06/vi/44 – D Day

6th June 00:30
DH Mosquito XIII HK534 (A/I Mk.VIII)
Pilot: F/O Scott
Navigator (R): Self
PATROL – Line “BAKER”  – OPERATION “NEPTUNE”
The first “D day” patrol covering airborne landings in Normandy. Patrolling in R/T silence, listening out on Hope Cove (Type 16). Completely uneventful – total observations: 4-6 yellow flares; the same boat twice; & slight A/A activity near Guernsey. 5 patrols completed before returning home.
3:20

14:25
NFT, CINE-GUN & AI EXERCISE III
Crossing contacts with hard evasive by target.
1:00

And so my grandfather recorded his part in the invasion of German occupied France 70 years ago today. Whilst clearing out their house after my grandmother passed away last year, I came across a fuller account of Broody’s recollections of D Day which is reproduced below:

“Some time before dusk on 5th. June, we, as duty Flight, fore gathered at our dispersal hut, with little expectation of any activity. My log book shows that I had not flown operationally since 29th. May, when an unidentified aircraft had turned out to be a Wellington. I should, perhaps explain that the Squadron routine was that each Flight would be available for operations for two consecutive nights, then hand over to the other Flight for the next two. On any given night, eight of the ten crews on a Flight would be on duty – the other two being accounted for by leave, 48 hour passes, sickness and postings. A crew returning from a night or more off, entered the “state” for the night as last off, then climbing up a place per operational night until reaching the “first off” berth. Patrols or operational scrambles were then normally met by taking crews in order: on a busy night in Fighter Command, the first crew or two might well fly twice.

 The first indication we received that anything unusual was in the wind was the arrival of the Squadron Commander, accompanied by armed Service Police, who closed all doors and windows and took up positions outside the dispersal hut. The C.O. then told us that the long-awaited invasion of Europe was to take place that night. Our role was confined to putting up two crews who would, in succession, fly a patrol line from the South Coast to a point close to the tip of the Cherbourg Peninsula, in radio silence, keeping a radar watch. Our patrols would be monitored by a G.C.I. station well to the West. It was our assumption that this station would break radio silence if any significant attack were to develop – and, presumably, if we were not seen to have observed it and moved to intercept.

 We took off from Zeals, Wiltshire, half an hour after midnight on June 6th. in Mosquito NF XIII, HK534, of 488 Squadron, piloted by Flying Officer J,H, Scott, R.N.Z.A.F. Jack Scott, my regular pilot, had come from Invercargill in the South Island and was famous on the Squadron for taking every opportunity that came along (and some that he skilfully generated) to get into the air. Zeals was a not too satisfactory grass airfield, close to Mere. One of its less attractive features was a roadway running across the main “runway” (i.e. the path outlined in the grass by runway lighting) which was showing a tendency to break up and throw pieces of debris at the tails of the aircraft. On taking off in a westerly direction, it was necessary to climb fairly hard to clear a ridge, which was succeeded by a valley, notorious for down-draughts, before another and higher ridge. Contrary to normal practice, the first crew on the state was not sent on the first patrol: the Flight Commander selected the two crews, presumably on criteria of experience.

 Needless to say, we were more than pleased to be operating that night. Such was the superiority of R.A.F. night fighter aircraft and equipment at that stage of the War that we had every confidence that we would win any encounter and the occasion seemed to be one on which we must surely meet some opposition. Incidentally, it was not until years later that it became clear that we were, so to speak, right markers to the operation – patrolling on the western boundary of the invasion area and approaches.

 The navigation was interesting. Like the majority of night fighter pilots, Jack cherished his night vision and firmly banned any significant amount of light in the cockpit. Consequently, I carried two torches of the then familiar “No.8” type, one down each flying boot. The first was used for the pre-flight checks of controls and pitot head, but under no circumstances to be lit in the air. When the battery in this torch became weakish, it was transferred to the other, with two thicknesses of pink blotting paper to reduce the light output. With due care, this could be used to look at a map. The solution I used was to make all notes and calculations in black chinagraph pencil, on a map, which made the markings visible – to some extent – in the restricted light. It must be said, however, that the use of a transponder beacon or two, standard equipment at night fighter bases, made position finding at the northern end of the patrol line fairly straightforward and thereafter, such little matters as drifts and turning points became cause for mental arithmetic.

 I have neither record nor memory of our height, but think it was probably 10,000, possibly 15,000, feet. The night was clear on our patrol Line and. Although we saw nothing of the invasion fleet, which would have been some miles to our East, we did see, on each run, South and North, some craft on the water below, frantically circling – or so it seemed to us. We surmised that the crew heard our engines each time and were taking precautions.

 Otherwise the three hours of the patrol were totally uneventful and to us at the time a grave disappointment, although with hindsight we should have been pleased that the element of surprise had been so effective.

