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Thread: 54 Base 1944

  1. #1
    Oliver Owen Guest

    Default 54 Base 1944

    What was 54 Baseand were the pilots based there part of any squadrons? My father served there in August/Sept 1944 flying Mosquitos and Lightnings but there is very little information out there beyond that. He was with 97 Squadron (PFF) before that. His name was Charles Owen. If anyone can shed any light would love to hear.

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    Perhaps A.54, which was the airfield code for Le Bourget (Paris), France?

    Regards,

    Leendert
    Brugge/Belgium

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    No 54 Base

    Coningsby, Woodhall Spa, Metheringham (October 1943). Formed August 1943

    HTH
    Max Williams

  4. #4
    Oliver Owen Guest

    Default 54 Base

    Thanks... does that mean my father would have left 97 Squadron and joined 54 Base? And why can I find no records of Lightnings flying on ops other than in his diary?

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    hello,

    from http://www.rafweb.org/Bases.htm

    The expansion of Bomber Command in 1942/3 began to put a severe strain on the organisational administration of it's units resulting in the introduction of an intermediate level of command between Group HQ's and Station. Thus in March 1943 was born the Base system. A Base consisted of a Base Station with one or two sub-stations. Each Base was commanded by an Air Commodore and initially identified by the name of the Base Station and the role of the Base, e.g. Topcliffe Training Base, Leeming Operational Base. However, from September 1943 Bases were re-designated by a two-number identifier, the first number indicating the Group and the second the number of the Base within that Group, the first in each Group being the Group's training Base.
    Basic crew training was undertaken at Operational Training Units (OTU), controlled by the three training Groups and did not come under this system. However, having completed crew training, usually on Wellingtons, conversion to the four engined 'heavies' was conducted at a Heavy Conversion Unit (HCU). These HCU's were located at the group's training base until November 1944, when all HCU's were transferred to No 7 (Training) Group. On transfer the Base identifier changed, with the first number a 7, still indicating the Group but the second number now indicated the base's original Group, e.g. 71 came from No 1 Group and 75 came from No 5 Group.
    Besides the three training Groups (No's 91, 92 and 93), No's 8 and 100 Groups did not use this system.
    [...]
    No 5 Group
    [...]
    No 54 Base
    Coningsby, Woodhall Spa, Metheringham (October 1943). Formed August 1943

    So this is more an administrative level, in the organisation. Reference to Base is frequent in service records of personnel.

    The mention of Mosquitoes might imply flying with No. 617 Squadron, which used them, as did No. 627 Squadron. As for Lightnings, I know that Guy Gibson used one at least once. And when he was killed in action (with No. 627 Squadron) he was flying a Mosquito

    Joss

  6. #6
    Oliver Owen Guest

    Default 54 Base 1944

    Thanks Joss... Was Gibson still a member of 617 Squadron when he was killed? I have the history of 627 and it does mention that Gibson died in one of their planes. I know that my father briefed Gibson ahead of his final op but even his official service record does not mention his squadron while he was a master bomber at 54 Base... and which PFF squadrons had Lightnings at that time? Any help welcome

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    Hello Oliver,
    I have a copy,some page of your father logbook sent to me by your brother .Your father was in a pool of several very experienced pilot :W/C Jeudwine, your father learnt to fly on Mossie with him, W/C Tait, W/C Porterand W/C John Simpson; They had the duty to be Controller of Ops,with the new technics of assessment of Marking a target all this having been initialised by Cheschire and Micky Martin.
    You can contact me off board at: alain.charpentier15@wanadoo.fr
    I shall be very pleased to share what I know with you .
    I do lot of research on G/C John Raymond Jeudwine DSO OBE DFC.Your father knew him well .
    Amicalement Alain.

