Combined Operations Badge (embroidered cotton)
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No 2 Beach Squadron

For the invasion of Normandy, No 2 R.A.F. Beach Squadron, consisting of Nos.103 and 104 Beach Flights, was assigned to the JUNO assault area where the 3rd Canadian Division Group led the assault on the beaches of the ‘Mike’ and ‘Nan’ sectors.

No. 2 R.A.F. Beach Squadron was originally formed as No. 2 R.A.F. Beach Unit which itself was created from Nos. 76 and 77 R.A.F. Beach Units.

Nos. 76 and 77 R.A.F. Beach Units

From their formation, on 26th May 1943 at No. 1 P.D.C. West Kirby, Nos. 76 and 77 R.A.F. Beach Units were under the command of Acting Wing Commander B. Armiger (31364), Equipment “X”.

W/Cdr Armiger’s H.Q. was to be located with No. 102 Army Beach Sub-Area and Nos. 76 and 77 Beach Units were intended to work with Nos. 7 and 8 Army Beach Groups.

In June 1943, Weapon and Field Training commenced, under the instruction of R.A.F. Regiment and Army N.C.O’s and nine airmen from the M.T. Sections attended a Waterproofing Course at R.A.F. Weeton where eight passed Class “A” and one passed Class “B”.

At the end of June an advance party of two officers and five other ranks left West Kirby to go to the Combined Training Centre, Dundonald Camp, near Troon, Ayrshire. There, in the first week of July, they attended the Cadre Course on Beach Organisation and Combined Operations at the adjacent Gailes Camp.

At the end of July 1943, Wing Commander Armiger and Colonel Brading, Commander of No. 102 Beach Sub-Area, went as observers to Exercise “JANTZEN” and W/Cdr Armiger submitted a report on the exercise to the Air Ministry (Director of Movements) at the beginning of August.

No. 2 R.A.F. Beach Unit

On the 17th August 1943, Nos. 76 and 77 R.A.F. Beach Units and W/Cdr Armiger’s Headquarters were reformed as No. 2 R.A.F. Beach Unit, comprising No. 103 R.A.F. Beach Section, No. 104 R.A.F. Beach Section and a Beach Unit Headquarters. R.A.F. Station Ayr became the Parent Unit.

On 19th August, No. 2 R.A.F. Beach Unit Headquarters moved with No. 102 Beach Sub-Area from Dundonald Camp to Lainshaw House, Stewarton Camp and then, in September all the units that were part of No. 102 Beach Sub-Area, including No. 2 R.A.F. Beach Unit, headed for the South of England.

No. 2 R.A.F. Beach Unit Headquarters was located with No. 102 Beach Sub-Area at Hilsea Barracks, Portsmouth while Nos. 103 and 104 Beach Sections were located with Nos. 7 and 8 Army Beach Groups in locations at Bournemouth and Winchester.

Flight Lieutenant R.A. Sandison, Officer Commanding No. 103 Beach Section was appointed Acting Squadron Leader and Squadron Leader E. Towers (31297), Equipment, was posted from Air Ministry (Movements) and took over command of No. 104 Beach section.

Flight Lieutenant G. Blair (43852), A. & S. D. was posted from No. 6 Balloon Centre to become the Adjutant of No. 2 Beach Unit.

In October 1943 Flight Lieutenant F.D. Hynes (31446), Equipment was posted in from Maintenance Command to replace Flight Lieutenant P.M. Gilmore who, having been classed as medically unfit for Beach Unit duties, was posted supernumery to R.A.F. Station. Tangmere.

No. 2 Beach Unit took part in Exercise “PIRATE” in the second half of October, during which landings took place in Studland Bay.

Pilot Officer (Acting Flight Lieutenant) W.H. Morris (140999) was sent to the Marine Hotel, Troon, Ayrshire for a Beach Organisation Course.

At the end of the month No. 2 R.A.F. Beach Unit Headquarters moved with H.Q. No. 102 Beach Sub-Area to Mudeford, Nr Christchurch, Hants.

