General Officer Commanding
Royal Army Service Corps
Month and year: June 1944
2nd June 1944
Place: Down Ampney
A morning of conjecture this: For no apparent reason everyone was on tip-toe waiting for something to happen. The Intelligence Officer was credited on all sides with "knowing something", and every time he appeared and eyebrow was raised or a knowing wink given - silent invitations to share the knowledge he was popularly supposed to possess. He, of course, true to his training and profession kept his lips sealed - he had to, because he did not know anything anyhow!
At 1400, the voice of the Station Commander, G/Capt. BRADBURY, DFC., was heard over the tannoy announcing that the camp was sealed forthwith and that no personnel would be allowed to leave until further notice. Personnel who were out of camp, at the time, were rounded up with the assistance of local police and all living personnel were brought back into camp. A few Officers privately confessed later, that, when accosted by the police in the local town, they made a rapid mental survey of their recent activities and were relieved to find that they were only being recalled to base. By the end of the day the Squadron was quietly settled down awaiting news of the next move. Air testing was carried out, a total of 14 hours 50 mins flying being achieved.
3rd June 1944
Place: Down Ampney
All crews were given preliminary briefing for the first operation to take place on "D" day. Briefings took place at 0900 hours and 1000 hours and the Station Commander gave a general outline of the proposed operation in which the Squadron was to play its part, and showed on the map the area in which the long awaited Second Front was to open. Maps and photographs of the beach and landing areas were handed to each crew and their own particular D.Z. explained. In the Intelligence Library a scale model of the area (12 ft. x 4 ft.) was on view and a few crews at a time were taken in and briefed on the model with the aid of their photographs and maps. During the afternoon a film was shown several times of the run up to the D.Z. "V". This was shown several times at three times the actual speed of the aircraft and once with a night filter on. The only criticism of this was that other D.Z. runs were shown as well and it was felt by many that one showing of these would have been sufficient and that more time could have been given to the D.Z. "V". Air testing - 1 hour 50 minutes.
4th June 1944
Place: Down Ampney
Weather fine turning to rain at night.
At 0900 a meeting of the aircrews was held in the Squadron Briefing Room where a final lecture on Security was given by the Squadron Intelligence Officer. Escape purses were issued to each flying member of the Squadron. All crews then stood by awaiting final instructions. In the afternoon the A.O.C. AIR COMMODORE FIDDAMENT, D.F.C., addressed the aircrews congratulating them all on the excellent training carried out in so short a time and after impressing upon them the need for security, wished them good luck and God speed on the impending operations. Owing to adverse weather, operations were postponed for twenty four hours and the enthusiastic crews once more besieged the Intelligence Officer studying the model and maps, perfecting their mental picture of the area of operation. There was no flying during the day.
5th June 1944
Place: Down Ampney
All crews attended refresher briefings during the morning for OPERATION TONGA scheduled, weather permitting, to take place on the night of 5/6 June. During the afternoon the C.O. of the Paratroop Brigade, BRIGADIER J. HILL., D.S.O., M.C. addressed all aircrews, and his invigorating personality and confidence gave all potential participators in the operation a sense of complete superiority over an enemy force liable to obstruct them in their activities. The intention of operation TONGA was as follows:- 7 Tug and Glider combinations from 271 Squadron to release at given DZ, and 9 paratroop aircraft of the same Squadron to drop paratroops at DZ.V. 48 Squadron to provide 30 aircraft carrying paratroops to be dropped at DZ "V". The route to be followed was; Base - Chedworth - Eustone - Fairoates - Worthing (G.R.V.) From Worthing to position 4959N 0000W thence to T.R.V. on coast of France position 4917N 0008W and from there to DZ.V. The aircraft after completing the drop were to fly through positions 4914N 0000W, 4949N 0030W and cross out over the French coast North of Ypreville-Biville having skirted the southern extremities of the flak belt of LE HAVRE.
OPERATION TONGA. Between 2320 - 2333 hours, 30 aircraft of this Squadron carrying 517 paratroops, kit and 92 containers of arms and ammunition took off from DOWN AMPNEY. All but three of these paratroops were dropped successfully at the DZ, and of these three one man was sick (in A/C - R3/48/6) and ordered not to drop, the second man was hit in the leg by a bullet over DZ (R3/48/28) and could not jump, and the third in aircraft UZ (R3/48/29) was knocked down by his eager companions, trampled on and rendered unconscious.
5th / 6th June 1944
Place: Down Ampney
Several of our aircraft experienced enemy flak, mainly light, and some damage was caused but all aircraft returned safely to England. Aircraft UG - F/O. HULL, was hit in rudder port engine and wing, the rudder being rendered useless (R3/48/6). Aircraft AO, F/O. McCREANOR received hits from light flak in starboard wing, and aircraft AS - F/Lt. B. SMITH, was hit by light flak in port engine which was rendered useless. The aircraft was brought back to England by the skilful handling of the pilot but had to make a forced landing at WEST MALLING, where, the moment after landing, the entire electrical system of the aircraft became unserviceable. Aircraft UY - F/O. MACKAY, was damaged by flak in Starboard mainplane and fuselage, similar damage was inflicted on Aircraft AZ - F/Lt. STONE. With one exception all aircraft carried 12x20 lb. bombs each which were dropped on crossing the French Coast in order that the enemy gun crews would be forced to duck and thus enable our forces to land with minimum loss. After the drop all aircraft returned by the route already outlined and returned to base where their interrogation showed that the operation had been a complete success. All crews who had been privileged to take part paid great tribute to the paratroopers whom they had carried, and it had been arranged for the stick-master in each aircraft to write to the Captain as soon as possible to give him news of the particular men who had been in the aircraft. The total flying hours for the period: 113 hours 5 minutes. Conditions over the DZ area - Visibility poor due to smoke from blitzed battery - No. DZ lights or REBECCA/EUREKA. Stirlings, apparently off track, flew across 48 Squadron formation and were an interference to the Dakotas.
Aircraft Type & Number: DAKOTA MK.III. AJ/KG.321. Crew: S/L C.N. MCVEIGH, F/O B. COBCROFT, F/O G.E. BENTLEY, F/O G.E. MCNEILL. Duty: Operation "TONGA" Dropping Paratroops & Containers, on DZ "V". Height of Drop 700/800 feet. Time Up: 23.20. Time Down: 02.59/6. Details of sortie or flight: 20 Troops, 2 Containers dropped at 0056. Time taken 15 secs. Experienced light flak.
Aircraft Type & Number: DAKOTA MK.III. UC/KG.337. Crew: P/O R.L. PEARSON, F/S ROOKE L.E., F/O W. WEATHERILT, P/O V.C. SMITH. Time Up: 23.20. Time Down: 02.59/6. Details of sortie or flight: 20 Troops, 2 Containers dropped at 0056, in two runs. 14 men at first run, balance at second. Experienced light flak.
