The Airmen's Stories - P/O B P Legge
Brian Pauncefoote Legge was born at Snaresbrook, Essex on the 5th May 1920, his family lived in China where he was brought up as a child attending the Cathedral School in Shanghai from 1927-1934. His fathe,r Geoffrey Edward Legge, wished him to receive a further education in the UK, so between 19th September 1934 and 31st December 1938 he was a boarder at Exeter School in Exeter.
His headmaster John Andrews gave him a testimonial in May 1938 stating that he steadily worked his way up the school gaining the Oxford and Cambridge Joint Board Certificate in English, History, Chemistry, French, Maths and Physics. He also indicated that although he was of good character he had a ‘vigorous personality’ with strong views of his own, a characteristic that would develop further as he aged and adversely affect his early RAF career.
Having left school, he decided to join the RAF, and on the 6th February 1939 he was sent to No 15 ERFTS at Redhill for his initial training. He would fly in Magister aircraft going solo on the 20th with under 12 hours flying time. This was followed by being commissioned as an acting Pilot Officer on the 15th April and sent to No 1 Depot at Uxbridge, where he was assessed as ‘Average’. From May to July he attended No 6 Flying Training School at Little Rissington, learning on Hawker Harts where again he was assessed as ‘Average’.
He returned back to No 1 Depot at Uxbridge between August and September, then to No 12 Flying Training School at Grantham, one day after the declaration of war with Germany. It was here that he refined his flying, learning aerobatics, loops and turns along with navigation.
By October 1939, Legge was re-classified as ‘Above Average’. His final assessment by the officer commanding the school, S/Ldr Douglas Hamilton, would turn out to be be prophetic; ‘This pilot could be good, but he must learn to accept correction when it is necessary. Too individualistic at present, a squadron may teach him the value of team work’.
During February 1940 he attended an Armament Course at Jurby, Isle of Man being made a Pilot Officer on the 28th, and posted to 11 Group Pool at St Athan. This was amended to No 6 OTU at Sutton Bridge on March 12th. It was here that he trained further on Mentor and Harvard aircraft finally taking to the air in a Hurricane on May 2nd 1940, after 186 hours flying training.
Ten days later he was posted to 73 Squadron and would be one of the nine pilots aboard a Douglas DC 3 of KLM (the Dutch airline), flying from Hendon to Amiens in France. The pilots destined for 73 Squadron were then flown onto Coulommiers, about 50km SW of Rheims, where they were billeted in the tunnel of the old fort at Brimont, bringing the squadron pilot strength up to 23.
These postings were as a result of the French making urgent requests to Churchill for reinforcements to their Fighter Squadrons, especially Hurricane pilots.
His first flight over foreign soil took place on Easter Monday, the 13th May, in Hurricane L1826 when he was detailed for a Sector Recce.
He notes in his log-book, ‘Did first aerobatics in Hurricane’.
On this day four other Hurricanes from the squadron came under fire over Rheims and were damaged, the Germans had managed to penetrate the line at Sedan, and the RAF squadrons were put on alert for immediate withdrawal. On this first day with the squadron, Legge was reprimanded by the CO for taking a Commer lorry without permission, in order to visit another pilot from another squadron. Not a good start and it was destined to get worse for him!
His next flight in L1826 was on the 15th May when he was one of six Hurricanes from ‘A Flight’ to take off after lunch to intercept enemy aircraft over Rheims.
Legge records in his log, ‘Interception of 20-30 enemy bombers, Rheims - Chased a He 111 but was unable to catch it. Flak over Germany, fight with a Hurricane ensued.’
Again the French made further pleas to Churchill for ten more Hurricane squadrons. Dowding went to the Air Ministry on this day and put a very strong case that no further aircraft should be sent to France, as they were vital for the defence of the UK. After the meeting Churchill reversed his decision and ordered that just four more Hurricane squadrons be despatched to France immediately.
At 0130hrs on May 16th the squadron prepared to move to Villeneuve and by 0500hrs most of the transport was on the road. Six Hurricanes took off on a defensive patrol lasting 45 minutes, Legge being one of these in TP-R. Meanwhile the five unserviceable Hurricanes were set on fire by the adjutant watched by AVM Dacre.
P/O Legge was up again the next day in TP-Y on another defensive patrol lasting 45 minutes, 73 Squadron now only had seven serviceable Hurricanes and sixteen pilots. Fighter Command had decided that six Hurricane squadrons would be at stand-by in Southern England in order to carry out patrols over France.
