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Query - RAF Pilot who defected to the Axis

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Query - RAF Pilot who defected to the Axis

Old 1st Oct 2002, 07:52
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Query - RAF Pilot who defected to the Axis

Just read a book on the air battle of Malta in 1940-42 and came upon this intriguing snippet:

Operation ‘Calendar’, 20/4/42 – USS Wasp, 50 Spitfires ferried to Malta,
47 began takeoff roll, 46 landed safely in Malta
1 defected to Algeria


This raised a number of questions:

Does anyone know what happened to this particular defecting pilot (and his aircraft) after the Vichy French forces in North Africa switched sides in Nov 42 after the allied landings in Algeria and Morroco?

I know this sort of thing happened more often that the wartime ‘rah rah’ propaganda would have us believe. I’ve seen the photographs of the fleets of B17s and B24s (plus the odd P47 and P51) parked in Sweden and Switzerland towards the end of the war. I also remember reading (was it in Len Deighton’s ‘Bomber?) that RAF crews were told in no uncertain terms that anyone who flew an aircraft into one of the neutral countries, no matter how badly damaged it was, would be prosecuted (I think they said ‘executed’) for desertion after the war.

So, what happened to the British and Commonwealth aircrew (I’m sure there must have been some) who either defected or were forced down in neutral countries during the war? Does anyone have any idea of how many there were in total among the Brit forces?

And the Americans? There were certainly quite a few of them. (Not forgetting Yossarian, who rowed a one man raft from Sicily all the way to Sweden.)
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Old 1st Oct 2002, 09:43
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I can't help with the defection question, but offhand I can think of at least one 617 Lanc that crashlanded in Sweden after a raid on the Tirpitz.
The crew were repatriated to England but I'm not sure if the continued on operations.
The remains of the aircraft are still in the peat bog.
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Old 1st Oct 2002, 11:37
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I'm pretty sure that crews shot down or who baled out over neutral countries were not prosecuted. They were simply detained, often in very good accommodation until the end of the war, or in some cases repatriated.
I heard that one RAF officer escaped from Ireland as all the RAF prisoners had been allowed a day on the town as long as they promised not to escape. When he got to England the RAF sent him back to Ireland as by breaking his word he had made things worse for the other prisoners by limiting their privileges.
I think that only one British combatant was tried (and convicted) of treason in the Second World War and he was in the SAS.
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Old 1st Oct 2002, 12:12
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All but one of the crew returned to 617 Sqdn after what was termed "their Swedish holiday". Bill Carey was commander, with some other heavyweight veterans of 617.
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Old 1st Oct 2002, 12:26
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I think the Swedish Lanc was named "Easy Elsie" and I have heard that there are moves afoot to try and bring her home to blighty... the remains appear fairly substantial.
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Old 1st Oct 2002, 12:48
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Tiger_Moth - sounds like you might want to watch 'The Brylcreem Boys':

http://us.imdb.com/Title?0115770
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Old 1st Oct 2002, 17:12
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Damien, I saw 'Brylcreem Boys' and went very close to mentioning it in my initial post. (Quite enjoyed it.)

I was really asking after the fate of people who consciously defected, as this Spitfire pilot apparently did, rather than were forced down.

There were also the small number of PWs who joined the St George (British) Division of the Waffen SS. I remember reading about the poor reception these people got when they came to PW camps trying to recriut Brits to fight the Russians. Only a very small number of Brits were involved, many of them ex-Oswald Mosely followers. However, there were quite a few Indians who joined the German forces, and many Indians joined the Japanese.

What became of them (the Brits, i mean, not the Indians) after the war?

Last edited by Wiley; 2nd Oct 2002 at 10:28.
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Old 7th Oct 2002, 07:55
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There a programme in the next couple of weeks on satelite (the history channel, I think) that ciovers this very topic..If I see the confirmation , I'll post it
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Old 7th Oct 2002, 13:30
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Thanks, jimgriff.
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Old 7th Oct 2002, 18:33
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I took the liberty of posting your question on another website Mr Wiley, there are some pretty knowledgeable people post there. Got this answer so far.

Tony, I have a book "Air battle for Malta", I dont know by whom (cant find it right now, what a mess )
There the incident is described. The guy was an American volunteer, who suddenly decided this wasnt his war and crashed his spitfire in Algeria. He later managed to get back to the US.
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Old 8th Oct 2002, 11:04
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Thanks, Tony.
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Old 9th Oct 2002, 12:17
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I remember reading an article a few years ago about the St George Division of the SS. The crux of the article was what a failure it had been due to the number of recruits who used it purely as a vehicle to escape the camps and do a runner at various points bewteen training and combat.

I wish I could remember the details now.
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Old 13th Oct 2002, 12:50
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There is a documentary on Channel 5 this Wednesday, 16th October at 21:00 BST, entitled "Brits Who Fought For Hitler - Revealed".

According to the blurb - "Account of how the Germans managed to recruit an all-British SS unit from among PoWs in the last days of the Third Reich, using a combination of bribery and coercion - a plan which was exposed to the Allies when an MI5 agent was unwittingly put in charge, and which descended into farce when the "British Free Corps" were arrested as spies in Dresden. Packed off to the Eastern Front, the motley crew eventually realised the Reich was doomed and tried to surreptitiously rejoin advancing British forces, only to be arrested and imprisoned".

Last edited by Simtech; 13th Oct 2002 at 17:21.
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Old 17th Oct 2002, 21:44
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I heard that one RAF officer escaped from Ireland as all the RAF prisoners had been allowed a day on the town as long as they promised not to escape. When he got to England the RAF sent him back to Ireland as by breaking his word he had made things worse for the other prisoners by limiting their privileges.
Seems unlikely. MI9 ran a network in Ireland to help British internees to escape. One such was Hugh Verity, who later went on to fly many missions into occupied France in Lysanders.

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