View Full Version : Account of Heinkel attack on my Grandads flying boat (WWII)

07-10-2007, 06:52 AM
Hi all

Thought this may be of some interest to you - I scanned it in from our local rag that used to run articles aboout local people and their memories. I've had to hack it together in photoshop so it looks a bit disjointed.

What is interesting is that someone managed to photograph the attack on my grandads flying boat - he was a flight engineer on Sunderlands throughout the war.

Not really used photobucket before so hope this works - maybe some of you will find this interesting.

If you have trouble reading it let me know and I'll get a better version.




07-10-2007, 06:59 AM
A brilliant account. Thanks for posting! http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/11.gif



07-10-2007, 10:17 AM
Thanks for that!

07-10-2007, 01:36 PM
No probs.

I always find it fascinating when you hear peoples accounts of their encounters during wartime. I can't begin to imagine what it must be like to go to war but with all the accounts I've read it's not something I would want to be a part of.

My grandfather never spoke about it - only his love of airplanes - particuarly the Sunderlands on which he served. Many years ago we took him to Hendon (I think - was only young!) to see the displays.

Lo and behold they had a Sunderland - I never saw my grandad act like that before. He propped himself on his walking stick and just stared at the damn thing for a good 5 minutes without uttering a word. I find it strange that an object can captivate someone like that - I guess it must have brought back a lot of memories.

It's because of him I have an unhealthy fascination of all things that go whizzing through the air be it jet or prop. Many a summer would be spent building some Airfix kit, glueing fingers together and unwittingly expanding my consciousness with sweet smelling plastic glue and an unventilated room!

The fascination is still as strong today as it was when I was a nipper and I can't see it fading - aren't grandads great!


07-10-2007, 04:56 PM
cool http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_smile.gif

07-10-2007, 06:20 PM
Great story, thanks for sharing.

Ruy Horta
07-11-2007, 03:17 AM
Originally posted by skimbo:
Hi all

Thought this may be of some interest to you - I scanned it in from our local rag that used to run articles aboout local people and their memories. I've had to hack it together in photoshop so it looks a bit disjointed.

What is interesting is that someone managed to photograph the attack on my grandads flying boat - he was a flight engineer on Sunderlands throughout the war.

Not really used photobucket before so hope this works - maybe some of you will find this interesting.

If you have trouble reading it let me know and I'll get a better version.



Did your grandad ever learn more about these attackers?

07-11-2007, 03:58 AM
Hi Ruy,

The Heinkels that attacked them were part of (squadron?) KG26. Unfortunately the records were destroyed at the end of the war.

I really should look it up on google or something to find out about them. It does make me chuckle thinking about grandad penning a letter to the Luftwaffe regarding the guys who attacked him!

At the end of the day they were all doing a job which sadly was the destruction/killing of the enemy's capability of waging war - I bet if grandad had every met the Luftwaffe guys involved in the attack he would have shook their hands and had a good chat about all things air related with no animosity whatsoever.

War's a funny thing isn't it?


07-11-2007, 04:09 AM
Nice read!

Google comes up with 2/KG26.

07-11-2007, 04:13 AM
Well, I can remind all of you that read this to be mindful & grateful for your eyesight. Give thanks to whatever the higher power might be in your beliefs.

Sorry for just popping into that in that manner Skimbo, but I am just beside myself. A couple months ago I would not have had any problems reading that. The one night, and I do mean literally over a period of one night, my eye sight went to "jelly" in a hand basket. Oh well, I guess that is called getting old(er).

Anyway Skimbo, I am sure I would have thanked you for sharing this with us. Just curious though, did he ever relay any other stories to you about the war at any time?

07-11-2007, 07:06 AM

Sorry to hear about your eyesight problem - that sounds a real p*sser. Don't worry matey I'll type it in for you and post it in here so you can see it - might be a few typos but hey you'll get the gist of it! http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_biggrin.gif

Gramps never related any stories about the war at all, for all intents and purposes you would've never thought he was involved in the conflict. The only reason I've got this account is from my mum. I Visited her the other day and she had laminated some newspaper cuttings about grandad and a few of herself when she was younger.

I couldn't believe it when I read about ol' gramps!

