Biplane fighter aces

The Commonwealth

Wing Commander Gordon Stanley Keith Haywood, RAF no. 37879

26 November 1917 – 17 March 2000

Gordon Haywood standing on the wing of Gladiator N2280 after a landing accident.
Image kindly provided by Gavin Haywood.

Gordon Haywood was born on 26 November 1917 in Willington.

He commenced pilot training at the De Havilland School of Flying in May 1936.
Two months later he was accepted for a short service commission, and in July commenced training at 5 FTS, Sealand, where was selected to fly fighters, training on Furies.

In July 1937, he was posted to 74 Squadron, initially on Gauntlets.
He had just begun conversion to Spitfires when in March 1939 he was posted to the Middle East, his commanding officer categorising him as ‘above the average’ as a pilot.

He reached Aden in April, via Egypt, and here he was posted to 94 Squadron. This unit was based at Sheikh Othman, Aden, and at the time equipped with Gloster Gladiators.

In the early hours of 13 June four S.81s of the 4o Gruppo B.T. left Diredawa to bomb Aden. As they approached the area at 04.40, four Gladiators from 94 Squadron were scrambled to intercept and Flying Officer Haywood in N2290 engaged one of the bombers flown by Sottotenente Temistocle Paolelli and Mario Laureati, shooting it down in flames off Ras Imran. Two members of the crew parachuted into the sea from where they were later retrieved by the Royal Navy. One of them was Sottotenente Paolelli, who was to swim in the Red Sea for four hours with a bullet in the calf. He later told that Haywood continued to circle over him when he was in the water for some time to activate the rescue. Paolelli was to spend five years as a PoW in India (now Pakistan). He had been decorated with two Medagli di bronzo al valor militare and passed away in 1989 at 79 years of age.
In the afternoon, Haywood took part in another scramble but was forced to make a forced landing at Little Aden due to an engine failure before he could intercept.

On 18 June, the Italian submarine Galileo Galilei was patrolling off Aden, having sunk the Norwegian tanker James Stove in the area on 16 June. On the 18th the submarine intercepted the Yugoslavian merchant vessel Drava with gunfire, then boarded her, but after examination allowed the ship to continue her way.
The gunfire was heard by coastwatchers, and Flying Officer Haywood who was patrolling in his Gladiator N2279 then spotted the surfaced submarine. He at once radioed for assistance, a Vincent and a Blenheim quickly arriving, and all three aircraft then attacked the submarine. The Blenheim missed with its bombs, and the Vincent almost managed to blow itself up with the depth charges it was carrying. In the meantime the destroyer HMS Kandahar and the sloop HMS Shoreham had been sent out to intercept, but did not arrive until darkness had fallen. At 18.30 the submarine surfaced and was foolish enough to break radio silence. Kandahar was able to get a good ‘fix’ on her and approached, but the submarine dived and a depth charge attack failed to inflict any damage before contact was lost.
The submarine was captured by HMS Moonstone the following day and taken over by a prize crew. The submarine was then taken into Aden under her own power, arriving early on 20 June..

At 08:20 on 10 July three 94 Squadron Gladiators and a Blenheim of 8 Squadron attacked Assab airfield. Flying Officer Haywood shot up two CR.42s on the ground and saw them starting to burn. All pilots then turned their attention to a crashed CR.42, but despite several attacks, this aircraft refused to be set alight. A single CR.42 was seen in the air, but this flew away before it could be engaged.
This raid put an end to the 414a Squadriglia, which had now lost all its six aircraft at Assab, two in combat and four on the ground. In its short period at this base, the unit had undertaken numerous scrambles, but failed to achieve any success.

In the morning of 13 October a single SM.79 from 6a Squadriglia, 44o Gruppo B.T. flown by Sottotenente Gheradini, raided Aden. Three 94 Squadron Gladiators scrambled to intercept and Flying Officer Haywood got close enough to open fire. The bomber was slightly damaged and two of the crew were killed but managed to return to its base.
Gheradini was shot down and killed by a Blenheim two days later on 15 October.

On 31 October, he was promoted to lead the second flight of 94 Squadron, which at the time had received enough Gladiators to become a two-flight unit.

He returned to the UK early in 1941 with endorsement in his logbook to the effect that he was considered ‘exceptional’ both as a fighter pilot and in aerial gunnery.

In April, he joined 615 Squadron, where he remained for the next three and a half months.

He was then posted to 132 Squadron at the end of July, staying with this unit until October.

A brief spell at 2 CFS, Church Lawford, Rugby, was followed by two months with 4 SFIS, Cambridge.

He was promoted to Squadron Leader on 1 December 1941.

He then took a course at 1 Gliding Instructors’ School, Thame.

In January 1942, he undertook a brief operational refresher at 61 OUT, then joining 616 Squadron as supernumerary.

In February 1942, he was given command of 610 Squadron, which he led until July.

