Letter from Grahame Scofield
to Dave Clarke,
1 February 2003
Dear Dr Clarke
Thank you for your letter of 28 January 2003. I do admire your persistence in this matter. I am still scratching my head over the confusion regarding timings, but can be of assistance in the matter of Wing Commander Davis.
He was indeed our squadron commander at the time of the incident and it is correct that he did not accompany us on this exercise [ie. QRA duty at RAF Waterbeach]. Instead the exercise was led by our "A" Flight Commander, a Squadron Leader Cassidy. He managed to get himself into hot water by electing, on the squadron returning to base, to do so in a close formation of sixteen aircraft. This was called a "Wing Ding" and was considered a great way to show off. Unfortunately he failed to calculate that by the time we arrived back at base it had become dark. Flying sixteen aircraft close together in the dark is a distinctly "hairy" proposition. Fortunately we all survived!
Wing Commander Davis was quite a character. I knew him well because I was his squadron Adjutent and occupied the next room to him in the squadron headquarters. His was a classic flying career. He had been in wartime action, flying spies into occupied France in aircraft called, I believe, Lysanders. After the war he had continued as a career pilot. He was somewhat older than the rest of us and very reserved.
After the war he had learned Russian and had been posted to various RAF bases and listening posts close to the Iron Curtain. Just prior to his appointment to 23 Squadron he had been a military attache in Moscow. Recall that this was at the height of the Cold War. Whilst he was there he was engaged in keeping his eyes open and he and the US Military Attache used to take trips out of Moscow to see what they could find out. On one of these trips they were caught and accused by the Russians of spying for the West, which was probably true. After a lot of palaver they were exchanged for some Russians doing the same thing in England.
We used to speculate that they were compromised by a "femme fatale" or some other lure and that he was reduced in the ranks and posted to our squadron as a punishment. On occasion I flew with him as his navigator and he was perhaps the most accomplished flyer that I ever came across. He had many contacts in high places and was always making and receiving calls to the Air Ministry.
It is entirely consistent with the record that he would have been airborne at the time of the incident and that we would have been unaware of his presence. He would have most likely flown with his own navigator, a Flight Lieutenant Paddy McIlwrath, from Northern Ireland. He was another "old timer" who had flown Mosquitos during the war. He was squadron "Nav Rad Leader", which interprets to mean he was the lead radar navigator. Personally I sometimes wondered about his capabilities, because it was a difficult transition from normal air navigation to staring into a radar box. Us young ones, who had known no other way, were generally better at tuning the sets to find the elusive "blip." This may just account for why they had a "no contact" but please don't quote me!
If they were airborne, they would have been the first choice of any duty controller who was responding to a call for assistance from Lakenheath. I am intrigued by his comment that he was "chasing a star." As most of our sorties were done at night we were pretty familiar with the night sky. I suppose if he made no radar contact and there was a planet or bright star low on the eastern horizon he might just have assumed that there had been a false reported sighting. It would not be difficult with an air almanac to check on the stellar sky at midnight on that night to see where the stars are positioned. I recall that it was a clear night and the stars were bright.
I was unaware that "Winco" Davis became head of S4. It would have been consistent with his career and the fact that the generally accepted explanation was that UFOs were advanced craft from another nation. In his career in the world of spies he must have been involved in countless strange tales and was known to be a man of great discretion. I just do not "buy" the theory that records were accidentally destroyed. They would have been put in a safe place, away from prying eyes.
Now, returning to your question, it is entirely probable that the Davis intercept was the one noted at midnight, which would coincide with the reports from the ground radar stations. However, his was not the voice on the squawk box in our crew room, which I am pretty sure was either John Brady or Ivan Logan. Both these navigators also came from Ireland and had loud and distinctive voices and both of whom were prone to get excited in the air. Recall we were regularly listening in to each other's R/T transmission on a daily basis, so the distinctive character of a voice was important to the success of our flying duties.
Just one other thought about timing. It just occurred to me that we might have been operating on Greenwich Mean Time, whereas the radar logs were on local time. In summer this would have meant a two hour difference. This used to be a problem, but I cannot recall whether it could have been a factor in this incident.
So you now have some fairly clear facts. There undoubtedly was an incident. The US jet was probably up first, then came Davis, then came the two crews from 23 Squadron. There is no doubt that there was a radar blip and the spy man sent to guard the records says they were "accidentally destroyed." It all sounds like a case from the "X-files", so keep on with your probing.
If high level secret files were destroyed there would have been an internal enquiry, which should be on record. Perhaps the Air Ministry could be asked to look. I suspect that the files are lying hidden and gathering dust. If you could track them down you might complete your story and find a whole lot more into the bargain. I wish you luck.
s/ Graham Scofield