Buffalo Soldier

Author, artist, historian and researcher Terry Higgins has been writing, illustrating and assembling a comprehensive historical compendium of the exploits of the famous 404 Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force. As part of Black History Month, Higgins has assembled a chronological narrative of 404 ops covering the period when the RCAF's first black combat pilot Flying Officer Allan Selwyn Bundy played a part in their vaunted history. If you wish to stay informed when this magnificently illustrated and thoroughly documented work on the Squadrons wartime exploits will be published, sign up for Aviaeology's newsletter, or if you have relevant information, photos and remembrances, please e-mail Aviaeology

Flying Officer (F/O) Allan Selwyn Bundy’s name first appears in the 404 Squadron ORB (Operations Record Books) within an un-embellished 8 October, 1944 summary where it is noted that he and his NCO navigator, Flight Sergeant (F/S) Wright, together with another newly arrived crew were “declared fit for ops.” Two days later the two crews were in the air local to their new home in Scotland – the RAF Airfield at Banff – honing up on their formation flying skills. Even this early on, it becomes apparent that the other new crew –  F/O Jones and Warrant Officer (W/O) Elliott – were practically bonded to Bundy and Wright for the duration. Casting ahead in the official record one can see that they were, with rare exception, together in the air at the same time on most ops where either one or the other was a participant. If the ORB entry order is any indication this usually had the Bundy crew as lead with the Jones crew on its wing. They would fly with other leaders or wingmen as the case may be from time to time.

An excerpt from the ORB  with the first mention of the Bundy / Wright crew highlighted. Via the author, with thanks to Carl and Elizabeth Vincent

Close in on Beaufighter TF.X NE339 as EO•U of 404 Squadron when part of the Dallachy Strike Wing late in its life. The Bundy and Wright crew flew this aircraft several times in November when it was still marked as EE•U. Artwork by the author as it appears in Carl Vincent’s Canadian Aircraft of WWII (Aviaeology, 2009)  Should readers wish to build a model of a 404 Squadron Beaufighter or other RCAF aircraft, the author's company offers well researched and exquisitely designed decal sets for RCAF Beaufighters: Canadians in Coastal Command #1: Scale model decal sets with 8 pages of historical and technical details on 404 Squadron Beaufighters written and illustrated by Terry Higgins.

Meanwhile the squadron did its best to stay in constant contact with its foe up and down the Norwegian coast. A twilight “Big Do” on the 9th had the commander, Wing Commander (W/C) Pierce, leading very experienced crews against a good-sized convoy. The highly coordinated strike force, which included a Warwick to create a flare path of coloured markers on the water, set itself up, predawn, in the target area. With anti flak specialist Mosquitoes of 235 Squadron going in first followed by the actual strike machines – 404 with rocket projectiles (R/P) and 144 Squadron with Torpedoes – it was an unmitigated success which resulted in widespread damage to nearly all vessels, two confirmed sinkings, and no losses to any of the three squadrons involved. For the next few days the seasonal North Sea weather played its part in keeping enemy shipping safe against the will of 18 Group’s singular (at the time) strike wing; a theme not uncommon throughout the winter of 1944/45. With a scrubbed “best laid plans” and a furtive effort turned back by the weather in between, the veil of winter lifted on the 15th. A good enough day for the Buffaloes to test the mettle of their two newest crews.

Another Big Do

With Squadron Leader (S/L) Christison at its helm, 404 was able to contribute 12 aircraft to a formation totaling 38 from the four squadrons comprising the Banff Strike Wing. With the Bundy plus Jones two-ship tucked into the lead 404 element, the armed recce force stayed to the south, setting course to patrol the waters between the Skaw, Denmark and the Naze, Norway. Relatively new territory to most of the Wing’s crews. After some two and three quarter hours flying, contact was made with two vessels – a tanker and its escort – at 5808N, 0817E. It was a hectic, productive time over the target. Second man in, Bundy let fly his eight round R/P load into the tanker. Most of the Buffaloes concentrated on this target with R/P and cannon, though for some as yet undiscovered reason, Bundy was the only one whose cannon did not fire. The tanker was left a mess with 36 dry hits and 4 four wet (the desired result, traveling underwater to hole the hull below the waterline). It exploded, with flying debris damaging aircraft A/404, and sank. It is quite reasonable to assume that there was a chance both new crews had made their first tangible mark on the enemy. Bundy’s fellow rookie – Jones – who had split off  under the wing of the very experienced Wainman / Stoddart crew to attack the escort vessel also got to loose an R/P salvo at a real target. They – Wainman and Jones – were the only two to attack the escort with R/P and it was determined to have received eight dry hits. Two other aircraft attacked it with cannon fire. Both vessels were later confirmed sunk. The Squadron ORB says of the two new crews “both gave a good account of themselves.” The 404 Squadron history pulls a quote from Herbert Spencer’s scrapbook “Bundy, who came in last returned to remark, ‘Boy, my journey wasn’t really necessary!”

