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Royal Air Force Beach Units

No. 3 Beach Squadron

No 3 R.A.F. Beach Squadron, consisting of No. 105 Beach Flight and No. 106 Beach Flight was formed for the Normandy invasion (Operation “OVERLORD”), but was held in reserve in England with some sections being sent across subsequent to the initial landings.  The unit started from scratch as No. 3 R.A.F. Beach Unit in August 1943 and was renamed as No. 3 R.A.F. Beach Squadron in April 1944.

No. 3 R.A.F. Beach Unit

On 21st August 1943 Wing Commander L. H. Wesson arrived at R.A.F. Station West Kirby to take command of the newly established No. 3 R.AF. Beach Unit.

Flight Lieutenants Lawson, Bates, Spence, Skilling and Bullock who were to be the officers of No. 106 R.A.F. Beach Section reported at the Marine Hotel, Troon on 23rd August to attend a Beach Organisation Course. W/Cdr Wesson joined them the next day.

Meanwhile, also on 24th August, Flight Lieutenants Curtis, Taylor, Turner, Arnold and Pettican who were to be the officers of No. 105 R.A.F. Beach Section, arrived at Gailes Camp to join 2nd Battalion, Herts Regiment under command of Lt.. Col. J.H. Harper for attachment to No. 9 Beach Group.

On 1st September the officers of No. 105 R.A.F. Beach Section went to the Marine Hotel, Troon to attend an abridged Beach Organisation Course. On the same day the officers of No. 106 Beach Section, who had finished the course, returned to R.A.F. West Kirby, while W/Cdr. Wesson went to Dundonald to establish No. 3 R.A.F. Beach Unit headquarters with 104 Beach Sub Area.

A week later, on 8th September, No. 105 Beach Section moved to Monkton Camp with No. 9 Beach Group. After another week No. 106 Beach Section became part of No. 10 Beach Group when it formed at Gailes Camp under the command of Lt.. Col. H.S. Cooper.

F/Lt.. J .A. Lawson, in command of No. 106 Beach Section and F/Lt.. A.G. Curtis, in command of No. 105 Beach Section, were promoted to the Acting Rank of Squadron Leader.

On 22nd September F/Lt.. W. W. Blackstone arrived at the Combined Training Centre Dundonald to take up Adjutant’s duties at No. 3 R.A.F. Beach Unit Headquarters, Next day F/Lt.. Taylor took a party to No. 1 P.T.C at R.A.F. West Kirby to collect M.T. (Mechanical Transport), arriving back at Gailes Camp two days later.

No. 106 Beach Section moved from Gailes Camp to Johnstone Camp on 3rd October, with No. 10 Beach Group.

On 19th October, the new Adjutant, F/Lt.. Blackstone and two other newly joined officers, F/Lt.s. R.M. Ashton and P. Fewkes started a 14 day  Beach Organisation Course at Troon. Later, in November, F/Lt.. Fewkes was away for 16 days at No. 244 Army Petrol Depot.

F/Lt.. E. V. Turner and ten airmen went to No. 8 School of Technical Training at R.A.F. Weeton on 9th November, to start a three week course on diesel engines. (Five men from the M.T. sub section of No. 105 Beach Section and five men from the M.T. sub section of No. 106 Beach Section made up the party of ten airmen.)

On 13th November No. 106 Beach Section moved from Johnstone Camp to the Ayr Racecourse Camp and on 15th November No 3 R.A.F. Beach Unit Headquarters, together with 104 Beach Sub Area H.Q. moved to new Headquarters located at Doonholme House, Alloway, Ayr.

F/Lt.. Blackstone and eight airmen (two from H.Q., three from No. 105 and three from No. 106 Beach Section) were attached to the R.A.F. Regiment Depot at Grantham, Lincs. on 16th November for a Battle Inoculation Course that was to last until the end of the month.

On 17th November F/Lt.. E.S. Archbold was posted to No. 106 R.A.F. Beach Section to replace F/Lt.. C. S. G. Spence who was posted to H.Q. 42 Group, Reading and on 29th November, F/Lt.. A. R. Kelly was attached to the R.A.F. Regiment Depot for the Battle Inoculation Course.

