420 Squadron North Africa Period
(331 Wing of 205 Group RAF)
May 25, 1943 to October 27, 1943
Vickers Wellington Mark X (Tropicalized)
420 Squadron flew tropicalized Wellington Mark X's from western North Africa bases. The main changes for operation in the desert were sand filters in the carburetor intakes and larger 1,675 hp Bristol Hercules engines. These air cooled radial engines were much preferred over the liquid cooled Merlin engines, in Wellington II's and Halifaxes that were also used in this theatre, which would often overheat and were more affected by dusty conditions. The tropicalized Wellington Mark X were also slightly lighter than the Mark III with an empty weight of 26,325 lbs and when fully loaded was 31,200 lbs. Another quality of the Mark X was its improved performance over other marks to fly on one engine which aided many crews to return to base over the Mediterranean.
Only a few of good references related to this period exist:
Shores, C. F. Mediterranean Air War Vol I and II. (I found these to be well illustrated books regarding the Mediterranean conflict however extremely dry.)
Chappell, F.R. 1992. Wellington Wings: An RAF Intelligence Officer in the Western Desert. Crecy Books Ltd.
Lihou, M. G. 2007. Out of the Italian Night: Wellington Bomber Operations 1944-45. Pen and Sword Aviation, Barnsley, England.
I am indebted to R. O'Hara of Public Record Searches who provided me with page images of the Operational Records Books of 205 RAF Group and 331 Wing for the pertinent time periods.
The Mediterranean Theater:
Bombing operations in and from North Africa were very different from those conducted against "Fortress Europe". For most of the campaign the majority of the bombing missions were carried out by twin-engined bombers like the Wellington. Missions were often shorter because the targets were closer. The targets were often more precisely defined and therefore required more accurate bombing from lower levels, 10,000 feet or less. A technique of "illuminating" the target area with flares so the bomb aimers could see the aiming points was very successful. Many courageous pilots and crews would drop their bomb loads singly. Thus requiring ten or more bomb runs over a target. Often these crews would then fly low over the target so the gunners could strafe the targets. And, more regularly than in the European theater, the targets were in direct support of the ground troops. The massive area bombing armadas of many hundreds of aircraft used by Bomber Command in Europe did not occur in the North African campaign as there simply were not that many bombers in theatre at any given time. Defences such as search lights, flak and nighter fighters, were also usually fewer, compared to "hot" European targets, however the low number of bombers and their low bombing altitude meant the defences available could concentrate their efforts on individual bombers.
One of the most striking differences between the European and North African campaigns was that in North Africa, early in 1942, the squadrons were made mobile and operated from forward landing grounds rather than permanent bases as they did in England. This was necessitated by the often rapidly changing front lines resulting from the advances and retreats of the German and Allied armies in the African theatre. It made little sense for the construction of permanent bases, by either side, in the desert only to have the base regularly bombed out of existence or overrun by opposing forces. It was also of little value to have the bombers flying from permanent bases in Egypt, as they would not have enough range to deliver their bombs to strategic enemy targets. The use of forward refuelling stations eleviated some of this problem but added many logistical issues. Thus squadrons became mobile units, flying from landing grounds scraped out of the desert sand and mud. These temporary bases could be packed up and moved to another landing ground on very short notice.
By May 1943, when 420 Squadron set off for Algiers, the German army had been defeated in North Africa and the focus of strategic bombing efforts were on Sicily and Italy in preparations for the allied invasions.
In late June 1943, 420 Squadron became operational in North Africa as part of 331 Wing. The Wing consisted of 420 Squadron and two other Canadian Squadrons 424 and 425. All were flying Wellingtons. Initially 331 Wing was under direct control of the North African Strategic Air Force (NASAF). 331 Wing worked closely with 205 Group RAF during this period. By July 6 direct control of 331 Wing was shifted to 205 Group.
G/C Dunlap selected two sites for 331 Wing to operate. The Wing HQ, 420 Squadron and 425 Squadron were based on an airstrip (Kairoun:Zina) scraped out of a barren plain some 22 km sw of Kairouan. 424 Squadron was based at (Kairoun:Pavillier), a similarly rough airstrip scraped out of scrubby unused olive groves 15 kilometers away. HQ for 205 Group was at Kairoun.
Conditions were spartan for the airmen. All personnel were accommodated and messed in tents and the men had to often scrounge for all variety of life's "essentials" such as bed frames, cooking/heating stoves, latrine construction materials and the like. Meals were often supplemented by local produce, meats and even wild desert lilies. Flies, scorpions and snakes were in abundance and there was a good chance of contracting malaria, dysentry, jaundice (hepatitis?) and "gypy tummy". Temperatures ranged from below freezing to over 120 F. When it was dry, strong desert winds would blow down tents and cause zero visibility sand storms. Sand and dust would fill every crack and orifice and make breathing and eating difficult. Often rains turned the rudimentary landing strips and surrounding tent cities into a sea of sticky mud. Through all of this the bombers had to be maintained in the open. This was a ground crew's nightmare. But somehow the ground crews and aircrews were able to continue their jobs. In fact the serviceability of the aircraft was often extremely high considering there would be stretches of ops every night for more than a week straight. A testament to the quality and efforts of the ground crews.
(In the squadron records below entries summarized from the 420 Squadron Operational Record Books (ORB's) are in normal type. The actual bomb crew debriefings are indicated in brown bold italic. Information gleaned from the 331 Wing ORB's are indicated in red bold italic and those from 205 Group RAF ORB's are in black bold italic. Supplemental information from various sources and my comments are in green bold italic.)
May 16 to May 27: Arrived at Liverpool at 7:45. Started boarding S.S. Samaria immediately. All on board by 9:30. Quarters were assigned and equipment stowed. Sailed at 20:30 hours for the mouth of the Clyde River, Scotland. Arrived Clyde River at 12:00 hours on May 17 to join convoy. Remained at anchor until May 19 waiting for other ships of the convoy to assemble. On May 19 at 17:50 convoy began sailing to Algiers. Life on board was somewhat boring after the novelty wore off. Thankfully the seas remained relatively calm throughout the voyage. On the evening of May 25 the convoy passed through the channel with Tangier, Morocco to the right. On May 27 at 10:00 hours the ship arrived at the port of Algiers. The unloading of baggage proved unsatisfactory with many kits lost for some time.
Advance parties were detailed to proceed to Kairouran by road in preparation of the main company arriving by train.
Unit had forced march of 4 miles from Algiers port in scorching sun to transit camp at the Agricultural School. Departed Tunis at 21:00, May 27 by train to Bourfarik. Left Bourfarik for Tunis arriving at 8:00. Transport took the men the following morning to Pavillier, Kairouan area. The trip from the UK to Pavillier took 34 days.
At base tents were scattered over large area. All men allotted there quarters. Messes and latrines had to be prepared. Oil and gas stoves had to be constructed from anything that could be found in the dumps. The squadron had a number of cases of dysentery and abdominal cramps. Men are now taking daily salt rations. Aircraft dispersals were set up along with petrol and bomb dumps. "Rations are good-- but oh for a juicy steak." The Padre, F/L Ashford, has been finding grass mats and water jugs for the men. He will hold his services in the "Y" tent.
May 31 to June 3: Twenty Mark X (Tropicalized) Wellingtons left Middleton St. George on May 31, at 9:20 hours bound for Portreath. Accompanying the aircrews were some ground crew as passengers and to assist if required, including my father who flew with the Lewington crew. All were under the command of W/C McIntosh. The bombers left Portreath at 06:15, June 1, for North Africa. Over the Bay of Biscay German fighters spotted three of the Wellingtons and shot down two of them.The following is an excerpt from the book, Bloody Biscay by Chris Goss, which includes notes related to the shooting down of the two Wellingtons. The account states that three Wellingtons were seen on a routine fighter sweep. Wellington HE568 piloted by Sgt Sodero was shot down by F/O Hostmann at 08:05 and the second Wellington, HE961, flown by P/O McCullough, was shot down by Uffz-Unteroffizier Heinz Hommel fifteen minutes later. What follows is Hommel's account of the engagement with the second Wellington HE961: "On the 1st of June 1943, I was flying as Rottenflieger (wingman) to my Staffel Kapitan (squadron leader) Oblt (Flying Officer / 1st Lieutenant) Horstmann. After sighting the Wellington, my Rottenfuhrer (Tactical Leader-Horstmann) climbed over the enemy plane and attacked from the front and above. I had to break off my first attack because of the enemy plane's evasive actions and I had got into it's rear turret's field of fire and got a lot of machine gun fire. During this first action, my plane was hit by one bullet in the port wing. A short time after that, I was able to get into a favourable position and attacked head on from above, watching the cannon and machine gun hits in the enemy plane's starboard wing. From a distance of 100 meters, I saw a tongue of fire coming out from the starboard wing which became even larger. Soon the whole wing was ablaze and then broke off. The plane went into a spin and exploded on hitting the water. I saw the rear gunner bailing out but his parachute was also burning. No survivors were seen, only wreckage." (Thanks to J. Everitt for providing this information.)
The remaining eighteen Wellington's arrived at Ras el Ma airfield in Morocco at 15:00 hours. The planes left here at 13:00 hours on June 2 for Bleida where they arrived at 15:00 hours. Sgt Kennedy overshot the runway causing damage to the plane's tail. This resulted in Sgt Kennedy's plane remaining at Bleida until repairs could be completed. The remaining seventeen left for Telergma and arrived at 20:30. At 15:30 the following day the seventeen planes left for Kairouan to meet the rest of the squadron and prepare for active operations.From June 3 until June 26, 1943 the squadron established their base and began orientation and training flights to prepare for operations.
June 26: After a long lay off to get organized ops came through for five aircraft. The aircraft were bombed up and took off to attack landing ground at Sciacca, Sicily. The attack was successful with good bomb pictures taken. Bombing between 22:42 and 23:35. Visibility was good with slight haze over target. Four aircraft attacked this target. One aircraft had a hang up of 9 X 500 general purpose bombs. Flak over target fairly accurate with search lights working with night fighters. One aircraft bombed alternate target. 331 Wing was on ops for the first time in theater. 14 ac were sent to attack Sicilian airfields. 15 ac from 231 and 236 Wings were sent to attack the Naples Harbour and marshalling yards. The planes dropped 29 tons of bombs in the target area along with 180000 nickels. A warning was received from North African Strategic Air Force (NASAF) that enemy paratroopers may attack the aerodromes during the night of June 28.
June 27: Op through for thirteen aircraft to bomb marshalling yards and ferries at San Giovanni, Italy. One returned early. Take off time was ~22:28. Bombing time ~1:15 from 7500 to 10000 feet. Good visibility. Flares used to light target aided crews in identifying target. Defences consisted of inaccurate flak, search lights and barrage of light flak. A dummy fire appeared to be set 3 miles southeast of the target. Attack considered successful. One aircraft, HE370, is missing (P/O Collins, F/O Wilson, P/O tucker, P/O Leroux and P/O Foster). Target was San Giovanni for 60 ac from 231, 236, 330 and 331 Wings. 50 tons of bombs were dropped as well as knickels. A signal from RAF Headquarters Middle East that 330 and 331 Wings would be under contol of 205 Group while the group was ultimately under control of NASAF. (This was approved officially on July 6, 1943.)
June 28: Squadron stand down. Aircrew went to Sousse for a swim. 76 ac from 231, 236, 330 and 331 Wings were sent to Messina to attack the ferry and marshalling yards. 50 tons of bombs were dropped. An ac each from 104 and 70 Squadrons did not return.
June 29: Ops through for twelve aircraft to attack Messina, Sicily. Only seven were able to take off due to runway change and overheating. Flak was not accurate over target. Bombing was successful. Take off time was ~21:55. Crews attacked at ~00:20 from 7000 to 9000 feet. Visibility was hazy. The defences were mostly inaccurate flak that exploded above the planes and some search lights. Crews considered it should be a fairly successful attack. Seventy-two Wellingtons were detailed to attack Messina ferry and marshalling yards but only 25 ac reportedly attacked the target. 44 tons of bombs in the target area although illumination was scattered. No paratrooper attack occurred.
June 30: Ops through for eleven aircraft to attack Cagliari, Italy. 4000 lb cookies were seen to hit in the vicinity of the railway station. Flak over target not accurate. Bombing considered good. The crews took off ~ 22:40 and bombed ~01:15 from 5000 to 11000 feet with the aid of flares. Visibility was good with only a few clouds. Bomb loads included several 4,000 pound cookies. Bombs landed in the vicinity of the railway station and barracks with good accuracy. Several fires including one in dock area were observed. Defences were light with inaccurate flak. One search light. The barracks and railway station at Cagliari was targeted by 57 ac. 20 ac dropped 42 tons of bombs on the target area. Two-thirds of the illuminating ac did not reach the target so lighting was reduced. Crews felt they had successfully attacked the target. All crews returned safely.
July 1, 1943: Squadron stand down. Aircrew went for swim at Sousse. YMCA representative K. McAdam arranged for the daily transport of 30 ground crew to Sousse leaving at 9:00 returning at 19:00.Weather was hot and clear. A mobile bath arrived to provide hot showers to the men. It is rotated through the squadrons. Thirty men from each squadron were transported to Sousse for a swim. NASAF detailed 30 aircraft for Palermo and 20 aircraft for Cagliari. Aircraft from 231, 236, 330 and 331 Wings attacked Palermo with 40 tons of bombs. All the aircraft returned safely. A signal that parachutists may attack overnight heightened security around the landing zones.
