- Exercise Spartan - 1st - 12th March 1943
Allan Hillman; no reproduction without permission, please. )
 

(the father of the author of this article served in -Z- Mobile Composite Group during Exercise Spartan, then, from 1 April 1943, 83 Group HQ and finally 125 Wing from early April 1944)

 

In March 1943 GHQ Home Forces conducted a large-scale exercise in southern and central England. In Exercise Spartan the total number of divisions involved was 10, of which 4 were armoured; but a very large number of Corps and Army troops were also involved. This was an offensive exercise, in which the British Second Army was assumed to be advancing from a bridgehead on the Continent of Europe, already established by another British Army, had captured a number of airfields, gained air superiority, and were now preparing a further advance.

 

On the side of the British Second Army (in reality the First Canadian Army) was a new concept in the RAF - the Mobile Composite Group.

 

-Z- Mobile Composite Group RAF - commanded by Air Vice-Marshal J Whitworth-Jones, CB - comprised of the following Units and Squadrons.

 

1 MORU (Mobile Operations Room Unit)

121, 122, 123, and 124 Airfield HQ

16, 26, 170, 289, 400, 414 (FR) Squadrons, RAF and RCAF

19, 129, 132, 247, 412, 504, 616 (F) Squadrons, RAF and RCAF

174, 175, 182, 184 (Army Support) Squadrons, RAF

88, 226 (Light Bomber) Squadrons, RAF

 

On the side of the Germans (in reality Eastern Command) was a similar Air Component, but without the MORU and Airfield HQ’s.

 

-X- Mobile Composite Group RAF - commanded by Air Vice-Marshal J O Andrews, CB, DSO, and MC - comprised of the following Squadrons.

 

2, 4, 169, 268, 613 (FR) Squadrons RAF

124, 167, 303, 350, 411, 416, 421, 453 (F) Squadrons, RAF and RCAF - including Polish, Australian and Belgian manned Squadrons.

181, 183 (Army Support) Squadrons, RAF

21, 98, 464, 487 (Light Bomber) Squadrons, RAF - including Australian and New Zealand manned Squadrons.

 

On each side, the Army Commander and the RAF Group Commander worked on the same level of command in cooperation, neither being subject to the orders of the other.

 

The basic idea of the exercise was that England (representing part of the Continent of Europe adjacent to the British Isles) was divided into three separate countries, Eastland (which was German), Westland (which was neutral) and Southland. The British Government had decided to attack the German Forces in Eastland by an Operation launched through Southland.

 

All the squadrons Spitfires were clearly marked, with the underside of the starboard wing being distempered black, the underside of the port wing being distempered white and a white stripe placed each side of the nose from the spinner to the cockpit.

                         

At the commencement of this Exercise 350 (Belgian) Squadron, operating as part of the Luftwaffe, moved from its home base, Hornchurch to its Exercise base, Heston. However, on 5 March, an emergency move was made to Debden due to enemy forces being seen in the vicinity of Heston.

 

350 (Belgian) Squadron ORB

 

Hornchurch 1.3.43 to 12.3.43

 

The Squadron is ordered to participate in the -Spartan- exercise. The Exercise started on the 1st of March and finished on the 12th. Very good impression on the exercise. Pilots flew very often, almost at low level attacks and escort for bombers. Quite a change with the sweep who takes pilots at high altitudes. Communications were rather bad until the last days. Information about troops used to arrive with a certain delay. The Officer Commanding took the opportunity during that period to oblige pilots to fly in close formations. Very often we had very good shows. The first day F/O F VENESOEN bounced the aircraft of the W.C. Flying PETERSON, but on the perimeter track SGT WUSTEFELD, short of petrol had to make a force landing and crashed his plane. On an obstructed take off - SGT GROENSTEEN hit a starter with his propellor.

 

350 (Belgian) Squadron kept a very detailed -Spartan- Operations Book.

