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At First Sight

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At First Sight
I Can See Mossies – We’re Here William W. Topper. DFC.

On a warm sunny day, June 14th 1944, Sam Fletcher and I had driven down from campton where we had languished for two weeks awaiting a posting to a heavy squadron which neither of us desired. The posting arrived on the 13th. Courage summoned, I marched into the Adj’s office, put my Log Book on his table and said I thought I would be wasted on a heavy squadron. He turned the pages over and in a few minutes said he agreed and would do his best. This he did and for Sam as well. So now, bound, we understood, for a Special Mosquito Squadron in 5 Group, we drove through Lincoln and on to Woodhall Spa. “It’s near Tattershall Thorpe - bout four mile from ‘ere” and suddenly, on the left of the road, there was an aerodrome - runways, hangars on the far side and Oh! no! Lancs!’. The car nearly left the road and my dog scrabbled on the seat to regain his balance - “Wait a minute” said Sam, “I can see Mossies too” - he was right - we’d got to 627 Squadron and thereafter life was to be very different for both of us.

My last two years had been spent as an Instructor at CFS, Upavon, later 7 FIS, flying all types of aircraft from Kestrel Masters to radial ones, Oxfords, Avro Tutors and Magisters, with an occasional Hurricane to test at Hullavington. By March 1944, with just under 2,000 hours under my belt, I had applied for a posting to ‘Operations’. I had been one of the lucky ones.

Sam and I reported to the Station Adjutant and then walked up the road to the aerodrome, to the Squadron and to the CO, Wg/Cmdr George Curry, who, after welcoming us, asked us not to break the Mess up! - tactfully of course. Back down to Tattershall Thorpe to find our quarters - one end of the last Nissen hut near the hedge. Then over to the Mess, a complex of huts, it being a wartime temporary station - introductions to Mike Gribbin, Bartley, (was he really married to a film star?) Bill DeBoos, Pop Devigne, Rutherford - names at first - soon to become much more.

Later the two Flight Commanders, S/Ldr Rocky Nelles and S/Ldr Norman MacKenzie, who told me I was in his Flight “B”. Over the next few days, dual with Rocky Nelles, solo landings and local flying. About this time, up at Flights, a fair haired giant called Davies introduced himself- he was to be my navigator. “Call me Garth” he said, and I could see why - he was straight out of the “Jane” cartoon in the “Mirror”. I also saw that under his Navigator’s badge he had the oak leaf of a “Mention” and learned later from him that he was now on a second tour, having been shot down over Belgium in a Halifax, picked up by the Resistance and walked back over the Pyrenees into Spain and back home via Gibraltar.

We got on fine in the air and had complete confidence in each other. He was a splendid navigator, very accurate and economical with words while airborne. For a couple of days we walked round each other warily until we’d sized up each other’s capabilities and then settled down. I like to think we formed a good team - thank you, “Garth”, wherever you are.

During the considerable researches for this book, numerous stones, and indeed large boulders, were turned, and under one, large as life, was Vic “Garth” Davies. (Comp.)

The rest of June and early July was filled with dive-bombing practice at Wainfleet and cross-country flights day and night, and then on July 7th the first operation - a Spoof near Chauny, the main attack being at Creil where V1s were stored. Two weeks earlier, during an operation on Givors, the magnetic instruments of all aircraft were put out of action during a violent electrical storm and one aircraft ditched in the Channel. The pilot was Mike Gribbin and he became the first to make a successful night ditching in a Mossie. He and his navigator Bob Griffiths were picked up (as described elsewhere in this book) and were back at Woodhall Spa the next afternoon.

All July and August of 1944 the Squadron operated to France, mainly at night, supporting the Army as it strove to push its way deeper into that country. About this time the Station Commander, Gp/Capt Philpott, was supplied by 54 Base with an Oxford, to enable him to fly to 5 Group stations for meetings and I was asked to give him dual as he had never flown twin engined aircraft. In the event F/O Walker came along also to familiarise himself with the type. Alas, navigation was not part of our brief and although the Group Captain went solo quite quickly, he rarely arrived at the required destination and the Oxford was returned to Base.

