The Airmen's Stories - F/Lt. N L Ievers
Norman Lancelot Ievers was born in Patrickswell, County Limerick, Ireland in 1912. When he was eight the family moved to County Wicklow and he attended a boarding school locally in Bray, moving to a secondary school, Campbell College, in Belfast. There he excelled at rugby.
In 1930 he took up an engineering apprenticeship in Basingstoke, England and spent four years learning the whole process of engine manufacture, fitting and testing. On completion he was taken into the factory workforce and acquired a motorbike. But after a year the recession of the time triggered mass layoffs and he found himself working as a farmhand near Winchester.
In March 1936 he applied for and was granted a short service commission in the RAF. His initial training up to soloing on the Tiger Moth took place at a civil flying school and he was then posted to 10 FTS Tern Hill on 14th May. His first squadron posting was to 56 Squadron at North Weald in January 1937. As part of the pre-war expansion of the RAF Ievers was posted to 6 FTS Little Rissington in May 1939 to instruct new pilots. This was followed by a move to 15 FTS Lossiemouth, where he was able locally to indulge his passion for shooting and fishing.
Above: Ievers (centre) with two unidentified colleagues. The equipment is pre-war.
When Lossiemouth was required for operations in the Norwegian campaign the instructors were dispersed, Ievers ending up at 1 FTS Netheravon in September 1939. With war now imminent he resolved to splash out on a Rolls-Royce, as he did not expect to survive. He also recorded that it was about this time that he lost a pupil, the only time this happened, when the pilot under instruction flew into the ground on a solo dive-bombing exercise.
After a short posting to the Fleet Air Arm Flying School he was posted on 19th October 1940 to the newly-formed 312 Squadron, composed of Czechoslovakian pilots with English commanders and operating Hurricanes from Speke. Their role was to intercept bombers attacking Liverpool. Although operational sorties were flown during his time with 312, no contact with the enemy was made. Ievers next posting is unclear but he can only have been there a matter of days as he answered a request for test pilots and in late November 1940 reported to the newly-formed High Altitude Flight at the Aircraft and Armament Experimental Establishment, Boscombe Down.
His testing career was mostly involved with experiments that would eventually lead to the introduction of pressurised cockpits and he records many flights at altitudes up to 40,000 feet plus at least one engine failure followed by a forced landing. Returning to Fighter Command, his next posting was to 257 Squadron at Coltishall on 28th July 1941. Their role was convoy protection over the North Sea. This posting was interrupted when he was offered command of a squadron in North Africa and he accepted, setting off on 3rd November. Travelling by Sunderland via Gibraltar, Malta and Cairo he arrived at the base of 80 Squadron on the 13th.
80 Squadron operated Hurricanes in the ground attack role and their job was to disrupt Rommel’s supply lines thus slowing his advance towards Cairo. On one sortie when Ievers was rested the formation was ambushed by Me109’s and his stand-in was shot down and killed.
On another occasion the squadron was returning from a successful attack and Ievers took up the high rear position himself in order to be able to detect a repeat ambush. Three Me109’s duly came down from a higher altitude but Ievers turned to meet them head-on. All three opened fire with cannons at a converging speed of over 500mph but the Hurricane came through unscathed and the Germans did not return.
80 Squadron moved forward as far as Tobruk in Libya before being withdrawn from service for re-equipping, Ievers, now a Squadron Leader, was sent to the Air Staff, Cairo on 23rd January 1942. Being seated behind a desk was not to his taste and he agitated for another flying posting. This was granted and he sailed on the SS Orestes in mid-February, bound for Rangoon. The city fell to the Japanese on 8th March and his ship cut short its voyage, docking at Colombo, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). No-one in authority knew what to do with these unexpected guests and Ievers found himself sent to Calcutta in India to test-fly aircraft assembled from parts shipped out from England. He had a near-fatal crash when one was assembled with the controls reversed.
He was kept in India for the remainder of his RAF service, serving on the staffs of 221, 222 and 224 Groups and on 20th August 1942 was appointed Acting Station Commander at RAF Kanchrapara. His final posting was to 320 MU at Karachi on 20th February 1943.
Late in 1943 he returned to the UK via South Africa and the Suez Canal, arriving in Liverpool. He was released from the RAF in 1944 and returned to Ireland, eventually settling at Mount Ievers, County Clare. An elder brother also served in the RAF but was killed in a road accident in 1939.
Ievers died on 21st November 1993.