View Full Version : Douglas Boston questions

14th Feb 2010, 22:41
My late father in law was trained in night navigation, and posted to Bostons flying days only. Can anyone enlighten me as to the role of the Navigator in RAF Bostons? Was the Navigator also the bomb aimer for example? What was the escape route for the Navigator?

He was shot down at Ostende 1942, and taken POW, this aircraft being Z2249. This very same aircraft became the subject of an Italteri plastic kit and of decal sets. Anyone know of any reason why that particular aircraft came to be the subject for the model?

Any good RAF Boston photos out there to share?

15th Feb 2010, 08:54
Not too sure of this but I seem to recall that the Boston gets a mention in the long running "Gaining a Pilots Brevet in WW2" thread in Military Aircrew section. I think there was reference to it being a bit of a handful, not just the nosewheel, but partly due to the take over of French orders where the throttle action was reversed (perhaps it was Italian???).
226 Squadron Boston Serial Number: Z2249; Code: MQ-D
Operation: Ostend 27th April 1942
Airborne 1334 Swanton Morley. Shot down by Flak, crashing at Raversijde (West Vlaanderen), 4 km SW of Ostend, where Sgt Handford is buried in the New Communal Cemetery.
F/O W.A. Keech RCAF PoW
Sgt W. Phillips PoW
Sgt D. Handford KIA
F/O W.A. Keech was interned in Camp L3, PoW No.243.
Sgt W. Phillips in Camps L3/L6/357, PoW No.263.
A Donald Duck cartoon character had been painted alongside the aircraft's letter, and a photograph of the crashed Boston appeared in Issue 14 of the German Magazine 'Signal' published in 1943.

It may be that the Donald Duck nose art was one influence on the choice of aircraft, but I suspect some more substantial reasoning may have been involved!
PS: Unfortunately, this also appears to have been 226's first Operational loss.
Is that correct, do you know?
Any further snippets from his memories?
Edit to add: There is a representation of a 226 Sqdn Boston of March '42 here:- WINGS PALETTE - Douglas A-20/DB-7/P-70 Boston/Havoc - Great Britain (http://wp.scn.ru/en/ww2/a/551/9/0/19)

15th Feb 2010, 22:11
Was the Navigator also the bomb aimer I've read that as well plus "observer".

What was the escape route for the Navigator?Two hatch choices for egress...

http://img268.imageshack.us/img268/2734/76210829.jpg (http://img268.imageshack.us/i/76210829.jpg/)

http://img259.imageshack.us/img259/8789/twoe.jpg (http://img259.imageshack.us/i/twoe.jpg/)

16th Feb 2010, 00:02
Douglas Boston III, AL721 RH T of 88 Sqn. RAF, May 1942.

Boston III, W8268 TH "O" for Ottawa Ontario. Although on RAF strength, aircraft was operated by RCAF 418 (Intruder) Sqn. Note the exhaust-dampers for night ops. Lost over Holland 20 May, 1942.

Steve Bond
16th Feb 2010, 12:06
I know two Boston observers/navigators, and will be seeing both of them over the next few days. What would you like me to ask them for you?

16th Feb 2010, 16:03
SAAF Bostons over North Africa

16th Feb 2010, 21:50
Nice photos evansb!

http://img41.imageshack.us/img41/1006/bosc.jpg (http://img41.imageshack.us/i/bosc.jpg/)

16th Feb 2010, 21:51
Steve, what an opportunity!
I suppose I want to know about the work of the Nav. in the RAF Boston. Much has been written (and read by me) about night heavy bombers in the RAF, the problems of finding the target, pathfinders etc, but I am ignorant of how the Boston (and other day bombers) worked. Altitude for cruise to target, bombing heights etc etc.

Noyade, thanks for that diagram, makes it very clear.

Icare9, sadly I don't really know any more.

Steve Bond
18th Feb 2010, 09:40
I saw them both yesterday and handed them printouts of this thread. I will be seeing them again on Sunday 28th, and they have both promised to come armed with answers!

4th Mar 2010, 19:53
how did you get on with the Boston veterans?
Hate to see this thread go cold.

Found a good group on Flickr: lots of pictures!

Flickr: Douglas A-20 'Havoc' (http://www.flickr.com/groups/a20/)

(copy and paste into your browser, I can't remember how to insert links)

Steve Bond
5th Mar 2010, 13:46
On the day we were due to meet, the guy with all the answers was unable to get his car out because of floods, so I am now hoping to see him on Wednesday 17th. I haven't forgotten and neither has he.

