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Woof603
04-05-2007, 07:34 PM
Secret Mission To Fly Twelve Bristol Blenheims To Finland by brssouthglosproject
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Archive List > Royal Air Force

Contributed by brssouthglosproject
People in story: Sergeant Albert Williams, Pilot Officer Lewis Mervyn Blanckensee, Pilot Sergeant Jack Guest DFM, Air Gunner
Location of story: England, Dyce, Aberdeen Scotland, Stavanger, Norway, Vasteras, Sweden, Lake Juva, Finland
Background to story: Royal Air Force
Article ID: A3873341
Contributed on: 08 April 2005
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v30/woof603/11129722891755772796_1.jpg
Sergeant Albert Williams (Observer) RAF no 580582. Albert was one of a crew of three on a Mk 1V Bristol Blenheim bomber which was shot down by german fighter aircraft while attacking a concentration of german tanks at Foret du Gault, North-East of Paris. All of the three crew died, and are buried at St Hilliers village cemetary, South east of Paris, He died on 13th June 1940, at the age of twenty years old.

This story is told by Jack the younger brother of Albert Williams. Albert at the age of eighteen volunteered for the Royal Air Force. He reported for duty to the Scottish Aerodrome at Prestwick on 7th November 1938. His service number was 580582, and having qualified as a Navigator/Observer he was then posted to 21 Squadron, Watton, which was equipped with Bristol Blenheim bomber aircraft. War was declared against Nazi Germany in September 1939, and the Royal Air Force commenced operations against them.

The Blenheim a direct descendant of the ˜Britain First', sponsored by Lord Rothermere, finally moved the RAF from biplanes into the modern era of stressed skin monoplanes with retractable landing gear and flaps. When first shown to the public in 1935, the Britain First proved to be at least 50 mph faster than the current front line fighters.

When the Blenheim went into service in 1937, it was ahead of its time, but progress was so rapid that by 1940, compared to German aircraft, it was under powered, under-armed and an easy target for German fighters. This made each sortie flown hazardous for the crews.

A quote by a wartime pilot, G Page DSO, DFC in his book ˜Tale of a Guinea Pig' says "For the pilots sent to war in ˜Fairey Battles' and ˜Blenheims' the best thing to say for them was a quiet ˜Amen'. Their spilt blood and battered bodies bore fitting testimony to the crime of disarmament in the time of peace".

Nevertheless, at the beginning of the war, motivation and spirits were high; these ordinary young men believed in their abilities, but more importantly, in themselves.
Crews were well aware of the gravity of the situation, but nevertheless when 21 Squadron were asked for volunteers for a dangerous mission during 1940, there was no lack of brave men stepping forward, although not knowing what was involved. Their mission was to deliver twelve Blenheim Bombers to Finland for the Finns to use in their struggle against the Russian invaders. The mission was to he kept "top secret" owing to our delicate political situation with Russia at that time. This then is the background against which 36 young men set off for an adventure.

Each man was given leave and told to speak to no one of their task. Civilian clothing was to be worn throughout the operation. "You are all released from the service". This took the six young men in the 21 Squadron Office at RAF Watton by surprise. There had been no shortage of men stepping forward. However, it would be much later before they learned of the full details.

On return to their base they were issued with false passports and they were told "You will be provided with civilian clothing which you will take on leave with you today. In two days time you will travel to RAF Bicester with the provided rail warrants. You will carry nothing; I repeat nothing that will connect you to the RAF. Leave your identity disks here; from now on you are civilians. Are there any questions"? ..."Good"

"I'm sorry the details are sketchy, but this is, I stress, top secret and you must not discuss it with anyone, Good Luck."

Sergeant Albert Williams from Easton, Bristol was one of the men who volunteered at RAF Watton along with Aircraftsman 1st Class, Ray Trew another volunteer. Both men were puzzled but nevertheless intrigued. Albert was classified as an engineer on his passport. They sat quietly as the train wound itself across the Oxfordshire countryside toward Bicester. As instructed they had left their uniforms behind. They had also left behind tearful parents who thought their offspring were deserting, why else would they suddenly change into civilian clothing and apparently run away?