At the beginning of November 1943, Flying Officer G.W. Smart (105831) was posted supernumery to R.A.F. Station Tangmere on medical grounds. Tangmere had now become the Parent Unit for No. 2 R.A.F. Beach Unit. At the end of the month Flight Lieutenant P.M. Butler (79864), Equipment was posted from No. 35 M.U. and three more officers (S/Ldr E. Towers, F/Lt G. Blair and F/Lt F.D. Hynes) went to Troon for the Beach Organisation Course.

In December 1943 the parent station for No. 2 R.A.F. Beach Unit was changed from Tangmere to R.A.F. Station Hurn. Flight Lieutenant W.P.B. Cleary (75768), Equipment was posted in from No. 52 Base to replace Flight Lieutenant G.K. Mynett who had become medically unfit for Beach Unit duties and Pilot Officer D. Woollacott (142970), Equipment “X”, was posted in from No. 3 Embarkation Unit and appointed Acting Flight Lieutenant.

In January 1944, two Beach Balloon Units from No. 958 Balloon Squadron were attached to No. 2 R.A.F. Beach Unit. No. 51 Beach Balloon Unit was to be located with No. 103 Beach Section and No. 52 Beach Balloon Unit with No. 104 Beach Section.

No. 2 R.A.F. Beach Unit Headquarters moved with Headquarters No. 102 Beach Sub-Area,from Mudeford to the Southcliffe and Brownswood Hotels, Bournemouth, on 25th January.

On 1st February control of No. 2 R.A.F. Beach Unit passed from Air Ministry (Director of Movements) to 2nd Tactical Air Force. As a result R.A.F. Station Hurn ceased to be the parent station and the Unit was administered from Base Accounts Office, York.

Four Royal Australian Air Force Officers were attached from R.A.A.F. Overseas Headquarters fro liaison duties. These were S/Ldr R.D. Cooper, S/Ldr W.N. Pratt, F/Lt H.E. Clifton and F/Lt L.Kelton..

Wing Commander B. Armiger, the Officer Commanding No. 2 R.A.F. Beach Unit, was at Headquarters Second Army in London, from 23rd to 27th February. A “revised lay-out” for Nos. 103 and 104 Beach Sections was agreed upon. No 103 Beach Section would be responsible for all R.A.F. personnel and M.T. vehicles passing over the beaches in the 102 Beach Sub Area and No 104 Beach Section would be responsible for all R.A.F. Stores and Equipment landings. Stores included P.O.L. (Petrol, Oil and Lubricants) and ammunition.

On the day of W/Cdr Armiger’s return, the whole of No. 2 R.A.F. Beach Unit attended a rehearsal parade in Bournemouth that was inspected by General Keller, G.O.C., 3RD cANADIAN dIVISION. The next day, 28TH fEBRUARY 1944, General Sir Bernard Montgomery, G.O.C. in C. of 21st Army Group, inspected a full parade of No. 102 Beach Sub-Area with.Nos. 7 and 8 Beach Groups and then addressed the men. All personnel of No. 2 R.A.F. Beach Unit attended.

Flying Officer J.A. Read (105823), Equipment “X”, medically unfit for Beach Unit duties, was posted to No. 8 Embarkation Unit, Glasgow on 6th March.

On 11th March, No. 2 R.A.F. Beach Unit Headquarters moved from the Southcliffe and Brownwood Hotels, Bournemouth to Bury Lodge, Hambledon, near Portsmouth, with H.Q. No. 102 Beach Sub-Area. The personnel of No. 2 R.A.F. Beach Unit were now living under canvas.

On 24th March, personnel of Nos. 103 and 104 Beach sections were interchanged to bring all the sub-sections to establishment according to new Beach group procedure and scales of signals equipment for the Beach Units were issued by Rear Headquarters, Second Tactical Air Force.

