The Airmen's Stories - AC1 S Ainsworth
Sidney Ainsworth was born on 22nd August 1918 in Great Cliff, Yorkshire. He joined the RAFVR in May 1940 at No. 3 RAF Depot, Padgate.
After training he joined 23 Squadron at Ford on 20th September 1940 as a Radar Operator.
He flew his first operational sortie on the 23rd.
He flew eleven operational sorties with 23 Squadron during the Battle of Britain period, the last
on 20th October 1940.
His subsequent service is currently undocumented.
He married Anne Butterfield on 11th April 1942 at Sandal Church near Wakefield.
He was commissioned on 27th April 1943 and awarded the DFC (gazetted 13th June 1944). At the time he was serving with 692 Squadron which operated the Mosquito B Mk. IV (modified) from Graveley in Huntingdonshire.
The squadron was part of the Light Night Striking Force of No. 8 (PFF) Group, which specialised in fast, high-flying night raids on Germany, particularly Berlin. The specially-modified Mosquitos were fitted with bulged bomb-bays in order to accommodate 4000-pound 'Cookies'.
On the night of the 12th/13th May 1944, 692 Squadron was the first Mosquito unit to carry out low-level minelaying, the target being the Kiel Canal, the operation was carried out in bright moonlight.
692 Squadron, led by W/Cdr. SD Watts (RNZAF), was supported by nine Mosquitos from 139 Squadron whose task was to mark the route and indicate the target with flares. Other Pathfinder Mosquitos made a dummy attack on the lock-gates at Brunsbuttel to divert the enemy defences while intruder Mosquitos from 100 Group shot up gun positions along the canal.
The minelaying force flew over the sea at 10,000 feet to a point near Heligoland, where on sighting the Very lights fired by 139 Squadron they turned south-east and began reducing height. By the time they reached the red spot fires, dropped to mark the last leg to the target, they were flying at 8000 feet and, swinging east, began the long dive which would take them over the canal at 300 feet.
Watts led the first wave of six aircraft down in their dive and, in the light of the moon and the first light of the dawn which was beginning to colour the eastern sky, the crews saw below them the three-and-a-half-mile stretch of the canal which was their target. One by one the leading aircraft swept down to release their mines, and with the second wave quickly merging with the first, eleven mines were ‘laid fair and square in the canal’ within a matter of minutes.
As a result of this operation the canal was completely closed to traffic for seven days, by which time sixty-three ships were held up at one end.
There was one loss - Mosquito FB Mk. IV DZ638 was shot down by a night-fighter and crashed at Eggstedt, a village near the Kaiser-Wilhelm Kanal. The crew baled out and landed safely near Eggstedt.
However the pilot, P/O DMT Burnett RCAF, and navigator, P/O GW Hume RAFVR, were murdered by local Nazi party officials and buried in a sand-pit close to the canal.
Burnett's body was not recovered postwar and he is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial. Hume was interred in Hamburg cemetery.
Ainsworth's citation read:
One night in May 1944, several crews of Mosquito aircraft were detailed for a difficult and dangerous mine-laying mission. The operation called for the highest standard of skill and accuracy. In the face of intense anti-aircraft fire, balloon defences and considerable searchlight activity the attack was pressed home with great precision from low level.
Ainsworth survived the war and died suddenly on the bowling green on the promenade at Fleetwood, Lancashire on
18th August 1978.