Tag Archives: Night Fighter

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.


488 (NZ) Squadron camera gun footage

The Imperial War Museum has added some web-accessible RAF Camera Gun footage to it’s online collection. The video, which can be found by following this link, has over 250 clips of 16mm cine “camera gun” film showing successful combats.

The collection includes 7 clips of 488(NZ) Squadron kills. The quality of the footage is understandably poor, and nothing like the shocking combat footage that we have been shown of more recent war zones. However, we must take into account the quality of the film itself; and the fact that all these combats were filmed in the dark. I believe that they do all add to the story of the Squadron.

For ease, I have listed the combats below, and referenced the time stamp on the video so that you can easily find the clip you are interested in. I should point out that the dates on the clips refer to the actual date of the combat which may differ to the dates quoted on this site. This is because my reference is the Squadron’s ORB which will record a victory on the day the pilot took off – therefore flights that span midnight may be a day out.

Timestamp Pilot Date
07:48 Sqn Ldr Bunting 14/iii/44
10:02 Fg Off Vlotman 22/iii/44
10:10 Flt Lt J Hall 22/iii/44
10:16 Sqn Ldr Bunting 22/iii/44
21:41 WO Bourke 19/iv/44
21:48 Flt Lt J Hall 19/iv/44
38:22 Flt Lt J Hall 15/v/44

 


New Biography Added – WRV Lewis (RAAF)

1 new Aircrew Biography is now available to see on this site. As a result of replying to a (very old) thread on the RAF Commands Forum, I discovered that the Australian National Archives had digitised – and made available for free – the service records of William Robert Vivian Lewis.

“Bob” was an Australian airman who spent 6 months with 488(NZ) squadron between September 1942 and March 1943. Bob had 2 further Operational Tours, both with 456 Squadron before returning to Australia in July 1945. He continued to fly after the war with various civil airlines.

You can read this latest biography here.

As ever, I would ask anyone with information relating to airmen of 488(NZ) Squadron to get in touch so  that further biographies can be added to serve both as useful historical research tools and of course lasting tributes to these brave men. It does not matter how much or how little information you have – I am more than happy to dig deeper if I get an interesting lead.


Squadron Aircrew List updated

I have just published an update to the Squadron Aircrew list. A few new Christian Names and Service Numbers have been added.

The page can be found here or by navigating through the 488(NZ) Squadron Research tab at the top of the page.

As always, if anyone has any corrections or additions to this list, I would be delighted to hear from you via the contacts page.


The Broodbank Collection – Catalogue now available!

At long last, I have catalogued the various items in my grandfather’s collection. You can see a complete list of all archive material by following this link.

This is still a bit of a work in progress, as there are currently no links to images etc, but in time this page should allow researchers to view the material in my collection.

As ever, if you want to get in contact about this or any other page on the site, please use the Contact page.


New Biographies Added

2 new Aircrew Biographies are now available to see on this site. Both were made possible by individuals who stumbled across the site and made contact. The first contact was from the nephew of George Carcasson, a Navigator with the Squadron between September 1944 and March 1945. The original email contact said:

“Hello, I have just discovered your blog. George Carcasson was my uncle. I have his log book and it has been fun matching up the dates with the ones you have posted here.”

George’s nephew was in possession of lots of resources including his logbook and many photographs. The logbook was of particular interest, as George had recorded the aircraft he flew in by the Tail Code, and not the Serial Number.

I have seen a few pages of the logbook, and hope to see more when my contact has some spare time on his hands, but already I have been able to identify some new Tail Codes which have been added to the Squadron Aircraft page. This is of huge benefit to everyone with an interest in the history of the Squadron.

George was obviously a very intelligent man, and came to the Squadron with a number of patents relating to aircraft navigation to his name. He served as Navigation Officer for the squadron during his time with 488(NZ) Squadron. You can read George’s biography here.

The second contact was from a nephew of Jim Affleck, one of the early casualties of Broody’s tour. The initial contact was via a comment on the post recording the loss of Affleck and his pilot James Gunn. My contact and his brother were kind enough to provide a wealth of information relating to Jim, including some fantastic photos and his Service History.

They were also able to provide a copy of the Combat Report relating to the Heinkel III that Gunn and Affleck destroyed shortly before they crashed. This was interesting and sobering as, rather than having been completed and signed by the pilot and his navigator, it was written and signed by the Squadron’s Intelligence Officer, Leslie Hunt.

Jim was another interesting character who had already flown with 29 and 409 Squadrons before he arrived at 488(NZ) in July 1942. Throughout his RAFVR career, he flew many flights with S/Ldr Richard Macklow Trousdale. These included Operations that resulted in the destruction of 2 enemy aircraft and 1 locomotive, and one further enemy aircraft claimed as damaged. You can read Jim’s biography here.

I am delighted that relatives of these airmen have got in touch and have been able and willing to provide information that has allowed me to publish biographies of these men.

I would urge anyone else with information relating to airmen of 488(NZ) Squadron to get in touch so  that further biographies can be added to serve both as useful historical research tools and of course lasting tributes to these brave men. It does not matter how much or how little information you have – I am more than happy to dig deeper if I get an interesting lead.


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.


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


25/viii/44 – Cross-Country taxi service!

25th August 13:45
DH Mosquito XIII MM558 ME-E (A/I Mk.VIII)
Pilot: F/O Scott
Navigator (R): Self
NFT & CINE-GUN
Camera on a dakota & a shoot-up at Zeals
0:45

15:10
AIRSPEED OXFORD II X7293
Pilot: F/O Scott
Navigator: Self
Passenger: W/O Addison DFC DFM
BASE ~ NORTHOLT
To drop W/O Addison
0:40

15:55
Less W/O Addison
NORTHOLT ~ HORSHAM ~ NEWCHURCH
For F/Lt Carcasson
0:40

17:50
Passenger: F/Lt Carcasson
NEWCHURCH ~ HORSHAM ~ BASE
Navigator driving & map reading – nearly through the Anti-Diver balloon barrage
1:10

This wonderful photo of a barrage balloon of Balloon Command floating just above the ground, near Biggin Hill, Kent is just too good not to share! In the background a number of airborne balloons are visible.

balloons

A barrage balloon of Balloon Command floating just above the ground, near Biggin Hill, Kent
© IWM (TR 2161)

 

A section of the barrage-balloon defence put up against the flying bomb over the South Downs.

A mass of barrage balloons seen from above – maybe something like Broody faced today!
© IWM (CH 13806)