Go Back  PPRuNe Forums > Aircrew Forums > Military Aviation
Reload this Page >

Cruickshank VC back in a Catalina

Military Aviation A forum for the professionals who fly military hardware. Also for the backroom boys and girls who support the flying and maintain the equipment, and without whom nothing would ever leave the ground. All armies, navies and air forces of the world equally welcome here.

Cruickshank VC back in a Catalina

Old 20th May 2020, 20:14
  #21 (permalink)  
Join Date: May 1999
Location: Quite near 'An aerodrome somewhere in England'
Posts: 25,615
I first read about John Cruickshank VC in Larry Forrester's book 'Skymen: Heroes of fifty years of flying' which I was given as a Christmas present in 1962! I lost the book years ago, but have just found one on Amazon and it'll be here next week!!

A glass of malt to be raised this evening, I think?
BEagle is offline  
Old 20th May 2020, 20:52
  #22 (permalink)  
Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: Wellington, NZ
Posts: 181
When I was on the Nimrod OCU we took him for a trip up to Scapa Flow from Kinloss. (Don't have my Log Book handy so can't confirm the date) Effectively retraced his steps but just a wee bit quicker. This was followed by him attending a Dining-In. A remarkable man, modest, unassuming.

Not Long Here is offline  
Old 20th May 2020, 22:44
  #23 (permalink)  
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Location: Location!
Posts: 1,965
Originally Posted by Bill Macgillivray View Post
Never mind the politics !! I raise a glass to this hero on his 100th birthday. Happy returns, Sir, and thank you!

Hear! Hear! Given some excellent coverage on BBC Scotland News this evening.

Union Jack is online now  
Old 20th May 2020, 23:44
  #24 (permalink)  
Join Date: Aug 1999
Location: Gold Coast, Australia
Age: 71
Posts: 4,212
The VC Citation - Air Office, 1st September, 1944.
The KING has been graciously pleased to confer the VICTORIA CROSS on the undermentioned officer in recognition of most conspicuous bravery: —

Flying Officer John Alexander CRUICKSHANK (126700), Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. No. 210 Squadron.

This officer was the captain and pilot of a Catalina flying boat which was recently engaged on an anti-submarine patrol over northern waters. When a U-boat was sighted on the surface, Flying Officer Cruickshank at once turned to the attack. In the face of fierce anti-aircraft fire he manoeuvred into position and ran in to release his depth charges. Unfortunately they failed to drop.

Flying Officer Cruickshank knew that the failure of this attack had deprived him of the advantage of surprise and that his aircraft offered a good target to the enemy's determined and now heartened gunners.

Without hesitation, he climbed and turned to come in again. The Catalina was met by intense and accurate fire and was repeatedly hit. The navigator/bomb aimer, was killed. The second pilot and two other members of the crew were injured. Flying Officer Cruickshank was struck in seventy-two places, receiving two serious wounds in the lungs and ten penetrating wounds in the lower limbs. His aircraft was badly damaged and filled with the fumes of exploding shells. But he did not falter. He pressed home his attack, and released the depth charges himself, straddling the submarine perfectly. The U-boat was sunk.

He then collapsed and the second pilot took over the controls. He recovered shortly afterwards and, though bleeding profusely, insisted on resuming command and retaining it until he was satisfied that the damaged aircraft was under control, that a course had been set for base and that all the necessary signals had been sent. Only then would he consent to receive medical aid and have his wounds attended to. He refused morphia in case it might prevent him from carrying on.

During the next five and a half hours of the return flight he several times lapsed into unconsciousness owing to loss of blood. When he came to his first thought on each occasion was for the safety of his aircraft and crew. The damaged aircraft eventually reached base but it was clear that an immediate landing would be a hazardous task for the wounded and less experienced second pilot. Although able to breathe only with the greatest difficulty, Flying Officer Cruickshank insisted on being carried forward and propped up in the second pilot's seat. For a full hour, in spite of his agony and ever-increasing weakness, he gave orders as necessary, refusing to allow the aircraft to be brought down until the conditions of light and sea made this possible without undue risk.

With his assistance the aircraft was safely landed on the water. He then directed the taxying and beaching of the aircraft so that it could easily be salvaged. When the medical officer went on board, Flying Officer Cruickshank collapsed and he had to be given a blood transfusion before he could be removed to hospital.

By pressing home the second attack in his gravely wounded condition and continuing his exertions on the return journey with his strength failing all the time, he seriously prejudiced his chance of survival even if the aircraft safely reached its base. Throughout, he set an example of determination, fortitude and devotion to duty in keeping with the highest traditions of the Service.
John Eacott is offline  
Old 20th May 2020, 23:46
  #25 (permalink)  
Join Date: Aug 1999
Location: Gold Coast, Australia
Age: 71
Posts: 4,212
There is a documentary on You Tube “For Valour” featuring the operation off Norway when Flt Lt John Cruickshank was in Command of a Catalina flying boat based at Sullom Voe in Shetland attacked a U Boat off Norway.

