XV Sqn Memoirs

Plucky Behaviour


A 15 Sqn Combat Air Report from 1916. A humorously dramatic account of a BE2c escort mission over the Western Front.

Pilot: Capt G Henderson


Observer: Cpl C Nott


Date/Time: 19 January 1916, 09:55 am


Height: 8,500 ft


Hostile aircraft: Aviatik Biplane

Fokker Monoplane



While I was proceeding to Courtrai, one Aviatik and one Fokker passed at about 500yds on my right in the direction of Mouscron. I heard machine gun fire, which was directed at two of the escort flying some 100yds in my rear and one or two thousand feet higher. I held on with the reconnaissance machine flying about 300yds on my left front.


Over Courtrai Cpl Nott was preparing to fire at a hostile machine coming from our rear, when he was hit by AA in the eye, and became insensible, at the same time I felt something hit the machine (the carburettor) and the revolutions of the engine died down to under 1400. I fired a green light as a signal that I was returning disabled, and made for home.


At 10.15am an Albatros from the left front dived at Capt Maltby’s machine, which was on my left front, and crossed my front, firing. Cpl Nott was unable to reply, this machine turned in behind me, and I think continued firing from behind. An Aviatik then came up on my left at about 100yds and level and opened fire. Cpl Nott pulled himself together and opened fire, the Aviatik dived to the ground. I then made for home crossing the line at 5,000ft over Ypres.


I should like to commend Cpl Nott for the way in which he pulled himself together and forced the Aviatik to descend. If it had not been for this very plucky behaviour the Aviatik would have stuck to me and I had no means of replying.


For his gallantry Cpl Nott was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. This was the first ever decoration to be awarded to the Squadron.



V-Force Days by David Bywater


In the late 50s and early 60s, my first two operational tours after flying training were as a co-pilot and then as a Captain on the Victor 1A. In those days accidents and incident on all three V Bombers were a not infrequent occurrence. Personally I felt I and my crew led a fairly charmed life without too much excitement to disturb the daily routine, apart from usual QRA callout in the middle of the night with the nagging thought that one might have to fly a long way east and drop one of those nasty nukes on the bad guys; a concern which was often not dispelled until you reached the end of the runway ready to go and were informed that it was just another practice. However, the following incident was of some interest:


The Toss of a Coin:


In 1961, having recently returned to my old squadron with my new crew, after having been away at the OCU for my Captain’s course, we were programmed for a night sortie. At about 100kts on the takeoff run the oil pressure fell to zero on the number three engine and we aborted the takeoff and returned to the dispersal to enable the engineers to wave their magic wands. This procedure was re-enacted on a further three occasions, meaning that it was now well past our bedtime and a quick call to the Boss, (my previous Captain) confirmed that it was sensible to call a halt to further proceedings.


Two days later we were programmed for a day “Groupex” which involved a high level sortie before a standard descent into a straight-in approach and ILS from about 12mls at 2,000ft. Two aircraft and crews were involved. One aircraft was that in which we had attempted to get airborne two nights previously, it having now had the oil pressure problem sorted out; the other crew was my old crew, the Squadron Commander’s, with, of course, his new co-pilot. The Boss suggested we toss a coin for choice of aircraft; I won and said that I would prefer not to have the aircraft that had let me down two nights previously.

Off we went, following the Boss around the high level route at about 45,000ft before we began the letdown. By this stage we had closed to about 5mls and heard his call as he levelled out at 2,000ft. Shortly after this we heard “Mayday, Mayday. Mayday - abandoning the aircraft - engine failure” The Victor is a very poor glider. Ahead of us three parachutes emerged from the aircraft, closely followed by two ejection seats and we flew over the burning wreckage of one of Her Majesty’s aircraft, noting as we did that there were a number of discarded parachutes on the ground in fairly close proximity to the bonfire! We diverted to Wittering as Cottesmore’s fire trucks were otherwise engaged.

All five of the crew were safe apart from minor cuts and bruises and the fact that they were so relieved and excited to still be around that they could hardly stop talking for the next 24 hours. As the aircraft levelled out and power had been applied all four fuel low pressure warning lights had illuminated, closely followed by all four engines flaming out. There was adequate fuel on board, but all the fuel pumps in the Victor, of which there were many, were controlled from a panel which slid out horizontally from beneath the vertical panel ahead of the pilots on which all the engine instruments, including the oil pressure gauges, were located. The electrical connections to this panel all ran through one multipin plug and socket, which had been disconnected, and the panel removed to gain access to the oil pressure gauges. After the panel had been replaced, vibration had loosened the locking ring around the multipin connector during the flight to the point where many contacts were intermittent and the loss of control over many pumps, at a time of high demand, had starved the engines of fuel.


