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The Airmen's Stories - F/O C Warren

 

Born on the 15th November 1918 at Witham, Essex, Warren was educated at St Crispin School and the Royal Grammar School, Colchester.

Joining the RAF in January 1935, he attended No 1 School of Technical Training RAF Halton (31st entry), where he was promoted to Sergeant Apprentice (567853) passing out as an AC1 in December 1937 being qualified as an engineer/fitter airframes, coming 14th out of the intake.

He represented RAF Halton at Fencing and was Captain of the Squadron Rugby XV.

Charles Warren was awarded a Flight Cadetship to RAF College Cranwell in January 1938; he was promoted to Flight Cadet Sergeant and gained a College Blue for fencing. Amongst his fellow students on ‘B’ Squadron was Timothy Seddon Wildblood (who would like Warren be posted to 152 Squadron but sadly was to be killed in action on 25th August 1940).

The course was shortened due to war being declared and Warren was transferred to the RAFVR as an airman u/t Pilot on September 7th 1939, on 5 shillings a day. He then graduated to a Permanent Commission on October 1st, being posted on the same day to 152 Squadron which was reforming an establishment at Acklington.

Joining on the same day were P/O’s Shepley, Wildblood, Jones, Posner, Cox and Atkinson. The squadron would soon convert from Gladiators, Tutors and Harts to Spitfires under the command of W/Cdr Shute. (Unfortunately killed in February 1940 due to engine failure).

The squadron became operational on the 6th January 1940, and commenced patrols/scrambles off the north east coast. On the 12th July, the squadron was placed under 10 Group and moved to Warmwell in Dorset under the command of W/Cdr Devitt.

 

 

 

 The Battle of Britain officially commenced on the 10th of July 1940 and P/O Warren, along with the other pilots of 152    Squadron, was soon in the thick of it. He had, in fact, already taken part in nine ‘X raids’ (looking for unidentified enemy aircraft) and convoy patrols from the 1st to 15th July, mainly flying Spitfire P9440.

On the 16th July P/O Warren was scrambled ( flying Spitfire P9456) to intercept unknown enemy aircraft, his log book shows 3 Me109’s being chased by 3 Hurricanes, but he lost sight of them due to the extensive fog on that day.

At 1010 hours on the 18th July 1940, Yellow Section was ordered to patrol over Portland protecting a convoy passing through the Channel. Warren was flying as Yellow 3; with two other pilots from the section when they were set upon by a Staffel of Me109’s which dived through their formation. The following is taken from the Squadron Composite Combat Report sent to HQ Fighter Command later that day:-

40 Enemy Aircraft sighted flying west at 2000ft, section turned and followed in a line astern. At 1025 a Dornier 215* (Convoy Spotter) was sighted and Yellow Leader (P/O Hogg) was about to attack when the Dornier flashed a white signal. Yellow Leader moved slightly to port to identify then gave a burst from almost astern. Yellow 3 then warned that 2 Me 109’s had passed either side of him and heard an explosion as his port wing was hit. He turned and lost sight of his section, using cloud cover he returned to protect the convoy until relieved by Green Section. Yellow 2(P/O Bayles) prepared to follow Yellow Leader into the attack , heard Yellow 3’s warning and saw 3 Me109’s above and to his right. He took evasive action but E/A got on his tail and fired a short burst, Yellow 2 easily out-turned him. E/A broke off and climbed, Yellow 2 followed to 12000 ft but could not catch him and returned to convoy looking for Yellow Leader and Yellow 3 and was attacked by another Me109 which he evaded.
Yellow 3, seeing Yellow 1 and Yellow 2 breaking away right and left and no enemy fighters attacked the Do215 from astern and fired all his ammunition, opening at 300 and closing to 150 ft, saw no return fire or damage to the E/A which did a gentle turn into cloud and was lost.

