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Old 21st October 2012, 19:04
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11.04.1944 Bay of Biscay battle ZG1 vs. RAS 151 sqn 248 sqn

Gentlemen !

(sorry: in title RAF instead RAS)
On 11.04.1944 there were 2 battles of Ju88 of ZG1 versus Mosquitos
of RAF 151 sqn and 248 over bay of Biscay.

Can sombody identify an "american navigator" among the
Mosquito RAF crews?

According to one 151 Sqn Website at that point in time
the 151 sqn crews were:

"A" Flight
Section 1
S/Ldr Harrison & F/O Horrex
F/O Turner & F/O Partridge
F/O Kneath & F/Lt Thompson
F/Sgt Oddie & Sgt Milne
Section 2
F/Lt Stevens & F/O Aldridge
F/O Purniss & F/O Ferguson
Lt Cramp & Lt Jaffray
T/Sgt Clouch & Sgt Tickle
Section 3
F/Lt Handley & Capt Bray
P/O Kemp & F/Sgt Maidment
F/Sgt Heath & P/O Cottrill
Sgt Tucker & Sgt Smith

"B" Flight
Section 1
S/Ldr Cooke & P/O Hill
P/O Hutchinson & F/Sgt Porter
F/O Bryant & F/O Battle
F/Sgt Birch & Sgt Stevenson
Section 2
F/Lt Ellacombe & F/O Peal
F/Sgt Playford & F/Sgt Kelsey
W/O Penman & F/Sgt Phillips
F/O Honeyman & F/Sgt Harding
Section 3
F/Lt Gregory & F/O Usher
F/Lt Morris & P/O Bolton
P/O Flight & P/O Mackins
F/Sgt Golding & F/Sgt Gibbs

bye, thank you kindly,

Last edited by FrankieS; 21st October 2012 at 19:44.
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Old 22nd October 2012, 02:35
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Re: 11.04.1944 Bay of Biscay battle ZG1 vs. RAS 151 sqn 248 sqn


Flt Lt D S Handley/Capt J W Bray USAAF.

Bloody Biscay(1st.ed.)/Goss.p.237

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Old 22nd October 2012, 11:24
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Re: 11.04.1944 Bay of Biscay battle ZG1 vs. RAS 151 sqn 248 sqn

Thank you kindly !
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Old 22nd October 2012, 20:40
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Re: 11.04.1944 Bay of Biscay battle ZG1 vs. RAS 151 sqn 248 sqn

Hi, this is from the excellent 151 Squadron website :-

April 11
This was to be one of the finest days for victories in the history of 151. Squadron, in which a total of six Ju 88's were destroyed, one Ju 88 was probably destroyed, three Ju 88's were damaged, and one flak ship damaged. Unfortunately, the memorable day was marred by the loss of two valuable crews in the actions which took place. They were:-
P/O Kemp & F/Sgt Maidment,
W/O Penman & Sgt Stevenson.
The day's operations took place in two parts. The first Instep patrol left Predannack in the morning, led by W/Cdr Goodman & F/O Thomas taking out Section 3 of "A" Flight. In addition, F/Lt Etherton with F/Lt Gibbs, and F/O Turner with F/O Partridge made up the total required for the operation. The latter two crews were to be direct cover to special Mosquitos of 248 Squadron who were equipped with aircraft carrying a high calibre gun known as the "Tse Tse", the main section of 15]. Squadron being top cover.

A surfaced "U" boat had been seen approaching the western coast of France where submarine pens were established at St Nazaire, Lorient, and La Roche. The submarine was also reported as being escorted by four flak ships of the Sperrbrecker Class. The duty of 151 Squadron on top cover was to give fighter cover to the attacking force, whilst that Of the direct cover aircraft was to divert the flak from the 248 Squadron aircraft as they' undertook their attack.

The whole formation made contact with their target, and as expected, there was German air cover and a severe air battle followed.

F/Lt Etherton & F/Lt Gibbs reported that they were flying at "0" feet as escort to one of the special Mosquitos and on reaching position 47o 00' N, 02o30' W at 0937 hrs, they sighted a convoy of a submarine and four escorting flak ships travelling in an easterly direction. The special Mosquitos went into attack and F/Lt Etherton attacked one of the flak ships, simultaneously getting strikes on the superstructure and also amidships. They then broke away and climbed to 1500 ft and joined in the air battle with the escorting Ju 88's.

