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617 Squadron: Motto: "Apres Moi Le Deluge"
This Squadron was formed in March 1943 specifically to attack the Dams in the Ruhr. The men of this squadron became universally known as "The Dam Busters"
Following the euphoria of their successful attack, 617 were stood down from operations as they had a nucleus of experienced crews, Guy Gibson was grounded sent to North America as in effect an ambassador for Bomber Command, whilst S/L George Holden took over his position. Soon after it was decided that 617 should undertake attacks on special targets. Based at Coningsby, following a disastrous of raid on the Dortmund -Ems Canal on 15/9/43 S/L Holden was lost with 4 original members of Gibson’s Crew.
Mickey Martin was given temporary command of the squadron until 10/11/43 when Leonard Cheshire took over. At that time Cheshire was the youngest Group captain at the age of 25 based at Marston Moor, but his desire to return to operational duties required him to revert to Wing Commander in order to do so.
On 8/1/44 the Squadron moved to 10 miles
from Coningsby to Woodhall Spa with the
officers mess at The Petwood Hotel. Following a highly
successful series of raids that culminated with D-day and its aftermath Cheshire
was stood down on his 100th trip soon after he was awarded his VC and command
was transferred to J.B.Tait.
IX Squadron: Motto: "Per Noctum Volamus" (through the night we fly).
However many aircrew ascribe an unofficial one of "There's always bloody something."
Originally formed on 8/12/14, this squadron on 18/12/39 joined 37 and 149 squadrons took part in the daylight raid on Wilhelmshaven to attack the German fleet. The aircraft, Wellingtons, were attacked by Bf109s and the squadron lost 3 of its 9 aircraft and in the light of these excessive losses the theory of the self defending Bomber was reappraised and daylight operations restricted. Its Battle Honours include every major Campaign and was the only squadron to operate in concert with 617 Squadron on a regular basis, and use the Tallboy Weapon, since whilst practising bombing on Wainfleet Sands the Squadron had acquired a reputation for accuracy, such was often quoted "617 Shoot the Line, but get the Bead from No9!"
Let us acquaint ourselves with some of the aircrew involved:
From 617 Squadron came:
W/C James Brian Tait from South Wales, serves as a Cadet at Cranwell, where amongst other skills he excelled at Fencing, an experienced pilot having flown with 51,35,10 and 78 Squadrons with over 100 ops to his credit as well as the DSO & bar and the DFC. He was C.O. of the squadron from 12/7/44 to 29/12/44 and would be henceforth known as "Tirpitz Tait"
Lieutenant Nick Knilans DSO DFC a former Private Detective from Chicago, who enlisted in the RCAF in October 1941. On his arrival in England asked the reason for his arrival, replied: "To bring Happiness to the children of Europe". He spent 8 Months with 619 squadron at Woodhall Spa billeted in Room 32 of the Petwood Hotel. Winning his DSO following 17 ops, but in particular one raid with both mid and rear gunner hit, one dead and one wounded he carried on and bombed the Target. Technically a member of the USAAF, having transferred in November 1943, he continued to fly with the RAF in order to finish his tour.
Also from 619 sqdn was F/O Malcolm "Mac" Hamilton who joined up on 28/1/40, for training as Wop/AG. Recommended for pilot training he was sent to Lancaster, California in October 1941, he was eventually posted to 619 on September 1943 and was instrumental in 619 winning the 5 Group Bombing trophy 3 months running in January 1944. At the end of his crews Iast tour the crew were asked to join the Pathfinders but the crew expressed a desire to return to Woodhall Spa with 617 and were accepted by Leonard Cheshire just in time for D-Day.
P/O James Castognola DSO&DFC and Bar joined the RAF in March 1941, affectionately known as "Cass". Arriving at East Kirkby in December 1943 joining 57 squadron. Of his first 4 ops involved 3 to Berlin, 8 in total were to be undertaken during his first tour. As a result he and his crew were welcomed to 617 in May 1944. At wars’ end he had undertaken 62 ops. He retired from the RAF in 1961 as a Squadron Leader to enter a Career with BEA flying Comets and Tridents.
From IX squadron came:
Ray Harris DFC: as a 16-year-old in Bournemouth in 1940 he was inspired by the Battle of Britain to join the RAF and become a pilot. Having left school at 14 he underwent extra tuition from his old schoolmaster to increase his understanding of Maths in order to gain acceptance for training as aircrew. After ITW@ RAF Hemswell in Nov 1941, he underwent training in Canada, gaining his wings before his 19th Birthday. Arriving back in Britain he completed his H. C.U. Training @ RAF Winthorpe (now Newark Air Museum) in May 44.
Leading IX Squadron was W/C James Michael Bazin who as a F/L in 607 (County of Durham) Sqdn whilst flying Hurricanes shot down 4 aircraft in the Battle of France. Shot down over advancing enemy lines he evaded capture by commandeering a vehicle and making it to Dunkirk. From 1/9/40 onwards he was based at Tangmere during the Battle of Britain for which he was awarded the D.F.C. for shooting down 9 He 111s.
The Sinking Of The Battleship "Tirpitz"
Squadron's Involved & Background
copyright: Kevin Walford, 2002
Updated: January 2008