Mitchell Gordon 609 *

Pilot Officer Gordon T M Mitchell – 609 Squadron

Gordon Thomas Manners Mitchell was born in Ceylon on 24 September 1910. He was educated at Leys School, Cambridge and Queen’s College, Cambridge where he read Law and Economics. He was a member of the University Air Squadron from 1930 to 1932 and obtained his ‘A’ Grade Flying Licence.

In 1933 Mitchell obtained a commercial appointment in Sarawak and remained there for four years.

On his return to England he joined the Export Credits Guarantee Department in Bradford, West Yorkshire and was commissioned in 609 Squadron, Auxiliary Air Force in November 1938. He was called to full-time service on 24 August 1939 and posted to 6 Flying Training School at Little Rissington on 7 October. With his training completed he rejoined 609 Squadron, then at Northolt, in May 1940.

He was shot down in combat by Oberleutnant Ludwig Franzisket of JG27 over a convoy off Portland on 11 July in Spitfire L1095 and reported ‘Missing’. His body was eventually washed ashore near Newport, Isle of Wight.

Mitchell is buried in All Saints’ churchyard, Letchworth, Hertfordshire.

     

Hudson Paul 609 *

PAUL HUDSON

In Loving Memory of 2540637 SAC HUDSON PT

609 (West Riding) Squadron Royal Auxiliary Air Force

November 1951 – November 1953

Paul Trevor Hudson 11 September 1930 – 13 May 2011

Paul Hudson was a National Service armourer with 609 Squadron at Church Fenton, near York. A Yorkshireman born and bred, it was a lucky posting as it meant that he was both near home, and near his family’s boat, which was moored on the Ouse at Naburn near York – photographs show at least one occasion when members of the Squadron went for an afternoon’s cruising on the river.

Paul Hudson was born in Batley, West Yorkshire on 11th September 1930. He had an older brother, John, and later a sister, Pamela. He was educated at Batley Grammar School and went on to be articled to a firm of auctioneers in Dewsbury. In his spare time he joined his father, the Commodore of York Motor Boat Club, in many happy hours of ‘messing about on the river’ and further afield to the Yorkshire coast.

He was called up to do his National Service on 27th November 1951. Having been taken up in a biplane at the age of six, his passion alongside boats was aeroplanes, and it was an ambition of his to learn to fly, so naturally he chose the RAF. He used to joke later that it had to be the RAF because the Navy had stopped accepting National Servicemen by the time he was called up!

Sadly, flying was not to be, because, having passed all his pilot exams with ‘flying colours’ he then failed the last hurdle, the eyesight test. His disappointment showed: when handed the list of alternative trades, he then picked Motor Boat Crew but was refused that also, and so he picked the first trade at the top of the list: Armourer. At that point, fate in the shape of a sympathetic Sergeant at Padgate (the RAF training depot in Lancashire), shined on him, and posted him to Church Fenton, back on home territory. In spite of the inauspicious start, he was very happy at Church Fenton, and he loved working on the Gloster Meteor F8 planes, and when his two years’ service was over, he was offered a permanent Commission. Yet, still not being able to fly was the deciding factor in him making up his mind to leave and join his father in the family firm, Weyrite Scales (The Dial Automatic Scale Company). He remained in the firm until he retired as Managing Director at the age of 62.

In retirement he had time for another passion: writing. He had four novels published, the first three a trilogy drawing on his childhood and his service with 609 Squadron. He also wrote many humorous poems, notably the poem which was read out in the Officers’ Mess, RAF Leeming (North Yorkshire), after the Parade in 2000 to mark the occasion of the Squadron being re-formed on 1 October 1999. Here it is:

609 (WEST RIDING) SQUADRON ROYAL AUXILIARY AIR FORCE
1936 – 1956 (plus a little bit more)

609 is a great among squadrons,
Of that there’s no shadow of doubt,
Twenty years we served Monarch and country,
Till politicians then snuffed us out.

Our pilots were the ones making history,
As the Battle of Britain was fought,
Their victories were great, and spectacular,
But at such dreadful cost they were bought.

Came the day when fighting was over,
And 609 had a new battle to win,
Those who govern decided that our Squadron
Was one they could now safely bin.

The tenacity shown in our dog fights,
When fighting the Luftwaffe’s might,
Was now needed to persuade a dim Government
That 609’s own survival was our right.

So the Whitehall warriors relented,
And in Britain’s defence, we’d a hand,
But they didn’t like how much it was costing,
So in fifty-six, they made us disband.

But there’s life after death for our Squadron,
As a new millennium opens its door,
Like the Phoenix, we’ve risen from the ashes,
To serve Queen and Country, once more.

For some forty years we have waited
For a chance to put up a good show,
NOW let’s show them just what we are made of –
TALLY HO! ……..609…….TALLY HO!

