Category Archives: 488 (NZ) Squadron Tour

RAF Zeals – 1944 Aerial Photograph found

On 04/v/44, 488(NZ) Squadron moved from RAF Bradwell Bay to RAF Zeals.

This move was covered in earlier posts, but I have just found an aerial photo of RAF Zeals dating from March 1944, only weeks before 488(NZ) Squadron arrived.

As a reminder, RAF Zeals is at Grid Reference ST 78018 32945, between the villages of Stourton and Mere, just off the A303. The photograph below shows how the airfield looked on 24/iv/44.

You can see the issues that 488(NZ) Squadron faced with the airfield – no proper runway, just a grass track. In his account of his D Day Patrol, Broody described the state of the airfield at Zeals:

“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”

Aerial photograph of Zeals airfield looking south east, the control tower, technical site and blister hangars are at the top, 24 March 1944. Photograph taken by No. 544 Squadron, sortie number RAF/NLA/80. English Heritage (RAF Photography).

Aerial photograph of Zeals airfield looking south east, the control tower, technical site and blister hangars are at the top, 24 March 1944. Photograph taken by No. 544 Squadron, sortie number RAF/NLA/80. (Image Source – IWM / English Heritage – Original image at – http://www.americanairmuseum.com/media/6185)

Not much remains of the airfield today – it has returned to agricultural use – apart from the old control tower which has been converted into a private residence.

The site of RAF Zeals as it looks today. (Image from Google Earth)

The site of RAF Zeals as it looks today. (Image from Google Earth)

Please note that as the 1944 image was taken from an almost southerly aspect, I have also rotated the Google Earth image for better comparison.


The End

Although Broody remained with 488(NZ) Squadron until a posting out to No.1 Radio School at RAF Cranwell on 05/x/44, no more operational or readiness flights were flown, and so this story has come to an end.

It would be near on impossible to summarise in this post what has been quite a year in the life of a young man who joined the RAF straight from Cambridge University in 1942. Fortunately, the ever meticulous Broody can provide a summary of the tour himself as recorded in his journal.

Summary of First Operational Tour 4-ix-43 to 11-X-44

Summary of First Operational Tour
4-ix-43 to 11-X-44

Recorded in Broody’s Flying Log is his end of tour “Proficiency Assessment” from the Squadron’s CO, W/Cdr Haine. The assessment was “above Average”, with the CO commenting:

“Very keen and intelligent”

Broody's End of Tour Proficiency Assessment

Broody’s End of Tour Proficiency Assessment

Broody remained in the RAF until 1946, gaining a regular commission in 1945 and eventually reaching the rank of Flight Lieutenant. I do not have as much information on his later roles as I do for this tour, but maybe one day I will tell the next part of the story.

I am the proud custodian of Broody’s wartime medals. By the time hostilities ceased, Broody had been awarded 3 medals and one clasp.

The war medals of Andrew John Broodbank - RAAF

The war medals of Andrew John Broodbank – RAF

From left to right, the medals are:

1) 1939-45 Star (Awarded for 2 months operational service as aircrew between 3 September 1939 and 2 September 1945)

2) Air Crew Europe Star (Awarded for 2 months operational flying over Europe, from UK bases between 3 September 1939 and 5 June 1944 – The qualifying period started after receipt of the 1939-45 Star)

3) France & Germany clasp on Air Crew Europe Star (Awarded for a minimum of 1 day’s operational service in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Germany from 6 June 1944 to 8 May 1945 – Rules dictated that the France and Germany Star would not be awarded to those already in receipt of the Air Crew Europe Star, only a clasp was to be worn)

4) War Medal 1939–1945 (Awarded to those who had served in the Armed Forces or Merchant Navy full-time for at least 28 days between 3 September 1939 and 2 September 1945)

There is just one more part of this story to tell – and for me, perhaps the most important as it is the reason I am here today. While at RAF Cranwell, Broody met a young WAAF officer, S/O Margaret Jean Weeks who was a Meteorological Officer.

SO Margaret Jean Weeks (WAAF)

S/O Margaret Jean Weeks (WAAF)

In her latter years, my grandmother took time to record some of her wartime experiences. Amongst these was the story of how she first met the man who was to become her future husband.

“One evening I went with several others from our Mess to a party at another Mess (Signals). This became somewhat drunken. I remember one game where you held a poker on the floor and ran round and round it. One soon became very giddy and could fall into the nearest lap available.

