PRU SQUADRON BIOGRAPHIES
(to accompany prints, “Tirpitz Re-visited” and “Mission Accomplished”.
We do hope you will find the following mini-biographies of interest. They are not formally part of the edition, but we think that by knowing a little about the men behind each signature, it will help you get the most from your print(s) We would ask you to not reproduce the biographies in any format without our permission.
Please bear in mind that the notes have been prepared by each individual and copied, with virtually no editing, by SWA Fine Art. There may be the odd error or omission – if you spot one, please let us know and we will happily update our records.
One final thing – we are sending the complete list of biographies to everyone – in a number of instances some men flew both aircraft
types and, therefore, signed both prints.
Warrant Officer Harry Barrett flew as a PR Mosquito Navigator for 17 months from October 1945 to April 1947. He volunteered for aircrew duties as a navigator in mid-1941, and was selected and put on deferred service until August 1942. He trained as a Navigator/Wireless Op. at Cranwell and in Canada, qualifying in November 1943. He was on the night-flying staff at 3(P) AFU at South Cerney for nine months. He qualified as an air-gunner in May 1945 on the Isle of Man. On joining 540 Squadron at Benson, he and his pilot ferried three Mosquitoes to the Middle East and was then posted to 680 in Palestine, where it was more dangerous on the ground than in the air. 680 then became 13 Squadron. Harry carried out aerial surveys in Egypt the Greek Islands, and then went on the Nairobi. Nine of the 15 Mosquitoes Harry flew in came to grief.
W/O Francis Joseph Baylis AFM C de G (Belg) Kings Commendation volunteered in October 1941 and joined at ACRC Lords in March 1942. He completed a ITW at Babbacombe and a Wireless course at Cranwell. He received flying training at Port Albert, Ontario and Charlotte Town PEI and a General Reconnaissance Course at Squires Gate, then OTU (PR) at Dyce. He was posted to 544 Squadron, Benson in January 1944 and flew 63 ops, finishing in April 1945. He was awarded the C de G with Palme and also served on 13(PR) Squadron at Fayid 1947-49 and awarded the AFM. Finally, after ten months on 540(PR) Benson he received the Kings Commendation.
Flt. Lt. Peter G Brearley DFC joined the RAF in 1941 from Cambridge University Air Sqn. He obtained his Wings in 1942, and then completed a navigation course at 3 School of General Reconnaissance and after OTU joined 140 Photo Reconnaissance Sqdn in November 1942 until March 1944. The squadron was attached to Army Intelligence revising maps and possible coastal landing sites for the coming invasion. Targets also included flying bomb sites in Pas de Calais area and other varied sectors of enemy activity. At first Peter flew Spitfires and later Mosquitoes with F/O Leslie W Preston GM as navigator. He finished his RAF service as a flying instructor on Mosquitoes.
Flying Officer Tom Clark volunteered to join the RAF in October 1941. On completion of training he spent 12 months flying with Dominion and trained pilots at No 15(P) AFU. At No 8 OTU Dyce he crewed with Fl/Lt (later Sqn Ldr) W R Assheton and was posted to 540 Sqn in May 1944. He completed 48 operations and ceased flying duties in September 1945.
Flt. Lt. Arnold Cussons joined the RAF in July 1940, but pilot training did not start until early 1941. After EFTS (DH82) and SFTS (Oxford) he was told he must be an Instructor. FIS at Cranwell, instructing at 14 SFTS Lyneham (then grass field!) then secondment to RNZAF at Christchurch until got back to UK September 1943. 8OTU (Dyce) then 540 Sqn, A flight, January 1944. Flew 62 operational flights including Damage Assessment of the Tirpitz just 3 hours after it was sunk by Lancaster’s. He returned to instructing in July 1945, first as Flt Cdr Mosquitoes at PRU's 8OTU then as CFI when Frank Dodd left. Arnold then went to the Empire Central Flying School as a Tutor. He left the RAF at end of 1949 after a time flying Hornets with 65 Sqn., Linton-on-Ouse near York.
Flight Officer Ken Ellis DFM joined the RAF in April 1942 for training as an Observer. He received his wing as a Navigator in Canada and after subsequent OTU training was posted to 540 Squadron (PR) at Benson in January 1944. His pilot was F/Lt Arnold Cussons DFC (see above) and after in excess of 60 missions over Europe, Ken eventually left the Squadron in July 1945. He and Arnold photographed the German battleship ‘Tirpitz’ within hours of it being capsized on 12 November 1944 in Tromso Fjord.