I'm sure he must've had a bucket load of stories but he chose to keep quiet about it. I think mum has got his log book somewhere - if I can find it I'll post some more stuff if there are any accounts. I assume that flying in Sunderlands would be for Coastal Command and could be quite monotonous.

The best way would have been to hear it from the man himself but alas time caught up with ol' gramps. He was diagnosed with Diabetes and the bullet wound in his ankle he suffered in the attack turned gangrenous and he had to have his lower leg off. This was many years later (early 90's). He had a prosthetic one fitted and still managed to ride a push bike! Eventually the Diabetes did him in - bless him.

Anyway I'm glad this has generated some interest - it's certainly shed new light on gramps for me!


07-11-2007, 07:50 AM
I do hope you find more info...logbook would be great!

Ruy Horta
07-11-2007, 10:36 AM
Have asked this question on the forum I host, perhaps we'll get some answers. Sounds like your grandad was a fine man!

07-11-2007, 01:08 PM
Quazi here is the account typed up for you mate:

Germans attacked flying boat of Shetlands
Ernest early victim of war

The dramatic picture below captures the moment when Bournemouth man Ernest Toms had an unexpected piece of the action in the opening weeks of the Second World War.

It shows two German bombers over Lerwick in the Shetlands and smoke rising from the harbour.

The incident happened as early as November 1939, making RAF engineer Mr Toms one of the first people in Britain to be injured by German bombs.

With him in the Shetlands were six RAF colleagues including wireless operator Len Corbin, now the mayor of Guernsey. The two recently met for the first time in 53 years when Mr Corbin visited Bournemouth.

"We've kept in touch by letter all this time but we had a lot to talk about," said Mr Toms, 76.

The Shetlands incident happened when the anti-climax which followed the declaration of war on September 3 had most people talking about a "phoney war".

But in Lerwick the war was anything but phoney for Messrs Toms, Corbin and colleagues. They came under direct attack while working on a flying boat moored in the North Harbour.

"We were doing some repair work on the flying boat when we were attacked by six Henikel K111s," recalled Mr Toms, of Jewell Road, Bournemouth.

The bombers approached from the north east, flying as low as 150 feet.

"The sound of the engines brought people out all over the town to watch with almost unbelievable suprise the squadron of enemy bombers passing closely overhead," the Shetland Times reported at the time.

"Markings on the planes could be most easily seen and some of the men in the planes could also be seen."

Witnesses told how they saw the RAF men leap into the cold sea and cling to mooring buoys as the Germans began machine gunning the flying boat.

The men quickly returned to their posts but had to jump twice more as the attackers came a second time and a third.

On the return passes the Heinkels released 20 or 30 bombs and at least two torpedoes which sent up huge columns of water.

But all the weapons missed their target and the attackers came in a fourth time.

"The German planes swooped in turn over the flying boat till they were almost on top of it and fired bursts of tracer bullets," said the Shetland Times.

"With this the flying boat was set on fire and a huge column of flame and smoke shot up."

Mr Toms recalled: "No-one was killed but I was injured with a bullet wound in the heel and severe burns.

"I jumped into the water and I can still remember how really cold it was.

"But 'Boy' Corbin (we called hime Boy because he didn't look his age) was entagled with wires and I went back and got him out.

"The flying boat caught fire and sunk and I swam a quarter of a mile before being picked up by a fishing boat.

"We went to the local hospital and Corbin and I were the first two people to be treated there for hypothermia."

In 1989 Mr Toms, who still has his RAF logbook, wrote to the Luftwaffe asking for details of those who attacekd him!

"I wanted to know who had had a go at me," he said. "To my suprise they replied, telling me that the unit KG26 flew sorties against the Shetlands in November and December 1939 but that the records of these were destroyed at the end of the war."

And so ends the article. Hope thats alright for you. Fingers hurt - need food http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_biggrin.gif


07-11-2007, 01:17 PM

Here's hoping someone you know on your site might turn something up.

Heliopause I am going to visit my mum on Friday so I'll ask her about gramps log book.

You guys'll be the first to know!

Thanks all.


07-11-2007, 06:39 PM
thanx for posting this. These accounts are priceless.

07-12-2007, 04:32 AM
S! Skimbo, as my fellow K9er said:

These accounts are priceless and worthy of being preserved for all generations.

Hence my own project at http://www.honorourveterans.com.

