A Brief History of 602 (City of Glasgow) Squadron
And its subsequent involvement in
The Battle of Britain
On the 12th September 1925, the fledgling 602 (City of Glasgow) Squadron was destined to become the first light- bomber element of the newly conceived Auxiliary Air Force when Flight Lieutenant G.H. (Dan) Martyn as adjutant reported to ‘Moorpark’ aerodrome in Renfrew to initiate its formation. Two days later, on the 14th September Squadron Leader C. N. Lowe MC, DFC, arrived to take Command and the day after that, the 15th September 1925; history was created when 602 (City of Glasgow) Bomber Squadron was officially established. Over the next thirteen years and four months 602 Squadron steadily built a reputation for itself in flying skills and organisational ability. This did not go unnoticed by the Senior Commanders of the Royal Air Force.
On the 14th January 1939, with the threat of war with Nazi Germany looming, the pilots of 602 Squadron converted to fighters and were equipped with Gloster Gauntlet bi-planes to become a fighter Squadron with No 13 (Fighter) Group. On the 8th of May 1939, and with the prospect of war edging ever closer, 602 was re-equipped with twelve brand new Mk 1 Spitfires painted in camouflage livery and straight from the Supermarine factory. The arrival of the Spitfires caused great excitement from air crew and ground crew alike, with the pilots eager to take a test flight in R.J.Mitchell’s sleek low-wing all metal monoplane fighter. The Spitfire was just coming into service and 602 Squadron was the first Auxiliary Squadron to be equipped with them. They were also one of the first Squadrons in the RAF to be equipped with the Spitfire.
On the 16th October 1939 the Squadron had their first successful Arial combat when two Spitfires of 602 Squadron flown by Flight Lieutenant George Pinkerton and Flying Officer Archie McKellar engaged a German Junkers Ju88 above the Firth Of Forth. Luftwaffe pilot Hauptman Helmut Pohle of Kampgeshwader 30 (KG30) was at the controls. He tried to keep the Spitfires at bay but they kept harrying the Ju 88 along the Fife coastline at low level and eventually shot the aircraft down into the sea near the fishing village of Crail killing two of the crew.
The initial enemy attack by a formation of of Ju88s of KG30 and led by Pohle had taken place at Rosyth Naval base in the mistaken belief that the battleship Hood was moored nearby. Failing to locate the Hood, and under strict orders not to attack land targets, the Luftwaffe pilots attacked two Royal Naval Cruisers at anchor in the Forth. They then moved on to bomb and strafe several Navy ships near the Forth Rail Bridge inflicting severe damage and killing a number of Navy personnel. About ten minutes before George Pinkerton and Archie McKellar had shot down their Ju88 Flight Lieutenant Pat Gifford of 603(City of Edinburgh) Squadron had shot down another Ju88, which was the first aircraft to be shot down in Arial combat since the First World War.
When the fighting was over Air Vice Marshal Richard Saul, Air Officer Commanding No 13 Group, flew up from Newcastle to get a first hand account of the air battle and to congratulate the pilots of both Squadrons on their success. Further to this a signal was sent by the Commander in Chief of Fighter Command, Air Marshal Hugh Dowding, “Well done, first blood to the auxiliaries.”
The Luftwaffe had come up against the fighting spirit of the Scottish Squadrons with their well armed Spitfires and such was the ferocity of their defensive attacks in the Firth of Forth area the Luftwaffe renamed it “Suicide Alley.”
On the 28th October 1939 602 and 603 Squadrons were once again in action his time they shared in the shooting down a Heinkel 111 reconnaissance bomber of KG26 near the village of Humbie in East Lothian. Having crash landed virtually intact it became known as the “Humbie Heikel” and gained fame as the first enemy aircraft to be shot down on British soil during World War Two.
Although the action was shared between 602, 603 Squadrons and Royal Navy gunners based at Aberdour in Fife the kill was awarded to Archie McKellar, his first of many. (Two panels from the Heinkel are held in the 602 Squadron Museum at Hillington on the south side Glasgow).
On 24th November 1939 George Pinkerton was promoted to Squadron Leader and given Command of 65 Squadron at Northholt, with Sandy Johnstone taking over command of ‘B’ Flight in George Pinkerton’s stead. The 26th November saw George Pinkerton and Pat Gifford of 603 Squadron receive the DFC for their part in the action over the Firth of Forth on the 16th of October. These were the first DFC’s awarded to Fighter Command and the second in the RAF as a whole.
In April 1940 George Pinkerton returned to take Command of 602 Squadron from Douglas Farquhar on his promotion to command RAF Martlesham Heath. George Pinkerton would Command 602 Squadron until July 1940 when Sandy Johnstone would assume Command with the rank of Squadron Leader and would lead the Squadron throughout the Battle of Britain.
On 22nd June 1940 Archie McKellar left 602 to join 605 Squadron as a Flight Commander whilst both Squadrons were based at RAF Drem. Archie McKellar would subsequently be killed over Adisham in Kent on 1st November 1940 while Commanding 605 Squadron.
On the 26th June 1940 during the hours of darkness Sandy Johnstone shot down a Heinkel 111- the first enemy plane to be shot down at night, and to make it even better he did it in sight of Drem airfield where 602 had a view of the whole proceedings.
