Operating with the R.A.F.’s 2nd Tactical Air Force for the invasion of Normandy, No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Squadron, consisting of Nos. 101 and 102 Beach Flights, was assigned to the SWORD assault area where the 3rd Division Group of 1st Corps led the assault in the ‘Queen’ sector.
In the final plans for Operation “OVERLORD” it was established that virtually all R.A.F. units, stores and supplies would be handled through the JUNO and GOLD assault areas (and the Mulberry harbour to be established at Arromanches), The need for an R.A.F. beach unit in the SWORD area was therefore called into question. However, it was decided that No. 1 R.A.F.Beach Squadron, which had trained for months to work with the Army beach groups in 101 Beach Sub Area, should still be ‘put across’.
In the event the men of No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Squadron distinguished themselves by the way in which they assisted their Army and Navy colleagues in the difficult conditions in the SWORD area.
No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Squadron was originally named No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Unit.
No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Unit
No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Unit was formed at R.A.F. Station, Ayr on 1st September 1943. The new Unit comprised of Nos. 101 and 102 Beach Sections (effectively, the disbanded Nos. 70 and 71 Beach Units with new designations) and a Headquarters.
In accordance with a directive from D.D.W.O., the function of No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Unit was to provide technical advice and assistance on R.A.F. matters to No. 101 Beach Sub Area and Nos. 5 and 6 Beach Groups in regard to personnel, equipment and stores during a landing operation in enemy territory.
The Commanding Officer of No. 1 Beach Unit was Wing Commander L.S.N.B. Faulkner. Flight Lieutenant J.B. Keith O.B.E. was in command of No. 101 Beach Section but, on formation, a commanding officer for No. 102 Beach Section had not been appointed. The full establishment of the Unit was specified as 14 Officers and 84 Other Ranks.
All Unit personnel were accommodated at R.A.F. Station, Ayr for R.A.F. technical training and eight of the Unit’s officers were immediately sent to Troon to attend the Combined Training Centre’s four day Beach Organisation Course. On 6th September, two officers went to the A.M. Canning Factory at Ardrossan for a two day P.O.L. course.
On 15th September 1943, Squadron Leader H.G. Rae was posted to the Unit and appointed Officer Commanding No. 102 Beach Section and Flight Lieutenant Keith, Officer Commanding No. 101 Beach Section was promoted to the rank of Acting Squadron Leader.
No. 1 Beach Unit Headquarters moved to join No. 101 Beach Sub Area at Doonholme House, Alloway on 20th September.
At the beginning of October No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Unit went to the two day Exercise "BRIDGEHEAD". The object of this exercise was to test the Beach Organisation's ability to put through the personnel and vehicles of a complete division and supporting arms. No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Unit attended as spectators only "for information and discussion purposes".
There were a number of movements among the Unit's officers recorded this month. F/Lt C.A. Newberry arrived from Air Ministry Unit on 8th October having been posted to No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Unit for Administrative Duties. A week later, F/Lt H.L. Wilsdon arrived from R.A.F. Station, Arbroath. He was in the process of being posted to No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Unit, also for Administrative Duties. Next day, he went with S/Ldr Rae and F/Lt Bishop to Troon where the three of them were to attend the two week Beach Organisation Course. On 22nd October F/Lt C.A. Newberry left the Unit on posting to No. 43 Base for Adjutant Duties (F/Lt Wilsdon was his replacement) and F/Lt J.F. Cann went to R.A.F. Camp, Rollestone on 25th October, for a four day Instructor' Gas Course.
For two weeks at the beginning of November the whole of No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Unit, with the exception of small rear parties at Headquarters and Sections were at the R.A.F. Regiment Depot at Grantham for a Battle Course, designed to harden the men for active operations.
On 15th November 1943, No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Unit Headquarters moved with No. 101 Sub Area (Beach) to Cameron Barracks, Inverness. At the same time No. 102 R.A.F. Beach Section moved with No. 6 Beach Group to the Highlands Hotel, Strathpeffer, while, for the time being, No.101 R.A.F. Beach Section remained at Dam Park, Ayr.
F/Lt G.Mc.M. Brown went to Gullane on 30th November, for Liaison Officer Duties at the Beach Group Practise Camp.
In December No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Unit Headquarters, less a small rear party, attended Exercise "ROUNDABOUT I" at Gullane together with 101 Beach Sub Area. No. 101 R.A.F. Beach Section were taking part in this exercise and on 20th December were joined for the remainder of the Exercise, by 2 Officers and 62 Other Ranks forming No. 50 R.A.F. Balloon Flight who had arrived from Swansea for duties with No. 5 Beach Group. They were to be attached to No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Unit for administrative purposes.
Two Officers and 60 Other ranks of No. 53 R.A.F. Balloon Unit were also attached (for administrative purposes) to No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Unit, on 22nd January. They were to operate with No. 6 Beach Group.
From 2nd to 28th January1944 W/Cdr L.H. Wesson, Officer Commanding No. 3 R.A.F. Beach Unit took over command of No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Unit while W/Cdr L.S.N.B. Faulkner was absent on temporary duty elsewhere and S/Ldr Rae, O.C. No. 102 Beach Section, took over command of the Unit when the C.O. again went away on 30th January.
At the beginning of February 1944, No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Unit were transferred to 2nd Tactical Air Force for all operational and administrative purposes. S/Ldr Rae went down to London on 22nd February for a conference with W/Cdr L.S.N.B. Faulkner.
On 3rd March 1944 S/Ldr. H.G. Rae, Officer Commanding No. 102 R.A.F. Beach Section and F/Lt. J.F. Cann went to the Advanced Headquarters of 3rd British Infantry Division for Exercise “BARON”.
On 6th March F/Lt. J.N. Dobbin M.C. (A. & S. D.), was posted from No. 4 R.A.F. Beach Unit. He went straight off to join S/Ldr Rae and F/Lt Cann on detachment at 3rd British Infantry Division Headquarters.
With effect from 18th March 1944, S/Ldr Keith was posted to No. 6 Embarkation Unit and F/Lt Dobbin was given command of No. 101 R.A.F. Beach Section. He was promoted to the rank of Acting Squadron Leader. Three days later, he and S/Ldr Rae returned from 3rd British Infantry Division Headquarters on completion of Exercise “BARON”.
Flying Officer C.N. Tebay (Tech/S) , who had been supernumerary at 2nd T.A.F. Headquarters (Main), arrived on 13th March to fill the Signals Section vacancy at Unit Headquarters.
From the 27th March to 1st April 1944, both Sections of No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Unit participated in Exercise “LEAPYEAR” held in the Burghead area.
As soon as the Sections returned to Inverness from Exercise “LEAPYEAR”, the Unit began a move to new locations. 3rd British Infantry Division and associated units, including 101 Beach Sub Area and the Beach Groups, were moving from Scotland to the South of England.
On 2nd April S/Ldr Rae, Officer Commanding No. 102 Beach Section went to the Air Ministry in London for a conference. The Officer Commanding No. 101 Beach Section, S/Ldr Dobbin, went to the Headquarters of No. 1 Corps for a conference with W/Cdr L.S.N.B. Faulkner on 4th April.
No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Squadron
On 17th April 1944, the 2nd Tactical Air Force beach units were officially renamed, so that No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Unit became No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Squadron and its Beach Sections (Nos. 101 and 102) became Beach Flights. This was a change of name only and made no practical difference to the unit..
Beginning on 28th April, all personnel of No. 1 Beach Squadron, with the exception of small rear parties at Squadron Headquarters and the Beach Flights were preparing to participate in Exercise “FABIUS”. This Exercise was the last full rehearsal before the ‘real thing’, though the men did not know it at the time. When it took place on 4th May, the units of the Squadron taking part were the Headquarters Signals Section, No. 101 Beach Flight and Nos. 50 and 53 Beach Balloon Flights.