07-12-2007, 06:17 AM
B16 Enk

Thanks for the account on your site - very pleased that there is somewhere where people like my grandad can be remembered.

I am going to send my mum the link - she will be beside herself with joy when she sees the article.

Do you still want me to send you the image of gramps when he was yougner when I get it?

Anyway thanks again matey!


07-12-2007, 08:32 AM
Please do m8, if you want to add any more please do or send it to me and I'll add it http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_smile.gif.

S! squire http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_smile.gif

07-12-2007, 01:33 PM
Good read Skimbo. Thanks for sharing.


07-12-2007, 01:55 PM
Skimbo...that was great. thanks

07-13-2007, 12:00 PM
Just at my mums now and she's handed me another newspaper clipping of grandad in the local rag again.

It seems that after the attack at Lerwick he was no longer fit to fly and was consigned to ground engineer work.

His log book (still to be obtained - mum thinks her brothers got it) must relate to just prior to the war - he was on escort duty for British shippind during the Spanish civil war according to the new nespaper article I've just got - I'll scan it in on Monday and post.

Turns out grandad after being consigned to ground duties moved to Biggin Hill under squadron leader AG "Sailor" Malan repairing the aircraft during the Battle of Britain. Later he served with Wing Commander Tich Havercraft (who went on to become a test pilot) at the Aircraft and Armourment Experimental Establishment. Apparently they were still in contact to!

It really is quite bonkers! Never new any of this stuff about my grandad. Probably find out tomorrow Stalin was my great great uncle....


07-13-2007, 12:19 PM
http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_smile.gif loving it the way your very own family history is unfolding.

Must feel magic http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_smile.gif.

07-13-2007, 12:35 PM
I can't lie B16 - IT IS magic!

This other clipping here is really interesting - had no idea my grandad was responsible for the maintenance of all the spitfires on Sailor Malans wing during BoB.

It's such a shame it all comes to light now. I really wish I could have asked him all this stuff first-hand when he was around and tape recorded it - first had accounts are always better even with the 'fuzziness' of time.

I always thought my grandad was bloody great but I'm really start to see him in a whole new light and having somewhere to share all this stuff with people interested in aviation/history is fantastic.


07-14-2007, 04:56 AM
Great to find something like this out!!

If you scan it perhaps you can scan it in pieces so the text will turn up bigger and we can all read it http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/59.gif

07-16-2007, 06:50 AM
Hi all,

Just uploading the images to photobucket of the new newspaper article I got about my grandad. At work at the momnet and I get the feeling time's gonna run out before its uploaded.

i will make sure I get it for you boys/girls tonight. I'll also type up the account for you buggers that need it just so... http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_biggrin.gif



07-16-2007, 07:30 AM
Looking forward to the next installment http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/25.gif

07-16-2007, 10:40 AM
Great post... Thank's for sharing! http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_biggrin.gif

07-16-2007, 02:06 PM
Ok photobucket is being an @rse so I'll type the account in. As and when photobucket decides to catch up with us here in the 21st century I'll post links to the article and pics of my grandad as a young man in RAF attire and a picture of his good lady wife.

Article reads as follows:

Unlucky 13 - but Ernest pulled through.

Spitfire expert Ernest Toms is not superstitious - and thats jsut as well. For the unlucky number 13 has popped up in his RAF career a few times - and once it almost cost him his life.

Ernest, who lives in Jewell Road, Bournemouth, and who has recently undergone an operation for the removal of a leg, recalled the day when as as member of a 13 man crew of a flying boat moored in Lerwick, Scotland, they were attacked by six German aircraft bombing and straffing.

The date was November 11, 1939, just three months after the outbreak of war.

"The raid was unexpected and we were like sitting ducks. The plane exploded and was destroyed. I was badly burned and had bullet wounds.

"It was terrible. There was no medical facilities on the spot and we had to wait to be picked up by a naval merchantman and taken to a new hospital which had just opened. We were it's first patients," he said.

The injuries put paid to Ernest's aircrew career and he was posted as an engineer to No. 11 Figher Group, 74 Sqaudron at Hornchurch, Essex. A far cry from the airborn aspirations of teh young lad from St Mark's School, Talbot Village, who gained his school certificate and won a place in higher education to the RAF Educational course in Portsmouth.

