Remembering Flying Officer Frederic William Woodruff

By selling memorabilia?

Group of five original World War 2 court mounted medals attributed to 155111 Flight Lieutenant Frederic William Woodruff MBE, RAFVR, No. 264 (Madras Presidency) Squadron, Royal Air Force Fighter Command. The group consists of The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (Member, Civil Division); 1939-45 star; Aircrew Europe Star with France & Germany Bar; Defence Medal and War Medal. All medals are in Extremely Fine condition mounted on contemporary silk ribbons. The recipient was a Navigator on Mosquito Fighter Bombers, flying over 60 operations defending the British Isles and attacking targets in occupied Europe from May 1943 to November 1944. His aircraft was shot down by flak and crash landed near St.Nazaire in September 1944. He successfully evaded capture with his pilot, F/L W K Moncur, hiding with the French resistance before returning to England. Included are the recipient’s original framed RAFVR Commission document dated July 1943, his original framed MBE award Certificate dated 1964 (Chairman of Preston RAFA Club) and a framed print of a Mosquito fighter in flight by aviation artist G. Coulson

Estimate:

£450 – 650

How they escaped

This is what was found on the Internet by David Moncur. How his father and his navigator escaped after their Mosquito Mark XIII crashed…

 

Évasion d’aviateurs anglais

Le 19 septembre, à 4 heures du soir, un avion Mosquito volant bas atterrit brutalement dans un champ de choux dans le village de Langatte à La Chapelle des Marais. Je me suis précipité au secours des aviateurs. Je les ai cachés sous un pommier dont les branches pendaient jusqu’à terre, dans un fossé garni de ronces. Peu après, les Allemands, accompagnés de chiens policiers, effectuaient, en vain, des recherches autour du lieu de chute de l’appareil. Le lendemain, accompagné de Richard Wright et de Généreux Gautier (un résistant), je suis allé leur porter leur repas. Armand Moyon et Généreux Gautier emmenèrent les deux Anglais, habillés en civil et portant des outils, à travers les marais jusqu’au canal de La Chapelle où se trouvait le chaland de Gautier. Celui-ci les conduisit en pleine Brière (d’après les déclarations de Moyon). Ces deux aviateurs, les Lieutenants Woodruff et Moncur furent cachés pendant quelques jours dans une hutte de roseaux. Comme les roseaux alentour n’étaient pas encore coupés, on pouvait circuler sans être vu du sol. Mais les deux Anglais ne sortaient guère de leur cachette craignant d’être vus par des aviateurs allemands qui se seraient demandé pourquoi cette meule de roseaux était habitée (Interview de Richard Wright). Boceno, Meignan et moi, tous les trois F.T.P., nous les avons pris en charge au Pont de Pandille et convoyés à vélo jusqu’à Prinquiau (Interview de Jean Morice). Le Contel leur fit traverser les dernières lignes jusqu’à Lavau pour l’embarquement. Depuis deux jours, les Allemands exerçaient une surveillance active en face de Cordemais. Le passeur Moyon René et Bertreux Florentin transportèrent Le Contel et les deux aviateurs sur l’île de la Maréchale, puis de là, sur la rive sud de la Loire. Après avoir passé la nuit à Frossay dans le no man’s land, les trois français traversèrent les lignes jusqu’à Buzai et rencontrèrent les F.F.I. qui les conduisirent à l’État major américain à Nantes (Document AREMORS).


Translation by David Moncur

English airmen’s escape

On 19th September (1944) at four in the afternoon a Mosquito aircraft flying low came down hard (crash landed) in a field of cabbages in the village of Langatte at La Chapelle des Marais. I hurried to the aid of the airmen. I hid them beneath an apple tree whose branches hung down almost to the ground in a ditch covered by brambles. Shortly afterwards the Germans accompanied by police dogs tried without success to find them in the area around where the airplane had come down.

