I wonder if this is all important…
While My Forgotten Hobby III is still on pause for this summer, I have continued with reading Feux du ciel written in 1951 by Pierre Clostermann.
There is a chapter about Malta and Buzz Beurling which I found quite interesting, especially with some vivid recollections of what was going on in Malta. So vivid in fact that I was intrigued by what I was reading about Buzz Beurling.
Clostermann had also written that he had met Buzz Beurling in 1944 while both were at RAF Catfoss. Clostermann had even met Richard Bong and the three of them became inseparable friends.
So I was curious and I went on the Internet… “Did Clostermann meets Beurling ?”
This is what I found on an old thread posted in 2008 on RAF Commands Forums…
Thread: Clostermann meets Beurling ?
12th November 2008,
Clostermann meets Beurling ?
I expect many of you have a copy of, or at least read, Pierre Clostermann’s FLAMES IN THE SKY, which was originally published in 1952, in which he wrote of an encounter with Screwball Beurling at CGS Catfoss in 1944. Closterman was quite specific:
“I met S/Ldr George Beurling DSO DFC DFM and Bar, for the first time at Catfoss at the end of July 1944.”
Firstly, as far as I am aware, Beurling was in Canada the whole of 1944, and was not a squadron leader. Clostermann goes on to say that Beurling was publicly ‘ticked off’ in his presence by the station commander Grp Capt Sailor Malan. He also says that he became pals with the US ace Richard Bong while at Catfoss.
From what I have learned of Beurling’s post-Malta movements is that he was at CGS Sutton Bridge in mid 1943 as an instructor, and back in Canada by early 1944.
So, did Clostermann meet Beurling at Sutton Bridge in mid-1943, not Catfoss in mid-1944? Where does Malan come into the equation? Was he at Sutton Bridge in 1943? Was Bong in the UK at all? Or was Clostermann name-dropping to make a good story?
Very interesting, don’t you think? I would appreciate comments.
Brian got some feedback from Norman…
I don’t know whether this will help you but I recently read a book called “COMBAT READY!” by Alastair Goodrum, all about air combat and air gunnery training at RAF Sutton Bridge on the borders of Lincolnshire and Norfolk. Alas, I can not remember reading Closterman’s name but do recall the following: Station Commander Sailor Malan, Spitfire ace and Central Gunnery School Chief Flying Instructor Allan Wright (who helped Sailor Malan form the CGS), Flying Instructors: Al Deere, “Wimpy” Wade, Bob Dafforn, Jamie Rankin and Canadian “Screwball” Beurling.
Then another feedback from Chris…
Buzz Beurling arrived back in Canada (Halifax, Nova Scotia) on the 8th of May, 1944. You might be interested in knowing that while at Sutton Bridge, Buzz had three flying accidents.
Brian was still wondering…
I wonder if Clostermann and Beurling met prior to May 1944?
Norman followed up with this..
Further to my earlier post. First a correction, Sailor Malan was the CO of the CGS not CO of RAF Sutton Bridge. He was at Sutton Bridge just long enough to set up the CGS from Apr 42 to Jul 42 he then went on to become a Station Commander in the South of England. Screwball Beurling was at Sutton Bridge Apr43 to Jul43 – 3 months or less. Sutton Bridge had a fighter wing and a bomber wing (Wellingtons). The CGS moved out to RAF Catfoss, Yorkshire in Mar44. I have not been able to find any evidence of Clostermann serving at Sutton Bridge though he could easily have flown in for a visit. I understand the former Bull Hotel at Long Sutton was the flyers drinking hole.
Then this about Richard Bong from Dick…
Take a look at http://usfighter.tripod.com/bong.htm which seems to indicate that Bong spent his operational career in the Pacific Theatre and was not put to training until fairly late. It might suggest that the encounter between him and Clostermann at Catfoss was, at least, unlikely in 1944.
From your quote of his book it might be interesting to find out where Clostermann met Beurling for the second time!!
All this led me to read some excerpts from Nick Thomas’s Sniper of the Skies.
This is what I found…
Beurling embarked for Canada on 30 April (1944), the Queen Elizabeth docking at port 8 May…
If Clostermann never met Beurling, Bong and even Sailor Malan when he was posted at RAF Catfoss in July 1944, are there other anecdotes that he made up in Feux du ciel?
Why then the need for name dropping and making up anecdotes when you are “Le Premier Chasseur de France et Grand Officier de la Légion d’Honneur”?
Just a few words on why I wrote this post…
I have read Le Grand Cirque when I was 12 or 13 years-old. I still have the original 1948 edition.
Like so many others, I probably owe my passion for aviation to Pierre Clostermann…
That doesn’t take anything away from the respect of his commitment during the war…