by Squadron Leader D.P. Tidy
Group Captain C.P. Green, DSO, DFC
Charles Patrick Green was born at Pietermaritzburg, Natal, on 30th March, 1914. After graduating at Cambridge at the end of 1935 he decided to spend a year travelling in the United States of America. After seeing the film "China Clipper" he and Billy Fiske(1) who accompanied him to the cinema decided to take up flying. They lost no time and the next morning commenced flying lessons in an old Fleet bi-plane trainer (Registration NC792V).
Paddy (as he was later universally addressed in the Service) joined the Royal Auxiliary Air Force in 1936. He was posted to No.601 (County of London) Squadron(2) on 28th February, 1937 and on that day had his first flight with Roger Bushell(3) in a Hawker Hart (K2970). Thereafter he flew the Hart and the Avro Tutor. His first solo was in a two-seater Hart variant, the Demon (K5716). He qualified as a day pilot in the Hawker Hart and as a night pilot in the Hawker Demon and was awarded his flying badge with effect from 19th September, 1937. On detachment to No.79 Squadron he flew a Gloster Gauntlet II bi-plane fighter (K7799). When No.601 Squadron went on to Gauntlets in November, 1938 he again flew this type. In March, 1939, he went on to a twin-engined Airspeed Oxford in preparation for conversion to Blenheims. His first duals therein were flown with Flight Lieutenant John Peel. He went solo with the Blenheim on 19th March, 1939, flying L6617. In April, his Flight Commander Roger Bushell, allotted him L6618, coded UF M, to share with Guy Branch, and at the end of April, Paddy had 300 hours flying to his name.
With the war imminent the Squadron was mobilised on 23rd August, 1939, and Paddy flew a Gloster Gladiator bi-plane fighter for the first time (coded RR R belonging to No.615 Squadron). He was one of the first to be fired upon (by our own anti-aircraft guns) after war was declared on 3rd September, but by no means the last, as we were to learn to our cost in the following six years. He was not hit, and recorded in his log book against 6th September: "Only result of raid: two Spitfires scored two Hurricanes." This was a reference to the notorious 'Battle of Barking Creek' which came about as follows. There was no IFF (Identification Friend or Foe) device fixed to our aircraft at that stage, and the operations staff had sent No.74 Squadron's Spitfires to intercept an 'enemy formation' which, in fact, was not enemy at all, but the Hurricanes of No.56 Squadron, two of which were shot down. One pilot was killed, but the other (Flight-Lieutenant Tommy Rose) hitch-hiked back in the early morning in his pyjamas in which he had been flying.
Group Captain C.P. Green
Photograph: With acknowledgement to the British Ministry of Information.
Paddy damaged a Messerschmitt Me 110 twin-engined fighter, but Sergeant Klipsch was killed, and Roger Bushell and Flying Officer John Gillies were shot down and taken prisoner. Paddy was badly wounded by the case of an armour-piercing bullet which lodged in his thigh. He flew back in a daze, faint from loss of blood, with his thumb stuck in the hole pressing on the severed arteries and the oxygen turned full up to stop him fainting. Few men could have recovered as quickly as Paddy, but even so, he only just made it back to Hawkinge, where the Medical Officer was confident that he could save the leg, but forecast a long spell in hospital.
The Medical Officer was right, for there followed long periods in hospitals at Shorncliffe, Dutton Homestall, and Roehampton, which was followed by a period of sick leave. It was 10th October, 1940, before Paddy flew to Biggin Hill to form and command No.421 (Reconnaissance) Flight at Gravesend. This Flight was formed from No.66 Squadron for the specific task of carrying out patrols to intercept any aircraft coming in over the coast. These operations were given the name 'Jim Crows'.
On 11th October, Paddy flew a Hurricane, and the next day was again wounded while flying a Spitfire (one of the first Mark. IIs in 11 Group). He fought to escape from the cockpit all the way down from 18 000 feet to 1 000 when he eventually made it out of the sorely stricken aeroplane. His wounds were not so severe this time so he was flying again by 1st November, 1940. On 15th the Flight moved to Hawkinge from West Mailing where it had been since 30th October. The Battle of Britain was over and won.
On 25th November, 1940, Paddy Green destroyed a twin-engined Dornier DO 17 and The Times newspaper reported: "A Spitfire pilot, flying at 5 000 feet first saw the raider 7 000 feet above him when 15 miles off Dover. He climbed to attack and fired two short bursts from below and astern at 350 yards range. Breaking away he climbed again and dived on the enemy. Pieces fell from the Dornier, and the RAF pilot saw the enemy machine losing height." The kill was confirmed by the Royal Navy as having fallen into the sea off Cap Gris Nez.
