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Thread: 617 Squadron Experts.

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    Default 617 Squadron Experts.

    I am having a debate with a couple of individuals who contend that 617 Squadron used Lancasters as Pathfinders and another individual who claimed that while not on Lancasters, they did operate as Pathfinders. I had heard somewhere that they did do some low level marking for 5-Group on occasions on some of the V-1 sites.

    I am aware that they did do some of their own marking with both Mosquitoes and occasionally with a Mustang, however, this was typically for their own purpose and that the Squadron would be more properly categorized as a Special Duties squadron.

    Would 617 Squadron be categorized as a Pathfinder Squadron?

    Jim

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    Default Re: 617 Squadron Experts.

    My understanding is that 617 acted as a marker unit for both themselves and No 5 Group as a whole but they were never classed as a 'Pathfinder' unit as that title was only allocated to No 8 Group units.

    Malcolm

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    Default Re: 617 Squadron Experts.

    Wasn't there a problem that 617 was under utilised at one point as they were regarded as a specialist squadron and not used on normal raids. This might explain their occasional use as markers. I can't recall the source but believe it was secondary. The same source suggested that less important precision targets could be used for training and rather than the normal bombing range or infra red targets in the UK.

    The source may even have been this forum.

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    Default Re: 617 Squadron Experts.

    The ORB “Records” are not listed as available by the NA for several months in 1944 and those that are available are sparse on details. There was a 617 Squadron website (no longer online) maintained by an individual that had the complete ORB summary and records for the squadron and I downloaded that word file many years ago. These records seem complete. It seems the squadron is carrying Tall Boys for many of the operations June-August 1944. The Mosquito/Mustang sorties for the squadron lack detail as to the specific tasks. I think these should be compared to the 5-group pathfinder squadrons, which included 3 other Lancaster Squadrons and several Mosquito squadrons. 5-Group Pathfinder methods and assignments were quite different from 8-Group, I believe.

    Jim

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    Default Re: 617 Squadron Experts.

    Work is on-going on this, starting with March 1944. During that month, 617 did its own marking using Lancasters, with 3-4 lancasters. The targets were attacked mostly by 617 Squadron with up to 6 additional aircraft from another squadron. The squadron took 2 mosquitoes on charge, March 29, and on April 5 to Toulouse, W/C Cheshire marked the target using low level marking in a Mosquito for the first time. 2 other 617 Squadron Lancasters also marked the target. The marking was done for a force of 144 Lancasters from 5-Group. After this Raid, Harris informed Cochrane that 5-Group would have its own marking from that point forward. 97, 83 and 627 Squadrons were attached to 5-Group temporarily, but this became permanent.
    Last edited by JDCAVE; 12th October 2021 at 18:11.

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    Default Re: 617 Squadron Experts.

    Hi Jim,

    617 had a brief period in April 1944 where they marked for a 'main force' of 5 Group and 101 Squadron ABC a/c from 1 Group. They had successfully marked targets at low-level in Lancasters. When Cheshire suggested it would be easier with Mosquitoes, Cochrane took the idea to Harris. As Paul Brickhill tells it, Harris said, 'okay - but only if you can mark Munich for me.' On 22/23 April 1944 they trialled the approach in an unsuccessful raid on Brunswick. The low-level marking was accurate, but most of the heavies bombed on TIs dropped short by the H2S backers-up. On 24/25th April, a more successful operation took place against Munich, which suffered heavy damage. 5 Group's status as a semi-autonomous force was being reinforced through this period by the return of 83 and 97 Squadrons from PFF, with 627 Squadron in tow for good measure. The latter marked Schweinfurt from low-level on 26/27th April, with indifferent results.

    After that, 617 returned to its independent 'specialist' role. 1 Group created its own marker flight so it could operate independently when required during BC's support to Overlord. 3 Group developed G-H methods and could also act independently. Not sure whether 4 and 6 Groups also operated marker flights?

    Best,

    Richard
    Last edited by Richard; 12th October 2021 at 18:18.

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    Default Re: 617 Squadron Experts.

    Thanks Richard. That is what I have learned as well as I have gone through the ORB records. It seems the Squadron was mostly off of operations in May, presumably training for Operation Tractable (windowing operation for Overlord). After that they moved to using Tallboys and their operations must have proceeded any main force activity on those occasions where there were overlapping targets (such as the E-boat pens). It makes sense to me that the squadron would have operated first and without interference from Main force, stirring up the target in advance of Tallboys being delivered to the target.

    Edit: Further to your question, 6-Group did not do its own marking, to my knowledge. All ops I have looked at have involved 8-Group in that role. I'm pretty sure that 4-Group didn't do any of its own marking. It was often on the same operation as 6-Group.

    Jim
    Last edited by JDCAVE; 12th October 2021 at 20:24.

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