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No. 250 Squadron (RAF): Second World War

No. 250 Squadron (RAF): Second World War

No. 250 Squadron (RAF) during the Second World War

Aircraft - Locations - Group and Duty - Books

No.250 Squadron spent the entire Second World War operating in or around the Mediterranean, taking part in the battles in the Western Desert and the invasions of Sicily and Italy.

The squadron was reformed from K Flight at Aqir on 1 April 1941, and by the end of the month had received enough Tomahawk fighters to become operational. At first the squadron was used to fly defensive patrols over Palestine, but in May 1941 a detachment began to fly offensive sweeps over Syria, and in June the squadron moved to North Africa to take part in the fighting in the Western Desert.

In February 1942 the squadron was withdrawn for defensive duties, before it converted to the Kittyhawk fighter bomber. It returned to the desert in April, just in time to take part in the disastrous battle of Gazala, which saw the British pushed back to El Alamein. After this the squadron took part in the defensive battles on that line, and then the series of Allied victories, beginning at El Alamein, that eventually saw the Germans and Italians cleared out of North Africa.

In July 1943 the squadron moved to Malta to support the invasion of Sicily, and a few days later moved into the new beachhead. In mid-Sept the squadron moved to Italy, and flew fighter-bomber missions to the end of the war, supporting the advancing armies. The squadron was disbanded in August 1945.

Aircraft
April 1941-April 1942: Curtiss Tomahawk IIB
February-April 1942: Hawker Hurricane I
February-April 1942: Hawker Hurricane IIB and IIC
April-October 1942: Curtiss Kittyhawk I and II
October 1942-January 1944: Curtiss Kittyhawk III
January 1944-August 1945: Curtiss Kittyhawk IV
August 1945-January 1947: North American Mustang III and IV

Location
April-May 1941: Aqir
May 1941: Detachment to Amriya
May-June 1941: Ikingi Maryut
June-November 1941: Sidi Haneish South
November 1941: LG.109
November-December 1941: LG.123
December 1941: LG.122
December 1941: LG.123
December 1941: Tobruk
December 1941: Gazala 3
December 1941-January 1942: Msus
January 1942: Antelat
January 1942: Msus
January 1942: Mechili
January-February 1942: Gazala 1
February-April 1942: Gamil
April 1942: LG.12
April-June 1942: Gambut 1
June 1942: Gambut 2
June 1942: Sidi Azeiz
June 1942: LG.75
June 1942: LG.102
June 1942: LG.106
June-November 1942: LG.91
November 1942: LG.106
November 1942: LG.101
November 1942: LG.76
November 1942: Gambut 1
November 1942: Gambut 2
November-December 1942: Martuba 4
December 1942: Belandah 1
December 1942-January 1943: Marble Arch
January 1943: El Chel 2
January 1943: Hamraiet 3
January 1943: Sedadah
January 1943: Bir Dufan Main
January-February 1943: Castel Benito
February-March 1943: El Assa
March 1943: Nefatia Main
March-April 1943: Medenine Main
April 1943: El Hamma
April 1943: El Djem
April-May 1943: Kairouan
May-July 1943: Zuara
July 1943: Hal Far
July 1943: Luqa
July-August 1943: Pachino
August-September 1943: Agnone
September 1943: Grottaglie
September-October 1943: Bari/ Palese
October 1943: Foggia Main
October-December 1943: Foggia/ Mileni
December 1943-May 1944: Cutella
May-June 1944: San Angelo
June 1944: Guidonia
June-July 1944: Falerium
July-August 1944: Crete
August-November 1944: Iesi
November 1944-February 1945: Fano
February-May 1945: Cervia
May 1945-January 1946: Lavariano
January-September 1946: Tissano
September-November 1946: Treviso
November 1946: Lavariano
November-December 1946: Treviso

Squadron Codes: LD

Duty
1941-1942: Fighter squadron, Middle East
1942-1943: Fighter-bomber squadron, North Africa
1943-1945: Fighter-bomber squadron, Italy

Part of
11 November 1941: No.262 Wing; A.H.Q. Western Desert; Middle East Command
27 October 1942: No.239 Wing; No.211 Group; A.H.Q. Western Desert; Middle East Command
10 July 1943: No.239 Wing; No.211 Group; Desert Air Force; North African Tactical Air Force; Northwest African Air Forces; Mediterranean Air Command

Books

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Distinguished Flying Cross and Bar : Group Captain C R Caldwell, RAAF, 250 Squadron RAF

Distinguished Flying Cross and Bar. Cross engraved on reverse lower arm with year of award.

Clive Robertson Caldwell was born in Sydney, NSW, in 1910. Educated at Sydney Grammar, he was a keen sportsman and developed an early enthusiasm for aircraft. During the 1930s, a pilot friend provided him with some instruction and experience in flying, and when war was declared he determined, despite being over age, to join the RAAF as aircrew. After modifying his birth certificate to indicate that he was 26 years old, (28 being the cut-off date for pilot training) Caldwell was accepted. Discovering that his intake was destined to become flying instructors, he sought a discharge and re-enlisted with the first Australians selected for the Empire Air Training Scheme. Graduating from the course as a Pilot Officer in January 1941, he was posted to 250 Squadron, RAF, flying P-40 Tomahawk fighters in Syria, Palestine and North Africa. Although frustrated by the time it took to finally record his first victory, (on 26 June) Caldwell's score thereafter mounted rapidly. In January 1942 he was given command of 112 Squadron, RAF, whose 'sharkmouth' P-40 Kittyhawks were already famous, and by May he had been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and Bar, as well as the Polish Cross of Valour in recognition of his work with that nation's forces. He was also permitted, by special dispensation of General Sikorski, to wear the Polish pilot's badge. By the time he was posted away from the Middle East he had recorded 20.5 confirmed victories and earned the nickname ‘Killer’, which he disliked. Returning to Australia in October 1942, Caldwell was given command of No 1 Fighter Wing, whose three squadrons of Spitfire Mk Vs were operating in defence of Darwin. He added eight Japanese aircraft to his tally before relinquishing command of the wing in August 1943 to become chief flying instructor at 2 OTU. In April 1944 he was given command of No 80 Fighter Wing, equipped with Mk VIII Spitfires. After operations from Darwin, the wing moved to Morotai in December. By this stage, however, the war had moved on, and there was little productive work for it. A mounting sense of dissatisfaction amongst pilots with operations which were seen as pointless led to Caldwell’s involvement in what became known as the ‘Morotai Mutiny’, in which eight senior airmen tendered their resignations. This action, and the disciplinary proceedings which followed, left him embittered about his service career, and he took his discharge from the RAAF in 1946. Australia’s highest scoring ace of the Second World War, Clive Caldwell died in Sydney in August 1994, aged 84. The citation for the Distinguished Flying Cross reads as follows ‘This officer has performed splendid work in the Middle East operations. He has at all times shown dogged determination and high devotion to duty which have proved an inspiration to his fellow pilots. On one occasion during a patrol, he was attacked by 2 Messerschmitt 109's. His aircraft was badly damaged, while he himself received wounds on his face, arms and legs. Nevertheless, he courageously returned to the attack and shot down one of the hostile aircraft. F/ LT. CALDWELL has destroyed at least 4 enemy aircraft.’ The citation for the Bar to the DFC reads as follows ‘This officer continues to take his toll of enemy aircraft. One day in December, 1941, Flight Lieutenant Caldwell led his flight against a number of Junkers 87's and, during the combat, he personally shot down 5 of the enemy's aircraft being his total victories to 12.’


