Biplane fighter aces


Pilot Officer Jack Falkson, RAF no. 41688

Jack Falkson was from Durban North, Natal, South Africa.

In January 1940 Falkson served in 152 Squadron. This unit had been formed in October 1939 with 603 Squadron’s old Gladiators. In January it had moved to Acklington to re-equip with Spitfires, but while doing so continued to maintain a single operational flight of the biplanes.

At 10.37 on 29 January Red Section was scrambled to cover a convoy reported under attack. Pilot Officer Falkson leading the trio to the area where he saw a hostile aircraft circling over two ships and at once closed on it. The bomber crew opened fire immediately, gaining hits on two of the Gladiators before escaping unscathed into cloud. This was probably an He 111 of 2./KG26.

At 10.40 on 3 February three Gladiators of Yellow Section 152 Squadron were scrambled from Acklington. Squadron Leader F. W. C. Shute leading Pilot Officer Falkson and Sergeant Shepperd to intercept a I/KG26 He 111 over Druridge Bay. Shute turned to port and made a quarter attack from 250 yards, moving to dead astern. Falkson repeated the manoeuvre, following which Shute again attacked from astern, closing to 50 yards. The bomber’s gunners returned fire, and it disappeared into cloud heading south, pouring dense black smoke and with the undercarriage hanging down.
Unseen by the attackers, the bomber crashed into Druridge Bay moments later. Leutnant Luther von Brüning and his crew all were being killed. 13 Group later confirmed the success to the squadron.

Falkson was later transferred to 263 Squadron and took part in this squadron’s second expedition to Norway. They flew off HMS Furious on 21 May to land at Bardufoss.

At 13:00 on 26 May three Gladiators flown by Flight Lieutenant Caesar Hull, Pilot Officer Falkson and Lieutenant Tony Lydekker were detached to Bodø to provide cover for troops retreating northwards in the face of the German advance. En route they were engaged in an inconclusive combat with one of the KGr 100 Heinkels on its way to Bardufoss. When they landed on their new airfield their aircraft all stuck fast in the mud. They managed to get the Gladiators to drier ground, where they began refuelling from four-gallon tins. This arduous task was by no means complete when a He 111 of 1(F)/122 was seen overhead, and all three leapt into their cockpits to take off.
Lydekker got off safely, but the mud clung to the wheels of the two following Gladiators, and while Hull just managed to get into the air, Falkson crashed in N5908. Lydekker’s aircraft had not yet been refuelled however, and he had little petrol left so Hull ordered him to land again and went after the Heinkel single-handed, finding it at only 600 feet and delivering three attacks. The bomber turned south, streaming smoke from the fuselage and engines. The Heinkel had been critically hit, and Leutnant Ulrich Meyer crash-landed the burning aircraft south of Mo. Here he and his crew were rescued by German troops.
Meanwhile Hull had broken away to attack a Ju 52/3m, which he just had spotted. He rapidly disposed of this second opponent, an aircraft of 1/KGzbV 106. The crew managed to bale out of the blazing aircraft (Ju 52/3m WNr. 5636), which crashed at Storfjellet, Saltdal, at 16:15.
Still with ammunition left, he chased a second He 111 without success, and then attacked two more Ju 52/3ms from 1/KGzbV 106. One escaped in cloud, but the other went flaming down after six men had baled out. Eight more paratroops of I/FJR1 were killed in the crash. While he thought the other transport had got away, it was in fact also hard hit, and was already on fire. The pilot managed to reach German-held territory, where he force-landed. Crew and paratroops aboard all got out safely, but the aircraft burnt out completely. One Ju 52/3m was ‘BA+KH’ of 1/KGbzV 106, which crashed at Ekornes, Evensdal, at 16:30 while the second was “White 2” (WNr. 6713) from the same unit, which crashed at Kvassteinheia, Saltdal, between 16:30-16:40.
Meantime Hull had engaged yet another He 111, and drove this off, like the first with smoke pouring from it. Down now to only one nose gun still operating, he returned to Bodø where he found that during his absence wooden snow-boards had been laid over the worst of the soft patches. Although he claimed only two definite and one probable victories, he had in fact shot down no less than four aircraft in one combat.

Falkson took part in the successful evacuation of fighters from Narvik on 8 June 1940 when he and nine other pilots from 263 Squadron landed their Gladiators aboard HMS Glorious. However this successful evacuation was avail when the carrier was sunk by the German battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau later in the day with the loss of almost all aboard, Falkson being one of them.

At the time of his death Falkson was credited with 1 shared biplane victory.

Kill no. Date Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  03/02/40 1 He 111 (a) Shared destroyed Gladiator   Druridge Bay 152 Squadron

Biplane victories: 1 shared destroyed.
TOTAL: 1 shared destroyed.
(a) He 111 of I/KG 26 shot down. Leutnant Luthar von Brüning and his crew were all killed.

Fighter Command War Diaries - September 1939 to September 1940 - John Foreman, 1997 Air Research Publications, Walton-on-Thames, ISBN 1-871187-34-6
Fledgling Eagles - Christopher Shores with John Foreman, Christian-Jaques Ehrengardt, Heinrich Weiss and Bjørn Olsen, 1991 Grub Street, London, ISBN 0-948817-42-9
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Additional information kindly provided by Birger Larsen.

Last modified 30 August 2003