The units returned from Exercise “FABIUS” on 5th May and two days later F/O C.N. Tebay, the Signals Officer had to attend a Signals Conference about the Exercise at the Main Headquarters of 2nd T.A.F.
At this time, No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Squadron, under the command of W/Cdr L.S.N.B. Faulkner (75937) was concentrated in ‘A’ Marshalling Area and the Petworth Concentration Area in preparation for Operation “OVERLORD” in which operation the Squadron was designed to provide an R.A.F. echelon of 101 Army Beach Sub Area and Nos. 5 and 6 Beach Groups, responsible for the maintenance of the force over the beaches of SWORD sector. Under the administrative control of No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Squadron, and located with it, was No. 976 Beach Balloon Squadron commanded by S/Ldr B.W.B. Chapman (78503). No. 976 Beach balloon Squadron consisted of No. 50 Beach Balloon Flight commanded by F/Lt L.A. Lane (82227) and No. 53 Beach balloon Flight commanded by F/Lt H.L. Jarman (90631).
The Squadron Headquarters and Signals Section were established at ‘Rosecroft’, Hambledon, Hampshire.
No. 101 Beach Flight and No. 50 Beach Balloon Flight were located at Camp A.7, Waterlooville, Hampshire.
No. 102 Beach Flight and No. 53 Beach Balloon Flight were located at Brownings Camp, Petworth, Sussex
On 13th May, a small party of Squadron Other Ranks heard a speech by the Supreme Allied Commander at 101 Beach Sub Area. S/Ldr Dobbin attended a briefing conference at 21st Army group convened by W/Cdr Fearne. S/Ldr Dobbin also attended a General Conference at 2nd T.A.F. from 15th to 18th May.
The Commanding Officer of the Squadron was presented to H.M. King George VI when No. 101 Beach Flight, No. 50 Beach Balloon Flight and a small party of Other Ranks from Squadron Headquarters were inspected by His Majesty on 22nd May,
On 23rd May, the Signals Officer attended a Signals Briefing Conference at Main Headquarters, 2nd T.A.F.
On 26th May the camps were sealed after midnight and at 08.30, briefing and final checking of plans began for Operation “OVERLORD”. The Squadron and Flight Commanding Officers attended a Sub Area Commander’s briefing, during which the Heads of Services and senior officers of the Army Beach Sub Area were briefed on R.A.F. aspects by No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Squadron Commanding Officer, W/Cdr Faulkner. The next day, the Squadron Commanding Officer briefed all officers for the Operation, the Flights were briefed by Flight Commanders and Marshalling commenced.
On 30th May, the Squadron Headquarters ‘A’ Echelon moved to Camp A.2 and ‘B’ Echelon to Camp A.1 ready for embarkation at Gosport Hardway. Headquarters ‘C’ Echelon remained at Camp A.10 for embarkation on D + 4.
On 31st May, No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Squadron and No. 976 Beach Balloon Squadron were marshalling for embarkation.
Squadron Headquarters (‘A’ and ‘B’ echelons) embarked in the Portsmouth and Newhaven sectors on 4th June.
After embarkation vessels proceeded to their allotted anchorage to await sailing orders. The Squadron was carried to Normandy in a variety of ships and craft, LSTs, LCTs, LCIs, LSPs,, MTCs, LSIs and MTS being utilised.
Sailing orders were received and the voyages, with one exception, were uneventful.
No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Squadron in Operation “OVERLORD”
The intention was that No. 5 Beach Group, with elements of No.101 R.A.F. Beach Flight would land in the QUEEN Sector on 1st Tide and set up the beaches and the MOON Beach Maintenance Area. Further elements of No. 101 R.A.F. Beach Flight would land in the QUEEN Sector on 2nd Tide.
Nos. 50 and 53 Beach Balloon Flights (the two Beach Balloon Flights of No. 976 R.A.F. Beach Balloon Squadron) were to land on 1st and 2nd Tides over the ROGER/QUEEN beaches and deploy in accordance with their own operational plan to provide a Balloon Barrage against low-flying attack.
No. 6 Beach Group was to land on 2nd Tide and take over the B.M.A. from No. 5 Beach Group, who would then be responsible for the Beach Area and the Assembly Area.
No. 5 Beach Group would organise the WHITE and RED Beaches of QUEEN Sector immediately on landing and maintain through traffic along the Beach Lateral. They were responsible for organising the discharge of all vessels touching down in the QUEEN Sector, including the discharge of L.S.Ts. by Rhino Ferry, and for establishing communications throughout the Beach Area.
For their part, No. 101 R.A.F. Beach Flight were to establish and maintain No. 4 R.A.F. Assembly Area in the MOON B.M.A. and supervise all landings of R.A.F. M.T and Stores that might arrive in the QUEEN and ROGER Sectors.
No. 102 R.A.F. Beach Flight was to land on 3rd Tide in the NAN Sector and deploy to the MOON B.M.A. as per instructions received in the STAR Transit Area. On arrival, the Landing, Equipment and Provost Sections of No. 102 R.A.F. Beach Flight were to come under the command of the Flight Commander of No. 101 R.A.F. Beach Flight (responsible for the Beach and Assembly Areas) and the Ammunition and P.O.L Sections of No. 101 R.A.F. Beach Flight were to come under the command of the Flight Commander of No. 102 R.A.F. Beach Flight (responsible for the dumps in the B.M.A.).
However, practically no R.A.F. stores or personnel were scheduled for landing over the SWORD beaches during the initial stages so the Commanders of Nos. 101 and 102 RA.F. Beach Flights were instructed to “do all in their power to assist Army Beach Groups in carrying out their tasks.”
It had been decided in advance that No. 101 R.A.F. Beach Flight would operate a Jeep Recovery Squad from their M.T Section, allocating one jeep for this purpose. The idea was that this Squad would try to recover any jeeps that were drowned to relieve the strain on the R.E.M.E. Beach Recovery Section. Teams were to be organised in relays for this purpose. It had also been arranged with the R.A.S.C. Commander of No. 101 Beach Sub Area that each of the two R.A.F Beach Flight M.T. Sections would be attached to the Workshops of the R.A.S.C General Transport Company in their Beach Group and work with them when not required for R.A.F. purposes.
An Air Information Unit was attached to No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Squadron for the landings. They had their own jeep and were scheduled land 5½ hours after H-Hour. They would be landed by Rhino Ferry from an L.S.T. and would be based at No. 101 R.A.F. Beach Flight Headquarters until Squadron Headquarters was set up. (The story of the Air Information Unit’s attachment to No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Squadron is told by Alan Melville in his book “First Tide”)
6th June 1944 (D-Day)
At 09.25 on 6th June (H plus 2 hours) the first elements of Nos. 50 and 53 R.A.F Beach Balloon Flights and No. 101 R.A.F. Beach Flight began to touch down at QUEEN RED Beach, La Breche, SWORD assault area. Strong opposition was encountered from the shore, shell and mortar fire being heavy in addition to all types of small arms fire.
At sea, one serial of No. 102 R.A.F. Beach Flight was to meet with misfortune shortly after midday.
(Follow the links to read some detail of what happened to the individual Flights)
W/Cdr L.S.N.B. Faulkner with Squadron Headquarters ‘A’ Echelon in Serial 617 arrived off QUEEN WHITE beach at 3.30 pm in an L.S.T.(2). The party consisted of 12 personnel, 5 of whom were on foot and the others riding in a jeep and on four motorcycles. They were scheduled to land by Rhino Ferry at H + 11½ hours (approximately 7 pm).
