Some time ago I was given the chance to look through the flying logs of Jack Philpott (RCAF), books that record his daily activities through flying training to operational duties and eventual demobbing at the end of the war. I have been researching these events ever since and have a draft version of his early career. This is an ongoing project and I would like to hear from anyone with information or photos they are willing to share, of any of the stations or events mentioned in Jack’s history.
My sincerest thanks go to his wife Hazel, her son Ronnie and the family members that have contributed to the works, without them it would not have been possible.
Jack Philpott and Englishman who went to war for Canada.
On September 2nd 1941, almost two years to the day after Britain declared war on Germany, the flying career of Jack Philpott began. He learned to fly through the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP), a plan designed to bolster the Royal Air Force’s dwindling numbers by training aircrews in Canada ready for the war in Europe.
Jack Philpott went through a years training, qualifying as an Air Observer Navigator and Bomb Aimer before being posted to the Middle East and operations over the Mediterranean. He survived the war, returning to the UK where he married his sweetheart on October 18th 1949.
After leaving school Jack entered the building trade where he worked with his father. He decided to sign up and joined the ranks of the Royal Air Force being seconded to Canada to train as an aircrew member under the terms of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. Whilst in Canada, Jack would undertake a range of flying duties, air navigation, bomb aiming and cross-country flying, qualifying in September 1942. Jack would not be chosen for Pilot training though, the reason being due to something being wrong with his eyesight under night flying conditions; particularly with landing judgement. So Jack would go on to train as aircrew, being a successful airman in the many courses he undertook.
As a trainee in Canada he was a non-combatant, and initially flew with civilian pilots before meeting his first military instructor.
On arrival in Canada on September 2nd 1941, Jack was stationed at No.1 Elementary Flying Training School (EFTS) Malton, Ontario in Canada. Here he joined course no. 37 and would begin flying training on both the bi-plane, the De Havilland Tiger Moth, and the ground based Link trainer. His first flight, which lasted 35 minutes, was a familiarisation flight with ‘Mr. May’ as pilot and took place in aircraft #4377. Two further flights would take his total flying hours in a D.H. Moth to 2:15, flying in aircraft #5116 and #4377.
After a two-day break, he would then fly four other D.H. Moths, #4216, #4390, #4399 and #4396, this time his pilots were Mr. Dagley, Mr. Hinch and Mr. Clark. These four sessions amounting to 3:15, took his total flying hours so far to 5:30.
Jack’s wife Hazel, who carried out war work as a civilian working with the RAF, noted that where she was they had the de Havilland Tiger Moth, and whilst they were very manoeuvrable, she recalls how they could easily go into a spin if not handled properly.
Again a short break led to further flying, carrying out different aerial manoeuvres with Mr. Hinch, Mr. Mongraw, Mr. Anten and his first military pilot Flying Officer Turner. The latter two flights being ‘progress checks’ after which Mr. Hinch signs Jack off with a total of 9:00 hours flying time. Interspersed with these sessions in the air, would be challenges in a Link trainer (#617) over seven days between 4th and 19th. Jack achieved grades here of B to A+, all completed over four hours in total during this time.
Jack’s initial training at Malton would end there, on September 19th 1941, seventeen days after his arrival.
10 Air Observer School
There then followed a two month break after which Jack transferred to No. 10 Air Observer School (AOS) Chatham, New Brunswick. Here, he would undertake a series of flying activities, some of which were with Mr. George Neal, who went on to be a Guinness Book of World Record Holder qualifying as the oldest active, licensed pilot.
The RCAF Station Chatham, opened in 1940 under the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. Here two schools were opened one of which was No. 10 Air Observer School on 21st July 1941. Jack would attend the School between 10th November 1941 and 16th February 1942.
His first flight would be on the 23rd in Anson ‘4’, with another civilian pilot Mr. Neal. A number of cross-country flights would see Jack as Navigator (1st and 2nd) until the 19th December when he undertook his first bombing flight. Using flash bombs, Jack would fly Anson ‘S’. A single photography flight using hand-held obliques, preceded further practice bombing flights in which both flash bombs and 11.5 lb bombs were dropped. It is thought these occurred on the Miramichi river range.
Over the Miramichi River Range, New Brunswick.
January 1942 brought further cross-country flights again with Jack flying as 1st or 2nd Navigator, his initial night flying experience being on the 7th January 1942 with Mr. Roy as pilot in Anson ‘U’. Further cross-country flight and bombing practices followed with his first taste of unforeseen action being on the 22nd January 1942, when one of the engines of Anson ‘Y’ failed just after take off.
January ended with a total of 31:40 hours flying time, to which two days in February gave a total of 64:50 hours flying time at Chatham. By the end of the Air Observer’s Navigation Course Jack had achieved 85.5 % marks achieving an ‘exceptional’ status. Subjects included: Plotting, compasses and instruments, meteorology, bombing, reconnaissance, photography, signals, maps and charts and finally air work.
No 6 Bombing and Gunnery School, Mountain view
After moving to Mountain View in Ontario, Jack joined No. 6 Bombing and Gunnery School (B & G) Mountain View, Ontario, his course running between 16th February 1942 and 28th March 1942.
His first flight was recorded on 28th February in Fairy Battle #1986, flying with F/O Compton, his first experience with RCAF military personnel. This would be the first of two air-to-air camera gun exercises, which were followed on 2nd March by his first live air-to-ground gunnery action. A free gun beam test, he fired 200 rounds achieving 4 hits in a flight of 45 minutes.
Throughout the remainder of March he would undertake a mix of air-to-air; air-to-ground; low-level and high-level bombing duties, tasks which included night flights and flying with a number of different instructors.
