RAF

HAMPDEN & MANCHESTER PILOT

No.83 SQUADRON

 

During WWII, the Greek community of Rhodesia contributed with its youth to the struggle for freedom. Between them the greatest Greek ace, John Plagis, Panicos Theodosiou, and many more young people. Among the young pilots who were trained in Rhodesia in early 1941, was the 20-year-old Sergeant Paul Markides, a native of Queensdale, Bulawayo. His parents were George Paul Markides from Cyprus and Jane Josephine. Markides and Theodosiou already knew each other very well, as the father of the first and the mother of the latter were brother and sister. After his advanced training in Harvards in July 1941, he was ordered for training in multi-engine airplanes, in No.23 SFTS equipped with Oxfords, flying from Heany Air Station, near Bulawayo. This School was founded at that time under the command of Group Captain French. It is the same School, where the Greek volunteers of the Royal Hellenic Air Force (RHAF) were sent in the summer of 1942, known as the Greek School of Twin-Engine Airplanes. Graduating as a multi-engined airplane pilot in August 1941, Sergeant Markides transferred to England in mid-August 1941. He was assigned for operational training at the No.25 OTU (Operational Training Unit) at RAF Finningley, which was equipped with Handley Page Hampden light bombers, as well as Vickers Wellington and Avro Manchester medium bombers. The operational training lasted 8 weeks in classes of 12 students each. The first 4 weeks concerned training of their specialty and the remaining 4 weeks were for the co-training of all the specialties that constituted the 4-member crew of Hampden, in which the Cypriot Greek heritage pilot was finally placed. The Hampden crew consisted of a pilot, a navigator, and two machine gunners who also performed the duties of engineer and radio operator. The crew assigned to Markides were Seargent S. R. Moore (navigator-bombardier), Seargent R.M. Scott (radio operator), and Seargent Collin Smith (radio operator-machine gunner). Upon graduation, he was posted for service as a Hampden pilot, at No.83 Squadron based in RAF Scampton, on October 16, 1941. These light bombers had several problems, but due to the lack of sophisticated types, they undertook a variety of missions, from bombing targets in Germany, even to Berlin, to the laying of magnetic mines missions, codenamed "Gardening", on the coasts of Holland and Denmark. Hampden was equipping six Squadrons and two reserves of the No.5 Group when hostilities began. In 1941 the number of the squadrons increased to ten. From 1943 the type passed to the Coastal Command carrying torpedoes and assuming an anti-submarine role. Meanwhile Paul, in his spare time, will hang out with a machine gunner from the crew with which he co-trained, Colin Smith, who usually invited him to his parents' house in Maidstone, Kent.

Markides flew his first mission on October 20, 1941, with the X2898, and completed a total of 14 missions, including 13 night bombing sorties and one daylight sortie. His objectives included ports, factories, railway stations, and airports within Germany, specifically in Cherbourg, Cologne, Essen, and Düsseldorf but also in France, in Brest as well as the naval base of La Rochelle in an attempt of the RAF to attack the battleship, Prinz Eugen which had sailed there for repairs since Christmas 1941. Although in most of those missions, he managed to drop his deadly load, it was not a few times that he faced technical problems, problems that led the Hampden out of service. By the spring of 1941, the leadership of the Bomber Command had taken the decision that Avro Manchester should be manned primarily by Hampden-type crews. As a result, Markides was sent back to No.25 OTU for further training, along with the rest of the pilots of his Squadron. No.83 Squadron would be the sixth and final Squadron to use the type and carry out its first operational mission on January 28-29, 1942 targeting Boulogne. Manchester proved to be an equally demanding and capricious type, resulting at the end of 1942 it equipped only the Heavy Conversion Units.  Markides flew just three missions with the Manchesters. The first mission occurred at midnight on March 13-14 with the OL-O, R5780. Due to an engine failure, the mission to Cologne was canceled, with the ejection of the bomb load (4 x 1000 HE) it was carrying. The second took place on 20 March in the afternoon with the R5790, on a mine-laying mission (2 ASS22, 1500 lbs A type mines), in the sea area of the Frisian Islands. Take-off took place at 2:56 p.m. The weather was dull 10/10 scattered, with cloud cover at 500-800 feet and visibility at 1500 yards with plenty of sea fog. The mines were all dropped and laid from 600 feet on a northern course. The landing was made back to the base at 19:05.

