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The Airmen's Stories - S/Ldr. P G Jameson

 

Air Commodore (Squadron Leader during the Battle) "Jamie" Jameson, who has died aged 83, landed his Hurricane fighte, in extraordinary circumstances onto the aircraft carrier ‘Glorious’ off Norway in June 1940; the ship was sunk shortly afterwards with the loss of almost all hands.


As Norway was overrun by German invaders, the RAF's No 46 Squadron was ordered to burn its Hurricanes and get out of its Norwegian base. Jameson and his Squadron Commander Kenneth "Bing" Cross were aghast. Determined to save what they could of their precious fighters they decided to fly them to ‘Glorious’ although they knew that the RAF had concluded, after trials, that landing a Hurricane on a carrier was "not possible". Cross, turning a Nelsonian blind eye and obtaining reluctant permission from the carrier's captain, the mercurial d'Oyly-Hughes, ordered Jameson to lead a first section of three Hurricanes to the carrier 150 miles out in the North Sea. In the Arctic twilight the ship's company held its breath as each Hurricane made its approach to the tilting deck. The Hurricanes had no carrier arrester gear but pinning their hope on the efficacy of the 14lb sandbag that Jameson had had placed under each tailplane all the pilots landed safely. Seven more Hurricanes followed, as did 10 Gladiator biplanes of 263 Squadron.

Within hours, however, Jameson's ingenuity was to count for nothing. ‘Glorious’ fell in with the German battle-cruisers ‘Scharnhorst’ and ‘Gneisenau’ and was sent to the bottom with only 39 survivors out of a complement of more than 1,500 men. Among the survivors were Jameson and Cross who scrambled on to a Carley float with 27 others. As their fellows began to die of exposure Jameson rigged a rough square sail from discarded shirts. Then from a button on his tunic he produced a miniature escape compass and grabbed a passing oar. Spirits rose as he announced he was setting course for the Faroe Islands. After three days only seven survivors remamed. They were rescued by a small Norwegian ship and landed on the Faroes, where two more died.


Subsequently Jameson earned a reputation as one of the RAF's most resourceful and decorated fighter leaders, being awarded the DSO, DFC and Bar and being mentioned four times in despatches.


Patrick Geraint Jameson was born in Wellington, New Zealand, on Nov 10 1912. After leaving the Hutt Valley High School he was employed as a clerk with Colonial Mutual Life and learned to fly privately at the Wellington Aero Club, Rongotai. In January 1936 he took passage for Britain at his own expense on the SS ‘Aerongi’ and was granted an RAF short service commission. The next year he joined 46 Squadron at Kenley, becoming a flight commander in March 1939.


In April 1940 he was preparing to move with the squadron to France when he was unexpectedly issued with Arctic clothing and sent to Abbotsinch airfield near Glasgow. After landing, the pilots to their astonishment were required to taxi their aircraft across fields and down lanes until they reached a jetty on the Clyde where the Hurricanes were loaded on to barges for the 20-mile journey to ‘Glorious’. The carrier steamed northwards on May 18 and crossed the Arctic circle in company with ‘Furious’ carrying 263 Squadron and its Gladiators. Jameson, his heart pounding, underwent the novel experience of flying a high speed fighter off her deck. The designated airfield at Skaanland, north of Narvik, proved too soft and soggy for the first arrivals and, following some unhappy landings, Cross radioed Jameson to lead the remainder to nearby Bardufoss. Shortly afterwards Jameson and his number two, Pilot Officer Drummond, spotted one Ju88 and two Heinkel 111 bombers near Narvik.
He shot one down, his first lone kill; he had shared two huge six-engined Dornier flying boats the day before.


After surviving the sinking of ‘Glorious’ Jameson recovered at the Gleneagles Hotel which was being used as a hospital. Six weeks sick leave in Ireland put him right and on September 17 1940 he received command of 266, a Spitfire squadron at Wittering, while the Battle of Britain was still raging.
Jameson developed his reputation as a fighter pilot, destroying a He111 at night the following April and continued to raise his score under the difficult conditions of night fighting.


Early in 1942 he was promoted Wing Commander and led the Wittering fighter wing of 485 (New Zealand), 411 (Canadian) and 610 (County of Chester) squadrons. In mid-August he led the wing as part of the massive air cover provided for the costly and ill-fated Operation Jubilee assault on Dieppe.
Jameson's wing flew four times that day, some pilots skimming the shingle of the beaches and catching glimpses of overturned tanks, blackened landing craft and bodies, mostly Canadian - the debris of a lost battle. Air losses were horrendous. While Jameson survived, the RAF lost 106 aircraft, of which 88 were fighters, as against 48 enemy aircraft destroyed.


In December he was posted to North Weald to lead the Norwegian fighter wing with the personal call sign Mahjong. He again improved his score as he attacked targets in France and escorted heavy bomber formations. The following May he became Wing Commander Training at No 11 Group and in July 1944, after the invasion, took command of 122, a Tempest wing in Normandy and led it throughout the North West Europe campaign.


Accepting a permanent commission, Jameson commanded the station at Schleswigland and in 1946 attended Staff College at Haifa. A Vampire jet course and staff and fighter school appointments followed until, in 1952, he returned to Germany to command the 2nd Tactical Air Force station at Wunsdorf. In 1954 he was appointed Senior Air Staff Officer at 11 Group, moving after two years to 2nd TAF as Deputy SASO. In 1959 be joined the headquarters staff of Operation Grapple - the codename for the RAF’s megaton nuclear bomb trials at Christmas Island.

Jameson retired in 1960 and after being treated for tuberculosis -a consequence of his debilitating wartime service - returned on a full disability pension to his native New Zealand. An accomplished countryman, he indulged his love of fishing. Jameson was appointed CB in 1959. Norway and the Netherlands also honoured him.


He married in 1941 Hilda Webster, his boyhood sweetheart, who had followed him from New Zealand, something almost impossible to do in wartime; they had a son and a daughter.


With acknowledgments to the Daily Telegraph

 

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