On the 18th May, 73 Squadron flew an early morning defensive patrol which included Legge flying TP-S, and subsequently flew from Villaneuve to Gaye by 1500hrs. During the evening, the whole squadron met in the local café for a meal and a ‘sing-song’.
Legge flew on another defensive patrol two days later in Hurricane TP-F which lasted for 55 minutes. During the afternoon in company with P/O Sydenham he flew the Magister B6351 on a return flight from Gaye to La Ferte.
May 21st would see Legge flying TP-A on a defensive patrol lasting one hour twenty minutes with 15 other Hurricanes led by ‘Cobber’ Kain, no enemy aircraft were encountered. With the various changes at Gaye the squadron’s strength was brought up to 21 officers and 5 Sergeants. On this day pilots from No 1 Squadron called in on 73 and a rowdy party ensued, finally ending at 0030hrs.
The next entry in his flying log is on the 26th when he flew Hurricane TP-H on a patrol for 40 minutes and on another patrol in TP-U for just over the hour. On both patrols Kain was leading the section. It was a dull but warm day and 24 109’s were encountered but no claims were made.
On the 29th May, six Hurricanes from A Flight in company with six Hurricanes from B Flight flew to Boos at 0600hrs returning to Gaye at 1830hrs. On his return Legge made a bad landing and bent his propeller! No mention is made of this mishap in his log.
At the beginning of June, Legge had several attacks of malaria, resulting from his early days in China. Other squadron members did not look upon this in too good a light as he frequently saw the MO and did not fly. Ian Scoular made several references in his diary kept at that time. Brian Legge wrote home to his mother in the first days of June:-
‘I’m afraid I can’t say that I’m fit and well because I’m in bed again with head and throat trouble which comes under some long Latin name’
Later in his letter he states:-
‘I don’t think we quite realised at training school what the reality was going to be like and we were rather shaken when we had to seek the safety of our air raid shelter a dozen times a day. But once in the air everything is grand, I suppose the necessary concentration and watching out doesn’t give one time to think. Things are quieter now, and at least we don’t have to avoid bomb craters while landing’.
His next sortie was on June 5th flying Hurricane TP-L on a cover patrol from Echemines lasting one and a half hours. He notes in his log, ’60 enemy aircraft seen’.
On June 6th orders were received that all serviceable aircraft were to be flown from Le Mans to Echiaines, Legge was detailed to fly the DH Rapide, he returned the next day in Hurricane TP-K. This was to be a very sad day for the squadron as ‘Cobber’ Kain was killed whilst attempting a ‘flick-roll’ over the airfield. He was due to get married the following week and his mother attended Buckingham Palace to collect his well deserved DFC from the King. Legge notes in his log, ‘Cobber Kain killed in ‘B’ as Leader’.
Very early on the 8th June, Legge was flying on a defensive patrol at 20,000ft in Hurricane TP-K whilst Kain was being buried at Troyes. At 1700 hrs all but three of the squadron Hurricanes were detailed to fly to Echemines, Legge flying TP-C. He notes in his log, ‘Landed at Sens, this trip was done without a map, just imagination, saw large railway yard alight’.
June 9th and Legge was on a patrol over Soissons in TP-K, for one and a half hours. He notes, ‘Saw 60 Me 110’s but did not attack’. On June 10th he flew from Echimines to Le Mans in the same aircraft and this would be his last flight with 73 Squadron. He had been ordered to see the MO who declared him unfit for further flying with the squadron and he was sent back to the UK immediately.
It would appear that his days off sick combined with his strong personality did not endear him to the CO and other officers of 73 Squadron (who were a tight knitted bunch having been through rough times in France). He was returned to No 1 RAF Depot at Uxbridge where he stayed until July.
On July 19th he was sent to No 1(C) OTU at Silloth which was a Target Towing Unit flying Battle aircraft. He would stay here until September 29th clocking up many hours flying drogue targets along with various Leading Aircraftsmen acting as 2nd pilots. As a result of this posting Legge missed out on the greater part of the Battle of Britain which seems strange when experienced pilots were desperately needed.
