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Lest We Forget
British Legion
The Royal British Legion


MARTHAM - JOHNNY WISEMAN AND ALAN HADDON 609 SQUADRON

Detailed Information
Compiled and Copyright © Mark Crame 2004

A Story of St. Valentines Day
February 14th, 1943.
By Mark Crame

60 years ago today, the World was at war. Much of Europe was occupied by the Third Reich, with German soldiers on the streets of, amongst others, our European neighbours; France, Belgium, and Holland. The ‘Chindits’ of the British Fourteenth Army (among whom were many men of the Royal Norfolk Regiment) had just crossed the River Chindwin in the Far East, The Germans and Russians were battling it out at Stalingrad, whilst the Americans and Japanese were fighting at Guadalcanal in the Pacific. While all this was going on abroad, the South Coast of England was under daily attack by fighter – bomber ‘raiders’ of the German Luftwaffe, flying from airfields on the Continent. The aircraft belonging to the Royal Air Force’s Fighter Command were the first line of defence, with 609 (West Riding) Squadron, based at RAF Manston in Kent, being one of the major units involved in the patrolling and defending of the English Channel. Among the men of 609 Squadron involved in this task was a young Norfolk pilot, who, with a colleague, was killed in action on Saint Valentines day, 1943.

1333551 Sergeant John George ‘Johnny’ Wiseman was born on January 31st 1923 and lived and grew up at Grange Farm, in Martham, Norfolk, (about 10 miles from Great Yarmouth) with his Father Percy, Mother Hilda, and sister Betty (three years his elder, and still living in Norfolk. She joined the ATS during the war to try and ‘do her bit’. She was at home on leave with her mother when the dreaded telegram arrived, notifying the family of Johnny’s loss). The farm consisted of around 200 acres of mainly arable land. Johnny’s father was from Ashby-With-Oby, a few miles away, a village to which he returned during the war years. A popular, kind, and intelligent boy, Johnny was a scholar and prefect at Great Yarmouth Grammar School, although he completed his Grammar schooling in Sevenoaks, Kent, as the school had been moved from Great Yarmouth (though not all the boys had gone, some having stayed in Martham due to it being a rural farming community, where they were needed). He returned to Martham after completing his schooling, and worked on the farm, doing all the tractor work, (it was the only tractor they had in those days) until he was old enough to join the Royal Air Force, having always been keen on flying. After completing his training as a pilot in Canada, Johnny returned to England in 1942 and was posted to 609 (West Riding) Squadron at Duxford, Cambridgeshire, flying Hawker Typhoon fighters. In October of that year, the Boulting Brothers were making a short propaganda film for the Royal Air Force Photographic Unit featuring 609 (West Riding) Squadron. Johnny appears twice in this film, once being described by Flight Commander Joe Atkinson as being “from Yarmouth, where they catch herrings”, and another segment where he discusses the merits of Polish Vodka with ‘Tony’ Polek.

Johnny is fondly remembered as a bit of a local hero, coming home on leave in RAF uniform at a time when the heroes of the Battle of Britain were still held in great esteem. One local boy, Roy Sales, was born and brought up on Grange Farm, as his grandfather was team manager looking after the horses. He often used to ride on the tractor with Johnny, from when he was about 5 years old. He remembers that there was an anti-aircraft gun and two searchlights stationed at the top of Grange Hill, about half a mile from the farm. On one night the Germans dropped several incendiary bombs in the area. Johnny was on leave at the time and he found one stuck in a hedgerow that had not detonated – which he promptly took home. The next day, he asked the young Mr Sales if he would like to have it. Receiving a positive reply, he dismantled the bomb, taking out all the explosives and combustible contents and igniting them out on the field, and gave him the empty bomb casing. He went back two days later, and Roy never saw him again.

On the day of Johnny’s death it was ‘A’ flights turn to come to readiness, and Johnny, flying Hawker Typhoon R7872 PR-S was paired with Flight-Sergeant Alan ‘Babe’ Haddon in Typhoon DN294 PR-O as Red Section. Together they took off in perfect flying weather from RAF Manston in Kent. Also patrolling was Yellow Section, consisting of the Belgian (and future Commanding Officer) Flying Officer Raymond ‘Cheval’ Lallemand in R7855 PR-D, and Polish pilot Flying Officer Antoni ‘Tony’ Polek in R8889 PR-X. Their mission was to protect some Royal Navy Motor Torpedo Boats, which had got into difficulties close to the French coast. During the night, the MTB’s had been making a nuisance of themselves around the French ports, and one was now lying disabled off Cap Gris-Nez, having struck some hidden wreckage. With dawn breaking, and still in range of the German coastal artillery, attempts were made to tow it to safety, as the men on board were now at the mercy of both this, and the German Luftwaffe who would surely soon appear.