* The Dornier 215 was often mistaken for a Dornier 17, on this day a Dornier 17M from Stab StG 77 failed to return from an operational sortie, Oblt Strecker, one NCO killed and one missing. P/O Hogg being credited for this (although Warren had expended all his ammunition into this aircraft he made no official claim).

Despite the damage to his own aircraft, F/O Warren managed to land his Spitfire P9640 safely at Warmwell at 1110hrs.

By the end of July he had amassed a total flying time of 364 hrs 20 mins (just 23 hrs 45 mins on Spitfires) The squadron at this time only having 10 serviceable aircraft with 20 pilots.

He took part in three more ’X Raids’ before the end of July but the squadron did not engage any enemy aircraft. Between the 1st and 6th August, P/O Warren participated in a further 6
‘X Raids’ again with no combats.

However the situation changed on Thursday August 8th, a convoy of 20 merchant ships escorted by 9 Royal Navy vessels (Convoy CW9 Peewit) were making their way through the English Channel during daybreak when they were attacked by E-Boats who sank three of the merchantmen.

This was followed by an all-out air assault by Luftflotte 3 with dive-bombers of Fliegerkorps VIII intent on destroying the convoy, protected by Me109’s from JG 27/JG53, and Me110’s from V/LG1 at Caen.

Squadrons all along the South Coast were scrambled to protect Convoy ‘Peewit’, 152 among them.
P/O Warren's logbook shows two convoy patrols that day, flying Spitfire P9432, each over 1 hour 50 minutes in the air, with no conclusive combats.

The convoy was decimated, out of the 20 ships ‘setting sail’, only four made it to Swanage.
Sgt Robinson and P/O Beaumont from 152 Squadron being shot down (landing unhurt) by Me109’s from II/JG53 during the tremendous dog-fighting involving over 150 Luftwaffe aircraft that day.

At 1015hrs on Sunday August 11th , P/O Warren was flying as Blue 1 in Spitfire P 9432, being one of four pilots of ‘A’ Flight scrambled from 152 Squadron (with 6 other Spitfires from ‘B’ Flight), to assist eight other squadrons who were ordered to intercept 165 German aircraft on their way to bomb and strafe Portland.

The bombers were from KG 54 and KG 27, with Me110’s from ZG2 and Me109’s from JG2 protecting them. This was the largest raid yet sent against England.

The massive ‘dog-fight’ took place at 23,000ft, and spread across the width of Weymouth Bay. The RAF were unable to get to the bombers, which finally got through and commenced their level bombing runs at 15,000ft setting the oil tanks on fire. Charles Warrens’ log book just shows he engaged Me109’s without seeing any results, the squadron ORB’s give a more detailed account:

Ten to fifteen miles off Swanage ten Me109’s were sighted in a dog-fight with another RAF Squadron. They reported this to control, but the Me109’s saw the four Spitfires from 152 coming at them and turned for their base in France. P/O Warren and another pilot chased these Me109’s towards the French coast but were unable to get an effective range to engage the enemy aircraft.

During the air-fighting, Yellow 2, (P/O Jones) was shot down between Portland and Swanage baling out and landing in the Channel. (his body later being recovered and buried in Sainte Marie Cemetery, Le Havre, France). Warren, in company with two other Spitfires from 152 were ordered up again (in company with Blenheims of 604 Squadron) to look for him.

They came across a sea rescue Heinkel He59B* (from Seenotzentrale Cherbourg) riding on the sea 30 miles off Cherbourg while recovering Luftwaffe airmen and protected by six circling Me109’s. The three Spitfires held off the Me109’s whilst the Blenheims destroyed the seaplane. There was no sighting of P/O Jones or his parachute.


*The He 59 was known as the ‘Red Cross’ aircraft, but RAF crews were ordered to attack them after increasing numbers were seen in the vicinity of convoys.

