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Fl/Lt. John Anthony (Tony) Hawkey Pilot, 143 Squadron - Coastal Command

Tony remembered this action perfectly, but had no idea that anyone had written an account, and he was thrilled to receive “A Separate Little War” as a birthday present in April 2014. Sadly he died soon afterwards, on 17 May.

Page written for Aircrew Remembered by Linda Hall, relative of Tony. She has used excerpts from ‘A Separate Little War’ by Andrew D. Bird. Another publication written by Chaz Bowyer ‘Coastal Command at War’ has used a photograph taken by Tony’s gun camera.

Flew in Coastal Command in the war. Mosquito F, 143 Squadron.

Before he was old enough to join up, Tony and his friend, the actor Michael Hugh Medwin, were messenger boys for the ARP (Air Raid Precautions) in Parkstone, Dorset, where they lived.

On D-Day Tony was stationed at RAF Manston in Kent. He and his navigator had been to the pub the night before, not knowing that they would be woken at 2am with a call to scramble.

During the operation that followed, Tony managed to aim a bomb directly between two U-boats and sank them both.

Later he was stationed at Banff. His first CO was a New Zealander, W/Cdr. Sam Edric Hartgill MacHardy DFC, DSO, who was a good CO.

Then they had a Frenchman (W/Cdr. Maurice - real name Max Guedj, using 'nom de guerre' to protect his family who still lived in France) who they didn’t think was as good. He thought it better to make defensive circles of planes after a strike, but his tactic didn’t work and he was shot down (Black Monday).

After that they had another very good CO, Christopher Foxley-Norris.

At Banff recce’s would be carried out in the morning by a Norwegian Squadron with Norwegian pilots.

They would wire back to base to tell them where the enemy ships were hiding. Tony and his fellow pilots used to fly low up the fjords, sometimes the German guns were positioned higher up, so they would be shooting down on our planes.

The extract from ‘A Separate Little War’ shown at the end of the page, rather bears out Tony’s assessment of Maurice’s tactical capabilities, or rather his lack of them.

There was one occasion during the war when Tony was in trouble, flying in thick fog with no instruments, upside down, and with no way of telling where he was. He suddenly felt strong hands taking the controls, pulling the plane out of the dive and righting it. It was such a strong physical presence that he turned to ask his navigator, Milloy who sat behind him, if he had just taken the controls, but he hadn’t. It must have been his guardian angel who saved their lives that day.

Tony left the squadron in April 1945. He became a gunnery instructor at East Fortune near Edinburgh. They had four Spitfires and Tony used to use the Spitfires to teach Beaufighter pilots how to avoid being shot down; they used cameras to score a hit. Then he was in the Air-Sea Warfare Development Squadron which ran tests on Coastal Command aircraft at Thorney Island. They used to work out operational tactics. They ran joint exercises with the Royal Navy; Tony would go down in submarines, and he took members of the navy up in planes, so each would understand operations from the others’ point of view. He left the RAF in 1947.

He then had a couple of years doing various jobs – he was briefly an estate agent, a bank clerk, and was in charge of the Decca night shift making vinyl records at Holton Heath. In 1949 he rejoined the RAF and was stationed at Weston Zoyland 1949-50 teaching people to fly Meteors. Then he was stationed at Horsham St Faith until 1970.

After that Tony worked as a central heating salesman with Shell for two or three years before he saw an advert which said that British Airways wanted to recruit ‘elderly pilots’ to join as ‘professional first officers’. He flew Vanguards from Heathrow to Europe, and then 707s for BA Air Tours from Gatwick to Los Angeles, Hong Kong and Singapore. Then he flew for Cyprus Airways for five years. He passed his captain’s exams, but Cyprus Airways didn’t accept any British captains. When he finally stopped flying he was a taxi driver in Chandlers Ford in Hampshire, and then a forecourt attendant at a petrol station in Southampton.

He is now 91 years old (May 2014) and lives at Rock Ferry on the Wirral with his wife Valerie, they moved up there from Devon a few years ago to be near her sister.

Tony with Linda Hall

Above: Tony in 2013 with Linda Hall who wrote this page.

‘A Separate Little War’ by Andrew D. Bird

A Separate Little War: The Banff Coastal Command Strike Wing Versus the Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe 1944-1945.

Published by Grub Street in July 2003, 2nd edition published December 2008. Author: Andrew D. Bird. ISBN No: 1904010431 / 978-1904010432. Also available on Kindle. Price: £6.71

‘Coastal Command at War by Chaz Bowyer

Notes (italics) from Linda after chatting with Tony and extracts with extracts from ‘A Separate Little War’ by Andrew D. Bird:

A German ship called ‘Claus Rickmers’ was the main target in January 1945; it had been located near Leirvik harbour. On Monday 15 January, Norway was to have the second largest air battle over its country during the war. Norwegian pilot Thor Stensrund would lead 18 heavily armed Mosquitoes, while Wing Commander Maurice would command the whole force. The aircrews were instructed to ‘blast that bloody ship to smithereens.' The forecasted snowstorms over the North Sea and Norwegian coast made flying difficult. Sixteen Mosquitoes took off in continuous rain from Banff at 09.30 hours. 143 Squadron had six aircraft in two Vics; in the leading one was Maurice on his 150th operation, his No. 2 was Squadron Leader Fitch, and his No. 3 was Flight Sergeant Morton-Moncrieff. The second Vic was led by the American Lieutenant Alexandre (USAAF), his No. 2 was Flight Lieutenant Don Clause, and his No. 3 Flight Lieutenant Tony Hawkey. Flying through snow, they reached the Norwegian coast at 11.10 hours and banked northwards. They were picked up by enemy radar and nine Fw 190s took off to intercept them. The British and Norwegian planes had to fly through a barrage of flak, but managed to hit and sink one of the merchant ships. An anonymous diarist, one of the pilots of 143 Squadron, described the attack.