I still drank hardly at all, so I was sober and beginning to think how stupid everyone else appeared, when someone suggested a dance and someone else said, ‘Broody can play the piano’. Broody was dragged out of his room (having just returned from the cinema in a nearby town) and he played the piano.

Not long afterwards, we WAAF Officers left to return to our own Mess. Next day, the sun was shining and it was a beautiful day. Cycling to the met Office, I saw someone outside the Parachute Section who seemed to be looking at me. Not wearing my glasses, of course, I couldn’t see who it was, but called out ‘Good morning,’ as I passed.

This bod turned out to be John (‘Broody’) and he followed me to see where I went. Well, air crew were always coming into the Met Office to ask for forecasts etc, and they knew they might also get a cup of tea there as well (or rather, a mug). So that, really, is how we met.”

On 17th March 1945 (her 22nd birthday), my grandmother recorded in her diary:

“Birthday. Glorious, every one so kind. Cycle to wood in pm & John proposes. Dinner in mess afterwards and have a drink with it. Phone home.”

Just over a week later on 25th, she wrote:

“Home. John & I fly home in 42 mins. Tell Mother, Dad & Geoff of our engagement. They are so sweet & kind. Awful journey back.”

Of course, Broody can add to this part of the story with his record of the flight in his journal.

25th March 1945 10:05
AIRSPEED OXFORD II LB425
Pilot: F/O Swaby
2nd Pilot: Lt. Edmundson
Navigator: Self
Passenger: S/O Weeks
BASE ~ RINGWAY
To arrange an engagement! Flying at 2-3,000ft above & through cloud & a cold front which had shown every promise of stopping the trip – cloud being at 200ft at Ringway at time of take off from Cranwell. Excellent Pilot.
0:42

He has even included the weather forecast for the trip, prepared by my grandmother!

Weather forecast by S/O Weeks for the "Engagement Flight" from Cranwell to Ridgeway.

Weather forecast by S/O Weeks for the “Engagement Flight” from Cranwell to Ridgeway.

Broody & Jean were married in at St. Mary’s church in Cheadle on 6th April 1946 and went on to live a long and happy life together. They had 2 daughters, 4 grandchildren, and 8 great-grandchildren.

Just Married - 6th April 1946

The newly married Mr & Mrs Broodbank on the steps of St Mary’s Church, Cheadle
6th April 1946

Jean & John Broodbank

In the garden of their home in Surbiton in the 1990s

I hope that you have enjoyed following Broody’s tour in “real time” as much as I have enjoyed researching and writing about his experiences. I have learned a lot, not only about my Grandfather’s role in the war, but about 488(NZ) Squadron, his aircrew colleagues – many of whom I now feel that I know personally, and the role of Night Fighters during the war.

But above all, as each part of the story has unfolded, I have felt hugely proud of the part Broody played in the defeat of Nazi Germany.

Of course, we must not forget the 21 men of 488(NZ) Squadron who were killed during Broody’s tour. Broody never spoke to me of these losses. These names, and links to Commonwealth War Graves Commission pages for them are all recorded on the Roll of Honour Page of this blog, but the final page in the journal, and therefore the best place for this story to end lists all these men in Broody’s meticulous hand.

I wonder how he felt as he wrote down the names of colleagues and friends who made the ultimate sacrifice? I ask you to think about that as you once again read the names of these few men, who amongst thousands of others, gave up their lives for our futures.

The casualties of 488(NZ) Squadron between September 1943 and October 1944. ~Their Name Liveth For Evermore~

The casualties of 488(NZ) Squadron between September 1943 and October 1944.
~Their Name Liveth For Evermore~

And there we are – the rest, as they say, is history.


17/ix/44 – Last flight with Jack Scott

"The last flight with F/O Scott"

“The last flight with F/O Scott”

Today, I have decided to let you see the journal entry in Broody’s own hand. A round trip to RAF Levesden, where de Havilland Mosquitos were assembled, to collect some spares.

Of note firstly is the account of the 1st Airbourne Division’s flight to Arnhem on their way to one of the most famous European battles of World War 2.

Most poignantly, the final sentence reads simply: “The last flight with F/O Scott” – 6 words to record the end of a partnership which lasted almost the entire duration of Broody’s tour with the Squadron.