On Monday August 12th, Warren was scrambled for an ‘X’ Raid that saw him in the air for only 10 minutes according to the entry in his logbook. He was not involved in the large interception that took place later at 1145 hrs over St Catherines Point, Isle of Wight, when 12 Ju88’s were seen attacking the radar stations on the Isle of Wight. In this action Flt Lt Withall and P/O Shepley were killed.

The next day, the 13th August (known as Eagle Day) the Luftwaffe sent over a force of 135 bombers and fighters to destroy airfields in the South. Flt Lt Boitel-Gill led an attack of Spitfires from 152 Squadron on 30 Me110’s( from 1/ZG2) trying to form up with Ju88’s from KG54 at 15000ft over Portland.

(Only one Me 110 being shot down by F/O Hughes from 238 Squadron.)

In a two hour period Warren attacked three Me110’s, landing and refuelling between engagements, without any results being seen.

The next two days Warren was flying on patrols over Warmwell and taking part in further ‘X Raids’ along the coast, with no combats.

At 1240 hrs on Friday the 16th August, P/O Warren was one of 13 Spitfires on patrol from 152 Squadron at 15,000ft over the Isle of Wight. Eighty six RAF fighters in total had been ordered up to intercept over 300 Luftwaffe aircraft on their way to bomb airfields in the south, along with the radar stations.

Five ‘Stuka’ dive-bombers (from StG2) in the process of bombing the CH Station at Ventnor were intercepted by 152 Squadron. Evasive action by the enemy was so rapid that no pilot from 152 had any chance of opening fire or visualising the field of combat. There were also many more escorting Me109’s (from JG2) and Me110’s (from III/ZG76), only two 109’s being destroyed in this engagement. This attack by the Luftwaffe would put the CH Station out of action for the next 7 days.

Forty five Luftwaffe aircraft in all were shot down for the loss of half this number by the RAF. This was the day that Flt Lt Nicholson of 249 Squadron won the Victoria Cross by staying with his burning Hurricane long enough to shoot down a Me110 over Gosport.

The next day Warren was back in the air looking for reconnaissance aircraft without success.

On Sunday the 18th August he was flying Spitfire P9432, one of 11 from 152 ordered to patrol over Portsmouth at 1400hrs.

Poling CH Radar Station had picked up on their screens a large formation of aircraft that were headed in their direction. These turned out to be over 150 Ju87’s with escorting Me109’s that were intent on destroying both Poling and Thorney Island Radar Stations.

At 1430hrs, Flt Lt Boitel-Gill led his eleven Spitfires in line astern over the Isle of Wight, the whole squadron engaging 30 of the Stukas (from 1/StG77) at sea level as they were on their way back to their bases.

P/O ‘Boy’ Marrs from 152 was later to report that ‘we dived on them and they dropped down to 100ft above the water, then followed a running chase out to sea’. Marrs was to claim one of the Stukas as destroyed before running out of ammunition. In all 152 Squadron claimed 10 Ju87’s and 1 Me109 destroyed in this combat.

P/O Warren's next sortie was on Wednesday 21st August when the Luftwaffe sent over scattered raids on a wide front. Warren records in his log-book that he intercepted a Ju88, this may have been one of the lone raiders that 238 Squadron were sent to intercept over St Eval from Kampfgr 806.

At this time Red Section with P/O’s Cox, Hogg and Holmes were patrolling the Swanage area when they saw a Ju88 at 4000ft just west of the Needles. All three made an attack line astern and saw smoke come from the enemy aircraft’s port engine forcing it down to sea level where it eventually crashed into the sea.

On Thursday 22nd August at 1717 hrs, blue section of 152 were ordered to fly at 25,000ft to look for two Ju88’s 10 miles south of Portland.

The Luftwaffe sent over small groups of aircraft during the early evening having failed in their attempts to destroy the convoy codenamed ‘Totem’ during the day.

P/O Watson flying as Blue 2 became separated from the others and having climbed to 25000ft then spotted and attacked one of two Ju88’s, seeing pieces fly off its port engine following it down to 5000ft.