The next day, accompanied by Richard Wright and Généreux Gautier (of the Resistance) I went to bring them something to eat. Armand Moyon and Généreux Gautier led the two Englishmen dressed in civilian clothing and carrying tools across the marsh as far as the canal of La Chapelle where Gautier’s barge was located. This man led them into the middle of the Brière (in the words of de Moyon )

The two airmen, Lieutenants Woodruff and Moncur, were hidden for a few days in a reed hut. Since the reeds around them had not been cut, one could move around without being seen at ground level. But the two Englishmen scarcely moved from their hiding place fearing that they would be seen by German airmen who would ask themselves why this stack of reeds was inhabited (Interview with Richard Wright )

Boceno, Meignan and myself, all three of us FTP, took charge of them at Pont de Pandille and brought them by bicycle as far as Prinquiau (Interview with Jean Morice)

Le Contel managed their crossing of the last lines as far as Lavau for embarkation. For two days the Germans had been carrying out surveillance opposite Cordemais. The smuggler René Moyon et Florentin Bertreux carried Le Contel and the two airmen over to the Île de Maréchale then from there to the south bank of the Loire. After passing the night at Frossay in no man’s land, the three Frenchmen crossed the lines as far as Buzai and met up with the FFI who led them to the American military staff in Nantes.

People in World War Two Needed Heroes…

These two airmen were heroes and what they did in the war is well documented…

Collection William K. Moncur (courtesy David Moncur) 

This is Flight Sergeant Thorn and Sergeant Barker.

Collection William K. Moncur  (colorised by Pierre Lagacé)

We need to pay homage to these heroes, but we also need to pay homage to unsung heroes when we find them…



Collection William Moncur (courtesy David Moncur) 

I wonder who took this picture of John Spencer Horan and the other airman?

Was it Flight Sergeant Gérard Pelletier who took it when he was  with 264 Squadron ? 

To be continued in September…

Unknown 264 Squadron Defiant pilots 

Two 264 Squadron Defiant pilots’ names on photographs from the collection of Flight Lieutenant William Kerr Moncur might never be found.

Unless…

John Trigg?

Mike Stewart?

These photos have never be published on the Internet for all I know. This is why David Moncur’s contribution is so important for preserving the past like the contribution of Gérard Pelletier’s niece who had shared all of her uncle’s photo album.

Two 264 Squadron Defiant pilots’ names on photographs from the collection of Flight Lieutenant William Kerr Moncur might never be found.

Unless… we look for them on these pages.

From the personal collection of Flight Lieutenant William Kerr Moncur

I got more emails from David Moncur yesterday…

Ready when you are!

Attached are some more aircrew photos. :  lineup  of  264 pilots taken on October 23 1944 ;  two unnamed  264 pilots in Defiant cockpits ;  two unknown but fine looking gentlemen (no idea when or where these were taken) and  groundcrew refuelling Spitfire (might be good to colorise?) – no details of when or where this was taken either but on the reverse it says it came from Chichester Photographic Services so probably one of the Sussex airfields

 

 

I can confirm that Sgt “Hoot” Marfell” flew  my father several times when they were both at 54 OTU  at Church Fenton  in April/early May 1941 and both  were posted  to 264 Squadron at West Malling in May 10th 1941 (after which Johnnie Horan became  his more regular partner) 

Best regards

David

 

John Trigg, 264 Squadron Defiant pilot 

  

Mike Stewart, 264 Squadron Defiant pilot from the RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force)

RAF 264 Squadron Defiant or Mosquito pilot?

RAF 264 squadron Mosquito pilot wearing a DFC ribbon

Group picture of 264 Squadron pilots and navigators taken on October 23 1944

Spitfire F. 22 from 603 Squadron after the war (code RAJ*)

Spitfire F. 22 from 603 Squadron at RAF Tangmere in 1948

 

Searching for William K. Moncur

Last April I had been trying to make contact with William Moncur’s relatives with the intention of sharing some photographs that were in Flight Sergeant Gérard Pelletier’s photo album.

This is how this search for William Moncur’s relatives began. He was just a name in a caption under a photo.

jpeg965

Collection Flight Sergeant Gérard Pelletier

As usual I went scrambling on the Internet to find more about who was William Moncur. Someone had written on a forum that William Moncur was a Free French pilot. This got me all excited since my youth hero was Pierre Clostermann!

But maybe I had been too quick to jump to conclusions.

William K. Moncur was not a Free French pilot. The information I had taken from the Internet was false.

Collection Flight Sergeant Gérard Pelletier

This was the proof right here on a top secret document about the debriefing of Flight Lieutenant Moncur who was shot down 19 September 1944, and who had managed to escape with the help of the Résistance. Someone had provided me with this Top Secret report.

This is what got me thinking about William K. Moncur after I had read the top secret report.

Length of service: 5 1/2 years (September 1944 minus 5 1/2 years = March 1939

His private address: 53 Spottinswoode Street, Edinburgh

To the question, Do you speak French? He answered “Fair French”.


