102 (Ceylon) Squadron

Tentate et perficite (Attempt and Achieve)

Tom Maddock

Tom was a navigator with Dennis Phillips crew for almost all of his time with 102 Squadron.

The full crew were:

F/O Dennis H. Phillips DFC - Pilot
Sgt Thomas (Tom) W. Maddock - Navigator
Sgt E. (Bill) Lemon - Wop
Sgt W. A. (Ginger) Davies - F/E
Sgt Maurice E. Didlick - A/G
Sgt G. P. (Jock) Cairns DFC - A/G
Sgt K. Michael C. Barton - B/A

In August 2008 Tom Maddock wrote an article for the Association newsletter - he kindly aggreed to allow us to reproduce it here, thanks Tom.

The Story Behind The Cutting

I was the Navigator in Dennis Phillips' crew, operating from Pocklington with 102 Squadron between August 1943 and June 1944. It was the 19th.November and the night before we had been on a long trip to Ludwigshaven and it was well past midnight when we had landed with the other nineteen aircraft from the squadron. Apart from our Skipper, we were an all NCO crew billetted together in the same Nissen hut, so when Bill Lemon, our Wop/AG, shouted out, as he jumped out of bed, that the skies were clear there seemed to be a good chance that we would be flying again tonight.

We all drifted down to "C" Flight where we saw that the Red Board, indicating Ops for the night, was displayed and met our Skipper, F/O Phillips, who told us that we would be flying DY-U (Uncle). So we made our way to Dispersal where U—Uncle was surrounded by Ground Staff busily loading bombs, fuel and packets of “Window". The crew members checked their equipment, confirming with the ground crew that all was to their satisfaction. It was noted that there was no overload tank and that we would be carrying the maximum bomb load so it was obviously a shorter trip. There also seemed to be a lot more "Window" to drop. From Dispersal we all returned to our various sections and I prepared the necessary charts and maps for the flight in the Nav.Section before going to the Mess for a meal.

The main Briefing was at 1430 hours and there were groans as the curtain was drawn back to reveal the target as Leverkusen, 6 miles north of Cologne on the Rhine. There were uncertainties about the weather conditions and our skipper who had done a second dickie trip on Leverkusen told us that we were going to have a hard time tonight — and he was right!

The engines were started at 1630 hours and we then taxied out i to join the queue waiting for Take-off. Getting the 'Green‘ from the Caravan, the Skipper turned the aircraft on to the runway and lined up. "All set for Take—off?" "Here we go then".
With engines at full power, we lumbered down the runway and took-off, watched by a few towns people at the boundary fence. We climbed to the north east to gain height and keep away from the other aircraft in the area before turning back to Base with IFF 'On', Navigation Lights 'On‘ and all equipment serviceable.
We set course from Base at 1650 hrs and climbed to be at 10000 feet over Southwold where with Nav. lights off we then climbed to be at 18,000 feet before reaching the Dutch coast. Here we experienced some heavy flak and searchlights which caused us to dive and take evasive action.

We managed to get a good Gee fix before the signals were jammed which showed much stronger headwinds than forecast which meant that we were likely to be late on Target. The skipper increased our speed to Point ‘A‘ where we turned to make our attack on Target, at which point we were above 10/10th cloud.
At 19.19 hrs we turned on to the heading for the 43 mile run up to Leverkusen with its very large chemical factories. As we turned on course, the Gunners reported two aircraft down on the starboard and an explosion on the port side. With no sign of markers, the pilot elected to orbit to waste time losing a 1000 feet in the process and was just resuming our attack heading when the Bomb Aimer yelled, "Red Flares, Starboard Bow".
The pilot banked to the right and called, "Bomb doors open", followed by, "Bomb Aimer, it's all yours".

The aircraft swung right and left as Mike directed in the run—up to the Markers and it seemed, as always, a lifetime before we heard the call, ”Bombs Gone, Camera operating". The aircraft lifted as the bombs fell away and the skipper called out, "Bomb doors closed“, as he dived to get through the wall of shrapnel. We held course for five minutes to escape the barrage before turning south for nine minutes and then turning on to a westerly heading to come back through the Ruhr defences to get home. We were just south of Bonn above 10/10th cloud and heading straight into a wall of flak.