In all, Broody and Jack flew together on 228 occasions, with flight times ranging from 5 minutes (take off and landing on identifying an A/C fault) to 3 hours and 55 minutes on a Patrol.

Their time in the air together as Pilot and Navigator comes just 20 minutes short of 295 hours. That equates to over 12 days of flying time!

Jack left the Squadron on 19/ix/44 to join 315 Maintenance Unit in India. As I have said before, I think he and Broody lost touch after the war – The world was a much bigger place in 1945 before the Internet.

The only record I have of any contact between them after September 1944 is a “bluey” from Jack to Broody dated February 1945. It is an interesting read, and I do not think either of them would mind if I shared it here.

I have transcribed the letter below the scanned images.

Jack Scott letter-page1
Jack Scott letter-page2
Jack Scott letter-page3

Dear Broody,

Sorry for being such a long time writing. I must have caught the Indian idea of not doing today what can be put off until next year.

Life out here isn’t too bad really but I’m very pleased that I only have two more months to do before going home. This would be quite a good job if only there was more of it. I do both singles and twins and am thinking of doing a “heavy” conversion if I have time. Compared to sqdn flying though its very tame.

The weather is always fine and vis is usually fifty miles, and apart from the first few hours in a new type its just stooging around. I had the controls come adrift in a spit about Xmas and had to jump over the side, made a very heavy landing in a tree but apart from a few bruises was ok. Got caught by the AOC beating up the place in another Spit and did orderly officer for a week and those have been the only exciting moments.

I believe old Ron is now CO. He will be better at that than he was a CO flight under Haines. I hope old Brownie got the flight. It should be rather a decent squadron now and except for being married and going home I’d give anything to be back with it. I have heard from the folk at home that I’ve been mentioned in despatches, but nothing official. Don’t know what for though except for our one Beau.

How goes the course. They are short of that trade out here so you may finish up out this way. Old Proc is the only one I’ve heard from. He is assistant accounts at Warmwell so he has landed quite a good job, only a few miles from his home too.

The climate just now is very good, about 90 every day and cool at night and every day the same. The people are not so good though. The poorer ones live like animals and the rich ones like lords. There doesn’t seem to be any inbetween. Bombay and Delhi are rather decent towns and Colombo. There are some very rough spots in all of them though.

Our best sport is taking up army types in the back of a Beau and giving them the works. Our old jobs are limited to 250 mph so we can’t do much in them at present. Well old chap I’ll have to finish off. These don’t hold much but they go fast. Cheerio for now.

Yours sincerely.
Jack Scott


04/ix/44 – Last flight in a Mosquito

4th September 18:10
DH Mosquito XIII MM515 ME-Z (A/I Mk.VIII)
Pilot: F/O Scott
Navigator (R): Self
NFT, CINE-GUN & A/C TEST
For state with B Flt. Testing with F/O Jeffs in very bumpy weather.
0:50

During his tour, Broody flew in 22 of the Squadron’s de Havilland Mosquitos. 7 of these were Mk.XIIIs, and the other 15, the later Mk.XIII. The final Mossie flight was in ME-Z, the aircraft used by Chris Vlotman on 20/vi/44 when he claimed a Fw190 over Falaise – The last of Vlotman’s 4 victories.

The fantastic photo below shows 3 Mosquitos of 488(NZ) Squadron in formation. I think the aircraft furthest from the photographer is ME-Z.

Mosquitos of 488(NZ) Squadron flying in formation. (Possibly ME-V (MM476) and ME-Z (MM515))

Mosquitos of 488(NZ) Squadron flying in formation.
(Possibly ME-V (MM476) and ME-Z (MM515))
Photo from the collection of Reg Mitchell via Graham Clayton


02/ix/44 – Last Patrol of the Tour

2nd September 14:10
DH Mosquito XIII MM558 ME-E (A/I Mk.VIII)
Pilot: F/O Scott
Navigator (R): Self
NFT, CINE-GUN & A/I PRACTICE
With S/Ldr Watts. A/I rather poor
1:00

21:00
PATROL – GCI 15083 (Radox)
10m off Normandy coast, between Avranches & Le Havre. At 6000ft over cloud. Bright moon & not a thing about.
3:55

And so almost a year to the day that he arrived at RAF Bradwell Bay to join 488(NZ) Squadron, Broody flies his last Operational Patrol of the tour. Today is also his final flight in “The Mighty E”.

