Albert Gerald 'Zulu' Lewis, DFC and Bar (1918 - 1982) MP

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Birthplace: Kimberley , South Africa
Death: Died in England
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About Albert Gerald 'Zulu' Lewis, DFC and Bar

Albert Gerald Lewis

DFC and bar

Nickname Zulu

Born 18 April 1918

Kimberley, South Africa

Died 14 December 1982 (aged 64)

Allegiance South Africa

Service/branch Royal Air Force

Years of service 1938-1946

Rank Squadron Leader

Unit

249 Squadron

85 Squadron

Battles/wars World War II

  • Battle of Britain

Awards Distinguished Flying Cross and bar

Other work Farming

Squadron Leader Albert Gerald Lewis DFC (bar) (Kimberley,[1] 10 April 1918 - 14 December 1982) was a South African fighter ace during the Battle of Britain, who was featured in a Life magazine article about the Battle of Britain.[2] Born in Kimberly, he attended Kimberley Boys' High School.[3]

He joined the Royal Air Force when he was 20. He flew with No 616 Squadron at the outbreak of hostilities as a ferry pilot and then moved to No 504 Squadron, flying Hurricanes. He then moved to No 85 Squadron in France in April 1940. On May 19 he shot down five enemy aircraft before he was himself shot down over Lille[3] At the end of April he married Betty Yvonne Coxon on the 29th at St. Paul's Church, Whiteshill, Stroud, where he would later farm.[4] In June 1940 he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.[5] On August 18, 1940 Lewis probably destroyed a Bf 110 and on the 31st a Bf 109[1][3]

249 Squadron

He then joined No 249 Squadron on 15 September 1940. One the same day he shot down a He 111 and on the 18th a Bf 109 (his twelfth confirmed enemy aircraft).[1] On the 27th of September he claimed 6 kills (three Bf 109s, two Bf 110s and a Ju 88),[3] two probables and one damaged. While on a patrol on 28 September he was shot down and he baled out of his Hurricane over Faversham and was taken to Faversham Cottage Hospital, blind for two weeks, and with shrapnel in his legs with severe burns on the face, throat, hands and legs He returned to the Squadron in December, 1940, having been promoted Flight Lieutenant[1] on 29 November. He was flying by 17 January 1941, and became "A" Flight Commander, and was awarded a bar to the DFC.[6]

Overseas Service

He volunteered for overseas service and was posted to No.261 Squadron in January 1942. Via Sierra Leone he went to Tricomalee in China bay, Ceylon to take command of No.261 Squadron[4] He returned to Britain he was made Chief Flying instructor at Tealing in Scotland and then went to 10 Group HQ at Box in Wiltshire in 1944-45. He left the Royal Air Force in 1946, having been an Acting Squadron leader since 22 April 1943.[1] His final tally was 18 kills[7]

After the War

After the war he went to the Royal Agricultural College in Cirencester. In 1947 he returned to South Africa and in 1951 joined the Tobacco Research Board in Southern Rhodesia. In 1953 he became a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints (Mormons) and during 1953-55 he studied in the United States, but returned to farm in England in 1957.[1]

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f Tidy, DP Squadron Leader (June 1970). "SOUTH AFRICAN AIR ACES OF WORLD WAR II". The South African Military History Society Military History Journal 1 (6).
  2. ^ http://life.time.com/history/battle-of-britain-photos-of-raf-pilots-in-the-fall-of-1940/#2
  3. ^ a b c d Wynn, Kenneth G (1989). Men of the Battle of Britain. Giddon Books. ISBN 9781902074108.
  4. ^ a b http://www.thefedoralounge.com/showthread.php?42832-The-story-of-a-pilot
  5. ^ "London Gazette". London Gazette. 34881: 3862. June 25 1940.
  6. ^ "London Gazette". London Gazette. 34976: 6134. October 22 1940.
  7. ^ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_World_War_II_aces_from_South_Africa

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_Gerald_Lewis

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Albert Gerald "Lew" Lewis

RAF Squadron Leader - DFC & Bar

Pilot Officer Albert Gerald LEWIS (41303) - DFC -

Pilot Officer Lewis has, by a combination of great personal courage, determination and skill in flying, shot down five enemy aircraft, single-handed, in one day. He has destroyed in all a total of seven enemy aircraft, and by his example has been an inspiration to his squadron.

THE LONDON GAZETTE, 25 JUNE, 1940

__________________________________________________________

Born in Kimberley S.A on the 10th of April 1918 Joined the RAF in August 1938 - Short Service Com. Commisioned on 29 October 1938 aP/O (#41303) Confirmed as P/O on 29 November 1939 Flew in the Battle of France Flew in the Battle of Britain _________________________________________________________

Pilot Officer Albert Gerald LEWIS, D.F.C. (41303) Awarded a Bar to the DFC

One day in September, 1940, this officer destroyed six enemy aircraft; this makes a total of eighteen destroyed by him. His courage and keenness are outstanding.

THE LONDON GAZETTE, 22 OCTOBER, 1940 http://www.acesofww2.com/Safrica/aces/lewis/

____________

Name: Lewis, Albert Gerald Date of birth: April 10th, 1918 (Kimberley/Cape Of Good Hope, South Africa) Date of death: December 14th, 1982 Nationality: South African BIOGRAPHY: Service number 41303.

Albert Lewis was born 10th of April 1918 in Kimberly, South Africa. He got interested in flying as a teenager and went through a private Flying School on his own account at the age of 18. With his pilot license he went to Britain to join the Royal Air Force at the age of 20 – on a four year Short service Commission. After flying in different training units – and with different planes, he was posted to No. 616 South Yorkshire Squadron Auxiliary Air Force, which had been formed on 1st of November 1938 as a Bombing Squadron. When he arrived, the Squadron flew Gauntlets, Tutors and Battles. After some time he was transferred to an even duller job as a ferry pilot in No 12 Group Ferry Pool. Although the main business was ferrying aircrafts, they also found time to practise fighter tactics. 16th of December 1939 Lewis was transferred again. This time to No 504 Squadron, Debden. The Squadron flew Hurricanes, which was a great leap upwards for Lewis. 30th of January he flew the first of many single “Trawler Patrols”. This day marked his first meeting with the enemy, when he spotted and chased a German Blohm & Voss Seaplane. At the outbreak of hostilities he then moved to No. 504 Squadron fighting in France. He then moved to No 85 Squadron still in France where he claimed 9 kills. More victories followed. Lewis baled out of his Hurricane badly burned on the 28th of September 1940 over Faversham. He was not fit to flly until May 1941 when he joined 52 OTU as commander of 'C' Squadron. In March 1942 he was posted out to the Far East, taking command of No. 261 Squadron in Ceylon.During the second Japanese attack on the island on 9 April, his unit took off in defence of China Bay, but he was delayed and followed them alone. As he climbed up, he was 'bounced' by Zeros and shot down, again being wounded. He returned to the UK in June 1942 and saw no further operational flying but was posted first as Chief Flying Instructor at Tealing, in Scotland, then at 10th Group HQ and at 11th Group HQ. He made a total of 18 victories and left the RAF in 1946. After the war Lewis started farming. First in Britain - but in 1947 he went back home to South Africa. In 1953-55 he studied agriculture in the USA , but in 1957 he returned to farm in England.

Promotions: October 29th, 1938: Acting Pilot Officer November 29th 1939: Pilot Officer November 29th 1940: Flying Officer November 29th, 1941: Flight Lieutenant April 22nd, 1943: Acting Squadron leader

	 	 

DISTINGUISHED FLYING CROSS (DFC) Rank: Pilot Officer Awarded on: June 25th, 1940 Action: Citation: "Pilot Officer Lewis has, by a combination of great personal courage, determination and skill in flying, shot down five enemy aircraft, single-handed, in one day. He has destroyed in all a total of seven enemy aircraft, and by his example has been an inspiration to his squadron."

