“Frank Carey/Sir Christopher Foxley-Norris” by Darryl Legg

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Gold Edition

Two Highly Distinguished fighter pilots both of whom became synonymous with the Hurricane during and after the Battle of Britain. Frank Carey flew Hurricanes almost throughout the war, becoming the most highly decorated Hurricane fighter pilot of WWII/ Flying before, during and after the Battle of Britain, Carey often flew six operational sorties a day. He later transferred to the Far East where he led the Hurricane wing in Rangoon.

Chris Foxley-Norris flew Lysanders over France with 13 Squadron but by the time of Dunkirk they had lost all their aircraft. He returned to England to join Fighter Command where he joined 3 then 615 Squadrons he flying Hurricane Mks I and II, where he recalls being “shot up once and shot down twice”. He later commanded Beaufighter and Mosquito squadrons. His DSO cited his “brilliant leadership, exceptional skill and determination”. A natural leader, he was always destined for high rank.

Read Frank Carey’s WWII biography:

Group Captain

1930 found me leaving the RAF Halton Apprentice School with three years training under my belt to join, as a fully blown mechanic, No. 43 Squadron at Tangmere, one of the happiest and renowned of Squadrons. When in 1936 I rejoined ‘43’, after an absence of two years, as a Sergeant Pilot just out of training at 6 F.T.S. Netheravon, my world was complete. We flew Hawker Fury aircraft, a pure delight in themselves, and when we re-equipped with Hurricanes in late 1938 we were ready for anything.

I gained early combat experience at the beginning of 1940 in the shooting down of three individual Heinkel 111’s in the act of bombing shipping in the North Sea. On April 1st, 1940 I was commissioned and posted to No. 3 Squadron, Kenley which almost immediately was packed off to Merville.

In early May 1940 the air over Northern France and Belgium fairly teemed with German aircraft, mostly without fighter escort. With this background my luckiest sortie began promisingly enough when I saw a Heinkel III with one engine feathered. A short burst at the working elastic soon abruptly terminated its flight. Minutes later a great gaggle of some 60 odd JU 87 Stukas hove into view. The Stuka had the rather obliging characteristic of bursting into flames almost as soon as one opened fire. Two of these performed predictably and hit the ground and two others were following suit on their way down when I saw a beautiful bright silver DO 17 float across my bows. Giving it the remainder of my ammunition in one long burst, it slewed violently with much smoke pouring out, but being very short of fuel I turned hurriedly for base. The conspicuous DO 17 was confirmed by a fellow pilot who saw it crash.

On May 14th, 1940, after an intense period of fighting with plenty of good fortune, I was shot down, slightly wounded in the leg, near Wavre, to be snatched from under the very nose of the Germans by an enterprising Belgian Army reconnaissance patrol. About a month later in company with three other slightly shop-soiled RAF pilots near St. Nazaire we came across a forlorn Bristol Bombay absolutely asking to be brought back to UK.

Once more my luck held and I was able to rejoin 43 Squadron at Tangmere, and was promoted Flight Lieutenant just before the Battle of Britain began. On 18th August 1940 after some eight weeks of anything up to six sorties a day, I was shot down again, slightly wounded in the leg to regain that now familiar limp.

For the next twelve months I was mainly engaged in training young pilots either ‘on the job’ in 43 or 245 Squadrons or at 52 O.T.U. Debden. Over a period of ten years I had the unique experience of having served in A Flight, 43 Squadron, as A.C.I., LAC, Sergeant Pilot, Pilot Officer and finally commanded it as a Flight Lieutenant, so my strong feelings for the Squadron can perhaps be understood and excused.

43 Squadron had an excellent record of past achievements right from its birth in Stirling in 1916 and always maintained the highest flying standards. All ranks found it a most happy Squadron which also had the good fortune to be based, between the wars, in a really beautiful part of the Sussex countryside.

In August 1941 I was promoted Squadron Leader to form No. 135 Squadron which was ordered overseas in December 1941, travelling via Takoradi, Cairo, Basra, Karachi and Calcutta to finish up landing in Rangoon on 19th January 1942 – in the middle of an air raid!

In February I was promoted to Wing Commander to lead a Wing which could seldom muster more than six serviceable Hurricanes and once took part in what we chose to call a “fighter sweep” with just one other aircraft.

Rangoon was evacuated in early March and, despite giving the Jap a good crack or two, the end was inevitable. March 19th saw me flying an old Tiger Moth to Akyab and a Vickers Valencia on to Calcutta to plead for more aircraft, but I was already sick with malaria on arrival. Before I left hospital, the Wing at Magwe in Central Burma had been heavily attacked, completely grounded, leaving the remnants to plod the hard way up to China via the Burma road.

Later in 1942 a newly reorganised Wing went forward to Chittagong and the Burma border, but before many months had passed I was posted away from fulltime operations to a series of less hazardous jobs in India, Middle East, and finally reached UK at the end of the war.