Aircraft Type & Number: DAKOTA MK.III. AH/KG.409. Crew: F/O J.H. MURRAY, F/S BARNES G., F/S HAYWARD T.R.C., SGT THOMPSON J. Time Up: 23.21. Time Down: 02.57/6. Details of sortie or flight: 20 Troops, 2 Containers dropped at 0056, slightly Starboard of DZ.
Aircraft Type & Number: DAKOTA MK.III. AF/KG.364. Crew: S/L T.R.N. WHEATLEY-SMITH, W/O HEMSWORTH J.R., SGT HOLMES C.J., F/L W.G.V. PUXLEY. Time Up: 23.21. Time Down: 02.45/6. Details of sortie or flight: 20 Troops, 2 Containers, 1 Cycle dropped at 0101 in 12-15 seconds. Light flak seen.
Aircraft Type & Number: DAKOTA MK.III. AD/KG.391. Crew: F/O G. LOADES, F/L E. PALIN, SGT MAXWELL W.W., W/O DIXON C.E. Time Up: 23.20½. Time Down: 03.09/6. Details of sortie or flight: 20 Troops, 2 Containers, 1 M/C, 1 Cycle dropped at 0102½ in 35 seconds.
Aircraft Type & Number: DAKOTA MK.III. UG/KG.414. Crew: F/O R.G.J. HULL, F/O D. NORTH, SGT O'BRIEN T., W/O PETERSON L.L. Time Up: 23.21½. Time Down: 03.03/6. Details of sortie or flight: 19 Troops, 2 Containers and 2 Cycles dropped in two sticks from 0101. The 20th man was sick and ordered not to drop. Aircraft hit at 2359 by flak North of CABOURG. (Rudder, Port engine and Wing). Aircraft returned safely though rudder was useless.
Aircraft Type & Number: DAKOTA MK.III. AG/KG.391. Crew: F/LT P.W. SMITH, W/O ROBINSON J.I., SGT POWELL I., F/S GOLTON J.H. Time Up: 23.20. Time Down: 03.00/6. Details of sortie or flight: 20 Troops, 4 Containers dropped at 0101, large red explosion seen on hill, to East of CABOURG.
Aircraft Type & Number: DAKOTA MK.III. UD/KG.406. Crew: F/O A.J. WILLIAMS, SGT P. THOMPSON, SGT SMITH R.F., F/O W.B. GORDON. Time Up: 23.21. Time Down: 02.56/6. Details of sortie or flight: 20 Troops and 4 Containers dropped at 0102. Sighted FW190 but no encounter.
Aircraft Type & Number: DAKOTA MK.III. AV/KG.409. Crew: SGT MCLAUGHLIN S., F/O E.S. CLARK, F/S BENTLEY L., SGT DIAMOND R. Time Up: 23.22. Time Down: 02.58/6. Details of sortie or flight: 20 Troops and 4 Containers dropped at 0105.
Aircraft Type & Number: DAKOTA MK.III. UM/KG.416. Crew: S/L P.O.M. DUFF-MITCHELL AFC, F/O E.J.B. HOBSBAWN, F/S G.M. HANDLEY, F/O T. CROWLEY. Time Up: 23.23. Time Down: 02.40/6. Details of sortie or flight: 20 Troops and 4 Containers dropped at 0058. Drop made in 30 seconds.
Aircraft Type & Number: DAKOTA MK.III. AK/KG.408. Crew: F/O S.S. FINLAY, F/S GRAY R.L.T., P/O W.J. WALSH, W/O RICE C.W. Time Up: 23.23½. Time Down: 03.02/6. Details of sortie or flight: 20 Troops and 4 Containers dropped at 0102. Sighted FW190 but no encounter.
Aircraft Type & Number: DAKOTA MK.III. AL/KG.452. Crew: F/O H.T. JONES, SGT BROWN T.K., F/O H. FLETCHER, SGT MUMFORD S. Time Up: 23.23½. Time Down: 03.00/6. Details of sortie or flight: 16 Troops, 3 Containers and 1 M/Cycle dropped at 0058 in 18 seconds.
Aircraft Type & Number: DAKOTA MK.III. AN/KG.404. Crew: F/L A.C. BLYTHE, W/O EDMONDSON B.S., F/L N. IOSSON, F/S BARRETT P.C. Time Up: 23.23. Time Down: 02.53/6. Details of sortie or flight: 20 Troops, 4 Containers and 1 Cycle dropped at 0057½ in 12-15 seconds.
Aircraft Type & Number: DAKOTA MK.III. AM/KG.394. Crew: F/O G.P. HAGERMAN, W/O MAHON M.S.R., SGT HACKETT J.C., W/O DECHAMPLAIN J.P. Time Up: 23.29. Time Down: 02.55/6. Details of sortie or flight: 20 Troops, 4 Containers and 2 Cycles dropped at 0103 in 15 seconds.
Aircraft Type & Number: DAKOTA MK.III. UN/KG.370. Crew: F/O L.R. PATTEE, F/S SMITH R.F., F/S KENT A.G., F/O F.J MCINTYRE. Time Up: 23.24½. Time Down: 02.44/6. Details of sortie or flight: 16 Troops and 2 Containers dropped at 0057.
Aircraft Type & Number: DAKOTA MK.III. AP/KG.401. Crew: F/L G. WHITFIELD DFM, F/L K.D. GAY, SGT JONES J., W/O BUTTON R.W. Time Up: 23.24½. Time Down: 02.48/6. Details of sortie or flight: 15 Troops 2 Containers dropped at 0100.
Aircraft Type & Number: DAKOTA MK.III. AD/KG.338. Crew: F/O E.W. MCCREANOR, F/S ROBERTS R., F/O D.S. HODGE, SGT DANIELLS J. Time Up: 23.25. Time Down: 03.08/6. Details of sortie or flight: 15 Troops and 2 Containers dropped at 0104. Starboard Wing hit by M/G fire at 0153 over CABOURG. Aircraft returned safely.
Aircraft Type & Number: DAKOTA MK.III. AC/KG.397. Crew: F/L G.M. METCALFE, W/O J. HEDGES, F/O W.E.J. BISHOP, W/O MELIDONES S. Time Up: 23.32. Time Down: 02.46/6. Details of sortie or flight: No Bomb Load [Note: It is unclear whether this applies to just this aircraft, or all captained by F/L Whitfield through to F/L Drummond]. 15 Troops dropped at 0103.
Aircraft Type & Number: DAKOTA MK.III. AQ/FZ.620. Crew: P/O R.K. WALKER, F/S MACDONALD D.C., F/S SWALLOW E., F/S STRANGE C. Time Up: 23.27. Time Down: 02.55/6. Details of sortie or flight: 15 Troops and 2 containers dropped 0100. A burst of light flak prior to drop, did not interfere with operation. Aircraft unhurt.
