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RJ Dudman

Ronald John "Mick" Dudman 624563 RAF

A Fitter II/Engine—skilled groundcrew of the pre-war RAF—Ron Dudman’s service number falls in the large block from 610000 to 654720, issued from March 1938 to civilian Other Ranks entrants to the RAF in the last year or so of peace ending in August 1939.

Len Abbs had enlisted in July 1938, his service number being 615342. When Jim Fryatt enlisted in January 1939, his number was 631210. On that basis, it seems that AC RJS Dudman had joined the RAF between August and December 1938.

One of the Airmen to keep a diary of his war-time experiences, in early January 1941 Ron (otherwise Mick) Dudman was in Cairo, having recently come to Egypt with a draft of personnel from the UK. There he learned that he was to be posted to 211 Squadron, by then in Greece and due to gather more groundcrew.

At dusk on 20 January, Dudman boarded the Ulster Prince at Alexandria, one of a draft of 40-odd groundcrew. Sailing in Convoy AN13 bound for Piraeus, they arrived safely on the afternoon of 22 January and joined 211 Squadron at Menidi (Tatoi) the next day. Ron was to remain with the Squadron in Greece, the withdrawal through Crete, to Palestine, and on to the Sudan and the training period at Wadi Gazouza in late 1941.

    Ulster Prince Nauplion 1941 AWM 069865
    Ulster Prince under attack, Nauplion April 1941 (AWM collection image 069865)
    A modern 3,700 ton passenger motorship of 1930 build, Ulster Prince had had a very active and lucky war up to 1941. On 24 April she was taking part in the
    evacuation of service personnel from Greece when her luck ran out, running aground on arrival off Nauplion to board troops. Royal Navy efforts to claw her off were unsuccessful and she was destroyed by the Luftwaffe the next day. In the AWM image, one of several on the day, she lies left of frame beyond the smaller foreshore trees, bomb-bursts from an attacking Ju 87 Stuka close to her bows.

When the Squadron was posted to the Far East in January 1942, Dudman was one of the large groundcrew party aboard HMT Yoma, sailing for Oosthaven and Batavia in the Netherlands East Indies. By one of the tricks of memory that make for interesting puzzles to untangle, in So Long Singapore and Blenheim Over the Balkans he confidently remembered the voyage as aboard Cap St Jacques.

In that he was mistaken—she was sailing between Bombay and Singapore at the time. Len Abbs, however, had taken a photograph of 211 Squadron men aboard Cap St Jacques: in June 1941, as they journeyed down the Red Sea to Port Sudan, en route for duty at Wadi Gazouza.

In March 1942, Mick Dudman was with the last party of 211s to leave the East Indies theatre, withdrawing via Poerwokerto to Tjilatjap and evacuation aboard the Tung Song.

With his own strong collection of photographs, Ron kindly went to a lot of trouble to get colour laser-copier prints made, which at the time (2001) was quite an advance. It turned out that he had taken many of the photographs that turn up in other 211 men’s collections, Jim Fryatt for example. They all shared prints much as they might have swapped cigarette cards as young civvies.

The shots from his time in the Middle East and the Far East are of very great interest. Here is a selection. A few of them have appeared in other publications. Ron’s own brief captions are shown thus.

Western Desert 1940

    Dudman desert UQ B
    UQ-B First night night-flying. Mersa Matruh May 1940 (RJ Dudman)
    Geoff
    Grierson and Mike Sainsbury both had good close-ups of this event, which went unremarked in the Squadron record. It did rate a mention in the RAF Narrative, dated to 12 June 1940.

    The 211 Squadron identity UQ ‘B’ is faintly visible in the print copy. The aircraft is noted elsewhere as L1481 (Thomas) and also as L1487 (Warner, and Gunby and Temple). Two finger-prints had marked the original negative or print and were visible in the print copy. One of these partly obscures the nose of the Blenheim.

    Dudman Blenheim Mersa Matruh
    Mersah Matruh May 1940 (RJ Dudman)
    The airman on the right wears tinted and shielded glasses, his companion far left almost out of shot. No rank or trade badges to be seen, on either man.

    Dudman servicing Mersa Matruh
    Mersah Matruh May 1940 (RJ Dudman)
    A graphic illustration of the difficulties that ground crews learnt to live with in the field. 4-gallon petrol tins and a step ladder make a blast-protected servicing bay at Mersah Matruh before the balloon went up. The servicing bays at El Daba were of the same style. Is that Sgt C Cooke grinning madly above the top end of a Mercury?

Greece 1941

Menidi/Tatoi

    Dudman Menidi RAF HQ Tatoi 1941
    HQ Tatoi 1941 (RJ Dudman)
    The Headquarters at
    Tatoi airfield in 1941, in hazy afternoon light. No personnel visible. An unidentified vehicle stands at right. The aerodrome itself lay some three miles North East of Menidi railway station, with the station at Tatoi immediately to the East.