July 1940 Sandy Johnstone, now a Squadron Leader takes Command of 602 Squadron
During their stay at Drem 602 had well and truly opened their account with the enemy. 13 Group achieved their 50th kill on the 9th of July, when Donald Jack and Dunlop Urie attacked a pair of JU88s, with Dunlop Urie downing one and Donald Jack badly damaging the other. Pinkerton, McKellar, Farquhar, MacLean, Strong, Johnstone, Webb, Boyd, Urie, Jack and McDowell. The pre-war stalwarts had proved their worth in 13 Group but harder days were to follow when news of a transfer to 11 group arrived on the 12th of August. The Squadron was going from “Suicide Alley” to “Hellfire Corner”
The Battle of Britain
602 Squadron Pilots 10th July –31st October 1940
C.O. Sq.Ldr. A.V.R. (Sandy) Johnstone
PO E.W.Aries Sgt C.F.Babbage FO W.H.Coverley
FL R.F.Boyd (OC “B” Flight) FO P.C.C. Barthropp Sgt A.W.Eade PO A.L.Edy Sgt D.W.Elcome FO P.J.Ferguson PO G.Fisher PO D.H.Gage F/Sgt J.Gillies PO P.Hanbury FO J.S.Hart PO W.P.Hopkin FL D.M.Jack PO W.R.Jones PO A.Lyall Sgt. A.McDowall PO H.G.Niven
FL J.D.Urie (OC “A”Flight to 18th August)
FO C.H.MacLean (OC “A” Flight 18th -26th August)
FO C.J. (Mickey) Mount (OC “A” Flight from the 26th August)
PO H.W.Moody PO R.A.Payne Sgt R.F.P.Phillips Sgt J.Proctor PO T.G.F.Ritchie PO S.N.Rose Sgt W.B.Smith Sgt M.H.Sprague PO P.C.Webb
Sgt B.E.P. (Ginger) Whall Sgt G.A.Whipps.
When 602 arrived at Westhampnett to relieve 145 Squadron, they did not realise what had hit them. On the centre of the field lay a Hurricane on its back, while a thick pall of smoke was rising from behind one of the boundary hedges. A slight change from the situation at Drem.
Johnny Peel, the C.O. of 145 Squadron, came across to greet Sandy Johnstone and put him in the picture. 145 Squadron had taken a terrible mauling and were looking forward to the rest He motioned to the burning Hurricane and said, “that’s what’s left of mine”.
Paul Webb and Hector MacLean had strolled across to the officers’ mess in Woodcote Farmhouse. Paul Webb greeted “A” Flight at the door. “Come in” he said “ and meet 145-great chaps, both of them”. The two great chaps turned out to be two rather disconsolate young officers, sitting at the foot of the stairs and clutching a few personal possessions, while waiting for their transport. Indeed 145 Squadron had been so badly mauled that only four pilots had survived, and that included their C.O.- Johnny Peel, who although shot through the arm had managed to get his Hurricane down without its ailerons.
This was to be home for 602 Squadron for the next four months. Fortunately Westhampnett was an unknown satellite
Airfield, the advantage of which became clear on the 16th August when Tangmere was heavily bombed. 602 now realised that things were going to become a lot more frantic than the rather more peaceful surroundings of Drem.
Friday 16th August 1940 Weather: - Fair and warm with some haze over the Channel.
The Squadron were relaxing in the sun when at approximately 13.00 the ops telephone rang and the call went out “ Villa Squadron Scramble.” Everything was dropped as the pilots ran for their aircraft, there was no time for an orderly departure, everyone took off as fast as they could and to Sandy Johnstone’s amazement there were no collisions.
Findlay Boyd had just tightened up his straps and waved Smithy, his fitter away. As he gunned the engine, his Spitfire raced across the field and had hardly got airborne when a JU87 appeared across the trees having completed its dive onTangmere.
Findlay his undercarriage only half up, automatically corrected his aim as the Stuka curved across from the left. One burst put the dive bomber onto the ground almost intact. The Spitfire banked round completed its circuit dropped its wheels and landed. It had been airborne for almost a minute; surely the quickest ‘kill’ of the war.
The rest of the Squadron though were not having it so easy Mickey Mount, without the slightest trace of his stutter called out on his radio “aircraft is hit, I’m putting her down”. Pilot Officer T.G.F. Ritchie flying Spitfire K9881 was unhurt when his aircraft was damaged during the action. Pilot Officer H.W.Moody was also unhurt when his Spitfire P9463 was damaged
Sunday 18th August 1940 Weather clear and warm at first becoming overcast later on.
