I found this “funny” anecdote on a forum left on a message in 2007.
I was searching for more information on Sid Seil.
I am sharing this with Sid’s granddaughter who wrote a comment…
He’s my Grandpa ! Sid Seid
Student pilot Sid Seid
Ever wonder how the paint got scorched off the Mosquito
BY DAVE MCINTOSH
The following excerpt is from Dave Macintosh’s book, “Terror in the Starboard Seat, “published by General Publishing Co. Ltd., Don Mills, Ont. It is Mclntosh’s personal account of his experiences as a 418 Squadron observer/navigator on Mosquitos and of his sometimes strained relationship with his pilot, Sid Seid.
Seid was a Jewish-American in the RCAF whose main aim in life was to single-handedly win the war against Hitler. The story picks up on their 1944 encounter with German V-l buzz bombs.
There was nothing very complicated about the V-l. It was a small glider with an engine in it and it was loaded with explosive. Jerry put enough gas in the engine to make it go to London. When the gas ran out. the bomb fell down on whatever — or whomever — was underneath. The thing understandably made the Brits very jittery. It did me too.
The launching pads were near the French coast from Le Havre to Boulogne. You’d think they would be easy to find and bomb, but they weren’t. The only alternative was to shoot them down, preferably over the Channel where they could do no damage. There was little point in shooting them down over England because they were going to fall out of the sky anyway.
So away we went looking for flying bombs. Better than stooging around France, I thought, until I found out we’d be stooging around at 10,000 feet over France waiting for the bombs to appear.
The first night we set out for Beachy Head, from where we were going to make track for France. Near Brighton, a couple of searchlights snapped on. They picked us up right away. It was blinding in the cockpit.
“Jesus, tell them we’re on their side.” Sid said, crouching as far down as he could so he could see the instrument panel. This was old hat. I reached around and casually fired the Very pistol. A beautiful green flare shot out- But the searchlights didn’t go off as supposed to do. Two more stung with deadly accuracy. Zap!
“For Christ’s sake, you must have the wrong color,” Sid barked. He started to take the airplane into contortions to get out of the lights but then resumed straight and level flight. “They’ll think we’re Jerries if we try to get away,” he said. Meanwhile. I was scrambling around looking for the code color chart. I had left the green flare in from our last trip and had forgotten to check the chart.
“C’mon. for Christ’s sake.” Sid said. This made me doubly nervous. I located the color key in the map box. Then I began searching for my flashlight.
Sid exploded. “”What in hell do you want a flashlight for? You can read a ten-cent pulp novel in here.”
The chart said red and yellow for 10 P.M. to midnight. I was so unnerved that I looked at my watch to check the time.
Sid could read me like a book. “It’s after ten o’clock and it’s before midnight.” he roared. Then he added: “If you don’t get those lights off. I’m going to go blind.” He was really alarmed.
I looked along the rack and couldn’t find the right flare. I thought I was going to be sick. I started over. This time I found one, pinching my fingers getting the old one out, thrust in the new one and pulled the trigger. Nothing happened. My God. was there another red and yellow flare? I thought not. I pulled the breach open, slammed it again, fired. There was a sound like a fist in a pillow. Two beautiful red and yellow lights soared out aft. The searchlights went out like a basement light clicking off.
“Sorry.” I said. It didn’t seem adequate.
Mercifully. Sid didn’t say anything. I think he didn’t want to betray that he had been scared too.
The trip was a washout. We couldn’t concentrate on anything after that, though it was really a very minor incident. We carried out a two hour patrol but didn’t see anything.
The next night started out the same. I wore the same shoes as I had the first trip. I also peed under the port wing before takeoff. I stuck with these superstitions, though my feet got damn cold sometimes and the ground crew complained now and then about having to tramp around in my wet spots. A superstition is not a good one unless you stick with it through thick and thin.
