No. 108 R.A.F. Beach Flight originated from No. 69 R.A.F. Beach Unit, which was disbanded at the end of 1943 to be reformed as No. 108 Beach Section and later renamed 108 Beach Flight. No. 108 Beach Flight was part of No. 4 R.A.F. Beach Squadron, and worked with the Army’s No. 10 Beach Group in the Jig sector, GOLD assault area, in Normandy during Operation “Overlord”.
No. 108 R.A.F. Beach Section
Formed from the disbanded No. 69 R.A.F. Beach Unit at R.A.F. West Kirby at the beginning of 1944, No. 108 R.A.F. Beach Section was commanded by Squadron Leader C.W. Lovatt (31230), who had previously been the Commanding Officer of No. 33 Beach Brick, R.A.F. Component. It was one of two Beach Sections in the new No. 4 R.A.F. Beach Unit, the last of four Beach Units to be formed for the forthcoming invasion of North West Europe.
With the rest of the Unit, 108 Beach Section moved to the 2nd T.A.F. Headquarters at Bracknell in February 1944. No. 108 Beach Section was to be attached to No. 10 Army Beach Group, replacing No. 106 Beach Section of No. 3 Beach Unit. 108 Beach Section moved to join 10 Beach Group in a Concentration Area at Beaulieu towards the end of March 1944.
Early in April 1944 No. 108 Beach Section took part in Exercise “CROPPER” in the Bracklesham area and, in mid-April the Landing personnel and Police participated in Exercise “SMASH III” at Studland Bay.
At this time No. 108 Beach Section was renamed No. 108 Beach Flight.
No. 108 R.A.F. Beach Flight
The change of name from 108 Beach Section to 108 Beach Flight in April 1944 was a change in name only and had no other impact on the unit, which was completing its preparations for the coming invasion of North-West Europe.
As April ended and May began, the Flight was involved in the full scale exercise “FABIUS II” at Hayling Island which was somewhat hampered by poor weather. Then there was a break before the time came to move to final marshalling areas.
On 13th May 1944, 32 men of 108 Beach Flight, four of them with a 3 ton lorry, left Beaulieu for Camp R7, near Ipswich. They were to embark at Felixstowe and land Second Tide with Force L, the follow-up force. Ten men, two of them in another of the 3-tonners, went to Camp T2A at Canning Town.
Thirteen men and three jeeps remained at Beaulieu. On 19th May those landing 1st Tide with Force G moved to Camp C22 at Southampton.
Embarkation of these different parties (serials) of the Flight took place from 2nd to 4th June.
108 R.A.F. Beach Flight in Normandy
108 Beach Flight was assigned to work with No. 10 Beach Group on the JIG GREEN and ITEM RED beaches of the GOLD assault area.
The assault landing began at 07.25 hours and, starting at 07.30, a Beach Group recce-party ‘swam off’ in DUKWs from L.S.T. 25, four miles off shore. The first landings by the Beach Group and R.A.F. Beach Flight personnel should have been on JIG GREEN East Side but due to the enemy resistance at Le Hamel the JIG GREEN beach had to be avoided at first, and JIG RED was used instead.
Squadron Leader Lovatt (Beach Flight Commander), Flight Lieutenant Morris and LAC Gordon landed from L.S.T. 25. They were part of Serial 2190. L.S.T 25 was an L.S.T. 2 that was part of Assault Group G1 and their landing was scheduled for H+120mins.
Also landing with 231st Brigade in Assault Group G1 were F/Lt Bruce and F/Sgt House . Part of Serial 2183, they were also due to land at H+120 mins. The L.C.T. Mk. IV they were in (L.C.T. 809) was sunk off the KING beaches and their jeep was ‘drowned’.
The jeep was recovered and towed to No. 10 Beach Group Temporary Command Post, F/Lt Bruce and F/Sgt House joining S/Ldr Lovatt, F/Lt Morris and LAC Gordon there at around 16.00 hours. It had not been possible to recce the area designated for the R.A.F. in the Key Plan because it was still occupied by the enemy. At 16.30 hours it was finally possible to enter the village of Le Hamel and Beach Group H.Q. opened at 18.00 hours on the site planned, which was found to be a well dug German battalion headquarters. Temporary quarters for the three officers and two Other Ranks of 108 Beach Flight were established in the Beach Group Command Post and they had their first meal on French soil at approximately 23.00 hours.
F/Lt Richardson, Sergeants Voller and Barrett and L.A.Cs Jarmin, Cooper and Basford arrived on board L.S.T.17, a U.S. L.S.T. 2 that was part of Assault Group G3. These six men, with a jeep, were part of Serial 2916 (scheduled to land at H + 6 on JIG GREEN). In the early evening of D-Day, after arriving at JIG Transit Area, they set out to recce the proposed Assembly Area but could not get established as the tactical situation in this area was not clear. They returned to the Beach Group Assembly Area on the Les Roquettes road.
Around midnight came the first air raid and then, at H + 19½ (3 a.m. on 7th June), the bulk of 108 Beach Flight arrived. They had embarked with the follow-up force, Force L, at Felixstowe and landed in the JIG sector from L.C.T. Mk. 3s.
At 07.00 hours on 7th June, the Ammunition Section H.Q. of 108 Beach Flight was set up by F/Lt Bruce in an emergency dug-out adjacent to the Initial Dump Area in Le Hamel (map ref. 860822) and the P.O.L. Dump was established at map ref. 889848.
After living in slit trenches for a while, No. 108 R.A.F. Beach Flight set up its Headquarters at a house in the hamlet of St-Come-de-Fresne. (Ron Plater, former Sergeant M.T. Fitter of 108 Beach Flight, made a number of return visits there in later life)
By mid-July work on the JIG and ITEM beaches slackened off as the bulk of arrivals were, by then, being handled at the nearby Mulberry harbour at Arromanches and 89 R.A.F. Embarkation Unit were taking over the work of the Beach Squadrons.
108 R.A.F. Beach Flight stopped work on the JIG / ITEM beaches on 20th July. The Flight returned to the U.K. with the rest of 4 Beach Squadron late in August 1944 and the unit was disbanded.
Sources used for this page:
Operations Record Book of No. 4 RAF Beach Squadron – found in, ‘Air Ministry and Ministry of Defence: Operations Record Books, Miscellaneous Units’ AIR 29/438 at The National Archives.
‘Notes on the Work of a Beach Group in Normandy’ in Current Reports From Overseas No. 67 prepared under the direction of The Chief of the Imperial General Staff and published by The War Office, 13th December 1944
The Administrative History of The Operations of 21 Army Group on the Continent Of Europe 6th June 1944 – 8th May 1945, published in Germany in Nov. 1945