Percy Charles Pickard
Group Captain Percy Charles "Pick" Pickard, was an officer in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War. He served as a pilot and commander and was one of the only officers of the RAF to be awarded the DSO three times in the Second World War, he flew over a hundred sorties and distinguished himself in a variety of operations requiring coolness under fire. In 1941 he participated in the making of the 1941 wartime film Target for To-night, which made him a public figure in England, he led the squadron of Whitley bombers that carried paratroopers to their drop for the Bruneval raid. Throughout 1943 he flew the Lysander on nighttime missions into occupied France for the SOE, performing insertions of agents and picking up personnel from small landing strips. Pickard lead a group of Mosquitos on the Amiens raid, in which he was killed in action 18 February 1944. Pickard was born in Handsworth, Sheffield, in the West Riding of Yorkshire and was educated at Framlingham College. Pickard was the son of the late P. C.
Pickard and Mrs. Pickard, his sister was actress Helena Pickard, married to English actor Sir Cedric Hardwicke. Pickard received a short service commission into the Royal Air Force in January 1937, made Permanent in November, he served with a bomber squadron before being appointed personal assistant to the air officer commanding a training group at Cranwell in 1938. He participated in fighting over Norway and during the Dunkirk evacuation, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in July 1940 while serving as a flight lieutenant in a bomber squadron. He was promoted to squadron leader with No. 311 Squadron and was awarded a Distinguished Service Order in March 1941. In May 1942, as wing commander in charge of No. 51 Squadron, he was awarded a bar to the DSO in recognition of his leadership in Operation Biting on 27 February 1942. In March 1943, while commanding No. 161 Squadron – which carried out operations in support of the SOE in occupied Europe – at RAF Tempsford he was awarded a second bar to the DSO for outstanding leadership ability and fine fighting qualities.
He was the first RAF officer in the Second World War to be awarded two bars. For a while Pickard was station commander at RAF Sculthorpe. In October 1943 he was given command of No. 140 Wing of the Second Tactical Air Force by Basil Embry. This put him in charge of three squadrons of de Havilland Mosquito fast bombers, they became specialised in low level precision attacks. Pickard led the February 1944 low-level attack on the Amiens Prison, in the raid known as Operation Jericho; the attack was carried out at the request of the French resistance in order to allow a considerable number of their imprisoned members, who were soon to be executed by the occupying Nazis, the chance to escape. The Resistance stated that the prisoners had said they would rather take the chance of being killed by RAF bombs than be shot by the Nazis. Operation Jericho was a success but Pickard, together with his Navigator, Flight Lieutenant J. A. "Bill" Broadley, were killed when their Mosquito, HX922/"EG-F", was shot down by a Fw 190 flown by Feldwebel Mayer of 7.
Jagdgeschwader 26 in the closing stages of the operation. Pickard and Broadley were reported missing and in September 1944 it was announced that they had been'killed in action'. Pickard is buried in plot 3, row B, grave 13 at St. Pierre Cemetery near Amiens, France. Broadley is buried in plot 3, row A, grave 11 of the same cemetery. Pickard had a son at the time of his death; the French government called. Bourne, Merfyn The Second World War in the air: the story of air combat in every theatre of World War Two Leicester: Matador. Bowyer, Chaz Bomber Barons Barnsley: Cooper. Bowyer, Chaz Mosquito at war London: Allan. ISBN 978-0-7110-0474-0 Hamilton, Alexander Wings of Night: Secret Missions of Group Captain Pickard, DSO and Two Bars, DFC Crecy Bks.. ISBN 978-0-7183-0415-7 Harclerode, Peter Wings Of War – Airborne Warfare 1918-1945 Weidenfeld & Nicolson. ISBN 0-304-36730-3 McCairns, James Lysander Pilot. O'Connor, Bernard RAF Tempsford: Churchill's most secret airfield Stroud: Amberley. Oliver, David Airborne Espionage Stroud, UK: Sutton Publishing Limited.
