Spit/Hurr 1947 - 1948 (4)
…... identifiable landscape. It took us several more recces to find an ambulance with the Star of David on it driving past an identifiable crossroads. We carried on keeping an eye on the action and on one occasion found a captured Egyptian Spitfire being towed behind a lorry on its way to Israel. On 7th January our four did not come back so we mounted a search. We asked the Tempest Wing at Deversoir to give us some top cover but they said it would be difficult as they had stood down
for the weekend! They managed to gather sufficient air and ground crew to get eight aircraft from each squadron and we set off with our top cover towards El Arish. As we approached we ran into some light flak and then saw one of our escort come down in flames. They had been bounced by Spitfires and gave us a hard time until we convinced them we were friendly. We found nothing but hoped we would be set loose on the Israelis. Instead we were forbidden to fly east of the Canal and had our tails painted white to distinguish us from the Israeli Spitfires.
Geoff Cooper had been picked up by the Egyptians and was returned to us within 24 hours. McElhaw and Close were picked by the Israelis and held for three weeks but sadly Sayers had been killed. Geoff was able to give us a full account of what had happened. Both he and Close had been hit by ground fire and Close’s aircraft had caught fire and he bailed out. The others turned to watch him go down and were attacked by two Israeli Spitfires. Mac and Sayers were probably hit before they realised that their attacker wasn’t Geoff. Geoff had a climbing battle with the second attacker but found that his engine was overheating badly and at 15000 feet ran out of power and was hit again and had to bail out. The “Israeli” pilots involved were Sqn Ldr RH McElroy DFC ex RCAF, Chalmers “Slick” Goodlin ex RCAF and US Navy and Bill Schroeder ex USAF.
Webmaster’s Notes: a detailed account of the attack on Ramat David, including Fg Off Bowie’s action on the day, plus the loss of the four 208 Squadron Spitfires can be found on the SPYFLIGHT Website at this link: (opens in a new window).
The Israeli perspective on the Spitfire incident may be found in Ehud Yonay’s book: ‘No Margin for Error’. Click on the book cover to read his account (opens in a new window). There is interesting etymology in the Yiddish word: ‘SHUFTYKEIT’.
Geoff Cooper, who attained the rank of Air Commodore in the RAF, died on 13 December 2014. Read his obituary here.
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