2 Squadron History

RAF Marham 1939 - 1945

RAF Marham World War II - 1939 - 1945
In November 1940, 38 Sqn moved to Malta. Within two days they were replaced by an advance party of 218 Sqn, which became operational with Wellingtons in December 1940. On 4th, 13th/14th, 25th and 30th of April 1941 both sqns raided Brest, their target being the German battle cruisers “Scharnhorst” and “Gneisenau”. In January 194,1 Marham was again attacked by enemy aircraft which caused no casualties but during the next raid on 9th July 1941 two airmen were injured. During August 1941, 115 Sqn started the first service trials of “Gee” one of the new secret radar aids. A new Unit, 1418 Flight was formed at Marham with four Wellingtons in December 1941 to develop Gee before it went into widespread use. This flight moved to Tempsford on 1st March 1942.

Mr Albert “Bert” James, ex Flt Sgt RCAF recalls: “I was posted to 115 Sqn at Marham in December 1941. There was only one Bofors ack-ack gun but gun pits were dotted around the airfield made of sandbags these were dummies. The crews were also made of sandbags with faces painted on them; sticks (not always straight!) were mounted on wooden tripods to look like ack-ack guns”.

During January/February 1942 the Wellingtons of 218 Sqn were replaced by Short Stirlings, the first of the four engined heavies used by the RAF during WWII. The Stirling was powered by four Bristol Hercules engines, giving the aircraft a top speed of 260 mph. On 3rd March, Stirling N3712 of 218 Sqn was blown up when a bomb fell from its bomb bay as it landed.

On 12th May Marham was attacked five times by German raiders; buildings damaged included the Sergeants Mess. Marham aircraft also took part in “Gardening” operations in early 1942, the mining of enemy sea lanes.

On 30th May 1942, aircraft from Marham took part in the first “Thousand Bomber” raid. Seventeen Wellingtons of 115 Sqn, followed by 22 Stirlings of 218 Sqn took off that night. Some senior officers from 3 Group headquarters at Mildenhall accompanied the Marham crews, including Air Vice Marshall John Baldwin the AOC of 3 Group. 900 bombers reached the target, Cologne, where over 2400 tons of bombs were dropped and devastated 600 acres of the city. 39 aircraft failed to return that night.

218 Sqn left for Downham Market on 7th July 1942. No 1483 (Bomber) Gunnery Training Flight arrived a week later with Wellingtons Ic & III and Defiant I & II aircraft. The purpose of this flight was to train bomb aimers and air gunners who came directly from training schools without going to OTUs . The bomb aimers in particular did exercises using “Gee”. Aircraft used by 1483 flight between October ’42 and February ’43 included Wellingtons X3202, Z1169 and BJ654; Oxfords EB739 & EB788; and a Lysander (R2620). The flight returned to Newmarket Heath on 29th June 1943. No 1427 Training Flight moved to Marham with Stirlings on 4th August 1942 (including N6000). This flight, which moved to Stradishall on 2nd October 1942, trained ATA (Air Transport Auxiliary) pilots on four engined bombers. 115 Sqn left for Mildenhall on 24th September 1942.

Marham was transferred to 2 Group, Bomber Command on 28th September 1942 and the following day 105 &139 Sqns arrived with the Mosquito Conversion Unit from Horsham St Faith. 105 Sqn was equipped with Mosquito IV bombers, 139 was then converting to Blenheim V (Bisleys) to Mosquito IV’s, while the Mosquito CU flew a mixture of Blenheims and Mosquitos. On 18th October the CU was renamed the Mosquito Training Unit, training crews the art of low flying, cross-country, formation flying and shallow dive practice. 105 & 139 sqns attacked targets throughout Europe using small formations or single aircraft. Targets included Knaben, Kiel, Jena, Oldenburg, Hengelo, Bremen, Essen, Liege and the Phillips radio factory at Eindhoven as well as railway and communication targets. Both sqns also undertook meteorological and reconnaissance sorties.

By the end of November 1942, 105 Sqn had flown 282 operational sorties and lost 24 aircraft. On 27th January 1943, nine Mosquitos of both sqns flew to attack the submarine components factory near Copenhagen. On the way, one aircraft hit electricity cables and had to return home. The target was hit several times; some of the bombs having delayed action fuses to slow down ARP work.