Orchard, Adrian Group Captain Percy Charles “Pick” Pickard DSO**, DFC 1915 - 1944 February 2006 Otway, T. B. H The Second World War 1939-1945 Army — Airborne Forces Imperial War Museum. ISBN 0-901627-57-7 Verity, Hugh We Landed by Moonlight Shepperton, Surrey: Ian Allan Limited. Ward and Steve Smith 3 Group Bomber Command: an operational record Barnsley: Pen & Sword Aviation. Williams, Ray Armstrong Whitworth's Night Bomber Aeroplane Monthly, October 1982
The French Resistance was the collection of French movements that fought against the Nazi German occupation of France and the collaborationist Vichy régime during the Second World War. Resistance cells were small groups of armed men and women, who, in addition to their guerrilla warfare activities, were publishers of underground newspapers, providers of first-hand intelligence information, maintainers of escape networks that helped Allied soldiers and airmen trapped behind enemy lines; the men and women of the Resistance came from all economic levels and political leanings of French society, including émigrés, students, conservative Roman Catholics, citizens from the ranks of liberals and communists. The French Resistance played a significant role in facilitating the Allies' rapid advance through France following the invasion of Normandy on 6 June 1944, the lesser-known invasion of Provence on 15 August, by providing military intelligence on the German defences known as the Atlantic Wall and on Wehrmacht deployments and orders of battle.
The Resistance planned and executed acts of sabotage on the electrical power grid, transport facilities, telecommunications networks. It was politically and morally important to France, both during the German occupation and for decades afterward, because it provided the country with an inspiring example of the patriotic fulfillment of a national imperative, countering an existential threat to French nationhood; the actions of the Resistance stood in marked contrast to the collaboration of the French regime based at Vichy, the French people who joined the pro-Nazi Milice française and the French men who joined the Waffen SS. After the landings in Normandy and Provence, the paramilitary components of the Resistance were organised more formally, into a hierarchy of operational units known, collectively, as the French Forces of the Interior. Estimated to have a strength of 100,000 in June 1944, the FFI grew and reached 400,000 by October of that year. Although the amalgamation of the FFI was, in some cases, fraught with political difficulties, it was successful, it allowed France to rebuild the fourth-largest army in the European theatre by VE Day in May 1945.
Following the Battle of France and the second French-German armistice, signed near Compiègne on 22 June 1940, life for many in France continued more or less at first, but soon the German occupation authorities and the collaborationist Vichy régime began to employ brutal and intimidating tactics to ensure the submission of the French population. Although the majority of civilians neither collaborated nor overtly resisted, the occupation of French territory and the Germans' draconian policies inspired a discontented minority to form paramilitary groups dedicated to both active and passive resistance. One of the conditions of the armistice was; this burden amounted to about 20 million German Reichsmarks per day, a sum that, in May 1940, was equivalent to four hundred million French francs. Because of this overvaluation of German currency, the occupiers were able to make fair and honest requisitions and purchases while, in effect, operating a system of organized plunder. Prices soared, leading to widespread food shortages and malnutrition among children, the elderly, members of the working class engaged in physical labour.
Labour shortages plagued the French economy because hundreds of thousands of French workers were requisitioned and transferred to Germany for compulsory labour under the Service du Travail Obligatoire. The labour shortage was worsened by the fact that a large number of the French were held as prisoners of war in Germany. Beyond these hardships and dislocations, the occupation became unbearable. Onerous regulations, strict censorship, incessant propaganda and nightly curfews all played a role in establishing an atmosphere of fear and repression; the sight of French women consorting with German soldiers infuriated many French men, but sometimes it was the only way they could get adequate food for their families. As reprisals for Resistance activities, the authorities established harsh forms of collective punishment. For example, the increasing militancy of communist resistance in August 1941 led to the taking of thousands of hostages from the general population. A typical policy statement read, "After each further incident, a number, reflecting the seriousness of the crime, shall be shot."
During the occupation, an estimated 30,000 French civilian hostages were shot to intimidate others who were involved in acts of resistance. German troops engaged in massacres such as the Oradour-sur-Glane massacre, in which an entire village was razed and every resident murdered because of persistent resistance in the vicinity. In early 1943, the Vichy authorities created a paramilitary group, the Milice, to combat the Resistance, they worked alongside German forces. The group collaborated with the Nazis, was the Vichy equivalent of the Gestapo security forces in Germany, their actions were brutal and included torture and execution of Resistance suspects. After the liberation of France in the summer of 1944, the French executed many of the estimated 25,000 to 35,000 miliciens for their collaboration. Many of
World War II
World War II known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries; the major participants threw their entire economic and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China, it included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, the only use of nuclear weapons in war. Japan, which aimed to dominate Asia and the Pacific, was at war with China by 1937, though neither side had declared war on the other. World War II is said to have begun on 1 September 1939, with the invasion of Poland by Germany and subsequent declarations of war on Germany by France and the United Kingdom.
