409 NIGHT FIGHTER SQUADRON

             IRVIN FLYING JACKET

Recently while working with documents, part of Major General Vincent’s Archive, a member of our Collections Management Committee discovered a note describing how he became the recipient of the Irvin Flying Jacket that was part of his donation to our museum in 2006.

Bill Vincent was a newly graduated Sgt. Pilot in 1942 when he reported to 409 Squadron to fly Bristol Beaufighters at R.A.F Station Coleby Grange in Lincolnshire, England. By War’s end he had completed two Tour’s of Operations flying Night Fighter and Ranger “Ops”

This is his note relating how he acquired his Irvin Jacket.

” Irvine Flying Suits ( jacket & trousers ) were available in limited quantities at the start of WW II.They were in great demand in Bomber Command as the early Bomber aircraft were not well heated. “Cold” aircrew were not efficient aircrew nor were they alert.

Later types of Bomber aircraft had much better heating systems. Wearing the Irvine Jacket and Trousers was not required.The jacket became a popular outer garment to wear to and from the flight line, if you were fortunate enough to get one from Stores.

This jacket belonged to a 409 Squadron Navigator, P/O Mosley.

When I arrived on Squadron, I went to Stores to obtain an Irvine Jacket. I was turned down because none were available, however they put my name on a waiting list.

On New Year’s Eve 1942/43 two of our Squadron’s Beaufighters  were up on a night patrol mission.

They were on two different radio frequencies. As it happened the Ground Searchlight Crews were active and they had “coned” a Bomber aircraft. The two Beaufighters homed in on the target spotlighted in the searchlight’s cones.During their approach to the target the two Beaufighters collided, neither knowing that the other aircraft was zeroing in on the same “coned” target at the same altitude.

The air crew of both aircraft were killed in the collision and both aircraft crashed. Mosley was one of the air crew that was killed. However,he was not wearing his Irvin Jacket that fateful night.

The Irvin Jacket, along with Mosley’s other personal effects were gathered up by the Administrative types and the Irvin Jacket being public property, was returned to Stores.

Eventually, I was alerted by the Supply Section to call in as they now had an Irvine Jacket for me, it was Mosley’s.

Moe had inscribed the number “409” in white paint on the lower right front panel and “Moe” inscribe on the back.

I managed to scrape the name Moe from the back and had “Vince” inscribed in its place.

(That was the name that I was called throughout the War)  Unfortunately the only paint that I could lay my hands on was grey.

I wore the Irvine Jacket infrequently while flying Beaufighters and never in the Mosquito; the aircraft that the Squadron converted to prior to “D” Day.

      The Mosie had a very crowded cockpit compared to the Beaufighter. To wear the Jacket would have severely restricted any movement in the crowded Mosquito cockpit. “

W.H. Vincent

Sadly as a result of this tragic loss of lives Mosley’s Jacket was now available for re-issue and as was often the case in War, people paid their respects and carried on.

New Year’s Eve 75 years ago, 409 Squadron had two Beaufighters up on a night fighter mission.The collision as described by Bill Vincent occurred over Gainsborogh, Lincolnshire, England.

One aircraft crashed onto Noel Street demolishing three houses and killing three year old Margaret Eames.The second Beaufighter crashed without exploding in the cemetery area of Cox Hill.

Sgt. Bernard Barber

Beaufighter EL-184 was piloted by WO2 Bernard Barber aged twenty-two, from Vernon, B.C.

His Navigator was WO1 Henry Hare aged 21 and was from Toronto, Ont.

WO1 Harry Hare As A Sergeant

They collided mid-air with Beaufighter X-8192.

F/O Bertram Mosley was the Observer on this aircraft. He was 21 years old,married, from London, Ont. His wife Susan lived in London, England.

Mosley’s pilot F/O Harry Brooks was the oldest of the four Casualties at age 28 and was from Verdun, Quebec.

F/O Mosley

All four are buried in the Commonwealth Graves Section of the Scopwick Church Burial Ground. There are thirty-seven Canadians interned here.Eight were members of 409 Squadron.

Grave of F/O Mosley

These deaths and others such as Mosley’s, unfortunately were not that uncommon. 409 Squadron lists fifty-two members killed or missing in action while stationed at Coleby Grange. Twenty-three were considered to be the result of “mishap” – collision or crash landing.

W/C N.B. Petersen the Squadron’s first Commanding Officer was killed in a crash landing on 2, September 1941.

Commonwealth Graves Section of Scopwick Church Burial Ground

John Gillespe Magee, the author of the famous poem “High Flight”

also died as a result of a mid-air collision. He too is among those buried at Scopwick Church Burial Ground.

LEST WE FORGET