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There was no enemy air activity in the sector during the month. Flare Burning exercises and Turbinlight co-operation patrols were continually carried out.
Weather during the month gave restricted visibility and remained so for the whole of the month with very little operational flying taking place. A lot of instructional, work and training was carried out, and keeping busy ensured that morale was kept at a high level. There was however, one night of enemy air activity and the Squadron gave a good account of itself.
F/Lt I.S. Smith, who had been the "A" Flight Commander was promoted to Squadron Leader to take Command of 151 Squadron. He had joined the Squadron in June 1940 as a Pilot Officer and after only 18 months he had progressed to take full command, having been involved in tactics development to meet both day and night raiders.
S/Ldr Smith celebrated his promotion in a very appropriate way, when he, as pilot with Sgt Beale as his air gunner were successful in combat against night raiders coming in at dusk. Their combat report reads as follows:
"Our Defiants on dusk patrol were patrolling the Outer Channel. A convoy was there and our pilots saw L.A. fire from one of the ships, directed at two Dorniers. Giving chase, Voucher 15 caught one of the Dorniers at about 20 ft above sea level. His gunner opened fire and sent it crashing into the sea. Immediately afterwards, a Ju 88 got on their tail. As it passed overhead firing at them, Sgt Beale fired a burst into the fuselage and it escaped into the cloud in a damaged stats.
Before the second of the first two Dorniers which were originally seen escaped, it was damaged by fire from Voucher 55 who attacked it but could not overtake it.
Voucher 44, on the eastern side of the convoy, noticing A.A. fire, saw another Dornier at sea level. Giving chase, they kept behind it for some time, opened fire and saw strikes, but they could not overtake it. It presumably got away as damaged".
Being unable to have any speed advantage over the enemy bombers showed the shortcomings of the Defiant.
Claims for the night were:
1 Do 217 destroyed
1 Ju 88 damaged
2 Do 217's damaged
1 Do 217 damaged
The following awards were announced to Squadron members:
F/Lt Darling D.F.C.
P/O Bodein D.F.C.
F/O Ellacombe D.F.C.
Weather was poor throughout the month and this placed severe restrictions on flying. The bad weather also grounded Luftwaffe operations.
Whenever possible, routine patrols were carried out. It was from one of these routine patrols on March 9 that Sgt Kelly (pilot) and Sgt Philott ( air gunner) failed to return and were posted as missing.
Today was to be the turning point in the Squadron's future wartime role when F/Lt Darling brought the first Mosquito (DD 608) into Wittering. Two more were also delivered by other pilots and one of the old Defiants was taken away.
Mosquitoes of different types were going to be the Squadron's aircraft until the end of the War, and the Squadron's crews were going to give a good account of themselves in this very versatile machine.
Three more Mosquitoes were delivered.
Two more Mosquitoes arrived on the Squadron, and also a Mosquito fitted with dual control to enable pilots to readily convert to this new type of aircraft. All Canadian members of the Squadron were posted out to a Canadian Squadron in the U.K., and this was not looked upon very favourably by the personnel concerned. Unfortunately, this matter was out of the hands of the Squadron Commander.
Further Mosquitoes continued to arrive during the month and the redundant Defiants were despatched elsewhere. There was also a lot of cross posting of crews.
With the arrival of Mosquitoes as the Squadron's operational aircraft, the Squadron establishment changed , as a result of which, S/Ldr Smith was promoted to Wing Commander, and F/Lt Darling to Squadron Leader.
There was a requirement for pilots who had only flown single engined aircraft to convert to twin engined machines. To achieve this, an Airspeed Oxford was delivered to meet the requirements of basic conversion, and when these had been met, the dual control Mosquito was used to complete the training.
151 Squadron became operational on Mosquitoes.
W/Cdr Smith and F/Lt Pennington were on readiness, and it was now accepted that the Defiant aircraft had "had their day" as regards the Night Fighter role.