I think I had always been impressed by the film in which Clark Gable got in flying trouble the moment Spencer Tracy forgot his habit of sticking his wad of gum on the cockpit before takeoff. I was not particularly superstitious before the war but I have been since. More than the ordinary …. a black cat crossing your path, breaking a mirror, walking under a ladder. When I struggle out of my high-back rocker. I have to make sure it stops rocking before I leave the room. Never a hat on the bed. Happy is the corpse that is rained on. You name it — I’ve got it.
We took off, crossed the English Channel and took up station inside France east of Le Havre. We were at about 2,000 feet. “Look out the back.” Sid said. I stayed like that for an hour. There was a real danger, sitting up in the open, that we would draw a Jem’ nightfighter. “Jesus, there’s one,” Sid said suddenly. He jammed the throttles forward.
I looked down. Sure enough, there was the red glow, the exhaust of a V-1. It seemed to be moving fairly slowly, poor judgement on my part. We went into a dive to get more speed. The V-1 was ahead of us. In the blackness, of course, all we could see was that small burning sun in front of us. Because the V-1 was smaller than a plane, you had to get fairly close to get in a telling shot.
We were doing more than 350 mph by this time but we weren’t gaining. In fact, we were dropping back a bit. In a minute or so, we had to face the truth that the damn thing was running away from us.
We had been warned about this too. Jerry mixed ’em up. He’d send one over at 500 miles an hour, which we couldn’t catch, and then poop one off at 200 miles an hour. Whether this was deliberate or not we didn’t know, of course, but it drove us crazy. We climbed back up to 10,000 feet: Sid was sore as hell. He took the two misfires as an affront to his flying ability.
Another hour went by and we were thinking of doing one more stooge before heading home, when we spotted a third doodlebug. “By God. this time.” Sid said.
The speed went up as we went down. I looked at the clock. It read 350 mph. I looked out along the wing. It was flapping like a seagull working in a hurricane. My stomach gave another wrench. Christ, the wings will come off and we’ll go straight in. I didn’t take any comfort from what had happened to Tony Barker and Gord Frederick, his navigator. They hit the drink was thrown hard against my straps because the cannons going off cut down the speed suddenly.
When the explosion came I thought I was going to be dead. The goddam thing went off right in our faces. I opened my eyes and caught a glimpse of things whirling around outside the window. Black things and blobs of smoke.
“I can’t see,” Sid said.
“OK boy,”I said. “Just keep her like that. You can cut your speed though.” He throttled back. After those hours of darkness, he had been blinded for a few seconds by the flash. Why we hadn’t been smashed up from all that flying debris. I don’t know. We had flown right through it.
” I got too close,” Sid said.
“I noticed,” I said.
Now that I found myself in one piece and the props still going around, I wanted to laugh and natter and be Jesus H.(for Hannah) Christ in a blue bottle sitting on the mantlepiece. “Boy, I bet we saved the life of some limey in London reading his paper about how all the doodlebugs are being shot down by ack-ack guns,” I babbled.
“Yes. you’re quite a little savior,” Sid said. But he didn’t fool me. He was pleased he had finally made a score, no matter how small, in his Jewish war against the Germans.
“Russ said to go to 10,000.” I said. Russ Bannock, our new flight commander, and Don MacFadyen, had worked out some tactics for the V-l. One of Russ’s pieces of advice was to climb to 10.000 feet and wait there for the V-l launching. The height would enable us to gain our maximum speed of about 400 in a dive. “Look out the back.” said Sid. We climbed to 10.000 feet and stooged around, my neck getting sorer by the minute.
“There’s another bastard.” Sid said. He banged the throttles forward and stuck the nose down. The sudden dive lifted me up hard against the straps and my guts came up with a thud against my heart. Down we went like a bat out of hell. We wouldn’t be too slow this time. We weren’t. We went screaming by the bloody thing before Sid could get set for a shot.