The enemy launched a large force of JU87s, heavily escorted by fighters to bomb Ford, an airfield on the Sussex coast. The Squadron arrived just in time. A long queue of dive-bombers was already going down. The Squadron latched onto them hoping for easy kills, but 109s were soon upon them and taking their toll on the Squadron. Dunlop Urie (O/C ‘A’ Flight) flying a newly arrived Spitfire x4110 was badly shot up by a Bf 109’s cannon fire. As he pulled clear after shooting down a JU87 Urie glanced in his mirror. and saw what he thought was fire belching from both wings of his number two but it was in fact an attacking Messerschmitt! There was a tremendous crashing, rending noise from behind the seat armour, the stick jerked in Urie’s hands, and then he was punched bodily forward as the cannon shells slammed into the bucket seat, the parachute pack and Urie’s legs. A few seconds respite and a second salvo hit the Spitfire’s tail. The 109 pulled away thinking he had got a kill. Somehow Dunlop Urie managed to ease his Spitfire back to Westhampnett. Everybody on the airfield heard it coming in, with the cannon holes on the fuselage screaming as the air rushed through them. The undercarriage came down, the flaps didn’t. The Spitfire bounced sending shafts of pain up Urie’s legs. It then shuddered across the field on two burst tyres. The brakes were gone too, and it took a long run before the Spitfire slowed down. As she settled down the damage was there to see – three cannon holes in one side, its back broken, the cockpit shattered, radio in smithereens, half the tail surface shot away, cables shredded. Dunlop Urie had multiple shrapnel wounds. It was a miracle that he managed to get the aircraft back but he did. This action put the ‘A’ Flight Commander out of the Battle of Britain and Spitfire x4110 was damaged beyond repair.
Others who did not fair very well on this day were Flying Officer Mickey Mount who managed to get his Spitfire L1005 back to Westhampnett with its hydraulics leaking, heavy controls and both wings shot through. This was L1005’s last battle. Flying Officer Ian Ferguson was hit by cannon fire from Unteroffizer Karl Born, which hit the port wing, elevator and petrol tank. He was about to bale out when he saw the streets of Littlehampton below and changed his mind. He managed to get over some open ground to the north of the town, but a set of power lines suddenly appeared in front of him. His propeller slashed through four of the six cables, (each carrying 33’000 volts,) before Spitfire K9969 crash-landed beside Toddington Cemetery. Ferguson emerged from the aircraft wounded and suffering from shock. The back injury he sustained ended his involvement in the Battle of Britain. His plane however was repairable. Pilot Officer Harry Moody saw his Stuka victim plunge into the sea but four Messerchmitts were already attacking him and one of them connected. Harry rocketed down towards Ford in an attempt to shake his attackers off. They let him go thinking he was mortally hit. Harry Moody, relieved, pulled out of his dive and set his aircraft down amongst the devastation of Ford. One of his tyres was shot through and X4161 ended up on its nose, damaged but repairable, with its pilot unhurt. Sergeant B.E.P. (Ginger) Whall had closed to within fifty yards to finish of his Stuka. He emptied what was left of his ammunition into it- seeing strikes around the cockpit and engine. The Stuka caught fire, its wing tanks ruptured, it heeled over into the sea. On checking his mirror Ginger was surprised to see a trail of smoke coming from his own aircraft. His Spitfire had taken hits from the Stuka’s single rear gun. Glancing at his instruments he saw his oil pressure was zero and his engine temperature rising. Carefully throttling back he eased his wounded fighter back towards shore. With his engine gone he couldn’t climb to bale out, so he levelled her off and sat her down on the sea near Middleton-on-Sea. When it came to rest Ginger Whall stepped out completely uninjured. His Spitfire L1019 (this was the aircraft flown by George Pinkerton during the Battle of The Forth on 16th October 1939) however was a write off. The day had gone well for 602 Squadron. They had hit eight Stukas of which five were destroyed over the shore. Two returned to their base with a wounded gunner, and one crashed at Argentan in France, killing both crew. In addition they had shot down two Bf109s. On their own side they had lost five Spitfires of which three were written off (Urie’s, Whall’s and Mount’s) and two pilots hospital bound. It had been a hard day.
On August 19th Sandy Johnstone found the Squadron was running low on spares, so he contacted the CO at Middle Wallop for a temporary loan of some. “Certainly send a lorry over and we’ll do our best,” replied the Middle Wallop C.O. A young corporal was put in charge of the detail. Sandy Johnstone not expecting more than a few bits and pieces was surprised when the detail arrived back with enough parts almost to build a complete new plane. Curious to find out how they had come by so many spares Sandy asked the question. It transpired that as the detail approached Middle Wallop the airfield came under attack. The party stopped to watch the action and when it was finished they were getting back into the truck when they spotted a German airman parachuting into a field quite close to them. They gave chase, and found the German nursing a damaged ankle. So they bundled him into the back of the truck and took him to Middle Wallop where they handed him over to the duty guard. They found their way to the stores, helped themselves and left the station without further ado. The station had been so busy clearing up after the air raid that nobody had noticed them coming and going.
When Sandy Johnstone phoned to thank the CO for his generosity, he was unaware that the 602 party had been there and said he would write the spares off as having been lost during the raid.
Sunday 25th August 1940 Weather: - Fair during the morning cloudy later on. The Battle enters its third, crucial, phase. Concentrated attacks on airfields and fighter defences with targets virtually unrestricted. Most Bf109s transferred by this day to Pas de Calais.
Sandy Johnstone led 602 on two occasions during the morning of the 25th but on both occasions the enemy turned tail before the Squadron got within range. So they were not too optimistic when they were scrambled in the middle of lunch and ordered to Angels 15 over Weymouth. This scramble however turned out to be a different kettle of fish. The Bandits turned up as soon as 602 were in position, a sizeable force of JU 88 and DO 17’s with the usual gaggle of escorting fighters.
