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Old 30th Mar 2010, 11:30
  #1701 (permalink)  
Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: CHESTER
Age: 99
Posts: 96
St Eval Ops

The whole object was to keep U-boats submerged when going out or coming in. Hours they were kept under meant days off their patrols.
Very often they were so short of Diesel fuel they had to be re-fuelled on the surface in day light, making them vulnerable to attacks.
Our Whitleys were still in Bomber Command black, making us very easily seen. Most regular Costal Command units were white or light blue.
A Wellington Squadron at St Eval flew by night using Leigh Lights, and there was a Halifax Strike Force ready to attack any sighted U-boats. USA Liberators patrolled further out in the Atlantic, and there was a Met Flight using Bostons.

For 10 OTU Detachment
The usual sequence of events at St Eval were based on a three day cycle.
On Day One we did air tests and exercises, e.g. Low level bombing runs over a target rock, or Fighter Affiliation with Seafires or Grumman Martlets from St Merryn. Then crews were taken by coach to their billets in hotels at the coast and got to bed early. At an unearthly hour we were wakened and took the coach back to the airfield for breakfast at something like 03-00 hours.
We also handed in our requests for the days rations. Each crew member had a large Thermos flask in which he could have coffee, tea, or milk (hot or cold). The crew had several quart sized Thermos flasks, wide necked, in which we had soup and extra coffee or milk Each crew member had a tin box, about 12”x 10” x 5“, with sandwiches, tins of orange juice, an apple, chocolate and chewing gum.
Then came Briefing in the Ops Room, which was presided over by an RAF S/Ldr and an RN L/Cmdr. The patrols were laid out on a huge wall display of the Bay of Biscay and the Atlantic, south and west of the Southern Irish Coast. The whole area was overlaid with a grid pattern marked with a letter and a number. For example, we would be told we could attack anything in areas G8, H7. In areas C4, D7, H4, we could only attack U-boats on the surface or showing a periscope, not if completely submerged. In other areas we were NOT to attack submarines on the surface. The navigator marked these on his chart. Additional information might be on areas where there was a strong possibility of subs being seen. (Enigma?) The coding machine and the codes for the day were given to the navigators. All pockets had to be emptied and the contents went into sealed bags which were placed in a safe by a Wren Officer. Watches were synchronised with a Naval chronometer. Only the navigator had an RAF issue watch, usually an Omega, Longines or Rolex.
The Wireless operator collected the two pigeons and helped the Gunner and the Bomb Aimer to pick up the rations and take them out to the aircraft.
Our Point of Departure was usually from Bishop’s Rock Lighthouse in the Isles of Scilly, and always in the dark. Spitfires flew over the Lighthouse for a few minutes to keep off any enemy fighters. From Bishop’s Rock the routes fanned out over the Bay of Biscay covering the area down to the Spanish Coast.
It was Wing Commander Peveller’s determination to have 8 to 10 aircraft on patrol every day, no matter what the weather. I remember being guided round to the runway by an airman using a goose necked flare in thick fog. Then lining up on the runway and taking off using the just the gyro compass. “What about fog conditions on return, Sir?”
“We’ll deal with that when you get back!” On the worst day, six Whitleys had to be abandoned or crashed, unable to land, or without fuel to travel further inland.
We carried six 250 lb depth charges fitted with immersion switches set to explode at 30 feet. They had to be dropped from below 50 feet at less than 150 mph, otherwise they broke up on impact. The Connell Box (Mickey Mouse) distributor, spaced the stick out so that a good attack could crush the sub. All bombing was done by the pilot, with no bomb sight, hence the need for practice.
The four Browning guns in the tail turret were for air defence and would only be otherwise used to fire at the Conning tower of a U-boat after an attack. The single Vickers K gun (the Pea Shooter) in the nose turret might be used by the Bomb Aimer in the attack.
The optimum height for searching for subs was 800 feet but in the wintry conditions many operations did not reach this height. All the crew, with the exception of the Navigator, had to keep a constant sea search and the Bomb aimers had Binoculars issued. Crude Polaroid glasses were also available to cut the glare from the sea.
On returning we were given a hot meal and went to bed. The next day was free and we usually went into Newquay. Then the cycle started again as Day One. fredhh
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