Gerald Bernard Philbin

Ce texte est de la plume de Clarence Simonsen.

Il serait trop long de vous expliquer comment j’ai fait la rencontre de Clarence.

Ce texte est inédit et n’a jamais été publié.

During my fifty years of nose art research, I have interviewed over 1,000 veterans of the American 8th Air Force, Royal Air Force and Royal Canadian Air Force who served in England during WW II. Almost all agree, that it was very easy for servicemen to have a sexual encounter with all ages of British ladies. Britain was the first country to be afflicted by total war and a catastrophic shift in sexual behaviour and attitude of her female society. Between September 1939 and May 1945, 5.3 million infants were delivered in England, and two million were illegitimate, with a non-British biological father. These babies born out of wedlock came from every age group of British mother, from teenage girls to mature ladies in their forties. Most of the biological fathers were well-paid Americans in the 8th Air Force, followed by Canadians in the RCAF. If it had not been for total war, most of these ladies, would never have had illegitimate children. This is the true story on one British infant who never knew his Canadian RCAF father.

This is also the only WW II nose art image I have ever found that featured a trophy from Canadian Ice hockey. The story was offered to the Ottawa Senators hockey team, CBC Hockey Night in Canada, Coaches’ Corner, and Vintage Wings of Canada. All three declined to publish. It is now published for the first time.

RCAF nose art of the “Allan Cup”

In November 1939, RCAF service hockey teams began to compete on the ice at a number of wartime Canadian bases. In the following six years, almost every RCAF unit in Canada and U.K. boasted its own band of hockey talent. The Ottawa R.C.A.F. Flyers entered the senior city league in October 1939, and at once began to attract considerable attention with their scoring punch and general hockey skills. This was no surprise as Ottawa had various RCAF units to draw talent from and the best hockey talent was posted to our nation’s capital. In two years the Ottawa RCAF Flyers became the number one high-calibre Air Force team in wartime senior hockey. Five of these mainstay players came from the original Trenton Flyers of 1938; Louis Le Compte, Eric McNeeley, Roy Hawkey, Hank Blade, and defence star Gerald [Gerry] Philbin.

Gerald Bernard Philbin was born at Montreal, Quebec, in 1909, raised in the city of Valleyfield, situated on the south bank of the island in the St. Lawrence River, 30 miles west of Montréal. He was educated in English and French, plus excelled playing hockey in his school years. In 1938 and 39 Gerry played for the Trenton Flyers hockey team, which influenced his decision to join the RCAF on 21 July 1940. Trained at No. 1 ITS and graduated 9 December 1940. No. 11 EFTS graduated 28 Jan. 1941, then received his wings at No. 2 SFTS, Uplands, 28 March 1941. Gerry was posted to C.T.S. Rockcliffe, which allowed him to play fulltime with the Ottawa RCAF Flyers team, but in fact he had played on and off with the team since the fall of 1940.

The Ottawa senior hockey league teams played 16 regular games in the 1941-42 seasons. The Ottawa RCAF Flyers won 11, lost 4 and tied 1 game, ending with 23 points and a second place finish. They won the semi-final playoff games, 3 games to none, over Hamilton Majors, won the Ontario East final playoffs, 3 games to none, over Quebec Aces, and then faced the Port Arthur Bear-Cats in the final for the Canadian National Senior Ice Hockey Championship Allan Cup.

Game #1 – RCAF 7 – Bear-Cats 4

Game #2 – RCAF 8 – Bear-Cats 7 [won in over-time]

Game #3 – Bear-Cats 3 – RCAF 1

Game #4 – Bear-Cats 4 – RCAF 3

Game #5 – RCAF 7 – Bear-Cats 1

They won the Allen Cup in five games and now 90% of the team was broken up as members moved on to wartime duties in the RCAF.

Gerry Philbin was promoted to Flying Officer and posted to operations in England. F/O Philbin formed a sprog crew made up of five other Canadians and one British. The new crew were assigned to No. 431 [Iroquois] squadron stationed at Tholthorpe, Yorkshire, where they flew their first operation on 8 October 1943, in Halifax Mk. V, “O”.

On the 18 November the crew were assigned to fly Halifax “U” [LL152] which became their bomber. Shortly after completing an attack on Berlin, 21-22 November 43, the starboard engine failed and on the return trip they were damaged by anti-aircraft fire. Despite this Philbin return his crew safely to base and for his actions, was recommender for a D.F.C. No. 431 squadron are ordered to move to #64 Base at Croft, Yorkshire, on 10 December 1943.The 23 Dec. 1943, issue of the Ottawa Citizen newspaper reported F/O Gerry Philbin always wore his 1942 “Allan Cup” hockey jersey on operations for good luck.

On 15/16 March 1944, after attacking Amiens, France, the Philbin crew had a hung up 500 lb. bomb, and upon landing the bomb dropped and exploded. Two of the original crew, Canadian gunners P/O Lloyd Barker, P/O Irvine Klein, were killed Gerry Philbin and the rest of his crew escaped with minor injuries. The Philbin crew received a new Halifax SE-U, serial LK991, and went on to complete 21 operations with No. 431 squadron, 13 of which were flown in the two Halifax aircraft coded “U”.

No. 425 [Alouette] squadron was formed on 25 June 1942, and designated “French-Canadian” squadron. Bomber Command combed other squadrons for French speaking air and ground crews to fill its ranks. On 13 June 1944, French speaking pilot Gerry Philbin and his crew were posted from No. 431 squadron to No. 425 squadron based at Tholthorpe, Yorkshire, where they had flown with their original squadron. Pilot Philbin is now promoted to squadron Leader in the RCAF, providing experience to the French speaking squadron.

