Veteran Stories:
Jim Purves

Air Force

  • Burma radar station site map showing radar cover in June 1945.

    Gerry Funston
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"We were trying to obliterate some of the Japanese aerodromes where they were attacking Burma on a daily basis. So we were trying to muck up their aerodromes, which we did quite well for a while."

Transcript

It was a daylight operation squadron, we were doing what they called sea sweeps to attack shipping that the Germans were running up and down the Dutch coast from Mamordan to Germany. And we were doing daylight operations, low level flying against the shipping, bombing the shipping to supply themselves. We did that as a, it was the most, that was a very, very high mortality rate in that particular type of operation because you were attacking heavily armed ships and they were being protected by aircraft by the German air force. So we lost a lot of, the units in the three squadrons in that particular group had about a 65 percent casualty rate.

On one occasion, we lost six aircraft out of 12 and I was one of the six that got back. And the barracks where I was living in Norfolk in a place called Blickling Hall, the barracks, six of the crew were from my billets. So I was left sort of alone and dry. And luckily not too long after that, they had to actually call a halt in the squadron because they lost so many aircraft to acquire new aircraft. So they decided to send a group of us about this time after a month or so, they decided to send us up to a group of us out, to fly out to Malta.

It was a hot time in Malta, they were being bombed every day from Italy, from Sicily. Anyway, they went from there onto Egypt, which was another thousand miles. They went and landed not far from Cairo and went into Cairo, where we were put in the holding camp and before we were sent to a squadron, in the Western Desert they called it, which was the border of Egypt and what is now Libya. It was then called Cyrenaica. But anyway, our aerodrome was right on the very border, a placed called Bagush. And we operated from there until the end of the year. That was in September and then we stayed there and operated from there until the end of the year when we were withdrawn from the desert and we were sent, with new aircraft, new [Bristol] Blenheims shall we say, we were sent to the Far East. And out there, we were doing mostly high level bombing of aerodromes and troop concentrations and so on. We were trying to obliterate some of the Japanese aerodromes where they were attacking Burma on a daily basis. So we were trying to muck up their aerodromes, which we did quite well for a while. However, eventually they pushed us out of Burma.

So when I was with the 21 Squadron, we did night and day operations but we had four 20 millimetre cannon and four machine guns that fired forward from the [de Havilland Mosquito] aircraft and we carried two 500 pound bombs. We were a heavily armed aircraft. After D-Day [June 6, 1944], it was everything but yeah, we were bombing a lot for several months before D-Day, that’s the final attack day, across the channel. We were bombing the V1 and the V2 sites where they were sending the buzz bombs [a name for the V1 owing to the buzzing noise the engines made] and the rockets attacking England and northern ports in Belgium and Holland. They sent thousands of these [unmanned] aircraft and did a serious amount of damage. So we were bombing the sites from which they also launched these bombs. Very effectively too in some cases.

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