On 14 May, Red Section of "A" Flight 610 Squadron (Spitfires Mk.VB) with Squadron Leader Haywood (Red 1) (Spitfire BL564) and Sergeant Franticek Mares (a Czech pilot as Red 2) (Spitfire W3128/DW-B) took off from Ludham at 18:30 following receipt of information from Controller to the effect that an enemy aircraft was likely to be carrying out a reconnaissance.
Red Section patrolled over sea off Lowestoft at 500ft. Visibility was 2 miles with 8/10ths cloud, cloud base 1,000ft. At approximately 18:44, Red Section passed to seaward of convoy "Smilax" 10 miles off Lowestoft steaming north. Five miles south of this convoy, when passing eight minelayers travelling south, Squadron Leader Haywood saw an aircraft approaching from south at zero feet. Flying at 500ft, he turned to port in order to be in a position to attack, and then to starboard on to the tail of the aircraft and closed to identify it.
The aircraft was painted black and appeared to have no markings and was flying at 260 I.A.S. As Haywood identified it as a Ju 88, accurate machinegun tracer fire was opened from the dorsal position, and continued until the end of the combat.
Haywood dived and fired a 1 second burst of cannon and machinegun from 200 yards astern, flying at 50ft, and saw strikes on the sea below the enemy aircraft. The enemy aircraft took violent evasive action, flying at 280 I.A.S. at 50ft, and skidding right and left. Haywood fired two more 2½ second bursts of cannon and machinegun fire, and one final 3½ second burst of machinegun fire only from astern, from 200 yards, and on each occasion saw strikes on the fuselage and port engine, which were confirmed by Sergeant Mares. Haywood had then finished his cannon ammunition and broke away to port.
Sergeant Mares fired one 3½ second burst of cannon fire only from fine port quarter from 200 yards flying at 50ft, as Haywood broke away, and saw strikes on port engine, which then streamed white vapor, probably Glycol. Mares believed that Haywood had been hit, and so broke off the combat and followed Haywood back to base.
Red Section landed at Ludham at 19:05.
When last seen the enemy aircraft was losing height from 50ft above sea, with vapor still streaming from port engine, and it was believed probably to have been destroyed. Squadron Leader Haywood had used 120 rounds of cannon ammunition and 720 rounds of machinegun ammunition while Sergeant Mares had used 72 rounds of cannon ammunition. Neither had suffered any stoppages.
Yellow Section (Flight Lieutenant Courtney and Pilot Officer De Patoul (Belgian)) took off later to search for wreckage and at 20:10 saw two long streaks of oil on the surface of the sea in the vicinity of the combat.

The next day, on 15 May, Squadron Leader Haywood and Sergeant Franticek Mares again was in the air and claimed a shared damaged Do 217 off Sherringham at around 16:00.

'A' Flight of 610 Squadron again took off at 17:55 on the same day (15 May). A Do 217 was sighted at an altitude of 50 feet and Squadron Leader Haywood (Spitfire BL564) reported:

"I was White 1. of White Section, 610 Squadron, which took off from Ludham at 17.55 hours. Together with Yellow Section we engaged a Do.217 E.2 approximately 15 miles N.E. of Yarmouth at 18.05 hours. I made three attacks and saw strikes on fuselage, confirmed by White 2. F/Sgt. Mares, and I claim one quarter of this Do.217 E.2. destroyed. Bandit was seen to strike sea and sink. I landed at Ludham at 18.35 hours."
The German bomber was shared between Squadron Leader Haywood, Sergeant Franticek Mares (Spitfire BL978/DW-G), Pilot Officer L. E. Hoken and Pilot Officer L. A. Smith.

The hectic tempo continued for Squadron Leader Haywood (Spitfire BL564) and Sergeant Mares (BL267/DW-H) when they again took off at 18:45 the next day, 16 May, and engaged a Ju 88 at zero feet. Squadron Leader Haywood reported:

"I was White 1. of White Section, 610 Squadron, which took off from Ludham at 18.45 hours. At 19.00 hours, 20 miles S.E. of Southwold, White Section engaged a Ju.88., and were joined later by W/Cdr. Hanks.
I made two attacks and saw strikes on fuselage from nose to tail.
These are confirmed by White 2., and I claim one third of this Ju.88., probably destroyed. I landed at Ludham at 19.35 hours."
The Ju 88 was claimed as a shared probable between Squadron Leader Haywood, Sergeant Mares (White 2) and Wing Commander Prosser Hanks, Wing Leader Coltishall.