The 2nd August saw F/O Herbert of the RAF Film Unit navigate me to a rocket site at Troisy St. Maximin, near Creil, where he filmed a daylight attack by Main Force Heavies. The second half of the month was a period of squadron inactivity - very frustrating as day after day we waited for an operation to be put on, then have it cancelled late in the afternoon. The air was full of American bands playing numbers like “I’ll get by as long as I have you” - surely every pilot or navigators’ theme song; and “I didn’t sleep a wink last night” - working late on an engine or airframe? It affected the crews of 617 Squadron, with whom we shared the aerodrome, and, when they were stood down, often walked down from the dispersals to Tattershall, some of them still with knives in their boot tops, one or two with pistols. Later they organised a clay pigeon shoot in the late morning and we passed by this on our way to the Ops. Room or Met. or Intelligence. It was from the Met. Office one morning that I witnessed a “Woodhall Idyll” being enacted. Scene - edge of aerodrome; aircrew, awaiting news, improving aim by knocking clay pigeons out of the sky (and very good some were). Enter back stage one large Lincoln Red bull on the loose, making for nice green grass. Instant disappearance of all life, chairs overturned in haste. Then a single head appeared round the comer of a hut, watching. A few minutes later, from the direction of Station H.Q., a Land Army girl arrived, hayfork on shoulder, cycled nonchalantly across the perimeter track towards the bull. She leaned her bike against the Met. Office wall, walked back to the animal, gave it a slap on the rump, said “Come on Billie, off you go!” Then an affectionate tweak of his testicles started Billie off towards home while the girl recovered and mounted her bike and wobbled slowly, very slowly behind Billie as she followed him down the road. One by one the aircrew re-appeared, restarted the machine and life returned to normal.

On the 27th the CO laid on a special exercise whereby half the Squadron did a local night cross-country to arrive at Wainfleet as 83 or 97 Squadron dropped flares over the bombing range which we in the air proceeded to mark. The other half of the boys were ensconced in the spotting centre watching from the ground a typical 627 marking. They returned by bus to the mess very quietly - did we realise that you could read the Squadron letters by flare light? Perhaps a tactical error - not good for morale!

The last of the French ops. was a daylight marking of a gun position at Brest. Peter Mallender and I landed at Predannack on the Lizard to get last-minute photographs of the place, then took off down the runway which suddenly ended in cliff top edge and, dovvn below was the deep blue sea breaking white on the rocks. The flight over to Brest was in brilliant sunshine - we dropped our 2 x 500lb. smoke and 2 x 500lb Green TIs, circled for a while - there was no flak - then returned over the blue sea and across green and pleasant countryside to Woodhall.

Four days later the first of the German targets - by night - Munchen Gladbach in the Ruhr and then three weeks of various ops. culminating with Kaiserslautern, a railway marshalling yard where F/ O Brown, a tall gentle Canadian and his Navigator, F/ L Cowan, failed to come out of their marking dive and went in on the marking point.

S/Ldr Norman MacKenzie left and “B” Flight was taken over by S/Ldr Rupert Oakley. We missed “Mac” who was quietly efficient and possessed of a gentle humour. However we all settled down. Bomb loads were changing - instead of 25olb and 500lb TIs we were now carrying mostly 2x1000lb. ones which fused atinospherically to burst at about 500 feet from which height they gave a better spread as they cascaded. This necessitated a slightly higher release point in the dive.

October had, for me, five operations, the first to Bremen on the night of the 6th and from which we returned with the outer cockpit door hanging down, having opened in the dive. It was cold and very noisy but didn’t affect the landing behaviour - we did a dummy approach with wheels and flaps down at 7,000ft. to make certain! Then, on the 17th a daylight on the sea wall at Westkapelle on Walcheren Island on the Dutch coast where the Marines were being held up - we found the light flak accurate and spiteful. Sadly, Geoffrey Bray with F/O Herbert as cameraman failed to return from a similar daylight mission a few days later.

