RAF No. 41sqn Observer Corps Spitfire photographs
Spitfire FXIIs RAF 41Sqn EBB MB882 EBD MB858 EBH MB794 based at Friston Sussex IWM CH12754
Seven Spitfire F Mark XIIs (MB882 'EB-B' nearest) of No. 41 Squadron RAF based at Friston, Sussex, in flight over the South Downs.
Imperial War Museum IWM CH 12754 https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205210530
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F/Lt. Lock was born in Bayston Hill, near Shrewsbury, in 1920 and went to Prestfelde School. He was still at school when he had his first taste of flying - a five shilling trip with Sir Alan Cobham's Air Circus - but apparently he wasn't impressed at all. Instead he joined his father's quarrying and farming business and thought no more about flying until 1939 when he decided that if there was going to be a war, he wanted to be a fighter pilot. So he joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve - a sort of Territorial Army version of the RAF - and was called up on the outbreak of war.
Trained to fly a Spitfire and commissioned as a Pilot Officer, he was posted to No. 41 Squadron at the end of May 1940, based in Catterick, North Yorkshire. 'Lockie' returned to Shrewsbury in July to marry Peggy Meyers, a former Miss Shrewsbury, and then returned to his squadron after a brief leave.
On 15th August 1940, Eric got his first victory when a formation of German aircraft on a bombing raid came into his sights. He picked out a twin-engined Messerschmitt 110 at 20,000 feet and latched onto it, shooting it down into the sea.
On 3rd September the squadron was posted to RAF Hornchurch in Essex.
On 5th September, two days after arriving, Lock brought his damaged Spitfire back to base after destroying two Luftwaffe bombers over the Thames Estuary. A German Messerschmitt 109 fighter had shot up his Spitfire (injuring him in the leg) as he finished off the second bomber. Despite his wounds, Eric was determined to get revenge on his attacker. With a deft series of moves he shook off the 109, got into firing position and fired two short bursts into him. The German fighter exploded in mid air. He had shot down three German aircraft in just one day. Eric's injuries were minor, and he was back in the air the next day, shooting down a Junkers 88 bomber.
Three days later he shot down another two Messerschmitt 109s, and on the 11th he destroyed another Junkers 88 and a Messerschmitt 110.
He'd destroyed eight aircraft within a week - nine in total - a truly remarkable feat, even during the Battle of Britain, and one that led to the award of his first DFC. The citation described how the young pilot 'displayed great vigour and determination in pressing home his attacks'. Eric's extraordinary skill at the controls of a Spitfire ensured he continued to knock down enemy aircraft at a rate of knots, including one he chased right across the channel before shooting it down over Boulogne.
Just three weeks after receiving his first DFC, he was awarded his second, this time - for shooting down 15 aircraft in just 19 days. In the same period he had been slightly wounded once - and had to bale out an amazing three times. This time the citation referred to Eric's 'great courage in the face of heavy odds' and his 'skill and coolness in combat'.
After a brief rest the squadron was back at Hornchurch in October, and once again Eric picked up where he left off, shooting down another four Messerschmitt 109s - the last over Biggin Hill airfield - and bringing his total to 20 kills.
On 8th November Lock's Spitfire was badly shot up by Messerschmitt 109s at Beachy Head and he had to make a forced landing, although he was unhurt.
The victories had dried up for the young Shropshire pilot, but on the 17th he struck again - but at a cost. On that day his squadron attacked a formation of 70 Messerschmitt 109s, and after shooting down one and setting fire to another, Eric Lock became the victim. German bullets and cannonshells smashed into the cockpit, injuring Lockie's right arm and both legs. A bullet also knocked the Spitfire's throttle wide open - something that may have saved the pilot's life as the aircraft leapt forward hurtled out of the dogfight at more than 400mph, leaving Eric's attacker standing.
The bullet that forced open the throttle had also knocked the lever off, so Lock was alone at 20,000 feet, only able to use his left arm and with no way of slowing down the racing engine. Unable to bale out because of his injuries, he got down to 2,000 feet before cutting his engine and looking for a landing site.
Eric woke up in hospital to find he'd been awarded of the DSO. Once again the citation paid tribute to 'his magnificent fighting spirit and personal example'. He spent the next three months undergoing 15 operations to remove bits of metal from his body, and remained in hospital until the end of May 1941 - except for a trip to Buckingham Palace to receive his decorations.
In June 1941 he was fit for duty and promoted to Flying Officer, and soon after promoted again to Flight Lieutenant. The following month he was back in action, commanding a flight of Spitfires with 611 Squadron. In his first few weeks back in battle he'd shot down another four German aircraft, taking his total to 26.
On 3rd August 1941, Lock was on his way back from a fighter sweep over northern France when he spotted some German soldiers on a road near Calais. He swooped down to attack and was never seen again. It seems most likely he was brought down by ground fire, but the wreck of his aircraft has never been found, nor a body recovered, and so Shropshire's Battle of Britain hero has no known grave.