Aircraft Type & Number: DAKOTA MK.III. UL/KG.350. Crew: P/O W.R. PRING, F/S G.D. GLEAVE, F/O W.B. CHOPPING, W/O SPRINSTEALE J.L. Time Up: 23.26. Time Down: 03.06/6. Details of sortie or flight: 15 Troops 2 containers at 0104. Drop delayed by 14 secs through one man slipping.
Aircraft Type & Number: DAKOTA MK.III. AS/KG.436. Crew: F/L B. SMITH DFC, W/O CLARKE R.C., SGT PLEAR D.H.R., W/O BIRLISSON G. Time Up: 23.29. Time Down: 03.26/6. Details of sortie or flight: Dropped Troops successfully on second run, necessitated by smoke obscuring target area. Bombs dropped crossing coast, aircraft damaged by flak, Port engine useless. Aircraft force landed at WEST MALLING. Height of drop 800 feet.
Aircraft Type & Number: DAKOTA MK.III. UX/KG.428. Crew: W/O CARTER S.H.J., W/O CARTER R.F., SGT McCULLUM J., W/O NICHOLSON R.W. Time Up: 23.27. Time Down: 03.17/6. Details of sortie or flight: 20 men 4 containers. Drop at 0115 in three sticks, owing to jamming in the door.
Aircraft Type & Number: DAKOTA MK.III. UY/KG.439. Crew: F/O M.R.S. MACKAY, F/S LEWIS W.A., F/S BAYNES W.C., SGT OWEN R. Time Up: 23.26. Time Down: 02.55/6. Details of sortie or flight: 20 Troops 4 containers. Aircraft hit by flak over D.Z. at 0058½ in starboard mainplane and fuselage. Aircraft returned safely.
Aircraft Type & Number: DAKOTA MK.III. UV/KG.426. Crew: F/L P. DRUMMOND, F/S NIVEN H.N., SGT JOHNSON A.G., SGT SAXTON S. Time Up: 23.30. Time Down: 03.15/6. Details of sortie or flight: 20 Troops 4 containers. Drop at 0101½ in 25 seconds.
Aircraft Type & Number: DAKOTA MK.III. AR/KG.417. Crew: F/O J.G. WILLS, W/O HARDY D.G., W/O WEBB D.A., SGT BLACK D.S. Time Up: 23.27. Time Down: 03.00/6. Details of sortie or flight: 19 Troops 4 containers. Drop at 0104½.
Aircraft Type & Number: DAKOTA MK.III. AY/KG.346. Crew: W/O CHRISTIE V.B., F/S TOYNE K., SGT FULLER F.E., W/O FULMORE P.A. Time Up: 23.25. Time Down: 03.12/6. Details of sortie or flight: 19 Troops, 4 containers, 2 cycles. Drop at 0107½.
Aircraft Type & Number: DAKOTA MK.III. AZ/KG.423. Crew: F/L W.F. STONE, W/O HARRISON J.D., SGT CLARKE J.P., P/O R.F.J. HINDE. Time Up: 23.30. Time Down: 03.15/6. Details of sortie or flight: 19 Troops, 4 containers. Drop at 0107. No.2 Troop hit on leg by bullet over D.Z. - did not jump. Aircraft hit in fuselage by flak, but returned safely.
Aircraft Type & Number: DAKOTA MK.III. UZ/KG.331. Crew: F/O G.E. [B?]RUSSON, F/O G.W. CAMPBELL, SGT COUNSELL C.F., F/S GRAHAM E.A. Time Up: 23.29. Time Down: 02.59/6. Details of sortie or flight: 18 Troops, 4 containers. Drop at 0108½. 1 Trooper knocked unconscious on floor of aircraft by eager comrades. Returned with aircraft to base.
Aircraft Type & Number: DAKOTA MK.III. AW/FZ.671. Crew: W/O PEARSON V.L., F/O G.J. McKENZIE, F/S COSTEN H.J., P/O A.A. LAVOIE. Time Up: 23.29. Time Down: 02.59/6. Details of sortie or flight: 20 Troops, 4 containers. Drop at 0105.
Aircraft Type & Number: DAKOTA MK.III. UO/FZ.624. Crew: P/O J.P. WARWICK, P/O A.W. CARFRAE, SGT TENNISON C., W/O MARTIN R.K. Time Up: 23.25. Time Down: 02.53/6. Details of sortie or flight: 15 Troops. 2 containers. Dropped at 0108.
6th June 1944
Place: Down Ampney
OPERATION MALLARD. This operation was conceived with the intention of towing 37 Horsa Gliders containing airborne troops and equipment of the 6th. Air Landing Brigade to be released for landing on D.Z. "N" and was closely related to the OPERATION TONGA, of the 37 Gliders 22 were towed by 48 Squadron. The route followed was:- BASE (DOWN AMPNEY) - PERSHORE - WINDRUSH OAKLEY - LITTLE HAMPTON - POSITION 4959N 0000W - T.R.V. (POSITION 4917N 0014W) - D.Z. "N", returning via position 4959N 0003E - BOGNOR REGIS - BASE. Briefing for this operation took place in the morning and despite the fact that little sleep had been obtained all crews were ready and eager for the second trip over to France. Between 1851 and 1904, the 22 Dakotas and their Gliders were airborne and set course for their objective. They were met by an overwhelming escort of fighter aircraft on crossing the English Coast, and as one Pilot subsequently remarked - "The whole show seemed a damn sight more easy than exercises of earlier days". There was one incident on take-off which caused a momentary holding of breath amongst onlookers. The glider being towed by aircraft AP (F/LT. ALFORD, A.F.C.) was seen to lose its starboard wheel, but, luckily it was immediately after the glider was airborne. The glider pilot was ordered by the Captain of the tug to jettison the other wheel as soon as the English coast was reached and the glider was landed safely with others at the appointed place. The gliders were released over the L.Z. between 2103 and 2109 and all were seen to land on the prescribed area. There were quite a number of incidents experienced by the tug aircraft. Aircraft AJ (S/LDR. DANIELL) was hit by flak in wings and body and Aircraft UF (F/O HULL) received hits in port wing and starboard fuselage, whilst the port tail plane of aircraft AH (F/LT. DRUMMOND) received hits from Light Flak. All three aircraft returned safely to base and no member of the crews was injured. F/O SMITH flying aircraft AY was not quite so fortunate for his aircraft received several hits and on recrossing the English coast on return his starboard engine cut. He was able however to make a landing at FORD aerodrome and despite the serious damage sustained by his aircraft, his crew escaped without injury. Three other aircraft also received slight damage from light flak but were able to return to base, they were AZ (F/LT STONE), AR (F/O WILLS), UF (P/O PEARSON). It was on this operation that the Squadron experienced its first loss in personnel, it is with deepest regret that we record the death of SGT CARR, Wireless Operator in the crew of F/O LE HURAY. This aircraft UV was hit at 2109, two minutes after successfully releasing the glider and the starboard engine caught fire, causing the aircraft to lose height