S/L Philbin received a new No. 425 squadron Halifax Mk. VII, serial LL594, with code letter “U”. On this aircraft he had the squadron artist paint the nose art of the 1942 Allen Cup and the background logo used on the Ottawa hockey sweaters. The Philbin crew flew their first operation with No. 425 squadron on 16 June 1944, a date the French-Canadian squadron began attacks on the German V-1 rocket sites in France. In the next four weeks the squadron would attack 21 rocket sites in France, but the Philbin crew will not take part.

On 5 August 1944, at 11 am, Halifax LL594 and the Philbin crew become airborne from Tholthorpe for the last time. It is their 26th operation; the fifth flown in No. 425 squadron and the target is the V-1 site at St. Leu d’ Esserent, France. Over the target the Halifax with the Allan Cup on the nose takes a direct hit from flak and explodes. Six of the crew die at once, pilot Philbin and RAF Sgt. Milliard are blown into space and parachute to earth where they are taken prisoner. Sgt. Milliard is interned in camp Luft. 7, POW #608.

Gerry Philbin lands among exploding bombs from his own squadron, but has two broken ribs and fractured both feet. He is virtually pulled into a foxhole by a German soldier who saves his life, and then taken prisoner. Gerry is transported to a German army hospital and the next day driven to Beaujon [Luftwaffe] hospital in Clichy, north of Paris.

On 11 August 1944, the American 8th Air Force launched 956 B-24 and B-17 bombers in visual attacks on German railway, fuel dumps, and troop concentrations in the French, Brest peninsula. Three B-24’s and two B-17’s were lost with seven crew killed and 28 missing in action.

One of the B-17’s in the 100th B.G., with nose art “Royal Flush”, crashed in a suburb of north Paris, four crew are killed and six taken prisoner by German SS troops.

The six Americans are transported to the same hospital as Canadian S/L Gerry Philbin. The SS Colonel in charge of the hospital informs all prisoners they will be transported to Germany that evening. American Chuck Nekvasil and Gerry Philbin speak perfect French, and ask the French staff in the hospital to help them escape. The prisoners are locked in the seventh floor of the hospital with one German guard. At 7 pm trucks and ambulances arrive to transport the POW’s to Germany. Soon after, the French FFI attack the hospital and during the gun battle one of the Americans obtains a knife and slashed the throat of the lone German guard, Willie. The German keys are obtained and the group took off making nine miles in the first day. They took cover by day and travelled by night until 3 September, when a German fighter dropped fire bombs on the building they were hiding in. Eight of the prisoners, including the six Americans and Gerry Philbin, took off running for about six miles, when two motorcycles came tearing down the road towards them. The soldiers wore the uniform of the French 2nd Armored Division. It was all over, and they were next taken to a field hospital near Orleans, France. On 6 September 1944, the group was airlifted by an American C-47 to Exeter, England, and another hospital. For S/L Gerry Philbin the war is over, he now has a desk job, and effective 1 September 44 awarded the D.F.C. The award was presented by Governor General of Canada on 27 June 1945.


Crew photo from Ken Cothliff

The six crew members killed in Halifax III, serial LL594, KW-U, on 5 August 1944 are –

P/O R. Reed RCAF


F/O L. Stamp RAF

F/O G. Beresford RAF

W/O B. Clark RAF

F/Sgt. William [Bill] Gracie RCAF

On 12 August 1944, a baby boy is born in Wallasey hospital near Liverpool, the mother is Emma Murray, a mother of two children, and a widow whose sailor husband was killed when his trawler was torpedoed off Ireland in 1941. The new son is named Kenneth Glenn Murray, but life is tough for the new widow/mother in war torn England. In October 1944, Emma places her new son up for adoption and he is put in the Children’s Home at Strawberry Fields in Liverpool. In January 1945, the boy is adopted by Hilda and Malcolm Cothliff, where he spends a very happy and secure childhood.

At age sixteen Kenneth becomes interested in Jazz and enrols in the local Art College, which becomes the centre of a new tend called the “Mersey Sound.” Ken meets a fellow student who is very active in the college at this time and his name is John Lennon.

Ken always knew he was ‘chosen’ and regarded himself as very fortunate. In 1977, the British adoption laws changed and Ken was able to learn who his parents were and provided with the details of his natural father. He learns his father was a Canadian in the RCAF, F/Sgt. William Gracie, killed just seven days before he was born. Ken begins a search for his Canadian relatives and in May 1979 came to Peterborough, Ontario, to meet Mrs. Christina Gracie, who was Bill’s mother. She had no idea he existed and at once accepted Ken as her grandson. Ken would make four more trips to Canada to visit his grandmother and relatives. In the summer of 1992, Ken received word his grandmother, Christina Gracie was becoming fail and he decided to make one final trip. It was apparent she was in her last days and kept referring to Ken as her son Bill. The day before his return to England, Ken dug up six, 3 inch high, sugar maple trees from his grandmother’s front yard. These trees were transported back to England and placed into small pots. One month later Ken’s grandma Gracie passed away. In 1994, Ken made his way to the Oise Valley, north of Paris, France, and in St. Leu D’Esserent and St. Maximum area, next to a French school he planted a Canadian Maple tree. The tree was planted at the crash site of his father’s Halifax bomber on the 50th anniversary, 5 August 1944. A second Maple tree was planted in his home yard in Leeds, England. A third Maple tree was planted in the village green next to the RCAF memorial at Tholthorpe village, where his father had taken off on his last operation. Today three 40 foot Canadian Maple Sugar trees grow in England and France, a living memorial to the Canadian father he never knew.