Flight Officer Eric Hill DFC DFM joined the RAF in 1941 and crewed up with F/Lt F L Dodd AFC in January 1944. He joined 544 Mosquito PRU Squadron (detached from RAF Benson to Leuchars) in March 1944. They did all their 53 operational flights together, including flying diplomatic mail to Churchill at the Big Three Conferences in Moscow, Athens and Yalta. They photographed the battleship Tirpitz at anchor in Alten Fjord (north Norway) in July 1944 having lost their cockpit hood cover moments before. In other sorties, they survived a half-hour chase by two ME262 jets over Magdeburg and a ME109 attack while on one engine over the same city. Frank Dodd stayed in the service as a pilot after the war, finally retiring as Air Vice Marshal, CBE DSO DFC AFC*** AE LRPS.
W/O S. F. (Paddy) Hope joined the RAFVR in July 1940 and trained as a WOP/Nav at Blackpool, Yatesbury, Torquay and Staverton, joining 236 Squadron, Coastal Command at Carew Cheriton, S. Wales in October 1941 on Blenheims. After 3 operations, he converted to Beaufighters Squadron before moving to Wattisham, where he did 3 operations on Beaufighters over the German Bight. Paddy then transferred to PRU Benson on Mosquitoes in May 1942. He completed 20 more ops with F/O F McKay (N.Z.) before baling out over Belgium in December 1942 after engine failure. After evading for one month, he was captured at the Spanish frontier with Comete Line leader (A deJongh) and held by the
Gestapo for questioning, for four months. He was made a P.o.W. in Germany until returning home on 11 May 1945.
Flight Lieutenant Walter Le May DFC joined the R.A.F. in 1941,and trained as an Observer in Canada, joining 140 Squadron, Army Co-operation Command, at Hartford Bridge (now Blackbushe). The squadron, engaged on photo- reconnaissance, was unique in that one flight was equipped with Spitfires while a second flight, converting from Blenheims to Lockheed Venturas, was used for night operations. In June 1943 the squadron became part of the 34 Wing 2nd Tactical Air Force, and later converted to Mosquito 1X & XV1. Mainly involved in night operations, he, with his pilot, F/Lt Ray Batenburg DFC, R.N.Z.A.F., crossed the French coast a few minutes after midnight on D-Day, and took photographs of key points, followed by nearly 2 hours of low-level visual reconnaissance, at heights down to 200 feet. After operational flying he was appointed Night Ops. Controller 34 Wing, and, afterwards Ops. Controller at H.Q. 2 Group, Gutersloh.
Flight Lieutenant Tom Pratt DFC joined the RAF in 1940 and after initial training in Paignton, Duxford and Hidlington he was posted to West Freugh. He left there in 1943 and went to Squires Gate for navigational training, and then to Dyce for conversion to Mosquitoes. He was posted to 544 Sqdn. at Benson and stayed until the war was over. Tom says, “ I flew 68 sorties and was fortunate to be chosen to fly to Moscow, when Churchill attended the Yalta Conference, and had an extremely pleasant few days being entertained by the Russians!” Tom finally left the RAF in 1946.
Flight Lieutenant Mike Randles volunteered as a Wireless Operator in 1941, but on call-up, immediately remustered for aircrew. His lengthy training as a navigator/wireless-op/ photographer culminated in joining 540 Squadron at RAF Benson. With his pilot, Flight Lieutenant Guy Trevor, who sadly lost his life in a flying accident shortly after the end of the war, he completed 35 PR operations from Benson, Dyce (Aberdeen) from which they concentrated on Norwegian targets, and Coulommiers in France. Their longest operation of over 1500 miles took over six hours to photograph 18 targets in Norway in November 1944. Mike claims he was a lucky one, having been shot at only twice and escaping interception by German jets over Prague, Arnhem and Osnabruck.
Flying Officer Joe Townshend DFM joined the RAF in February 1942 and after a wireless course at Cranwell went to Canada for Navigation, GR and an OTU on Torpedo Hampdens on Vancouver Island. He returned to England for an OTU on Mosquitoes at Dyce where he teamed up with F/Lt H C S (Sandy) Powell DFC. After four ferry trips to Rabat in Morocco, he joined 540 Squadron in May 1944 and completed 50 Photo Reconnaissance operations over Europe, including finding the Tirpitz at Tromso for the Lancaster’s to sink in November 1944.
Flying Officer (Acting Flt/Lt) Bill Anderson flew with 16 Sqn. from 1943 until the war was over. He trained in Georgia, USA, before becoming attached to 16 Sqn. at Benson, flying missions over France and Germany. Bill flew many different types of aircraft beginning with a PT17 Stearman in the USA; others include Tiger Moths, Typhoons, Tempest, Harvards, Lysanders, Hurricanes and Oxfords.
