R.A.F. Units in D-Day landings on Omaha Beach

Discussion in 'NW Europe' started by DoctorD, Mar 21, 2009.

  1. DoctorD

    DoctorD WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    As a sequal to the Flight Sergeant’s earlier graphic narrative covering his experiences during 15082 GCI’s D-day landing on Omaha Beach, the following entry is from the journal he wrote just a few months later, when given responsibility for a ground Radar station on the southernmost tip of the Shetland Islands. This is the penultimate chapter of a large tome he wrote for his grandchildren 45 years later. I will include his end chapter in a later post …
    It is 1945 and I am located in one of the farthest out of the so-called “Out Stations.” My office is built on Sumburgh Head overlooking the North Sea and a few scattered islands to the east and, bare hillsides on the west. To the south, the sea pounds against abrupt cliffs that have withstood the gale driven winds for hundreds of years. To the north, at the foot of the hill upon which the station has been built, lies a small airport and a cluster of buildings which collectively is known as Grutness. Usually there are fishing boats on the water and always sheep on the hills.
    A pastoral scene, you say, and I agree. A quiet scene? Yes. Too quiet. The last few years have accustomed me to flurry, noise, unserviceable equipment, even chaos, and I have thrived on it. Now the quiet seems uncanny, unnatural somehow, and I don’t like it.
    Several times recently I have caught myself pacing up and down. Pacing? Me? There have been occasions when I would have sold all I own for a bit of peace and quiet. And now, with unlimited quiet, a sort of smothering, all encompassing blanket envelopes me like a pea soup fog. I am balanced on the edge of a knife.
    I find it almost impossible to sit down for more than a minute at a time. There is no such thing as relaxation. I start a book and throw it into a corner after the first three or four pages. I stare out the window and tell myself that I should be enjoying all this - the fishing boats moving to and fro searching for the illusive catch, the sheep huddled together like floating cumulus clouds, grazing on the brown slopes. These are the things from which great paintings are made but to me they are a distraction.
    “Damn those boats! Why don’t they stop bustling about?”
    “Damn those sheep! Why do they have to keep wandering around? Why don’t they stay put for a change? And always baa-ing. I can hear them from here.”
    Yes, something is wrong. If the sheep or boats stopped moving I would be cursing them for their inactivity. Everything in this old world is going backwards. Perhaps I have been charging along, wide open, much too long and much too fast. Why can’t I see the beauty in all of this. The windswept hills, the whitecaps on the sea, the soaring gulls, the browsing sheep, the smoke drifting from chimneys in the valley far below. It’s all there. I can see it, but I can’t feel it.
    I am having difficulty identifying the pros and cons of a given problem. I don’t want to make decisions. All too often I am taking the easy way out by scratching my signature at the bottom of some order or signal without knowing what it is all about.
    The Orderly Room clerk told me that everybody was entitled to leave. I couldn’t be bothered checking. I sent fifty percent of the establishment home for ten days and when they got back, I sent the rest. A Squadron Leader at Wing H.Q. in Inverness called me on a radio link and said, “I say, Old Chap, your people seem to be getting a lot of leave.”
    He left it at that.
    What I need is a job. A simple job. A straight forward job. Something I can get my hands on. Something that requires physical activity. Something that will stop me thinking.
    Perhaps I’ll build a simple radio. Perhaps I’ll just take a walk. Maybe somewhere along the valley beyond the third row of hills to the north I’ll find a reason for being here. For being alive when so many of my friends no longer are.
    Over half of my original crew is gone. Was it necessary? I don’t know. All I know is that their children will never know them. They will never bounce babies on their knees. They were of a lost generation. I was a part of it, but am still here. Conundrums.
    Yes, I am going to take that walk over the hills and up the valley. I may even get as far as Scousburgh before I have to come back.
    von Poop likes this.
  2. urqh

    urqh Senior Member

  3. DoctorD

    DoctorD WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Although material from the memoires of other 15082GCI personnel will be added to this thread, that which follows here represents the closing extract from the Canadian Flight Sergeant’s extensive journal … the italics are my own. DrD