Secrecy was maintained and the crews were not allowed ˜off base' that night. They spent their time familiarising themselves with the aircraft, which had been stripped of armament and all non-essential equipment. This way they could fly faster and climb higher. Also to make matters worse the RAF roundels had been removed, and replaced by the blue swastika, the insignia of the Finnish Air Force. This had been hurriedly white washed over, but the emblem still showed through and was a concern for them. As one crewmember said, "We will be fair game for any fighter, ours or theirs".

At 6 am on the 23rd February 1940 all twelve took off for the first hop, from Bodney to Dyce Airport at Aberdeen in Scotland. The rain had removed the white wash off of the signs making them more visible. This made the mission even more dangerous, as the R.A.F. would quite likely suffer an attack in an aircraft displaying a swastika, and then the Germans would also interpret the Blenheim as a hostile aircraft. However, this part of the mission was completed successfully, and without mishap. Following an overnight stop and turn round by engineers they departed from Dyce in Aberdeen on the 23rd February 1940, and flew across the North Sea and arrived at Stavanger, Norway 24th February. Here they all had their passports stamped. Then on to Vasteras, Sweden 25th February. The following day February 26th saw the last leg of the journey, they landed onto the frozen airstrip on Lake Juva in Finland; all twelve aircraft landed safely.

They had been successful, they had managed to elude any sightings from the enemy aircraft or ground units that could have had the flight in deep trouble. Much of Europe was already coming under the Jackboot but, at this stage the Scandinavian countries were free. Although Finland would negotiate a ˜peace' with the advancing Russian Armies in some three weeks, to the people of Finland still desperately and stubbornly fighting, this gesture of help and co-operation must have been heartening.

Indeed the reception these young aviators received from the local population was so warm that it more than made up for the artic conditions they found on arrival on this frozen wasteland. Later, they went by bus to Helsinki, and were treated to a lavish luncheon party where each man was presented with a ceremonial dagger. (Jack Williams still has Albert's false passport and dagger.)

From Helsinki the men were taken to the nearby Turko Abo airfield and on February 28th a Junkers 52 flew them to Stockholm in Sweden. Here, in this neutral capital they were a political embarrassment to the British Embassy. There were no restrictions; embassy staff only gave them the barest subsistence allowance. These eager young men fretted away the next two weeks until on March the 13th 1940, they were flown back to Perth in Scotland via Oslo, again in a Junkers 52 German built transport aircraft, but with british markings!

One must remember that many of these were young men, not long out of school, and who probably had not been abroad before, to them it had been a great adventure despite some of the off hand treatment they felt they had received from British Embassy staff. But, now the mission was over and all too soon they would be back in the fray as RAF fighting airmen.

Some of the crew, like Aircraftman 1st Class Trew went on to complete many more operational flights, one 21 Squadron member, Leo Lightfoot earned the DFM for his part in downing an ME 109. Others like Sergeant Albert Williams were not so lucky. Not long after this secret mission, he was on another sortie, his aircraft was shot down following a successful bombing mission against a large tank formation at Fort du Gault, some miles to the east of Paris. On the 13th June 1940 all three crewmembers, Pilot Officer Lewis Mervyn Blanckensee, Pilot Sergeant Jack Guest DFM, Air Gunner and Sergeant Albert Williams, Observer, were killed. They are buried and remembered with honour at the St. Hilliers Communal Cemetry, Seine et Marne, France. They were all young men in their early twenties.

Many years later during 1999, a member of the Bristol Blenheim Society told Jack Williams that surviving members of the mission had recently been presented with The Finnish Winter War medal at the Finnish Embassy in London, so he wrote to the Finnish Embassy enclosing photo-copies of Albert's passport and other items which proved that he was a member of this Mission hoping to obtain the medal to which he was entitled. Unfortunately they were not able to help him, now more than fifty years on and the records had probably been lost, if indeed there ever were any owing to the secrecy of the mission. So eventually Jack had to admit defeat.

© Copyright of content contributed to this Archive rests with the author.