I first made letter contact with Kenneth B. Cothliff on 10 April 1993, and over the years learned more and more of his family story. In June 2010, Ken came to Western Canada and spent two days at my home in Airdrie, Alberta. During this time, I learned so much more about my special loving friend and his amazing true Canadian life story. If this were the United States they would make a movie, but in Canada it proves impossible to even tell the story. Ken has done more to honour the Canadian father he never knew, than thousands of Canadians whose father’s wore the uniform of the RCAF in WW II.

In 2012, I surprised Ken with a replica painting of his father’s WW II Halifax nose art, on original Halifax bomber skin.


Image from Ken Cothliff-2012

Clarence Simonsen nose art Halifax Mk. VII. serial LL594, No. 425 [Alouette] Squadron, named « Allan Cup ». Painted on original skin from Halifax NA337. Ken’s mother and father met at the very same factory that built the Halifax LL594 and the [above] skin from NA337. Ken Cothliff holds the replica nose art of the aircraft his Canadian father, F/Sgt. Gracie was killed in 5 August 1944.


Ken’s office is a living memorial to his Canadian father – 2014.

9 réflexions sur “Gerald Bernard Philbin

  1. Plus d’information ici…

    Group Captain McGill chats with ‘Jerry’ Philbin and Creighton Lowther. Both airmen played hockey for the RCAF entry in the Ottawa City League. Lowther was killed in action September 27, 1941 while serving with No. 33 Squadron in the Western Desert. Philbin remained in Canada as a flying instructor until 1943. He was decorated with the DFC for his service with No. 425 Squadron.

  2. From Website

    PHILBIN, S/L Gerald Bernard (J13999) – Distinguished Flying Cross – No.425 Squadron (missing) – Award effective 1 September 1944 as per London Gazette dated 15 September 1944 and AFRO 2373/44 dated 3 November 1944. Born 1909 in Montreal; home in Valleyfield; enlisted there 21 July 1940. Trained at No.1 ITS (graduated 9 December 1940), No.11 EFTS (graduated 28 January 1941) and No.2 SFTS (graduated 28 March 1941). Commissioned 1942. Reported missing, 5 August 1944 after attacking a munitions dump near Paris. Hit by flak; bomber exploded. He succeeded in baling out but was captured (virtually pulled into a foxhole by a German soldier as other bombs fell nearby). Taken to hospital near Paris (two broken ribs, feet swollen); moved to another hospital before being set free by American. Safe in UK, 6 September 1944. DFC presented by Governor General, 27 June 1945. In April 1998 Gateway Militaria (Winnipeg) offered medals for sale with logbook, wings, and other items for $ 2,800.

    This officer has participated in many attacks on distant and well defended targets such as Berlin, Leipzig, Stuttgart and Essen. One night in November 1943, shortly after completing an attack on Berlin, the starboard outer engine of his aircraft failed and during the return flight damage from anti-aircraft fire was sustained. Despite this, Squadron Leader Philbin flew the aircraft safely to base. This officer has invariably displayed commendable courage and determination.

  3. No comment!

    In April 1998 Gateway Militaria (Winnipeg) offered medals for sale with logbook, wings, and other items for $ 2,800.

  4. More…

    Gerald Bernard Philbin DFC was born in Montreal, Quebec, but was raised in Valleyfield, Quebec, located on the south shore of the St Lawrence River, about 20 miles west of the Montreal suburb of Chateaugay.

    On July 21, 1940, Philbin enlisted in the RCAF at Valleyfield, and was a star defenseman with the RCAF Flyer Hockey Team (coached by Bill Touhey) that won the Allan Cup as Canadian amateur hockey club champions in 1942.

    He received air crew instruction at various training schools in Canada and on March 28, 1941, graduated as a pilot, from No.2 Service Flying Training School at Ottawa (Uplands), Ontario airport. He was a flying instructor at Ottawa (Rockcliffe) airport while playing for the champion RCAF Flyer Hockey Club.

    Shortly after a February 23, 1943, luncheon in the Chateau Laurier Hotel, Ottawa, honoring members of the RCAF Flyer Hockey Club and the Detroit Red Wing Hockey Club, Philbin was posted overseas to the UK. After receiving additional training at an Operational Training Unit, he was posted to No. 431 (Iroquois) Squadron, Bomber Command.

    For Bomber Command air crew, there was a low probability of surviving their tour of missions and returning safely to base every time. Over 60% of the air crews who began a tour of 30 sorties were lost, before completing their tour.

    Regardless of the terrible odds, bomber crews buckled on their parachutes and began each mission with determination. They fell prey to the hazards of icing and lightning and they perished amidst the bursting shells of anti-aircraft guns.

    But the greater number died in the desperately unequal combat and overwhelming firepower of tenacious German night fighters.

    On each bombing mission there were many who crashed after being hit by flak or enemy fighters. Some airmen survived the crashes, others were rescued at sea, and some were taken prisoner.

    A great many of those who died never had a chance to bail out. They perished when their aircraft loaded with tons of explosives and high octane gas either exploded in the air or on impact with the ground. Others were killed when they plummeted 6 to 8 kilometres to the ground after their parachutes caught fire from their burning aircraft.

    Over 9,900 Canadians in Bomber Command sacrificed their lives in fighting for freedom and democracy.

