The very fine Second World War Fighter Command Battle of Malta, Crete, Cos, and Normandy operations Hurricane and Spitfire Pilot’s Distinguished Flying Cross and log book group awarded to Flight Lieutenant T.H. Bates, Royal Air Force, who flew on a remarkable 240 operational sorties in fighters with both 185 Squadron and 74 Trinidad Squadron – the Tigers, between 1941 and 1944, he accounted for 1 enemy aircraft destroyed, another damaged, and at least 10 motor transport vehicles and a couple of train engines, having at one stage made a hasty evacuation by motor launch from Cos after the German invasion in October 1943, during which period his first log book was lost.
Group of 6: Distinguished Flying Cross, GVI 1st type cyper, reverse dated 1945; 1939-1945 Star; Air Crew Europe Star with France and Germany Clasp; Africa Star with North Africa 1942-43 Clasp; Italy Star; War Medal. Mounted swing style as worn.
Condition: Good Very Fine.
Together with the following:
Royal Air Force Pilot’s Flying Log Book, covering the period from September 1943 to January 1950, and the opening page states: ‘Previous log book destroyed by bombs (1.10.43) on island of Cos (Aegean Sea). These are my flying times as far as I can remember them –‘ signed confirmation: ‘T A Bates F/O’; also Royal Mint fitted presentation case for the Distinguished Flying Cross and recipient’s group of miniature medals mounted swing style as worn; and Royal Air Force Pilot’s wartime cloth Flying Wings.
Also the books: ‘185 The Malta Squadron’, edited by Anthony Rogers, hardback, published 2005; and the book ‘Tigers – The Story of No.74 Squadron RAF’ by Bob Cossey, hardback, published 1992.
Trevor Harry Bates joined the Royal Air Force, and qualified as a Fighter Pilot and as a Sergeant Pilot was posted via 52 Operational Training Unit out to Malta to join No.185 Squadron, then embroiled in the defence of Malta, which as an island was then besieged by Axis forces, Bates arriving there on 27th June 1941.
Due to the loss of Bates’ original log book during a bombing raid on the island of Cos in October 1943, we have to turn to the Operations Record Book of 185 Squadron to ascertain his service at this period. 185 Squadron had been posted out to Malta in May 1941, when the squadron was reformed as a fighter squadron having previously been part of bomber command and operating in Hampden’s, it now re-equipped itself with Hawker Hurricane fighters, and Bates joined the squadron in June 1941 two months after its conversion.
The defence of Malta originally began in June 1940, and by the times of Bates’ arrival, was in full swing. On his arrival Bates joined ‘A’ Flight operating out of R.A.F Hal-Far, and is noted by name in the Operations Record Book on 4th July 1941, when he scrambled together with three others intercepting a formation of Macchi 200. During this sortie Bates flew as White 2 to Sergeant Jolly, White 1, the leader of the four aircraft being Flight Lieutenant Jeff Jeffries, flying as Red 1, with Red 2 being Sergeant Sutherland. ‘185 The Malta Squadron’ records: ‘With favourable odds of 6 to 1 the Italians might have put up a better show but they preferred to read about their attack in their own pet newspaper – next day. Mr Jeffries, using cannon, shot down one and attacked two others, probably damaging them. Sergeant Jolly shot down his second Macchi in a week or so, - the pilot being fished out of the sea, and Sergeants Sutherland and Bates entered the fray vigourously and, though not getting any confirmed, warmed the Italians on the way back to Sicily with bags of .303. Thus with two shot down and some damaged without loss to ourselves a profitable use was made of the petrol and we warmly congratulate the pilots concerned out their splendid show.’ Bates was later granted a ‘probable’ Macchi 200 for this engagement.
185 The Malta Squadron’ mentions that on the 26th August 1941, in the evening the sergeant pilots threw a party for the “Orficers” – ‘the party got underway about 8.30 when ‘B’ Flight came off watch, the standard of entertainment was very high and the programme included such famous acts as Cousens and Cousens – Raconteurs – Jokes – various. Alderson & Bates – Top Dancers Caruso Walmsley – Soloist – Songs – clean and otherwise Ream, Wren & Ream – and the Guitar and Organ and with Sergeant Horsey as ringmaster?!!!’