If anyone asked, Paul always said that he was ‘Only an Erk’ (the slang term for a National Serviceman in the RAF), and he would have been incredibly touched that the Squadron flag was on his coffin at his funeral in 2011, and the Squadron was represented by the OC, Squadron Leader Jeff Metcalfe. He kept up the connection through the Squadron Association throughout his life.

Paul married Yvonne, née Sewell, in 1957 and they had a daughter, Adele Louise, who has written this short appreciation of her wonderful Dad, remembering always his humour and sense of fun, his loyalty and his honesty, and never forgetting the stories he told her of his time in 609 Squadron.

Paul’s last wish was that an oil painting of a Meteor, which he commissioned from John Rayson, and which always used to hang above his desk in his study as he wrote, was to be presented to 609 Squadron after his funeral. It is of Arthur Hudson’s Meteor F8 (CO 1950 – 53) (no relation to Paul) and it was painted in 1993. It now hangs in the Crew Room at RAF Leeming in North Yorkshire. Not bad for Only an Erk.

Adele L Hudson
April 2014

Another passion – motorbikes – 1950

Paul Hudson in later life

Hanson Sydney 609 *

809117 Flight Lieutenant Sydney H “Darkie” Hanson, AE MBE

Darkie, as he was universally known, had a swarthy complexion and latterly a magnificent handlebar moustache. Enlisting in 609 (WR) Squadron’s “C” Flight as an AC2 on 5th December 1937, he was trained as a ‘Fitter Aero Engine’ (F.11.E) though his technical ability as related to the internal combustion engine made the training somewhat unnecessary .

Promoted to LAC, it wasn’t long before he was Corporal Hanson, in charge of “B” Flights aircraft. 609 had converted from biplane Hawker Hart bombers to Hawker Hind biplane fighters, fortunately being re-equipped with Spitfires just before war was declared.

As the Dunkirk fighting increased, the Spitfires were hastily converted from variable pitch to constant pitch propellers, giving them a huge performance increase. Darkie and his colleagues did this in 8 days, getting 10 hours of sleep in that time, and working in bare feet to force themselves to stay awake. Faced with the problems of seeing behind them, the pilots benefitted from Darkie fitting a car rear view mirror above the top of the windscreen. In no time, this successful idea featured on all 609 aircraft.

A Flight Sergeant with “B” Flight by June 1941, Darkie was one of 40 pre-war Auxiliaries still with 609. These 40 carried the history, traditions, and memories of those who had gone before. They also taught these to newcomers!

In May 1942, 609 were at Duxford, and upon entering a hanger, Darkie was amazed to find it full of a new type of aircraft: the Hawker Typhoon. In April 1942 609 (WR) Squadron replaced their Spitfire Vs with the Hawker ‘Typhoon’ and the squadrons engine fitters came to grips with the ‘Sabre’ . The problems with the engine were considerable and the squadron’s engine fitters became engaged in a major battle to keep the ‘Typhoons’ serviceable. The eventual solving of the problems, and success of the aircraft, operationally, was due in no small part to such technicians as Darkie, and his fellow Senior NCO engine fitters, Olaf ‘The Breed’ Priestley and Roland ‘Groupie’ Walker.

It was a tradition that Auxiliaries could never be posted away from their squadrons without their permission. In September 1943 the RAF got round this by saying ”Stay put and thus never will you be promoted.” Having a family to support, Darkie had to accept a posting away from 609 in 1944, to the Middle East. Here he “simply sulked.”

Darkie renewed his connection with 609 Squadron when the Auxiliary Squadrons were reformed after the war. Following demobilization and a return to Civvy Street, the announcement that the disbanded Auxiliary Squadrons were to reform prompted Darkie to be first in line to enlist again. He signed up not as a Sergeant, but as an AC2. As befitted his experience, promotion was rapid. When David Shaw applied to join 609 in 1951, such was Darkie’s status that it was he, as senior NCO, who interviewed David, and not the current CO, Arthur Hudson! Before the final disbandment of the Auxiliary Squadrons Darkie received his Commission. When a Flying Officer, he was awarded the MBE in the 1957 New Year’s Honours List. He had also received the Air Efficiency Award for 10 years of continuous service.

609 (WR) Squadron were equipped with Mosquito NF30’s to be followed by Spitfire LX XV1’s. The jet age brought Vampire F5s for a short 3 months, followed by Gloster Meteor F8’s, which they flew until the Auxiliaries were disbanded once more in March 1957. By then Flight Lieutenant Darkie Hanson had become the Squadrons Engineering Officer.

Following disbandment a Squadron Association was formed. Ex-members of the squadron established a routine of annual reunions – still enjoyed to this day – with Darkie holding office as Chairman until 1992, when he retired. By then his attendance at reunions had become physically demanding, but his loyalty to the association, of which he was made a Vice President, overcame personal discomfort.