We made the approach from the north-west. There was lots of snow and everything looked bleak. I watched Maurice go down to attack and Freddie [Lt Alexandre] kept our section well to the left, leaving me to have a clear run in on a TTA [Vp.5304]. The leading sections had fixed the main target well. I saw Tony Hawkey’s rockets go and there was a considerable explosion on the TTA as the boiler room blew up.

He then described flying north up a fjord, through a snowstorm, before hearing Maurice calling for help, saying he was being heavily attacked. Then Fitch called for help, saying his plane was badly hit and he needed an escort. Eventually four Mosquitoes found Fitch and escorted him safely home.

The ‘Claus Rickmers’ gunners stationed at the head of the inlet were jubilant, claiming to have hit three enemy aircraft. ‘F’ 143 flown by Hawkey and Milloy passed over Vp. 5308 and an explosion flung debris up all around the aircraft, embedding itself in the wooden structure. The attack lasted three minutes…….One of the Mosquitoes hit by anti-aircraft fire, ‘A’ 235, had flames and black smoke pouring from one engine……..The aircraft was losing height and trailing thick black smoke.

'A' 235 was being flown by Flight Sergeants Jock Couttie and Frank Chew, who were struggling to control the plane. A Norwegian working at Lundester Electrical Power Station described what he saw: It was almost shot to pieces; the aircraft A-Apple thundered low through Tysekaret, belching black smoke and flames and so low I thought it would crash.

Seconds later ‘F’ 143 and ‘V’ 143 flew over Stord Island following the trail of smoke, one on either side of the damaged Mosquito.

With milling aircraft twisting and turning in the sky Chew and Couttie were still struggling desperately to keep their aircraft in the air at a height of 50 to 30 feet. At 11.35 hours Fitch in ‘U’ 143 heard the American voice of Freddie Alexandre piloting ‘V’ 143 report: ‘Lookout Bandits’. The two crews were searching the sky when three Fw 190s in line astern were seen, but they passed over the three Mosquitoes. They peeled off to come into attack from astern, and approaching from 3 o’clock and at between 300 and 1,000 feet, two attacked. ‘F’ 143, piloted by Hawkey, broke quickly to starboard to drive the enemy away from Chew and Couttie. Less fortunate however was Lieutenant Alexandre who also broke to starboard as he tried to ward them off ‘A’ 235. A brief dogfight ensued, the plywood began to splinter as machine-gun and acnnon fire from two Focke-Wulfs astern tore into the structure. Shaking them off he turned to starboard to attack the third Fw 190 and this was the last sighting of the young American. Colleagues made frequent attempts to raise ‘V’ 143 over the radio-telephone but nothing further was heard. Both enemy fighters then trailed Hawkey for one mile; a single Fw 190 came into attack at 7 o’clock at a range of 800 yards but did not open fire; ‘F’ 143 managed to slip into the cover of a snow shower and lost contact with the enemy. Hawkey later reported seeing a plume of smoke near Mogster, and three enemy aircraft were circling and firing into the sea at something in position 59.55N/04.50E.

Meanwhile ‘A’ 235 hit the water and amazingly Flight Sergeant Couttie managed to scramble into the emergency dinghy and was picked up by the Germans.

"Flying Officer Les Parker described the German attack:" ‘We had been briefed that after the attack we should go out the quickest way possible, which we were told was the more dangerous. Most of the crews ignored this and had no trouble. Wing Commander Maurice, Freddie Alexandre, my pilot Squadron Leader Fitch and two others followed the briefing instructions and went out the way we had come in. After a few seconds I heard Freddie calling “Bandits”. I turned round and saw a Focke-Wulf on our tail. He was firing and rounds found their mark, blowing large chunks out of our tailplane. A minute later he was right behind us again after we threw the aircraft about the sky at about 400 feet and below. We were a sitting duck – but he never fired! It was a black day for 143 Squadron and the Wing. Despite the damage to our plane Squadron Leader Fitch, who was a superb pilot, got us home safely.’

‘A Separate Little War’ by Andrew D. Bird

A Separate Little War: The Banff Coastal Command Strike Wing Versus the Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe 1944-1945. Published by Grub Street in July 2003, 2nd edition published December 2008. Author: Andrew D. Bird. ISBN No: 1904010431 / 978-1904010432. Also available on Kindle. Price: £6.71

‘Coastal Command at War by Chaz Bowyer

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16.07.2016 - further details added.

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