rapidly. The Pilot gave the order to jump and he and his co-pilot - F/O FARRELL - ran towards the rear of the aircraft from which F/O WOODCOCK and SGT CARR had already jumped. Before the two pilots reached the rear, F/O LE HURAY realised the aircraft was too low to attempt a jump and decided to crash land, so he and F/O FARRELL returned to the front and regained control of the machine. The cockpit was, by now, full of smoke and in an attempt to let down flaps, the Pilot inadvertently lowered the undercarriage. The aircraft hit the ground with the starboard wheel, the shock of which carried away the starboard engine, performed a ground loop and came to rest within 75 yards. F/O's LE HURAY and FARRELL climbed out of the machine and fearing the effects of the fire on the petrol tank, covered a distance of 50 yards in record time. It was only at the completion of this epic run, that F/O FARRELL realised that he had hurt his leg badly, it was later confirmed that it was broken in two places. Meanwhile F/O WOODCOCK and SGT CARR had come down by parachute and dropped into the CAEN CANAL. F/O WOODCOCK saw that CARR was struggling violently and shouted to him to hang on and began swimming towards him, having got free of his parachute. Before he could reach CARR, who did not seem able to free his parachute, CARR disappeared and was not seen again. WOODCOCK then swam to the bank, where he was helped out by some Frenchmen, taken to a nearby house and given whisky and milk & a change of clothing whilst his own clothes were drying. The next morning he returned to the river but could see no signs of CARR's parachute which had gone under with CARR, and was then led back to the British Lines. He eventually arrived at the beach and was taken aboard a landing craft with some Glider Pilots brought back to England, where he met F/O LE HURAY and they returned to DOWN AMPNEY together. F/O FARRELL had been left at a casualty clearing station and rejoined the Squadron on the 17th. June. For personal stories see Appendices 8 and 9.
The crews return for interrogation and were welcomed by the C. in C. Transport Command - SIR FREDERICK W. BOWHILL and retinue. As one member of the Squadron observed "the amount of gold braid displayed made interior lighting unnecessary". The visitors were keenly interested in the stories that the crews had to tell and before leaving AIR CHIEF MARSHAL SIR FREDERICK W. BOWHILL, G.B.E., K.C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O., made a speech in which he congratulated all on their magnificent achievements.
Aircraft Type & Number: DAKOTA MK.III. AJ/KG.321. Crew: S/L R.D. DANIELL AFC, F/S NIXON R.J., SGT WALKER P.O., W/O BENNETT E.E. Duty: Operation "Mallard" Towing Gliders with Equipment to DZ "N" Normandy. Time Up: 18.51. Time Down: 22.34. Details of sortie or flight: Glider released at 2103 half mile West of DZ from 1100 feet. Aircraft hit at 2105 by flak, wings and fuselage damaged but aircraft returned safely.
Aircraft Type & Number: DAKOTA MK.III. AV/KG.419. Crew: F/O R.A. KENNY, F/S ENGLISH R.E., F/O P.D. WARING, W/O MACALONEY A.H. Time Up: 18.52. Time Down: 22.35. Details of sortie or flight: Glider released at 2104 - no incident.
Aircraft Type & Number: DAKOTA MK.III. AB/KG.395. Crew: F/L R.R. KEILLER, W/O BARRY R.T., F/S BIRCH S.H., W/O PARRY J.I. Time Up: 18.52½. Time Down: 22.35. Details of sortie or flight: Glider released at 2104. Heavy and light flak encountered but aircraft undamaged.
Aircraft Type & Number: DAKOTA MK.III. AF/KG.364. Crew: F/O G.S. TAYLOR, F/O C. MOORE, SGT PERRY H.A., F/S MCQUILLTON W.A. Time Up: 18.52. Time Down: 22.40. Details of sortie or flight: Glider released at 2104 and seen on land on LZ. No incident except for sighting dinghy at 2120 in position 4945N 0003W. A.S.R. launch seen approaching.
Aircraft Type & Number: DAKOTA MK.III. UF/KG.411. Crew: F/O R.G.J. HULL, F/O D. NORTH, SGT O'BRIEN T., W/O PETERSON L. Time Up: 18.53. Time Down: 22.34. Details of sortie or flight: Glider released 1 mile West of LZ and seen to land in area at 2104. Aircraft hit in Port wing and Starboard fuselage by flak at 2105, 2 miles Southwest of LZ. Aircraft returned safely to base.
Aircraft Type & Number: DAKOTA MK.III. AD/KG.317. Crew: F/O G. LOADES, F/L E. PALIN, SGT MAXWELL W.W., W/O DIXON C.E. Time Up: 18.53½. Time Down: 22.33½. Details of sortie or flight: Glider released at 2104½ 1 mile Southwest of LZ and seen to land in area. A.S.R. launch seen approaching aircraft dinghy in position 4948N 0006W. Also crashed Stirling seen in sea just off Coast.
Aircraft Type & Number: DAKOTA MK.III. UD/KG.406. Crew: F/L P.W. SMITH, W/O ROBINSON J.I., SGT POWELL I., F/S GOLTON J.H. Time Up: 18.54. Time Down: 22.41. Details of sortie or flight: Glider released at 2104½ West of DZ, and seen to make a satisfactory landing. No enemy activity observed.
Aircraft Type & Number: DAKOTA MK.III. AG/KG.391. Crew: W/O FELTON F.F., F/S TOYNE K., W/O G.E. BENTLEY, W/O CHENERY J.A. Time Up: 18.55. Time Down: 22.35. Details of sortie or flight: Glider released at 2105½, seen to landing in target area. Heavy bombing seen in CAEN area and salvoes from allied ships off the French Coast.
Aircraft Type & Number: DAKOTA MK.III. AP/KG.401. Crew: F/L H.J.G. ALFORD AFC, F/S MEWIS J.H., SGT JONES J., W/O SPENCER A.F. Time Up: 18.55. Time Down: 22.39. Details of sortie or flight: Starboard wheel fell off Glider immediately after take-off and Glider Pilot ordered to jettison other wheel immediately on crossing English Coast. Glider released at 2107 and made a satisfactory landing. Moderate light flak at LZ. Dinghy previously seen now had A.S.R. launch standing by.
Aircraft Type & Number: DAKOTA MK.III. UN/KG.370. Crew: F/O G.R. WARRINGTON, F/S SMITH E.A., F/O J.E. COBCROFT, F/S DAHLSTEDT W. Time Up: 18.56. Time Down: 22.45. Details of sortie or flight: Glider released at 2104. Successful landing made. Royal Naval barrage observed against CAEN.