Numberg on the 19th but not before an odd and tragic accident occurred over Wainfleet involving a recent arrival on the Squadron, F/Lt Bland and his Navigator F/O Cornell. During bombing practice a fire started in the bomb-bay, Cornell, a large man, got stuck in the cockpit exit, couldn’t be released so the pilot jettisoned the canopy and got out that way. The plane spun in near Wainfleet. Comell is buried in Coningsby.

On the 28th we were part of a team led by W/Cmdr Curry, to mark the submarine pens in Bergen Fjord. It was a dirty night - cloud over the tops with snow showers. Peter Mallender was the only pilot to see the pens which he marked, a good effort by him and John Gaunt, his Navigator. We landed at Peterhead in Aberdeenshire on a wild night, returning next morning down the long coastline south to Lincolnshire - one of the perks of the job, if you happen to enjoy landscape.

On the lst November I did a daylight operation as Deputy Controller of a 5 Group raid in the afternoon from 16-18,000ft on Homburg in the Ruhr, first going for a quick briefing to Coningsby. We followed the Lancasters out, overtaking them some 20 miles from the target and spread in a long gaggle. There was awful interference on all VHF channels and I doubt whether the Controller - who was W/Cdr Maurice Smith with whom I was to have much to do later - or I got through any intelligible message, The bombing was done as planned. We returned frustrated, and frustration returned on the 22nd when we flew to Trondheim in W. Norway to mark the submarine pens there. For over an hour as we flew across the North Sea we listened to the crew of one of the Lancasters chattering away on intercom. with the R.T. Transmit button down, conversation which included the target name and details of the local pub they were going to visit on the first free night. Needless to say other ears were also listening and when we arrived over the target it was covered with a very effective smokescreen. To avoid civilian casualties we had been told at briefing to mark very carefully - the attack was called off and we all turned round and headed for home. Approaching the limit of petrol endurance, carrying drop tanks, we had been given an emergency aerodrome in Shetland. As we droned on for Peterhead, Garth and I listened to Johnny Reid in “H” DZ642 asking for a bearing to the emergency runway. He got one, corrections followed which he acknowledged and then the station wamed him of an obstruction 1,500ft high to the East, I think, of the runway. This was not acknowledged nor were the many repetitions. Sadly, Johnny and his Nav. Bill Irwin, a Canadian. had flown into the hill. Garth and I attended the Court of Enquiry and told it what we had heard. A sad affair - two lives and one aircraft lost, thousands of gallons of fuel wasted, lives put at risk - all to no avail because of one crew’s inattention. They had given so many clues which had been recorded on wire tape by the Link aircraft (as was all RT plain language used by the Marking Team in all 627 operations) and logged by many aircrew, that the crew at fault was identified at once and posted off its squadron the next morning. My log-book tells me we were airborne for 5hrs 10mins.

December started with Heilbronn, a marshalling yard near Karlsruhe. On the 9th we embarked on an operation only to be recalled 100 miles out. Fortunately Garth and I were listening out and heard Base calling the CO who was leading that night and so were able to pass the call to him and others. On the 17th it was Munich - my log-book says No light flak but 100 - 150 searchlights . We flew from Manston and returned there. On the 29th there started a series of mining operations, the first being in the river Weser followed by ones in the Elhe, Kaiser Wilhelm and Kiel Canals, the Weser Canal. two more in the Elbe in March, and a final one in the Weser when the Squadron marked for 100 Group.

In the early part of December winter arrived and we set out to make the mess more hospitable. F/ Lt Wilf Yeadell, a builder from Brentford, solidly dependable always and ready with good advice, designed and built with his own hands a central chimney stack with three open hearths at its base. Result, chairs in a 360 degree circle and the entire mess able to get in to the warmth. The bar was moved and a Christmas party laid on. On the night of an airmen’s party in their mess it was so cold that the snow squeaked when we walked back to the Nissen huts and the stars shone with such brilliance that one Welsh Flight Lieutenant, overcome by all this - or something else - punctuated the end of one line of the chorus of “I’ll take you home again, Kathleen” with four shots from his Webley. Fortunately he handed it over before getting to the end of the next line.