Distinguished Flying Cross and Bar : Group Captain C R Caldwell, RAAF, 250 Squadron RAF

Distinguished Flying Cross and Bar. Cross engraved on reverse lower arm with year of award.

Clive Robertson Caldwell was born in Sydney, NSW, in 1910. Educated at Sydney Grammar, he was a keen sportsman and developed an early enthusiasm for aircraft. During the 1930s, a pilot friend provided him with some instruction and experience in flying, and when war was declared he determined, despite being over age, to join the RAAF as aircrew. After modifying his birth certificate to indicate that he was 26 years old, (28 being the cut-off date for pilot training) Caldwell was accepted. Discovering that his intake was destined to become flying instructors, he sought a discharge and re-enlisted with the first Australians selected for the Empire Air Training Scheme. Graduating from the course as a Pilot Officer in January 1941, he was posted to 250 Squadron, RAF, flying P-40 Tomahawk fighters in Syria, Palestine and North Africa. Although frustrated by the time it took to finally record his first victory, (on 26 June) Caldwell's score thereafter mounted rapidly. In January 1942 he was given command of 112 Squadron, RAF, whose 'sharkmouth' P-40 Kittyhawks were already famous, and by May he had been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and Bar, as well as the Polish Cross of Valour in recognition of his work with that nation's forces. He was also permitted, by special dispensation of General Sikorski, to wear the Polish pilot's badge. By the time he was posted away from the Middle East he had recorded 20.5 confirmed victories and earned the nickname ‘Killer’, which he disliked. Returning to Australia in October 1942, Caldwell was given command of No 1 Fighter Wing, whose three squadrons of Spitfire Mk Vs were operating in defence of Darwin. He added eight Japanese aircraft to his tally before relinquishing command of the wing in August 1943 to become chief flying instructor at 2 OTU. In April 1944 he was given command of No 80 Fighter Wing, equipped with Mk VIII Spitfires. After operations from Darwin, the wing moved to Morotai in December. By this stage, however, the war had moved on, and there was little productive work for it. A mounting sense of dissatisfaction amongst pilots with operations which were seen as pointless led to Caldwell’s involvement in what became known as the ‘Morotai Mutiny’, in which eight senior airmen tendered their resignations. This action, and the disciplinary proceedings which followed, left him embittered about his service career, and he took his discharge from the RAAF in 1946. Australia’s highest scoring ace of the Second World War, Clive Caldwell died in Sydney in August 1994, aged 84. The citation for the Distinguished Flying Cross reads as follows ‘This officer has performed splendid work in the Middle East operations. He has at all times shown dogged determination and high devotion to duty which have proved an inspiration to his fellow pilots. On one occasion during a patrol, he was attacked by 2 Messerschmitt 109's. His aircraft was badly damaged, while he himself received wounds on his face, arms and legs. Nevertheless, he courageously returned to the attack and shot down one of the hostile aircraft. F/ LT. CALDWELL has destroyed at least 4 enemy aircraft.’ The citation for the Bar to the DFC reads as follows ‘This officer continues to take his toll of enemy aircraft. One day in December, 1941, Flight Lieutenant Caldwell led his flight against a number of Junkers 87's and, during the combat, he personally shot down 5 of the enemy's aircraft being his total victories to 12.’


On the first day of the Second World War the squadron moved to France to begin operations.

On 12 May 1940, over the Albert Canal, Belgium, one bridge in particular was being used by the invading German army, with protection from fighter aircraft, anti-aircraft and machine-guns. The RAF was ordered to demolish this vital bridge, and five Fairey Battles from the squadron were dispatched. They met an inferno of anti-aircraft fire, but the mission was accomplished, much of the success being due to the coolness and resource of the pilot Flying Officer Garland of the leading aircraft and the navigation of Sergeant Gray. Unfortunately the leading aircraft and three others did not return. Flying Officer Garland and Sergeant Gray were both posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.

The squadron returned to England in June. It was stationed initially at RAF Finningley, arriving at RAF Binbrook on July 1940 when it was refurnished with Battles. Amongst other missions, it carried out anti-invasion strikes against shipping in Boulogne Harbour, most notably on 17 and 19 August. The Squadron was one of the last No.1 Group units to conduct operations with Fairey Battles. These took place on 15/16 October 1940, when No.301 (Polish) Squadron bombed Boulogne and Nos. 12 and 142 Squadrons bombed Calais. By November 1940, the Squadron had been completely re-equipped with the Vickers Wellington, remaining for the time being at RAF Binbrook. The squadron moved again in 1942, to RAF Wickenby, and soon after converted to operate the Avro Lancaster.


No. 250 Squadron (RAF): Second World War - History


"Winged Arrows"

Amogh Lakshya - True to Aim

Birth and the Second World War

Though the Indian Air Force was born with the raising of No.1 Squadron in 1933, it was to take another eight years before the second squadron could be raised. The outbreak of the second world war and the rapid influx of trained pilots and personnel saw to the availability of enough aircrew to equip a second squadron. Accordingly on 1st April 1941, No.2 Squadron, IAF was raised at Peshawar under the command of Flt Lt AB Awan.

Equipped with the Westland Wapiti, the same aircraft on which No.1 was raised, it had a unit establishment of 20 officers and 164 men. Six officers from No.1 were seconded to the squadron and another seven arrived from No.1 SFTS Ambala. Flt Lt SN Goyal and Flt Lt MK Janjua were the flight commanders of 'A' and 'B' flights respectively. the Adjutant was Flt Lt HU 'Bulbul' Khan. Flt Lt Aspy Engineer took over command of the squadron in Jun 41 and soon a detachment was sent to Miranshah to provide operations in the Tochi Valley in the NWFP. The remaining part of the squadron continued training at Peshawar before moving to Kohat in September 41, where they were joined by the Miranshah Detachment which has completed its tour of operations. Meanwhile the Squadron has given up its Wapitis to the Coastal Defence Flights and requipped with Audax aircraft.

Towards the end of 1941, No.2 received relatively modern aircraft in the form of the Westland Lysander, which was also the equipment of No.1 Squadron. For the whole of 1942 the unit was involved in Army Cooperation exercises and moved over parts of Southern India over the course of its operations. In Sep 42, the unit was tasked to move to Risalpur to convert itself to the Hawker Hurricane IIc aircraft. The conversion being finished by December and the unit proceeded to Ranchi for advanced fighter tactics.

Meanwhile the command of the unit has passed onto Sqn Ldr HU Khan, under whose command the unit flew to Bhopal for Operational Training Wing. About this time, the Winged Arrows saw their first taste of action. A detachment of Seven Hurricanes were sent under Flt Lt Nazirullah to the Imphal sector to provide recce and support missions to the Chindits. The detachment distinguished itself during its stay until May 43. On one occasion, a pilot flying over Chindwin successfully attacked a small Japanese army patrol and saved a wounded Gorkha soldier who was lying helplessly at a river bank. During this tour, the Squadron had two casualties. Flt Lt Latif and Pt Off JS Bhullar both had to forceland behind enemy lines and were taken POW by the Japanese.