John Eacott is offline  
Old 21st May 2020, 10:04
  #26 (permalink)  
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: Aberdeenshire
Age: 73
Posts: 69
A retired RAF friend rang the MOD Press Office the day before the 100th birthday of John Cruickshank VC, and encountered a wave of indifference to his enquiry about how this event would be marked. Perhaps the RAF were indeed following Cruickshank's wish to "not make a fuss" - they certainly seem to have succeeded.

BTW, how many ex-RAF holders of the Victoria Cross are still alive?
Lingo Dan is offline  
Old 21st May 2020, 10:18
  #27 (permalink)  
Ecce Homo! Loquitur...
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Peripatetic
Posts: 10,375
None apart from Cruickshank.

ORAC is online now  
Old 21st May 2020, 13:30
  #28 (permalink)  
Join Date: Jul 2010
Location: cardboard box in't middle of t'road
Posts: 672
I met this distinguished gentleman a long time ago at a barrel, he introduced himself as John. We chatted for a while over a few beers and he was very keen to hear about our current exploits, whilst mentioning none of his own. He said that nothing had really changed since his time. He seemed a private, humble individual, who enjoyed having a beer with us. I was mortified to find out later I had been in the company of this Hero, but perhaps that's why he stayed and chatted.
Surplus is offline  
Old 21st May 2020, 15:53
  #29 (permalink)  
Join Date: Oct 2018
Location: Ferrara
Posts: 1,563
as ORAC says there are only 9 living VC holders - 4 of them are Aussies, 1 is a New Zealander & 1 Gurkha. 3 of the Aussies and the New Zealander hold their own countries VC

Wikipedia lists :-

John Alexander Cruickshank (b. 20 May 1920) 1944 No. 210 Squadron RAF Atlantic
Rambahadur Limbu (b. 8 July 1939) 1966 2nd Bn, 10th Princess Mary's Own Gurkha Rifles Sarawak, Malaysia
Keith Payne (b. 30 August 1933) 1969 Australian Army Training Team Vietnam Ben Het, Vietnam
Johnson Beharry (b. 26 July 1979) 2005 1st Bn, The Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment (Queen's and Royal Hampshires) Al-Amarah, Iraq
Willie Apiata (b. 28 June 1972) (Victoria Cross for New Zealand) 2007 New Zealand Special Air Service Afghanistan
Mark Donaldson (b. 2 April 1979) (Victoria Cross for Australia) 2009 Australian Special Air Service Regiment Oruzgan Province, Afghanistan
Ben Roberts-Smith (b. 1 November 1978) (Victoria Cross for Australia) 2011 Australian Special Air Service Regiment Kandahar Province, Afghanistan
Daniel Keighran (b. 18 June 1983) (Victoria Cross for Australia) 2012 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment Oruzgan Province, Afghanistan
Joshua Leakey (b. 1988) 2015 Parachute Regiment Helmand Province, Afghanistan
Asturias56 is offline  
Old 21st May 2020, 19:15
  #30 (permalink)  
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Norfolk
Posts: 64
Flt Lt John Cruickshank and many others of his generation were very much part of my growing up. I had numerous books that I avidly read from cover to cover telling the exploits of these men, some were VCs, many were not but regardless of that to my adolescent mind they were all my heroes. John Cruickshank always stuck in my mind because of his determination to get his aircraft and crew home, the other who had a similar impact was FS Aaron who although severely wounded after a friendly fire incident over the Italian Alps got his damaged Stirling back to England so that his crew could all bale out safely.

There are two dit’s that I recall about John Cruickshank, one involved some sniping comment from a mean spirited civil servant who questioned whether the action merited an award of the VC as the captain of the Catalina had a vested interest in getting the thing home............priceless!

The other, which really does seem to sum up his humility was that his wife didn’t even know he had been awarded the VC until long after they were married. How’s that for underplaying your achievements.
L-H is offline  
Old 21st May 2020, 19:28
  #31 (permalink)  
Join Date: Aug 2003
Location: England
Posts: 473
A P-8 to be named ‘John Cruickshank VC’ would be something worthwhile for the 120 Sqn association to campaign for?
Brain Potter is offline  
Old 22nd May 2020, 07:24
  #32 (permalink)  
Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: England
Age: 61
Posts: 211
It would be the least they could do, disappointed that RAF couldn't manage something. BBMF managed a flypast for a pongo on his 100th, (with the utmost respect for Captain Sir Tom).
Momoe is offline  
Old 22nd May 2020, 08:54
  #33 (permalink)  
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: various locales
Posts: 1,547
A P-8 to be named ‘John Cruickshank VC’ would be something worthwhile for the 120 Sqn association to campaign for?
An utter no-brainer there, Brain. Excellent idea
Green Flash is offline  
Old 22nd May 2020, 09:44
  #34 (permalink)  
Join Date: Sep 2012
Location: North of Watford, South of Watford Gap
Age: 64
Posts: 225
L-H - Arthur Aaron's aircraft didn't return to the UK - they continued on to North Africa, and he is buried at Bone. The citation is at https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/...upplement/4859