With ‘B’ Flight ordered to attack the fighters Sandy Johnstone led A Flight down on the bombers. As Sandy Johnstone, flying Spitfire LO-J flew through the swarming planes; tracer flew past his port wing tip. He recalled something Harry Broadhurst had told him. If you saw tracer being used, it was odds on it was being fired as a sighter, so, praying he was right Sandy side slipped towards it, whereupon another tell tail streak passed on his starboard side. A quick glance in his mirror showed a 109 glued to his tail, Sandy tried everything he knew but the 109 clung on, he continued to try and get every last ounce of power out of the trusty Merlin, but it was too much for it. He suddenly flicked over in a violent stall turn.
The manoeuvre must have taken the German by surprise, for he hesitated momentarily and, before he could get out of the way, Sandy was almost on top of him, and was presented with a broadside target, which he could not miss. There was a look of agonised surprise on the German’s face when his canopy shattered around him and the Messerschmitt went into an uncontrollable flat spin, from which it never recovered. It crashed into a spinney on the outskirts of Dorchester. When he looked round Sandy could not see any of the Squadron so he called them up and told them to make their own way home. The rest of the Squadron had been kept busy as well. Donald Jack found himself tangling with five Bf 110s, he had been told they were easy meat but five at one time didn’t, in Donald’s view equate to “easy meat”. Pulling his Spitfire round as tight as he could Donald found himself turning inside the 110s’ circle, just clear of their guns. In a few seconds, he fired at one, ducked back and in a gut-wrenching turn, pulled round towards another 110. This one staggered under the impact of the Browning guns and fell out of the circle. As he saw it go down Donald seized his chance and raced through the gap and headed back to Westhampnett. His second 110 was a confirmed kill, but he wasn’t caring. He went straight to bed, and slept like a baby, his nerves and body exhausted.
Findlay Boyd his guns ranged to 50 yards as opposed to the normal 250 - 400 stalked the Messerschmitts in the upper skies. Closing from behind, he dipped his Spitfire just below the firing arc of the rear gunner, blasted the engines, hydraulics and radiators and watched two of the big fighters spin into the waters below.
Back at Weshampnett the airfield was bubbling with excitement. Refuellers and armourers were hard at work trying to turn the aircraft round as quickly as possible, while Henry Grazebrook was frantically trying to piece together what had taken place.
The tally was quite impressive, fourteen confirmed, four probable and two damaged, for the loss of two of the Squadron
Sergeant M.H.Sprague flying N3226 was shot down by Messrschmitts south of Dorchester but baled out over the sea and was picked up by an amphibian Walrus. Flying Officer W.H. (Roger) Coverley flying P9381 had to abandon his blazing Spitfire over Gloucestershire. Both pilots were unhurt.
Monday 26th August 1940 Weather: - Mainly cloudy with brighter patches along the south coast.
Widespread activity- Airfields in Kent and Essex attacked during the morning. Reconnaissance flight over Solent.
602 were brought to readiness in the middle of lunch and scrambled to intercept a mixed bag of 100+ Heinkel 111’s and DO 17’s approaching Portsmouth from the south.
The Controller did a first class job and positioned 602 one thousand feet above the target with the sun behind them. This allowed the Squadron to spot the raiders from a long way off. No escorting Messerschmitts were in sight at that moment, although a sizeable force would turn up soon after. It was at this point a strange thing happened.
Sandy Johnstone was about to give his pilots a telling off for using the Radio Telephone when he realised that it was German
Voices he was listening too. It appeared that both were using the same frequency. It also became clear that the enemy had not spotted the fighters of 602 Squadron, but as soon as the Squadron dived towards the leading formation they were assailed by loud shouts of “Achtung Spitfuern, Spitfuern”! As the bullets of 602 began to take their toll.
In spite of having taken the Germans by surprise the Squadron could only account for six enemy aircraft with others claimed as damaged, before the remainder took shelter in the clouds.
Two of the 602 pilots were badly shot up. Lt.Zeis of I/JG53 attacked Flying Officer Hector MacLean over Selsey Bill. Flying Officer MacLean had just broken off his second head on attack against the leading formation of returning bombers when a cannon shell from Lt.Zeiss blew off his right foot. When he looked down Flying Officer MacLean could see his right foot, still in its shoe hanging loose, with his ankle all minced up with his trouser leg. Despite the pain Flying Officer MacLean managed to fly his Spitfire X4187 back to Tangmere where he landed with his wheels up. Spitfire X4187 was repaired and came back into service. Flying Officer MacLean would, after his injuries healed become a Fighter Controller. Sergeant C.F.Babbage flying X4188 was shot down by 109s but he managed to bail out and was picked up from the sea.
On the 27th August Sandy Johnstone and Doc Willey visited Hector MacLean in hospital and found him sitting up in bed sporting a real shiner. He had hit his head on the reflector sight when he landed wheels up the previous day. His right leg however had to be amputated below the knee, although he swore that he could still feel his missing foot itching. In spite of his grave injuries he was chirpy and seemed highly pleased with the calibre of nurses looking after him and even suggested that losing a leg was a good way of getting some leave.
Saturday 7Th September 1940 Weather: - Fair, but a dense heat haze built up over much of the south coast. 16.10 hours: ‘Scramble! Scramble! Patrol Hawkinge Angels 15.’
Pedro Hanbury threw the phone down, and Sandy Johnstone excused himself from group of VIPs (which included the Chief of Air Staff Sir Cyril Newal) and headed for his plane. As the twelve Spitfires wheeled into formation, and headed east he glanced at his watch and found it had taken under ninety seconds to get the Squadron airborne.