However back at Ranchi, on 26th April 43, the Squadron lost its CO when Sqn Ldr HU Khan crashed in his Hurricane while ferrying a Hurricane from Imphal to Ranchi. His engine cut out during the flight and the Hurricane toppled over when Khan tried to attempt a Wheels down landing in a field to save the aircraft. Sqn Ldr Dunsford Wood, an RAF Officer was posted to take over command of the squadron, but things were not quite hunky dory. Fg Off Murkot Ramunny who was just then posted to the squadron observed "I served with an RAF Squadron before No.2 and that was quite alright, but an RAF CO in an IAF Squadron with a few RAF NCOs and men is not always the best combination - especially when the CO had a high opinion of his race and color". Not soon after, Sqn Ldr Surjit Singh Majithia took over command of the Squadron.


A Hurricane of No.2 Squadron flown by the Flt Cdr, F/L H Ratnagar over the forests of the Burma front.

A detachment of the squadron was attached with the Indian Air Force Exhibition unit in mid 1944 at Peshawar. Most of the activity was in frontier duties from Kohat. In October 44, whilst under the command of Sqn Ldr K Jaswant Singh, the unit received orders to move to Burma for Operations. From 23rd November 44, when they arrived at Mambur airstrip, till 17 May 45, when their tour ended, the squadron was involved in flying fighter recce missions. The task being to collect info on Japanese activity by either visual observation or photographic means. The unit took part in the third Arakan campaign and in operations in Kangaw Valley. The rate of sorties put out by the squadron was phenomenal. For example, the month of January 1945 saw the unit putting up 548 sorties by its pilots. The next month saw an effort of 866 flying hours! earning it a congratulatory message from the GOC 26 Indian division who sent it to the AOC HQ, 224 Group RAF. On 17th May 45, the squadron was stood down and bought to Samungli. Over the course of its raising upto Independence, the unit had lost Fourteen of its gallant pilots to operations and accidents. One of the tragic losses included Fg Off BBK Rao DFC, who came in from No.1 Squadron.

The unit was once again moved to Kohat in the NWFP in 1946 where it re-equipped with the Spitfire VIII and was still based there in Sep 47, by which time it had converted to the Hawker Tempest II under the command of Sqn Ldr A Murat Singh. Due to the division of assets during partition after independence, the Squadron left its assets to the newly born Pakistan Air Force and was promptly number-plated in Dec 1947. It was ironic that No.2 Squadron would join No.1 in being disbanded leaving the Indian Air Force without its two senior most units!

Rebirth 1951

No.2 was re raised again at Palam on 15 Jul 51 under the command of Sqn Ldr Randhir Singh VrC. The unit was now equipped with Spitfire XVIIIs and a Harvard trainer. For about two years, the activity was run of the mill, flying normal sorties, including dive bombing with 250 pounders. Lot of photo work was done by the unit. Several young pilots were posted about this time to convert to operational flying. Plt Offr NC Suri being one of them. In October 1953, the unit converted to the De Havilland Vampire FB52 single seater jet fighter. At that time Sqn Ldr Rointon Engineer DFC was the CO. The Vampires were with the squadron for a short period. Another three years later in May 1956, the Winged Arrows converted to the Dassault Ouragan fighter, also known as the Toofani in the IAF service.

The unit pioneered the aerobatics flying of the Ouragan. One particular maneuver it was called repeatedly to perform was the Tricolor Loop, which was done for the first time on 1 April 58. There onwards, it was a frequent display over the skies of Delhi on every republic day parade. The last such performance was on the Republic Day Parade in 62. In that year, the unit also won the coveted Mukherjee Trophy for best gunnery at the Squadron Gunnery meet. In April, the Squadron received its first Folland Gnat fighter. The unit now shed its Ouragans to become the 'real fighter' squadron.

Wg Cdr Bharat Singh took over as the CO in Sep 63 and soon after, the Squadron took part in Exercise SHIKSHA, in which IAF fighters exercised with the USAF and RAF fighters. No.2 in particular mounted sorties from Ambala against USAF F-100 Super Sabres operating from Palam. The unit gave a good account of itself.

Conversion to the Gnat was beset with the problems that were occurring during the course of operations. In one freak occurrence on 7th April 64, a Gnat undergoing engine run tests jumped its chocks and slammed into a hangar wall writing itself off! April 64 proved a bad month with one of the pilots being killed in a Gnat crash on 15-Apr-64. 17 Oct 64 resulted in another aircraft being lost. On 13th May 65, a Gnat coming into land overshot the runway, the pilot ejecting safely for the first time using the 0-0 Mk-2G seat.

When the outbreak of the 1965 conflict was imminent, the Squadron was distributed between Ambala and Agra. A detachment under Wg Cdr Bharat Singh soon moved to Halwara airbase on the flare-up of the hostilities. Another detachment was flown to Adampur while a third was maintained at Ambala under Sqn Ldr Jit Dhawan. Throughout the war, the Squadron was involved in not only flying escort missions to Canberra and Hunter raids, but also in close support missions in the aid of the army.

Pilots of No.2 Squadron with their Gnats at Ambala just before the 1965 War. The CO Wg Cdr Bharat Singh is standing sixth from right.

The first encounter with the enemy was on 13th September, when a section of Gnats were bounced by Sabres. Flt Lt AN Kale found himself behind a Sabre, but his guns jammed at the right moment. His aircraft was badly damaged in aircombat and he had to eject near Ferozepur. The very next day, the Squadron suffered its first fatality in conflict, when Sqn Ldr NK Malik crashed during recovery to base due to a technical malfunction. His aircraft was supposed to have sufferred a 'Trim Override'.

The Winged arrows drew first blood on Sept 14th, when a Canberra formation being escorted by the Gnats were bounced by Sabres. Wg Cdr Bharat Singh chased one Sabre at low level. The Sabre pilot tried various maneuvers in trying to escape the Gnat, but crashed in his attempt to do so. This chalked up the first combat kill for No.2 Squadron.

Several escort missions were flown by the Gnats of No.2. These included Hunters of No.7 as well as Canberras of No.5 Squadron undertaking day light raids over the Lahore Kasur front.

This was followed by a major action on Sept 20th. Flt Lt AK Majumdar and Fg Offr K C Khanna took off with a mixed formation of Hunters over the Lahore sector. In the ensuing aircombat with Sabres, two of the Hunters were hit and shot down. However, Mazumdar scored against the Sabres by shooting down one aircraft flown by Flt Lt AH Malik of the PAF.

The 1965 War earned the first laurels for No.2 Squadron. Both Wg Cdr Bharat Singh and Flt Lt AK Mazumdar were awarded the Vir Chakra medals. The Flight commander, Sqn Ldr R Dhawan was awarded the VSM for his contribution.

After the war the squadron reverted back to its regular duties at Agra and Barielly after the war. Wg Cdr Bharat Singh was succeeded by Wg Cdr KK Malik. He inturn was succeeded by Wg Cdr Johnny Greene VrC in Nov 69. The Squadron took part in various Fire Power Displays and Weapons meet during this period. The Squadron also sent a detachment to operate from Amritsar airfield.

