According to Plt Off Frank Johnson’s logbook, Friday the 9th February 1945 was eventful. 174 Squadron’s ORB does not record RB396 and Plt Off Johnson flying on the sortie recorded, but it is possible that they flew the weather reconnaissance. Frank’s logbook states that they returned early as they had been ‘Hit in spinner, rad, both nose tanks and on port wing. Ugh!’
While we do not have the exact information as to how RB396 was damaged, this was significant damage to the aircraft and Frank’s logbook remark sums this up. But, Frank’s logbook is also a testament to the skill of the ground crews who maintained the Typhoons in the field. RB396 would be ready for an air test the very next day.
A Weather Recce does sound like a rather innocuous operation, but the opening chapter of former 609 Squadron’s CO, Belgian Charles Demoulin’s memoir Firebirds!, described a weather recce over France like this:
“It meant entering closely guarded enemy territory in full sight of his defences, infuriating the Huns for over an hour and being pinpointed by all the radar stations of Fortress Europe. And, while flying in not too much of a hurry over the powerful flak defences, the chosen stooge was supposed to describe in plain language the exalting beauty of a French sunrise somewhat stained by the ugly black patches of Jerry’s ack-ack.”
These flights were made each day and the enemy knew they would be coming. Flown as single aircraft, the Typhoon crews used the aircraft’s speed and the eyes of Allied radar controllers to warn them of any enemy aircraft that may be in the area. By 1945, the primary concern would have been flak.