By 5 pm, five exits were available on QUEEN WHITE Beach and five were available on QUEEN RED Beach. There was an air raid in which two JU 88’s were shot down by Anti-Aircraft fire.
At 8 pm No. 6 Beach Group began to touch down. Their landing was made in deep water and the Army lost some men due to drowning.
The Beach Maintenance Area Advance Party reached Hermanville-sur-Mer at 9 pm. Their progress was held up by snipers and the enemy strongpoint at Lion-sur-Mer was still holding out.
At 9.15 pm, as aircraft and gliders conveying 6th Airborne Division reinforcements passed overhead, a decision was made to put all maintenance into a temporary Sector Stores Dump adjacent to beach pending clearance of the enemy from the planned Beach Maintenance Area.
At 9.30 pm all members of No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Squadron that had landed so far were dug in. There was a large amount of sniping at La Breche and beached landing craft in the QUEEN Sector joined in a “partially successful “ effort to silence the snipers.
It was reported that the enemy was still in Ouistreham but the dock gates had been captured intact by S.S. Commandos and the Airborne Division. Personnel of No. 6 Beach Group were detailed to assist in the defence of Ouistreham.
“Owing to the piling up on the beaches and the impossibilities of clearance later serials arriving in landing craft were held off beaches where they were subject to shell-fire, mortar fire and machine gun fire in addition to light bombing attacks.
S.S. MARCEL arrived with RAF Stores (Hydrogen).
As only two small RAF Serials were scheduled for SWORD Sector in the early stages, all officers and airmen were detailed to augment and assist Army Beach Groups. Personnel of both the Beach Squadron and the ‘B’ Balloon Squadron were thus detailed for, and employed on such various but important tasks as:- Traffic police, Prisoner of War guards, and Escorts, Smoke-making parties, Anti-sniper patrols, Stretcher-bearers, collection of the dead, Burial Parties, Craft-berthing parties, Vehicle recovery and repairs and Dump labour. Although somewhat unobtrusive, much useful and valiant work was performed by the Squadron. In most cases it was a baptism of fire and almost without exception personnel stood up to the exacting conditions with exemplary fortitude in spite of many narrow escapes from shells, mines, mortars, rifle and machine-gun fire.”
The weather on D-Day was reported as bright and dry with a choppy sea and light wind. Apart from Beach Squadron personnel, only 10 R.A.F. personnel, one vehicle and no R.A.F stores had been landed. In addition to the No. 102 R.A.F. Beach Flight casualties, F/O Bissendon, an officer of No. 976 Beach Balloon Squadron was slightly wounded and a Cpl. Crossett.
The Signals Section of No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Squadron were scheduled to land on QUEEN RED beach from an L.S.T.(2) just before midnight. They were part of Serial 627 (which also included the last party of No. 101 Beach Flight) and their party consisted of ten men on foot and another four bringing ashore a 3 ton Bedford G.S. lorry and a Humber 4x4. Len Schwartz, a member of the Signals Section, recalls that the L.S.T. was crippled when three bombs landed in the sea near the stern of the ship as it neared the beach. The L.S.T. was unable to approach nearer to the beach and could not be unloaded that night.(1)
During the hours of darkness enemy air activity continued.
7th June 1944 (D+1)
On D+1 strenuous efforts were made to clear the beaches and prepare exits for the receipt of stores. The weather was fine and dry but the sea was choppy due to the fresh wind.
© IWM (CL 228)
Planted above the German bunker they have taken as their Headquarters, the R.A.F. Ensign is flown by men of No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Squadron
No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Squadron established its Squadron Command Post on the beach at La Breche (Map Reference 086806). At 10.30, eight JU 88s attacked the beaches. The first aircraft had its tail blown off by Light Anti-Aircraft fire. Bombs were jettisoned across the Squadron Headquarters area but there were no R.A.F. casualties. A total of four aircraft were claimed destroyed by anti-aircraft fire.
At Midday it was reported that Ouistreham was clear of the enemy. There was spasmodic enemy artillery and mortar fire over the beaches.
By 3 o’clock in the afternoon, the Squadron Main Headquarters was established and dug in at the planned site (Map Reference U 077800, Sheet 75/5). According to Len Schwartz the Headquarters Signals Section was based at a farm (“Ferme De La Canardière”), which he describes as “The very first farm on the left going up into to Hermanville”.(2) This corresponds with the geographical coordinates of the Map Reference which place the Squadron Headquarters on the north side of the Chemin du Douet, about halfway along - a location that is now in the south-west corner of “Les Vattaux” holiday camping and caravan site.
At 6 pm the first serials of No. 102 R.A.F. Beach Flight touched down, landing in the NAN Sector of the JUNO assault area. Due to the enemy holding out in Lion-sur-Mer, they could not get through to join No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Squadron and had to spend the night at No. 3 R.A.F. Assembly Area.
The delayed unloading of the L.S.T. carrying Serial 627 took place at QUEEN RED beach, with the Signal Section coming ashore by Rhino Ferry at around 7 pm.(3)
From 6.30 pm, No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Squadron were operating a smoke screen for the Army. At 8 pm there was a further outbreak of sniping in the area around La Breche and half an hour later there were enemy air attacks. The beaches were bombed and one ME 109 was shot down in the fierce anti-aircraft barrage.
Mine clearing was proceeding and widening of the Ouistreham to Lion sur Mer road was commenced. The first water-point was established at Hermanville-sur-Mer.
Other R.A.F. arrivals on D+1 were limited to five personnel, two vehicles and 6½ tons of hydrogen.
8th June 1944 (D+2)
No. 4 R.A.F. Assembly Area was established at 2 am on D+2, with F/Lt F.J.P. Haynes (74603) in charge and at 3.05 am, the Squadron’s Signals Section established W.T. communication with BUCO EXFOR.
At 9 am, a party of the South Lancashire Regiment arrived to clear the Lion-sur-Mer strong point. They were assisted by Beach Group personnel.
An enemy air attack developed at 1.45 pm. The main beach exit, No. 101 R.A.F. Beach Flight Headquarters and No.1 R.A.F. Beach Squadron Command Post were shot up and the adjacent P.O.L. Dump was bombed and blown up. The resultant fire spread to small supplies dumps and ammunition dumps. F/Lt E.S. Archbold (105720), No. 101 R.A.F. Beach Flight Ammunition Dump officer, and LAC J. Seal (1108405) from the P.O.L. Dump “displayed great devotion to duty in assisting in beating out several fires in spite of the danger from flying debris from exploding shells and petrol cans.” The fires in the P.O.L. and Ammunition dumps were finally extinguished at 5.15 pm. 60,000 gallons of Army P.O.L. and 400 tons of Army ammunition were destroyed.
A Sergeant Pilot who had been shot down, arrived and was evacuated to the U.K. Enemy shelling and mortaring of the beach area began again around 6 pm. Squadron personnel mounted an anti-sabotage guard on derelict gliders.
At 7 pm the strongpoint at Lion-sur-Mer was finally cleared and at 8 pm, after a few adventures,No. 102 R.A.F. Beach Flight under S/Ldr H.G. Rae arrived from the NAN Sector.
To end the day there was a parachutist scare at 11 pm and No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Squadron was detailed for anti-parachutist defence of the eastward sector of the No. 101 Sub Area Headquarters location.
There was rain during the night, though the day had been fair with a light wind and a moderate sea. 82 R.A.F. personnel, 6 vehicles and no stores had been landed. The Beach Maintenance Area Ammunition Dump was now established.