1971 India Pakistan War

When the 1971 War broke out on 3rd Dec 71, the entire squadron was moved to Amritsar airfield. The task being to defend the airfield which has become a major launching pad for Ground Attack and Counter Air Missions. The PAF fighters on many occasions refused to put up a fight against the doughty little fighters of No.2. The first interception occurred on 4 Dec, when Wg Cdr Johnny Green on a dawn patrol at 0645 Hours intercepted an incoming F-104. The F-104 punched its tanks and sped away with afterburner with Greene chasing it futilely. Only thing that Greene could do was film the fast disappearing Starfighter.

On 7 Dec , Fg Off Rana and Fg Off AK Singh intercepted two Mirage IIIs coming in to attack. Both the Mirages declined combat , engaging reheat and flying away. There were no further interceptions at Amritsar. The only action was for the Squadron's aircraft to conduct high altitude CAPs deliberately allowing them to be noticed by the enemy radar. This deterred the enemy from sending in B-57s.

When the war ended, No.2 had flown 279 sorties. For its efforts two Vayusena Medals and four Mentions in Dispatches were awarded. The CO Johnny Greene being one of the VM recipients.

After the war : The 1970s and the Presidents Colors

The unit maintained a regular detachment at Amritsar and a number of detachments at other places including Srinagar, Nal, Gorakhpur and Palam. Johnny Greene carried out high altitude landing trials of the Gnat from Leh airfield for the first time. In Feb 75, the Squadron made its first major move and shifted permanently to Srinagar. This was a unique and novel experience for the squadron. flying in primitive conditions and adverse weather, the Winged Daggers took up their task cheerfully and happily. The Gnat aircraft were modified in 1977 and fitted with the Ajeet Phase 1 conversion kits. For sometime briefly the Squadron operated from Awantipur airfield further south in the Kashmir valley while Srinagar runway was being resurfaced. The facilities at Awantipur were limited. Most of the officers and crew operated from makeshift Tents.

The Squadron was tasked to move to Kalaikunda in 1979, a move which was completed by October of the same year. On arrival at Kalaikunda hectic preparations were made for the presentation of colors ceremony. In Dec 79, in recognition of the outstanding service to the country, the Winged Arrows were presented with the coveted 'Presidents colors' by Mr Neelam Sanjeev Reddy, the President of the Republic of India. The CO at that time was Wg Cdr Menezes VM.

The advent of the eighties saw the squadron based at Kalaikunda but carrying out various gunnery sorties at Dhudkundi Range, flypast sorties over Gauhati, Tezpur, Barrackpore and Gangtok.

In Feb 83, the Gnats of the squadron flew their lost sorties. The aircraft were due to be replaced by the Ajeet which were the upgraded version of the Gnat. However the Ajeets did not arrive until nine months later in November 83. The whole squadron was excited at resuming flying after a long period of nine months. More Ajeets followed in the month of December. The squadron had a friendly rivalry with the adjoining 22 Squadron who also flew the Ajeets. In 1985, the unit carried out the first Air to Air firing by the Ajeet aircraft at Chabua.

When the AOC Kalaikunda , Air Cmde TK Sen challenged the squadron to fly 300 sorties in Jan 86, the squadron did it with gusto. Flying Ajeets extensively, the 300th sortie was clocked on Jan 29th, with a day to spare!. They accumulated nearly 310 hours in the effort. The next month, the squadron again participated with their arch rivals, No.22 in the EKALAVYA gunnery meet. During the flying , the AOC, Air Cmde Sen whilst flying one of No.2's Ajeet had a flameout over DDK Range. He ejected with a fracture to his leg. This was the first Ajeet lost by the squadron after its induction.

More exercises followed and No.2 notched up several firsts, including the first night flying sorties by the Ajeet. The Ajeet being a heavier cousin of the Gnat had all the nuances and problems of it. The squadron suffered its first fatality on 30 Sep 86. The next year during landing approach, Fg Offr R Radhish had to eject as the aircraft suffered severe control problems and started rolling to the right. Fg Offr TJA Khan had to eject after his Ajeet flamed out during a sortie in March 88. One of the Naval pilots attached to the squadron for conversion training, Lt Uday Kumar Sondhi had to crash land his aircraft outside Kalaikunda. He was awarded the Shaurya Chakra for deciding to stick to the aircraft and not ejecting over a populated area. Two civilians who helped him on the ground out of the burning wreckage were also awarded the Shaurya Chakra. 11th May 89 saw another sad loss when Fg Offr Shivraj crashed and was killed during a low level sortie by four aircraft.

In Oct 88, the unit flew two Ajeets to Ambala to form the 'Mammoth' formation. The formation consisted of all the combat aircraft of the IAF . The photographs of which were published in many coffee table books and aviation magazines. Noted Aviation photographer Peter Steinmann was involved in the photography along with other IAF photographers. Stienmann was also involved in separate shoots with the Ajeets of No.2 and many of his excellent photographs are now popularly circulated in various circles.

This was not the only media exposure for the squadron, It participated in the widely televised Fire Power display at Tilpat in May 89. In October 1990, a TV Crew arrived at Kalaikunda to film the final episode of the series 'Param Vir Chakra' . The filming centered on the PVC won by Fg Offr NS Sekhon in the 71 war and as by that time No.2 was the only squadron flying the Ajeet which externally resembled the Gnat, it was chosen to provide the aircraft for the filming. The enemy 'Sabres' were played by the Hunters of No.20 Squadron.

About this time, the squadron received two 2-seater Ajeet Conversion Trainers from HAL. However these aircraft could not be utilised fully as the twilight of the Gnat/Ajeet fighter was fast approaching. On 31 Mar 91, the last Ajeet to be phased out was flown by Wg Cdr R Rajaram, the CO to the IAF Museum in Palam and handed over to the AOC Palam. The Squadron was now slated to be converted to the MiG-27 ML Ground attack fighter aircraft.

Flogger Era:

Wg Cdr DN Ganesh took over the squadron in Apr 91 and soon a core team of 7 pilots and 2 engineering officers joined the unit. The first MiG-27s arrived in Jun 91, fresh from HAL Ozhar. These consisted of four MiG-27s and one two seater MiG-23UB trainer. The arrival of the MiG-27s was slow because of their turnover from HAL. four more fighters were collected from HAL in Sep 91, but one aircraft was lost when Fg Offr HRP Sharma during a conversion sortie had to eject from a spin. The induction of the MiG-27s was not completed till Feb 92,when the 16th aircraft arrived. The conversion to the MiG-27s now completed, the Squadron was now fully geared up to provide the teeth to the Eastern Air Command's offensive component.

During the nineties, the Squadron lost five MiG-27s in three different accidents during the course of its flying. The worst accident was on 31 August 98, when the aircraft flown by Fg Off PS Rana crashed on top of two other aircraft on the ground. The pilot as well as two other personnel on the ground were killed in this terrible event.

The Squadron won the best Squadron trophy for the year 1990. The late 90s saw a new role for the Squadron. it was designated to carry out training for Maritime Strike Operations which was the first time that a MiG-27 squadron was tasked to do so. In no time at all, the Squadron's pilots qualified for the specialist Maritime strike role. A Proud moment came at the Air Force Day 2002. Not only was the CO, Wg Cdr RK Mendiratta awarded the VM, but also the Squadron was adjudged the 'Best Fighter Squadron' in the IAF for the year 2002. A Great achievement indeed!