 

Hornchurch

27.2.43    11.00 - Received cipher 0670 27.2.43 - Squadron to move from 08.00 hours on 1.3.43

 

28.2.43    19.05 - Received cipher 0707 28.2.43 - Squadron to move weather permitting.

28.2.43   19.30 - Officer Commanding gives order of battle and instructions for movement to Flight Commanders, Adjudant and Engineer Officer.

 

1.3.43      08.15 - Phone to DEBDEN SPARTAN Control asking for weather conditions at HESTON. Departure postponed.

12.00 - Squadron moved from HORNCHURCH to HESTON for exercise -SPARTAN-

 

Heston

 

1.3.43     12.35 - Phone from Officer Commanding to SPARTAN Control. Squadron has landed and will be ready for operations in 60’.

13.15 - Phone from SPARTAN - Squadron released.

20.00 - From Duty Pilot HESTON - Squadron at 60’ availability from dawn 2.3.43

 

2.3.43      16.00 - From SPARTAN Control - Squadron released in Camp.

16.30 - Received -Instruction No. 3-

 

3.3.43      11.15 - Phone from SPARTAN - Squadron released in the camp for the day.

17.45 - Signal 2MC2 from DEBDEN - 10 aircraft at readiness from 07.30 to 19.00 hours

18.15 - Phone from DEBDEN - Squadron released out of Camp.

19.00 - Signal without number - Squadron to take off 10.15 patrol BARFORD ST.JOHN - WING - KIDLINGTON Area 4,000 feet for SEVENTY FIVE minutes.

 

4.3.43      09.50 - Received Intelligence Report No. 1

10.15 - To SPARTAN Control - Squadron took off on patrol. Squadron patrolled BARFORD ST. JOHN and WING in the KIDLINGTON area at 4,000 feet for 75 minutes. Nothing to report.

11.50 - To SPARTAN Control - Phoned FORM D/H No 1 and signal X G.H.Q. could not be reached.

12.15 - To SPARTAN Control - Phoned rearmed and refuelled. Take readiness.

15.25 - phone from SPARTAN Control instruction without number. Sweep between FARNHAM - DORKING at 6,000 feet over target 15.50 Leave 16.15 to act as escort to 12 Mitchells bombing FARNHAM, 18 Venturas bombing DORKING and 12 Bombphoons bombing STONES CROSS. Bombers at 1,600 feet low level.

15.45 - Phone to SPARTAN - Squadron took off. Squadron escort between FARNHAM and DORKING at 6,000 feet. Acted as escort to 12 Mitchells bombing FARNHAM. 18 Venturas bombing DORKING and 12 Bombphoons bombing STONES CROSS. The bombers were at 1,600 feet.

17.00 - Phone to SPARTAN - Squadron landed.

17.25 - Phone to SPARTAN - Form D/H No 2 and signal to X G.H.Q. and M.C.C.

17.25 - Phone to SPARTAN - Squadron have rearmed and refuelled. Take Readiness.

18.00 - Phone from SPARTAN - Squadron at 30’.

18.10 - Phone from SPARTAN - Squadron released. 10 a/c readiness on 5.3.43 at 07.00 hours.

 

5.3.43      08.10 - Phone from SPARTAN - Squadron at 30’ - bad weather.

09.45 - Phone to SPARTAN - Officer Commanding saw some enemies at 500 yards from aerodrome, also 2 tanks. Received Instruction “Leave ground - save ground staff.-

10.00 - Phone from SPARTAN - Not to save ground staff.

10.40 - Phone from SPARTAN - Ground staff move immediately. Leave enough pilots to fly aircraft when weather suitable.

11.15 - Phone to SPARTAN - Ground staff leaves HESTON

13.50 - Phone to SPARTAN - Aircraft leave HESTON for DEBDEN.

14.20 - Phone to SPARTAN - Squadron landed at DEBDEN.

14.21 - Phone from SPARTAN - Squadron at readiness at 15.00 hours.

15.30 - Phone to SPARTAN - Ground staff has arrived.