    During an August 5, 1944 bombing mission to attack a munitions dump near Paris, Philbin’s bomber was hit by flak and exploded. However he succeeded in bailing out but was captured and pulled into a foxhole by a German soldier as other bombs fell nearby. He was taken to a hospital near Paris, (with two broken ribs), by the Germans. He was moved to another hospital before being set free by the Americans and on September 6, 1944 he was safe back in the UK. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) for his skill and gallantry. His citation reads as follows:

    « This officer has participated in many attacks on distant and well defended targets such as Berlin, Leipzig, Stuttgart and Essen. In November 1943, shortly after completing an attack on Berlin, the starboard outer engine of his aircraft failed and during the return flight, damage from anti-aircraft fire was sustained. Despite this, Squadron Leader Philbin flew the aircraft safely to base. This officer has invariably displayed commendable courage and determination. »

  5. About sprog crew

    Sprog: a « new boy » fresh from training – inexperienced (also a « sprog crew »).

    A/c: aircraft.

    Acc or Trolley Acc: Accumulator (battery) used to start aircraft engines on the ground.

    Ack: under the old phonetic alphabet, « Ack » stood for the letter « A », thus « ack-ack » was « A-A » or anti-aircraft artillery.

    Adj.: short form for Adjutant – the administrative assistant to the CO of a squadron.

    Air Commode: Air Commodore.

    Airscrew: the complete assembly of three or four propellers, hub and spinner.

    Aircrew: the men who actually flew the bomber into battle.

    A.M.O.: Air Ministry Orders. See « bumph ».

    Anchor: one who waits too long to drop by parachute.

    Angels: a term used in airborne radio communications. One angel was 1000 feet, thus « angels 13 » was 13,000 feet of altitude.

    AOC: Air Officer Commanding.

    Armourer: ground crew responsible for bombs, defensive ammunition, flares etc.

    Arse end charlie: rear gunner (R/AG).

    Arsy-tarsy: Aircrew Reception Centre.

    Bale or bail out: to leave an aircraft by jumping – hoping that some « clot » had packed your ‘chute correctly.

    Bag: collect/secure, possibly illegally.

    Bags of: a great amount, as in « bags of flak over the target ».

    Balbo: large formation of aircraft.

    Balloonatic: member of Balloon Command.

    Banana-boat: aircraft carrier.

    Bang on: to be right on target. By extension, to be right on the mark about any observation (also « spot on »).

    Basher: man, chap, fellow in a particular trade e.g. « stores basher ».

    Battle dress blues: woolen working uniform.

    Bandit: enemy aircraft.

    Beatup: to fly very low over a populated airfield.

    Beehive: very close formation of bombers (hive) with fighter escort (bees).

    Beer-lever: joystick.

    Belt: to travel at a high speed or to hit target heavily.

    Belt up: be quiet.

    Best blues: parade uniform.

    Binding: whining about conditions.

    Black, a: something reprehensible, e.g. « he’s put up a black with the CO about the mess he made of the march-past ».

    Blighty: the U.K.

    Blitz time: the time briefed for all aircraft to pass over target.

    Blood-wagon: ambulance.

    Bloody: at the time this was fairly heavy duty profanity, often made more mild by transliteration to « ruddy ».

    Blue: used by the Australians in reference to anything that was red.

    Blue, the: the desert.

    Bods: squadron personnel.

    Body-snatcher: stretcher bearer.

    Boffins: scientific or technical types who worked on new aircraft developments.

    Bog: a latrine – also « biffy ».

    Bolshie: a crewman who took a « dim view » of service « bull ».

    Boomerang: an operation that required one to return to base with a « u/s kite ».

    Boost: the amount of supercharging given to an engine to increase power.

    Bowser: tanker truck or « lorry » used to refuel aircraft « down the flights ».

    B.P.D.: Base Personnel Disposal – where you went when you were « O.T.E. ».

    Brass, the or Brasshats: commanding officers at the Wing or Group level, so called because of the amount of gold braid found on hats of Group Captains, Wing Commanders and Air Vice Marshalls.

    Brassed off: extremely unhappy. Also « browned off ».

    Brew up: to prepare a pot of tea.

    Briefing: a meeting of all crew before an operation to receive instructions for the op.

    Brown Jobs: the army – also « pongos » and « squaddies ».

    Brown, to get one’s knees: to have spent time in the « MTO » – because of the heat the wearing of uniform « KD » shorts was necessary.

    Buggers, to play silly: to fool around – not take job seriously.

    Bull: the formalities of the service – parade ground bashing, saluting the King’s commission, etc.

    Bully Beef: a « gourmet canned meat product » consisting largely of fat, so called because of the Bull on the front of a tin of Hereford Brand corned beef. A staple food on Italian airfields.

    Bumph: useless paperwork.

    Bundoo, the: the boondocks – see « blue ».

    Burton: « Gone for a Burton » – killed in action – from an old beer commercial for Burton Ale.

    Bus: an aircraft.

    Buy it: see « Burton ». As in « Fred almost bought it over Verona last op ». Also to « buy the farm ».

    Caterpillar Club: a club for those who had survived by jumping out of their aircraft and using their parachutes. The club pin was a small caterpillar (representing the insect that made silk for the parachutes) and was given by the maker of parachutes.

    Chain Gang: aircrafthands, General Duties.

    Chairborne division: RAF personnel working in offices.

    Chance light: powerful light at end of runway which could be requested by a pilot in difficulty.

    Chiefy: Flight Sergeant.

    Chop, to get the: see « Burton ».

    Chuffed: extremely unhappy.

    Chum: equivalent to the American « buddy » as in « wad’ya want chum? »

    Circuits and bumps: a pilot training exercise in landing an aircraft and immediately taking off again. Equivalent to the American term « touch and go ».

    Civvy street: what you did before or after you were in the R.A.F.

    Clapped out: an aircraft or person nearing the end of its useful life – worn out, tired.

