138 Squadron

Jack arrived at Tempsford to be greeted by rain, a howling wind and snow on the ground." Welcome to the Squadron" someone said.

He noticed that the Halifax Bombers were all well dispersed and were fitted with four props and the airfield resembled a working farm, there were even cattle around the place. Jack wondered what exactly went on here. In his first letter from Tempsford Jack wrote to Pat "now don't ask me what I do here, I can't tell you, one chap told and got 3 years in the clink for his trouble".

When Jack wasn't flying he could be seen racing along with Graham Moore around Tempsford on his bike. This pastime gave Pat great worry as she wrote "please be careful on that bike of  yours. It's dangerous and I don't  want you to hurt yourself". Pat's concerns were real as anyone who has seen the hill from Everton to the Airfield will know.

On April 10th Jack wrote to Pat saying "I'm working tonight, it's a pretty tough job we've got on, don't worry if I go missing". Jack was to take part on operation Ouragon, a series of drop zones in the mountains south of Geneva. The instructions were simple, get into the area and if you can't find the DZ drop where you saw one. 138 were to take off as a Squadron and saturate the area by arriving at the same time. This was "not our scene at all". This was in preparation for the D-Day landings and the crew were to drop 6 "passengers" into France.(see Sussex 1944).
It was a month of personal celebration too. Herbert Jones was promoted to Flight Lieutenant and Jack finally got his crowns. "Dear Pat, you can now put Flight Sergeant on my letters as my promotion has finally come through, it's about time too as I passed my board back at Stanton last December. I'll also get a few more dollars for the trouble".

May 1944 saw the arrival of the Americans at Tempsford. There were always new faces around the Airfield but this was different. The "JEDS" were some kind of commando and the rumors were that the Allies were to make the "big push" and invade France.

This was it. Operation Overlord, the D-Day landings was on and 138 Squadron was play a part. Jack left Tempsford on operation Titanic and Task, the mission was to disrupt the German defenses and mislead them into thinking the main assault would be at Calais. The main German strength was at Calais and the crew thought this was going to be a "tough job".

Jack took off from Tempsford at 23.37 hrs passing over the coast at Pevensey (4 miles NNE of Eastbourne) at a height of 3000 ft. The crew reached the French coast at 00.56 hrs passing over Eletot (25 NNE of Normandy) having dropped to a height of 1000 ft. The briefing was that Titanic was to disperse Gingerbread men along with 2 SAS soldiers and Task was to drop Window (see window).

The first stage was reached at 01.01 hrs and the window was dropped and at 01.03 hrs the crew moved on to the second target. A maximum of only 2 minutes was allowed over the target area. At a height of only 800 ft the crew dropped 12 containers which had the Gingerbread men aboard. The containers were carried as a conventional bomb load and would be released the same, except at a much lower height. The 2 SAS soldiers jumped from the dispersal hole in the fuselage.

Operation Titanic (view report)

200 dummy parachutists and two SAS teams were dropped at Yvetot, 30 miles South West of Dieppe and 2 miles North from Veauville-les-Baons.

The SAS teams had orders to allow some of the enemy to escape to spread the alarm by reporting landings of hundreds of paratroopers. This would convince the enemy that the invasion had started and concentrate their movements away from the real battle.

The dummy parachutists were of a crude cloth representation of a human figure and certainly not the type made from kapok (see Gingerbread men). They were a simple series of cloth bags and strips connected in a cross like shape to give the impression of a parachutist. The dummies were equipped with a device that would prevent the enemy discovering the deception. This was an explosive charge that destroyed the cloth figure by setting it on fire which suggested that the man had set fire to his parachute and lay hidden, ready for action.

On his return F/Lt Jones reported a search light and small arms fire from his port side 1000 ft below. On the morning of June 6th 138 Squadron had 8 aircraft in the area of Pas-de-Calais.

Group Captain R Hockley was on the planning staff for Overlord and said that:
"He was pleased to include his old Squadron in the spoof raids over the Pas-de-Calais. They carried out the operation in the manner to be expected and their timing was critical and certainly delayed the enemy armour and movements towards the real battle".

The crew returned to Tempsford at 02.28 hrs on the morning of June 6th,1944. They had completed their 30th Operation*.

*The RAF would do a tour of duty of 30 sorties, after which they would be "rested".

For Freedom 138 Squadron
To the memory of F/Sgt JG Chadwick and the crew of Halifax LL306