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L.A.C. (Rigger Aero) R.A.F. 157349. Albert Howard Bate.
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Albert Howard Bate

L.A.C. (Rigger Aero) R.A.F. 157349.

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26th March 1902 - 25th February 1973

By

Alexander David King

Introduction.

The purpose of this document is to give a biography of my grandfather, Albert Howard Bate. This is a record of his career in the Royal Flying Corps, (R.F.C.) and Royal Air Force (R.A.F.)

The First World War.
(Plus Inter War Period to 25th March 1928)


Albert first joined The Royal Flying Corps on the 27th of November 1917, his rank was listed as “Boy” and his trade in civilian life as a shoe repairer. On the 1st of April 1918 he would be transferred to the newly formed Royal Air Force, and continue to serve until the 25th March 1928, this would be his first period of service in the Air Force that would last ten years and 138 days.
So far all I know about this period of his service is that in his early years he was based at Calshot working on Felixstowe flying boats. Calshot is a coastal village in Hampshire, England at the west corner of Southampton Water where it joins the Solent, and is notable for its role in the development of aircraft and flying boats. In 1913 the Royal Flying Corps established Calshot Naval Air Station (later known as RNAS Calshot and RAF Calshot) at the end of Calshot Spit.

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Buildings still remain today at the end of Calshot spit viewed here from across Calshot marshes.
The original R.A.F. hangars used for the flying boats remain as an activity centre for water sports (including kite-surfing), climbing, snowboarding and track cycling. There is a small indoor velodrome, a dry ski slope, and facilities for climbing and bouldering

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These two photos above are the only two I have of Albert in relation to his first period of service. (I hope to soon be able to add further details of his service during this period).

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The R.A.F. Calshot Railway used to transport personnel up and down the Calshot Spit, this must of been used by Albert many times possibly even on this occasion.




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An Imperial War Museum photo showing a Felixstowe F.5 military flying boat, at Calshot in 1923. The aircraft belonging to No.480 C.R.Flight.
(Coastal Recon)




The Second World War (Under Construction)

25th August 1939

Albert was recalled to service on the 25th August 1939 just a few weeks before the out break of war,

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His record of service above shows his earlier enlistment date for the first World War 27.11.17 to 23.03.28 and his second enlistment date to commence 25th August 1939.

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The section above for his record of service, records his movements during the second World War period.

29th August 1939.

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Tangmere Airfield photographed just over 4 weeks before Albert arrived showing attempts to camuflage the site.


Three days after joining at the reserve poole he was transferred on the 29th August to No. 6FTS 43 days later he was transferred to R.A.F. station Tangmere, in just over eight months time this would become a front line station during the Battle of Britain, here he would remain through out the whole period of the battle recovering aircraft both RAF and German for salvage or repair.


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Albert is seen here during the recovery of a Westland Lysander which had been bogged down on an airfield, in the photo on the left he is seated on the port stabiliser and in the right hand photo 2nd left just visible next to aircraft, the guys seen here fooling around after a very muddy encounter.

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During this early period of World War II he met my Grandmother Doris, seen together left during a period of leave and portrait of Doris right.


During the build up to the battle he would of been involved in numerous R.A.F. aircraft repairs and some salvage work, on the 8th July 1940 he would be involved in the recovery of the first intact Messerschmitt Me109-E.

8th July 1940

Just before 4:00pm, machine-gun fire rang out high above Elham Valley and the sounds of starting engines could be herd. Then two planes were down low banking and turning over the Downs. The chase went on, with an occasional ripping burst of fire that echoed around the hills. To observers, the little plane in front with square cut wing-tips looked different, the raucous note of its engine had snarl and, seen in profile, its mottled fuselage made it look like some kind of fish. It was pursued by another beautifully shaped aircraft that was unmistakably a Spitfire. Then one was down. It had belly-landed hard onto the crest of Bladbean Hill, broken its back and slivered the grass, chopping up a few sheep before it came to stop with proppeller blades gracefully curled back. It was the first Messerschmitt down in Great Britain.

An hour after the fight, Sgt. E. A. Mould of No. 74 Squadron was writing out a form 'F' (Combat Report) at Hornchurch;

" I was Red Leader of 'A' Flight No. 74 Squadron, with No. 2 of Blue Section also in company.
The four of us were on interception patrol over Dover when I sighted four Me 109's flying inline astern on my starboard beam. I gave the order "Line astern" and turned to starboard climbing up under the tail of the rear Me 109. I gave him a short 30' deflection shot and he immediately half-rolled and dived to ground level followed by Red 2. In trying to follow him I blacked my self out and lost sight of him, but I saw another Me 109 also flying at low level so I dived on him from about 3000ft. He immediately dived to ground level and used invasive tactics by flying along the valleys behind dover and Folkstone, which only allowed me to fire short deflection bursts at him. After two of these bursts smoke or vapour came from the radiator beneath his port wing and other burst appeared to enter the fuselage. He eventually landed with his wheels up as I fire my last burst at him in a field near Elham. The pilot was apparently uninjured and I circled round him till he wa taken prisoner. (E.A.Mould.)

