Another British Ace dies

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Another British Ace dies

Post by Andy H » 12 Jun 2003 17:53

From yesterdays Daily Telegraph
James Sandeman-Allen
(Filed: 10/06/2003)


James Sandeman-Allen, who has died aged 83, was the top-scoring fighter pilot over Malaya and Singapore as they fell to the Japanese in February 1942, and was among the last of the handful of surviving Hurricane fighter pilots to get out of Singapore in time.

"Sandy", as he was known to his friends, always remained sad that, over the years, the feats of the "Few" in the Battle of Britain completely overshadowed the exploits - and the losses - of those who fought so valiantly against overwhelming odds in defence of Britain's colonies in the Far East.

An RAF Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR) sergeant pilot, Sandeman-Allen had become top scorer, with a tally of at least seven Japanese aircraft, when finally he took off under fire from enemy troops as they arrived to occupy his airfield in Singapore.

With the airfield under constant attack, Sandeman-Allen's difficulties had been compounded by the refusal of Malay and Chinese labourers to fill in the craters; as a result, groundcrew and fellow pilots had had to manhandle his Hurricane over the crater holes. There were also frustrations caused by red tape.

On February 9, only days before the surrender of Singapore, Sandeman-Allen had returned from combat at low level only to be reprimanded for low flying during the afternoon siesta.

On February 14, when he finally left for Sumatra in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia), he had been on Singapore for less than a fortnight.

His escape to Sumatra followed an encounter over Singapore on February 7 1942 in which he had surprised three Japanese army bombers. He set one of the enemy aircraft on fire, killing its gunner, and managed to damage the other two before being driven off by Zero fighters.

Having reached Sumatra, from where increasingly feeble resistance continued for a time, Sandeman-Allen occupied himself strafing landing barges and advancing Japanese troops. By the time British resistance had petered out, he had destroyed two more Zeros.

In a final engagement, Sandeman-Allen's Hurricane was riddled with cannon shells and bullets, and he was wounded in the head and in one leg; he was forced to land, and immediately requested a cup of tea.

Sandeman-Allen's hand was shaking so badly that, as he put it, "the cup stirred itself". But thus fortified, and disregarding his wounds, he took off once more. When the situation became hopeless, he was offered a seat in a Dutch KLM Lodestar airliner bound for Australia.

On boarding this aircraft, Sandeman-Allen was incensed to find that fleeing Dutch colonials had stuffed the cabin with personal effects. Drawing his revolver, he insisted that they removed their possessions to make room for wounded RAF personnel. The Lodestar finally took off from a road used as a makeshift runway, and safely made its way to Perth, Western Australia.

After his wounds had been treated, Sandeman-Allen sought to return to Britain, and was put in charge of a party of boisterous Australian trainee aircrew on the long voyage home. On his battledress he sported the ribbon of his DFM, which he had been awarded for his valour in the Far East, and this helped to reinforce his authority.

James Sandeman-Allen, the son of a Lloyd's underwriter, was born on November 15 1919 at Bromley, Kent, and educated at Hydneye House preparatory school at St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex, and King's School, Canterbury.

Although he went on to be awarded a cadetship at Sandhurst, he decided to resign before receiving a commission. He was then accepted for a commission in the RAFVR and for pilot training. At this point, however, the authorities apparently mislaid his papers, putting his training in doubt.

Although this was a disappointment, Sandeman-Allen enlisted as an AC2 (aircraftman second class) and, successfully defying all attempts to classify him as an air-gunner, he was accepted for a pilot's course.

Training completed, he sailed for West Africa in the battleship Prince of Wales (later to be sunk off Malaya) and, having reached the RAF station at Takoradi, was ordered to fly a Hurricane across Africa to Khartoum, in the Sudan. At one refuelling and rest stop, he awoke to find a giraffe poking its head into the Hurricane's cockpit.

From Khartoum, Sandeman-Allen flew up to Cairo, where he chanced upon friends serving with No 32 Squadron. He successfully organised a posting to join them as they were ferried from Suez to the Far East in the aircraft carrier Indomitable. The prospect of his first deck take-off, en route to reinforce Singapore, was daunting; but Sandeman-Allen managed it, before going on to prove himself as a fighter pilot.

Following his return home, Sandeman-Allen had a short spell, in the spring of 1943, as a flight sergeant in No 56, a Typhoon fighter-bomber squadron, before moving to No 182 Squadron on his promotion to warrant officer.