Sergeant Wiseman and Flight-Sergeant Haddon (from Leicester) were tasked with the job of close escort, while Lallemand and Polek patrolled close by, ready to help if needed. Then bad luck struck the Navy. The cable that was being used to tow the stricken vessel snapped (although by this time they were out of range of the German guns). With the boats now stationary, Wiseman and Haddon could do no more than circle relentlessly around them. It was around this time that contact was lost between Red Section and Bill Igoe (the Sector Controller at RAF Biggin Hill, codenamed ‘Swingate’) and Yellow Section (who were now mid-Channel)

At around 11am on 14th February 1943, Sergeant ‘Johnny’ Wiseman was shot down, by one of two Focke-Wulf FW190’s of Stab III./Jagdgeschwader 2 ‘Richtofen’ based at Vannes-Meucon in France. One of these also shot down Flight-Sergeant Alan ‘Babe’ Haddon. Luftwaffe records show three claims from that day (at 11:36, 11:40, and 12:12 hrs) made by the Squadron Commander Oberleutnant Egon Mayer, holder of the Knights Cross, and one by Leutnant Fritz Rösle (at 11:38 hrs.) Mayer, the first Luftwaffe pilot to reach 100 kills on the Western Front, was officially credited with shooting down 102 enemy aircraft in 353 combat missions, and developed the head on attack against the American daylight bombers in conjunction with Major Georg-Peter Eder. He was killed in action just over a year later on 2nd March 1944, believed to have been shot down by an American pilot of the 365th Fighter Group flying a P47 Thunderbolt fighter 1½ miles south of Montmédy, France. The Captain of the immobile MTB was later to tell ‘Cheval’ Lallemand that the Focke-Wulfs had come up on the Typhoons, which were patrolling at 500ft and a 1000yds apart, from just above sea level, and being unable to give a warning to the pilots in time, they could only watch as one aircraft was seen to go down in flames, while the other folded up ‘like a book’, its wings shot away, and also crashed into the sea.

Shortly afterwards, Yellow Section engaged the first of two flights of four German fighters, with Lallemand altogether claiming two Focke-Wulfs confirmed destroyed and one probable, with Polek (in his first combat) claiming two probables. They were then joined by fellow 609 Squadron pilots Flying Officer Roy Payne, flying Typhoon R7845 PR-H, and another Belgian, Flying Officer Jean De Selys Longchamps in R8888 PR-Y, who proceeded to destroy another Fw190 apiece off Calais.

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)

The Nine O’ Clock News that night announced: “In the course of defensive patrols over the English Channel, Typhoons of Fighter Command destroyed five Focke-Wulf 190’s, the latest type of German fighter. Two of our pilots failed to return.”

Sergeant ‘Johnny’ Wiseman has no grave but the sea.

Outside Martham Church, in the heart of Norfolk, there is a War Memorial to those from the village who died in the two World Wars. Johnny’s name is inscribed here, as well as on the Runnymede Memorial at Windsor; along with the 20,450 other Commonwealth and Allied aircrew whose bodies were never recovered. It is my goal to erect a permanent stone memorial to Johnny’s sacrifice now, 60 years after his death. Mr Peter Norton, the current owner of Grange Farm, Martham (himself ex-aircrew, flying operationally during the war on Lancasters as a member of Bomber Command) has generously agreed to the placing of a stone on land next to the roadside that once belonged to Johnny’s family, and Timpson’s Ltd (Lowestoft Branch) have pledged two large engraved brass plaques engraved with John’s name and details, and his Squadron badge, to affix to it.

I would like to ask all who read this today to think of Johnny for a minute or two, and also Alan 'Babe' Haddon from Leicester who was lost with him in the same action, along with all those countless others who have died in the various wars and conflicts which the people of this country have had to fight.

If you have any information or anecdotes about Johnny Wiseman’s earlier life, or would like to make a donation towards providing a permanent memorial to him in Martham, please write to: Mark Crame, 38 Tennyson Road, Lowestoft, Suffolk, NR32 1PS.


609 Squadron memorial

Ron Haddon and Betty Wiseman

Top Plaque of the memorial

Bottom Plaue of the memorial
Photographs Copyright © Mark Crame 2004

Further Background Information

Valentines Day 1943
Various Newspaper Reports On The Engagement

TYPHOONS GET FOUR FW’s

FOUR F.W. 190s which were attacking high-speed launches in the Channel yesterday afternoon were shot down by Typhoons in 20 minutes.

Daily Sketch 15th February 1943

Typhoons Win Fighter Battle

Four FW190’s were shot down over the Channel yesterday afternoon by a Scotsman, two Belgians and a Polish pilot. Two of our pilots are missing.

Six pilots from the West Riding of Yorkshire Auxiliary Squadron were over the Channel in their Typhoons when they saw a couple of high-speed launches being attacked by five or six FW 190’s. The Typhoons sailed in and a “dog-fight” developed.

One of the Belgians had already shot down two FW 190’s and yesterday he doubled his score.