During the day F/Lt H.L. Jarman (90631), Commanding Officer of No. 53 R.A.F. Beach Balloon Flight had been slightly wounded. Back home in the U.K. the award of the O.B.E. to W/Cdr L.S.N.B. Faulkner, Commanding Officer of No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Squadron was announced in that day’s edition of the London Gazette.
9th June 1944 (D+3)
On D+3 mine clearance continued. Squadron personnel continued to provide a guard in the glider area at St. Aubin d’Arquenay. There was an air raid from 5 am to 6.15 am and four JU 88s were claimed as shot down by anti-aircraft fire. Unexploded Butterfly Bombs were later reported on the QUEEN RED and QUEEN WHITE beaches.
A decision was made to proceed with establishing the Beach Maintenance Area as originally planned and at 9.30 am recce parties went to the B.M.A. sites. On the beaches, shelling and mortaring by the enemy began again at 10.30 am.
The P.O.L., Ammunition and Equipment/Landing Sections of No. 102 R.A.F. Beach Flight were sent to help No. 2 R.A.F. Beach Squadron, under arrangements agreed by Headquarters No. 83 Group, and the M.T. Section of No. 102 R.A.F. Beach Flight was detached to No. 39 G.T. Coy. R.A.S.C. to assist in the workshops.
In another air raid at 3.30 pm, one FW 190 was shot down by anti-aircraft fire and at 5 pm, four rocket craft were ordered to bombard enemy gun and mortar positions in an effort to stop interference with beach work. During a further air attack that lasted from just after 9 pm until 11.30 pm, an ME 210 was claimed shot down by anti-aircraft fire.
During D+2 the beaches were still working at full pressure in spite of enemy activity and Squadron personnel continued to give “valuable assistance to the Army”. After rain at first light the day had been showery with bright intervals. The wind was slight and the sea had been calm. Nothing was landed for the R.A.F.
10th June 1944 (D+4)
Enemy air attacks began at 3.30 am and at 4.20 am the new P.O.L. Dump was hit by a stick of three 250 kilo bombs. A canister of anti-personnel bombs was also dropped. The resulting fire remained localised and was extinguished by 5.45 am.
No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Squadron began salvaging parachute equipment and instruments from gliders and shot-down aircraft, “this work being carried out under enemy fire and air attack”. Large quantities of parachutes, containers and aircraft instruments were recovered for shipment back to the U.K.
Six vehicles and four Bofors guns belonging to the R.A.F. Regiment, that had been retrieved from salvaged landing vessels, were serviced by the M.T. Section of No. 101 R.A.F. Beach Flight and delivered to No. 3 R.A.F. Assembly Area (JUNO area) for collection by their owning unit, No. 2817 (A.A.) Squadron.
At ten past four in the afternoon shelling of the anchorage and beach area began again. In the evening LAC J. Laytham (1521861) “whilst on anti-sniper patrol and point duty at No. 4 R.A.F. Assembly Area”, accidently discharged his firearm and fatally wounded himself.
Corporal Marsh (606242) of No. 976 R.A.F. Beach Balloon Squadron suffered severe burns when a petrol cooker exploded and was evacuated to the U.K. Three shot-down aircrew personnel reported and were evacuated to the U.K.
It had been a warm and dry day, with a calm sea. No R.A.F. Stores were landed and only 5 R.A.F. personnel. Fifteen exits from the QUEEN and ROGER beaches were now completed and, since D+1, 57 unexploded bombs and 17 unexploded shells found in the area had been disposed of by Army bomb disposal personnel.
11th June 1944 (D+5)
An enemy air attack developed after midnight and one JU 88 was destroyed by anti-aircraft fire. At 10 am the port of Ouistreham was reported to be available for use but as the area was still subject to enemy gun and mortar fire it was decided to defer the berthing of ships.
F/Lt J.F. Cann (111798) and the Landing Section of No. 102 R.A.F. Beach Flight ceased their attachment to No. 2 R.A.F. Beach Squadron and were sent to Port en Bessin for R.A.F. embarkation duties there.
No.101 Beach Flight personnel continued to be employed in assisting the Army and salvaging airborne equipment and instruments from gliders and crashed aircraft. 2½ tons of parachute equipment was shipped back to the U.K.
No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Squadron Headquarters “C” Echelon arrived. The “C” Echelon was three men in a 3 ton G.S. lorry. Part of Serial 3345, they would have been the last members of No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Squadron to arrive in France but the survivors of Serial 3211, who had been landed back in the U.K., were still to come.
It was another fine and warm day. Enemy shelling of the anchorage and beaches continued spasmodically throughout the day. LAC McConnel (965359) of No. 976 R.A.F. Beach Balloon Squadron was wounded. Nothing was landed for the R.A.F.
12th June 1944 (D+6)
Squadron personnel continued to assist the Army in addition to carrying out salvage work. Further parachute equipment and aircraft instruments were salved by the Squadron and put aboard L.S.T. 364 for return to the U.K. Enemy shelling continued spasmodically. The S.S. “ABILITY” began to discharge R.A.F. P.O.L. and this was received into the R.A.F. P.O.L. Dump operated by No. 101 R.A.F. Beach Flight.
It was a dull day with a moderate wind and rain at night. At 11.35 pm an enemy air attack began. The Ammunition Dump was hit and 30 tons of Army ammunition was destroyed. There were no R.A.F. losses and the air attack stopped shortly after midnight.
13th June 1944 (D+7)
There was an enemy air raid again just before dawn and shelling of the beach and anchorage area continued during the day. The B.M.A. P.O.L. Dump was now established as per the First Key Plan and further R.A.F. P.O.L., hydrogen, oxygen and ammunition was landed and transferred to the dumps for sorting prior to issue. No. 1 Army Roadhead took over control of the Army dumps.
The salvage of airborne equipment and aircraft instruments continued but at midday, the guarding of the glider landing ground was handed over to an R.A.F. Provost and Security Unit.
In the evening a U.S.A.A.F. Marauder aircraft crashed near Hermanville and five United States aircrew, who were the survivors of this crash, reported and arrangements were made for their evacuation to the U.K.
It had been a cloudy day but with good visibility and a moderate wind. 46½ tons of R.A.F. P.O.L. had been landed and 8 tons of parachute equipment shipped back to the U.K. An air raid began at 11.30 pm in the Beach Maintenance Area.
14th June 1944 (D+8)
The air raid finished at 1 am and D+8 turned out to be a similar day to the day before. The Squadron continued with the salvage work and the spasmodic shelling of the B.M.A and anchorage also continued. 61 tons of R.A.F. Stores, 40 tons of R.A.F. P.O.L. and 12 tons of hydrogen were received.
15th June 1944 (D+9)
Petrol, equipment and R.A.F. ammunition continued to be unloaded from S.S. “ABILITY”, S.S. “FENJA” and S.S. “DAGENHAM”. The QUEEN beaches were heavily shelled during the morning and six beached L.S.T.s were hit.
The P.O.L. and Ammunition Sections of No. 102 R.A.F. Beach Flight ceased their attachment to No. 2 R.A.F. Beach Squadron in the STAR B.M.A. and rejoined No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Squadron. The B.M.A. Stores Dump was now established.
The Squadron continued to help the Army and to salvage R.A.F. equipment. There was more shelling for a short period beginning at 3.05 pm. In the evening a Spitfire crashed near the R.A.F. P.O.L. Dump. The pilot was safe and he was evacuated to the U.K. There was more shelling at 8.25 pm and the usual air raid began at 11.30 pm.
The weather had been fair with good visibility and a light north-westerly wind. 57 tons of R.A.F. P.O.L., 4 tons R.A.F. Stores and 8 tons of oxygen and hydrogen were received.