Gp Captain O’Neil of 601 Squadron commented in 2005:-
“That was standard practice in those days when you did something wrong, or you didn’t fit in with the others in the squadron. You had to really fight to get back operational after something like that. Some pilots were bounced from squadron to squadron”
It would seem that Legge wasn’t content with Target Towing and did argue his case strongly with the Air Ministry. He wrote to his mother from Cumberland on the 29th September 1940:-
‘Of course I have done everything imaginable to get to a fighter squadron so that I can really be in the fighting, but they are having nothing to do with it, so I have applied to be sent abroad. Towing targets up and down the sky is no fun.’
The day after writing this letter he was posted to No 6 OTU at Sutton Bridge on a refresher course flying Hurricanes again. On October 6th he flew in Hurricane 2502 and noted in his log- book, ‘P/O DC Brown was burnt to death in a Hurricane which caught fire in the air and overturned on landing’.
On October 7th he flew in Harvard 7178 using just his instruments, he notes in his log, ‘Another pilot was killed low flying in a Magister.’
On 12th October he notes, ‘10 Hurricanes crashed during 1st – 12th, 2 Killed,
On the 13th October Legge got his wish to rejoin a Fighter Squadron when he was posted to 601 Squadron at Exeter. He wrote again to his mother in China on the 18th October 1940:
“I have moved squadron again after bothering people till they grew so fed up that they had to let me have my way. Curiously enough as the post mark shows I am back in the SW of England where I was at school. It is very warm indeed for the middle of October and waiting around for raids it is not an uncomfortable business as we have a wireless and there are cards and books. At present we are not in the limelight very much as the squadron is resting, but I hope to see some action in a month or so.”
Between October 18th and 27th he was engaged on practice flights/formations, and cross country flights along with sea firing exercises.
On Monday October 28th he did his first ‘operational sortie’ which would earn him the right to wear the Battle of Britain clasp on his 1939-45 Star. He would complete two further sorties on the 29th when Portsmouth was attacked during the morning. On the 30th he did another sortie with no contacts, noting in his log on each occasion the single word, ‘Flap’.
Although 601 Squadron did do the occasional sortie at this time it had been sent to the West Country for a rest after its part in the heavy fighting around Debden during August. His log was signed off by Flt Lt WP Clyde DFC.
On the 1st November he was posted to 249 Squadron at North Weald for just 24 hours, and then back to his old squadron, No 73 at Debden, who had just been ordered to join the Desert Air Force.
On the 28th October Italy had invaded Greece and at that time the AOC for the area, ACM Sir Arthur Longmore only had 64 fighters (mainly Gladiators) and 94 bombers (mainly Mk1 Blenheims) at his disposal. He therefore moved 80 Squadron from the desert to Greece and ordered that 73 Squadron should take their place. Consequently, thirty four Hurricanes and their pilots set off from the UK in HMAC Furious hoping to arrive in time for the forthcoming offensive by General Wavell on 7th December (Operation Compass).
On November 14th along with the other pilots Legge boarded HMAC Furious moored on the Clyde and by 1000hrs the next day they were en route for Freetown, Sierra Leone, arriving there on the 25th. Two days further sailing and they were off Takoradi when the ship's alarms were sounded as a result of coming under fire from the Italian fleet. This was resolved by the cruiser
HMS Manchester whose crew outgunned their attackers. The thirty four pilots then took off from the aircraft carrier, (P/O Wainwright tipping over the edge as a result of having set coarse pitch on his propeller) Legge flying the tropical Hurricane V7562. The squadron was split into two groups of six, with Blenheims navigating the way to Lagos (Legge being amongst the first party). Fort Lamy was reached by the 1st December and the group pressed on to Geneina. Unfortunately they lost their way and were forced to land at dusk in Rulla 60 miles SE of Geneina. Four of the Hurricanes crashed on landing, Sgt Brimble being killed. They had no rations with them, and the CO, S/Ldr. Murray set off for help and met with some local soldiers who rescued them and made a runway in three weeks. The three undamaged Hurricanes (including Legge’s) took off and landed at Heliopolis on the 24th December.
January 1941 Western Desert
By January 1st the squadron was up and running and having taken over from 112 Squadron they were soon on local defensive patrols, Legge notes in his log, ‘Nothing seen’.
He took part in three patrols on the 3rd noting:
No enemy a/c seen, Bardia did not appear to have fallen, Sgt Marshall got 3 out of 5 SM79’s, encountered heavy and accurate A/A from 15-20,000ft from warships in the harbour and main road, Tobruk.
