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The Original Pathfinders

On the outbreak of World War 2 the B.B.C. suspended T.V. broadcasts which had been a regular feature for the previous 3 years. The industries that had grown with this medium were put to good use.

Late in 1941 Marham was the headquarters of testing of “gee”. By mid-February 1942 testing had been completed and there was sufficient equipment for six squadrons of 3 Group to use it operationally to “mark” targets for the main force. 9 Squadron was one of these.

The pilots and observers of the squadron were despatched to Marham where they were instructed in the use of gee. On their return to Honington the crews were occupied in marking targets, one of which was one on an island in the Irish Sea. It was essential to arrive at the targets precisely at the correct time.

By mid-March everything was ready to go. Half of the squadron was loaded with flares to illuminate the target area, the other with incendiary bombs to identify the target for the main force. This often involved a second run over the target. At first these operations did not always yield outstanding results due to cloud cover. However, on May 30/31 1942 the marker force led over 1000 main force aircraft to targets in Cologne.

Some targets were in the dock and warehouse area along the Rhine between the main railway station and the Cathedral. I was able to observe a carpet of fires along this area. A week later, as a P.O.W. en route to Frankfurt, waiting for a bus in front of the main station. I noticed that the whole area had been bulldozed flat as far as the Cathedral – which also seemed to be undamaged. The bus was necessary for the Rhine crossing since the railway bridge was “closed for repairs”.

Suppiled by Graham T. Welsh, Wellington era Secretary.