News Chronicle, 15th February 1943.

Typhoons to rescue: four F.W.s down

Four F.W.190’s were shot down for a cost of two R.A.F. planes in fights over the Channel yesterday. In one fight Typhoons of the West Riding Auxiliary Squadron broke up an attack by six F.W.190s on two high-speed launches.

Daily Express, 18th February 1943.

TYPHOONS ROUT NEWEST NAZI FIGHTERS
F.W.s Routed While Attacking Launches

The battles of the F.W.s began when six pilots from the West Riding of Yorkshire Auxiliary Squadron, flying over the Channel in their Typhoons, saw a couple of high-speed launches being attacked by five or six enemy planes. The Typhoons promptly went in to attack.

A Belgian pilot was leading a section when, in his own words: “We met four F.W.190’s. They did not see us until we fired. They split up immediately and after a dogfight for four or five minutes I saw my No. 2 shooting at one F.W.190 and being chased by another.

“I turned to help him and hit the Hun, who went straight into the water. I climbed again, found my No. 2 and resumed patrol, as there were on other enemy aircraft in sight.

A Second Clash

“After fifteen minutes we saw another formation of four F.W. 190s making for Gris Nez, so we started climbing and got on theoir tails. I saw my fire hit one, but did not see what happened to him after he had turned on his back because I overshot him. I made a steep turn and got in some good bursts on another F.W. 190, which went down in flames.”

The Belgian pilots pilot’s No. 2 was a Polish flying officer, who severely damaged other F.W.s

“I could not wait to see if they crashed, because we weretwo against four,” he said “I got in a long burst against the the first F.W. 190. He was climbing and turning very steeply all the time, but I saw a number of strikes and smoke. The Hun disappeared in cloud.

“In the second dog-fight we were again two against four. I got in a burst before my target disappeared again in cloud. When I turned I saw him going down with smoke pouring out, making for the French coast.”

Another Belgian, also a flying officer, shot down his first enemy aircraft.

The fourth F.W. 190 destroyed was shot down by a Scottish-born flying officer.

Yorkshire Evening News, 15th February 1943.

TYPHOONS ROUT NEWEST NAZI FIGHTERS
F.W.s Routed While Attacking Launches

The battles of the F.W.s began when six pilots from the West Riding of Yorkshire Auxiliary Squadron, flying over the Channel in their Typhoons, saw a couple of high-speed launches being attacked by five or six enemy planes. The Typhoons promptly went in to attack.

A Belgian pilot was leading a section when, in his own words: “We met four F.W.190’s. They did not see us until we fired. They split up immediately and after a dogfight for four or five minutes I saw my No. 2 shooting at one F.W.190 and being chased by another.

“I turned to help him and hit the Hun, who went straight into the water. I climbed again, found my No. 2 and resumed patrol, as there were on other enemy aircraft in sight.

Daily Telegraph.

Scot gets one of 4 F.W.s over Channel

Four FW 190s were shot down over the channel early yesterday afternoon – one by a Scotsman, two by a Belgian, and one by a Polish pilot.

Six pilots of the West Riding of Yorkshire Auxiliary Squadron were over the Channel in their Typhoons when they saw a couple of high-speed launches being attacked by five or six FW 190s. The Typhoons sailed in.

A Belgian pilot was leading a section when in his own words: “We met four FW 190’s. They did not see us until we fired. They split up immediately and after a dog-fight for four or five minutes I saw my No. 2 shooting at one FW 190 and being chased by another.

INTO SEA

“ I turned to his help and hit the Hun who went straight into the sea. I climbed again, found my No. 2 and resumed patrol as there were no other enemy aircraft in sight.

“After 15 minutes we saw another formation of four FW 190s going to Gris Nez, so we started climbing and got on their tails.

‘I hit one but did not see what happened to him after he had turned on his back, because I over-shot him. I made a steep turn, however and got in some good bursts on another FW 190 which went down in flames.”

After a Polish flying-officer had downed a third the fourth was shot down by a Scottish-born flying officer.

“My leader chased two of them,” he said “and I chased another, but lost him in cloud. When I came down again I saw two FW 190s but they also took cloud cover.

“I followed, got right behind one, and gave a good burst which sent him down.”

The Scotsman


Reference Links

There is the full story, as it were, of Mark's 'quest' and efforts on the Historic Aviation forum at www.flypast.com - specifically:

http://forum.keypublishing.co.uk/showthread.php?s=&threadid=67&highlight=wiseman

http://forum.keypublishing.co.uk/showthread.php?s=&threadid=21281&highlight=wiseman

http://forum.keypublishing.co.uk/showthread.php?s=&threadid=13819&highlight=wiseman

http://forum.keypublishing.co.uk/showthread.php?s=&threadid=12931&highlight=wiseman

http://forum.keypublishing.co.uk/showthread.php?s=&threadid=49&highlight=wiseman

13 March 2004

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