15.45 - Phone from SPARTAN - Instruction without number. Squadron attack troops and motor transport on roads READING, WOKINGHAM, HERTFORD BRIDGE over target 16.30 hours.

17.20 - Phone to SPARTAN - Squadron landed.

17.30 - Phone from SPARTAN - Squadron released. Readiness on 6.3.43 at 07.10 hours.

17.50 - Phone to SPARTAN - Form D/H NO 3 and Signal to X GHQ + MCC.

19.30 - Phone from SPARTAN - Information that squadron will have to patrol at 08.45 hours.

 

6.3.43      07.00 - Phone from SPARTAN - Squadron at 30’. Bad Weather.

09.50 - Phone from SPARTAN - Squadron at readiness.

10.03 - Phone from SPARTAN - A031 Squadron to cover retreat of our troops in area BICESTER, OXFORD, WALLINGFORD, AYLESBURY at 3,000 feet.

10.40 - Phone to SPARTAN - Squadron airborne. Squadron patrolled OXFORD, WALLINGTON, AYLESBURY and BICESTER to act as cover for troop movements. Squadron vectored on enemy raid of TYPHOONS. 4 E/A sighted and engaged followed by a dogfight with a further twelve. Combat height was about 3,000 feet. Result was 4 Typhoons destroyed against our one destroyed and 2 damaged. During combat infantry were seen moving in a Northerly direction.

12.30 - Phone to SPARTAN - Squadron landed.

12.40 - Phone from SPARTAN - 2MC61 Squadron to shoot up a pontoon bridge at GORING - also shoot up roads STREATLY L0501 to THEALE QO891.

13.00 - Phone to SPARTAN - Squadron airborne. Squadron shot up pontoon bridge at GORING also road between STREATLEY and THAME where hits were scored on 4 Bren Gun carriers and 30 plus lorries. 2 E/A sighted one of which was attacked. Our casualties were two Spitfires missing. During the attack many vehicles and infantry were seen moving North on all roads North of READING.

13.25 - Phone to SPARTAN - Form D/H No 4 and signal to X GHQ + MCC.

14.15 - Phone to SPARTAN - Squadron landed.

14.45 - Phone to X GHQ - Form D/H No 5 and signal to X GHQ + MCC.

15.40 - Phone from SPARTAN - Squadron scramble and patrol over BICESTER and AYLESBURY for one hour at 3,000 feet.

15.45 - Squadron scrambled and patrolled between BICESTER and AYLESBURY at 3,000 feet. Were vectored on a road 36 E/A but failed to intercept. Six E/A seen at 6,000 feet flying South of OXFORD. One aircraft returned to base, six landed at STEEPLE MORDEN later returning via BASINGBOURNE and the other two at WILLINGALE - one of which crashed on landing - completely u/s.

17.50 - Phone to SPARTAN - One aircraft landed base.

18.05 - Phone from SPARTAN - 6 aircraft landed at DUXFORD, 2 a/c landed WILLINGALE, one crashed.

18.30 - Phone to X GHQ - Form D/H No 6 but line was very bad and form could not be given by phone - Signal to X GHQ + MCC.

18.55 - Phone to SPARTAN - 6 aircraft land base coming from DUXFORD.

19.50 - Signal to X GHQ + MCC complemental to D/H No 6.

 

7.3.43      06.00 - Phone from SPARTAN - Squadron at 30’ from 07.00 hours.

09.00 - Phone from SPARTAN - Order without number - 12 aircraft Bombers rendezvous with 350 over DEBDEN at Zero + 25’ height to be notified. Target PANGBOURNE route DEBDEN, CHESHAM, PANGBOURNE return to base via HIGH WYCOMBE. Bombs to be released in 16 seconds - turn left after bombing.

11.30 - Phone from SPARTAN - Squadron at readiness.

11.45 - One aircraft came from WILLINGALE landed at base.

