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At First Sight
The Devoted Ground Crews Allowed Us To Use Their Aircraft N.A. 'Nick' Ranshaw DFC.

As “joint owner” with Jim Marsliallsay of Mosquito “XD-T” DZ353 on “C” Flight, 139 Squadron, Wyton, I was told one autumn day in 1945 “Pack your bags, you and your Mossie are now 627 Squadron”.

By a magnificent feat of navigation I managed to guide Jim from Wyton to Oakington, all of 14 miles due East, and we landed the aircraft, heavily “bombed up” with all our personal gear and taxied to dispersals.

A few brush strokes later we found DZ353 resplendent in its new “Letters Ident” -”AZ-T”. This was a particularly fine aircraft, but it was lost over Rennes in France in June 1944. However, on the night of our arrival on 627 Squadron, 24th November, this particular aircraft was on the Battle Order with Jim and I. Unhappily, we were not to go far as the starboard engine was very reluctant to give its designed quota of revs., and we only went as far as the English coast before returning to base. What a beginning for a new squadron that was destined to make a name for itself. For us that brought November 1943 to a close.

December was a quiet month as far as we were concemed, we had leave due and were able to take it and we only did four sorties to the Continent. The next month brought excitement - on 23rd we were coned by searchlights over Dusseldorf, an extremely difficult situation from which to escape even with the speed and manoeuvrability of a Mosquito. There is complete whiteness and you feel absolutely naked even when fully clothed, but we finally managed to evade the beams after two and a half minutes. Its surprising how comfortable and safe you feel once you have regained the darkness.

Life continued as normal - night flying tests, night operations, stand down and leave periods - then, at the end of March we were briefed to drop “Window” (aluminium foil strips) ahead of the Heavies, to disrupt German fighter control radar. The target that night was Nuremberg and at one period I logged sixteen Heavies going down in less than six minutes, an outing which made us realise how susceptible we were to our opponents. On this occasion the Mosquitoes were flying much higher and, of course, faster than the heavies and thus avoided much of the attention. After this trip we did one short operation to the Ruhr and then experienced the upheaval of the Squadron’s transfer to Woodhall Spa in Lincolnshire, on detachment from 8 PFF Group to 5 Group.

There were more aircrews available than aircraft at this time and Jim Marshallsay, Johnny Upton and I piled into my old Morris 10 for the joumey to the new station, visiting my home, only a ten mile detour, enroute. In need of refreshinent during the joumey, we pulled up at the Royal Oak at Revesby and in conversation with the Landlord it transpired that when this particular public house changed hands before the war the young junior for the valuers was none other than our own Johnny Upton. When this piece of invaluable information was ascertained money ceased to flow from us to the till.

Whilst with 8 Group we had flown as high as possible during our sorties over enemy territory, but following our arrival in 5 Group we had to learn entirely different techniques for low level dive bombing to mark targets visually.

Visual marking operations continued for us until 4th July 1944 when, at 0100hrs we were airborne and heading for Flying Bomb Storage and Assembly Dumps in the Creil area north of Paris. Some 160 minutes later we landed - Operation No.50 and tour completed - now for a rest period. During our time with 627 Jim and I had carried out 36 trips, which had become a record and I was very proud to have been part of it. We had served under two C.O.s and three Flight Commanders on the Squadron.

After the exhilaration of an operational Mosquito squadron, life at No. 10 OTU on Wellingtons seemed to take on a very much slower pace, and a marked lack of urgency. Such was the lot of  a WT/Observer who had experienced operational flying in the best aircraft in the Royal Air Force, indeed, in the world, but only kept so by the devoted ground crews who allowed us to use their aircraft and to them I say “Thanks” and raise my hat.

Copyright 1943-2012 627 Squadron in Retirement or as credited