From late 1939 to early 1941, in a series of campaigns and treaties, Germany conquered or controlled much of continental Europe, formed the Axis alliance with Italy and Japan. Under the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact of August 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union partitioned and annexed territories of their European neighbours, Finland and the Baltic states. Following the onset of campaigns in North Africa and East Africa, the fall of France in mid 1940, the war continued between the European Axis powers and the British Empire. War in the Balkans, the aerial Battle of Britain, the Blitz, the long Battle of the Atlantic followed. On 22 June 1941, the European Axis powers launched an invasion of the Soviet Union, opening the largest land theatre of war in history; this Eastern Front trapped most crucially the German Wehrmacht, into a war of attrition. In December 1941, Japan launched a surprise attack on the United States as well as European colonies in the Pacific. Following an immediate U. S. declaration of war against Japan, supported by one from Great Britain, the European Axis powers declared war on the U.
S. in solidarity with their Japanese ally. Rapid Japanese conquests over much of the Western Pacific ensued, perceived by many in Asia as liberation from Western dominance and resulting in the support of several armies from defeated territories; the Axis advance in the Pacific halted in 1942. Key setbacks in 1943, which included a series of German defeats on the Eastern Front, the Allied invasions of Sicily and Italy, Allied victories in the Pacific, cost the Axis its initiative and forced it into strategic retreat on all fronts. In 1944, the Western Allies invaded German-occupied France, while the Soviet Union regained its territorial losses and turned toward Germany and its allies. During 1944 and 1945 the Japanese suffered major reverses in mainland Asia in Central China, South China and Burma, while the Allies crippled the Japanese Navy and captured key Western Pacific islands; the war in Europe concluded with an invasion of Germany by the Western Allies and the Soviet Union, culminating in the capture of Berlin by Soviet troops, the suicide of Adolf Hitler and the German unconditional surrender on 8 May 1945.
Following the Potsdam Declaration by the Allies on 26 July 1945 and the refusal of Japan to surrender under its terms, the United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6 and 9 August respectively. With an invasion of the Japanese archipelago imminent, the possibility of additional atomic bombings, the Soviet entry into the war against Japan and its invasion of Manchuria, Japan announced its intention to surrender on 15 August 1945, cementing total victory in Asia for the Allies. Tribunals were set up by fiat by the Allies and war crimes trials were conducted in the wake of the war both against the Germans and the Japanese. World War II changed the political social structure of the globe; the United Nations was established to foster international co-operation and prevent future conflicts. The Soviet Union and United States emerged as rival superpowers, setting the stage for the nearly half-century long Cold War. In the wake of European devastation, the influence of its great powers waned, triggering the decolonisation of Africa and Asia.
Most countries whose industries had been damaged moved towards economic expansion. Political integration in Europe, emerged as an effort to end pre-war enmities and create a common identity; the start of the war in Europe is held to be 1 September 1939, beginning with the German invasion of Poland. The dates for the beginning of war in the Pacific include the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War on 7 July 1937, or the Japanese invasion of Manchuria on 19 September 1931. Others follow the British historian A. J. P. Taylor, who held that the Sino-Japanese War and war in Europe and its colonies occurred and the two wars merged in 1941; this article uses the conventional dating. Other starting dates sometimes used for World War II include the Italian invasion of Abyssinia on 3 October 1935; the British historian Antony Beevor views the beginning of World War II as the Battles of Khalkhin Gol fought between Japan and the fo
The Vickers Wellington is a British twin-engined, long-range medium bomber. It was designed during the mid-1930s at Brooklands in Weybridge, led by Vickers-Armstrongs' chief designer Rex Pierson. Development had been started in response to Air Ministry Specification B.9/32, issued in the middle of 1932. This specification called for a twin-engined day bomber capable of delivering higher performance than any previous design. Other aircraft developed to the same specification include the Armstrong Whitworth Whitley and the Handley Page Hampden. During the development process, performance requirements such as for the tare weight changed and the engine used was not the one intended; the Wellington was used as a night bomber in the early years of the Second World War, performing as one of the principal bombers used by Bomber Command. During 1943, it started to be superseded as a bomber by the larger four-engined "heavies" such as the Avro Lancaster; the Wellington continued to serve throughout the war in other duties as an anti-submarine aircraft.