Although pilots were committed to extensive conversion from single to twin engined aircraft, it was also necessary for the air gunners to have their operational roles defined. On Mosquitoes, the pilot had control of the guns just as be had on the Hurricanes, and the role of the air gunner as such, now became redundant, being replaced by the new crew member, the Radio Observer, who had the role of navigator and Radar operator.
The Mosquitoes were fitted with A.I. radar, this device being the "eyes" of the aircraft. The R.O's job (Radio Observer) was to guide the pilot in to a position where he could get a visual on the target even on nights of poor visibility. The guidance took the form of verbal instructions as to direction, altitude and speed, and required a good understanding with the pilot.
By the end of the month, both Flights were operational on Mosquitoes, but there was still support for fighter nights from the single engined aircraft.
Of these early days with the Mosquito, Group Captain Smith recalls the events:
"The Mosquito was difficult to maintain initially but we soon got the bugs out of it and all credit was due to F/Lt Watts our Engineer Officer who had joined us from Digby and kept us flying from then on.
The Merlin engines caused us a lot of problems since the first thousand, built at the railway workshops at Crewe were problematical and could not be used in the bombers or in the single engined fighters. Only the Night Fighter Mosquito, operating solely over the U.K. could tolerate the high failure rate which was being experienced. I don't think we had one last beyond 130 hrs and they often failed in 30. I even had a double failure on one flight but I had anticipated the possibility and was able to "dead stick" it on to the flare path. However, we did not have any accidents resulting from the engine problems, which is a measure of the aircraft's handling quality and the ability of the pilots flying it.
During 1942, we were responsible for getting the aircraft camouflage scheme changed from all black to grey and for developing a direct deflection gunsight system on the windscreen, the first "head up" system. These two changes were very important and the principles still apply today."
Twelve R.O's arrived on the Squadron to take the place of the air gunners.
The incorporation of A.I. into aircraft had brought about a complete change in Night Fighter tactics. By the use of G.C.I., a fighter aircraft could now be brought into the vicinity of the target aircraft from where, once A.I. contact had been established, the fighter took over to carry out a completion of the interception.
The use of A.I. as an interception aid had first been tried out on Blenheims and then the Beaufighter which was a natural development of the Blenheim. The Mosquito was a faster and more manoeuvrable aircraft than the Beaufighter and history has shewn that the Mosquito was probably the forerunner of what is today described as the Multi-Role Combat Aircraft.
151 Squadron was the second Night Fighter Squadron to be equipped with Mosquitoes.
(The requirement for R.Os, later to be known as "Navigators Radio" or Nav Rads for short, and later still as Navigators, (their prime role in training), called for specialised recruitment. The training programme ensured that these personnel had the total capability of both navigation and of radar operation).
During 1941, volunteers for air crew duties were so numerous (volunteers for air crew duties over-ruled the reserved occupation barrier) that there was a waiting list for reception into training once the Attestation Board selection had been made. The Attestation Board selected those personnel with a background of technical. bias for the role of Navigator for Night Fighters, and short cut the normal waiting list and brought them into training within about seven days of acceptance.
The training that took place was through the Aircrew Receiving Centre (A.C.R.C.) at Regent's Park in London. It was here that all aircrew recruits stayed for the statutory initiation training, becoming familiar with the R.A.F. in terms of discipline, health jabs, kitting out etc.
From A.C.R.C., personnel were posted to Initial Training Wings (I.T.W.) where basic school room training of all pilots and navigators took place. The training centred around the basic aspects of navigation, meteorology, signalling, armaments, Air Force Law, aircraft recognition etc. The general run of drills, parades, inspections, physical training and march Pasts for the various V.I.P's who visited, took place.
