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Author Topic: Terror Raid On Ashford 1943  (Read 20161 times)

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Offline Steve56

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Re: Terror Raid On Ashford 1943
« Reply #31 on: August 19, 2017, 12:56:03 »
Kevin Harris and John CB

I noticed that you guys were shown on here as guests. Hopefully this message will still find you both. I am writing a book about Kent during the Second World War, and was researching the raid on Ashford on 24 March 1943, and came across your chat exchange on the Forum. I would like to include the information about the part your fathers played that day in the book if you are agreeable.

If you are happy to reply on the Forum that's cool, if you require an e-mail address for correspondence, just let me know.

Cheers

Steve

Kevin Harris

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Re: Terror Raid On Ashford 1943
« Reply #30 on: December 31, 2013, 14:51:21 »
John,

Sorry for the extreme delay in response. I have been checking with my older brother and the bridge that housed the machine gun was actually a railway bridge, we are researching this at present but it may no longer be in existence. My brother remembers my father showing us the triangular supports that housed the gun which was on one of the tracks between Godinton Road and the town.
Will let you know what we find.
Regards,
Kevin.

JOHN CB

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Re: Terror Raid On Ashford 1943
« Reply #29 on: September 24, 2013, 13:59:08 »
Hi Kevin Harris,
Very pleased to receive your information regarding the raid and your father.
I would be very pleased if we can help each other with the project.
I have just returned from a few days away so am busy today so please take this brief acknowledgement of your post.
There appear to be several accounts of the raid which appear to confirm most of what my father told me and wrote down. We may be able to discover more information and perhaps piece together an accurate account.
The facts I am sure about at this time are that my dad did man an anti-aircraft gun in the Ashford on that day and honestly believed he shot down a German fighter. The aircraft crashed in a field near to a school and the pilot wore a "gold" Iron Cross.  This claim was not confirmed at the time because he was alone on his guns.

My brother thinks that Dad told him that his guns were mounted on a structure made of railway sleepers, I can`t confirm this but presume this does not tie up with your Dads account of the gun being mounted on the bridge?
I will have to close this for today but trust we may be able to continue soon and perhaps have a telephone conversation in the future.
Regards
John Bowman

Kevin Harris

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Re: Terror Raid On Ashford 1943
« Reply #28 on: September 24, 2013, 10:37:31 »
John CB (John Bowman) - Just catching up with your info including your father's action during the 1943 terror raid on Ashford. My late father, Michael Harris was working in the railway works at the time of the raid in which his friend was killed, my father always felt guilty about not saving his life. My Dad has shown me the metal plates on the bridge over the River Stour where the gun was mounted that shot the Paul Keller's FW190, apparently exploding the plane as it was dropping the bomb. My Gran lived at no. 6 Barrow Hill Terrace at the time and showed me where they found the dead pilot and parts of the plane in a the field behind her house. I am currently seeking info from and an archived KM feature that mentions my Dad along with other info about this raid. My main interest is in the people involved in this event, I wonder what would have happened if the FW190 had not been hit, perhaps more casualties including my father. I have also been looking at the history of Paul Keller and he sounds like a very brave pilot. Would be good to piece together all the info to create an accurate picture.
Regards,
Kevin Harris.

Offline peterchall

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Re: Terror Raid On Ashford 1943
« Reply #27 on: March 18, 2013, 11:09:15 »
German military organisation under the Nazi regime was nothing if not complicated! Much of it was due to inter-service rivalry.
I find it amazing that after all these years we are finding this information
On 15th September 1940 I watched a German bomber crash in The Chase, Chatham.
72 years later, via this forum, I found out the aircraft's unit, where it was based, the ranks and names of its crew, accounts of its last flight and, I believe, who shot it down.
What a simple question on KHF can reveal is amazing :)
It's no use getting old if you don't get artful

Offline Paolo

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Re: Terror Raid On Ashford 1943
« Reply #26 on: March 18, 2013, 10:32:06 »
John CB - No wonder you're confused!  So was I on reading this Wikipedia entry!

The German Cross (German: Deutsches Kreuz) was instituted by Adolf Hitler on 17 November 1941. It was awarded in two divisions. It was awarded in gold for repeated acts of bravery or achievement in combat and silver for distinguished non-combat war service. The German Cross in gold ranked higher than the Iron Cross First Class but below the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross, while the German Cross in silver ranked higher than the War Merit Cross First Class with Swords but below the Knight's Cross of the War Merit Cross with Swords

JOHN CB

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Re: Terror Raid On Ashford 1943
« Reply #25 on: March 18, 2013, 09:02:03 »
Thanks Peter,
I think there can be little doubt that the raid in which my father was a gunner in Ashford was the one of 24th. March 1943.
The details of the story as told to myself and brother by our father fit the accounts so closely that it can be no other.