He enlisted in the RAF on January 13, 1936.

He took off in promising style with a 92 percent pass from his RAF Henlow course and soon sported his "props" as an air engineer with flying boats. His first taste of an operationa lrole was an escort duty for British shipping during the Spanish Civil War.

Now "grounded," Ernest settled into a new role ensuring the planes were fit to fly. And he soon found himself in the front-line of Britains fiercest air war.

He was moved to Biggin Hill where the commanding officer was South African then Squadron Leader A G "Sailor" Malan, soon to distinguish himself in air combat. He later became a Group Captain and one of the Spitfire aces with 32 "kills".

"I was responsible for the maintenance of all the Spitfires on his wing," he said.

And it was during Ernest's time at Biggin Hill he witnessed one of the worst tragedies in the battle - the bombing of the airstrip in which 30 WAAF's were killed when there was a direct hit on an air raid shelter.

It was a day of heroes.

The most courageous act was that of WAAF Sgt Joan Mortimer who, without any regard for her own safety, dashed around placing red flags in the many bomb craters to warn landing aircraft of the danger. For thsi gallantry she was awarded the Military Medal.

"We were shocked at the deaths and the damage but we just had to put it all behind us and keep going. The need to keep the planes in the sky was vital. We worked night and day to keep them flying.

I have seen the aircraft land with their control vables shot-up and hanging by a thread. How some of them got back is a miracle," said Ernest.

He said Hurricanes could take more punishment than Spitfires and did and the casualty toll was much higher.

"It was my decision whether a shot up aircraft could be repaired and ofteh we worked with genius to keep them going. Some piltos came back and could not speak because of their wounds and loss of blood. I saw some grim sights and seeing their remarkable courage made me feel proud to be a part of it," he said.

"At the time we didn't think of them as heroes. We were all doing a job. But later it came home to us how brave they really were," he said.

It was a desperate time - but not all gloom. On the day the RAF claimed 100 enemy destroyed moreale was "fantastic."

While at Biggin Hill, Ernest first came to know Wing Commander Tich Havercraft, later to become a test pilot, and they also serverd together at the Aircraft and Armourment Experimental Establishment where all new aircraft were tested.

Many years later they re-established contact with each other and they are still in touch.

Ernest, a member of the RAF Association in Bournemouth, continued his passionate interest in aircraft long after he left the service and even today he collects information about different aircraft put together into volumes.

Ernest can tell you most things about the battle of Britain aircraft. For instance, he recounts that in 1938 a Spitfire cost between 5,000 and 8,000 without its engine and istruments.

At that time 74 Squadrons were equipped with Mark III Spitfires with Rolls Royce Merlin Engines using 100 Octane fuel with a take-off power of 1250hp at plus 12lb boost.

It may be just history now to many people - but to Ernest such aircraft were magic and he is dedicated to preserving their memory and how they achieved their astounding feats.


And so ends the article. I mentioned before my mum has some photos of my Grandad as a young man as well as one of my nan.

While removing the back of the picture frame another picture of grandad dropped out - on the back was written "To mother". This is the full length shot of grandad.

When I went to put the headshot of grandad on the scanner at work I noticed this also had some writing on the back. It was a few verses beautifully written to my nan concluding with the words 'Semper Fidelis'.

It was still early at work and no bugger was about and this really struck a chord with me - so much so that I got a bit throaty (ahem... lot of dust at work...) at how touching a message could be written in such hard times.

Words cannot express how proud I am of my Grandad. I always knew he was a top-drawer bloke but my admiration for him has grown a million times.

Wherever you are gramps...



07-17-2007, 01:53 AM

The article

07-17-2007, 01:56 AM
Good it worked!



A young Ernest Toms.


Another shot of him. This is the one with the message to my nan on it.


My nan - Elsie.

07-17-2007, 02:15 AM
Excellent Skimbo, nice to see the images too http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_smile.gif.

07-17-2007, 07:41 AM

Do you happen to know the flying boat squadron?

07-17-2007, 11:25 AM
Hi Heliopause

No I don't but I will endeadvour to do so.

I would imagine it would be in his log book - once this comes to light I will post it here matey.



07-17-2007, 12:54 PM
Great stuff, Skimbo. Thanks!