It holds the distinction of having been the only British bomber, produced for the duration of the war, of having been produced in a greater quantity than any other British-built bomber. The Wellington remained as first-line equipment when the war ended, although it had been relegated to secondary roles; the Wellington was one of two bombers named after Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, the other being the Vickers Wellesley. A larger heavy bomber aircraft designed to Specification B.1/35, the Vickers Warwick, was developed in parallel with the Wellington. Many elements of the Wellington were re-used in a civil derivative, the Vickers VC.1 Viking. In October 1932, the British Air Ministry invited Vickers to tender for the issued Specification B.9/32, which sought a twin-engine medium daylight bomber. In response, Vickers conducted a design study, led by Chief Designer Rex Pierson Early on, Vickers' chief structures designer Barnes Wallis proposed the use of a geodesic airframe, inspired by his previous work on airships and the single-engined Wellesley light bomber.
During structural testing performed at the Royal Aircraft Establishment, the proposed structure demonstrated not only the required strength factor of six, but reached 11 without any sign of failure, proving the geodesic airframe to possess a strength far in excess of normal levels. This strength allowed for the structure design to be further developed to reduce the size of individual members and adopt simplified standard sections of lighter construction. Vickers studied and compared the performance of various air and liquid-cooled engines to power the bomber, including the Bristol Pegasus IS2, Pegasus IIS2, the Armstrong Siddeley Tiger, the Rolls-Royce Goshawk I; the Pegasus was selected as the engine for air-cooled versions of the bomber, while the Goshawk engine was chosen for the liquid-cooled engine variant. On 28 February 1933, two versions of the aircraft, one with each of the selected powerplants, were submitted to the tender. In September 1933, the Air Ministry issued a pilot contract for the Goshawk-powered version.
In August 1934, Vickers proposed to use either the Pegasus or Bristol Perseus engines instead of Goshawk, which promised improvements in speed, climb rate and single-engine flight capabilities without any major increase in all-up weight. Other refinements of the design had been implemented and approved, such as the adoption of variable-pitch propellers, the use of Vickers-produced gun turrets in the nose and tail positions. By December 1936, the specification had been revised to include front and midship wind-protected turret mountings. Other specification changes included modified bomb undershields and the inclusion of spring-loaded bomb bay doors; the proposal had been developed further, a mid-wing arrangement was adopted instead of a shoulder-mounted wing for greater pilot visibility during formation flight and improved aerodynamic performance, as well as a increased overall weight of the aircraft. Design studies were conducted on behalf of the Air Ministry into the adoption of the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine.
In spite of a traditional preference of the establishment to adhere to the restrictive tare weight for the aircraft established in the tender, both Pierson and Wallis believed that their design should adopt the most powerful engine available. In response to pressure from Vickers, the Air Ministry overlooked, if not accepted, the removal of the tare weight restriction, as between the submission of the tender in 1933 and the flight of the first prototype in 1936, the tare weight rose from 6,300lb to 11,508lb; the prescribed bomb load and range requirements were revised upwards by the Air Ministry. F. Andrews stated to be "a high figure for a medium bomber of those days". During the development phase of the aircraft, the political and military situations in Europe drastically transformed. With the rise of fascist dictatorships in Germany and Italy, the British government had become keen to reevaluate the capabilities of the nation's armed forces, including the Royal Air Force. By 1936, the need for a high priority to be placed on the creation of a large bomber force, which would form the spearhead of British offensive power, had been recogn
Hugh Verity, was a Royal Air Force fighter pilot and a "special duties" squadron pilot working with Special Operations Executive landing in occupied France to insert and extract agents. He was decorated for gallantry five times. Verity was born in Jamaica the son of Dorothy and the Reverend George Beresford Verity. Pre-war he was a frequent traveler by sea between England, Jamaica and South America where he spent some time and learned to speak Spanish, he was educated at Cheltenham College and Queen’s College, Oxford where he joined Oxford University Air Squadron. After graduation he taught in schools in Northern Ireland, he joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve and was commissioned pilot officer on 8 November 1938. On 8 May 1940 he was promoted flying officer, in September 1940 was serving with No. 608 Squadron RAF flying Avro Ansons and Blackburn Bothas in a general reconnaissance role. He joined No. 252 Squadron RAF in February 1941 as it reequipped with Bristol Beaufighters and served on Malta.