At the beginning of December 1943 the bulk of No. 3 R.A.F. Beach Unit went to the R.A.F. Regiment Depot at Grantham for the 14 day Battle Inoculation Course. No. 105 Beach Section travelled from Monkton and No. 106 Beach Section travelled from Ayr on 1st December. W/Cdr Wesson went for five days from 6th to 11th December.

While at Grantham, F/Lt.. E. V. Turner, officer in charge of the M.T. sub section of No. 105 Beach Section was admitted to the R.A.F. Hospital at Rauceby.

At the end of December W/Cdr. Wesson went to No. 1 R.A.F. Beach Unit on temporary duty and for most of January 1944, S/Ldr Lawson, C.O. of No. 106 Beach Section, assumed command of the Unit. He went on leave on 20th January, so S/Ldr. Curtis of No. 105 Beach Flight assumed command of the Unit until the final return of W/Cdr. Wesson on 28th January.

Also during January 1944, the adjutant, F/Lt.. Blackstone was attached to the Joint ‘Q’ Planning School in London from 3rd to 15th, F/Lt.s. Archbold and Pettison were temporarily attached to No. 36 Maintenance Unit, Charlwood and F/O. L. A. Perry was posted from R.A.F. Acklington for duty with the M.T. sub section of No. 105 Beach Section, as F/Lt.. Turner remained in hospital. At the end of January, F/Lt.. Archbold went to Combined Training Centre at Dundonald for the Beach Organisation Course.

At the beginning of February 1944, No. 3 R.A.F. Beach Unit became part of 2nd Tactical Air Force. No 54 R.A.F. Beach Balloon Unit was attached to 105 Beach Section and No 55 R.A.F. Beach Balloon Unit was attached to 106 Beach Section.

The M.T. sub sections of both Sections were attached for training to the Mechanical Transport Light Repair Unit (M.T.L.R.U.) at West Malling.

Sub sections of No. 106 Beach Section were sent on various attachments for training. F/Lt.. Skilling and the Equipment sub section went to ’B’ Maintenance Unit at Stapleford Tawney. F/Lt.. Fewkes and the P.O.L. sub section, together with F/Lt.. Archbold and the Explosives sub section, went to No. 407 R.A.F. Air Ammunition Park, Burrswood, Groombridge. F/Lt.. Ashton and the Landing sub section went to No. 8 R.A.F. Embarkation Unit at Glasgow.

On 9th February W/Cdr. Wesson went on temporary duty to 2nd T.A.F. (Plans).

No. 105 R.A.F. Beach Section, excluding the M.T. sub section which was training with the M.T.L.R.U. at West Malling, assembled at Gullane on 10th February 1944 to take part in Exercise ROUNDABOUT with the Army’s No. 9 Beach Group. No. 54 R.A.F. Beach Balloon Unit also took part. They returned to their base at Monkton on 22nd February, though the Landing sub section remained on attachment at Leith for a short while.

F/Lt..  N. D. Bates was posted to No. 312 Supply and Transport Column and was replaced by F/Lt..  F. J. Whittam of that unit, who took his place as officer in charge of the M.T. sub section of No. 106 Beach Section.

W/Cdr Wesson returned to the Unit on 18th February but went off again to 2nd T.A.F. (Plans), four days later.

No. 106 R.A.F. Beach Section, also without their M.T. sub section, assembled at Gullane on 24th February and took part in Exercise ROUNDABOUT with No. 10 Beach Group. No. 55 R.A.F. Beach Balloon Unit did not take part, instead they went to R.A.F. Wythall on 25th February, to do some training and at the same time No. 54 R.A.F. Beach Balloon Unit went for training at R.A.F. Cardington.