Eric Lock's name is carved on the Runnymede Memorial in Surrey, along with those of 20,000 British and Commonwealth airmen who vanished without trace in World War II.
Spitfire MkI RAF 41Sqn Observer Corps EB-L N3126 flown by P.O. Ted 'Shippy' Shipman RAF Catterick England 1939
Photo's: Gun camera footage from Thursday 15 August 1940 during the Battle of Britain. Oberleutnant Hans Ulrich Kettling was flying a Messerschmitt Me 110 which, formed part of a 170-strong attack on the Driffield, Linton-on-Ouse and Dishforth airfields from their station in Norway. Shippy was one of the thirteen Spitfire pilots scrambled to 18,000 ft from Durham to counter the incoming Bf 110s and Heinkel He 111s. Shippy was credited with downing Messerschmitt Bf 110C Zerstörer 1./ZG76 (M8+CH) being flown by Hans Ulrich Kettling Thursday 15 August 1940
Spitfire MkI N3126 history: First flew 1st Nov 1939 with 8MU transferred on 4th Nov 1939 to 41Sqn transferred out 21st Jan 1940 AST 20-9-40 SOC CE 7-10-40
ONE OF THE FEW ISBN: 184415687-7 BY JOHN SHIPMAN
Ted Shipman (nicknamed 'Shippy') joined the RAF for training at Uxbridge in 1930 and became a petrol vehicle driver. He then became an engine fitter and after five unsuccessful applications was eventually accepted for RAF pilot training at Blackpool and Brough. Three pilots on his course crashed their Hawker Audaxes (trainer variants of the Hart) during solos but Ted succeeded without disclosing his previous experience.
He was posted as a Sergeant to 41 Squadron at Catterick who received their first Spitfires in January 1939. The squadron (its' emblem the red, twin armed Cross of St. Omer) was assigned to 13 Group. Their mascot was a small dog called "Wimpey" who flew with a hat and goggles but was disgraced when he allegedly fertilised the CO's hat. Experience showed the Spitfire to be tricky to taxi due to poor forward visibility and the early machines were regularly upgraded with modifications such as three blade dual pitch propellers, bubble canopies and armoured windscreens. Ted was eventually to fly 29 different Spitfires out of the 468 issued to 41 Squadron.
His first encounter with the Luftwaffe was on October 17th 1939 when along with the aircraft of H.P. Blatchford and A. Harris (neither of whom survived the War), Ted encountered a Heinkel 111 scouting for the location of HMS Hood off the coast at Whitby. Closing for positive identification he saw to his dismay its black crosses and was then surprised to find that it was shooting at him. He duly shot it down and the crew then drifted in dinghies for 43 hours before being captured – the first Germans captured in the UK.
The next day the squadron was deployed to Wick to prevent a series of daily raids on Scapa Flow. The regular raids at 2:00 pm. each day promptly failed to appear and there was clearly an observer at work. The Naval attitude at that time was to demand point defence scrambles rather than more effective standing patrols due to the trigger happy nature and poor aircraft recognition of their own sailors. When the squadron left, the raids immediately restarted. During the deployment the support Whitley bomber carrying pilots and ground crews crashed killing seven of the squadron and injuring two more. One of those killed was Sgt. Harris, Ted's companion from the previous day. On a happier note, the Spitfire pilots were told, wrongly, that there was no whisky at Wick so they packed a few bottles to go with. Since there was no need for such essential supplies, they returned with them but thought that it may be wise to consume them during a refuelling stop at Edinburgh on the way back to avoid being caught on landing at their home base. Several aircraft were damaged on arrival at Catterick.
The squadron deployed to Hornchurch to support the Dunkirk evacuation with patrols at 20,000 feet but effectiveness was hampered by limited fuel capacity and confusion caused by lack of planning compounded by unreliable newly installed VHF radios which permitted only one aircraft at a time to receive ground/air data. When asked for a report on his situation, one pilot named "Robin" Hood replied "We're in a b*****y mess". The oxygen supplies were also limited and often froze endangering pilots who could lose awareness from oxygen starvation. Some individuals wore captured German flying suits as they were considered superior to those of the RAF and worth risking confusion if shot down but despite the problems the squadron mounted ten sorties per day.
After return to Catterick, the Germans were attacking on all fronts on a day later known by them as "Black Thursday" and Ted came upon Oberleutnant Hans Ulrich Kettling flying a Me110 which turned into a head on attack. The Spitfires passed and turned back onto the Me's tail in line astern formation when Ted picked Kettling's aircraft and hit one of its engines. The Germans' forced landing was made in a field near Barnard Castle that appeared to be level with a hedge at the end. The hedge turned out to be hiding a stone barrier and ditch but Kettling and his Bordfunker – Obergefreiter Volk survived the ensuing collision as prisoners. ('Zerstorer' by Vasco & Cornwell, which is a detailed record of Bf110 operations during the B.o.B. mentions this skirmish. Kettling was flying a Bf110D fitted with the 'Dacklebauch', a grotesque ventral fuel tank which provided the additional range required by the 110 for these raids, but at considerable cost in manoeuvrability).
