409 Squadron RCAF: The Nighthawks
Nightfighting thousands of feet above terra firma is bound to be eventful and the Squadron's records are filled with outstanding events. The following example has been chosen not only because it illustrates the fighting spirit of the men who do their dicing at night but also because it indicates some of the dangers faced in a field whore crews are required to identify targets visually before opening fire.
On the night of 20th September 1944 P/Os Jim Leslie and Chuck Thurgood were vectored alter a bogey Hying at angels 10, near our front line. Chuck obtained a contact at a range of three miles and brought Jim steadily behind the target.
When within 3,000 feet of it, the latter dropped a red flare which illuminated a large area. Although aware it might be a signal between two enemy nightfighters working in conjunction and that the second one might literally creep up his tail as he closed in on the first, Jim realized that it could also be a enemy bomber making its run over our troops.
Closing fast to prevent the possibility of it dropping its eggs over the frontline, Jim had just obtained a visual when the target dropped another red flare which clearly illuminated the Mosquito.
He immediately took evasive action and as he peeled off was attacked by another aircraft from the port side which shot up the port engine. The Hun had been hunting in pairs but Jim's prompt action had foiled them.
Jim and Chuck immediately made for the nearest friendly aerodrome but the weather there was literally on the deck and although reducing height to 200 feet they were unable to see the aerodrome lighting. Hoping that the cloud base would lift enough to enable them to land they continued to circle the 'drome for some time.
When the damaged aircraft became unmanageable Jim nosed it up to 1,000 feet and Chuck and he bailed out, Jim fracturing a small bone in his ankle as he landed.
Quite enough excitement for a lifetime but as soon as Jim's ankle mended they were back for more. This time the score was more than evened for shortly after they shot down a Ju. 52.