Pilot Officer FC Joerin 82985 RAFVR
Frederick Charles (Fred) Joerin, of Swiss origin, joined the RAF in July 1940. During his RAF service as a Wireless Operator Air Gunner (WOp/AG) he kept remarkable Log Books, in which it was his habit to paste in photographs and news cuttings with the formal log entries to which they related.
I was fortunate indeed to come by his remarkable record, thanks to Brian Cull, author of Buffaloes Over Singapore, Hurricanes Over Singapore, co-author (with Shores & Malizia) of Air War For Yugoslavia Greece and Crete, and (with Shores) of Bloody Shambles Vol I and Vol II.
Aware of my interest and efforts in recording the history of 211 Squadron, Brian simply gave me Fred Joerin’s first Log Book, which covers his RAF service from his entry in July 1940 to his time as Officer Commanding 1530 Calibration Flight at Yelahanka in India during 1944, with some later memorabilia.
Fred Joerin’s RAF service began with the usual service entry course at Loughborough in July 1940. By August he was on a Wireless Course at Hamble.
In January 1941 he was posted to No 1 Signals School, RAF Cranwell, where his flying training as a WOp/AG began in February. Completing the required exercises and course-work, Fred qualified as Wireless Operator on 31 March 1941 with 10:40hrs in his Log Book and generally good results in the air exercises, undertaken in DH.86Bs L8037 and K3603.
From there, it was on to No. 1 Air Armament School Manby for training in the gunner’s craft.
26 Air Gunners Course RAF Manby April 1941 (Joerin)
FC Joerin 2nd from the left, rear.
It was a brisk course, with frequent flying in Blenheims and Wellingtons starting on 16 April 1941, with a North Sea Patrol of 2:05hrs duration in a 46 Squadron Blenheim on 19 April for good measure. By 9 May the flying exercises were complete, with another 24:25hrs in the air. With course work and examinations satisfactorily completed, on 18 May 1941 he qualified as Air Gunner.
No. 1 Air Armament School Manby 18 May 1941 (Joerin)
Joerin on the left in the front row.
Now it was off to an Operational Training Unit to put it all together firstly at No 14 OTU Cottesmore, where he reported on 25 May 1941, and then on to 13 OTU Bicester. Confirmed as a Pilot Officer in July 1941, by late October 1941 he had achieved 110:55 flying hours and had been crewing with P/O ADE Devenish 45422 since the end of September.
No 40 Course 13 OTU Bicester October 1941 (Joerin)
P/O F Joerin WOp/Air Gunner with AG badge, fifth from the left in forage cap. His 13 OTU course stamp is clearly completed as 40 Course, although for some reason he captioned the photograph as 36 Course. Dagnall, on 38 Course, had left 13 OTU by early September.
Into action: Malta and 107 Squadron
Now ajudged a fully-fledged crew member, he was posted to 110 Squadron Wattisham, as Gunner to P/O Devenish. With a posting to 107 Squadron at Malta in the offing, they did a three week stint at the ME Flight Wattisham and Bicester to work up in Blenheim IV Z7652 for the long ferry flight to the Middle East.
Their first attempt to depart, from Portreath on 6 December 1941, was thwarted when the W/T packed up 45 minutes out. After repairs, on 9 December they were off on the long 7:35hr leg direct from Portreath to Gibraltar. Their departure from The Rock on 13 December was another washout, with engine trouble, but early the next day they were off to Malta to arrive at Luqa after no less than 8:45hrs in the air (presumably with a ferry tank fitted in the bomb bay).
107 Squadron Malta: Castel Vetrano Sicily 4 January 1942 (Joerin)
From Malta, 107 Squadron carried out low level shipping sweeps and raids against Tripoli and Sicily. Fred took part in three operations as WOp/AG to Devenish. It was now mid-December 1942.
With 211 Squadron to the Far East
The Japanese had thrust into Malaya simultaneously with their assault on Pearl Harbour. With urgent action in hand to reinforce the RAF in the Far East, after three weeks with 107 Squadron Devenish, his Navigator and his WOp/AG Joerin found themselves posted to 211 Squadron. There Newstead and Joerin teamed up with F/Lt Hugh Clutterbuck, veteran of the Greek and Syrian campaigns
At Helwan, their first task was to run the ruler over Z7521, their Blenheim IV for the move East. On 16 January they took the machine on an airtest around Helwan for 25 minutes. Perhaps, like Keeping, they made themselves busy collecting gear: in any event, with nothing wrong, it was 10 days before they flew again.
As part of the third 211 Squadron flight, they took off from Helwan mid-morning on Tuesday 27 January 1942 in in Z7521.
211 Squadron CO and Adjutant, 1942 (Joerin)
W/Cdr RN “Bob” Bateson DFC and F/Lt JW “Brighteyes” Bright 85322. Very civilized arrangements. The tablecloth is a floral pattern, the seats rattan. These, with the small European-style painting give little clue to place. The shot may be in the mess at Helwan before departure to the Far East: there is a packed suitcase behind Bateson, and both men look relaxed and cheerful. Still, it might be after arrival.
