Friday, 28 December 2012

RAF Bomber Command and D-Day 1944

By May 1944 the planning for D-Day, the Allied invasion of occupied France, was complete. All that was needed was a spell of suitable weather and the great enterprise could be launched. The 2 Tactical Air Force, formerly 2 Group of Bomber Command, had been pounding targets in France for months. But with the invasion imminent, the main bomber force was required.

At first transport links right across northern France were the target. As many places outside the invasion area of Normandy were hit as in it so as to confuse the Germans as to where the invasion would take place. The plan was to disrupt the flow of reinforcements and supplies to the invasion area. As the invasion date grew nearer the bombing raids shifted to airfields, coastal batteries and other, smaller targets. Harris was not happy with this as his men were not trained to hit such small targets – and the results often bore out his views.

Meanwhile 100 Group was getting ready for some very specialist work. The Stirlings of 214 and 199 Squadrons were converted from bombers to become mobile radar jamming units using the Mandrel device. Other squadrons were put to work practising precision manoeuvres or getting accustomed to new and often bizarre equipment.

On 5 June the final orders were given that the invasion would take place next day. The regular bombing squadrons of 3 Group in Norfolk took off to attack targets in and around Normandy, while 100 Group began its specialist work. First into the air, around dusk, were 199 and 214 Squadrons. The aircraft of 199 took up station at 15,000 feet at intervals along the south coast of England, from Dorset to Dover. Flying at precisely determined intervals, heights and bearings the aircraft jammed German radar across the entire central and eastern English Channel, masking the invasion fleet.

Meanwhile, 214 Squadron was heading east to fly over Calais and along the Somme Valley depositing specially designed Window. This set up a false echo on the German radar sets that simulated a mass of bomber aircraft heading for precisely those targets that would be chosen if the invasion were about to take place near Calais. To further this illusion the Serrate anti-nightfighter Mosquitoes of 141, 160 and 239 Squadrons were present over the Somme, attacking any nightfighters they could locate. Simultaneously 85, 157 and 515 Squadrons attacked Luftwaffe bases as far east as Holland, again to give the impression that Calais, not Normandy was the invasion target.

This was so successful at diverting German defences that in July 192 and 199 Squadrons were converted into the so-called Special Window Force (SWF) within 100 Group. Their mission was to divert attention away from the main bomber force by pretending to be a second major force raiding a quite different target. The crews referred to the task as “spoofing”.

Going into action around midnight, 149 Squadron had the task of dropping “Ruperts”. These half sized dummy parachutists were armed with fireworks which went off when the dummy landed to simulate machinegun fire. They were dropped at various locations to confuse the German defenders as to where the real parachute troops were landing and proved to be most successful.

The dangerous, yet secretive nature of much of what 100 Group was doing at this time is reflected in the award of medals. On 27 June Sergeant Harvey Allin of 192 Squadron was awarded a DFM for unspecified acts of “cool courage and ardour whilst engaged on special duties”.

from "Heroes of RAF Bomber Command, Norfolk" by Rupert Matthews
Buy your copy HERE

Book Description

29 Sep 2006 1846740002 978-1846740008
This illustrated book pays tribute to the pilots and crews who flew from Norfolk airfields during the last war and whose actions displayed some of the finest examples of courage, professionalism and devotion to duty.

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