It only dawned on me later that, but for the toss of a coin, I and my new crew would have been flying in this aircraft. Four engine failures cannot happen and they were not practiced too often in the simulator. In retrospect it struck me that, to avoid losing one of the new mega costly V bombers, we might have been frantically trying to find the right page in the checklist to rectify this hitherto unthinkable problem as we hit the ground. The Boss, a decisive man of great experience, did not hesitate to act, and four aircrew owe their lives to him.


What’s Up Doc?


A little light humour from Canberra times by the Canberra Era Representative


I am sure that most of us will have seen Bugs Bunny popping up from his hole with a carrot in his hand saying ‘What’s up Doc’, well, this is a true story, of an event during the middle 50’s, on a Bomber Command Station, flying an English Electric Canberra Aircraft B Mark 1, of XV Squadron. Have you ever had the feeling that everything is just not quite right, something missing, but you can not put your finger on it, well read on, and see for yourself.

It’s a Thursday morning, just after 0800 hrs, the ground crews are arriving at the dispersal. Wimpy Wade with the Squadron tractor moves the gen set near the aircraft, starts it up and plugs it in to the aircraft. Sgt Kim (Catseyes) Peacock with biro and clipboard in hand places names of ground crew who are to service the aircraft against their respective trades, engine, airframe, radar, instruments, electricians and armourers (So as the next aircraft to be serviced is not done by the same crew). This is what Kim (Catseyes) Peacock means by time and motion, his new system, so every crew member has a set number of aircraft to service during the week.

The aircraft in question has been serviced, the time approx 0900 hrs, aircrew arrive and climb aboard whilst the pilot does his preflight checks, before he climbs into the cockpit, and straps himself in. The gen set is already ticking away at the side of the aircraft. The pilot gives the signal, and I point to the port engine. The starter bursts into life thrusting the smell and smoke of the cordite through the exhaust ports as the engine starts to cough into movement and noise.

The starboard engine does the same, and so we carry on with the aircraft checks, that is to say, flaps, airbrakes, rudder, and last bomb doors. Checks complete, the pilot motions chocks away. I motion to the lads and they pull the chocks from under the wheels and remove the gen set lead from the aircraft. I signal the pilot that all is clear and he moves the aircraft onto the concrete perry track. I salute, he nods, and off he goes on just another normal bombing sortie of around three to three and a half hours flying (or so we thought).


Back at the dispersal, Kim (Catseyes) Peacock asks Wimpy and I to have early lunch, and return at noon so someone is there to see the aircraft in when it returns. At about 1100 hrs Wimpy and I are about to knock off a little earlier than normal for lunch when I see that the aircraft is returning down the runway. Cancel the early lunch, we dash down to the apron to see the aircraft in and turn it round so as it is ready to fly again later.


As the engines stop, it is now that I say to myself ‘there’s something not right, but what is it’. The rest of the lads now arrive to do there service on the aircraft, as I carry out one engine check whilst Wimpy does the other. The fuel tankers arrives and I climb on to the aircraft, Wimpy passes the hoses to me for the port side, one for the drop tank, the other for the main tank, and so on to the starboard side, he passes one for the main tank and then the drop tank. I then dash to the starboard side of the aircraft to fill the drop tank, climbing over the main fuselage and engine nacelle, that I slide down, on to the wing to fill the tip tank, the idea being that your left leg is hanging over the wing so as to stop you falling off when you reach the drop tank. Unfortunately it is not there and I fall on to the grass area under where the drop tank would normally be.


That was it, the drop tank was missing! No wonder there was something wrong and why I was wondering. It transpires that during the flight there was a blockage in the line from the drop tank to the main tanks, therefore when the port tank was empty the starboard was still full and the pilot had to struggle to keep the aircraft on an even keel so to speak. He had only one thing to do and that was to jettison the tank and return to the airfield as soon as he could.


I had a jolt after I left the aircraft, but it lasted only a couple of hours. So that was ‘What’s up doc’.


Tony Britton

Canberra Era Rep


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