Meanwhile, there was talk of being asked to mark for an attack on Berlin with the Templehoff Aerodrome as marking point. Intelligence gathered all its photographs of the city and details of flak positions and S/O Susan Allen mounted a display which, each morning, crews would study. But nothing came of it - the operation was never put on. Neither was the one at Homin, which was defended by 30+ balloons. Rupert Oakley said he’d go with one other aircraft, but fortunately this also was cancelled because of gale force winds.

Yet another operation was discussed at this time but this one did occur - the daylight raid on the Gestapo Headquarters in Oslo. The bombing range at Wainfleet put out a full size model outline of the building and much bombing practice was put in. The target was a large Gothic-type building in the centre of the city, across the road which lay alongside one of the Palace parks boundaries. Garth and I told the CO we very much wanted to be in on it. I had a yen for Norway - little did I realise that my daughter, as yet unbom, would one day live in Oslo and would work within a few hundred yards of the Palace. However, the raid was cancelled because of weather and Garth and I went on Christmas leave with promise of a recall if the operation was put on again. In the event it was reinstated too quickly to permit our recall and took place on 31st December 1944. Bob Boyden tells the full story elsewhere in this book - old residents speak of it to-day - it was a great morale booster for a population which was suffering harsh treatment.

January 7th saw Garth and I and one other aircraft at Bradwell Bay for an operation to Munich to observe and help, if required, a sky marked attack by 5 Group. It didn’t seem to develop satisfactorily so, as Deputy Controller, I marked with 2x2501b Green TIs. No light ‘flak’. We returned to Woodhall having been airborne 5hrs 40 mins. In fact, all the month’s operations were lengthy in terms of time. Politz, an oil refinery near Stettin required 5hrs 25mins and Brux, another oil target, in Czechoslovakia, 5hrs 35mins. Here, again, the target was obscured by much smoke, being in a valley surrounded by hills. Fortunately we were able to get under the smoke and mark the refinery itself and Controller ordered bombing on the 2x1000lb Reds we had put down as we passed the chimney. We were told later that the raid was very successful - later I met a German POW who came to work on the farm in Devon where I ended up and he spoke of great damage to the refinery, where he had been stationed. Well, well!

On the 26th of January I took up a Mr. Voller of Farnborough for tests of a new camera which had been fitted to my aircraft, good old DZ63l, a Mk IV. This was so angled as to give six photographs at one second intervals of the ground over which we flew, after pressing the TI release, by the aid of six photo-flashes. Group had asked for such a camera so as to assess the accuracy of marking - ideally, one had to fly a straight course for six seconds so as to make plotting more simple. One hoped for no light flak, of course .....

The end of January saw some changes. W/Cdr George Curry left and W/Cdr “Darky” Hallows took his place - he had taken part in the Augsburg raid. He was a popular, if “non- playing” CO, who was awaiting a medical operation. The Station CO. G/Cpt Phillpots, handed over to G/Cpt Fielden, late of the King’s Flight and the “Cloak and Dagger” Station, Tempsford. It was rumoured that the long white scarf which he wore wound once round his neck with the rest trailing in front of his Sidcot suit, had, in fact, been wom by Bleriot when he first flew the Channel .....

On the 1st February, in a raid on Seiger, the Squadron lost one aircraft, that of Ronnie Baker and his Navigator Sgt. Betts. They were seen by a Lancaster crew to be shot down near the target area. Ronnie had a presentiment of this and often mentioned it during walks to the “Leagate” near Coningsby, a pub. always filled with blue uniforms and a very welcome supply of egg and bacon meals. He, Susan Allen from Intelligence, sometimes “Curly” Hitch, the Adjutant and I would walk along the frosty lanes of a Lincolnshire winter, through the village of Tattershall Thorpe, have a meal and return, talking of ops., the war in general and our individual futures as we saw them. Ronnie never saw one for himself. He had a sharp brain and a dry sense of humour.