No.2 Squadron was numberplated (for the second time in its existence) sometime in 2003 and it remained in limbo for about six years. In 2009, it was resurrected at Pune on the Sukhoi-30 MKI. The Squadron sent a detachment to Tezpur in June 2009. It was expected to grow to its full complement by October 2009.


The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (422599) Flight Sergeant Donald John Mackerras, No. 3 Squadron, Royal Air Force, Second World War.

The Last Post Ceremony is presented in the Commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial each day. The ceremony commemorates more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and other operations and whose names are recorded on the Roll of Honour. At each ceremony the story behind one of the names on the Roll of Honour is told. Hosted by Charis May, the story for this day was on (422599) Flight Sergeant Donald John Mackerras, No. 3 Squadron, Royal Air Force, Second World War.

422599 Flight Sergeant Donald John Mackerras, No. 3 Squadron, Royal Air Force
KIA 6 August 1944
No photograph in collection

Story delivered 12 November 2016

Today we pay tribute to Flight Sergeant Donald John Mackerras.

Born in Camperdown in south-western Victoria on 7 November 1920, Donald Mackerras was the son of John William and Esmond Irene Mackerras. By the time he was attending school the family was settled in Pymble in Sydney’s upper north shore. Growing up, Mackerass attended Lindfield Public School, Hornsby Junior Technical School, and then Ultimo Central Technical School. A keen sportsman, he played reserve grade rugby for the Gordon Club and was a member of the North Bondi Surf Club. Later he worked as a costing accountant for his father at J.W. Mackerras Costing Accountants.

On 22 May 1941 Mackerras joined the Royal Australian Air Force, and soon after enlistment commenced training as a pilot. On 11 December 1941 he embarked for overseas service. As part of the Empire Air Training Scheme, Mackerras was one of almost 27,500 RAAF pilots, navigators, wireless operators, gunners, and engineers, who joined squadrons based in Britain throughout the course of the war.

Mackerras’s journey to Britain took place via Canada, where he spent several months undertaking specialist training. After arriving in Britain in September 1943, he was posted to No. 3 Squadron, Royal Air Force. At the time he joined the squadron it was equipped with the Hawker Tempest.

From mid-June 1944, air power was divided as the RAF turned its attention from the Allies’ foothold in Normandy to the V-1 terror bombing campaign on London. Australian aircrews and pilots were involved in attacking and bombing V-1 launch sites in northern France as well as intercepting V-1s in flight – this was a particularly dangerous task, because if a pilot flew too close to the target when it was hit, he could be killed in the powerful explosion.

Owing to the speed and high performance of the Hawker Tempest, No. 3 Squadron played a key role when tasked with intercepting and shooting down the V-1s in flight. The pilots performed outstandingly, and the squadron was credited with destroying more than 250 V-1s. Mackerras and his fellow Australian pilot Flying Officer Hubert Bailey led the charge, each credited with destroying 11 rockets.

In the afternoon of 6 August 1944 Mackerras was on a mission to intercept a V-1 over Sussex when his Tempest crashed near Minfield. He was killed in the crash, aged 23.

The commander of No. 3 Squadron wrote to Mackerras’s father, saying:

[Donald was a] very keen and experienced pilot … He was liked by all and his loss is felt deeply by every member of the Squadron, both the aircrews and the groundcrews.

Donald’s body was recovered and he was buried in Brookwood Military Cemetery in Surrey.

Mackerras’s name is listed here on the Roll of Honour on my left, among some 40,000 Australians who died while serving in the Second World War.

This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Flight Sergeant Donald John Mackerras, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.


The Battle of Britain: a brilliant triumph that involved far more than just the chosen few

The Battle of Britain has long been hailed as the triumph of the plucky underdog over the Nazi goliath. Yet, says James Holland, when rival fighters clashed over England in 1940, it was the RAF that held all the aces.

This competition is now closed

Published: September 15, 2015 at 10:32 am

At 4.30pm on 14 August 1940, 87 Squadron scrambled to their Hurricanes, quickly got airborne and started speeding towards Weymouth on the Dorset coast. “One hundred and twenty plus approaching Warmwell from the south,” came the calm voice of the ground controller in the pilots’ ears. “Good luck, chaps.” Pilot Officer Roland ‘Bee’ Beamont swallowed hard and began desperately to scan the sky.

They were over Lyme Regis and flying at around 12,000ft when Beamont saw them, still out to sea – what looked to him like a gigantic swarm of bees all revolving around each other in a fantastical spiral from around 8,000 to 14,000ft.

As the Hurricanes drew closer, Beamont could see there were about 50 Stuka dive-bombers and two-engine Messerschmitt 110s above, and single-engine Me109s above them. Although there were just 12 Hurricanes, the squadron commander shouted, “Tally ho!”, the attack signal, and then they were diving into the fray.

In a brief, manic and confused melee, Beamont nearly hit a Stuka, then came under attack himself, managed to shoot down a Me110 and then another before running out of ammunition and heading for the safety of a cloud bank, emerging into the clear over Chesil Beach. He was hot, his uniform was dark with sweat, and he felt utterly exhausted. He was also astonished to discover he’d been airborne a mere 35 minutes.

Beamont’s experiences fit very neatly into the familiar narrative of the Battle of Britain, in which that small band of brothers in RAF Fighter Command repeatedly found themselves battling a vastly superior enemy over a sun-drenched southern England.

What happened during the Battle of Britain?

Described by prime minister Winston Churchill as the RAF’s finest hour, the Battle of Britain (10 July – 31 October 1940) was the first major military campaign in history to be fought entirely in the air. Historian Julian Humphrys takes us through some of the biggest questions and facts surrounding this pivotal aerial campaign…

On that day, Beamont and his fellows in 87 Squadron were just 12 men taking on 120. Others regularly found themselves facing even greater odds – odds that have come to represent Britain’s wider experience in the summer of 1940. It was a time when she was all alone, with her army defeated on the continent, her back to the wall – little Britain as David, defiantly fighting on against the Goliath of Nazi Germany. Above all, Britain’s finest hour was a triumph of backs-to-the-wall amateurism against the professional militarism of the Germans.

It is, however, a myth, and one that, 75 years on, we should put to bed once and for all. Britain was not alone, nor dependent on just a handful of young men in Spitfires and Hurricanes and the Captain Mainwaring figures of the Home Guard.

Rather, Britain was one of the world’s leading superpowers, and at the centre of the largest global trading network the world had ever known, with the kind of access to resources of which Germany could only dream. Britain had the world’s largest navy, largest merchant fleet, access to around 85 per cent of the world’s merchant shipping, and trading and business interests that went well beyond its empire. Within the Dominions and Commonwealth, there were also some 250 million men it could potentially call upon to fight.

Why Britain punched above its weight

What’s truly remarkable about Britain’s story is not its post-imperial ‘decline’ but the fact that it became a global superpower in the first place, says David Reynolds

There was nothing amateurish about Britain’s defence against potential German invasion. The conquest of France and the Low Countries had been fought on Germany’s terms, but what followed was fought on Britain’s. The Few, the pilots in their fighter aircraft, were one cog that made up the first fully co-ordinated air defence system in the world. This saw modern radar, an Observer Corps, radio and a highly efficient means of collating, filtering and disseminating this information being combined with a highly developed ground control to ensure that Luftwaffe raids such as those on 14 August were intercepted and harried repeatedly.

