A Letter To Durban

Guy, early 1940s

In Durban, there was much interest in ‘the war’, particularly when local men were involved. And Guy was young and hand- some and brave – everything that an airman was expected to be. I include here parts of some of Guy’s letters to our parents, probably written in early June 1940  and published in the Natal Daily News (exact date unknown) – perhaps at the suggestion of our uncle, Leslie Brokensha, who was a well-known columnist on the paper.

The last hectic fortnight has seemed like two years. When we were about 150 miles from the Norwegian coast, some of the boys took off straightaway on a fighter patrol.

My course steering must have been better than usual, for we hit the coast bang where we aimed for – not bad after 150 miles of twisting and turning and changing winds – I climbed to 10,000 feet and then had to start map reading to find the lake.

Bombing,  fighting,  fighting,  bombing  on  and  on    and rather like Dawn Patrol. Everybody always rushed up to deck to count the number of planes back, for, of course, some didn’t come back.

After about five days there were only four1 of us left in our Squadron. They were the CEO, yes, a rating pilot and myself.

Coming back from patrol one day, the four of us were told to land on HMS Glorious instead of our proper spiritual home, which was going back for more aircraft and some juice. There we were no clothes, four battered cabs and, in fact, nothing – but what a show we put up. S [Skeet Harris] and I worked in a grand combination: I go in, burst at the rear gunner, fix starboard engine, S in, rear gunner short burst, fix port motor, fairly knocked ‘em down.

Then S landed one day with his motor shot up. It’s  a miracle how he got back. This left only three of us to keep the squadron’s reputation.

What a day! The C.O., J2  and I went off and in our  patrol got six between us, one each and three as a flight. We also split the formation of seven who were going out    to bomb the ship – had lost J by then, heard when we got back he had used up his own ammunition but was chasing the windy cowards away from their targets with his rear seat single Lewis gun. They’re so windy, the moral advantage is incredible, even in our old kites.

As a result of  his exploits in the Norwegian air campaign, Guy  was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross in July 1940.

  1. This will have been four out of nine.
  2. The C.O. was Bill Lucy; ‘J’ is Pilot Petty Officer Johnson.