In late 1941 returning to England in poor weather he had to force land on Eire and was interned by the Irish, being held until freed by British Military Intelligence MI9. Promoted flight lieutenant on 6 November 1941 he served with No. 29 Squadron RAF at the end of 1941 flying night fighter operations before becoming Staff Officer at No. 11 Group RAF and Staff Officer at HQ RAF Fighter Command. Verity was promoted temporary squadron leader on 1 June 1942. In his role as Night Operations Officer he learned of the use of the Westland Lysander in the Royal Air Force Special Duty Service, he arranged an interview with P. Charles "Pick" Pickard, the new commanding officer of No. 161 Squadron RAF. In October 1942 he was given command of A-Flight, which used the Lysander aircraft for SOE missions into occupied France and extracting agents, resistance members and Allied prisoners. Verity noted he had to lead an eclectic group of pilots, all of whom were capable, including Frank Rymills, Peter Vaughan-Fowler and Jim McCairns.
His first flight for SOE was on 23 December 1942 in a Lysander. The mission was to France. Verity undertook at least 29 and as many as 36 night flights into France the most of any RAF pilot, his role was to drop off and pick up resistance workers, SOE agents and other figures at secret locations inside France. Records from the Imperial War Museum indicate Verity flew Westland Lysander Mark IIIA, bearing the nose-art of'Jiminy Cricket' for twenty operations to occupied France while serving with No. 161 Squadron at RAF Tempsford, Bedfordshire. Verity was instrumental in introducing the larger Lockheed Hudson into pick-up operations. With Pickard, he worked out the operating procedures that enabled this twin-engined aircraft to operate from French occupied fields, giving them the ability to carry in and bring out more people in one mission. On 25 May 1943 he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, on 31 August 1943 the Distinguished Service Order, his record of successful operations continued to grow.
Most of his flights were in Lysanders, but he worked out with Pickard the use of the Hudson for the same purpose. Though larger and heavier, the Hudson could carry more passengers. Among his passengers were Jean Moulin, Nicolas Bodington, Peter Churchill, Henri Frager, Jean de Lattre de Tassigny and François Mitterrand, his last special operation was on the night of 16–17 November 1943. On 14 January 1944 he was awarded a Bar the Distinguished Service Order, promoted Squadron leader on 14 March 1944. In the war he performed the role of SOE air operations manager for western Europe and Scandinavia, coordinating the SOE requirement for air support with the available pilots and aircraft of No. 138 Squadron RAF and No. 161 Squadron. In late 1944 Verity was commanding SOE air operations in South East Asia and following the end of hostilities served with the Recovery of Allied Prisoner-of-War and Internees Organisation. Verity was granted a permanent commission as squadron leader on 25 March 1947. Verity served on Staff at Quetta until being invalided home with polio.
From 1948 to 1949 he commanded No. 541 Squadron RAF flying the Supermarine Spitfire Mark XIX photo reconnaissance variant and served as wing commander at the Central Fighter Establishment 1949 to 1951. He was promoted full wing commander on 1 July 1951, serving at Joint Services Staff College until appointed wing commander at RAF Wahn from 1954 to 1955. Verity commanded No. 96 Squadron RAF flying Gloster Meteor jet night fighters in 1955 and was appointed group captain on 1 July 1958 ready for a series of postings as Staff Officer at the Air Ministry, a posting to Turkey and commanding RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus and Staff Officer back at the Air Ministry. Verity requested retirement and was released from the service on 2 June 1965 to take up a position with the RAF Industrial Training Board. In 1978, Verity's history of all the RAF's secret landings in France, 1940–1944, was published as We landed by moonlight. A revised edition appeared in 1995 and this was updated. Distinguished Service Order as squadron leader commanding "A-Flight" of No. 161 Squadron.
Bar to the Distinguished Service Order as squadron leader commanding "A-Flight" of No. 161 Squadron. Distinguished Flying Cross as squadron leader commanding "A-Flight" of No. 161 Squadron. Officier de la Légion d'honneur – 1946. Croix de guer
The Avro Lancaster is a British four-engined Second World War heavy bomber. It was designed and manufactured by Avro as a contemporary of the Handley Page Halifax, both bombers having been developed to the same specification, as well as the Short Stirling, all three aircraft being four-engined heavy bombers adopted by the Royal Air Force during the same wartime era; the Lancaster has its origins in the twin-engine Avro Manchester, developed during the late 1930s in response to the Air Ministry Specification P.13/36 for a capable medium bomber for "world-wide use". Developed as an evolution of the Manchester, the Lancaster was designed by Roy Chadwick and powered by four Rolls-Royce Merlins and in one version, Bristol Hercules engines, it first saw service with RAF Bomber Command in 1942 and as the strategic bombing offensive over Europe gathered momentum, it was the main aircraft for the night-time bombing campaigns that followed. As increasing numbers of the type were produced, it became the principal heavy bomber used by the RAF, the RCAF and squadrons from other Commonwealth and European countries serving within the RAF, overshadowing contemporaries such as the Halifax and Stirling.
