At First Sight
At Second Sight
BEF Al Faw Video '05
At First Sight
Hitler Heard of My Bombing Practice and He Packed It In - Johnnie Stow, DFC.
completed my first tour on Lancasters with 100 Squadron in No. 1 Group
I spent about a year as a ‘screened’ instructor before transferring to
Mosquitoes. It all started in the decompression tank at Swinderby. Six
of us were tested, one passed out on the way up and had to be released,
but the rest were passed fit for ‘high altitude flying’ - for PRU, PFF
and Mosquito Bomber Squadrons - so I joined 627 which I found went in
for low level marking of targets! |
After a Mosquito conversion at 16 OTU, Upper Heyford. I was posted to
Woodhall Spa in April 1945. The CO at the time was "Darkie” Hallows,
who had been my CO at Bottesford where I had been a Lancaster
instructor. He had sent a spare navigator. F/L Huskinson, to the OTU
and we trained together.
At the OTU I met F/L Leo DeVigne DSO. DFC. who had been screened from
627 and, learning that I was going to 627, he demonstrated dive bombing
techniques for me. He also did a few slow rolls and other acrobatics
and I just got out of the cockpit in time, before being sick over the
wheel of a MkXX Mosquito.
Anyway, I arrived on the Squadron, together with another pilot and his
navigator - F/L Ronnie Brooks - we were great friends, but I lost touch
with him once we had been demobbed. Our arrival more or less coincided
with ‘W/C Hallows departure and the next CO was W/C Kingsford-Smith, an
Australian and son of the famous pre-war flyer of the same name.
As it turned out, I never ‘operated’ with the Squadron. We trained and
trained and I dive bombed Wainfleet bombing range most days, and
started to drop TIs within a few hundred yards of the aiming point, I
think Hitler must have heard about this, because he packed it all in
and we had won in Europe.
The Japanese were still fighting, however, and the Squadron was
attached to ‘Tiger Force’ which meant flying out to the Far East. We
were therefore inoculated against everything the MO could think of and
walked around with sore arms for a week. As a guard against malaria we
had to take “Mepacrin” tablets each day, these gradually turned us
yellow (complexion I mean - not morale!) and we all began to look like
a lot of Chinese. They did not dare serve us rice in the mess.
We carried on dive bombing, wind finding and practice operations - then
came the suggestion that the Squadron would have to learn how to get up
in the air and down on the ground in the shortest possible time, due to
the reported mass over use of the runway at Okinawa by the Americans
even before our arrival. lt was quite hair-raising watching four
Mosquitoes, in pairs, landing and taking off at the same time. Even
more hair-raising doing it.
However, the Japanese gave in and there was no more war. It was
rumoured that had we gone out East we were due to fly to Okinawa on
Christmas Day, but you know how the grapevine worked in the RAF.
The reader will
observer from W/C Scott’s account that the Squadron was due to leave
Woodhall on 15 December and to commence Operations on 1 January 1946,
so an arrival on Okinawa on Christmas Day was a distinct possibility.
No. 5 Group did not want to lose its only Mosquito Squadron and when we
received a recruiting visit from a Meteorological Squadron stationed at
Benson it was quickly decided that 627 would become No 5 Group’s ‘Met’
Squadron. We started to take an interest in clouds and talk in terms of
four tenths and ten tenths and mysterious things like ‘dew point’
which, should it get within 4 degrees of temperature meant fog!
We flew all over the place - to Ireland - to Norway - over the North
Sea, the navigator making detailed reports on cloud conditions,
temperatures, etc., and from this valuable information the ‘Met Man’
predicted the weather to come - but it rarely did. On one occasion we
all trouped across to the Control Tower where the said Met Man hid, and
got caught in a shower of rain, only to be told that “it would not rain
to-day”. It cost him a pint all round.
During this time W/C Scott was our CO and on 15 September he flew one
of our H2S training Lancasters, with me as Flight Engineer, to Bari in
Italy to bring back troops who were due for leave, having fought
through Africa and Italy without a break. We had a super time out there
and managed to persuade the ‘powers that be, that thunderstorms over
the Alps would be hazardous, so we had two extra days out there and
flew back on the 21st.
The Mess Officer at Woodhall had asked us to bring back some wine and
anything else that was in short supply. We therefore loaded the front
turret with dozens of bottles of Italian wine and baskets of grapes. On
the way back we had to land at RAF Tivenham to clear customs. When the
Customs Officer started to inspect the inside of the Lancaster we
prevented him from going up to the front turret, telling him that there
was a new secret bombsight up there, which only aircrew could see. I do
not think he really believed us, but he gave way gracefully; he did,
however, make us open the bomb doors.
A few days before our Italian venture we were given permission to fly
to Berlin with Gp/Cpt LeGood, the Station Commander as pilot and me as
Flight Engineer. We took a whole crowd of crews to the ‘Big City’
landing at Templehoff. It was quite an experience to be amongst the
ruins we had created. There still appeared to be plenty of champagne,
which we consumed in great quantities at ten cigarettes per bottle.
Shortly after this the Squadron was disbanded and became 109.
Copyright © 1943-2012 627 Squadron in Retirement or as