By 7th October 1941 Bates is noted as still serving with ‘A’ Flight, and on 25th October ‘A’ Flight were scrambled in the morning with Gay Bailey leading for a plot of 18+ which developed to 25+. Four bombers, probably BR20s of Cant 1007s crossed the coast with a high cover of about 20 Macchis. ‘A’ Flight attacked the bombers from astern, however the Italian bombs still managed to drop their load on 700 tons of kerosene, which comprised the whole of the Islands supplies for civilians. The squadron comment was ‘somebody is going to get cold this winter’. Sergeant Knight did not return from the engagement, and it was assumed that he was jumped by fighter cover. Another pilot Sergeant C.S. Hunton, flying as Yellow II with Sergeant Bates as Yellow I recorded ‘when at 24,000 feet I saw on my starboard side about 5 miles away 4 enemy bombers. Immediately Red I turned and began to dive to attack. I followed my number 1 who went into attack one of the bombers. I was about 300 yards behind him when an enemy all black fighter with in line engine came up to attack Sergeant Bates and crossed over my sight. I fired, and got on its tail firing continually until I saw three Macchis attacking from above when I broke off firing, as I turned toward the other fighters and fired but ran out of ammunition. The first Macchi I attacked was leaving a thin trail of smoke when I broke off and came back.’ Bates recorded: ‘I was flying Yellow 1, I saw enemy bombers with fighters above. I engaged bomber on left from astern and opened fire from about 200 feet to point blank range when my guns stopped – something flew past me when I was about 100 feet away.’
On 3rd November, Bates together with a Sergeant Jolly, were sent out to search for a Blenheim crew, but did not see anything. Then on 12th November he was sent out with Sergeant Nurse to search for a Wellington which had crashed near the island, but without success.
On 21st November the Squadron had a busy day, and Squadron Leader Pike led ‘A’ Flight to intercept a raid of +3 aircraft. The raid came in at dawn, and some Macchis shot up Hal Far and Ta Kali doing hardly any damage. ‘A’ Flight jumped one part of the high cover at about 12,000 feet and a general dog fight ensued, during the fight five more Macchis joined in making the odds 10-7 in their favour. Although ‘A’ Flight did not claim any definitely destroyed, ‘it is a safe bet to say that some little Macchi pilots did not have any breakfast this morning’. Bates was flying as White II to Sergeant Nurse. He recorded ‘We jumped 5 aircraft and I followed one down and out towards Sicily, but could not catch it. A Macchi attacked me from behind and I took avoiding action, and came back towards Malta with the Macchi on my tail but not firing, then I saw it turn back towards Sicily. I got one burst at it as it turned but again could not catch it.’
On 19th December 1941 Bates together with his Flight Commander ‘came to readiness at 13.00, we had three scrambles. On the first one, we successfully intercepted an Albacore “bandit” which we refrained from shooting down. We also chased a Ju88 back to Sicily but could not catch him.’
In January 1942, Squadron Leader Pike left the squadron, being escorted to Luqa by Bates amongst others. On 15th March Bates was scrambled three times during the day. During the second scramble ‘which turned out to be two Ju88s with fighter escort. One of the 88s was intercepted at 16,000 feet. He jettisoned when the fighters attacked and dived to sea level. The Hurries had the odd squirt but could not catch the enemy aircraft, so they started back home. Just then the 109s decided to hurry them up and chased the boys back. Bates had four on his tail pooping at him, but did not damage him at all.’ Bates was promoted to Flight Sergeant in March 1942.