On 26th February 1944, F/Lt.. E. V. Turner (85035), who had been  in charge of the M.T. sub section of No. 105 Beach Section, died at the R.A.F. Hospital, Rauceby. Flight Lieutenant Eric Vincent Turner was 42 years old and married. He had been in the hospital since 10th December 1943 when he was admitted during a Battle Inoculation Course at the R.A.F. Regiment Depot, Grantham. He had been on the dangerously ill list for the last seven days.

At the end of February, F/Lt. Blacklock, adjutant of No. 3 R.A.F. Beach Unit, left the Unit’s H.Q. at Alloway, Ayr and went with the advance party of 104 Beach Sub Area to establish a new H.Q. at Putney, London.

W/Cdr. Wesson returned to No. 3 R.A.F. Beach Unit from duty at 2nd T.A.F. (Plans) on 29th February.

On 1st March the Explosives sub section of No. 105 Beach Section went to No. 407 R.A.F. Air Ammunition Park, Burrswood, Groombridge.

The Headquarters of No. 3 R.A.F. Beach Unit was established at Putney, London with Headquarters, 104 Beach Sub Area on 5th March.

F/O. Seymour arrived from R.A.F. Harrowheer for Equipment duties with No. 106 Beach Section and was promoted to Acting Flight Lieutenant.

The Landing sub section of No. 106 Beach Section was attached to the Forward Equipment Unit, Bicester and the Explosives sub section of No. 106 Beach Section was again attached to No. 407 R.A.F. Air Ammunition Park, Burrswood,

On 20th March 1944 No 3 R.A.F. Beach Unit moved to R.A.F. Old Sarum, Wiltshire at which date they ceased to operate with 104 Beach Sub Area, being replaced by No. 4 R.A.F. Beach Unit. This must have been a great disappointment to the men of No. 3 R.A.F. Beach Unit who had been training with 104 Beach Sub Area for over six months and expecting to play a full part in the coming operation.

F/Lt. Kelly was attached for duty with Headquarters, A.E.A.F.

After over five weeks attached to No. 71 M.T.L.R.U. the M.T. sub sections of Nos. 105 and 106 Beach Sections finally left West Malling and went to the Combined Training Centre, Dundonald for duties with the wet-shod Landing School.

On 24th March W/Cdr. Wesson set up an Advanced Headquarters for duty with 2nd T.A.F. (Plans). F/O Arnold of No. 105 Beach Section, who had lost his Acting rank of Flight Lieutenant on 28th January due to being sick in hospital, was posted to No. 309 S. & T. Column (He had been replaced by F/O Perry, now Acting Flight Lieutenant, who had been carrying out his duties since 12th January).

S/Ldr. Curtis, C.O. of No. 105 Beach Section was attached to R.A.F. No. 83 Group (Rear) on 26th March.

On 28th March F/Lt. Taylor of No. 105 Beach Section was posted to No. 4 R.A.F. Beach Unit. (Promoted to Acting Squadron Leader, Taylor was to command 107 Beach Flight in Normandy.) Provost personnel of No. 3 R.A.F. Beach Unit who had been attached to T.A.F. Police at R.A.F. Station, Bletchingley for the last two weeks, were attached to R.A.F. Station, Old Sarum for Station and Camp duties.

F/O. W. L. Smith arrived from R.A.F. Station Chigwell on 15th April, to become Signals Officer at No. 3 R.A.F. Beach Unit Headquarters and the next day, F/Lt.. H. Palmer arrived from 136 Airfield H.Q. for Equipment duties with No. 105 Beach Section.

No. 3 R.A.F. Beach Squadron

On 17th April 1944, in common with Nos. 1, 2 and 4 R.A.F. Beach Units, the title of No. 3 R.A.F. Beach Unit was changed from “Beach Unit” to “Beach Squadron” and the Beach Sections became Beach Flights. F/Lt.. Archbold was attached to Rear Headquarters, 2nd T.A.F.