As Len Abbs recounted, in March 1942 it fell to Bright to remain behind in Java with the large group of 211s for whom evacuation was impossible and captivity inevitable. Apparently remaining on Java until the war’s end, he survived.
211 Squadron Jan 1942: Z7521 en route to the Far East (Joerin)
Fred’s well-known photo of the ferry flight to the Far East, from the turret of Z7521.
The flight to the East took them 41:30hrs over 10 days, arriving at P2 on 5 February 1942. There were a number of losses en route, two aircraft crashing, two others in forced landings, one reported ”lost” and others with serviceability problems. From Toungoo onwards they were “on operations”, in range of enemy forces. At Rangoon, and again at Pakenbaroe, there were air raids.
Blenheim IV Z7521 Pilot F/Lt Clutterbuck .
Jan 27 Helwan to HBR H4, Haifa Bagdad Road.Warning dust storm ahead.
1 plane crash landed. 3:20hrs
Jan 28 HBR H4 to Habbaniya (Bagdad). 2 a/c engine trouble. 2:10hrs
Jan 29 Habbaniya to Bahrein (refuelling, lunch) 4:15hrs
Jan 29 Bahrein to Sharjah 1 a/c pranged 2:10hrs
Jan 30 Sharjah to Karachi. Stormy weather on the way. Electrical storms. 3:50hrs
Jan 31 Karachi to Allahabad 4:30hrs
Feb 1 Allahabad to Dum Dum (Calcutta) 2:20hrs
Feb 2 Dum Dum (Calcutta) to Toungoo (Burma). Escorting 6 Hurricanes for Singapore 3:40hrs
Feb 3 Toungoo to Rangoon. Electrical storm. Air raid in progress. 1:20hrs
Feb 3 Rangoon to Lho’nga (Sumatra) Stormy weather. 2 a/c force-landed 6:10hrs
Feb 4 Lho’nga to Pakenbaroe Air Raid 3:10hrs
Feb 4 Pakenbaroe to Palembang No 1 Stormy weather lost 1 a/c 3:05hrs
Feb 5 Palembang 1 to Palembang 2 25mins
Gazettal of his promotion to Flying Officer, backdated to 26 August 1941, came on 3 February 1942. Joerin’s first operation in Sumatra was a 4:35hr shipping sweep on 10 February. The next night, 11 February 1942, in Z7521 Clutterbuck, Newstead and he took part in the disastrous night shipping strike which immediately came to grief on the ill-lit flare-path. Taking off heavily laden in the dark across the airfield, they hit trees just after take-off. Clutters and Newstead were dead, Joerin, in the rear turret, survived with broken ribs. Two other aircraft, one of 211 Squadron and one of 84 Squadron, also crashed: a full account is given on Clutterbuck’s page.
Fred took no further part in 211 Squadron air operations. In all, he had flown 7 operations over 20 hours flying time with them, bringing his tally to 16 in all since 1941.
Titled and dated by Joerin, who with broken ribs from his narrow escape on 11 February was evacuated first to Tanjong Enim, some 75 miles to the South West of P2 at Karengendah, on St Valentine’s Day.
Evacuation Sumatra 15 February 1942 (Joerin)
The next day, he travelled by train to Oosthaven, leaving by sea on 16 February for Batavia. These images were among the larger set pasted in the back of his Log Book, in random order, many of them plainly some time after the events. The date, however, is most likely to be correct: the only other possibility being 16 February.
The scene is of a crowded but orderly, mainly civilian, evacuation—on the point of departure rather than arrival. A suggestion that the scene might be Kertapati Station at Palembang now seems highly unlikely. On 15 February, Joerin was already at Tanjong Enim, well over 100 miles to the South West of Palembang—which itself was already under Japanese attack.
There are just three service personnel in the left hand shot, two of them RAF men in forage caps, the other wearing a bush hat and possibly Dutch. One of the airmen is to be seen in the second shot. These are remarkable photographs by any measure.
Squadron CO Bob Bateson had uncropped prints of both images, which he titled as “Between Palembang and Oosthaven Evacuation Train”, which is consistent with Joerin’s own Log Book entries. So it seems far more likely, on balance, that the scene is at the Tanjong Enim rail terminus or at some other station on the line back through Perabumulih and on South to Oosthaven.
Somewhat recovered, Fred Joerin was back with the Squadron on 27 February at Poerwokerto, recording the event briefly: “Left groundcrews”. At some point in the last 2 weeks of February, Fred caught up with George Mockridge, with whom he had trained at Bicester and served with on Malta and in the Middle East.
Then on 2 March 1942 he records “To Chillijat [Tjilatjap]. On board TSS Tung Song 500 tons”. The 26 Officers and 169 Other Ranks of various units in the last RAF party to be evacuated from Java included 65 aircrew and groundcrew of 211 Squadron. The Far East page includes a full roll of the 211s aboard. Among them were the CO Bob Bateson, Devenish, his ex-RA pilot from 107 Squadron, Mockridge (also ex-RA), and old hands from the Middle East like WOp/AG Bill Baird and Armourer Jim Fryatt. Very lucky men, they reached Fremantle safely on 12 March 1942.
