- A family memoir of Norman Cameron's life by his daughter is found on WW2 People's War, an online archive of wartime memories contributed by members of the public from June 2003 to January 2006 and gathered by the BBC. The archive can be found at bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar
Norman (Jock) Cameron (born 4th July 1917) joined the Auxiliary Air Force on 12th July, 1936, and the RAF Volunteer Reserve at West Hartlepool on 27th June 1939. The picture shown was taken in Bruges in 1945.
He became one of the first Master Signallers in the RAF, had a private pilot’s licence and owned his own Tiger Moth. He was involved with pioneering work on radar and damaged his lungs high flying without oxygen in the course of this research. As the result of further injuries to his spine, sustained during various crashes in the war, he was eventually grounded and ended his career in the RAF.
In Bomber Command with 103 Squadron, on January 9th 1941 Cameron was in a Vickers Wellington. They took off from Newton, Nottinghamshire, to make a night attack against the synthetic oil producing plant at Gelsenkirchen in the Ruhr Valley. The bomb load comprised five 500 lb. high explosive bombs and bundles of “Nickels” (leaflets) to be released in the target area. Wellington R3215 piloted by Sgt. Crich, dropped bombs on target from 13,000 ft., seen to burst in factory buildings. Heavy and accurate flak was reported around the target area, and they were hit.
The observer pinpointed his position over the Dutch Coast, as twenty miles off course. Short of fuel and without radio communications after an hour, the pilot realised that the position was hopeless and was left with the choice of abandoning the aircraft or attempting a forced landing.
On the ground in a field near “White House Farm” Llanover near Abergavenny a searchlight unit stood-to. Orders had been given to treat all aircraft in the vicinity as “hostile” and any assistance in landing that the searchlight unit could have given was therefore withheld.
Sgt Crich lowered the undercarriage and selected a field in which to land. The snow camouflaged the slope of the field down to the river Usk. Not allowing for the unseen slope he burst a tyre on landing and came to a halt, feet from electric wires slung across the field! Had they been hit the aircraft would have burst into flames. The six crew suffered cuts and bruises, and one a broken arm. A guard was mounted to keep the gathering crowd at bay. After being patched up, the crew were given lavish hospitality at the home of Major D Berrington, Pant Y Goitre House. (His own son was to be killed 18 months later, near Ross on Wye, piloting a Halifax.)
The crumpled Wellington was dismantled, loaded onto lorries, reassembled and put back into service.
29th May 1941 he was declared fit for non-operational flying and sent to Harrowbeer for Air Sea Rescue as “a rest”. Picking decaying bodies out of the sea when searching for newly ditched airmen was to give him nightmares for the rest of his life.
In April 1943 - he was still only 26 - and a Wireless operator on Walrus sea planes. He rescued a Spitfire pilot who had bailed out 75 miles out to sea. They picked him up in very rough seas and could not take off. The crew spent 13 hours taxying until they had to be towed back to land.
In 1944 another Spitfire pilot bailed out “just off the Hague and Cameron’s Walrus was sent to the rescue.” Despite very rough sea they landed within 400yds. To the crew’s dismay the 10ft waves made it impossible to reach the dinghy and after repeated efforts they tried to take off to get more help. In the meantime the German shore batteries had opened up so the pilot started to taxi out to sea and smoother water; the crew were afraid that the plane would break up. Spitfires of their own squadron were circling the Walrus but they could do nothing about the shore guns constantly firing at them. A Catalina came out to them and they signalled not to land — but the American did. The Walrus crew got into their dinghy and boarded the Catalina and one of the fighters set fire to the Walrus to prevent it falling into enemy hands. The huge seas broke the perspex panelling of the Catalina as it dipped a float under the sea, half flooding the aircraft.
With no food and wet through, the two crews spent a miserable night bailing water. After a seemingly endless night, two naval motor launches arrived from England at 9am, and took most of the crew off. The ‘Cat’ then taxied to smooth water and took off. They had been at sea 21 hours — mostly under fire.
Further research by Aircrew Remembered from personal sources, Wikipedia.
Air Sea Rescue Service WWll
During the Second World War, air-sea rescue squadrons flew a variety of aircraft. They used Supermarine Spitfires and Boulton Paul Defiants to patrol for downed aircrew and Avro Ansons to drop supplies and dinghies. Supermarine Walrus and Supermarine Sea Otter amphibious craft were used to pick up aircrew from the water. Larger aircraft were used to drop Airborne lifeboats. The RAF operated high–speed boats, such as the Type Two 63 ft High Speed Launch (nicknamed "Whaleback" from its deck shape), in the rescue role. By the end of the Second World War, more than 8,000 aircrew and 5,000 civilians had been rescued.
In the early 1950s, helicopters took over from fixed–wing aircraft in the search and rescue role.