At First Sight
At Second Sight
BEF Al Faw Video '05
At First Sight
The Toulouse Raid - Blagnac Airfield - 1st May 1944
- Aircraft DZ547 “E”
Load: 4 Red Spot Fire Markers. - Norman MacKenzie DFC. and Andy
stated previously by other contributors, we moved from Oakington to
Woodhall in April 1944 to carry out precision dive marking for 5 Group,
a system devised by Gp. Capt. Leonard Cheshire. We knew that to get the
accuracy required it was necessary to release our markers at around 500
feet. Up to now we had been accustomed to flying at operational heights
of 28,000 to 30,000 feet and the thought of having to come down to 500
raised more than a few eyebrows.
The residents of Tattershall Thorpe, the village adjacent to the
airfield, must have spent a day in wonderment as we carried out our
first efforts in diving from 12,000 feet to 500 feet using the airfield
as our target! After consultation on the speeds achieved in the dives
it wasn’t long before we were practising at the range at Wainfleet
starting our dive at 3,000 feet. Regular practice improved accuracy and
generated a competitive spirit amongst the crews. My recollection is
that Bob Bartley had one of the best averages at one time. Five and a
half yards from the aiming point is the figure still in my mind. No
bombsight was used, just a chinagraph cross on the windscreen was all
that was necessary. Such was the accuracy required for us to give the
main force a good point to start from.
At Toulouse, the Germans were using four large buildings (two pairs at
right angles to each other) for the repair and overhaul of tank and
aircraft engines, with much of the airfield having storage dumps
dispersed around it. The aiming point for this raid was at the apex of
lines drawn from the sides of the main buildings as they met at right
Intelligence briefing was one “Light flak in the area”. That must have
been the understatement of the month! Or maybe they hadn’t realised
that German forces pulling out of Italy had to go somewhere. Certainly
someone had decided that Toulouse was a good place to be at,
particularly if you were a Flak Unit.
Arriving over the target, flares from the heavy pathfinders burst over
us, as arranged, illuminating the area in almost daylight conditions,
to enable us to identify and mark the aiming point, but also making it
very easy for the defences to pick out our squadron aircraft going
round in circles just above them.
I had gone into the nose of the aircraft to help identify the marking
point, and, as was our normal practice, the first member of our team to
spot the aiming point would call out “Tally Ho” on VHF to indicate that
he was going in to mark - on this occasion it was ourselves.
Immediately after locating the target I pulled myself back into my
seat, having fused the markers, then to called out the heights to
Norman as we went down our dive. I had never experienced so much
hostility before! The flak was coming at us from all directions.
spiralling around us, when suddenly there was a great crash within the
cockpit, and within a second I could not see Norman for smoke. We were
near the bottom of our dive by this time and before I could ask him if
he was OK I could feel that we were pulling out. As we climbed and
turned to go round I put my head into the “blister” to see where the
marker was for accuracy but it was nowhere to be found. “Norman, I
can’t see the marker” “We’ve still got it, I couldn’t see for smoke to
drop it, we’ll have to go round again” came the reply! One hammering
had been sufficient but we had to he gluttons for punishment, or so it
This time we didn’t have to look for the aiming point, we knew where it
was. Down we went, for a second time - 3,000 feet, 2,500, 2,000, 1,500,
1,000, 900, 800, 700, 600, 500, marker gone! The treatment was as
before, they obviously didn’t like us one bit and were throwing
everything up to prove it. This time the marker went down and was
assessed for accuracy by another of our aircraft and reported to the
controller, a pathfinder in the heavy force sitting above us.
The next stage in the procedure was for our squadron aircraft, probably
four on this occasion, to circle the target during the bombing period
in case the markers became covered up or extinguished, or in the event
of the Germans lighting a spoof marker some way off. In either of these
events, the target would have to be re-marked, or backed up. My
recollection is that the bombing took some considerable time on this
target, but eventually we were able to head for home.
When we tried to set course on the repeater compass we discovered that
it was totally u/s and we had to revert to the magnetic compass. Smoke
was issuing from the rear of the fuselage with a strong electrical
insulation odour about it, and we were to find out later that the
master compass had received a direct hit, hence no joy from the
repeater. Our intercom had also been put out of action. A shell had
gone through the port wing between the inner and outer tanks, damaging
a rib. Further damage had been done to the fin and various other parts
of the aircraft, then when we got back to base we found that whatever
had come in through the cockpit had struck the hydraulic control
mounting block, severely bending it, and preventing us from lowering
the flaps. Since this was a die cast aluminium block we decided that a
little encouragement might persuade the control to operate. The axe was
the nearest tool to a hammer on board and after a number of well placed
strokes the lever started to go down, firstly giving us 15 degrees,
then full flap on the final approach.
Touching down at Woodhall at 0435 our flying time from the advance base
at Tangmere had been 5 hours and 10 minutes, one of our longest trips.
DZ547 does not appear on my log for over a month, but during the latter
part of May I was out of action, having been struck by an aircrew coach
door sent into orbit by an army lorry, on the road outside the mess! I
can tell you, it wasn’t only the enemy who wanted us out of the way!
- Aircraft Assembly Plant
aircraft assembly plant.
3,500/1,000ft - 3 holes by M/gun & Flak B/L 4 red spot fires
4,000/200ft - hole in nose by Flak B/L 4 red spot fires
10,000/4000ft - B/L 2 x 500GP 6 hr del.
2 red spot fires not needed
2,000ft - B/L 2 red spot fires.
2 x 500GP 6hr del.
Aircraft Assembly Plant - Toulouse.
Taken after attack 1-5-44.
"This assembly plant consists of three main buildings (assembly plant,
testing shop and components store) and a boiler plant. The entire
factory, excepting the boiler plant is severely damaged, the three main
buildings being gutted or completely destroyed".
Copyright © 1943-2012 627 Squadron in Retirement or as