The heat haze was up to about a height of 17,000 feet and 602 caught up with some Hurricanes climbing from Tangmere,
The wing was soon in full cry, reaching the patrol area in double quick time. When they broke through the haze all they could see above and ahead was a veritable armada of German aircraft heading for London, staffel after staffel for as far as the eye could see. The enemy spotted 602 and a batch of 109’s swooped down and scattered the Squadron whereupon the sky exploded into a seething cauldron of aeroplanes, swerving, dodging, diving in and out of vapour trails and the smoke of battle. As Sandy Johnstone looked out he could see a Hurricane in flames spinning out of control, whilst, to his right, a 110 flashed across his line of sight, only to disappear before he could draw a bead on it.
Someone had hit a Dornier. Its mainplane missing, it was spinning down out of control, the parachutes of the crew billowing out as they floated down and out of the teaming cauldron.
The Spitfires of 602 were spread far and wide as the Battle raged on. Pedro Hanbury attacked a Dornier Do 17. Although he believed he had done enough to shoot it down, he had been hit by return fire, which had caused damage to his radiator. The Spitfire -N3228 was beginning to overheat, so he informed his leader and made his way back to Westhampnett.
Ellis Aries attacked another Dornier Do 17 over Biggin Hill where he too was hit by return fire, his Spitfire K9839 started to trail black smoke and with damage to the Glycol tank and heavy controls he started to descend and made a landing in a field near the A20.
Harry Moody got involved in combat over Biggin Hill after which no trace of either Harry or his Spitfire X2456 was ever found.
Another young pilot to lose his life was Flying Officer Bill Coverley who was a quite dedicated young man. He attacked a 109, although it wasn’t confirmed whether he had achieved his ‘kill’. He in turn was attacked and his aircraft was seen hurtling down in flames over the Biggin Hill area. After a struggle he managed to open his cockpit hood, and although badly burned, managed to bale out. His Spitfire N3198 crashed at Fosters Farm near Tonbridge but it was a week later before the body of Flying Officer William Hugh Coverley was found, caught up in a tree.
Saturday 8th August 1940 had been a black day for the Squadron.
Monday 9th September 1940 weather: - Scattered thundery showers. Channel fair.
The 9th was quiet after the turmoil of the previous day and the Squadron received three replacements. Pilot Officers Barthroppe, Eady and Fisher. Furthermore Paul Webb was promoted to Flight Lieutenant.
The Squadron was scrambled after lunch; Sandy Johnstone had just attacked a Dornier and had turned away feeling quite pleased with himself. He never saw the 109 coming up on his tail. Fortunately Pat Lyall was on the spot to send it packing. Paul Webb was badly shot up by three 109’s and was forced down to almost ground level, his rudder shot away, with no aileron controls and too low to bale out he had to fly on until he hit the ground. As it was he flew straight into a small wood where he cut a swathe through the corpse leaving parts of his Spitfire K9910 along the way, until the cockpit section finished up jammed against a hedge. Paul Webb was discovered semi- conscious and swearing like a trooper. He was lucky to escape with a broken wrist, four inoperative fingers and a bad gash on his head- enough to keep him off flying for a while.
Sergeant ‘Ginger’ Whall was also shot down near Arundel but was soon back with the Squadron with no more than a stiff neck.
Wednesday 11th September 1940 Weather – Fine with a few scattered showers. Cloudy over the Channel
London blitz continues-raiders return to Portsmouth. ‘Seelowe’
602 and 213 Squadrons took off to intercept raids, where the Hurricanes of 213 took on the bombers while 602 took on the fighters. Cyril Babbage was soon in the thick of things and attacked a Bf 110 but the German managed to pull away just in time. On another attack on 110’s over Selsey Bill Babbage had the starboard wing severely damaged but managed to get his Spitfire X4269 back to base where it was repaired.
Pilot officer Nigel Rose flying Spitfire L1027 was also wounded over Selsey Bill but managed to get back to Westhampnett.
Sergeant M.H.Sprague was not so lucky. He had attacked a 110 but had been hit by return fire, and his Spitfire N3282 streaming black smoke crashed into the sea. Sergeant Sprague had only returned four days before from his honeymoon. For the next three weeks his young bride would sit in a car by the airfield, gazing for hours on end at the ‘B’ flight huts, waiting for her husband, who would never return. It was exactly a month after his death that his body was washed up at Brighton. After the funeral she came back just the once – maybe to say a final farewell.
Sunday 15th September 1940- “Battle of Britain Day”
Weather – Fair with cloudy patches, clear by early evening.
Heavy raids on London. The Luftwaffe incurred their greatest losses since 18th August.
602 along with the Hurricanes of 607 Squadron patrolled the Biggin Hill area where they came upon a formation of Dornier Do 17s and Heinkel He111s over Edenbridge in Kent. For once the bombers did not have fighter cover. Sandy Johnstone gave the order and 602 dived down upon bombers, who scattered as quickly as they could, but not before four Dorniers went down, three of them being definite ‘kills’. The others jettisoned their bombs and took cover in the clouds and made for home.
