My great-uncle Kevin Riordan was an Australian WWII fighter pilot. Some time around the year 2000, not long before he died, he wrote up his war memoirs. According to his memoirs:
- Joined the RAAF on November 4, 1941, initially training in Australia before shipping out to the UK via San Francisco and Boston, somewhere around late 1942/1943.
- Introduced to Spitfires in UK, completing "revision of service training" on 26 May 1943 and posted to 53 Operational Training Unit at Kirton-Lindsey. "By now I had a total of over 250 flying hours and was expected to be competent to normal flying. Now it was time to learn to use the aircraft as a fighting platform. This meant learning operational formation, air to air gunnery, fighter tactics, ..."
- Mentions heading into Lincoln to a pub while on leave and meeting an American officer who turned out to be Clark Gable, celebrating his 42nd birthday. If correct, this would've been February 1, 1943, which puts it before the completion of his service training revision.
- Posted to "Balado Bridge, an air gunnery school" on 9 October 1943.
- By around March 1944 after training he was flying Spitfires out of the UK with 130 (Punjab) Spitfire Squadron, temporarily renamed to 186 Squadron.
- Flew missions in support of D-Day, got shot down on D+7 while patrolling but got back safely (some unkind comments about American friendly fire here).
- On 29 June 1944, withdrawn from operations, returned to Lympne and converted to Spitfire XIVs.
- Describes trying to intercept "German flying bombs" (V1s presumably).
- On 20 September 1944 he was briefed on a support operation for hundreds of aircraft towing gliders headed for Arnhem.
- Some time after that 130 Squadron was moved to Grave to protect bridges from air attack.
- In November they moved to Diest, still in Holland.
Here's the bit I'm curious about:
This morning the briefing was most unusual. It appears the Germans were using the Philips factory in Eindhoven to manufacture sophisticated electrical parts for their new aircraft. It had been decided not to bomb the factory, but to destroy the one floor which was being used. The factory was 4 stories, the Germans were using the 3rd floor. We were to destroy the 3rd floor by machine gun and cannon fire through the windows. The management was to use some pretext to evacuate the building so there would be no loss of life. It was a tall order - we would have to open fire at maximum range to give ourselves time to clear the building. There was no way we could practice, so it was a matter of "go in cold".
At the appointed time we arrived over the target, assumed line-astern formation about 200 yards apart and took turns attacking the third floor. We continued this until we had used all our ammunition, then returned to base. The information was that the operation had been most successful. This was later confirmed when a representative of Philips arrived at the drome and presented each of the pilots who took part in the operation with an electric shaver, quite uncommon at that time.
The follow paragraph mentions a move "to Asch in Belgium", still in November, so this raid apparently took place some time in November 1944 between moves to Diest and moves to Asch.
It's an interesting story that has been part of family lore for years, but on checking the details I don't think it can have happened as described. Eindhoven was liberated on 18 September 1944 so I doubt my great-uncle would have been shooting it up two months later, nor would Philips have been giving out presents if he had...
Wiki records two raids on this factory: a major RAF bombing raid (Operation Oyster) in 1942, and a follow-up raid by ten Mosquitos on 30 March 1943.
His description doesn't match Operation Oyster at all - a precisely targeted fighter raid, vs. a bomber raid. As far as I can tell he was still in training at the time of the March 1943 raid and there's no mention in his memoirs of flying Mosquitos - he goes into some detail on the specs of the planes he's flown so it would be a surprise if he didn't mention this.
So I'm curious as to what event he might have been describing. My best guess is that the raid he flew was targeted somewhere else, and that when he wrote up his memoirs many years later his memory blurred the details with a more famous operation. The detail of the shavers is curious, but I guess it's possible that he heard that story from the pilots of a previous raid and misremembered it as something that had happened to him.
Any ideas? I don't know if it will be possible to answer this definitively, unless somebody has detailed records for 130 Squadron available, but I'd be interested to hear of any plausible candidates.