July 2: Ops through for nine aircraft to attack Olbia, Italy. All aircraft attacked target with good results. Bombers took off at ~20:53 and were bombing the target by 23:40. Visibility was good with partly cloudy skies and cloud tops to 7000 feet. The crews bombed from 4700 to 9400 feet visually with aid from flares dropped by illuminator. Several large bomb bursts observed. One explosion had flames shooting up to 500 feet suggesting an arsenal may have been hit. Little defensive flak. Crews reported it as a successful attack. A stock of tents was taken so that they could be divided equally among the squadrons. The shower unit moved to 424 Squadron. Trapani and Olbia were targeted by 20 and 30 aircraft respectivley. 17 ac were sent from 331 Wing. One plane from 70 Squadron failed to return.
July 3: Ops through for three aircraft to drop nickels over Rome and bomb Lido Di Roma. One aircraft returned to base safely. One crashed near Bizerta with no injuries to the crew. The other landed at 236 Wing. Another six aircraft were to attack the railway yards at Trapani. One returned early due to a loose petrol flap. Others were successful, with good visibility against ineffective light flak. Nickelling planes took off ~21:28 and proceeded to drop nickels at 00:50 from 5000 feet. Each plane dropped 76 packages. Coastal defences of light and heavy flak were encountered. The bombers took off ~21:00. HE259 flown by Sgt Mason had to return early. The other crews bombed the primary target ~22:33 from 4000 to 10000 feet. The visibility was good and flares enabled the crews to visually see the target. Defences were search lights and limited amount of poorly aimed heavy flak. A very hot windy day with temperatures in the shade of a Wellington reached 128 F and in the sun 152 F. NASAF asked for 35 ac to attack Trapani and 25 to attack Cagliari. Due to poor weather forecasts the ac to attack Cagliari were reassigned to attack Trapani. 43 tons of bombs were dropped with good effect on the target.
July 4: Squadron stand down. Swimming at Sousse. "Morale is high - only it is ruddy hot." Sickness has improved with just nine reported sick. Five new crews arrived. A 420 Wellington caught fire in dispersal just before midnight and was completely destroyed. An investigation as to the cause is being carried out. This night two groups of 30 bombers were to attack Catania and Marsala. Later the target was switched for all ac to attack the Catania harbour and Villacidro aerodrome. The raid on the aerodrome was to prevent attacks on allied convoys. Bombing at Catania was through 7/10's cloud. The attack on the aerodrome at Villacidro was not very successful due to darkness and haze. Only one crew reported identified the target.
July 5: Ops through for 10 aircraft to attack the Gerbini aerodrome in Sicily. One aircraft at dispersal caught fire for unknown reason. Planes took off ~01:20 loaded with a total of 170x250 lb bombs. Crews bombed from 7000 to 10000 feet between 3:17 to 4:08. Visibility reduced by haze and cloud. Augusta was located and used for DR run. Predicted heavy flak on coast and some in the target area. Attack likely not successful due to poor visibility. Raids of 40 ac on Marsala and 20 on Cagliari by NASAF were altered to an attack of 60 aircraft on Gerbini aerodromes. The attacks were to be spread over a four hour period. Due to bad weather over the target the number of sorties was reduced to 30. Crews were not able to identify targets. 14 tons of bombs were dropped but the damage nor accuracy could not be assessed. An aircraft from 40 Squadron was lost.
July 6: Ten aircraft detailed to attack Catania aerodrome in Sicily. Little opposition. Attack successful. 424 Squadron had three kites blow up. Take off time was ~21:00. Crews bombed shortly after 23:00 hours. Bombing height from 1000 to 8000 feet. Target visually identified with the aid of flares. Target had light flak but near Catinia was heavy flak and six searchlights. IFF was successfully used on search lights. Attack should be successful. A bombed up Wellington from 424 Squadron blew up in dispersal about 20:30 hours. The explosion set off many grass fires. A nearby Wellington also caught fire and was burned out. The remaining aircraft in the vicinity were taxied out of harm's way. All men turned out to put out the grass fires. All of this resulted in one man killed, two others mortally wounded and a number of others were injured. A large force of over 60 aircraft was sent to various targets. 331 Wing provided 16 aircraft. A warning was issued to Groups to prepare for paratroop attacks. A signal was received that 330 and 331 Wings were to come under the direct control of 205 Group.
July 7: In the early morning guards protecting the petrol dumps had a spot light turned on them from a passing train and were fired upon by automatic rifles. The three casualties from the aircraft explosions at 424 Squadron were buried with Padre Ashford presiding. The bodies had to be buried in blankets as no coffins were available. 331 Wing provided 27 planes for an attack on Catinia which was considered a success by the crews.
July 8: The Gerbini aerodrome was again attacked by seven aircraft from the squadron. Haze over target. Bombers encountered accurate flak of all types. Bombers took off from base at ~23:25. Crews bombed the target at ~23:25 from 4000 to 10000 feet. Broken cloud and hase were encountered over the target. Flares were used to identify the aiming point. Flak of all types was relatively accurate in the target area. Night fighters were also noted. Crews felt it was a good bombing raid. The mobile bath unit arrived at Wing and men HQ, 420 and 425 Squadrons had their "semi-monthly" hot water bath. Royal Engineers are building a permanent shower for the camp using an old Arab well. Gerbini was attacked by 30 planes, 26 from 331 Wing. Due to conditions only 21 crews attacked the estimated position of the target.
July 9: Ops through for twelve aircraft to attack Syracuse and Catania. P/O Ardis was assigned a 4000 lb cookie and to bomb the barracks and rail station at Syracuse from low altitude. His attack was accurate. Other bombers attacked the other targets successfully. An aircraft, HE965 flown by Sgt Wingham operated Mandrel to effectively jam the RDF Station on the Sicillian coast. The bombers going to Syracuse took off ~ 00:10. They bombed the primary target at 02:25 from 4000 to 9000 feet. Visibility was good. Crews saw three unknown aircraft in the target area. Defences were nil. Most seemed to be focussed on ships that were bombarding the shore area. Crews considered it a very accurate attack. The planes attacking Catania took off ~20:30 and bombed at ~23:00. Crews bombed from 4500 to 10000 feet. Some reasonably accurate heavy flak and light flak over target. Crews saw many barges and ships along the coast. Crews considered the attack was very successful. The movie "Invisible Agent" was loaned to Wing by the Americans as they have no projector. Ken McAdam will show the movie to the Americans in return. Two "Pye" radios have arrived and are being loaned out to the squadrons. At 20:30 hours 200 DC3's in formation flew overhead marking the start of the invasion of Sicily. Wellingtons of the Wing took part in attacks on Syracuse and Augusta. They were also involved in dusk to dawn jamming flights along the coast of Sicily to prevent Axis radar from picking up the invasion force. A total of 55 aircraft were requested by NASAF to attack Syracuse and a further 38 to attack Catania military installations and marshalling yards. Another 6 aircraft from 331 Wing were to operate Mandrel off the coast. Bostons were to also do a dummy paratroop drop in the Catania area. Two aircraft were lost in the operations.
July 10: Stand down. Many men went to Sousse for a swim. Movie in Y tent. Maj. Hunter of USAAF attached 330 Wing will show two movies weekly at 331 and 330 Wings. The first movie shown was Charley's Aunt. While the film was being shown a 424 Squadron Wellington blew up on take off killing the entire crew. The allies landed on the beaches of Sicily. Montgomery commanded the landing of the British 8th Army on the southeast side of the island while the US 7th Army under the direction of G. Patton landed on the south. About six weeks later Sicily was under Allied control. A continued threat of paratroopers was signalled to all wings. A maximum effort was required by NASAF to support the invasion. The operation was code named "Snowboots". Two attacks are scheduled against Augusta of 40 bombers in two waves to distract the defences away from airborne landings. Another attack against Catania of 62 was also planned again to act as a decoy to think the invasion was occurring there. A further attack of twenty bombers was planned against the Gerbini aerodromes and satellites was to be carried out by 331 Wing. At 18:55 Group was informed that "Snowboots" was postponed for 24 hours. The Gerbini attack by 331 Wing went ahead as scheduled and was considered successful although only 15 bombers were able to take off due to the accident at 424 Squadron.
July 11: Stand down. Church services, a swim at Sousse and a movie. The five crewman killed in last night's explosion were buried today with Padre Laplante officiating. NASAF signalled all wings that they should be at the ready with bombers loaded to assist undertake "Snowboots" based on the orders of battle set out on July 10.At 17:30 Group was informed "Snowboots" again postponed but attacks were required on alternative targets. 331 Wing was to sent 10 bombers to Trapani and the same number to Monte Covino Ravella. Attacks against Trapani were to occur prior to a naval bombardment that was to commence at 01:00 hours. Crews were warned to out of the target area by that time or they could be shot at by the navy. The actual attack on Trapani was made by five bombers successfully. Five bombers from 331 Wing also attacked Marsala. The attack on Monte Corvino aerodrome was made by 26 bombers. It was very successful. A total of 111 tons of bombs were dropped on four targets this night.
July 12: Ops through for thirteen aircraft to attack Enna, Sicily. All crews attacked target against no opposition. Group Captain Dunlap relayed a message to the squadron from Major-General Doolittle thanking them for a job well done. Take off time was ~21:00. The crews used the bright moon and flares to identify the aiming point. Bombs were dropped from 23:03 to 23:59 from a height of 4500 to 7000 feet. No defences of any mention other than a few dummy fires. Crews were able to observe their bomb bursts and saw resulting large fires in the area. A fire in the sky at 00:52 which thought to be an exploding aircraft in the vicinity of Cape Bon. Crews thought the attack was successful. Twenty-five Arabs have been hired to dig slit trenches and do heavy lifting jobs in the bomb and petrol dumps. The Wing Officer's, Senior NCO's and Airmen's Mess is almost complete. Of the 56 Wellingtons on base 52 are serviceable. A congratulatory message of thanks for the Wing's bombing effort from Major General Doolittle was read to all men. Ops continue almost on a nightly basis for the Wing. Twenty-five bombers from 331 Wing were sent to Enna while 20 were sent from 330 Wing to Caltanisetta. Both operations were considered successful with many fires and explosions reported. 78 tons of bombs were dropped on the two targets. All crews returned safely.
July 13: Messina, Sicily was attacked by thirteen aircraft from the squadron. The crews accurately attacked the docks and railway yards. Visibility was good. Defences of all types of flak accurate. Take off time for the bombers was ~21:08. Crews bombed the primary target for half an hour starting at 23:28. Bombing height was from 6500 to 10000 feet. Crews were able to identify the target visually. Crews reported bombing was concentrated on the rail yards and dock area. Bombing resulted in a large fire visible for 20 miles. Defences included heavy flak, small amount of light flak, search lights and smoke screens. All were not effective. Two aircraft were seen to go down in flames around the target area. A good bombing attack. The showers lasted only 30 minutes before the tank supports failed. The was a series of discussions of what operations would be for the night. Confusion appeared to reign in the upper echelons of command as to the target(s) and order of battle. "Snowboots" was considered on for tonight by some while others considered it cancelled. It was finally decided to send 46 bombers from 330 and 331 Wings to attack Messina. The attack was successful although one plane from each wing was reported missing.
July 14: Stand down. Swimming excursion. Weather very hot. Arrangements have been made to have the Mobile Bath Unit visit the Wing on Thursdays and Fridays. The targets for 205 Group as now changed to locations in Italy that include aerodromes, railways and docks. This night half the force was detailed to attack the airfields of Capochino and Pomiglinao and the other half to bomb the Naples docks. 331 Wing was delegated to attack Naples with 30 bombers as part of a force of 46. 44 bombers succeeded in attacking the Naples docks through a smoke screen that was set up by the defenders. Some bombs bursts were seen striking to the west of the dock yards. All crews returned safely. A signal was received from General Doolittle thanking the Group for its efforts during the past few days.
July 15: Sixteen aircraft were spread over three targets. Eleven were sent to San Giovanni, four to Reggio and one to Messina. One bomber detailed to attack San Giovanni returned early. Attacks considered successful. Reggio: Take off was ~20:10. Crews were able to visually identify the target and watch their bombs burst in the target area. Defences not effective. Flak observed at the airfield possibly firing at planes making low level attacks. San Giovanni: Planes took off ~20:10. Crews bombed from 6200 to 10000 feet. Crews were able to see the target and their bombs bursting near the aiming point. Defences were ineffective. Messina: Sgt Mason and crew flew He259. Take off time was 20:05. The crew bombed the target from 9000 feet at 23:25. The bomber was coned for 5 minutes over the target. Eventually the crew released the bombs to escape. Predicted heavy flak over target was accurate. Crew reported southeastern part of Messina was in flames. The shower rebuilding was completed and they were used extensively. The Mess at Wing HQ started cooking meals. RAF 205 Group has taken over control of the Wing's operations. The Wellingtons of 331 Wing were sent to three different targets. Eight were, as part of a group of 22 bombers, Reggio harbour. Twenty-two from 331 Wing and four from 330 Wing attacked San Giovanni. Both attacks were considered very successful with many bursts in the target area and fires started. All crews returned safely.