This defence system meant that Spitfires and Hurricanes would be in the air chipping away at the enemy and at the same time ensuring they were not being destroyed on the ground. Fighter Command could have put up more than 700 fighters at a time had they chosen to, but its commanders preferred different tactics – one of dispersal of forces and airfields more suited to a defensive battle. For a pilot like Beamont, however, it seemed as though just a few were taking on the many.

Moreover, Fighter Command was only one part of the RAF – both Coastal and Bomber Commands also played a full part in the battle. Bomber Command, especially, was repeatedly striking targets inside the Reich as well as Luftwaffe airfields in northern France. And the RAF was only one of three services.

There was also the Royal Navy, Britain’s ‘Senior Service’, and vastly superior to the Kriegsmarine, especially after the bloody nose it had inflicted on the German navy in Norway. And there was the army, admittedly rebuilding, but, by August, nearly two million-strong when including the Home Guard, many of whom were far more proficient than Dad’s Army would suggest. There were also significant coastal defences and chemical weapons ready to be deployed. Collectively, these were formidable defences.

In contrast, the German plans were disjointed, lacked any kind of combined services co-operation, and were supported by a transport lift that was frankly risible, and which was made to look even more so in light of future wartime amphibious operations. Fortunately for the Germans, they never had the chance to test their plans to cross the Channel. Rather, the Luftwaffe fell some way short of destroying RAF Fighter Command, the first line of Britain’s defence, rather than the last as is usually portrayed.

So where does this view that Britain won the Battle of Britain by a whisker come from? In part it came down to public perception at the time. France had been defeated in just six weeks, the British Expeditionary Force had been forced into a humiliating retreat back across the Channel, and this had followed defeat on land in Norway. That Britain had won at sea off Norway counted for less in the public’s eyes now that the swastika was fluttering over the continental coastline from the Arctic to the Spanish border.

Living in fear

In Britain there was mounting panic through May and June 1940 as it seemed the country would be next in the path of Nazi Germany’s apparently unstoppable military machine. This widely held perception that Germany was a highly developed modern military behemoth appeared to be borne out not only by the prewar newsreels of rallies and grand-standing but then by the speed with which they overran first Poland, then Denmark and Norway and then France and the Low Countries.

Few in Britain realised that only 16 divisions out of the 135 used in the attack in the west were mechanised, or that in Poland Germany had almost run out of ammunition, or that the Reich was already suffering stringent rationing. Or indeed that there were never more than 14 U-boats in British waters and the Atlantic at any one time at any point since the war had begun. Most Britons had no idea just how shaky were the foundations on which German military might was built.

The sense of German numerical and qualitative superiority was then further manifested in what British people were seeing with their own eyes once the battle got under way. A formation of 120 enemy aircraft would have looked awesome. However, as Bee Beamont had realised on 14 August, only around 40 of those were actually bombers, and it was bombers, primarily, that were expected to destroy the RAF by knocking out airfields, facilities and aircraft on the ground. The truth was that no matter how impressive such a formation may have looked in the summer of 1940, it was simply not enough.

Tom Neil was a pilot in 249 Squadron and, at the beginning of September, was operating from North Weald. On 3 September, Neil took off in his Hurricane along with 11 others and soon saw the airfield disappear under clouds of smoke as the Luftwaffe attacked.

He wondered how they were ever going to land again but an hour later they all did. “We just dodged the pot-holes,” he says. This was something the Luftwaffe had not really considered: destroying grass airfields of up to 100 acres required vast amounts of ordnance – ordnance the Germans simply did not have. Bomb craters were swiftly filled in, reserve operations rooms put into practice, and although many of Fighter Command’s front-line airfields quickly looked a mess, only Manston, in the south-east tip of Kent, was knocked out for more than 24 hours in the whole battle. Just one.

Ten days after the Luftwaffe launched an all-out attack on the RAF (known as Eagle Day) on 13 August, the Stuka dive-bombers, on which so many prewar hopes had been placed, were withdrawn. Losses were too great. There were not enough of the next-generation bomber, the Ju 88, which meant the lion’s share of the bomber work was carried out by Dorniers and Heinkels – both increasingly obsolescent. By the beginning of September, thanks to the rate of attrition and low production, numbers of fighters were also diminishing. Most Luftwaffe fighter squadrons were operating at half-strength. Some had just two or three planes left others were beginning the day with none at all.

Yet it was at this point that Air Chief Marshal Dowding, the commander-in-chief of Fighter Command, and Air Vice-Marshal Keith Park, commanding 11 Group in the South East, feared they were staring down the barrel of defeat. It was not for lack of aircraft: the new Ministry of Aircraft Production was building more than double that of Germany while the Civilian Repair Units had increased numbers by a staggering 186 per cent. No, it was pilot shortage that so worried them, or specifically, trained pilot shortage.

Exhausted invaders

This was largely due to an over-estimation of German strength. British intelligence was excellent, but it had been assumed that German staffeln were structured in the same way as British fighter squadrons – that is, with almost double the number of pilots to keep 12 in the air at any one time. For example, on 15 August, when Bee Beamont had been in action, Tom Neil had spent much of the day on the ground watching other members of the squadron taking off to meet the invaders. He finally flew later that afternoon, allowing those who had flown earlier a rest.

Park claimed that many of his squadrons were operating at 75 per cent strength – yet even then, he meant they were down to 16–18 pilots, not eight or nine. This was far more than the Germans could call on. On paper, Luftwaffe squadrons were 20-strong – not 24, as the British believed. In reality, the situation was even more critical – many had only nine aircraft at the start of the battle. Attrition and aircraft shortage reduced those numbers further after several weeks of fighting.

Neither Park nor Dowding had any idea about this gulf between perceived and actual strength. For the Luftwaffe, this meant fighter pilots were made to fly ever more sorties to make up the shortfall. Few British pilots would fly more than three times a day, and usually not more than twice. By September, their opposite numbers might fly as many as seven times. The physical and mental strain of this was immense.

In the traditional narrative, the crisis passed in the nick of time when the Luftwaffe changed tactics and began bombing London instead of airfields on Saturday 7 September. Since the attack on the airfields was failing, the change of tack, while making little tactical sense, was perhaps not as significant as the idea thought up by Park that very same day.

He suggested introducing a system of squadron classification. ‘A’ squadrons would be in the front-line and consist of experienced combat pilots. ‘C’ squadrons would be filled mostly by men straight out of training but with a few old hands and would be placed away from the front-line, such as in Acklington in Northumberland, where they could build up hours, learn the ropes and get some combat experience against the odd obliging German raider from Norway.

Category ‘B’ squadrons were in between the two. And pilots and squadrons could be moved around at a moment’s notice. In a trice, Park had done much to solve the pilot crisis. Thereafter, Fighter Command never looked back. By the time the battle officially ended on 31 October, it was stronger than it had been at the start. The Luftwaffe, by contrast, never really recovered.

Was the Battle of Britain the country’s finest hour? One of them, certainly, as it consigned Hitler to a long attritional war on multiple fronts – a conflict his forces were not designed to fight, and which materially meant they would always be struggling.

It was the victory that unquestionably turned the tide of the war, but was also a very well-fought, meticulously planned and managed battle that demonstrated many of Britain’s undoubted strengths. We should celebrate that brilliance as well as the courage of the Few.