Bates was posted to Headquarters RAF Mediterranean Command on 20th March 1942, having completed his tour of duty with 185 Squadron, and was next posted operational to 74 Trinidad Squadron – the Tiger Squadron as it was nicknamed, in April 1943, and operated out in Iraq from R.A.F Shabiah, flying on patrols over Iran till June 1943, with Bates being noted as having taken part in a dawn patrol on 8th April 1943. Bates is mentioned in the book ‘Tigers’ shortly after his arrival as having taken part in a drogue firing exercise. ‘On the 27th was at last engaged in air to air firing, the first since it was re-equipped. Frank Twitchett was elected to tow the twelve foot drogue with one of the Squadron’s aircraft which had been fitted out with a hook under the tail. After a successful exercise, the procedure by the towing aircraft on its return was to fly low over the runway and release the cable. Needless to say, the opportunities for decorating the Control Tower could rarely be resisted! Anderson and Bates were elected to be the first to fire, but with wry humour it was suggested that the drogue was too small when it was discovered that of 1,200 rounds fired by the two pilots only six had hit the target! However with perseverance, A Flight’s averages gradually improved.’
Bates moved in June 1943 with the squadron and began flying patrols from Egypt in Spitfire’s. By this stage Bates had been commissioned and was serving as a Flying Officer (No.121204). Bates then took part in operational patrols over Crete, and was once again involved in engagements with German and Italian forces. He was one of six pilots from 74 Squadron selected to take part in a 550 mile round sortie from LG101 on 22nd July 1943 the object being ‘to create pandemonium on the island for a few minutes’ and a large number of fighters from fourteen squadrons in all were involved, no target being specified just any military targets both in the air and on the ground which came available.
Soon afterwards elements of the squadron was posted to the island of Cyprus and on Cos on 21st September, this occurring on the Italian armistice in early September 1943 which handed over the island to the allies, but the Germans were quickly intent on retrieving the island due to its strategic importance in the Dodecanese.
Bates was on patrol from Antimachia airfield on Cos on 28th September, and the next day was scrambled. On 3rd October 1943 a German invasion fleet approached and landed troops. There was little that the British could do in such circumstances, being surrounded and with Ju88s bombing the airfield, it was then in the hasty evacuation that Bates’ log book was destroyed or lost.
Bunny de Pass recorded that he woke to the sound of German aircraft overhead: ‘I didn’t take much notice as the Germans were often sending Ju88s over. The aircraft continued to fly around and I heard in the distance the sound of a motor launch. By this time I was becoming apprehensive. Shots were coming from the direction of the landing strip. We rushed out of our tents and saw Germans coming up the beaches three or four hundred yards away, and David Maxwell, Titch Harris and I ran off in the general direction of the road. The Germans were spraying the area with Tommy gun fire and were using a lot of tracers. There was little we could do except run and I don’t think we’ve ever moved so fast in our lives. We grabbed out few belongings and made for a jeep driven by a South African. They managed to get in one burst at us and we shed our bundles as we ran! I dumped some clothing near a farmhouse and lost a tin of fifty precious cigarettes but we did all manage to hand on to our log books. The firing became more persistent, flares were being fired and mortar fire could be heard. It was still fairly dark with plenty of cloud. We saw Bates and Norman, joined up with them and headed straight for Cos Town. There was little that could have been achieved in staying – the landing ground was out of action and we were of insufficient numbers to stand and defend our positions. In the event we reckoned the best policy was to try and join up with other British troops.’
At about 11.00 some members of the Squadron, including Bates left Cos harbour in an Italian boat bound for Leros, but on the way they ran into some German ships, and so turned for Kefalcka, on the Turkish coast. This ship was sabotaged there by the Italians who refused to make for Leros on the orders of their skipper.
Having then made it to the island of Simi, Bates is next recorded as having flown from Castelrosso to Abouqir in a Cant 506 in order to report to No.219 Group Headquarters, and then returned to operations with 74 Squadron which had regrouped, and flew out of Edku in Egypt. On 8th November 1943 Bates scrambled with Pilot Officer Parker and Sergeant Butler, to investigate aircraft flying along the coast, these turned out to be a Mitchell and a Ventura, and the remainder of the year was spent on convoy patrols over the Mediterranean.
With the imminent allied invasion of France and Europe, 74 Squadron was shipped home by convoy, and arrived at Liverpool on 23rd April 1944, being then posted to North Weald, where they re-equipped with the Mark IX Spitfire, and began operational flying over German occupied France in mid May 1944. Flying on a sweep over Brussels on 22nd May, Bates shot up a lorry and trailer, and on 28th May during a sweep he set fire to a small lorry.
