127 Wing Operations

The date is Wednesday 23 August 1944
In the table below 'claims' denote destroyed, probably destroyed and damaged; 'type' refers to source of loss (eg AA=anti-aircraft fire, MF=mechanical failure, GF=German fighter) or in the case of a claim it is the type of enemy aircraft; 'loss' records CatB=repairable, CatE=write-off, CatEm=lost over enemy territory; 'fate' records KIA=Killed in Action, SAFE=parachuted to safety, POW=parachuted but was made Prisoner of War, EVD=parachuted but evaded capture, WND=wounded.
time place squ'n name serial claims type loss fate
1330 Senlis 421 F/L E S Smith MK365 2 - 0 - 0 190    
1330 Senlis 421 F/O R E Holness MJ891 1 - 0 - 0 190    
1330 Senlis 416 F/L T H Hoare MK573 1 - 0 - 0 190    
1330 Senlis 421 F/L B T Gilmour MK575 1 - 0 - 0 190 CatE safe
1330 Senlis 421 F/O J W Neil MK115 1 - 0 - 0 190 CatEm POW
1330 Senlis 421 F/L W F Stronach MJ714 0 - 0 - 1 190    
1330 Senlis 421 F/O G W Taylor MJ880   GF CatEm KIA
1330 Senlis Wing W/C J E Johnson MK392 2 - 0 - 0 190    
1330 Senlis 443 F/O G F Ockenden MJ799 2 - 0 - 1 109    
1330 Senlis 443 F/L J S L Robillard MK315 1 - 0 - 0 109    
1330 Senlis 443 F/O A J Horrell MJ779 1 - 0 - 0 109    
1330 Senlis 443 F/O E H Fairfield ML424 0 - 0 - 1 109    
1330 Senlis 443 F/O R W Dunn MK488   GF CatEm POW

The pilots of the wing had been exhilarated with the turkey-shoot of enemy vehicles caught in the Falaise Pocket on the 18th and 19th of August, but that was before the storm. Now they were disappointed that the volume of activity had fallen off and the site of the action shifted to the Seine river, for that suggested the Luftwaffe had vanished and that aerial battles were a thing of the past. This proved to be quite untrue.

The first armed recces of the day were launched by 403 and 416 Squadrons respectively at 1000 and 1100 hours. They were uneventful, so when 421 and 443 Squadrons took off at 1230 hours, the 24 pilots thought this would be more of the same. Two 443 pilots and three 421 pilots returned due to mechanical failure and the gaggle of Spitfires now numbered 19. Led by W/C Johnnie Johnson, they circled Paris from the south at 7,000 feet and while coming around to the north, sighted a large number of FW 190s below them, and another large number of Bf 109s flying cover above them. F/O George Ockenden of 443 Squadron noted:

"While flying as Potter Red Five leading a section of two, in the Senlis area on a fighter sweep, aircraft were reported by controller as we turned north. From south Paris area they were sighted shortly afterwards at approximately 5,000 to 6,000 feet by F/L Robillard flying in blue section and identified as FW 190s. W/C Johnson, leading our flight, led the attack by diving down to engage. Myself and number two (F/O Horrell) had to break to starboard across the W/C as four Me 109s attacked head on. We attacked two FW 190s chasing them in about a 50° dive closing from 300 to 200 yards. The one I fired at with cannon and machine guns (short bursts) streamed white vapour apparently from the belly tank but we were forced to disengage.
"The two enemy aircraft continued to dive and the one Red Six fired at hit the deck while mine continued along the deck. I then climbed to attack two Me 109s turning over my head and got on to the tail of the second which left its leader. I closed firing short bursts (1-to-2-seconds) of machine guns and cannon from 500 yards closing to about 150 yards, the enemy aircraft turning and weaving all the time. I observed strikes on port wing and fuselage in at least two bursts then he streamed smoke and began diving, pieces falling off; as I overshot him the pilot baled out about 300 feet below me and the aircraft went straight in.
"After encounters with several other enemy aircraft I broke away climbing to 10,000 feet. Seeing a single Me 109 attempting to climb away I attacked opening fire at 500 yards with one cannon only (one cannon was jammed) and machine guns and closing to 250 to 300 yards observing light strikes around the cockpit. The enemy aircraft went into a spin, the pilot baling out about 5,000 feet and the aircraft flat spinning into the trees. I then climbed up and reformed on a single Spitfire that was in the sky."