Beaufighter TF.X NE800 as EE•N of 404 Squadron. Although it came to the Squadron from 46 MU on 7 May 1944, NE800 only shows up in the ORB five times prior to Bundy’s first operational hop in October. Presumably it was held in reserve or used within the training pool for much of its earlier life. Still she could make one claim to fame during those times. Its Form 78 shows two ROS/CRO (repaired on site by the civilian repair organization) entries through the summer and a return to the Squadron on 1 September. The cause of the second of these was most certainly flak damage received while in action with three tour veteran W/C Gatward DSO, DFC at the controls on his final Beaufighter sortie as 404s OC. Returning to the squadron in September, she may have then been held in reserve, or dedicated to training flights (which are not detailed in the ORB) until the second week of October, after which the crew of Bundy and Wright were her most frequent crew.

A determined search did not result in useful overall photographs of this particular aircraft during Bundy’s time on the squadron. The illustration is therefore based on a careful study of both contemporaneous 404 Beaus and those close to NE800 in serial number. Bundy flew at least 23 operational sorties in this aircraft; most of those with Wright as navigator. Artwork by the author

The official caption of the only known photo of this aircraft tells the story of NE800s close call: “F/O WK McGrath of Hamilton, Ontario, looking at the useless starboard aileron of his Beaufighter after an attack on shipping off the French coast. Hit in the port wing too, while finishing the attack the aircraft nearly spun in. McGrath helped his pilot, W/C Ken Gatward of London, England and the Squadron CO, jam a hatchet between the control column and a longeron and they flew the aircraft like this for three hours to reach the base.” The other photo of Gatward taken around the same time is believed to be in the cockpit of his personal mount LZ451 EE•M.  CF photo PL41042 via the author’s collection

Throughout the remainder of October the rookie crews logged four more operational hops. Bundy and Wright crewed NE800 on two of those. The first one, on the 18th, was back to the Naze area where the tanker of the previous action could be seen still aflame. Presumably parts of her superstructure remained above water. Heavy flak was encountered throughout and “considerable shipping was observed in Kristiansand Harbour.” The sighting was likely made on the way home; low on fuel, no attack was made. The next day was similar. Typical of these en masse armed recce trips, give or take four hours lapsed between take off and landing. However S/L Bobby Schoales DFC, led the 404 contingent in “Bundy’s” NE800 while Bundy and Wright remained at Banff.

The 21st was another Big Do under the very capable leadership of S/L Christison DFC. The twelve (ORB gives twelve but there appears to have been a thirteenth – W/C Pierce’s EE•X – in the Details of Sortie narrative) Beaufighters of 404 were accompanied by nine similar aircraft of 144 Squadron, several Mosquito outriders* of 333 (Norwegian) Squadron and a number of Mosquitoes from both 235 and 248 Squadrons. Bundy and Wright crewed NT991 EE•E on this trip with Jones and Elliott right behind them in the oldest of the Squadron’s veteran warhorses, LX940 EE•Y. NE800 stayed on the ground for reasons unknown; most likely routine maintenance. The force made landfall at Utvaer after which a 333 scout raced up the coast all the way to Askvoll Harbour sniffing for enemy shipping. After he reported in the negative the main group split with 18 aircraft, including half of 404s Beaus, patrolling towards Stadlandet. With no targets in sight they all headed for home. Meanwhile the balance, including Bundy and Jones amoung the seven Buffaloes present, headed south towards Haugesund with P/333 darting along the coastline looking for quarry. Two merchant vessels (M/V) and an armed trawler (TTA) were unlucky enough to be in Haugesund Harbour. The strike aircraft went at them in a fury of cannon fire and R/P salvoes. In the company of three very experienced crews – Wainman / Stoddart in NE669 EE•A, Christison in LZ451 EE•M, and Flynn / Michael in NV177 EE•Z – Bundy attacked the largest M/V. Their combined effort claimed 18 dry and 4 underwater R/P hits; 20 out of the total of 36 armour piercing rounds from the four Beaus found their mark. Their cannon fire struck the bridge and amidships. The smaller M/V received accurate R/P and cannon fire from two of 404s cohort. The escort apparently escaped after putting up intense flak and P.A.C.s (projected or parachute aerial cables – cables shot vertically up from ships via a small rocket to discourage attacking aircraft). Returning crews reported leaving the vessels on fire. Both M/Vs – the German vessel Eckenheim (1923 tons) and the Norwegian Vestra (1422 tons) – sank  (the larger one was reportedly raised not long afterwards). No aircraft were lost but Christison brought old “M” back with a large hole in her port tail plane.

