The Valentine’s Day ‘Battle of the MTB’ – 14th February 1943
In the channel a Motor Torpedo Boat (MTB) had been disabled near the French coast between Dover and Cap Griz-Nez after carrying out operations overnight around the French ports. The MTB had struck some hidden wreckage and was in dire danger as dawn was breaking of being both in range of the German coastal artillery and in danger from Luftwaffe attack. Attempts were being made to tow it to safety, but at one stage the tow being used snapped, albeit once they were out of range of the artillery.
At 10:30hrs, Sgt John George ‘Johnny’ Wiseman in Hawker Typhoon R7871 PR-S and F/Sgt Alan ‘Babe’ Haddon in Typhoon DN294 PR-O both from No.609 Sqn, take off from RAF Manston as Red Section in perfect flying weather. Red Section was tasked with close escort duties to the stricken boat and their rescuers.
The skipper of the MTB reported seeing the two Typhoons flying at 500ft in line astern, 1000 yards apart. Two Focke-Wulf Fw190s of Stab III./Jagdgeschwader 2 ‘Richtofen’ based at Vannes-Meucon in France came up on the Typhoons from just above sea level. The Captain of the stricken MTB recalled later to F/O Lallemand that they were unable to give warning to the pilots in time as the they first attacked the Typhoon of Sgt Wiseman which crashed into the sea on fire. Next the enemy aircraft attacked F/Sgt Haddon and his aircraft was seen to fold up ‘like a book’, with its wings shot away and also crashed into the sea.
Yellow Section consisted of F/O Raymond ‘Cheval’ Lallemand in Typhoon R7855 PR-D and F/O Antoni ‘Tony’ Polek in Typhoon R8889 PR-X. Shortly after the loss of Red Section, they engaged with the first of two flights of four German fighters. When the enemy spotted the Typhoons, they split up. Lallemand saw Polek chasing an Fw190, with another behind him, shooting. He aims at Polek, from the beam, and hits the Fw190 behind him, where it slips sideways into the sea. Polek continues his attack, firing as the enemy climbed. Thick white smoke was seen from both sides of the enemy aircraft and it proceeded to travel so slowly that Polek following behind almost stalls. Polek at this point believed the pilot must have been killed as no attempt was made to evade or avoid stalling, so claims as probably destroyed.
The rest of their battle in the words of No.609 Sqn ORB: “After resuming their patrol for another 10 minutes, they are near Gris Nez when Swingate reports bandits coming from the East, and presently 4 new 190’s, again in 2 pairs, loom to port and ahead. Typhoons and 190’s climb and orbit, Lallemand reporting little difficulty in out turning them. Finally he gets into position to fire at one of the second pair: it turns on its back. While it is inverted he strikes it again in the belly and overshoots, leaving it diving inverted at 300 feet (Probably Destroyed). He then fires a full beam shot at the second E/A of the same pair from 350-400 yards, and to his surprise it bursts into flames and Polek sends it into the sea. Polek gets on the tail of one of the others, and he fires from the quarter at 100 yards shortly before it reaches cloud, and he has to break away on finding the 4th E/A on his own tail. Though he himself sees no results, Lallemand saw the E/A attacked flying slowly along the coast, below cliff level, losing height and pouring blue-black smoke (Probably Destroyed). Lallemand altogether has only fired 50 rounds from each gun, a total of 5 secs.“
At 11:45hrs, F/O de Selys in Typhoon R8888 PR-Y and F/O Roy Payne in Typhoon R7845 PR-H take off and decided on a wide sweep to Calais then down to Cap Griz-Nez as they know the other section are with the MTB. As they turned south at Calais, they were attacked by three Fw190s flying north.
Their battle, again in the words of the ORB: “The shooting misses, and de Selys, warning Payne, turns steeply and sees the third E/A continue North, the second steer inland over Calais, and the first finishing a wide turn. He engages this one head-on, opening fire at 7/800 yards and seeing E/A catch fire before it flashes over him. Turning, he sees it stall at 300 feet and spin into the sea ½ a mile off Calais. E/A has also been firing, and the Typhoon is hit in the spinner and wings. Meanwhile Payne has chased E/A No 2 into cloud over land and lost it. Returning below cloud off Calais he sees 3 190’s and pursues 2 of them into cloud over France again. Above cloud he finds one 350 yards in front, and firing from a slight angle, sees many strikes and flames on the starboard fuselage. E/A descends into cloud still on fire. No further attacks are made on the disabled MTB”
“Evening sees a dance at Doone House, at which F/O Baldwin appears wearing the DFC (the first since 1941, and F/O van Lierde the Croix de Guerre Belge. The CO turns up very angry because the G/C night Ops at 11 group has refused to let him take-off on an Intruder, on the ground that it is still 6 days before full moon – albeit conditions are ideal and previously the CO has Intruded at an even greater distance from the full moon. Result: next day the CO writes another letter.”
Final tally for the day was: F/O Lallemand – 2 x Fw190s destroyed. F/O de Selys – 1 x Fw190 destroyed. F/O Payne – 1 x Fw190 destroyed. F/O Polek – 2 x Fw190s probable. F/O Lalemand – 1 x Fw190 probable.
Loss of 2 Typhoons Cat E – F/Sgt Haddon and Sgt Wiseman. 1 Typhoon Cat B.
From Mark Crame’s account “Official Luftwaffe losses were three pilots with their Focke-Wulf Fw190-A-4 aircraft. JagdGeschwader 2 ‘Richtofen’ recorded losing 3 aircraft destroyed and 3 pilots missing, believed killed, in the area of this combat on this day: Fw190-A4 Werknummer 0733 flown by Unteroffizier Fridolin Armbruster of 7/JG2, to the west of Boulogne at 12:20 hrs, Fw190-A4 Werknummer 2421 flown by Leutnant Leonhard Deuerling of 9/JG2, north west of Calais at 12:08 hrs, and Fw190-A4 Werknummer 7177 flown by Unteroffizier Gerhard Bischoff of 7/JG2 around Gris Nez at 11:50 hrs)”
Please note: At the time of writing, some timings are unconfirmed, so we may revisit this post in due course. Last Updated:
All photos courtesy of Mark Crame.
The same Mark Crame that you will often see contribute to this site, our Facebook page and helps us massively with records and photos in connection with No.609 Sqn decided to erect a monument to Sgt Wiseman, born locally to him and for F/Sgt Haddon. He organised a plinth and plaque erected where Wiseman had grown up in Norfolk which was unveiled on 14th July 2003 with representatives of the RBL, RAFA, 609 Sqn Association and the current 609 sqn. In addition there was a flypast of three Jaguars from RAF 41 Sqn who ended in a missing man formation.
First published: 14th February 2017.