A Ju 88 did a beam attack on the Mosquito but missed. Another Ju 88 was seen coning in on a head-on attack, whereupon F/Lt Etherton fired at it but the gun button became unserviceable just as the Ju 88 passed beneath. F/Lt Gibbs saw the Ju 88 losing height with smoke coming from the engine. They then left the convoy area and made for a return to base, landing at Portreath because of poor weather conditions at Predannack.

F/Sgt Heath & P/O Cottrill reported:-
Together with five other Mosquitos, they were detailed to support mosquitoes of 248 Squadron on an anti-shipping strike. Airborne at 0750 hrs they made their rendezvous at approximately 0930 hrs. An air battle took place as they followed Black Leader into a fight with twelve Ju 88's. The formation of Ju 88's was broken up and 7/Sgt Heath singled out one Ju 88 which was on the tail of one of the Mosquitos, and attacked. The Ju realised it was under attack, and took severe evasive action, but in closing from 600 yds to about 200 yds, short bursts of cannon fire were given, which bit the enemy aircraft in the rear section of the fuselage and the rear gunner's cockpit, after which no more return fire was noticed.

P/O Cottrill advised that there were another two Ju 88's trying to get on to their tail, but these were shaken off by low level evasive action, after which, following a search round, the Mosquito left the battle area and picked up with W/C Goodman and another Mosquito who were setting course for base. They landed at Portreath at 1115 hrs.

During the combat, F/Sgt Heath heard a voice over the R/T saying-
"I'm ditching, best of luck chaps".
The message was believed to have come from P/O Kemp who did not return from
this sortie.

F/O Turner & F/O Partridge reported:-
They left base at 0755 hrs as Black three, with five other Mosquitos of 15]. Squadron who were acting as anti-flak and as fighter cover to eight Mosquitos of 2k8 Squadron on an anti-shipping strike. At 0952 hrs, one of the 248 Mosquitos turned back. Ships were seen to port and air cover was noticed.

As the special Mosquitos of 248 Squadron attacked the submarine, F/O Turner attacked the nearest Sperrbrecker flak ship with hits being seen on the bridge. Return fire came back from the bow and stern positions of the ship. After violent evasive action following the attack, they saw a Ju 88 which they attacked. With their ammunition almost exhausted, the Ju 88 was seen diving towards the sea at a fairly steep angle, and about half a mile ahead of the submarine, where, it hit the water. This was witnessed by the crew of one of the Mosquitos of 248 Squadron.

Although F/O Turner was now out of ammunition, his aircraft was subjected to more attacks by Ju's but he managed to evade them. The external petrol tanks were jettisoned and boost opened up to give them a speed of about 330 mph. This enabled them to just outdistance a following Ju 88.
They landed at Portreath at 1115 hrs.

F/Lt Handley & Capt Bray reported:-
They were flying number two in Blue Section escorting two of the special Mosquitos of 248 Squadron. Shipping was reported at 47o02' N, 02o30' W, with fighters giving cover. As the Blue Section went in to attack, further Ju 88's were seen coming seawards to join the fighter cover over the convoy. Individual air to air combats took place. 7/Lt Handle; opened fire on a Ju 88 which was crossing port to starboard, and strikes were seen on the fuselage and the starboard engine from which pieces flew of f. An explosion followed. The enemy aircraft turned very sharply to starboard and disappeared in a vertical dive. Other Ju 88's were trying to get on their tail, but, by carrying out violent evasive action, F/Lt Handley was able to out-manoeuvre the attackers.

On leaving the combat zone, the flak ships of the convoy escort kept up accurate anti-aircraft fire, for what appeared to be several miles, from which range the shells were seen to fall into the sea.

The main spar of the Mosquito was damaged by return fire in the engagement.

W/Cdr Goodman & F/O Thomas. reported:-
They were leading four Mosquitos of 151 Squadron to give top cover to the special Mosquitos of 248 Squadron detailed to attack a submarine and flak ships off St Nazaire. Two more Mosquitos of 15]. Squadron were detailed to give close cover to the special Mosquitos, one of which bad returned to base.

On approaching the area, enemy sea and air forces were seen and Blue Section went in to attack. As they went in, they noticed that the enemy air support consisted of three sections of four Ju 88's widely dispersed at an altitude of about 1000 ft. In the fighting which followed, they engaged a Ju 88 flying towards them. The firing which came from the enemy aircraft was traced with green and white, but it was felt that this was not tracer as normally understood, but self destroying which could be very effective. A long burst of fire at the Ju 88 hit the port engine, port wing root and the fuselage, setting the aircraft on fire. It then went down in a vertical dive and was seen burning in the sea. The impact of the burning aircraft going into the sea was witnessed by /Lt Handley. With all ammunition used up, they set course for the U.K. landing at Portreath.

