After a day of indifferent weather, RB396 and P/O Frank Johnson were back in action, flying close support mission in aid of the ground forces pushing deeper into the Reich. The morning operation had four 174 Squadron Typhoons proceed to their cab rank station, with P/O Frank Johnson in RB396 flying as Red 3 with the newly joined F/L Chris House flying as his wingman in Red 4. Soon their controller, ‘Limejuice’, had trade for them. They were vectored to a farmhouse the Army designated with red target smoke. A force of German troops were holed up inside and the four Typhoons made four attacks on the building, first with rockets and then with cannon. The result was that the building was totally destroyed. All aircraft returned safely to B.100 at Goch, Germany after a forty-minute sortie.
That afternoon, Frank and Chris would together again on an Armed Recce to Winterswijk on the Netherlands/German border. Frank would be flying in another Typhoon, XP-M, as F/O Sydney Russell-Smith was flying RB396 as Red 4 that afternoon.
The operation was a patrol over the bomb line that took them to Zutphen in the Netherlands. While no trade was given by forward controllers, they spotted some anti-aircraft guns and made an attack. Due to the increasing cloud cover, the results on the ground were inconclusive, but the effect on RB396 was clear. Sydney reported that they had been hit in the starboard tank.
This did not stop Sydney and RB396 from making a safe return to B.100 after a sortie of 1 hour and 10 minutes.
RB396 would be out of action for the next three days.
The project has had extensive contact with Sydney’s son and family, and Sydney is still with us. He is certainly the last known pilot to have physically flown in the very aircraft that the project is working on rebuilding. Sydney managed to sign two copies of the artwork depicting RB396 that was painted by Neil Hipkiss. Sydney, who was a P/O at the time, completed his ground training for the Typhoon MkIb on the 8/9th January 1945 and he appeared to arrive with 174 Squadron, who were at B100 Goch, sometime before the 22nd March 1945, completing his first sortie with them on that date.