On January 5th he was engaged on four defensive and offensive patrols in Hurricane TP-F over Sidi Haneish noting: Encountered slight A/A at Tobruk. Saw bombs dropping at Bardia but failed to pick up raiding aircraft.
He was back up again the next day on three offensive patrols over Tobruk, protecting the photo–recce Blenheims from 113 squadron: No luck again, slight A/A at 2000ft and pom-pom fire, Jamie Storrar got 1 CR42 and won 6 pints of beer from the CO.
* The CO had given strict instructions not to ground - strafe because of the returning fire of the Pom-Poms.
Legge completed 6 offensive patrols on the 8th January in TP-M over Tobruk and Gazala, noting in his log: No luck once more, flew 30 miles past Tobrouk at 5000ft, just below cloud base, encountered accurate A/A at Tobruk.
Five patrols (total 5.45 hrs) were flown by Legge on the 9th January noting: Nothing seen again - Sgt Marshall attacked at 24000ft by low wing monoplane. 73 start operational night flying, A/A unable to reach me at 25000ft.
Just three single patrols on the 11th, 13th and 14th over Tobruk: Ran into heavy pom-pom barrage during recce of Tobruk. Sgt Garton shot down by ground fire at Tobruk crash landed wheels up.
* The squadron ran out of oxygen during this time so patrols were operating at 15000ft.
Two patrols on the 16th, his log entry shows: Nothing seen, Sgt Ellis encounters 9 CR50’s and 3 Macchi’s.
On this day he wrote to his mother:
I can’t tell you very much about the journey out here, except it was the most interesting one I have ever made. A forced landing in the bush followed, but I managed to make a big city for Christmas. The sand gets rather boring after a while; we have it for lunch, tea and supper, sleep in it, breathe and drink it, not to mention the sandstorms, which rip up our tents. Owing to the censorship regulations I can’t tell you about our activities out here, but the last week has been very exciting.
January 17th shows patrol of Tobruk: P/O Humphrey missing - Tobruk offensive.
He made one dawn patrol on the 18th noting Sandstorm and on the 19th: P/O Humphrey found at Sidi Barrani. Legge made one patrol on the 20th.
Another dawn patrol was made on the 21st with several Fiat G50’s appearing over Tobruk, the CO led an attack on them with Legge, Wareham, Wainwright and Griffith, sharing in the destruction of one and Legge damaging another. He was subsequently hit by ground fire resulting in his engine bursting into flames. He made a forced landing at El Adem dousing the fire with sand and water and was rescued by the CO of 113 Squadron in a Blenheim.
On returning to base Legge heard on Italian Radio that the Italian fighters had ‘encountered five Hurricanes that morning and had shot one down in flames, and the other four had fled' !
Legge noted in his log: Attack on Tobruk begins, attacked several G50’s, chased two for ten miles at ‘0 feet’, used up all my ammunition but only damaged one. Was shot in glycol tank by ground fire, when returning, and force-landed at El Adem. P/O Wainwright shot down in flames, Sgt Murray got a G50
(Sgt Murray later recalled ‘I was convinced that we were caught in a trap’)
Geoff Garton led a four aircraft patrol over Tobruk on the 22nd, Legge flew in Hurricane TP-A on two patrols that day as No 3, he notes in his log: Tobruk falls, smoke could possibly be seen at Naples! Nothing seen
He did just one patrol on the 23rd flying as No 3 again with three others, again nothing was seen.
On the 25th he flew with S/Ldr Gosnel in Wellington HD-G to Gazala where it punctured a tyre on landing, stranding him there for a day, he notes: Sgt Stenhouse shot down by ground fire, baled out possibly taken prisoner.
On the 26th he flew as No 2 in a patrol of four aircraft over Derna, with no contacts, he flew two more patrols on the 27th with A Flight in Hurricane TP-E, noting in his log: Sgt Stenhouse reported safe with broken leg, no enemy aircraft, Ack Ack from Derna, sandstorm stranded us in Gazala for the night.
‘A Flight’ flew back the next day only to run into rain and another sandstorm, the next three days Legge flew on single patrols over Gazala, Derna, and Bardia with nothing seen. The whole squadron moved to Gazala West on the 31st January, where they had permanent accommodation, making a pleasant change from the dusty tents they had been sleeping in.