Woof603
04-05-2007, 07:34 PM
Secret Mission To Fly Twelve Bristol Blenheims To Finland by brssouthglosproject
You are browsing in:
Archive List > Royal Air Force

Contributed by brssouthglosproject
People in story: Sergeant Albert Williams, Pilot Officer Lewis Mervyn Blanckensee, Pilot Sergeant Jack Guest DFM, Air Gunner
Location of story: England, Dyce, Aberdeen Scotland, Stavanger, Norway, Vasteras, Sweden, Lake Juva, Finland
Background to story: Royal Air Force
Article ID: A3873341
Contributed on: 08 April 2005
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v30/woof603/11129722891755772796_1.jpg
Sergeant Albert Williams (Observer) RAF no 580582. Albert was one of a crew of three on a Mk 1V Bristol Blenheim bomber which was shot down by german fighter aircraft while attacking a concentration of german tanks at Foret du Gault, North-East of Paris. All of the three crew died, and are buried at St Hilliers village cemetary, South east of Paris, He died on 13th June 1940, at the age of twenty years old.

This story is told by Jack the younger brother of Albert Williams. Albert at the age of eighteen volunteered for the Royal Air Force. He reported for duty to the Scottish Aerodrome at Prestwick on 7th November 1938. His service number was 580582, and having qualified as a Navigator/Observer he was then posted to 21 Squadron, Watton, which was equipped with Bristol Blenheim bomber aircraft. War was declared against Nazi Germany in September 1939, and the Royal Air Force commenced operations against them.

The Blenheim a direct descendant of the ˜Britain First', sponsored by Lord Rothermere, finally moved the RAF from biplanes into the modern era of stressed skin monoplanes with retractable landing gear and flaps. When first shown to the public in 1935, the Britain First proved to be at least 50 mph faster than the current front line fighters.

When the Blenheim went into service in 1937, it was ahead of its time, but progress was so rapid that by 1940, compared to German aircraft, it was under powered, under-armed and an easy target for German fighters. This made each sortie flown hazardous for the crews.

A quote by a wartime pilot, G Page DSO, DFC in his book ˜Tale of a Guinea Pig' says "For the pilots sent to war in ˜Fairey Battles' and ˜Blenheims' the best thing to say for them was a quiet ˜Amen'. Their spilt blood and battered bodies bore fitting testimony to the crime of disarmament in the time of peace".

Nevertheless, at the beginning of the war, motivation and spirits were high; these ordinary young men believed in their abilities, but more importantly, in themselves.
Crews were well aware of the gravity of the situation, but nevertheless when 21 Squadron were asked for volunteers for a dangerous mission during 1940, there was no lack of brave men stepping forward, although not knowing what was involved. Their mission was to deliver twelve Blenheim Bombers to Finland for the Finns to use in their struggle against the Russian invaders. The mission was to he kept "top secret" owing to our delicate political situation with Russia at that time. This then is the background against which 36 young men set off for an adventure.

Each man was given leave and told to speak to no one of their task. Civilian clothing was to be worn throughout the operation. "You are all released from the service". This took the six young men in the 21 Squadron Office at RAF Watton by surprise. There had been no shortage of men stepping forward. However, it would be much later before they learned of the full details.

On return to their base they were issued with false passports and they were told "You will be provided with civilian clothing which you will take on leave with you today. In two days time you will travel to RAF Bicester with the provided rail warrants. You will carry nothing; I repeat nothing that will connect you to the RAF. Leave your identity disks here; from now on you are civilians. Are there any questions"? ..."Good"

"I'm sorry the details are sketchy, but this is, I stress, top secret and you must not discuss it with anyone, Good Luck."

Sergeant Albert Williams from Easton, Bristol was one of the men who volunteered at RAF Watton along with Aircraftsman 1st Class, Ray Trew another volunteer. Both men were puzzled but nevertheless intrigued. Albert was classified as an engineer on his passport. They sat quietly as the train wound itself across the Oxfordshire countryside toward Bicester. As instructed they had left their uniforms behind. They had also left behind tearful parents who thought their offspring were deserting, why else would they suddenly change into civilian clothing and apparently run away?

Secrecy was maintained and the crews were not allowed ˜off base' that night. They spent their time familiarising themselves with the aircraft, which had been stripped of armament and all non-essential equipment. This way they could fly faster and climb higher. Also to make matters worse the RAF roundels had been removed, and replaced by the blue swastika, the insignia of the Finnish Air Force. This had been hurriedly white washed over, but the emblem still showed through and was a concern for them. As one crewmember said, "We will be fair game for any fighter, ours or theirs".