12.40 - Phone from SPARTAN - Operation Zero hour 14.10. Rendezvous with one squadron Venturas at DEBDEN 500 feet at 14.10. Low level for 5 minutes. Then climb to 6,000 feet - One squadron of Mitchells bombing at low level about same time.

14.05 - Phone to SPARTAN - Squadron airborne. Escort to twelve Venturas bombing PANGBOURNE. Rout to target via DEBDEN AND CHESHAM. Returned to base via HIGH WYCOMBE. Rendezvous was over DEBDEN at 500 feet then climbed to 6,000 feet from which height bombing was carried out.

15.20 - Phone to SPARTAN - Squadron landed.

15.30 - Phone to SPARTAN - Form D/H No 7 and signal to X GHQ + MCC.

15.40 - Phone from SPARTAN - Squadron has to repeat above show at 17.25.

17.25 - Phone to SPARTAN - Squadron airborne. Repeated above show. Rendezvous was over DEBDEN at 2,000 feet. Last of bombers were attacked by two Mustangs which were engaged. One Mustang was destroyed - our losses were nil.

18.30 - Phone to SPARTAN - Squadron landed at 18.10 Form D/H No 8 to X GHQ + MCC.

18.33 - Phone from SPARTAN - Squadron released until first light.

 

8.3.43      06.45 - Phone from SPARTAN - Squadron at readiness.

08.20 - Phone from SPARTAN - Squadron to patrol DEBDEN, CRANFIELD, GRANSTON LODGE at 3,000 feet. Zero not fixed.

10.50 - Phone from SPARTAN - Squadron to relieve 303 Squadron on above Patrol area - in position at 11.30 hours.

11.20 - Phone to SPARTAN - Squadron airborne. Squadron patrolled DEBDEN, CRANFIELD and GRANSTON LODGE at 3,000 feet relieving 303 (Polish) Squadron. Poor visibility - nothing to report.

13.15 - Phone from SPARTAN - Squadron at 30’ for lunch.

13.15 - Phone to SPARTAN - Form D/H No 9 plus signal to X GHQ + MCC.

14.00 - Phone from SPARTAN - Squadron at readiness.

17.20 - Phone from SPARTAN - Squadron to take off immediately to escort 453 four light bombers. Squadrons bombing BURFORD and WITNEY at low level. Fighters to leave target with last bombers and land at home base.

17.30 - Phone from SPARTAN - Squadron ordered to return at about to take off. Previous order of escort cancelled.

18.10 - Phone from SPARTAN - Squadron released until first light.

 

9.3.43      06.45 - Phone to SPARTAN - Squadron at readiness.

06.50 - Phone from SPARTAN - bombers 464 and 487 will rendezvous with 303 and 350 over DEBDEN at 1,000 feet at Zero plus 12 minutes. Zero being 08.30 hours. Escort to AYLESBURY and THAME. After bombing of THAME turn right for WINSLOW and leave bombers. Start patrol AYLESBURY, THAME, BICESTER for 30 minutes.

08.50 - Phone from SPARTAN - Zero hour now approximately 09.30 hours.

10.00 - Information from Officer Commanding 303 Zero hour is 10.30 hours.

10.30 - Phone to SPARTAN - Squadron airborne. 303 and 350 Squadrons acting as wing escorted bombers of 464 and 487 squadrons bombing THAME. Rendezvous over DEBDEN 1,000 feet and escorted bombers to target via AYLESBURY. After bombing fighters escorted bombers to WINSLOW where they left them to patrol area AYLESBURY, THAME and BICESTER. Bombs were noticed to fall on target according to plan. No movements were noticed on the ground.

11.15 - Phone from SPARTAN - Squadron to patrol THAME, BICESTER, BUCKINGHAM, AYLESBURY at 4,000 feet to protect southward movement of our troops. Over target 12.15 hours.

11.30 - Phone to SPARTAN - Impossibility for Squadron to be on patrol on time.

11.45 - Phone from SPARTAN - Squadron will take off as soon as possible.

