1941-1945: War Service

 
 
 
 



Micky rejoined the RAF as a Flight Lieutenant in November 1941, having been promoted from Flying Officer in 1937 while on the Reserve. Since February 1935, Micky had been a test pilot and  had flown all sorts of Bristol types such as the Blenheim, Beaufort and Beaufighter but also a Wellington, Northrop Gamma , Fairey Battle, Tiger Moth, Albercore, Magister, Botha, and Bisley.

He test flew a Beaufort on 15th November 1941 at Filton and had an engine failure on takeoff.  Bristols had, accordingly to Micky, lost 7 test pilots killed in testing the Beaufort  whereby when a engine failed, the propeller did not have a feathering device and the engine carried on sucking in petrol into the carburettor.  Eventually the aircraft would explode in mid air.  The Beaufort had gone into squadron service with this defect.   Micky manazged to get his aircraft to the ground and told the Chief Pilot he would be safer in combat.  Eight days later, he reported to the  No2 OTU at RAF Catfoss.

see "Beaufighters at War" by Charles Bowyer)

He was posted to 236 Squadron at Carew Cheriton, South Wales on 18th January 1942.   The main function of this squadron was to act as long-range fighters covering the Western Approaches between southern Ireland and the Bay Of Biscay.  This proved to be a very dull occupation, however important it might have been, but it meant a great deal of flying in all weathers over a distinctly unfriendly ocean.  It was only the very lucky pilots who ran into a long range Focke Wulf Condor.

Micky was only there 14 days before the squadron was disbanded and the crews were all posted to the Middle East, flying their new Beaufighters from Honeybourne Ferry Training Unit to Portreath.  They collected the latest VIc type which four 20mm Oerlikons, Hispano type set in the nose and six .303 Browing Machine guns, four in the right wing and the remaining two in the left wing. and then on to Gibraltar (4 hours 50 minutes), Malta( 6 hours )  and Fayoum (Alexandra) - 5 hours.  On the trip to Portreath, Micky's aircraft had an engine failure and so with a five hour trip looming to Gibraltar the aircraft had a double engine change.  The flight to Gibraltar involved flying out into the Atlantic to skirt France, Spain and Portugal.  Four aircraft out of 12 in the group did not make it to Gibraltar, either landing in Spain, ditching in the Atlantic or missing Gibraltar and flying onto North Africa.   At Gibraltar, another Beaufighter was lost on takeoff, colliding with a Wellington.   At Malta, a bombing raid was in full swing, but owing to a shortage of fuel, they had to land while the bombs were still dropping and next morning they took off during a raid.   Messerschmidt 109s were waiting  as they left the island and four out of eight aircraft were lost.

 

There were two ‘Coastal Beau’ squadrons at this time in the Middle East, 272 and 252, both located at Edku, close to Alexandria and he went to 272 squadron.  The Beaus carried out various functions: first, long range cover to shipping in the Mediterranean, with an emphasis on protecting convoys to Tobruk and Malta.  They also flew anti submarine patrols over all Royal Navy ship movements.   Some of these sorties were dull and routine, but when convoys were attacked, all hell broke loose and on one Malta convoy eight Beaus were lost with only one of the crews being picked up.  On one sortie they were briefed to give cover to the fleet returning from a commando raid on Tobruk, to pick them up at first light when they were returning to base. As there was cloud cover and as the Fleet was expecting a torpedo attack, they were ordered to give low level cover.  When the attack came, it was by wave after wave of dive-bombers coming straight through the clouds.   Most of the ships were damaged and the cruiser had received a stick of bombs right along its deck  and was obviously finished.  When its crew had been rescued, the cruiser was eventually sunk by one of the destroyers.  Hours later, the three surviving destroyers limped into Alexandria.  

