Obituaries of the Heroes of the North African Campaign

The following paragraphs are extracted from “Flying Blind”by Flt Lt Bryan Wild and his daughter Elizabeth Halls.

Flying Officer Joseph Arthur Horsfall

Arthur Horsfall was born on 6 January 1922 and brought up in Japser, Alberta and prior to joining up he was a student studying Engineering (or Aero Engineering) at the University of Alberta and for summer jobs worked at the Fred Brewster Rocky Mountain Camp in Jasper. His parents were Joseph Luke Horsfall and his wife Margaret, and he had a sister Dorothy, who later married and became Dorothy Taylor, He enlisted in Edmonton on 1 September 1941. and was commissioned on  7 December 1942. He was posted to No 46 Squadron 17 May 1943. He was killed in action 14 November 1943 (Beaufighter XI JM248, with 1037698 FS Roger Colley. Also missing was Beaufighter XI LJ894, 1065996 WO R. Lindsey and 1385948 FS A. Gardner. Below is an extract of the Squadron Commander’s report of the operation:

On the 14th November 1943, at approx 1415 hours, four Beaus of 46 squadron, in company with five Beaus of 227 Squadron carried out an offensive sweep of Leros Island area. The formation headed in a S.W. direction towards Leros Island in two sections line abreast with 46 Squadron in the rear. The leader of 46 Squadron section – F/L Crerar, D., sighted a HE.111 to port at 90 deg. to the formation. Accompanied by his No.2, F/O Horsfall, he broke away to port and attacked it and destroyed it. On the completion of the attack he found that the entire formation had turned towards the HE.111. At this stage the ME.109s were sighted and the leader gave orders to make for the Turkish coast. WO Lindsey meanwhile had dropped back in the turn with two other aircraft, thus being isolated from the main formation. F/L Crerar dropped behind the main formation and endevoured to bring up the stragglers to line abreast. At this stage he saw F/O Horsfall’s aircraft, “F”, turning port back towards Leros, presumably to take photographs, and he was at once instructed to rejoin the formation.

During this time it was noticed that the three isolated aircraft were flying on a diverging course to the main formation taking them to the North – the ME.109s being some distance behind. One ME.109 detached himself from the formation of four and came straight for the main formation of Beaus. He then spotted the stragglers, turned port, and attacked WO Lindsey who was by now isolated from the other two aircraft. His aircraft was seen to be hit and it dived into the sea out of control. The position of the crash was completely obliterated by fire – the only wreckage being wrecked fuel tanks floating in the vicinity. This position is approximately 37’36″N 26’52” E.
It is F/L Crerar’s belief that he saw aircraft “F” (F/O Horsfall’s machine) in the formation at a later stage and that he received a reply on calling up No.2 (F/O Horsfall) some 5 minutes later, although the answer was unintelligible. Nothing more was seen or heard of F/O Horsfall.
Subsequent inquiries reveal that two other crews are fairly certain that they saw two ME.109s engaging a Beau in the position of the ditch HE.111. This is by no means definite. As soon as the main formation reached the Turkish coast, they split up and proceeded to base independently.”

Flight Sergeant Roger Colley

James Roger Colley was 22 years old when he died with Arthur Horsfall on 14 November 1943. He was known in 46 Squadron as Roger, but to his  family as ‘Robin’. Roger’s father was a cobbler, a well-read, self—educated man who valued education for his two sons, David and ‘Robin’. This was reflected in the possessions returned to the family when Robin died, which included two books of poetry and collected Shakespeare, Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, Virginia Woolf’s Death of the Moth and other Essays and E. M. Delafield’s Diary of a Provincial Lady, the last of which one hopes Roger enjoyed reading in the desert surroundings of North Africa. Like many relatives at the time, his family did not know the details about what had happened to their son; only that he was ‘missing, presumed killed’ in action. He is remembered on the Alamein Memorial.

