627 Squadron in retirement

 

Home

Events

History

Marking

Mosquitos

Badge

Memorial

Photo Album

Thorpe Camp

At First Sight

At Second Sight

Mosquitos Airborne

Links

BEF Al Faw Video '05

e-mail

A History of the Squadron

The 688 days of the Squadron's existence was eventful and, I imagine, rather unusual in that the groundstaff, technical and administrative, remained almost the same people for the entire life of the unit, albeit, a short life by comparison with many Royal Air Force squadrons. As for the aircrew, the vast majority of those who formed with us in November 1943 were still on the operational strength to the end of 1944, only deserting when their tours were complete.

Group photograph

Many others who arrived shortly after formation were present to witness the demise of the Squadron when its work had been completed and no further use could be found for such a unit. In view of this it will be appreciated that this was a very close knit "family" and the enthusiasm with which everyone carried out his or her duties may have been equalled, but never surpassed by any other unit during WW2.

Roy Elliott

This situation can, without doubt, be attributed to our first Commanding Officer, W/Cdr Roy Elliott. DSO.DFC., pictured right, who, with his friendly, considerate and ultra efficient attitude to all, inspired into the unit's personnel a deep sense of belonging to a similarly friendly and ultra efficient squadron, the likes of which most of the aircrews, and groundcrews particularly, had, unfortunately, not previously experienced at stations from whence they came.

There was indeed a fair amount of hand-picking going on just before the 13th November 1943 and many people were, in fact, posted in from far away places, certainly not picked by a blindfolded postings clerk with a pin in hand!

Formed from "C" Flight of No. 139 Squadron, Wyton. ostensibly as just another LNSF(Light Night Striking Force) unit in the general expansion programme of that time, in No. 8 (PFF) Group, researches suggest that we were intended for something not then disclosed, but which never actually materialised. It was certainly not envisaged at the time that in April 1944 we would be detached to No. 5 Group in Lincolnshire, to carry out the low-level visual marking of precision targets, a system initiated by Gp/Capt Leonard Cheshire VC.DSO.DFC., which at that period of the war was dictated by the special need of avoiding civilian casualties in occupied countries, notably France, while destroying strategic and tactical targets such as factories, marshalling yards, flying bomb depots and the like, in support of our ground forces before and after D-Day.

Area bombing, efficient in Germany, was taboo nearer home and subsequent events proved beyond doubt that Cheshire and 5 Group were correct in their assumption that low level precision visual marking was at least worth a serious trial, the trial turning out to be more a way of life for 627 Squadron until the end of hostilities.

We are mindful of the very important part Nos 83 and 97 Lancaster Squadrons played in the visual marking operations. Based at Coningsby, they illuminated the targets at night with hundreds of parachute flares to enable 627s Mosquito crews to locate the actual Marking Point and place their Target Indicators within yards of the intended spot.

How the unit came to be chosen for detachment to 5 Group is for others to say, or at least to speculate, but the fact remains that 5 Group received, at Woodhall Spa on the 14th April 1944, an extremely able and efficient Squadron, capable of achieving all that was required of it, and more, in the furthering of the visual marking technique - the specific purpose for which it was detached. Although the Squadron was claimed by 5 Group as one of its own units, 627 stuck rigidly to its claim to remain part of 8 (PFF) Group and proved the point by having a periodic visit by a Path Finder Examination Team who awarded the much coveted "Path Finder Badge" to fully trained aircrew.

There is nothing more inspiring than to tell a unit it is required to carry out a unique job of work, for which its equipment is amply suited, and explain the reasons for that requirement to all concerned. Too often groundcrews have been told "Just keep them serviceable, day and night, that's all you need to know". It's not very inspiring on a cold winters night, frozen stiff, in the middle of nowhere, to be completely unaware as to what the h.... you are doing there. With 627 Squadron all were put in the picture, within the obvious limits of security, and all rose to the occasion.

As for the actual techniques of low-level visual marking, the customary bomb sight was put back into stores and a standard fighter gun button was attached to the right hand arm of the control column spectacle, connected to the bomb release selector system, transferring the actual release of TIs (Target Indicators) to the Pilot, or to be precise to the right thumb of the Pilot.

At night the two Lancaster Squadrons mentioned above, had the task of illuminating the area selected, and the Mosquitoes would then locate the precise aiming point, boiler house, hangar, signal box, bridge etc., dive from say 5000ft to 500ft (sometimes to 50ft) and at the precisely judged moment, established purely by continuous practice, release the TIs. On many occasions an accuracy of 40/50feet from the aiming point was achieved, and in some instances, such accuracy could be a disadvantage, with spot fires dropping through roofs of hangars, factory buildings and the like, and obscuring the marker flames from the Main Force of Heavies, and necessitating the attention of a further marker Mosquito. The Squadron Debriefing Records and Marker Plots show that on some of the Dortmund-Ems and Mitterland Canal operations the marking was so accurate that TIs actually dropped into the canal with obvious consequences - based on the damp squib principal.

Aunay sur Odon

The photograph here shows the effect of a typical 627 Squadron-marked raid, that on Aunay-Sur-Odon in support on the British XXX Corps eight days after D-Day.

Examples of "close encounters of the Mosquito kind" were exemplified by the Squadron's collection of portions of brick from the boiler chimney of the Gnome Rhone factory in France, removed from the wingtip of an aircraft, and a large portion of windsock retrieved from the bomb doors of another, after it had carried out a visual marking mission on Kjeller Airfield, Oslo.

While based at Woodhall Spa 627 Squadron occupied the precise area of the present RAF base, the wartime hangar now occupied by the Airfield Repair Squadron having been 627s Maintenance Section, with "A" and "B" Flights dispersed each side of the perimeter track, now the main road through the base.

Copyright 1943-2012 627 Squadron in Retirement or as credited