"Outrider" was a term coined within the 18 Group Strike Wings for specialist armed recce crews that would perform either single aircraft or two aircraft Rovers ahead of a mission launch, or real time recce as part of a strike group. In the Rover profile, they would either radio back found target details before landing themselves (passing the thus activated outward-bound strike group while they themselves were homeward bound) or report directly in person upon landing. When flying to the target area with a strike group, they would venture out ahead darting in and out of the fjords and harbours looking for verifiable targets and, with the mission commander's okay, direct part or all of the group onto the target. Recommending the best approach (ingress direction and height, etc) was usually part of their job as well. Later in the war, some squadrons used seasoned crews, familiar as they were with the target area, as outriders but more often than not the job went to the specialist 333 (Norwegian) Squadron based at Banff. This squadron's crews had very intimate knowledge of the coastline of their German-occupied homeland.

Beaufighter TF.X LZ451 as EE•M of 404 Squadron as flown by S/L Christison DFC, and others, circa late October 1944. Earlier, this aircraft became the mount of former squadron commander W/C Ken Gatward DSO, DFC and Bar. He flew it often through the summer of 1944 before leaving the squadron in late August. The aircraft remained to soldier on into late February. The unofficial Buffalo emblem was most probably applied in late May or early June and the command pennant a little later, possibly July. The French tricolour is believed to have been added after Gatward, flying LZ451, landed in France on 7 August 1944, claiming a first for Coastal Command. Some say that it may also commemorate his “show the flag” flight over occupied Paris in 1942 when he was with another Beaufighter squadron, but that seems a stretch. The “The Ancient Mariner” inscription may have been applied shortly after Gatward posted out, in recognition of either the aircraft itself (the 2nd or 3rd oldest on 404 strength at the time) or its two-tour veteran former pilot. Interestingly, the command pennant remained into 1945 although the new commander never flew this aircraft. Artwork by the author (available in model decal form at www.aviaeology.com)

Beaufighter TF.X  NT991 EE•E circa October – December 1944. The Buffaloes received this former 236 Squadron Beau on 9 October 1944 while at Banff. Bundy was flying it in these markings (most probably in addition to full AEAF stripes remaining around the fuselage) as a participant in the sinking of a German M/V on 21 October as related above. The caption from engine fitter Ed Lee’s photo album reads simply “Arnold”. Presumably a member of 404s "flights" servicing groundcrew or the 8404 Servicing Echelon. The aircraft is typical of those in its serial block; the bump just visible on the engine nacelle is part of an oil system mod associated with a propeller pitch control mod and the artifacts just visible below the navigators cupola comprise the mounting clip, handle, and cables that make up an external emergency release for the cupola hatch. The small venturi-powered vent fairing seen just ahead of the first “E” on the fuselage side indicates provision for long range auxiliary fuel tanks in the wing gun bays. Both this and the Gee whip antenna atop the fuselage were standard equipment on all operational TF.Xs since at least May of 1944. Allan Bundy would also go on to fly the aircraft in the background when it was marked EO•L in 1945.. Ed Lee via the author’s  collection 