16th June 1944 (D+10)
The nightly air raid ended at 1 am with one ME 111 destroyed by anti-aircraft fire. The equally routine dawn air attack came again at 3.45 am.
All casualty evacuation from the SWORD area was stopped from 10 am.
The survivors of Serial 3211 under F/Lt J. Pinder (44951) M.T. Section officer of No. 102 R.A.F. Beach Flight, together with F/Lt D.J.A. Garratt and other casualty replacements reported on landing.
Two crashed pilots reported and were embarked for the U.K. The salvage of parachutes and aircraft equipment continued as did the discharge of R.A.F. P.O.L., ammunition and stores. 140 tons of P.O.L., 19½ tons of ammunition, 10 tons of bombs, 3½ tons of oxygen and 1½ tons of stores were received. 2 tons of parachute equipment was shipped back to the U.K.
The day was cloudy, with rain during the morning. There was good visibility and a moderate north-westerly wind. Intermittent shelling had gone on throughout the day. That night, a balloon barrage was flown for the first time since D-Day. No. 976 R.A.F. Beach Balloon Squadron put up 12 balloons at 11.30 pm and the enemy air raid started 15 minutes later.
17th June 1944 (D+11)
The air raid ended half an hour after midnight with two enemy aircraft claimed as destroyed by anti-aircraft fire. A half-hour morning air attack began at 4 am.
The salvage of R.A.F. equipment and the unloading of R.A.F. P.O.L., ammunition and stores continued. The first issues of ammunition were made from the R.A.F. Dump. Corporal N. Sykes (1114430) suffered a spinal injury and was evacuated to the U.K.
F/Lt J.F. Cann (111798) and his party (the detachment from No. 102 R.A.F. Beach Flight that had been working at Port en Bessin) returned to No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Squadron.
The weather was fine, with a light northerly wind. 14 tons R.A.F. Stores, 13 tons of hydrogen and oxygen, 5½ tons of ammunition and 1 ton of P.O.L. were received. There was slight spasmodic shelling during the day and the regular air attack came at 11.45 pm.
18th June 1944 (D+12)
The nightly air raid continued on a small scale until 2 am. One enemy aircraft was claimed as probably destroyed by anti-aircraft fire.
In the morning a decision was taken to open up PETER RED beach as an experiment. The liquidation of the enemy strongpoint at Douvres radar station was reported. The first issue of R.A.F. Stores (balloon equipment and wireless equipment) was made at the Ordnance Dump. The salvage of R.A.F. equipment continued, as did the intermittent daytime shelling. The record states, “Large number of Naval Craft washed up on beach” but no explanation is given. There was a light north-westerly wind that day and it was cloudy with moderate visibility.
60 tons of salvaged parachute equipment was shipped back to the U.K. and 37¼ tons of ammunition, 17 tons of bombs, 7 tons of hydrogen and oxygen and 1¼ tons of other R.A.F. stores were received.
19th June 1944 (D+13)
On D+13 the sea was rough and there was a fresh north-east wind and rain. The weather prevented the discharging of coasters and landing craft and work on the SWORD beaches came to a halt. There was an abortive attempt to un-beach the coasters “AVONVILLE” and “YEWGLEN”. Slight and intermittent shelling went on during the morning and there was more shelling and mortaring of the beach area later in the afternoon.
The R.A.F dumps were cleared of all holdings except P.O.L. during the course of the day.
F/Lt J.F. Cann (111798) and the Landing Section of No. 102 R.A.F. Beach Flight moved to the Port of Ouistreham in preparation for the opening of the port, but the decision to open was held in abeyance owing to the close proximity of the enemy (about 1800 yards away). A Port Executive Committee was formed and S/Ldr H.C. Rae (87603), Commanding Officer of No. 102 R.A.F. Beach Flight was nominated as the R.A.F. representative. Until further reconstruction could be completed, the capacity of the port was determined to be eight L.C.T.s and three coasters.
40 tons of salvaged equipment was shipped back to the U.K. and 75 tons of ammunition, 36¼ tons of bombs, 7½ tons of P.O.L., 5 tons of stores and 2½ tons of hydrogen were received.
20th June 1944 (D+14)
After the customary air raid which developed at 3.15 am, D+14 dawned with similar weather to the day before. It was cloudy with moderate to poor visibility, there was a strong north-east wind and the sea was rough. The discharge of shipping was therefore partially suspended.
The Squadron continued with its work salvaging airborne equipment and aircraft instruments and preparing them for shipment, and continued to help the Army. Shortly after midday, enemy shelling resumed. This was thought to be 88mm guns firing at extreme range. Owing to the proximity of the continued shelling, the Headquarters of No. 101 R.A.F. Beach Flight was moved to Lion sur Mer and their former headquarters site by the beach in the QUEEN sector was subsequently used by 101 Beach Sub Area for the control of seaward traffic.
In an air attack at 5 pm a FW 190 was shot down by anti-aircraft fire, there was more shelling of the beach and anchorage areas after 8 pm and an air raid as usual, developing around 11.45 pm. No. 976 R.A.F. Beach Balloon Squadron were now flying 40 balloons to help protect the beaches from these air attacks.
18 tons of bombs, 13½ tons of P.O.L., 7 tons of ammunition and 1½ tons of oxygen were received.
21st June 1944 (D+15)
Early in the morning there was very accurate shelling and mortaring of Ouistreham for over 1½ hours, ending at 7.30 am. At 9 am, shelling and mortaring began again, this time targeting the beach area and anchorage.
Bad weather was still restricting the discharge of shipping – there was still a strong north-easterly wind. Only 3¼ tons of P.O.L. and 2 tons of oxygen were received. LAC Tait (1003657) of No. 976 R.A.F. Beach Balloon Squadron, injured his hand and was evacuated to the U.K.
Wing Commander J. Fearne, the Senior Movements Staff Officer, 2nd Tactical Air Force visited No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Squadron. In the evening, there was further shelling of the beach area and a new site was found for No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Squadron Headquarters in the village of Hermanville-sur-Mer.
22nd June 1944 (D+16)
There was shelling and mortaring of the beaches at 7.10 am and then around 8 am, the DUKWs went to work again and the discharge of ammunition and stores from ships began again in earnest after the three day lull.
There was more shelling at 10.10 am. P.O.L. ships were now being diverted to other Sectors and a decision was taken that M.T. ships and L.S.T.s would not be discharged in the QUEEN Sector until the danger from continuous shelling abated.
DUKW traffic was stopped at 2 pm due to the surf, and then began again at 5 pm. There was intermittent shelling again in the evening and then, at 8.50 pm the coaster S.S. “DUNVEGAN HEAD”, was seriously hit by shell fire and caught fire. The ship had beached at 6 pm on QUEEN RED beach and was loaded with ammunition, including 136 tons of bombs, rockets, small arms ammunition etc. for the R.A.F. Owing to the danger of explosion an immediate evacuation of the surrounding area was ordered. The rising tide prevented the explosion of bombs in the lower hold, as the ship became waterlogged but the whole cargo had to be written off as damaged by explosion, fire and water.
Notwithstanding this loss, 2¾ tons of bombs, 3½ tons of ammunition and 28¾ tons of P.O.L. were received for the R.A.F. this day. The night began with an air raid and more shelling.
23rd June 1944 (D+17)
A disturbed night and a troubled day. The first air raid ceased at 1.30 am and then another occurred at 3.30 am. Few bombs were dropped this time but it was later reported that phosphorous bombs had been dropped. In the meantime there was more shelling, beginning just after 2 am and then occurring with growing intensity from 6.30 am.