When I spoke to my brother yesterday one thing he told me that I did not remember was that the pilot was wearing an iron cross, but thought Dad said it was a gold one. I dismissed this thinking it was an Iron Cross with a gold border, I then reread the reports on this forum and saw that Paul Keller had been the holder of a gold Iron Cross. I was unaware that such a thing existed.

I find it amazing that after all these years we are finding this information
Regards
John.





Offline peterchall

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Re: Terror Raid On Ashford 1943
« Reply #24 on: March 17, 2013, 23:01:29 »
10/JG26 was re-equipped with FW190's by the end of 1942:

Caption reads 'FW190A-4 of 10(Jabo)/JG26, based at St Omer-Wizernes, autumn 1942.
From 'Hitler's Luftwaffe'
It's no use getting old if you don't get artful

JOHN CB

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Re: Terror Raid On Ashford 1943
« Reply #23 on: March 17, 2013, 21:52:33 »
I have just spoken to my brother who now lives in Canada. He is 12 years younger than I but remembers a lot of what our father told him.
Just a few points that I had missed.
*   The Vickers guns were mounted on top of a structure built from railway sleepers.
*   One railway worker was still alive but had all his clothes blown off during the attack.
*   My brother remember dad telling him he thought it was pay day as there was a lot of paper money blowing about.
*   The pilot killed was very young but was wearing a "gold" Iron Cross.

My brother said that father also told him that the aircraft were in line across with different types of aircraft on each end of the line, they looked new. (This confirmed, I think, what he told me. A line of ME109 with FW190 at each end. 

I remember dad telling me that the FW190's were a new aircraft and because of this assumed that the raid he experienced must have been earlier in the war, I believe now that I misunderstood this and he actually was saying that the aircraft themselves were brand new.

I am just recording what we were told as we remember it being told to us by our dad. He written report will follow as soon as possible and then I will record all of the memories in a more structured way, thanks for your interest.
Regards
John Bowman

JOHN CB

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Re: Terror Raid On Ashford 1943
« Reply #22 on: March 17, 2013, 14:42:28 »
I have just spoken to my brother who now lives in Canada. He is 12 years younger than I but remembers a lot of what our father told him.
Just a few points that I had missed.
*   The Vickers guns were mounted on top of a structure built from railway sleepers.
*   One railway worker was still alive but had all his clothes blown off during the attack.
*   My brother remember dad telling him he thought it was pay day as there was a lot of paper money blowing about.
*   The pilot killed was very young but was wearing an "Iron Cross".

My brother said that father also told him that the aircraft were in line across with different types of aircraft on each end of the line, they looked new. (This confirmed, I think, what he told me. A line of ME109 with FW190 at each end. 

I remember dad telling me that the FW190's were a new aircraft and because of this assumed that the raid he experienced must have been earlier in the war, I believe now that I misunderstood this and he actually was saying that the aircraft themselves were brand new.

I am just recording what we were told as we remember it being told to us by our dad. He written report will follow as soon as possible and then I will record all of the memories in a more structured way, thanks for your interest.
Regards
John Bowman

Offline peterchall

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Re: Terror Raid On Ashford 1943
« Reply #21 on: March 17, 2013, 00:08:45 »
The information I have used came from a chapter in 'Hitler’s Luftwaffe' dealing with the day fighters in the west in the years 1941 to 1943. It quotes the order of battle for JG26 at an unspecified date and, for completeness, here it is in full (the figures refer to aircraft on strength and aircraft serviceable):

Stab/JG 26   FW190A-2   5 (3)
I/JG26      FW190A-2   29 (13)
II/JG26   FW190A-2   31 (19)
III/JG26   FW190A-2   30 (15)
10(Jabo)/JG26    Bf109F-4/B   12 (10).

Thus it seems that 10/JG26, commanded by Paul Keller, was an independent fighter-bomber Staffel, the other Staffeln, 1 to 9, being part of I, II and III/JG26, as previously noted.

Cross referencing other parts of the book shows that the Bf109F was still in service in the west in June 1942 but had been replaced by the end of the year, so the order of battle quoted above must have applied to a single day in the latter half of 1942. The replacement type was the FW190 or the Bf109G, but there is no indication of which was issued to JG26.

