627 Squadron in retirement

 

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At First Sight
Hatch Off and Hitch Hike - Jim Corrigan

Having been stationed in Malta from late 1940 to mid 1943 as an NCO Fitter on Special Duties Flight, I returned to UK and after disembarkation leave I was, with about twelve other ex Malta ground crews, posted to 139 Squadron at Wyton to help form 627 Squadron destined for special duties.

At Oakington very little of special note occurred from the point of view of ground staff, but on arrival at Woodhall Spa for visual dive marking a completely new atmosphere became apparent especially in co-operation between ground and air crews with the development of this entirely new concept in pin point marking.

Practice was almost continuous over the bombing range at Wainfleet and I recall that on one occasion Bob Boyden’s navigator, Ralph Fenwick, was unfit and I was asked to go on the flight to call out the altitude during the dive. The Mosquito was not designed for dive bombing and the aiming and dropping of bombs was solely the pilot’s responsibility, merely pointing his aircraft at the target aided only by a chinagraph mark on the windscreen, the position of which was established by experience. Whilst concentrating on this, the pilot could not keep his eye on the altimeter and on this occasion I stood in for the navigator, calling out 5000, 4500, 4000, 3500 and so on until release height was reached. Going down like a bat out of hell Bob pulled out of the dive and at that moment there was a terrific bang, the cockpit filled with dust from the floor and we missed the Skegness Helter Skelter by inches (and I mean inches). As things settled, albeit very cold and draughty, it was found that the top escape hatch had blown away. After landing back at Woodhall neither of us spoke for several minutes.

My home is in Hartlepool and when my son Owen was born I found a telegram pinned on the mess notice board advising me of the event. Problem! how to get home quickly, At breakfast Bob Boyden said he was on a map reading exercise that day and could take me as far as Thornaby, from where l could catch a bus.

On landing we taxied to the far side of the airfield, I dropped out of the hatch and scattered over the boundary hedge. As I did so I noticed the Control Tower signalling as Bob taxied to take off again. I was so pleased with myself that when I got back off leave I completely forgot to ask Bob how he explained his Thornaby landing to the Control Tower.

The remainder of our time at Woodhall Spa was, in many ways, business as usual for ground crews, but it was a particularly close knit, friendly and highly efficient squadron in all respects.

Copyright 1943-2012 627 Squadron in Retirement or as credited