12.20 - Phone to SPARTAN - Squadron airborne. Squadron patrolled THAME, BICESTER, BUCKINGHAM and AYLESBURY at 4,000 feet to protect southward movement of our troops. Attacked formation of 8 E/A at 5,000 feet over area two of which were destroyed without loss to ourselves. The enemy were attacked by surprise. No ground activity was observed.

12.20 - Phone to SPARTAN - Intelligence Officer 303 Squadron phoned Form D/H O/13 for 303 and 350.

13.20 - Phone from SPARTAN - Order Ao84 - 303 and 350 to take off 303 at 14.00 350 at 14.10 hours to attack all roads between THAME, STRADAMPTON, WATUNGTON and CHINNOR.

13.30 - Phone from SPARTAN - Order Ao 84. cancelled.

14.05 - Phone to SPARTAN - D/H No 11.

14.40 - Phone from SPARTAN - Squadron at readiness.

14.50 - Phone from SPARTAN - Order Ao 88 Squadron take off immediately to strafe troops and transport on road CHIPPING NORTON to 4 miles S.W. BANBURY.

15.00 - Squadron beat up troops and transport on road CHIPPING NORTON to 4 miles south west of BANBURY. Large convoy which consisted of 16 guns, 50 lorries, many vans and 6 tanks northward bound shot up. Convoy was sighted slightly N of given position.

17.00 - Phone to SPARTAN - Form D/H No 12.

17.20 - Phone from SPARTAN - Squadron to take off immediately to strafe road BANBURY, BROUGHTON.

17.30 - Phone to SPARTAN - Squadron airborne. Squadron beat up troops on road BANBURY to BROUGHTON. Two of our aircraft attacked one E/A (Mustang) which was destroyed for the loss of two of our own aircraft. On road BANBURY to BLOXHAM were sixty stationary tanks and lorries. At 18.10 the column started moving north.

18.45 - Phone to SPARTAN - Form D/H No 13.

18.50 - Phone from SPARTAN - Squadron released.

 

10.3.43    07.00 - Phone from SPARTAN - Squadron at readiness.

07.10 - Phone from SPARTAN - Squadron to rendezvous over DEBDEN at 09.12 with 2 Squadrons of Venturas. Route DEBDEN, FENNY STRATFORD, BANBURY. Bomb BANBURY from medium level. Turning right after bombing and escort bombers out. Breaking away at NORTHAMPTON. Return to base.

07.40 - Phone from SPARTAN - Squadron at 30 minutes for half an hour.

08.45 - Phone from SPARTAN - Order given at 07.10 postponed for one hour.

09.50 - Phone from SPARTAN - Previous order cancelled.

            Order Ao 105 - attack roads CHESHAM, BERKHAMPSTEAD, AYLESBURY, PRINCES RISBOROUGH, WENDOVER and TRING.

10.25 - Phone from SPARTAN - Squadron airborne. Squadron beat up roads, CHESHAM, BERKHAMPSTEAD, AYLESBURY, PRINCES RISBOROUGH and TRING, where many troops and lorries were seen, though the roads could not be said to be strongly occupied. Lorries were dispersed, no tanks were sighted, but six guns were seen in position. Our casualties were one Spitfire damaged.

11.35 - Phone to SPARTAN - Form D/H No 14. Signals to X GHQ and MCC.

12.35 - Phone from SPARTAN - Order Ao 117. Attack roads AYLESBURY to WINSLOW and AYLESBURY  to LEIGHTON BUZZARD. Take off 12.45 hours.

12.45 - Phone to SPARTAN - Squadron airborne. Squadron attacked roads AYLESBURY to WINSLOW and AYLESBURY to LEIGHTON BUZZARD. Along these roads and in the adjacent fields 30 to 40 tanks were sighted also many vehicles all of which were shot up.

13.45 - Phone from SPARTAN - Form D/H No 15. Signal to X GHQ and MCC.

14.00 - Phone from SPARTAN - Squadron at 30 minutes.

15.00 - Phone from SPARTAN - Squadron at readiness.