    It has occurred to me that a short history of Unit G15082 should be recorded before it vanishes entirely from my memory. For some time after the formation of the unit and up until “D” Day, June 6th, 1944, I carried a small notebook and recorded most of the salient facts pertaining to postings, development and training but it was lost, together with the rest of my gear before I even got off the Normandy beaches.
    As a result, many highlights of early crew activities have dimmed, probably because the number of training courses, ranging all the way from learning how to lead truck convoys to making assault landings from LCT’s, never stopped and our priorities were therefore otherwise occupied. Nor was there anything recorded about G15082 from “D” Day until its disbandment early the following year. Much did occur, but the circumstances surrounding such occurrences were of a nature that suggested the postponement of any written word until a less hectic time. Perhaps this is it. Some things will be easy to remember. Many are hard to forget.
    G15082 was formed as a Ground Control Interception unit in August, 1943 at Renscombe Down near Swanage in Dorset. It was to be equipped with the latest in radar gear including height-finding apparatus, and was created primarily for the control of night fighters in forward fighting areas. The unit was mobile, with heavy equipment mounted on Crosley trucks and smaller apparatus on Bedfords. Operational status, following arrival at a designated site, was expected to be two hours. Personnel were a part of a name posting, all volunteers from the Royal Air Force but under the command of Combined Operations.
    During the initial shaping-up stages there were the usual roll calls, parades, roaring of W.O.’s and general complaining about all and sundry. Within eight days of our arrival we had been “crewed up” and were busy at various chores. Some members were learning how to drive lorries, others how to march all over again.
    Our initiation to preliminary battle courses was carried out at Rencombe Down. The flabby individuals who now formed the thirty member G15082, fresh from the comparative luxury of a static Radar station in the Home Chain, met the challenge head on and went into training with gung ho enthusiasm.
    For the benefit of those airmen who are still enjoying the comfort of private billets, a short dissertation on a battle course as it now exists, might be advantageous.
    During the first world war, the daddy of all modern battle courses was born. They weren’t much as battle courses go, were called Diseys for some obscure reason now long forgotten, and were composed almost entirely of drill. Early in the 1939-45 hostilities it was decided by the people who make such decisions, that something more than drill would be required and the present-day battle courses are the result.
    The initial stages are comparatively easy and are mainly hardening-up exercises, physical training, drill, contact games and cross-country running. After three days the trainees are exposed to simulated battle conditions with live shell fire, machine-gun bursts, exploding mines and mock attacks. All ranks must satisfactorily complete the initial course before being exposed to further training. Section leaders are required to lead their men in full battle kit including rifles, Stens or sub-machine guns through all training phases.
    The Renscombe Assault Course, which commences at the end of the second week, is considered to be one of the easier ones since the participants are technical blokes and not commandos. It commences with a full-out run of forty yards over hurdles, along fifteen feet of six inch planks suspended several feet in the air, under a barbed wire fence erected eighteen inches off the ground and staked in a random diamond pattern, and finally through a ten foot tunnel with sides and roof of barbed wire and a sectional opening of two feet. Upon reaching the far end of the tunnel, the trainees run up a ramp, grab ropes hanging from a scaffold and swing out over a seven foot ditch to a platform fifteen feet in the air from which the only exit is via two cables, one above the other. The bottom one is for walking, the top for holding. Under the cables is a pool of water into which zealous instructors keep hurling thunder flashes and gleefully create other distractions. The cables terminate eight feet above the ground and a hundred feet from the platform. Exhausted trainees drop from the cables at the far end onto the welcome ground.
    Section leaders are marked on the performance of their men and any member not successfully completing the course within the required time will repeat it each day until he does. The required time can to be anything determined by the lead instructor and would appear to depend upon the state of his liver on the day concerned. The majority of recruits make it the first time and their documents can then reflect the successful completion of the Combined Operations Battle Course. A more difficult one must be taken by all senior noncoms and officers at a later date during advanced training at a Commando School.
    Following the Battle Course and the processing of necessary paper work in the setting up of G15082, we moved to Durnfort where the technical staff completed a short but intensive course on the then latest mobile radar gear. Non-tech personnel, including a couple of driver mechanics,an MT Fitter Group 1, and the RT operators were kept busy at physical training and forced marches. Technicians were not popular persons at Durnfort.
    Technical training as provided at this establishment was something of a surprise. It appeared as if my purely radar background was a thing of the past. Two years on static stations had taught me to never interfere in anything that wasn’t purely radar. Several tines I had incurred the wrath of GPO’s or other types by playing around with their “gear” and once I was threatened with a court marshal for “tampering with a diesel.” I had learned the hard way that I was a radio man only, albeit a highly specialized one, and therefore not authorized to service other equipment. Any apparatus outside of my jurisdiction required the expertise of another kind of specialist. Duties were so closely regulated that, should a fire break out on the station, it was best to simply disappear. There were General Duties firemen to take care of emergencies such as that. I sometimes thought that the whole Air Force was run by a union.
    Once crewed up however, all this nonsense stopped. During an early briefing, a Squadron Technical Officer said, “A mobile Radar Technician has to be able to fix anything, and anything includes radar, radio telephony, diesel engines, generators, telephones, direction-finding gear, lorries, automobiles, flat tyres, cooking stoves and canvas tarpaulins”.
    I was all for this approach, but it took several months for me to gain enough confidence to tear telephone relays out by the fistful or rewire complicated distribution panels. All ranks gradually acquired the philosophy that the most essential thing to be remembered by a crew member was that the gear must be kept operational at all times, that being “on the air” and ready to control a fighter was our only reason for existence. Any modifications necessary, working when too sick to crawl and twenty-four hour days were not only encouraged, but demanded. In order to ensure flexibility, every crew member received some basic training in a specialty other than his own.
    Our Durnfort course lasted four weeks, after which we moved to Chigwell near London for the final stages of our technical training and to collect our new gear. After working with broken down and patched up equipment for so long, our new lorries, transmitters, receivers, test equipment and operational vans were a joy to behold. Everything was brand new, untouched by human hands except those of the manufacturer and it was all ours. We would be setting it up from scratch and would be taking –