S/Ldr. J. A. Lawson, commander of No. 106 Beach Flight (who had been commended for bravery in the London Gazette No. 36309 dated 31st Dec. ‘43) was posted to No. 89 R.A.F. Embarkation Unit on the 1st May, and F/Lt. J. L. Seymour of No. 106 Beach Flight followed him  to 89 E.U. eight days later. (Ted Inge, who knew ‘Lofty’ Lawson when they were both at No. 3 Embarkation Unit, Liverpool was to find S/Ldr. Lawson in charge of 89 Embarkation Unit when he joined the Unit in Arromanches.) S/Ldr J. P. Conway arrived from Air Ministry Unit to take over command of No. 106 Beach Flight.

On 6th May F/Lt. Kelly returned from attachment at H.Q. A.E.A.F.

F/Lt. R. M. Ashton from No. 106 Beach Flight was posted to No. 4 Beach Squadron. He was replaced as Landing Officer by F/Lt. D. Clark posted in from No. 1 P.D.C.

F/Lt. H. Palmer, from No. 105 Beach Flight was posted to No. 1 Beach Squadron, swapping places with F/Lt.. R. .C. Sandwith who was posted from No. 1 Beach Squadron on compassionate grounds.. F/Lt. Sandwith took over as officer in charge of No. 105 Beach Flight Equipment Section.

On 20th May F/O. Smith who had only been with No. 3 Beach Squadron for a month was posted to  No. 4  Beach Squadron. He swapped places with F/O. G. Taplin who came to No. 3 R.A.F. Beach Squadron. F/O. Smith became the officer in charge of No. 4 Beach Squadron signals section.

The P.O.L. and Explosives Sections of No. 105 Beach Flight and No. 106 Beach Flight ended their attachment to R.A.F. Station Groombridge and rejoined No. 3 Beach Squadron at Old Sarum on 24th May. At the same time, the M.T. Sections of the two Flights also returned having ended their attachment to the Air Wing of the C.T.C. at Dundonald.

F/Lt. E. S. Archibold from 106 Beach Flight was posted to No. 1 Beach Squadron. He was later Mentioned in Dispatches for his actions in Normandy as officer in charge of the Explosives Section of No. 101 Beach Flight. He was replaced in No. 106 Beach Flight by F/Lt..  S. O.Osbourne posted in from No. 28 Maintenance Unit.

On 29th May F/Lt.  C. M. S. Abbott was posted in from R.A.F. Station Bourn to take over responsibility for  No. 106 Beach Flight P.O.L. Section.

No. 3 R.A.F. Beach Squadron was not used in the Normandy landings. However, on the 14th June, eight days after D-Day, F/Lt. A. R. Kelly together with the Landing Section of 105 Beach Flight was sent to Normandy to operate with No. 2 Beach Squadron and on 28th June the Provost Sections of 105 and 106 Beach Flights were also posted for duty with No. 2 Beach Squadron in Normandy.

S/Ldr. Curtis returned from his attachment to No. 83 Group (rear H.Q.), resuming his command of No. 105 Beach Flight on 12th June.

The C.O., W/Cdr. Wesson, who had returned from his duties with 2nd T.A.F. (Plans) on 21st May, left the Squadron on 26th June for temporary duty with 2nd T.A.F., B.U.C.O. (West). (B.U.C.O. was the Build Up Control Organisation that handled the movement of units from England to the Continent.)[1] S/Ldr Conway of No. 106 Beach Flight assumed command of the Squadron.

On 1st July the M.T. Section of No. 105 Beach Flight and the M.T. Section of No. 106 Beach Flight were attached to the 2nd T.A.F. Forward Equipment Unit at Bicester for servicing and repair work.

No. 3 R.A.F. Beach Squadron was disbanded with effect from 24th July 1944.

 

[1] W/Cdr. Wesson is mentioned in the records of No. 6 R.A.F. Beach Unit in 1945. Assuming this is the same W/Cdr Wesson, it would seem he ended up in Air Command South East Asia.

 

The main source of information on this page is:

The Operations Record Book of No. 3 Beach Unit, later No. 3 R.A.F. Beach Squadron, Aug 1943 - Jul 1944 - found in, ‘Air Ministry and Ministry of Defence: Operations Record Books, Miscellaneous Units’ AIR 29/438 at The National Archives

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