The whole of No. 2 R.A.F. Beach Unit was involved in Exercise ”GOLDBRAID” from 26th March to 31st March. This was a full scale exercise by 3rd Canadian Division at Bracklesham Bay, near Chichester, during which sections of No. 2 R.A.F. Beach Unit were visited by the Air Officer i/c Administration, 2nd Tactical Air Force, Air Vice-Marshal T.W. Elmhirst, C.B.E, A.F.C. and the Air Officer Administration, No. 83 Group, Air Commodore G.R. Montgomery together with the Air Ministry Establishments Committee.

No. 2 R.A.F. Beach Squadron

In April 1944, Rear H.Q. 2nd Tactical Air Force changed the titles of their beach units so that No. 2 R.A.F. Beach Unit became No. 2 R.A.F. Beach Squadron and Nos. 103 and 104 R.A.F. Beach Sections became Nos. 103 and 104 R.A.F. Beach Flights.

On 8th April orders for the reconnaissance and general layout of 102 Beach Sub-Area on D-Day were received. Marshalling commenced for Exercise “TROUSERS” to be held at Slapton Sands, south Devon and unit censorship began, the Unit Censor Stamp being No. 149.

Landings for Exercise “TROUSERS” were in progress on 12th April but visibility deteriorated and the remainder of the Exercise was cancelled, some personnel and vehicles of the Squadron returning by road convoy and the remainder by sea to Southampton. No. 46 Wireless Sets had been used for the first time by the Squadron’s sections and communications were “fairly good”.

On 14th April the Squadron adopted the closed address of “Army Post Office England” and the next day Flying Officer J.T. Pye (131264) Tech/Sigs, was posted from R.A.F. Chigwell, as Signals Officer.

On 17th April, six jeeps were collected from Rear Headquarters, Second Tactical Air Force and on the 19th April, F/Lt Blair, the Squadron’s Adjutant went to Rear Headquarters to collect secret and confidential publications..

A grant of 14.14.0 for the provision of sports gear was received from Rear H.Q. 2nd T.A.F.

On 24th April, an Air Information Unit consisting of two Canadian officers [Flight Lieutenant M. V. McClennan (C.10908) Photo Press, and Flying Officer S. G. Helleur (C.28814) P.R.O.] was attached to the Squadron “for Press duties on the Invasion”.

The Signals Section opened a Wireless Watch on 3165 k/cs and a Provost section consisting of a Sergeant and six Corporals were attached to No. 2 Beach Squadron from H.Q. 2nd T.A.F. for operational duties in the R.A.F. Assembly Area during the invasion.

Also on 24th April, rehearsal parades were held for an inspection by a “Distinguished Personage” and the parades were inspected by General Keller, General Officer Commanding, 3rd Canadian Division. The next day, at 11.45, His Majesty The King inspected the 3rd Canadian Division, 102 Beach Sub-Area and Nos. 7 and 8 Beach Groups at Hiltingbury Camp.

On 25th April, a Mr Williams from the Air Ministry visited Squadron Headquarters to advise the Signals Officer on the Collins W/T Set and 2nd Lieutenant J.I.W. Wittelshoefer (O.579698), American Liaison Officer was attached to the Squadron from Headquarters IX A.A.A.C. for liaison duties on the Continent.

The Beach Balloon Units that were located with the Beach Flights of No. 2 Beach Squadron had by now been renamed Beach Balloon Flights and formed into No. 974 R.A.F. Beach Balloon Squadron. Control of the Beach Balloon Squadrons was now passed from Headquarters, Balloon Command to Headquarters, 2nd Tactical Air Force and, for administrative purposes, No. 974 R.A.F. Beach Balloon Squadron was attached to No. 2 R.A.F. Beach Squadron. Squadron Leader A.E.L. Hill, Officer Commanding No. 974 R.A.F. Beach Balloon Squadron arrived from No. 12 Balloon Centre, Titchfield.

On 28th April briefing for Exercise “FABIUS III” commenced. All Camps were ‘sealed’ after briefing and no personnel permitted to be in communication with “unbriefed persons”. Marshalling for the exercise began in “C” Area on the 29th and embarkation for the exercise took place the next day.