    Clobber: the clothing and equipment it was necessary to wear in a wartime bomber.

    Clot: a person whose intelligence should be questioned.

    CO: Commanding Officer.

    Cockup: a situation that has become extremely disorganized (from the term « cocked hat »).

    Cookie: a 4000 H.C. bomb consisting of two light cased cylinders welded together and filled with amitol high explosive. It had the aerodynamic shape of a brick and was used to demolish large structures – also called a blockbuster.

    Coned: when one searchlight, often radar controlled, picked up an aircraft all of the others in the target area would swing onto that aircraft, thus « coning » it – then the flak would be « poured into the cone ».

    Conservatory: cabin of a plane (from the perspex on three sides).

    Corkscrew: evasive maneuver performed when attacked by night fighter – sharp diving turn to port followed by sharp climbing turn to starboard.

    Cricket: German night fighter plane.

    Dalton Computer: early mechanical hand held computer used in air navigation.

    Darky: a system of radio signals whereby an aircraft that was lost could get assistance to return to base.

    Debriefing: where all crews met with the Intel Officer to share what had happened on the raid.

    Deck: the ground.

    Desert lily: urinal made from tin can.

    D.F.C.: Distinguished Flying Cross – medal awarded to ranks of warrant officer and above for conspicuous bravery or long term excellence while on active service in operation against the enemy.

    D.F.M.: Distinguished Flying Medal – same as a D.F.C., but for ranks of Flight Sergeant and lower.

    Dicey-do: a particularly hair-raising operation.

    Dim view, to take a: to view with skepticism or disapproval.

    Ditch: to perform a landing in the « drink » – usually when one’s a/c was unable to fly any more.

    Dicky or 2nd Dicky: an inexperienced co-pilot flying with a veteran Wellington crew.

    Dicky flight: a training flight where an inexperienced operational pilot would go with an experienced pilot on a real op.

    Dicky seat: the seat originally designed for a second pilot in the Wellington – often used by the bomb aimer in the Middle East and Italy until near the target.

    Dobhi: one’s laundry.

    Dope: nitocelluloid liquid, similar to nail polish, used to tighten and harden the fabric covering of a « wimpy ».

    Down the flights: the area on an airfield where the aircraft were serviced between ops.

    D.R.: dead reckoning navigation. Based on intended track, airspeed and time modified by wind speed and direction.

    Drink: an ocean, river or lake.

    Drome: aerodrome – an airfield.

    Driver, airframe: a pilot. This term was a play on the way that the RAF quartermaster labeled everything, such as « Gloves, Airman, For the use of ».

    Duff: bad or not accurate, as in « duff gen ».

    Elsan: chemical toilet carried on board Wellington aircraft.

    ENSA: entertainment troupe.

    E.P.I.P.: type of marquee tent (Egyptian Pattern, Indian Production).

    Erk: ground crew – from the Cockney pronunciation of aircraftsman.

    ETA: estimated time of arrival.

    Faithful Annie: An Avro Anson – a twin engined aircraft usually used for training or transport.

    Finger, to remove one’s: to hurry up and/or to pay attention.

    Fishheads: the navy.

    Fitter: ground crew responsible for engines and related controls.

    Flak: antiaircraft fire. From the German, « FLugAbwehrKanonen’. In reports « heavy flak » did not refer to the concentration or degree of flak but to the caliber observed. « Heavy flak » referred to anything of 88 mm and up while « light flak » consisted of quick firing 20, 30 or 40 mm. guns. By extension flak came to mean any grief given to you by anyone else.

    Flame float: small incendiary device that would float after being thrown out down the flare chute. The rear gunner would center the « pip » on his reflector sight on the point of light and then read off the degree of deviation from a scale on his turret ring – this would provide the navigator with the degree of wind drift blowing the aircraft off track.

    Flamer: aircraft shot down in flames.

    Flaming: mild, all purpose expletive.

    Flaming onions: anti aircraft tracer.

    Flannel: to avoid the truth, to try and bluff one’s way or to deceive.

    Flap: as in « theres a flap on » – excitement or some especially chaotic event.

    Flare path: a row of lights (either kerosene gooseneck flares, or, on a more permanent base, electric lights) that marked the boundary of the runway for taking off and landing.

    Flight: a bomber squadron was often divided into two Flights – « A » and « B » consisting of 6-8 aircraft and crews and commanded by a Squadron Leader who was the Flight Commander or Leader – « A » Flight aircraft were lettered from A-N and « B » Flight from M-Z.

    Flying brevet: cloth insignia worn on all uniforms including battle dress to indicate your aircrew trade. Pilots’ brevets were always two winged. All other crew wore a single wing with their trade marked inside a circular area at the base of the wing.

    Flying log: every crew member was required to keep a flying logbook of every flight he took including air tests, transport, training and operational flying. This book was signed by the Flight Leader each month and by the C/O of the squadron or the various Trade Leaders at the end of the tour (eg: a Bomb Aimer’s log would be signed by the Bombing Leader, The Gunner’s by the Gunnery Leader etc.).

    Form 78: RAF form also called Aircraft Movement Card which followed the aircraft from the manufacturer to its final resting place.

    Form 540: pages of this form make up the Operations Record Books (ORB), which included columns for date, aircraft type and number, crew, duty, time up, time down, details of sortie or flight, plus references and summaries.

    Form 700: R.A.F. Form signed by the captain of the aircraft taking responsibility for the aircraft from the ground crew.

    Fort or Fortress: Boeing B-17 bomber. Flown by USAAF out of Amendola and Tortorella as part of 15th Airforce, it was not used as a bomber in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations by RAF.