15.35 - Phone from SPARTAN - Order Ao 126. Attack roads AYLESBURY to WINSLOW and PRINCES RISBOROUGH to AYLESBURY. Take Off 15.50 hours.

15.55 - Phone to SPARTAN - Squadron airborne. Squadron attacked roads AYLESBURY to WENSLOW and PRINCES RISBOROUGH to AYLESBURY. Troops and artillery moving N.W. were seen also lorries moving N & N.E. on roads between AYLESBURY and LEIGHTON BUZZARD. All troops and vehicles were successfully shot up.

17.30 - Phone to SPARTAN - Form D/H No 16. Signal to X GHQ and MCC.

18.10 - Phone from SPARTAN - Squadron released until first light.

 

11.3.43   06.45 - Phone from SPARTAN - Squadron to beat up roads between AYLESBURY L2832 and LINSDALE L3544. Take off 08.00 hours.

08.10 - Phone to SPARTAN - Squadron airborne. Squadron attacked roads between AYLESBURY and LINSLADE where lorries and 50 plus troops were                   attacked, but generally there was not much activity in the area.

09.40 - Phone to SPARTAN - Form D/H No 17 Signals to X GHQ and MCC.

10.55 - Phone from SPARTAN - Order Ao 139. Attack road BANBURY to BUCKINGHAM, if no good target found attack road BUCKINGHAM to DEDDINGTON  to CHIPPING NORTON. Take off 11.10 hours.

11.10 - Phone to SPARTAN - Squadron airborne. Squadron ordered to attack road BANBURY to BUCKINGHAM, or if no good target found to attack road BUCKINGHAM, DEDDINGTON, CHIPPING NORTON. After flying over first road told to pancake. No activity observed on road.

12.25 - Phone to SPARTAN - Form D/H No 18 Signal to GHQ and MCC.

12.45 - Phone from SPARTAN - Squadron at readiness.

13.25 - Phone from SPARTAN - Order Ao 141. Take off 14.15 Shoot up road BLISWORTH to TOWCESTER (L1874) Squadron follow 453 Squadron (All DUXFORD Squadrons are participating in this attack). Over target for 5 minutes.

14.20 - Phone to SPARTAN - Squadron airborne. Squadron attacked road BLISWORTH to TOWCESTER. Squadron followed 453 Squadron - all Duxford Squadrons took part in this attack. 10 tanks were seen moving North and 15 were noticed to be standing by the road side - all these were attacked.

15.20 - Phone to SPARTAN - Form D/H No 19. Signal to X GHQ and MCC.

15.55 - Phone from SPARTAN - Order Ao 148 Squadron to be airborne 16.10 hours to attack roads AYLESBURY to PRINCES RISBOROUGH and TRING.

16.15 - Phone to SPARTAN - Squadron airborne. Squadron attacked roads AYLESBURY, PRINCES RISBOROUGH, TRING. Transport and 4 tanks were shot up on road TRING to AYLESBURY. Strong concentration of tanks and M.T. vehicles around ASTEN ABBOTS and WINGRAVE - at least one hundred vehicles seen. Our losses were one Spitfire destroyed by ack ack fire which was very intensive.

17.25 - Phone to SPARTAN - Form D/H No 2o Signal to X GHQ and MCC.

18.00 - Phone from SPARTAN - Squadron released until first light.

 

12.3.45    06.45 - Phone from SPARTAN - Squadron at readiness.

09.10 - Signal 0.845 from X GHQ via Operations no more aircraft to take off. Preparing signal to cease fire exercise over SHORTLY.

09.20 - Phone from SPARTAN - CEASE FIRE.

15.15 - Squadron moved back to HORNCHURCH after end of -SPARTAN-.

 

At the end of the European war 350 (Belgian) Squadron was transferred temporarily to 122 Wing, for six weeks, whilst 125 Wing went to Denmark. In the 122 Wing official history a report of Exercise Spartan comprehensively covers the situation that would also have faced 350 (Belgian) Squadron and it’s Groundcrews.