Air Marshall Sir Alfred (Freddy) Ball, KCB DSO DFC attended RAF College, Cranwell in 1939 and joined 13 Squadron in France in March 1940 on Lysanders (Army Co-operation). He joined No 1 PRU Benson early in 1941 on Spitfires. He commanded 4 PRU (later 682 Sqdn) as Squadron Leader in October 1942 and flew out to North Africa for Operation Torch, the Allied landings, flying Spitfires. He was posted to the UK as CF1, 8PR, OTU Dyce, Aberdeen in September 1943 and took over 542 Sqdn Benson in March 1944 (PR Spitfire Mk XIs and Mk XIXs). In September he was promoted to Wing Commander and given command of No 540 Squadron flying Mosquito 16s and 32s. The Squadron moved to France early in 1945 to support the Allied armies. In December, Freddy was posted to Egypt to take command of No 680 PR Sqdn (later to become 13 Sqdn), flying Mosquitoes and Spitfires. He was posted to Staff AHQ East Africa in 1946 and retired from the RAF in April 1979.
Flying Officer Arthur H Brace joined the RAF in 1941. After pre-elementary training he went to Canada for flying training, in Neepawa and Moosejaw, gaining his wings in Oct 1942. Arthur then went on to General Reconnaissance School on Prince Edward Island. On return to the UK he completed an Operational Training course at Dyce, Scotland, and was posted to Benson in Sept. 1943, where, whilst awaiting posting to a PR squadron, he joined No 309 FT & ADU which was concerned with supplying the latest marks of PR Spitfires to our overseas Squadrons; during this time Arthur ferried aircraft to Italy & India. He joined No 542 PR Squadron in August 44 and remained with it until August 1945. He then spent a short time with Meteological Squadron No 519 before being posted to No16 Squadron, BAFO, stationed at Celle, Germany where injuries incurred in a road accident in March 1946 put paid to any further flying. He left the RAF in August 1946.
Wing Commander James Gordon Cole DFC joined the RAF in 1938 and had his initial training at Reading, Uxbridge and Montrose. He then went to France with No. 13 Sqn., returning in May 1940. After a spell with 231 Sqn. in Northern Ireland he then went by destroyer (HMAS Nestor) to Egypt to join 2 PRU until early 1944. He was then posted as Liason Officer with P.R. Group, USAAF at Chalgrove, and subsequently flew P-38s (Lightning) on sorties over the D-Day beaches, La Rochelle, amongst others.
Wing Commander Edward (Tim) Fairhurst DFC received a pre-war commission in the TA and volunteered to switch to the RAF in May 1940, and trained for Lysanders. In October 1941 he was posted to D Flight No1 PRU (Spitfires), which later became No 541 Squadron. In September 1942 he flew to Russia as OC PRU detachment and operated there with red star markings in place of RAF roundels. He was promoted to Sqn Ldr, converted to Mosquitoes and posted across the airfield as OC A Flight 544 Sqdn. In September 1944 he was posted back to 541 Sqn (Spitfires) as CO and remained there until the end of the war.
Sqn. Ldr. Frank (Jerry) Fray DFC volunteered to join the RAF in 1940 and commenced his flying training in the summer of 1941 at Hullavington, Wiltshire. Following training on Spitfires he volunteered to join the Photo-Reconnaissance Unit (PRU) and was posted to RAF Benson, Oxfordshire in 1942. His first op. was to Den Helder in July 1942. On 15th May 1943 (his 36th Op.) he flew to take photographs of the dams from 30,000 feet. He returned to the Mohne, Eder and Sorpe dams on 17th May to photograph the damage inflicted by 617 Squadron.
P/O Peter Harding joined the University of London Air Squadron in 1937, Flying Tutors, Harts and Hinds. He received a VR commission in June 1939 and was prohibited from joining up. In his reserved occupation as metallurgical student at the Royal School of Mines he failed his exam in 1940 and then wrote to the Air Ministry saying ‘ failed exam – call me up’. By return post he was told ‘get medical, get uniform’. He was put through his training period and passed out in Lysander in 227 Squadron. He was converted to Spitfires by Wg. Cdr Tuttle and then to 3PRU Oakington and later to Benson. During his 23rd op his engine stopped over Wilhelmhaven and he had to bail out. He was a P.o.W. from August 1941 to May 1945. After his discharge VJ + 1, he returned to his studies.