	
	 	 

DISTINGUISHED FLYING CROSS (DFC) Rank: Pilot Officer Awarded on: October 22nd, 1940 Action: Citation: "One day in September, 1940, this officer destroyed six enemy aircraft; this makes a total of eighteen destroyed by him. His courage and keenness are outstanding." Details: Awarded as a bar for on the ribbon of the first DFC.

	

http://en.ww2awards.com/person/41967

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The story of a pilot


ONE OF THE FEW

Squadron Leader Albert Gerald Lewis, DFC and Bar

INTRODUCTION It all started with a picture. A photo in the book called THE FEW. A photo of a young RAF pilot – rather longhaired – standing besides his Hurricane with a big grin. I could not shake off that image of this carefree young pilot. Displaying all the casual enthusiasm of operational life which characterised Fighter Command during The Battle of Britain. Who was he? What did he do? Did he survive - not only the Battle of Britain – but the war?

For several years I tried to trace him. To find books about him – or at least books where somebody had written just small pieces about him.

It proved that he was nothing less than a double Ace in a Day. He was shot down several times. He got horrible burns in face and arms, while jumping out of a burning Hurricane. And even after that, he came back to fight. This is what I have gathered so far on a very special man:

Albert Gerald Lewis.

THE BEGINNING Albert Gerald Lewis was born 10th of April 1918 in Kimberly, South Africa. He got interested in flying as a teenager and went through a private Flying School on his own account at the age of 18. With his pilot license he went to Britain to join the Royal Air Force at the age of 20 – on a four year Short service Commission, being gazetted Acting Pilot Officer with effect from 29th of October 1938. After flying in different training units – and with different planes, he was posted to No. 616 South Yorkshire Squadron Auxiliary Air Force, which had been formed on 1st of November 1938 as a Bombing Squadron. When he arrived, the Squadron flew Gauntlets, Tutors and Battles. After some time he was transferred to an even duller job as a ferry pilot in No 12 Group Ferry Pool. Although the main business was ferrying aircrafts, they also found time to practise fighter tactics. 16th of December 1939 Lewis was transferred again. This time to No 504 Squadron, Debden. The Squadron flew Hurricanes, which was a great leap upwards for Lewis. 30th of January he flew the first of many single “Trawler Patrols”. This day marked his first meeting with the enemy, when he spotted and chased a German Blohm & Voss Seaplane.

No. 85 SQUADRON IN FRANCE “The Phoney war” in France had changed to real war and Lewis was transferred to No 87 Squadron the 26th of April 1939 – only to be transferred the day after to No 85 Squadron under Squadron Leader “Doggie” Oliver. A crack Squadron which, during WWI had been commanded by the famous Major “Mick” Mannock, VC, DSO with 2 Bars and MC with Bar.

The air war in France was more like the air war of WWI. There was no radar – like during Battle of Britain – so the pilots flew patrols from dawn to dusk in hope of sighting the enemy. Sometimes they got a warning from ground troops that enemy planes had been spotted, where after the squadron was scrambled. But most of time it was just hide and seek with endless patrols. That changed suddenly, when the Germans attacked Holland, Belgium and France.

Losses were heavy with aircrafts being shot up on the ground by strafing Me109 fighters and bombed by Heinkel He111 bombers. The opening scene in “Battle of Britain” gives a very good image of what 85 Squadron went through in those days. To underline the strain involved in flying all day, every day, in combat against superior odds let me cite A. J. Brooks: Fighter Squadron at War:

“Sergeant “Sammy” Allard for instance destroyed ten enemy aircrafts in a week but only by flying four or five times a day with very little or no rest in between. This had to take its toll of mind and body and on the 16th of May, after only an hour and a half’s sleep the previous night, Allard took-off on the first of four sorties that day. Bombs were bursting on the aerodrome as he and his section took-off on their second patrol and on their third patrol Allard fell asleep three times over German occupied territory. As he taxied in from his last patrol of the day, the groundcrew were surprised not to see him jump out after the aircraft had been shut down. A mechanic opened the canopy only to find that Allard had finally succumbed to sheer weariness and had fallen asleep where he sat. He was still unconscious when the groundcrew lifted him out and it was decided to let him sleep on until the dawn patrol the next day. But at dawn they could still not wake him, so Allard was sent off to hospital in England. In all he slept for 30 hours non stop.”

Lewis flew just as many sorties with just as much lack of sleep, and on the 12th of May flying VY-E he shot down – not only his first enemy aircraft – but also his second: A Messerschmidt 109 and a Heinkel He111.

ACE IN A DAY 18th or 19th of May – due to all the Squadrons reports got lost in the evacuation of the Squadron a few days later, there is some differences here – flying AK-A (an aircraft borrowed from 213 Squadron) he got 5 confirmed kills in a day:

Two Messerschmidt 109s on the first patrol in the morning and three more on the evening patrol. This fight had been witnessed by his CO and the squadron. In some books it is mentioned that Lewis jumped out of his stricken Hurricane by parachute after the first scrap. (This has not been confirmed - again due to the loss of Squadron reports.)

Lewis: “I was jumped by a patrol of 3 Me109’s as I was about to return to base, troubled by a loose gun panel. I became aware of attack as tracers streamed by. Turned into attack and found the leader coming straight at me. Somehow his cannon shots missed me and he rolled into a steep turn almost on his back and pulled away. Suddenly there was his belly at point blank range. I rammed the nose of the Hurricane down, my head hitting the top of the cockpit glasshouse – and pressed the gun button. Fuel spewed out from the L-shaped tank which the pilot sat on, and with fuel streaming behind him, the pilot flew straight down into the deck and exploded. By the way he handled his plane, I imagine the pilot to be experienced, possibly an instructor with two greenies or fledglings, as the two made half-hearted attacks, formed up together and headed home, towards Brussels.

The fight had occurred in the Rubaix area on the Franco-Belgian border. My first inclination was to leave them alone, but realising we had the extra boost in the Hurricane if we needed it for a short duration, I pulled out the boost control and followed the two. I don’t think they were aware of me following them as I was able to position myself slightly below and behind. They were sitting ducks. Short bursts into each one and they plummeted straight down into the deck at a steep angle. I was able to pinpoint the wreckages and submitted my report. The ack-ack guns confirmed and “Bob” Martin, MC – our Intelligence Officer had a look at the wreckages. They were fairly close together, in wooded country. The event happened in less time than it takes to tell it.

On landing at Seclin my ground crew met me with grins and thump up signs. Doggie Oliver came over to me and said: “We have witnessed a wonderful scrap between one of our lads and three Messerschmidts!” I told him that I had just had three Me 109s jump me, and had managed to bag all three. He was delighted as he realised he had just witnessed – with the ground crews – the action I had been involved in. “I’m recommending you for the DFC” he said with a grin.”

21st of May Lewis flew back to England in one of the only 3 Hurricanes still usable from 85th Squadron.

He landed at Gatwick and then flew of to Northolt where he was met by Wing Commander Broadhurst and granted 48 hours leave.

He sets off, only to fall asleep at a table in the Paddington Hotel and woke up to find people starring at him. He was by then utterly and completely exhausted. The 29th of may – during a seven day leave he married Betty Yvonne Coxon at St. Pauls Church, Whiteshill

THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN 28th of June the Squadron moved to Castle Camp – a satellite airfield to Debden, which were to be their base for the early part of the Battle of Britain. Lewis is now primarily flying VY-Z. Peter Townsend became CO of the squadron and soon gave Lewis his nickname: Zulu, as he had also christened his great chum, South African Caesar Hull in No. 43 Squadron, from which Townsend came.

