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At First Sight

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At First Sight
We Came Towards The End - For Japan - Don S. Longmore.

Shortly after the end of hostilities in Europe my navigator [Len Buckle] and I came to Woodhall Spa from 239 Night Intruder Squadron at West Raynham. In many ways the move, as with others in the RAF, took us from the sublime to the ridiculous. At West Raynham we had shared a well furnished room, had been well looked after by a very professional batman, and had enjoyed the spacious facilities and the high standard of living provided by a permanent RAF station,

At Woodhall the accommodation was in Nissen huts in very rural surroundings. We shared a hut adjacent to a potato field, with eight other officers. The mess seemed to be overcrowded.

There was, to some extent, a feeling of anti-climax after VE Day. The night flying was, of course, different. Airfield DREM lighting no longer stood out so clearly as it did during the blackout, and the profusion of other lighting, newly evident, could occasionally lead to navigational confusion. We were assigned to “A” Flight and my first 15 minute flight in a MKIV Mosquito was an initial check with the Flight Commander [S/Ldr Topper]. I was not aware of the reason for the check, possibly my total number of flying hours was low compared with other pilots in the Flight. It was the first time I had flown a Mosquito with the spectacle wheel type of control column. Perhaps this was why the landing was not particularly brilliant. The next flight on the same day, this time with the Flight Commander in the driving seat, was a dive bombing demonstration on the Wainfleet target range just off the coast at Ingoldmells. I must say that Bill Topper was most pleasant to fly with and I was pleased to have him as a Flight Commander.

This first dive bombing demonstration showed how the target marking process was carried out. The aircraft was dived on to the target fiom an altitude of about 3000 feet, the standard method used by the squadron for well over a year. Having previously flown aircraft equipped with gun sights it seemed to me rather crude to aim at the target by positioning it in the lower part of the windscreen. However, it appeared to work OK and we soon progressed on to night dive bombing practice using the different coloured target markers for the aircraft involved.

It was not unusual to have up to four aircraft at a time flying round in a circle taking it in tums to dive on the target and release a marker, pulling out of the dive at about 600 feet. To facilitate this the navigator would call out the height continuously throughout the dive. Errors in reading the altimeter would be hair raising of course. These activities were coupled with wind finding exercises to take account of the effect of wind in the dive and on the fall of the marker, and in some cases involved a cross country or North Sea tlight before proceeding to the target area.

From 2lst June to 7th September we flew 34 exercise sorties of various kinds. We had no complete engine failures but Friday, 15th July, involved some apprehension flying a MKXX “K”. The ground running check on the starboard engine ignition was marginally OK, but the engine did not seem to develop full power on the runway. I aborted the take-off at a rather late stage and we came to a shuddering halt in a cloud of dust off the end of the runway. I rechecked the engine and we taxied round and took off successfully the second time. However, when we tested the engine in flight with the starboard magneto switched off the engine failed and the propeller just windmilled. The port magneto was obviously out of action and we returned to base.

On l9th July we were flown by P/O White, in an Oxford, to Marshalls Airfield at Camridge to pick up a MKIV “V” after modification. The take-off was interesting - it was a relatively small grass airfield on the outskirts of Cambridge surrounded by factories and chimneys. The Tiger Moth flying was temporarily suspended for the event.

I have only vague recollections of attending lectures on how to behave if captured by the Japanese and on how to survive if forced down in the jungle.

VJ Day was on l5th August. We subsequently flew two meteorological reconnaissance flights. On the second one to Peterhead, there was no real weather to take note of on the way back and we enjoyed some (unauthorised) low flying along the east coast. The aircraft had occasionally seemed to be slightly unstable on the way up to Peterhead. We were a little disconcerted to hear subsequently that a link was missing from the elevator control, but fortunately for us it had not affected the flying at low level.

We enjoyed the met. reconnaissance flights and readily accepted the opportunity to transfer to 1409 Met. Flight (Transport Command) when 627 was disbanded at the end of September 1945.

D - DZ547 in September 1945. Arrived on the Squadron 5th January 1944, as 'O' was on loan to 692 on its formation until 28th March 1944, and then remained on 627 until disbandment.

Photograph: Don Longmore Collection

Copyright 1943-2012 627 Squadron in Retirement or as credited