Passing out from I.T.W. personnel were given the rank of Leading Aircraftsman (L.A.C.) and posted to the next stage of training which, for navigators was the Air Observers Navigation School (A.O.N.S.). Here, navigators were given their first flight to gain air experience, after which it was "heads down" to a very intense class room study of Air Navigation, signals and meteorology, with "dry swims" (desk exercises in navigation) given for private study. All the classroom work was undertaken in conjunction with flying experience to give practical appreciation of the art of obtaining fixes, determination of wind velocities and direction, and to study deviations in dead reckoning. There were also exercises in navigation over the sea with studies of wind lanes and wave crests, navigation at low level, navigation by natural features (Bradshaw Navigation), and the study of meteorological conditions during the flights.
At this time, those who were training for the role of night fighter navigator were undertaking conventional navigator training. This objective on training quite clearly showed that those in charge of training had a good appreciation of the events likely to come and were preparing navigators accordingly to meet any eventuality.
After passing through A.O.N.S. all potential night fighter navigators were sent to No 3 Radio Training School at Prestwick, and it was here that the whole purpose of specialised training became obvious. This was a specialist school devoted entirely to the introduction of airborne radar, its use as fighter equipment, the development of interception techniques, adjustments and the calibration of individual items, and in flight navigation using radar beacon systems, The whole training was classed as TOP SECRET.
The equipment used for training was the same as on the operational aircraft in Squadron service, i.e. Mark 1V. The system had a nose mounted pulse transmitter aerial, and wing mounted azimuth and elevation receiving aerials on each wing tip. According to the position of the target aircraft, the respective aerials would receive signals of proportional strength, these signals being displayed on two cathode ray tubes in front of the navigator. The navigator would then translate his visual observations on the cathode ray tubes into a verbal commentary to the pilot, giving instructions to him to enable a visual of the target to be obtained.
The effective range of this equipment was restricted to the height at which the aircraft was flying. Bearing in mind that in their attacks against British towns and cities, the Luftwaffe was forced to keep above the balloon barrage level, i.e. 7-10000 ft. A range of this magnitude was very helpful in enabling the aircraft to complete the instructions passed to it from the G.C.I. station.
Since weather conditions could play an important part in positioning the aircraft to stalk its target, it was part of the technique to position the aircraft against the darkest background of the sky to minimise visual detection by the target aircraft.
Laboratory work and Link trainer exercises were transferred to a more practical aspect by flights in a "radar classroom" housed in Avxo Anson aircraft. These flights were elementary in application because of limited manoeuvrability of the Anson, but they did give good basic training in the importance of accurate and understandable commentary and instructions to the pilot.
After Radio School, navigators were posted to Operational Training Units (O.T.U.), where they were crewed up with pilots who had just got their wings after passing out from the Advanced Flying Training Units (A.F.T.U.), after about 200-250 hrs flying. These pilots had been trained on twin engined aircraft, and after conversion to the O.T.U. aircraft - Blenheims and Bostons, were in a position to commence crew training. The crewing of pilot and navigator was done on a personal basis to ensure that there was total compatibility of personal characteristics and temperament between them. There was some weeding out since not all crews could be so easily matched and some re-selection was often required.
This matching Of pilot and navigator was a permanent arrangement as they were to stay together as a crew for the whole of their operational flying careers and being such a team, both crew members were to share the glories and problems of action.
After passing out from O.T.U. the crews were posted to squadrons, where, after polishing up their skills by further squadron training, and involvement in exercises with fully operational crews, they then became ready for the operational roster.
This was now the status for the crews coming into the new Mosquito NightFighter Squadrons. The crews which now formed 151 Squadron had been trained specifically in all aspects of interception, navigation, combat techniques, and were ready for taking on any combative role that was expected of them.
During May, there was extensive practise flying at night on operational patrols and also daylight exercises for camera gun trials etc.
A decision was made to take away all the Defiants and for the total operational role of the Squadron to be undertaken by Mosquitos, An added advantage of the Mosquito was that it could remain airborne for four to five hours, and had a speed to ensure it could catch up with any Luftwaffe aircraft sent over.