From 1st of July operations started in earnest, and three or four sorties a day were flown, usually convoy patrols from Martelsham Heath.

18th of August - flying VY-D on a solo patrol, Lewis destroyed a Me110. The same day the squadron moved south to Crydon.

31st of August –-flying VY-N - he got a Me 109 after being scrambled in a hurry. The combat report reveals that 9 Hurricanes took off at 19:17 hours to patrol Hawinge. They were then ordered to intercept Raid 18C. The first indication of position of enemy aircrafts were given by the anti-aircraft fire from Dover and then 9 Me 109s were seen flying at about 15.000 feet. The squadron circled out to sea as the enemy aircrafts were off to the left, and then wheeled in and caught them by surprise. Individual combat followed.

“Pilot officer Lewis fired a four-second burst at enemy aircraft from 150 yards on the beam and from slightly below. Black smoke bellowed out and enemy aircraft dived steeply. Lewis followed it down to about 5.000 feet making sure it was done for and then rejoined squadron. Nine Hurricanes landed Croydon 20:05 to 20:22 hours. Enemy casualties: 4 destroyed. Our losses: 0”

5th of September, 1940 the 85 Squadron was exhausted and rotated out of the battle line - north to Church Fenton in Yorkshire. From there Lewis and the rest of the Squadron flew routine patrols and got the new replacement pilots in shape for things to come. The Squadron never came back to the fighting line in the south of England – but was instead transformed to night fighting duties, due to the fact that the Germans had started to bomb London and other big cities day and night.

But Lewis had still some fighting ahead of him. Squadrons in the south of England, was in desperate need of veteran pilots and Lewis went south again.

Lewis - no 3 left - with fellow pilots of No 249 Sq.

No. 249 SQUADRON. 14th of September Lewis was posted to the top scoring 249 Squadron at North Weald. He was back in the fighting again.

“A highly successful French Campaign pilot, Plt. Officer Albert G. Lewis, DFC with eight victories arrived from 85 Squadron arrived 14th of September; he was the fourth South African member of the Squadron.” - Brian Cull: “249 at War.”

It was all out action at North Weald – sorties three, four or five times a day when Lewis arrived – and the very first day in the new Squadron, he shot down a Heinkel He111 and shared a probable destruction of another. The day was one of the hardest days in the long hot summer, and were by many regarded as the turning point of The Battle of Britain.

Lewis combat report: Encountered a formation of 18 He111 in diamond formation at 15.000 feet, with fighters at 20.000 feet, spread over a large area. I found myself with Spitfires, which split up the bulk of the formation. One became separated from the rest. I attacked from slightly below from beam, gave a three second burst, and from here got line astern; set both motors on fire causing undercarriage to drop and the e/a appeared to spiral down in vicinity of Brentwood. As soon as this was down I engaged formation again, which had by now dropped its bombs and was heading towards the South Coast. I went after a Spitfire, which broke away, the I closed and set starboard engine on fire. Wheels dropped out and e/a began to spiral down, circled by Spits. - Brian Cull: “249 at War.”

18th of September he got his twelfth confirmed enemy aircraft.

Lewis combat report: “Spotted Me109’s above us to stern. Attacked a yellow nose heading back, opening fire from slightly below, approaching head on. Gave short burst of about three seconds, pulling nose well up beneath e/a. It went in a flat spiral and following it down saw it crash near a wood. This was confirmed by Plt. Officer Worrall, Blue 3. Pilot preumed to have baled out as parachute was seen in vicinity. - Brian Cull: “249 at War.”

SIX CONFIRMED AND TWO PROBABLES ON THE SAME DAY! 27th of September – flying GN-R – he shot down eight enemy aircrafts in one day!

Lewis combat report from the morning: Sighted circle of Me110’s over area near Redhill. Attacked out of the sun and fired two short bursts into e/a following a Hurricane down. He billowed smoke and went down steeply. Again attacked circle and put a burst into another Me110 – starboard engine out of action and on fire. Climbed into the sun again delivered attack on remains of circle. Hit one who dropped out of fight, heading towards coast and, with starboard engine out of action, tried to get home. Forced him down in vicinity of some hills near Crowhurst. He burst into flames on landing at farmyard. - Brian Cull: “249 at War.”

Once rearmed and refuelled, seven Hurricanes lead by Lewis, (The Squadron Leader was reported Missing in Action) were ordered to patrol Maidstone before carrying a sweep of Hawking to Canterbury along with 46th Squadron.

Lewis combat report: “As 249 Leader, sighted formation of Me109’s to north-east of Estuary. Climbed to 15.000 feet to 20.000 feet but were attacked by second 109 formation from above. In ensuing dogfight was attacked by two 109’s, one of which I hit in belly as he passed overhead. He crashed into wood near Canterbury. Put burst into second 109, which attacked soon after the one I shot down, also in belly. I did not observe this one hit the ground but went down smoking, whereafter smking fires near the wood in vicinity of Canterbury could have been other aircraft destroyed, as there were no bombers.” - Brian Cull: “249 at War.”

Later the same day.

Lewis combat report: As green Leader, attacked formation of Ju88’s with Blue Section, and one just dropped out with starboard engine damaged. Closed in and carried out two beam attacks from slightly above and put engine on fire. Keept after it as it went down steeply toward coast near Selsey Bill. Crashed into sea just near coast. Shot down one Me109 which crossed my sights after engagement with Ju88. Went down in flames, then followed a second Me109 down which I attacked from above and it crashed in woods near Petworth. This is confirmed by Sgt. Hampshire of Green Section. Fired short bursts of approx two to three second bursts at Me109’s and a faily long burst at another Ju88.” - Brian Cull: “249 at War.”

Lewis was awarded his second DFC for this day.

He thus got 11 confirmed victories in two days – 19th of May and 27th of September. Which is believed to be a record for single-engine British fighters.

28th of September – only the very next day – the Squadron was flying patrol over Maidstone, and Lewis was shot down in flames while flying the same aircraft GN-R. The Squadron was in a gentle dive, with Lewis weaving above them, when he was hit from behind by cannon shells and set on fire.

Lewis: “We had been patrolling at 26.000 feet, making contrails and were aware that what we thought was He113’s were slightly above us, also making contrails. On being ordered back to base, we dived, with myself weaving back and forth to cover the Squadron.” Sgt. Hampshire flying as Lewis no. 2 added: “He and I were tail-end Charlies. I’d just had a look in the sun when he shouted: Look out! Whereupon I took evasive action and the tracers went over my port wing. Meanwhile they got him – and he bailed out.”

Lewis continues: “At about 30.000 feet I was hit by by cannonfire, receiving shrapnel splinters in my legs and the Hurricane caught fire, burning fiercely at the speed at which we were travelling. When I pulled back the cockpit cover the flames roared up around my face and, having just pulled the release of the Sutton harness, I attempted to get out. The suddenness with which I parted company with the plane caused me to be shaken around like an old rag, then the blissful peace and aclm of falling free. I remembered what we had been told: Don’t pull the ripcord immediately on falling free, allow time to get separated from the plane, and also to lose initial speed. Brace yourself for the jerk that follow the opening of the chute.” - Brian Cull: “249 at War.”

Jimmy Crossey following him down, circling the parachute to prevent him being shot at. Lewis landed safely, but was severely burned and was taken to Faversham Cottage Hospital. Blind for two weeks, with a piece of schrapnel in his leg and severe burns on the face, throat, hands and legs. He received his little golden caterpillar with his name engraved on the back while in hospital,which confirmed his membership of the selected band of pilots who had saved their lives by parachute.

After two months in hospital and convalescing, Lewis returned to the 249 Squadron in December 1940 having been promoted Flying Officer on 29th of November.