In his retirement, he owned a flat overlooking the Headley Cricket Ground in Leeds. Play in a test match was halted one day when thick smoke drifted across the ground. Darkie had experienced a kitchen fire that fortunately did little more damage than stop play for a few minutes.

Extract from “The Story of 609 Squadron”; “a swarthy man with a magnificent handle bar moustache ,who had served under the first and the last of them (CO’s), and with every one of The Hundred (the hundred who attended the 1968 reunion), as a man who had witnessed this Squadron’s dawn, high noon, and sunset. To some he was Aircraftsman Hanson, the engine fitter; to others Sgt Hanson in charge of the engines in `B’ Flights aircraft; to the youngest he was Flt Lt. Hanson, Squadron Engineer Officer. To all he was `Darkie’ Hanson – Dad – the human repository of 609’s traditions, joys, sorrows, – and memories.”

Darkie died on 25th September 2000, leaving behind his widow Margery, and son Barry.

Auxiliary Sergeants at RAF Duxford 1942. Darkie back row, 4th from left, 7th is Roland ‘Groupie’ Walker, 8th is Olaf ‘The Breed’ Priestley

Lympne Autumn 1943. Last remaining 609 Auxiliary airmen. Back row l/r: Sgt Eric ‘Jingle’ Ingall, Sgt Sydney ‘Darkie’ Hanson, Sgt Olaf ‘The Breed’ Priestly, LAC George Ikin, Cpl Roland ‘Groupie’ Walker. Mid row: Sgt Geoff ‘Black Geoff’ Walker, Sgt Douglas Andrews, S/Ldr Pat Thornton-Brown DFC, Sgt Harold Simpson, Sgt Robert ‘Bob’ Walling. Front: Cpl Jack ‘Scales’ Summerscales, LAC Leslie ‘Les’ Lindley, Cpl Ernest ‘Ernie’ Barker

October 1950: Sgts Ernie Lumb, Darkie Hanson and Don Dransfield

Malta Summer Camp July 1953. Group Captain Cyril Norman Odbert, Station Commander RAF Luqua, greets Darkie Hanson and Douglas Andrews. Odbert was 609 Squadron’s first Adjutant, from 1936 to 1938.

Gore William 607 *

90279 Flight Lieutenant William E Gore – 607 Squadron

William Ernest Gore of Stockton-on-Tees was employed as an electrical engineer when he joined 607 Squadron, Auxiliary Air Force in 1934. He was called to full-time service on 24th August 1939 and flew to France with the squadron, then equipped with Gladiators, on 15th November.

On 31st March he force-landed in Gladiator K7898 near Vitry-en-Artois when the engine seized up. On 10th May he claimed a Heinkel He111, 1G+DK of 2./KG27, that came down near St. Amand-les-Eaux. He shared another He111, from 1./LG1, on 11th May. Leading a section on a dawn patrol on 12th May 1940, Gore intercepted He111’s of 4./LG1. His section shot down three of them but return fire set his Hurricane P2572 AF-B on fire and he baled out. He was taken to hospital with burns. Gore was awarded the DFC (gazetted 31st May 1940).

He was posted to 54 Squadron at Catterick on 6th August but returned to 607 the following month. On the 28th September Gore was shot down by Me109’s, in an action east of Selsey. He was reported ‘Missing’ and is believed to have crashed into the sea in Hurricane P3108.

Gore was 25. He is remembered on the Runnymede Memorial, panel 4.

Gilbert John 609 *

Flying Officer John Charles Gilbert 90327

Above Centre

John Gilbert, son of Harold and Emma Gilbert of Smethwick, Staffordshire, joined 609 (West Riding) Squadron in 1937. He completed flying training and was promoted to Flying Officer in May 1939 and took part in all the squadron’s deployments and engagements in the first few months of the Second World War.

Whilst flying Spitfire Mk.I L1081 over Dunkirk on 31 May 1940 escorting Defiants, he was shot down by a German fighter and crashed into the English Channel. He was never recovered so is still officially listed as ‘Missing in Action’. He was 27 years of age.

Gaunt Geoffrey 609 *

91230 Pilot Officer Geoffrey Norman Gaunt

Geoffrey Gaunt joined the Auxiliary Air Force in 1936 and served with 609 (West Riding) Squadron, receiving some flying training before the war but not completing it. He was commissioned in April 1940 and completed his flying training at Cranwell and No 7 Operational Training Unit at Hawarden, where he converted to the Spitfire.

He rejoined 609 Squadron in August at the height of the Battle of Britain and he shared in the shooting down of a Messerschmitt Me110 on the 25th.

Gaunt was killed on 15th September 1940 when he was shot down during an attack on German bombers over London. His Spitfire, R6690, crashed and burned out near Kenley, he was 24 years old.

He is buried in the family plot at Salendine Nook Baptist Chapel, Huddersfield, West Yorkshire.