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Sgt. E. A. Mould of No. 74 Squadron

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On this rare photograph Albert can be seen standing on the Me109-E's starboard wing during the aircrafts recovery. The aircraft is shown after being lifted by crane back onto its undercarriage after it had force landed at Blabdean Hill, Elham, Kent. The aircraft white 4+ WNr. 1162 from 4/JG51, the pilot Lt Johann Bohm was taken prisoner with head injuries.

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Me 109-E white 4+ War. 1162 shortly after it had forced landed at Blabdean Hill

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Members of a Highland regiment invite the captured pilot to march in step in to captivity. (JG/51(Molders) unit badge)

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Another photo of the Me 109 pilot taken at a later stage of his capture during transportation to a P.O.W. camp. Written on the reverse on this photograph is the following inscription. German pilot of plane age 20 taken at Broome Park Denton near Canterbury was fetched down in a field near here. He was arrogant and kept saying that they would be winning the war in tow or three weeks time. (The plane on other two snaps)

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The Staffle Emblem of II Groupe 4/JG51 seen here on the fuselage of the aircraft at Elham and illustrated right.

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Two further views of the aircraft on these colourised photos showing strikes on the fuselage as reported by Sgt. E.A.Mould in his combat report.

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In the same area that the first Me109 came down in many aircraft both Luftwaffe and RAF were to crash in this general area, it is therefor almost certain that some of those marked on this map would also have been listed by Albert for recovery or salvage. (Harvest of Messerschmitts Dennis Knight)
16th August 1940

Stuka attack on Tangmere

While Albert was stationed at Tangmere Airfield he was subject to the heavy attack by Stukas on 16th August.The Stuka attack on Tangmere aerodrome had started at 1300 hours and lasted only twenty minutes. The bombing was extremely accurate with no bombs dropped outside the aerodrome perimeter. In that time, the Luftwaffe destroyed or damaged beyond repair, with the exception of one, all the pre-war hangars, the station workshops, stores and the water pumping station. The Officers Mess, the Y-Service hut and many other buildings were also badly damaged and auxiliary systems such as the station tannoy, power, water and sanitation were put out of action. Seven Hurricanes, six Blenheims, including those flown by the Fighter Interception Unit (the unit developing night fighter aerial interception equipment and techniques), and a Magister aircraft were destroyed on the ground. Some forty vehicles were also destroyed in the raid.
The Luftwaffe did not escape unscathed; the returning fighters claimed twenty five enemy aircraft destroyed, including two Bf 110s, five Bf 109s and eight Stuka bombers with a further seven Stukas damaged. However, the real tragedy for Tangmere on that day was the deaths of ten RAF personnel (all but one were later buried in Tangmere’s St Andrews churchyard) and three civilians. A further twenty persons were injured. One of the civilians who died was Henry Ayling; a civilian builder, he was killed when the slit trench he was sheltering in, received a direct hit from a Stuka bomb. He is buried in Chichester Cemetery. His wife never remarried.
Leading Aircraftman Maurice Haffenden was an engine fitter with No 43 Squadron and he later described the day’s events in a letter to his relations thus: “Lunchtime at 1pm the loudspeakers with a greater urgency than before suddenly appealed, ‘Take cover – take cover’. Within three minutes of that warning I saw the first of the Junkers coming straight down on the ‘drome in a vertical dive. The leader was within 2,000 feet of the ground – long wing span – fixed undercarriage – single engine – and then wheez…..
I went head first down a manhole as the first bomb landed on the cookhouse. For seven minutes their 1,000 pounders were scoring direct hits and everything was swept away by machine gun bullets. I never believed such desolation and destruction to be possible. Everything is wrecked – the hangars, the stores, the hospital, the armoury, the cookhouse, the canteen – well everything.
By special permission a Lions ice cream fellow is allowed in the ‘drome. He always stands just outside the cookhouse on the square. He was last seen standing there guarding his tricycle but now at the same spot is a bomb crater thirty feet deep. But there were quite a few casualties. In the early evening they still were sorting out the bloody remnants of flesh and bones and tied them in sheets.”

(Extract courtesy of Tangmere Museum. From a full account of this event which can be viewed
HERE)

26 August 1940.


Dornier Do17 Z I Groupe/KG2.

