At First Sight
At Second Sight
BEF Al Faw Video '05
At First Sight
Gestapo Headquarters - Oslo - Bob Boyden. DFC*. RCAF
have chosen to tell this story as a tribute to the Mosquito. I do not
support war of any kind, or fighting in any degree. Remembering the
skill and demands made of the pilots, navigators, bomb aimers, wireless
operators, air gunners and not forgetting the ground crews that worked
with integrity and skill to keep us flying, still moves me with great
I have read about what others have guessed at or documented concerning
the raid on Oslo, 31 December 1944. Forty five years is a long time ago
and like cream coming to the top in a container of milk, only the
highlights are crystal clear. The everyday routine of life in the RAF
is almost lost.
I was a Canadian bomber pilot attached to the RAF’s 627 Squadron which
was stationed at Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire. We were flying the
fabulous Mosquito bomber and after nearly a year of constant practice,
I was a confident pilot. The Mosquito had become a part of me. Our
unique dive-bombing technique had been developed by W/C Cheshire, and
we had done quite a number of dive marking trips for the heavy bombers
- Lancasters, Halifaxes and Stirlings. We used visual means of marking,
instead of the technical equipment used by 8 Group. This took a great
deal of practice and our accuracy had become so dependable that we grew
from a “toy airplane” to a lethal weapon. A quick, accurate placing of
our target indicators and bombs would keep the damage centred on the
main target and that is why we were chosen for the Oslo raid.
We followed the same routine procedure, getting ready for the big one.
Our target practices over the Wash increased a little and the aircraft
we were slated to fly were checked out. My aircraft was DZ611 and I had
flown her on a number of previous trips. We didn’t get all excited
about this target beforehand, as the crews knew nothing of what the
upper ranks were planning.
Our first information about the trip to Oslo was that we were to fly to
Peterhead in the Northem part of Scotland which would be our advance
base. Peterhead was an American base for B-17s and would cut off at
least two hours flight time and give us a good start. The trip would be
a long one - four to four and a half hours - and that can be very
tiring if weather conditions require continuous instrument flying or if
there are a few unfriendly happenings along the way.
Briefing told us that Oslo was the target - not target for tonight - as
this would be a daylight raid, which we did not do very often. In fact,
I believe I flew only three trips in daylight. It’s quite different, as
you feel you stand out like a sore thumb.
At this time of our action against the enemy we flew to our destination
at 28,000ft and around the target would descend to 3,000ft to look over
the area for a pre-determined aiming point. We would then dive to
1,000ft or 500ft levels. After we had done our marking, we would climb
back to 28,000ft and return to base. This time the target had flak
positions and the German Navy was in the Oslo Fiord.
W/C Curry was our new CO and would lead the group which was made up of
two flights of six Mosquitoes each. F/L Mallender would lead the second
F/O Willis was my new replacement navigator and we hadn’t done very
many trips together. He had been S/L Churcher’s navigator and needed
some more trips to wind up his tour of operations. W/O Fenwick had
retired after another 30 flights in his second tour of operations and
had left the Squadron.
I left Woodhall Spa with a full load of gasoline and two 1000lb bombs.
The two hour flight to Peterhead was uneventful but the air was rough
along the coastline as we came in to land and to my embarrassment I
came in pretty heavily. Why is it that it seems everyone is watching at
a time like that and no one ever seems to notice when you “grease it
in”? The Mosquito wasn’t a nose wheel job so it had to be landed in a
three point position.
We were up bright and early the following morning as our target arrival
time was 1100 hrs. Much to my surprise W/C Curry wanted us to take off
in a V formation, three at a time. I was No. 3 on his starboard side,
behind and to the right of his wingtip. I can only guess that he wanted
to do this because the Americans were masters of formation flying and
our Wing Commander had embellished our skills over a glass of black and
tan the previous evening. I had flown formation in our early training
days but hadn’t done any for a long time. During the night two to three
inches of snow had fallen leaving a nice light cover on the ground.
When our leader opened up his throttles for take-off the resulting
blizzard astonished even a good Canadian prairie boy like me. It was
complete black-out and strictly instrument flying and as soon as we
were airborne I pulled sharply to starboard. We waited for the other
nine to take off - at least we had cleared the runway for them - and
form up into the echelon position. I have yet to hear or read any
commerits about this spectacular take-off. We climbed 12,000ft on a
heading of 045° NE and started our trip to Oslo.
