3rd February 1945

Saturday, 3rd February 1945 would be a busy day for RB396 and Plt Off Frank Johnson with two Armed Reconnaissance sorties to Osnabrück, Germany.

Departing B.80 at Volkel at 10:50, RB396 and Plt Off Johnson flew as Yellow 2 to F/O J.M.Harbidge. The eight 174 Squadron aircraft flew as a strike six with the two aircraft in Green section flying as top cover. They found most of the recce area obscured by cloud, but the Dortmund-Elm canal was clear and quickly they spotted a number of barges making their way between Rheine and Osnabrück. Quickly into the attack, 4 of the barges we quickly destroyed with another 3 damaged. Heavy flak was encountered and F/O L.F.Higgins flying as Blue 1 was hit and was losing petrol.

Eight Typhoons of 266 Squadron in two finger four formations. Image: IWM

The squadron turned for home and Higgins was able to make a forced landing about 4 miles short of base. He was safe but his Typhoon was declared Cat ‘B’. RB396 and Plt Off Johnson made no claims to the barges but faced a quick turn around, for their day was not done.

At 15:00 RB396 and Frank Johnson were airborne again flying as Blue 1, and heading back to Osnabrück. This sortie was more eventful, with Yellow 2 flown by W/O K.D.Bodden reporting engine troubles as they crossed the Bomb Line and returned to base with Yellow 1, flown by F/L G.I. Mallet, escorting him home. The remaining six 174 Squadron Typhoons continued, with a train spotted in a marshalling yard escaping attention due to heavy protective flak. Frank Johnson then spotted a lorry near a village and he and RB396 made an attack.

After rejoining the rest of the squadron, they began a low level (at 2,500′) search for any trains that might be in the open. They found one and attacked it, damaging all of the trucks. They then found another, about 15 miles away, and made an attack resulting in four more truck being damaged. 174 Squadron then set course for Arnhem after there were reports of motor transport on the road.

En route, they were met with a hail of light and heavy flak. The squadron ORB reports that RB396 was hit in several places, without sustaining serious damage. When they arrived in the area where the motor transport was reported, nothing was found so they returned to B.80 after a sortie of 1 hour and 35 minutes. Frank would briefly note in his logbook that he and RB396: “Attack on trains and MET: bags of H & L flak: very accurate.”

RB396 would be patched up and in action again.


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