Rat Catchers



April 1945 and the war in Europe was nearly over but the Luftwaffe still was not out of action. The winter snows still lingered on in Holland where allied airmen assigned to the 2nd Tactical Air Force were based as they sortied daily into northern Germany. Pierre Clostermann, the highest scoring French pilot of WW II was on of these airmen.Clostermann is flying a Hawker Tempest 5 displaying 26 victories. His flight of four has just departed a base in Holland on a “rat catching” mission-hunting ME-262 jets. The Tempest’s Sabre engines shatter the icy morning calm. In the far background you will note that the blades on the windmill are damaged. Windmills were a favorite target of both sides, since their commanding height made them ideal observation posts in the flat Dutch farm country. The Hawker Tempest was a British fighter aircraft primarily used by the Royal Air Force (RAF) in the Second World War. The Tempest was an improved derivative of the Hawker Typhoon, intended to address problems with the Typhoon's unexpected low performance by replacing its wing with a much thinner laminar flow design. It emerged as one of the most powerful fighters used during the war. Pierre Henri Clostermann (28 February 1921 – 22 March 2006) was a French flying ace, author, engineer, politician and sporting fisherman. Over his flying career he was awarded the Grand-Croix of the French Légion d'Honneur, French Croix de Guerre, Distinguished Service Order (UK), DFC and bar (UK), Distinguished Service Cross (USA), Silver Star (USA), and the Air Medal (USA). In December 1944, Clostermann returned to the front line, on secondment to the RAF as a supernumerary flight lieutenant. Clostermann joined No. 274 Squadron RAF flying the new Hawker Tempest Mk V. In an aircraft which he dubbed Le Grand Charles, Clostermann flew an intensive and highly successful round of fighter sweeps, airfield attacks, "rat scramble" interceptions of Messerschmitt 262 jet fighters, and rail interdiction missions over northern Germany over the next two months. In March 1945, Clostermann briefly served with No. 56 Squadron before a transfer to No. 3 Squadron. On 24 March 1945 he was wounded in the leg by German flak and after belly-landing his badly damaged aircraft, he was hospitalized for a week. From 8 April he was commander of A Flight, No. 3 Squadron RAF. Clostermann was awarded a bar to his DFC for his successful tour of duty. He had to bail out for the first time on 12 May 1945, when during a victory fly-past, a Tempest collided with his aircraft, and as a result of this horrific collision the four planes of his flight went down, with three pilots dying. Clostermann's parachute opened just a few yards above the ground. Clostermann continued operations with No. 122 Wing RAF until he left the military altogether on 27 July 1945 with the rank of wing commander). In his 432 sorties, Clostermann was credited officially with 33 victories (19 solo, 14 shared, most of them against fighters) and five "probables", with eight more "damaged". He also claimed 225 motor vehicles destroyed, 72 locomotives, five tanks and two E-boats (fast torpedo boats). Many references credit him with 29 to 33 victories, although these probably include his "ground" kills of enemy aircraft. Recent, more detailed analysis of his combat reports and squadron accounts indicate that his true score was 11 destroyed, with possibly another seven, for a total of 15–18 victories.EDITION: 1000 signed/numbered by Harley Copic and Pierre Clostermann.

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