On 5th December Paddy got another probable, this time a Me 109, and received congratulations from Air Vice-Marshal Keith Park on the performance of the Flight, as follows: "Group Commander congratulates No.421 Flight on their successful combats December 5th and has recommended immediate expansion of Flight to enable small offensive patrols. Meanwhile reconnaissance reports of 'Jim Crow' are of vital importance to many Squadrons in the Group and must not be relegated to secondary role." This was one of his last signals before handing over command of 11 Group, and on 17th December he sent the following message: "In handing over Command of No. 11 Fighter Group, I wish to express sincere appreciation for the loyal support of all ranks of Fighter Squadrons, Sector Stations and forward Aerodromes during the past eight months hard fighting.
"The Squadrons operating under the control of No. 11 Fighter Group have soundly beaten the enemy, the German Air Force*, in the spring, summer, and finally autumn of 1940. The following enemy aircraft have been accounted for in combat against heavy odds:
Destroyed: 2 424; probably destroyed, and damaged: 2161; total 4585.
The outstanding successes were due to the courage and skill of our Fighter Pilots who have been so ably supported by the operational and ground staffs at all the aerodromes in spite of casualties and some damage caused by the enemy bombing attacks by day.
"The German Air Force may again launch heavy attacks by day against England in 1941, and I feel confident that the units of 11 Group will again defeat the enemy bombers and fighters, however numerous.
"I am proud to have commanded No.11 Fighter Group throughout the heavy fighting of 1940, and wish all ranks good luck in 1941."
On 27th December, 1940, Paddy Green and Flight Lieutenant Billy Drake (who retired as a Group Captain in 1963) got a German aircraft claimed as a Dornier DO 215. It is possible that it was a Dornier 17, as only 101 Dornier 215s were built between 1939 and early 1940 and saw limited service in the reconnaissance role. Having an in-line engine it was distinct from the radial-engined DO 17 but in the heat of battle it is possible that some of the DO 17s shot down were described as Do 215s, but nobody will ever know with certainty.
On 11th January, 1941, No.421 Flight became No.91 Squadron with Paddy Green as Squadron Leader Commanding. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) on 3rd April, 1941 after three months of intensive flying, mostly from Hawifinge, and with some from Biggin Hill. On 16th June he was posted to Headquarters Fighter Command as a Staff Officer and flew a Hurricane IIc (Serial Z2487) all over 10 Group (in which I was serving at the time) and 12, 13 and 14 Groups as well. He flew his first Bristol Beaufighter with Wing Commander John Cunningham of No.604 Squadron on 29th August, 1941. Paddy was to have great success in this type and on 13th September he flew it with his former colleague, Max Aitken, from 601, and went solo later in the day. He continued to fly Hurricanes and flew a Heinkel He 111 bomber for the film "First of the Few" in October 1941. By strange coincidence, Paddy lives a few miles from another resident of Johannesburg, Squadron Leader Ron Jones, DFC, who also flew this aeroplane in Britain during his service with the AFDU (Air Fighting Development Unit) during the war.
On 13th October, 1941, Paddy was attached to No.54 OTU (Operational Training Unit) at Church Fenton, where he flew Oxfords and Blenheims, returning to the Auxiliary Air Force when he was posted to No.600 Squadron on 14th November, 1941, to command A Flight, at Predannack in Cornwall. The squadron had Beaufighter Ils (which Paddy describes as the most dangerous aircraft ever). Until December 1941, when he punctured an eardrum, Paddy flew regularly in the west of England.
Early in 1942 he went to No. 1 BAS (Blind Approach School) at Watchfield for a course, returning to fly Beaufighters with No.600 Squadron from 11th February to 2nd June when he was posted as a Wing Commander to command No. 125 (Newfoundland) Squadron at Fairwood Common (with detachments at Sumburgh and Peterhead). By September he had notched up 1 000 flying hours, some going for a fighter pilot in those days. On Christmas Eve 1942 he flew from Hendon to Maison Blanche in Algiers via Portreath and Gibraltar in a Dakota and a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, to command No.600 Squadron again with effect from 10th December, 1942. Once again on Beaufighters Paddy continued to fly with his usual Navigator/Radio, the former Sergeant Gillies who had been commissioned in July 1942 as a Pilot Officer. They nearly always flew on TB F (Serial V8672) at this time (a Mk. VIF) and (2)n April, 1943 Gillies was promoted to Flying Officer, while on 30th Flight Sergeant 'Ace' Downing shot down five Junkers Ju 52/3m transport aircraft on the dawn patrol. Paddy's score remained at two destroyed, two probables and two damaged until 5th May, when he damaged a Junkers Ju 88 on the dawn patrol. Again on dawn patrol, on the 6th, off Cap Bon, he was, as he put it, "Shot at by a destroyer, and up by light flak at Bon Ficha. My beloved F was hit and I landed in formation with no flaps or ASI." (Air Speed Indicator-Editor). He had flown 80 times on F and it was a wrench to leave the aeroplane at Setif and return in X, but on 12th he got a new F (V8700) which he found "not bad", but with "many minor faults". He must have ironed these out to some purpose for he flew this aeroplane 153 times, with great success as we shall see.
