It was Celle, late 1949, when we were ‘invited’ to take part in a minor exercise with the Army with our Mosquito FB VIs supplying simulated ‘air support’ to the ground forces.
At the briefing we were warned that the troops would be firing live rounds and there would be some mortar firing as well just to boost the proceedings. We had two casualties that day; aiming to impress the blokes on the ground with what an aircraft looked like at close quarters, ‘Chips’ Hunter, one of our NCO pilots later killed at North Weald on Vampires, flew through the top of a few trees and stoved in his starboard leading edge. Quickly rushed into the hangar, the chippie soon pared away the tattered bits, glued and tacked a new piece of ply-wood over the gap and, with a coat of paint to cover the repair, the machine was back on the flight-line within a couple of hours.
The second casualty was Flt Lt Ernie Holmes, our tame Canadian Flight Commander. He landed with an odd looking modification to the cowling around the outboard hinge area of his port undercarriage. There seemed to be something of a large hole just there. . . It seemed he had flown into the trajectory of a mortar bomb which had decided to end its flight in Ernie’s port nacelle. Luckily the bombs were not ‘live’ – or so we thought – and the offending item had dropped off somewhere in the circuit when Ernie put his wheels down. Repair took a bit of panel-bashing but otherwise nothing important was bent or otherwise misaligned – except Ernie’s pride!
Rapid ‘on site’ battle damage repair’s the word!