Warren was flying as Blue 3, with P/O Marrs as Blue 1, when they saw the other Ju88 which they attacked off the coast at Portland. Although they did not see it crash the Observer Corps reported seeing a Dornier 17* in the sea. Marrs and Warren were awarded a ‘shared’ kill.

*Only one Dornier 17 was recorded lost this day from 1/KG2, all crew being killed.

On Saturday 24th August, 152 was sent up to 25000 ft in order to intercept about 50 Ju88’s of LG 1 approaching the Isle of Wight. Warren records this as an attack on Southampton in his log-book.

This was the day that the Luftwaffe had devoted to the destruction of RAF Fighter Command. No losses to 152 were recorded but in all the RAF lost 16 aircraft to the Luftwaffe’s 20.

Warren was again flying the next day, the 25th, as nearly 300 aircraft were plotted by Ventnor Radar Station heading towards Weymouth Bay. These consisted of Ju88’s from II/KG51 and II/KG54, protected by Me110’s from I/ZG2 and II/ZG2 and V/LG1. They were on their way to bomb Portland, Weymouth and Warmwell airfield.

Twelve aircraft from 152 Squadron were ordered up around 1700hrs just before the airfield was bombed at 1720 hrs. The squadron were soon in the thick of many dog-fights, the ORB for the day recording 20 Ju88’s, 30 Me110’s and 40 Me109’s being encountered west of Portland.

Four claims of aircraft destroyed by 152 were made that day, Warren recording that he engaged a Ju88. Sadly his old Cranwell colleague P/O Wildblood was killed, along with P/O RM Hogg during the late afternoon.

Monday 26th August was the day that Goering had decided to attack airfields in the 11 Group area. There being three main attacks that day and it was Warmwell's turn at about 1600 hrs when 50 He111’s of KG 55 accompanied by 107 Me109’s and 110’s bombed Portsmouth en route.

Keith Park ordered up 8 Squadrons to intercept them, 152 amongst them. P/O Warren records in his log having to land at Farnborough later that day.

The next day 152 were sent up to try and locate reconnaissance aircraft reported in their area, Warren records flying at 10,000ft over Warmwell.

During the Battle of Britain Flying Officer Warren took part in over 50 ‘scrambles’ and many patrols. He was promoted to Flying Officer on the 1st October 1940.

In late 1940 he volunteered to fly Lysander aircraft from North Weald being involved in clandestine work before being posted to 12 OTU Benson as an instructor to Polish pilots converting to Fairey Battles.

Within a short time he was transferred to Bomber Command and sent to 15 OTU Harwell as an instructor on Wellington Bombers. On the 1st October 1941 he was promoted to Flt Lieutenant and took part in the second ‘1000 Bomber Raid’ on Germany (Dussledorf) and was Mentioned in Dispatches (LG 1.1.43).

On the 15th October 1942 he was posted to No 466 Squadron RAAF which had just been formed at Driffield as a medium bomber unit flying Wellington aircraft under the control of 4 Group. He was given the rank of Acting Squadron Leader and became a Flight Commander, their first ‘Ops’ being minelaying off the Frisian Islands and then to the Ruhr during 1943.

At the end of his tour Warren was awarded the DFC on 19.9.43, the citation reading;

‘Following an arduous operational tour during the Battle of Britain he changed to Bomber Aircraft during which as Flight Commander displayed considerable skill and courage whilst on operational sorties to some of the most heavily defended objectives. He is a cool and courageous pilot, who by his personal example has sustained the high morale and fighting spirit of the flight’.

Warren was then sent back instructing to No 19 Whitley OTU Forres, a satellite airfield on Kinloss, located on Lady Gordon-Cummings estate. On one occasion he had to entertain Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands for three days as his plane was delayed.

Although enjoying himself on his days off clay-shooting, and with his Staffordshire bull terrier, Pete, (who would sit on the petrol tank of Warrens BSA motor bike!), he objected to this posting and was, in turn, sent to No 2 Overseas Dispatch Unit at St Mawgan and then to Merryfield.

