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Archive Report: Allied Forces

Compiled from official National Archive and Service sources, contemporary press reports, personal logbooks, diaries and correspondence, reference books, other sources, and interviews.
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20crest
RAFNo.20 Squadron Hawker Hurricane IID KW877 P/O Alfred Blackman

Mission: Training, Exercise Swordfish

Date: 6 November, 1943 (Saturday)

Unit: RAF No. 20 Squadron

Type: Hawker Hurricane IID

Serial: KW877

Code: Unknown

Base: Kalyan, Maharashtra, India

Location: 16° 47' N, 74° 13' E - approximately 9 miles NW of Kolhapur Aerodrome, India

Pilot: P/O Alfred Douglas Blackman J/18084 R.C.A.F. Age 25 Killed

REASON FOR LOSS

The 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.

On 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.

The 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.

The 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.

The 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.

The 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.
To 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 exercise.
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.

P/O Alfred Douglas Blackman1

Alfred 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.

Alfred 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 required.
Alfred was also a keen sportsman playing rugby and swimming as well as skiing, hunting and playing golf in his spare time.

He 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.
At 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.”

After 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.
Posted 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

Burial Details:

P/O 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.



1 The portrait of P/O Blackman was reproduced from the Canadian Virtual War Memorial with the following accompanying text.

Photo 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.

Interestingly 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.

2 Fort William and Port Arthur, Ontario were amalgamated to form the City of Thunder Bay in 1970.



Source Citation
Library and Archives Canada; Ottawa, Canada, Service Files of the Second World War – War Dead, 1939-1947, Series: RG 24, Volume: 28236

Source Information
Ancestry.com. Canada, World War II Records and Service Files of War Dead, 1939-1947 [database on line]. Lehi, UT, USA. Ancestry Operations, Inc., 2015.

The Canadian Virtual War Memorial (CVWM) Veterans Affairs Canada

RAF Operations Record Books, AIR 27/1 – AIR 27/2893. National Archives Kew, UK.






CHB 30.01.2023

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Acknowledgements
Sources used by us in compiling Archive Reports include: Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Tom Kracker - Kracker Luftwaffe Archives, Michel Beckers, Major Fred Paradie (RCAF) and MWO François Dutil (RCAF) - Paradie Archive (on this site), Jean Schadskaje, Major Jack O'Connor USAF (Retd.), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Archiwum - Polish Air Force Archive (on this site), Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Stan D. Bishop, John A. Hey MBE, Gerrie Franken and Maco Cillessen - Losses of the US 8th and 9th Air Forces, Vols 1-6, Dr. Theo E.W. Boiton - Nachtjagd Combat Archives, Vols 1-13. Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of CWGC, UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, New Zealand National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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