 The excitement came when we returned to base just after 0330 hours when, of course, the sky was lightening. Between us and our late supper or early breakfast seemed to be a solid carpet of gliders and tugs, all heading South. In the restricted light, this posed something of a problem – how to get below them without getting involved with their tow-ropes or creating problems for the glider pilots with our slipstream. We certainly avoided the former and hope the latter as well.

 So ended a totally undistinguished contribution to the Liberation of Europe!”

A fascinating read, and peppered with other useful facts about Squadron life and RAF Zeals.

Pasted into his journal is the flying map from the night, showing the patrol line, observations and numerous navigational calculations.

Flying Map showing the patrol line flown by Broody in the early hours of D Day

Flying Map showing the patrol line flown by Broody in the early hours of D Day

It fills me with enormous pride that, as Broody explained, he and Jack were hand picked for the mission over the first crew on the “state” for the evening – Testament to their ability and experience. Although the night was uneventful for 488(NZ) Squadron, D Day was one of the most pivotal days in the entire war, and the fact that my Grandfather played an important part in it is humbling.

Plt Off AJ Broodbank - Hand picked to fly a 3 hour patrol over the invasion beaches on D Day - 06/vi/44

Plt Off AJ Broodbank – The Navigator of one of 2 crews of 488(NZ) Squadron hand-picked to fly a 3 hour patrol just after midnight over the English Channel as the D Day invasion began – 06/vi/44

The internet is awash with D Day resources, especially as we mark the 70th Anniversary. If you want more information about the RAF’s role in Operations Neptune and Overlord, I suggest you look at the resources on the RAF’s website.

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14 responses to “06/vi/44 – D Day

  • Pierre Lagacé

    Reblogged this on Lest We Forget and commented:
    This blogger pays homage to his grandfather, a navigator flying on a Mosquito.
    This is his grandfather’s entry for June 6, 1944.

  • Pierre Lagacé

    You have all the right in the world to be proud…

    It fills me with enormous pride that, as Broody explained, he and Jack were hand picked for the mission over the first crew on the “state” for the evening – Testament to their ability and experience. Although the night was uneventful for 488(NZ) Squadron, D Day was one of the most pivotal days in the entire war, and the fact that my Grandfather played an important part in it is humbling.

  • a gray

    Long ago, I had a friend, Jess Sylvis, http://image2.findagrave.com/photos/2014/155/49489280_1401974520.jpg,
    who was piloting one of those gliders your grandfather was so careful to avoid.

    • lifeboatadam

      I love the way these stories interweave! I’m glad Major Sylvis got to France and home safely.

      • Pierre Lagacé

        You should read Wayne’s Journal.

        I am in the process of catching up with the older posts.

        A Gray’s uncle was a tail gunner in the Pacific at about the same time your grandfather was a navigator in a Mosquito.

        Both of your blogs are so much informative and depict what was really happening during the war… like day to day life and death.

      • lifeboatadam

        I have started to read Wayne’s Journal – a fascinating read, and nice to see other Eye Witness accounts or WW2 combats.

      • Pierre Lagacé

        A great blog…
        Very well documented.
        A real tribute to his uncle.

  • weggieboy

    I am glad that the veterans of WWII finally felt the need to record their parts in that war, this invasion in particular. At the military museum where I volunteer, family members make comments like “I never heard what Dad did during the war. He never talked about it, when I tried to get him to talk, he’d get silent or say there were things that happened I’d not want to know.” Then, these old men come in, see the exhibits, sit down to catch their breath at the conference table where I am, and talk. Guys I knew as businessmen or farmers suddenly become these quiet heroes flying bombers, climbing cliffs under fire, and other stories they finally know need to be passed on. It is humbling, Pierre, and, as you realize, something we need to hear, try to have them document however we can. That’s why your blogs carry so much weight with me. You ferret out the stories of the participants.

    • Pierre Lagacé

      Well said weggieboy…

      Every story has to be told even the story of LAC Lester Charles Jones who never went overseas and now lays silent in Nebraska waiting for someone to listen to what he has to say…

    • a gray

      It’s not to say that for some the experience was one they didn’t want to talk about, but when I hear that “Dad or grandfather never talked about the war”, I wonder if those who say that cared to listen when dad or grandfather spoke. A transmitter without a receiver . . . . ?

  • shortfinals

    A truly fascinating glimpse of the western edge of the invasion area on D-Day. Many, many thanks.

  • hilarycustancegreen

    Great record! My uncle was a Mosquito navigator too, though he does not appear to have flown between late May and June 10th in 1944, when he did a PAMPA over northern France. Pierre has made a blogsite for my uncle at http://johncustancebaker.wordpress.com, and I have a page on him http://greenwritingroom.com/a-very-unlikely-hero/.

    • Pierre Lagacé

      When I have the time I go back to your uncle’s blog and format his entries. There are so many, but I want to finish that mission someday. This is one reason I like was Adam is doing here, as well as Allen with his Wayne’s journal. Precious artifacts that needs to be made available on the WWW about WWII.

  • hilarycustancegreen

    Your industry in this cause is incredible and admirable.

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