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Monday, December 1, 2014
Flt. Lt. John Morrow 'Jack' Godfrey - No. 412 Squadron
Flight Lieutenant Jack Godfrey wrote the following letter to his wife:
"Here am after the most hectic and exciting day of my life. We were in the thick of things at Dieppe yesterday, and no doubt you are anxious to know how we made out.
The story really starts with our being suddenly pulled back from air firing to our home station last Friday on an hour's notice. We knew then that something was brewing. However, nothing happened, but other squadrons started to pour into the station from air dromes further away from France. Then, on Monday, were were all briefed for a sweep to escort Fortresses to R --- .
As we came out of the briefing room, who should be standing outside but Lord Louis Mountbatten with, a lot of big shot army, navy and air force officers, obviously waiting for us to get out so that they could have a conference. We all immediately thought that a second front was going to be established.
On Tuesday we were on readiness at 5. We patrolled up and down and out to sea to stop any Jerries coming over that might see the preparations afoot. Several were intercepted and we chased them back to sea before they reached the coast. I landed at 20 to 7 and took off again at 10 to 7 after refuelling, and didn't land again until 8:30. I went off to the mess to have dinner and by the time I got back to the house where we live it was 10 o'clock and we were to be up at 3 a.m.
I was in bed by 11 and was awakened rudely at 3. I jumped into my clothes and went downstairs for breakfast. We had an egg, which was a great treat, and by 4 a.m. we were all in the flight waiting for instructions. We were told that it was to be a Canadian Army landing at Dieppe and that we were to stand by for further instructions.
At 4:45 the phone rang from 'ops' and instructions were given that we were to take off with the rest of the Wing at 6 and go over to Dieppe and stay over the town for half-an-hour to protect our boats from dive-bombing, etc. The names went up on the board and I was not down, so I sat back and relaxed.
The squadron took off at 6 and about an hour later, the boys started to straggle back. Over Dieppe, it had been impossible to keep the squadron together and everybody split up into twos. The sky was evidently filled with a swirling mass of Spitfires and F. W. 190's milling around. It was evidently the worst shambles since the Battle of Britain: Everybody had a squirt at about three Jerrys, but it was impossible to see the results, because, as soon as a pilot squirted, he could be sure a Jerry was on his tail and had immediately to take evasive action . We were much encouraged when all our boys returned safely. The names went up for the second show and I was down to fly as No . 2 to a lad who had had about thirty sweeps under his belt and was a very cool and cagey pilot.
We waited around about two hours and finally the call came through. We were to escort Hurricane bombers on a low-level attack on gun positions to the left of the town which hadn't been knocked out and which were holding up the landing at that point. Of all the jobs that could have been assigned to us, this undoubtedly was the worst. I didn't feel at all happy, but it wasn't until it was all over and we were talking over a beer last night, that I realized that I wasn't the only one who wasn't feeling exactly elated at the prospect.
We took off at 10 o'clock and met the Hurri-Bombers over the Coast of England opposite Dieppe. There was one other squadron of Spits with us, and away we went. It was to be a low, level attack and we flew over the water about five feet above the waves and cruising quite slowly at about 200 m.p.h. About five miles off the French coast, we gradually opened up so that we hit the coast going flat out to the right of the town. Here. there is quite a high hill, which slopes down to the water. Up over the hill we went, right down to the deck. We were to the right of the Hurri-Bombers, but the other squadron didn't come in, but waited a mile or so off shore for us to come out. We went inland about three miles. weaving among the trees, and I don't think I was ever more than five feet from the deck. The lower you are, the safer, because they can't see you coming and you are over their heads and behind the trees before they get a shot at you.
