102 (Ceylon) Squadron

Tentate et perficite (Attempt and Achieve)


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A BRIEF HISTORY OF 102 (Ceylon) Squadron.

The First World War 1917 - 1919

The history of 102 (Ceylon) Squadron dates back to 1917 when, in the First World War, it bombed targets with the aid of flares and in the second it bombed on them.

Formed at Hingham as a night bomber squadron in August 1917, and equipped with the "F.E.2b", they moved over to France on September 24th under the command of Major H. Wylie. The squadron was soon in action, operating mainly from Treizennes, against the enemy aerodromes at Menin, Courtrai, and Moorslede etc. On the night of November 25/26th five out of ten "F.Es" got through to attack Douai and Detchy and on November 30th, with 101 Squadron, Douai, Detchy and Marquion were again the objectives.

In March 1918 they created a record for "two seater" night bomber squadrons when they dropped 7 1/2 tons of bombs in one night. In the same month they gained distinction by their bombing of enemy troops and transport at night with the aid of Michelin flares.

Night after night, throughout the enemy offensive in March 191 8, they took off to bomb road and rail transport and on two successive nights they dropped 400 bombs on such targets. Major F.C. Baker assumed command of the unit and they took on the bombing of trains at night.

In April they moved to Surcamps and remained there until September. On the night of August 24/25th the crew of an "F.E." caught a column of horse and motor transport moving into Metz-en-Couture and, with the aid of "Very" cartridges, they bombed and machine-gunned it from a height of 200 feet.

In September the squadron began a series of moves forward and November 11th, 1918 found them at Bievillers still under the command of Maj. Baker. The war, for them, was over, and the squadron during its service in France had carried out 90 attacks against rail, and over 100 against road transport; a total of 368 tons of bombs had been dropped during its period of active service. It must be remembered that these attacks were carried out in a type of aircraft which had open cockpits and by crews which had to operate in all kinds of weather.

In 1919 102 Squadron moved back to England and was disbanded in July at Lympne.

October 1935 to May 1945

Struck off the "Air Force List" for sixteen years, 102 Squadron remained just a memory to those old-timers and then, in October 1935, it was officially announced that the squadron had been reformed at Worthy Down under the command of S/L. C.W. Attwood. Equipped with "Heyford" it was stationed at Finningly and Honington before it finally settled down at Driffield where, in 1938, it received "Whitleys".

The outbreak of the war found the squadron waiting for the "gen" and on September 4th the C.O., W/C. C.F. Toogood, passed on the order that three crews would form part of a force detailed to drop leaflets on Bremen and Hamburg that night. This was the first of many such excursions though they had a break on December 12th when they dropped three bombs on the seaplane base near Sylt.

1939/40, the "Phoney war" period, was mainly spent on security patrols over Heligoland and the Fresians and leaflet flights as far afield as Prague and Vienna.

The only change from this routine took place on March 19th when, with 10, 51 and 77 Squadrons they carried out an attack on the seaplane base at Hornum. With the attack on Norway and the break through in France the leaflets were abandoned and replaced by bombs and the "Whitleys" attacked targets at Duisberg, Turin and Milan, as well as bombing the enemies’ lines of communication. The Germans struck back, and shortly after the return of 102’s aircraft from a raid on Milan on the night of August 13/l4th, Ju88s and Me. 110s swept in low over Flamborough Head at lunch time on August 15th and beat up Driffield.

The aerodrome was evacuated and the Squadron moved to Leeming and carried out convoy duties from here until the middle of October when it came back on bombing “ops".

On the night of October 24/25th it paid its first visit to Berlin and returned without loss. An attack on Cologne on the night of November 12/13th brought further recognition to the Squadron and the immediate award of the D.S.O. to P/O. G.L. Cheshire, later G/C., V.C., D.S.O., D.F.C. The premature explosion of a photographic flare as it was about to be released at 8,000 feet over the target area, caused a fire in the fuselage and loss of control. As Cheshire strove to regain control the crew fought the fire and when the pilot straight­ened out at 6,000 feet, the remainder of the crew dealt with the fire which was quickly extinguished. The W/Op. Sgt. Davidson, though badly burnt about the face and unable to see, remained at his post and assisted by P/O. R.C. Rivaz managed to obtain a bearing and the aircraft landed back at base after a flight of eight arid a half hours. Davidson was later killed in action.

W/C. Cole took over the command of the squadron, at the beginning of 1941 and was followed in April by C.V. Howes who, in turn, handed over to W/C. Howard in October. Under their command over 900 tons of bombs were dropped in the 780 sorties which the squadron logged in 1941 and the list of "Honours and Awards" was increased by a D.S.O. (F/L. G.G. Davies), ten D.F.Cs and eight D.F.Ms. Throughout the year the "Whitleys" had taken off, first from Prestwick for a short period and then from Linton, and finally from Topcliffe where, early in 1942 the Mk.V. was withdrawn and they converted to "Halifaxes”

Under W/C. S.B. Bintley they underwent conversion during February and March and carried out their first "op" on the Mk.IIs against Le Havre, on April 14th. In May, Mannheim and Cologne were amongst the targets, the latter being the 1,000 bomber raid and 102 Squadron sent twenty aircraft; they also sent 20 on a similar attack against Essen two days later. Every effort was made to maintain this strength of twenty aircraft but this was not possible at this early date.

Turin, Milan and Genoa provided a welcome change to the more frequent trips up "Happy Valley" and mine laying was also added to their programme, in October when they dropped mines in an area which was so well known to the squadron's 1939/40 crews - the Frisians.

The death of its popular C.O. W/C. Bintley, who was killed on the night of October 23rd at Holme, robbed the squadron of another gallant Squadron Commander. The award of the D.S.O. for his courage and skill was announced shortly after his death.