    1989 NOTE
    That was the last entry in my journals. I have no idea as to why I didn’t finish the sentence, nor what I was going to say. It is conceivable that a signal had been received with my repatriation orders back to Canada, and, if so, no sentence was important enough to finish, or I may just have said “To Hell with it all.”
    In any case, not completing the history was a mistake. Too many years have passed now for accurate recall, although an awakened interest may result in an attempt to summarize G15082’s activities at a later date.
    It won’t be easy. Commanding officers and technical officers came and went with unbelievable regularity and continuity was only maintained through the few original crew who remained intact from the start. Members who were wounded or died were replaced by new ones and the originals who were still on strength upon decommissioning were scattered to the four winds. Forty-four years later I have personal knowledge of but one.
    G15082, a Combined Operations Night Fighter Control Unit, landed on Omaha Beach on “D” Day, June 6th, 1944 while attached to the 9th US Army Air Force. As armies moved forward, so also did G15082 and it was operational in many forward positions, including Longchamp Race Track in Paris two days before the Allies retook it from the Germans. [Corroborative testimony to follow – DrD]

    Gallantry and other awards to 15082GCI members included one M.B.E. (Member of the Order of the British Empire), four Military Crosses, two Military Medals and a Croix de Guerre.

    FOOTNOTE: It seems typical of the man that mention of his own bravery award for this fine, but sometimes seemingly outspoken Flight Sergeant, is hidden in those last three words. The only reference to which was buried in his email to me some time ago, which I append here verbatim:

    “I am not the least bit surprised about your high ranking friends being unaware of our involvement at Omaha. There is nothing in the official RCAF history about us and my Canadian military record shows no postings to Combined Ops nor involvement in Europe. So much for the war-time secrecy involved in the use of radar. The only official mention I have found is a British "Public Records Office Air 2/9645 (British)" entry re the Croix de Guerre - France, that was awarded to me -

    "As a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force, Flight Sergeant XXXXX was in charge from D Day until the liberation of Paris of the major part of the men and equipment of 15082GCI (Ground Control Interception) and was, at all times, at the front of the battle. His unit was responsible for the ultimate destruction of over fifty enemy aircraft. His skill and devotion to duty, his coolness and judgment in the face of many difficult situations, was a fine example to all those who worked with him"

    And they would be further surprised if they were told that G15082 went operational in Paris two days before it fell. One of my techs tells a story that he met an incoming US convoy on August 25th and offered, with a grin on his face, to guide a US Captain in the lead Jeep around all the street barricades. His offer wasn't accepted.”

    The corroborative testimony referred to earlier is shown in the following thumbnail. It is signed by LAC Stan Mallett and shows him riding a borrowed bike in apparent high spirits. There is a strong (covered up by F/Sgt) suspicion that he was AWOL, and really holds the distinction of being the first Paris liberator! :D:D:D

    Attached Files:

  4. urqh

    urqh Senior Member

    Doctor D ..great writings as usual.. The idea of tactical RAF radar and communications.. Would I be correct in thinking that your mob were the forerunners of 38gp Tcw?
  5. DoctorD

    DoctorD WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Thanks for your kind comments, Urgh. 83 Group Tactical Communications Wing??, if that's what it means. Sorry, don't know much about the structure of the modern RAF! Spoke to a Regular a few days ago and he seemed to suggest that there was still some sort of mobile element covering Radar and Communications, but didn't elaborate. Sorry!
  6. nofnet

    nofnet Junior Member

    Thanks again DoctorD. You're doing a great job here and it is much appreciated.
  7. urqh

    urqh Senior Member

    Doctor D thanks for reply..certainly sounds like TCW of my day.and still going..I think their heritage may indeed spring from your mob or similer
  8. urqh

    urqh Senior Member

    looking into history of tcw..it seems its modern varient was established in 67. ..noot withstanding that im pretty confident in stating you did same job so should be lauded as their forbears.. sorry for interupting..great thread
  9. DoctorD