Some years ago, Jeremy Clarkson did a programme on the VC - the only time I've heard him sound humble. The Secretary of State's comment on the recommendation for Cruickshank's VC about "an element of self preservation" was mentioned (
at around 49.30)
Innominate is offline  
Old 22nd May 2020, 16:41
  #35 (permalink)  
Join Date: Oct 2018
Location: Ferrara
Posts: 1,563
Originally Posted by Brain Potter View Post
A P-8 to be named ‘John Cruickshank VC’ would be something worthwhile for the 120 Sqn association to campaign for?
Brilliant idea!!!
Asturias56 is offline  
Old 23rd May 2020, 07:55
  #36 (permalink)  
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Norfolk
Posts: 64
Thanks innominate, poor memory skills on my part. Although I am pretty sure Aaron’s Stirling was shot at by the rear gunner of another Stirling when crossing the Alps and not by an enemy night fighter as stated in the citation. I’ve long since lost my books so it may be I’m getting him confused with another action.
L-H is offline  
Old 23rd May 2020, 17:09
  #37 (permalink)  
Join Date: Sep 2012
Location: North of Watford, South of Watford Gap
Age: 64
Posts: 225
I am pretty sure Aaron’s Stirling was shot at by the rear gunner of another Stirling
That's right. I'm not sure how/when they worked it out, but the citation was probably written in good faith, rather than covering up a friendly fire incident. If the VC has to be won for valour in combat with the enemy, there might be an argument that he should have received the George Cross instead, but I have no wish to detract from the man's bravery and determination to get his crew down safely - and the incident did take place on an operational flight. This incident probably spurred on the development of an infra-red recognition device ("Type Z", mounted in the two circles in the Lancaster bomb aimer's glazing) to prevent such accidents.
Innominate is offline  
Old 24th May 2020, 02:51
  #38 (permalink)  
Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: On the Bellarine, Vic, Oz
Posts: 9

2 years ago this month I was staying at the Union Jack club in London and saw a large number of males and females in the foyer wearing the VC and the George Cross. had a chat with Keith Payne VC who told me that Prince Charles holds a reception for all living recipients of the the VC and GC every 2 years, which they were all heading off to. A very humbling experience.

Last edited by filbey1944; 24th May 2020 at 02:59. Reason: Unwanted text
filbey1944 is offline  
Old 24th May 2020, 10:16
  #39 (permalink)  
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: South of the M4
Posts: 1,535
When I was stationed at 5 FTS (RAF Thornhill, S. Rhodesia 1951 - 1953), airmen's billets were all named after RAF VC's. Coincidentally whilst at Thornhill I lived in two of these blocks i.e. Cruickshank and Reid.
Here's a photo of the one I lived in way back then which I think was Reid billet, but the rest were all the same. By the entrance a sheet was placed stating the feat that earned the recipient the VC.

Warmtoast is offline  
Old 24th May 2020, 13:11
  #40 (permalink)  
Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: Midlands
Posts: 92
I wonder if I may be allowed a slight thread drift please. The other Catalina VC was Canadian David Hornell. Back in the early eighties I was invited to spend an afternoon at the home of the captain of the air sea rescue launch ( 2507) which picked up David Hornell and his crew.
Bill Garett had joined the launch as an LAC and was a F/O at the time of his rescue. I recall him saying that two launches set off when they got the call but the other one turned back with engine trouble. His own boat suffered starboard engine failure soon after leaving the Isle of Ursk, the most northerly of the Shetland Isles. Despite the rising gale they continued on their way and with help of an aircraft, succeeded in locating the crew. Sadly David Hornell died shortly after being taken on board 2507 They had been in the water for 21 hours

I recall mentioning to Bill that I understood he had made the odd trips to Norway during the war. He gave a quiet smile and said " Yes - to pick up Christmas trees" As I was leaving he said he would like me to have the attached photo of his launch, taken during the rescue.
I have also cropped it to show the sea state at the time.
Box Brownie is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Terms of Service - Do Not Sell My Personal Information

Copyright © 2018 MH Sub I, LLC dba Internet Brands. All rights reserved. Use of this site indicates your consent to the Terms of Use.