July 16: Ops through for sixteen aircraft to bomb the aerodrome at Capodichino, Italy. Flak was accurate. Flak hit one plane injuring the ba F/O Burk. Large fires were observed in the dock areas of Naples. Take off time was ~20:40. Crews attacked the primary target for almost 30 minutes beginning at 23:30. Crews bombed from 3500 to 11500 feet in good visibility with some haze. The target was seen with the aid of flares and the bright moon. Bombs were seen to burst in the target area around the buildings of the airport. A number of crews witnessed planes on the ground on fire. Defences were moderate heavy flak and slight light flak and some search lights that were not coordinating with the guns. HE396 flown by Sgt Kennedy was damaged by flak over the target. The bomb aimer, P/O Burk was slightly injured by the flak. The hydraulics of the plane were damaged. On landing a tire blew causing the plane to crash slightly injuring the wireless operator, Sgt Kusenko. Crews reported a large explosion seen in the direction of the Naples dock area. The first Officer's Mess meeting was held with elections for the executive. Straw mats were purchased to lay on the floor of the tent. Lumber was purchased to make furniture and a slab of marble was found to use as a bar top. A school in Monastir has been requisitioned as rest centre for air and ground crew 48 hour passes. The first leave of 120 men will be on July 19. 205 Group was charged with distributing 1,000,000 Churchill-Roosevelt message propaganda nickels over Rome, Naples and major towns in Sicily. Twenty-eight bombers from 331 Wing were to attack the airfield at Capodichino. The raid proved very successful with many bomb bursts seen striking the buildings, parked airplanes and runways. A signal arrived at Group that NASAF would require a total effort for the night of July 19/20 and that 70 aircraft would be needed every night until then.
July 17: Ops through for 2 aircraft to attack the Monte Corvino aerodrome. Haze limited visibility over target but many fires started which appeared to be aircraft. Attack considered successful. The two bombers took off at 21:00 loaded with 18x250 each. They attacked at 00:10 and 00:20 from 7000 feet. Aiming point was identified in spite of ground haze. Crews observed their bombs falling in the vicinity of the buildings and on the landing grounds. A number of fires on the ground are thought to be aircraft burning. Raid considered successful. In the past two weeks the Wing has dropped 600 tons of bombs. Unfortunately, three tons also exploded on our own aerodromes. A newly arrived airman in 424 Squadron has the Wing's first case of malaria. NASAF requested 50% of Groups bombers to be sent to Monte Covino and Pomigliano. 1,000,000 nickels were to be dropped on Naples. 331 Wing contributed 30 bombers to the attack on Monet Corvino airfields. Target identification was difficult due to cloud and haze but many bomb bursts were seen through out the aerodrome and many fires were started. In other bombing missions a Wellington from 424 Squadron crashed 45 miles north of Kairouan killing two of the crew.
July 18: Stand down. Movie at the YMCA. Church service held with good attendance. A mobile bath comes to the squadron every Thursday. Hot temperatures with dessert winds (Sirocco winds). Water is now being trucked in from Kairoun. A rest camp is being setup at Monistair for air crew to relax on short leaves of 48 hours. Officers mess obtained a radio. Morale is high. Stand down for entire Wing. A letter was sent requesting that RAF postings to the Wing be cancelled so that promotions could be from within and if more personnel are needed they come from Canadian units in the UK in order to keep the Wing all-Canadian. Group received notice from NASAF that the entire force be stood down for July 18/19 other than four planes to go on a nickel run to release "Citizens of Rome" nickels over Rome.
July 19: Sixteen aircraft attacked the Capodichino aerodrome. HE572 flown by F/O Billingham returned early. Opposition was stronger than the previous attack including active search lights, half the planes were coned intermittently, and night fighters. Target was covered in haze. Take off time was ~21:40. The crews bombed ~00:30 from 6300 to 9000 feet. Haze made it difficult to identify target and aiming point. Search lights were active and accurate with almost half the bombers being coned at some time. The search lights were cooperating with night fighters. Some night fighters were also using head lights. Heavy and light flak were also being used. A dummy air field appeared to be flashing landing lights training to lure the bombers away from target. A number of fires were seen in the target area. NASAF initially requested for a normal effort to attack Aquino airfield. However this was changed to a maximum effort. Group responded that this was an inordinate number of bombers for one aerodrome and asked for a number of alternate targets. NASAF added only Capodinchino to the target list. 56 bombers were sent to Capodichino. 51 were assigned from 331 Wing. The attack was designed to come in two waves. In all 41 bombers attacked the target. Owing to haze the success of the Capodichino raid is uncertain. 75 tons of bombs were released over the target resulting in a few fires started. All crews returned safely.
July 20: Ops through for 15 bombers to attack marshalling yards at Naples. One, HE572, was an early return due to intercom malfunction. Attack was successful against limited opposition. Nickels were also dropped. Take off was ~23:10. Crews bombed ~02:10. Target was easily visible and crews saw bombs bursting in a concentrated pattern around aiming point. Heavy flak was moderate and accurate. Light flak and search lights were also active. The Group received a request from NASAF for our force to be split in half for the marshalling yards at Naples and the Crotone airfield. 331 Wing sent 23 Wellingtons to Naples. 56 tons of bombs plus 1000,000's of nickels were dropped by 31 bombers on Naples in good weather. Bomb bursts were seen throughout the harbour docks and marshalling areas. A fire was started by the attack. No crew losses were reported.
July 21: Ops through for eleven to attack the aerodrome at Capodichino. The attack was not successful due to weather conditions. Flak was active at target. Nickels dropped over Naples. One aircraft reported as missing and another diverted to another base. Take off time was ~23:22. Crews bombed through broken cloud to overcast, cloud tops to 5000 feet, at ~02:50. The target area was visible intermittently through the clouds. Most crews bombed on inaccurate flares and flak positions and using DR runs. Defences included search lights cooperating with heavy flak. Nickel packages of "Foglio Volante" #3 were dropped over Naples. Wellington HE334 pilot F/O RC East, F/O JA Melrose, F/O LH Walton, P/O EB McCutcheon, Sgt RC McLellan reported missing. All were killed. The aircraft missing over Naples was found to have ditched. Orders came through for another split attack. This time the targets were Salerno railway and Capodichino aerodrome. 24 bombers from 331 Wing and 8 from 330 Wing were assigned to the Capodichino raid. On take off a 420 bomber veered off the runway putting out the flare path so six bombers behind it could not take off. 23 bombers reached the target which was covered by 50% cloud making it difficult for the crews to identify the target area. 41 tons of bombs were dropped. Most of the crews bombed on dead reckoning. Only two claimed to have visually identified the target. A 420 Squadron crew piloted by F/O East has not been heard from since take off.
July 22: Stand down. Ground crew went for a swim at Sousee. Aircrews went to lectures. The local Arabs are trespassing on the camp and measures are being taken to eliminate this. Airmen are receiving extra ration of eggs. Weather hot. No malaria cases reported. Baseball teams have been organized. A second malaria case has been reported from 424 Squadron. A request came through for an attack of Naples marshalling yard and on Capocichino. Later the railway junction at Salerno and Pratica Di Mare airfield were added. 24 aircraft from 331 Wing along with 14 from 236 Wing were assigned to the Salerno target. 33 bombers succeeded in dropping over 53 tons of bombs through out the target area causing damage to the rail lines and a bridge. Almost 300,000 nickels were also dropped over the target.
July 23: Ops through to attack San Giovanni for thirteen aircraft. One, HE259 flown by Sgt Mason returned early due to his illness. Flares were used to illuminate the target area for bombing. Effort good against light and heavy flak defences. One reported missing. Take off time ~20:30. The crews started bombing the primary target at 01:30 and continued bombing for 55 minutes. The attacks were from 5000 to 12000 feet in good visibility and with the aid of flares to identify the aiming points. HE476 flown by S/Ldr McCarthy acted as illuminator. Crews reported good concentration of bomb bursts near the aiming point and one large explosion and fire visible from 40 miles away on the return flight. Light flak was moderate. Crews speculate there was a flak train on a siding in the target area. Moderate heavy flak encountered working cooperation with search lights. A naval operation bombarding the shore area at Trapani was seen plus fires in the Palermo area. HE461 flown by F/O AS Bellingham and crew of F/O RF Coulson, Sgt RN Barlow, Sgt AS Hopping, Sgt S Harrison reported missing. All were killed. The starboard engine of a 425 Wellington caught fire due to a backfire. No extinguishers were nearby so the men tried to put the flames out with tarps. They almost succeeded when the dinghy popped out and knocked the men off the wing. The fire spread and destroyed the plane. The incident is to be investigated. NASAF ordered attacks on the Salerno rail junction again and the docks at San Giovanni. The raid on Salerno was to be mostly done with incendiaries due to intelligence reports of a number of tanker rail cars in the yards. 331 and 236 Wings were assigned to Salerno. The attack was considered successful by the crews and three large fires were reported. Over 250,000 nickels were released over the target as well.
July 24: Ops through but later cancelled. An ENSA show was planned for tonight but rains, high winds and a thunderstorm cancelled the show. "Very disappointed! Five lovely ladies, too!--and white!" Ops were cancelled because the aerodrome was u/s. The winds blew down the HQ Mess tent and other tents. A malaria case has been confirmed in 420 squadron. 205 was ordered to attack the marshalling yards at Naples. Heavy thunderstorms hit the area at 16:30 essentially making all the airstrips for the Group u/s.
July 25: Stand down. Both church services well attended. Movie was shown in the evening. Most of the camp has gone to Sousse for swimming. 205 Group stand down.
July 26: Monte Corvino Ravelia aerodrome was attacked by twelve aircraft. Weather was good. Defences consisted of light flak. Target illumination with flares was again successfully used. Op successful. Take off time 20:30. Crews bombed target for about 30 minutes begining at 23:00. Crews dropped bombs from 4500 to 7000 feet. Visibility was good over the target and most saw their bombs burst in the target area. No defensive activity reported. NASAF requested attacks on the Naples rail yards and the Capodichino and Monte Corvino Ravelia air fields. 331 Wing contributed 24 bombers to the 40 that were assigned to the Monte Corvino Ravelia aerodrome. 39 succeeded in attacking the target. Crews reported many bomb bursts seen across the airfield. Two 4000 lb cookies were seen to fall into buildings. A total of 65 tons of bombs were dropped on what was considered a successful raid. All crews safely returned.
July 27: Trips were made to Sousee. 420 beat 424 Squadron 12 to 6 in baseball. A stand down. A group of RAF professional entertainers gave a concert at Kairouan Zina aerdrome. The show was enjoyed by all who attended. NASAF ordered an attack on Monte Corvino aerodrome. These were later cancelled due to forecast bad weather on the routes and over the targets.
July 28: Sheihk Amor Bouguerra Sheich du Sidi Amar Ben Haddjela Caidat Kairoaun and his nephew visited G/C Dunlap. The sheikh presented 9 live chickens, a sheep and seven dozen eggs to the G/C. A 424 Wellington crashed right after takeoff. The bombs exploded killing all the crew. NASAF ordered an attack on Capodichino and Monte Corvino aerodromes and a nickelling run over Naples. 18 bombers from 331 Wing were joined by 12 from 236 wing to attack Capocichino. Weather was forecast to be poor over the targets and a final decision to attack was not given until 22:45. Four planes were unable to take off from 424 Squadron after a bomber flown by P/O Heden blew up as it was taking off killing all the crew all blocking the runway. Weather conditions over the target were cloudy. Most crews dropped their bombs by dead reckoning using Vesuvious as the starting point. 31 tons of bombs were dropped by the 21 planes with likely not much success.
July 29: Nothing to report. Stand down of Group ordered by NASAF in preparation for over 60 bombers required for the next night.
July 30: Nothing to report. NSASF changed its orders to just nickelling runs for four aircraft.July 31: Four aircraft flew to a base close to Tunis to pick up nickels. Then two were to act as reserves while the other two dropped the nickels over Rome and Naples. One of the stand by planes landed hard and needed repairs. The nickels were dropped successfully although pinpointing the drop sites was difficult due to heavy haze. Nickels were dropped from 7000 and 10000 feet. GC Dunlap, W/C St Pierre, S/L Heault and Padre Ashford visited the Shiekh. NASAF requested 20 bombers to attack Adrano from evening to morning to create a nuisance on the battle field. A further two aircraft were detailed to drop nickels over Rome and Naples. 331 Wing was involved in nickelling missions. Two aircraft picked up nickels from El Alouina and dropped over 700,000 nickels between the two targets.
August 1, 1943: Stand down. Many went swimming. It is very hot and dusty. A Hurricane ac arrived today. It is to be used for Wing communications. NASAF changed targets through the day and then requested 50 bombers against Naples and 24 against Randazzo with the alternate target of Milazzo. Bombers from 331 Wing were sent to Randazzo. Only 14 crews claimed to have bombed the target due to hazy causing ground identification difficult. 28 tons of bombs were scattered over the town and vicinity. Five crews bombed Milazzo with 8 tons of bombs. No results were observed. One crew from 424 squadron was reported missing.