W/C Johnson led the diving attack on the FW 190s below them and shot down two of them. This brought his personal record from 35 to 37 putting him far ahead of all others as the highest scoring Allied fighter pilot in the European Theatre. From the combat report above, Ockenden claimed two destroyed and one damaged. There was another claim for two destroyed by F/L Edward Smith of 421 Squadron;

"I was flying Pink Five with Cradle squadron at 5,000 to 6,000 feet in Senlis area flying due north when aircraft were reported by controller north of our formation. These soon proved to be enemy aircraft, 15 of which were sighted at 4,000 to 5,000 feet by my section. I followed Pink One (S/L Prest) down to them singling out one Me 109 from the gaggle firing 2-to-3-second burst (machine guns and cannon) from 20° closing to 10° at range of 350 closing to 250 yards. I saw strikes all along the fuselage and the enemy aircraft exploded and burst into flame, which enveloped whole of aircraft. I then broke away to look around and then resumed attack firing at another Me 109 from same angle 2-to-3-second bursts from 400 to 300 yards range. There were strikes all over the enemy aircraft and about four feet of his starboard wing left, the unit flying vertically upward and white smoke poured from engine. I then broke off attack, did an orbit and when I next saw enemy aircraft he was in inverted dive which he stayed until he hit the ground. I did not see him bale out."

There is one other combat report that has to be quoted here. It was submitted for F/O Jack Neil by F/L Benton Gilmour. Neil was listed as missing after this engagement and so was unable to submit his own claim.

"I was in Cradle pink section flying Pink Four at 8,000 feet flying north in Senlis area. Controller reported aircraft in our path and were identified as enemy aircraft shortly afterwards. A small group of enemy aircraft came in to attack our section from above and behind and I saw Pink Three (F/O Neil) turn on the tail of one of them (a FW 190) and the enemy aircraft did a normal turn to port and I saw strikes on fuselage - then his coupe top came off and the enemy aircraft went down tail over nose for three thousand feet. Brown Three (F/L Gilmour) confirms that the pilot baled out. Immediately someone called out over RT for pink section to break - I lost the section and suddenly found myself on the tail of a FW 190. Before I could fire I was attacked from behind and above by another FW 190. This enemy aircraft overshot and I got on his tail, he drew away so I followed reducing range in a dive until at 600 yards range I fired a 1-to-2-second burst (cannon and machine guns) observing strikes. I followed him as he reached the deck, then fired another burst of machine guns and cannon 2-to-3-seconds and either the aileron or the wing tip came off. He slowed down and I fired another 4-second burst (machine guns and cannon) from 200 yards. I saw strikes all over the enemy aircraft the coupe top came off and the enemy aircraft hit the ground and burst into flames. Though I was unable to jettison my jet tank, I had no difficulty in keeping up with the enemy aircraft. Cine gun used - gyro sight fitted. I claim one FW 190 as destroyed for F/O Neil who has been listed as missing."

Comparing all accounts, the intelligence officer concluded about 80 German aircraft had been involved. Three German units were flying in the Paris area at that time (1335 hours) I./JG 2, I./JG 11 and II./JG 26 all claimed shooting down Spitfires and reported losses of 10 of their aircraft. However all three of those units flew FW 190s. Whose Bf 109s were they? Although we do not have a fix as to time, III./JG 27 lost three Bf 109s in the Paris area. Given these assumptions, we can tally the overall dogfight as follows. 443 Squadron claimed six aircraft destroyed - two FW 190s by Johnson, two FW 190s by Ockenden, one FW 190 by F/L Larry Robillard, one by F/O Alan Horrell. 421 Squadron also claimed six aircraft destroyed - two by F/L Eric Smith, one by F/O Robert Holness, one by Gilmour, one by Hoare, and one by Neil. The Canadians lost F/O Glen Taylor of 421 Squadron in MJ880, killed in action, F/O Jack Neil of 421 in MK115, prisoner of war and F/O Robert Dunn of 443 Squadron in MK468, prisoner of war. F/O Glen Whitcomb Taylor is buried in the only Commonwealth grave in Forfry Cemetery.

The Germans lost 13 pilots. I./JG 2 lost four -- Unteroffizier Kurt Dreissig safe, Fahnrich Hans Gunther KIA, Hauptmann Siegfried Bogs KIA and an unknown. I./JG 11 lost five - Unteroffizier Karl Brunner safe, Leutnant Kurt Ebener POW, Leutnant Kurt Hubinek POW, Oberfähnrich Alfred Wittig FTR and an unknown. II./JG 26 lost one - Obergefreiter Heinz Nieter safe. And III./JG 27 lost three - Gefreiter Josef Steigenberger KIA, Oberleutnant Dietrich Sponnagel safe, and Feldwebel Heinrich Eickhof KIA. Five of these 13 German pilots were killed or missing.

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