    The Summer palace of HM King George of Greece, also known as Tatoi, lay some miles to the North among the wooded slopes of Mt Parnes. This proximity occasioned the war-time change of name for the aerodrome, to Menidi. An odd gesture, well described in Wings Over Olympus. The boys referred to it determinedly as either Menidi, Menidi (Tatoi), Tatoi, or even Tatoi (Menidi)!

    Dudman Menidi 1941
    Tatoi 1941 (RJ Dudman)
    The airfield at Menidi (Tatoi). On the far left, tented accommodation with a hint of what may be the HQ building immediately to the left rear. The considerable hangarage extends from left of centre into the background, with a Blenheim at the doors of the nearest hangar. On the far right, a Blenheim I is apparently about to be bombed-up, with the bomb-bay doors open and an array of equipment under and near the port wing.

By convoy to Paramythia

    Dudman convoy lads
    Some of the lads on convoy March 1941 (RJ Dudman)
    Possibly Sgt Cooke, far right front.

    Dudman Convoy climbs Convoy2
    The convoy climbs (RJ Dudman)

    Dudman Convoy climbs Convoy3
    ...and climbs (RJ Dudman)

    Dudman mountains Convoy1
    ...into the Pindus, March 1941 (RJ Dudman)
    The gorge of the Aspropotamus, the White River.

    Dudman convoy halt2 convoy3
    Convoy halt 1. (RJ Dudman)

    Dudman convoy halt convoy3
    Convoy halt 2. (RJ Dudman)
    Overlooked by the snowy upper slopes of a high mountain valley, the boys “ease springs”. Convoy speeds were low and breaks essential.

    Dudman convoy brew up
    Brewing up on a brief, chilly break. (RJ Dudman)

    Dudman Convoy road Convoy4
    Mountain road conditions (RJ Dudman)

Photographs of the convoy, some of them duplicates, were kept by a number of the boys, including my father, Jim Fryatt and Len Cooper.

Paramythia, March and April 1941

    Dudman Cooke 15 March Paramythia3
    C Cooke Paramythia 15 March (RJ Dudman)
    Armed to the teeth at Paramythia. Cooke sits surrounded by empty ordinance crates, tailfin canisters, and ranks of 20lb and 40lb bombs, fins clipped on. The Blenheim appears to have been repainted in European scheme, and is now without even the Squadron UQ code, let alone its own letter. There is another Blenheim in the far distance to the right of Cooke’s left shoulder. “Dispersals” being taken seriously for the aircraft.

    Dudman Cooke at ease 15 March Paramythia3
    C Cooke Paramythia 15 March (RJ Dudman)
    Same day, same place, and a much more cheery photo.

    Dudman 18 March Paramythia1
    Paramythia 18 March 1941 (RJ Dudman)

    Dudman 211 HQ March 41 Paramythia2
    211 HQ Paramythia March 1941 (RJ Dudman)

    Dudman After lunch 18 March Paramythia2
    Returning after lunch, Paramythia 18 March 1941 (RJ Dudman)
    These larger square format photographs were beautifully filtered and exposed, and well printed.

    Dudman damaged blenheim 18 March Paramythia3
    Damaged Blenheim 18 March 1941 (RJ Dudman)

    Dudman After a raid 22 March 2 Paramythia4
    Paramythia after a raid 22 March 1941 (RJ Dudman)
    L8531 has blown up, having been set on fire after the Italian attack. Smoke from the second burning aircraft is drifting across from the left. See also HF Squire, C Hansford and the notes of my father CFR Clark on the 22 March and other RA raids on Paramythia.

    Dudman After a raid 22 March Paramythia4
    Paramythia after a raid 22 March 1941 (RJ Dudman)
    Another aircraft destroyed. Reports of the total damage vary. Perhaps as many as 8 aircraft in varying states of serviceability from several units.

    Dudman After a raid 3 April Paramythia5
    Paramythia after a raid 3 April 1941 (RJ Dudman)

    Dudman After a raid 3 April 2 Paramythia5
    Paramythia after a raid 3 April 1941 (RJ Dudman)
    Ron may have made a slip of the pen with these two. Possibly the third raid of 26 March, or that on 15 April. Either way, more damage: a u/s Gladiator, probably.

    Dudman Paramythia April Paramythia3
    Paramythia April 1941 (RJ Dudman)
    Off duty, and....time for a cuppa! The airman on the left appears to be an LAC.

JKRV at Paramythia—Easter Monday 1941

    Dudman  JKRV Dornier April 41 JKRV
    King Peter’s advance party at Paramythia 14 April 1941 (RJ Dudman)
    This JKRV Dornier Do17 of 209 Eskadrila, serial 3348, arrived early in the morning. HM Peter, King of the Yugoslavs, arrived shortly afterwards with his entourage in Savoia Marchetti SM.79K ‘White 12’ of 7 Bomber Puk. See also CFR Clark’s
    account of this occasion.