 (More can be read about 272 Squadron in "Desert Squadron" by Victor Houart)



This is an extract from this book which describes Micky's  first day at Catfoss on 23rd November 1941:

"The following Monday, Rene Demoulin & Charles Roman returned to LG10 & took their places again a “B“ Flight.  The new crew was posted to “A” Flight under the command of Sqn Ldr  Ogden, a self possessed officer, as calm as a good pater familias, but already famous throughout the desert squadrons because he was the only known pilot to perform hair-raising aerobatics in a Beaufighter.
Many pilots still remembered Ogden’s arrival in the previous November, at Catfoss.   His meditative air had inspired little confidence in the young officer in charge of the flying section, who had taken him in hand and spent the whole morning trying to inculcate in him the general principles of flying a twin-engined aircraft.  Ogden listened to him religiously, impassive and serious as a monk. Then the instructor had given him permission to carry out a few circuits round the field to get his hand in. Ogden took off immediately after breakfast, held the nose of the machine down and ended his take-off with a zoom which nearly gave the C.O. apoplexy.  He then took the Beaufighter very wisely up to a safe altitude and reached 5,000 feet.   Plunging earthwards
in a power dive, Ogden suddenly pulled the nose of the machine skywards until it was nearly vertical.   The Beaufighter which was a heavy twin-engined machine, completed a superb loop to the general amazement.

On landing, Ogden told them he had been the Bristol company’s test pilot.  He had practically acted as a midwife to the aircraft, but no-one had ever asked him his advice before sending him to Catfoss and he had come there simply because he had been ordered to do so.   As a result of this , on that very day, Sqn Ldr Ogden, former test pilot, was courteously asked to to demonstrate his talents to Rommel’s troops in the Middle East. "


On one occasion,  four Beaufighters gave cover to a squadron of Beauforts on a shipping strike in the vicinity of Malta. They had been briefed to pick up the bombers in the Alexandria area, and cover them to the target and when they made their attack their role was to take on any German fighters and create a diversion.  After the attack on the target ship, it was every man for himself and to make for Malta (who had agreed to send out fighters to bring the Beauforts home).  About 8 miles from the German convoy, two planes flew over, 500 feet higher, but as the Beaufighters were ‘on the water’  they weren’t see by the German planes.   However, Wing Commander Riley (one of the truly great characters of the war) who was immediately below them,  pulled up his nose, and in two short bursts brought them both down - wonderful marksmanship.  Of course, the convoy was immediately alerted, and a few minutes later the Beaufighters flew into a great reception.  Greatly outnumbered by ME110’s and JU88’s, they managed to keep them off the Beauforts, and when the last torpedo was dropped they broke off and headed for Malta.   At that stage, two Hurricanes passed  to bring in the Beauforts –apparently this was the maximum number of fighters that Malta could produce!  Only five made it back to Malta and even they were still being attacked by 109s when they entered the circuit at Luqa. This was one of several similar operations.

The Beaufighter did its best work on ground-strafing missions, with the best results achieved on road-strafes. Hundreds of enemy transports were destroyed or damaged by the Beaus. The usual technique was to send  two sections, fly about 15 miles out to sea, then turn west parallel to the coast until opposite the target area and then turn in. Having approached well below any radar cover, it preserved an element of surprise.  They would then fly down the road at zero feet and fly straight at vehicles on the road. A quick burst at 100 to 50 yards, pull up over the roof of it, and down to the road again ready for the next. Any vehicle missed by the leader would be finished off by his No 2.

The Beau had an operational range of 1200 miles so they were able to attack targets up to 600 miles behind the enemy forward positions. One long-range attack was when the battle lines were in the Gazala area. Micky took off at 0300 hours and headed straight for El Agheila across some pretty rugged territory. It was very difficult trying to maintain an altitude of 50 feet in pitch darkness. However the first target was a staging post on the road where a small convoy of six vehicles had obviously pulled in for breakfast at first light. He started with a burst from all four cannons and six machineguns through the roof of the canteen and immediately there were Germans running in every direction and diving for cover.  He then made three attacks on the vehicles,
severely damaging them, but was disappointed that none of them caught fire.  He then flew to the coast where a small supply boat was unloading at a jetty and then flew across the Bay of Syrte and rejoined the coast road about 50 miles south of Benghazi, proceeding s
outh in search of more transports.   It was very quiet on the road but eventually a heavily–loaded ten ton truck appeared going north and he took him head on. The driver saw him coming and attempted to pull up, but the firing shattered his windscreen and he collapsed on his seat.

