Thanks to Chris for this piece, on the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the Allied liberation of Europe.
The Air Force Museum of New Zealand in Christchurch holds a copy of the 75(NZ) Sqn Operations Log, a document which we were not previously aware of, and which gives us a much more detailed insight into 75 (NZ) Squadron’s contribution to D-Day. On the night of 5th of June 1944, 75(NZ) Squadron had prepared twenty-six Lancasters (a record at that point), and they took off either side of 0330hrs in the morning of the 6th to attack the coastal battery at Ouistreham. They were timed to reach the target at first light, and, on arrival, found a layer of cloud at 7,000 feet, with occasional gaps, through which some crews were able to see the markers. The bombing appeared to be fairly concentrated, no opposition was met, and all aircraft returned safely to Mepal after a round-trip of less than four hours.
Ouistreham was at the eastern end of the invasion area, where Sword and Juno Beaches would be the scene of the Anglo-Canadian landings. However Mepal crews had not been told of the invasion, but they knew something was up as they were told that more than a thousand aircraft would be operating throughout the night, and that they must adhere to assigned flight routes, heights and times, and not jettison bombs over the Channel.
From the 75(NZ) Sqn Operations Log:
At 0730hrs,15 minutes after the last aircraft had landed back at Mepal, one of several ‘top secret’ messages came through from Waterbeach:
”D-Day is 6-6-44, H Hour 0600”
There were also messages about the distinctive markings of aircraft, and tight restrictions on the use of I.F.F.
At 0810hrs Waterbeach advised the Colours of the Day:
1400 – 2000 RY – Q – O
2000 – 0200 RG – J – I Chaffinch OX
0200 – 0800 GG – C – D
0800 – 1400 GY – H – W
Duty Beacon 62 – 285
At 1105hrs Group requested 24 Lancasters be made available for an attack that night, Bomb Loads 18 x 500, petrol 1250 (gallons).
W/T call signs were advised: A & B Flt M.K.H. and C Flt P.O.K.
At 1130hrs Target and Aiming Point coordinates were advised and an amendment to the Bomb Load, specifying 90% .025 fusing and 10% long delay (spread evenly over a period of 6 to 36hrs). H Hour 0235hrs.
At 1610hrs W/C Leslie put the petrol up to 1366 (gallons).
At 1620hrs Waterbeach advised the route coordinates (there and back). They also advised a bomb jettison location and repeated the instructions not to jettison in the Channel, mentioning “a very considerable volume of shipping”.
At 1935hrs the target was altered to one of two possible targets (Lisieux one of them) and new route coordinates were advised.
“Note: The alteration in route is to avoid low flying airborne forces, which are again operating tonight”.
“A/C in two waves … 75 Sqdn 12 A/C in 1st wave, 12 2nd wave”.
I.F.F. not to be used except in real emergency – sets were to be sealed in the “Off” position. “Window” and photography instructions given.
2130hrs – target confirmed as Lisieux.
Strict adherence to routes and times required. Crews to fly below any bad weather over England, up to Thames Estuary, then climb through clouds to 7 or 8000 ft. Keep that height over enemy coast if weather fine, but if 5/10 cloud or more, drop below cloud and bomb below. Be prepared to come down below cloud over the target if markers are not visible. Balloon locations advised. PFF Aiming Point marking colours advised (Red & Green at H-3 to H-2, followed by Yellow & White)
Master Bomber call sign “Wastepipe 1”
Deputy M/B call sign “Wastepipe 2”
Cease Bombing call sign “Sugar-plum”
B/C Frequency 5105 Kc (B); 6440 Kc (D)
At 2250hrs new instructions came through from BC HQ:
– no Window- if crews can’t visually identify the target must not bomb any other target
– if any light flak received do not fire back (could be ours)
– route coordinates confirmed, H Hour brought forward to 0135hrs.
At 2344hrs the first of 24 Lancasters took off from Mepal to attack the railway junction in the town of Lisieux, some twenty miles to the east of Caen.. They reached the target to find a thin layer of cloud at 5,000 feet, which obscured the aiming-point, but the Oboe markers could be seen clearly, and the bombing was considered accurate and concentrated. All returned home safely, the last landing at 0359hrs early on the morning of the 7th.