In all, Broody has now flown a total of 176 hours 5 minutes on Operations. Of these, all were night operations apart from 35 minutes of daytime ops when he was scrambled to search for lost B17 Fortresses of the 8th USAF in January.

In that time, although he never had any “success” in destroying an enemy aircraft, the countless bogies discounted as friendly due to his interceptions played a valuable part in the war effort. There were, of course, some hairy moments. He was shot at a number of times (by allied aircraft); suffered mechanical failure; got coned in a German searchlight; and had a near miss with the French coast.

There are still a few more entries in the journal, and another month with the Squadron, but the Operational side is over – Broody has survived his war.


01/ix/44 – NFT with S/Ldr Watts

1st September 14:40
DH Mosquito XIII MM558 ME-E (A/I Mk.VIII)
Pilot: F/O Scott
Navigator (R): Self
NFT, CINE-GUN & A/I PRACTICE
Camera on Dakotas & practice with S/Ldr Watts, until lost in a cloud. Then target for W/O Green.
1:10


Summary for August 1944

SUMMARY for AUGUST

TOTAL MOSQUITO DAY 12H15M
TOTAL OXFORD DAY 9H45M
TOTAL WELLINGTON DAY 12H50M
TOTAL DAY FLYING 34H50M
TOTAL MOSQUITO NIGHT 27H45M
TOTAL NIGHT OPERATIONS 27H45M

Training on the new A/I Mk. X system saw an increase in day flying hours for Broody this month – up from 9:10 in July. Night Operational hours were also up by just over 7 hours, which equates to an additional 2 patrols this month.

Again, this month was, the most successful to date for the Squadron, with a total of seventeen enemy aircraft destroyed and four damaged.

The ORB reports that this tally is just one less than the previous best month (July 1944), and put 488(NZ) Squadron on top of the leader board for 85 Group.

Enemy aircraft were destroyed by the following pilots during the month.

F/Lt AE Brown – 4
F/Lt GE Jameson – 2
F/Lt  PFL Hall – 2
W/Cdr RC Haine – 1
W/O TGC Mackay – 1
W/O GS Patrick – 1
F/O AL Shaw – 1
F/Sgt TA Maclean – 1
F/Lt JAS Hall – 1
F/O OJ McCabe – 1
F/O RG Jeffs – 1
F/O DN Robinson – 1

(See entries 37 to 53 on the Squadron Victories page for more detail)


29/viii/44 – NFT in good weather

29th August 14:40
DH Mosquito XIII MM558 ME-E (A/I Mk.VIII)
Pilot: F/O Scott
Navigator (R): Self
NFT & CINE-GUN
With W/O Hughes in lovely weather. Canary U/S
1:00


28/viii/44 – A/I Mk.X training

28th August 09:40
VICKERS ARMSTRONG WELLINGTON XI MP535 (A/I Mk X)
Pilot: F/Lt Smith RAAF
Instructor: F/O Keating RAAF
U/T Navigator (R): Self
U/T Navigator (R) F/Lt Carcassson
U/T Navigator (R): F/O Earl
U/T Navigator (R): F/S Wyman
A/I Mk X – EXERCISE V
No trouble this time
A/I Mk X – EXERCISE VI
Target taking full evasive action
A/I U/S later on
1:50


27/viii/44 – More A/I Mk.X training

27th August 14:40
VICKERS ARMSTRONG WELLINGTON XI MP535 (A/I Mk X)
Pilot: F/O Collier
Instructor:W/O Blackburn
U/T Navigator (R): Self
U/T Navigator (R) F/O Procter
U/T Navigator (R): F/O Prescott
U/T Navigator (R): W/O Follows
A/I Mk X – EXERCISE V
Much argument between pupil (with finger) & pilot (with his) over the correct technique of following a weave.
2:10

14:15
VICKERS ARMSTRONG WELLINGTON XI MP525/G (A/I Mk X)
Pilot: F/Lt Hollowell AFC
Instructor: F/Lt Clemo DFC
U/T Navigator (R): Self
U/T Navigator (R) P/O Earl
U/T Navigator (R): F/O Prescott
U/T Navigator (R): W/O Follows
A/I Mk X – EXERCISE V
A/I U/S
1:30