Flt/Lt Julian Lowe DFC joined the RAF in 1941 having escaped from a reserved occupation, and, after I.T., he was sent to Southern Rhodesia to learn to fly on Tiger Moths and Harvards. From there he went to 74 OTU in Palestine flying Hurricanes. He was posted to 2 PRU (later 680 Squadron) in Cairo and completed 86 ops over North Africa, Greece and the Aegian. He was awarded the DFC in March 1944 and returned to the UK to join 542 Squadron at Benson in October 1944, where he did a further 30 ops over Germany before the war in Europe ended. After a short period in the RAFVR, he joined No 6 Air Experience Flight and flew Chipmunks for 26 years logging some 2000 hours on that aircraft.
Flight Lieutenant Gwyn Parry DFC was called up from Oxford University Air Squadron in August 1941 and was commissioned after completion of training in Canada in June 1942. After a navigation course at Squires Gate and PR, OTU he joined 140 Squadron based at Hartfordbridge and later Northolt. The operations he undertook on Spitfires were mostly at high level (up to 34,000 feet) over France and the Low Countries, but also some in Mosquitoes at 12,000 feet over French pre-invasion beaches.
F/Lt Ray Raby joined the RAFVR in 1940. His flying training began in the USA, where he was retained as an instructor with both USAF and RAF wings. He qualified on his return for an Air Navigators Certificate. He was posted to 519 Squadron, Wick, on Spitfires prior to joining 542 Squadron, Benson PRU unit with Jerry Fray as Flight Commander. In 1943, he was posted to Benson and survived 58 operational sorties until he was demobbed on 1946. In 1947 he joined 605 (County of Warwick) Squadron15:03 20/05/2008, Raux AF, Honiley on Vampire and Meteor jet aircraft as flight commander until disbandment in 1957. His total hours flown are 3265.
Squadron Leader T.N. Rosser OBE DFC volunteered for pilot training early in 1940. After training in England he was commissioned and flew with Spitfire and Hurricane squadrons in England and Bengal from August 1941 until December 1942, when he joined No.3 PRU (later redesignated 681 Squadron) in Calcutta for photographic reconnaissance operations in Japanese-occupied Burma, Thailand, and the Andaman Islands. (At that time the squadron was equipped with converted Hurricanes and North American B25's, and three PR Spitfires, the only Spitfires of any kind in India. A year or so later it had a full complement of Spitfire Mk X1's, and 684 Squadron, equipped with Mosquitoes, had been formed.) After his operational tour ended in July 1944, he commanded the PR training Flight in 74 OTU in Palestine until VE Day when the OTU was disbanded. He later formed and led a temporary squadron of Spitfire fighter/bombers based in Egypt for internal security duties in the
Middle East. He was demobilised in late 1946 after administrative appointments in Air HQ Egypt, and at Cranwell.
Flt/Lt Jimmy Taylor joined the RAF in 1941, received his pilot training in the USA under the Arnold Scheme and instructed American cadets on the Vultee BT-13a from 1942 to ’43. He took the PRU OTU course at Dyce and joined 16 Squadron, part of 34 PR Wing in 2nd Tactical Air Force, at Northolt in August 1944, flying blue Spitfire X1s and pink Spitfire IXs. He moved with the Squadron to A12 airstrip in Normandy, then to the airfield at Amiens - Glisy and at the end of September, to Melsbroek airfield outside Brussels. On 19 November, he suffered engine failure over Germany, baled out and landed in a field in Holland. After evading capture for five days he reached the Rhine, but was spotted by an alert German officer and spent the rest of the war in Stalag Luft I on the Baltic. He returned to instructing, on Harvards, until he was demobilized in 1946. Thereafter, he followed a career in education. In 1989, he took up gliding and found it more challenging than flying with an engine. In 1990, he learned from a Dutch archivist that four Dutchmen had been executed as a result of his landing in their village. This was a great shock and he returns to Holland each year to lay a wreath on their Memorial.
Fl/Lt W G A White volunteered for the RAF in January 1940, aged 19. He trained as a Wop/Ag and from October of that year, flew on 86 operational flights in Lockheed Hudsons of 206 and 279 Squadrons of Coastal Command, totaling 923 operational flying hours. On one occasion, in November 1941, after successfully bombing and sinking one of three German mine sweepers off Ushant at low level, the port engine caught fire from the intensive return barrage from all three ships. “With the pilot, Sgt. John Whitfield DFM, of 206, we somehow managed to make it back to Predannock in Cornwall, smoking all the way!” Commissioned in May 1942, and after an official suggestion, as a result of his operational experience, he volunteered to fly Spitfires without guns. Qualifying as a PR pilot, he joined 682 Photographic Recognisance Squadron in May 1945 at San Severo, Italy, where he took part in high level photography up until VE Day in Mark XIs. In August 1945 he became Staff Photographic Officer for Desert Air Force until his discharge in 1946.
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