On 27 June, Squadron Leader Haywood (Spitfire EN780), Colon Leader, 610 Squadron, took off from Ludham at 02:20. The weather was bright, moonlight with slight mist over the sea and with 2/10th cloud. He orbited the airfield and climbed to 7,000 feet, then flew east weaving 20 degrees from side to side.
At 02:25, he saw a "Bogey" 5 miles ahead flying east and jinking between 2,000 and 5,000 feet with navigational lights on (red and green with yellow at the rear). Haywood dived at 350 IAS to close, and overshot just underneath "Bogey", identifying it as a Ju 88 painted black. He throttled back immediately and was then overshot by the enemy aircraft, which opened up accurate fire from the dorsal position with red and yellow tracers. This fire continued until silenced by his fourth attack. Haywood's aircraft was hit in the rudder and the port wing, by what were probably 13mm bullets.
A combat developed over the sea approximately 12 miles off the coast east of Ludham. Haywood carried out fived attacks, each from practically dead astern, firing short bursts with cannons and machine-guns and after2 seconds fire, using cannons only. In the first three attacks, firing was commenced at 150 yards closing to 75 yards. No strikes were seen, possibly owing to dazzling effect of tracer return fire. The Ju 88 attempted to take evasive manoeuvres by half rolls and stall turns. On the fourth attack, using cannons only, the Ju 88 dived from 1,500 feet with pieces dropping off it into the sea and the rear gunner stopped firing. The German bomber then started to climb again.
Haywood made a final attack from astern closing to 50 yards using cannons only. There was a blinding yellow flash (probably oxygen bottles exploding), and as he overshot he saw the navigational lights of the Ju 88 go straight down from 1,000 feet and disappear. The enemy aircraft was not seen again, nor was any trace of it on the sea, and it was claimed as a probable later being confirmed as destroyed.
Haywood returned to base and landed at Ludham at 02:45. During the combat, the cine camera guns had been used and he had spent 120 rounds of cannon ammunition and 120 rounds of machine-gun ammunition.

The rest of 1942 was spent at the AFDU, Duxford, where he flew a wide range of fighters, including Mustang Ia, Defiant, Airacobra, Tomahawk, Whirlwind, Gladiator, Boston III, Fulmar, P-38 and several marks of Spitfire.

On 6 January 1943, he returned to operations in command of 616 Squadron, leading this unit until April.

He spent a month at HQ, Fighter Command, before taking command of the MSFU at Speke.

In September 1943 he was posted as a Wing Commander to command the operational training airfield at Kinnell, Angus, but at once sent on a course at the Empire Central Flying School, from which he graduated in December.
Returning to Kinnell, he was also CFI of 1 TEU here until August 1944, being promoted Wing Commander on 1 July.

He was then posted to ADGB, taking command of Gatwick airfield until January 1945.

He then became Senior Officer i/c of Administration at HQ, 10 Group.

Haywood ended the war with 1 biplane victory and a total of 2.

During the late summer of 1945, he was posted to 8401 Air Disarmament Wing at Ütersen in Germany, but left the service a few months later.

He rejoined the Reserve in September 1946, undertaking annual flying training at 16 RFS, Derby during 1947-48.

Gordon Haywood passed away on 17 March 2000.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
1 13/06/40   1 S.81 (a) Destroyed Gladiator N2290 off Ras Imran 94 Squadron
  10/07/40   1 CR.42 (b) Destroyed on the ground Gladiator N2284 Assab 94 Squadron
  10/07/40   1 CR.42 (b) Destroyed on the ground Gladiator N2284 Assab 94 Squadron
  13/10/40   1 SM.79 (c) Damaged Gladiator L9047 (d) S Aden 94 Squadron
  07-08/05/41   1 Enemy bomber (e) Damaged Hurricane KW-K Menai Strait 615 Squadron
  27/06/41   ½ Ju 88 Shared damaged Hurricane KW-T   615 Squadron
  14/05/42 18:45 ½ Ju 88 Shared probable Spitfire Mk.V BL564 10m off Lowestoft 610 Squadron
  15/05/42 ~16:00 1/2 Do217 Shared damaged Spitfire Mk.V   off Sherringham 610 Squadron
  15/05/42 18:05 1/4 Do217E Shared destroyed Spitfire Mk.V BL564 15m NE Yarmouth 610 Squadron
  16/05/42   1/3 Ju 88 Shared probable Spitfire Mk.V BL564   610 Squadron
2 27/06/42 02:25 1 Ju 88 (f) Destroyed Spitfire Mk.V EN780 12m off the coast E Ludham 610 Squadron

Biplane victories: 1 destroyed, 1 damaged, 2 destroyed on the ground.
TOTAL: 2 and 1 shared destroyed, 2 shared probables, 2 and 2 shared damaged, 2 destroyed on the ground.
(a) S.81 of the 4o Gruppo B.T. flown by by Sottotenente Temistocle Paolelli and Mario Laureati shot down. Two members parachuted and were made POWs.
(b) Aircraft from 414a Squadriglia destroyed on the ground.
(c) SM.79 from 6a Squadriglia, 44o Gruppo B.T. flown by Sottotenente Gheradini damaged and two of the crew killed.
(d) This is not a RA F Gladiator serial but a serial from the Royal Egyptian Air Force. This aircraft was reposed from REAF to RAF (probable RAF serial was N5892) before again being sent to the REAF on 31/05/41.
(e) Ju 88 or He 111.
(f) Claimed as a probable, but confirmed as destroyed by HQ, Fighter Command.

Dust Clouds in the Middle East - Christopher Shores, 1996 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-898697-37-X
The Gloster Gladiator - Francis K. Mason, 1964
Those Other Eagles – Christopher Shores, 2004 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-904010-88-1
Additional information kindly provided by Alexander Crawford, Gavin Haywood and Vincenzo Paolelli.

Last modified 15 April 2014