19 thoughts on &ldquoNo. 487 Squadron RNZAF wiped out in daylight raid&rdquo

Fascinated to read this thread. I am a writer based in Norfolk and some years ago interviewed a number of aircrew from 487 (NZ) Squadron, including two who flew on the May 3, 1943 mission and others who were glad that they did not. I am currently drawing together more material for a book focused on the operation and would be more than happy to share anything I have with relatives of the men who flew out of Methwold on that fateful mission. My email address is [email protected]

I wrote a book called ‘Through to the End’, which tells the story of 487. My publisher failed and after three years of mucking around I’m currently getting it self published.

The book includes a list of all operational aircrew, how many sorties they flew, when, and who with.

With regard to David Potts:
‘Another Mosquito was badly hit and dived away. It crashed seven miles southwest of Bremervörde at Brillit. Flight Lieutenant Potts and Sergeant Valentine were killed.’ He flew seven operations with Sgt Valentine from 13 January to 22 February 1945.

I didn’t know the squadron sang ‘Now is the Hour’ every night! I appreciated the information about Alan Turnbull because it feels like hearing what happened to an old acquaintance, I’ve been living with 487 for so long.

I am reading through the comments above. I would be glad if all of the people above would contact me here in Holland as we are almost ready with a book about the history of 487 squadron. Looking forward to the reply. Aad Neeven
[email protected]

Aad Neeven, a retired KLM pilot wrote an account he researched of May 3rd because he was appalled to realise that little information if any, was given to relatives of dead airmen. He interviewed the German pilot who shot down the plane my uncle flew in and years later Aad, John (his grandfather was a warden and saw the plane descend) and other Dutch people put up a plaque of remembrance to the crew on the house where that plane landed. Even today there is very little acknowledgement of that raid in the Wigram Airforce Museum.

In response to Glen Towlers comment.

RAF 11,493. RCAF 2920 . RAAF 1082. RNZAF 452.

Might I respectfully suggest you get your facts and information about the war from a source other than Airfix or the Daily Mail.

A. ” Do their dirty work ” ? What a crass comment. The forces of the British Empire made a fantastic contribution to the winning of WW2. They were not utilised for “dirty work ” , but were engaged in combat as and when deemed suitable, as were British units. The Canadians were employed in the Dieppe raid mainly because they were new to combat and anxious to get to grips with the enemy. As such they did a damned fine job. The raid itself was always regarded as a trial run for the D Day invasion and never thought likely to be a runaway success. The actions of the Canadians in this raid trialled equipment, techniques, tactics and methods that later saved many Allied lives during the Invasion and also brought about its success.

B. The bombing raid in question was just another attack on an enemy held target and doubtless just another of dozens mounted on the same day. It was not uniquely “important”. Mosquitoes with their long range, high speed and weapons payload are more suitable for deeper penetrations into Europe. As such the Lockheed Ventura light bombers used for this raid on Holland were perfectly suitable. If there exists any misfortune regarding this raid at all, it would be the separation of the fighter escort from the bombers they were intended to accompany. However, this happened all of the time and is due to the fortunes of war. Why any halfwit should try and score points against the British because of this raid is beyond me.

My late Father Warrant Officer Ron Vine A412767 RAAF,was a member of 487 Squadron at the time of the raid. He (and I) are lucky that his aircraft was not tasked to be on the raid. He told me, not long before his death, that it was a very lonely night in the Sergeant’s Mess that night. He had flown his “Sprog” mission as Andy Coutt’s WO/AG the previous February and a number of men killed had been on his OTU at Pennfield Ridge New Brunswick the previous year. The squadron used to stand and sing the Maori Farewell (Now is the hour) each night when the mess shut. Apparently that night to a man they were in tears.

Hi, I am reaching out to Stephen Webb who commented above, as my father, Alan Turnbull, was the wireless operator of the plane that got shot up, returned and crash landed. I would be really interested to know about what Neill said in the book – it is probably the case that he did save my Dad’s life and possibly that of Starkie. Dad died just over a month ago – 95, and fully cogent to the end. Glad he came back from that raid.

Has anyone seen or got any information on 129379 Flt Lt David Potts RAFV KIA Germany 22/2/1945 attached to 487 RNZAF . Cannot even find what raid he was on in or about that time. Buried Becklingen War Cemetery . There must exist some sort of nominal roll for the KIA of the Sqd??

Hi, I have in my possesion gunner L H Neill’s flight log book, it has his account of the may 3rd mission, it also has photos of the crew, and aerial photos of their missions. Quite a stirring read of this mission, along with his humour in the rest of the book. The thing is I want to sell it, any ideas about the best place I could do this? Steve

Thanks Geoff Penn for recommending: ‘True to the End’. Just to clarify one point: two Venturas made it back to base after this raid Baker’s unserviceable a/c and Duffill’s shot-up a/c.

DFCs and DFMs were Gazetted for this latter crew, their medal citations make for powerful reading: https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/36027/supplement/2320/data.pdf

As a postscript, Air Gunner Sgt Alan William Turnbull DFM died on Monday 27th June 2016. RIP

One of the aircrew on this operation was Pilot Officer Andrew Coutts. He and my parents were friends when the lived in Whakatane before the war.
When I was born, after the war, they named me after Andy Coutts.

I had the privilege of interview Owen Foster who was also on the raid. his aircraft was one of the aircraft that made it thru to the target. I think all the aircraft got shot down. some of the crews actually spent the rest of there time in a pow camp. in fact the pow camp was where they had the great escape. Owen was a real hard case and he had a great sense of humour. I think 487 sqn reformed with mosquitos. the were involved in operation Jericho.

My father – A. George Baker – was the pilot of the aircraft that had to turn back because of the loose escape hatch. The hatch actually totally broke loose on the landing approach and lodged in the rudder. He was “dressed down” for not having continued on the raid. I am glad he didn’t!

My dad was scheduled pilot too, but bad case of angina(?) saw him not fly that fateful day, and he survived the war. He did the Philips raid.

I agree, the the “real” story is written in True to the End. The fighters were sent too early then left the Ventura squadron when they arrived at Amsterdam.Two bombers made it to the target, not one as Trent said. My father’s plane, A Apple, was the second. It was badly beaten up and crash landed in the North Sea.
The plane that returned to base wasn’t shot at. The escape hatch blew off not long after takeoff.
The Ventura’s were modified versions of the Lockheed Lode star and we’re totally unsuitable for the job.

Try Pacific Wings January 2002 instead.

I recommend you read the article ‘True To The End’ in the January 2001edition of Pacific Wings Magazine(available online) This gives a more accurate account of what happened during the raid and the complete hash bomber command made of coordinating the raid.

This is a good example of the British using other countries to do there less that savory work like the usless raid on Dieppe mostly Canadian forces where used . I do also wonder why didn’t they just mosquitos for this raid if its was important . Looks to me like a complete waste of brave airmans lives and trained aircrews



The Plot Against Mussolini

By 1943, after years of fighting in World War II, Italy was viewed by its own citizens as losing the war.

On July 25, 1943, Mussolini was voted out of power by his own Grand Council, arrested after a visit with the king and sent to the island of La Maddalena.