17th of January 1941 he became A flight Commander and received a Bar to his DFC. He then flew local, night and day. Enemy- and routine patrols and Fightersweeps. The war was far from over. One of Lewis fellow pilots, Neil remembers:

“When I taxied into my hardstand to stop, I saw Gerald Lewis’ Hurricane just ahead of me. He was still in the cockpit as I dropped to the ground and I saw him waving his arms in my direction. When I walked towards him, I could see why. There were massive damage to the left hand side of the cockpit. No wonder he was upset; it was a miracle he had not been killed or badly wounded.” - Brian Cull: “249 at War.”

Lewis was promoted to Flying Lieutenant 29th of November 1940.

No. 249 Squadron was one of the highest scoring squadrons in The Battle of Britain, with 54 enemy aircrafts destroyed, 16 Probable and 17 damaged.

April1941 Lewis was taken off combat duty and posted to No. 52 OUT as an instructor and commander of C flight. (At Debden with 52 OUT he flew a Spitfire for the first - and only time - in his life)

OVERSEAS SERVICE Lewis volunteered for overseas service and was posted to 261 Squadron in January 1942. Via Sierra Leone he went to Tricomalee in China bay, Ceylon to take command of 261 Squadron – a Squadron famous for it’s defence of Malta earlier in the war.

Lewis recalls that the force consisted of himself as CO, 6 Flt Lts, 3 FOs, 8 Pos, 1 WO pilot and 34 Sgt. Pilots. Most of the force were Australians and New Zealand pilots with a few Canadians and an American. China Bay was a grass airfield – or rather – a clearing in the jungle. Everything was “under construction” and very primitive. Malaria was bad. Typhoid was caused by foul water supplies and after a Jap bombing, all waterborne sanitation was smashed and cholera added to their troubles. Most of the dead were buried wrapped in blankets in long trenches, as there was no time to make coffins. Despite all that – the force developed a love for the island of Ceylon.

9th of April – the day before his 24th birthday, Lewis led his Squadron to intercept a Japanese raid and as he was taking off, his aircraft was hit by fire from one of the japans Zeros. He was wounded in the left shoulder and can not use his arm. On fire – once again – he bales out at only 200 feet, with his parachute opening just in time. He could see his base was under heavy attack and for six hours he lay suffering from shock until he was found by some natives, who revived him with coconut milk, and helped him back to the base.

In June 1942 he returns to Britain via South Africa, where he was amazed and embarrassed to find himself …”a local lad who had hit the limelight” He had his portrait painted by Springs artist Johannsen – commissioned by the City Council of Springs and was give a few days leave to see his folks.

Lewis remembers: “It was rather trying, one reception after another, speeches, grinning whether you liked it or not. And although my ego no doubt was exercised I was relieved when it was all over!”

For the rest of the war Lewis stayed in Britain. First as Chief Flying Instructor at Tealing, in Scotland. Then at 10th Group HQ and at 11th Group HQ.

AFTER THE WAR Lewis left Royal Air Force on 16th of February 1946, having been an Acting Squadron leader since 22nd of April 1943.

After the war Lewis started farming. First in Britain - but in 1947 he went back home to South Africa. In 1953-55 he studied agriculture in the USA where he also became a member of The Church of the Latterday Saints (Mormons), but in 1957 he returned to farm in England.

Albert Gerald Lewis. As well as being a brave and resourceful pilot, was also a deeply religious man. He provides a summary of his philosophy of life like this:

“As my mind reflects on The Battle of Britain and on the many wonderful characters who formed a part of that scene and died a quarter of a century ago in order that the world might be a better place to live in - as did those in The First World War – and indeed all righteous people from the beginning of time – I wonder, have we achieved lasting peace?

If we are not to disappoint ourselves and all of those who have come before, we need a plan – one that is practical and embraces all mankind. I sincerely believe that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only plan which can embrace the world so that all who desire to – may live in peace.”

Albert Gerald Lewis died 14th of December 1982 - 64 years old.

...Hope you found it worth your time reading this story - and it wasn't too long.

http://www.thefedoralounge.com/showthread.php?42832-The-story-of-a-pilot

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Squadron Leader A.G. Lewis, DFC and Bar

Albert Gerald Lewis, born in Kimberley on 10th April, 1918, joined the Royal Air Force when he was 20, on a four-year Short Service Commission, being gazetted as an Acting Pilot Officer with effect from 29th October, 1938. At No.5 Elementary and Reserve Flying Training School, Hanwell, he flew the Blackburn B-2, and in November, 1938, he was posted to No. 3 FTS at South Cerney in Gloucestershire, near the Wiltshire border, flying the Hawker Hart, Audax and Fury. Awarded his flying badge on 14th March, 1939, he was transferred to an advanced training squadron and completed his course on 8th June. On the 15th he was posted to No.754 Squadron Fleet Air Arm and was Staff Pilot, HMS Daedalus at Lee-on-Solent, flying the Walrus, Magister, Mentor, Sea Fox and Swordfish, his Commanding Officer being Lieutenant-Commander E. Esmonde, later awarded a posthumous VC for operations in the English channel against the Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Prinz Eugen. On 20th June, 1939, he crashed a Walrus, the machine being a complete write-off. Discharged from Haslar Naval Hospital on 12th August, he reported back for duty, and continued his training for alighting on the sea on the Walrus. The outbreak of war on 3rd September found him as Sea Duty Pilot and he received the signal for the Commanding Officer of the unit which directed: "Commence hostilities against Germany at once".

On 18th September, 1939, he was posted to No. 616 (South Yorkshire) Squadron Auxiliary Air Force, which had been formed on 1st November, 1938, for bombing, with Hinds, Tutors and Avro 504N's. When he arrived, however, the Squadron had Gauntlets, Tutors and Battles. He flew his first Gauntlet, serial K5285, from Doncaster Racecourse (where the Squadron was based) on a local reconnaissance. He also flew Tutors and Battles with the Squadron before being posted to No.12 Group Ferry Pool, where he spent most of his time ferrying Gladiators, and practising Fighter Attacks 1 to 5. These were types of formation attacks against unescorted bombers on which squadron training was then based, and they had been worked out by the Air Fighting Development Unit. For example, Fighter Attack No. 3 was the prescribed drill when two sections of fighters met three bombers; these attacks were complicated and time-wasting and all were based on tight V-shaped formations (vics) opening fire together. They were useless for air fighting, and many good pilots heard as their last words "Fighter Attack Number so-and-so - Go" and were then killed. We eventually adopted the German "schwarme" formation which consisted of two pairs, and called it a "finger four", because the aircraft flew in positions corresponding to the fingertips seen in plan view, and suitably stepped up. This formation was loose and manoeuvrable and completely replaced the Fighter Attacks scheme, with great success.

Albert Lewis also flew Tutors at the Ferry Pool before being posted, on 16th December, 1939, to No.504 "City of Nottingham" Squadron, at Debden. The Squadron was equipped with Hurricanes, and on 17th December, he flew the dual Magister, serial L2468, with one of the famous Beamish brothers, Victor, who was the Squadron Commander. On Boxing Day, he flew his first Hurricane, serial L1944, lettered E, on circuits and bumps, and made more training flights from Duxford and Debden, and then from Martlesham Heath.