This was to be 404s last operational Beaufighter hop out of Banff, for on the 20th they had received the order to move to Dallachy up the coast in Morayshire. After settling into the new airfield’s more austere surroundings, it did not take long before ops were on again.  W/C Pierce led 22 Beaus (12 of 404 plus 10 of 144) out of Dallachy in the early afternoon of the 25th and headed towards the Norge coast, picking up an escort of two Mosquitoes out of Banff along the way. Hitting bad weather before they reached the target area, the force turned back with all aircraft landing between 1613 and 1639. Bundy, flying his NE800 again, logged another 3+ hours of operational time. The weather kept everybody on the ground the following day. Another attempt was made on the 27th with “Chris” Christison, the A flight commander, leading the pack. Again the weather was in favour of enemy shipping. All 24 Beaufighters (12 each from 404 and 144) were back on the ground by 1606. Bundy, Wright and NE800 clocked up another 3+ hours. The new guys did not participate in the final outing of October 1944 but both of “their aircraft” went along in the hands of two other crews. The strike group did discover an escort vessel, which opened up on them, but they did not attack since no primary targets – merchant vessels – were discovered.

November started with what the squadron had now come to know as typical weather for the season in the region. For the first few days the only flying was a trip to Coastal Command HQ for the Officer Commanding (OC) on the 1st. On 2 November the squadron aircrews, released until midnight, enjoyed a liberty run to Elgin by coach. Next day the weather started to improve. Most of the flying was local while F/L Shulemson DSO flew the Wing Armament Officer  S/L Worley  to RAF Station Tain to have a look at the ranges there. The 4th started with favourable skies but the met forecast promised that it would get worse. F/L Shulemson left for RAF Station Millfield to take a special course on rockets (the author believes that this was when the switch to new R/P setups – better rails, better AP warheads, and better rocket motors – was coming down the pipes) and a few other crews did some local flying, no doubt completing maintenance air tests. Despite the less than desirable met earlier in the day, by mid morning twelve crews were rallied. A Do was on!

All twelve, including Bundy and Wright in their trusty steed and their companions Jones and Elliott (their regular mount was NV416 EE•J) from OTU days, were in the air within the 8 minutes between 1218 and 1226 under the leadership of flight commander S/L Schoales. The armed recce made it all the way to the Norwegian coast through intermittent showers. After making landfall at Lista Light the group attempted their planned Rover south along the Skagerrak coast between Egero (a few minutes east of Lista) and Homborsund in worsening weather. It appears the met was right for once! “Adverse weather conditions prevented ideal observations” and all they sighted was three fishing trawlers. To make matters worse three aircraft were plagued with technical troubles; two, R/404 and H/404, with hydraulic pressure issues and one, Bundy’s NE800 EE•N, with a faulty altimeter. Both N/404 and R/404 had to peel off and return individually. R/404 made Dallachy successfully while Bundy landed nearby at Milltown. With nothing detailed in the ORB, it can be assumed that he either got lost on the trip back across the North Sea or may have preferred certain characteristics of this airfield in light of the weather and the fickle altimeter. Meanwhile H/404 stuck with the patrol but had to peel off to land at Banff . The remainder of the group carried on up the coast to Dallachy. The airfield was complete socked in by the time the last engines were shut down. The ORB does not report on how and when the guys made the hop back to Dallachy. Scant entries for 5, 6, and 7 November note variable weather, local formation and low flying practice, the return of the OC from Coastal HQ,  and various postings in and out.

Presumably they flew back on one of those days for Bundy’s aircraft was the tail-end charlie, crewed by WOs Ramsden and Rimble, as part of a 24 aircraft (including six Buffaloes) morning Rover while the Bundy/Wright (in Y/404) and Jones/Elliott (in P/404) crews flew wing to two very experienced crews (Flynn/Michael in M/404 and Watlington DFM / Henderson in K/404) on an anti U-boat patrol (A/U) in the afternoon. They were obviously expecting some business on the A/U patrol; with them were 3 Beaus from the new Dallachy Strike Wing’s 455 Squadron and 3 fighter escort Mosquitoes picked up at Banff on the way out over the North Sea. After 12 minutes searching due north from Stavanger, nothing appeared so they returned to base.