Exercise “FABIUS III” commenced on 1st May at Bracklesham Bay, near Chichester. Several serials of the Squadron did not take part owing to Navy craft not being available. The weather deteriorated rapidly and several landings were cancelled. 25 vehicles under the command of Wing Commander Brown of No. 85 Group G.C.I. landed very early and on the wrong Sector. During 2nd and 3rd May the Exercise continued as far as the very bad weather conditions would permit and then on 4th May all units returned to their previous locations.

Back at Netley Common, on the 10th May a conference of all officers was held at Squadron Headquarters. The Commanding Officer gave final pre-briefing for Operation “OVERLORD” because the Squadron was soon to be split up and dispersed to various Concentration Areas.

On 11th May, Flying Officer J.T. Pye, Signals Officer, attended a conference at Main Headquarters, 2nd T.A.F. for reports on Exercise “FABIUS III”.

On 13th May General D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander, inspected Beach Groups and R.A.F. Beach Flights at Hiltingbury “A” Camp and the Prime Minister, Mr Winston Churchill, walked through Hiltingbury C6 Camp on a visit to the South Coast Marshalling Area.

On 26th May, the Commanding Officer, Wing Commander B. Armiger, briefed all officers of the Squadron for Operation “OVERLORD” and on the 29th May he addressed all ranks of the Squadron in connection with the forthcoming Operation.

On 30th May marshalling for Operation “OVERLORD”, to Camps C2, C3, C5, C6, C7, C8, C9, S1, S3, S4 and S4J was in progress. Marshalling and embarkation continued from 1st to 4th June. On 4th June information was received that D Day had been postponed for 24 hours and then on 5th June 1944 all No. 2 R.A.F. Beach Squadron were “sailing for FRANCE in the Assault Phase of the Invasion of the Continent.”

No. 2 Beach Squadron in Operation “OVERLORD”

No. 2 R.A.F. Beach Squadron were part of the assault forces for the JUNO area. H-Hour was 0720 hours on 6th June.

LCM 229 in which AC1 J.E. Smith (1378458), Motor cyclist, was sailing, sank in mid-channel, believed to be caused by enemy action. Smith was picked up by a mine-sweeper and landed in the U.K. The airman was the driver of a Jeep carrying various items of equipment, including the camp kit of Squadron Leader A.E.L. Hill (Officer Commanding No. 974 R.A.F. Beach Balloon Squadron). The Jeep and its contents were lost.

No 104 Beach Flight started to land on NAN beach during the morning of D-Day and No 103 Beach Flight began landing on MIKE beach in the afternoon. (Follow the links to read what happened to the individual Flights)

Most personnel of No.2 Beach Squadron Headquarters, although phased for landing at H + 7, could not land and were compelled to stand offshore, awaiting instructions to beach. W/Cmdr B. Armiger O.C., landed and set up Squadron H.Q. with 102 Beach Sub-Area at COURSELLES. Contact was made by D/R (LAC Jennings) with S/L Sandison, O.C. 103 Beach Flight.

Around 2100 hours, an enemy bomb hit a Rhino Ferry beached on MIKE Red Beach – Wing Commander Gates, Balloons Staff Officer, and a few other R.A.F. personnel were seriously wounded. Enemy air activity during D Day was fairly heavy but the bombing of the beaches was never really severe. Air Commodore Montgomery, A.O.A., No 83 Group landed in the evening. He was the Senior Royal Air Force Officer ashore on D-Day.

During the first night there were enemy air attacks, directed chiefly against the beaches and shipping.

Sometime after 1600 hours on 7th June, Squadron Headquarters personnel and vehicles landed and immediately occupied an orchard East of COURSEULLES (map ref T.974848) ; owned by E. Le Breton, 27 Rue Emile Heroult, Courseulles-sur-Mer,Calvados. The Headquarters personnel began digging out a Headquarters Operations Room, Adminstrative and Signals Offices and slt-trenches. By dusk, the Operations Room had been completed and the bivouac area was half-completed.

There were heavy air attacks during the second night, with anti-personnel bombs causing casualties in the Beach Maintenance Area. Mines were dropped amongst shipping.