August 2, 1943: Ops through for twelve aircraft to attack the Naples marshalling yards. One returned early the rest were successful in bombing primary target through a light haze. The opposition was much reduced from previous attacks with only light ineffective flak. The bombing was successful. Bomb loads included a mix of 500 lb bombs plus SBC (8x30)'s. Take off time for bombers was ~19:00. HE421 flown by W/C McIntosh returned early with port engine trouble. Visibility was good and target identified with the aid of flares. S/Ldr Lewington in HE520 acted as illuminator. Crews bombed ~22:05 from 7500 to 10000 feet. Crews reported dock area and yards burning. Some search lights were active and coned a couple of aircraft. Considered a good raid. 70 bombers were requested to attack the marshalling grounds at Naples in an all out attack at 2200 hours. 24 planes were assigned the task from 331 Wing. Good weather conditions and excellent flare illumnation enabled all crews to identify the target area. 69 bombers dropped 94 tons of bombs and incendaries on the dock area. Many buildings and the sea plane base were reported on fire. A very successful raid. All crews returned to base but on landing a 331 plane blew a tire and veered into the flare path.
August 3: Seventeen were detailed to attack San Paolo, Italy. One aircraft did not take off. All successfully bombed target and took pictures of bombing. Good visibility. Target illumination was used to identify target for bomb aimers. Bomb loads were 9x500. DF686 and LN431 carried a 4000 lb cookies. Take off time was ~19:10. The illuminators, HE969 (Sgt Easson) and HE476 (S/Ldr McCarthy) dropped their flares at 22:12 from 10000 feet. Crews bombed the marshalling yards about eight minutes later. Many saw their bombs explode with good effect. Some crews saw a number of ships just off the coast. Crew felt it was a good attack. The Code and Cypher section received a "X" Mk II machine. Unfortunately the drums are incorrect so the section is still not operational. The signals must still be routed through 330 Wing RAF.
August 4: Ten aircraft bombed up with "500 pounders", one with 4000 lb cookie. Target was Messina, Sicily in aid of the ground troops. One did not take off. Illumination flares again made target identification easy. Defences were ineffective light flak. The attack was successful. Bomb loads were mostly 9x500 but three carried 4000 cookies. Take off time ~19:27. There was patchy cloud and haze over the target but visibility was good for most crews. Flares aided in identifying the aiming point. Crews bombed at ~22:03 from 8000-10000 feet. The crews saw their bomb bursts throughout the target area. The target was defended by relatively ineffective heavy flak and search lights. HE434 flown by P/O Ardis was holed in the cockpit by flak shrapnel. The RCAF ensign has been erected on a flagpole at 331 Wing HQ. This could be the first time it has flown in Northwest Africa and the first time from an operational air base in Africa. NASAF requested a nickel operation involving several drops over several cities. It also requested 60 bombers to attack the marshalling yards and docks at Messina and 40 aircraft to raid the docks at Battipaglia. Air crews were warned to target carefully and not bomb anything out of the target area as it would most likely be friendly. 331 Wing was detailed to attack Messina with 31 planes and the remainder to be made up by 236 Wing. A total of 57 crews bombed Messina with over 97 tons of bombs. Good illumination resulted in a successful attack with reports of many fires in the target zone started. All the crews returned safely.
August 5: Ops through for a dozen aircraft to attack the beaches and area near Messina/Capa Peloro. One did not take off. The target was found with the aid of flares through cloud and haze. Crews observed many fires. Bomb loads consisted of 14X250 plus 16x40. Take off time ~23:50. Crews bombed their assigned targets beginning ~02:20 and lasting for about an hour. Bombing heights ranged from 5000 to 8000 feet. Defences were slight. Most crews felt the raids were successful. G/C Griffiths of NASAF asked the commanding officers if it were possible to increase the sortie number to over 70 per night for an extended period of time. The response was that it may be possible to achieve 90 sorties per night. A request came through for 100 bombers to attack in waves through the night the beach areas between of Messina and Peloro to inhibit the barge evacuation of troops and material from Sicily. 331 Wing contributed 30 (?) bombers to the effort. Routing of the bomber stream was complicated by the need to avoid Beaufighter activity in the Palermo area and Allied naval forces navigating along the coast of Sicily. Clouds and haze made it difficult to locate the targets and nothing was seen on the beaches 157 tons of bombs were dropped with no visible results possible. Four crews were lost from other wings this night.
August 6: Seven bombers were detailed to attack the marshalling yards at Naples. The objective was successfully achieved with crews observing bomb bursts in the yards. Heavy flak was bursting to 14,000 feet. Light flak to 10,000 feet. Search lights were operating in conjunction with the flak. Four bombers carried 4000 lb cookies and two 9x500. One, HE476 flown by S/Ldr McCarthy, acted as illuminator. Take off times were around ~18:48. Crews bombed from 8000 to 10000 feet at ~22:03. Most saw explosions and fires in the target area. Defences of both heavy and light flak and search lights active and effective. A couple of crews observed a single engined fighter and possibly a JU88 or Beaufighter. Neither were engaged. General Doolittle and General Partridge (NASAF) flew to Group in Lightning fighters. They visited Group HQ and then flew over to 331 Wing. NASAF requested 45 bombers to attack the Cape Peloro/Messina beaches and 45 to raid the marshalling yards at Naples. 331 Wing contributed 30 Wellingtons and 231 Wing 20 to the attack on Naples. Routing was again difficult due an exclusion zone in an area from Mariitimo-Ustica-Cefalu and Agrigento. Six illuminator aircraft provided excellent target location at Naples which was attacked by 49 bombers. A total of 92 tons of bombs fell on the target area causing at least 4 fires and one very large explosion. Two crews were lost in the attack on Naples. One from 425 Squadron (all killed) and one from 70 squadron. The latter bomber crashed into the sea near Cape Maritiimo. One crew member was rescued by a mine-sweeper.
August 7: Ops through for ten aircraft to attack Scaletta and Cape Barbi Sicily. Five planes were detailed to each. One returned early due u/s propeller speed control. The rest were successful. Visibility was good and crews reported seeing bomb bursts, exploding buildings and fires. No flak reported. The bombers were loaded with 6x500 plus 6x250 or 6SBC(8x40). Take off time was ~20:45. HE520 returned early due to u/s engine. The rest of the crews were able to bomb their assigned targets in good visibility. Many crews witnessed explosions and fires. No effective defences encountered. General Doolittle and General Partridge visited 331 Wing HQ. Beach targets were again assigned by NASAF. Bombers were to attack the beaches from Scaletta to Messina and a 10 area around Capa Barbi. 331 Wing contributed 30 bombers to the targets. 81 bombers dropped 148 tons of bombs on the targets. Many bomb bursts on roads were noted by the crews and fires started in the towns. Some crews reported seeing what appeared to be landing craft near Bagnara. Three crews were lost in the attack. Likely night fighters were responsible as flak was sparse.
August 8 to August 12: For five nights in a row Capo Peloro and area (beaches of Messina) were the objective of 420 Squadron's Wellingtons. W/C Gough (NAASC) visited to discuss engineering issues. He was well pleased with aircraft repair and maintenance of the Wing.
August 8: Ten aircraft detailed to attack Capa Peloro. All were successful. Bomb loads consisted of 6x250 plus 6 SBC (8x40) or 6x500. Take off was ~01:20. Crews bombed ~04:29 from heights of 4500 to 6000 feet. Visibility was variable with some ground haze and clouds. Many crews saw bombs exploding and some fires. Defences were slight. NASAF detailed 90 bombers to Messina and Cap Peloro in waves from dusk to dawn. 331 Wing assigned 30 bombers to the task. Special nickelling missions were sent to five cities. One mission was to Modena which was the farthest north 205 Group had operated into Europe from North Africa. 72 bombers attacked the beaches with 138 tons of bombs but no obvious targets were observed. Two crews had to bale out of their damaged planes. All were successful.
August 9: Ten of eleven attacked the Messina beaches. HE476 returned early with an electrical malfunction. Although cloudy, bombs were dropped on the target area. Wellingtons were loaded with 6x250 plus 6 SBC (8x40) or 6x500. Take off ~21:50. Crews bombed through variable clouds at ~00:20 from 2500 to 6000 feet. Many fires and explosions were observed through the clouds. Defences were minimal. Some crews saw single engined fighters in the target area. No engagements were reported. The targets were the same as the previous night. 82 bombers dropped 157 tons of bombs through partly cloudy skies on the target area. Some crews reported bomb bursts on roadways in the area. One aircrew did not return.
August 10: Ten aircraft were detailed for the attack. One returned early with engine trouble and crashed because the landing gear would not lock. The aircraft caught fire and was destroyed. The rest were successful with many fires seen. Bob Hope and his show performed at 15:00 at 236 Wing for the squadrons. It was a great success. The bombers were loaded with 6x500 plus 6X250. Take off time was about midnight. Crews bombed ~02:25 from 4000 to 7000 feet. Some crews dropped bombs in sticks of four requiring three bomb runs. Bomb bursts, explosions and fires were observed in the targeted area. Defences were minimal although a few night fighters were seen. Air Defences in Kairouan plotted unknown, possilby hostile, aircraft at 20000 feet twice this morning. A signal went out to ensure black out conditions were strictly enforced at all squadrons. The attacks on the beaches continued although obvious targets could not be found. 331 Wing contributed 30 of the 90 bombers requested for the targets. 85 bombers dropped 174 tons of bombs on landing craft on the beaches and vehicles along the coastal roads. The attacks were considered successful. Many fires were reported by the crews. All crews returned safely but one plane from 331 Wing crashed on landing and was destroyed. All the crew escaped unharmed.
August 11: Ten aircraft again visited the beaches of Messina and Capo Peloro. Attack was good with many bomb blasts observed. Opposition was small amount of heavy and light flak. A further aircraft was sent on a nickelling run over the Leghorn and Pisa area. Bomb loads were either 6x250 plus 6 SBC (8x40) or 6x500. Take off time was ~19:50. Bombs were dropped ~22:25 from 5000 to 7500 feet. Target was identified visually in clear weather. Bomb bursts, fires and explosions seen. Defences were very limited. Some crews observed barges along the coast and went to low altitude to strafe them. The Lewington crew flying LN431 dropped 250000 nickels over the Leghorn/Pisa area. Three transports made their way to Algiers with screened air crews. This was their first leg back to the UK. A 420 Squadron Wellington, flown by F/O Campbell, was an early return on one engine and unlocked landing gear. The belly landing resulted in a fire which consumed the aircraft but the crew were able to escape without injury. Again the beaches were attacked. 90 bombers were requested. Thirty from 331 Wing. The Wing also flew long distance nickelling missions to Modean, Bolgona, Florence, Leghorn and Pisa. 84 bombers again succeeded in attacking the beach targets with 159 tons of bombs. Again bursts were seen along the roads and fires were started. The four nickelling missions were successful. 1,000,000 nickels were dropped over the cities. Two crews from 40 squadron were reported missing from the attacks. A single crew member was found after baling out over Sicily. Another crew from 142 squadron had to ditch. All the crew were rescued after being in their dinghy for four days and returned to the squadron on August 18.
August 12: Twelve aircraft were detailed to the area. One did not take off. Intense flak with search lights near Capa Peloro. Bombing was considered successful. Two crews missing. Bomb loads were 6x250 plus 6x500 or 6x(8x40). Take off time was around midnight. Crews attacked the target ~03:20 from 4800 to 6000 feet. Visibility was good and the target was identified visually. Some fires and bomb bursts amongst buildings were observed. Minimal flak and search light activity. A plane was seen going down in flames at 02:53 in the target area. Two crews were reported missing: HE520 flown by F/L RN Gourlie and HF459: pilot Sgt AC Ludgater, nav Sgt J McAdam, ba F/O CA Tindall, wop/ag P/O Hotson, ag Sgt H Lilley. The latter crew was killed. An RAF regiment has been stationed here to act as guards. Two aircraft from 420 Squadron are missing. The mission was a repetition of the last few night's targets. 331 Wing was asked for 30 aircraft again. This night 86 crews attacked the beaches with 180 tons of bombs. Crews again saw bomb bursts on coastal roads and among barges just off shore. One crew reported seeing a direct hit on a bridge at S. Agata. Four bombers are missing including two from 420 squadron F/L Gourlie and F/Sgt Ludgater. NASAF complained to Group that the exclusion zone for aircraft was being violated and the gun defences were firing on the Wellingtons and Beaufighters were intercepting some bombers. NASAF signalled that after today's missions the number of sorties required would be reduced to 70 per night to reduce the strain on the aircrews and ground crews.
August 13: Stand down after eleven consecutive days of ops. Ground crews efforts were greatly appreciated for keeping the service level of the squadron up. F/L Gourlie (aka "Do-Do") reported as missing yesterday arrived back at the squadron. One of the bomber's engines caught fire after take off and crash landed 40 miles away. Only the ba F/O Nodder was injured. The last month saw many good movies shown on base. Crew rest camps are working well. Black out conditions imposed due to enemy aircraft in the area. Weather is hot and dusty. Squadron in good health with sickness less the 1%. Three replacement crews from the UK reported to the Wing. Two were assigned to 420 Squadron and the other to 424 Squadron. NASAF signalled Group that the efforts against the beaches of Messina and area were successful and greatly appreciated by the ground forces. Beaches in the areas of San Giovanni, Palmi and Pizzo were the target for tonight. 331 Wing was to send 25 bombers to operate against the San Giovanni and Palmi beaches. The target was well lit in the moonlight and five, 2000 lb cookies, were dropped with good effect on the targets. NASAF requested an fly exclusion zone around Catania, Augusta and Syracuse.