At 6 am on the 23rd February 1940 all twelve took off for the first hop, from Bodney to Dyce Airport at Aberdeen in Scotland. The rain had removed the white wash off of the signs making them more visible. This made the mission even more dangerous, as the R.A.F. would quite likely suffer an attack in an aircraft displaying a swastika, and then the Germans would also interpret the Blenheim as a hostile aircraft. However, this part of the mission was completed successfully, and without mishap. Following an overnight stop and turn round by engineers they departed from Dyce in Aberdeen on the 23rd February 1940, and flew across the North Sea and arrived at Stavanger, Norway 24th February. Here they all had their passports stamped. Then on to Vasteras, Sweden 25th February. The following day February 26th saw the last leg of the journey, they landed onto the frozen airstrip on Lake Juva in Finland; all twelve aircraft landed safely.

They had been successful, they had managed to elude any sightings from the enemy aircraft or ground units that could have had the flight in deep trouble. Much of Europe was already coming under the Jackboot but, at this stage the Scandinavian countries were free. Although Finland would negotiate a ˜peace' with the advancing Russian Armies in some three weeks, to the people of Finland still desperately and stubbornly fighting, this gesture of help and co-operation must have been heartening.

Indeed the reception these young aviators received from the local population was so warm that it more than made up for the artic conditions they found on arrival on this frozen wasteland. Later, they went by bus to Helsinki, and were treated to a lavish luncheon party where each man was presented with a ceremonial dagger. (Jack Williams still has Albert's false passport and dagger.)

From Helsinki the men were taken to the nearby Turko Abo airfield and on February 28th a Junkers 52 flew them to Stockholm in Sweden. Here, in this neutral capital they were a political embarrassment to the British Embassy. There were no restrictions; embassy staff only gave them the barest subsistence allowance. These eager young men fretted away the next two weeks until on March the 13th 1940, they were flown back to Perth in Scotland via Oslo, again in a Junkers 52 German built transport aircraft, but with british markings!

One must remember that many of these were young men, not long out of school, and who probably had not been abroad before, to them it had been a great adventure despite some of the off hand treatment they felt they had received from British Embassy staff. But, now the mission was over and all too soon they would be back in the fray as RAF fighting airmen.

Some of the crew, like Aircraftman 1st Class Trew went on to complete many more operational flights, one 21 Squadron member, Leo Lightfoot earned the DFM for his part in downing an ME 109. Others like Sergeant Albert Williams were not so lucky. Not long after this secret mission, he was on another sortie, his aircraft was shot down following a successful bombing mission against a large tank formation at Fort du Gault, some miles to the east of Paris. On the 13th June 1940 all three crewmembers, Pilot Officer Lewis Mervyn Blanckensee, Pilot Sergeant Jack Guest DFM, Air Gunner and Sergeant Albert Williams, Observer, were killed. They are buried and remembered with honour at the St. Hilliers Communal Cemetry, Seine et Marne, France. They were all young men in their early twenties.

Many years later during 1999, a member of the Bristol Blenheim Society told Jack Williams that surviving members of the mission had recently been presented with The Finnish Winter War medal at the Finnish Embassy in London, so he wrote to the Finnish Embassy enclosing photo-copies of Albert's passport and other items which proved that he was a member of this Mission hoping to obtain the medal to which he was entitled. Unfortunately they were not able to help him, now more than fifty years on and the records had probably been lost, if indeed there ever were any owing to the secrecy of the mission. So eventually Jack had to admit defeat.

© Copyright of content contributed to this Archive rests with the author.

PBNA-Boosher
04-05-2007, 10:14 PM
Thank you for the story Woof!

woofiedog
04-05-2007, 11:20 PM
Excellent story... Thank's for posting.

Also... 1st Lieutenant Kauko Aho - Bristol Blenheim Pilot - Finland.

Link: http://www.geocities.com/CapeCanaveral/Runway/9601/finland.html

Worf101
04-06-2007, 06:55 AM
Bloody good read... Thanks...

Da Worfster