602 pilots had managed to get in amongst the bombers and Pat Lyall became involved in a death race with a Dornier, which dropped its bombs and headed home. They were five miles north of St. Leonard’s when the Spitfire’s bullets took their toll and the bomber went down. Returning along the coast Lyall attacked another Dornier near Beachy Head before heading back towards the Kent countryside.
The only casualty 602 had that day was Cyril Babbage who had attacked a Dornier and hit it with two bursts of fire, but was in turn hit by return fire, which severely damage his engine. He did however managed to land Spitfire X4412 at Shoreham. He was unhurt and the Spitfire was repairable.
One of the 607 pilots, Pilot Officer Paddy Stephenson found two Dorniers coming straight for him. The closing speeds were so great that he did not have time to take evasive action so he aimed his Hurricane at the gap between the two bombers. He felt two bumps as first one wing and then the other were torn from the fuselage. Paddy Stephenson now minus both wings was able to bale out and look down as the remains of his Hurricane crashed to the ground.
One of 602’s new pilots Paddy Barthropp who was flying his first major sortie noted in his logbook “thousands of them!” and later on made another entry in his logbook “still thousands of them!”
Friday 27th September 1940 weather – fair at Tangmere, cloudy over the Channel, rain over London.
602 Squadron was scrambled twice. In the morning they were ‘bounced’ by high- flying 109s and only just managed to evade them thanks to a warning shout from Cyril Babbage. Findlay Boyd, wanting revenge took the Squadron into the bombers over London and in a fast action Paddy Barthropp opened his account with a half share of a Heinkel 111 and John Willie Hopkin, newly arrived from 54 Squadron, got another and so too did Cyril Babbage.
Monday 30th September 1940 weather – fair with scattered light cloud. This was the final daylight battle.
The Squadron was scrambled three times – the first two being uneventful. But on the third 602 were Scrambled, Needles, Angles one five. Ten of the eleven Spitfires took off and formed up behind Sandy Johnstone on course for the Isle of Wight.
The pilots of 602 and the pilots of the twelve unescorted JU88s spotted each other at about the same time. Sandy Johnstone led the Squadron down and latched onto two Junkers who had stayed together thinking it would be safer. He shot down one with a raking burst, which tore along one side of the plane. It blew up and plunged downwards minus part of a wing. The second tried to escape but Sandy fired again hitting it.
Watching it lose height and with smoke trails coming from one of its engines, it was allowed to go on its way. Sandy reckoned that it wouldn’t make it home. Above and around 602 pilots were having a field day with Pedro Hanbury, Pat Lyall Ginger Whall and Andy McDowall all increasing their ‘kill’ count. 602 had been fortunate again, only one aircraft was damaged. P9510 flown by Pilot Officer J.S.Hart had been hit by return fire over Selsey Bill, but he managed to return to Westhampnett unhurt, and the aircraft was repaired.
After landing Sandy Johnstone was getting ready to go out when Group Captain Jack Boret, the C.O. at Tangmere phoned to say that the pilot of his JU88 was in their guardroom and wished to meet the pilot who had shot him down. On arriving at Tangmere
Oberst. Helmut Schweinhart presented Sandy with his German Lugar automatic, a flying helmet, Mae West and a bright orange coloured velvet neck scarf, which he said had been given to him by his mother as a good luck keepsake.
Monday 7th October 1940 weather – scattered cloud and squally showers. Widespread small – scale raids.
Air Officer Commanding, Keith Park arrived in his Hurricane to visit 602 Squadron – this was the first time Sandy Johnstone had met him, although he would serve under him during the defence of Malta, later in the war. Park was full of praise for the manner in which the Tangmere Sector was acquitting itself. Sandy had no sooner got back to Westhampnett than 602 were ordered off, along with 607 and 213 Squadrons, towards the west, but before the Squadrons were in position over Portland two of 607 Squadron’s weavers had a mid air collision and spun into the ground with only one pilot escaping. Donald Jack wondered if it was some sort of omen; two planes lost and the enemy had not even been spotted. The Squadrons nevertheless carried on and circled the Weymouth area for about thirty minutes without seeing anything. Eventually a solitary plot was reported near Brighton so Sandy sent Blue Section comprising of Donald Jack and Ginger Whall to deal with it while the rest of the Squadron returned to base. Blue section shot down a Do17 in the ensuing engagement but on the way back to Westhampnett, Ginger Whall flying X4160 suddenly dived away from his leader and crashed near Courts Farm at Lullington. Ginger Whall, severely injured, was taken to the Princess Alice Hospital at Eastbourne, where he died shortly after admission. The cause of the accident was a mystery to Donald Jack because he was certain that that they did not receive any return fire from the Dornier.
By the 13th October the tempo of operations was starting to slow down although on the 12th Cyril Babbage flying X4541 was damaged by return fire from a Ju 88 over the channel, but managed to return to base, unhurt, while his aircraft was repairable. Flying Officer J.S. Hart returned to base with the main spar of p9446 damaged by return fire from a Ju 88. Mickey Mount avenged them however by shooting down a Ju 88 in mid- Channel.
Tuesday 29th October 1940 weather – haze over the Channel; fair but overcast inland.
The Luftwaffe’s final daylight thrust in force.
12.20 hrs: Mickey Mount leading the whole Squadron scrambled and climbed for London. The Controller had got it absolutely right. Four Squadrons were up as the Messerschmitts came in over the coast. Sighted by a section of Spitfires, the raiding force’s height’ direction and strength were radioed to Control and the trap was set.