This was to be the first successful night with Mosquitoes for 151 Squadron, with two combats being recorded as follows:
In the first combat, P/O Wain and Sgt Grieve took off from Wittering at 2306 hrs on the 28th on Sector standing patrol, Coltishall taking over at 2327 hrs and Neatishead at 0020 hrs. The latter vectored them on to a raid but the radar was not working correctly. However, a visual was obtained on a Do 217 below at 6000 ft. in front, and to port turning to starboard. P/O Wain throttled back and dropped below as the enemy aircraft opened fire from the ventral position with cannon. P/O Wain then climbed above and attacked. Return fire from the dorsal turret of the Dornier was experienced. P/O Wain's attack began at 400 yds range and closed to about 40 yds with two short bursts of cannon and a longer burst of machine gun, strikes being seen On the fuselage. Return fire ceased at about 100 yds range and the enemy aircraft broke away at about 50 yds at a height of 2500 ft, and was not seen again. No further contact was made. The Mosquito landed back at Wittering at 0110 hrs.
A second Mosquito piloted by F/Lt Pennington with F/Sgt Donnet as navigator left Wittering at 0400 hrs to intercept a "weather recco" aircraft from 3/122. When they were at 11500 ft, F/Lt Pennington sighted an enemy aircraft which was travelling at about 290 mph at an altitude of 14000 ft. He climbed and attacked from fine quarter below and astern with cannon at 300 yds range. Return fire was experienced and another attack was made concentrating on the port engine and closing in to about 80 yds. The enemy aircraft spiralled down with the port engine on fire and the return fire ceased. F/Lt Pennington then continued firing with the whole of his machine armament, but the Mosquito's port engine was now streaming oil, and he broke away and lost sight of his target. He returned to base On one engine, but claims of "destroyed" were not allowed by Group, as they believed that the enemy aircraft had been plotted back to base.
Claims for the night were:
1 Do 217 damaged
1 Enemy aircraft damaged.
It was now becoming useful to issue combat reports, these being considered for aircrews to study, in order that experience could lead to individual development of tactics.
(A.I. was still highly secret equipment, and since the Germans were listening in to all R/T conversations, coding of messages was important. A.I. was referred to as the "weapon". On vectoring by G.C.I., the instructions to switch on the A.I. was "flash your weapon". The return message was "my weapon is flashing". In the event that for any reason the A.I. was unserviceable or inoperable, the pilot would transmit the message "My weapon is bent", thus clearing G.C.I. to re-vector another aircraft to attempt the interception).
Routine patrols and practise interceptions were continuously carried out as part of performance optimisation. These patrols ensured that during the critical period of the night, fighter aircraft were readily available for early interception. This type of operational routine brought its rewards later in the month.
W/Cdr Smith flying with F/Lt Kerr Shepherd, were vectored on to an incoming bandit. After interception it was identified as a He 111. It was carrying what appeared to be two torpedoes under the wings and flying at an altitude of 11000 ft. On attack, the Heinkel dropped one of its torpedoes and one of its engines caught fire. Further combat down to 5000 ft resulted in lost A.I. contact but the aircraft was claimed as probably destroyed.
W/Cdr Smith was then vectored on to another contact and after interception, was identified as another He ill, again apparently carrying two torpedoes. W/Cdr Smith closed to 300 yds and opened fire. The enemy aircraft went down in flames and crashed into the sea still burning.
A Do 217 was then intercepted, and the remainder of the cannon ammunition was fired into it in one burst which set the machine on fire, parts of the engine falling away. Return fire was experienced, but this was silenced by machine gun fire. The Mosquito was covered in oil, sighting was difficult, so it broke away to attack again. The enemy aircraft was losing height rapidly but due to the Mosquito's windscreen being covered in oil, sighting was difficult, so it flew alongside the Dornier which was seen to be burning fiercely as it flew through cloud. This was claimed as destroyed.
On the same night, S/Ldr Darling with P/O Wright took off from Wittering at 0025 hrs under G.C.I. control from Coltishall, A.I. contact was made on a bandit, the interception of which led to a visual being obtained on a Do 217. At 200 yds range, a short burst was fired as the enemy aircraft went into cloud. As it emerged from cloud, another burst was given with strikes being observed on the fuselage but it dived to port and was lost from view at 1500 ft. This was claimed as damaged.