On the 8th August Albert was once again charged with the recovery of an almost interacted German aircraft which had forced landed 2 miles South West of Eastchurch at 15:45 hrs.

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The aircraft started from Cambrai at 13:00 hrs, picked up escort at Guines, flew at 13000ft to bomb Hornchurch aircraft had released its bombs and was on the return flight when one of the engines started to fail. It lagged behind the rest of the flight and was attacked by Spitfires from infant and behind. Both engines were put out of action and the crew made a forced landing. Unffz. Ambros Schmolzer, Unffz. Helmuth Buhr, Major Martin Gutzmann these three crew members were all uninjured, sadly the Observer Oblt. Siegfried Hertel killed.

During the recovery of this aircraft another of Alberts recovery team removed the Observers Navigation Computer as a souvenir. This was passed on to my father when chairman of the Booker Aircraft Museum along with the photo shown on the left. Now part of my private collection held in memory of my Grandfather.

I am amazed at the quantity of material that we have been able to un-earth, some of it due to my fathers interest in the subject and further additions that I have been able to add myself, which all began by chance when my father was looking through a box of my mothers family snapshots when the photo of a Me109 appeared among them when my father questioned the reason for it being there my mother told him "that's my dad standing on the wing he used to recover crashed aircraft".

Sadly I was never able to meet my Grandfather, but working on this page has helped me to learn more about him, as through a strange coincidence his war time activity and my current interest both run on a parallel course, which has led me to work with my father in the remembrance of many airmen, now also to include my Grandfather.

(Photos both top and bottom of the instrument reproduced below)

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Three of the crew from the ill-fated Do17 left to right Uffz Schmolzer, Oblt Hertel (killed) and Uffz Buhr.

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Siegfried Hertel at Cannock Chase German Military Cemetery Block 1. Row 11. Grave 440.

21 February 1941.

On this date my Grandfather was sent to recover a crashed Spitfire along with its missing pilot. The course of events connected to this tragic loss that were to follow 53 years later, are another coincidental connection involving people connected with my father, that would complete the task that Albert and his comrades were unable to fulfil despite all of their efforts at the time.

I have spoke earlier about my father finding a photograph of the Me109 in my mothers family snapshots, now armed with the knowledge that her father had been recovering aircraft in World War II my father now search intensively through all family documents and photos, and gradually unearthed many others relating to Alberts service. One story in particular that was told to my father by Doris (My Grandmother) related to a faint photo of a block and tackle on a wooden tripod and another of my Grandfather and another member of his team taken a smoke break at the edge of a river. Doris (My Grandmother) explained that these photographs were connected, they showed Albert and his teams attempt at recovering the pilot from the wreck of his Spitfire tragically the equipment was inadequate and they were doomed to failure as the close proximity to a river caused the hole to flood. The second photo shows them disappointed and distressed having to abandon the recovery.

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These two photographs taken 53 years apart show the same skyline at the location of the crash. Left Albert and his team during their attempt on the recovery and the photo right shows, left, leader of the recovery operation Mark Kirby, and right,
Martin O'Brien good friend of my farther and member of the society inflating the pilots parachute following the recovery.
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Fortunately I was able to preserver from Alberts estate his silver cigarette case inscribed with his initials A.H.B. this cigarette case was carried by him throughout his R.A.F. service, and was almost certainly used prior to this smoke break illustrated above.

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The ill fated John Guilders pictured here with other members of 41 Squadron, standing 3rd from right.

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Although Gilders was remembered on the Runnymede Memorial, Panel 43, it always seemed certain that he went in with his aircraft. In 1990 the crash site was located but in spite of requests by Gilders' family for the wreckage to be excavated and for him to be given a proper burial, the owner of the land would not permit access, even for family members to place flowers.

In April 1994 the site was investigated with a new owners permission and Gilders' body was found. The recovery operation (by Mark Kirby and
Martin O'Brien) was done with the co-operation of the Gilders family. On May 12th 1995 Gilders was buried in Brookwood Military Cemetery, with full military honours.

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Top left: Aerial view of the crash site which is located close to the river bank on the opposite side of the river in-line with the building. Bottom left: Unlike Albert with his block and tackle the recovery group were able to complete the task with the improved equipment available, and therefor overcame the problems of flooding and cave-ins that had faced Albert and his comrades in 1941, as shown in the photograph right.


Page Still Under Construction


Page constructed by Alexander King. In memory of my Grandfather Albert Howard bate. Further research undertaken by my father David King. Other credits: Harvest of Messerschmitts Dennis Knight, Battle of Britain Then and Now and Fox photos.

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