When Italy accepted the terms of secret peace talks with the Allies, Hitler ordered German forces into Italy, which resulted in two Italian nations, one occupied by Germans.

Mussolini, fearful of being handed over, was instead rescued by Hitler’s forces. Transported to German-occupied northern Italy, he was installed as Hitler’s puppet leader, creating the Italian Social Republic and leading to the extermination of thousands of Italian Jews.

Allied forces barreled through Italy in June 1945. Mussolini attempted to flee to Spain with his lover, Claretta Petacci, but was discovered and arrested by partisans searching troop transport trucks.


Operation Sealion

Operation Sealion was the name given by Hitler for the planned invasion of Great Britain in 1940. Operation Sealion was never carried out during the war as the Germans lost the Battle of Britain and it is now believed that Hitler was more interested in the forthcoming attack on Russia as opposed to invading Britain.

Göering, on right, overlooking the White Cliffs of Dover

The projected invasion on Britain included:

Army Group A (4 divisions) invading Sussex and Hampshire via the area around Brighton and the Isle of Wight.

Army Group B (3 divisions) invading Dorset via Lyme Bay

From Kent, Army Group A would advance to south-east London and then to Malden and St. Albans north of London.

From Sussex/Hampshire, the 4 divisions of Army Group A would advance to the west of London and meet up with the other 6 divisions of Army Group A, thus encircling London. Other parts of the group would head towards Gloucester and the River Severn region.

From Dorset, Army Group B would advance to Bristol.

The whole plan relied on Germany having complete control of the English Channel, which, in turn meant that Germany had to have control of the skies so that the Royal Air Force could not attack German ships crossing the Channel. Hence victory in the Battle of Britain was an integral part of the plan.

Operation Sealion looked simple in theory. Britain should have been an easy target. The Luftwaffe was very experienced in modern warfare, the Wehrmacht had experienced astonishing success since the attack on Poland and the British had lost a vast amount of military hardware on the beaches of Dunkirk. The RAF and the Army in Britain looked weak only the Royal Navy seemed to offer Britain some semblance of protection.

It is said that Hitler was prepared to offer Britain generous peace terms. However, on May 21st, 1940, Admiral Raeder told Hitler about a plan to invade Britain and Hitler, it is said, was taken in by the plan. If Britain had not surrendered, Hitler had planned an economic war which could have taken a long time to be effective. However, a military conquest of Britain would be swift and decisive. The military success of the German military since September 1939, seem to confirm in Hitler’s mind that an attack on a demoralised British Army would be swift.

Towards the end of June 1940, Hitler gave the order for the German military to make plans for an invasion of Britain. In fact, they were one step ahead of Hitler here as all three branches of the German military had guessed that an invasion would be needed and had already started on their own plans.

In November 1939, the German Navy had done its own report on an invasion of Britain. It was not optimistic about its success. The German Navy detailed many problems that would be experienced for either a short crossing or a long crossing. It did not state that an attempted invasion would be unsuccessful – but it was cautious.

In December 1939, the Wehrmacht had produced its own report. This favoured a surprise attack on Britain via East Anglia by 16 or 17 divisions. However, this plan needed the support of the German Navy and they believed that the Wehrmacht’s plan was untenable as the German navy would have to protect any landing fleet of the army whilst having to fight the British Navy. Raeder believed that this was an impossible task to complete successfully. The Luftwaffe pointed out that for its part, it would need good weather for the whole of the invasion if it was to do its job – and across the North Sea this could not be guaranteed. Though the Luftwaffe had experienced success in both the attacks on Poland and Western Europe, the RAF had not used its fighter force to its full capacity in the spring of 1940.

After the fall of France, the only major European power not to have fallen was Great Britain. The problems of an invasion were known to all three branches of the German military:

Control of the Channel would be needed

Control of the skies would be needed

Good weather would be needed

However, for all of the work done by the military on a projected invasion of Britain, it seems that Hitler had little enthusiasm for it. On June 17th, 1940, the navy received a communiqué that informed them that:

“With regard to the landing in Britain the Führer has not up to now expressed such an intention, as he fully appreciates the unusual difficulties of such an operation. Therefore, even at this time, no preparatory work of any kind has been carried out in the Wehrmacht High Command.”

On June 21st, 1940, the navy was told that the Army General Staff:

“Is not concerning itself with the question of England. Considers execution impossible. Does not know how the operation is to be conducted from the southern area.”

Hitler’s position was obviously crucial as without his support no invasion was possible. At the time, it is thought that he believed that Britain would sue for peace and that he could make generous peace terms with the British on the condition that they recognised Germany’s position on mainland Europe. Even during the Dunkirk evacuation, one of his generals – Blumentritt – was astonished to hear Hitler talk about the British in glowing terms.

“(Hitler spoke) with great admiration of the British Empire, of the necessity for its existence, and of the civilisation that Britain had brought into the world.” Blumentritt

It was only when it became clear that Britain would not sign peace terms that Hitler gave his backing to an invasion. On July 2nd 1940, Hitler gave his first tentative orders regarding a possible invasion of Britain. It stated that

“a landing in England is possible, providing that air superiority can be attained and certain other necessary conditions fulfilled…..all the preparations must be made on the basis that the invasion is still only a plan, and has not yet been decided upon.” Hitler, July 2nd 1940

On July 13th, the army chiefs presented their plan – see first box above. They were so confident of success that they believed that Britain would be occupied within a month. On July 16th a directive called ‘Preparation for a landing operation against England’ was issued which stated that

“As England, in spite of her hopeless military situation, still shows no willingness to come to terms, I have decided to prepare, and if necessary, to carry out, a landing operation against her. The aim of this operation is to eliminate the English mother country as a base from which the war against Germany can be continued, and, if it should be necessary, to occupy it completely.”

The code name for this operation was ‘Sea Lion’.

At a meeting with his service chiefs on July 21st, Hitler made it clear that he recognised that the plan had its dangers – especially those identified by Raeder – but he was keen to press on with the plan so that he could turn his full attention to Russia once Britain had been defeated.

Hitler wanted Sea Lion to be over by mid-September. His naval chiefs believed that any invasion could not start until mid-September! Raeder supplied a list of reasons why the invasion could not go ahead before mid-September1940 (clearance of shipping lanes of mines, getting invasion barges ready etc) and he won the support of the army. Hitler ordered that as long as Germany controlled the sky, Operation Sea Lion would go start on September 15th 1940. Therefore, the invasion depended entirely on whether Göering’s Luftwaffe could defeat the RAF. The failure of the Germans to defeat the RAF had to lead to the cancellation of Operation Sea Lion which was announced on September 17th 1940.

One of the interesting issues to come out of this episode was the inability of the three units that made up the German military to either work together or support one another. primarily, the chiefs of the army railed against Raeder while he and his chiefs criticised the plans of the army. The Luftwaffe took the view, though it was primarily Göering’s, that any success depended on the Luftwaffe conquering the skies. Another key point that came out of this episode in the war, was Hitler’s seeming refusal to listen to his military commanders and wanting things done his way. This came out of the success the military had against Poland and the nations of Western Europe – countries attacked without the overwhelming support of the military but attacked because Hitler instinctively knew that they would win – or so he believed.


Watch the video: Πούτιν και Άσαντ προετοιμάζουν τεράστιας κλίμακας επίθεση κατά των Τούρκων (December 2021).