John Francis Durham
"Tim" Elkington

Tim Elkington

RAF  W/C   -  

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"Group Captain Waterfall, Ladies & Gentlemen, especially those, of course, of No1 Squadron. I have been asked to say a word about MY Battle of Britain. My story is not the stuff that Aces are made of – I didn’t do much of that – but I’ve chosen the event that to me is the most memorable.

In 1936, Olive Oyl gave Popeye ‘Eugene the Jeep’ - a mystical animal, capable of foretelling the future & materialising anywhere to work its magic. Just the thing for the nose art on my aircraft!

I suppose you could say that it helped on the day it was applied - 15th August - when I achieved possible success in my first encounter with the Enemy. A smoking Me109 disappearing seawards through the clouds near Harwich.

But something slipped on the 16th. With the help - a few years ago - of Uncles in No1, 43 & 601 Squadrons, we are now fairly sure that I was the 18th victim of Helmut Wick when we were intercepting the raid on Tangmere. Quite an experienced chap, so I’m not too put out!

Leaving a burning aircraft is easy. You just throw yourself over the side. But first, make sure that you disconnect your Radio & Oxygen connections.

On the second attempt, I was out. Lovely sunny day – Portsmouth visible through the haze. No pain, just blood. But I was over the sea & had not thought to inflate my Mae West.

I remembered nothing more until there was a freckle-faced ambulance girl cutting my trousers off. A strange homecoming!

Maybe Eugene was in fact still around, because Flight Sergeant Fred Berry, my Section Leader, came to my rescue & somehow, with slipstream presumably, drifted me onto West Wittering. But only just! Without his aid I would have drowned.

As usual, my Mother was on her Hayling Island balcony with my Step-Father’s Naval glasses, watching it all happen. She was unsurprised when the phone rang from the Hospital 30 minutes later!

Sadly, Berry was killed before I was able to thank him but a few years ago, we were contacted by his family through our Son’s blog & a meeting was arranged.

Nowadays, I follow No1 Squadron’s activities with interest & admiration, & still recall with great pleasure & pride my 2 short tours with the squadron.

The Brylcream Boys of 1940 have had their fair share of hero worship in the media, but with the choice of your war or ours, I know which I would choose. Ours – most definitely.

Given the hazards of warfare today – the nature of the enemy, the environment, modern weaponry - together with the complexity of aircraft systems, I count you not only brave but wonderfully skilled to boot.

It’s encouraging to see the great traditions of the Services in such good hands.

I wish you continuing success"

Tim Elkington - 2010 Annual Dinner of the Joint Harrier Force

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No.1 Squadron 1940
Some of No. 1 Squadron, late 1940, from L to R: Sgt. A. Zavoral (Cz, KIA 31oct41), P/O C.A.G. Chetham (KIA 15apr41), P/O A.V. Clowes, F/L Hilly Brown (Can. KIA 12nov41), P/O N.P.W. Hancock, P/O Tim Elkington, F/L "Moses Morlaix" DeMozay (Fr) & Sgt. J Stefan (Cz)

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Born 23 December 1920 in Warwickshire
Educated at Old Ride Prep School, Bournemouth, Packwood
Haugh Prep School, Hockley Heath & Bedford School
Entered RAF College, Cranwell in Sept. '39 as a Flight Cadet
Trained at:
9 EFTS Ansty, October 1939 to April 1940 &
17 SFTS Cranwell (both intermediate & advanced)
Commissioned 14 July 1940
Flew in the Battle of Britain
Had "Eugene The Jeep" painted on his Spitfire
To No 1 Squadron, Northolt on 15 July
Destroyed a 109 on the 15th of August
On the 16th he was shot down by Helmut Wick
  Starboard fuel tank burst into flames - he bailed out injured
  Hurricane P3137 crashing at Manor Farm, Chidham
  Taken to the Royal West Sussex Hospital at Chichester.
Rejoined No 1 Sq. now at Wittering, 1 Oct. 1940
Posted to 55 OTU, Usworth as an instructor.
Joined 601 Squadron, Manston in late May
Joined 134 Sq. at Leconfield readying for Russia in late July
Embarked on HMS Argus on 12 August 1941
Flew their Hurricanes off the deck on 7 Sept.
Landed at Vaenga, near Murmansk.
134 Sq. carried out bomber escorts & 'drome defence
until mid-Oct. when they began training pilots on Hurricanes
At the end of the month, they gave the planes to the Russians
In mid-November 134 Sq. began making their way home
134 reformed at Eglington in January 1942
Joined the MSFU at Speke in April
Rejoined No 1 Sq. at Acklngton in August
Then posted to 539 Sqn., also at Acklington, in September.
No 539 Squadron disbanded, 25 January 1943
Posted to the new 197 Squadron at Drem (Typhoons)
Joined No 67 Sq. at Alipore, India in December 1943
Tour expired, went to the ADFU, Amarda Road, in Feb.'44
Returned to UK for a course at CFE, Tangmere, May 1945
Went back to India in July
Back to UK on 27 October 1946