Markides 1a
Sgt. Paul Markides smiles for the camera. Unfortunately, Markides was one of the many aircrews in Bomber Command who didn't survive the war. (Chris Ward via Aviation Books Ltd)
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Nice color photo of Handley Page Hampden Mk.I, X2898 (OL-N) which was flown by the Greek Cypriot Rhodesian pilot on three missions. (Uknown via Flickr user, Kev Curtis)
Aircraft profile artwork by Juanita Franzi. Supplied to Dimitris Vassilopoulos for personal use only. Separate file supplied for posting on the internet. Copyright Juanita Franzi Aero Illustrations
Handley Page Hampden Mk.I X2898 (OL-N) was flown by Sgt Markides and his crew on three missions against targets in Germany and Holland. The No.83 Squadron became operational in the last phase of World War I, focusing on night bombing missions. it reformed again in 1936 in the role of light bombing with Hawker Hind at Turnhous. In March 1938, No.83 Squadron moved to Scampton where it began to receive Handley Page Hampden light bombers in November late in the year, keeping the biplanes until early 1939. No 83 Squadron was the second RAF squadron to take delivery of the Hampden type in September 1939. The Squadron took a leading role at the start of the war in 5 Group Bombing in mine laying and anti-shipping missions, off a wide variety of targets. The type began to be replaced with the Manchester in January 1942 with the first of these arriving at 83 Squadron in December 1941. Following the failure of this type, it began to be replaced with the Lancaster in May 1942, and the Squadron moved in August to Wyton, in the Pathfinder role which had just been established as a force. No.83 Squadron remained as a key squadron in Bomber Command. In April 1944 it moved to Coningsby. At the end of the war in May 1945 participated in Operation Exodus which involved the repatriation of prisoners from Europe. From July 1946 it was re-equipped with the Avro Lincoln, the latest development of the Lancaster, and was disbanded as a Squadron in 1956. It was re-formed as a Strike Squadron in July 1957 with the Vulcan, at Scampton Base where it was finally disbanded in August 1969. (Copyright Juanita Franzi)

