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F/L GA Long (PL 19440)
A tragic accident occurred over the airfield on 2 October. "...two of our Beaus collided in mid-air and hurtled to the ground and disintegrated upon impact. All four of our lads were killed instantly. " The crews were forming up in preparation for a strike on Sogne Fjord. Killed were F/L GA Long, F/O FM Stickel, F/O ER "Buzz" Davey, and F/O LEE Robinson. F/L Long was on his second tour with the squadron.
Amongst the effects of F/O Davey a copy of a poem, Extinction (The Airman's Prayer) was discovered. After the discovery, the poem was pinned by one of the aircrew on the door of the Operations building . This haunting prayer to God is believed to have been written by the young airman:
Almighty and all-present power,
Short is the prayer I make to Thee;
I do not ask in battle hour
For any shield to cover me.
The vast unalterable way,
From which the stars do not depart,
May not be turned aside to stay
The bullet flying to my heart.
I ask no help to strike the foe;
I seek no petty victory here.
The enemy I hate, I know
To Thee is dear.
But this I pray: be at my side
When death is drawing through the sky;
Almighty God who also died,
Teach me the way that I should die.
The Drem System
By this time in the anti-shipping operations of the war, the enemy vessels chose to sail only at night. During daylight hours, the vessels would hide in the myriad of fjords and harbours that made up the coast of Norway. In order to do this safely, at first light the enemy vessels would slip into anchorage. Due to the tactics of a strike wing requiring highly accurate flying in close quarters, night attacks by this formation were not possible. A new tactic, called the Drem System, was devised to try to counter this challenge. To start, a reconnaissance aircraft would locate a convoy using radar at night. Just before dawn, the recce plane would drop markers, such as flame floats to mark the position of the convoy while the Strike Wing loosely formed in preparation for the imminent attack.
The first test of the Drem System came on 9 October when W/C EW Pierce, in Beaufighter HV291, led eight 404 aircraft in company with ten from 144 Squadron and some 235 Squadron aircraft from the Banff Wing against a convoy of 11 vessels northwest of Egersund. A 281 Squadron Vickers Warwick marked the location with marine markers, flame floats and drift lights 20 miles from Skudenes Fjord while the Wing loosely assembled in the pre-dawn darkness. 144 led the attack, followed by the RP Beaus of 404. Following this assault came the Torbeaus to launch their torpedoes. The onslaught was complete in five minutes with all Strike Wing aircraft returning safely to Banff. Heavy smoke made it difficult to determine the outcome of the attack, but it was ascertained that two of the five motor vessels and one armed trawler were severely damaged and possibly sunk, another merchant ship was left on fire and a gunboat seriously damaged. In actual fact, it has been ascertained that this was a more successful attack than was realized by the crews with three vessels sunk and three damaged. Two escorts were destroyed, the 485-ton Auxiliary Trawler UJ.1711 Otto N Andersen, and the 1200-ton Corvette K.2 whose stern was blown off by a torpedo. The 1953-ton German merchant vessel Ludolf Oldendorff was destroyed while three more were damaged, the 1116-ton Norwegian Sarp, the 2,937 German Rudau, and the 1369-ton Nogat. The strike is pictured above.
On 15 October, the squadron, led by S/L Christison, DFC, was again part of an anti-shipping action along with 144, 235 and 248 Squadrons into the Skagerrak near Kristiansand. On this mission two vessels were destroyed, the 1202-ton Norwegian tanker Inger Johanne and the 426-ton German Auxiliary Trawler VP.1605 Mosel. The tanker's explosion threw debris that damaged the tailplane of W/O WJ Jackson's Beau. The crew was able to safely return to base. Strike photos in Herbert Spencer's scrap book show the devastation of the attack, with the first RP strike on the Inger Johanne fatally wounding the tanker. "Bundy who came in last returned to remark, 'Boy, my journey wasn't really necessary!'"
The scrapbook author took the time to record for posterity, a very secret recipe for the official 404 Squadron drink, called the 'Time Fuse'
1 measure Rum
1 measure Gin
1 bottle Cider
1 bottle lemonade
This is mixed in a PINT (English size) glass.
The weather in October was usually unsuitable for coastal missions off of Norway and in Scotland. Still, some successes were possible when the weather was clear. On 21 October, with 404 under the leadership of S/L Christison, DFC, in LZ451, two merchant vessels were attacked south of Kristiansand in Haugesund Harbour. The 1422-ton Norwegian Vestra sank and the 1923-ton German vessel Eckenheim was so badly damaged that she actually sank, only to be raised shortly afterwards. The vessels were described to have been burning fiercely by returning aircrews. Considerable flak was experienced from an escort, which damaged 'M' with S/L Christison and F/L Toon, putting a large hole in the aircraft's port tail plane.
404 Joins the Dallachy Strike Wing
On 20 October, the squadron had received orders to move yet again, this time to RAF Dallachy, just across the border in Morayshire. A growing sense of dissatisfaction about the frequent moves was voiced in the daily log, "The squadron's seventh move in five months and we (were) more than a little fed up with being pushed around the countryside." As well, Dallachy was a satellite airfield of Banff, and thus was left wanting for the necessities of an operational station. Terms like "considerable chaos" and "hopeless mess" are used in squadron records to describe the state of their new home. "No. 404 was unlucky enough, apparently, to be the first squadron to operate from Dallachy." The unit was established in their new home by 22 October.