November, 1943 (Saturday)
No. 20 Squadron
47' N, 74° 13' E -
approximately 9 miles NW of Kolhapur Aerodrome, India
Alfred Douglas Blackman J/18084 R.C.A.F. Age 25 Killed
squadron was ordered to take part in Exercise Swordfish on the 6th
and 7th of November 1943. This was a combined Ops., exercise
involving landing by an assault force on the beaches near Ratnagiri.
About 1000 troops with guns, light tanks and full equipment were
landed on the 6th November, and the morning of 7th
November with two beach groups on the two main beaches. A
considerable naval force escorted and protected the convoy. RAF
Assault Wing's purpose in the exercise included participation in the
actual landings and practice in aerodrome construction and defense
and also servicing, refueling and re-arming of aircraft on a “newly
captured “ airfield; but the chief purpose was the testing and
exercising of W.T. And R.T. communications and controls of various
experiments in connection therewith. 20 Squadron and 6 Squadron were
to provide the necessary air links, representing friend or foe as
required. 6 Squadron was able to produce only 4 aircraft; one of
which force landed on the north beach and the other pranged on the
aerodrome on the 6th morning while one got too low and
force landed on 6th evening and the other was u/s. The
flying interest, therefore, centred on 20 Squadron.
6th November everyone was astir at 05:30 hours and at
07:30 – i.e. about sunrise, the first sortie took off. During the
day 17 sorties involving 34 aircraft trips, were made. The R.T.
results were much the best we have achieved so far and nearly all
machines worked with the H.Q. Ship up to 50 miles or more. The
program was so arranged that ”Fighter“ patrols, who were over the
men for about 6 hours altogether, were in position when “Enemy”
intruders were due to attack. Since all “Enemy” had to attack
from S to N and had to report to the H.Q. Ship by R.T. Before
entering the area, it appeared that the GCI and visual interceptors
would have no difficulty in vectoring “Fighters” to
interceptions. This proved to be true in some cases, but “enemy”
pilots decided to go in really
low which completely outwitted spotters and RDF alike, - a lesson to
be taken to heart.
exercise continued on the 7th
November with further “Fighter” patrols and “Enemy” intruders
taking off in pairs within a few moments of each other – but orders
prohibiting flying below 6000 feet in order to assist the GCI rather
spoilt the reality and value of the training.
Squadron had only one accident. P/O Blackman A.D., RCAF, crashed near
the aerodrome following a “dog fight” and was killed instantly.
His aircraft KW877 was completely destroyed.
P/O Blackman was
buried in Kolhapur Cemetery. A Court of Inquiry has been convened.
exercise was, apart from P/O Blackman's crash, a great success so far
as we were concerned and much useful R.T. And flying experience was
gained. Reproduced from: Squadron Number 20 Appendices 1939-1944, The
National Archives, Kew.
remarks from the accident report suggest that P/O Blackman was
performing unauthorized “dog fights” at a low level such that he
was unable to recover from a spin before impacting the ground.
be a low-level ground attack squadron was the intent, hence being
equipped with the IID Hurricane variant which was fitted out with
under-wing 40 mm canons although they were not so armed for this
Contained in the report from the squadron records, it specifies
that orders were given prohibiting flying below 6000 feet. Whether
this was before or after Blackman's crash is unknown. The RAF did
have strict rules regarding low-level aerobatics and “hot-dog”
flying but it was not uncommon for the rules to be broken leading to
the demise of many pilots.
Alfred Douglas Blackman1
was born on 31 October 1918 in Fort
William2, Ontario. He was the
eldest of three sons and a daughter of Charles and Irene Blackman.
His Father was born in London, England and emigrated to Canada in
1910, marrying Irene in 1917. He was working as an Annex-mans
Weigh-man for the Olgivie Flour Mill at the time of Alfred's birth.
attended Fort William Vocational School but left part way through his
Grade 10 year to help out his family taking a short-term position at the flour mill. After
he was laid off from the mill, he worked at the Can Car Foundry
repairing aircraft for three years until he was hired at Noorduyn
Aircraft, Montreal in May 1940.
During this time he joined the
Lakehead Flying Club and gained his Private Pilots License which
undoubtedly aided in his acceptance by the RCAF for training as a
pilot as his educational background was much lower than that normally
Alfred was also a keen sportsman playing rugby and
swimming as well as skiing, hunting and playing golf in his spare
was obviously eager to fly with the RCAF and after undergoing his
initial medical and being placed on the reserve list shortly after the
declaration of war in 1939, he was called up on 13 May 1941.
his Selection Board Medical in 1941 it was noted, “He is
straightforward, quick, alert, rather excitable and definitely
emotional about his ambition to be pilot and about his friends having
been killed.” He had stated earlier that he, “joined up because
two of his closest friends who were pilots had been killed.”
completing his initial training at No.3 ITS, Victoriaville in
September 1941, he was posted to No.20 Elementary Flying School,
Oshawa, and then to No.6 Service Flying School, Dunnville where he
attained his Pilots Flying Badge on 28 February 1942.
overseas he arrived at No. 3PRC Bournemouth that March following
which he was posted to RAF No.5 Pilots Advanced Flying Unit Ternhill,
Shropshire for training on Miles Master aircraft on 30 June 1942.
Completing his training course there Alfred was next posted to No.55
Operational Training Unit for his introduction to the Hurricane
fighter aircraft on 21 July 1942.
Posted to India on 26 October 1942, he gained his commission on 30 June 1943.
Hawker Hurricane IID and right showing close-up of Vickers 40 mm Underwing Canons
Alfred Douglas Blackman. Kirkee War Cemetery, India. Plot 1 Row J
Grave 14. Son of Charles Alfred and Irene Rita
(nee Dack) Blackman, of Neebing, Ontario, Canada.
portrait of P/O Blackman was reproduced from the Canadian Virtual War
Memorial with the following accompanying text.
of ALFRED DOUGLAS BLACKMAN – Known as "Blackie" to the
Squadron 20 members, he was killed while dogfighting. He shared a
Basha (bamboo) hut with Jim Ashworth in Burma in 1943. My dad had
fond memories of him and I recently found this in his photo album.
it is remarked in a letter written in 1945 by Alfred's mother that P/O Jim R.
Ashworth was his best friend.
Aircrew Remembered thanks the Ashworth family for the use of the photograph.
William and Port Arthur, Ontario were amalgamated to form the City of
Thunder Bay in 1970.
Library and Archives Canada; Ottawa, Canada, Service
Files of the Second World War – War Dead, 1939-1947, Series: RG 24,
World War II Records and Service Files of War Dead, 1939-1947
[database on line]. Lehi, UT, USA. Ancestry Operations, Inc., 2015.
Canadian Virtual War Memorial (CVWM) Veterans Affairs Canada
Operations Record Books, AIR 27/1 – AIR 27/2893. National Archives