    Frozen on the stick: paralyzed with fear.

    Fruit salad: crew would wear only the ribbons from their « gongs » in most situations, wrapped around a thin bar and sewn together, worn under the flying brevet. The various Colors of the « gong » ribbons would look like fruit salad in a tin. The term was usually used for someone who had a large collection of ribbons.

    F.T.U.: Ferry Training Unit – preparation for flying an aircraft out to an active theatre of war.

    Gardening: sowing mines in rivers, ports and oceans from low heights.

    Gee: the earliest form of Ground Control Radar installed in Italy.

    George: the automatic pilot.

    Gen: information. Either good (see « pukka ») or bad (see « duff »).

    Gen: a person on squadron who knew what he was doing, as in « a gen bod ».

    Gerry or Jerry: German.

    Get some in: advice given to « sprog crews » who felt like advising « old lags » on their opinion of operational flying. Often paired with « chum » as in, « get some in chum, before you tell your grandmother how to suck eggs ».

    Gharry: originally a horse drawn cart, it came to mean any form of wheeled transport.

    Gippy-tummy: « the screaming hab-dabs », « the trots in the extremis » – dysentery.

    Gone for six: dead.

    Gong: a service medal.

    Goolie chit: a scrap of paper or piece of cloth that when shown to the natives of a country over which you might be shot down offered a reward if they would return you to the nearest Allied unit unharmed.

    Goolies: part of body that if shot off would provide a very nice soprano voice for the remainder of the owner’s life – as in « I almost got my goolies shot off, last op ».

    GP: General Purpose Bomb as in « 6 x 250 GP ».

    Gremlin: a mythical creature that lived on certain aircraft and caused it to go « u/s » at the most inconvenient times and then could not be located as the source of the problem.

    Green, in the: all engine control gauges operating correctly. A needle which swung into the « red » indicated a malfunction.

    Green, to get the: to receive permission to take off, generally expanded to refer to getting permission for anything. To give an aircraft permission to take off the airfield control officer would signal in Morse code using an Aldis Lamp with a green lens. Usually the Morse code signal was the letter of the aircraft.

    Greens, three: both main « undercart » legs and the tail-wheel down and locked. This was indicated by three lights on the flying panel. Up and locked would be indicated by « three reds ».

    Grief, to come to: to be destroyed or to get into trouble.

    Ground wallah: an officer who did not fly (also see « penguin » and « mahogany Spitfire »).

    Groupie: Group Captain – usual rank of officer who commanded a Wing.

    Group: a formation of « Wings ».

    Gubbins: equipment or needed material (eg: « has that kite got the gubbins for dropping a cookie? »).

    Guinea Pig Club: after an incident where aircrew were extremely badly burned they would be sent to East Grinstead Hospital in the U.K. where some of the foremost plastic surgeons of the day performed « cutting edge » surgery. The term was made up by the patients themselves. Many today proudly wear the maroon tie of the club.

    H2S: early airborne centimetric radar used by Halifaxes. From « How To See » or « hydrogen sulphide » (implying the system « stinks ») according to the two most popular legends.

    Hack: aircraft on squadron used for general communications duties or as the CO’s private aircraft.

    Half-pint hero: a boaster.

    Halibag: Handley Page Halifax – bomber used by 614 Squadron in the Pathfinder role.

    H.C.: High Capacity – see « cookie ».

    Hedge-hopping: flying so low that the aircraft appears to hop over the hedges.

    Herc: A Bristol Hercules sleeve valve air cooled radial engine of the type used on the Wellington Mk.X.

    Hop the twig: Canadian term meaning to crash fatally.

    Illuminator: a crew tasked with dropping flares on a night target so that the following aircraft could aim accurately – usual load was 54 parachute flares.

    Intel: intelligence officer or intelligence report.

    Irvin Jacket: Standard R.A.F. Leather Flying Jacket lined with fleece.

    Jankers: to be put « on charge » for a violation of service discipline.

    Jerry Can: excellent German invention of heavy duty portable can for holding water, gasoline or other liquid. It quickly replaced leaky tin cans used by RAF and was manufactured in England to the German pattern.

    Jink away: sharp maneuver, sudden evasive action of aircraft.

    Juice: aviation fuel (as in « we are low on juice »). Also « gravy ». Aviation fuel was 100 Octane gasoline.

    K.D.: Khaki Drill. The R.A.F. tropical uniform replaced R.A.F. blue battledress in tropical and desert climates.

    Keen: eager or reliable – « keen as mustard « – a pun on Kean’s mustard powder.

    KIA: Killed in Action.

    Kipper Kite: Coastal Command aircraft that protected fishing fleets.

    Kit: ones belongings, both issue and personal (hence kitbag). Also used to mean equipment, as in « Does that erk have the kit to repair the hole in the starboard wing? ».

    Kite: an aircraft.

    Khamsin: a desert dust storm.

    Knot: measure of air or ground speed – one nautical mile per hour (1.150 statute miles per hour).

    KR’s: King’s Regulations – see « jankers ».

    Lib: Consolidated B-24 « Liberator » bomber.

    Line shoot or shooting a line: exaggerating one’s accomplishments, usually responded to by the line « there I was upside down, nothing on the clock but the makers name…. »

    L.M.F.: Lack of Moral Fibre – inability to continue on ops.

    Lose your wool: lose composure.

    M & V: Tinned Meat and Vegetable Stew.

    M.A.A.F.: Mediterranean Allied Air Force.

    Mae West: inflatable life vest worn over flying suit (thus called because when inflated it made one look like the « pigeon breasted » movie star).

    Mahogany Spitfire: a desk « flown » by « penguins » and « ground wallahs ».