Benghasi fell on the 6th and by the 7th the Allied attack captured Tobruk, the retreating Italians were caught at Beda Fomm in a battle that saw their army destroyed, 130,000 prisoners taken along with 850 big guns and 400 tanks, the Italian Air Force being virtually wiped out.
Legge flew on the 1st in Hurricane TP-L on a ground strafing sortie in the morning led by Beytagh where they destroyed several Lorries on the road near
Apollonia. He notes in his log: Set alight a (Caproni) Ghiblis which Sgt Murray had shot down, destroyed 2 motorbikes and drivers and one petrol lorry in flames. Ran into heavy A/A on way back.
A newspaper cutting stuck in the log notes: At Apollonia our fighters attacked the airdrome and destroyed three Ghiblis and a CA 310. They also machine-gunned transport and troops, causing many causalities.
He was up again the next day in TP-F along with 3 other Hurricanes which he led this time on another ground strafing sortie. He recorded: Had a duel with a tank and silenced its gun, damaged several lorries, ran into very heavy MG barrage.
On the 4th February he was one of four drivers who took lorries from Derna to Maraua loaded with cans of petrol, unfortunately Legge managed to crash his on the return and sustained head injuries. The CO grounded him for three days!
His next flight was on the 7th in TP-C on a night flying test and shoot-up.
For the next ten days Legge and the other only flew the odd patrol and test flights due to the bad weather, heavy rains often left pools of water in the landing area.
On the 19th Legge notes: During patrol over Benghasi Ju88’s and Me 110’s were encountered. P/O Lamb damaged a Ju 88 and Storrar damaged a 110, Murray hit a Ju 88.
Again for the next eight days little flying took place, Legge only making five patrols until the end of the month usually in TP-C and TP-K. These patrols were mainly for the protection of Tobruk, he notes on the 28th: Squirted a Heinkel 111 - uncertain, Mike Wareham squirted a Ju 88 result uncertain.
He was made a Flying Officer on the 28th February, and by now the squadron was operating wholly from Gazala and Legge flew a dawn patrol lasting one hour fifteen minutes on the 2nd in Hurricane TP-K with McFadden and Goord over Tobruk. Legge notes: Sgt Leng reported missing.
At 1215hrs on the 4th he was scrambled with McFadden to search for an unidentified aircraft. After climbing to 20,000ft there was no sight and they returned.
For the following six days he gained experience in flying the Lysander L9709 with A/C Kent and P/O Stevens.
On the 10th he flew Hurricane TP-A from Gazala to Sidi Mamoud and on to El Gubbi where 73 Squadron had been moved to. This would be his last flight with 73 Squadron and also as a fighter pilot. His log was signed several times by former Battle of France/Britain pilots, Rutter, Murray and Storrar.
Tobruk had become surrounded by the Germans, and combined with the bad weather and lack of spares, by the 15th April there were no serviceable aircraft left. Many pilots were exhausted, having had no leave since arriving in November 1940, and were succumbing to illness of all types. Legge was no exception and he had another bout of malaria, putting him in the 63rd General Hospital in Cairo from the middle of March until April 19th.
During this time he had been promoted from Pilot Officer to Flying Officer and was now earning nearly £40 per month!
He wrote to his mother on this day telling her: After five weeks stay I’m pretty glad to get away. I shall probably be back at the controls before long with a Jerry airplane in my sights - I hope!
On the 29th April he was posted along with nine other pilots for a rest at ‘Hurricane House’ in Sharia Soliman, Pasha, Cairo. After three weeks rest they were all posted to 252 Wing at Alexandria and then on to No 102 MU Ferry Pool at Abu Sueir. Sgt ‘Monty’ Ellis was now the only surviving member of the squadron who had fought in France.
Legge operated with the Ferry Pool from May to July 1941, and was stationed at Abusueir, flying Hurricanes, Blenheims, Gladiators, and Gauntlett II’s to various landing strips in the area and beyond. On July 16th he was posted to the Delivery Flight operating from Takoradi on the Gold Coast, flying in an Empire Flying Boat via Bombay, the Sudan, Uganda, and the Belgium Congo.
Again he was ferrying various makes of aircraft including Hurricanes, Tomahawk’s, Kittyhawks, Blenheims, and even a Ju 52!
