By John French
John French first took up flying in 1937 with the collage of London Air Squadron and in 1938 joined the Royal Air strength Volunteer Reserve. His early warfare years have been spent educating newly recruited RAF pilots on Airspeed Oxfords and Avro Ansons. whilst the tip of this posting got here via he used to be specified to 210 Squadron at Sullom Voe within the Shetlands to fly the Catalina flying boat. In November 1942 the squadron used to be ordered south to hitch 202 Squadron at Gibraltar.
Here they flew sorties in help of the North African landings – Operation Torch. those have been long flights out into the Atlantic methods to Gibraltar or Eastwards into the Mediterranean. He flew fifteen sorties during this brief interval prior to returning to Pembroke Dock. He was once then advised to report back to Felixstowe to assemble Catalina IB FP 222 and to ferry it as much as his new base Sullom Voe.
From this northern base the flying boats flew thirty hour patrols out into the Northern Atlantic trying to find enemy ships and U-boats. On eight September he used to be ordered to execute a longer seek of the Norwegian coast the place it was once inspiration that the Tirpitz and Scharnhorst have been looking protect. Having unsuccessfully searched the complete beach at low-level they eventually touched down at the Kola Inlet after a flight of over twenty-two hours.
As February 1944 got here in the direction of its finish he was once targeted to hide a Russian convoy, JW57, a long way as much as the north of the Arctic Circle. almost immediately prior to his ETA with the convoy they received a radar go back. They dropped down lower than the cloud to discover a coarse offended sea and noticed the wake of a boat. even if this used to be now not a boat yet a surfaced U-boat. As they flew into assault they met a hail of 37mm and machine-gun hearth John dropped to assault point and got here in from the strict losing intensity fees. therefore got here the loss of life of U-601.
On 18 July 1944 a Liberator of 86 Squadron was once set
on fireplace in the course of an assault on a U-boat and was once compelled to
ditch a few a hundred miles west of the Loften Islands. Eight
members of the team took to their dinghies. A Catalina
was sent on a seek and rescue undertaking the
following day yet didn't locate the sufferers. notwithstanding on
20 July they have been resighted. A volunteer workforce was
hastily shaped and took off at 0130 at the twenty first. Some
excellent navigation introduced the survivors into view at
ETA. John made up our minds to aim a sea touchdown to influence the
rescue. He got here in low, into wind and around the swell
at sixty five knots. His workforce quickly had the stranded airman
aboard, a little bit bedraggled after their sixty-two hour
ordeal. They landed again at Sullom at 1410.
After the warfare John stayed within the RAF and spent a lot of
his time in the back of the Iron Curtain.