 

The first ten days of March 1943 were spent wrestling with all the rigours and fun of -Exercise Spartan-. This very accurately named entertainment was specifically designed to introduce one and all to the arduous outdoor life as abruptly as possible. Sleeping in tents - without any of the painfully acquired extra blankets, stoves, mattresses, matting and the like which gradually appeared in later days; eating minute segments of unending corned beef and biscuits in the brisk March air, for mess marquees there were none, corned beef whose tins were plainly stamped -1915- and biscuits whose age was venerable even then, so some averred; confined to the unlighted, unheated, entertainment-less camp throughout the exercise, the conditions were a good deal more rigorous than any subsequently experienced overseas. The whole affair is now chiefly remembered for the cold, the inadequate food, and the extraordinarily cheerfulness and good health of all ranks.

During Exercise Spartan the weather was exceptionally fine; not much rain fell, and the manoeuvres were generally conducted under the pleasant conditions of an English springtime. The nights, however, were very cold. So much so that the father of the author, and his colleagues, woke up with frost in their hair when they slept out in the open.

 

Following Exercise Spartan, and after the RAF’s Composite Group had demonstrated its clear advantages, -Z- Mobile Composite Group became 83 (Composite) Group on 1 April 1943. The nucleus of 83 Group consisted of an advance and rear headquarters, which was established at Gatton Park, Redhill, which was a mansion house requisitioned from Sir Jeremiah Colman, the owner of Colman’s Mustard. During the period 1 April 1943 to 15 May 1943, the nucleus was expanded into what subsequently became to be regarded as the permanent elements of the Group. During the remainder of April 1943 various other ancillary units, such as an Air Stores Park, a Transport Company, a Supply and Transport Column, a Mobile Field Hospital, Mobile Operations Room Unit, A Mobile Air Reporting Unit, an Air Ministry Experimental Station and Mobile Signals Units were incorporated. On 5th April all mobile vehicles of the headquarters were gathered at Gatton Park and a P.B.X. line was installed for the first time. Whilst the telephone exchange was inside the telephonists slept in tents in the grounds - only moving inside during the winter and sleeping in the dormitory above the entrance.

 

When the RAF’s Air Expeditionary Force, later 2nd Tactical Air Force, was set up on 1 May 1943 it would provide a Composite Group for each British and Canadian Army taking part in the Normandy invasion, and all subsequent operations thereafter. 83 Group would operate in support of the British 2nd Army and 84 Group in support of the 1st Canadian Army, but until such time as the Invasion began, squadrons would remain under the operational command of the existing Fighter Command Groups in whose area they were based.

 

During Exercise Spartan -Z- Mobile Composite Group initially trialled a series of numbered Airfields which had been set-up a few weeks previously (121 and 122 Airfield’s being formed on 15 February 1943), containing two or more squadrons, and pairs of Airfields formed sectors. These Airfields included the basic headquarters staff and were fully mobile. All of these Airfields had to be capable of operating efficiently for long periods from Advanced Landing Grounds, so it was essential that all personnel were made familiar with life under canvas – and to defend their base from attack if necessary. With only relatively small changes the Composite Groups were able to operate in this manner in mainland Europe and provide overwhelming air superiority to the Allied Armies.

 

350 (Belgian) Squadron became a member of 83 (Composite) Group with the move to it’s native soil on 3 December, when the unit was sent across to Belgium first to B.56 Evere, as part of 127 (RCAF) Wing, and then, on 31 December, to join 125 Wing at Y.32 Ophoven - and stayed, operating very successfully, within 83 Group until it’s move to 123 Wing, within 84 Group, on 13 July 1945, when -125 Wing which proved itself the best during the war is disbanded. We said cheerio to Group Captain Johnny Johnson and Wing Commander Keefer with whom the squadron had the most successful time in 2nd T.A.F . - Where they joined No. 349 (Belgian) Squadron.