Writing home to his mother on the 9th September he gives an indication of the dangers:
On my last trip I was flying for three and a half hours in a single seat aircraft with bumpy weather, keeping in formation is no joke. I had trouble with my radiator during the flight and fifty miles from Khartoum I watched the temperature gauge rise past the danger mark and higher, I was pretty scared I can tell you. I landed just before the thing blew up. I am now in hospital with another bout of malaria after which I’m due for some leave. I think that perhaps I should go back to operations and continue with the job that has to be finished before everything else – bringing the Nazis to their knees. My bag at present is negligible, a possible, a damaged, a few tanks and transport, and some 50-100 Italian infantry, poor dogs. I think I should go back to the desert and continue the battle.
Having recovered from yet another case of malaria he was sent to Cairo for rest where life wasn’t too bad as demonstrated in a letter written to his mother on the 25th September: I’m feeling much better now after the last bout of malaria, I’m living on a house boat in the Nile which is very pleasant and cool apart from the mosquitoes. Just across the way is a sporting club set in one of the only green areas in Egypt, we usually go there after lunch ,spending the morning on the boat writing or sleeping off the night before!.
On December 1st 1941 he was posted to No 1 Aircraft Delivery Unit at Cairo, again ferrying various operational aircraft from the Nile Valley to the Gold Coast. This was a unit that little is written about in the history of the RAF, but it played a vital role in getting operational aircraft and supplies across Africa. They would fly long hours daily across vast areas of tropical forest, desert and bare rock, through all kinds of weather and over places where a forced landing could result in a lingering death. All this in order to supply the front-line troops.
1942 Gold Coast
The aircraft would fly in convoys and be given code numbers such as 281-297etc, Legge with the rank of Flight Lieutenant would often be in the leading aircraft as by now he was a very experienced pilot having 1000 flying hours recorded in his log. On 23rd November he flew a tri-motor Caproni CA 101 aircraft that was a gift to the Unit from Iben Saud, the King of Saudi Arabia. On December 19th 1942 he was given a yearly assessment by S/Ldr Douch, O/C of No 1 ADU which records ‘Above Average’ as a Ferry Pilot and Navigator.
He was posted to No 2 ADU on this day operating in the Western Desert flying Baltimore’s, Beaufighters, Hudsons, Spitfires, Kittyhawks, as well as smaller trainers.
He notes in his log on January 22nd 1943, having just flown a Vigilante aircraft: You have to fly it to believe it - takeoff 5 yards!
He would complete 666 hours in all ferrying these various types by the end of January 1943, he was then sent to the British Airways Training Unit at Vaaldam in South Africa flying Lodestar aircraft.
On the 8th April 1943 he was posted to No 216 Squadron flying Dakota aircraft involved in supply drops around North Africa and the Sudan. Throughout June he was back in hospital again this time with appendicitis. On August 14th he was detached from 216 to No 4 Middle East Training School at Ramat David on a parachute dropping course.
He records in his log on the 23rd August: 20 paratroops dropped on lighted DZ at night, no moon, 85% casualties owing to high wind.
The course was completed on the 4th September and Legge rejoined 216 Squadron only to be admitted to hospital once again on the 12th for ten days suffering from malaria.
He was back flying a Dakota on the 27th by now operating from Cairo into Italy and Malta taking supplies, making a ‘special’ to Sicily on the 4th October as marked in his log.
On the 4th November his log was endorsed by W/C EM Morris O/C 216 Squadron, ‘Above Average as Transport Pilot and in Parachute Dropping’. By now he had completed over 1600hours flying time and these remarks would probably influence Flight Lieutenant Legge’s next posting back to the UK, where events were rapidly taking shape for the invasion of Europe.
Joining 512 Squadron at the end of December 1943 he would soon be back flying Dakota aircraft again.
The squadron was formed on the 18th June 1943 to fly the transport routes from the UK to Gibraltar and Maison Blanche in Algeria. In February 1944 it transferred from 44 Group to 46 Group to become a tactical airborne squadron, training in glider-towing and parachute dropping to be fully operational by the 1st June.
On the 1st February a new squadron, No 575, was formed at Hendon from the nucleus of 512 Squadron (later moving to Broadwell) and Legge was transferred yet again. With this squadron he would get his earlier wish of being back in the thick of it against the Nazis, and at last being decorated for his efforts.