9th Mar 2010, 10:39
During WW11 I grew up within a mile of RAF Hunsdon Herts which had Boston & Hovocs based there, & as a young boy used to cycle there to see these delightful A/C taxi - take-off & land.
Mostly we were chased away by the perimeter guards, but we moved somewhere else & came back later.
Some of the Havocs had the 'Turbinlite' airborne searchlights & on one occasion I saw one light up the sky -- what a thrill that was
I saw many exciting low level flights -- flying between trees at about 50ft etc -- also saw many crashed A/C being taken away on 'Queen - mary' low level recovery vehicles , & lorries carrying coffins with the Union Jack drapped over them.

For youngsters like myself they were exciting times, --- little knowing what a serious position we were in at that time.


Steve Bond
22nd Apr 2010, 08:11
I have finally had a response from one of my Boston crew friends as follows:

"I did my navigation training in Southern Rhodesia where we were designated Nav.B (i.e. Navigator/Bomb Aimer). On passing out we were awarded the O Observer brevet. Having done OTU on Baltimores at Giancalis, Egypt we were subsequently posted to Italy where I joined 13 Squadron. In late 1944 they were in process of converting from Baltimores to Bostons. We flew operationally in Boston IVs and Vs and yes, Navs also did the bomb aiming. Our role in Italy was night armed recce. 13 squadron was part of 232 Wing comprising 18, 55 and 114 Squadrons. Following the end of hostilities in Italy 232 Wing (still with Bostons) was posted to Greece and based at Hassani (Athens).

Entry and egress was via a hatch in front of the nose. Being a single seat cockpit, the pilot's "dual" position was lying flat in the empty dinghy space overlooking the cockpit, i.e. when learning the drill at conversion. It will be noted that in the later marks the nav's compartment was all clear and unimpeded perspex.

The least enviable position was the W/Op, somewhat cramped and looking over the back hatch. The nav had a very good view of everything. We were a crew of four; pilot, nav, W/Op and top gunner. Navs were later advised to change the O brevet to N."

Eric Burke."

Eric also sent me some photos of his aircraft and crews, but I cannot see how to attach them here.

Steve Bond

henry crun
22nd Apr 2010, 09:32
Steve, Read the sticky Image Posting on PPRune - some tips for you, towards the top of the forum page.

22nd Apr 2010, 18:42
Bill Keech became a prominent physician and local politician here in North Bay, Ontario. He had a number of large scars on his face as a result of the crash. Sadly, he passed away a number of years ago.Cheers...Chris

25th Apr 2010, 21:47
Steve, thank you for posting Eric's info. I am grateful in particular for the confirmation that the Navigator was also the Bombardier. Together with the pics. posted earlier I am getting a clearer picture.

I understand that an A20 has been acquired for the RAF museum. Wasn't there a Boston nose/cockpit somewhere? Would be great if that could be displayed alongside the A20, especially if it had all of the fixtures and fittings.

13th May 2010, 05:11
Goodafternoon Steve,
My father flew with 13 squadron on Bostons in Italy up to the end of the war.
I was wondering if you could ask Eric if he knew him?
His name was John Hardie and he was a pilot. He had his 21st birthday while training in the desert before going on to ops in Italy.
It would be interesting to know if Eric knew him.
I look forward to hearing from you,
John Hardie (jnr)

13th May 2010, 11:00
The Douglas A20 Havoc & A-26 Invader DVD: Five videos and 2 pilot's manuals (http://www.zenosflightshop.com/A_20_A_26_DVD_p/a2026dvd.htm)

This fellow sells some great videos.

Steve Bond
14th May 2010, 08:54
Hello John,

I will probably see Eric next Wednesday; I'll ask him.



17th May 2010, 00:40
Hi Steve,
thanks for your reply,
His nick name was "Andy" when he was in the airforce, after an actor at the time Andy Hardie (or Hardy) not sure of the spelling. He was also known as "Kiss me" not that I would have dared!
If I get a chance I will look up in his log book and find the crew names also.
After the war he returned to Australia for a short time, then returned to the UK as he had tried uni and I think it was a bit to different to what he had been doing for the past 3 or 4 years! He through a family contact got a job with a shipping company in London. He joined 601 auxillary airforce squadron and was flying Spitfires, then onto Vampires and Meteors.
If you look on the web site for the 601 recreation and look in Tom Molsons photo's, in the squadron shots he is the one in the Australian uniform and it is noticably darker than the English ones.
As he said his uniform was perfectly servicable and he couldn't afford a new one anyway!
He became great friends with Hugh Dundas (Cocky) and many others as well, and was there from 1947 till 1953 when he then returned to Australia.
I look forward to hearing from you again,

