Manston’s role on D-Day, 6th June 1944
On this day, 6th June 1944, known as D-Day, more than 160,000 Allied troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of heavily-fortified French coastline forming the largest amphibious attack in history.
“As with other fighter bases, Manston played its part in the D-Day landings of June 6th 1944. Typhoons from Manston proved a formidable enemy to the German army when it tried to move tanks and other vehicles to the front. Aeroplanes from Manston also took part in ‘divers’ patrols – attacking and destroying V1 rockets being fired at London.” from http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk
In the build up to D-Day, squadrons operating from Manston took part in the campaign against German radar stations with Mosquitos of No.605 Sqn attacking anti-aircraft guns and searchlight positions.
At the time of the invasion, Hawker Typhoon 1Bs (No.137 squadron), de Havilland Mosquitos (No.605 squadron) and Bristol Beaufighters (No.143 squadron) as well as a meteorological Spitfire were operating from Manston. As part of No.155 Wing, the Beaufighters were accompanied by Fairey Swordfish from No.816 Sqn Fleet Air Arm and Grumman Avengers from No.848 Sqn Fleet Air Arm. No.450 Sqn RAAF operated some of their Bristol Beaufighters from Manston as a detachment.
No.137 squadron was tasked with covering the landings in Normandy, protecting the left flank of the invasion fleet.
No.605 squadron’s brief included the attacking of enemy searchlight and ack-ack positions prior to the mass parachute drops early in the morning. 605 put up a total of eighteen aircraft, most of which left Manston just before midnight, slipping away into the night with their individual targets.
Peter Rudd, a pilot with 605 Squadron, intruding with Mosquito Mark VIs and operating from Manston, recalled:
‘I flew on the night of D-Day and the next two nights and my main recollection is about the weather. We knew nothing about the postponement – we went to the airfield for briefing on the afternoon of the 5th to do our night flying tests and still knew nothing. It was only later, when we got airborne and saw the shipping, that we realised it was happening. There were so many ships we could have walked across! We were not aware it had been postponed, and only when we landed did we realise it was actually on for that night, and we were confined to camp.
Reading from my log-book it says for the night 5/6, ‘weather not so good in patches; cloud 10/10ths in places’ – remember we had no navigation aids, it was all map reading and visual recognition – ‘weather poor en route, 10/10ths, rain nearly the whole way.’ On the third night, returning from Chartres, cloud was 10/10ths at 1,000 ft. This sort of thing continued through June, as we heard this morning. But for the invasion we would not have flown. The cloud was 800 ft at Manston, which was like Piccadilly Circus when we came back.’
No.143 squadron were responsible for carrying out anti E-boat patrols on the eastern flanks of the naval corridor linking southern England to the D-Day beaches in Normandy. A Beaufighter from No.143 Squadron from Manston piloted by F/L John Anthony (Tony) Hawkey along with his navigator (name currently unknown) managed to sink two U-boats by aiming a bomb directly between them. They had been to the pub the night before, not knowing that they would be woken at 2am with a call to scramble.
Six aircraft of No.455 Sqn RAAF along with six aircraft from No.489 Sqn off at 0810 hours from Langham armed with 2 x 500lb and 2 x 250lb M.C. Bombs each, and landed at Manston. There they stood by for operations
No.455 Sqn RAAF carried out night patrols against enemy shipping including E-boats from Boulogne to Fecamp and the Dunkirk area. One aircraft, B/455 – NE202 sustained a burst tyre on take-off and was forced to jettison bombs and belly land at Manston – Aircraft Category “AC” – crew uninjured. The remaining five Beaufighters in company with three Beaufighters of No.489 Sqn, proceeded in formation to the Patrol Area, but deteriorating weather conditions and failing light caused the formation to split up. One aircraft, M/489 sighted and attacked eight “E” Boats without observed result, and called the other aircraft to the vicinity by V.H.F. but no further sighting was made and all the aircraft returned independently to Manston. Aircraft V/455 – NE774, whilst carrying out V.H.F. homing, received a fake vector from enemy territory, which, however, was recognised as such and ignored.
Simultaneously with the above operation, L/455, in company with one Beaufighter of No.489 Sqn., took off at 2300 hours on a Shipping Recce in the Dunkirk Area. No enemy shipping was sighted, and both aircraft landed safely back at Manston.
We will expand these details as more information and records are found.
First published: 6th June 2017.
Last Updated: .
By Photo: MOD/MOD, OGL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33080569