Notes on Aircraft flown in Combat, 1939-45

Almost without exception my entire operational flying was undertaken in Hurricanes. Although other aircraft may have attracted more glamour and boasted higher speeds, the Hurricane ploughed into every task that it was given and still came back for more.

Built like the Forth Bridge, it could take enormous punishment and almost always get you home. On one occasion in the Battle of Britain, I had my entire rudder and all but a tiny portion of one elevator blown off together with a hole in the port wing a man could have fallen through. Although its unusual silhouette attracted some local A.A. in the circuit, the Hurricane landed quite normally even though it needed a long rest.

Read Chris Foxley-Norris’s WWII biography Here

Air Chief Marshal

In 1936 I was commissioned in the Reserve of Air Force Officers through the Oxford University Air Squadron; and was called to active service shortly before the outbreak of World War II.

In 1940 I joined No 13 Squadron in France. The squadron was equipped with the Lysander Army Co-operation Aircraft which, when the German offensive came, proved quite inadequate for first-line daylight operations. Consequently by the end of May we had lost all our aircraft; and eventually emerged on foot through Cherbourg, much chastened and looking for better things.

The better things for most of us consisted of transfer to Fighter Command, which I achieved in August 1940. After the necessarily brief training on Hurricanes, I was lucky enough to join No 3 Squadron in Scotland, where we saw only occasional and desultory action for a while. But at least one gained experience on type unlike many of my contemporaries, who were fatally flung into the hottest of the Battle with sometimes less than 20 hours flying on Hurricane or Spitfire. In early November I joined 615 Auxiliary Squadron (Churchill’s Own). After a operational tour during which I was shot up once and down once, I left 615 in April 1941.

The rest of my operational career, from July 1943 to May 1945, was spent on Beaufighters and Mosquitoes. Initially I commanded a flight in 143 Squadron operating against JU 88’s and other aircraft attempting to interrupt our anti­submarine operations in the Bay of Biscay, but in the autumn was flown out as an emergency replacement to 252 Beaufighter Squadron, which was suffering heavily in the Cos-Leros debacle. Thereafter, however, the squadron scored considerable success in operations aimed mainly against shipping trying to supply and reinforce the German garrisons on the Aegean islands; but also involving encounters with Me 109’s, JU 52’s and the Arado 196 fighter-seaplane. I had some success in these operations particularly against ships which, being larger, I found easier to hit than aircraft! In the late summer of 1944 I took command of 603 Squadron on similar operations but by the end of 1944 the war in the Eastern Mediterranean had been brought to a victorious conclusion.

On return to the UK I rejoined 143 Squadron, this time as Commanding Officer and flying Mosquitoes. Our task was to interdict German shipping along the Norwegian coast and later, with long-range tanks, in the Baltic. The squadron sank a considerable number of ships and even some submarines but suffered heavy casualties due to the nature of the Norwegian terrain and heavy-flak and fighter defences.

After the war I served nearly six years in the Far East Air Force and two tours in Germany, the highlights including appointments as AOC 224 Group in FEAF and Commander-in-Chief RAF Germany/Commander 2nd Allied Tactical Air Force. After retirement as an Air Chief Marshal in 1974, I joined my old friend of 40 years, Leonard Cheshire, as Chairman of his Foundation.

I served twice with 143 Squadron, latterly as CO, on Beaufighters and later Mosquitoes. Our operational task was largely but not exclusively anti-shipping on which the Squadron established a reputation second to none. Main weapons were anti-shipping rockets, solid or HE, and 20mm cannon. These were highly effective, but to attack the aircraft had to fly directly at the ship, giving its AA defences an equally direct no-deflection shot; Casualties were therefore very heavy but so were enemy losses. For example on May 4th, 1945, the penultimate day of the war, I led the Banff Mosquito Wing in a strike which sank an entire convoy of two large merchant vessels and three escorting warships.

On April 22nd 1945 I led the Banff Mosquito Wing on an anti-shipping strike into the Kattegat, which proved abortive owing to fog. While returning across the North Sea we encountered a German anti-force of 18 JU 88’s and Heinkel 111’s. In spite of continuing low cloud and poor visibility, we shot down 9 aircraft confirmed and 1 probable. Unusually, post-war research indicated that 15 German aircraft failed to return to base. This must have been one of the most comprehensive single-action defeats inflicted on Luftwaffe operational aircraft.

I flew the Lysander, Hurricane Mk I, Hurricane Mk II, Beaufighter and Mosquito in combat. The Beaufighter was an excellent and rugged aircraft but, as for so many other pilots, my preference must go to the Mosquito for its superb performance, handling and versatility which made it the outstanding operational aircraft of World War II. It could also absorb much punishment although its speed when fitted with 16 rocket projectiles and their fixed racks was naturally reduced. Its manoeuvrability enabled us to attack almost inaccessible targets in Norwegian fiords and harbours and to evade both AA and fighter defences; and when necessary it could still return across the North Sea on one engine. It was incomparable.