Meanwhile, the morning Rover was very successful. The 333 Squadron outrider sniffed out a covey of 3 coasters and 2 M/V huddled in Midtgulenfjord. With high hills on both sides of the narrow fjord, the attackers had to be careful to avoid both ground impact and more concentrated flak. Execution, discipline, and leadership were impeccable. The strike group left two large M/V sinking (the 2755 ton Helga Ferdinand and the 3000 ton Aquila, both later confirmed sunk) and the Norwegian ferry Framnaes so badly damaged that it had to beach. NE800 and crew did their part, unloading its eight R/P rounds and cannon bursts into the larger of the two freighters. F/O LC Boileau and his navigator F/O WH McCamus, who led this strike in the OC Pierce’s usual aircraft NV173 EE•X, both received DFCs for this action.

Beaufighter TF.X LX940 as 2•Y of 404 Squadron under tow by LAC White in her pre-D-Day markings, circa May 1944. Like Gatward’s LZ451, this aircraft, one of the squadron's first TF.Xs, soldiered on with 404 Squadron further into 1945, even returning to service on 9 March after a Cat AC induced repair on site by Bristols contractors earlier in the month. Bundy and Wright crewed this aircraft, marked as EE•Y, on an uneventful anti U-boat mission along the Norge coast north of Stavanger on 8 November 1944. CF photo PL28090

“The Ancient Mariner” under a ponderous sky: Beaufighter LZ451 spent her entire career as aircraft M of 404 and was on ops almost continuously from late October 1943 through to late February 1945. The photo illustrates typical conditions in northeast Scotland around the time the Buffaloes made the move from Banff to Dallachy. This is how LZ451 would have looked during the 8 November A/U patrol related above. LX940 (above) would have had similar finish and markings (with a “Y” code letter in place of the “M” of course) when flown by Bundy on this same trip. The pre-heater lorry was an absolute necessity at both Banff and Dallachy this time of year. Ed Lee via the author’s  collection

Another four aircraft A/U patrol led by Bobby Schoales in NV173 launched towards the same area north of Stavanger the next day. One aircraft returned early due to u/s undercarriage. The rest returned home without incident after completing their assigned patrol. The wily foe remained undetected.

Taking advantage of the “fairly good” weather of 10 November, OC 404 Squadron W/C Pierce flying NV173 EE•X, led a large force of 33 Beaufighters (12 from 404) accompanied by two 333 Squadron Mosquito outriders on an armed Rover along the Norwegian coast. Having taken off after first light, they completed their patrol between Utvaer and Svino and returned without seeing anything to attack. Bundy and Wright clocked up another four and a half operational hours in NE800 on this mission.

After a four day reprieve that may have included some local flying, Bundy and Wright flew an interesting, if uneventful, sortie in NE339 EE•U sortie on 15 November. Ten 404 Beaus led by W/C Pierce in NV173 detached to RAF Station Sumburgh on the southern tip of the Shetland Islands. After refueling there the strike group, which also included 10 Beaus of 455 Squadron, 6 of 144 Squadron, and an escort of 315 Squadron Mustangs set course northeast to Stadlandet, patrolled the coast north as far as Hitteren Id. [sic, probably Hitra due west of Trondheim], then tracked back south along the coast to Kristiansund (N), and down further to Allesund looking to cause trouble in the harbours and fjords. They did sight some E/V in Kristiansund and Allesund Harbours, did not engage (unexplained), encountered some flak, and returned home. It was a long haul. Bundy logged another 5 operational hours. Given that the potential targets were discovered on the homeward bound leg and with the Luftwaffe fighter-infested Gossen Airfield within shouting range, Pierce may have decided against attacking with the fuel state reducing his options.

The official caption for this photo reads “P/O P. McCartney (Harrogate, England) left with his pilot F/O R.C. Ridge (Toronto, ON) of the Buffalo Squadron”. Their backdrop, Beaufighter NE339 as aircraft EE•U of 404 Squadron in circa October-November 1944 markings Another 404 “lifer”, NE339 first came on the Squadron’s inventory 20 December 1943 until lost on operations 24 March 1945. Veteran 404 Squadron flight commander “Chris” Christison would fly it on the ill fated Black Friday op of 9 February 1945, which he survived. It was lost with a sprog crew on board during the final Buffalo Beaufighter operation on 24 March. In one of those strange twists of war, second tour veteran S/L Christison DFC was also lost, flying Beaufighter NV428 EO•R, on this mission. CF photo PL41454