On the 16th March Legge was flying Dakota FL 605 with his regular crew of Flt Lt Hogan (map reader), F/O Ashton (navigator), Flt Sgt McMahon (wireless operator), when they dropped 15 paratroopers over Broadwell and Barkston Heath. Similar exercises would continue throughout the month and into April towing gliders containing the troops. On the 24th April the squadron flew it first operation, dropping leaflets in Nickel raids over Vire in Northern France, Legge flying Dakota 327.
On ‘D-Day’ 6th June Legge was one of 21 Dakotas dropping panniers, supplies and equipment in France to the 5th Parachute Brigade under Operation Mallard.
On the 17th June he landed on airstrip B5 in France in order to transport 18 causalities (known as casevac flights), these flights becoming commonplace throughout June and July. He was also involved in transporting 2nd TAF fighter and bomber Wings to their landing strips in France and Belgium, bringing out further casualties on their return. The squadron flew 215 of these sorties in August alone.
On the 17th September Legge was flying one of nineteen Dakotas (KG 550) towing Horsa gliders containing men of the Border Regiment to Arnhem (Operation Market Garden).
Two days later he was back dropping panniers on a re-supply mission where they came under intense A/A fire. His aircraft suffered hits in the oil tank, port tyre and hydraulic system resulting in him having to make a crash-landing at Woodbridge, Suffolk but with no crew loss.
On the 23rd the squadron was detached to Brussels (B56 strip) for further Arnhem support missions, Legge flying Dakota KG 371.
On the 24th September Legge would fly another mission over Arnhem in a re-supply drop, this time flying Dakota KG 327. Again they would come under intense A/A fire that would leave his aircraft badly damaged, with both him and his co-pilot wounded, Legge had to make another forced landing, this time at night in Brussels. For this courageous act he was awarded an immediate Distinguished Flying Cross (London Gazette 2nd February 1945).
Legge notes in his log: Shot up - hit by flak in right calf. Vic hit in each thigh by .303 - night landing at Brussels.
The citation by the O/C 575 Squadron W/C TA Jefferson AFC gives more details of this particular mission:-
On the evening of the 24th September, Flt Lt Legge was briefed to drop re-supply panniers on a D.Z. to the west of Arnhem. A considerable amount of flak was encountered over the majority of the route and the aircraft was hit in several places. In face of concentrated machine gun and 20mm fire, Flt Lt Legge pressed on over the D.Z .and carried out an accurate drop. Just after turning away the aircraft was again hit, wounding the second pilot in both legs, and seriously wounding Flt Lt Legge in the right leg, damaging the muscles and denying him the use of his leg. He lost a lot of blood on the route home, and arrived over base in a very weak condition. In spite of a slippery runway and a high cross wind, Flt Lt Legge carried out a successful night landing. The courage and determination of this officer in the face of heavy opposition, is worthy of the highest praise.
Recommended for an immediate award of the DFC - dated 26th September 1944.
This recommendation was endorsed by G/C Morrison: A gallant officer whose action deserves recognition.
These remarks were added to by Air Commodore Darvall Officer Commanding HQ 46 Group on 21st October: Flt Lt Legge saved his aircraft and crew by a splendid display of courage and airmanship. Strongly recommended for an immediate award of the DFC.
Air Marshall Conningham finally approved the award on the 18th December 1944.
On his release from hospital in Brussels on 12th October, he was flown back to Broadwell by W/C Jefferson in a Dakota as a casevac, resuming his flying on the 12th December.
He was posted from the squadron on the 7th January 1945, now as an acting Squadron Leader, to join 233 Squadron at Blakehill Farm, W/C Deanesley (former Battle of Britain pilot) endorsing his logbook, ‘ Above the Average as Transport Pilot, Pilot-Navigator, and Transport Support Flying’.
The squadron was engaged to provide supply routes within the Continent flying from Nivelles. His logbook only records six missions flown in January, mainly in the Antwerp area.
On the 2nd March 1945 he was posted again, this time to a Glider Pick–Up Unit operating Dakotas from Zeals/Ibsley, and by March 14th he had completed 2,000hrs flying time. This squadron would pick-up gliders from the ground using a hook to catch a line attached to the glider, thereby cutting out the need to actually land the towing Dakota. It needed a skilful pilot and Legge certainly qualified for this task.
On 5th June Legge flew from Ibsley to Jersey in Dakota TS 424 and makes an entry in his log: A/C at disposal of GOC Southern Command in connection with the visit to the Channel Isles of their majesties the King and Queen.