This was followed by a posting as a Flight Commander of 243 Squadron which was being formed with tour-expired RAF and RAAF crews. These crews were being converted to fly Dakotas in order to join the parent squadron, No 268, at Camden near Sydney, Australia.

The role of the squadron was to support the British Pacific Fleet, which entailed flights throughout the Pacific area to such places as New Guinea, Borneo and the Phillipines. Their aircraft had to be collected at Dorval, Canada and flown via the USA, Hawaii, and New Zealand to Australia.

Just before VJ Day, Warren and another Squadron Leader joined the Pacific Fleet at Leyte for the relief of Hong Kong.

They were with a small landing party from the aircraft carrier HMS ‘Indomitable’ to take over Kai Tak from the Japanese.


After the disbandment of 243 Squadron, Warren was sent with four crews and aircraft to the British Commonwealth Air Force HQ, Iwakuni, Japan to form No 1315 communication Flight with Austers and Dakotas.

He was acting Station Commander responsible for all flying activities including Air-Sea Rescue. He became the personal pilot to Air Vice-Marshal ‘Boy’ Bouchier who was Deputy to General McArthur. For these services he was awarded the MBE (LG 12.6.47). Whilst in Japan he met and later married Bettina Vernon, a professional contemporary dancer in the style of Gertrud Bodenwieser.

On returning to the UK in 1947 he was posted to Transport Command at Bushey and then in 1948 being appointed Air Accident Officer for the Berlin Air Lift operating from Buckeburg and Luneberg gaining a further Mention in Dispatches.

After the airlift he spent several years as a Squadron Leader and then promoted to Wing Commander at Initial Training Schools. His final appointment was Officer Commanding 288 Squadron at Middle Wallop, this being the last piston-engined aircraft squadron in RAF service flying Balliols.

At about 7pm on Monday 22nd October 1956, W/C Warren was the pilot of a Ballioi Mk T2 aircraft (Serial No WG 184) on a night training flight over Middle Wallop with a former Polish Battle of Britain pilot, Master Pilot Miroslaw Wojciechowski, as his co-pilot.

Flying at the same time in a Chipmunk aircraft (operated by Air Services Ltd) was F/O Htay Maung from the Burmese Air Force, who was studying for his airline transport pilot’s licence. The two aircraft collided at 1500 ft at Charity Down on the edge of RAF Middle Wallop, all three taking to their parachutes. Sadly, Master Pilot Wojciechowski was killed as his parachute had only partly deployed.

Wing Commander Warren was cleared of any blame in the subsequent enquiry, which concluded that the accident had been caused by the divergence of regulations governing civil and military flying, in that the Chipmunk was flying within the airfield traffic zone.

W/C Warren decided to take early retirement at the end of 1957, when he took up a career in personal management with the Beecham Group and British Oxygen, along with several other large corporations. He also co-wrote a book with his wife regarding her dancing career whilst living in retirement at Fulmer, Bucks.

He died on 19th October 2005, and was cremated at Slough Crematorium on the 2nd Novembe, with his ashes being interred alongside his wife’s at Fulmer Churchyard, Bucks.

©Simon Muggleton 2005 who writes: I am indebted to Wing Commander Warren for the use of his log-book (prior to his death) and confirming the facts of his RAF career.

 

Grateful thanks must also go to the following:-

Mr Danny Burt - researcher and Historian of 152 Squadron for the information from the Squadron ORB’s and Combat Reports, along with photographs.

Flt Lt Denis Norman Robinson 152 Squadron (thanks for copies of photos)

W/C ‘Tommy’ Thomas 152 Squadron.

S/Ldr Edward Deanesley DFC 152 squadron.

F/Lt Edward Marsh 152 Squadron.

Flt Lt ‘Sammy’ Hall DFC 152 Squadron.

 

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