60 Squadron and after
Like the others, Fred’s stay in Australia was not long. By 9 April, rekitted and paid, he was boarding the Eastern Prince at Adelaide, bound for Colombo. Posted to 60 Squadron, a slow journey across India brought him to Asansol in Bengal. His posting as Gunnery Leader to the Squadron in May was followed by promotion to Flying Officer with effect from 28 July 1942.
In October 1942, Fred was able to write home to the Mockridge family about the loss of George, with Don “Bruno” Brown (Dagnall’s observer) and Australian ex-36 Squadron gunner Garry Hall, on the combined raid of 9 September raid on Akyab by 34, 60 and 113 Squadrons.
60 Squadron retained their Blenheim IVs in operations against the Japanese in Burma until May 1943. By then Fred Joerin had compiled 47 operations over the course of the war, in 192:15 flying hours. As the Squadron converted in late 1943 to a Hurricane fighter-bomber unit, he left them, tour expired at last.
Promoted to Flight Lieutenant and Officer Commanding 1580 Calibration Flight at Yelahanka, he arrived with 380 hours in his Log Book towards the end of November 1943. He found the flight in possession of a richly varied set of aircraft, including Ansons, a lone Fairy Swordfish, some number of Bisleys (Blenheim Vs), now mercifully being withdrawn from operational use, and a Vultee Vengeance. In all of these he flew.
Bristol Bisley, 1580 Calibration Flight Yelahanka February 1944 (McGill collection)
Fred Joerin kept his photos in good order, glued into his Flying Log Book, his caption clear and concise. However, there were no names for this group shot of “his” unit. The figure seated on the engine nacelle was clearly the one who most resembled him in features and in uniform.
In researching her own father’s RAF war service, Sharon McGill wrote from Newcastle in mid-2009 with fresh scans of the same print, both the front and the rear (which identified all the personnel in shot). Her father, Leading Aircraftman McGill, is the shirtless figure with a towel over his shoulders, seated in the middle of the second row. The full caption confirmed that Fred is the figure atop the starboard engine.
Front row: Cpl Barnes, LAC Mayne, LAC Gorner, LAC Jefferson, LAC Webster, LAC Hainsworth, AC1 Parkinson, LAC Oxley, Cpl C Mitchler, Sgt Jones.
Second row: Sgt Jepson T, LAC Moore, LAC Walton, Cpl Williams, Cpl Gander, Cpl Devine, LAC Owen, LAC McGill, LAC Croft, LAC Hales, LAC Clarke, F/O Morrison (Pilot) Sgt Whittaker T.
Back row: LAC Clementson, AC1 Brown, LAC McColl, Cpl Pain, LAC Waterson, Sgt Dormer (Pilot), LAC Leadbetter, Sgt Hyde (Pilot), AC1 Eaves, Cpl Morley, LAC Mayall, LAC Payne, LAC Patterson, LAC Douglas, LAC Brabbins, LAC Simmonds, LAC Gordon, Cpl Russell, LAC Warick [sic], LAC Howie, LAC Murphy, SGt Smart (Observer), Sgt WIlliams (WOp/AG).
Against engine: Sgt Warrington (Observer), Sgt Geordie Rutledge (Pilot), Sgt Sutton (WOp/AG), Sgt Dyas (WOp/AG).
On top of engine: F/Lt Joerin, OC Cal Flt
Background: Blenheim V Casmer.
As Flight CO, Fred Joerin now covered whole pages at the back of his Log Book with photographs of his Far East service. By August 1944, his Log was completely filled. He had it bound in full leather, embossed with the RAF Badge.
Operating out of Yelahanka, St Thomas Mount, and latterly Cholavarum, No 1580 Calibration Flight ultimately disbanded there in October 1945. But Fred had already left them that July, posted first to a 225 Group Staff job at Bangalore, then on to other Staff jobs in India and Ceylon until December 1946 when he returned to the UK.
In the peacetime RAF Fred Joerin found a number of interesting posts, including Search Officer with the Missing Research and Enquiry Unit in Europe, and Operations Officer at Hamburg and Berlin for the Berlin Airlift. In January 1954, after 14 years service in war and peace, Joerin transferred to the reserve and returned to civilian life, relinquishing his commission in 1958.
When Brian Cull was researching for Bloody Shambles in the late 1980s or early 1990s he found that both Fred and his ex-wife had passed away but was able to make contact with Joerin’s sister-in-law, who had the Log Book safe. She kindly donated it to Cull, who was able to include some of Fred’s story in Shambles Volume II when it was published in 1993.
The gift of Fred Joerin’s Air Gunner’s Log Book to me made it possible to say something more of his part in the 211 Squadron story here. I have since returned it to Brian Cull.
Joerin RAF Form 1767 Observer’s and Air Gunner’s Flying Log Book
Mockridge family correspondence
Joerin service summary and loose photographs via B Cull
McGill family correspondence
London Gazette issues 1939—1958
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Site created 15 Apr 2001, last updated 14 Aug 2022. Page created 23 Jul 2005, last updated 31 Jul 2014
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