The North Sea is a long trip and we had been told that the water was so
cold we would last only two minutes in it. I don’t remember worrying
too much about it - it was such a beautiful day. We relaxed and enjoyed
the scene just below us - snow covered mountains and bright sunshine.
F/O Willis and I did not talk much, if at all. Each of us absorbed in
our own thoughts, thinking of what could happen and Willis no doubt
wondering what this bastard was going to do next.
We cleared the Norwegian coast, with the Oslo Fiord to our right. The
target was ahead of us but not in sight, lost in the haze. Suddenly
bursts of flak came up. seemingly one for each aircraft and right on
altitude. This was the first time that I had seen, heard and smelled
flak all at the same time and we flew through the cloud.
W/C Curry called out for us to descend on target, probably with his
usual “Tally Ho”. He started to dive with us following his movements.
No. 2 disappeared from my view and left a gap between the leader and
myself. He told No. 2 to close in and after a couple of instructions
like that I realised I was the one he called No. 2. I had already
pushed up my throttles at the start of the dive to close the gap. I
broke radio silence to tell him I was No. 3 and closing fast.
Everything happened so quickly: we had, of course, fooled the flak
defences by our diving attack and at last - the target. Bomb doors
open, wait for right moment, push the button, hold at 1,000ft. I felt
two concussions that closely followed one another. There was no smoke,
no dust. I then pushed lower over the city and I remember seeing an
open-air skating rink with people skating around, unaware of the chaos
and explosions behind them.
Suddenly No. 4 was descending down on top of us. Once again I had to
break silence and suddenly what seemed to be a mountain loomed up right
in front of us and as we changed out straight and level to a steep
climb, flak came off the mountain, then we were up and over. Curry
ordered us to break up, every man for himself.
I was doing a left-hand tum to head back when I saw a valley to our
right. I slid down into the valley and kept at a low level. We passed
over the coast and I began the climb back to our operational altitude
of 28,000ft. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and no enemy aircraft were
in the vicinity.
I didn’t know until years later that the second wave did not drop their
bombs. All they saw was smoke and dust at the target site and would not
risk killing Norwegians. The trip back to Peterhead was uneventful.
Those Mosquitoes were really smooth and reliable and much credit must
go to the manufacturers and, of course, our aircraft mechanics who
worked hard to keep them flying.
All aircraft returned to Peterhead and all had some flak damage. Mine
also had a cracked landing light cover. which they said had been caused
by the concussion of the bombs. Only one crew member was injured by a
light flak shell and you can read his story later in this book.
The next morning we did a fly-past in front of the control tower as we
headed back to base. A few officers of high rank met us and shook hands
and said a few words. I received the DFC for this trip and years later,
when I read the citations, I felt proud to have taken part in this once
in a lifetime adventure. I have often wondered if someone. somewhere
has recorded what German ships were in the Oslo Fiord that day. Our
diving technique certainly fooled their gunners as the next time they
would have been right on target.
Click on images for actual size
Gestapo H.Q. Oslo -31-12-44
Form 540: Two waves, np difficulty indentifying target, H.Hour 11.30,
six aircraftcarried out dive attackes, north east corner hit Heavy flak
from ships and shore defences, all aircraft hit, No fighters. Advance
Base Peterhead 30-12-44.
P - KB416
low cloud, visibility poor, smoke haze covering town. Dive bombed 1300ft on
030° Hit north east corner of the buildings.
dive bombed on 045° 2 x 1000 MC bombs, entered smoke.
dive on 040° 2 x 1000 MC bombs
dive on 030° 4 x 500 no results observed due to smoke.
on 010° 2 x 1000 saw one building completely wrecked.
on 025° 4 x 500, bombs fell on southern building
much smoke – second wave ordered not to bomb unless they could see target –
jettisoned bombs. Observer wounded by flak.
C - DZ641
N building – completely wrecked Middle building damaged.
NW building already damaged so undershot on target.
Copyright © 1943-2012 627 Squadron in Retirement or as