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At First Sight
The Choice – Lincolns or Mosquitoes - Clive W. Scott. AFC

When 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 time.

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 very enjoyable.

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 Aftermath

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 credited