On 9th July he flew Lt. Gen. (later Field Marshal Lord) Montgomery and General 'Boy' Browning to inspect the 1st Airborne Division. With the Sicily invasion starting on 10th, Paddy was again in action to some purpose, destroying a Ju 88 and a He 111 on 12th July, 1943. The Squadron score for the night was six and the Sector's 11 and one damaged. John Tumbull got three and Robbie Roberts another. (Turnbull's navigator was C. F. J. Turner). Paddy's score at the end of the month was nine destroyed, two probables and four damaged. He was admitted to the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) on 29th.
On 11th August he got another Ju 88 and on 6th and 7th August he had flown his old beloved F (V8672) now coded P, with Air Marshal Sir Arthur Coningham as a passenger. On 9th September Paddy got a probable He 111, blaming his shooting for not having made it a confirmed. On 23rd he made his first landing on the Axis mainland at Salerno in Hurricane lie Hk356.
On 25th January, 1944, he got a Ju 88 and on 6th March was posted to command No.1 MORU (Mobile Operations Room Unit) with the rank of Group Captain, flying Spitfires, Piper Cubs, Hurricanes, Fairchilds, Austems, Beaufighters and Kittyhawks.
On 8th July, 1944, Paddy received the American Distinguished Flying Cross from General Cannon of the USAAF, a fitting award for a pilot who had learned to fly in the U.S.A. with an American fellow member of 601. He also received the Russian decoration, the Order of Patriotic War, Class I. On 5th November, 1944, Paddy was posted to command No. 232 Wing, flying Spitfires, Fairchilds (including FZ740), Boston Vs (including BZ6Ol and BZ594), C-47s, Mosquitoes, Sea Otters, Proctors, Ansons, Oxfords and a Warwick, his last logged service flight being made on 12th August, 1946. Although he certainly flew Meteors might up to the time he left the Service on 16th December, 1947, his last two years had been spent with the CFE (Central Fighter Establishment).
He returned to South Africa at the close of his Air Force career, having flown over 1 800 hours on 50 different types of aircraft during his 10 years service, had 11 confirmed, three probables and four damaged to his credit; truly a great record of service.
(1.) An American who later served in No.601 Squadron with Green and who died on 17th August, 1940, as the result of severe burns sustained in the Battle of Britain on 13th September, when he brought his blazing Hurricane back to base. A bronze tablet to his memory in St. Paul's Cathedral, London, reads: "WILLIAM MEADE LINDSLEY FISKE AN AMERICAN CITIZEN WHO DIED THAT ENGLAND MIGHT LIVE."
(2.) The exploits of this squadron are well described in 'The Flying Sword', by Tom Moulson (Macdonald).
(3.) Paddy Green knew Roger Bushell from Cambridge days. Roger was murdered by the Gestapo for his part in the 'great escape' from Stalag Luft III, where he had been 'Big X' of the north compound.
CHIEF EDITOR'S NOTE:
* It is possible that this and the figures that follow include a number of Italian aircraft.
(The author would like to record his sincere thanks for Group Captain Green's having allowed his log books to be consulted, and for his kindness and courtesy in filling gaps by personal reminiscence in conversation.)
In September 2010 the following e-mail was received from Peter Lloyd in the UK: Your Military biography No.7 - Group Captain C P Green
During his time in North Africa you mention Jack Turnbull, the Canadian ace in 600 Squadron and his Radar Observer C F J Turner ; the latter name is incorrect, John Howard "Jack" Turnbull's RO's surname was Fowler, - C F J Fowler.
My knowledge derives from my abiding interest in Welsh Airfields and in particular, that of RAF Fairwood Common, in the Gower Peninsula, 6 miles to the west of the city of Swansea. It was here, on January 30th 1942 that Cyril F.J. Fowler,of Birmingham, then a lowly Aircraftman, but a trained RO, with twenty others, arrived to join 125 (Newfoundland) Squadron. Typical of the times, they should have been sent to RAF Colerne in Wiltshire to team up with those Squadron members of B Flight 125 and 125 HQ who had left Fairwood on the 25th to learn the intricacies of the Beaufighter IIF which most pilots had concluded, just like "Paddy", was "bloody dangerous".
The night-fighter defence of South Wales had been left in the hands of "A" Flight 125 commanded by that able South African Flight Lieutenant James Abe Richard "Jim"Bailey, the son of Sir Abe Bailey, who would write "The sky suspended" dealing with his RAF experiences. However, Bailey and "A" Flight would soon wend their way to Colerne, joining their mates on the 10th February. 125 would find their way back to Fairwood Common on the 15th May, there to stay until the 15th. April 1943. Paddy Green would take command of 125 Squadron late in May 1942.
I hope you'll not view my small correction with disfavour for it is well meant. I am a junior member of Air Britain [Historians].
Peter Lloyd AB20110 Port Talbot South Wales UK
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