in the Netherlands is researching an incident on 16 September 1943 when operating over the North Sea off Holland claimed a Me109 three miles west of Texel. The German unit which 611 met was 11./Jagdgeschwader 3 'Udet' based at Schipol near Amsterdam. I was able to extract the following from the RAF Form 540 and send it to Rob:
At 0849 hours F/L DEVLIN took-off leading 7 aircraft on another search, for 'JIM CROW' from TIRSCHELLING to WESTHOOFD. No enemy action was encountered and the only shipping seen consisted of 2 barges 2 miles off LANDHOORT and 2 ships of 6/7,000 tons in. NOORDWAL estuary. The Squadron returned to base at 10.26 hours.
At 12.50 hours CAPT. AUSTEEN led another 7 aircraft on another 'JIM CROW' and patrolled from TERSCHELLING to EGMOND sighting 6 enemy minesweepers 10 miles N.N.E of TERSCHELLING. Weather was 10/10 broken cloud over the coast The Squadron landed back at base at 14.39 just in time to attend a lecture given by Lt CDR CLARK, RN from YARMOUTH on "Shipping Recognition" The lecture had just concluded when WG CDR LUVAS intimated that No 16 Group were going to prang the minesweepers and the lecture broke up in jubilation. At 17.15 hours the Squadron led by Wing Commander Flying and accompanied "by No.308 Polish Squadron took-off to act as escort to 24 Beaufighters (12 Group ROADSTEAD NO.22) on attack upon the Minesweepers. 3 miles West of TEXEL. The minesweepers were sighted and the Beaus got work.
Explosions were seen on two of the vessels and a third was left sinking. Black Leader (CAPT. AUSTEEN) spotted an ME 109 during the attack and immediately gave chase. He gave the Hun 3 bursts but could not observe results. F/SGT WARR was attacked and his machine was hit by cannon fire but was able to return to base with the Squadron landing at 18.53 hours. F/SGT. WARR's machine was categorised 'B' having received hits in the fuselage which blew a gaping hole 18" in diameter just aft of the W/T equipment.
Capt Austeen claimed it as 'Destroyed'
AA858 Flt Lt Berry Green 2
AR513 Flt Sgt Warr Green 3
EP298 W Cdr Smith Green 4
BL328 Flt Lt Devlin Red 1
AR608 Flt Lt Widerberg Red 2
AB170 Fg Off R F Noble Red 3
AR605 Fg Off L V King Red 4
AR463 Capt A Austeen White 1
AB210 Sqn Ldr C A Harris White 2
P8038 Lt K L'Abee-Lund White 3
AB512 Flt Sgt Bevan White 4
The page before this is missing and Green 1 in unknown. All took off 17.15 and landed 18.53
DES CARNE asked for information about his late cousin Flt Lt RONALD MITCHELL who joined 611 at Bradwell Bay in Aug 1944 and who went on after the war to join 614 (County of Glamorgan) Squadron RAuxAF.
I could reply as follows:
Unfortunately part of the record is very comprehensive and part not. The part for late 1944 and early 1945 is not too good either in terms of reproduction from the original or content. Earlier years have a full record of all personnel joining and leaving the Sqn but this period does not.
However I can establish that W/O Mitchell flew operationally with the squadron on the following dates:
November 1944: 10, 20, 21, 26 & 28
December 1944: 13, 18, 21, 26 & 28
January 1945: 5 & 14
February 1945: 22, 23, 27 & 28
March 1945: 2, 3 & 29
April 1945: 3, 11, 15, 16, 19 & 23
He may very well have stayed with the Sqn until disbandment but I regret there is no record of any movements of personnel but the Sqn was fully manned at disbandment day and I doubt there were any postings before.
MIKE ABBOT has been researching the death of 742457 SGT KENNETH CLIFTON PATTISON on 13 October 1940 when he crashed near Crooksley Green, Kidderminster in Spitfire IIa P7323. Together we have worked out what happened and Mike has done a huge amount of research. He can be contacted at Mike.Abbott@nottingham.ac.uk
Martin S. is a Dutch author researching info about Fg Off JENS HENNING GIELSTRUP who died whilst flying from Coltishall, Norfolk, with 611 on 23 August 1943 in combat over the Channel. He trained in the UK and in Alberta Canada from June 1942 to February 1943. Martin is particularly interested in any information about him at all. He was shot down in Spitfire IIa P8545 by Anti aircraft artillery. He has no known grave but is commemorated at The Air Forces memorial at Runnymead, Panel 124. He was 24 years old when he died. Martin can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Erwin Van Loo is a researcher for the Royal Netherlands Air Force Historical Unit and has passed information on about the three Dutch East Indies pilots who served with 611; FLT LT B.F.A. BUYS; FLT LT J.B.H BRUINIER, FG OFF A.E. PENNINGS. He sent photos of Bruinier and Pennings departing for Europe and the war and advised me that "on 21 March 2005, the last living Dutchman of 611 Squadron, General Major Jan Berend Bruinier, passed away. He was buried 25 March 2005". Pennings was unfortunately killed on 28 April 1941 when his Spitfire IIa P7774 was shot down by AA fire off Walcheren. Bruinier (after several operational sorties) was prohibited by his Government (the exiled Dutch Government) from flying operationally from Britain, he then went back to the Dutch East Indies hoping for action against the Japanese there.