August 14: On this night ops came through for fourteen aircraft were detailed to areas around Pizzo and Lamezia. One did not take off. Eleven bombers successfully attacked villages, railways, beaches and small boats in good visibility. Crews observed many fires. Two aircraft failed to return. Bomb loads for the attack were 6x250 plus 6x500 or 6SBC (8x40). One aircraft detailed to Larmezia carried a 4000 lb cookie. Take off times varied from 19:03 to 20:14. Attacks appeared to be successful with fires and explosions observed. Opposition was minimal. One crew over Pizzo reported what appeared to be plane crash. Two crews did not return: HE524: Pilot P/O AB Long, nav F/O E/I Fairweather, ba F/O A Brown, wop F/O CW Dickinson, ag Sgt WH Garbutt; and in LN431: Pilot Sgt JM Parr, nav Sgt DJ Nettle, ba Sgt WCH Dadge, wop Sgt ESR Norgrove, ag Sgt DD Boyd. All were killed. One crew was reported missing from the missions but were reported safe in Sicily after crashing their plane. 70 bombers were required to attack the beaches from Messina to Acqualadrone. These orders were cancelled and the beaches from San Giovanni to Palmi and the area of Pizzo were targeted instead. 25 crews from 331 Wing were detailed to attack the Pizzo target. Nineteen bombers succeeded in attacking the area with 32 tons of bombs. Fires were started in the towns and on the beaches. A barge was sunk with a direct hit. Two crews from 420 Squadron were reported missing. A signal was sent from Group asking night fighters to avoid target areas.
August 15: Ops through for a dozen aircraft to bomb Viterbo, Italy. One was an early return. Nine bombed the primary target and returned safely. Ground haze made visibility marginal. Although flares and bombing were scattered crews did observe fires in the marshalling area. One bombed a secondary target, Lido di Roma. And one crash landed on return with no injuries to the crew. Bombers were readied with 6x250 plus 6x500 and two carried 4000 lb cookies. Take off time for the crews was ~20:10. HE973 returned early because the cowling on the starboard engined was coming loose. HE552, flown by P/O McCoy jetttsioned bombs and crash landed close to 49th Paratroop Aerodrome with no injury to the crew. Crews bombed visually and on flares at ~23:50 from 7500 to 9000 feet. Moderate flak activity was encountered in some parts of the target area. Most felt the raid a success. The RAF guard regiment left today. 70 bombers were required to attack the beaches from Messina to Acqualadrone. These orders were cancelled and the beaches from San Giovanni to Palmi and the area of Pizzo were targeted instead. 25 crews from 331 Wing were detailed to attack the Pizzo target. Nineteen bombers succeeded in attacking the area with 32 tons of bombs. Fires were started in the towns and on the beaches. A barge was sunk with a direct hit. NASAF initially requested 70 bombers to attack beaches, docks for barges at Paola, Scalea, Sapri and Cetraro. However, due the battle fields and Axis troop evacuation resulted in a request for 90 bombers to attack these targets plus the Viterbo marshalling yards. 30 crews from 331 Wing were assigned the Viterbo target. Over 88 tons of bombs, including 4,000 lb cookies, were dropped on the target through thin cloud. Although bombing was scattered many effective bursts were reported in the aerodrome, the town and the rail yards. One aircraft from 40 squadron was lost on the night's mission.
August 16: The beaches Maratea/Palmi were successfully bombed by eleven aircraft. The bomber's attack was focussed on barges and built up areas near the beaches. The crews did not observe any activity on the beaches and defences were not present except for some enemy aircraft that did not attack. The aircraft were loaded with 6x250 plus 6x500 or 6SBC (8x40) and one carried 4000 lb cookie. Take off time ~23:30. Crews bombed from 01:20 for about 45 minutes in good visibility. Bombing height ranged from 4500 to 8000 feet. Crews saw bombs falling in built up areas and felt it was a good raid. No defences were encountered. A complete squadron of the RAF regiment arrived to take over guard duties. A request came through from NASAF for maximum effort to be maintained. 45 bombers were requested to go to Viterbo and the same number to the beaches of Messina/Palora. These requests were later changed to 50 bombers to Viterbo, 10 to each of the beaches between Maratea and Scalea, Scalea and Paola, Paola and Pizzo and Pizzo and Palmi. If nothing was seen on the beaches railways were to be considered the alternate target in each case. 331 Wing were to supply 30 aircraft to the beach targets during the night hours. 40 bombers attacked the beaches, small craft and railways with good effect. Many fires were reported. One crew was lost from 148 Squadron and another, from 104 Squadron had to bale out but were not injured.
August 17: Ops through for eleven aircraft to bomb the beaches of Briatico/Capo Suvero/Pizzo area. HF458 returned early with a malfunctioning intercom. Nine bombed the primary target and returned safely to base. Crews observed no enemy activity or barge concentrations on or near the beaches. Bombs appeared to hit fuel storage as large fires were started. One aircraft, piloted by P/O AW Freeman was reported as missing. Bomb loads for this attack were 6x250 plus 6x500 or 6SBC (8x40) and two carried 4000 lb cookies. Take off time was~20:06. The crews started bombing ~22:35 and bombed for almost 50 minutes. Bombing altitudes ranged from 4500 to 6500 feeet. Visibility over the target was good with some haze. Many crews saw bomb bursts and fires. No defences were noted. DF686 flown by P/O AW Freemandid not return. Pilot and crew members, ba P/O HJ Dowds, Nav P/O EH Douglas, wop Sgt WF Hill, and ag Sgt TH Lasenby were all killed. This was the last crew lost by the squadron in North Africa. Only 50 aircraft were requested this night to cover the area between Cape Suvero and Briatico. The crews were to attack throughout the night looking for barge and railway targets. 331 Wing contributed 30 bombers to this mission. 88 tons of bombs were dropped on small craft, rail lines and towns in the target area by 47 bombers throughout the night. A single crew from 420 Squadron was reported missing. The invasion of Sicily ended as ground troops entered and subdued the last resistance in Messina. The liberation of Sicily took 30 days.
August 18: Stand down. The beaches at Sousee are still popular even though there are now jelly fish present in the waters. Ground crews have done an excellent job with serviceability near 100%. F/O G Money, the chief engineer, has the full support of his ground crews. The cooks are doing an excellent job making meals out of marginal rations provided plus native fruits and vegetables. Working conditions are hot 100 to 120 F and dusty. Wind/dust storms are almost a daily event. Morale is high. Col. Underwood of the Canadian Postal Service visited the Wing to check out the facilities and discuss ways of speeding up service from Algiers. A demonstration was given that used oil and water for cooking. Our stoves are to be modified. NASAF asked for 40 bombers to attack a temporary bridge that had been erected across the Angitola River near Pizzo. The attack was carried out in waves through out the night. No losses were reported.
August 19: Eleven aircraft were detailed to attack marshalling yards at Foggia, Italy. One returned early due to engine trouble but the rest were successful. Flares illuminated the target area well for good concentrated bombing. Heavy flak was accurate. All bombers diverted to 330 Wing due to weather at base. Bomb loads were 9x500 and one carried a 4000 lb cookie. LN348, flown by S/Ldr Lewington's crew acted as illuminator for this attack. Take off for most crews was ~21:10. Crews bombed ~00:35 8000 to 9000 feet. Target was identified visually and with flares. Some moderate heavy flak in the target area with some search lights. LN434 flown by Sgt Hayward aborted the attack due to engine trouble. The crew dropped their cookies south of the town.On return from ops the aerodromes were fogged in resulting in two crashing after running out of fuel. Sgt Gauthier of 420 Squadron was seriously injured. Another two aircraft were damaged landing at a diversion airfield. Fifty planes were requested to attack the marshalling yards at Foggia. 331 Wing, along with 231 Wing and 330 Wing, sent 54 bombers to Foggia. Four were ealy returns but bombed alternate targets. Over 98 tons of bombs were dropped on the raid in good conditions and with good results. A massive fog bank over ne Tunisia engulfed all 205 Group's airfields as the last bombers were returning. Many bombers had to be diverted. Four from 331 Wing crash landed. Since the liberation of Sicily the Group was now called upon to raid the communications and railways of southern Italy.
August 20: Ops through for ten aircraft to bomb the railway yards at Villa Literno, Italy. Two did not take off but the other eight were successful. Attacked with the aid of illumination flares. Electrical and railways were hit in the target area. Scattered fires were observed by crews. Two planes were loaded with 4000 lb cookies and the rest had 9x500. Take off time ~18:55. Crews bombed visually and with the aid of flares at ~22:02. Bombing altitude was from 8000 to 8500 feet. Most crews saw bombs dropping on the rail yards. No indication of defences. After last night missions and the early morning diversions due to fog a series of airstrips were designated as diversion emergency strips when 205 Group was operating. NASAF requested a 40 bomber blitz of the rail yards of Villa Literno. 331 Wing and 231 Wing made up the 40 bomber force. 37 aircraft attacked with over 60 tons of bombs in good conditions. One crew from 70 squadron had to ditch at sea.
August 21: Twelve aircraft to attack Battipaglia marshalling yards. Nine aircraft successfully bombed the primary target. Based on result it appears one cookie hit an electrical installation. One bombed Salerno as a secondary target. Three planes were loaded with cookies and the rest with 9x500. HE434, flown by P/O McCoy's crew acted as illuminators for the raid. Take off time ~18:15. Crews bombed at ~21:24 from 6000 to 10000 feet. Aiming point was identified by flares. Attack appeared to be concentrated. Moderate heavy flak was encountered by some of the crews. 331 and 330 Wing Wellingtons were sent to the rail yards at Battipaglia. 51 bombers dropped 102 tons of bombs in the target area.
August 22: Stand down. The wing was on stand down for the day. Tours of three mosques in Kairouan were provided for over 200 airmen. The Code and Cypher section is now fully functional. Group sent 50 crews to Salerno rail yards on a very successful attack.
August 23: Ten aircraft were detailed to attack railway yards at Bagnali. One, HE975, returned early when the escape hatch blew open. Bombs were seen to burst within the yard area and metal works. Only defences were search lights and light flak. Both were ineffective. Bomb loads were a mix of 2x1000 plus 5x500, 9x500 and two carried cookies. A number of the bombs were fused with delays. Take off time for the crews was ~02:15. Bombs were dropped ~05:03 from 7500 to 10000 feet. Crews were able to see their bombs fall in the target area. LN434, flown by P/O Carruthers had a fighter pass 150 yards from them and disappear.Bagnoli rail yards were targeted by 81 Wellingtons from the Group. 75 bombers successfully attacked the target with over 148 tons of bombs.
August 24: A dozen bombers attacked Torre Annunziata, Italy. One of the illuminator aircraft returned early with engine problems. Many fires were observed in the target area. One aircraft was attacked by a JU88. Many direct hits were recorded. Bomb loads were cookies, 9x500, and 2x1000 plus 5x500. Most took off at ~18:45. HE569 flown by W/C McIntosh was to act as the illuminator but had to return early due to vibration of port engine. HE421 flown by P/O Easson also returned early due to rear guns jammed. Crews bombed after visually identifying target. Crews bombed ~22:07 from 8500 to 9500. Many crews made a number of bombing runs dropping their bombs in sticks over the target area. Crews witnessed their bombs exploding on a number of facilities in the target area. NASAF requested 50 bombers to attack the steel works and rail yards at Torre Annuziata. Forty-nine bombers reached the target and dropped over 96 tons of bombs within 15 minutes. Crews reported seeing 4000 lb cookies landing in the steel works and many fires in the target area. One crew from 40 Squadron is missing.
August 25: Ten aircraft sent to attack Taranto, Italy. One returned early due to u/s constant speed unit. Remaining nine were successful in bombing the primary target with the aid of accurate illuminator flares. Heavy flak to 15,000 feet. The rail yards may have been using a smoke screen. Bomb loads were 2x1000 plus 5x500, cookies, or 9x500. Some fuse with delays. Take off time was ~00:40. HE259 pilotted by Sgt Puddephat was an early return due to port engine trouble. Bombs were dropped ~04:03 from 5600 to 11500 feet. Aiming point was identified visually with flares. Crews saw bombs exploding in target area. For the first time Taranto was targeted by Group. NASAF requested 80 bombers for the attack plus a four plane nickelling op to Rome and Naples. 78 bombers reached the target and dropped over 131 tons of bombs on the rail yards with in 11 minutes. On the return a number of crews used the newly se tup diversion fields due to petrol shortages. One crew from 424 Squadron is reported missing.
August 26: Stand down. Aircrew went swimming. W/C McIntosh interviewed twenty-seven men for commission. NASAF asked for 50 bombers to attack the Bagnoli rail yards. Over 90 tons of bombs were dropped with good success. Two crews were missing from the attack.
