Letter from Alan Peters, Flight Sergeant Navigator, RAF Banff - Scottish History Online
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Letter Received from Alan Peters

Henley-on Thames,

23rd April 1995.

Dear Colin

Thank you for your letter requesting my version of a "typical days work" at RAY Banff during my time with 248 Squadron. As I was a very young Flight Sergeant Navigator (W), I had my 21st birthday at Banff in September 1944, my memories are somewhat clouded after more than 50 years ago but here goes.

My pilot (W 0 Compton DFC) and I arrived at Banff from Portreath in Cornwall, after more than forty operations over France and the Bay of Biscay, on the 9th of September 1944. As part of the Squadrons above party we had a somewhat mixed reaction from the Flying Training Command who were in occupation of the airfield and did not know in advance of our arrival. After sorting out our Billets (nissen huts) and Squadron Offices (wooden huts) we settled in and flew an air test on Mosquito MRK VI "F" on the 12th of September. During this air test we took the opportunity to familiarise ourselves with the local area. On the morning of the 13th of September the "May Fly" list for the 14th September was put up in the Sergeants Mess. As our names were on the list with "F" we had a quiet night and were awakened at 04.30 am by the "Despatching Sergeant" (an NCO detailed to make sure that crews due to fly on operations would report for briefing at the appropriate time). A quick breakfast of egg and bacon in the Mess and then we caught the crew transport (a three ton lorry with a canvas top) to the Operations Building there we checked that our names were on the "Battle Order" which confirmed which crews were to go on the operation. Briefing followed mainly by the 248 Squadron C/O (W/C Bill Sise). This gave us details of the formation, in this case 20 Mosquito MRK VI, we were to the right located in the formation of 3 aircraft to the leader (WIC Sise). Our role was initially to be anti-flak (using our four 20mm cannon and eight rocket projectiles) and if time permitted to drop four 5001b bombs. I drew the appropriate maps and charts (target area Egero-Hombersund) and after drawing up my flight plan checked my figures with the Squadron Navigators Leaders (Ray Price - Bill Sise’s navigator). My maps included a Mercutor Chart (for navigation) and Topographical Maps of Scotland and Norway (scale 1:500,000) and most useful of all a Norwegian lighthouse chart showing each individual lighthouse in detail. Further briefing from the Met Officer (reasonable forecaster) giving low level winds and cloud base etc. Then the Intelligence Officer spoke of German aircraft known to be in the area, mainly FW 190’s and the report of the Norwegian crew of 333 Squadron that had just left the Norwegian coast after a pre-dawn reconnaissance of the target area. They reported enemy shipping including a large MIV and Trawler type auxiliary. After picking up our evasion packages (Norwegian currency, local maps, button compasses etc) we set off to collect our parachutes, dinghies and cameras (hand held 5" by 4" F24 or Vi .20) and so out to the aircraft at dispersal’s. After stowing our parachutes, dinghy’s, and navigation bag I checked that I had a list of all the call signs and radio frequencies, we then clambered aboard and settled in the Mosquito. It was a typical De Havilland aircraft with very restricted space for the crews (e.g. Dove, Vampire, Venom and even the Comet). A green light (verey light) from the Control Tower was the signal to start the engines. After cockpit checks were complete we taxied out in turn (radio silence strictly maintained). As we lined up on the runway the armourers plugged in the rocket projectiles and we were ready to go.

A green light from the aldis lamp of the runway controller and we were rolling down the runway buffeted by the slipstream of the proceeding aircraft. After becoming airborne, wheels up and flaps retracted a gentle left turn to join up with the main formation at about 1500 feet. A wide circuit and then to the wing waggling of the leader we set course gradually losing height until by the time we were abeam Peterhead we levelled out at between 50 and 80 feet above the sea. This low-level was maintained until we sighted the Norwegian Coast. As soon as there was room in the main fuel tanks petrol was transferred from the wing tip drop tanks. This was essential as we intended to drop these wing tip drop tanks before any attack. Navigation consisted of checking the wind velocity (usually by drift and wind lanes) and sometimes by visual reference (usually Fair Isle or the Shetlands). After about two hours the Norwegian Coast appears as a blur on the horizon. Dawn is approaching and we identify our landfall, a slight alteration of course and we start to look for our target ships. Suddenly the R/T bursts into life - it is the leader.

"Target sighted - drop tanks away" then "Attack, Attack, Attack". We climb in formation to 1500 feet and turn in formation and line up for the attack. Our guns open up and the rockets whoosh away as the tracer bullets begin to concentrate on the target ship - bombs gone, bomb doors closed and we weave our way through the cotton wool clouds that are the bursting anti-aircraft shells. The target was a large Merchant Vessel and its escort of auxiliaries. We claim strikes but have no idea where our bombs have gone - a few photos as we pull over the target.

We turn and maintaining maximum boost head Westwards towards Scotland. About 100 miles West of Norway we reduce to normal cruising conditions and fly at a comfortable height of 300 - 400 feet. Back at Banff we await our turn to land. Several aircraft have damage and are given priority to land. Back to the Operations building for de-briefing. As it was my birthday I am given an extra tot of rum. Then off for a post-operational meal at the aircrew mess (both Officers and NCO’s). This time steak and chips and free drinks courtesy of Group Captain Max Aitken and his wife, then to bed.

I do have a some what tatty copy of an article on Banff (Daily Express Feb 4th 1945? and if you cannot obtain a copy from the Daily Express I will try and photo copy it for you. Also a book called "Mosquito At War" by Chaz Bowyer and published by lan Allan LTD has several photographs of RAF Banff. I hope to join wartime friends at the Banff Springs Hotel on May 5/6th for a church service at Banff on 6th May.

   All the best

   Alan Peters. (Flight Sergeant Navigator)

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