On 30th January, 1940, he flew Hurricane L1951, lettered L, on a solo trawler patrol, and L1957, lettered Q, on a shipping patrol with Green Section on 11th February, and made his first contact with the enemy, in the shape of a Blohm und Voss long-range seaplane. Mention of Green Section may call for a word of explanation. In early 1940 the fighter squadron of 12 aircraft was organised into two flights, subdivided for air combat into two sections each. The aerial formations were as follows:

  

"A" Flight: +++ No. 1 Section - Red

	 	+++	 No.2 Section	- Yellow

"B" Flight: +++ No.3 Section - Blue +++ No.4 Section - Green. The vics were still being flown, as finger four had not yet been adopted, and the formation leader, when he spotted the enemy bombers approaching ahead and to a flank ordered the sections astern, and when they fell into two vics, one behind the other, the section leaders then ordered "Line astern, go" and the formation then formed a long line in single file, which was a convenient formation for a turn-in attack. Having turned and got astern of and slightly below the bombers, the leader then brought his squadron into vics astern in readiness for the attack.

On February 29th (1940 being a Leap Year) Albert Lewis (sometimes known by his second name, Gerald) flew Hurricane L 1912, lettered N, to test the variable pitch airscrew. Up till then all Hurricanes had fixed-pitch two-bladed propellers. For the benefit of the jet age it may be explained that the fixed pitch propeller for an aeroplane with a speed range from about 80 m.p.h. stalling speed to 350 m.p.h. top speed was an almost impossible compromise between topspeed performance and take-off performance. If the topspeed were very good, the take-off was correspondingly poor. The two-pitch (coarse and fine) propeller was something like a two-speed gear box which could give full engine power and efficiency at the low end of the speed range in fine pitch, and at the top end in coarse pitch. A constant speed unit was added, rather like an infinitely variable gearbox (the motorist's dream) and controlled the pitch of the propeller to keep the engine at whatever speed the pilot selected, eg, maximum speed for take off, climb and combat; low speed for economical cruising. The result was maximum propeller efficiency over the whole speed range.

The use of the word "airscrew" for propeller was common at that time. It lasted until a squadron short of propeller spares sent urgently for "12 airscrews". Back went 12 pilots, 12 navigators, 12 gunners and 12 wireless operators to the squadron. What happened was that the signal had been received as "12 aircrews" instead of "12 airscrews"; what happened to the wireless operator concerned is not recorded, but the term airscrew was discontinued, and propeller it has been ever since.

Albert Lewis, in addition to testing the new propeller, flew 306 hours and 45 minutes on convoy patrols, formation practices, night flights, etc., before making his last entry in his log book with No.504 "City of Nottingham" Squadron on 26th April, 1940, and being posted to No.87 Squadron in France, being transferred almost immediately to No.85 Squadron under Squadron Leader "Doggie" Oliver. This crack squadron had been commanded in 1918 by Major E. "Mick" Mannock, VC, DSO (2 Bars), MC (Bar), who was killed in command of the unit.

From 10th May, 1940, for about a fortnight, the Squadron flew from dawn till dusk, most of the records being lost in the final evacuation. Losses were heavy with aircraft being shot up on the ground by Messerschmitt Me 109 fighters and bombed by Heinkel He 111 bombers. (The opening shots of the film "Battle of Britain" give an excellent idea of this period in France.)

On 9th May, 1940, Albert Lewis flew Hurricane VY-D on an offensive patrol, and on 12th, flying VY-E, he shot down a Messerschmitt Me 109E and a Heinkel He 111. On 19th, flying AK-A (an aircraft still bearing No.213 Squadron's marking), he got five confirmed in one day (he was to surpass even this later), two Me 109s on the first patrol in the morning, and three more on the evening patrol, this fight having been witnessed by his CO and the Squadron. He wrote me describing the event: "I was jumped by a patrol of 3 Me 109s as I was about to return to base, troubled by a loose gun panel; became aware of attack as tracer streamed by. Turned in to attack and found the leader coming straight at me. Somehow his cannon shots missed and he rolled into a steep turn almost on his back, and pulled away. Suddenly there was his belly at point blank range. I rammed the nose of the Hurricane down, my head hitting the top of the cockpit glasshouse, and pressed the gun button; fuel spewed out from the L-shaped tank which the pilot sat on, and with fuel streaming behind him, the pilot flew straight down into the deck and exploded. By the way he handled his plane, I imagined the pilot to be experienced, possibly an instructor, with two greenies or fledglings, as the other two made half-hearted attacks, formed up together and headed home, towards Brussels.

"The fight had occurred in the Rubaix area on the Franco-Belgian border. My first inclination was to leave well alone, but realising we had the extra boost in the Hurricane if we needed it for short duration, I pulled out the boost control, and followed the two. I don't think they were aware of me following them as I was able to position myself slightly below and behind. They were sitting ducks; short bursts into each and they plummeted straight down into the deck at a steep angle. I was able to pinpoint the wreckages and submitted my report. The ack ack guns confirmed, and 'Bob' Martin, MC, our Intelligence Officer, had a look at the wreckages. They were fairly close together, in wooded country. The events happened in less time than it takes to tell it.

"On landing at Seclin my ground crew met me with grins and thumbs up signs. Doggie Oliver came over to me and said, 'We have just witnessed a wonderful scrap between one of our lads and three Messerschmitts.' I told him that I had just had three SIc's jump me, and had managed to bag all three. He was delighted as he realised he had witnessed, with the ground crews, the action I had been involved in. 'I'm recommending you for the DFC,' he said with a grin." We evacuated Seclin that evening after destroying most of the equipment and the "lame ducks" {the unserviceable aircraft; again the film "Battle of Britain" portrays this aspect of the Battle of France very clearly) and flew to nearby Merville where we were bombed and attacked and our brand new variable-pitch propeller Hurricanes were ground strafed and made unserviceable. Two days later, on 21st May, despite the efforts of the Air Component, which had been meant to supply reconnaissance and protection for the British Expeditionary Force, the RAF was driven back across the Channel with 1,526 men and 931 aircraft lost, 279 of which had belonged to the Air Component. On that day, Albert Lewis flew back to England in one of the 66 Hurricanes which got away, and by the evening a few Lysanders of No. 4 Squadron were the only Component aircraft left in France. He landed at Gatwick, and then took off for Northolt where he was met by Wing Commander (later Air Chief Marshal Sir Harry) Broadhurst, and granted 48 hours leave. He set off, only to fall asleep at a table in the Paddington Hotel, and awake to find people staring at him; he was completely and utterly exhausted.

On 23rd April he flew a Tutor from Aston Down to Northolt with a passenger, and got another seven days leave and promptly went off to Gloucestershire to marry Betty Yvonne Coxon on the 29th at St. Paul's Church, Whiteshill, Stroud, hard by the land he now farms, some 30 years later. His best man was Geoff Wedgewood who was married to a South African girl, and who had just completed a short service commission in the RAF when war started.

On 1st June, 1940, he flew a Blenheim I (serial L 6652) with Flying Officer Tom Pike from Aston Down to Debden. Tom Pike is now Air Chief Marshal Sir Thomas Pike.

On 4th June, 1940, Albert Lewis flew Hurricane VY-M on an operational patrol and on 5th, in company with Flight Lieutenant Jefferies, flew a reconnaissance from RAF Ford, and they were nearly shot down for their trouble. Landing at Hawkinge he flew a solo recce to Boulogne, Arras, Amiens, Abbeville in Hurricane VY-P. On 28th he flew VY-Z to Castle Camps from Debden; this satellite airfield (originally known as Freddie I) became 85 Squadron's flying base for the early part of the Battle of Britain. It was at this time that Squadron Leader (later Group Captain) Peter Townsend was posted to the Squadron to command. He soon christened Albert Lewis "Zulu", as he had christened his great chum, South African Caesar Hull, in No.43 Squadron, from which he had come. On 26th June, Dickie Lee, "A" Flight Commander, and Zulu Lewis flew in Master N 7546 to Debden for an investiture. Dickie got a DSO and DFC and Zulu his DFC. Pilot Officer "Bob" Martin, MC, the Intelligence Officer, fretted at the inactivity on the ground and became an air gunner, and was killed later in the war.