On June 30 1943, as Sandeman-Allen attacked an enemy flak (anti-aircraft) train in France at low level, a Bofors shell exploded in the right side of his cockpit, shattering his leg and his right arm.

Contriving to fly with his left arm, while setting the rudder against his useless leg, Sandeman-Allen turned for home. He later recalled: "The ends of the bones in my arm grinding together started to give excruciating pain, and this stopped me from nodding off in the sunshine from the loss of blood.

"I spent the trip across the Channel trying with great difficulty to persuade myself that it was wiser to stay with the aircraft and fly home, rather than drop into the sea."

Fortunately, he was able with great difficulty to keep control of the Typhoon. As he arrived home, and careered along the runway at Tangmere, in Sussex, an ambulance and fire tender raced alongside his aircraft.

Two groundcrew were lifting Sandeman-Allen clear when his right flying boot fell off, spilling blood and causing one of his helpers to pass out and fall off the wing; the man thus joined him in the ambulance.

Six months later, although still on crutches, Sandeman-Allen resumed operations with his squadron. Rested after further combat, he was posted to qualify as an instructor, but the requirement to fly at higher altitudes aggravated his wounds, and he was referred to Archie McIndoe, the wartime consultant in plastic surgery to the RAF at the Queen Victoria Hospital at East Grinstead in Sussex.

Sandeman-Allen was fixed up and invalided from the Service. He later qualified as a chartered accountant, going on to practise in the West Country.

Never forgetting what he owed to McIndoe, Sandeman-Allen became a member of the Guinea Pig Club, the association of burned and smashed-up airmen who were treated at East Grinstead during the Second World War.

Becoming treasurer and secretary and, effectively, chief executive, of the club following the death in 1994 of the founding chief Guinea Pig, Group Captain Tom Gleave, Sandeman-Allen managed the club's funds superbly: he enabled the club to donate large sums to the Blond-McIndoe Centre for Burns Research and the RAF Benevolent Fund, while retaining sufficient financial resources to continue to help Guinea Pigs in need. For this, and his charity work, he was appointed MBE.

Sandeman-Allen also devoted himself to charitable causes in the West Country, particularly the Abbeyfield Trust. He was a freemason, prominent in the Three Pillars Lodge, serving variously as treasurer and master. For relaxation he enjoyed golf, and was twice captain of the Churston Golf Club.

Sandy Sandeman-Allen, who died on May 21, married, in 1943, Joan Burton; they had a son and a daughter.

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Post by AHLF » 12 Jun 2003 18:56

Remarkable story. But what keeps surprising me over and over, is the fact that British aces (and allied in general) never got even close to the results of their german colleagues.

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Post by daveh » 12 Jun 2003 21:13

I know that the Luftwaffe did not operate a system of "tours" either sorties or flying hours as did the Allies. The kill rate per sortie of Allied aces was often equal to that of Luftwaffe aces but they flew far fewer sorties so overall totals were lower.

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Post by Lord Gort » 12 Jun 2003 22:11

The RAF and USAF did not operate against airplanes or the inferiority inherent generally in Soviet aircraft ealy in the war, or against the paper tiger airforces of Yugoslavia, Poland or France etc etc




regards,

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Post by Redbaron1908 » 12 Jun 2003 22:31

More and more of thse veterans are going everyday, I watched a tv show that said that here in the US about 1,500 veterans died each day. Does anyone know the statistics for the number of veterans that die in Britain?

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Post by AHLF » 13 Jun 2003 15:28

Lord Gort wrote:The RAF and USAF did not operate against airplanes or the inferiority inherent generally in Soviet aircraft ealy in the war, or against the paper tiger airforces of Yugoslavia, Poland or France etc etc




regards,


Yes, but all of us must remeber that the best german aces (experten) of the western front, such as Priller, Galland and Marseille( and more), had over 100 victories!!! Among the allies in general, the best ace was Ivan Kozhedub, with sixty-two victories only!
So how can you explain that?

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Post by daveh » 13 Jun 2003 16:12

A mere listing of kills is obvoiusly not the "fairest" way of assessing comparative fighter aces given the differences in sorties flown for example.

Would kills per sortie be a better way of assessing the skill of an ace pilot?

Perhaps with some allowance for the effectiveness of the opposition?