By 8 am, QUEEN RED beach was closed down due to the constant and accurate shell fire. Other beaches remained open. There were two more hits on the stricken coaster “DUNVEGAN HEAD” and the coaster “CORAL” also received a hit. Later in the morning, during further shelling, coasters “AVONVILLE” and “YEWGLEN” were under fire and hits were reported on one M.T. ship and one L.C.I.
Discharge of R.A.F. bombs and ammunition was steady but “fairly heavy” shelling of the beaches and anchorage continued throughout the day. After midday the coaster “AVONVILLE” was struck by shell fire and at 1.10 pm, five rocket craft bombarded Franceville Plage in an effort to reduce the enemy artillery fire.
In spite of all this a Transhipment Area was established to facilitate the transfer of loads from DUKWs to lorry transport.
In the afternoon specialist officers carried out an examination of the ammunition carried by the S.S. “DUNVEGAN HEAD”. All the Army and R.A.F ammunition and the bombs, were condemned.
Enemy 88mm guns were firing at Ouistreham later in the afternoon and it was reported at 9 pm that one of these had been knocked out by No. 20 Anti-Tank Regiment. Propaganda leaflets were dropped by enemy aircraft over Ouistreham that evening.
There was yet more shelling of the beach area at 9.35 pm and this was followed by a “slight” air raid. Just before midnight a pilotless plane was shot down into the sea by A.A. fire.
20 tons of ammunition, 7½ tons of P.O.L., 5½ tons of stores and 3½ tons of oxygen were received.
24th June 1944 (D+18)
The enemy shelling continued, night and day. In an air raid, at 2 am, a German bomber was shot down by anti-aircraft fire and two of the five crew were captured. There was a leaflet drop at 3.30 am (“Calling S.O.S. Can Germans send us Doctors? This is the cry of the 1st American Army at St. Lo. Who knows, perhaps you may be in the same desperate situation tomorrow!”).
At 8.30 am, in the resumed intermittent heavy shelling, the S.S. “DUNVEGAN HEAD” was hit yet again. ( “No. 69” was also reported as hit. It is not clear what “No. 69” was, although it certainly was not L.S.T. 69). Nine coasters were now discharging and 116½ tons of ammunition, 36 tons of bombs and 2¼ tons of stores were received for the R.A.F.
The First Lord of the Admiralty visited Ouistreham and the beaches in the afternoon and No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Squadron was visited by W/Cdr L.R. Brown of No. 87 R.A.F. Embarkation Unit.
In the evening, a decision was taken that, for safety reasons PETER GREEN beach at Petit Enfers, should be opened up on Monday 26th June. The night began with the usual air raid and more shelling.
25th June 1944 (D+19)
Half an hour after midnight, two 500lb bombs were dropped in the Ouistreham area by two enemy aircraft. The air raid ended less than an hour later, but was followed by shelling. There was the usual dawn air raid and then, more unusually, there was an air attack just before 10 am. Three ME 109F aircraft were destroyed by A.A. fire. These were seen to crash and a further two ME 109F and one FW 190 were claimed as probably destroyed. Following this, shelling resumed and continued throughout the day.
Parachutes and other salvaged equipment were loaded on the coaster “J.F.V.” “owing to the impossibility of unbeaching ‘YEWGLEN’”. Eight coasters were now unloading stores. 84 tons of ammunition, 49 tons of bombs and 15½ tons of hydrogen and oxygen were received.
In the evening, spasmodic machine-gun fire was reported in the Ouistreham area. There was a heavy concentration of artillery fire landing on QUEEN RED and QUEEN WHITE beaches between 10 pm and 11 pm. It was reported that the Admiral Commanding Naval Forces had decided that no further P.O.L. or ammunition ships were to be discharged in the SWORD area because of the shelling and that all Naval staff and ships were to be withdrawn from the SWORD area. Coasters were ordered to go to the JUNO area.
In the meantime the loading of 300 empty hydrogen cylinders and a substantial quantity of salvaged parachute equipment was begun in S.S. “WILLIAM HOWLAND”.
26th June 1944 (D+20)
There was only slight enemy air activity during the early hours but the periodic shelling continued. An FW 190 was hit by A.A. fire at 11.40 am.
All the ammunition and P.O.L. ships had now sailed away from the SWORD area, leaving only stores vessels. Owing to the withdrawal of all naval craft, no vessels were allowed to beach and so the stores coasters would have to be discharged into Army DUKWs out in the anchorages. It was also decided that greater activity would have to be simulated over the PETER/QUEEN beaches to prevent the enemy transferring their artillery fire to the JUNO area.
It had been planned to start working PETER GREEN beach but it was decided not to do this yet because there were sea mines offshore.
F/Lt J.F. Cann (111798) and the Landing Section of No. 102 R.A.F. Beach Flight were withdrawn from Ouistreham as they had been waiting there for a week and the decision to open the port had still not been made.
54 tons of ammunition, 18 tons bombs and 4¾ tons of hydrogen and oxygen had been received and 41 tons of parachute equipment and 100 hydrogen cylinders weighing 11½ tons were shipped back to the U.K.
27th & 28th June 1944
There was shelling each day throughout the day, and the Squadron continued to be occupied in helping the Army and preparing salvaged equipment and empty hydrogen cylinders for return to the U.K. 46½ tons of salvaged equipment and 206 hydrogen cylinders, weighing 21½ tons, were shipped back to the U.K. Relatively small quantities of ammunition, hydrogen and oxygen and general stores were received.
29th June 1944 (D+23)
At the request of No. 101 Beach Sub Area Commander, No. 101 R.A.F. Beach Flight established and manned a Civilian Internees Camp at Lion-sur-Mer. F/Lt F.J.P. Haynes (74603) was admitted to hospital with suspected appendicitis and Sgt S.R. Bullen (1444716) was evacuated to the U.K. with injuries to his foot.
In the evening, carrier pigeons were seen and one was shot down. It was found to be carrying a message and this was passed to the Intelligence section of 3rd British Infantry Division.
There was the usual daily shelling and nightly air raid. No R.A.F. stores were received.
30th June 1944 (D+24)
During the night there was shelling and an air raid. One bomb exploded 400 yards from No. 101 R.A.F. Beach Flight H.Q. and two heavy shells dropped immediately outside.
During the morning most coasters were weighing anchor in preparation for a hurried departure due to heavy shelling of the anchorage and the whole beach area. A decision was made at conference that the QUEEN beaches would be completely closed and later 101 Beach Sub Area advised that all coasters would be withdrawn from the SWORD area.
In the evening, parachute containers were dropped in the vicinity, by Lancaster aircraft. Some of these were recovered by No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Squadron and transferred to their intended recipients (6th Airborne Division).
The first issues were made from the R.A.F. P.O.L. Dump during the day and the only R.A.F. stores received were ½ ton of P.O.L.
It was estimated that the 200¾ tons of parachute equipment, containers and glider and aircraft instruments that the Squadron had salvaged and shipped back to the U.K. in June was worth £110,000. (equivalent to about £3,300,000 at today’s values).
1st July 1944 (D+25)
Under orders of higher authority, the Commander of No. 101 Beach Sub Area directed all units under command to move west of the road running from Hermanville to the coast. In accordance with this instruction, No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Squadron Headquarters began moving into a house named “L’Ermitage” at Hermanville. The house would be used for messing and offices only and the personnel would dig in at the rear of the house, in the orchard, in the customary manner.
The map reference given for “L’Ermitage” indicates that it was close to the Château d’Hermanville that was Major-General Rennie’s 3rd Division headquarters. The Château is now the Mairie and the location of “L’Ermitage” is where the school now stands.