From 1st July, 1940, operations started in earnest, and three and four sorties a day were flown, usually convoy patrols from Martlesham Heath. On 18th August, flying VY-D on a solo patrol, Zulu destroyed a Me 110, and then the Squadron moved down to Croydon. On 31st August, flying VY-N, he got an Me 109e after being scrambled in a hurry. The combat report reveals that 9 Hurricanes took off at 1917 hours to patrol Hawkinge. They were then ordered to intercept Raid 18c. The first indication of position of enemy aircraft was given by anti-aircraft fire from Dover and then nine Me 109s were seen flying at about 15,000 feet. The squadron circled out to sea as enemy aircraft were on the left, and then wheeled in and caught them by surprise when individual combats ensued. It goes on: "Pilot Officer Lewis fired a four-seconds burst at enemy aircraft from 150 yards on the beam and from slightly below. Black smoke billowed out and enemy aircraft dived steeply. P/O Lewis followed it down to 5,000 feet making sure it was done for and rejoined Squadron. Position then above sea near Eastbourne. . . Nine Hurricanes landed Croydon 20.05 hours to 20.22 hours. Enemy Casualties: 4 Me 109s destroyed. Our losses: Nil."

The Station Commander at Croydon was Group Captain ( later Air Commodore) His Royal Highness the Duke of Kent, who was killed flying later in the war. On 5th September, 1940, Zulu flew VY-Z from Castle Camps to Church Fenton in Yorkshire, where he flew routine patrols until posted to the top-scoring Squadron of the war, No. 249, at North Weald, on 15th September, 1940. Other South Africans with No. 249 Squadron in the Battle of Britain, included Pat Wells, now Sales Manager for Cessna Aircraft with Comair at Rand Airport, Germiston. Also in the Squadron was J. T. (Jimmy) Crossey, now running Malta Airways. Yet another South African with the Squadron was Percy Burton who, although mortally wounded, rammed a German aircraft with supreme courage. With No. 249 under Squadron Leader (later Air Chief Marshal) Sir John Grandy, it was all action at North Weald; sorties three, four and five times a day when Zulu Lewis arrived on 15th September, 1940, and straight away he got a He 111, and shared in the probable destruction of another. On 18th he got his twelfth confirmed enemy aircraft. On 27th, flying GN-R, he got nine, six confirmed and three probables. He thus got 11 confirmed in the two days of 19th May and 27th September, 1940, a record for pilots of single-engined British fighters as far as I know.

The patrol of the next day, 28th, was over Maidstone, and Zulu was shot down in flames while flying the same aircraft, GN-R, after being jumped by a Heinkel 113. He recorded it at the time as a Heinkel 113, but there were no Heinkel 113's in the Battle of Britain, although there were many combat reports for the period August-October, 1940, making reference to sightings and combats with such aircraft. The mythical He 113 was in fact the He l00D, first flown in January, 1938. Seven prototypes, three pre-production and 12 production He l00Ds were built, but not one was accepted by the Luftwaffe for operational use. Six of the prototypes were sold to Russia, and the three pre-production machines to Japan.

The twelve remaining He l00Ds were used as a unit to defend the Heinkel Rostock-Marienehe works and were flown by Heinkel test pilots. To give the impression that the He l00D was in service with the Luftwaffe, many photographs were issued for propaganda purposes by the Germans, showing the l00D in full camouflage and with false unit markings. These were described as photographs of the He 113, and I also have recognition manuals showing these fictitious aircraft, describing them as He 113s. The "snapper" (as we called the German fighter escort aircraft) which jumped Zulu Lewis, was, in fact, a Me 109, as were all the other reputed He 113s.

No.249 Squadron had been in a gentle dive, with Zulu weaving over them, when he was hit from behind by cannonshells and set on fire. He eventually cleared the burning aircraft and Jimmy Crossey followed him down, circling the parachute to prevent any danger of his being shot at. This happened to several of our pilots, despite recent German denials to the contrary. I recall an Me 109 pilot trying to shoot New Zealander Bob Spurdle out of his 'chute on 22nd October, 1940, and Harbourne Stephen circling to protect him. In fairness to the Luftwaffe, however, it should be noted that at least one RAF pilot, to my knowledge, insisted on his right to shoot German pilots out of their parachutes in what he said was "total war".

Zulu landed safely, but was severely burned and was taken to Faversham Cottage Hospital, blind for two weeks, and with shrapnel in his legs, and severe burns on the face, throat, hands and legs. He received his little golden caterpillar with his name engraved on the back while he was in hospital, which confirmed his membership of the select band who have saved their lives by parachute.

After two months, in hospital and convalescing, Zulu returned to the Squadron in December, 1940, having been promoted Flying Officer on 29th November, was flying by 17th January, 1941, and became "A" Flight Commander, and was awarded a bar to the DFC. He flew local, night, enemy and routine patrols and sweeps and then in June he was posted to No.52 OTU as an instructor commanding "C" Flight, being promoted Flight Lieutenant on 29th November, 1941. At 52 OTU at Debden he flew Spitfires for the first and only time in his career, together with Masters, Magisters, Tiger Moths and Hurricanes. John Grandy, by then a Wing Commander, was again his CO in August, when they flew from Aston Down.

Zulu volunteered for overseas service and was posted to command No.261 Squadron (Hurricanes) in January, 1942, and on 31st flew Hurricane IIB, serial 6510, on local flying around Takoradi in Sierra Leone, West Africa. This was the port where aircraft were assembled to be flown to the Middle East.

On February 4th, 1942, still flying 6510, he led 18 Hurricanes from Takoradi to Lagos, Nigeria; then to Kano; to Maiduguri, still in Nigeria, and on to El Genina; then solo to Khartoum and Port Sudan. He comments: "We managed to get all our aeroplanes in convoy to destination without breaking any (sandstorms, the lot) covering 3,000 miles in three days." While at Port Sudan he met up with another South African from Rhodesia, Pierre St. Quentin, who was testing Kittyhawks for the RAF. He persuaded Zulu to "have a go", but although the latter commented, "not bad", he preferred the "Hurribus" in which he had achieved such success in combat.

On 19th February, 1942, F/O Cater, Rear-Admiral Denis Boyd and Zulu flew in a Boston from Port Sudan via Luxor to HQME (Cairo) and Zulu returned to Port Sudan the next day and embarked in HMS Indomitable. On 13th March he flew Hurricane Z 4961 off HMS Indomitable and made for China Bay, Ceylon, but was forced to return to the carrier because of the engine overheating, and to land on the deck without arrester gear. He reported laconically: "Navy very pleased with my effort". He eventually reached Trincomalee in China Bay, Ceylon, to command No.261 Squadron which had been reformed at Hal Far in Malta in June, 1940, with the three Sea Gladiators "Faith", "Hope" and "Charity" which had become famous for the gallant defence of the island (which was awarded the George Cross) and had then converted to Hurricanes.

Zulu recalls that the force consisted of himself as CO, 6 Flt Lts, 3 F/Os, 8 P/Os, 1 WO pilot and 34 Sgt. Pilots. Most of this force were Australian and New Zealand pilots with a few Canadians and an American. China Bay was a grass airfield, or rather, clearing, where a runway was under construction, and everything was pretty primitive.

Along the coast Zulu found a suitable landing strip at Batikaloa, towards Jafna, and the three Flights took it in turns to spend a week there. Malaria was bad; typhoid was caused by foul water supplies, and after Jap bombing, all water-borne sanitation was smashed and cholera added to their troubles. Most of the dead were buried in blankets in long trenches, as there was no time to make coffins. For all that, the force developed a love for the island of Ceylon.

