Group Captain Michael Thomas Judd DFC DSO AFC
Group Captain Michael Thomas Judd D.F.C. D.S.O. A.F.C.
Born: September 19th 1917 Winchester, Hampshire. Died: August 22nd 2010 Age 92
In early 1944 Judd was given command of a wing of three Canadian Typhoon squadrons and, in the build up to D-Day, attacked the V-1 launching sites and the coastal radar units in the Pas-de-Calais. On June 1 he attended a meeting at 21st Army Group and was briefed on the operational plan for the Normandy invasion and the role his wing would play.
With knowledge of this top-secret information, he was not allowed to fly for the next few days for fear of his being shot down and captured. He found it particularly frustrating to stand by idly as his pilots took off to attack enemy gun positions.
But just after dawn on June 6 Judd took off from an airfield in Hampshire, leading two of his squadrons. He had been ordered to destroy two German 88mm gun batteries that overlooked the Normandy beaches and would pose a serious threat to Allied forces as they went ashore. Each aircraft carried two armour-piercing 1,000lb bombs.
The low cloud base hindered the attack, but the Typhoons dived on to their targets. As he pulled away, Judd saw for the first time the sheer size of the invasion fleet and he later observed: “I knew this was a historic moment I would never forget.”
On the following day Judd’s Typhoon was badly damaged by anti-aircraft fire as he again attacked enemy positions. The aircraft’s hood simply disappeared and a large hole was blown in one of the wings. It was only with difficulty that Judd managed to keep control as he was escorted back across the Channel to make an emergency landing. But for the next three weeks he continued to lead his wing against rail and road targets and, on June 27, he and his comrades started operating from temporary airstrips in Normandy.
Flying daily in support of Montgomery’s army, the Typhoon wings attacked any transports they could find. Judd and his pilots also bombed the bridges over the rivers Orne and Odon as the Germans started their retreat eastwards. After being moved to airfields in Holland, the Typhoons targeted trains and the railway system in an attempt to interrupt the movement of V-2 rockets to their dispersed sites.
At the end of January 1945, Judd was finally rested and two weeks later it was announced that he had been awarded a DSO for his “brilliant work as an outstanding pilot with a fine fighting spirit”.
Michael Thomas Judd was born on September 19 1917 at Scotney, Hampshire, and educated at Gresham’s School, Holt, before going on to Wadham College, Oxford, where he read Greats.
He gained a good degree which led to the award of a Laming Travelling Fellowship at Queen’s College. In August he left for France, but war was declared within a month and he returned to England and was called up.
During his time at Oxford, Judd had been commissioned into the RAF Volunteer Reserve and trained as a pilot with the University Air Squadron, in which two of his close friends were Leonard Cheshire and Richard Hillary, later the fighter pilot who wrote The Last Enemy.
Judd completed his pilot training in December 1939 and was assessed as above average, which, to his great disappointment, led to his selection as a flying instructor rather than to his heading for Fighter Command. He left for Montrose to instruct at an advanced flying training school, where his skill was soon apparent. He rose to become a flight commander and after almost 18 months as an instructor was awarded an AFC.
In September 1941 he sailed for the Middle East, where he joined No 238 Squadron to fly Hurricane fighters providing support for the Eighth Army. Returning from one sortie, he flew into a sandstorm and was forced to land in the desert, recovering his aircraft the following day.
In April 1942 Judd was promoted squadron leader and appointed to command No 250 Squadron, equipped with the American-built P-40 Kittyhawk fighter fitted with long-range fuel tanks. He led his squadron against enemy supply dumps and airfields, strafing aircraft on the ground. He destroyed a Ju 87 Stuka bomber and damaged another.
The German Panzer armies relied entirely on resupply from mainland Europe. On May 12, intercepted enemy radio transmissions indicated that a large formation of Luftwaffe transport aircraft were heading for Libya from Crete. Judd took off at the head of his squadron to escort a Beaufighter squadron and intercepted 12 lumbering Junkers 52 troop carriers 50 miles off the coast. He shot down two of the aircraft as his pilots went in pursuit of the others. Only two of the Junkers escaped.
As the Eighth Army prepared to counter-attack Rommel’s army, Judd attacked supply dumps and motor transports. During these sorties he damaged two enemy fighters and, on October 22, he destroyed a Messerschmitt Bf 109. He continued to lead the squadron until November, when he was rested and awarded a DFC
After a brief spell in East Africa, Judd was sent to the United States to discuss air tactics in support of ground forces and to fly and assess the latest American ground-attack fighters. A year later, in January 1944, he returned to Britain to join 83 Group. He was soon placed in command of 143 Wing, equipped with three RCAF
In addition to his gallantry awards, Judd was also mentioned in despatches and received the Air Efficiency Award. In November 1945 he left the RAF
“Prime Minister visits airfields in France. The Prime Minister meets W/Cdr. M.T Judd, D.F.C.; A.F.C.; regarded as one of our greatest exponents in fighting-bombing technique, of Winchester, Hants; now flying in charge of a Canadian Typhoon fighter-bomber wing responsible for many of the attacks on the Orns and Odon Bridges.”
After the war Judd left Britain to set up home in Houston, Texas, where he established a partnership in oil exploration. When small production oil drilling became unprofitable he worked for a firm of stockbrokers, eventually joining the board. He retired at the age of 82. A keen golfer, he was particularly proud of his hole-in-one at Houston Country Club’s ninth hole.
Mike Judd died in Houston on August 22. With his first wife, whom he married in 1943, he had two daughters. With his second wife, Ann, whom he married in 1952, he had two sons and two daughters.
Reprinted with the kind permission of the Daily Telegraph obituaries column.
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Article prepared by Barry Howard.