An interesting aircraft at Marham during this period was Mosquito IV DK296. Delivered to 105 Sqn as GB-K, by September 1942 it had been re-coded GB-G for Sqn Leader DAG (George) Parry, DSO, DFC, who had always used the code “G” on his aircraft. While with 105 Sqn it claimed one bird strike and a chimney pot! It was flown on most operations bt Sqn Ldr Parry including a raid on Gestapo HQ in Oslo on 25th September 1942 and the raid on the Philips factory on 6th December 1942. In mid 1943 Sqn Ldr WW Blessing crash-landed the Mosquito at Marham, breaking its back. DK296 was withdrawn from use on 24th August 1943, rebuilt and placed into store at No 10 Maintenance Unit at Hullavington. In September 1943 it was issued to 305 Ferry Training Unit at Errol, where it was given Russian markings and trained Russian crews who were converting to Albemarles. On 20th April 1944, DK296 was sent to Russia, being officially accepted there on 31st August 1944 and subsequently serving in the Red Air Force.

Mr Ken Collison, who was a civilian technician working at Marham, remembers 105 & 139 sqns: "at the time I was working for the Mosquito Repair Organisation, one of the sections of the de Havilland Aircraft Co that could repair aircraft on site. These units varied greatly in size, some having only two or three people, but Marham grew to at least 25 strong. After moving to Marham from Horsham, we lived for a few weeks in Downham Market, but due to our rapidly increasing numbers, had to be transferred to accommodation in King’s Lynn. This necessitated the daily transporting of our Unit to Marham by coach. A small Minx soft-top military vehicle had the task of picking up the late risers, usually with “sore heads”, who had missed the earlier coach. Unfortunately, one morning in thick fog, the returning empty coach collided with the Minx, severely injuring a number of it’s sleeping occupants."

“At Marham airfield we had the use of one hanger. Contact with the RAF was kept to a minimum, restricted only to visits from pilots and their navigators, checking on repair progress of their particular aircraft and looking for shrapnel etc removed from the wooden parts of the aircraft. We knew little about the targets as security was very strict; our only information came from the newspapers. I clearly remember Sqn Ldr Ralston, DSO; Flt Lt Clayton, DFC, DSO and Wing Cdr H I Edwards, VC, DFC, DSO the most decorated Australian pilot, whose Mosquito was mounted with two browning machine guns, which fired backwards from the engine nacelles, the only Mosquito IV as far as I know that ever had armament. We saw very little of Norfolk, apart from inns and public houses due to the pressure of work, but it was a privilege to be associated with these two famous 2 Group sqns until early 1943 when I left to join the Fleet Air Arm”.

On 30th April 1943, 1655 Mosquito TU disbanded at Marham. The station then came under the control of 8 Group Path Finder Force (PFF). On 4th July, 139 Sqn left for Wyton, being replaced the same day by 109 Sqn, which flew Mosquito IV’s and IX’s. Within 8 Group, both sqns flew on night ops and as pathfinders for the main force of bombers, using the blind bombing device code-named “Oboe”. The first use of Oboe by 105 Sqn was on the night of 10th July 1943, when two aircraft bombed Gelsenkirchen. On the night of 25th/26th July 1943, nine Mosquitos of 109 Sqn dropped markers on the Krupps armament works at Essen for the main force of 600 bombers, which resulted in severe damage to the target. Other targets included the ball-bearing works at Elberford, storage dumps and fighter airfields.

On the night of 22nd March 1944, Mosquito NF.XIII HK476 GB-T (T-Tommy) of 105 Sqn was returning to Marham after a raid. One of the wing bombs had failed to release, possibly due to the bomb rack lugs freezing, and upon landing the bomb released and exploded. This caused the disintegration of the starboard wing and set fire to the aircraft, killing one of the crew and injuring the other. The following day 105 Sqn left for their new home at Bourne, while in April, 109 Sqn left for Little Staughton. With the departure of the Mosquito sqns, Marham closed for the installation of concrete runways, peri-track and dispersal's. This marked the end of wartime operations of the airfield.

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