CHARLES, Alan Ronald


rank: W/O
status: survived
airforce: RAF    (no: 1602726 )
born: 1924-09-06 Thornton Heath United Kingdom

added by: Kevin Charles

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Bio / Text:

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See links on right for some fantastic reading. Here is an excerpt:

My father Alan Charles flew the fighter bomber version of the Spitfire in Italy, here is his story.
Bellaria Italy 20th March 1945.

Our flight of 6 aircraft was ordered to attack barges on the River Po, but didn’t find any. However on the nearby river Adige we found 6 barges and my wingman and I were told to attack 2 of them that were hidden under some trees.
As I released the bomb I was hit by 20mm anti-aircraft fire. There was a big bang under the engine, and I climbed away quickly. The engine was still running sweetly, but one of the others spotted a glycol leak, so I headed back home. The leak got worse and I was leaving a big white trail of coolant. The engine temperature started to rise alarmingly, but I managed to nurse the aircraft back to the coast, when the wingman escorting me announced I was on fire. I immediately turned out to sea. There was a lot black smoke coming from the engine and the cockpit was getting very warm. So I left the aircraft smartly.

As I floated down I heard gunfire and thought that they were shooting at my wingman. It was only when I saw him in the distance that I realized they were shooting at me. I partially collapsed the parachute to get down quickly, and ended up in the sea tangled in the parachute lines. Eventually I managed to untangle myself and get into the dinghy and tried to paddle out to sea, but had one of the parachute lines still wrapped around my foot, so I wasn’t going anywhere fast. It all went quiet, so I got out the letter from by brother Jack that I had received that lunchtime and whiled away the time reading that, and eating some boiled sweets.
Two Spitfires from 417 squadron turned up to provide cover and relieve my wingman. Then the Germans spotted the air-sea rescue Walrus in the distance and started shooting at me again. Splashes from rifle and heavier gunfire were all around and I could hear the whining of the bullets ricocheting off the water. I thought “rotten bastards”. Then I looked down and got splashed in the face, and found myself back in the sea.

The Walrus got closer and I fired off a couple of red Very lights to show I was still around. It then flew over me, saw the splashes in the water, and called up the cover Spitfires who strafed the beached. Vern Herron piloting one of them, got two German rifleman who were taking shots at me The Walrus turned and landed a few hundred yards away. He then taxied towards me when a large spout of water appeared just behind him. Heavier stuff was being used.

I was doing a steady breaststroke towards him and he increased speed as another big spout appeared. As we came together, the observer grabbed me with both hands, but they were going too quickly and he couldn’t hold on. The Walrus turned round and tried again but the same thing happened. The third time he slowed and I managed to catch the wing strut, and was pulled against the hull. I managed to get a leg onto the fuselage and I was grabbed by the seat of the pants, hauled on top of the fuselage and thrown unceremoniously head first down the hatch. I had been in the dinghy for 1 hour 55 minutes.
The pilot then turned away from the coast and we took off. I was sat on a bunk and given a large bottle of rum. The first gulp was a very long one. When we got back I was taken to the field hospital and wrapped in 14 blankets. I was still in my pyjamas. I hadn’t bothered to change in the morning.

Eighth Army News: - Issue 153 - Saturday April 14th 1945

On his first air-sea rescue trip in northern Italy a New Zealand Walrus pilot of the Desert Air Force had to “get his man” while under enemy shellfire. He is Warrant Officer C.S. Tod and his observer was Sgt E Bilton of 5 Launder Terrace Grantham Lincs. The Walrus was sent to pick up a DAF Spitbomber pilot Sgt A.R. Charles of 45 Kensington Avenue Thornton Heath Surrey.

Tod found him in the sea about a mile and a half off enemy territory. “We landed alongside Charles and the Germans opened up with heavier stuff” said Tod “The first shell went ahead of us but gradually the range was closing in. Shrapnel hit the tailplane. Just before we took off a shell burst only two yards behind.”
Charles was not hit.


Squadrons add
RAF 601


MA280 1944-07-10
JK984 1944-07-11
JK164 1944-07-14
ER567 1944-07-15
EP818 1944-07-17
JK984 1944-07-17
LZ943 1944-07-18
JG933 1944-07-20
JK653 1944-07-22
BP966 1944-07-25
JK439 1944-07-26
EP665 1944-07-27
JK311 1944-10-29
JL222 1944-10-30
ES192 1944-10-31
JL249 1944-11-01
MH889 1944-11-14
PL387 1944-11-24
MJ909 UF-J 1945-01-18
EN302 UF-B 1945-01-22
MK137 UF-T 1945-01-23
PT761 UF-G 1945-01-23
MH540 UF-V 1945-01-29
PT641 UF-F 1945-01-30
PT935 UF-A 1945-02-04
EN195 UF-V 1945-02-24
PT489 UF-J 1945-03-19
RR244 UF-K 1945-03-19
EN193 UF-A 1945-03-23
PT523 UF-F 1945-04-06
MH598 UF-F 1945-04-11
PL489 UF-V 1945-04-12
MA538 UF-B 1945-04-24
NH231 UF-A 1945-04-29


Comments / Questions:

by: kurtis BBC articles on Charles great 2016-12-31 01:17:17

The BBC links with stories of your Dad are fantastic, great reading!

by: John Engelsted Contact 2017-02-25 02:20:19

Hi Kevin. I am very interested in your father's flying history. Could you please contact me on jej AT (replace AT with @)

John Engelsted

by: kurtis Pics 2021-04-25 15:54:00

Hi Kevin, do you have any other pics?