Monday 1, Feb.
Slept till noon today and nothing happened this p.m.. May get a chance on the Hercules tomorrow but nothing definite yet. CHURCHILL and war chiefs cooking up something in Turkey. England may promise this country to the Turks in exchange for cooperation in making a landing in Turkey or Greece. As the Arabs hate the Turks there may be some interesting complications in the near future.
Quite a stink in R.A.F. circles because of a statement on the B.B.C. in regards to improper dress on the part of R.A.F. personnel on leave. The R.A.F. thinks there are too many Lady Astors allowed to talk in England.
Thursday Feb. 4
Raided Parlemo last night in "J" for Johnie, a mark 3 Wellington. A good all round trip and good weather. Time 8.10. We carried 6 X 500 and 2 X 250 and used an overload. I was looking forward to this raid as I wanted to test the performance of the Hercules, try new evasion action and learn the AC Ac system in the port.
PERFORMANCE - carried twice the ordinary bomb load easily, climbed to 8000 ft. at 140 i.a.s. + 2 ½ boost - 1250 r.p.m.. Bombed in slow descent at 175 i.a.s. - 2 boost. Returned 155 to 160 i.a.s. - 1600 to 1700 r.p.m. (back on the quadrant) - 2 ½ boost. Not the slightest difficulty in temp., pressure etc. in any part of the engines. Gills makes only 2% difference in regards to air flow. Land at 90 to 100, flown into deck. Hard to properly synchronize. Better control at higher speed.
EVASIVE ACTION - Present prescribed method consists of violent dives, climbs and banks (sprogs usually making good the original track which Ac Ac boys have plotted) changes of speed are also recommended although I haven't met the pilot who reduces speed over the target
Our method was very simple and easier, did a slow turn just outside the target and turned in just strait over it. Many of the promotion age in today but among them - better luck next time. Expect to try Sicily again, in Mk 10 this time. Likely 9.30 trip and will find flak somewhat hotter.
Saturday Feb. 6
Decided against landing at Malta. The cloud made accurate navigation impossible so we held on course 160 till we got a Q.D.M. about 50 miles from base. We were so glad to see land that none of us cared if our fuel held out or not nor did we care two hoots if we shot down at B.G. or Tripolie.
We arrived at the drome after using the nacelle tanks - 1.20 to 1.15 safe flying in those tanks. To our relief the under cart came down but the flaps were u/s. Because of dire shortage of petrol we made a high approach and no flap; amounts to precautionary landing. As we expected we over shot, dodged several barrels and finally stopped a mile from the runway, only 15 feet from a telephone post. No one was hurt but the rear gunner (Craig) was dazed but he's O.K. now.
The defences in Sicily now look like German and I think Palermo is the hottest target the Azis have and it will get hotter.
My ops last night were hectic - the worst trip I've ever had. My previous entry prophised hot reception and we got it. We had a very good a/c and made good time to Sicily but could never be sure of our position. After leaving the shores of Africa the cloud was 9/10 and storms and icing conditions were prevalent.
Actually flew past Palermo but we were confused by the enemy as he craftly used very few of his guns thus intending to think it was syracuse or some other small town - it did. I also think he fired only his out side west guns in an attempt to get us to drop our load on the outskirts of the town. We flew north half and hour till we found we were over water, then we returned determined to show them they couldn't fool us. We missed the blitz period so we had the harbour to ourselves. We weaved right through all the town defences (about 170 heavies and 30 lights). IT was the best conception of hell I've seen or hope to see. Flak was bursting all around and search light held us like glue.
We came through, thank God, but our troubles were not over. At from other towns and enemy [?] snooping around but the worst was our lack of petrol. We didn't know how badly were damaged but we decided against [?]
Pukka Gen. - There about 50 large ships at Palermo and it is the most important port in the Med. From there Rommel receives most of his supplies.
Padre Arston and three other Canadian officers stopped here yesterday. Its the best thing the Canadians had for a long time. They gave us paper, candy, cigs, soft balls ad countless other things. One has no idea what these things mean in a place like this. Arston came in the mess with two bottles of scotch last night and all had a good time. We sang songs and Padre knew our version too.
We were told The Canadians are having a head quarters in Cairo to look after us. The morale has improved 100% since yesterday. It shows the Canadians have not forgotten us and are the best looked after bunch in the R.A.F.
Just played a little soft ball and spent an hour in the air. Was supposed to do an A.C.P. tonight but there no flying so I had nothing to do. I expect to be on tomorrow night though.
Camp is moving now, - this the invitation of the army. I understand they have carved out a place in the desert for us. Got some practical gripp on the Marcon this morning from Smith. Nothing doing today am A.C.P. to night. Bad ops weather now.
Some snow actually fell in Egypt. It was in Salum in Feb. 1934. The same day Alexander was covered for five minutes.
