F is for Fighter Pilot

April 7, 2014 at 8:36 am | Posted in Family, Family History, History, Making History, Mental Health, Social Responsibility, War and Conflict | 18 Comments
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A2Z-BADGE-000 [2014]

It was 1938, when he was only 17, that my father, Ernest told Agnes (later to become his wife), “War’s coming and I’ll have to go.” They lived in England, had just started courting, and the situation in Europe, with Nazi Germany was not looking good.

In late 1939, soon after war broke out, Ernest tried to enlist. However he worked in a reserved occupation, engineering and weapons manufacture, so he was exempt, and even discouraged from, doing military service.

Home Guard Field Manual

So Ernest joined the Home Guard. After working a 12-hour shift at the engineering works, he would train with the local unit in the evenings. He also went regularly to the recruitment office in an effort to join up. Eventually, he was told that the only way he could enlist from a reserved occupation was to be accepted as aircrew.

world-war2-poster

In 1940, the Battle of France and the Battle of Britain led to a shortage of pilots, and that gave Ernest his chance. He applied yet again. This time, he was accepted into the RAF. He was mobilised in September 1941 and undertook basic training in England. Ernest was then sent to Canada to train as a pilot in the newly set up Empire Training Scheme.

RAF WWII hat badge

He returned to England as a fighter pilot with non-commissioned officer rank and was posted to 289 Army Co-operation Squadron, based mainly in Scotland. Ernie spent the next 3½ years flying a wide variety of single and twin-engine planes. Because of his flying skill, quick reflexes and ability to spot enemy fighters, and in spite of not being an officer, every C.O. he served under made him his Number 2 wingman.

WWII pilots wings

Among other planes, he flew Hawker Hurricanes, Typhoons and Tempests and the Vultee Vengeance. His missions included bomber intercepts and marine patrols. He searched out and attacked German submarines in the Irish Sea, and strafed German convoys and escort vessels along the north-western coast of Europe. As a member of 289 Squadron, he also flew various target-towing aircraft for the anti-aircraft gunners to practice their shooting.

RAF Pilots with their Hurricanes

In 1944, in the weeks before D-Day, Ernest flew Lysanders into German-occupied France to drop Allied spies. He flew at night, hedge-hopping to avoid detection by the Germans. He made six such trips, landing in isolated fields in the French countryside.

WestlandLysander

In July 1945 after V.E. Day, Ernest was granted a six-month compassionate discharge to look after his wife, who had been paralysed at the birth of their first child. During this period, he was not paid by the RAF, and had to work as a labourer for the local Council. He returned to the RAF in early February 1946 and served out his time in the south of England, piloting Vultee Vengeance aircraft towing targets for anti-aircraft gunners.

Defence of Britain medal

Defence of Britain medal

Throughout his service, Ernest rose through the ranks. Although often recommended for officer training, he always declined, as he hated the class distinction that went with it. At his discharge in June 1946, Ernest had attained the rank of Warrant Officer First Class, the highest non-commissioned rank in the RAF.

Agnes,Ern&Peter Thompson Jan.1946

                            Mum & Dad with their first born, 1945.

 

Do you have family who fought in WWII? Have you researched their story?

 

© Linda Visman 06.04.14 (549 words)

 

 

 

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