Large scale clandestine navigation
The Lysander is renowned for its night-time operations involving navigation with negligible facilities. We know less of flights by larger aircraft.
This is an extract from the HANG newsletter No 16 of August 2011
The Lysander has become renowned for its night-time operations involving navigation with negligible facilities and few clues before landing in dark into an unknown field. We know less about other and larger aircraft that were used for the same role.
One of the RIN members was talking about Mary Nell who had been the inspiration behind the newsletter “Beachbell Echo” which was published by the 446th Bomb Group Association of the US Army Air Corps. She had an uncle Noel Douglass who was a member of the 446th Bomb Group stationed at Bungay, near Tempsford. They were a part of the "Carpet-baggers" who worked for OSS which was the American equivalent of SOE.
After seeing the Carpet Baggers Museum our member commented that:
‘I never knew that the US flew B-24 aircraft at 1000ft and below carrying out similar missions to the RAF Lysander squadrons at Tempsford. Can you imagine landing B 24 aircraft in hostile territory in a field - and then trying to get airborne again?’
This happened to coincide with reading A Pearce’s book “Dakota” published by Ian Allan in 1972. Page 67 can be paraphrased in the following account:
On 25 Jul 44 Dakota KG477 of 267Squ took off from Brindisi on Operation Wildhorn III. The Dakota carried 4 long range cabin tanks, 4 passengers and 20 suitcases weighing 970lb. A Liberator acting as anti night-fighter escort stayed until dusk (Ed: surely that was when it became useful?). In darkness the Dakota crossed the Hungarian plains at 7500ft, reached the Carpathians and headed for its target.
The reception party flashed the recognition signal O, and this was answered with N. There were three green lights in the field to indicate the best approach and three red lights to mark the far end. The runway itself had ordinary stable lamps every 75yd. The Dakota landed, was unloaded, reloaded and ready for take off in 5 minutes. However the wheels had sunk in so the passengers were disembarked, the parcels were off loaded, the wheels dug out and the space ahead cleared. The Dakota was reloaded but still refused to move. Finally the pilot agreed to one last go, the Dakota moved forward slowly and took off.
The Dakota returned to Brindisi at dawn. Only later did the crew learn that their impromptu landing site had been a dual purpose one. The day before their arrival it had been used for practice circuits by Luftwaffe pilots under training.
The illustration: The SAAF took on a large number of surplus Dakotas during World War 2 and until recently was still operating some. Photo credit aircraftnut.blogspot