August 27: The rail yards at Salerno, Italy was attacked by nine aircraft successfully this night. One did not take off and another returned early due to hydraulic malfunction. Bombs were observed striking in target area. Some heavy flak. Planes were loaded with cookies, 9x500 or 2x1000 plus 5x500. LN348, flown by the Lewington crew acted as illuminator. Take off time was ~18:35. HZ552 aborted the mission. Aiming point was lit up accurately by flares. Crews bombed at ~21:36 from 6700 to 8000 feet. Crews saw many bombs drop in the target area. Some heavy flak encountered to 8000 feet. RCAF London signalled the Wing suggesting that W/C St Pierre and a screened French-Canadian crew fly a Wellington to Canada. 50 bombers were detailed to attack the rail yards at Salerno. 45 reached the target and dropped 77 tons of bombs, including 13 4000 lb cookies. Crew reported many explosions, fires, dust and smoke in the target area during and after the raid.
August 28: Ops through for seven aircraft to attack Taranto rail yards. One, HE973 flown by Sgt Puddephat, was an early return due to a generator malfunction. A ship in the harbour was observed to lay down a smoke screen but the target was illuminated and bombed. Heavy flak was ineffective. Bomb loads were a mix of 4000 lb cookies, 9x500, or 2x1000 plus 5x500. Take off time 23:35. LN348 flown by the F/Lt Courlie crew acted as illuminator and carried 36 flares which they dropped at 02:59 from 10000 feet. Crews dropped their bombs at ~ 03:03 from 8200 to 10300 feet. Many bombs were seen to fall with in the target area. 50 crews were detailed to again attack the Taranto rail yards. The effort included bombers from 231, 236 and 331 Wings. 47 crews succeeded in the attack. Within 10 minutes 73 tons of bombs, 10 of which were 4000 lb cookies, rained down on the target. The defenders initiated a smoke screen over the target but this was ineffectual. The attack was considered successful.
August 29: Ops through for nine to bomb Torre Annunziata and one to drop nickels over Leghorn/Pisa/Veareggio. All were successful. Crews observed accurate bombing of the railway yards including the bursts of two cookies. No real defensive actions observed. Bomb loads consisted of 48x30, 3x250, plus 3x500, 4000 lb cookies or 9x500. Take off time 22:00. HZ414 flown by F/Sgt Wingham and crew acted as illuminators and dropped 38 flares from 8000 feet at 00:58. Crews reported seeing bomb bursts in the rail yards and many small fires. HE975, flown by F/O Campbell and crew dropped 250000 nickels from 7000 feet over Leghorn/Pisa/Veareggio. 80 bombers were to target the rail yards at Torre Anunziata. 84 bombers from all wings made the attack. 331 Wing was asked for two crews to drop nickels over Leghorn to Pisa and Viareggio and Genioa to Ratillo. 81 bombers dropped over 123 tons of bombs on the target. Fifteen 4000 lb cookies were part of this tonnage. The bombing was in two waves with 331 Wing being in the first wave with 231 Wing at 01:00 hours. Many fires were started. One crew was reported missing. The nickelling operations were successfully completed. NASAF signalled the requirements from Group would be reduced to 40 sorites a night.
August 30: Stand down. Many went to Sousee or Tunis. Movies were shown in the evening. 50 bombers were requested to attack the Civitabecchia rail yards. On the return route the bombers were to over fly Rome to see if it was an open city. The mission was considered a success. The crews were not fired upon from Rome but some flak was fired at them from the suburbs.
Roman ruins at El Djem:
August 31: This night ops came through for nine aircraft to bomb Salerno rail yards. One did not takeoff but the remaining eight successfully completed the mission. Although defences were active and a smoke screen appears to have been used bombs were dropped on aiming point with fires observed. Bomb loads included 9x500 or 4000 lb cookies. Take off ~19:25. Bombs were dropped at ~22:35 from 6300 to 8000 feet. Crews saw many of their bombs fall into the marshalling yards and start fires. Defence varied from nil to very accurate heavy flak coming from the east of the town. An attack on Civitabecchia was changed to the rail yards at Salerno. 331 and 330 Wing provided 41 bombers for the attack. The defenders tried again to use a smoke screen but the crews were able to identify the target. Over 77 tons of bombs were dropped throughout the rail yards and town in 15 minutes. One crew is reported missing.
September 1, 1943: Ops through for five planes to attack the small town of Aversa, Italy. Flares were used to identify target. Bomb blasts were observed in rail yards but bombing was scattered. The raid was classed as only partially successful. All returned safely. Bomb loads were 18x250. Take off time was ~18:25. LN348 flown by S/Ldr Lewington acted as illuminator dropping 36 flares at 21:22 from 8000 feet. The bomber crews bombed ~21:30 from a height of 5000 to 7000 feet using the flares to identify the aiming point. No defences were reported. General Doolittle went on operations with S/Ldr Livingston of 420 Squadron. NASAF targeted the rail yards of Aversa with 40 bombers. 39 crews dropped over 68 tons of bombs in less than 20 minutes. A number of bomb bursts and fires were reported.
September 2: Stand down. During August thirteen aircrew members were screened. An airman from 424 Squadron accidently shot his mate through the hand. The entire Group was stood down except two nickelling ops carried out by 331 Wing. It is expected Group is to move to Malta. To this end commanding officers flew to Malta for meetings.
September 3: On this night ops came through for ten planes to attack the aerodrome at Capodichino, Italy. Nine successfully attacked the aerodrome while one attacked Naples as a secondary target. An "illuminator" was used to aid in pinpointing the target. No opposition from target area. Naples flak was active. The attack was only partially successful. Bomb loads were 18x250. Take off ~21:24. Two illuminators, LN348 and HZ552 were used on this attack. Crews bombed from 6000 to 8500 feet at ~00:25. The target was identified visually with the aid of the flares dropped by the illuminators. Crews reported seeing many bomb bursts in the area of the aerodrome. Defences were search lights and some heavy flak. The Allies invaded Italy on three fronts; on the west coast around Salerno, and at Calabria and Taranto. Fighting would continue until May 2, 1945 with the final defeat of German forces in Italy. G/C Dunlap found out there were plans to move 331 Wing to Malta until hostilities cease in Italy. NASAF requested 80 crews to attack the Capua and Capodichino aerodromes. 50 bombers from 331 and 330 Wings were given the latter target. The bombers dropped over 91 tons of bombs on the target. Crews reported many fires were started and bomb bursts among the parked aircraft, hangars and barracks. Photo recon taken after the attack showed much cratering, damaged planes and damaged hangars.
September 4: The aerodrome of Grazzanise, Italy was next targeted by 420's Wellingtons. Ten were detailed for the attack but one did not take off. Eight successfully bombed the aerodrome. Crews reported large series of explosions suggesting an ammo dump had been hit. Opposition minimal. Attack very successful. Bomb loads consisted of 18x250. Take off time was ~19:55. P/O Way and crew flying HZ552 acted as illuminator. The crews dropped their bombs on the flares through patchy cloud from 6000 to 8500 feet. Some crews reported seeing explosions and fires. Defences were minimal. 80 sorties were requested to attack the Grazzanise main aerodrome and its #1 satellite. 331 and 236 Wing provided 43 bombers for the main aerodrome strike. Cloud made it difficult for the crews to identify the target. The attack, of over 68 tons of bombs, resulted in one large notable explosion and two large fires. Later photo recon revealed the majority of the attack was 4 miles ENE of the intended target. The large explosion proved to be an ammunition dump being hit. One crew was missing from the night's missions.
September 5: Stand down. Swimming at Sousee. A parade of the entire Wing was held. Padres Ashford and Laplante lead a commemoration of the National Day of Prayer. G/C Dunlap addressed the men regarding "steadfastness, preparedness, unselfishness and the achievements of the Allied Nations as a whole and our own special achievements" and read a letter of commendation from General Doolittle. It is felt by most of the men that they will eventually return to Canada via Rome, Paris and Berlin. The Villa Literno rail yard were targeted. Specifically the large convoy of trucks at the yards. 50 bombers were tasked with the job. A further five crews were to carry out nickelling drops. 48 bombers hit the target causing large fires. One crew from 330 Wing crashed on shortly after take off. The attack was considered successful.
September 6: Ops came through for eleven planes (including an illuminator) to attack Battipaglia rail yards. Many fires observed in yards after attack. No real defences active. Attack was very successful. A further nickelling sortie to Cagliari/Ajaccio was also successful. Bomb loads were made up of a mix of 6x500 plus 4x250 and 3 SBC (8x40) or 24x30IB and one carried a cookie. P/O Easson acted as the illuminator. Take off time was ~21:00. Crews bombed around midnight from 4200 to 7500 feet. A number of buildings were seen on fire in the target area. Crew reported defences were little light and heavy flak and a few search lights. The McCoy crew in LN430 successfully dropped 300000 nickels over Cagliari/Ajaccio. Battipaglia rail yards were targeted by NASAF. 50 bombers were requested for the attack and a further crew to drop nickels along the "in step" of Italy. The attack was made up of Wellingtons from 330 Wing and 331 Wing. The latter also contributed the nickel crew. 92 tons of bombs were dropped by 48 crews on the target. A large fire could be seen burning after the attack from 50 miles away. No crews were lost.
September 7: Seven aircraft were detailed to attack the airbase at Veterbo, Italy. The flares were very scattered and released too low to fully light the target area. Crews estimated that many bombs were dropped on the target. Heavy flak was relatively active. S/L Lewington flying LN348 bombed Cap Lomara due to the bombs hanging up over the primary target. All returned safely. The planes took off at ~18:00 loaded with 18x250 lb bombs. Crews bombed from 5500 to 7500 feet at ~21:46 in clear skies with slight haze. Crews reported seeing many fires (planes burning) and explosions in the immediate target area. There was moderate flak and search light activity in the target area. NAAF indicated they would not approve of a release of a Wellington to be flown to Canada. Warnings of enemy paratroopers in the area has resulted in an order that all men carry arms. Alot of practise was undertaken by the men with their sten-guns, rifles and revolvers. The guards at the petrol and bomb dumps have been doubled. NASAF requested 50 bombers attack the Viterbo landing grounds. Wellingtons from 331, 231 and 236 Wings made up the attack. Over 81 tons of bombs were dropped by 48 bombers. Crews found it difficult to see the target due to haze. Bombing was scattered and although many crews reported seeing hangars being hit the raid was not considered very successful.
September 8: On this night 420's Wellingtons were involved in three operations. Nine bombed the railway yards at Battipaglia, Italy. Incendiaries were used to accurately mark the target. Smoke from fires in the target area started reducing visibility for later bombers. South of Naples one bomber was coned by search lights. One aircraft dropped 250,000 propaganda nickels over Leghorn and another did the same over Bastia. Both were successful. One plane landed away from base on return. F/O Northern flying HZ552 dropped nickels over Leghorn. HE965, flown by Sgt Fraser, dropped 250000 Wallace nickels over Bastia. Two crews took off about midnight and attacked Gaeta with some success. The other seven loaded with 9x500 or cookies took off ~18:30 to bomb Battipaglia. These crews bombed at ~22:00 from 7000 to 8000 feet in good visibility. The aiming points were located visually with the aid of flares. Crews saw explosions and fires in marshalling yards. Defences were very slight heavy flak and some search lights. The air men have been told to restrain themselves from firing their weapons as there is a shortage of some types of ammunitions, random firings may detract from real warning shots fired by guards, chances of shooting mates, and shooting will lessen vigilance. It was signalled that the Italian forces had surrendered. A force of 100 bombers was requested by NASAF to attack five main targets. The purpose of the attacks were to disrupt communications and cause diversions for the Allied Sea and Ground operations. 45 planes were to be sent to Eboli and 40 to Battipaglia. Formia, gun emplacements, the docks at Gaeta and ships in Forio harbour were to be targeted by five bombers each. Nickelling was also to be continued in the area of Leghorn and Bastia (Corsica). Due to the invasion special routes to avoid friendly fire were established. Just as the bombers were taking off a signal was recieved that Italy had surrendered. Group recieved word the attacks were to continue regardless. 37 bombers succeeded in dropping over 80 tons of bombs on the target area. Many fires were reported in the target area. The raid was considered successful. Heavy flak was reported by the crews. The nickelling missions and diversionary missions were also successful.
September 9: Stand down. Men were confined to camp for medical check ups. Squadron informed it would be off operations on September 18 and to be prepared for a move to an unknown destination shortly thereafter. Even though Italy had surrendered hostile the German forces were still present in the country. NASAF continued the bombing of rail lines by sending 50 bomers to Grosseto's marshalling yards. Nickel drops were also ordered over Rome, Viterbo, Orvieto, Bologna, Modena, Parma, Leghorn, Spezia, Geno and Turi. 51 bombers dropped 87 tons of bombs on the Groseeto yards causing several fires. The success of the raid was confirmed by examination of bomber crew photographs. On crew had to ditch in the sea but were rescued the following day.
September 10: Ops through for seven aircraft to attack Formia, Italy. All were successful with bomb bursts seen on roads and buildings. One aircraft went on a nickeling mission to the small town of Terni, Italy but had to return early due to engine trouble. Bomb loads were 9x500. Take off time was ~17:45. S/Ldr Lewington in LN348 acted as illuminator for the attack. F/O Carruthers returned early in HE458 due to engine problems. Remaining crews attacked at ~21:05 from 5000 to 6000 feet. Crews saw bombs straddling road and in built up area. No defences. NASAF targeted the main road junction in Formia and nickelling operations over Rome and Terni. 331 Wing contributed to the main bombing mission and the two nickelling operations. 94 tons of bombs were dropped by 59 bombers on Formia. Many explosions and fires were noted by the crews. One nickelling Wellington had to return early due to engine problems.
