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At First Sight
I Remember - Bob Boyden. DFC*. RCAF

The first time I ever saw a Mosquito fly was in Uplands, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. In 1942, I was stationed there as a staff pilot, flying Avro Ansons.

The weather on the morning that Geoffrey de Havilland was to demonstrate the Mosquito was wet and cloudy, with a low overcast of about 500 feet. Right on time, the Mosquito came flying across the field and did a slow roll, much to our enjoyment and then came back again and did a slow roll on one engine only, the other being feathered. This was a very impressive sight and I never thought that in a short space of time, I also would be flying the Mosquito Bomber.

When I left for overseas, I had a considerable amount of flying time on the Avro Anson and a lot of it was night flying. Our job had been to fly navigational trips for training navigators. On arriving overseas, I went through all the training and postings in England, getting more time on the Oxford trainer and the Wellington. I had no other thought than that my destiny was to fly the Halifax or Lancaster bombers.

I had been sent to different holding stations (No.15 (P) AFU Rambling, Oxford and Watchford No.1 BATS. Oxford are two I remember) to wait my tum to pick up a crew and be on my way. To my surprise, I was suddenly classified as a “crewless pilot”, awaiting a crew without a Captain. Of course, the regular Air Force Unit named me “the clueless pilot” which I endured. My confidence in my ability overcame any feelings of uncertainty that this teasing may have caused. I was a WO II and had been in the service long enough to have lost my “raw recruit” enthusiasm.

I had been to see the Adjutant on numerous occasions to enquire as to why I was hanging around - we had a war to win. On my last visit I was posted to No.30 OTU. Seighford, Wellington, which was a dispersal station out on the moors of Yorkshire. Here, I cooled by heels, wondering when l would become a flying pilot again. I believe I did some Link Trainer work on the QT and waited for a crew to show up.

Late one aftemoon, the phone rang and someone called my name. After assuring the party on the other end that I was WO Boyden, the Adjutant’s office asked me to report in the morning. I asked him what was happening and his reply was “Has anyone spoken to you about the Mosquitoes?”. I said “No”. “See me in the morning” was his abrupt reply.

The next morning I was posted to 1655 MTU, Marham. Norfolk, wherever that was - all I know is that I travelled by train. My first interview was with a well decorated officer of high rank who lectured me on the fact that I would be allowed only one failure or prang, then my chance on the Mosquito would be finished. This didn’t boost my confidence too much but I said that I’d give it a good try and do my best. I went back to the Sergeant’s Mess and after sitting a while, a Sergeant Navigator came by and spoke to me. We talked for some time and then I told him about my interview. He said he wished to be my Navigator, so I accepted his offer. He went back for an interview and on telling the CO of his choosing me as his pilot, was told that I hadn’t done a tour yet. His reply was to the effect that we all had to do a first time. Ralph Fenwick was the Navigator name and he had flown a tour on Lancasters.

Our training on the Mosquito wasn’t exactly “a piece of cake”. The aerodrome was a grass field, but I don’t remember any take-of or landing problems. We did have two S.E. landings and flew into a CuNim cloud which certainly gave us quite a start. At the station I was told one shouldn’t survive one of these encounters. The Mosquito was always an interesting aircraft to fly. It flew twice as fast and carried double the load compared to some of the heavy bombers. This wasn’t a true comparison, as the heavies carried numerous guns for their own protection and these all needed ammunition. I felt a great respect for the heavy bomber force and after the war, when I read more stories about them, my respect doubled.

Ralph Fenwick and I were posted to 627 Squadron, Oakington, on 2nd March 1944. This was a Mosquito operational bomber squadron. After a few days and some flying time, our first trip was to Frankfurt. Our altitude was 28.000ft and we dropped four 500lb bombs or Red TIs. We also dropped window to help spoil the radar of the German defence.

We were a compatable crew and didn’t have too many problems. The closest came on the night of 6th November. 1944, after we had become a Visual Marker Squadron. We had to land at Beccles, an aerodrome on the east of England. Our trip that night was to the Mitteland Canal in Germany. The weather was poor and the wind strong at high altitude. Ten bombers had dropped flares to light up the target area, but the strong winds had blown them to the east and the trip was unsuccessful. The weather was bad after we left the target and the flying conditions just kept getting worse. Our radio contact to the world was completely wiped out and on tuming on the Gee box, Ralph discovered it was of no use as a navigational aid. I had tried to climb over the front, but the storm still stayed with us. Snow fell in endless streaks and when I found that my Navigator couldn’t help much, I turned and flew due West - 270 degrees. Britain is a long island and I knew we would hit land somewhere

After a while we did fly to the coastline. The searchlights were pointing straight upwards, making a visible line all along the coast. As I came into contact with one searchlight, I flew to the right of it, but didn’t see anything on the ground. I turned 180 degrees and flew back to the light. I tried this procedure again and on the third attempt I saw some lights blinking off and on down below. Then flying conditions became rough as we crossed over the disturbance of an aircraft we couldn’t see. As we got lower the runway became clearer, so we flew in to land. We touched down and finally came to a stop, but we also wanted to get off the runway. We turned off, into a sea of mud, sank down so far that I couldn’t pull ourselves out on the engines, so shut off and kept our lights on. We were very much relieved.

A truck came out and took us back for a hot meal and bed. It took time to contact our home base at Woodhall Spa and let them know we were still alive and kicking. We flew back next day with the Lancaster that had caused some tough conditions for us in landing. I was kidded for a few days back at camp, as the headlines in the morning paper told the world of the murder of a WAAF on the same night that we had struggled to get home.

Ralph Fenwick and I flew 30 operational trips together and got along very well. At least, we lived through World War II!

Copyright 1943-2012 627 Squadron in Retirement or as credited