Two Hurricane Squadrons began to climb together, abeam of the Messerschmitts. 222 Squadron from Rochester came up hard, coming in from the rear of the fighter-bombers. 602’s twelve Spitfires were sitting up at 30’000 feet and just too low to leave any tell tail contrails. Slowly, the Spitfires wheeled over and dived like Hawks before the kill.
Mickey Mount was savouring the moment, and without the slightest trace of a stammer, called out “okay Villa Squadron, Tally Ho. Let’s get them”. The Spitfires paired off with each wingman following his leader’s every move. As each leader picked his target
His thumb covering the firing button. Then, suddenly there was the ripple of blue and yellow flame along the leading edges of Mickey Mount’s Spitfire followed by McDowall, Lyall’s and Donald Jack. The smell of cordite hung in the air as the Spitfires of 602 cut through the 109s. One by one the Spitfires took their toll on the enemy with the first four 109s spinning down. Two parachutes could be seen, one fighter trailing oily smoke went straight down, another flick rolling aimlessly, shorn of half a wing. They gave chase. McDowall had by now selected his second victim and his guns flashed for not much more than a second. The 109 staggered, dropped a wing, and exposed the canopy. MacDowall’s next burst blew it apart in a glittering shower. Belching white clouds of glycol
it went straight down into the Channel.
Pat Lyall took pot shots at two, seeing strikes on both of them, before latching on to a third, he closed into forty yards and emptied his guns into its pale blue underbelly. There was a flicker of fire, then a long barrel of flame as the Messerschmitt plunged down towards the Channel. Over to starboard, one of the 109s had a hung bomb. He didn’t wait to see what was going to happen as the Spitfires converged on him, he went over the side and dropped five thousand before his parachute blossomed out.
As Spitfire chased Messerschmitt Mickey Mount climbed round the edge of the action and called for the Squadron to form up at Angels 22.
The Squadron returned to Westhampnett in triumph. Ten had fired, nine had connected. They claimed for a dozen, post war research confirms at least eight, possibly nine had fallen to the guns if 602 Squadron with credits going to Messer’s McDowall, Hart, Fisher, Jack, Lyall, Mount, W.B.Smith, Rose and Whipps. Pilot Officer H.G. (Nuts) Niven flying X4603 returned to base with a damaged wing but he was unhurt and the plane was repairable.
On the 31st of October the Battle of Britain was deemed by The Air Ministry to have finished although many pilots thought that it continued on and into 1941.
602 Squadron had been fortunate to travel down to Weshampnett as a complete Squadron – the Ground Crew and Aircrew had all trained together back at Abbotsinch before the war had started which helped keep up the moral of all concerned. Of the Aircrew who had trained at Abbotsinch all survived the Battle of Britain.
602 Squadron’s score during the Battle of Britain was 35.5 victories for the loss of fifteen aircraft. This put 602 Squadron in ninth position. 603 Squadron were first with 58 victories for the loss of 30 aircraft.
What happened after the Battle of Britain?
Sandy Johnstone DFC; he became Controller at Turnhouse in 1941,then in September 1941 he was posted the Middle East, joining HQ, 263 Wing in Beirut. He became Sector Commander at Haifa, Palestine, in April 1942, and in September was posted to Malta, initially as deputy Station Commander at Luqa and then to Valetta as Controller. He returned to operations in January 1943 as Wing Commander flying at Krendi. March 1943 saw a return to the UK, however to attend the RAF Staff College. He went to 56 OTU Tealing on September 11th for a refresher course and conversion to Typhoons. On November 11th 1943 he was appointed at Fairwood Common. He was promoted Acting Group Captain on May 29th 1944 and posted to HQ Allied Expeditionary Air Force at Bentley Priory as Ops 1. He moved across to Jouloville in France on August 31st but returned to Stanmore in mid-October. In early January 1945 he went to the USA to join the RAF delegation in Washington. He returned to the UK in late June and was posted to a Staff job at HQ 11 Group before being appointed Air Attaché in Dublin in January 1946.
Sandy Johnstone was made a CB in 1966 and retired from the RAF as an Air Vice Marshal on 1st December 1968.
His tally for the Battle of Britain was: - 7 and 2 shared destroyed,
1 probable; 6 damaged.
Sandy Johnstone died in December 2001.
Robert Findlay Boyd DFC & Bar, DSO: - In December 1940 Findlay Boyd was given Command of 54 Squadron where he remained until being posted to 58 OTU, Grangemouth remaining there until December 1941 when he went to Kenley as Wing Leader. Boyd was flying with Victor Beamish on 2nd February 1942 when they spotted the Scharnhorst and the Gneisenau in the Channel. (This is what went on to become “The Channel Dash”) In June 1942 he was posted to the Far East and at some time Commanded 293 Wing in Burma. He was released from the RAF in 1945 as a Group Captain.
His tally for the Battle of Britain was: - 9 and 6 shared destroyed,
1 probable; 2 damaged.
Findlay Boyd died in April 1975.
Andrew McDowall DFM & Bar: - Commissioned in November 1940 he was posted to 245 on 15th April 1941 as a Flight Commander. In July 1941 he was Officer Commanding ‘B’ Squadron at 52 OTU, Debden. On 10th April 1942 he took Command of 232 Squadron when it was reformed at Altcham. He was posted away to a staff job at HQ 13 Group in September.
