Not for Publication

This is the transcript of this document taken from Marcus Bicknell’s Website.

broadcast

I offered Marcus to transcribe the document because he was so generous in sharing all the information with my readers about 1409 (Met) Flight.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION. BROADCAST IN OVERSEAS BULLETINS, OR USE ON CLUB TAPES BEFORE 2330HRS B.S.T. ON 11.1.45 (i.e. FRIDAY MORNING PAPERS).

NOT TO BE BROADCAST IN THE MIDNIGHT NEWS OF 11TH/12TH JANUARY, 1945.

OVERSEAS MESSAGES SHOULD BE PREFACED WITH THIS EMBARGO.

Air Ministry News Service                                         Air Ministry Bulletin – No. 17031

BOMBER COMMAND’S METEOROLOGICAL FLIGHT

MEN PICKED FO FLY THROUGH WEATHER

            Every hour of the twenty-four, two Mosquitos and their crews are waiting at a R.A.F. Bomber Command Station, ready to take off to anywhere from the Arctic Circle to the Mediterranean, even  in weather when no other aircraft will be flying.

These aircraft belong to the Meteorological Flight, manned by a small body of some of the most experience airmen of the R.A.F.

For three years they have flown over Germany, before every major attack by Bomber Command and, until recently, before every U.S.A.A.F.

They are men who challenge the weather at its worst.

If they see an icing cloud which any other pilot would avoid, they go out of their way to fly through it. They are prepared to break cloud at a height of a few feet above Germany, and to fly the rest of their way home at tree-top level, or to make blind landing in fog, or with the cloud almost down to the surface of the airfield.

Moreover it is their tradition that they never refuse a flight. And it was recently found that the average number of operational flights by each member of the Flight was eighty-seven, and that the Flight had won as many awards as there were men in it.

They probably do more actual flying over enemy territory than any other formation of the R.A.F.

In fact, 24 or 25 trips a month for each crew is usual.

When H.M. The King flew to Italy, a Mosquito of this Flight went ahead to keep a watch on the weather. Mosquitos of this Flight have also been detailed to go ahead of Mr. Churchill.

In September 1941, a question about the weather over the Continent arose, and it could not be answered by any of the ordinary weather reconnaissance over enemy territory. That was the beginning of this Met. Flight Unit, which for some time operated with R.A.F. Coastal Command – since more and more of its flights were made to obtain information for forecasting the weather for bomber operations in the Spring of 1943 it was transferred to Bomber Command, and placed under Pathfinder Force.

The Flight used to fly Mosquito IXs, but later was equipped with pressure cabin Mosquitos XVIs, which it now flies.

A Met. flight over Germany is normally planned so that the Mosquito lands some time before the heavy bombers are due to take off. But this is not always possible, and there have been instances where an operation was cancelled five minutes before takeoff time or even after the bombers were airborne, on a report of a Met. Flight pilot.

Security is the constant preoccupation of everyone associated with the Met. Flight because it is so much concerned with future operations.

Its busiest week, for example, was just before D-Day, when its aircraft were constantly over the Atlantic. Reports of the men of this flight helped decide the fate of the Tirpitz.

They fly over Germany by night as well as day. In the darkness, they often use flares to light up the clouds and observe their height, one of the main questions which crews have to answer.

The aircraft carry several cameras, and their crews photograph not only the weather, but also anything in enemy territory that may be of value to the Intelligence Section of the R.A.F. A photograph taken by an aircraft of this flight, for example, led to an attack by the U.S.A.A.F. a short time after on the V Weapon Research Station at Peenemunde. Photographs are always developed within half an hour of landing.

Routes must be well planned, yet in the shortest possible time, so that the Met. Flight navigators have a great responsibility, and crews are carefully briefed on the type of meteorological information required.

The crews seldom fly to an actual target for a pending operation, but to a point from which the weather, as it will be over the target is coming. A comprehensive picture of the weather over the whole route, rather than a series of disconnected observations, is what is needed. Pilot and navigator prepare their report together as they fly home, and are ready on landing, to give a brief, accurate, and clear report before the main force takes off. If the report is urgently required it may be sent back in code by wireless. Otherwise, the crew reports by special telephone on a hook-up to Command and Group Met. Officers. For this, all crews are trained to make concise reports on a telephone hook-up before they begin their work.

Though all the men in the Met. Flight have had at least one operational tour, or equivalent experience in reconnaissance work, during which they learn meteorological theory and photography, as well as making many practice flights.

The atmosphere in the Met. Flight is somewhat different from that of an ordinary Bomber Station. Apart from actual leave, there is very little time when the crew can actually leave the station. They must be available for a call at any moment of the 24 hours. Therefore they have to be men who can get on with each other, and the Flight Commander chooses them as if he were selecting men for an expedition to the arctic, where friction must be avoided. The ground-crews must also be available at all times to service the aircraft, for there are no intervals between Met. flights comparable to those between normal operations. They never know where the Mosquitos fly, either before or after the sorties; and in spite of this their team spirit is remarkable.

Transcribed by Pierre Lagacé from a typewritten original in Nigel Bicknell’s family with kind permission of his family (contact marcus@bicknell.com)

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3 Responses to Not for Publication

  1. gpcox says:

    These are jobs we rarely ever hear about, but are of the utmost importance. Great data.

  2. Pierre Lagacé says:

    That’s the reason I transcribed it with Marcus permission.
    When people take the time to read the document they will know why these airmen were heroes.

  3. Pierre, good job, thank you. It is so useful to have a web transcript of this fascinating document. It’s interesting that the radio script in question does not give much detail about the met flight, probably so that the Germans did not find out too much about it and where it was based. For the record, this flight was called 1409 (Met) Flight and based at Wyton from January 1944.

    The flight is sometimes referred to as the “Pampa” flight but this is a slight misnomer. Indeed, most of the operations flown were Pampa flights which were responsible for long range weather reconnaissance sorties deep into enemy territory to ascertain conditions prior to planned Bomber Command raids and for the US 8th Air Force until the Americans got their own weather recce outfit. Unlike the regular synoptic flights of most met operations, PAMPA flights were dispatched at short notice to specific targets to establish the exact weather conditions just before a raid. The aircraft were unarmed and the navigator/observer was responsible for taking the photographs by hand or with belly-fitted cameras. But 1409 (Met) Flight also flew “Snooper” flights to photograph the aftermath of bombing raids, and my father’s logbook records “Oboe” flights (testing a new navigation device) and others.

    More at http://www.marcusbicknell.co.uk/nigel/

    Enjoy the memories!

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