Down, down, down. We were gaining some because the fire coming out the ass end of the V-l was getting bigger. The Mosquito was screaming in every joint. Sid had both big, hairy hands on the stick. When he began to pull back. I thought the wings would never stand it. But we began to level out and the clock said 400 mph. Sid pulled and pulled and she kept coming out of the dive. I tore my eyes away from the shaking wing and looked ahead. It was just like looking into a blast furnace.
“We’re too close,” I screamed. I shut my eyes as the cannons began banging away.
I gave Sid a course: “Three-four-eight.” Then I checked the IFF and the gas gauges.
“I bet we’re all blistered.” Sid said. He was talking about the Mosquito.
We drifted in over the coast and pretty soon our circle of lights showed up. He did a circuit and landed and parked. A flashlight bobbed around under my wing, the door opened, a ladder came up and with it a blurred face.
“Where in hell have you been?” ; -.-.-Hal.
“We got a doodlebug.”
“From pretty close.”
“That’s been mentioned.” Sid said.
I climbed down the ladder. Sid followed and took Hal’s flashlight and played it on the wings and nose. There wasn’t an inch of paint anywhere. The Mosquito was black. No roundel, no number, no letters, nothing.
What did you do, fly right up its ass?” asked Hal.
“Looks like,” Sid said.
The truck with its little dim lights arrived and we rode back to the ops room. Sid reported to the IO.
A few minutes later, Pete came in smoking an enormous cigar. “One ceegar,” he shouted, waving his smoke. He meant he had shot down a V-l.
“The son of a bitch,” Sid said to me. “What’ll he do if he ever shoots down a plane?” He was really annoyed.
The next afternoon, all the crews went around to have a look at our scorched plane and the CO said in the mess, “Don’t get too close to ’em.” I could have said that.
Sid didn’t talk about shooting down a V-l. He talked about mistakes. “Jesus Christ. There we were going down like a stone in a well and my alligator sitting there with his balls in his mouth he’s so scared and I’m fingering the old tit to get ready for a shot when we go tearing by as if that goddam thing had stopped to let somebody off. Then my alligator lectures me on tactics.”
The bar laughed and roared. “Back up we go. with my alligator twitching like a dry leaf on the end of a dry twig in a dry wind because he’s afraid a Jerry is going to come up our ass while we’re trying to get up the doodlebug’s ass. Well, we spot another, though my alligator here pretends he doesn’t see it and says we should go home another way, like the three wise men. Well, down we go again. I don’t know how you’re supposed to tell how far away you are. I thought we were about 300 yards away when I fired. Jesus, we weren’t three yards away. I’m going to wear dark glasses at night after this.”
No other pilot talked like Sid did. The others never admitted mistakes. They’d rather die than admit they had, for instance, overtaken a V-l without getting a shot in. Oh, they had heard of that happening to somebody over in 605 Sqn (our RAF equivalent). But that was all.
Except when describing a kill, most crews kept to themselves what went on in the cockpit. I was always interested in how the other navigators got along with their pilots and once in a while I found out.
One said his pilot gave him **** all the time in the air — a constant stream of instructions, complaints, invective about his navigation. But he didn’t feel like retaliating because his pilot was so damn good he didn’t make mistakes — he knew exactly what he was doing and what his plane could do every second the plane was in the air. It was uncanny. He added that he didn’t speak to his pilot except in the ops room and in the plane. This must have taken some doing because, like the rest of us, they bunked in the same room.
Bill told me about his pilot: “Look, the guy makes mistakes. He puts us on the wrong course sometimes. He’s not one of your wonder pilots we have around here, with years of instruction. He made the course and he tries hard and he really flies pretty well. Do you think I’m going to hold him up to ridicule in front of the mess?”
I didn’t consider that Sid was ridiculing himself or me. He was simply entertaining the Squadron. Besides, he was telling the truth while he did it, with a pinch of exaggeration here and there. I won’t say he was the only one who told the truth. But he was the only one who broadcast it.
(Dave Mclntosh is a retired journalist living in Ottawa.)