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Thread: RAF Ashbourne special operations

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    Default RAF Ashbourne special operations

    Does anyone have a source for information on special operations flown from RAF Ashbourne, Derbys?
    I believe specially equipped fast Halifax bombers flew solitary covert missions from this base during WW2 in support of resistance supplies and perhaps SOE? The crews were not members of any squadron or operational group as far as I can determine.
    Many Thanks.

    Steven Duhig
    stevenduhig@juno.com

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    Steven, Hi,
    I have a copy of the After Action Report (AAR) submitted by S Met O HQ 38 at the closure of WW2.
    He says that Ashbourne (42 OTU - and satellite Darley Moor) was opened in Nov 1942 in 38 Grp (Airborne Forces).
    There were various moves but, basically, any 38 Grp involvement at Ashbourne/Darley Moor ceased in the Spring of 1945.
    At no time, in the AAR, is any mention made of 'special operations'.
    However, having said that, it was noted that some considerable effort was expended in training aircrews who might be flying airborne forces in long-distance night/navigation flights.
    It might (rpt might) be the case that any putative Spec Ops crews might (rpt might) have been infiltrated into the 'normal' course(s) without disclosing who/what they were about purely for training purposes.
    But there were many other airfields (many associated with SOE/SIS/Spec Ops, and other 'Hooligan' organisations) that were much closer the possible DZs than Ashbourne.
    I would bet some of your money that this is a "Non Starter"!
    HTH
    Peter Davies
    Last edited by Resmoroh; 30th September 2016 at 14:51. Reason: QSD
    Meteorology is a science; good meteorology is an art!
    We might not know - but we might know who does!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Resmoroh View Post
    Steven, Hi,
    I have a copy of the After Action Report (AAR) submitted by S Met O HQ 38 at the closure of WW2.
    He says that Ashbourne (42 OTU - and satellite Darley Moor) was opened in Nov 1942 in 38 Grp (Airborne Forces).
    There were various moves but, basically, any 38 Grp involvement at Ashbourne/Darley Moor ceased in the Spring of 1945.
    At no time, in the AAR, is any mention made of 'special operations'.
    However, having said that, it was noted that some considerable effort was expended in training aircrews who might be flying airborne forces in long-distance night/navigation flights.
    It might (rpt might) be the case that any putative Spec Ops crews might (rpt might) have been infiltrated into the 'normal' course(s) without disclosing who/what they were about purely for training purposes.
    But there were many other airfields (many associated with SOE/SIS/Spec Ops, and other 'Hooligan' organisations) that were much closer the possible DZs than Ashbourne.
    I would bet some of your money that this is a "Non Starter"!
    HTH
    Peter Davies
    Thanks Peter. Only just found your response for which I am very grateful.
    FYI - I have personally known Derrick Smith for 50 years. He is a devout Catholic and highly unlikely to embellish or fictionalize his accounts. I can confirm that he told me personally, and very firmly, that he flew Halifax aircraft dropping supplies and occasionally SOE Agents specifically from Ashbourne Airfield. This conversation came about as a result of my attempt to get a DFC for another former airman. He claims not to belong to a Squadron or to have log books. His family were completely unaware of his WW2 role except that he flew at this time.

    In his 90s, Derrick is now very seriously ill in a Nursing Home and cannot communicate well at all. Nevertheless this was told to me three years ago now when he was fully compos mentis ! I was told last week that there are some photos and some unspecified documentation at his home, which I hope to see one day. He was only allowed to speak of his work in 21st Century. I would be very grateful to learn more.

    Thanks again Peter.

    Steven.

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    Steven

    You don't say how much research you've conducted for Ashbourne as there is quite a bit on the Internet i.e. http://www.rafweb.org/Stations/Stations-A.htm#Ashbourne. From my digging it seems only 42 and 81 OTUs were based there, neither of which appear to have operated with Halifax aircraft (http://www.rafweb.org/Organsation/OTU_3.htm). No indication of Halifaxes being based there.

    There's also a book about the airfield A Tale of Two Airfields: RAF Ashbourne and RAF Darley Moor (http://www.ukeconet.org/store/p69/A_...rley_Moor.html) which might help provide the answer to your question.


    Edit: AIR 29/679, the 42 OTU Operations Record Book, is held by the National Archives (http://discovery.nationalarchives.go...ils/r/C7161023). Unfortunately it cannot be downloaded as it hasn't been digitised, but it may be that someone on the forum has a copy/part-copy who might help in respect of operations if you have a time-frame for Smith's sojourn there. I've discounted 81 OTU as it was based at the airfield for only 6-7 weeks in 1942.


    Brian
    Last edited by Lyffe; 31st July 2017 at 21:49.

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    Steven,
    I've just re-read the 38 Grp Met WW2 AAR. A couple of sections may be of interest.

    Advanced Airborne Training.
    In Nov 42, No 42 OTU Ashbourne (with its satellite Darley Moor) high in the Pennines, was opened as an advanced training school for pilots engaged on airborne work, long day and night cross country flights being undertaken with two engined aircraft (Whitney and Albermarle), the routes covering practically the whole of the British Isles, except northern Scotland. No paratroops were dropped during this advanced training, but legs on cross country flights were often flown at 500 feet to simulate parachute dropping, and containers with parachutes were occasionally dropped from this height in selected areas . (From Sep 44 some three hour trips were flown completely at 500 feet above ground level).