LAST SORTIE

On the anniversary of our national revolution of 1821 (25/3/1942), 254 bombers took part in a mission in Essen, which targeted the Krupp factory, a target that had been bombed again by Paul, on November 8, 1941. This nightly mission was the first of the RAF in which a huge armada of bombers converged against a single target in Germany. Markides' Manchester L7465 was part of the armada of 254 bombers consisting of seven Lancasters, 26 Sterlings, 192 Wellingtons, 20 Manchesters, and 9 Hampdens. The L7465 with its crew took off at 20:45 from RAF Scampton, and in addition to Markides, the crew consisted of, Lieutenant Hugh Danielson (second pilot), Lieutenant Donald Mc Conachie (navigator), and Sergeants Albert Woodcock, Thomas Henry Miller, Alan Gordon Jaye and Colin Clement Smith. Despite the good visibility, few planes found their target, while some dropped their bombs at a decoy factory in Rheinberg, 16 km away, outside the town of Essen, where the Germans had set fire to their attempt to distract the bombers from the real target. A total of 181 crews claimed to have left their bombs on target, while the Germans reported that only 9 HE and 700 incendiary bombs were dropped, with the damage recorded in 2-3 houses with 5 dead casualties, and 11 injured. Of the bombers, nine were lost, with five being Manchesters. Of the Manchesters lost that day, two belonged to No.61 Squadron. The L7497 fell at 22:09 in Germany, from the fire of Major (I) Ludwig Becker of  6./NGJ 2 Nachtjagdgeschwader while the L7518 fell at 00:32 in northern Holland, from the fire of the famous ace Helmut Lent of Group 2/NGJ 2 Nachtjagdgeschwader. The L7390 of No.106 Squadron was shot down at 22:38 by the fire of Major Helmut Woldersdorf of 7/NGJ 1 Nachtjagdgeschwader with the total loss of its crew. The British bomber armada also lost a Hampden Mk. I, and three Wellington Mk.III’s, all victims of the Luftwaffe Nachtjägers. In addition, another Manchester from No.83 Squadron, the R5831, was lost in an accident, piloted by Squadron (I) E.M Price, who had been trained bombers along with Markides. He fell on the return leg to Kent when he crossed the British coastline. His attempt to land back at his base in dark conditions crashed into an air defense balloon. The bomber got out of control and crashed, killing its 7-member crew at 02:10 (UK time). Unfortunately, the fifth Manchester lost in that mission was the one that Markides was flying, the L7465 (OL-H). The crew had taken off at 8:45 p.m. It was shot down at 01:30 (German time) on 26 March 1942, above Lichtaerts(near Antwerp) in Belgium, about 12 km SW from Turnhout, and fell between the villages of Lichtarrt and Herentals in Belgium. It was shot down by the fire of 2/ NGJ1 Bf-110 piloted by Lieutenant Kurt Loos. The residents were horrified to see the Avro Manchester leaving flames behind it after hearing it humming over the village of Lichtarrt and falling into a forest behind their village, towards the Herentals (east to west). According to the descriptions of the eyewitnesses the stricken Manchester appeared to be performing a relatively controlled descent. Paul (with the second pilot) may have been trying to keep the bomber under control and try an emergency landing in an opening, but he did not succeed and the plane crashed into the forest and exploded, all onboard instantly perished. According to the information known so far, the crew managed to reach their target at midnight and drop the bombs. Before they managed to leave Europe intact, their bomber was probably attacked by Loos on the return leg with a Western course. The distance from Essen is 18 km while up to Harentals which belongs to Belgium is 157 km. Given that the other Manchesters crashed earlier, around midnight while the plane of the Hellenic heritage Rhodesian pilot crashed at 01:30, it implies that it was probably on the return leg, since they had completed 4:45 hours of flight, with 185 mph cruising speed.

Before the area was blockaded by the Germans a member of the resistance, Jef Melis managed to swell in the wreckage but it was futile. A carpenter from Lichtaart village was the one who found Markides' ring, (he removed it from his hand). From then on, he was keen to return it to the family of the unfortunate pilot, something that was achieved in 2009. The crew of the L7465 was buried with military honors by a German contingent. Their coffins were covered by the Union Jack and at the ceremony the local Gothic-style church sounded the bell mournfully. The priest/pastor of the local church of Smets sprinkled with Holy water the litany and the ceremony ended with three shots from the German contingent. The tombs simply had a wooden Christian cross with the inscription Hier ruhen Unbekannte Englische Flieger. Gefallen am 26.03.1942 (Here lie 7 unknown British airmen who fell on 26/03/1942). About a year later the International Red Cross informed the authorities with the names of the missing persons and so new crosses with their names were placed. After the war in 1945, they were transferred to the Allied War Cemetery of Heverlee. One of the policemen of the local community, Jacques Boone, undertook the difficult task of finding the family of the unknown RAF aviator and handing over to them the ring that the carpenter had found on the spot at the time. The research took years and the evidence pointed out to Seargent Paul Markides. A ceremony took place on March 25, 2009, and the families of machine gunner Colin Smith and Albert Woodcock were present, in addition to the retired police officer, where a monument was unveiled at the scene of its impact. Markides was reportedly linked to Colin Smith. The descendant of the machine gunner Colin Smith, Frank Oliver undertook to carry the golden ring back to England, and the descendants of Markides. According to the No.83 Squadron Operations Record Books, Markides completed 17 bombing missions over occupied Europe with over 78 hours of combat missions, including 12 with Manchesters, and more than 66 hours with Hampdens. Unfortunately, he was not the only Greek or Greek parentage pilot who perished during our National Independence Day from the Ottoman occupation. Two years later, in 1944, Lieutenant (I) Sotiris Skatzikas of the Greek No.335 Squadron of the RAF and in 1945 the Greek ace of the RAF, Vasilios Vassiliadis, were lost on the same day. The first was executed during the Great Escape of the prisoners from the Stalag Luft III camp and the second was during a combat mission. All of them were faithful to the spirit of the Greek revolution, FREEDOM OR DEATH.