After jinking around the sky to escape the rattle of shrapnel on the aircraft, the pilot called, "Hold on everyone“ and dived down at full power.

Shrapnel rattled against the aircraft with several close shell bursts with one close enough for Mike, in the nose, to call out, "I think we've been hit".

The skipper replied, "We're still flying, Ginger can have a look later", his quiet voice having a calming effect.
Eventually we came through and, all seeming quiet and still, I drew aside the curtain between me and Bill, the W/Op. His face seemed pale around the mask, like mine, I suppose, so I gave him the thumbs up sign.

It was not quiet for long though, as Cairns in the rear turret came on the intercom with "Skipper, we’ve got three JU.88‘s up in our starboard quarter, Mid-Upper, l'll take the first one, you watch the others." It was not long before the leader made his attack and it seemed an age before Cairns called, “Corkscrew Starboard, Now", followed by the rattle of his guns filling the inter—comm. The JU.88 pilot had misjudged his attack and tried to dive away, but Cairns caught him with all his guns and the fighter burst into flames as it dived away earthwards.

It was only a couple of minutes before the second fighter peeled off and made his attack with Cairns warning us with, "Skipper,Corkscrew Starboard, Now", followed by the rattle of his guns again.

It may have been the small delay in Cairns call which mattered, but the JU.B8 pilot made a mess of his approach and Cairns hit him with all guns, his wing bursting into flames while the Mid Upper Gunner caught him as well as he also dived earthwards. When Cairns asked the M/Upper, "Where‘s the other bugger?", Didlick reported, "He's up in the Starboard Quarter but he's put his lights on and seems to be going home". To tell his Squadron that the Halifax had a secret weapon?

On the way to the French coast we obtained a good radar fix at 20.44 which put us 10 miles north of track and to save fuel we decided to return to Base via Southwold instead of Beachy Head. There was more flak and searchlights as we crossed the French coast and Cairns reported a combat dead astern, while we, ourselves, had to take evasive action for a fighter attack from the port quarter.

After that, it was a quiet journey to Southwold which we reached at 21.09. Here we had to fire off the Colours of the Day to indicate we were "Friendly" to stop the friendly fire which the AA guns were sending up. As we turned north, the gunners reported a combat astern so we must have had intruders trailing us in. We descended to 5000 feet and reached Pocklington at 22.12 hours. Joining the circuit it was great to hear the ATC give us permission to land and to see the runway lights rushing to meet us. We reached Dispersal where the ground crew were waiting and inspecting the damage while the skipper shut down the engines.

As the crew left the aircraft, the Corporal I/C (Lofty) approached the Skipper with, "You seem to have had a pretty tough trip tonight,Sir“, to which the reply came, Yes,CorporaL the engines and guns were first class and Cairns got two fighters“. The aircraft was badly damaged on both sides of the fuselage, the bomb doors had shrapnel damage and we had lost a radio aerial.
After everyone had congratulated Cairns and Didlick on their great success we boarded the transport to take up back to the Ops Room for Debriefing. The Intelligence Officers were extremely interested in the attacks by the three JU.88‘s, where it took place and the successful shooting down of two of the fighters by Sgt.Cairns our Rear Gunner, ably assisted by Sgt Didlick in the Mid Upper.

They were surprised to hear about the third JU.88, who must have been orbiting over a beacon, putting on his lights and heading off not wishing to try his luck with U-Uncle.
Surprisingly, the attacks made the front page of the "Daily Express" two days later on 19th.November 1943, as above. We thought that the skipper and Cairns might be recommended for a medal, but it was not to be, — then.

As we got rid of our flying gear, the crew were very quiet, thankful and grateful that we had the skipper, Phil, at one end of the aircraft with Foster Cairns at the other. when we thanked Cairns again before parting, all he could say in his Geordie accent was, "Thank God, it's over, but they asked for it!"


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