Also airborne was P/O Wain with Sgt Grieve. Taking off from Wittering they were taken over by Happisburgh control and vectored on to a bandit at a height of 15000 ft and about 50 miles out to sea of f the Norfolk coast. As a result of a successful interception a visual was obtained on a bandit which was identified as a He 111, carrying what appeared to be two bombs under the wings. P/O Wain opened fire at about 25Oyds range with both cannon and machine gun. One long burst caused the starboard engine to explode and one third of the wing came off. The enemy aircraft went into a vertical dive leaving a trail of black smoke. W/Cdr Smith, who was in the vicinity confirmed seeing the aircraft burning in the sea.
Claims for the night were:
F/Lt Kerr Shepherd
1 He 111 destroyed
1 Do 217 destroyed
1 He 111 probably destroyed
|P/O Wain & Sgt Grieve||1 He 111 destroyed|
|S/Ldr Darling & P/O Wright||1 Do 217 damaged|
151 Squadron was again in action off East Anglia. F/Lt Moody with P/O Marsh took off from Wittering at 0019 hrs and were taken over by Coltishall control. After a contact had been made on a friendly aircraft, control advised that there was a bandit ahead. No contact was made, but tracer bullets suddenly appeared, with the range closing in, but no aircraft could be seen. F/lt Moody dived to 3000 ft, and found from in-flight examination that his aircraft did not appear to have been hit, so he climbed again. He was then vectored on to another bandit at an altitude of 10000 ft, which resulted in contact being made at maximum range. A short chase ensued for about a minute and then a visual on a Do 217 was obtained above and to starboard at a range of 2500 ft. F/Lt Moody closed and drew level, approached down-moon and opened fire as the enemy aircraft started to turn to port. Strikes were seen amidships followed by a faint glow, when suddenly it blew up and fell into the sea where it exploded again. There was no return fire. F/Lt Moody returned to Wittering where he landed at 0245 hrs.
At about the same time, F/Lt Robertson and F/Sgt Beale were flying one of the remaining Defiants on a searchlight co-operation exercise. Whilst engaged on this exercise they saw bomb blasts and fires in the direction of Norwich and investigated. At 2000 ft, and five miles west of Coltishall, F/Sgt Beale saw a Do 217 coming up slightly to starboard and behind. He asked for "port turn" and opened fire at a range of about 80 yds. Strikes were seen near the tail and the top of the fuselage. Return fire from the cannon in the nose of the bandit was sent back from the bandit. The enemy aircraft went into a steep dive under the Defiant but was lost from view at an altitude of 800 ft. The Defiant then turned south westerly from which direction F/Lt Robertson saw an aircraft against the moon almost astern but turning towards them. The Defiant was at about 1000 ft and F/Sgt Beale asked for "starboard turn" and then they closed in from 250 yds to 150 yds when they opened fire, strikes being seen on the nose and fuselage. Return fire from the dorsal turret was silenced but then F/Sgt Beale's guns jammed and the enemy aircraft dived out of sight. The Defiant was recalled and landed back at Wittering.
Claims for the night were:
|1 Do 217 destroyed|
|F/Lt Robertson F/Sgt Beale||2 Do 217 damaged|
F/Lt Robertson and F/Sgt Beale took off in bad weather and made contact with a Ju 88 which they engaged in combat.
Claims for the night were:
|F/Lt Robertson F/Sgt Beale||1 Ju 88 damaged|
The first three weeks of July were spent on training and practise exercises, these being G.C.I., searchlight co-operation, air to air firing and air to ground firing.
