home - latest update 25 February 2008
SQUADRON - Fighter, Gloster Gladiator and Hawker Hurricane Mk I
On 12 June 1940, ground staff began to arrive at Drem to reform the squadron, which was intended to be the first with Whirlwind twin-engined fighters, meanwhile some Hurricanes were received.
Grangemouth 28 June 1940
Operations and losses 10/05/1940 - 30/06/1940
Losses 01/01/1940 - 09/05/1940 (incomplete)
17/05/1940: Firearms accident, Norway
Warrant Officer Harold A. James, RAF 366128, age 31, 17/05/1940, Harstad Cemetery, Norway
263 Squadron flew off HMS Furious on 21 May to land at Bardufoss, guided by a Fairey Swordfish from 818 Squadron, to fly to Bardufoss. The planes got lost in the snow and fog. Three planes (two Gladiators and the Swordfish) crashed into the mountain Høystakktind between Sifjord and Osterfjord. The Swordfish crew survived the crash, and were rescued.
Type: Gloster Gladiator
During the afternoon of 24 May 1940 a He111 of Stabsstaffel/KG 26 strayed over Bardufoss while it was operating with four other He111s from I Gruppe over Narvik. Here it was intercepted at an altitude of 500 feet by Flying Officer H.F. Grant Ede and Flight Lieutenant William Riley. Grant Ede attacked first from the beam, then half-rolled into a stern attack and silenced the upper gunner. Riley followed with a stern quarter attack, which put the starboard engine out of action. At that moment Flight Lieutenant Hull arrived, at the end of his own patrol, and got in a burst, which stopped the other engine.
This was He111H-3 '1H+KA' (WNr. 2411) of Stabsstaffel/KG 26, which was shot down at Fjordbotneidet, Gratangen. The pilot Oberleutnant Hartmut Paul was wounded and taken POW, Oberfeldwebel Eduard Strüber (observer) was killed, Unteroffizier Gunther Eichmann (flight engineer) was taken POW, Unteroffizier Hans Blunk (air gunner) was taken POW and Feldwebel Alfred Stock (wireless operator) was killed.
During this combat was Grant Ede's Gladiator slightly damaged by return fire.
At 10.30 Flight Lieutenant Alvin T. Williams and Sergeant George S. Milligan took off together. They catched an aircraft, which they identified it as a Ju88, which were bombing the new airstrip at Skaanland. They attacked together simultaneously from above and literally cut it to pieces when they overhauled it by cutting across its turn. During the first attack the port engine caught fire. In the subsequent pass the port wing broke off and the starboard wing disintegrated. The stricken aircraft fell into the sea and burst into flames.
At 09.00 on 27 May Sergeant George Milligan took off on patrol, attacking two He111 at 6000 feet between the airfield and Narvik. He was in turn attacked by a third bomber, so turned his attention to this and made four passes at it. Pouring smoke it dived into a valley in low cloud, and as with so many other aircraft, which were not seen to crash during combat, was later confirmed by the Norwegians to have crashed. The loss can’t be confirmed with German sources.
At 08:00 things started to heating up when 11 Ju87Rs from I/STG 1, escorted by three Bf110s from I/ZG 76, appeared over Bodø and began dive-bombing radio masts at Bodøsjøen, only 800 yards from the landing ground. Lieutenant Tony Lydekker took off at once, but Flight Lieutenant Caesar B. Hull and a fitter were forced to leave his Gladiator (N5635) for a few minutes and shelter from the bombing.
With the initial attack over they managed to get the fighter started and Hull took off, at once catching Feldwebel Kurt Zube's Stuka at the bottom of its dive. He caused it to fall in a gentle dive into the sea, where two Bf110s circled the wreckage. Zube and his gunner were picked up safely by German troops.
As Hull completed his attack, another Ju87 went past and shot up his aircraft, smashing the windscreen. At the same moment he was attacked from behind by one of the escorts, flown by Leutnant Helmut Lent, and the Gladiator was hard hit. Hull managed to get back to the airfield at 200 feet, but was then attacked again by the Bf110 and crashed at Bodøhalvøya, wounded in the head and knee. N5635 has been identified by serial number found on the wreckage. Lent logged his victory at 08:20 (Helmut Lent shot down another 263 Squadron Gladiator on 2 June when Pilot Officer J. L. Wilkie in N5914 was killed east of Rombaksfjorden).
Type: Gloster Gladiator
Serial number: N5635, HE-?
F/L C.B. Hull - injured
Lydekker meanwhile was being attacked by most of the remaining Luftwaffe aircraft, his aircraft being badly shot up and himself wounded in the neck and shoulders. Unable to land at Bodø as three Stukas were circling overhead, he set course for Bardufoss at low level, where he eventually landed with his Gladiator a complete write-off. A second claim for a Gladiator was put in by Oberleutnant Jäger, shared with his gunner Stabsing. Thönes, and timed at 08:25, but this was not confirmed. Watchers on the ground at Bodø reported that the Gladiators had shot down at least three aircraft, Hull and Lydekker each having got at least one apiece. This was not in fact the case, for only one Ju87 had been lost.
Type: Gloster Gladiator
Serial number: ?, HE-?
Lieutenant Tony Lydekker
F/L Hull was evacuated back to the UK in a Sunderland flying boat, and on 21 June was awarded a DFC, which credited him with five victories over Norway. On 31 August 1940 he was posted back to 43 Squadron as commanding officer. The unit was at the time based at Tangmere.Ltn. Lydekker was evacuated to the UK. After recovering from his injuries he returned to his duty as the Armament Officer on the Air Staff of HMS Furious.
On an early patrol Flight Lieutenant Alvin T. Williams caught one He111 attacking a cruiser in Ofotfjord and forced it to leave pouring smoke from both engines. He was himself obliged to break off due to fuel shortage. The enemy aircraft was He111H-4 '1H+FA' of Stab/KG26 flown by Oberleutnant Streng. The Heinkel was badly damaged and force-landed at Gjømmervann, close to Bodø, during the return flight.
At 11.00 29 May three He111s from KG26 attacked Bardufoss airfield from only 2000 feet. Sergeant Milligan was scrambled at once, and was able to catch Unteroffizier Paul Richter’s bomber from 1 staffel over Narvik. This aircraft had climbed steadily to 15,000 feet, but here Milligan was able to close to 250 yards and fire for 10-15 seconds. Many pieces flew off, but before he could see any results his engine began to malfunction – possibly having ingested debris from the Heinkel – and he had to break away. Richter had to belly land his damaged aircraft near Ankenes, were the whole crew were captured and shipped to the UK.
This page is dedicated to the men of 263 Squadron.