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The No.83 Squadron photo album included a series of caricatures for its aircrew and one of those was Paul's. (Ken Delve)
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Nachtjagdgeschwader 1 (NJG 1) aces pictured in the winter of 1940/1941 in front of a U.S. made Ford 1939 Mercury Eight car. FLTR: Leutnant Reinhold Knacke (44 victories), Leutnant Kurt Loos (10 victories), victor of Paul Markides, Leutnant Wolfgang "Ameise" Thimmig (23 victories), Leutnant Hermann Reese (5 victories), and Leutnant Hans-Dieter Frank (55 victories) (http://ww2colorfarbe.blogspot.com)
Markides 4
L7465, OL-H, was one of eight Avro Manchesters lost whilst flying with 83 Sqn. This aircraft failed to return from Essen on the night of 25/26th March 1942, with the loss of Sgt. Paul Markides and his crew. (Chris Ward via Aviation Books Ltd)
Aircraft profile artwork by Juanita Franzi. Supplied to Dimitris Vassilopoulos for personal use only. Separate file supplied for posting on the internet. Copyright Juanita Franzi Aero Illustrations
Avro Manchester L7465, OL-H was the bomber in which Paul Markides and his crew were lost when they got shot down by the Nachtjagd experten, Kurt Loos of 2/NJG.1. The Manchesters had a terrible reputation due to overheating of their engines, as the cylinders in the Vulture engines were mounted in an X configuration, instead of V as the Merlins were. They also had larger propellers fitted, resulting in RPMs exceeding 3000 RPM, and the Vulture engines self-igniting at 3000 RPM. Another problem was that flying with only a single engine was impossible. This was the reason for manning it with a second General Duty Pilot (GOP) who sat when required in a folding seat in the cockpit and assisted the rest of the crew. The problem noted from the outset was due to poor oil circulation from the oil cooler and back to the Rolls-Royce Vulture engine, resulting in overheating, which kept the pilot's attention extremely busy. Solutions such as installing ethylene-glycol coolant added to the already problematic design and overall weight. The last mission took place with Bremen as the target on 25/26 June 1942. Of the 200 Manchesters built by Avro, with all the improvements and modifications that accompanied the type (Mk. IA) only 50-60 could enter operations. At the same time, 63 were lost in missions and 59 in training accidents. The remaining 78 planes remained forever for spare parts (some cannibalized) and as crew training in OTUs. By June 1942, it had been completely replaced by the Avro Lancaster.  (Copyright Juanitta Franzi)  

PASSING TO ETERNITY

Markides 1
Sgt. Paul Markides
21 years old
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F/Sgt Albert Woodcock
21 years old
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F/O Donald McConachie RAAF
29 years old
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Sgt. Thomas Miller
21 years old
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P/O Christopher Danielsen
20 years old
Unknown
Sgt. Alan Gordon Jaye
19 years old
(Chris Ward via Aviation Books Ltd)
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The report for the loss of Avto Manchester R7465 (Andrew Phedonos)
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The Memorial Plaque supplied by the Wings Museum UK in the crash site of L7465. (https://www.komoot.com/highlight/2537138)
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It was a woodcutter of the village of Lichtaart who found Markides' ring, (he removed it from his hand). Since then he had a strong desire to return it to the family of the unfortunate pilot, which was achieved on 25 March 2009. (https://www.wingsmuseum.co.uk/)
Markides 12b
The final resting place of Paul Markides in Heverlee War Cemetery, Belgium. (South Africa War Graves Project.)

