627 Squadron in retirement

 

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At First Sight
Disappearing Into Bofors Type Flak - Hector Bridges

Having started my RAF career as a Halton Apprentice I later remustered and was trained as a pilot at the British Flying Training School in Arizona, subsequently becoming a Flying Instructor there. Returning to UK in August 1944 with 1000hrs on my log book I was posted, with the connivance of Hamish Mahaddie, to PFF and subsequently to 627 Squadron and stayed at Woodhall Spa until after disbandment of the Squadron in September 1945, having spent an exciting year full of incident.

Forty five years on memories are blurred, but I do recall that one of the very first chaps I met on 627 - standing next to me in the Mess urinal - was John Reid, who had been with me for three years in the same barrack room at RAF Halton before the war. Unfortunately, John crashed in the Shetlands on the way back from an operation at Trondheim, described elsewhere in this book. I must have been flying quite close to him on that stormy night because, although I could hear his radio transmissions and he mine, he was unable to raise traffic control at the diversionary airfield at Scatsa, Shetland and I acted as his “go-between” so to speak. The last I heard was that he was on final approach and then that ominous silence.

One or two operations stand out in my mind - the daylight raid on the Gestapo HQ in Oslo, where my navigator was hit - the so-called “gardening” operations on the Weser where the opposition was more than lively and marking a target at Sassnitz where, according to the chap who came after me “I seemed to disappear in a mass of Bofors type flak for a few seconds and we were relieved to see you climbing out, especially as we had to follow you in”.

Of course, flying hazards did not all arise from operations. I remember a night training exercise at Wainfleet, where I had just dived down and dropped my practice bombs pretty close to the target and as I climbed around and gave the all clear I watched the lights of the next aircraft dip down towards the sea, a thousand feet below. We normally pulled out of the dive at 700 feet or so, but this time the aircraft just kept going. I lost another friend, Bob Cornell.

On a lighter note, the morning after the VE day celebrations a volunteer pilot was required to fly - at 9 in the morning - an unnamed VIP to RAF Waddington. Against all the rules of service life, I volunteered. When I taxied out and lined up on the runway I discovered I could see, not just one strip of tarmac, but two - diverging slightly!

However, by closing one eye things became fairly normal. I did a “Long John Silver” take-off without mishap and returned safely. The word “breathalyser” had, fortunately, not then been coined.


Copyright 1943-2012 627 Squadron in Retirement or as credited