February 2nd to Karlsrhue, returning to Woodbridge. The next day I was told I had the DFC. On the 7th we went to the Dortmund Ems Canal to mark at Ladbergen. This was becoming a regular feature. S/Ldr Oakley was on one of them - the canal was breached but not, I believe, at Ladbergen! Ronnie Pate did another and his aircraft was damaged during his marking run. He returned safely to base with a hole in the wing of his aircraft.

And then, on February 13th, we went to the ops. room to be told “It’s Dresden to-night and Topper will lead”. We went into briefing where we heard that the defences were not known (the city had received attention once before, early in the war - but by common consent it had been considered a “safe” one, full of art treasures and architecturally superb). There would probably be light flak from trains in the marshalling yards as the Germans were sending supplies up to the front, about 70 miles East. The Russians had asked for the target because of this. There were a lot of refugees moving West. If we got into difficulty, that is where we should head, West, in no circumstances force-land to the East.

The problem was going to be a weather front with 10/10 cloud over the target - unless it cleared as we got there. In the event, this is what happened and 5 Group Lancasters had no trouble in seeing the TIs. The second problem was that we were operating at the limit of our fire which didn’t allow a very good dog-leg to disguise the target. We went towards Chemnitz and at the last minute altered course a few degrees and went down fairly rapidly from 30,000ft to 5,000ft at which point I called the Controller, who was Maurice Smith of 54 Base, to say I was clear of cloud cover. Garth said we would be there in one minute, packed all his navigational gear away, put the bag on his knees, his usual habit, with the Target map on top. This had concentric circles 100yds apart surrounding the marking point which was the centre of the middle stadium of a line of three across the city.

And then, as if by magic, the flares were coming down from the two Lancaster Pathfinder Squadrons of 5 Group, 83 and 97 which were flying at about 12,000ft. Down below was the city, as though in bright moonlight, with the river winding through it and there were the three sports stadiums. By now we were down to 3,000ft and Garth had selected the switches on the bomb panel. I called out “Tally Ho!” and down we went, Garth calling out each 100ft as the altimeter unwound itself. At 700ft I pressed the button and away went a 1000lb Red. Immediately there came a brilliant flash under the aircraft - the first photograph had been taken. We continued down to about 400ft where we levelled out, counting the flashes. Six - up with the nose, full power to regain height quickly. But there was no need - there was no flak - the city was undefended. The opposition started the next day, at home, at Westminster. The Controller and one of the markers assessed the TI as 100yds East and backing up was called for. One by one they called up, went in, cleared and climbed away while the red splash in the stadium widened and intensified. Controller asked for the area to be cleared - a few moments later the bombs started to erupt in patches over the still silent - to us - city. I asked permission to send the marking team home, got it, and passed it over. One by one the markers acknowledged. Garth and I continued to fly round the city at about 1,500ft - it had attractive bridges across the river and many black and white buildings. The bombing intensified and we climbed higher and away. There was a brilliant blue flash - probably a power station - and I commented on this to the Controller. A little later he said I could go - I acknowledged, Garth gave me the course to steer. As we climbed up the glow on the ground spread as we went into thin cloud, then disappeared as the cloud thickened. At 30,000ft there were stars overhead and three hours of flying to be done. We were airborne for 6hrs.

5 Group’s raid was at 21.00hrs and four groups of Bomber Command arrived at mid- night to add to the flames already growing while the Americans followed up at 08.00hrs the next day, to add to the destruction which PRU photographs, taken later that day, showed to be very extensive. As an operation it was markedly successful. Nothing went wrong - the marking went smoothly, the bombing was accurate and there were very few casualties in the bomber force. The Mosquitoes were aided by the newly installed Loran sets which enabled reliance on radar to be greatly extended as they went further East and out of Gee range. Navigation was excellent - spot on by all navigators - and the backing-up by all markers first rate. Apart from Garth and me the Marking team comprised:

Marker 2 - F/O Walker & F/O Oatley.
Marker 3 - F/Lt Armstrong & F/O Patterson.
Marker 4 - F/O Buckley & F/Lt Crosbie.
Marker 5 - F/O Roland & F/Lt Holling.
Marker 6 - F/Lt Alford 6; F/Sgt Murphy.
Marker 7 - F/Lt McClellan & F/O Phillips.
Marker 8 - F/ O Olsen.DFC & F/O Chipperfield.DFC.

