- RAF Halton during the Second World War -
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during the Second World War 1939-1945.
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Sgt. Rowland James George Bazell B Flight 90 SquadronI joined the RAF in August 1942. I had previously applied for Air Crew duties but was turned down because of “unstable colour vision” so entered the service as a flight mechanic under training. My first 6 weeks consisted of basic training (drill, marching, arms drill, PT etc.) at Blackpool.
At the end of the 6 weeks training I was sent to RAF Halton. About half way through this course an appeal was launched for training as Flight-Engineer. This was a new air-crew category specifically for the four-engined bombers then coming into service. I applied for this and was successful, so instead of being sent out to a squadron at the end of this flight-mechanic training, I had to stay on at Halton for a Fitter course and then onto St. Athen for a Flight-Engineers course specific to the aircraft I would eventually fly on, namely the Stirling.
Having passed this course I was sent to 90 squadron of 3 Group, Bomber Command, then stationed at Tuddenham, Nr Mildenhall in Suffolk. My thoughts on the Stirling - being a very robust aircraft and fitted with Hercules air-cooled engines, it was much the safer aircraft in which to fly. It withstood crash landings better and, whereas the Rolls-Royce Merlin engines with which the Lancaster were fitted were magnificent engines, they were liquid cooled and just a bullet or two in the cooling system would rapidly put the engine out of action; whereas I have known air-cooled Hercules engines still give out some power even with a cylinder shot away. However, because of its heavier build, the Sterling did not have the performance of the Lancaster and were eventually replaced by them on “Main Force” targets.
The types of missions which my squadron undertook while I was with them are described below: The Main Force targets, mentioned above, were the well known bombing missions on German towns and industrial targets, involving many aircraft concentrated over as little time as possible, to saturate defences. This meant contending with masses of search lights, flak, fighters, shot and shell.
Mine Laying - it may not be generally known but at least three quarters of all mines laid within enemy waters were dropped by the RAF. These had to be accurately placed and this called for very accurate navigation. Our navigator, Peter Ashford, was excellent; throughout every flight, even when he knew fairly certainly where we were, he continually checked his calculations. Peter was an expert astro-navigator, in fact after we finished our operational service, he went to the Air Ministry and produced a training manual on the subject, which was used as a basic training manual for years afterwards. He would get me to take endless star-shots and he continuously consulted his GEE box - a very useful early electronic navigation aid. This aid could be unreliable but when it was used mainly over this country and into France, we found it to be very accurate. Due to Peter’s expertise, our crew were given many specialist operations.
Bombing - apart from the first two, our bombing missions were confined mainly to the near coast of France. These targets were small and did not reveal themselves by searchlight / flak etc, hence accurate navigation was needed. These targets were mainly coastal gun emplacements and launching sites for the V-weapons.
Supply Drops - again very small targets often just a map reference in the middle of a wood. To help find them, these trips were always in full moonlight and at low level, generally 500ft, so that the parachutes were in the air for the shortest possible time to avoid detection. We would overfly the target, not circle around, to ensure we did not attract attention. To ascertain we had the right spot, we had to look for a small light (mainly small electric hand torches) flashing a previously agreed letter or letters, which we had to recognise immediately or we were instructed to fly on and bring the load back. We never failed to drop our load.
It was on one of these drops, I think the one dated 29th April, that we took a passenger with us. She was brought out to our aircraft just as we were about to take off. There was absolute secrecy about this, no mention of it in squadron operational records or our log books - she did not in fact exist. Just before reaching her destination, which had been given to our navigator verbally just before take off, he alerted me to go aft, open the rear bottom escape hatch, attach her package to the static line, get her in position to jump (after also attaching her parachute to the static line). At the navigator’s order to “go”, I pushed the package out and she immediately followed. I can just remember her small white face behind her goggles as she dropped into the night. What courage! She was on a on-way trip, we at least had a chance of getting home! The rear gunner reported seeing both parachutes open but as we were very low and had to fly straight on, that was all we saw. Did she survive? Was she captured by the Germans? I would love to know what happened to this very courageous lady.Andy Bazell
Eileen Bishop RAF HaltonMy grandmother, Eileen Bishop, was stationed at RAF Halton, Buckinghamshire between 1940 and 1945. She may have worked as a catering officer.Andrea
A.C.I/LAC Donald George Porritt MU/MEF 107 B SquadronI have found many photos of my father,- Palestine, Egypt, RAF Halton and Cosford.
I think he may have joined up in Jan 1940? - RAF Malton, in A Squadron initially. He was in Egypt by June 1941. One or two of the photos, have all the names on the back, a group, with names, is dated 28th Aug. Cosford. Block 3. A squadron. 2 Wing. RAF Malton. I will happily attempt to copy some of the photos if needed.
My father was in the RAF after the war, based in Ismalia, by now married, with mum and me as a baby.
He died in 1950, polio, having left the RAF in approx.1949.Mrs Elizabeth Carrick
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