P/0 Fisher and F/Sgt Godfrey were on exercise when G.C.I. control at Portishead took them over to investigate a bogey. After a few minutes the bogey was confirmed as a bandit and an A.I. contact was obtained at a range of 9000 ft, just slightly to port. The Mosquito was closing in when the bandit opened fire. A visual on a Do 217 was obtained just as it was entering cloud on a course of 190o After following through cloud and closing to a range of 300 ft, P/O Fisher opened fire with both machine gun and cannon from thirty degrees starboard and astern. The enemy aircraft dived and weaved into cloud cover at an altitude of about 5000 ft, the Mosquito following, firing a burst which silenced the ventral gunner. The enemy aircraft tried to keep in cloud but it was patchy, thus enabling P/O Fisher to get in another burst which set the starboard engine on fire, after which it dived steeply. P/O Fisher had not noticed that his altitude had reduced to almost sea level and F/Sgt Gregory promptly warned him of this.
P/O Fisher pulled out at about 200 ft when the burning enemy aircraft disappeared into the sea. During the combat the Mosquito was hit by return fire in the starboard bomb door and in the engine nacelles. One cannon chute was also damaged.
Claims for the night were:
|1 Do 217 destroyed|
S/Ldr Pennington with F/Sgt Donnet took off from Wittering and under G.C.I. Neatishead, gained an A.I. contact which resulted in a visual of a Do 217 being obtained. This was a cross beam interception, and the Dornier fired a burst at the Mosquito. A short burst of fire from the Mosquito at a range of 500 yds closing to 300 yds caused an explosion within the Dornier which then went down out of control in a spiral dive into the sea. At this time the undercarriage light shield in the cockpit of the Mosquito fell off and from the resultant glow, S/Ldr Pennington thought that the return fire had caused ignition to some part of his aircraft, at which he broke away without actually seeing the final destination of the enemy aircraft. However, P/O Fielding who was on patrol in the vicinity, saw a burning aircraft in the sea at the time reported by S/Ldr Pennington, thus enabling a victory to be claimed.
P/O Fielding with F/Sgt Paine were also successful with an interception which resulted in a visual of a Do 217 being obtained. The Dornier gave a lot of return fire and also carried out severe evasive action. In the combat which followed, the starboard engine and the fuselage of the Dornier were set on fire and it then went into a dive trailing sparks and flames. The enemy aircraft disappeared suddenly at sea level. During the combat, P/O Fielding was warned that they were being followed and another A.I. contact was obtained at short range, but it could not be held.
The night conditions were near full moon, so violent evasive action from enemy aircraft could be expected since visuals were possible at a range of about 3000 ft. For extra "Fighter Night" cover W/Cdr Smith, S/Ldr Pennington, S/Ldr Darling and F/Lt Bodien "borrowed" Spitfires from 485 Squadron, but they did not achieve any combat success.
Claims for the night were:
|S/Ldr Pennington F/Sgt Donnet||1 Do 217 destroyed|
|P/O Fielding & F/Sgt Paine||1 Do 217 destroyed|
This was a night of full moon with good clear visibility. F/0 McRitchie with F/Sgt James were scrambled to investigate potential bandits. Flying at 14000 ft an A.I. contact was obtained which, on interception led to a visual on a Do 217 being obtained at a range of 2000ft. The Mosquito closed to a range of 450 ft and fired a burst as the enemy aircraft turned to port. This burst hit the port engine and set it on fire. Another burst from the cannons and machine guns set the starboard engine and fuselage on fire. The enemy aircraft went down in a spiral into the sea where it exploded on impact. Black crosses were seen under the Dornier wings, such was the excellent night visibility which existed. An object, probably a body, was seen to fall out during the dive. The Mosquito then set course for base.
On approaching the coast at 10000 ft, anti-aircraft fire was seen and an A.I. contact was obtained well below the aircraft. The Mosquito dropped to an altitude of 5000 ft but lost contact.
Returning to base, P/O McRitchie was about to land when he noticed antiaircraft fire over Peterborough. He immediately climbed to an altitude of 10000 ft and with the aid of searchlights made an A.I. contact. They closed in and obtained a visual on an enemy aircraft at a range of about 2000 yds, but searchlights alternately illuminated the enemy and the Mosquito. On sighting the Mosquito, the enemy aircraft turned to port and dived to 6000 ft. P/O McRitchie tried to keep range with steep diving turns at up to 400 mph, but in the evasive action lost sight of the target.
