Battle of Britain campaign 2015 – Part One – 18th Aug – 266 Sqn opens account and avenges Flt Lt Nigel Bowen

Posted: August 20, 2015 in Battle of Britain, RAF, wargames, West End Games
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266 sqnAfter what seemed an interminable wait, 266 Sqn finally got off the mark on the 18th Aug but not before receiving a sharp lesson 3 days before.

On the 15th Aug, the Sqn was on patrol over the Sussex coast when they were vectored towards Beachy Head. At about 1000 hrs the crack Luftwaffe bf110 unit Erprobungsgruppe 210 led by Hptm Walter Rubensdörffer dived out of the sun onto the tails of the unsuspecting pilots of 266 Sqn. In a few seconds, 2 Spitfires were plummeting towards the sea. Fg Off John Pattison leading Green section in the rear (the most senior of the 5 New Zealanders in the unit) managed to bail out but landed before his parachute had had time to fully deploy. He was taken to nearby Eastbourne hospital for treatment. Plt Off Colin Logan also bailed out too low for his parachute to open but fortunately he landed in the sea and had a short swim back to the coast. Meanwhile Blue Section led by Flt Lt Nigel Bowen became separated from the rest of the Sqn and were overwhelmed. Bowen appeared to lose control of his Spitfire which smashed into the shingle at the bottom of the cliffs. He was killed instantly. His wingman Blue 3 Sgt MacGregor was also shot down but ditched in the sea and swam safely to shore. Then just as suddenly the enemy were gone leaving the remaining pilots to gaze in disbelief at the wreckage below them of their comrades aircraft. It was a salutary lesson for Sqn Ldr Wilkinson leading his Sqn into action for the first time and one that would drive him and the rest of the Sqn to seek swift revenge.

3 days later it was to come when on the 18th they joined 43 (Hurricane) Sqn, 64 (Spitfire) Sqn and 264 (Defiant) Sqn heading towards an enemy nearing RAF Kenley. The 60 German bombers (Do17’s and Ju88’s) had a small fighter escort of just 25 bf109’s thanks to the huge 1350+ number of enemy raiders that had attacked the previous day. The RAF fighters (less the Defiants) engaged the 109’s with a rare numerical superiority and attempted to draw them away from the bomber force.

Sqn Ldr Wilkinson - claimed his first kill today, abf109

Sqn Ldr Wilkinson – claimed his and his Sqn’s first kill today, a bf109

Sqn Ldr Rodney Wilkinson led Red section into engaging the 109’s while the rest of the Sqn made for the bombers. Wilkinson was clearly a man with a score to settle and before long he had gotten onto the tail of a 109. At 200 yards he let his quarry have it with a 10 second burst almost expending all his ammunition. The 109 suddenly lost power as the engine caught fire. Then in an instant the airplane exploded and was no more. 266 Sqn had its first kill. The 109’s were now being overwhelmed and after 4 more were shot down they broke off and made for home. The bombers meanwhile were being massacred. 23 of the original force were destroyed with 266 Sqn claiming 10.

Fg Off Norman Burnett - claimed a brace of Do17's today

Fg Off Norman Burnett – claimed a brace of Do17’s today

Notably Fg Off Norman Burnett and Plt Off John Soden both got a brace while Sgt Don Kingaby also shot one down bringing his tally for the war to 4. 266 Sqn was up and running.

Tonight, Wilkinson and his boys were the toast of the Rotherfield pubs. The Kings Arms, The Catts Inn, The George, The Harvest Moon and the Bicycle Arms all ran dry as copious pints of Harvey’s Best were guzzled down by the locals.

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