18th May 2010, 01:45
Hi Steve,
I spent some time going through Dad's Log book last night, boy he has some nice planes in there, nothing like the ones in my log book!
I do have a Wirraway and Mustang to my credit but only single flights.
To the purpose of my Post. His crew were F/S Fox also mentioned as W/O Fox, F/S Gregson and F/S Johnson. There are two others mentioned as well but only once for each, perhaps a sick crew member? They were F/S James and W/O M.Inoletti.
Perhaps Eric will have known them? There last flights were formation flights after VE day perhaps a show of Strength? It all makes very interesting reading and the 601 entry's make good reading as well !
I look forward to hearing how you got on,
John Hardie.

Steve Bond
21st May 2010, 07:33
Hi John,

Well the good news is that yes, Eric does remember your father. He thought he was a New Zealander (sorry about that), and seemed to think he came back to England not long after the war for a squadron reunion in London, although he is not sure about that.

Not much I'm afraid, but the name rang a bell with Eric immediately, which is pretty good considering they were not on the same crew and it was 65 years ago!



24th May 2010, 00:11
Hi Steve,
Thankyou for going to the trouble to ask Eric about Dad.
Always a good gag the NewZealand one! And we Hardie's are a memorable lot even after 65 years!
Dad returned to the UK in 1947 so there is every possibility that he would have gone to the reunion that Eric mentioned. He did love a party.
One story he did tell me about his second mission was when they were flying very low the B/A yelled at him to "Pull up Andy" rather urgently, he said he pulled up and just cleared the church spire which he had not seen. Said he had nightmares about that one for years, also another one when he found himself below sea level on the altimeter when over water and never knowing how close he was. He said he pulled up very gently just incase he put the tail in the water!
Its amazing any of them survived really, he said the German flack barges were incredibly accurate and a very good thing to avoid, something about them being very angry when you were dropping bombs on them and straffing.
Give Eric my regards, it's amazing the internet I even found photo's of dad when he was in 601 my family had never seen.

13th Nov 2010, 15:46
My father was on 88 sqn and also a Boston skipper, thought you might like to read one of his escapades.

The Saga of the Wingco's Kite
It was shortly after "D" Day and the British and Canadian troops were desperately trying to break out from Caen, but having little success. Meanwhile Rommel was pushing reinforcements forward as fast as possible.
H.Q. received a report from the French Resistance that a Panzer division had massed in the forest near Alencon and were expected to move out that same night, this resulted in instructions being passed to the French and British squadrons to arrange a maximum effort intruder attack on anything that moved in the area.
My navigator was a brilliant young Canadian , a product of McGill University and a red hot map reader and bomb aimer. He plotted a route which crossed a sharp V bend in the Sarthe river, which pointed directly towards the target area and for this reason, we were the first away. My aircraft, G for Glenda, (navigator's girlfriend) was on inspection and I was given the Wingco's pride and joy, his beautifully polished brand new private steed, what a thrill for a sprog F/O !
Geoff 'breaks off' in his own kite G-Glenda. (Not the Wingco's pride and joy which he flew on the raid!!)

