Valentine’s Day 1945 found 174 Squadron flying two Armed Reconnaissances and a composite mission with 245 Squadron. Plt Off Frank Johnson and RB396 would fly on the two armed recces to Bremen.
Departing B.80 at Volkel at 08:20, Frank and RB396 flew as Blue 3 in the 8 aircraft formation lead by the CO, Sqn Ldr Kelly. As they crossed the Rhine, the cloud came in and the aircraft broke through to find a village. As they approached, they spotted a factory and a large number of MET (Mechanised Enemy Transport). The squadron broke and attacked, with Sqn Ldr Kelly going after a nearby train, Plt Off R.B.T. Kelly in Red 3 find three more trains to the souths, which he attacked with considerable success. The weather was not helping matters, with low cloud making pinpointing targets difficult.
Returning to B.80, Frank and RB396 spotted a Military Camp north of Munster and attacked. Franks recorded the attack in his logbook: “10/10 over the area – broke cloud and were split up. I attacked an army camp and damaged one building; sure to have killed a few Jerries.”
174 Squadron all returned safely after a sortie of 1 hour and 45 minutes. Their claims for the sortie were:
- Locomotives – 1 destroyed, 3 damaged, 4 tenders damaged.
- Trucks – 3 damaged.
- MET (Mechanised Enemy Transport) – 6 destroyed, 5 damaged.
- Other – 1 Factory damaged.
That same afternoon, 174 Squadron took off with 8 aircraft flying in 4 sections, with Frank and RB396 flying as Blue 1. The destination was the Bremen area again. But again the weather did not play ball. Flying through 9/10ths cloud, when 174 Squadron finally broke free, they found they had been blown much further south, due to stronger than forecasted winds, and found themselves much closer to Hamburg than Bremen. Jettisoning their long-range tanks near Steinhuder Lake, Frank’s wingman, W/O W.F. Morley’s Typhoon started suffering engine issues and they turned for home. On the way back to B.80, Frank spotted a truck on the road and made an attack, he claimed 1 “pranged” MET. Both RB396 and W/O Morley returned safely to B.80 after a long sortie of 1 hour and 45 minutes, the rest of 174 Squadron returned a half-hour later, after another successful sortie.
The weather had caused the squadron to separate and each section acted independently. Yellow Section stumbled across an airfield and attacked it. Red and Green Sections found trains near Nienburg which they attacked, destroying 1 and damaging another 4. The claims for this sorties were:
- Enemy Aircraft – 1 destroyed, 1 damaged, 1 prob destroyed.
- Locomotives – 1 destroyed, 4 damaged.
- Trucks – 2 destroyed, 21 damaged.
- MET – 2 destroyed, 1 damaged.
Following a busy day with excellent results, the crews settled down for a movie, The Song of Bernadette starring Jeniffer Jones and Vincent Price. Jennifer Jones won the Best Actress Oscar for 1943 for her portrayal of Bernadette Soubirous. The director Henry King had made the fluffy A Yank in the R.A.F. with Tyron Power and Betty Grable but would go onto making one of the finest war films of all time, Twelve O’Clock High starring Gregory Peck.
After a night at the pictures, Frank Johnson and RB396 would be back in action again tomorrow.