PAUL MARKIDES COMBAT MISSIONS

MISSION
NUMBER
SQUADRON
NUMBER
MISSION
DATE
DURATIONBOMBER
SERIAL & NOSEART
TARGET &
REMARKS
18311 - 10 - 1941-Hampden X2898
OL-N
?
28320/21 - 10 - 19419:20Hampden AE358
OL-U
Bombing Bremen, Germany
38301/02 - 11 - 19417:49Hampden X2898 Bombing Deutsche Werke, Kiel, Germany
48302 - 11 - 19415:00Hampden AE389Gardening La Rochelle, France
58305 -11 - 19414:54Hampden X2898
OL-N
Bombing Herburg Docks, Holland
68307 - 11 - 19412:23Hampden X2898
OL-N
Bombing Cologne, Germany, RTB due to W/T Failure
78308/09 - 11 - 19418:17Hampden AD870Bombing Krupp, Essen, Germany, Landed in Brackley due to error in navigation
88311 - 12 - 19423:24Hampden AE389Cologne, Germany
98314/15 - 12 - 19425:00Hampden AE389Brest, France
108316/17 - 12 - 19426:21Hampden AE389Brest France
118322 - 12 - 19422:00Hampden AE389Bombing Soesterberg, Holland, RTB due to lack of cloud cover
128323 - 12 - 19425:17Hampden AE389Cologne, Germany
138327 - 12 - 19425:00Hampden AE389Dusseldorf, Germany
148328 - 12 - 19424:28Hampden AE389Huls, Holland
158308 - 01 - 19423:18Hampden AE389Bombing Battlecruisers, Brest, France, RTB due to AO failure and Gun Mounting U/S
168313/14 - 03 - 1942-Manchester R5780
OL-D/X
Cologne, Germany, RTB due to Power Failure
178320 - 03 -19424:10Manchester R5790
OL-F
Gardening Frisian Islands, Germany
188325/26 - 03 - 19424:45Manchester L7465,
OL-H
Bombing Krupp, Essen, Germany, Shot Down by 2/ NGJ1 Leutnant Kurt Loos Bf-110

SOURCES

 

The author would like to thank Andrew Phedonos for his invaluable help regarding Greek Cypriot parentage RAF pilots and crews as well as Simon Hepworth, publisher of Aviation Books Ltd, and Ken Delve author and researcher, and former RAF Officer, for permitting us to use photographic material from their respected books. 

 

1.    AIR81/12931

2.    No.83 Squadron Operation Record Books

3.     No.83 Squadron (Bomber Command Squadron Profiles), Chris Ward, Mention the War Ltd (now Aviation Books Ltd), December 14, 2016, ISBN: 978-1911255154

4.    Nachtjagd Combat Archive, The Early Years – Part Two – 13 July 1941 – 29 May 1942. Theo Boiten. Red Kite Publications. ISBN 978-1906592554

5.    Handley Page HAMPDEN and HEREFORD. Alan W. Hall. Warpaint Series No.57. Warpaint Books LTD. 2000

6.   Aircrew Log Books of WW2, Decoding and understanding the content of RAF, Commonwealth and Allied Log Books from WW2, Ken Delve with Mark Every, ISBN 978533917742, Independently published, 3 Jan. 2023. 

7.   https://www.wingsmuseum.co.uk/our-work/aircrew-memorials/manchester-l7465-memorial-belgium/

8.   https://www.bombercommandmuseumarchives.ca/squadron_profiles_raf/83squadron_profile.pdf

9.   https://losses.internationalbcc.co.uk/loss/114899

10. http://www.southafricawargraves.org/search/print.php?id=15162

11. http://ww2colorfarbe.blogspot.com/2014/03/pilots-from-nachtjagdgeschwader-1-njg-1.html