Corporal A. Brookes (869570), a Balloon Operator of No 974 Beach Balloon Squadron was killed by a German mine which exploded while he was carrying out his balloon duties. His body could not be recovered immediately as the incident occurred in an extensive minefield.

46 tons of R.A.F stores were landed on 7th June.

At 5am on the 8th June, there was a low level bombing attack by the Germans causing eleven casualties in the area around No. 2 Beach Squadron Headquarters. However, all the Squadron Headquarters personnel were in slit trenches and suffered no casualties. There was also some machine-gunning from the enemy planes.

Pre-stocking of Nos. 1 and 2 Re-fuelling and Re-arming Strips started.

At 1400 hours, the Signals Section opened Wireless Watch on 3524 k/c’s.

During that day, 657 R.A.F personnel disembarked, 146 M.T. vehicles landed and 75 tons of R.A.F. stores were discharged.

On 9th June, COURSEULLES Basin came into use as a Port .

LAC W.N. Edwards (654417), an M.T. Driver of No 974 Beach Balloon Squadron, who had been wounded in an enemy air attack was admitted to a Field Dressing Station and then evacuated to U.K.

Pre-stocking of No. B.4. A.L.G. started. Assistance with this task was given by No 102 Beach Flight of No 1 Beach Squadron. 12 D.U.K.W.’s were provided by No 50 General Transport Company for transportation direct from vessels to landing strip.

There was enemy air activity again that night but there were no major casualties to R.A.F. personnel.

The statistics for 9th June were, 418 R.A.F personnel disembarked, 72 M.T. vehicles landed and 88 tons of R.A.F. stores discharged.

No 3 R.A.F. Assembly Area was established on a new site at TIERCEVILLE on 10th June.

U.S. Aircraft DH-5 No.276297 crashed into the sea off ST AUBIN-SUR-MER. The body of John A. Weese (0.815792), United States Army Air Force, was recovered and buried in Grave No 8 of BERNIERS-SUR-MER White Beach Cemetery (map ref 7E/5. 998854). The officiating Chaplain was the Rev. Wm. E. Harrison, H/Capt., Canadian Army.The aircraft was recovered from the sea at low tide the next day and Headquarters, R.A.F. No 83 Group were informed so that salvage action could be taken.

In the evening of 11th June, LAC L. Westwood (1184911), a Balloon Operator of No. 974 Beach Balloon Squadron, was wounded in the face and shoulders by an enemy mine. He was admitted to the Field Dressing Station and thence evacuated to U.K.

Pre-stocking of Nos. 5 and 6 A.L.G.’s began on 15th June. It was decided by Headquarters No 83 Group that No. 2 Beach Squadron would now be responsible for the daily maintenance of B.4. (125 Wing) and B.5 (121 Wing).

A 40ft. R.A.F. Seaplane Tender (1544) arrived from CALSHOTT for the use of No. 2 Beach Squadron and a landing section, comprising 1 Officer and 4 Other Ranks of No 3 Beach Squadron, also arrived from U.K. Unfortunately, the next day (16th June) one of the crew of the Seaplane Tender, Corporal W. Reece (1544387), M.B.C. sustained a fractured fibia through slipping on the deck of the Seaplane Tender in a rough sea. He was admitted to the Sick Bay of H.M.S. HILARY and subsequently evacuated to U.K.

No 12 Rue Vieux Lieux, Courselles, was requisitioned and occupied by No. 2 R.A.F. Beach Squadron.

On 17th June, Wing Commander J. Fearn, Senior Movements Staff Officer (Sea), Rear H.Q. Second Tactical Air Force, landed and proceeded to Headquarters No 83 Group.

On 20th June, the body of Corporal Brookes, the Balloon Operator killed on the 7th June, was at last recovered from the minefield and buried.

 

[Look out for more information about No. 2 R.A.F. Beach Squadron being added to this page, but in the meantime see the page about Ted Inge.]

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Copyright © J.M.Fenton, 2007-2009

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