It was a lovely moonlight night and we approached the river without incident, but having crossed it, everything changed !!! Suddenly All hell broke loose and coloured fireworks began flashing past the windows, we were bathed in the glare of searchlights and two almighty bangs followed which shook the aircraft to its boots, then suddenly the rays of the searchlights were coming through the cockpit floor. I immediately began to wonder how long it would be before the eleven second delay fuses on our bomb load detonated and fragments of my aircraft, self and crew would be scattered over a wide area of the oft - quoted "Foreign Field". I had started counting off the seconds when my thoughts were rudely interrupted by a stream of North American obscenities which came screaming over the intercom from my normally quietly spoken navigator. "Let's go back and get the S.o.Bs " he shouted. I know exactly where the S.o.Bs are. (and this was the mild stuff).
Personally I was not very keen on the idea, but as he correctly maintained, other aircraft following might not be so fortunate. Everything seemed to be working O.K, we were trundling along quite happily except for a hell of a draught plus the odd shudder and shake - and since the Wingco's kite appeared to have absorbed the punishment as a Wingco's kite should - I made a very wide circuit, picked up the original track, descended to 150 feet and selected two 500 pounders and a canister of incendiaries. Speed was now of the essence and with its donkeys giving everything they had to give, the Wingco's kite raced once again towards the bend in the river. As we crossed the water the Nav. yelled "I can see them, I can see the B..s, dead ahead - bombs away" (High drama indeed - Biggles couldn't match it). I made a climbing turn out of there and looked back a few seconds later to see the whole area explode and burn furiously - must have been much more there than just a clutch of guns !! Thinking the fire would act as a useful navigational aid we headed for the main target. I later congratulated the Nav. on his ability and suggested that one day he should try his luck on the stage, but he said he might have difficulty adapting to the life style because he was a Baptist . I didn't press the point, but doubted whether he'd learned his vocabulary at Sunday School.
Upon returning to base we completed the F.700, declaring the aircraft to be Cat.4 (extensive damage), went to de-briefing and then to our beds. The following morning we reported to the flight office expecting a pat on the back and perhaps a bit of the "well done thou good and faithful servants", but nothing of the kind! When the Wingco saw the damage to his beautiful aeroplane - a gaping hole where the bomb doors used to be and the belly ripped open right back to the rear hatch - his rage was terrible to behold, (much more frightening than being shot at by the enemy) and he seemed to have it fixed in his head that the damage was sustained whilst making an unauthorised attack on the gun battery and not earlier, whilst overflying. Luckily, the A.O.C. visited the squadron a few days later and when he learned of our escapade and being something of a tearaway himself, said it was a "Jolly good show" which, with the arrival of a replacement aircraft, nearly as shiny as the damaged one, caused the storm to slowly subside. Nevertheless, the dear old Wingco never addressed me by my first name again.

14th Nov 2010, 08:34
Camps for naughty officers - never heard of them before. Can anyone tell us more

19th Nov 2010, 13:58
Superb picture Bwana, thanks for that.

And a good tale too. Seeing the Nav. in his 'office' in the picture and reading the account, Bill's job in the Boston comes into focus. Superb view from the navigators position but one must have felt so vulnerable, no illusion of protection at all.

24th Nov 2010, 13:48
Hope the article gave some idea of the Navigators job on Bostons, there is also a posting on the internet by family of a Boston navigator of 88sqn on D-day. BBC - WW2 People's War - My D-Day Experience 6th June 1944: 88 Squadron RAF (http://www.bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar/stories/11/a2688311.shtml)
My father was also on the D-Day raid laying smoke from G-Glenda and flew a second sortie that day to support the Invasion troops near Caen.

Steve Bond
29th Nov 2010, 13:42
Bwana and Rory57; I must ask my friend Jack Booth, who was also on 88 Squadron at the time, if he knew either of these chaps - names please?

28th Oct 2011, 09:29
hi guys. I know this is a very long shot, but i notice there are people here who are related to or know people from 88 squadron. Could i respectfully ask if anyone here knows of my godfather, Roslyn Graham Langdon Clark, service number 1601494. He was an air gunner, transferred to 88 squadron in late 1942 from 464 squadron, but i have been unable to find out anything after he left 464.

many thanks

steve williamson
[email protected]

11th Nov 2015, 16:41
Hello Rory57
Per coincidence, I discovered your question about the Boston that was shot down in Ostend, Belgium on April 27th 1942. I read that your late Father in Law was a member of the crew. Unfortunately, Sgt Handford was KIA and is buried in Ostend. We visited his grave today in Ostend, November 11 2015 !

I did find some pictures made by my late Uncle, the day of the crash in Ostend. When he passed away, I got his photo album and there I did find those historic pictures.

If you want, I can send you copies of these pictures, so that the "circle is closed"


12th Nov 2015, 22:18
partly due to the take over of French orders where the throttle action was reversed (perhaps it was Italian???).

I heard the same tale regarding Marylands taken over by the RAF so you're probably right.

14th Nov 2015, 14:06
My father was navigator in the Turbinlite variant of this. He and his pilot hated it and thought it one of the dumbest ideas of all time. As it was with other crews - they saw nothing and got nothing! Well, their attached fighter got nothing as some might not know that the batteries to run the light meant that the aircraft had to be stripped to basics with just two crew and NO armaments of any kind.

One they got on to Beaus and radar - they could hit back.

15th Nov 2015, 11:14
Thank you for the offer Ivan, yes I would like copies of the pictures very much.

I have tried to message you but that does not seem to work, maybe because you are new to this forum it is not allowed yet?.

Perhaps you can message me with an email address. http://www.pprune.org/private.php?do=newpm

This links to "send new message" in the control panel)