Another function often allocated to Beaus was aerodrome strafing – very unpopular with Beau pilots. Enemy airfields were always very heavily defended with light flak and the gun crews were always on the alert.  One such attack was on the allied retreat to Alamein, when they were briefed to strafe at Sidi Barrani with five Beaus. Using the normal technique, they crossed the coast at zero feet and as they approached the coast road  saw it was choked with enemy traffic and we dived to attack and the sky was filled with bursting flak and tracer.   The only visible targets were three lorries well out into the airfield, surrounded by jerricans.  They were obviously flying in petrol in JU 52s to keep the forward panzers going.  They attacked and could see petrol cans being hurled in every direction, but there were no fires so they were too late and  had strafed  a dump of the ‘empties’.  It was then every man for himself and flying at zero feet again.  Micky then noticed an open lorry coming from the coast and filled with personnel.  He turned and attacked with devastating effect, but as he pulled away over the lorry noticed their undressed appearance and a number of towels around their necks.  He realised that it must have been a bathing lorry returning from the coast and it left a nasty taste in the mouth.

(Recollections of this caused considerable distress to my father in his final years, as he felt terrible guilt for killing these people as such easy targets, who were sometimes not engaged in fighting at the time).

During the desert campaigns the Germans often brought in supplies and reinforcements by air, the aircraft usually used being Junkers Ju 52s which flew from Crete to the Tobruk area. These were usually in formations of up to 20 aircraft, flying at deck level and we were often sent out to intercept, but it was always difficult to make contact. However, on one occasion they were on an armed recce between Mersa Matruh and Tobruk, and sighted about 20 Ju 52s in tight formation right on the water and about 20 miles out from the coast,  Five Beaus climbed to act as top cover, and the other five followed in a long line astern to make a head on attack.  On the third attack, Micky suddenly saw the sea being churned up underneath the nose of his Beau and was told by his navigator that an Me 110 was about to make another attack! Micky had .303 MG's fitted to the wings firing backwards to give him an extra edge and give any German fighter on his tail a shock! With his superior manoeuvrability and speed it was difficult to sha
ke him off.  He finally limped home with a burst tyre and 73 bullet holes in the fuselage. A disappointing sortie as, although we had damaged several Ju’s, we could only claim two as definitely destroyed.

Article from Canberra Times of 13th July 1942  Enemy Loses Troop Carriers 
 Yet another task allocated to our Beaus during the desert battles was attacking small supply boats (F-boats) which were used in large numbers to carry supplies to enemy advance formations along the coast road. They were usually in convoys of six to eight and always had fighter protection. This was, again. an unpopular target with Beau crews as the boats always had single engined fighter cover and the boats themselves were heavily armed, each having heavy flak and four light anti aircraft guns. The Beaufighters’ three guns were loaded with incendiary bullets; the idea being that when enemy fighters came into attack the sky was filled with a good pyrotechnic display, which caused the enemy fighters to hesitate.



Survival in a Desert Airforce Beaufighter squadron was reckoned to be about 25%. Extract from Micky's log book  dated 16th July 1942. JU 52 interception. "Collision between two leaders so turned back".

He continued with 272 Squadron until September 1942 before being posted, in rank of Wing Commander,  to Tehran to command a wing of Hurricanes 237 Wing, when it was thought that the Germans might achieve a breakthrough from Stalingrad through the Caucasus. For a few He later served at Malta as Wing Commander Flying at Luqa  from 2th March 1943 commanding 10 squadrons for the invasion of Sicily.  Serving in Malta at the same time was F/Lt Clifford Bryan who prewar had been an employee of the Luckington Pottery of which Lady Blance Scott-Douglas was the Chairman.  He wrote to his wife on 1st October 1943 that he was billeted in the same hotel as Stan Cornforth's squadron and" there are a number of fellows I know including Wingco Ogden (Lady Blanche's friend) who you probably know better as Oggy."  (we are indebted to Mr J D Burton for this snippet of information who was researching a book on the life of Clifford Bryan, subsequently killed in on 15th Janauary 1945 returning from a mission over Germany in his Mosquito.  Micky was  then posted to Takali from October 1943 , then to Halfar on 18th February 1944 until 1st July 1944 as Station Commander,  Whilst at Takali, he often flew a captured Caprioni 100, pictured here http://en-gb.facebook.com/pages/Caproni-Ca100/116234975091421. In july 1944, HE was posted
to Maison Blanche, Algiers  as Senior Air Staff Officer. There he met his wife, Betty Mansell,  a Princess Mary Royal Air Force Nursing Sister (PMRAFNS) IN December, and they were married in February 1945 in Algiers.