The morning's actions resulted in the following claims:-

W/Cdr Goodman & F/O Thomas 1 Ju 88 destroyed
F/O Turner & F/O Partridge 1 Ju 88 destroyed
F/Lt Handley & Capt Bray 1 Ju 88 destroyed
F/Sgt Heath & P/O Cottrill 1 Ju 88 destroyed
F/Lt Etherton & F/Lt Gibbs 1 Ju 88 destroyed

The loss of P/O Kemp & F/Sgt Maidment was a shock to all. They were an excellent crew with two aircraft destroyed to their credit. With F/Sgt Heath picking up what was thought to be P/0 Kemp's ditching message, it was felt that, if the ditching had been successful, then it would be worthwhile going back to look for them.

Clearance was obtained and at 1410 hrs the following crews were airborne to undertake the search.
S/Ldr Harrison & F/O Horrex
F/O Hutchinson & F/Sgt Porter
W/O Penman & Sgt Stevenson
F/Sgt Playford & W/O Kelsey

The search area was given as approximately 20 miles south west of St Nazaire. On reaching the search area there was excellent visibility with no cloud.

In the search area a formation of fourteen Ju 88's was sighted at an altitude of about 1000 ft. The Mosquitos were flying at very low level, and were not seen immediately by the enemy force. The Mosquitos opened up, and were able to get a closing speed advantage over the Ju 88's, and an attack followed.

The Ju 88's were in three sections of four with two on their own behind the others. They were first sighted by F/sgt Playford and W/O Kelsey who were then instructed to lead the attack, reports of each crew being as follows:-

S/Ldr Harrison & F/O Horrex.
They selected the two aircraft straggling behind the main formation, and opened to full boost dropping the external petrol tanks to give more manoeuverability. The Ju's were seen to emit black smoke from their engines as they opened up to gain more speed. A Ju 88 opened fire on the Mosquito from a range of about 1000 ft from the rear turret, and this fire was returned with a long burst at rapidly closing range. Strikes were seen on the fuselage and both engines, the starboard catching fire when the range was about 100 ft. The enemy aircraft pulled up sharply and the Mosquito passed under its starboard wing noticing that the starboard engine was well alight. The Ju 88 then dived steeply, pulled out onto a shallower dive and then hit the sea bursting into flames on impact.

A second Ju 88 was then attacked in a steep port orbit, strikes being seen in the fuselage and smoke coning from the port engine wing roots. It then dived away towards the sea.

During the engagement the Mosquito was continually under fire from a Ju 88 on its tail. On breaking of f from the engagement, S/Ldr Harrison commenced an attack on a Ju 88 coming at him head-on, but no strikes were seen. He then went into attack another aircraft which was firing at a Mosquito at close range, but on pressing the gun button, he found that all ammunition had been used. Yet another Ju 88 got on his tail but it was shaken off and course was set to return to base at full speed.

F/Sgt Playford & W/O Kelsey.
They took off from Predannack at 1410 hrs on the Air Sea rescue sortie. At 1532 hrs they sighted and reported to the Leader , three twin engined aircraft which looked like Ju 88's in the nine o'clock position at a range of about three miles. They turned to port to investigate, and as they approached, saw a total of three sections of four aircraft with a further two in the box. On sighting the Mosquitos the enemy aircraft turned for home in an easterly direction, and on opening up emitted black smoke from the engines. Since the Mosquitos were at "0" feet, they had an advantage of enabling them to build up speed for a closing attack, before being seen by the enemy.

On closing in on the first enemy aircraft, the Mosquito was hit by fire from the rear gunner, with damage to the nose of the aircraft and to the navigator's side of the cockpit, but this did not impair combat capability. W/O Kelsey took up a rear facing position to give F/Sgt Playford a running commentary on the tail end activities. The Mosquito opened fire at a range of about 600 yds and the first few rounds hit the rear cockpit of the Ju 88 and appeared to lift the gunner and his canopy out of the aircraft. The next burst was at a range of 300 yds closing to 150 yds. Strikes were seen on the port engine, cockpit and wing roots. The enemy aircraft then fell into the sea burning fiercely.