102 Squadron, having made its final war time move in August, was now operating from Pocklington and W/C G.W. Holden took over command on October 25th. W/C Holden, who received a bar to his D.S.O. at the end of his tour, quickly set an example of gallantry for the squadron when he remained over Turin during an attack on the night of November 20th and made a special report of his observations.

1943 saw a substantial increase in the squadron’s activities and amongst the targets visited were those at Lorrient, Stuttgart, Dusseldorf, Munich and Pilsen. On one night in July on the 24th when "window" was used; for the first time, 102 sent 24 aircraft to Hamburg. They had now reached the stage when twenty "kites" could be supplied for "ops" and on one night in November, and again on the night of December 29th, they supplied twenty-three "Halifaxes" for attacks on Berlin.

W/C. H.R. Coventry took over from, W/C. Holden and was in turn followed by W/C. H.R. Fowle. Both received the award of the D.F.C. for their gallantry and leadership and the latter, in 1944, took command of the new emergency landing ground which was opened at Carnaby. Included in the seventy-four decorations, which were awarded to the squadron personnel in 1943, was the C.G.M. to Sgt. E.E. Jouex. He had destroyed 5 and damaged two enemy aircraft at night and already wore the ribbon of the D.F.M. on his tunic for his work in 7 Squadron.

Over 1,300 sorties were recorded in 1943 and its total tonnage on bombs dropped was nearly three times greater than that of 1942.

With the introduction of the "P.F.F.” and additional navigation aids, the squadron's motto, "Tentate et Perficite" (Attempt and Achieve), became truly symbolic.

1944, - invasion year - was a year of hard work for all and W/C. S.J. Marchbank led the squadron with gallantry and skill throughout the many attacks on the marshalling yards and the enemies lines of communication in the preliminary stages which culminated on "D" Day.

A variety of targets came their way after sending off twenty-three aircraft to bomb a coastal battery on the eve of "D" Day, and these included "V" bomb sites and close support bombing to assist the Allied armies at Caen, St.Lo, Falaise etc. They followed up an attack on the synthetic oil plants at Sterkrade on June 16/17th with their first daylight raid, this being an attack on Noyelle-en-Chaussee on June 24th.

A month later, on August 27th, they formed part of the force which attacked Hamburg and so recorded their first daylight raid on a target in Germany. These daylight "ops" now became part of the squadron’s normal routine, and after a spell of transporting petrol to Belgium during the epic action at Arnhem, they formed part of the force which attacked Duisberg by day and by night on October 14th, and a similar raid on Essen on October 24th.

102 Squadron was at this time, under the command of W/C. L.D. Wilson D.F.C., A.F.C. who led his squadron on an attack on Scholven in this month and was awarded the D.S.O. for his gallantry.

The squadron's efforts in 1944 can be judged by the fact that it carried out 2,280 sorties, over 400 being on mine laying, and dropped close on 6,500 tons of bombs.

The individual effort is illustrated in the decorations awarded, and these included two Bars to the D.F.C., S/L. A.E. Kilsby and. S/L. A.E. Milson, fifty-two D.F.Cs and eight D.F.Ms.

In the last few months of the war there was no slackening in their attacks, though the weather affected Bomber Command as a whole in January 1945, in February the number of "ops" increased and in March on the 2nd, they carried out their final attack on a target so well known in the past - Cologne. W/C. D.F. Hyland-Smith took over from W/C. Barnard in March and guided them through the closing stages. The squadron’s last two operations were directed against targets in the area over which they operated at the beginning of the war. Heligoland on the 18th and Wangerooge on the 25th of April. Both attacks were carried out in daylight and as the last aircraft touched down on April 25th closed its account with a total of 14,118 tons of bombs dropped and over 1,850 mines laid.

A glance down the list of "Honours and Awards", headed by Allen P/O. J.D. and closed by Wood P/O. W.J., recalls to mind the names of many "old timers"; Sgts. Archer and Berndsson, D.F.M., both later to receive the D.F.C. while serving in 35 Squadron, P/O. P. Dobson, later to command 158 Squadron, and F/L J.J. McKay who also attained the rank of W/C. and received the D.S.O. with 178 Squadron.

These, and many other names pass through the mind, as one looks back to those days at the end of the war in Europe when 4 Group became part of Transport Command, said "cheerio" to its many Yorkshire friends and moved off to carry out its new duties*

Transport Command

On 7th May 1945 the squadron was transferred to Transport Command and in September 1945 re-equipped with Consolidated Liberators. Based as RAF Bassingbourn, its main role was the return of troops and POWs from India. With this work finished the squadron transferred on 15 February 1945 to RAF Upwood where it disbanded on 28 February 1946 by being renumbered to 53 Squadron. From 1 February 1949 to 19 October 1954 the squadron's number was linked with that of 49 Squadron, as 49/102 Squadron.

Conversion to Canberras

On 20 October 1954 the squadron was reformed as part of RAF Germany as a nuclear strike bomber squadron with the English Electric Canberra based at RAF Gütersloh. It was disbanded again on the 20 August 1956 when it was renumbered to 59 Squadron.

Strategic Missiles

The squadron was last reformed as 102 (SM) Squadron RAF (SM standing for "Strategic Missile") in August 1959, equipped with three Thor ballistic missiles, carrying a 1.4 megaton W-49 nuclear warhead, as part of the UK-US strategic deterrent, Project Emily. It was based at RAF Full Sutton in Yorkshire until it was disbanded, along with the other Thor squadrons, on 27 April 1963.

Printed with the kind permission of Mrs Joyce Kiddell Updated by Simon Kularatne



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