Flt. Sgt. Mason
Home Up Air War Flt. Sgt. Mason

 

Flight log

 

Flight Sergeant Frank Mason, D.F.M. flew with XI Squadron and this is a little of his history.  I am grateful to his daughter Ann for sending me the material.

I am also grateful to Colin Winship who has sent me some info on his father who flew on the same crew as Frank.  'Jim' flew as the radio operator/gunner.

I was surprised to see a number of similarities between Frank's background and that of my family.  Frank started his career in the RAF in 1928 as an Aircraft Apprentice at Halton; my brother and I both joined as Apprentices in 1963 and Frank would have recognised much of Halton as not having changed much since he was there.  Frank went on to work as an engine fitter.  My father joined in 1935 and spent his RAF career on engines and airframes; when Frank was a Flt. Sgt. my father was carrying the same rank in Ceylon.  Frank went on to be a Flight Lieutenant navigator, as did I.

Flt. Sgt. Frank Mason in Greece 1941

Frank was twice mentioned in Despatches (gazetted Sep 41 and Aug 42), he was gazetted for the D.F.M. in October 1941.  For a lot of his time in Greece Frank flew with the Squadron Commander, Sqn. Ldr. Stevens.
After the war Frank went on to complete the Staff Navigator as well as the Specialist Navigator (Spec. N) course.  You had to be specially picked to do Spec N.

A group of XI Squadron navigators and observers in Greece, 1941.  Frank is on the right without his jacket.  We do not know the others.  Can anyone help?  Since putting the photo on the site I have been contacted by Colin Winship; his father is seated on the left of the photo, Sgt. 'Jim' Winship.  Jim flew on the same crew as Frank from 1940-1942.  His name can be seen in Frank's logbook below.

Since the initial load of this page Ann, the daughter of Frank Mason, has received some information that allows us to put more names to the photo.  The following is an extract from Ann's email to me.  If there is anyone out there who can throw further light on this, please get in touch.

Last week I received an email from the family of Ted Anderson, an Australian who was a pilot in XI squadron from July 1941 - 1943. Once I mentioned Dad's name his son-in-law (John Nunn) sent me some photos and said he has a copy of the tent photo with the names and other notes written on the back! These are (L to R): Jim Winship, Murphy, Norm Powell (who was later a PoW in Italy), Pete Griffiths, (killed in May 1942), Brown, and Frank Mason.


I've checked Pete Griffiths with the CWGC and Graham Warners book on the Bristol Blenheim (p581) and found that F/Sgt Arthur Peter Griffiths (937442) was a RAF Volunteer Reserve with XI squadron. On 22/04/1942 he was the observer in Bristol Blenheim Z7509 when it flew into a hill in bad weather at Galkanda, Ceylon, and was destroyed by fire. F/Sgt Griffiths is buried at Kandy War Cemetery, Sri Lanka, along with his pilot, S/Ldr J Bouwens, and Wop/Ag F/Sgt D Fisher.

Although Ted was in Larissa for 5 days en route to the UK, and these 5 days corresponded to the 1st March 1941 earthquake (when XI squadron was also in Larissa), he didn't actually join XI squadron until July 1941. This raises a question about the date/place of the tent photo. Ill try and check this but I don't see where else it could be.

A number of the sorties that Frank flew are referenced in "The Air War for Yugoslavia Greece and Crete" by Shores, Cull & Malizia.  It is not available via Amazon but you can get it from Naval & Military Press who are on the web.  It has a day by day account of the air war in Greece and Crete.  From Frank's logbook the squadron moved to the Greek theatre from the middle east in January of 41 and he then flew a number of operational missions until the squadron evacuated in April.  Frank's sorties were a mix of day and night bombing as well as a number of photo reconnaissance trips.  The photo below shows part of Frank's logbook and includes the flight he made on the 21 April to help evacuate the RAF contingent from Menidi to Crete.  His log entry shows that they had 8 passengers in a Blenheim, which must have been a very tight fit!  I have a separate page with the navigator's log that Frank maintained for the flight on the 20 April; this was a night bombing raid from Menidi.  The conditions were not very good, his entry for 04:44 shows 'arrived target area, located village, roads and river, but not target.  Low ground mist, and 7/10 cloud, poor moon.'  The visibility then was quite poor, he says that they 'dropped bombs and dived on road .. might be 'drome [aerodrome/airfield] and then at 05:15 they 'set course [S/C] for Skiathos.'  The trip back looks a little hairy as he says they had '10/10 low clouds, - mtns [mountains] projecting!'  So letting down into that would not have been pleasant.

An entry from Frank's logbook showing the flights to evacuate to Crete and then on to Egypt at the bottom of the page.  8 passengers on the 21st, 5 on the 23rd.  A tight fit in a Blenheim.

The photo above shows a page from Jim Winship's logbook for April 1941.  Frank Mason is shown as the other crew member with Jim.  Another interesting point is that on the 23rd Frank flew in a Blenheim with 8 passengers as part of the evacuation from Greece; Jim obviously flew that day separately from Frank as he is in a Sunderland with 25 passengers doing the onward flight from Suda Bay to Alexandria.  They both seem to have made the same flight together on the 21st from Menidi to Heraklion, but separate flights on the 23rd.

The picture above shows the last flying Blenheim which comes from Duxford.  [I believe I have taken this from a site belonging to Bert Rogers, but I no longer have the site address, apologies to the site owner.]

The following a few photos I have taken from the RAF site, and the address is given below.  At the moment I am not sure exactly which mark of Blenheim was flown by XI Squadron.  Something for me to look into.

This shot shows a later variant, but taken during the war.

A Blenheim' bombing up'.
Blenheim Mark I  L6670 of 211 Squadron at Menidi in Greece. The
"short-nose", the first Mark in RAF Service at Home or Overseas, was
the most numerous Mark in service in the Middle East, Desert and
Greece from 1940 until early 1941
http://www.raf.mod.uk/history/blen1.html