A long, unobstructed bomb bay meant that the Lancaster could take the largest bombs used by the RAF, including the 4,000 lb, 8,000 lb and 12,000 lb blockbusters, loads supplemented with smaller bombs or incendiaries. The "Lanc", as it was known colloquially, became one of the most used of the Second World War night bombers, "delivering 608,612 long tons of bombs in 156,000 sorties"; the versatility of the Lancaster was such that it was chosen to equip 617 Squadron and was modified to carry the Upkeep "Bouncing bomb" designed by Barnes Wallis for Operation Chastise, the attack on German Ruhr valley dams. Although the Lancaster was a night bomber, it excelled in many other roles, including daylight precision bombing, for which some Lancasters were adapted to carry the 12,000 lb Tallboy and the 22,000 lb Grand Slam earthquake bombs; this was the largest payload of any bomber in the war. In 1943, a Lancaster was converted to become an engine test bed for the Metropolitan-Vickers F.2 turbojet. Lancasters were used to test other engines, including the Armstrong Siddeley Mamba and Rolls-Royce Dart turboprops and the Avro Canada Orenda and STAL Dovern turbojets.
Postwar, the Lancaster was supplanted as the main strategic bomber of the RAF by the Avro Lincoln, a larger version of the Lancaster. The Lancaster took on the role of long range anti-submarine patrol aircraft and air-sea rescue, it was used for photo-reconnaissance and aerial mapping, as a flying tanker for aerial refuelling and as the Avro Lancastrian, a long-range, high-speed, transatlantic passenger and postal delivery airliner. In March 1946, a Lancastrian of BSAA flew the first scheduled flight from the new London Heathrow Airport. In the 1930s, the Royal Air Force was interested in twin-engine bombers; these designs put limited demands on engine production and maintenance, both of which were stretched with the introduction of so many new types into service. Power limitations were so serious that the British invested in the development of huge engines in the 2,000 horsepower class in order to improve performance. During the late 1930s, none of these was ready for production. Both the United States and the Soviet Union were pursuing the development of bombers powered by arrangements of four smaller engines, the results of these projects proved to possess favourable characteristics such as excellent range and fair lifting capacity.
Accordingly, in 1936, the RAF decided to investigate the feasibility of the four-engined bomber. The origins of the Lancaster stem from a twin-engined bomber design, submitted in response to Specification P.13/36, formulated and released by the British Air Ministry during the mid 1930s. This specification had sought a new generation of twin-engined medium bombers suitable for "worldwide use". Further requirements of the specification included the use of a mid-mounted cantilever monoplane wing, all-metal construction. Various candidates were submitted for the specification by such manufacturers as Fairey, Boulton Paul, Handley Page and Shorts; the majority of these engines were under development at this point. In response, British aviation company Avro decided to submit their own design, designated the Avro 679, to meet Specification P.13/36. In February 1937, following consideration of the designs by the Air Ministry, Avro's design submission was selected along with Handley Page's bid being chosen as "second string".
Accordingly, during April 1937, a pair of prototypes of both designs were ordered. The resulting aircraft, named the Manchester, entered RAF service in November 1940. Although considered to be a capable aircraft in most areas, the Manchester proved to be underpowered and troubled by the unreliability of the Vulture engine; as a result, only 200 Manchesters were constructed and the
No. 617 Squadron RAF
Number 617 Squadron is a Royal Air Force aircraft squadron, based at RAF Marham in Norfolk. It is known as the "Dambusters", for its actions during Operation Chastise against German dams during the Second World War. In the early 21st century it operated the Tornado GR4 in the ground attack and reconnaissance role until being disbanded in the spring of 2014; the squadron reformed on 18 April 2018, was equipped at RAF Marham in June 2018 with the F-35B Lightning, becoming the UK's first F-35 Joint Strike Fighter squadron with this advanced V/STOL type. According to the squadron's entry in Flying Units of the RAF by Alan Lake, No. 617 Squadron was allocated the unit identification code MZ for the period April to September 1939 though the unit did not exist at the time. The squadron was formed under great secrecy at RAF Scampton during the Second World War on 21 March 1943, it included Royal Canadian Air Force, Royal Australian Air Force and Royal New Zealand Air Force personnel and was formed for the specific task of attacking three major dams that contributed water and power to the Ruhr industrial region in Germany: the Möhne and Sorpe.