September 11: A dozen planes were sent to bomb the airfield at Frozinone, Italy. One returned early due to engine trouble. The attack was made in two waves and considered successful. Flares lit the target up for easy pinpointing. Bomb bursts observed hitting the runways, dispersed aircraft and hangars from the first wave. Fires still raging when second wave attacked. The attacks were opposed by moderately accurate flak. Another plane successfully dropped 400,000 nickels over Terni. The bombers were loaded with 9x500 and one carried a cookie. Two in the second wave carried 3SBC (8x30) plus 3X500 and 9x250. The first wave took off ~18:17 and the second wave ~22:18. HE517 flown by F/Lt Courlie acted as illuminator and took off with the first wave. Thirty-six flares were dropped on the target at 20:57. Crews bombed 21:07. The second wave followed and bombed at ~01:14. Crews bombed from 6500 to 8500 feet. Reports of many hangars and explosions around the aerodrome. Some crews reported intense heavy flak coming from the west of the target. The Carruthers crew flying HE458 successfully dropped 400000 nickels and posters related to "armistizio" over Terni. In preparation for move equipment, petrol and bombs are being dispersed to other Wings. NASAF asked for a repeat of the previous night's attack but these orders were changed to 80 crews to attack Frosinone airfield. Intelligence indicated over 100 aircraft were dispersed at the field. The attack was planned to be in two waves. At 21:00 hours 58 bombers were to attack and this was to be followed by 32 aircraft at 01:00. The first wave caused many fires, damaged a number of aircraft and one hangar was hit by a 4000 lb cookie. The second wave of 38 also succeeded in extending the damage on the ground. The initial wave observed planes taking off and one crew encountered a JU88. Over 164 tons of bombs were dropped in the two waves. The nickelling missions were also a success.
September 12: Ops through for nine aircraft to bomb the road junction at Castel Nuovo, Italy in support of the advancing ground troops. The target area was clearly visible with the aid of flares and moon light. Crews observed large craters in the roads and at the junction. No defences. The planes were loaded with 9x500. Take off time 17:58. LN348 flown by S/Ldr Lewington and HE517 flown by P/O Tucker acted as illuminators. Crews bombed at ~21:22 from 5000 to 7500 feet. Crews reported easily seeing the road with the aid of the flares. Many of the bombs were reported to have burst on the roadways and the junction. No opposition was encountered. After the attack of the previous night on Frozinone airfield and the follow up raid today by American Fortresses, NASAF requested an attack on a road junction by Castel Nouvo. 60 bombers, 20 from 331 Wing, were assigned. 65 bombers attacked the junction under good conditions. Photographs confirmed the junction had been successfully destroyed.
September 13: This night thirteen aircraft were detailed to attack the Pompeii Road. Target was pinpointed using flares and bright moonlight. Bombing concentration was very good. No defences. On return leg one crew reported a JU88 approached from behind. Tail gunner opened fire and the enemy aircraft banked sharply and was lost from view. Bomb loads were 18x250 or 9x500. Take off time was ~18:22. The illuminators, HE549 flown by P/O Carruthers and LN348 flown by F/Lt Courlie dropped their first flares at 21:32. Crews bombed minutes after this from 6400 to 8000 feet. Crews reported seeing their bombs fall onto the road and railway with some fires. Opposition over target came from heavy flak from Naples. NASAF laid out and changed targets three times during the day. Finally in the afternoon the target for the 90 bombers was confirmed as a road 5 miles due East of Pompeii. 92 bombers from all Wings bombed the target area in good conditions. Crews reported cratering the roads and seeing fires in parked vehicles. A 331 Wing Wellington exchanged fire with a two engined night fighter.
September 14: An all out effort was called for to support the retreat of the 5th Army from the Battipaglia Eboli area. Fifteen bombers took off. Target area was illuminated and bombed. Attack was well concentrated with many bomb bursts and fires observed in the town, on roads and railways. All returned safely. Bomb loads consisted of 18x250 and cookies. Take off time was ~19:40. F/Lt Campbell in HE975 acted as illuminator. The crews bombed at 23:05 from 4200 to 7000 feet. Crews reported many bombs exploding in the town and road ways causing a number of fires. The attack was opposed by a few heavy flak guns firing inaccurately. A major attack tonight against Battipaglia resulted in 43 aircraft from the Wing taking part. All returned safely. G/C Dunlap flew with S/Ldr Lewington of 420 Squadron. NASAF requested "everything we could put in the air" for an all out effort on a stretch of road between Civitavechia and Eboli. 331 Wing assigned 43 bombers to a force of 127 for the attack. There was only one early return. The other crews all found the target area. Over 236 tons of bombs (17 4000 lb cookies) were dropped in the target area. The mission was considered successful. This was a record for the number of sorties and tonnage of bombs dropped in a single night for 205 Group.
September 15: Ten aircraft were to bomb Torre Annunziata/Pompei road. Nine were successful. HE458 was an early return with engine trouble. The target was identified and many bomb bursts observed in the area. No defences. Bomb loads for this attack consisted of cookies and 18x250. Take off time was 20:08. Crews attacked at 23:06 from 5000 to 6300 feet using flares released by S/Ldr McCarthy flying HE476. Many crews reported seeing bombs hitting the road way. Defences were a small amount of heavy flak. Another all out effort with 43 aircraft detailed. One did not take off and two were early returns. All returned safely. NASAF ordered another all out effort. This night the target were roads between Torre Annunziata and Pompeii in an attempt to further disrupt troop movements. 129 bombers took off for the targets. There were six early returns. Just over 240 tons of bombs were dropped on the target area. Crews reported bomb bursts and many fires. Daylight photo rec proved the effectiveness of the attack. The weight of bombs dropped this night exceeded the record of the previous night's efforts.
September 16: Ops through for eight aircraft. Seven were detailed to attack the airfield at Cisterna. The target was pinpointed with flares and bomb bursts were seen throughout the aerodrome. Very successful attack. Minimal defences were observed. One aircraft successfully completed a nickel drop over Benevento.Bomb loads were a mix of 18x250 or 14x250 plus 2x500. HE965 piloted by P/O Easson and HE517 flown by P/O Kennedy carried 18 flares and 9x250. Take off time was 19:42. Crew bombed the target ~22:50 from 4500 to 5200 feet. Bombs were reported falling all over the target area with many explosions and fires seen. P/O Tucker dropped 300000 nickels over Benevento. A signal has been received that the Wing's return to the UK has been cancelled. The aerodrome at Cisterna Littoria was the designated target for 80 bombers. Further leaflet drops over Bennevento and Rome were assigned to 331 Wing. The attack of 84 bombers, was planned in waves with 331 Wing leading. The crews reported seeing direct hits on buildings and many of the assembled aircraft. After the raids were completed the aerodrome was heavily cratered and over 40 fires were seen. The bombers had dropped over 150 tons of bombs. Recon photos taken three days later showed three hangars had direct hits, the airfield and dispersals cratered and at least 11 aircraft destroyed on the ground. Furthermore a major rail line adjacent to the aerodrome was also cratered. The nickelling mission was also successful with over 750,000 leaflets dropped over the assigned targets.
September 17: Ops for nine aircraft to bomb Cerveteri airfield. One returned early with engine problems. Crews observed many aircraft at dispersals and these were bombed as were buildings and the runway. One cookie made a direct hit on a hangar. No defences. Attack was very successful. One attacked the secondary target of Furbara airfield. Bomb loads were a mix of 18x250 or 14x250 plus 2x500. HE569 and JA123 flown by Sgt Fraser and P/O Ardis carried 18 flares and 9x250. Take off was ~ 1900. HE965 was an early return due to the engine cowling falling off. Flares were dropped at 2200 and bombers began attack shortly thereafter. Bombing height was from 4000 to 6800 feet. Crews estimated there were over 200 aircraft dispersed around the aerodrome. Bombs were seen to burst through out the aerodrome causing much damaged to dispersed aircraft, buildings and runways. A conference of the Wing was held to determine how to replenish stocks of equipment, petrol and bombs and also bomber crews. NASASF targeted Cerberteri airfield this night. 66 bombers attacked the target in waves. The first waves scattered their bomb loads and many fell in Furbara. 331 Wing was the last wave of bombers to attack the target and their bombing was concentrated in the aerodrome area. Many fires were started in the buildings and aircraft on the ground. A large one could be seen from 50 miles away. Recon photos confirmed the success of the attack. One crew from 236 Wing was lost over the target.
September 18: Ops through for seven. Six aircraft attacked the primary target of Viterbo airfield and another, due to u/s tail guns flew to the Italian coast and bombed Vitero airfield. Bomb load for the target this night consisted of 18x250 or 14x250 plus 2x500, or 4000 lb cookies.Take off ~21:55. LN348 flown by F/Lt Gourlis acted as illuminator. Bombing occurred at 01:05 from 5500 to 6700. Crews reported seeing many bombs burst in the target area with fires including burning aircraft. HE965 flown by F/Lt Campbell bombed the Vitero airfield due to an u/s rear turret. NASAF, after changing the target, finally assigned the Group bombers to the Viterbo air field. Two waves of bombers, totalling 55 aircraft, dropped almost 98 tons of bombs on the target. Crews reported hangars and other buildings on fire. One crew was reported missing.
September 19: Ops to attack Benevento with ten aircraft. HE458 flown by F/O Carruthers, returned early with engine problems. The primary targets were the rail bridge and adjoining roads. Crews observed bomb bursts at rail station and on roads. Bomb loads consisted of cookies or 9x500. S/Ldr McCarthy and F/Sgt Wingham acted as illuminators for the attack. Take off was about midnight. Crews dropped bombs ~3:15 from 6000 to 7000 feet. Bombs were seen by crews to fall in the target area. Battle area attacks on Benevento to destroy the bridge crossing the River Calore. 72 tons of bombs were dropped on the target area by 39 aircraft from 331 and 236 Wings. There were several near misses and one direct hit on the bridge. Roads, rail lines and yards and the rail station all received damage.
September 20: Stand down. Swimming and an evening movie. A repeat attack was ordered to focus on the roads and rail lines to the North of the bridge. Of the 50 bombers asked for by NASAF only 38 located the target area. Cloudy conditions made target identificaiton difficult for the first wave. The second wave faired better and reported bomb bursts throughout the target area and around the bridge. Over 74 tons of bombs were dropped. Seven crews bombed alternated targets.
September 21: Ops on for eleven aircraft to bomb Bastia dock area. The target was pinpointed with the aid of flares. Bombs were seen bursting in the dock yards and on shipping. Many large fires were started. Opposition flak was moderate and relatively accurate. One on return landed at Borizzo, Sicily low on fuel. Bomb loads included 4000 lb cookies and 9x 500. Take off time ~00:30. P/O Way in LN348 was the illuminator for this attack. Crews bombed at ~03:45 from 7000 to 7500 feet. Crews reported seeing many bombs burst in the target area. A number of buildings were seen to be hit and at least a couple of ships docked in the harbour were hit. HE421 flown by Sgt Wass landed at Borizzo, Sicily. NASAF requested 80 bombers to attack the docks and shipping at Bastia (Corsica). The objective was to harass the evacutiaton of the enemy from Corsica. The attack was divided into two waves half an hour apart. 331 and 231 Wings were to bomb first with 46 aircraft. In total 76 bombers attacked the target with just under 130 tons of bombs. The raid was a success with docks, the mole, warehouses, oil storage, and at least three ships receiving direct hits. Fires could be seen from 70 miles away. One crew had to ditch in the sea but were rescued shortly after. 331 Wing also supplied a nickel mission to towns in northern Italy.
September 22: Eleven aircraft successfully attacked railways and roads at Formia, Italy. Flares illuminated the target area and bombs were dropped on the yards and surrounding buildings of the town. No defences. Bomb loads included 9x500. Take off time was ~19:06. S/Ldr McCarthy, flying HF476 and F/O Northern flying JA123, acted as illuminators for this attack. Crews bombed from 5800 to 6500 feet. Crews reported seeing bombs burst in the rail yards causing fires and explosions. Four aircrews from 420 Squadron have been screened resulting in a serious shortage of aircrews in the squadron. G/C Dunlap went to Sousse Area HQ to see if rations to Wing messes could be improved. At present the food is mostly corned beef, melons, canned stew and squash. Melons are considered fruit and squash as vegetable. Rail lines and roads in the Formia area were targeted by NASAF. 331 and 236 Wings made up the attack of 46 bombers. Just over 89 tons of bombs fell on the target area successfully causing cratering to the roads and damaging the rails.
