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Old 7th November 2006, 15:14
phasselgren phasselgren is offline
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Night intruder operations by 23 Sqn 1941

Hi,
During the night intruder operations by 23 squadrons in 1941 several claims were made by New Zealand air gunners in Blenheims and Havocs. I am interested to learn more about these operations and if any more claims were made by air gunners not only New Zealanders. Most books concentrate on the pilots and it is difficult to find information about the air gunners.
This is what I have today (mostly from the Official history of New Zealanders in the RAF and A Clasp for ‘the Few’):
End of February 1941
Sergeant McDermott (J. A. McDermott; Wellington; born Gourock, Scotland, 11 Apr 1915; clerk; joined RNZAF Feb 1940) shared in attacks on two German bombers in the area of Lille airfield, both of which were seen to be damaged.
21/22 April 1941
Fletcher (W. T. Fletcher; England; born Wairoa, 14 Oct 1917; electrician; joined RNZAF Feb 1940) was concerned in an unusual encounter one night towards the end of April. His Blenheim was nearing the French coast on its homeward flight when a large four-engined bomber was sighted flying on the same course. It was soon identified as a Focke-Wulf Condor on its way out to attack shipping in the Atlantic. The Blenheim closed and opened fire. The first bursts must have entered the Condor's bomb-load for there was a blinding flash and a terrific explosion as the enemy machine blew up. The Blenheim was tossed about and the air filled with debris. On landing, the British crew discovered one large piece of armour plating, nearly three feet square, sticking out of the leading edge of one of the Blenheim's wings.
3-11 May 1941
On the night of 3 May Sergeant Fletcher flew in a Havoc which went to the Lille area and damaged a Junkers 88 and a Heinkel 111. Two nights later McDermott shared in the destruction of a Heinkel 111 encountered in the same area. Fletcher took part in another engagement on the 11th when, over the Caen area, an enemy aircraft was damaged.
12 August 1941
Sergeant Campbell (D. B. Campbell, DFM; Dargaville; born Dargaville, 8 Jun 1920; postman; joined RNZAF Feb 1940) flew as air gunner in a Havoc of No. 23 Squadron on a sortie over Gilze-Rijen airfield. Seven enemy aircraft were sighted and attacked during the three-hour patrol. Two were claimed as destroyed and four damaged. This engagement is well covered in A Clasp for ‘the Few’. Campbell claimed one probably destroyed and two damaged. The pilot was Plt Off W.A. Bird who made the other claims.
Fletchers pilot was probably Flt Lt Bertie Rex O´Bryen Hoare. The dates of the engagements is the same for Fletcher and Hoare but nothing is mentioned about Fletchers part in any of these claims when I checked with ‘Aces High’.
It is more difficult to confirm who was McDermotts pilot/-s but on the first two claims (end of Feb) is Plt Off A.J. Love most likely to be the pilot. On the night of 5 May is Plt Off S.S. Duff a possible pilot.
Confirmation of the names of pilots, more information abouts the combats and recommended reading about these operations would be much appreciated.
Cheers
Peter
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