627 Squadron in retirement

 

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At First Sight
The Story History of 627 Squadron In A “Nutshell” Or A “Mosquito Bite”

The 688 days of the squadron’s existence was eventful and, I imagine, rather unusual in that the ground staff, technical and administrative, remained almost the same people for the entire life of the unit, albeit, a short life by comparison with many Royal Air Force squadrons. As for the air crew, the vast majority of those who formed with us in November 1943 were still on the operational strength to the end of 1944, only deserting when their tours were complete.

Many others who arrived shortly after formation were present to witness the demise of the squadron when its work had been completed and no further use could be found for such a unit. In view of this it will be appreciated that this was a very close knit “family” and the enthusiasm with which everyone carried out his or her duties may have been equalled, but never surpassed by any other unit during WW2.

This situation can, without doubt, be attributed to our first Commanding Officer, W/C Roy Elliott who, with his friendly, considerate and ultra efficient attitude to all, inspired into the unit’s personnel a keen sense of belonging to a similarly friendly and ultra efficient squadron, the likes of which most of the air crews, and ground crews particularly, had, unfortunately, not previously experienced at stations from whence they came. There was indeed a fair amount of hand-picking going on just before the 13th November 1943 and many people were, in fact, posted in from far away places, certainly not picked by a blindfolded postings clerk with a pin in hand!
 
Formed from “C" Flight of No. 139 Squadron, Wyton, ostensibly as just another LNSF unit in the general expansion programme of that time, in No. 8 (PFF) Group, researches suggest that we were intended for something not then disclosed, but which never actually materialised, It was certainly not envisaged at the time that in April 1944 we would be detached to No. 5 Group in Lincolnshire, to carry out the low-level visual marking of precision targets, a system initiated by Gp/Cpt Leonard Cheshire, which at that period of the war was dictated by the special need of avoiding civilian casualties in occupied countries, notably France, while destroying strategic and tactical targets such as factories, marshalling yards, flying bomb depots and the like, in support of our ground forces before and after D-Day.

Area bombing, efficient in Germany, was taboo nearer home and subsequent events proved beyond doubt that Cheshire and 5 Group were correct in their assumption that low level precision visual marking was at least worth a serious trial, the trial turning out to be more a way of life for 627 Squadron until the end of hostilities.

Please do not think we are not mindful of the very important part Nos. 83 and 97 Lancaster Squadrons, also detached from No. 8 [PFF] Group, played in these operations, but this book is, as its title suggests, restricted to 627 Squadron, its Mosquitoes and above all its personnel.

You will see from the extracts of the Squadron Operational Record in the later pages, that whilst at Oakington we were engaged in the well documented Battle of Berlin with normal bombing, spoofing, diversions, Mosquito “Cookie” dropping etc., and appear to have acquitted ourselves extremely well, the air crew efficiency and aircraft serviceability attained over a long period having prompted Group to initiate, on one occasion, a special congratulatory signal to all concerned.

How the unit came to be chosen for detachment to 5 Group is for others to say, or at least speculate, but the fact remains that 5 Group received, at Woodhall Spa on 14th April 1944,  an extremely able and efficient Squadron, capable of achieving all that was required of it, and more, in the furthering of the visual marking technique - the specific purpose for which it was detached.

There is nothing more inspiring than to tell a unit it is required to carry out a unique job of work, for which its equipment is amply suited, and explain the reasons for that requirement to all concerned. Too often ground crews have been told "just keep them serviceable, day and night, that’s all you need to know’. It’s not very inspiring on a cold winter’s night, frozen stiff, in the middle of nowhere, to be completely unaware as to what the h... you are doing there. With 627 all were put in the picture, within the obvious limits of security, and all rose to the occasion.

As for the actual techniques of low-level visual marking, the customary bomb sight was put back into stores and a standard fighter gun button was attached to the right hand arm of the control column spectacle, connected to the bomb release selector system, transferring the actual release of TIs (Target Indicators] to the Pilot, or to be precise to the right thumb of the Pilot.

At night, the two Lancaster Squadrons mentioned above, had the task of illuminating the area selected, and the Mosquitoes would then locate the precise aiming point, boiler house, hangar, signal box, bridge etc., dive from say 5000ft to 500ft (sometimes to 50ft) and at the precisely judged moment, established purely by continuous practice, release the TIs. On many occasions an accuracy of 40/50ft from the aiming point was achieved, and in some instances, as you will read in the following chapters, such accuracy could be a disadvantage, with spot fires dropping through roofs of hangars, factory buildings and the like, and obscuring the marker flames from the Main Force, and necessitating the attention of a further marker Mosquito.
 
The Squadron Debriefing Records show that on some of the Dortmund-Ems and Mitterland Canal operations TIs actually dropped into the canal with obvious consequences - based on the damp squib principle.
 
Examples of "close encounters of the Mosquito kind" were exemplified by the Squadrons collection of portions of brick from a factory chimney in France, removed from the wingtip of an aircraft, and a large portion of windsock material retrieved from the nacelle of another, possibly from Kjeller airfield, Oslo. The present whereabouts of these souvenirs is unknown.

Copyright 1943-2012 627 Squadron in Retirement or as credited