Thursday 15 August 1940 became "the greatest day" of the Battle of Britain for the Allies; "Black Thursday" for the Germans. On that day, a craftsman's son, Oberleutnant Hans Ulrich Kettling, a Messerschmitt Me 110 pilot for the Luftwaffe, formed part of a 170-strong attack on the Driffield, Linton-on-Ouse and Dishforth airfields from their station in Norway. Shippy was one of the thirteen Spitfire pilots scrambled to 18,000 ft from Durham to counter the incoming Me 110s and Heinkel He 111s. Shippy recalled:
"Before getting into firing range, the targets turned hard to port and came straight for us... closing speed, probably in excess of 600 mph... One moment the windscreen was full of enemy aircraft approaching at an alarming speed, and then a second later the sky appeared empty as the Me 110 disappeared behind me.
"Picking up another Me 110, which evaded violently in steep turns to the left with some climbing followed by some diving, I then attacked the aircraft from astern at about 200 yards. This was a prolonged engagement which used up the remainder of my ammunition. The starboard engine of the Me 110 belched clouds of smoke and appeared to be on fire. I believe I had put it out of action."
Kettling crash-landed near Barnard Castle and set his aircraft alight while he awaited capture. His rear gunman, Obergefreiter Volk, suffered wounds to his leg.
In 1985, Shippy and Kettling met each other again, revisited the crash site and exchanged memories and mementos. Kettling recalled his sharp memories of this encounter, when Shippy's Spitfire "poured a packet" at him:
"I cannot tell you my feelings. Not because I have forgotten, but because almost certainly I felt nothing... At such times you function like a robot. Fear? Not even that. Never once in crucial moments in air fighting did I have fear. Anger? Yes. But this is also odd, never anger at the British enemy, but at the orders that had put me there... "I would have shot Ted Shipman without a thought. But I am not a murderer. I was shooting at material. That machinery happened to be operated by a man. But that is only a second thought - a rationalization. War for us was a sport."
"What did we, the British, do?" Shippy recalled:
"We spent most of our time in tents, playing cards, talking. There was no real emotion or apprehension for most of us... This attitude did not change until you saw your first German... The last thing I wanted to see was those black crosses. "I was not a hero We had some successes in our gently battle. I survived. I can remember the feeling of desperation, not panic, but an acute awareness of the seriousness of the situation. I was never a member of the 'tally-ho' or 'wild-blue-yonder-spirit' that some people talk about."
In more peaceful times, Ted came to know and befriend Hans Kettling and they visited the crash site where parts of the Me110 were later recovered. Kettling's background was not dissimilar to Ted's since both had been young men of limited means who had joined their air forces before the war. Hans was attracted by the glamour of the uniform and its effect on girls rather than being the tough Nazi as most Germans were then portrayed.
Note: Signed books are available from the author. The author welcomes invitation to do talks about the book for groups anywhere in the world. Books may be purchased from the author, Amazon, Ebay, good bookshops and Pen & Sword Ltd. Proceeds from the sales of the books and from the talks goes to the RAF Benevolent Fund.
"ONE OF THE FEW" ISBN: 184415687-7, BY JOHN SHIPMAN PUBLISHED BY PEN AND SWORD. Price £20 plus p & p.
John Shipman, 3 Old Mill Close, Langford, Biggleswade, Beds, SG18 9QY,
Tel 01462 700650, Tel mobile 07813096551,
Catterick, England, United Kingdom Map
Magazine References: +
- Airfix Magazines (English) - http://www.airfix.com/
- Avions (French) - http://www.aerostories.org/~aerobiblio/rubrique10.html
- FlyPast (English) - http://www.flypast.com/
- Flugzeug Publikations GmbH (German) - http://vdmedien.com/flugzeug-publikations-gmbh-hersteller_verlag-vdm-heinz-nickel-33.html
- Flugzeug Classic (German) - http://www.flugzeugclassic.de/
- Klassiker (German) - http://shop.flugrevue.de/abo/klassiker-der-luftfahrt
- Le Fana de L'Aviation (French) - http://boutique.editions-lariviere.fr/site/abonnement-le-fana-de-l-aviation-626-4-6.html
- Le Fana de L'Aviation (French) - http://www.pdfmagazines.org/tags/Le+Fana+De+L+Aviation/
- Osprey (English) - http://www.ospreypublishing.com/
- Revi Magazines (Czech) - http://www.revi.cz/
Web References: +
- History of RAF Organisation: http://www.rafweb.org
- History of RAAF: http://www.airpages.ru/eng/ot/raaf_01.shtml
- Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/
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