Again seeing another searchlight cone, F/O McRitchie repeated the type of interception be had just made and got an A.I. contact on an aircraft at a range of 12000 ft. The searchlights illuminated the target aircraft which turned out to be a bandit. He closed very quickly to a range of 400 ft when the enemy aircraft suddenly spotted the Mosquito and took severe evasive action. F/Sgt James identified the enemy aircraft as a Do 217. The Dornier gave return fire which hit the Mosquito in the mainplane. A two second burst of fire from the Mosquito hit the wing and starboard engine of the Dornier. Evasive action took the combat down to 1500 ft at which stag. the Mosquito broke off the engagement because it had used up all its ammunition.
What had started out as a quiet month had suddenly turned out into quite a hectic time for the Squadron. The Luftwaffe had taken advantage of moonlight nights for navigational accuracy and to give themselves gunner protection against night fighters in good visibility.
Claims for the night were :-
|P/O McRitchie & F/Sgt James||1 Do 217 destroyed, 1 Do 217 damaged|
P/O Wain with Sgt Grieve were on standing patrol and were vectored onto an enemy aircraft which was returning to its base. R/T contact was lost when P/0 Wain and Sgt Grieve were about 50 miles out to sea. This was the last that was heard of them. In a search which followed, the wreckage of the aircraft was found roughly in the same position where R/T contact was lost. On August 10 the body of Sgt Grieve was found, but there was no trace of P/O Wain.
P/O Bugner with F/Sgt Brown were engaged in combat with a Ju 88 which they reported as damaged. No combat details are recorded in the Squadron Diary.
On the whole, August was a quiet month with a lull in enemy aircraft activity.
September started quietly with standing patrols taking place, but in about the second week enemy air activity became more lively, when moonlight gave them all round visibility for protection, at least that may have been the theory!
F/O Mc Ritchie and F/Sgt James were on routine patrol and orbiting a searchlight beacon at an altitude of 12000 ft when they were given "smack" instructions (proceed on a specified vector). They saw coned searchlights about 15 miles away which doused as the Mosquito approached. The Mosquito proceeded in the direction of more coned searchlights beams to the south and saw a flare dropped. An A.I. contact was obtained from the vicinity of the cone at 10000 ft. The blip on the cathode ray tube spread, indicating that bombs were probably leaving the target aircraft. Several other blips appeared on the cathode ray tubes and spread down to 2000ft range. Contact was lost. Bombs were seen exploding on the ground and a few seconds later another A.I. contact was obtained which, following a successful interception, resulted in a visual being obtained on a Do 217 at a range of about 1500 ft and at an altitude of 6-7000 ft. The enemy aircraft was taking severe evasive action when the Mosquito opened fire at a range of about 300 yds. Strikes were seen On the fuselage which started to glow dull red. The enemy aircraft did not appear to have seen the Mosquito. A further burst hit the target in the port engine which was set on fire. A third burst hit the wing. The enemy aircraft went down and crashed with a blinding flash at Orwell near Royston.
At about the same time, F/Lt Bodien with Sgt Booker were orbiting a searchlight beacon when they were given "smack" instructions. This turned out to be fruitless, but as they were returning to their beacon they picked up a random contact and were instructed to investigate with caution as it may have been a friendly aircraft. The target was chased from west of Bedford to Clacton, and down to an altitude of 10000 ft from 15000 ft, where searchlights illuminated both aircraft. A Do 217 was identified at a range of about 60 yds. Having seen the Mosquito in the searchlight beams, the enemy aircraft took violent evasive action, but a burst of cannon fire from the Mosquito hit the Dornier's mainplane just outboard of the port engine. It then straightened up and a second burst was given from astern and above, hitting the mainplane just behind the port engine. The contact was lost due to searchlight dazzle, and the A.I. became unserviceable.