Aircraft Type & Number: DAKOTA MK.III. AK/KG.308. Crew: F/O S.S. FINLAY, F/S GRAY R.L.T., F/S WALSH W.J., W/O RICE C.W. Time Up: 18.57. Time Down: 22.39. Details of sortie or flight: Glider released at 2105. Six smoke candles seen burning East of River ORNE estuary. At 2100 in area of LISIEUX a parachute at 1500 feet was observed with two planes circling. Parachute caught fire at 1000 feet. No further observations possible.
Aircraft Type & Number: DAKOTA MK.III. UL/KG.350. Crew: F/O G.P. HAGERMAN, W/O MAHON M.S.R., SGT HACKETT J.C., W/O DECHAMPLAIN J.P. Time Up: 18.57. Time Down: 22.40½. Details of sortie or flight: Glider released at 2105. Successful landing - no incidents.
Aircraft Type & Number: DAKOTA MK.III. UM/KG.416. Crew: F/O E.W. MCCREANOR, F/S ROBERTS R., F/O D.S. HODGE, SGT DANIELLS J. Time Up: 18.58. Time Down: 22.52. Details of sortie or flight: Glider released at 2105 and seen to land safely. At 2108 twin engined aircraft seen to crash with Port engine on fire - position 180 degrees OUISTREHAUS 5 miles. At 2109 an aircraft crashed in flames into the sea 2 miles North of OUISTREHAUS.
Aircraft Type & Number: DAKOTA MK.III. AQ/FZ.620. Crew: P/O R.K. WALKER, F/S MACDONALD D.C., F/S SWALLOW E., F/S STRANGE C. Time Up: 18.59. Time Down: 21.[40?]. Details of sortie or flight: Glider released at 2106. Light flak fired at Glider with no apparent effect. One Glider seen on ground on fire.
Aircraft Type & Number: DAKOTA MK.III. UO/FZ.624. Crew: P/O J.P. WARWICK, P/O A.W. CARFRAE, SGT TENNISON C., W/O MARTIN R.K. Time Up: 18.59. Time Down: 21.46. Details of sortie or flight: Glider released at 2106. No incident.
Aircraft Type & Number: DAKOTA MK.III. UZ/KG.331. Crew: SGT McLAUGHLIN S., F/O E.S. CLARK, F/S BENTLEY L.T., SGT DIAMOND R. Time Up: 19.00. Time Down: 22.47. Details of sortie or flight: Glider released at 2106. Made satisfactory landing. Machine gun fire experienced below nose of aircraft - no damage.
Aircraft Type & Number: DAKOTA MK.III. AH/KG.409. Crew: F/L P. DRUMMOND, F/S NIVEN H.N., SGT JOHNSON A.G., SGT SAXTON S. Time Up: 19.01. Time Down: 22.46. Details of sortie or flight: Glider released at 2106½. Port tail plane of aircraft hit by light A.A. 1 mile West of LZ.
Aircraft Type & Number: DAKOTA MK.III. AY/KG.346. Crew: P/O A.M. SMITH, P/O J.A. SMITH, SGT DODSON F.C.S., SGT ROBERTSON A.D.C. Time Up: 19.02. Time Down: 22.26. Details of sortie or flight: Glider released at 2105 and made satisfactory landing. Aircraft received several hits from flak at 2106 at a height of 800 feet when approximately S.W. of River Bridge. On crossing English Coast on return engines cut out and aircraft made a forced landing at FORD, but did not crash. Starboard wing and fuselage badly damaged. At 2113 Dakota was seen to crash into canal - two of the crew baled out and also landed on canal.
Aircraft Type & Number: DAKOTA MK.III. AZ/KG.423. Crew: F/L W.F. STONE, W/O HARRISON J.D., SGT CLARKE J.P., P/O R.F.J. HINDE. Time Up: 19.02. Time Down: 22.50. Details of sortie or flight: Glider released at 2107 and landed safely. At 2108 the aircraft was hit by A.A. fire but returned safely. F/O LE HURAY'S aircraft observed to crash with Starboard engine on fire - two crew baled out and the other two were seen to leave the aircraft after a crash landing.
Aircraft Type & Number: DAKOTA MK.III. AR/KG.417. Crew: F/O J.G. WELLS, W/O HARDY D.G., W/O WEBB D.A., SGT BLACK D.S. Time Up: 19.03. Time Down: 23.42. Details of sortie or flight: Glider released at 2107½. Aircraft hit by flak at 2105 but completed mission. Damage inflicted to fuselage observed. F/O LE HURAY'S aircraft crashed.
Aircraft Type & Number: DAKOTA MK.III. AW/FZ.671. Crew: W/O PEARSON V.L., F/O G.J. McKENZIE, F/S COSTIN H.J., P/O A.A. LAVOIE. Time Up: 19.04. Time Down: 22.51. Details of sortie or flight: Glider released at 2109 and made successful landing. Aircraft hit in Starboard wing at 2110. Landed safely.
Aircraft Type & Number: DAKOTA MK.III. UV/KG.426. Crew: F/O J. LE HURAY, F/O J.M. WOODCOCK, F/O H.A. FARRELL, SGT CARR R. Time Up: 18.50. Time Down: 21.10. Details of sortie or flight: Glider released at 2107. At 2109 aircraft was hit in Starboard engine and began to lose height. Pilot ordered F/O WOODCOCK and SGT CARR to bale out - successfully crash landed aircraft and pilot and F/O FARRELL got out. Starboard engine fire out. F/O WOODCOCK and SGT CARR parachuted into canal where SGT CARR was unfortunately drowned before assistance could be rendered. F/O LE HURAY and F/O WOODCOCK arrived back in England at 1810 on 7th June. F/O FARRELL was detained in hospital with an injured ankle.
6th / 7th June 1944
Place: Down Ampney
OPERATION ROBROY. Six aircraft were detailed on a re-supply mission to D.Z. "N". 88 panniers and 8 containers of supplies were dropped on the D.Z. between 2350 and 2358. The aircraft having taken off between 2225 and 2226½. The crews experienced little if any fire from enemy sources but to everyone's consternation and pardonable annoyance, the standard of aircraft recognition amongst the Royal Navy and Allied Ground Forces left a lot to be desired. Heavy fire was experienced from these sources despite every attempt to show friendly intention by the firing of Verey cartridges and lowering of undercarriages, but 3 aircraft were hit, though not badly, and they all returned safely. Upon cooler reflection after the operation, crews were prepared to make certain allowances for the confusion that doubtlessly existed below in the first few hours of the invasion, but all paid tribute to the undoubted accuracy of our own A/A gunners whether ashore or afloat and hoped that further similar experiences might not be necessary. All aircraft returned to base between 0135 and 0140 hours on 7th June. The mission was successfully completed, all supplies being dropped in the right area. Total flying time for this period 90 hours 15 minutes.
