A Little Slice of the Battle of
Blood, "Joy," Tears and Sweat
The Unofficial History of RAF 234 Squadron
Behind the safety of the English Channel, Britain gestures
defiantly as Goering readies his Luftwaffe for the coming air
battle that will decide the fate of Europe. Fighter Command gathers
whatever forces it can to fight the Germans, including a squadron
of 16 undisciplined rowdies, more interested in having a good
time than in seeing the face of God at Angels 30. Their career
is brief and bloody, lasting a mere four days of combat before
the Air Chief Marshal (ACM) reassigns them to a quiet sector.
However, it is resilient chaps like these who must save Britain
from Hitler's tyranny. What follows is their august story.
August 13, 1940 - Tuesday
Anxious to sleep late, many of the squadron's pilots make vocal
their desire to Robert Eastman, who is Acting Squadron Leader
(S/L) this morning. The squadron stands by at Hawkinge airfield
on the Kent coast, only to scramble at 7am when word arrives
of a large group of hostiles forming up over the Pas de Calais.
The 16 Spitfires under Eastman's command climb desperately to
altitude, intercepting the raiders over the Rye Chain Home (CH)
Station as smoke rises from the bomb damage below. Some of the
squadron dives into the enemy at Angels 5, including Mike Lam
who downs a Stuka and Andy Maly who downs a Me110. (Maly came
to the attention of the ACM earlier in the morning when Maly
and his wingmate, Roy Gibson, known as "7 of Clubs"
and "7 of Diamonds" respectively, displayed themselves
as wild cards to the ACM.) The rest of the squadron mixes with
the high-level bombers and 109s at Angels 15, where Mark Brooks
shoots down a Dornier for his first confirmed kill. In fact,
the squadron claims 11 kills and damage to several enemy aircraft.
Unfortunately, Eric Stranger returns wounded from the sortie,
and Chris Villeneuve is missing, last seen hanging from his parachute
The squadron, 15 strong without Villeneuve, makes a fruitless
patrol later in the morning and then scrambles at 2pm under S/L
Randy Schilb when alerted to a small raid heading toward Pevensey
CH Station. The Germans knock out the station, but they are caught
by surprise over the middle of the Channel on their way home.
Mark Brooks claims another two Dornier victims and Louis Gehring
one. Lam knocks down a Heinkel. Stranger, now flying the only
Hurricane in the squadron, claims two kills. Bryan Van Nortwick
and Dave Huss also claim two kills apiece, but they are both
wounded by enemy fire. All total, the squadron claims 18 kills
against the raid. However, Dan Dolan's Spitfire fails to return.
Someone recalls seeing him on a course for the English coast,
trailing smoke from his engine and losing altitude fast.
Late that night, while most of the squadron relaxes at the
local pub, Villeneuve and Dolan return to the squadron, unhurt
but dirty and tired from their jumps into muddy fields and long
lorry rides back to base. As the first squadron member to bail
out, Villeneuve earns the nickname "Silky" from the
August 14, 1940 -- Wednesday
Pevensey CH is back on line, but Rye CH is still down. With all
16 pilots now present (though three of them fly Hurricanes),
the squadron sleeps through the morning and then makes two afternoon
patrols. S/L David Brooks leads the squadron to "joy"
over Kent at 5pm, but he and half the squadron break off when
they spot 109s above them. The remaining pilots go in and pay
heavily for their courage. Huss is killed in action, and Van
Nortwick is seriously wounded, removing them from the squadron's
rolls. Both pilots of Section 8, Villeneuve and Lam, are wounded,
too. Only four German aircraft are shot down. The raiders bomb
Canewdon CH Station, which nevertheless comes back on line overnight.
Altogether, it has been a bad day, and there are two empty seats
at mess. Will Thursday be an improvement?
August 15, 1940 - Black Thursday
S/L Dolan leads the squadron (11 Spitfires and three Hurricanes)
on a 7am patrol over Dover. The pilots are flying in pattern
at Angels 15, waiting for something to happen. It does. German
fighters suddenly appear on the squadron's collective tail. Over
two dozen Me109s and 110s blast through the formation, and the
RAF fighters start falling in flames and smoke. Meanwhile, Dorniers
try to bomb Dover but are driven off by heavy AA fire. The squadron
straggles back to base. Nine of 14 pilots are missing, although
Dolan and his wingmate, Reiko McQuiston, land without a scratch
on their planes. Dolan boasts that he saved Dover, but the other
survivors start referring to him as "von" Dolan. When
the ACM learns of the "Dover Massacre," he forecasts
the squadron will mutiny rather than follow Dolan again.
By afternoon, the squadron has scraped together eight piloted
fighters, half of them Hurricanes. Steve Munchak temporarily
takes over as Ground Controller to vector the 2pm patrol onto
a large raid inbound toward Eastchurch. However, the enemy escort
outnumbers the weakened squadron 4:1, so everyone chooses discretion
as the better part of valor and Eastchurch is pounded. The eight
pilots go up again to patrol at 5pm, commanded by S/L Mike Metcalf
who is flying a Hurricane. They encounter a large raid over Manston
but are too late to stop the enemy from demolishing the airfield
there. Outnumbered again by 109s, all of the squadron's pilots
break off except S/L Metcalf, who is determined to press his
attack against all odds. He fails to hit the Germans on his first
pass and takes some cannon shells in his Hurricane's frame. He
barely shakes his pursuers and turns around for a second pass,
but the enemy raiders have already disappeared into the haze.
Some call him lucky, but most of his mates hereafter think of
him as "Mad" Mike Metcalf.
August 15 has turned out to be "Black Thursday"
for 234 Squadron. Nine fighters have been lost and four pilots
KIA, including Mike Lam. The other five pilots bailed out successfully
over Dover and stumble into base that night, bringing the squadron
up to 13 pilots. But Manston airfield is evacuated by order of
the ACM, and Eastchurch airfield is damaged. Rye CH, which was
knocked off line two days earlier, is only partially repaired.
If the squadron suffers another day like today, Goering will
win the battle.
August 16, 1940 -- Friday
S/L "Loco" Maly reinvigorates the squadron's morale
with an uneventful 7am patrol at Angels 30 over the Kent countryside.
The pilots enjoy the high altitude so much that they follow S/L
"Bongo" Gibson's Spitfire back up there at 10am. This
time they catch a large raid of bombers without fighter escort
over the Thames Estuary. Unfortunately, intervening clouds hide
the enemy from some of the squadron members. Those who do find
"joy" shoot down 15 of the enemy, including three kills
by Maly to claim ace status. Dolan also makes ace when he records
two kills. Despite the successful interception, some of the enemy
find their way to Debden airfield, which is heavily bombed. Later,
S/L "Silky" Villeneuve leads the squadron on an afternoon
patrol, but no trade appears. The day closes with no squadron
Satisfied with the squadron's performance, and anxious that
its pilots have suffered too much fatigue over the last four
days, the ACM reassigns 234 Squadron to No. 13 Group in Scotland,
a quiet sector far from Me109s. Reassignment also means an award
for one of the pilots. The ACM must choose between the two aces,
"Loco" Maly and "von" Dolan. He chooses Maly
lest the rest of the squadron cause a disturbance on the parade
ground. The ACM suggests that everyone visit the local pub, but
they announce they have other amusements to pursue. Thanks to
their efforts, Britain is safe for the time being.