Little did we all think as we climbed down from our aircraft that the following days were going to see an outcry which was to continue for months and years and result in, amongst other things, Bomber Harris going out to South Africa a hurt and disappointed man. And the experimental camera? - it produced six excellent photographs which, later, were used to illustrate David lrving’s book “The destruction of Dresden” which came out in the 60’s. They were subsequently borrowed by a highish ranking officer in 8 PFF Group and never returned.

March 6th saw us in the Baltic, as Marker Leader in a raid on the port of Sassnitz where ships in the harbour developed intense light flak - naval areas always seemed to have the best gunners. As we climbed away from the target we were held by one searchlight at 1,500ft, and we watched our own shadow on the cloud ahead which we were making for - not a nice feeling. A week later we went to an oil refinery, Lutzkendorf, where there was a smokescreen. The flares on this occasion, unusually, were not good and my initial TI dropped north of the target. We got back to Woodhall, via Manston, to find we’d been hit by a small piece of spent flak. On the 20th, another oil target - Bohlen - but although there were some good photographs our TI hung up.

March was not over yet and the 23rd saw an operation with a difference. Base asked us to provide a team to mark by moonlight and without flares and the team chosen went over to Coningsby to discuss the target which was to be Wesel, a Rhine port and the scene of the imminent crossing by Montgomery’s army which was threatened by some heavily fortified gun emplacements. We selected as the marking point a sharply defined point of a jetty in the port area. It was impressed on the team - which was to be lead by Peter Mallender with me as No,2 and F/Lt Bridges, F/O Walker, F/Lt Armstrong and F/O Buckley as markers 3,4,5 and 6 - that we take great care to be as accurate as possible as British forces were on the far side of the river. We learned later that a small force of Commandos had already crossed before the raid.

F/Lt Alford was to lead a team of four Windfinders whose job was to find an accurate wind in the immediate area at the height of the bombing force. This he did, averaging the four winds produced and attempting to pass it on to the Link aircraft, but failing to make any RT contact. Down below the markers were also having fun. The moon was bright but there was a haze. However, Garth and I saw the Marking Point, Tallyhoed and went down, dropped the 1000 Red - the first photograph was taken and the rest. Later the first shot showed two TIs bursting. Apparently F/O Walker’s call had coincided with mine and we marked together, fortunately choosing different flight paths! The two were assessed as 100yds N of the Marking Point, backing up was good and bombing accurate. There were no losses. The Army crossed a few hours later, losing only 26 men.

Two days later my scraper ring came through and looked very new between two elderly rings. I took over “A” Flight and Peter moved to Base. We were sad to see him go and missed his cheerfulness and ready smile but wished him well, pleased to have a friend at Base who knew our problems.

April 11th - Leipzig marshalling yard - F/Lt Ken Tice, the Navigation Leader flew with me, Garth being “tour expired”. It felt strangely unsettling not to have him by my side. PFF put down a Primary Blind Marker which was good, there was no light flak and also no photographs as I was not in my usual aircraft. Flights had found, during a major inspection, an unexploded shell in its main spar which had first gone through one of the tanks, self sealing, before embedding itself in the woodwork. This necessitated a rebuild. By April 25th the camera was in DZ643 and in that Ken Tice and I flew to Tonsberg, an oil refinery in Oslo Fjord. It was a good raid, everything going smoothly and we got a fine photograph of the Marking Point, the confluence of a number of roads in the refinery area. There was some light flak, fairly accurate and as I kept low, making for the clifftop and the sea I found Ken beating me around my head and shoulders with his ruler and telling me to “Keep down, keep down! “ Ken, I was doing my best ...,. There was a lovely moon - the hills surrounding the fjord were snow-covered and everything was sharp and clean. We landed, the last as usual, after a flight of 5hrs 25mins and as has been pointed out to me during the researches for this book, this was 627’s last marking operation of the war and ours was the last aircraft to land. Well, well - but we didn’t know then.

