627 Squadron in retirement









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At First Sight

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At First Sight
Hitler Heard of My Bombing Practice and He Packed It In - Johnnie Stow, DFC. 

Having 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. (Comp.)

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 credited