Squadron Leader William Arthur Cuddie

William Cuddie was born in Regina in Canada and educated at St Chad’s College and at Victoria High School at Edmonton. He went to Britain to join the RAF in August 1939. After training he was posted 141 Squadron in August 1940, based in Scotland. Here, at 22:35 hrs on the night of 10th May 1941, Bill Cuddie and his gunner were scrambled to intercept a Messerschmitt 110 which had been tracked from Northumberland to the West Coast of Scotland. Cuddie did not know that it was piloted by Rudolf Hess, Hitler’s deputy, on a secret mission to land in Scotland and try and negotiate a peace deal with Germany. Cuddie got near to Hess’s aircraft, possibly as close as four miles, but Hess baled out and parachuted into Eaglesham Moor, while his Mel1O crashed nearby. Hess was captured, held, and tried after the War, finally committing suicide in Spandau Prison in 1987. Bill Cuddie took part in the Battle of Britain, and served in Malta and North Africa before his death on 3 October 1943. His body was never found, and he is commemorated in the Alamein Memorial.

Wing Commander George Alfred Reid

George Alfred Reid was born in Arnprior, Ontario, Canada on 12 August 1907. He was educated at St Andrew’s College, Aurora, where he was head boy, graduating in 1927. He played many sports, including boxing, cross country, rugby and cricket, playing for the School’s first team in both. He was described as ‘a fair left bat but a good right hand slow bowler.’ He studied at Stamford University in California, and Edinburgh University (1931). He was 32 when he enlisted in April 1939, ending up in 603 (City of Edinburgh) Squadron. After some time as a flying instructor in Britain, he arrived in HQ RAF Middle East in March 1942 and was posted to 46 Squadron on 4 May that year, when after a long period of inactivity, the Squadron moved to Idku and reformed as a night-fighter squadron with Beaufighters. Throughout August 1942 the aircraft of 46 Squadron were busy, bombing and strafing roads and transport while Rommel’s army retreated and then in a Coastal Command capacity, escorting shipping convoys. Towards the middle of the month, Reid led an attachment to Malta, which included Fg Off. Hooker, who remained until 28 December. Reid meanwhile moved to Benghazi to oversee the establishment of a new detachment there, where, on 14 August, a convoy of twenty-six vehicles arrived by road, carrying approximately 150 personnel comprising Maintenance and ‘B’ Flights. Wing Commander Reid shot down a ]u 88 on 22 August 1942, suffering aircraft damage from return fire.

In Alexandria in late 1942, George Reid met and married an English girl, Rosemary Campion. They lived in Alexandria where she carried out decoding work for the Allies. (Please see note below about the Squadron’s wedding present to the couple).

It cannot have been an easy task to manage the rather chaotic formation of the Squadron in the Middle East at this time. Personnel were coming and going in large numbers, and detachments in Abu Sueir, Benghazi and St jean in Palestine meant that administration had to be carried out over a wide area. But Reid was a capable organiser, and it is evident that the Spirit of 46 was formed largely through the open, friendly, charming, and affectionate style of its commanding officer. He was at the forefront of the effort on the ground and the fight in the air, and he revelled in giving praise and credit to those around him where it was due. Bryan Wild considered him to be one of the most inspiring and enabling leaders he ever knew. The spirit of George Reid perhaps best comes across in the language of his monthly summaries of events in the 46 Squadron operational record books. The Summary for June begins, delightfully, ‘In the early days of this month with new crews arriving as fast as the flowers were fading.’ It continues with lively accounts of successful operations. Reid’s Summary for July 1943 paints a vivid and nostalgic picture of one day’s entertainment:

The event of July, and one which brought to some of us memories of better days in better lands, was 46 Squadron Sports Day…. in good old English style. Altogether it was a great day, with some keen inter-section competition for the shield which finally went to Signals section, with the officers, to their shame, finishing at the lowest end of the table. It was even a day out for the natives on the camp, as wheedled into activity by the blandishments of W/O Meager they took part in an All-Egyptian 1OO yards  for one moment we had hopes of seeing some healthy competition from Sgt Barker, but after a trial spurt he gave up the idea. Ice cream at the tea-interval was another of those surprises which make life so much the sweeter. Let’s hope that next year’s sports day will see strawberries and cream–somewhere in England.

Reading these accounts, it is easy to understand why the Squadron held Reid in such affection, and always remembered 3 October 1943, the day when he was shot down, along with other friends, as ‘Black Sunday’.

silver-salver-bought-at-auctionIn late 2008, the Secretary received an email from Weller’s Auctioneers Chertsey asking if we would be interested in a silver salver engraved with the No 46 Squadron crest and aircrew signatures . We subsequently paid £250 for the item. We began correspondence with the seller,  Mr Charles Clark, who told us it was wedding present to his mother who married the Squadron CO Wg Cdr Reid in Nov 1942.

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