Stayed in the RAF

Retired on 23 December 1975 as a Wing Commander

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Russia

"I left the RAF College, Cranwell for No 1 Squadron, Northolt in July 1940. Fifteen hours flying later, I was on patrol over the Channel.

A few months later, having survived the Battle of Britain with only one unfortunate incident, I was enjoying life with 601 Squadronn at Manston - interception patrols, Search & Rescue escort & later, Sweeps over France. Too good to last: in July 1941 came a posting ‘for overseas’.
At Leconfield, 29th July, speculation was ended: we – the re-formed 81 & 134 Squadrons – were to fly off a carrier into Russia.

Aboard HMS Argus, 18th August, the First Sea Lord gave us a briefing which, I must assume, told us that we, as 151 Wing, had been promised by Churchill in response to Stalin’s demands for support. Our role was to be “the defence of the naval base of Murmansk & co-operation with the Soviet forces in the Murmansk area. We were to instruct the Soviet authorities in the operation & maintenance of our aircraft & ground equipment, which was then to be handed over to them”.
And so it was that we became part of the first ever convoy to Russia, together with merchantmen carrying the rest of the Wing & crated Hurricanes, & escorted by HMS Victorious, Shropshire, Punjabi, Somali & Matabele.

Whilst in Scapa Flow outbound, from 20th August, we received typical Naval hospitality on several of the ships anchored there.
Mindful of events a few months later, it is painful to reflect on those present - HMS Prince of Wales, Repulse, King George V, Victorious, Furious, Malaya, Sheffield & London.
We finally sailed for Iceland on 30th August, together with a convoy for North America, & Sunderland & Catalina escort.

For a few days, we were down to 7 knots in thick fog. On 3rd September, the weather cleared & I have noted that Martlets from Victorious ‘got’ a Do17. One Fulmar was lost in the engagement. Then more days of thick fog.

Flying off Argus at 0600 hrs on 7th September, some 200 miles north of Murmansk, our compasses were unreliable & we were told to pass over Argus, then a positioned destroyer & keep going! After over-flying miles of desolate tundra, we landed at Vaenga, a vast expanse of pot-holed sand which, later, became a soggy mess. Breakfast, however, was more welcoming - Caviar, Smoked Salmon, Finnish Ham, Wine & Champagne. The ensuing diet is well documented in Hubert Griffith’s book, RAF in Russia.

The weather was not helpful. Some days were balmy –

Huricanes in Russia

- but so many were unflyable. In the first month, we were unfortunate, as a squadron, to miss out on engagement with the enemy. Apart from reconnaissance, our first real work did not come until 17th September, with 3 patrols on that day over the front line. Even then we saw nothing but flak, directed both at us & the bombers we were escorting. A few days later, close to Petsamo, one Pe2 was hit & crashed in flames after the crew had jettisoned their bombs & bailed out. Their bombs came close to hitting the ships that were firing.

October opened with attacks on our airfield. No advanced warning system existed. On the first occasion, some 20 Ju88s dropped their load & we took off to intercept through a hail of bullets, dodging the bomb craters. One 81 Squadron pilot, whose engine was stopped by a blast on take off, was then blown off the wing by another blast. Of 134 Squadron, I was first away & managed to catch up with them at 7000’. My No2 joined me & we damaged one Ju88 which later failed to reach home. The excellent DVD on the Russian episode, by Atoll Productions, has an over-generous simulation of the event showing a ‘flamer’ which we did not achieve. No surprise - I was rated below average in air gunnery.