Between June15th and July 11th Legge attended Cranwell on a Junior Commanders Course, returning to the GPU Unit on the 15th.
During August and September, whilst flying Hadrian aircraft on a ‘snatch’ he had to make forced landings due to engine trouble, the remaining months with the unit being taken up by demonstration flights.
On November 10th 1945 he completed his time with this unit and the RAF, his log being endorsed by S/Ldr Cathill O/C GPU Ramsbury, ‘Exceptional Snatch Pilot’, with a total flying time of 2157 hrs 30 minutes.
Legge makes an entry: At last.
He was de-mobbed the next day at Uxbridge, with the rank of Squadron Leader, being on the reserve of Air Force Officers, and becoming a manager of a Market Research Company in London.
It wasn’t long before he applied to join the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve and on 13th June 1947 he received a letter from the Air Ministry confirming his appointment as a Flying Officer as from the 7th June. The letter instructed him to wear the uniform rank of F/O, but on all other occasions he could use the rank of Squadron Leader if he so desired. He spent 10 days of July 1947 at No 8 Flying Training School at Reading completing tests and aerobatics in a Tiger Moth aircraft.
This brief foray back into flying must have whetted his appetite for even more flying because on January 27th 1948 he joined Australian National Airways flying his beloved Dakota on routes between Sydney and Melbourne. After a year of this he joined Qantas Empire Airways, and would be flying DC 4 Skymasters between Australia, New Zealand, and Hong Kong, and eventually to Iwakuni in Japan by November 1949.
In the middle of January 1950 he resigned from Qantas and joined Air Burma flying one of the ten Dakota’s in the fleet from Rangoon. This was an ill-
chosen company as the owner Boh Setkya decided to end the pilots yearly contract three months early in October 1950, owing Legge and his co-pilot R’s9000 each.
They were forced to take their cases to court in Rangoon in June 1951 to reclaim the pay due to them, which they won. By this time Legge had gained employment with the Union of Burma Airways flying DC3’s again. He noted in his log on January 11th flying inland in Burma: 5 bullet holes in tail fin! - obviously the natives were not too friendly.
One of the DC4 aircraft he flew in February VR-HEU, Legge notes, was eventually shot down by Red Chinese aircraft over Hainan Island in 1954. On June 6th he notes that one of his passengers was the Prime Minister Thakin Nu.
Legge continued flying DC 3’s until April 25th 1952 when he had another dispute over payment by the company. Out of the original 22 pilots employed by the company only seven foreign pilots remained, three of them serving a notice of quitting by December 31st, Legge being one of these.
By August 15th 1952 he had returned to the UK and went freelance flying DC3’s, Viking and Sealand aircraft with BKS Aero-Charter from Southend to Switzerland. This only lasted a month, and by September he took up a job with Shell Aircraft Ltd, flying Prince Aircraft in Borneo and Indonesia. At this time the company only had the Prince, one Dakota, and two Grumman Mallards for the occasional VIP or special flight. By 1960 they had four Dakotas and three Mallards with a total staff of 62, eleven who were pilots, keeping their aircraft flying some four hundred hours a month with twenty thousand passengers a year.
In June 1953, whilst in the area of Labuan and Kuala Belait he found a small cargo vessel Tong Hing which had been reported ‘missing with no radio working’, sheltering from heavy winds off Muara Island and reported their position to the company.
He notes in his log on February 11th 1954 that he flew with Douglas Bader (as 2nd pilot) in an Auster VR-SDO on a local flight for half an hour. Legge obtained a good reference from Bader when he eventually left the company in November 1961 as its Chief Pilot returning to the UK.
During March 1962 he kept up his required flying hours at the Southend Flying School, joining Lloyd International Airways in April. Their fleet were made up flying DC4’s DC6’s and Britannia aircraft from Gatwick to Europe and the Far East. In January 1966 he became their Chief Pilot and took part in the Zambian oil lift flying a Britannia 312 from Dar-es-Salam. He regularly flew a Britannia but between 18th and 28th April 1967 he went on a conversion course at Bordeaux to fly a Dassault Fanjet Falcon. He made his last flight with the company on 29th March 1968 before having to retire due to ill health.
In thirty years he had flown 20 types of single engine aircraft, 16 twin engines, 1 triple engine, 3 four engine, plus a jet and a helicopter, with total flying hours of 15,780 hours and fifteen minutes throughout the world.
Simon Muggleton 2008