But 10/JKG26 cannot have been the only fighter-bomber (Jabo) staffel, because:
1.   On 31st October 1942, 30 FW190 fighter-bombers escorted by 60 FW190 fighters made a devastating daylight raid on Canterbury, the force being supplied by JG2 and JG26 (It must have taken every serviceable aircraft they had, leaving nothing in France for defence!)
2.   On 30th January 1943, 28 FW190 fighter-bombers made a low level raid against London. 6 of them split-off to make a diversionary attack on Maidstone, allowing the others to get through unopposed to drop 22 bombs on SE London, one of which hit a school at Lewisham, still occupied by the children!
'Blitz on Britain', by Alfred Price

Perhaps this is not related directly to the Ashford raid, but is information that could provide a useful background.
It's no use getting old if you don't get artful

JOHN CB

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Re: Terror Raid On Ashford 1943
« Reply #20 on: March 16, 2013, 18:03:37 »
Peter thanks for that information,
I hope to be able to post his note book report soon and yes I believe you are spot on with the guns excellent web page.
He did tell me that the RAF wanted to poach him as a tail gunner but discretion proved the better of valour!
Regards
John

Offline peterchall

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Re: Terror Raid On Ashford 1943
« Reply #19 on: March 16, 2013, 16:16:26 »
Your father’s guns were almost certainly Vickers K guns, used earlier in the war as ‘free’ guns in RAF aircraft, and also popular with the Special Forces (SAS). See:
http://www.vickersmachinegun.org.uk/kgun-no1.htm

With regard to whether Paul Keller was shot down by him or someone else, it is likely to have been a bit of each. It is no disrespect to your father to say that every gunner who fired at Keller’s aircraft would have claimed it.

It would be interesting to know what AA defences Ashford had. The planes were certainly too low for heavy AA guns (3.7” and 4.5”), even if there were any present, and probably too low for any 40mm Bofors, except perhaps as Keller pulled up into a climbing turn – a stupid thing to do without reason, such as being damaged. The next level of defence would have been ‘manually operated’ guns, such as 20mm Oerlikons and machine guns, however many they were.

And there seems no other information on the other raider reported in Front Line County to have been shot down.


It's no use getting old if you don't get artful

JOHN CB

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Re: Terror Raid On Ashford 1943
« Reply #18 on: March 16, 2013, 14:55:07 »
With regard to Paolo's last post.
I am starting to be more sure that the raid of 24th March, 1943 was the one in which my father was a gunner in the railway yard.
He always told me that the aircraft he shot down crashed in a school playing field. However if Paul Keller received a direct hit whilst in a wide climbing turn it makes it unlikely that it was the result of my fathers Vickers guns.
Dad told me that his guns were either from or the same as those in a Sunderland flying boat, mounted on a device which allowed free movement.

I hope that we may one day find photographs of the gunners at Ashford.

 I understand that we are in the very early stages of my research and should not jump to conclusions, I will post his written  report when I receive it from my sister, however I am thinking that he may have scored hits on one of the aircraft and it optimistically assumed that it was the one (Paul Keller) that crashed into the school playing field.
In the meanwhile thank you all for you input.
John Bowman

Offline peterchall

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Re: Terror Raid On Ashford 1943
« Reply #17 on: March 16, 2013, 11:39:30 »
To set the record straight, in my previous post I should have written ‘Gruppen’ instead of ‘Staffeln’ - apologies

The largest unit having a single role was the Geschwader, hence JG for Jagdgeschwader (Fighter Geschwader). This was divided into 3 or 4 Gruppen, indicated by Roman numerals, thus II/JG26.

Then each Gruppen was divided into 3 or 4 Staffeln of (usually) 9 or 12 aircraft, depending on the role. The Staffeln were designated by Arabic numerals, numbered in sequence throughout the Geschwader, hence I/JG26 might have consisted of Staffeln 1, 2 and 3; II/JG26 consisted of Staffeln 4, 5,and 6, and so on.

Because of this system it was not necessary to quote both the Gruppe and the Staffel. II/JG26 referred to the whole of the Gruppe, but if referring just to the Staffel, the designation 8/JG26 would be used, for example – it would normally be part of III/JG26.

Hence if Keller was in command of 10/JG26 on the date of the raid, it was probably part of III/JG26 and I/JG26 and/or II/JG26 must have had more than 3 Staffeln, because there was no IV/JG26 (According to Hitler’s Luftwaffe anyway).

Does that clarify or confuse the issue?
It's no use getting old if you don't get artful

 

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