    DoctorD WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    I would surmise that manning is a little different from my days, when Wireless/Radar Mechanics (later called Fitters, as we were Pay Group 1) were in short supply. The smaller mobile units would have comprised sometimes six blokes and a cat:) and couldn't warrant including a specialist in their establishment. We highly trained ;) :) technicians were therefore concentrated in a Mobile Signals Servicing Unit strategically sited to offer assistance 24/7 at short notice to keep all of the varied types of MSU's & MRU's operational when adversity struck.
  10. lanceng156

    lanceng156 Junior Member

    Thank you so much Les (DoctorD) for your excellent posts and information! I did a bit of research into the Light Warning Units that were sent glider borne into Arnhem during Market Garden very interesting stuff!

    I'm currently researching No 50 RAF Mobile Field Hospital that landed on Juno Beach on D-Day if you happen to know anything about them at all? The unit contained members of PMRAFNS and is reported to be some of the first women ashore on D-Day!

    Thanks again!
  11. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Hi Les,

    I see on the site below they have personal accounts from veterans. It would be nice to see a Union Flag amongst those 'Stars and Stripes' under Omaha Beach.

    D-Day - Normandie 1944 : Men of D-Day

  12. DoctorD

    DoctorD WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Hi Les,

    I see on the site below they have personal accounts from veterans. It would be nice to see a Union Flag amongst those 'Stars and Stripes' under Omaha Beach.

    D-Day - Normandie 1944 : Men of D-Day


    Hey Andy, I've at last got around to following your advice. But, being a lazy s*d, with nothing better to do :rolleyes:, I took the easy way out by posting a copy of the original posting that opened this thread, adding a few explanatory words, as well.


    I noticed a facility for adding links on that site to other URL's. My attempt to insert a link to ww2talk failed on a technicality, but that shouldn't deter one of our Moderators from doing so, if it's thought to be to our advantage.
  13. AdderleyJnr

    AdderleyJnr Junior Member

    I have to admit I missed the war by about 10 years, but my dad was there, from his notes in the 15082 mobile radar. I am typing up what I can find and his story sounds similar to a lot of you. He went in at Omaha on the 6th June. His name was Eric Adderley, does that ring any bells?

    I am attaching a photograph in case it is any in interest. On the back it is labelled "the Corporals 15082 November 1944"

    Best regards
    Chris Adderley

    Attached Files:

  14. Noel Burgess

    Noel Burgess Senior Member

    Just found this from a site about Canadian radar technicians seconded to the RAF. The first 20 pages are mainly about Fighter Direction Tenders but from page 20 onward there is information about the GCI units which landed at Omaha and Juno. Have not checked if some of the recollections have already been posted by DoctorD but I'm sure therte is some new stuff in there, including photos. There are other interesting sections to the site aswell.
  15. Matty2007

    Matty2007 Junior Member

    Please bear with me I am new at this game! My grandad was in GCI unit 15081, I have seen various items mentioning the unit but I would be ever so grateful for any other information!
    My grandads name is Leonard William Martin (also known as Billy) and his service number was 1467187, I believe he signed up in 1942. I am aware he landed at Omaha Beach but I do not know when and then his unit was moved to Belgium?

    Hers hoping! Thanks
  16. Matty2007

    Matty2007 Junior Member

    Hi, I have just registered on the WW2talk website, my grandfather was in the GCI unit 15081 and I noticed from your message that you might be able to scan some information - were you able to do this? If you know of any other information which might be of use to me it would be very much appreciated in to my research.

    Kind regards

    Barry (Matty2007)
  17. Sussex by the Sea

    Sussex by the Sea Senior Member

    Doctor D, fantastic thread very informative, makes me very proud to be in the same Service as yourself. Were there any RAF Regiment attached to your unit?
  18. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    I now have the landing table for 85 Group GCI which landed on Juno on D Day. I imagine that the Omaha unit was identical.

    The table lists all vehicles and personnel. Anyone still interested?

  19. Noel Burgess

    Noel Burgess Senior Member

    As you know, I have been patiently waiting.

  20. Noel Burgess

    Noel Burgess Senior Member

    At the request of Mike [Trux], who was unsure how to post his information, here is the landing table as an attachment untill a better format can be arranged.

    Attached Files:

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