At First Sight
At Second Sight
BEF Al Faw Video '05
At First Sight
The Choice – Lincolns or Mosquitoes - Clive W. Scott. AFC
the senior Air Staff Officer, No. 5 Group, rang me on the 7 June 1945
to say that, as I was a volunteer for the Far East, I could choose
between taking a Lincoln Squadron or the Mosquito Marking Squadron. It
was without hesitation that I chose the latter, which, I learned, was
what Group had hoped I would do. The next question was “how soon could
I get to Woodhall Spa and did I want to go on a conversion course?” I
agreed to be at Woodhall Spa within twenty four hours and “no thank
you, I did not want a conversion course”. I could hardly believe my
good fortune on getting an appointment to such a prestigious squadron. |
I had been critical of the results achieved on my first tour on
Wellingtons in 1941 - we were rarely hitting the targets and the
numbers taking part in a particular raid were very small. I found the
one o’clock news about the previous night’s raid rather irritating when
the announcer spoke about “the large force of bombers which had caused
much damage etc., etc.” My faith in night bombing was somewhat restored
by the thousand bomber raid on Cologne, but it sagged on taking part in
the following large raids, which were much less successful.
By mid 1943, having dutifully done my two year stint as an instructor,
the idea of flying Mosquitoes in 8 (PFF) Group appealed to me and at
the time there was a call for experienced pilots. However, 92 Group
would not release me and appointed me Chief Instructor at No. 11 OTU,
to be followed six months later with a similar appointment at No. 16
OTU, despite protests.
In June 1944 Roy Elliott joined me at Upper Heyford and it was from him
that I first learnt about 627 Squadron. Later that month I was sent on
a Senior Commanders’ course at Cranwell and as part of the instruction
we spent the evening of the 25 June at Coningsby, to have explained to
us the marking system developed by Group Captain Cheshire. It was the
night on which he used a Mustang to mark a rocket site at Siricourte. I
did understand that he had also considered using, and possibly did use,
a USAAF Lightning, but I have not seen confirmation of this in any of
the books I have read. As we all know, he found the Mosquito to be the
best for the job.
In October 1944 I converted on to Stirlings and Lancasters and on 1
January 1945 I was interviewed by the AOC 5 Group, the Hon. Sir Ralph
Cochrane - the day his Knighthood was announced. Being aware of this I
congratulated him on the honour and also mentioned that he had been
President of the Selection Board in 1938 in New Zealand which awarded
me a flying scholarship in the RNZAF Civil Reserve, thus we started off
on a relaxed footing!
The interview lasted about half an hour, at the end of which he said he
would give me command of a squadron, the number to be announced later.
Meanwhile, I was to report to 54 Base, A/Cmdr Hesketh at RAF
Waddington. In the Mess that evening I met the Station Commander. Gp
Capt. Bonham Carter, who congratulated me in the hearing of others on
being appointed OC of 9 Squadron. I was taken aback, recovered quickly
and explained to the Group Captain that that information was
confidential. After five weeks of waiting for the current 9 Squadron
Commander to finish his tour, A/Cmdr Hesketh made me CO of 61 Squadron
and a few more weeks went by before he said I could now move to 9
Squadron if I wished. This I declined as I was getting on very well
with 61 Squadron and did not think it right that they should have
another change of CO so quickly. He agreed with me.
About this time Squadron Commanders were asked to volunteer for a
course at Metheringham, a wartime dispersed airfield, to learn about
the 627 Squadron marking technique and Master Bomber duties, under the
guidance of W/Cmdr Woodruffe and this I did, spending possibly the
coldest week of my service career - the heating in the Nissen huts
where we studied and slept was non-existent! Only our enthusiasm kept
us alive. Helped by the minimum of undressing when going to bed! If
this course eventually led me to Mosquitoes, then the cold would not
have been suffered in vain.
However, I was soon to learn that Group had other ideas for me and I
was told by A/Cmdr Hesketh that I was to take over 617 Squadron from
G/Capt Fauquier. I learnt later that this was not to be as “Higher
Authority”, had ruled that another Dominions officer should not follow
Fauquier, a Canadian. I was very disappointed and it was therefore with
some relief that I found myself installed at 627 Squadron - I feared
there might have been another change of mind, hence my reason for
getting to Woodhall Spa within 24 hours and declining a Mosquito
conversion course before going there.
On meeting Rollo Kingsford-Smith, the previous CO of 627 Squadron, I
found him very disappointed at not being allowed by the Australian
Government to serve in the Pacific with the RAF. I had narrowly avoided
repatriation to New Zealand at this time, as I had done previously on
completion of my first tour. Rollo was, of course, the nephew of the
great Australian air pioneer, Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith, whose
flights I had followed avidly. I have always greatly regretted not
spending ten shillings on a pleasure flight in the “Southem Cross”, the
Fokker trimotor plane in which he made many of his pioneering flights,
including crossing the Tasman from Australia to New Zealand. In order
to help finance these pioneering flights Kirigsford-Smith had to take
up passengers for short trips, often using a field adjacent to a
village as an aerodrome.