Then I found this…

In 1955, William K. Moncur got a Queen’s commendation as part of RAuxAF.

What was RAuxAF all about?

From Wikipedia…

By March 1939, 21 flying squadrons had been formed, the 20 surviving units being ’embodied’ (included) with the Royal Air Force at the outbreak of war. Notably, all enlisted men continued to serve under their auxiliary conditions of service until they expired when they were required to transfer to the RAFVR. The squadrons were equipped with a variety of operational aircraft which included Hurricanes and Spitfires. The squadrons scored a number of notable successes before and during the Second World War: the first flight over Mount Everest, undertaken by auxiliary pilots from 602 Squadron, the first German aircraft destroyed over British territorial waters – and over the mainland, the first U-boat to be destroyed with the aid of airborne radar, the first kill of a V-1 flying bomb; the first to be equipped with jet-powered aircraft, and the highest score of any British night fighter squadron. In the Battle of Britain, the AAF provided 14 of the 62 Squadrons in RAF Fighter Command‘s Order of Battle and accounted for approximately 30% of the accredited enemy kills. Indeed, in 11 Group Fighter Command, that saw the heaviest fighting over South East England in 1940, of the 15 top scoring squadrons, eight were auxiliary. The losses sustained during the Battle of Britain, as with all other squadrons, were replaced by drafting in regular and RAFVR pilots.

The Tactical Air Force squadrons were chosen to carry out several successful ultra low-level raids on key ‘pin-point’ targets in occupied Europe. The Balloon Squadrons also played their part, downing and deterring many hostile aircraft and were accredited with the destruction of 279 V1 flying bombs.

The Auxiliary Air Force was also responsible for the anti-aircraft balloon defences of the UK. At the outbreak of war in 1939 there were about 42 Squadrons operating barrage balloons, with the number of squadrons peaking at about 102 in 1944.


This next page taken from a souvenir book about the Battle of Britain I was also relying on as a proof was incorrect.

Oups!

Preserving the past isn’t always easy especially for an amateur historian like myself.

Now all this being said…

What about trying to make contact with William K. Moncur’s relatives?

Dear Mr Lagacé

I was interested to come across your recent researches into the identity of the William “Bill” Moncur of 264 squadron since he was my father! I can confirm that he was definitely not French – the name, although having a slight Gallic tinge, is not uncommon in the East of Scotland where the family has been located for generations. He was certainly attached to 65 Squadron in October 1940 (so that part of the story is true) before joining 264 Squadron at the beginning of 1941. He remained there for just over a year during which time his log books confirm his regular partner in the Defiant was Sgt Horan (although he did fly a few times with Sgt Pelletier). In February ’42 he was posted to Unit 1529 B.A.T. Flight until it was disbanded in November and then after a brief period with Unit 54 O.T. U. he rejoined 264 where he remained for two years. During an Instep sortie in June 1943 he was credited with a JU88 and as you know in September 1944 was shot down over occupied territory near St. Nazaire but with the aid of the Resistance, he and F/O Bill Woodruff evaded capture. In November 1944 he was posted to the T.F.U. where he remained for the rest of the war. On his return to Edinburgh he took up a job in a bank (ending up as one of the senior managers in the Royal Bank of Scotland –when it was still a responsible financial institution!) but his love of flying prompted him to join 603 Squadron when it was reformed in 1947 as an RAF Auxiliary Squadron and remained on “active service” with it (flying Spitfires, Meteors and Vampires) until its disbandment in 1957. He died in 1995 (aged 75.)

In the process of putting together information  on my father’s flying career for the RAF Heritage Museum in Montrose (where a 603 Squadron Meteor T7 which he flew is now on display) I was searching the Internet for information about 264 squadron and was amazed to come across your recent blog post. I was fascinated (and moved) to see the photographs of him and his comrades, since, like many who saw service in the war, he rarely spoke about that period of his life. If there is any way in which I could get copies of these photos I would be very grateful as I have very few pictures of him at that time (while his post-war service with 603 is quite well documented.) I was also incredibly interested to see the record of his debriefing after the French adventure and would be very grateful if you could let me know how I obtain a copy as I am preparing an account of that incident for the Montrose museum.

Hope this information has been of use in your researches and if there is any further assistance I can give you, please let me know.

Best regards

David Moncur