On 9th April, the day before his 24th birthday, Zulu led his Squadron to intercept a Japanese raid and as he was taking off his aircraft was hit by fire from one of the Japanese Zeros. He was wounded in the left shoulder and his arm became useless. On fire, he baled out at 200 feet, his parachute opening just in time. He could see his base being heavily attacked, and for six hours lay suffering from shock until he was found by natives, who revived him with coconut milk, and helped him back to base.

In June, he returned to Britain via South Africa, where he was amazed and embarrassed to find himself "... a local lad who had hit the limelight", as he puts it. He had his portrait painted by Springs artist Johannsen (commissioned by the City Council of Springs) and was given a few days leave to see his folks. He recalls modestly: "It was rather trying, one reception after another, speeches, grinning whether you felt like it or not, and while my ego no doubt was exercised I was relieved when it was all over.

In Britain he was made Chief Flying instructor at Tealing in Scotland and then went to 10 Group HQ at Box in Wiltshire in 1944-45 (the Air Officer Commanding was another South African, whose statue is at Jan Smuts Airport, Johannesburg, Air Vice-Marshal Sir Christopher J. Quentin Brand, KBE, DSO, MC, DFC, under whom I had served in 10 Group in 1941). Zulu next moved to 11 Group HQ and left the RAF on 16th February, 1946, having been an Acting Squadron Leader since 22nd April, 1943.

After the war Zulu went to the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester. In 1947 he returned to South Africa and in 1951 joined the Tobacco Research Board in Southern Rhodesia. In 1953 he became a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints (Mormons) and during 1953-55 he studied in the U.S.A., but in 1957 he returned to farm in England. Becoming interested in genealogy he attended the World Conference on Records in Salt Lake City, U.S.A., in August, 1969, and he lives a very full life.

Albert Gerald Lewis, as well as being a brave and resourceful pilot, is a sincere and deeply religious man. He provides a better summary of his philosophy of life than any words of mine can hope to achieve:

"As my mind reflects on the Battle of Britain and on the many wonderful characters who formed a part of that scene and died a quarter of a century ago in order that the world might be a better place to live in, as did those in the First World War and indeed all righteous people from the beginning of time - I wonder, have we achieved lasting peace?

"If we are not to disappoint ourselves and all those who have come before, we need a plan - one that is practical and embraces all mankind. As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints, I sincerely believe that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only plan which can embrace the world so that all who desire to may live in peace."

No 6 Major J.E. Frost, DFC and Bar

John Everitt Frost (inevitably known as "Jack" Frost) was born in Queenstown on 16th July, 1918, and joined the South African Air Force in 1936. He was soon noted as a future leader and was awarded the Sword of Honour at the conclusion of his training. By 1940 he was a Captain and Flight Commander on No. 3 Squadron SAAF when that unit went north to Kenya late in 1940, with Hurricanes.

Early in 1941, South African and other Allied forces started a twin-pronged thrust out of Kenya into Italian territory. Within a short time the River Juba line had been breached and an ambitious campaign developed to drive the Italians back into the mountains of Abyssinia before the rains came. In the drive to Afmadu in Somaliland, the Hurricanes of No.3 Squadron played a vital part, and Jack Frost was soon in action; on 2nd February, 1941, while the 27th Road Construction Company, South African Engineering Corps, was still constructing a 1,000-yard landing strip at Ali Gabe near Liboi, he shot up an Italian Caproni Ca 133 bomber on the ground at Afmadu, and landed his Hurricane beside the bulldozers. Deafened by their noise and that of the graders, he did not hear three Fiat CR 42 fighters which dived and shot up the new landing strip, causing superficial damage to his aircraft. He immediately took off as the damage was light and next day was in action again, shooting down four enemy aircraft.

The Transvaal Scottish position near Dif was being bombed by a flight of three Caproni Ca 133s when he intercepted. As he attacked the rear bomber, two Fiat CR 42 fighters of the escort came down at him, but he managed to elude them and climbed to intercept the two leading bombers. The Fiats came in again, head on, but he got in a long burst at one of them just before he broke into a steep climb. The Fiat went straight down into the bush and burst into flames. Jack Frost returned to attack the Capronis, which broke formation, the pilot of the first baling out, and leaving the second pilot to make a crash landing. The second was shattered by the Hurricane's eight Browning .303 machine guns, harmonised in a deadly cone, and the third crash-landed after two passes from Jack had probably damaged it. He was awarded an immediate DFC for these four kills in one action and the citation referred to his "skill, resource, determination and courage of the highest order."

Six weeks later, on 15th March, 1941, when the Italians had been driven into the mountains, he was shot down during an attack on Diredawa airfield. Two Fiat CR 32s and a 42 came up to defend but were all shot down, the six Hurricanes shooting up Italian aircraft on the ground. Three Savoias and three Fiat 32s and a 42 were set on fire while yet another Caproni and three more fighters were damaged. The Hurricanes returned to Diredawa, after refuelling and re-arming at the captured Italian airfield at Daghadur. During this attack, Jack Frost's aircraft was hit and glycol coolant streamed back in the usual white mist; this was always a nerve-racking time; one never knew when a blast of flame would come from the violently overheated engine. He landed at a satellite airfield a few miles from Diredawa, and jumped out of his Hurricane, intent on setting fire to it before the Italians could reach him. The guns in the surrounding hills started to fire on him and he was in a tight spot.

Lieutenant R. H. C. (Bob) Kershaw had seen his Flight Commander go down, however, and circled the field to keep off any Italian ground forces that might have tried to capture Jack, and then landed and taxied his Hurricane towards his Flight Commander, shouting to him to jump in. With artillery fire crashing around them, Jack climbed in and flew the Hurricane, sitting on Bob's lap. A most remarkable effort for which Bob was awarded an immediate DSO, the first to be awarded to an officer of the SAAF. His portrait which hangs in the South African National War Museum in Johannesburg, was that from which was printed the famous South African wartime stamp depicting a pilot.

In countless strikes and raids Nos. 1 and 3 Squadrons SAAF helped to smash the Italian air force in Abyssinia. No.3 Squadron was based at Nairobi, Mombasa, Garissa, Bura and Luma; conditions in the dry season at places like Garissa and indeed, all over the Northern Frontier District, were pretty grim. The heat was so intense that aircraft servicing stopped at 10 a.m. till 4 p.m. The sand was an added problem for aircraft and transport had constantly to be dug out, while it was impossible to rev engines before take-off because sand whipped back and stripped the fabric from the wooden propellers.

There is a good account of life in East Africa with the SAAF at this time in the excellent SAAF Golden Jubilee Souvenir Book "Per Aspera ad Astra", published in January, 1970, which reads: "The average life of a wooden propeller with fabric covering was twelve take-offs. Living conditions were equally trying, with the pilots and aircrews sleeping out under tarpaulins hung between trees and bushes, with meals consisting of bully beef, black coffee and biscuits. Water was stringently rationed, only a gallon a day per person being allowed for all purposes. In typical undergraduate fashion the pilots adopted various outlandish nicknames. There was the Buna Kid, the Sultan of Osamandela, the Sheik of El Wak, the D.C. of Dalaki and there were the Ginsbergs. On one occasion the Sultan of Osamandela was sitting in a tree, clad only in a singlet, when a scramble came for an air raid. He rushed through the bush to his plane and was soon mixed up in a scrap with a group of Italian planes. A Caproni bomber was shot down. It crashed and burst into flames, four of the crew being killed. One of the survivors, burned and severely wounded, hobbled to a field dressing station. Even after the crash he still looked smart in his Italian Air Force uniform. Asking to meet the pilot who had shot him down he was presented to the Sultan. He took one look, shook his head sadly and remarked: 'To think that an ace of the Spanish War should be shot down by boys who fly naked!'