It had been decided that the unloading of supplies in the SWORD area would cease, except for PETER GREEN beach at Petit Enfers. The N.O.I.C. for SWORD was to be withdrawn and N.O.I.C. JUNO and No. 102 Beach Sub Area would take over responsibility for PETER GREEN beach. An R.A.F. C & D Unit began decoy lighting work in the QUEEN sector to help maintain the pretence that the beaches there were still in use.
2nd July 1944 (D+26)
There was some enemy air activity during the night, although not on a large scale. Two sea mines descended near No. 101 R.A.F. Beach Flight Headquarters in Lion-sur-Mer, killing civilians and blowing out the building’s remaining windows.
Just before 6 am a pilotless plane was reported to have passed over Ouistreham, coming from the sea and moving towards Caen.
The operations staff of Squadron H.Q. and the Signals Section joined the admin staff at their new location, “L’Ermitage”.
No. 101 R.A.F. Beach Flight took over several heavily damaged bungalows and then “discovered mines of a new improvised type in one of the gardens. On examination they proved to be 88mm shells with a release switch nose detonator operated by a wooden platform”.
The weather was cloudy, with heavy rain. Coleville-sur-Orne was shelled in the evening and the QUEEN beaches and vicinity were shelled after dark.
3rd July 1944 (D+27)
During the night of 2/3 July, there was considerable enemy shelling in the vicinity of the PETER beaches, “the worst so far experienced in that Sector” and shelling of the MOON B.M.A. continued on and off all day, the majority of the shells falling on the beaches and Ouistreham.
No. 4 R.A.F. Assembly Area (together with the Army Assembly Area in the MOON B.M.A.) was disbanded and the personnel moved to No. 101 R.A.F. Beach Flight Headquarters at Hermanville-sur-Mer.
4th July 1944 (D+28)
The weather was improving again and 4th July was fine and warm with little or no wind. In the early morning the enemy operated a few aircraft over the area and two were shot down over the PETER beaches.
The M.T. Repair Section of No. 101 R.A.F. Beach Flight was attached to No. 101 General Transport Company, R.A.S.C. and F/Lt F.E. Baker (107400) took over command of that unit’s workshops.
At 10.30 pm a Dornier 217 was reported shot down at the back of ROGER beach.
5th July 1944 (D+29)
At 10 am there was a conference of all the officers of No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Squadron at Squadron Headquarters.
In the afternoon a U.S.A.A.F. pilot (Richard I. Miller) baled out over the area and was rescued from the sea. He was transferred to No. 13 R.A.F. Personnel Transit Camp for evacuation to the U.K. An ME 109 was brought down offshore around 6 pm.
Ammunition and Petrol ships were now being offloaded onto PETER beach at Petit Enfers. 113 tons of R.A.F. P.O.L. and 17½ tons of R.A.F. ammunition were received. The weather was fine but showery.
6th July 1944 (D+30)
There was moderate enemy air activity during the early morning and shelling continued, particularly on the beaches of PETER Sector and at Ouistreham. The weather though warm, had become dull, and windy in the afternoon.
Around 9.30 pm there was heavy shelling, with air bursts, around the Squadron H.Q. area and this lasted for 1¼ hours. There were many near misses and the Squadron personnel were dispersed to their bivouacs. Sgt. D.A. Abbotts (1162963) received a shrapnel wound which fractured a bone in his leg. He was taken to No. 21 Field Dressing Station. Shelling of the beaches recommenced at 11 pm.
There were heavy showers and a minor air raid during the night.
7th July 1944 (D+31)
It was cloudy in the morning but improved later and there was little wind. 31 tons of empty hydrogen cylinders and 48 tons of parachutes and containers were shipped back to the U.K. under escort aboard S.S. “GALACUM”. 8 tons of R.A.F. Stores and 6 tons of ammunition were received.
At 9.35 pm, “Large waves of Lancasters and Halifaxes commenced passing over Squadron H.Q. moving south towards the CAEN area. They were observed to make their bombing run amidst violent flak and then turn west. Aircraft continued to pass over for half an hour. A large pall of dust and smoke rose over the target and drifted northwards over the Squadron area like a thick fog. The artillery also laid down a barrage.”
8th July 1944 (D+32)
Half an hour after midnight enemy aircraft dropped a large number of flares over the beaches and bombs were dropped.
At 4.30 am a “violent” Allied artillery barrage began and continued “without abatement” until 10 am. The Navy were also bombarding enemy positions. “Throughout the day the battle could be heard raging without cessation. CAEN together with all the ground north of the town was reported captured by evening.”
35 tons of R.A.F. ammunition were received. No. 11 Lines of Communication laid on special patrols because the landing of small enemy parties from midget submarines was suspected. There was intermittent enemy shelling of the beach area at the end of the evening.
9th July 1944 (D+33)
There was minor air raid activity during the early hours of the morning. At 10 am the patrols looking out for enemy landing parties were stood down. In the early afternoon “A number of shells fell in the P.O.L. Dump during the course of sporadic shelling. A hit on a small stack involved the loss of 120 gallons of 100 octane fuel.”
120 tons of R.A.F. ammunition was received. There was intermittent shelling of the SWORD area from the east flank during the late evening.
10th July 1944 (D+34)
“There was the usual enemy air activity during the night. It is normally on a small scale and launched by a single aircraft often flying very low, even amongst the balloon cables. Each day around 2300 hours the nights activity is heralded by the arrival of between 10 and 20 machines. The damage suffered in the area is negligible. Since the closing down of the beaches in this Sector better targets are to be found further west.”
During the day, which was very cloudy and dull with some rain, the enemy sent a number of fighter aircraft over the sector, ground strafing. “Three attacks were witnessed, the last of which was made by four ME 109 which passed over H.Q. hotly engaged by AA fire.”
At 6 pm the last remaining beach in the SWORD area, PETER GREEN beach at Petit Enfer was handed over to No. 2 R.A.F. Beach Squadron. Petrol and Ammunition Dumps were still operated by No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Squadron on behalf of No. 2 R.A.F. Beach Squadron. 256¾ tons of P.O.L. and 98½ tons of ammunition were received. 15 tons of hydrogen cylinders and ¾ ton of parachute container bands were shipped out to the U.K. on the S.S. “CORAL”.
11th July 1944 (D+35)
Enemy aircraft operated during the early morning on the usual small scale.
The C.O. of No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Squadron, W/Cdr L.S.N.B. Faulkner O.B.E, together with Major Rex D.A.Q.M.G (M) of No. 101 Beach Sub Area made a preliminary reconnaissance of Caen. Faubourg de Vaucelles and the island between the Canal and the River Orne were still held by the enemy.
At 8.15 pm W/Cdr Faulkner briefed parties for a further recce of Caen to be made next day but at 10 pm the Commander of No. 101 Beach Sub Area ruled that no further recces of Caen were to be made for a period of three days, Heavy shelling of the town had commenced.
172 bombs of various sorts and 10½ tons of P.O.L. were received at the No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Squadron dumps. The weather was dull and cloudy in the morning but improved later with some sun. It was a quiet day in the vicinity of No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Squadron H.Q. but there was ten minutes shelling of the sea area off the QUEEN beaches at 1.35 am.
12th July 1944 (D+36)
It was a fine warm morning with moderate cloud and no wind. The afternoon became bright and sunny. A party from No. 102 R.A.F. Beach Flight consisting of the C.O., S/Ldr H.G. Rae (87603) accompanied by F/Lt J.F. Cann (111798) and Sgt H.G. West (910588) made a recce of Caen, “examining approachable docks and choosing and making bids for accommodation”. (Presumably Colonel Montgomery, the No. 101 Beach Sub Area Commander had changed his ruling about recces of Caen but this is not explained)
In the evening there was some shelling in the area of No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Squadron H.Q.