There are reports of US pilots meeting Japanese air formations whose pilots were seemingly barely able to fly level never mind manoeuvre. Similarly for the Germans against some soviet formations and Western Allies against late war German pilots.

Better equipment would obviously help but remember Finnish scores against the soviets while using eg Fokker D XXI, and Brewster Buffalo

Should any other "balancing factors" be included?

I know studies have been made to try to assess combat effectiveness of ground troops eg by T Dupuy has anything similar been tried for fighter aces?

Has anyone tried to produce a comparative listing of the above factors ? Would such a listing be usable or feasable?

thoughts please

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Post by Harri » 13 Jun 2003 18:23

daveh wrote:A mere listing of kills is obvoiusly not the "fairest" way of assessing comparative fighter aces given the differences in sorties flown for example.
Would kills per sortie be a better way of assessing the skill of an ace pilot?


I think the results would still be about the same...

daveh wrote:Perhaps with some allowance for the effectiveness of the opposition?


How can we know what was the effectiveness of the opposition? We can only see the results.

daveh wrote:There are reports of US pilots meeting Japanese air formations whose pilots were seemingly barely able to fly level never mind manoeuvre. Similarly for the Germans against some soviet formations and Western Allies against late war German pilots.


Soviet pilots could for sure fly but inexperience and poor straight-from-the-book tactics were the main reasons for their bad results. I think they may have also suffered from mechanical problems and lack of spare parts. In 1944 new German pilots were as weak as you describe and where shot down at once when they met enemy fighters (including Soviets, if they were willing to fight).

Just red the Finnish versions of two German books: Peter Wilhelm Stahl's "Kampfflieger zwischen Eismeer und Sahara" (Motorbuch Verlage) which is about German Ju 88 bomber pilots and their conversion to fighter pilots later in 1944 and Johannes Kaufmann's "Meine Flugberichte 1935 - 1945" (Journal Schwend, 1989) which is about training of German pilots and his career as Me 110 ground attack pilot and their conversion to one engine fighter pilots also in 1944. These books reveal that German pilot training was intensive and complete in the 1930's. Training was very long and only the best were selected for further training. By 1944 the situation was another: training was short and almost all volunteers were accepted for training, technical and tactical advantages were gone etc.

At the beginning of WW II Germans had both tactical and educational advantage over their enemies. I think they were technically equal to British for example but ahead of Frenchs and Soviets. Soviets never achieved German's technically but their pilots were later more experienced and their tactics improved. British and Americans had both numerical and technical advantage over Germans. Their pilots had also better training than Germans later in war.

If we look late war German pilots how many of them ended their career as aces? Most German pilots were aces because they had flown a very long time (Galland since Spanish Civil War). Only a few pilots scored their figures during a short period, but there were pilots like Erich Hartmann.

daveh wrote:Better equipment would obviously help but remember Finnish scores against the soviets while using eg Fokker D XXI, and Brewster Buffalo


Fokker D.XXI and Brewster B-239 were probably not the best planes available in 1939 and 1941 but the pilots who flew these were. Also Finnish tactics adopted partly from Germans in the late 30's was one of the best in the world. Both mentioned planes had characteristics which were unique makind them very capable fighters in the right hands. Knowing these specialities and also weaknesses was very important because enemy usually didn't know these.

Fokker D.XXI was a very stable MG mount unlike Soviet Polikarpov fighters and it could dive faster than any Soviet fighter. Although rather clumsy, slowly and demanding to fly it was also a very sturdy and reliable plane. Brewster was a real fighter aircraft with easy flying characters. It was heavy, stable, well armoured and armed and had a very long range but it was also sturdy and reliable and could dive like Fokker. Finnish fighter tactics was the best "medicine" which gave the advantage over Soviet bomber and fighter pilots.

daveh wrote:Should any other "balancing factors" be included?


Effective Radio Intelligence was very important, also radars together with guidance (leading) systems.

daveh wrote:I know studies have been made to try to assess combat effectiveness of ground troops eg by T Dupuy has anything similar been tried for fighter aces?


I don't know but I consider personal characters of the pilots to a very important factor. Although all pilots could fly others were just better than the others for some mystique reason(s).

daveh wrote:Has anyone tried to produce a comparative listing of the above factors ? Would such a listing be usable or feasable?


Good luck in this work...

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