"When Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Longmore, CCB, DSO, Air Officer commanding RAF Middle East, paid a visit to pilots of the SAAF to congratulate them on their good work, Brigadier Hector Daniel, CBE, MC, AFC, Senior SAAF Officer in East Africa, had to send a message ahead of the visit to ensure that the pilots were properly dressed for the inspection. He knew from experience what the situation was likely to be, because, on a previous occasion, when he had visited one of the Squadrons in the bush, he found most of the pilots so informally dressed that they were only wearing bath towels marked 'Stanley Hotel'."

Jack Frost shot down another Fiat in the valleys near Jijigga on 29th March and on 4th April he led two separate attacks on the Addis Ababa airfield. On the first he set fire to three Savoias and a Caproni, and destroyed two more bombers on the second. These raids were a crushing blow to the Regia Aeronautica, for in the four carried out that day, 30 aircraft were burnt, completely wrecked, or damaged; when the town was taken, the remains were found on the wrecked airfield.

There was some resistance for a month or two in the lake areas of Abyssinia, but the Italians were virtually finished in East Africa. Jack Frost's Squadron had destroyed more than 100 aircraft in the air and on the ground, and he was proclaimed the SAAF's leading ace of the campaign with 7 shot down and destroyed confirmed. Throughout this campaign SAAF Squadrons flew more than 5,000 sorties, destroyed 71 aircraft in the air and at least 70 on the ground, losing 79 pilots and aircrew killed and posting 5 missing; a great contribution to the first victory of the Allies in the war.

Jack Frost was posted home to the Union and the Squadron was later disbanded; an era was at an end, but Phoenix-like they both rose again. He was promoted to Major, and joined No. 5 Squadron with Curtiss P-40 Tomahawks, leading it to the Western Desert in March, 1942; No. 3 Squadron was re-formed in December, 1942, in the Eastern Mediterranean with Hurricanes. Once again in the Western Desert, as in East Africa, sand was a great enemy. As Chris Shores and Hans Ring reveal in the preface to their "Fighters over the Desert" (Neville Spearman): "The main trouble was sand -- the fine desert dust being driven in clouds of stinging particles by every breath of wind. Great sandstorms would descend at anytime, obliterating the landscape in a swirling fog which found its way into everything. This sand, if ingested into aero engines through the normal air intakes, could wear out the moving parts in a matter of hours, turning the lubricating oil into an abrasive paste. For this reason all aircraft had to be fitted with special air filters which caused drag and resulted in reduced performance. Guns jammed, perspex cockpit canopies became scored and scratched, and food was ruined by the invasion of this menace, which also filled eyes, ears, noses and finger-nails, making life at times a gritty nightmare.

"Due to the length of the lines of communication, and lack of natural supply, water was strictly rationed, and that used for washing or shaving was carefully kept to fill the radiators of motor vehicles. Fresh food was virtually unobtainable, and tinned rations with hard biscuits were the staple diet. The violent heat of the day made most movement impossible during the hours around noon, and the metal parts of aircraft, tanks, etc., became so hot that to touch them was to risk a blistered hand. At night the temperature dropped rapidly, making the use of warm clothing essential. To add to these hardships, the troops were plagued by millions of persistent flies which settled on faces and on food continually. These conditions frequently caused 'desert sores' which, aggravated by heat and sand, festered on for months. Being so lacking in landmarks, the great wastes of undulating sand, rock and scrub were difficult to navigate over; to be forced down in such circumstances was to risk a lingering death from starvation and dehydration.

"To set against the deprivations, the Desert was a place of great comradeship, and, due to the extremes of temperatures, germs could not flourish so that there was no infectious disease. Further to this the Desert was virtually uninhabited, so that the pitiful flight of refugees did not manifest itself, the opposing armies being able to get on with the fighting untroubled by the destruction of homes or the killing of women and children, and so far as it was possible to have a 'clean' war, it was in the Desert that it was fought."

That is just how all of us who were there remember it; I carry the scars of "desert sores" yet.

After Jack Frost reached the desert, No. 5 Squadron joined Nos. 2 and 4 Squadrons in No. 233 Wing as the fighter cover for No.3 Bomber Wing SAAF. Leading three sections of Tomahawks north of Gambut he got a probable Heinkel He 111 with Lt. Whyte on 11th March. On 27th May he destroyed a bomber and although there appears to have been confusion as to type he was credited with a FiatBR 20. Later the same day he was badly shot up and his Tomahawk was severely damaged. On 28th May near Gazala, he shared a Messerschmitt Me 109E with 2nd-Lt. Martin of No. 5 Squadron. This Me 109E had been flown by Feldwebel Willi Langer, of a Luftwaffe Tactical Reconnaissance unit, who was killed. Next day he shot down a Macchi MC 202, and on 30th shared a probable Ju 87 with Lt. Morgan. During June and the retreat in early July the SAAF enjoyed its finest hour in the desert. It supplied a vital contribution to the Allied air effort to save the armies from destruction. The South African bomber squadrons started a systematic attack pattern using 18 aircraft, working almost to a strict timetable, bombing day after day in immaculate formation with hundreds of tons of bombs in a great effort to stop the German advance.

On 3rd June Jack Frost got a Ju 87 near Bir Hacheim. On 5th June Jack was himself shot down in the Knightsbridge area, luckily landing in the lines of the 1st South African Division. Two day's later on the 7th June, he got his revenge getting a probable Me 109 over Knightsbridge, and damaging another on the 8th, over Bir Hacheim. He got a probable (a Me 109) on 9th over Bir Hacheim again, but it was to be his last claim.

So well had No.233 Wing supported the light bombers during this period of the most intense air effort that not one bomber was lost through enemy fighter action. Those lost (2) and damaged were due to anti-aircraft fire. On 16th June, at 1840 hours, six Tomahawks of No.5 Squadron, with four of No.4, and two Kittyhawks of No.2, set off once again to escort the light bombers, Bostons of No. 24 Squadron, raiding enemy transport west of El Adem, with No. 2 Squadron as top cover and No.4 Squadron as close cover. They were jumped by Me lO9Fs and No.2 Squadron lost Lt. De Villiers (shot down in flames, but he returned that evening) and Lt. Bryant, who was wounded and his aircraft badly damaged. Lt. McGregor of No. 4 Squadron was wounded in the face and his aircraft also badly damaged, but he got back safely.

No. 5 Squadron were the heaviest sufferers; Lt. R.C. Denham and Major Jack Frost, DFC, the SAAF's greatest fighter ace, were lost. He was heard to order No.5 Squadron to reform over the landing ground, having fought a running battle to protect the bombers right back to their base, but no more was heard of him. The SAAF's top scorer of the war (credited with 14 and one-third confirmed kills at the time of his death; later figures denote at least 15), was gone. Oberleutnant (later Hauptmann) Hans-Joachim Marseille, the leading German scorer in the desert, credited with 151 victories there (158 in all), was in action at the time in the area and claimed four victories - one of these could have been Frost but as there were several other claims and four by Fw. Steinhausen of the same formation as Marseille it is unlikely that we shall ever learn who shot down Frost. The loss of Jack Frost was a heavy blow; he had doubled his score in a few days, and had led his young Squadron with great vigour and elan. Repeated searches were made for him in the next few days but neither he nor his wrecked aircraft was ever found. He passed on, very young, gallant, and supreme in the annals of the SAAF, as the top scoring fighter pilot in its ranks; and he remains so to this day.

South African Military History Society / scribe@samilitaryhistory.org

http://samilitaryhistory.org/vol016dt.html

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Albert Lewis, DFC and Bar's Timeline

1918
April 10, 1918
South Africa
1940
April, 1940
Age 21
Stroud, England
1982
December 14, 1982
Age 64
England
????