13th July 1944 (D+37)
Enemy air activity was on a larger scale during the night.
F/Lt J.F. Cann, Sgt H.G. West and LAC Upton, as an advanced party from No. 102 R.A.F. Beach Flight, left to take up quarters in Caen.
The M.T. Repair Section of No. 101 R.A.F. Beach Flight (F/Lt F.E. Baker and 17 other ranks) was detached to work with No. 70 R.A.F. M.T.L.R.U.
It was a dull but warm day. The sea was smooth with little wind. 61 tons of R.A.F. ammunition were received at the dump. A few shells exploded on PETER RED beach at 10 pm.
14th July 1944 (D+38)
The night was quiet with only a few single enemy aircraft passing over.
“At the request of Commander, No. 101 Beach Sub Area a Sergeant and six AC’s attended a parade to mark Bastille Day. No. 101 RAF Beach Flight was inspected by the Mayor of LION-SUR-MER.”
The R.A.F Ammunition Dump in the MOON B.M.A, operated by No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Squadron, was empty and the Army asked if they could have the ground. No. 83 Group were consulted and this was agreed.
It was bright and warm during the morning, with sunshine and a light breeze. The afternoon was dull with low cloud. There were several ground strafing attacks during the day and one aircraft was seen to be shot down by anti-aircraft fire. There was an air raid at 11 pm and one bomb fell uncomfortably near to Squadron H.Q.
15th July 1944 (D+39)
The air raid continued intermittently through the night. “The town of CAEN was observed to receive considerable attention and flares were dropped.”
The advance party from No. 102 R.A.F. Beach Flight in Caen was evacuated along with its Army counterpart in accordance with orders from the Commander of No. 101 Beach Sub Area. “The enemy had become very active there with shelling, mortar fire and air raids, and it was decided that only essential personnel should remain.”
The section of six R.A.F. Police that had been attached to the Squadron from No. 83 Group left to go to No. 2 R.A.F. Beach Squadron.
As agreed the previous day the R.A.F Ammunition Dump area was handed over to the Army and the Dump personnel were withdrawn to No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Squadron H.Q. 14 tons of P.O.L. were received at the R.A.F. P.O.L. Dump.
16th July 1944 (D+40)
“Intermittent shelling occurred in the early hours of the morning. Enemy aircraft operated on a moderate scale.” At 5.15 am the P.O.L. Dump was strafed by a low flying aircraft but no casualties or damage was sustained.
It was a dull but hot day. 6½ tons of P.O.L. were received at the dump.
At 6 pm “The 1st Bucks Bn of No. 6 Beach Group stationed at Ouistreham and east of the Canal reported a Mustang aircraft which had force-landed on the fore-shore N.W. of FRANCEVILLE PLAGE. The pilot failing to realize he was within enemy territory made no attempt to destroy his aircraft and was seen to be captured.
The Army had the aircraft covered by machine gun fire to keep the enemy away. They asked whether they were to destroy the aircraft if it were possible. Orders were given for them to do so. Attempts were then made by machine gun fire and mortar bombs to ignite the machine, but failed. The enemy further complicated the issue by laying a smoke screen behind which he was thought to be endeavouring to retrieve the Mustang.
At nightfall a miniature war was still being waged over possession of the aircraft.”
Shelling of the area in which the Squadron was located began at 10.30 pm and continued until 11.15 pm. An air raid commenced at 11 pm and “continued on a fairly active scale throughout the night.”
17th July 1944 (D+41)
“During the greater part of the day intermittent shelling could be heard approximately a mile east.”
At 4 pm, “A request was received from the Army at OUISTREHAM to call for aircraft to shoot down what they thought was an observation balloon due east. The information was passed to No. 83 Group for action, but was later cancelled on the Army reporting that they were mistaken. Apparently their observers had been deceived by wind-socks on our own barrage balloons - cloud had made observation difficult.”
18th July 1944 (D+42)
“Enemy aircraft operated on a small scale in the early morning.”
At 5.30 am, “Waves of Fortresses, Halifaxes and Lancasters commenced to pass over H.Q. area moving towards CAEN, Aircraft continued flying over in the same direction as late as 0830hrs.
The Sector east and south east of CAEN appeared to receive the most attention. After bombing aircraft all turned west out of the target area and moved away north.”
At 6.45 am, “A very heavy artillery barrage was heard to commence East and South and continued without a break until 1230 hours.”
At 1.30 pm, “Artillery barrage recommenced, decreasing in intensity as the day went on.”
At 11 pm, “An attack was made by enemy aircraft dropping flares and machine gunning Squadron H.Q. area from a very low level in spite of the balloon barrage. Although the number of aircraft engaged probably did not exceed 20 it was very noisy and uncomfortable. A fire was started just SE of the village of HERMANVILLE-SUR-MER.”
19th July 1944 (D+43)
The beaches at Lion-sur-Mer and Luc-sur-Mer were shelled intermittently during the afternoon.
A large number of Luftwaffe films were found by Squadron personnel at a former Luftwaffe Headquarters in Caen. Arrangements were made to collect these and forward them to No. 83 Group (Intelligence).
20th July 1944 (D+44)
At 5 pm there was “a most violent thunderstorm and torrential rain commenced. Barrage balloon after barrage balloon was struck and fell to earth in flames.”
After an hour the thunderstorm came to an end and the rain abated but there had been considerable flooding. No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Squadron’s bivouacs and H.Q. were flooded to depths up to two feet and the main road through the village of Hermanville was under 1½ to 2 feet of water.
At the height of the thunderstorm an enemy aircraft dropped two bombs in the vicinity of No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Squadron H.Q.
It was later reported that No. 976 R.A.F. Beach Balloon Squadron lost 57 out of a total of 59 balloons flying during the thunderstorm.
On 23rd July all stocks of R.A.F. P.O.L. were finally cleared from the R.A.S.C. Petrol Dump and the P.O.L. Section from No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Squadron was withdrawn. Responsibility for the R.A.F Petrol Dump was handed over to No.2 R.A.F. Beach Squadron on 24th July . From this date therefore, No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Squadron no longer had any beach unit duties.
There was a Port Executive Committee conference in Caen in the afternoon of 27th July which was attended by S/Ldr H.G.Rae, C.O. of No. 102 R.A.F. Beach Flight and next day S/Ldr Rae accompanied by one sergeant and two aircraftmen went to take up quarters in Caen.
Group Captain C.J. Salmon of A.E.A.F. Movements visited No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Squadron on 27th July.
Squadron H.Q. began moving to a different house in Hermanville on 29th July. The new location was about 500 metres north along the main street on the other side of the road. It was the Villa de Blancpré (mistyped as “Villa de Blampres” in the Squadron record). For the last two days of July most of the Squadron personnel were occupied in digging in and finishing their bivouacs at this new location.
(photo - Glen McBride collection)
No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Squadron Headquarters at Villa de Blancpré, Hermanville, August 1944
The last entry in the Operations Record Book of No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Squadron is for 31st July 1944 (D+55) a “warm sunny day” with “no wind and very little cloud”.
No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Squadron was disbanded and four weeks later, near the end of August 1944, the Squadron personnel were shipped back to the U.K. via the Mulberry harbour at Arromanches.
(1) Schwarz, Leonard Anthony (IWM interview) www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/80019859
Main source used for this page:
Operations Record Book of No. 1 RAF Beach Unit (later) Squadron including No 70 & 71 Beach Units - found in, ‘Air Ministry and Ministry of Defence: Operations Record Books, Miscellaneous Units’ AIR 29/438 at The National Archives.
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