On my arrival at Woodhall Spa Rollo gave me a ten minute demonstration
flight in the Mosquito, then bravely sat beside me whilst I flew it for
the next one and a half hours. I bought him a drink afterwards to
soothe his nerves. Following this I flew this wonderful aircraft most
days in June and took part in a night exercise at St. Tudwals Island
off the Welsh coast, having done some dusk landings beforehand. It was
very interesting to observe the low level marking technique as I
circled the area.
I had arrived at a difficult time for the Squadron - experienced
aircrew were being posted away and. apart from a few experienced
volunteers, the replacement crews were, in the main, inexperienced in
the particular work of the Squadron and unenthusiastic; they would have
preferred returning to civvy street, rather than going to the Far East.
Those of us older ones who had volunteered were regarded with much
suspicion - were we fleeing from returning husbands or just flak happy?
The Role of the Squadron.
The Squadron, as part of the RAF “Tiger Force” was to be an unusual one
in that it would have three flights, with 35 aircraft and 48 crews.
Apart from the primary role of marking targets at low level visually,
as pioneered by G/Capt Cheshire and perfected by the Squadron over the
previous fifteen months, it would have a low level precision blind
marking role, using the Mk IV H2S Radar, then under development in the
Squadron. In addition there was a photographic and weather
reconnaissance role and for these tasks we were to be equipped with
Mosquito MkB35 and MkPR34 aircraft. The main force was to be about 180
Avro Lincolns, the Lancaster replacement coming into service at the
We were scheduled to fly out to Okinawa on the 15 December and to
operate from the 1 January 1946. As well as the build up of aircrew we
had an influx of experienced ground crew, one team to go out in advance
by sea to receive us and the other team to keep us flying in the UK
until our departure, and then to fly out to join the advance party.
However, despite this role and movement timetable, the situation was
very fluid, I understood that the Americans did not want us in the
Pacific and put forward every excuse possible to prevent us going, such
as there being insufficient runway accommodation on Okinawa. In
addition I could get no indication as to when our new aircraft would
arrive - and they never did!
We trained as best we could in the absence of a specific brief, the
only thing we were sure about was that if we went we would be flying
across vast areas of water, so we made good use of the swimming pool in
the “Domain” in Woodhall Spa for dinghy drill. A fine summer made this
In addition to Squadron duties I spent some time as acting CO of the
Station. There was plenty to keep me busy doing that. A major activity
on the Station was the packing of stores for the Far East, and there
were also extemal meetings for me to attend at Group HQ, not least of
these being Courts Martial duties. As I was one of the few Dominions
officers still in Bomber Command I was in demand as President or No. 1,
this being mandatory when the defendant was from a Dominion. The three
months between my joining the Squadron and VJ Day passed very quickly.
The next few weeks were a very relaxed time for all of us, each no
doubt wondering about his or her future. I enjoyed quite a lot of
flying both in Mosquitoes and Lancasters. We had two Lancasters for use
in the development trials and training for the low level H2S. About
this time we found that the new H2S had little future use so work on it
stopped. The Lancasters were useful for ferrying and for “Cook’s Tours”
for the ground staff. We even had a trip to Bari in Italy taking out
spares and bringing back soldiers, as well as many kilos of grapes,
which caused a severe outbreak of “Bari tummy” around the Squadron.
I flew the AOC to Berlin in a Mosquito, spending two days there looking
at the damage. A few days later he came to the Squadron to fly a
Mosquito and it was with some trepidation that I handed over to him
after a demonstration circuit. The trepidation was brought about by the
fact that on my previous Squadron, instead of my flying him on a “Cooks
Tour” in a Lancaster, he offered to fly me, but warning me that I had
to work all the “bits and pieces” as he had not been in a Lancaster
before. It was with considerable difficulty that we managed to arrive
at the end ot the runway, from whence a most unusual take-off was made
and five and a half hours later we made a very heavy landing in
Germany. As we got back on board after loading the Lancaster with ex
Prisoners of War the AOC said quite casually “you had better fly home,
these chaps have suffered enough already”.
My thoughts on handing over to him in the Mosquito were that if he
could swing a Lane. on take-off, would he do a figure of eight in a
Mosquito? As it happened, he flew the Mossie extremely well - after
all, he had been a display pilot at Hendon in pre war days.
Three days later, on 1 October 1945 I marched No. 627 (PFF) Squadron on
to the Parade Ground, handed over the Squadron Badge to the AOC in
exchange for the 109 (PFF) Squadron Badge and marched off as that
Squadron. So ended the active life of No. 627 (PFF) Squadron.
In its short active life it had achieved much and I felt very proud
that I had been a member of it, albeit for such a short period and at a
time when it was not operational. I am delighted that the history of
the Squadron is now being written.
Copyright © 1943-2012 627 Squadron in Retirement or as