Tag Archives: Invasion

06/vi/44 – D Day 75 years on

I first published this post in 2014 – 70 years after the event. On the 75th anniversary of D Day I thought I would share it again. As the numbers of veterans who were involved in the invasion of Europe dwindles it is important that we do not forget the sacrifices that so many made on that day and in the days before and after.

Once again I say Thank You to my grandfather, his squadron mates and every veteran of World War II for their bravery and tenacity.

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.


07/viii/44 – 48 hour pass and a trip to France

7th August 15:35
Airspeed Oxford II T1018
Pilot: F/O Scott
2nd Pilot: F/O Cook
Navigator: Self
Passenger: F/Lt Carcasson
BASE ~ HENGISTBURY HEAD ~ Point de BARFLEUR ~ ALG A-15
Tyre burst on landing as a start to a 48 / “liaison” visit. Dinner at 21 Base Defence Sector HQ at Tocqueville Chateau, an evening in St Pierre Eglise & then to GCI 15072 (Robust) near Barfleur. Slept on the floor of the library & next morning to the airfield to check on the A/C, then into Cherbourg.
1:05

As A Flight came off the state and handed over to B Flight, Broody, Jack Scott, Bill Cook and George Carcasson went on a 48 hour period of leave, and flew to France on a visit. ALG A-15 was an Advanced Landing Ground, a temporary airfield use to support the invasion of mainland Europe. A-15 was located in Maupertus-sur-Mer, some 7 miles ENE of Cherbourg. Today it is Cherbourg Airport (Aéroport de Cherbourg – Maupertus).

Broody has pasted a couple of postcards into his journal that are worth sharing.

The church door - St Pierre-Eglise

The church door – St Pierre-Eglise

Tocqueville chateau - 21 Base Defence Sector HQ

Tocqueville chateau – 21 Base Defence Sector HQ

A bridge in St Pierre Eglise

A bridge in St Pierre Eglise

Also of note on the night of 06&07/viii/44 were further successes for the Squadron. The Jameson & Crookes crew claimed one JU88 destroyed and one damaged. Vlotman and Wood had an unsuccessful chase; but the most interesting combats of the night came from F/Lt Allen Browne and his navigator, W/O Tom Taylor. they were credited with the destruction of one Ju188 and two further unidentified enemy aircraft who both crashed into the ground during the chases. Browne’s personal Combat Report makes for interesting reading:

“At 0234 hours I was told to investigate a bogey at Angels 13 on a course of 280 degs. I climbed to Angels 12 an after being given several vectors contact was obtained 3 ½ miles above and to port. The target appeared to be weaving as many alterations of course were given me by my navigator.

I closed in and a visual was obtained at about 1500ft. slightly above and about 5 degs to port. The target was taking violent evasive action and while attempting to identify I overshot by reason of such evasive action. I pulled hard to port and lost a little height and contact was reobtained on turning back starboard. We closed in and I obtained another visual at 1000ft range above and dead ahead. I identified bogey as a JU188 and this was confirmed by my navigator using Ross night glasses.

The E/A continued violent evasive action. I closed to 250 yards range when the E/A momentarily ceased evasive action, and I opened fire with a 2 or 3 second burst. Strikes were observed in the port engine which burst into flames. E/A broke away to port. I followed him and closed in again giving him another burst of about the same duration. The E/A caught well alight peeled away to port and went down slowly at first and then with increasing speed hitting the ground in a mass of flames and with a violent explosion. I was then at Angels 5 and I called control and gave a fix.

Almost immediately Control took us over and asked us to investigate another bogey. After several vectors were obtained contact range 3 miles well above and dead ahead. I opened to full throttle and climbed to 10,000’ which was approx. bogey’s height. I saw a reddish amber light at a range of 4,000ft moving from port to starboard. I followed visual and pulled in at full throttle dead behind it. The light then commenced to dive and I followed at 350 ASI but failed to close range. The light was going down very steeply and at a constant angle, which I estimated to be 45 degs.

AI contact was maintained throughout but I followed without difficulty by sight. I could not identify as I saw no silhouette, but was satisfied in the dive that it was a very large singular circular light. The light hit the ground and exploded and a volume of fire was seen. The colour of the flame was reddish. I thought at first the object had navigation lights. This explosion is believed to have occurred roughly west of Rennes. No fix could be obtained though Tailcoat control was asked for one. An endeavour was made to obtain a fix from AI beacons but this was unsuccessful. I pulled out of the dive at 500ft and orbited the burning wreckage.

I then climbed to 5000ft and Tailcoat gave me a northerly vector and a little later asked us to investigate another bogey at about 12,000ft. I opened to full throttle. Contact was obtained range 3 miles 20 degs port at angels 12. Closed range very slowly though I was at full throttle. Visual, 1500 range dead ahead on an A/C taking exceptionally violent evasive action which was held by both visual and AI means. Visual having been lost by evasive action.

I could not identify as I could not close range and the bogey peeled off to starboard. I followed and experienced a long burst of fire from dorsal turret of aircraft, which burst went above my starboard mainplane. I turned to port still diving and lost visual. Contact was picked up again at 1 mile range, slightly below and 30 degs to starboard when we were at 3000’. I levelled out and closed in when visual was obtained at range 1000’ slightly below.

The A/C opened fire again with a very erratic burst and missed. The A/C was still continuing severe evasive action and half rolled to port, then going down vertically. This caused me to overshoot as I was not prepared to duplicate the aircraft’s manoeuvres at that low altitude. I did a hard turn to port at the same time losing height. At that juncture while in the hard turn my navigator and I saw a violent explosion on the ground with large volumes of flame over to port which would have been the aircraft’s approx. position.

By reason of the evasive action and the speed of events I was not able at any time throughout the chase to identify the aircraft, which was always below. I endeavoured throughout to position myself but was unsuccessful through the flying skill of the other pilot. I would add that I have never experienced such violent evasive action. The aircraft crashed at 0331 hours approx. SW of Rennes.

I claim 1 JU188 and 2 unidentified E/A destroyed.”


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.