September 23: Ops through for nine aircraft to attack Pisa airfield. Bombs were seen to hit dispersal areas, buildings and runways. Many large fires observed. Defences of light and heavy flak was inaccurate. All were successful. The Wellingtons were loaded with 18x250. Take off time 18:40. S/Ldr Lewington flying LN348 were the illuminators for this attack. Crews bombed ~22:00 from 6000 to 6800 feet. The crews reported bombs falling on to the airfield causing explosions in the hangars and among dispersed planes. A minimal amount of heavy and light flake encountered. NASAF changed the target from Leghorn to the rail yards (40) and San Guisto aerodrome (40) at Pisa. 331 Wing, along with 236 Wing were to attack the aerodrome. 46 tons of bombs from 41 bombers fell on the target in a concentrated 15 minute assault. Crews reported a number of JU52's and Me 323's were damaged on the ground along with cratering of the air field and fires started in the hangars. This was considered a very successful attack. Two crews were missing after the raid but one was found and rescued in the sea.
September 24: Ten aircraft detailed to attack the dock area of Leghorn. Long range fuel tanks were used on these ops. The dock area was illuminated with flares and many buildings and small shipping were successfully bombed. Fires from target were visible 50 miles away. Bomb loads consisted of 6x500 plus 2x250. Take of time ~18:40. F/O McCoy flying LN348 was the illuminator for this bombing raid. The crews bombed at ~22:00 from 6200 to 7300 feet. Bomb burst were seen throughout the target area and fires were seen from 60 miles away. The attack encountered some heavy and light flak from the dock area and from ships in harbour. P/O Geisel dropped 500000 nickels over the Benevento area. An attack on the Leghorn docks was ordered by NASAF. 79 Wellingtons attacked the target with over 107 tons of lbs. Crews reported ships at full steam trying to leave the target area. The target was well illuminated by flare drops and bomb bursts were seen throughout the harbour and dock yards causing much damage. Oil storage and the thermal power station appeared to have been hit as well. Crews reported seein up to 30 barges in the harbour. Later photo rec revealed hits on the railway, damage to the chemical works, damage to the docks and to the torpedo factory. 331 Wing also supplied for crews for nickelling missions. One crew was reported missing. Another crew from 330 Wing crash landed but all were uninjured.
September 25: Three new crews arrived at squadron. Swimming. Four crews arrived at Wing three were assigned to 420 Squadron. A conference was held at 205 Group to plan a move to higher ground for the Wings in case of wet weather and methods of addressing shortages. Formia roads were targeted again due to recon showing increased traffic. 331 Wing was stood down so the other wings were involved in the attack. 91 tons of bombs were dropped by 49 crews. Cloudy conditions hampered visibility. Even so the bombing appears to have been successful in cratering the roads. Two Wellingtons from 330 Wing collided on the return trip but both returned to base safely. Journalists from England arrived at Group and interviewed the CO.
September 26: Stand down. Quiet day. One new crew arrived. A conference was held in which the plan to move the Wing to Hani East was approved. A new airstrip is being constructed in addition to the hard surface runway that already exists. The move is expected to take just three days. NASAF ordered a stand down for Group. Group aircraft had operated for 58 straight nights.
September 27: Twenty ground crew left on 5 day leave to Tunis rest camp. Wing is moving to a position on the road to Sousee. Night operations were cancelled due to bad weather. Severe storms in the north caused ops to be scrubbed. The move to the new base will begin on September 29 and completed September 30. Formia roads and junctions were targeted by 40 crews plus two were assigned to nickelling. Ops were cancelled due to bad weather forecasts.
September 28: Ops cancelled due to heavy rains. Preparations for move. Rains, for the first time since July 24, have made the camp a sea of mud and airstrips u/s. Formia was targeted but bad weather and rainstorms at the bases cancelled the ops again.
September 29: Ops through for ten aircraft to bomb Formia. All were successful. Some of the equipment was moved to Hani/East. The river by the camp although high was passable. The bombers carried 2x1000 plus 5x500 or 9x500. Take off time was ~18:00. P/O Carruthers and P/O McKenzie flying HE476 and LN370, respectively, acted as illuminators for the attack. Crews bombed at ~21:04 from 6000 to 6200. Bomber crews reported burst all over the target area. No defences were encountered. The move has begun with 424 Squadron moving their aircraft to Hani East. 420 and 425 Squadron were on ops. NASAF requested 40 bombers to attack the previously cancelled targets of Formia roads. Two crews were requested to drop nickels. 331 Wing contributed 15 planes to the attack plus four illuminators. 231 Wing supplied 25. 331 Wing made up the first wave of the attack and report good success with many fires and bomb bursts seen. 74 tons of bombs were dropped.
September 30: Move continued all day and by 19:00 tents were up and cook stoves were being put up. Move to Hani East completed. As the camp was abandoned hordes of Arabs swarmed over the site at Kairouan Zina taking rags and sacking and going through the garbage left behind. 331 Wing was stood down so they could move to their new base. Formia roads were again the target for tonight. 51 bombers were requested. Due to terrible weather on route to the target 12 crews abandoned the mission. Five more were early returns. One crew had engine failure on the way to the target. All baled out except for the pilot who was killed when he baled out too low. 37 crews managed to make it to the target to find it clear and dropped 62 tons of bombs on the target. Bombing was somewhat scattered but still effective when photographs were studied.
October 1, 1943: The target for this night was the roads in the Formia area. Eleven aircraft were detailed for the attack. The total included to illuminator aircraft. Eight aircraft bombed what is believed to be the target in spite of severe electrical storms on route to the target and at the target. No results were observed. During the day the men were busy settling in, digging holes for desert lilies, building cook stoves and grease dumps. Buckets of water and sand were placed at each tent in case of fire. Two new crews arrived. Bomb loads consisted of 9x500. Take offs ranged from 18:30 to 19:30. Sgt Bridge in HZ552 and S/Ldr Lewington in DN348 were the illuminators for this raid. Crews bombed from 21:04 to 22:45. Bombing heights were from 5700 to 6000 feet. The target was difficult to find due to severe electrical storms with clouds to 18000 feet over the target area as well as on the whole route to and from target. At least four bombers did not attack the primary target due to the weather. Those crews that did bomb the target believed they hit the target and saw explosions and fires. Two aircraft from 424 Squadron have been reported missing on ops from tonight. NASAF sent Wing bombers to Grazzise and 331 and 236 Wings to Formia. Poor weather resulted in 13 bombers returning early from Formia. Still those that found the target successfully cratered the target area. The Grazzise attack was on the pontoon bridges across the river. Damage was reported on the pontoons and the North bridge was seen to be floating along the shore. From these missions one crew crashed on landing, another ran out of petrol and baled out, and one crew from 424 Squadron had to ditch but were rescued. Another crew missing from 424 Squadron was not heard from since take off.
October 2: Stand down. A good movie was shown this evening. Initially NASAF had ops on for tonight but these were cancelled at noon due to forecasts of bad weather.
October 3: Ops for nine aircraft to attack the Civitavecchia rail yards. One returned early due to engine trouble. The other eight successfully bombed the target. Crews observed many bombs bursting on tracks and in yard area. S/Ldr McCarthy for B-flight was promoted to WC of 424 Squadron. Bomb loads were cookies or 9x500. Take off time was ~19:40. Crews bombed at ~23:33 from 4500 to 6500 feet. Crews reported bombs falling in target area. Some minor light flak was encountered by some crews. NASAF requested 50 bombers to attack the rail yards at Civitavecchia. 331 Wing was also assigned a nickelling mission which it was not able to complete due to engine trouble. 90 tons of bombs from 48 aircraft were dropped on the target in less than 30 minutes. Direct hits were recorded on oil tanks by 4000 lb cookies. A crew from 331 Wing crashed due to engine trouble. The crew escaped with out injury.
October 4: The main road junction at Formia was the primary target for seven aircraft. Accurate illumination enabled the target to be pinpointed. Bomb bursts were observed throughout the target area. No real opposition to the attack. F/Lt Beall took command of B-Flight. Bomb loads were a mix of bomb loads adding up to 5000 lbs of bombs. Take off time was ~17:05. Crews bombed at 20:15 from 5000 to 6000. Crews observed many bomb bursts in the target area. Small amount of heavy flak was experienced along the coast but the target area was devoid of defences. Formia roads again received the attention of NASAF. 331 Wing was to bomb the primary target and fulfill the nickelling misison of the previous night. Over 98 tons of bombs were dropped by 50 bombers on to the roads in the target area. Photographs taken during the raid indicated it was successful. One crew was missing from the raid but had ditched in the sea due to flak damaged. The crew were all rescued.
October 5: Eight aircraft were on ops for an attack on planes dispersed at the Grossetto airfield. One returned early due to engine trouble. The rest of the planes successfully attacked the primary target. Many bombs were seen to kit the enemy aircraft as well as an oil dump and some buildings. No opposition. Bomb loads were made up of 14x250 plus 2SBC(8x40). Take off time ~16:20. HE640, flown by F/O McCoy was the illuminator for this raid. Crews dropped their bombs ~20:04 from 5700 to 6100 feet. Crews saw many fires started from the bombing. Some light flak was encountered over the target area. Intel reported about 40 aircraft dispersed at Grosseto air field. NASAF requested 50 bombers to attack the airfield. 51 bombers attacked the target with 82 tons of bombs. Good weather and illumination resulted in many fires being started. These fires were believed to be burning aircraft. ME323's and Ju52's were some of the aircraft seen by the crews on the airfield. Buildings and hangars also received direct hits. The runways were cratered. The attack was considered successful.
This was the last date 331 Canadian Wing was on operations with 205 Group. While flying with 205 Group the three squadrons (420, 424, 425) flew 2127 sorties and dropped just over 3745 tons of bombs. Their planes also dropped about 10,000,000 leaflet nickels.
October 6: Ops for seven aircraft were cancelled after the bombers were readied due to weather forecasts of high winds and rains. A good movie was shown in the evening.
October 7: Stand down. Wellington's HE640 "E" and He975 "U" were sent out of front line service to Bleida.
October 8: Off operations. Squadron is being shipped back to England. The return trip will be from Hani East to Tunis then Algiers will begin at 6:15 on October 17. Rumours finally confirmed that the Squadrons making up the Wing are to return to the UK.
October 9: Rolls were completed and sent to 205 Group HQ. Personal attached to squadron from other units left. All aircraft and supplies are to be sent to other squadrons. Barrack equipment to be left behind. Tents etc are to be returned to stores.
October 10: The technical site was dismantled and aircraft flown to other units.
October 11: Tool kits and personal kits were marked.
October 12: The move involves the entire 331 Wing in two parts. 331 HQ, 420 Squadron and 296 Squadron are to be transported to Tunis in trucks. At Tunis it will board a special train to Algiers. The following day 424 Squadron and 425 Squadron will be moved. Motor Transport section has been busy transporting moving items of the squadron that are to be left behind.
October 13: Many of the men have come down with jaundice and the hospital tent is full. The squadron has been split into seven flights for the move.
October 14: The officers of the RAF regiment gave a farewell dinner for the 331 Wing officers. A movie was shown this evening.
October 15: Squadron is restricted to camp. Sten guns and rifles were taken from the men and sent to 205 Group.
October 16: Transport column of 50 vehicles arrived today. Men were assigned to a truck and articles not required for daily used loaded. Communal tents were dismantled.
October 17: At 3:00 the camp was called and breakfast served. Tents were dismantled and garbage burned. At 5:00 the men marched to their assigned vehicles and at 5:55 the column left Hani East. Column reached Le Bardo Kassel Said at 13:00. The train arrived at 22:00 and left at 23:00. The train consisted of 33 wagon and three coaches. Each wagon accommodated 25 men and kit.
October 18 to 21, 1943: The train engine broke down 25 miles from Tunis. The train was 6 hours late by the time it arrived. The train stopped periodically for rations to be distributed. One wagon was used as a medical center and it was almost always full due to jaundice, which had infected 25% of the men. The train finally arrived at Maison Carree where the men were loaded on to transport trucks to be driven to No 1 BPD at Fort De L'Eau some four miles away where a good meal was provided.
October 22 to 26: At Fort De L'Eau the squadron rested waiting to board the ship. Some men went to visit Algiers. Embarkation was set for October 26. The loading of the airmen on to SS Samaria was handled very smoothly and only to three hours.
October 27: The food on board was greatly appreciated. Comments of "Hot rolls and real butter!" "All you can eat!" and "No flies and sand!" were heard. Troops from many regiments and services continued to be loaded on to the ship all day.
October 28 to 31: Men are getting used to routine of the ship and the various emergency drills practiced.
November 1 to 5, 1943: In the Atlantic somewhere aboard SS Samaria returning to England. Destroyers began dropping depth charges at a possible target. So far the voyage has been uneventful. The ship is crowded but the men are relatively comfortable. The squadron is supplying watch details. Entered Mersey River on November 5.
November 6 and 7: SS Samaria docked at Liverpool at 9:30. We were met by the RCAF band and Air Vice-Marshall Brookes in the company of others came on board to bring greetings to Group Captain Dunlap and the Wing. We started unloading about 12:15. Within 45 minutes the squadron was aboard a train at Riverside Station. The train left for Topcliffe at 13:15, arriving at 18:00. Met by W/C's Sparling and Holmes, officers in command of Dalton. The squadron was transported to Dalton airbase by bus where it was fed and sleeping quarters provided. W/C Holmes complimented the men behaviour. Extra kit and equipment arrived and was distributed. Discipline among the airmen was very good considering they had essentially been without beer during their time in N. Africa.