56 Squadron Operations Record Book

56sqn-sm.jpgNo 56 (Reserve) Squadron have kindly provided us with copies of the pages from the Squadron's Operations Record Book detailing daily events whilst based at Newchurch.

Although the document is marked "Secret" is was downgraded for use a number of years ago.

These records cover 1st May to 30th September 1944 and include everything from D-Day (6th June 1944) and the Squadron's first encounter with a doodlebug (13th June 1944) to pilots being taken to neighbouring towns for a bath.

Click on the dates to see the full text from record book page.

26th to 30th April 1944

56 Squadron Typhoons arrive in Newchurch on 28th April along with 3 and 486 Squadrons and note the isolation and abundance of sheep! They learn that they will re-equip with Spitfire IX until more Tempests become available and take over from 501 Sqn who have been doing weather and shipping recces.  Visit by Air Vice Marshal Cole-Hamilton AOC, 85 Group.

1st to 7th May 1944

Spitfires start to arrive. A week of recces in poor weather.  F/O "Tommy" Atkinson goes missing in cloud on 3rd May and F/Sgt "Dicky" Lean is killed on a test flight on 5th May. Visit by Air Vice Marshal H Saunders AOC, 11 Group.

8th to 13th May 1944

F/Sgt Blinkhorn experiences engine problems on a weather recce over Brussels. Trying to limp home he doesn't quite make it and ditches 10 miles from Dover and is picked up 30 mins later by a Walrus. Re-equiping is ongoing with 18 Spitfires and 14 Typhoons. The squadron are flying the Spitfires hard to build up experience. A very busy week of largely uneventful recces.

13th to 20th May 1944

The Squadron note a complete list of Pilots as at 14th May 1944. Another week of bad weather restricts operations and makes tent life less attractive! The CO, S/L G L Sinclair DFC is posted to 85 Group HQ and is replaced by S/L A. R Hall DFC.

20th to 26th May 1944

The weather turns hot and 56 Squadron are reporting sunbathing and sunburn!!  On May 22nd, a very busy day with successful attacks on barges, trains, lorries and trucks in France and Belgium.

27th to 31st May 1944

Several trips this week to Lympne and Hawkinge for baths followed by the cinema in Folkestone. The 28th May is the hottest day so far and 6 pilots are taken to Lympne swimming pool for dinghy drill practice. Speculation about the date of 'D' Day is running high. F/L B Hawkins is posted out to HQ AEAF and F/L K Wigglesworth DFC is posted in from 3Sqn.

1st to 11th June 1944 D-DAY

Poor weather in the run-up to D-Day. "Invasion Fever at White Heat; maps being feverishly studied as to where it will be; pilots not wanting to go on leave for fear of missing the greatest day in history". 6th June 1944, 5:15am : First operation of the day is S/L Hall and P/O MacLaren on weather recce over the beach-head.  During the day the squadron is escorting tugs and gliders to the beach-head. After the excitment of D-Day, more "humbler" duties escorting convoys to the beach-head but bad weather again restricts operations and the pilots become depressed at the lack of activity.

11th to 23rd June 1944  First V1's

The first sighting of a V1 flying bomb on 13th June and the squadron's first successful interception and destruction of a flying bomb on 18th June by F/L P Bateman-Jones. If that wasn't enough it was a busy week escorting more convoys and a host of miscellaneous aircraft across the channel including an Auster believed to be carrying Air Chief Marshals Tedder and Cunningham. First mention of Operation Ramrod. F/L D Cotes-Preedy posted to the squadron.

24th to 30th June 1944 First Tempest

56 Squadron receive their first Tempest on 24th June and the next day four aircraft run short of petrol and are forced to land in France. Convoy escort, convoy patrols, aircraft escort, Ramrod operations and weather recces. First mention of "Noball" targets - V1 launching sites

1st to 4th July 1944

The Squadron lists the pilots as at 1st July. The last Squadron operation with Spitfires takes place on 2nd July escorting Lancasters on a Noball target. First operation with the Tempest is "Diver" patrol. (Diver is now their official name for the V1). Several flying bombs shot down this week. F/O MacLaren flicks one over with his wing.

