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Did you know?

514 Squadron had been created on 1 September 1943, and the first member of its personnel arrived at RAF Foulsham in Norfolk on 6 September. A few days later 514’s first Lancaster arrived. Two months’ hard work of training and preparation led to the squadron making its first operation, to the Mannesheim Works at Düsseldorf, on 3 November 1943.

514 Squadron became fully operational by the start of the winter-long Battle of Berlin. This campaign started in earnest on 18 November 1943. 514 Squadron undertook  sixteen operations and lost seven aircraft through enemy action. An eighth over-ran the runway on its return, and it was fortunate that no lives were lost during this incident. Midway through November 1943, 514 Squadron received its orders to move to RAF Waterbeach, where it stayed until the end of the war, in August 1945.

On 23 November 1943, 514 Squadron began arriving at Waterbeach from RAF Foulsham. They were equipped with radial-engined Lancaster Mk II bombers. All personal kit had to be brought with them in their planes, and at least one Lancaster flew on a bombing raid on Berlin that very night, still crammed with trunks, cases, and bicycles as well as its load of bombs, before eventually ending up at RAF Waterbeach.

Aircrew in front of a Lancaster. Photo WMHM.

The weather in the winter of 1943/44 was poor, and few operations were carried out until 20 January. On this date, 19 Lancasters took off from Waterbeach in a 14 minute period. Unfortunately, 5 crews had to abort their mission for various reasons. More raids were carried out in February, including the largest to date, a mission to Berlin, when 22 aircraft took off, with one returning early. Other trips followed, to Leipzig and Schweinfurt. Similarly intensive campaigns were carried out during March, before a lull in April due to persistent bad weather.

At the end of April 1944, after 6 months at Waterbeach, 514 Squadron had 373 ground crew personnel, including two officers, 31 senior NCOs, and 12 WAAFs. There were 73 aircrew officers, along with 218 aircrew SNCOs. The Allied invasion of Europe was imminent at that point, although most people knew nothing about it. 514 Squadron spent the month of May 1944 softening up enemy installations in northern France, including gun batteries at Boulogne, storage dumps, marshalling yards, and other strategic positions. Typical bomb loads were now of 1000lb high explosive bombs only. The Lancaster Mk IIs were fitted with an extra 0.5” machine gun to the rearwards and downwards from the floor of the aircraft, and new seats were installed for the wireless operator to man this gun when necessary.

During the afternoon of 5 June 1944 a briefing was given to the aircrews with an unusually large attendance by senior officers. All crews were issued with revolvers, and special camouflage was applied to the Lancasters, but still the air and ground crews didn’t know that night’s mission was part of the D-day invasions. After D-day, 514 continued at a high level of activity until the second half of June, when the squadron turned to daylight operations.

Group photo at Waterbeach. Photo WMHM.

 A change of aeroplanes to Merlin-engined Lancaster Mk I and III saw no let up in the intensity of operational activity through the summer of 1944. Indeed, October of that year saw 386 operations mounted. Raids were made that month in which no fewer than 30 aircraft from Waterbeach were involved, and, for the first time, a Luftwaffe jet fighter was encountered. Air Vice-Marshall Harrison, the AOC of 3 Group presented the squadron’s badge at a Station parade in November. He spoke of 514’s exploits in the year since its arrival at Waterbeach, and said their badge – with its motto “Nil Obstare Potest” (Nothing Can Withstand) was well-deserved.

In the final stages of the War, 514 Squadron maintained its effort by bombing cities and strategic industrial and communication targets in Germany. The climax came in April 1945, when never fewer than 20 aircraft flew on every operation until the very last one. This was a raid by 13 aircraft on Bad Oldesloe on 24 April. It was apparent from the absence of opposition that the War was just about over, and 514 received orders that same day to stand by for supply-dropping work for the hungry and beleaguered civilians in Holland. Crews were still apprehensive about enemy flak batteries, but in a matter of days all remaining Germans had surrendered. The so-called ‘Manna’ flights were replaced by road transport.

Homeward-bound ex-POWs from Germany, Austria, and Italy kept the Lancasters of Waterbeach’s 514 Squadron busy in the last weeks of the war. The squadron’s final tasks included the disposal of unwanted incendiary bombs in the Irish Sea.

Its job well done, 514 Squadron was disbanded on 22 August 1945. Regular reunions have been held ever since at Waterbeach.

514 Squadron at Waterbeach

Avro Lancaster bomber. Photo WMHM.

Lancaster Mk11 LL635 ‘Minnie Mooche’ and the P/O CB Sandland crew.

The crew survived their tour of operations. Minnie was not so lucky, being damaged beyond repair on an operation to Vincly on 25th August 1944.

Source: courtesy of Wendy Flemming and  www. 514 Squadron RAF photo collection

2022 annual reunion

Saturday 11 June saw the 2022 reunion of 514 Squadron RAF at Waterbeach. Squadron veteran Eddie Humes, who recently celebrated his 100th birthday, was guest of honour. Eddie, a navigator, was the sole survivor of his crew after their Lancaster was shot down over Belgium returning home from a mission in April 1944. He was taken prisoner of war, and, despite a badly injured leg, subsequently ended up on the infamous ‘long march’ in March 1945.

The day started with a Service of Dedication and Commemoration at the Church of St. John the Evangelist. The service was conducted by Canon Brian J Macdonald-Milne, who was Officiating Chaplain at Waterbeach Barracks 1983 -1988 and also Vicar of Waterbeach and Rector of Landbeach.

During the service, a wreath was laid at the Squadron memorial to honour the 437 personnel who lost their lives whilst serving in 514 Squadron.

Following a buffet lunch, a fly-past was carried out over the former main runway by a Hurricane Mark IIC, PZ865, operated by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and flown by F/L Giles Croft. Finished in ‘night intruder black’, the aircraft dates from 1944 and was the last Hurricane to be built out of a total of 14,533.

Departing the reunion, the aircraft overflew the ‘Feast’ event taking place on Waterbeach village green.

During the afternoon, a ceremony was held at the memorial garden on site to inter the ashes of former Squadron veteran Lewis Shaw (RAAF), which had been brought from Australia.

The day concluded with a visit to the museum on site to view the many artefacts collected over the years to record and illustrate the occupation of the base by the RAF and Royal Engineers.

Lest we forget

514 Squadron Association wish to record their thanks to Urban & Civic for allowing the reunion to take place on the base once again.

Adapted from an article by Clive Hill, 20/6/22

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