At First Sight
At Second Sight
BEF Al Faw Video '05
At First Sight
Mosquitos Can Swim! - R. W. Griffiths. RCAF.
first operational tour began in August 1942 with 76 Squadron at
Middleton St. George, and we later moved to Linton-on-Ouse. This
squadron flew Halifaxes under its then Commanding Officer, W/Cdr
Leonard Cheshire. We did the usual round of the German targets, plus
some in Northem Italy and one trip “Gardening” - laying naval mines -
in the Kattegatt.
After I had completed only 17 operations my pilot, who was an
experienced second tour type, and I were posted to training jobs which
came as quite a surprise. I first went to Central Navigation School,
Cranage, for instructor training and then to 1658 Heavy Conversion Unit
at Riccall, Yorkshire. Not being an enthusiastic instructor my stay at
this unit was not enjoyable and when the opportunity came, in October
1943, to return to operations, and on Mosquitoes at that, I jumped at
the chance. Also posted from Riccall to Mosquitoes was Mike Gribbin and
we teamed up as a crew.
We arrived at 627 Squadron, Oakington, in December 1943 and did our
first operation on the 20th - to Frankfurt, which was, strangely, my
first destination on Halifaxes. Mike and I flew a total of 44
operations together in the following seven months from Oakington and
From the Battle Order for Givors - 26 July 1944 you will see that on
that operation we all experienced strange happenings due to the severe
weather conditions of thick cloud, rain, hail, electric storm and heavy
icing, which froze the air speed indicator pitot heads and affected
generators, GEE, flying controls and worst of all, compasses which
swung at intervals and generally settled on incorrect bearings.
I don’t think any of us actually found the target that night and “N”
DZ636 faired far worse than Mike Gribbin and I.
Just as we crossed the south coast of England on the way out the bad
weather closed in and as we crossed France at maximum altitude, in an
endeavour to get above cloud, we were still in extremely turbulent
conditions with frequent lightning. We circled what we thought was the
target area awaiting a signal from the ground but this never came. If
our instruments were out of order, as was later proved, we probably
never actually arrived over the target area at all.
When setting course for base we were under thick cloud and it was some
considerable time before we gained clear skies where we noticed that
the North Star “was in the wrong place”. We were flying a completely
incorrect course due to faulty compass bearing. Heading north using the
North Star as a guide we saw flashes of light ahead, which turned out
to be the Normandy fighting, this, of course, being shortly after D.
The next part of the story is adequately set out in the Battle Order
Debriefing and needs no further comment from me. Frankly I do not
recall much about the actual ditching as on impact with the water I was
thrown forward hitting my head on thc instrument panel which knocked me
senseless. The next thing I remember was Mike, my pilot, shaking me and
say ing “hurry up and get out onto the wing”. The dinghy had already
inflated and we climbed into it. In fact there was no real urgency as
the Mosquito floated for a considerable time. We had, I was told later,
been the first crew to survive a night ditching by a bomber Mosquito.
Having been in the dinghy only a short time we saw a small boat
approaching from the German occupied coast and almost immediately a
larger ship came up from the opposite direction. We visualised
ourselves being in the middle of a battle over our rescue, but both
boats were American, the U.S. Destroyer won hands down and landed us at
Cherbourg, where we spent two or three days in a Field Hospital while
they patched up my nose, which had been nicely split right down the
middle on the instrument panel. I have been bothered with allergies to
We hitch-hiked back to the UK in an Anson which had delivered drinks to
the troops and we landed at Colerne. One of our Mossies came down and
delivered us back to Woodhall where a much delayed debriefing recreated
the saga you see against:
Marshalling Yards and Junction - Givors
I wonder if Givors ever did get its marshalling yard and junction
There is a sequel to my commentary on this ditching. On arrival back at
Woodhall I advised other crews that I did not want my wife to find out
that we had ditched in the Channel as it might worry her. I had seen a
press photographer on board the U.S. Destroyer, taking shots of us
being hoisted onto the deck, but assumed he was from a British
newspaper. He turned out to be from a U.S.Agency and establishing my
identity had forwarded a picture to a Toronto newspaper.
While my wife was at work several days later someone in her office
produced a newspaper and said “Isn’t that your husband there in the
water?” - So much for secrecy!
Copyright © 1943-2012 627 Squadron in Retirement or as