By the end of his course his total day bombing time would amount to 15:05 hours with a further 5:20 hours at night. With a gunnery total of 10:40, Jack’s total flying time at No. 6 B & G was 31:05 hours. His marks for the gunnery course amounted to 83.5% and the bombing course slightly lower at 77.4% both achieving a pass. With this he was now Qualified as Air Observer Bomb Aimer.
2 Advanced Navigation School, Pennfield Ridge
After completing this course he moved on to navigation, joining No. 2 Advanced Navigation School, Pennfield Ridge, New Brunswick, on 30th March 1942. Jack would be on the Air Observers Advanced Navigation course and would fly a large number of air training flights all in Avro Ansons between 5th April and 24th April 1942. During this course, and before taking to the air, Jack would learn to use the Mk.IX Sextant, carrying out a substantial number of measurements during March and early April. It would be this sextant that he would then operate in his many initial flights, all in Anson #6888. Ground sessions would be interspersed with air sessions, later flying in Ansons #6717, #6399 and #6275. Using the stars, moon and sun, Jack would calculate their location all using the Mk.IX. This was a sextant put into service in 1938, and was designed by P. F. Everitt of Henry Hughes and Son.
During April he would amass 17:35 hours flying time during the day and 16:25 at night. This took his total flying time to 117 hours. At the end of the course, his log book states ‘Passed’, and this would set him off on his way to England.
Jack’s arrival in England would be on 22nd May, after which there would be a period of non-flying. He was then posted to No.1 Coastal Operational Training Unit (COTU) based at Silloth, in Cumberland. Silloth was not described by some as homely place, having few permanent buildings and mainly tents for sleeping. The Mess was a small, local hotel used to serve the local golf course in peacetime
Here, starting on 16th September 1942, the now Sergeant Jack Philpott would fly a number of local sorties and familiarisation flights as ‘Observer’. All these flights would be carried out in a new aircraft, the Lockheed Hudson. The Hudson was a twin-engined, all metal skinned aircraft with a twin tail and a rather ‘tubby appearance’.
During these flights Jack would get used to the workings of the Hudson, the undercarriage, flaps and other systems, he would also undertake map reading exercises and fly along the coastline to familiarise himself with the landmarks. Other flights included trips across to Carlisle, Stranraer and onto Newcastle. During this flight on 28th October, the aircraft suffered from severe ‘up currents’ from the Scottish hills, this made flying the aircraft difficult for a ‘novice’.
November would see Jack and his pilot Sgt Hewitt, begin a series of Air Sea Rescue sorties as well as bombing and gunnery practice. The first search flight was for a lost Anson, an air sea rescue operation that produced no result. By the end of November (23rd), Jack would have achieved a further 33:05 hours of daylight flying and 3:45 night. His grading following this posting was as an ‘above average’ navigator and he was recommended for specialist raining by the Chief Flying Instructor at Silloth. This would end his period in Cumberland.
The new year would bring a new posting and the Ferry Unit at RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire. This would be a short stay, carrying out a small number of local flights, ferry flights and air tests, transferring to the Ferry Unit at Portreath in Cornwall, in Hudson AM631 on 9th February 1943 along with his pilot, Sgt Hewitt.
Posting to his first Operational Squadron.
On 10th February 1943 Jack would get his first operational posting to the Mediterranean and No. 500 Squadron RAF. He would fly out to Gibraltar that day, flying via Lisbon and having to navigate through very low cloud often ‘down to the deck’.
Whilst here, Jack would carry out further training again with the Mk.IX and Mk. IXA sextant. This would build on the work he did in the UK, with his last training flight occurring later on, on 20th July 1943.
On the next day 11th February 1943, the Hudson flew to Blida from Gibraltar, where the weather was good and the crew would carry out local circuits and familiarisation flights. Jack’s pilot for some of these flight would be F/L Barwod DFC in Hudson FX627, who would be replaced by F/O Fitzgerald in Hudson FK708 for dive bombing practice.
On the 19th February, F/O Poole DFC would be Jack’s pilot for his first operational sortie, taking off at 13:43 they would perform a convoy escort which was scrubbed after 2 hours into the flight because of deteriorating weather! A rather frustrating first experience no doubt.
The remainder of February saw four anti-submarine sweeps for Jack with his own pilot Sgt. Hewitt, flights that would take them around Algiers Bay, Bone, Oran and the Balearic islands off eastern Spain.
By the end of February 1943, Jack had flown 41:00 operational hours, over 7 sorties, giving a total of 10 sorties so far. His total operational flying hours now amounted to 51:00.
March 1943 was much of the same, but sightings were of a different nature. On the 2nd, flying in Hudson ‘Q’, Sgts. Hewitt, Philpott, Hickmott and Elliott, took off at 06:00 for a sweep of “Special X No. 1”. Whist flying, a Ju 88 was seen which initially appeared to turn to attack, but then flew into the sun and avoided combat with the Hudson. They returned to base landing at 12:30.
On the 15th, whilst performing a 7 hour flight, 2 convoys were sighted along with a whale as the sun sank over the horizon. Further convoy escorts which included several false contacts, sub hunts and a ship from convoy ‘Riband‘ which struck a submerged mine. Other convoys for the month included: ‘Sateen‘, ‘Don‘ and ‘Trafford‘.
On the 29th, the Hudson (AM781) in which Jack was flying with Sgt Hewitt, was involved in a U-boat strike. The U-boat, which was unidentified, was later reported destroyed off Ibiza. Another aircraft was seen, but it too was unidentified. The month ended with the escort of convoy ‘Lotus‘. A further 14 sorties this month took Jack’s operational flying total to 118:30 hours.
The next part currently being researched is Jack’s operational history. It involves numerous convoy escorts, sub hunts and a crash. I am also looking into his post war life and details of his early life, but described as a secretive man, he kept a lot to himself.