Aircraft Type & Number: DAKOTA MK.III. UY/KG.439. Crew: W/C T.F.U. LANG AFC, F/L W.G. OWEN, SGT ANDERSON D., F/O G.E. McNEILL. Duty: Operation "ROBROY" Re-Supply at DZ "N". Time Up: 23[presumably should read 22].25. Time Down: 01.35. Details of sortie or flight: 6 Containers and 10 panniers dropped on DZ at 2351. Considerable flak seen at OUISTREHAM and one aircraft (unidentified) seen shot down in flames. Light flak experienced 2/3 miles S.W. of DZ. Aircraft holed through port elevator but landed safely after successful completion of mission.
Aircraft Type & Number: DAKOTA MK.III. AV/KG.419. Crew: W/O CHRISTIE V.B., F/O G.W. CAMPBELL, SGT FULLER G.W., W/O FULMORE P.H. Time Up: 22.25. Time Down: 01.39. Details of sortie or flight: 16 Panniers dropped on DZ at 2355. Aircraft fired on by Royal Navy at 4924N 0016W and by own forces in the DZ area in spite of identification signals being given; mainly machine gun fire and oerlikon. Hits registered in Starboard Main petrol tank and on fuselage. Aircraft landed safely.
Aircraft Type & Number: DAKOTA MK.III. AN/KG.404. Crew: F/O L.R. PATTEE, SGT BROWN J.K., F/S KENT A.G., F/O MCINTYRE F.J. Time Up: 22.25. Time Down: 01.42. Details of sortie or flight: 16 Panniers dropped on DZ at 2351½, own forces appeared to be firing at aircraft from position given West of DZ. Aircraft not hit.
Aircraft Type & Number: DAKOTA MK.III. AZ/KG.423. Crew: F/L A.C. BLYTHE, W/O B.S. EDMONDSON, F/L N. IOSSON, F/S BARRETT P.C. Time Up: 22.25. Time Down: 01.40. Details of sortie or flight: 14 Panniers 2 Containers dropped on DZ at 2353. Flak seen immediately North of LE HAVRE and numerous rockets. Light flak also experienced from shipping lying off shore. No hits registered on aircraft.
Aircraft Type & Number: DAKOTA MK.III. UW/KG.421. Crew: P/O R.L. PEARSON, F/S ROOKE L.E., F/O WEATHERILT W., P/O V.C. SMITH. Time Up: 22.26½. Time Down: 01.45. Details of sortie or flight: 16 Panniers dropped on DZ at 2358. Identified to Navy from 600 feet by flashing Navigation lights but received fire in return. Aircraft hit on fuselage several times but completed mission and landed safely.
Aircraft Type & Number: DAKOTA MK.III. UC/KG.337. Crew: F/O J.H. MURRAY, F/S BARNES G., F/S HAYWARD T.R.C., SGT THOMPSON J. Time Up: 22.25. Time Down: 01.40. Details of sortie or flight: 16 Panniers dropped on DZ at 2350. A vessel seen on fire at 0031 in position 5010N 0026W - aircraft reported this to base. Certain amount of flak seen in DZ area, some quite close but aircraft not hit.
7th June 1944
Place: Down Ampney
Weather fine. After the completion of ROBROY no operations were laid on for this day. Aircraft AY - P/O A.M. SMITH - returned from FORD and crew were interrogated. Later in the day the Squadron received news that F/O's LE HURAY and WOODCOCK were back in England, and that F/O FARRELL was injured but safe in hospital. During the afternoon, representatives of the Press were admitted to the Camp and visited the Squadron, where they were told some of the experiences of the crews. There were many accusations levied against the people interviewed of colossal line-shooting, which caused a certain amount of embarrassment and a great deal of amusement. The Squadron Concert Party gave its first performance since the Squadron's return from Gibraltar, which was a tremendous success but despite the excellence and popularity of the various acts the most popular item was the announcement by the Station Commanding Officer - GROUP CAPTAIN BRADBURY, D.F.C. - to the effect that the Station was now unsealed.
PERSONAL STORY OF F/O J. LE HURAY (55070)
We were briefed for OPERATION MALLARD, Self - Skipper, F/O Linn Farrell - 2nd. Pilot, F/O Bill Woodcock - Navigator and Sgt. Charlie Carr - Wireless Operator., in tug No.72 of 74 tugs briefed. Our glider was carrying 28 troops and a trailer full of ammunition.
The take-off and the trip to the French Coast went without incident and in beautiful weather we crossed the coast at 1000 feet and made a straight run in down the river. The glider pulled off directly over the bridge. I could see a Glider on fire on the L.Z. and to starboard the kites in front were under fire from a light flak position about 3 miles N.W. of CAEN.
Three bursts of flak hit us, the first starting at the tail and running up the fuselage, the second in the starboard engine setting it on fire, and the last which hit in the fuselage and wings filling the cockpit with smoke and fumes.
Our height was 700 feet, decreasing rapidly. I pressed the feathering button, regained my height and told Linn to tell the blokes to jump. Bill and Charlie got out and Linn got half way down the fuselage as I left the controls. By the time I had got to the Navigator's door, the kite was on its side starting a right hand spiral and going down rapidly again, so I went back to the controls and regained partial control by closing the port throttle and reducing speed. At about 150 feet the starboard engine fell out giving me much better control. I saw a field to starboard about 100 yards long, so I put the flaps down, switched off the ignition and went in, landing down wind, port wing tip first, and ending up with a ground loop.
Linn and I rushed out of the still burning wreck and came to a standstill in a ditch not less than 50 yards away, whereupon Linn discovered he had hurt his foot. We were hailed by a couple of Tommies and later a Major arrived to take us to a First Aid Post. There, an Australian M.O. dressed Linn's foot, gave him a shot of morphine and put him to bed.
The Major then took me to H.Q. 6th. Airborne Division, where I met the G.O.C. - GENERAL GALE. I was given some tea and a chair to sleep in for the night. During the night I saw the supply dropping operations. There was quite a lot of flak and one kite was on fire. I could see the lights on the panniers as they fell into the D.Z. about 100 yards away.
In the morning, I saw the Major again, who told me where Linn had been moved to. A Sergeant took me along to this Hospital which was through a village. In the village, we stopped for a quickie - we had a whisky "specially made for the German Troops". At the Hospital I learned that he had already been moved to Casualty Evacuation Centre.
I returned to H.Q. where GENERAL GALE was just starting his breakfast, I gladly accepted his offer to join him in a spot of bacon and egg - and marmalade.
Later I met Leonard Mosley of Kemsley House, who arranged to take me to the beaches when all the War Correspondents were taking their despatches there for transmission to U.K.
The beaches were miserable. The weather was cold and drizzling. Dead were strewn around in grotesque attitudes, though in some places they had been tidied up into two heaps, one British one German.