After about three miles, we swung to the left. I was following J -- slightly to the right and about seventy-five yards behind. All this time we were passing over Jerrys who were trying to take pot shots at us. After we had made our turn to the left we were in a bit of a gully with trees on either side and no trees ahead. The ground started to rise and there, at the top of the rise, was a big flak position. We were going so fast that we were on it before we realized it. All hell was breaking loose. There were at least six heavy ack ack guns, and I don't know how many machine guns, etc., blazing away at us from point-blank range. We had come right up a funnel completely exposed. The next thing I saw was the tail-of J -- 's kite just blow away, and the fuselage break in two right behind the cockpit. His kite seemed to go slowly over on its nose. I didn't see it hit the ground, as I was past, but one of the other lads saw it and it really spread itself over the ground. I don't suppose poor J -- even knew he was hit before it was all over.
I weaved wildly to the left and the next thing I knew I was in the middle of the Hurries. We swung again to the left and headed for the sea where all the Jerry batteries and ack ack were that had held up the landing. The ground was cleared for about a mile before we got over the ridge and all hell broke loose again. Over the ridge we went,absolutely flat out, praying that our engine would hold out. As we hit the sea we fully appreciated the reception we were getting. There was
literally a shower of splashes all round us from ack ack, which followed us about three miles out to
sea. Why I wasn't hit, I don't know. Maybe luck was in. I was following up in the rear of the Hurries but soon passed them and then swung around looking for Jerrys that might bounce us as soon as we got out of the flak. The squadron that stayed outside were looking after them,
however, so I remained on one side weaving like mad and expecting to be jumped by a 190 at any time.
Just then, over the R.T. came a rather agonized voice saying that his temperature was going up. This
meant that his kite had been hit on the "rad." and that his glycol was all draining out and that his engine would stop at any minute. Then another voice came over the radio saying the same thing. It turned out that they were two pilots from the other squadron of Spits. Whether they managed to get enough height to bail out. I haven't heard as yet.
About fifteen miles off the English coast I suddenly heard the C.O. yell: 'Red 4, you are pouring glycol out of your rad. Climb like hell.
Then a few seconds later: Bail out. Red 4.' Then : 'Nice going Red 4.'
The C.O. and a couple of other pilots managed to direct a launch to where the pilot was and
he was picked up just forty minutes later. His 'chute evidently just opened before hit hit the water and he had just managed to bail out before his engine quit. He was very lucky, as it must have been a small hole to allow him to get as far as he did, and he was also lucky that the C.O. happened to see the leak. The pilot was a flight sergeant in our flight and is none the worse for his experience. Of the six of us who went out from our flight, only four of us came home.
About 1:40 the phone rang again. This time we were to escort some Hurries after the same target and
we were the only squadron of Spits going. Evidently the first bunch of Hurries had not wiped out the
battery and there was to be another crack at it. We were considerably relieved when the group captain
said that we needn't go right in with the Hurries, but stay over the shore and cover the withdrawal. When we were about a mile off shore from Dieppe, we climbed to about 500 feet. There were F.W.190's all over the place around 2,000 feet, and we were the only Spits at our height. Some 190's started to dive down on the Hurries. We tore after them and they, seeing us coming, started to break away. Just then someone yelled, 'Red section, break.' There were some 190's on our tail. We went into a steep turn to the right and shook them off. I lost the others for a few seconds. The flak started to come up at us in great volume. Red balls were shooting past my nose, uncomfortably close. I spotted my No. 1 and joined him. Just then the C.O. yelled: 'Let's get out of here.'
We dove down unto the sea, going all out and weaving as hard as we could. The Hurries were about two miles out to sea on the way home. We managed to keep the Jerrys busy so that none of them had been attacked. We stayed with them on the way home, weaving around them with our heads turning about 120 to the minute, looking for Huns. However, none chased us back and we landed with the whole squadron intact.
The C.O. had a hole in his aileron about half a foot square from flak, and I had a bit of schrapnel through the fuselage below my seat.
The weather started to close in and we were released about 6. We were in the midst of baths, shaving,
etc., when we were told- to get back to the flights immediately. The Jerrys were taking advantage of
the bad weather to bomb us. We all took off again, but the weather was so bad we couldn't locate any.
One JU-88 flew over the aerodrome just as we took off, but we lost it in the clouds and rain. Finally about 9 o'clock we were through for the day and went up and had some dinner. I was in bed by 11 p.m. and up again at 4 a.m."