The plan was given the codename Operation Chastise and carried out on 17 May 1943. The squadron had to develop the tactics to deploy Barnes Wallis's "Bouncing bomb", undertook some of its training over the dams of the Upper Derwent Valley in Derbyshire, as the towers on the dam walls were similar to those to be found on some of the target dams in Germany; the squadron's badge, approved by King George VI, depicts the bursting of a dam in commemoration of Chastise. The squadron's chosen motto was "Après moi le déluge", a humorous double entendre on a famous saying of Madame de Pompadour to King Louis XV, made on the loss at the Battle of Rossbach by the French; the original commander of No. 617 Squadron, Wing Commander Guy Gibson, was awarded the Victoria Cross for his part in the raid. Guy Gibson owned a black Labrador named Nigger, the mascot of the squadron for some time. Alas, Nigger was killed on the evening of the raid, being run over outside the base. After the raid, Gibson went on a publicity tour.
George Holden became commanding officer in July, but he was shot down and killed on his fourth mission, Operation Garlic in September 1943, in an attack on the Dortmund-Ems Canal. H. B. "Mick" Martin took command temporarily, before Leonard Cheshire took over as CO. Cheshire developed and took part in the special target marking techniques required, which went far beyond the precision delivered by the standard Pathfinder units – by the end he was marking the targets from a Mustang fighter, he was awarded the VC. On 15 July 1943, 12 aircraft of the squadron took off from Scampton to attack targets in Northern Italy. All aircraft proceeded to North Africa without loss; the targets were San Polo Arquata Scrivia power stations. The operation met little opposition but the targets were obscured by valley haze and were not destroyed; the 12 crews returned to Scampton on 25 July from North Africa after bombing Leghorn docks on the return journey. The raid on Leghorn Docks was not a great success, due to mist shrouding the target.
On 29 July 1943 nine aircraft took off from Scampton to drop leaflets on Milan, Bologna and Turin in Italy. All aircraft landed safely in Blida North Africa. Seven of the aircraft returned to Scampton on one on the 5th and the last on the 8th. Throughout the rest of the war, the squadron continued in a specialist and precision-bombing role, including the use of the enormous "Tallboy" and "Grand Slam" ground-penetrating earthquake bombs, on targets such as concrete U-boat shelters and bridges. Several failed attempts were made on The Dortmund-Ems Canal in 1943. However, it was breached with Tallboys in September 1944. A notable series of attacks caused the disabling and sinking of Tirpitz. Tirpitz had been moved into a fjord in northern Norway where she threatened the Arctic convoys and was too far north to be attacked by air from the UK, she had been damaged by an attack by Royal Navy midget submarines and a series of attacks from carrier-borne aircraft of the Fleet Air Arm, but both attacks had failed to sink her.
The task was given to No. IX and No. 617 Squadrons where they were deployed to Yagodnik, near Archangel a staging base in Russia to attack Tirpitz with Tallboy bombs. On 15 September 1944, the RAF bombers struck the battleship in the forecastle, which rendered her unseaworthy, so she was sent to the Tromsø fjord where temporary repairs were made so she was anchored as a floating battery; this fjord was in range of bombers operating from Scotland and from there, in October, she was attacked again, but cloud cover thwarted the attack. On 12 November 1944, the two squadrons attacked Tirpitz; the first bombs missed their target, but following aircraft scored two direct hits in quick succession. Within ten minutes of the first bomb hitting the Tirpitz, she suffered a magazine explosion at her "C" turret and capsized killing 1,000 of her 1,700 crew. All three RAF attacks on Tirpitz were led by Wing Commander J. B. "Willy" Tait, who had succeeded Cheshire as CO of No. 617 Squadron in July 1944. Among those pilots participating in the raids was Flight Lieutenant John Leavitt, an American who piloted one of the 31 Lancasters.
Leavitt's aircraft dropped one of the bombs. Despite both squadrons claiming that it was thei