Searching for more information on the operations of 180 Squadron I chanced upon an obscure reel of unedited film shot by the RAF Film Unit. It sits in the Imperial War Museum archive and it is poorly labelled, dated 1944, without specifics of the content. However certain sequences are unmistakably Dunsfold in the very early years of operations. There is a sequence of bomb loading crew working on Mitchell B-25s and followed a sequence of landing filmed from the bomb aimers seat of a Mitchell. The aircraft approaches from the South-East banking to align with the main runway. The newly built A281 and truncated fields are below and the Dunsfold aerodrome technical areas are seen to the North. Blackdown Hill is in the far distance. Most significant is the give-away “experimental” runway part built parallel to the main run way. This has previously only been seen in distant aerial photographs.
We have taken the raw footage and re-edited into a coherent piece, perhaps as originally intended when the photographer shot the material.
Whilst most of the scenes look to be Dunsfold the air to air scenes look to be the South Coast with a group of Mitchells seen over Ovingdean heading East, an unidentified kinked coastline, and then returning over the Seven Sisters.
Aircraft that are seen include Serial no. FW184 Mitchell II – this aircraft was lost in France on 11th June 1944 and FL207, lost in 1943.
98 Squadron RAF – aircraft code VO
98 Squadron were posted to Dunsfold in August 1943 to take part in pre-invasion attacks on Northern France and on V1 launch sites in the Pas-de-Calais. After the Normandy landings the Squadron operated in close support of the advancing Allied armies, and from October 1944 was based at Melsbroek in Belgium, moving to Achmer, Germany just days prior to VE Day.
180 Squadron RAF – aircraft code EV
The Squadron was equipped with Mitchells at RAF West Raynham It then flew its first raid from RAF Foulsham and suffered heavy losses including the aircraft of the squadron commander. After supporting the breakout from the Normandy beachhead in June 1944, the squadron re-located to Melbroek. It supported the allied advance across Europe and from April 1945 it operated from Achmer, Germany.
320 Squadron (Dutch) RAF – aircraft code NO
320 Squadron (Dutch) had a NO code and orange inverted triangle marked beneath the cockpit.
On 30 March 1943, the squadron moved to RAF Attlebridge then was reassigned to Second Tactical Air Force on 1 June with the squadron attacking enemy communications targets and airfields. The squadron relocated to RAF Lasham on 30 August and to RAF Dunsfold on 18 February 1944. From these airfields the squadron participated in many ” Ramrod” and “Noball” operations and bombing attacks on construction works, railway yards, fuel dumps and V-1 Flying Bomb sites in the North of France, in advance of Normandy Landings on 6 June 1944 (D-Day).
After D-Day the bombing of tactical targets continued and changed from France to the Dutch coast of Zeeland, and in September 1944 the squadron was involved in bombing German troops in the surroundings of Arnhem. In September the squadron started bombing targets in Germany along the Rhine for the advancing allied troops. In October 1944 the squadron was transferred to Melsbroek in Belgium. From there the bombing of bridges and airfields in the east of the Netherlands and Germany continued. During 1943 and 1944 the squadron took heavy losses. On 30 April 1945 the squadron moved to Advanced Landing Ground B.110 at Achmer, Lower Saxony in Germany.
All three squadrons were part of 139 Wing.
You can find the 14 minutes of original footage film here.https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/1060021114
Footnote: After the original footage was published here we received a post from David Poissant – he had recognised his father Cy Poissant in the film. Here is Cy’s operational story, adding the human aspect to the film.
F/S Cyrille ‘Cy’ Poissant RCAF
My Dad appears in this video (at 1:52 mins) showing his ‘Canada’ shoulder flash.
Cyrille ‘Cy’ Poissant enlisted in the RCAF in Edmonton, Alberta 04 Jun 42 and, after completing an education upgrade course, entered BCATP and graduated as a Pilot 01 Oct 43.
Cy was ‘crewed up’ with Peter ‘Doc’ Ryan (Observer), Fred ‘Bing’ Bing (Wireless Op/Air Gunner) and Paul Saumer (Air Gunner) at No. 34 Operational Training Unit (OTU) in Pennfield Ridge, New Brunswick.
After crossing the Atlantic and a train ride from Greenock, he underwent more training at No. 3 Personnel Reception Centre (PRC), Bournemouth on England’s south coast. They converted to B-25 Mitchells at No. 13 OTU Finmere, Buckinghamshire and were posted to 98 Squadron RAF at Dunsfold, Surrey 06 Jul 44, the day SHAEF officially began the removal of ‘Invasion Stripes’ from Allied aircraft.
On 08 Sep 44 Cy was on landing approach directly behind Denis Loveridge in Mitchell B-Beer ( FW188 ) when that a/c exploded on touchdown, due to an armed hung-up 500 lb. bomb jarring loose. Cy raised gear and flew circuits with the rest of the Wing until another runway could be readied.
He flew operations from Dunsfold until 18 Oct 44 when 139 Wing relocated to RAF B.58 Melsbroek, Belgium after that ‘drome was captured from the Luftwaffe. His first AG was grounded due to nerves and George ‘Ole’ Olson RCAF replaced him. ‘Bing’ was grounded by sinus difficulties, replaced by Trevor Grice RAF. Cy’s 42nd and final op was 25 Nov 44, an attack on the Marshalling Yards at Mönchengladbach. Medium and heavy flak was accurate; their windscreen was shattered; the ground crew would count 94 flak holes in B-25 ‘VO-G’. The Medical Officer determined Ole’s nerves would not take another flak barrage, so he declared the crew tour-expired; it was too far into their tour to again rebuild.
After return to No. 3 PRC Bournemouth, Cy travelled north to County Durham, married Myra, to whom he had become engaged earlier, and brought her to Canada in Mar ’45. Cy was discharged from the RCAF 15 Jun 45; they lived in Edmonton, Alberta where Cy returned to work at his pre-war occupation: carpenter.
He accepted his last post December, 2009.
David Poissant • 2TAF MBA Chair • B-25 History Project Historian