A group of German prisoners were surrounded by a single strand of barbed wire. A couple of guards looked very browned off at having been gripped for the job. Some distance away a Senior German Officer stood with his British Officer escort.
The high tide was lapping over the steel mesh road that had been laid the previous day. The 15 yards or 10 of sand between the sea and the dunes (not yet cleared of mines) presented a scene of utter confusion, terrifically congested, chiefly with the wrecks of assault craft, jeeps, light guns and tanks.
Infantry Landing Craft were intermittently running up to the beach and disgorging numbers of troops who floundered to the beach from a depth of about 4 feet, with the surf breaking over them. Most kept their rifles dry but forgot about their cigarettes.
Another pilot, F/O ANDERSON, a Canadian of 38 Group, had joined me. He had baled out of a Halifax on the eve of D Day and boasted a German helmet and rifle as souvenirs of his trip.
After waiting an hour, we were allowed to board one of the L.C.I's. This meant a wade out to the gangway and once on board we just sat on the open deck drying out in a biting wind. We kept warm by drinking innumerable self-heating cans of soup.
One convoy of 7 L.C.I's took two hours to form up and was nearly ready when the whole show was scattered by bombs from 3 F.W.190's, hotly pursued by about 20 Spits. It took another 2 hours to reform and get going. The crossing took 20 hours.
We disembarked at NEWHAVEN at 8 a.m. Anderson and I were lucky enough to be taken to the Mess of the Embarkation people, where the C.O. welcomed us with bacon and eggs.
Whilst hunting around for transport to Base, I met MAJOR JACKSON who took me along to meet an "old friend" - Bill Woodcock, we swapped stories and I learned of Charlie Carr's bad fortune.
MAJOR JACKSON had his own transport and was returning to DOWN AMPNEY. We were very pleased to be able to join him.
On route we had to call at FARGO where the Glider pilots were to be debriefed and where, after summary debriefing, I had another bacon and egg.
We arrived at Base at 1815 - 45 hours after I had crash landed in Normandy.
PERSONAL STATEMENT OF F/O. J.M. WOODCOCK (J11505)
Our crew consisting of F/O. LEHURAY (Pilot), F/O. FARRELL (Second pilot), F/O. WOODCOCK (Navigator), and Sgt. CARR (Wireless Operator), flying in Dakota aircraft KG 426, were airborne towing a glider on the evening of June 6th 1944. Our destination was a D.Z. in NORMANDY being the seventy second aircraft in a large formation.
We proceeded on the required route turning south five miles off LE HAVRE. Nothing was noticed until just at the mouth of the River ORNE, when a fair amount of flak was noticed bursting about us. Very little notice was taken of this and we turned up the river to our D.Z. We dropped our glider and I (the Navigator) was observing his release from the Astro-dome, the radio operator Sgt. CARR, sitting in the back just aft of the starboard engine, watching for signs of activity below, when suddenly flak raked us from rudder to the starboard engine. Noticing the operator was in the back I dashed through the communicating door to find the compartment full of smoke, a number of ragged holes along the starboard side, and Sgt. CARR lying on his face on the floor. He was partly on his knees and hands. I immediately returned to advise the pilot and then went back to see Sgt. CARR. He was then standing up and I asked him if they were O.K., at that moment we were hit again this time the starboard engine burst into flame. We at the back immediately snapped our parachutes on, and at that moment the aircraft went into a steep dive. Sgt. CARR and I were standing at the door but the aircraft was then going down at such a rate it was impossible to jump. The pilot apparently gained control and got some height, about seven hundred feet I believe. Sgt. CARR wished to jump, but I said no, I think he, the pilot, will make it. Just at that moment the engine blazed, flames appeared to lick over the cock-pit and under towards the port engine. Sgt. CARR and I were standing side by side at the door, my right arm holding him from jumping until absolutely necessary because of the low altitude. I glanced towards the second pilot, saw him getting up from his seat and indicating to jump. Just then the aircraft started to turn on its back, so CARR and I went out.
Our parachutes opened instantly, and in a matter of seconds we landed in the CAEN CANAL. Sgt. CARR landing about twenty five yards ahead of me and about ten yards from the bank down the river. I released my 'chute' and saw Sgt. CARR floating some distance and calling for help. I noticed my parachute billowing in the water but no sign of his. I called to him I was coming and he answered. But I had only swum a few strokes when he disappeared under the water. I swam on to the bank and was helped out by one or two Frenchmen.
I immediately asked of the other in the water, and they both said he was gone. I examined thereabouts but the water was dark and dusk had fallen, and had no success. The French people took me to their families, where I was given some whisky and milk, and a change of clothing, mine being dried out. In the morning I went down to the river but could see nothing. One Frenchman then led me across some fields to where some British troops were heading for CAEN. There I met some glider pilots heading for the beaches, so I tagged on to them. After numerous detours we made the beaches, and in a nearby field, met Major JACKSON of the Airborne troops, who suggested I tag along with him. I did.
We boarded a landing craft at eleven a.m., sailing at fifteen hundred, disembarking at NEWHAVEN, the next day, at eight thirty. There I met Flying Officer LE HURAY who had had a miraculous escape from the aircraft with Flying Officer FARRELL, the latter being left at a Casualty Clearing Station, with a fractured ankle.
We travelled to DOWN AMPNEY with Major JACKSON and his car, arriving approximately forty five hours after take-off. After reporting to the Station Intelligence Officer, Station Commander, and Squadron Commander, in that order, we went to bed, so ending an interesting period, unhappy in one sense, at the loss of Sgt. CARR.
(Signed) J.M. WOODCOCK.
Capt. J.K. Thompson, R.A.
Naval Party 1642.
C/O G.P.O. London.
22 June 44.
I promised to write you to let you know how we got on after dropping. Actually you did not drop us in the correct place - but you were only 2½ miles out, which was better than most people. Out of the 20 I can account for 17, the others have probably turned up by now but I have just not seen them. The R.A.S.C. officer was wounded, he got a bullet in the arm and went back to England.
As you have heard on the wireless, our boys did a very good job of work but are getting a bit tired now. Thanks a lot for a good trip and we were not so far off our mark really. Best of luck,
(Sgd) J.K. Thompson Capt. R.A.
1st Canadian Parachute Battalion,
Canadian Army - England.
18th June 1944.
How are you, and how goes the war. Without more to do, I'll tell you my story. Our trip was most pleasant over here, thanks to you, except for the last five minutes when the flak came at us I was absolutely terrified, especially the way the old kite rocked and bucketed about the sky - no doubt your evasive action saved the day.
I got out O.K. but the opening shock tore the knee strap of my kit-bag off. It hung away from me and I couldn't reach the quick release, so I landed with the kit-bag attached. I landed in the corner of a field, somewhat shaken and no end surprised. I've never come down faster. After trying to reach my kit-bag I didn't even have time to grab my life webs, but I just managed to get set for the landing.