They then broke away to port and fire at a Ju 88 crossing from starboard to port. Hits were seen on the fuselage, but the combat was broken off to go to the aid of a Mosquito which appeared to be in trouble with one engine failing, and being fired at by an enemy aircraft on its tail. The Ju 88 was given a burst of fire at a range of about 250 yds ,closing rapidly to 100 yds. Hits were seen on the fuselage and tail. The rudder assembly then came away from the target aircraft, just missing the Mosquito, this debris being followed by the aircraft's elevators. This engagement had to be broken off because another Ju 88 had got On to the tail of the Mosquito and its firing accuracy was getting too close for comfort.

This enemy aircraft was kept under observation by W/O Kelsey, and when it had closed to about 400 yds, F/Sgt Playford carried out a severe turn to port at just above sea level. The enemy aircraft did not follow this manoeuvre, and after about one and a half orbits, the Mosquito got itself on the tail of the Ju 88. A short burst of fire was given, but after about one second the guns stopped and the Mosquito had no alternative but to break away and set course for base.

Another Ju 88 attempted a head-on attack but a sharp turn to starboard shook it of f. The Ju then got itself on to the Mosquito's tail, but as it had set course for base it was at extreme range. The Ju 88 was firing what was thought to be firing self-destroying ammunition from a large calibre gun, the explosions getting further away. This indicated that the Mosquito was out-stripping the Ju 88 in terms of speed. The Ju then broke off the chase.

P/O Hutchinson and F/Sgt Porter reported that the Ju 88 which was attacked by F/Sgt Playford and W/O Kelsey and which had partly disintegrated, had crashed into the sea.

Unfortunately, no sign of P/O Kemp or F/Sgt Maidment could be found, and in this engagement, the Squadron had lost yet another crew with W/O Penman and Sgt Stevenson being missing.

The afternoon's action resulted in the following claims:
S/Ldr Harrison & F/O Horrex
1 Ju 88 destroyed
1 Ju 88 probably destroyed
F/Sgt Playford & W/O Kelsey
2 Ju 88's destroyed
1 Ju 88 damaged

Further Instep and Ranger patrols and sorties were carried out over the next ten days, during which period, F/Lt Ellacombe and F/O Peel were posted to No.2 Group to join W/Cdr Smith and Air Vice Marshall Basil Embrey. In the same period, F/Sgt Clouch left his attachment to the R.A.F. to carry out duties with the US. Army Air Corps.

151 Squadron lost two crews in the engagements of April 11 1944, and their names are recorded on the R.A.F. Memorial at Runneymede, but there is an ammendment in the written record to the effect that the body of P/O Kemp was located as buried in the Cemetery at Pornic just south of St Nazaire.

The background to this amendment is as follows:-
On August 28 1947, an exhumation of a mass grave at a location known as "Lea Champs" was being undertaken, this grave having been registered as containing the bodies of 16 casualties of the SS Lancastria which had been sunk during the evacuation of France in 1940, this registration having been made with the local French Authority.

The bodies were in the mass grave at a depth of two metres. Digging was commenced at the end of the grave where it was expected that the 16th body would be found. After about one metre of earth had been removed, the body of an airman was uncovered, the body being totally, decomposed, but having remnants of the Pilot Brevet, P/O braid and New Zealand flashes plus several personal effects, none of which could be used for identification.

Enquiries at the "Marie" at Bouin showed that this internment had not been registered. From the fragments of the uniform which included the 1939-1945 star, and from the packing slip date in the burns first aid pack which was found, it was concluded that the body was that of a New Zealand pilot of Pilot Officer rank who had crashed into the sea early in 1944.

One personal possession which was found on the body was a half sovereign. In searching for the identity of the body, letters were sent to various next of kin, and Mrs Kemp said that Keith was given a half sovereign by a lady in Dorset. The lady was contacted and she confirmed that the half sovereign was the one that she had given Keith. This confirmed that the body in the mass grave was that of P/O Kemp who we had gone out to look for after he had called up to say that he was ditching.

The body of P/O Kemp now lies in the War Cemetery at Pornic in Western France, in Grave No 3, Row H, Plot II.
The author recalls the events of that time as follows:-
"The day was Easter Monday. There was good weather in Cornwall on that day and for the whole run across the Channel and round the Brest peninsular this good weather persisted, thus making it ideal for an Air Sea Rescue search, although there was always the possibility of sea fogs forming without warnings.

