31 Squadron Visited by WWII Navigator
On 27th April RAF Marham’s 31 Squadron were visited by WWII Navigator Tony Rudd.
He gave a presentation to the Aircrew on his time in the RAF before climbing into the back seat of a GR4 with 31 Squadron pilot Flt Lt Tom Balicki in the front seat; very different to the Mosquito aircraft that he had flown in nearly 70 years earlier.
Tony had joined the RAF in 1941 when he was just 17 years old. After completing his Navigator training in Canada he found himself posted to the 2nd TAF (Tactical Air Force) training unit at RAF Swanton Morley. It was here that he was crewed with his pilot Reg Everson. The pair trained to provide Air Cover to Ground Troops, a role very similar to one of the many carried out today by the Tornado GR4’s when they deploy to Afghanistan in support of Operation Herrick.
Once fully trained they were posted to 305 Polish Squadron ‘B’ Flight to fly the Mosquito 6 Aircraft. They would fly their missions mainly at night patrolling the skies at 1,500 – 2,000ft. Just a month before the end of WWII the Mosquito aircraft flown by Tony and Reg was shot down by friendly fire near Berlin. With the engine and one of the wheels on fire Tony managed to put on his parachute and open the door of the aircraft and bail out. He was followed a few minutes later by Reg. Tony recalls watching his aircraft heading towards earth in a fireball as he floated into the top of a rather tall tree. Tony was captured by German soldiers and remained in custody with a group of approximately 50 others until they were freed by the Americans ten days later. At this point neither Tony or Reg knew that each other had survived.
Tony remained in the RAF until 1947 finishing his service at RAF Gutersloh in Germany and his visit to RAF Marham was the first RAF base that he had been to since then. When asked how it felt to be back on an RAF Station he said “ It feels really familiar and it is an honour and a pleasure to be here”. In fact the personnel of 31 Squadron agreed that the honour and pleasure was all theirs!
Reg Everson and Tony were reunited after the war and remain firm friends to this day. Reg had been due to accompany Tony to Marham but unfortunately was unable to due to a recent fall.