A.C.P. last night. About 18.00 hrs. was told by F/L to make a flare path with petrol tins, and parafine. Rain and wind stopped everything and by dusk these were the orders - "Wait till rain stops." F/L - "Wait till further orders." S/F - "Get started now." W/C - and several others contradicting these.
I told the F/L that flares couldn't be made from mud; and he says "They can." By this time I was muddy from head to foot and sat in the truck in discust. The Palestinian driver who doesn't know very much English at any time was really perplexed by my definitions of the R.A.F. in general and orders in particular.
All the responsible officers decided to take refuge in their mess and leave me to my fate. I then went over to the mess a half hour later and dug out the Adj. and told him it a flop - "Oh" he says, "You should have been told flying scrubbed a half hour ago." Silence was prophane.
Today we strung out our tent on orders from S/L Lawson. Soon after we put it up again as airdrome is u/s at our new place. We knew it was u/s last night but it was too simple to tell us then. War on the front stagnant.
Saturday 13th Feb.
The radio tells us that heavy bombers only, are raiding Sicily. I wonder where I've been the last four trips? Possibly just propaganda.
Can't move today - weather inclement.
Bought a few eggs from Senussi and some Italian "falksh" Food getting scarce on the camp - soon be reduced to "bully" Met West, Harvey and Armstrong today, - Evans is at other side of airdrome some where.
Don't expect money or mail for two weeks.
Sunday 14th Feb.
Wind, rain and bully beef combine forces to make a dreary day. We have nothing to do but to wait a fine day so we can move.
I can remember old soldiers telling storeys of a tin of bully, mug of shi- and a loaf of bread to do four men. At noon today, we had that meal except we had butter, but we had no bread - only army biscuits.
If we had something to do we wouldn't notice these things but a day like this provides the necessary setting to review our grievences - real or otherwise.
I think the main grumble for the N.C.O.'s is the distinction between officers and men. The officers live well and in good surroundings and they get 7/ for hard living and we get /6. Most of us think the gentlemen of the public schools actually use our rations.
Considering the N.C.O.'s do the bulk of the actual fighting we some times wonder if we all is well!!!
Nothing doing today.
Friday 19th Feb.
First army not doing so well in the west. They were pushed back 40 miles. lost about 500 men and four air fields. Sand storm today is making every thing disagreeable. The food is full of sand, in fact every thing is.
Rec'd a parcel from Mrs. Wood and Mrs. Puddington containing fruit cake, and handkerchiefs, candy and gum. Also got a little food from Mike.
Ops scheduled for tonight but the weather is impossible. However, we may go tomorrow.
A flight has three MK-3's now so things should move when the weather permits.
Gen Montgomery states that food is very scarce in Tripoli and we will have to take our own rations if we go there on leave. Looks like are going to have trouble in North Africa yet. Jerry didn't as much equipment as originally supposed, and he has plenty of spirit left.
The bombing of Sicily is now vital as that seems to be the enemy's link to outside sources.
Saturday 20th Feb.
Spent the day getting ready for the op tonight. Kite O.K. but weather poor. The radio says we are still losing too many planes over Germany and Churchill again warns us "That the struggle will be long & bitter and that the enemy is a desperate fighter when cornered." How often have we heard those words and how many times will we hear them agian in the future?
A good trick in the El Elimen tank battle seems worth remembering. The Whimp, after bombing the tanks stooged over the enemy tank sector and jammed their wireless communications for half an hour or so. Another plane immediately began where the other left off.
Jamming is a German trick and a fine art with him but he hasn't been too successful with it so far. Perhaps he hasn't employed his skill in the proper channels yet.
Sunday 21st. Feb.
We grabbed 9 X 500 and 4 X 250 and headed for Palermo. From this district there were 48 bombers with the same idea. Just as we hit the coast of Sicily we received a B.B.A.
What a time to cancel operations! We didn't like the idea of bringing all those bombs back to base so we found a target of our own - Cianciana. It was a great night to operate but apparently Palermo was clouded over.
On our way back we saw two planes, one a Whimpy and the other may have been a Maryland, again it may have been an Italian job.
Fortunately for us we landed at base early. Soon after we landed the place looked like a fire works display. There were so many planes in the circuit that control by the A.C.P. became impossible. About 15 over shoots were performed and lights of all description emanated from both land and air. The G/C nearly had a fit. As a result three planes were written off, but no one was hurt.
A very pleasant trip.
Monday 22 Feb.
Scheduled to operate tonight at Palermo.
Enjoyed a very good performance this p.m. by "Forces Entertainment Branch". The players were very good and the programme much better than usual, surprisingly good organization on the part of some one.
Tuesday 23 Feb.
Had a very good trip last nite to Palermo. As we left the coast we hit 9/10's cloud and icing conditions up to 7000 ft. which confirmed the griff from Malta earlier in the day. The weather cleared up very well about half way to Sicily. When we reached the target area the weather was perfect. The Ac Ac was quite heavy but didn't seem to be directed at any air craft. On the whole the raid was a success with several