On that day, five of us got out of bed in the one Nissen hut, but at the end of the day only two of us remained. This was very depressing in itself although spirits were high with the victories that had been achieved on that day. W/Cdr Goodman found civilian jackets for Dick Playford and myself, and with informality agreed with the Station Commander, we stayed as guests of the Officers Mess for a couple of days to join in the celebration of the day's success, since the score on that day equalled the Squadron's highest daily tally of World War II.
The day's tally was
6 Ju 88's destroyed,
1 Ju 88 probably destroyed,
3 Ju 88's damaged.
The battle imprinted itself on the Squadron members. In the afternoon when four Mosquitos took on fourteen Ju 88's, there was just one hell of a scrap. Everywhere you looked out of the aircraft, there were Ju 88's coming at you all the time with their guns firing. The Mosquito, although inferior in armament to these specific Ju 88's, was capable of carrying out a tighter turning circle, and if the Mosquito pilot could press this advantage to the limit, then the crew stood a good chance of survival. "Dick" Playford, with whom I was flying, had this capability, and kneeling on my dinghy pack, and facing backwards, the "g" forces severely bruised my shins. Perhaps it was a good job that I was facing backwards since a burst of fire hit my side of the cockpit at a point where my legs would have been had I been sitting normally.

On returning to base, the aircraft started to run a bit rough, but with the aircraft having a damaged nose and many bullet holes in vulnerable places, this was only to be expected."


Bruce Lander
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Old 22nd October 2012, 22:33
Brian Brian is offline
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Re: 11.04.1944 Bay of Biscay battle ZG1 vs. RAS 151 sqn 248 sqn

Great stuff

What were ZG1's actual losses/damage?

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Old 22nd October 2012, 23:04
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Re: 11.04.1944 Bay of Biscay battle ZG1 vs. RAS 151 sqn 248 sqn

Originally Posted by Brian View Post
Great stuff

What were ZG1's actual losses/damage?

Have you read Chris Goss's "Bloody Biscay"?
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Old 24th October 2012, 05:16
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Re: 11.04.1944 Bay of Biscay battle ZG1 vs. RAS 151 sqn 248 sqn


Thanks for providing that 151 Squadron Website with your posting!

Aside from this topic, the combat over the Bay of Biscay in spring 1944, I was surprised to find that 151 Squadron was heavily engaged in Daytime "Ranger" operations during July - August 1944.

Couple of years ago, an Australian website, covering RAAF operations and crews during WWII, had mentioned an SS Headquarters being attacked by 2 x Mosquitoes on 23 July 1944. Choret, France. One of the crews was F/O Harry Turner and F/O Mervyn Partridge.

Was unable to find out what squadron this was...but now I know that it was indeed 151 Squadron, which had been temporarily reequipped with FB VI's during this time.

Number of notable day operations mentioned in the website, including other pinpoint strikes against key targets in France, summer 1944.

Best regards,

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Old 24th October 2012, 14:47
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Re: 11.04.1944 Bay of Biscay battle ZG1 vs. RAS 151 sqn 248 sqn

Gentlemen !
Does somebody happen to have photos of those 2 crew who were lost on that 11.04.1944?

P/O (NZ411514) Howard Keith Kemp (pilot) RNZAF - killed
F/Sgt (1585685) James Reveley Maidment (obs) RAFVR - killed

W/O (1230772) William George PENMAN (pilot) RAFVR - killed
Sgt (1236718) Eric Clifford Charlesworth STEVENSON (obs) RAFVR - killed

kind regards,
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Old 24th October 2012, 15:15
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Re: 11.04.1944 Bay of Biscay battle ZG1 vs. RAS 151 sqn 248 sqn

I am afraid I never managed to get photos of them for my book but since then might have a group photo which might show them
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Old 24th October 2012, 16:31
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Re: 11.04.1944 Bay of Biscay battle ZG1 vs. RAS 151 sqn 248 sqn

Wing Commander Smith and AVM Basil Embry were one and the same, as that is the name he adopted when on operations.

Also, the body of P/O Kemp was wearing the ribbon of the 1939-1943 Star as he was shot down in early 1944 and it couldn't be a 1939-1945 Star as we had no idea when the war would end, and we wouldn't issue a 1945 medal in 1944!!

The 39-43 Star ribbon was issued in 1943, my late father received one, but no medal was issued to go with it until post-war, when the ribbon remained unchanged from the original 1943 version.

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