The weather was now closing in & our efforts were devoted more to the conversion of the Russian pilots who seemed oblivious of fog, snow & ice, & the instruction of their technicians. We watched with disbelief as a protégé attempted his third approach in dense fog.


Came the time for return home, & the most testing time of the expedition, for me at least, began.
On 16th November I was put in charge of an advance party of 7 officers & 60 airmen, which I had to lead in deep snow, in virtual night, down the 10 miles or so of treacherous track to Rosta oiling jetty. We knew when we reached our destination, at 5 pm, when all our kit became black with oil. Our only casualty was one airman with a broken arm.
We waited there 6 hours for the fleet minesweepers we had to board for the voyage to Archangel – HMS Hussar, in our case, Gossamer & Speedy, but they had docked at a different jetty. (If anything suggests that we had a tough assignment, read up their sea logs!) Eventually bed, without food for 14 hours, at 2 am.

Next day, up to Polyarny and a drink on board the submarine Seawolf before she left on patrol.

Transferring to an icebreaker, captained by a very large lady, & following the Lenin – the world’s largest – we struggled through 6” deep ice for the last 20 miles into Archangel. We were passed by one merchantman loaded with crated Hurricanes & tanks. On the icebreaker I made the acquaintance of General Gromov – the pre-war long distance flyer.

24th November – transferred to MV Empire Baffin, a 10,000 ton cargo ship. Despite the icebreakers, moving yards at a time, it was not until 28th November that we were steaming past the Gorodetski light & into the open sea. We were held to 7.5 knots for the Russian boats with us – their first convoy to the UK. It was only then that we found the 2 Esthonian stowaways who had crossed the ice at night to board us.

29th November – HMS Kenya, with most of the Wing personnel on board, joined us.

30th November – hove to in gale & heavy seas – lifeboat washed away & slag ballast on deck shifting. We had to rope ourselves into our bunks at night. No chance of sleep. Everything heavy with frozen spray which had to be constantly chipped off with shovels. We were sleeping in our clothes in case we had to get Vic Berg – who was in full plaster after his terrible crash – to the lifeboats.

1st December - attacked by U-boat – destroyers depth charged - no casualties, but an outgoing convoy later lost several ships. Ballast shifting again. Our airmen helped to re-locate it.

4th December – engines cut out with propellers racing in the heavy seas. Steering gear damaged. Still semi-dusk all day. Several mines seen – one uncomfortably close.
Pleased to see that the new DVD gives an idea, however brief, of the weather encountered later by so many for so long.

8th December – Iceland.

16th December – Scotland & home!!

After all the operational jazz, I must add that the expedition gave me my truest wartime friend – Vladimir Krivoschekov - the Russian General’s 19 year old interpreter (on the right) ‘K’ the Capitalist. His purity of English put us to shame!


More than 50 years later, we re-engaged at our home in the Cotswolds – screenshots from BBC’s coverage.

Krivoschekov & Elkington Krivoschekov & Elkington

We corresponded for many years until his untimely death.

A truly lasting memory."

... Tim Elkington

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P-51 crash

One day in India, Tim's P-51 suffered engine failure while taking off.
The drawing above shows the positioning of the wreck.
The photo below shows the condition of the pilot !

Elkington injured

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Victories Include :

15 Aug 1940
  9 Oct 1940
27 Oct 1940
?? Oct 1941

one Me109
one Ju88
one Do215
1/2 Ju88
destroyed
probable
destroyed
damaged*
BoB

(shared)
Russia

2 - 1.? / 1 / 0.5

* This plane failed to make it back to base & might be considered shot down

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--- English Aces ---

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Russia

Lady Luck

johnelkington.com

Thanks go out to Tim Elkington for the photos & infos !!

On these pages I use info from the London Gazette Archives,
newspaper articles via the Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation (CMCC)
as well as other sources both published and private

 

 

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