    And later

    After the transfer to 38 Group, similar cross country flights were made to those at Ashbourne, with some glider towing flights, mainly from Sleap. At the end of Jan 44, 1665 Heavy Conversion Unit (HCU) moved from Woolfox Lodge to Tilstock and 81 OTU moved to Sleap. With the arrival of the HCU at Tilstock, work increased considerably with much day and night cross country flights, the crews trained at Ashbourne (plus some second tour bomber command crews) being “converted” from two engine to four engined aircraft (Stirlings) at first but a Halifax flight was added in Sep 44). As the pupils at 81 OTU had had preliminary meteorological lectures at their previous flying schools, meteorological instruction at Tilstock was largely confined to practical discussion of the charts, one crew at a time being admitted to the meteorological office, although a routine meteorological lecture on the conditions for airborne work was usually given to the courses. Appendix 3 gives a full account of the work at Tilstock and Sleap in May - Oct 44.
    [my emboldening]

    and, for SOE type Ops

    Operations to Norway - Tempsford.
    At the beginning of November 1944, the first operational flights of 38 Group took place to Norway, when agents and supplies were dropped at prearranged places on moonlight nights. (In mid-October some flights had been projected via Tain in Scotland but were cancelled owing to unsuitable weather). A firm decision had to be made at the conference in the War Room at 0900 as to the targets for the night, so that all the outstations and those concerned with agents could be warned and loads prepared, and while new targets could not be added during the day, some could be cancelled if the weather was expected to be worse than previously forecast, although this kind of cancellation was by no means frequent.
    It was at this time that the first consultations took place between the meteorological office at 38 Group and the Type II office at Tempsford. Tempsford had for a long time been engaged in similar night operations to those of 38 Group, but had been working as an entirely independent station. (an American station at [nearby] Harrington also did similar work and consulted Tempsford at times). Now at the suggestion of S Met O 38 Group (under which Tempsford came) and with the concurrence of M O 8 it was decided that 38 Group met office would initiate a call to Tempsford in really tricky synoptic situations. Such discussions were not frequent at first - about 4 - 6 a month - but when Tempsford - station and met office - came under 38 Group on 10 Mar 45, consultation became much more regular. However, even after this date, although most of the targets were allocated to Tempsford by 38 Group, so that final meteorological and other decisions could be made at Group, some special targets were given to Tempsford directly by the special agents Headquarters , and in these cases final decisions were made at Tempsford. Even in these latter cases Tempsford Met consulted 38 Group, as required. This headquarters, just mentioned, had already asked 38 Group met to supply preliminary outlooks at about 1600-1800 hours daily for operations on the continent on the next night, and these outlooks had been issued as a routine from 2 Jan 45.
    These special kind of operations continued until the end of the war, 38 Group extending its activities to parts of Germany at the end of Feb 45, to Denmark in Mar 45 and to Czechoslovakia at the beginning of May 45.


    I can pass you the entire AAR if it's of any use (need yr email) but it will be full of "Met" gobbledegook, and comms technobabble?

    HTH

    Peter Davies
    Meteorology is a science; good meteorology is an art!
    We might not know - but we might know who does!

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    If you plot Ashbourne, etc, Tain, Tempsford, Telemark(Norway), Lysgard(Denmark) and Picardy(France) on GE and do a quick bit of measuring (n miles), then Ashbourne, etc, comes out very poorly in terms of distance to all three!

    Telemark Picardy Lysgard
    Ashbourne, etc 520 260 430
    Tain 400 550 450
    Tempsford 530 190 420

    HTH

    Peter Davies
    Last edited by Resmoroh; 1st August 2017 at 09:15. Reason: Can't get the table to format - sorry!
    Meteorology is a science; good meteorology is an art!
    We might not know - but we might know who does!

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    Steven,

    Having spoken to several people about their wartime experiences, I've found that memory is a fragile commodity, sometimes confusing events so they become mixed or merged. We've probably all done it.

    I suspect that in this case Derrick is confusing his training at Ashbourne with subsequent operational flying. The reference in #1 to solitary covert missions from this base (Ashbourne) during WW2 in support of resistance supplies and perhaps SOE rather points to 138 or 161 Squadrons operating from RAF Tempsford in Bedfordshire. The former used Halifax bombers from August 1941 until August 1944; the latter from September 1942 until November 1944.

    Brian

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    Indeed, this looks most weird. It would be best to see his service record to verify the story.
    https://www.facebook.com/Franciszek-Grabowski-241360809684411/

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    As he is still alive a sight of his service record has to be discounted, Franek, but if his name appears in the 138 or 161 Squadron ORBs during, say, late 1943 to summer of 1944*, that should help resolve the matter.

    * = assuming he was born around 1925
    Last edited by Lyffe; 2nd August 2017 at 15:05.

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    Why? He might ask for the record himself, or allow a third party.
    https://www.facebook.com/Franciszek-Grabowski-241360809684411/

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