    Dudman  JKRV Dornier guard April 41 JKRV
    Guard mounted (RJ Dudman)

    Dudman  JKRV Dornier April 41 JKRV2
    Flying Pencil alright. (RJ Dudman)

    Dudman  JKRV Dornier cockpit April 41 JKRV2
    The cockpit of the Do17 (RJ Dudman)
    Looking over the pilot’s seat, with the astonishing view forward and down through the extensive glazing.

    Dudman  JKRV refuelling April 41 JKRV
    A tense moment (RJ Dudman)
    A 211 Squadron Coporal and LAC refuel the JKRV aircraft by hand from a 44 gallon drum, their be-ribboned Flight Sergeant impassively watchful. By this date, much equipment had been sent back to Agrinion following attacks on the airfield. One look is worth a thousand words.

    Dudman  JKRV SM79 April 41 JKRV
    King Peter’s transport (RJ Dudman)
    Savoia Marchetti S79K ‘White 12’ of 7 Puk JKRV, Paramythia, 14 April 1941

    Dudman The Royal Family April 14 1941 Paramythia JKRV2
    The Royal Family April 14 1941 (RJ Dudman)
    HM Peter King of the Yugoslavs is the figure fourth from the left facing the camera, bareheaded in sunnies and tweed jacket.

    Dudman King Peter April 14 1941 Paramythia JKRV2
    King Peter in civvies April 14 1941 (RJ Dudman)
    Peter is the tweed-jacketed hatless figure, leading on the left.

The young King (he was 18 or 19 at this date) spent much of the remainder of the war in England. While in the Middle East he made vigorous representations for the immediate operational use of the JKRV personnel and aircraft that made it to Egypt, and was bitterly disappointed that his proposal was not immediately accepted. On the JKRV movements through Paramythia, see also CFR Clark, EL Cooper, WP Griffin, HF Squire.

The Far East: India, 1942
From Australia, the surviving 211 groundcrew were sent to India. At Chakrata, high in the
Dehradun region of Northern India, they took some hard-earned rest from late May 1942.

    Dudman Chakrata Rest Leave Pony Ride
    Rest Leave Chakrata, Pony Ride [c May 1942] (RJ Dudman)

    Dudman Mountain Climb Chakrata  Rest Leave 1942
    Mountain Climb, Chakrata Rest Leave [c May 1942] (RJ Dudman)

By Christmas 1942 things were starting to look up a little. At Jasaguda (modern Jharsuguda, in Eastern India), spirits were high enough to call on old traditions, in building their own little airmen’s pub and decorating it with mementoes of times past.

    Dudman Some DoubleR Builders Dec42
    Some of the Double R builders December 1942 (RJ Dudman)

    Dudman DoubleR Saloon Christmas Eve Dec42
    Double R Saloon Christmas Eve 1942 (RJ Dudman)
    The 211 Squadron badge centrally prominent behind the Bar, and a Greek flag decorating the wall to the left.

    Dudman DoubleR Saloon Dec42
    Double R Saloon, Christmas Party 1942 (RJ Dudman)
    RJ Dudman seated, in hat, front left. At this date, the Squadron was still disbanded. The Double R title may be a Rolls Royce pun on the Refuelling and Rearmament Party duties the ground trades were now up to. By late 1942 there were already a number of these units at work in India.

Stand easy
Ron Dudman returned to the United Kingdom in 1945, where he was to work as an engineer for over 40 years at the Royal Aircraft Establishment.

In later years, gout didn’t stop him tapping away at the typewriter keyboard a bit, corresponding with Ian Carter, James Dunnet, Adrian Fryatt and others. His 1941 diary entries contributed a chapter to James’ Blenheim Over the Balkans.

RJ Dudman died peacefully on 27 January 2004. Rest easy, Ron.

Sources
72 OTU Operations Record Book 1941 Movement Order TNA AIR 29/686
211 Squadron Operations Record Book 1941 TNA AIR 27/1302
Air Ministry Index to Airmen and Airwomen TNA AIR 78/48
Merchant Shipping Movement Card SS Cap St Jacques 1940—1946 TNA BT 389/6/131
Merchant Shipping Movement Card SS Yoma 1939—1946
TNA BT 389/32/212
RAF AHB Narrative Middle East Campaigns Vol I: Operations in Libya and the Western Desert Sep 1939 to June 1941 [
MLRS]

RJ Dudman photograph collection copy via Adrian Fryatt
A Ognjevic personal correspondence re JKRV aircraft movements
Campbell & Lovell So Long Singapore (Campbell 2000)
Dunnet Blenheim Over the Balkans (Pentland 2001)
Long Greece, Crete and Syria (Australia in the War of 1939—1945 Series I Army, Vol II AWM 1953
Smith et al Royal Navy and Naval History
www.naval-history.net
Wisdom Wings Over Olympus Allen & Unwin 1942

 

www.211squadron.org © D Clark & others 2017
Site created 15 Apr 2001, last updated 2 Mar 2017. Page created 28 Oct 2001, last updated 31 Jul 2013
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