Micky had been involved in the planning for the invasion of Southern France  CodE named Anvil and in November 1944 flew from Algiers to Elmas -Aix-San Raphael-Calvi-Elmas-Algiers.

Extract from His logbook for Nov 1941 to end 
Nov-41 255 Beaufighter at RAF Catfoss
Dec-41 395 Beaufighter
300 Blenheim
75 Lysander
Jan-42 260 Beaufighter
Feb-42 1720 Beaufighter in combat
Mar-42 1400 Beaufighter
120 Hurricane 1
Apr-42 580 Beaufighter
May-42 1003 Beaufighter
Jun-42 829 Beaufighter
Jul-42 685 Beaufighter
Aug-42 930 Beaufighter
Sep-42 490 Beaufighter
Oct-42 210 Audax
60 Blenheim
20 Moth
Nov-42 30 Moth
Jan-43 20 Moth
Feb-43 150 Hurricane IIc
Mar-43 60 Beaufighter
Apr-43 40 Beaufort
May-43 50 Beaufighter
Jun-43 60 Beaufort
70 Beaufighter
Aug-43 30 Beaufighter
Sep-43 60 Beaufighter
Oct-43 90 Caprioni 100
Nov-43 60 Caprioni 100
85 Fairchild
Dec-43 30 Caprioni 100
45 Spitfire Vc
Jan-44 75 Spitfire Vc
Mar-44 210 Magister
45 Fairchild
Apr-44 270 Magister
May-44 300 Magister
Jun-44 270 Magister
Nov-44 775 Beechcraft Expediter
Feb-45 40 Beechcraft Expediter
Mar-45 540 Beaufighter 1
90 Hurricane 
Apr-45 430 Beaufighter
69490 Pre 1935 1158.16667 1158.167
9787 Beaufighter Total in RAF 163.116667 163.1167
8590 Beaufight Total at BAC 143.166667
306.2833
7110 Beaufort  118.5
2680 Blenheim 44.6666667
470 Botha 7.83333333
5505 Battle 91.75
110 Wellington 1.83333333
120 Spitfire 2 2
360 Hurricane 6 6
75 Lysander 1.25 1.25
15 Bisley 0.25
1920 Bulldog Pup 32
3575 Hawk Major 59.5833333
1996 Vildebeest 33.2666667
275 Audax 4.58333333
9928 Hart 165.466667
3125 g4/31 K2771 52.0833333
20 Aeronca 0.33333333
400 DB K6926 6.66666667
20 Piper Cub 0.33333333
1680 Northrop 28
815 Beechcraft Expediter 13.5833333
570 Magister 9.5
180 Caprioni 100 3
85 Fairchild 1.41666667
1951-1965 401
2549.35
Tiger Moth 1500.65
4050

Postscript : SUPPLEMENT TO THE LONDON GAZETTE, 31 AUGUST, 1954 Micky is confirmed in rank of Wing Commander


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Michael Ogden,
20 May 2014, 13:56
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Michael Ogden,
20 May 2014, 14:04
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Michael Ogden,
20 May 2014, 14:00
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Michael Ogden,
20 May 2014, 14:10
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Michael Ogden,
20 May 2014, 13:50
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Michael Ogden,
20 May 2014, 13:52
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Michael Ogden,
21 May 2014, 02:47
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Michael Ogden,
20 May 2014, 13:37
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Michael Ogden,
20 May 2014, 14:02
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Michael Ogden,
20 May 2014, 13:58
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Michael Ogden,
20 May 2014, 13:54
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Michael Ogden,
20 May 2014, 13:44
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Michael Ogden,
20 May 2014, 14:13
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Michael Ogden,
20 May 2014, 14:17
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