The strange end of Donald Scratch

Discussion in 'Stories' started by Njaco, Nov 2, 2011.

  1. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
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    Found this story at this website. Amazing!

    Lower than a Snake's Belly in a Wagon Rut > Vintage Wings of Canada


    Jack Cook of the Warbird Information Exchange describes the background and the event pictured here:

    "Sgt. Scratch was born in Saskatchewan, July 7, 1919, and enlisted in the RCAF in Edmonton, as R60973 AC2 on July 20, 1940. He earned his wings as a Sergeant Pilot and flew with that rank for a long time. He flew Liberators from Gander, Newfoundland, as a co-pilot on anti-submarine patrols. Scratch was good at his job and was eventually raised to commissioned rank.

    As a Flying Officer and with many hours to his credit, Scratch wanted to fly as aircrfaft commander, however, RCAF officials considered that, as he was slight in build, and had suffered ankle injuries in the past, he would not have the strength to control a Liberator in an emergency.

    Sgt. Scratch wanted more action but was unsuccessful in getting an overseas posting. He became very depressed. One evening, June 19. 1944, in the mess, he entered into a debate about one man being able to take off, fly, and land, a Liberator. Scratch left the mess, went down to the hangar, fired up a Liberator, and took off. He shot up the American base at Argentia, and the base at Gander. When some fighters approached him to order him to land, they found him occupying, and rotating the mid-upper gun turret, with the aircraft on autopilot. The guns were fully armed and operational. When he returned to base he was placed under arrest, later court marshalled, and dishonorably discharged.

    Mr. Scratch returned to Edmonton, Alberta, and went directly to the RCAF recruiting office where he was accepted back into the RCAF as a Sergeant Pilot. He was posted to No. 5 OTU, Boundary Bay. 5 OTU was training aircrew on Liberators for service against Japan. The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan was winding down and many of the pilots were senior aircrew from Training Command. Again Sgt. Scratch found himself flying second pilot to officers with far less experience than himself. The training started on B-25 Mitchell aircraft and advanced to Liberators. When his experience and flying skills were not recognized, Sgt. Scratch again became frustrated.

    On December 5, 1944, Sgt. Scratch attempted to take off, unauthorized, in a Liberator, Due to the fact that there was no official flying that night, the field was in darkness and the control tower un-manned, Scratch mistook a roadway for the runway and crashed into a wooden bridge wiping out the undercarriage. Undaunted, he returned to the hangar and signed out a B-25 Mitchell and took off.

    Scratch flew down to Seattle, Washington, area and beat up the Seattle airport causing many aborted take offs. The Americans sent up fighter aircraft to bring the Mitchell down however, Scratch returned to Canada, disrupting and grounding flights at the Vancouver airport. He then flew around the Hotel Vancouver, well below the roof level and down Granville Street.

    The following is an eye witness report by Norman Green. “7:00 hrs. December 6, 1944, while it was still dark, I was in the mess hall when it was shaken, and dishes fell to the floor as a result of an aeroplane flying low overhead. The same pass shook WDs out of their bunks.

    As usual that morning at 8:00 hrs., 1200 airmen and airwomen, all ranks (I among them), formed up on the tarmac in front of the control tower for CO’s inspection. Just as the parade was about to be called to attention a B-25 Mitchell bomber came across the field at zero altitude, and pulled up sharply in a steep climb over the heads of the assembled airmen, just clearing the tower. Within seconds, 1,200 men and women were flat on the ground. The Mitchell then made several 25 ft. passes over the field. Group Captain Bradshaw dismissed the parade and ordered everyone to quarters.

    Over the next two hours we witnessed an almost unbelievable demonstration of flying, much of it with the B-25’s wings vertical to the ground, below roof top level, defying gravity. We were continually diving into ditches to avoid being hit by a wingtip coming down a station road. He flew it straight and level, vertically with the wing tip only six feet above the ground without losing altitude, defying all logic, and the law of physics.”

    After an hour of this, three P-40 Kittyhawks from Pat Bay Station arrived on the scene, fully armed, with orders to shoot the B25 down if it left the area of the station. They tried to get on his tail but could not stay with him in his tight turns below rooftop level. After two hours of this, Sgt. Scratch flew over a corner of the field and circled one spot vertically, with the Kittyhawks joining in like may pole dancers.

    Sgt Scratch then climbed to 2,000 feet and wagged his wings as he crossed the field, boxed in by the fighters. When they were clear of the station, the Kittyhawks signaled Sgt. Scratch to land. He nodded his head, gave them the thumbs down sign, rolled over, pulled back on his controls, and, aiming at an uninhabited spot on Tillbury Island in the Fraser River, dived into it. The shattered red taillight lens was later located dead centre between the points of impact of the engines.”

    All in all, a remarkable story, but further on in the forum where this account was published, someone named JDK put into words very eloquently what my thoughts were about this psychopath: “I've always rather liked the saying that 'the superior pilot is one who uses his superior judgement to avoid using his superior skill'. Unless there's bits we don't know, Sgt Scratch was a disgrace with a few remarkable skills. As a military airman, wrecking several aircraft (and worse) simply because he wanted to do another job than allocated in wartime was utterly selfish and short-sighted. Flying skill to the extent of suicide while wasting government equipment and hazarding the lives of your fellow airmen hardly sounds like 'a superb pilot' to me.

    Makes a good bar tale though. And his ghost walks the corridors to this day...”
     

    Attached Files:

  2. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    He reminds me of that B52 pilot who flew the bomber like a fighter .... right into the ground.
     
  3. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

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    #3 tyrodtom, Nov 3, 2011
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2011
    When I was at Nakhon Phanom, RTAFB, in 1967 a USAF Sgt. stole a AC-47, he forgot to remove all the gust locks, and crashed on takeoff.

    Since he died as a result, no one ever knew the true reason he did this, we were just left with rumours.
     
  4. T Bolt

    T Bolt Well-Known Member

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    Amazing story. Guy must have been a real head case.
     
  5. mikewint

    mikewint Well-Known Member

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    Don't we always tend to glorify the bad boys who violate the rules and pull the beards of authority, the rebels? Reminds me of the movie Pearl Harbor and the two main characters Rafe McCrawley (ben affleck) and Danny walker (josh Hartnet) who did deck runs on the parade ground and head-to-head chicken runs on each other to show his superior flying abilities
     
  6. Gnomey

    Gnomey World Travelling Doctor
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    Interesting story. Seems like a complete nutcase...
     
  7. Matt308

    Matt308 Glock Perfection
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    ...and like most other tragic stories, you just know there is more to the story than "his superb flying skills were simply overlooked". I'll bet dollars to donuts this guy was a real jackass in all facets of life.
     
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