Air Commodore Ted Sismore D.F.C and 2 Bars D.S.O. A.F.C.
Air Commodore Ted Sismore D.F.C and 2 Bars D.S.O. A.F.C.
Born: June 23rd 1921, Kettering. Died : March 22nd 2012 aged 90.
Recognised as the RAF’s finest low-level navigator of the Second World War, leading ‘daylight spectaculars’ on targets including three separate Gestapo headquarters and on Goering and Goebbels themselves.
For the most part Sismore completed these hair-raising exploits, for which he was four times decorated, alongside Squadron Leader Reggie Reynolds.
The duo teamed up in December 1942 when Sismore, then recently commissioned and a veteran of a tour of operations on Blenheim bombers, joined the Mosquito-equipped No 105 Squadron.
He would see continuous action on bombing operations for the next 20 months.
On the morning of January 31 1943, Reynolds and Sismore led a small force of Mosquitos on the RAF’s first daylight bombing attack on Berlin, a round trip of 1,100 miles.
The bombers were ordered to arrive at exactly 11am, when Goering and Goebbels were due to address a rally commemorating the 10th anniversary celebrations of Hitler’s regime.
The Mosquitos flew at low level over Germany and, as they crossed the Elbe, climbed to 25,000ft for their attack, which was carried out exactly on time and photographed by Sismore as it happened.
On their return the crews were able to hear a tape recording from German radio.
As the announcer introduced Goering to the crowds, bombs could be heard exploding. Goering never delivered his speech, and his constant boasts about the security of the Fatherland were proved to be empty promises.
Among those decorated after the attack was Sismore, who was awarded a DFC.
Throughout the spring of 1943, Reynolds and Sismore – who was described by a colleague as ‘the most brilliant navigator’ – led many daylight attacks, their targets including railway workshops, steelworks and power stations, some deep inside Germany.
When Reynolds was appointed CO of No 139 Squadron, Sismore remained as his navigator.
On May 27 1943 they led a force of six Mosquitos on the RAF’s deepest ever daylight low-level penetration of Germany from Britain.
The mission was to attack the Schott glass works and Zeiss optical works at Jena, near Leipzig.
Visibility was very poor as they flew at treetop height over Germany, and was reduced to 1,500 yards as they approached the target. But Sismore’s navigation was perfect, and as they dodged balloons and intense anti-aircraft fire, delayed action bombs were dropped – despite Reynolds being wounded.
The aircraft was badly damaged but was nursed back to base. Reynolds was awarded a Bar to his earlier DSO and Sismore also received a DSO.
Sismore continued on operations and transferred to No 21 Squadron as the navigation leader.
In February 1944, by now recognised as the RAF’s finest low-level navigator, he was instructed to plan an attack to release French Resistance leaders imprisoned in Amiens Jail in northern France.
He was to lead the raid with Air Vice-Marshal Basil Embry (the commander of No 2 Group), but Embry’s chiefs forbade him to fly because he was too valuable an asset. When Sismore indicated that he could fly with someone else, Embry retorted: ‘No, you won’t – if I don’t go, you don’t go.’ The operation went ahead without them, and was a complete success, except that Embry’s replacement as leader, Group Captain Charles Pickard (who had won three DSOs and a DFC) was shot down and killed along with his navigator.
Once again flying with Reynolds, Sismore on October 31 1944 led a force of 24 Mosquitos in a raid on the Gestapo headquarters lodged in the buildings of Aarhus University in Denmark.
The surprise attack, in misty weather, was delivered from low level and was a complete success.
The head of the SS was killed, one of his officers writing: ‘A terrible disaster happened when our HQ was shot up by English airmen.’ For their outstanding leadership, both Reynolds and Sismore received a Bar to their DFCs.
Sismore continued to lead low-level daylight precision raids.
On March 20 1945 he led a force to attack the Gestapo HQ in the Shell House, Copenhagen.
Once again his precise navigation resulted in a successful attack by the leading formation, and the building was destroyed.
Tragically, a following Mosquito was shot down and crashed on a school, killing many children. However, 30 Danish patriots escaped and 150 Gestapo men were killed.
The Danish Resistance asked for one more attack to release prisoners, this time from the Gestapo HQ in Odense.
Sismore navigated the formation of six aircraft on the last of the ‘Mosquito daylight spectaculars’, and the small force destroyed the heavily camouflaged building.
For his part in these two operations, Sismore was awarded a second Bar to his DFC.
As soon as the war was over, Sismore joined AVM Embry and others to meet Danish resistance survivors and to visit the damaged school in Copenhagen.
Some months later Sismore was appointed a Knight of the Danish Order of Dannebrog.
He also received the Air Efficiency Award.
Edward Barnes Sismore was born at Kettering on June 23 1921 and educated at Kettering County School. When he was 18 he joined the RAF Volunteer Reserve and trained as an observer.
He was posted to No 110 Squadron, operating Blenheims, and flew anti-shipping patrols and attacked ports in the Low Countries and France at night.
Returning from one night-time operation, his Blenheim hit the sea – but his pilot managed to drag the aircraft clear and they made a safe landing.
After 30 operations he was rested before converting to the Mosquito and joining No 105 Squadron under Wing Commander Hughie Edwards, VC.
After the war Sismore continued his association with the Mosquito.
He was selected as the navigator for an attempt to break the record for a flight from London to Cape Town.
His pilot was Squadron Leader ‘Mickey’ Martin, of Dambuster fame.
They took off on April 30 1947 and, after refuelling stops in Libya and Kenya, completed the 6,011-mile journey in 21 hours, 31 minutes and 30 seconds to establish a new point-to-point record.
They were awarded the Royal Aero Club’s Britannia Trophy.
In 1951 Sismore trained as a pilot, and became a successful in night fighters.
In 1953 he was given command of No 29 Squadron, the RAF’s first jet night fighter squadron and equipped with the Meteor.
No 29 was busily occupied developing night fighter tactics with jet aircraft, and Sismore was awarded an AFC.
After commanding an advanced flying school, in late 1959 Sismore left for the HQ of the British Forces Middle East, where he was a member of the joint planning staff.
During his two years in the post he was much involved in the RAF’s counter-insurgency operations against dissident sheikhdoms .
In 1962 he was promoted to group captain and given command of the RAF’s large base at Bruggen on the Dutch-German border.
Responsible for two Canberra squadrons operating in the low-level bombing and reconnaissance roles, he was able to fly regularly and revisit some of his wartime targets. Both his squadrons achieved major successes in the annual Nato efficiency competitions.
After two years in Germany, Sismore converted to the Victor bomber before taking up the appointment of senior air staff at the Central Reconnaissance Establishment, with responsibility for the RAF’s strategic photographic and electronic reconnaissance and radio intelligence gathering.
On promotion to air commodore in January 1971 he became the 13th Commandant of the Royal Observer Corps.
His final appointment was as Director of the Air Defence Team, which involved planning a significant upgrade and re-equipment programme for the UK’s air defence organisation – including new early warning radars and control and reporting systems.
On retirement from the RAF in June 1976, Sismore joined Marconi as a service adviser. During the Falklands conflict he was able in a matter of a few weeks to negotiate the availability of a mobile air defence radar, something which would normally have taken several years to procure.
Sismore, a modest man, gave up much of his time in retirement to supporting RAF charities. He also enjoyed playing golf.
He and his wife, Rita, married in 1946; she died in 2006, and he is survived by their son and daughter.
Reprinted with the kind permission of the Daily Telegraph obituaries column.
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Article prepared by Barry Howard of the Spixworthonian Language School.