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    Default 54 Base 1944

    OLiver:
    From the 97 ORB, your dad was operations during most of the Berlin campagne, a time when the squadron was roughed up quite badly. From my little mini research on 54 base operations,summer 44, this also was high risk. Your father obviously had an adverturous side.
    After the directive for 5 group to do target marking, all the squadrons tasked were lumped into 54 base. These included the elite 617 sq. that had provided the impetus for the new procedures,plus the mosquito equiped 109[oboe] and 627[RSF divebombing] along with 83 and 97 [Lancaster PPF]. The two featured tools of the visual marking technique was for precision low level marking and an adaptive on site control performed by the "Master Bomber" and deputies.
    In the early stages of the evolution of the procedure, there were some notable successes. However, on some things got balled up, especially on the contol and communication side, resulting in high loss numbers. At some time (June?) at group level, it was determined that the controllers(or some of them) would go into a special pool, and provided extra info and training. Air Commodore Sharpe, 54 base commander was given nominal control of this elite group. It was quite unusual for an adminitsative division to be usurping some territory on operation issues. The somewhat controversial Sharpe was the ear for the experienced crews of 617, but noted for abrasive approach to CO's of his other squadrons. Much of the history on this is tied in to the politics 5 group/ 8 group debate.
    In any event, there was a hugh need for the crews assigned to control a raid to be
    fully functional. The marking routine encompassed a precise sequence of individual tasks split between 3or4 squadrons....route marking and target finding by oboe, blind marking(PBM) on H2S, area illumination, visual marking, RSF marking, then backing during the main force attack. The MB could modify or delay the procudure to meet deficiencies but decisions had to be done with skill and care to avoid severe danger to the whole group . If he was inconvenienced or out of position, control had to be passed seamlessly to a deputy.
    New features were always being added and raid sequences designed to match the extensive range of targets. There was no way that the crews tasked in this would be "over trained".
    Conningsby was a large station with classroom facilities. A lot of the senior officers of the group were domiciled there. The crews of the smaller fields would be in attendance to the heavy dose of courses that Cochane was noted to dish out.
    Air Commodore Sharp had some dealings with the USAAF. From them he picked up a P-38. [ He also was a recipient of a (American) Silver Star]. This is likely the A/C your father flew. Perhaps you could foreward what it was used for. Certainly, Sharp with his rank wasn't allowed anywhere near enemy territory. For some, the A/C was a status play toy for the Air Commodore for taxing around England.
    Some of the crews doing Master Bombing tasks during the summer of 1944 in 5 Group were skippered by these officers....Deane,Carter,Northrup,Jeudwine,Woodrof fe,Belleroche,Drinkall,Eggans,Porter,Higgs,Boyle,G ibson,Ingham,Locke,Laing,Verran,Sparks. I don't know if they all were specificlly in 54 base, but your dad may have recorded interaction with some of these chaps.
    My interest in this matter stems for my father's time as navigator for a crew on the early parts of these raids. His log book records multipe flight commanders during Aug-Sept 44, and all were lost while tasked as Deputy Master Bomber. Certainly, there was comparative safety in running first into the target. But for the contollers and all the multipe circuits and time over an active target this high peril work. S/L Sparks had two go arounds with troubles..first as an evader[ Mailly DMB],then back into the fray[Konigsburg DMB] ending as POW.
    The mindset of these officers at Conningsby is also of some interest. Most of them did not think of stopping at 45 ops. When 40 or more was reached there was an offer to convert to Mossies[ these A/C were now coming on board in #'s] for intruder and other duties. I don't know if there was pressure to sign on, but your dad was one so would know how entusiastically the offer was made. There was a little gitch in this volunteering.....the RCAF would have no part of it. A lot of the RAF pilots had Canadian navigators,so a few opted out, on loss of a trusted team. The RCAF stance in this was likely due to its custodian role in the aircrew training program. They had available repacements. Moreover, a good percentage were top officers that had been held back for a couple of years to man the training facilities and these fellows wanted finally to get into action.
    Around this time,Gibson and Warwick were lost on controller duties. Gibson was only at Conningsby as an advisory officer to Sharp, but managed to talk his way back onto operations. I suspect there was some second quessing in allowing the the two back in as they had done way more than what could be expected. Oliver, it would be interesting if you could expand on your dad's interaction with one of the "icons" of the campagne.
    RGDS ..... Ari

  9. #9
    Oliver Owen Guest

    Default 54 Base

    Ari, thank you all that wonderful information. As for my father and Gibson, I don't know too much. I know hat he briefed Gibson before he operation on which he lost his life. My father advised Gibson to fly back over France and avoid Holland. They apparently had quite a heated exchange. In the end it made little difference as Gibson's Mossie ran out of fuel. My father always described Gibson as a good friend and I remember him telling a friend of mine who was reading Enemy Coast Ahead that he had proof read it for Gibson before it went to the publishers. Sorry I can't be as detailed in my reply as you have been.

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