two hour task of stooping to clean the underbelly and undercarriage of XB802
was neither apology, nor sympathy, when it was discovered and made known that
the reason for my having overshot the end of the runway was through no fault of
mine but because of a failed fuel regulator.
I only flew four more sorties during the detachment. Three involved live-firing and one was an air test which was curtailed to a minimum because of unserviceable
controls. During one of the live-firing sorties, that on the afternoon of Friday
October the 8th, to be exact, I was waiting to be called in by the Mosquito TT, Mk 35,
tug aircraft to fire on the South range parallel to the Hörnum limb of the island
when, in clear air, a Sabre
flew past me vertically down at high speed and dived into
the sea. It was only a matter of a few hundred yards from me when it flashed past. I
had witnessed the demise of Ken Richardson
of No.4 Squadron
. Within a second of
seeing this I was called to fire on the flag and left the area at once so could not
change frequency to report the incident on the emergency VHF
following day, when conducting the repeat air test, I saw an Air Sea Rescue launch
moored close to the clearly visible hole in the shallow sea bed where Ken
his end. There was a small slick of fuel creating a rainbow effect in the sunlight on
the water nearby.
As to the weather at Sylt: I distinctly remember that there was an horrendous storm lasting for a period of over 24 hours.3 George Hickman
(with whom I shared a room in the Mess) and I were kept awake for part of the night with the noise of
wind and lashing rain. It was as severe a storm as I can remember, so much so, that
next morning at breakfast many of us wondered what damage had been done. It
seems that there was little or no damage to RAF property, but there were rumours
that the island defences to the north of Westerland may have been breached and
sand dunes washed away. This turned out to be partly true as, in fact, the bed of the
light railway line at Kampen which ran north to List had prevented the waves from
cutting the island in two. I cannot date this event precisely but I distinctly remember
being told to fly to the south, over the lesser islands in that area to look for damage.
I must have combined this with a firing sortie for my Log Book has no specific
record of the event. Anyway, on flying over these islands I could clearly see that at
least one dyke had been breached and the sea had swamped the island farmsteads.
People, their belongings, and some animals, were on the roofs of their properties. I
flew low and sensibly slowly over these poor souls and waved to them and waggled
my wings to let them know they had been seen. They waved back. As briefed, I
reported the situation on landing.
There were some fine days but there was little activity this late in the year on what was known in the RAF as 'bare arse beach', where overweight German nudists
cavorted and displayed their obese, fat hung, bodies. There was a kiosk (beach café)
at the south end of the northern beach which displayed a notice, in several
languages, to the effect that 'clothing has to be worn in this establishment'. So it was.
In there were, sitting at tables, bare bodies clothed in maybe a headscarf, or a towel
over the shoulders, and nothing else. They were obeying the wishes of the
management, just, and in so doing did not present a pretty sight. None of us in our
fully clothed group had any desire to go inside.
On one of the weekends Tommy Balfour
, myself, and some others, went for a
stroll in fair weather to Keitum, a small picturesque hamlet about half a mile away to
the east of the airfield. After a cup of coffee in the local café and a stroll round we
visited a weaver's house wherein several hand looms were in use. The actions of the
2 Ken Richardson
had originally been involved in a tail chase with another 4 Squadron
pilot who made the appropriate R/T calls.
3 In trying to date this event I contacted the Meteorological Office archive in Exeter. Tantalisingly they only have
records of storms in the area at times when I was not there.