    M.A.S.A.F.: Mediterranean Allied Strategic Air Force.

    M.C.: Medium Capacity Bomb as in « 500 lb. MC ».

    Mepacrine: standard anti-malarial drug of the day.

    Mess: the place assigned for the ranks, NCO’s and Officers to eat or relax. These were separated and there was a protocol as to who could enter who’s mess.

    Met: Meteorology Officer or weather report.

    M.I.A.: Missing in action.

    Mickey Mouse: a bombing panel that consisted of a clockwork distributor and selection switches (sort of like a Mickey Mouse watch).

    Mob: Royal Air Force.

    M.T.: Motorized Transport.

    M.T.O.: Mediterranean Theatre of Operations.

    M.U.: Maintenance Unit. An airfield where aircraft were taken to be repaired when the work could not be done on the squadron.

    NAAFI: Navy, Army, Air Force Institute. An organization which attempted to bring comforts to the crews (tea and buns, cigarettes etc.) to raise morale.

    N.C.O.: noncommissioned Officer – in the RAF this meant Sergeant or Flight Sergeant.

    Nickels: propaganda leaflets.

    Nobby: all purpose nickname for anyone called « Clark » or « Clarke ». Originally « clarks » (now almost universally spelled « clerks », but in the U.K. often pronounced « clarks ») wore top hats as a sign of their trade. The gentry or « nobs » also wore top hats and thus the clarks came by the name « nobby » because of their « posh » hats.

    Odd bod: crew member who had lost his crew or who had fallen behind the rest of his crew in number of operational trips and who flew as a « spare » with another crew.

    Old lag: experienced airman.

    Old Man, the: the Squadron C/O.

    On the beam: some stations (but not many in Italy) were equipped with a landing beam which told the pilot he was on the correct glide slope for landing. If he flew too high he would hear a series of morse dots and if too low a series of morse dashes. The idea was to keep a steady tone in one’s earphones. This system also showed up in some aircraft as a set of lights showing that one was on the correct beam or too high or low. Also used for flying on a navigation beam such as Gee or Oboe. The phrase was generally applied to being on the right course of action about nearly anything, as in « I think the Wingco’s on the beam about not flying over the Alps again. »

    Op: operation – an attack on the enemy (USAAF term – « mission »).

    Opsum: Operational Summary – prepared by the Intelligence Officer from debriefing notes recording the results of an operation.

    Oranges: Vitamin C tablets.

    ORB: Operational Record Book. The official account of operations flown by the squadron.

    OTE: Operational Tour Expired. What a crew was after completing 40 operations.

    OTU: Operational Training Unit.

    Overload tanks: extra fuel tanks required when the Wellington was operated at its extreme range. Two could be fitted in the bomb bays and one could be fitted on the rest cot in the fuselage.

    Pack up, to: to break down, as in « My port engine packed up coming out of the target area ».

    Packet, to catch a: to be on the receiving end of offensive fire, as in « I heard Nobby caught a packet over Verona last night ».

    Penguin: term for ground officers with no operational experience – a bird with wings that can’t fly.

    Plaster: to bomb heavily and accurately.

    Plonk: cheap Italian wine, also « AC plonk » (AC 2 was the lowest rank in the R.A.F.).

    Pom: Australian term for the British. Also « Pommy » used as in « What a typical Pommy cockup ».

    Port: the left side of an aircraft as seen from pilots seat.

    Posted: orders sending a crewman to another station or responsibility.

    Prang: to crash an a/c or to hit a target well.

    Press on regardless: unofficial motto of RAF, meant to show « keenness » to fly through adversity to the target – often stupid advice. Many men died « pressing on regardless » of severe icing and « duff » engines and died because of it. Often used in an ironic way to show resignation to keeping on with a task no matter how ridiculous or unpleasant. Also used as an expression to « buck up » those who were depressed about something.

    Prune, Pilot Officer: a fictional officer in the R.A.F. training manuals who demonstrated all of the things that could go wrong if procedures were not followed correctly.

    PSP: Perforated or Pierced Steel Planking (also called Marsden Matting) – steel mats used on newly created airfields to hold the weight of aircraft, used as taxiways, hardstandings, and runways.

    Pukka: genuine, as in « pukka gen ».

    Pulpit: cockpit of aircraft, also « office ».

    Pundit: a flashing light which signaled a Morse Code letter in order to assist navigation.

    P.W.: Prisoner of War. US term – P.O.W.

    Queen Mary: an articulated « semi » trailer used to transport aircraft or aircraft parts by ground to M.U.’s for service or refurbishment.

    RAFVR: Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve – members of the RAF for the duration of the hostilities.

    Rigger: ground crew responsible for airframe (special areas might include « instrument basher » and « sparks » to look after instruments and electrical systems).

    Roddie or rodded bombs: bomb fitted with a rod in the nose so that it would explode above the ground – used in antipersonnel ops.

    Ropey: uncomplimentary adjective « A ropey landing », « A ropey type », « A ropey evening », etc.

    Round: one cartridge of .303 ammunition. Ammunition was measured in number of rounds carried.

    Runup: to test engines for magneto drop before taking off – also the route taken into the target area before the bomb dropping point was reached.

    Salvo: bomb selection which released all bombs at the same time.

    SBC: Small Bomb Container – canister to hold a load of the standard 4 lb. magnesium incendiary bomb – usual load was 6 to 8 SBC’s.

    Scramble: mainly a fighter term. To get airborne as quickly as possible.

    Scrambled eggs: a reference to the gold braid on high ranking officers’ hats.