In July 1944 McDowall was given Command of 616 Squadron at Manston. Flying a Meteor he destroyed a JU88 on 24th April 1945. He left the Squadron in May 1945 and was released from the RAF later in the year as a Wing Commander.
His tally for the Battle of Britain was: - 10 and 2 shared destroyed,
Andrew McDowall died 26th November 1981.
Hector MacLean: - Hector survived the Battle of Britain although he lost his right leg after coming under fire on 26th August 1940 over Selsey Bill. He went on to be a Fighter Controller and was on duty the night that Rudolf Hess flew into Scotland on a Me110. He was released from the RAF in 1945 as a Wing Commander.
Donald Jack: - After the Battle of Britain Donald Jack was posted to Staff at HQ 13 Group on 27th December 1940. In May 1941 he went to RAF Turnhouse to form and Command 123 Squadron. It flew convoy and shipping patrols in the Firth of Forth area and trained pilots from OTU before they were posted to Squadrons in the south. On the 11th April 1942 the Squadron went to the Middle East and having no aircraft was attached initially to ADU in June and then to 274 Squadron in the Western Desert from early July. Part of 123 went to Iraq and the rest merged with 80 Squadron. Donald took command of 80 Squadron at El Bassa, Palestine on 17th September 1942.
The Squadron moved to the Western Desert on 12th October and Donald was posted away in February 1943 to the Air Staff of Air HQ Air Defence Eastern Mediterranean in Cairo. He was appointed Squadron Leader Flying 243 Wing to take part in a proposed landing on Rhodes. In October 1943 he was appointed Senior Air Staff Officer at HQ 209 Group at Haifa.
Donald took command of HQ 12 Sector at Port Said on 19th August 1944. He returned to the UK in March 1945 and became Station Commander at RAF High Ercall In May.Released from the RAF as a Wing Commander in September 1945. Donald rejoined 602 Squadron 18 September 1946 as Adjutant and served with it until 1948.
His Battle of Britain tally was: - 3 destroyed.
Archibald Ashmore McKellar DFC & Bar; DSO and posthumously Mentioned in Despatches: - Although Archie McKellar flew with 605 Squadron during the Battle of Britain up until his death on 1st November 1940 he had done his flight training with 602 Squadron and had a share in the in the destruction of a He 111 which crashed on the Lammermuir Hills south of Haddington on 16th October 1939. This was the first enemy plane to fall on British soil in the war.
Archie McKellar joined 605 Squadron on 20th June 1940 as ‘B’ Flight Commander and was promoted to Acting Squadron Leader on 25th September 1940. He was killed over Adisham in Kent on the 1st of November 1940- the day after The Air Ministry had decided that the Battle of Britain was finished.
His tally for the Battle of Britain was: - 17 & 3 shared destroyed,
5 probable, 3 damaged.
Some well known pilots who flew with 602 Squadron were,
S/L. J.I.Kilmartin; S/L. P.Meagher; S/L. A.C. (Al.) Deere; S/L.B. (Paddy) Finucane; S/L. P.M. Brothers; S/L. M.F.Beytagh.
S/L. R.A. Sutherland, S/L. J.J. (Chris) Le Roux (it was he who shot Erwin Rommel’s car off the road forcing Rommell out of the war for some time.) And Ginger Lacey to name but a few.
After a spell at Prestwick and Ayr (Heathfield) in early 1941
602 returned south flying strike sorties into Europe from Kenley and Redhill, and in August 1942 provided fighter cover for the Dieppe Raid. It flew from bases in the south of England from 1943 and transferred to the Second Tactical Air Force in November flying offensive sweeps over France and providing fighter escorts.
Involved in the ‘D’ day invasion, 602 later flew from airfields in Europe before returning to England in September 1944 to concentrate on strikes against V2 rocket sites and other prime targets. The Squadron disbanded on 15th May 1945 by which time it had been credited with the destruction of 150 enemy aircraft.
After the war 602 Squadron was reformed in its auxiliary status flying Spitfires from Abbotsinch (now Glasgow Airport) and for a time from Renfrew. The Spitfire gave way to the Vampire jets in January 1951, and these were flown until final disbandment of
602 Squadron in January 1957.
The following books were used in making up this article on
Glasgow’s Own By Dugald Cameron
Spitfire Into War By Sandy Johnstone
Fighters In Defence (With
Memories of a Glasgow Squadron) By Hector MacLean
Lions Rampant By Douglas McRoberts
Spitfires Over Sussex By David Rowland
The Battle of Britain Then & Now By Winston G Ramsey
Men of the Battle of Britain By Kenneth G Wynn
Aces High By Christopher Shores
& Clive Williams
Twenty-One Squadrons – The History
Of The Auxiliary Air Force 1925-1957 By Leslie Hunt
I would also like to thank Dr. Alfred Price for supplying 602’s “kills” figure, which is quoted prior to “What happened after The Battle of Britain”.
As a footnote may I point out that the 602 Squadron Museum has moved from Hillington to The Royal Highland Fuseliers Museum on Sauchiehall Street, in the center of Glasgow, The admission to the Museum is free – but as it is entirely self financing donations are always greatly appreciated.