June 1944 saw Bates, by now a Flight Lieutenant, involved in numerous sorties over the beachhead area, he was on convoy protection duties on D-Day, and on 16th June he fired all of his ammunition into a German V1 Flying Bomb – the Doodlebug, but missed. On 10th August he was part of a fighter escort to Paris, and ‘saw Eiffel Tower for first time from the air’ and then the next day when acting as top cover, ‘led Yellow section down. Destroyed 1 lorry (15 cwt) each’. On 16th August during a sweep he shot up a train, and on 19th August he relocated with his squadron to France, landing at Airfield B8. He had by now recorded 240 operational hours of flying time, and completed 202 sorties. Flying from the airfield in France, on 20th August he shot up a lorry ‘but starboard guns packed up when firing at motor bike’. On 22nd August during a fighter sweep he ‘damaged a troop carrying transport with yellow section, and got a small truck and motor bike with Keith (flames)’. On 25th August during an armed recce, ‘damaged lorry with sparks who was later shot down. On 26th August, he ‘damaged 2 lorries’ but ‘was holed by flak, only just managed to fly back’. On 27th August he recorded flying through a ‘terrific flak barrage, but none hit’.
During September 1944 the squadron was operating from several different landing grounds in and around Normandy and recently liberated France, and conducted regular sweeps, experiencing light flak over St Omer on the 4th, and again when escorting bombers to Dunkirk on the 13th, and then on 18th September he was flown home in a Dakota for seven days leave. Back on operations in mid October, it was considerably quieter than before, and towards the end of the month he returned home but then returned to France in early November, and on the 6th, conducted a sweep of the Ruhr Valley. On the 21st November he performed an armed recce, and his Yellow section destroyed one train engine, but experienced accurate heavy flak over Rotterdam. At this stage he was employed on fighter bombing duties, and on 1st December 1944, when he was taken off operations, his flying assessment stated: ‘above average’ in fighter bombing.
Bates had been recommended for the Distinguished Flying Cross back on late November 1944, and the recommendation read as follows:
‘Flight Lieutenant T.H. Bates has completed 240 operational sorties, of these 100 were done from Malta during 1941 to 1942 when the air opposition was very strong. In July, 1943 Flight Lieutenant Bates, flying a Hurricane IIB, took part in an operation from a Base in the Western Desert to Crete and return, which entailed a sea flight of approximately 500 miles at low level. On this trip Flight Lieutenant Bates destroyed a truck, which was full of enemy troops, and straffed other motor transport and the German Headquarters on the Island. During the Aegean campaign, September to October 1943 he took part in the invasion of Cos; during his last patrol from Cos the aerodrome was made unserviceable through bombing and he carried out a successful landing on the Salt Pans, which was only 10 yards wide in places. When the Island was invaded by the Germans he mad a successful getaway in a launch. Since June this year he has completed a further 100 operational sorties – bombing, straffing, sweeps & etc. – in which he has helped in the destruction of enemy Headquarters, gun-pits and defended positions, which at times has entailed flying through very concentrated flak. He has destroyed 1 enemy aircraft, damaged another and destroyed at least 10 motor transport.’
Bates award of the Distinguished Flying Cross was published in the London Gazette for 27th February 1945. Bates had been posted to No.57 Operational Training Unit in late December 1944, and he then joined the Fighter Leaders School at Tangmere from early March 1945, and at the end of the month gained experience in a Mustang IV. In his log book on 8th April 1945 he mentioned the fact that he ‘put D.F.C up today’, and his officer commanding 2 Squadron of the Fighter Leaders School signed his log at the end of the month, he being none other than Squadron Leader Charlton ‘Wag’ Haw, a Battle of Britain veteran and recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross, Distinguished Flying Medal and Russian Order of Lenin, this latter for his work with the fighter wing at Murmansk. Haw’s signature appears twice in the log book. Bates last service flying in connection with the war occurred from the Central Flying School in July 1945. He however subsequently joined the University of London Air Squadron in 1948, and then got an opportunity to fly from Fairoaks and Shoreham aerodromes in Tiger Moth and Oxford aircraft during the summer camp of that year, and then again in 1949 from North Weald, and from Leuchars in 1950.