After wandering about a bit I picked up three others of my stick. It took me three hours and the assistance of a local French farmer to find where I was. Actually I landed a mile and a half north of the D.Z. Unfortunately the country was full of hedges and orchards and I didn't have the slightest idea where the D.Z. was. There was firing all round so that didn't help any. It was the better part of a day before we got ourselves all together. A couple of chaps in my stick had tough luck. One landed in a tree and the branch broke, following which he fell and broke an arm and a leg. Another chap was shot through the hand. He had an amazing escape. He was by himself when about thirty Jerries spotted him. They jumped him and took his equipment and when he was lying in a ditch, shot at him twice from 6 foot away, one just missing him, the other hitting his hand. He lay absolutely still, and they went away leaving him for dead.
Incidentally the stick from chalk No.289 is completely missing - although they got down O.K. because we know one of them to be a prisoner. We caught a German Officer (Propaganda Officer) with this chap's picture, as a prisoner, in his propaganda paper.
We've had some real tough and close fighting in the past two weeks, but we've kicked hell out of Jerry and we've slain a goodly number. They are rather mediocre troops, the lot we've met, and they don't like paratroops. Some are incredibly brave. The airborne lads are wonderful and have proved themselves much the best troops in our sector.
My regards to you and to your splendid crew,
R.C. HILBORN. Lieut.
From: Officer Commanding, No.48 Squadron.
To: O.C. R.A.F. Station, Down Ampney.
Date: 8th. July 1944.
Precis of a talk with LT. JONES, a member of H.Q. Party, 3rd. Brigade, 6th. Division, dropped by S/LDG McVEIGH on OPERATION TONGA.
Lt. Jones was one of the casualties evacuated by air from Normandy on the 7th. July 1944 by 48 Squadron.
2. The following is a precis of the remarks made by Lt. Jones during an informal conversation with S/Ldr McVeigh's crew:-
(i) The stick was dropped short of the D.Z. to North East of Varieville and on a direct run into the D.Z. He judged the distance to be 2,000 yards short.
(ii) All dropped safely, but unfortunately landed on swampy ground, but however, did not have any difficulty after skirting village of Varieville in settling themselves and most of the Brigade up on the D.Z. by 0500 hours.
(iii) The pathfinder party were not located in position as planned.
(iv) Later that day, after having set themselves up, they were heavily bombed by our own forces. Brigadier Hill sustained slight injuries which did not put him out of action for any space of time.
3. Lt. Jones stated that in all, he was quite happy with the drop.
(Sgd.) C.N. McVeigh.
Squadron Leader, Commanding
No.48 Squadron, R.A.F.
Cpl Boxall, 5773223,
Pinder Fields EMS Hospital,
I don't suppose you will recall who I am, so I had better explain.
I'm the Corporal who was in your aircraft when you took us over and dropped us in France.
Well, first off I must thank you and all the crew very much for the nice flight we had over. Then I must give you my sincerest wishes that you got back safe and sound.
We had quite a hectic time once we got on the ground but I think we managed to finish our part of the job just as ably as you did yours. I must say you aircrews did a great job in getting us over there.
Well I'm sitting or rather lying here in hospital with a nice wound in my knee. I did have a few days over there, but a shell exploded near us and I had a piece of shrapnel in my knee so I was evacuated.
Well Sir, will you please remember me to all members of the aircrew and give them my best wishes, also if you would like to pass this around for them to read.
If you have the time I should very much like to hear how you are all getting on.
Now I must say cheerio, Sir, Best of luck to you all.
THE EVENING BEFORE "D" DAY.
Out of the quietness of the early summer evening came the distant sound of motors, gradually become louder until the first of a long line of lorries, preceded by a Staff Car and despatch riders, slowly came into view on the road leading to the airfield. As they passed they were seen to be loaded with paratroops and though lorry loads of troops proceeding to the airfield had been a common enough sight in the past, on this night there was a difference. Each man was in full war dress, his face blacked and all the equipment of war about him or stacked in other lorries in the convoy. This was the beginning of the vast operation intended to liberate Europe from the Nazi yoke. Impressions of that movement will be for ever alive in the minds of all who watched in silence. There were no words then with which to describe that intense inner feeling as they watched those who were privileged to be amongst the first of the mighty army soon to land in France. Bitter sweet thoughts were those of the onlookers - envy perhaps of that splendid fighting youth about to take the enemy beast by its throat, wonder at their brave bearing in the face of the ordeal to come - fear for their safety and the success of the enterprise, and sorrow at the thought that not all would return to peace and freedom. The thoughts of that gallant band of warriors are not for us - some of them singing and flinging a healthy jest as they passed, others grim and silent and here and there a flicker of a small smile and a raised hand in salutation. On went the convoy, creeping at snails pace on to the airfield and round the perimeter track to where long lines of parked aircraft stood alongside the runway. Standing by their machines were the aircrews with a word of welcome for the men they were to carry and drop, as they tumbled out of their lorries and clustered round their respective aircraft. Now began the business of putting on their parachute harness and jumping gear. Lively banter filled the air as friend assisted friend in the business of dressing. The Captains of the aircraft were quietly talking to the stick masters, going over procedure and making final checks. Fully attired now the parachutists, looking grimly grotesque draped about with their equipment, relaxed on the ground - some finishing off a last pipe of tobacco, others quietly jesting to each other or roaring to passing friends a pithy description of what awaited the Huns when they got "over there". One man was actually reading the last few pages of a novel and by one aircraft, a little apart from his comrades, a man knelt in prayer.
Along the long assembled line of aircraft crept a car stopping at each machine while the Station Commander handed out to crews a pamphlet bearing the God Speed message of GENERAL EISENHOWER. A little later the Padre was to be seen quietly wending his way from aircraft to aircraft with a word of cheer and a whispered "Good Luck".
It was now darkening and overhead were streaming formation after formation of aircraft, ablaze with navigation lights, part of the huge air armada about to launch its attack on Hitler's Fortress of Europe. To the noise of the aircraft overhead was now added the roar of engines on the ground as motor after motor started up. Crews and troops were now aboard and doors shut while busy ground crews raced around pulling away chocks from wheels and then the slow taxying to the take-off runway commenced. It was now quite dark and the aircraft could only be discerned as dim shapes, as one by one they roared along the runway and took off into the night. Over half a hundred left the ground on this night - a few towing gliders laden with most heavy equipment - and joined the steady stream passing overhead. At last the noise and lights disappeared into the distance and quietness stole down upon the field. The watchers turned away and went to await the news which would soon spread across the world, that the invasion had started, and prepare to take the first reports of returning crews and decide whether the first large scale airborne operation launched from this country had been as successful as anticipated.