Charles was a Squadron leader with the RAF during the War. In total, he completed an unprecedented three tours on Mosquitoes, his final tour being with 487 Squadron (New Zealand) mainly on strikes against V1 sites. On D-Day, he flew the film unit Mosquito over the beach head during the invasion.
The following obituary is with thanks to The Telegraph in the UK:
Squadron Leader Charles Patterson, who has died aged 88, took part in many daylight low-level bombing raids, including three of the most audacious of the war, exploits which earned him a DSO and a DFC.
Patterson had already excelled at flying Blenheims and Mosquitos when he selected him to fly a Mosquito specially modified to carry a cine camera in the nose of the aircraft. It was his task to follow the bomber force and to arrive over the target five minutes later to film their results as he dropped his own bombs.
Flying at very low level in broad daylight was always hazardous, but Patterson ran the additional risk of being shot down by the German flak batteries that had been alerted by the 20 or 30 bombers just ahead of him.
One of his first tasks with the camera was to fly alone down the Scheldt estuary as far as a German fighter airfield whilst taking a film of the route; this was used a few days later to brief crews for the attack on the Philips Radio and Valve factory at Eindhoven. On the morning of December 6 1942, a large force of light bombers attacked the factory. Patterson was at the rear and filmed the heavy damage, and the success of this sortie led to his becoming the RAF Film Unit’s official pilot with his own dedicated Mosquito, “O for Orange”.
By nature Patterson was a loner and an individualist, and thus well suited to fly these operations. To increase his chances of survival he devised unconventional tactics: he selected his own route to the target, not following that of the main force; and after filming and bombing the target, he returned by a devious and unlikely route.On one occasion, after attacking a target in Holland, he turned due north and flew out over the Zuider Zee and between the Dutch Friesian Islands, thus avoiding the German fighter airfields and the anti-aircraft batteries on the coast. On another he came home from a French target by flying through the sparsely populated Ardennes before turning for England.
Following the success of the Eindhoven raid, Patterson was often selected to fly to a potential target to film the approaches, and his results were used to plan the subsequent attacks by a larger force of Mosquitos. Sometimes he would fly on ahead to check the weather and to report on enemy defences. In late 1943, he was sent ahead of 40 Mosquitos attacking a V1 site in the Pas de Calais. The cloud base was at 200ft and Patterson, then a Flight Lieutenant, ordered the force to turn back. Piloting one of the Mosquitos was Embry, his commanding officer and renowned for his press-on spirit – but he admired Patterson’s expertise and fully approved. The target was successfully attacked the following day.
On landing after one attack, Patterson was met by Embry who, at the end of the debriefing, asked to see his log book. A few weeks later it was announced that “for his outstanding devotion to duty and determination” Patterson had been awarded the DSO, a rare award to a junior officer, particularly since his was for a sustained period of gallantry rather than for a specific act.
Charles was born in Edinburgh on November 27 1919 and educated at Canford School. He was learning about farming in Ireland when war was declared, and he returned immediately to Britain to volunteer to be a pilot in the RAF. During his training Patterson disliked aerobatics and flying inverted, so he volunteered to be a bomber pilot. After converting to the Blenheim light bomber he was posted to No.114 Squadron, which had just been detached to Coastal Command to enhance the capability against enemy shipping in the North Sea and English Channel. By the summer of 1941, No.114 had reverted to its overland daylight-bombing role. Casualties had been so high that Patterson was promoted three times in the space of a few weeks, and by August was a 21-year-old acting Squadron Leader and flight commander.
On the afternoon of August 11, he and the other squadron executives were briefed confidentially on a raid against the power generating stations at Knapsack, on the outskirts of Cologne. At that stage of the war it was the most daring and hazardous daylight operation so far attempted, involving the deepest penetration into Germany without a fighter escort. Patterson was a sensitive man, who readily acknowledged that he felt fear when he flew. He was unable to sleep before this raid and accepted that his chances of returning were very slim. He wrote his will, a letter to his mother and tidied his room. In later years he commented in an interview: “Despite my constant fear, I flew because it was my duty to continue, and others relied on me.” The raid was a success, but 12 aircraft were lost.
After 40 operations, Patterson was awarded the DFC and sent to be an instructor. He returned to operational duties in August 1942, when he joined the first Mosquito Squadron, No.105. Under Wing Commander Art Reynolds, he took part in the raid on the Zeiss optical factory at Jena, near Leipzig, the RAF’s deepest-ever daylight low-level penetration of Germany from Britain. After 69 operations, Patterson was finally grounded, although he managed to fly three more sorties in O for Orange immediately after the D-Day landings. He spent the last 18 months of his service as an instructor before leaving for the Far East.
Charles was released from the RAF in December 1945. He found it difficult to settle to civilian life but, with his great love of the countryside and of horses, he became a successful bloodstock dealer, spending much time in Ireland. He established close links with the racing fraternity in New Zealand and much of his business involved sales to that country. He also made many successful deals with Middle Eastern stables.
Charles Patterson died on the 2nd March 2008.
The Spitfire Association