 

5th to 17th July 1944

F/L P Bateman-Jones posted to 263 Sqn on 8th July. 12th July was the Squadrons most successful day so far in shooting down flying bombs with 5½ destroyed. On Diver duties F/L J Mansfield was seriously injured during a force-landing near Eastbourne after being hit by friendly fire and F/Sgt Wylde ditched and was picked up in his dinghy 20 mins later by high-speed launch.

18th to 28th July 1944

"The Hun appears to be having a day off" on 18th July and a new phrase is used "weather typically Newchurch - dull and very cool". Detailed description of a flying bomb interception by F/L J Ryan (RCAF); damaged after flying through the exploding bomb, he made an emergency landing at Kingsnorth.

29th to 31st July 1944

One of the squadrons most experienced pilots; F/Sgt Drew is killed following a crash at Acrise Place on 29th July.   56 Squadron sum up their first month with Tempests with 1028 hours on Diver patrol.

1st to 7th August 1944

The airfield commander starts a competition for the cleanest flight of aircraft on the wing. The "Marsh Mist" makes its debut. On 2nd August a flying bomb explodes within 100 yards of the Officer's Mess at 8:15am. There were no casualties but it was the first time in the history of the airfield that the entire complement of airfield servicemen were in early for breakfast! F/Sgt Shaw flew the Padre over the Channel where F/L Drew's ashes were scattered. F/L Wigglesworth purchases a secondhand car in Folkestone but has to push it most for the way back to Newchurch! It breaks down again on an evening drive 2 days later.

8th to 14th August 1944

Squadron role as at 8th August. 150 Wing Pilots hold a party at the Royal Oak in Brookland. Visit by Sir Roderick Hall, Air Marshal Commanding ADGB. The Wing is to be retained on anti-diver duties for the time being. Everyone is disappointed at not being able to get into the air war over Normandy. F/L MacLaren buys a car but has no petrol. F/L Wigglesworth is posted to 3Sqn as squadron commander and F/L Moore is posted from 3Sqn to take over "B" Flight.

15th to 24th August 1944

With the intesnity of flying, serviceabilty of the aircraft becomes challenging this week with overspeeding CSU's and fractured Oleo legs. With an aircraft forced landing at Hawkinge with a glycol leak, only five serviceable aircraft were available on 19th August. More bath runs and 3Sqn held a dance at the Majestic Hotel in Folkestone.

25th to 31st August 1944

The squadron recce and identify a Radar Installation site over Cassel on 25th August, they return to attack it three days later with the WingCo W/C Beamont. Then they all go off to a party thrown by Beachy Head GCI (Ground Controlled Interception) Radar Station. F/L P St Quentin from Rhodesia joins the squadron.

1st to 10th September 1944

A period of stormy weather leads to cancelled ops and frayed tempers from tent-life. There is a respite in flying bomb activity as the launch sites are over-run. On September 6th, 150 wing with 3,56 and 486 squadrons, led by the Wing Commander, flew bomber escort to Emden with long-range tanks. It was the first Tempest Wing operation, and the first time Tempests flew over Germany.

10th to 17th September 1944

Another big Wing Op for a dawn attack on V2 rocket bomb installations in Holland. Later, several squadron operations looking for and attacking V2 launch sites near the Hague. On 13th September, S/L Wigglesworth DFC now commanding 3Sqn is killed in a similar operation. S/L Cotes-Preedy takes over from S/L Hall as CO. He leads the squadron to support the "D-Day for the invasion of Holland" on 17th September. Serviceablilty is still an issue. the CO takes the boys to the Bull for a game of darts.

18th to 30th September 1944

The Squadron dance is held on 19th September. The next day, the airfield moved to Matlaske in Norfolk in preparation for the move to Grimbergen in Holland on the 28th.  Due to bad weather, the aircraft only got as far as Manston and were stuck there for 3 days before catching up.