    Scarecrow: crews reported aircraft blowing up without evidence of attacks (e.g. tracer), and the story arose that the Germans were firing scarecrow shells to simulate stricken aircraft, so as to demoralise crews.

    Scream downhill: execute a power dive.

    Screamer: bomb that makes a whistling sound as it comes down.

    Screened: a period after completing a tour when the crewman could not be called on to do operational flying.

    Scrub: to cancel an op.

    Shakey-do: see « dicey do ».

    Shot down in flames: crossed in love or severely reprimanded.

    Shot up: very drunk.

    Shot to ribbons: totally incapable through drink.

    Show: performance or situation – (« that was a good show over Budapest » or « he put on a bad show »).

    Shufti: to look.

    Six, to hit for a: to score maximum points – to put on a very good show (from cricket) .

    Skipper: the pilot/captain of the aircraft and crew leader. In the air his rule was law regardless of his rank.

    S.O.C.: Signed off Charge. Aircraft no longer usable or wanted by R.A.F.

    Sortie: one aircraft doing one trip to target and back.

    Spam: canned meat product produced by Hormel in the US. A substitute for real meat (see Bully Beef).

    Spam can: a B-24 Liberator.

    Sparks: term for either the ground crew who looked after the electrical systems or the aircrew wireless operator.

    Spawny: very lucky.

    Spoof: a diversionary raid or operation.

    Spot on: see « bang on ».

    Sprog: a « new boy » fresh from training – inexperienced (also a « sprog crew »).

    Squadron Leader: rank of officer who usually led a Flight (or two Flights, « A » and « B » on a usual squadron).

    Squirt: to fire a short burst from machine guns, as in « the rear AG gave him a squirt before we went into the corkscrew ».

    Starboard: the right side of the aircraft as seen from pilot’s seat.

    Stick: bomb selection so that bombs would be released at timed intervals from their carriers in the bomb bay (also to release only a part of bomb load – going around a second time to drop the rest).

    Strip, to tear off a: to be severely reprimanded by a superior. In extreme cases a « strip » (ie: rank stripes), would be literally be stripped off thus, demoting an airman for extreme problems.

    Tea: next to gasoline the most important liquid in the RAF.

    Tee Emm: R.A.F. Magazine (after Training Manual).

    Ten-tenths: no visibility because of total cloud cover. Also 10/10ths flak – very heavy concentration.

    T.D.: time delay fuse setting on bomb which determined when bomb would explode.

    Theatre or Theatre of Operations: the geographic area where combat was taking place – eg: The Mediterranean Theatre, The Far East Theatre etc.

    T.I.: Target Indicator – colored pyrotechnic devices dropped by Pathfinder Forces to identify targets, effectively used only after April 1944 by 205 Group.

    Ticket: pilot’s certificate.

    Tiggerty-boo: all in order (tiggerty from the Hindustani teega).

    Tin basher: metal worker.

    Tin fish: torpedo.

    Twitch: body tremors developed by aircrew after a number of operations – « he’s got the twitch » – sign of operational stress.
    Tommy: after Tommy Atkins (Kipling). Originally used to denote the British infantryman, later to be used by the Germans as « tommi » as their equivalent to « Gerry ». U.S. equivalent – « G.I. »

    T.O.T.: time on target. The time briefed for aircraft to attack target area.

    Tool along: fly aimlessly.

    Touch bottom: to crash.

    Touch down: to land.

    Tour of Operations: the amount of time or number of « ops » that a crewman had to complete before being « screened ».

    Tracer: a type of machine gun round which glowed as it moved showing the way to the target and allowing for adjustments in sighting. Unfortunately this also gave away bomber’s position. Usually every fourth round was a tracer.

    Trip: an op.

    Twit: see « clot ».

    Type: a kind of person ( as in: « he’s an aircrew type » or « he’s a bolshie type »).

    Two-six (2-6): general base call « down the flights » that all personnel were needed on a job.

    Umbrella: parachute.

    Undercart: the undercarriage of an aircraft. Two main wheels and a tail wheel in the case of « taildraggers » like the Wellington. Two main and a nose wheel for « tricycle » aircraft like the B-24. Attempting a landing with the « cart up » was considered a « putting up a large black » for the pilot.

    U/S: unserviceable – broken or not available.

    Vees: a brand of wartime cigarette.

    Vegetables: acoustic or magnetic mines sowed on « gardening » expeditions to various « beds ».

    VHF: Very High Frequency – Radio band.

    Vic: aircraft formation in the shape of a V. Usually three aircraft but could be more.

    Waafize: the substitution of WAAF for male members of a unit.

    Wad: cake or bun or scone « char and a wad ».

    Waffle/waffling: out of control, losing height; or cruising along unconcernedly and indecisively.

    Wallah: chap or fellow.

    Wallop: beer.

    Wanks: strong liquor.

    Washed out: to fail as a student pilot or other trade. One was then usually remustered as something more suitable to one’s abilities.

    Weaving: a gentle form of corkscrew. An evasive maneuver to allow gunners maximum view around aircraft.

    Weaving, to get: to get going, hurry up.

    Wimpy: Vickers Armstrong’s Wellington Bomber – after J. Wellington Wimpy from « popeye » comic strip.

    Window: strips of metalized paper cut to length of wavelength of enemy radar to confuse search and control radar – effective on radar controlled guns and searchlights.

    Wing: unit made up of two or sometimes three squadrons.

    Wingco: Wing Commander (rank of officer who led a squadron).

    Wizard or wizzo: excellent – superlative (eg: a « wizard prang »).

    Yellow doughnut: collapsible dinghy carried on aircraft.

    Yellow peril: training aircraft.

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