Claims for the night were :
|P/O McRitchie F/Sgt James||1 Do 217 destroyed|
|1 Do 217 damaged|
F/Lt Bodien and Sgt Booker took off from Wittering and shortly after getting airborne, Langtoft G.C.I. took over and issued vectors, taking them to an altitude of 7000 ft where an A.I. contact was obtained. A successful interception soon gave a visual on a Do 217 as it passed from starboard to port. The Mosquito closed in slightly below, and as the enemy aircraft carried out evasive action, several short bursts of fire from the Mosquito hit the Dornier's port wing and port engine. The port engine then blew up and the enemy aircraft went down with both engines on fire. It crashed at Kings Lynn where wreckage was found the next day.
Claims for the night were:
|1 Do 217 destroyed|
F/Lt McRitchie was awarded the D.F.C.
In the year that F/Lt McRltchie had served 151 Squadron, he had been successful in a number of combats which had resulted in the destruction of four enemy aircraft and the damaging of two more.
F/Lt Ellacombe, who had left the Squadron some six months previously to fly Hurricanes alongside Turbinlight Havocs of 538 Squadron at Hibaldstow, participated in the Commando raid on Dieppe where he was giving air support. Once again he was compelled to abandon his aircraft after it had been hit by ground fire, bailing out at low altitude and coming down in the sea, from where he was picked up by a rescue vessel which was standing by.
During the month as a whole, night patrols were consistently carried out. Defensive action could not be let up since German aircraft were continually trying to penetrate U.K. air space, their objective being to carry out sneak bombing attacks at what appeared to be random targets, and also to carry Out intruder operations against our returning bombers whose bases were generally within the sectors covered by 151 Squadron.
As far as enemy air activity was concerned, October was a completely blank month, but night patrols and all necessary support operations were carried out.
A letter from the De Havilland Company, the designers and builders of the Mosquito , was received which read as follows:
"Wing Commander Smith,
According to our records, No 151 Squadron has, to date, the lowest crash rate to hours flown, the highest serviceability rate and the largest "bag" of any Mosquito Unit.
I thought you might be interested to know this and would like to congratulate all concerned.
H de Havilland."
A little flying was carried out in what can only be described as a spell of really appalling weather conditions. This was a welcome break for those who had been occupied with intensive patrols, but one had to be cautious in such matters since morale had to be kept high, and inactivity had to be avoided. This was the time of the year when such weather arrived and poor flying conditions were only to be expected.
W/Cdr Smith was married to A.S.0.Debenham at St George's church in Hanover Square in London with the reception being at Claridges. All Squadron members not required for duty attended the wedding.
Fog and drizzle persisted throughout the month, and such conditions really put a clamp on flying activities. These conditions prevailed over the whole of Eastern England. This lack of activity led to pent up feelings which finally came to a head with an outburst in the Officers Mess resulting in some chaos. The Station Commander, Group Captain Basil Embrey, brought together all Officers and "tore them off a strip" for the rowdy evening in the Mess. One or two of the Officers had been on stand by, and could not get involved in the revelries. They took a dim view, their only contribution being tipped out of bed.
This form of conduct was generally quite common with most operational squadrons, and no doubt, all personnel can recollect examples of themselves being involved in similar escapades during their war-time service.
Weather was again a problem during the month, but whenever there was a break, flying exercise patrols took place with G.C.I. stations, these patrols extending up to the Humber Estuary and over the shipping lanes of the North Sea, these being under the control of Patrington.
The main highlight of the month was on Christmas Day, when, true to Service tradition, Officers and Senior N.C.O's served the Christmas lunch to other ranks. At this function, W/Cdr Smith was present in the capacity of Acting Station Commander as well as Squadron Commander. An airman bet him a pound that he could not drink a pint of beer from a bottle. W/Cdr Smith took on the bet and succeeded in drinking the pint in the agreed way and collected the pound.