In May W/Cdr Rollo Kingsford Smith RAAF replaced the popular W/Cdr Hallows but stayed only two months before being followed by W/Cdr Clive Scott RNZAF, and he and I stayed put until my demobilisation on January 1st 1946. But that is anticipating a lot of things.

V.E. Day came - it was all over in Europe and suddenly we all found ourselves short of a wound-up spring inside. For a week or so we organised “Showing the flag” flights round some of 627 targets, two aircraft each day being despatched, weather permitting. Ken Tice and I did one and nearly ran out of fuel. having to land at a Naval Air Station on the Norfolk coast.

And then the air became full of the title “Tiger Force” and a whole lot of new faces appeared in the mess and at Flights. We were to go out to Okinawa and provide the marking for the Bomber force out there, doing two targets on each trip. This would involve long sea crossings, possibility of forced landings on small islands. So the Intelligence department set to work to mount a comprehensive display of maps, photographs and text-books on Japanese history. This was manned by S/ O Allen (who was to be my future wife - we married in 1947 and she’s with me now). Crews were encouraged to spend as much time there as possible - we were going, it was for real. The CO went on leave and I held the fort. The next day I received a message from Group - would I get the Squadron together and tell each member to get his house, so to speak, in order, and waste no time. No I could not have a date but it was nearly there. So I tried to talk to the crews like a father, telling them that leave - short leave - was available if required, for family, business or emotional reasons. But I was serious. Several left that afternoon - and the next day on the radio came the news of the dropping of the first atomic bomb. Tiger Force was never heard of again. But it had been a near thing.

At the end of September we had a grand parade with the aircraft drawn up on the edge of the runway. The AOC of 5 Group thanked the Squadron and inspected it. We marched past and became 109 Squadron. The original personnel who formed 627 Squadron only mention 109 very quietly. (Comp.)

A month later we flew in formation to Wickenby, stayed there tor three weeks and then went to Hemswell. Garth got his second ring and never did anyone deserve one more. We flew together for the last time on December 14th, doing, of all things, dive bombing practice at Wainfleet! On December 31st I left Hemswell to be demobbed and like so many I others flelt utterly at sea. It had been a wonderful privilege to fly and to get back safely. My navigator was partly responsible for this and we had luck, but so much gratitude must be to all the ground staff; fitters and riggers and all who made up the Squadron team - bowser and crew bus and Flight van drivers, Met. and all the other departments - they shared whatever praise we got for what was done. Sad to think that now, in 1990, there are so few Mossies still flying, Still, we have “633 Squadron” on the “box” at Christmas if we want to hear the snarl of two Merlins being run up to full power.

Happy landings - safe return!

With regard to the Dresden operation, much comment has been made, mainly critical, and a large part of that relatively ill-informed. From the point of view of Bomber Command in general and 627 Squadron in particular, the operation was, as has been stated, as technically perfect as was possible at the time. On the question of responsibility for the operation, which has frequently been laid at the door of Harris, it is perhaps useful to recall that the original request for the destruction of Dresden was from the Russians, with a view to assisting their advance an the Eastem Front. Max Hastings remarks in “Bomber Command”, “ ..... It is ironic that while Harris and Spaatz must accept much responsibility for continuing the area offensive …… the Allied attach an Dresden cannot lie laid at their door. Dresden had indeed been on Harris’s target list for months, but the final impetus to launch the raid on the great East German city came from the Prime Minister and the Chief of the Air Staff ...... “ ( Comp.)

Copyright 1943-2012 627 Squadron in Retirement or as credited