Another warrior has made his final sortie

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Pacific Historian
Jun 4, 2005
Orange County, CA
Group Captain Dick Maydwell, who has died aged 92, commanded a wartime squadron of Marauder bombers that roamed the Mediterranean attacking ships and aircraft; as a pre-war big game hunter, he considered his flying operations to be a "Mediterranean safari with free accommodation, transport, guns and ammunition and the chance of a major trophy".
Commanding No 14 Squadron, based in Egypt, Maydwell flew operations against shipping in the Aegean and the eastern Mediterranean. On one occasion he was firing at barges north of Crete when German fighters attacked his aircraft.

Taking violent evasive action at 100 feet, he managed to escape, despite his aircraft being damaged and his gunners wounded. In February 1943 he flew two mine-laying operations in daylight to the Burgi Channel, north of Athens, a round trip of 1,650 miles.

On the second occasion the weather was appalling, and the mountains surrounding the narrow channel made the operation particularly hazardous.

He managed to drop his mines from a very low level - the splashes struck the underside of his aircraft. Intelligence later reported that two ships had been sunk and the channel blocked for a considerable time. Maydwell was awarded the DSO for "the faultless execution of this outstandingly successful operation".

The aircrew of No 14 included many South Africans, New Zealanders and Australians. The latter were renowned for their exuberance and irreverence towards authority and protocol.

Maydwell, the traditional Englishman, quickly recognised their fighting spirit and courage. His quiet authority, insistence on flying the most dangerous operations himself and his warm welcome to newcomers soon endeared him to his men, who called him "the Boffin"; he himself christened his aircraft Dominion Triumph, which was emblazoned on its nose.

After moving to Tunisia, Maydwell and his crews attacked shipping and aircraft on their long patrols off Italy, Sardinia and Corsica. Near Genoa, Maydwell intercepted a three-engine Italian transport aircraft and his gunners shot it down. Whilst supporting the Anzio landings, he came across a four-engine German transport plane and this too was shot down.

Maydwell's most remarkable action was on July 30, when he was patrolling to the north of Corsica. He saw a giant six-engine Me 323 transport aircraft flying unescorted low over the sea.

He manoeuvred his Marauder to allow his gunners to open fire and three engines were set on fire. The massive aircraft, described by Maydwell's navigator as looking like "a block of flats", crash-landed on the shore. The crew escaped unhurt and Maydwell held his fire.

On his final sortie in Dominion Triumph Maydwell attacked a Junkers 52 off Spezia. His aircraft was hit by return fire, but the damage his gunners inflicted gave the German aircraft little chance of returning to base.

The following day he was promoted, and he handed over command of No 14. One of his men described his final address as "a moving occasion, and everyone was sad to lose such a fine CO".

Wynne Somers Goodrich Maydwell was born on July 18 1913 at Bournemouth. Always known as Dick, he was educated at Malvern before entering Sandhurst as an officer cadet.

Commissioned into the Somerset Light Infantry in 1933, he served at Blackdown, where he commanded the anti-tank platoon. He learned to fly at Brooklands Flying Club before joining the 2nd Battalion at Poona, India, where he developed his love of game shooting and where, under licence, he shot a tigress and a panther. In May 1937 he volunteered for a four-year secondment to the RAF and trained as a pilot.

He joined No 53 (Army Co-operation) Squadron, flying Hector bi-planes before the squadron was re-equipped with the Blenheim. He went to France in early September 1939, and was stationed near Epernay flying reconnaissance sorties.

When the German Blitzkrieg began in May 1940 he was on leave in England. On returning to France, he was unable to get back to No 53 and served as the adjutant of a Hurricane re-arming and refuelling unit at Rouen. He finally escaped from St Malo to Jersey.

Maydwell rejoined No 53 and from July until the end of the year he bombed the Channel ports from Flushing to Lorient. By the end of 1940 he was the last surviving pilot from the pre-war squadron. He was awarded the DFC.

In March 1941 Maydwell left for the Middle East and commanded a small photographic survey unit flying Maryland aircraft. His photographs were used to produce maps of the strategic areas of Syria, Lebanon and Palestine that covered the anticipated area of a German advance through Turkey to the Suez Canal.

In April 1942 he was posted to command No 14 Squadron, which was still operating the Blenheim for bombing airfields in Crete and Libya and attacking German re-supply columns in the Western Desert.

In August No 14 was withdrawn to the Canal Zone and re-equipped with the powerful B-26 Marauder bomber, one of only two RAF squadrons to fly the American aircraft.

After early difficulties, when a number of aircraft were lost due to the failure of the fin and tailplane assembly, the fast and heavily-armed aircraft achieved great success with No 14 under Maydwell's leadership.

Promoted to group captain, Maydwell took command of No 325 Wing at Trapani in western Sicily, flying convoy patrols and providing support for the Salerno landings.

In early 1944 the Wing moved to Naples, but Maydwell decided to return to operational flying. En route to the RAF Headquarters to negotiate a flying appointment, his Jeep was hit by a train and he was severely injured.

His right leg was severed above the knee and he spent the next 18 months recovering. He remained in the RAF, specialising in photography.

After four years at the Air Ministry he moved to the Advanced Flying School at Driffield, where - despite his disability - he flew Vampire and Meteor jet fighters. In December 1954 he moved to HQ Western Command at Chester as the land/air warfare officer. He retired from the RAF in 1958.

Maydwell was an excellent shot and after moving to Somerset he carried out the control of wood pigeon, shooting more than 10,000 in two years. He then carried out deer control and over the next 38 years he shot 2,264 roe deer, the last when he retired aged 87.

In 1982 Maydwell contacted Walter Honig, the German pilot of the Me 323 he had shot down over Corsica. They met at Honig's flying club at Baden, and Maydwell gave Honig a propeller tip from his aircraft, bearing the inscription, in German: "A memento of our meeting at Cape Corse, on 29 July 1943". They remained friends for the next 20 years.

Dick Maydwell died on January 8. After a brief wartime marriage, in 1949 he married Sylvia Kent, who survives him.
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