Still on detachment at Sumburgh on the 17th W/C Pierce set off with a large force (25 Beaufighters, ten of which were Buffaloes, two 333 Sqn. Mosquitoes, two 281 Squadron Warwicks, and an escort of thirteen Mustangs from 315 Sqn. The commander flew NV422 EE•C with S/L Schoales DFC as his 2nd in command flying Bundy’s NE800. Although the specialist Mosquitoes busied themselves sniffing into the leads and anchorages only a few small vessels were spotted. Again, the force was not committed to battle, the usual flak was thrown up from the enemy shore but all returned to base unscathed. “Wind, rain, and low clouds made both take-off and landing very difficult.” Similar ops north of Bergen and a resumption of patrols in the south throughout the next week proved similarly frustrating. The squadron was involved in Wing level missions on 21, 25, and 26 November. All without enemy contact. All without Bundy and Wright or their old OTU cohorts. The four had just returned to Dallachy aboard their Beaus the day before.

To backtrack a little, it is conceivable that Shulemson, by now the squadron technical expert on all things R/P and having returned from Sumburg with the remainder of the detachment on the 18th, may have had the crews involved in some sort of skill sharpening exercises with the new R/P rigs.

The Vickers Warwick ASR was a multi-purpose British aircraft used during the Second World War. Built by Vickers-Armstrongs as a larger bomber on the same lines and using similar construction to their Wellington bomber. The Air-Sea Rescue (ASR) variant of the Warwick bomber could carry an airborne lifeboat and other lifesaving equipment.

Next morning, under a sky hemmed in with threatening cloud cover, a high level conference on training was held in the station commander’s office. All squadron commanders, flight commanders, and specialist officers were in attendance. That afternoon a Coastal Command combat film was shown to all aircrew in the crew room and there was no flying other than one single air test.

On the 20th the weather showed some promise in the morning but deteriorated by the afternoon. Still the old standby exercise of local formation flying was carried out, along with a few air tests. The operational Big Do of the 21st (mentioned above) left Dallachy under an angry sky and returned some 5 hours later under similar weather. The next day was more of the same on the weather front. The squadron managed only one air test before being released on liberty to Elgin. By the 23rd, things were clearing up and training, including formation flying and air-to-air gunnery resumed in earnest. This carried over into the 24th when the programme was expanded to include some R/P splash practice (likely with the new R/P set-ups – TH).

The first words in the ORB for 25 November 1944 carries a hint of sarcasm: “This is almost a record! Three fine days of flying now!” However, the 42 aircraft strong Wing effort that went out was actually thwarted by weather as it drew near to occupied Norwegian coast, and turned for home. Another fair weather day on the 26th saw a 22 aircraft strike mount up, take off, and return after finishing an uneventful patrol between Stavanger and Kristiansand (S).

The squadron diarist wrote “The weather was fair all day.” as his entry opener for 27 November 1944. Detailed to attack an M/V reported to be in Sula Fjord, F/L SS Shulemson DSO led a force of 10 Beaufighters (six from 404 and four from 489 Squadron) that made landfall at the Svinoy Light. The target, which was supposed to be in Sula Fjord, was nowhere to be found but they discovered an alternate nearby – a small convoy of two large M/Vs with three escorts. Interestingly, in its account of the ensuing combat, the ORB refers to aircraft “N” (which should have been Bundy’s NE800) being the first in to attack one of the escorts. However, this aircraft is not listed in the appropriate column on the two 27 November pages, while NE339 EE•U is not called out in any of the Details of Sortie or Flight column, which accounts for all other aircraft. Therefore, one is left to assume that the “N” referred to was actually “U” with the diarist perhaps associating the Bundy and Wright crew with “N” at some point in his typing! Whichever aircraft he was in, it seems that F/O Allan Bundy fired the opening shots in this particular battle. His R/P all overshot (perhaps an indication of his using the new, flatter trajectory rounds for the first time in battle?) but his cannon gunnery registered multiple superstructure hits. While the ships company dealt with the consequences, R/P “ace” Shulemson, brought NV177 EE•Z to bear on the same vessel, scoring  4 dry and 4 wet R/P hits. By the time they egressed the target area, the “leading E/V [escort vessel] was well on fire and low in the water, and the larger M/V was smoking to some extent.” Two Buffaloes came home with flak damage while the strike leaders aircraft suffered an engine failure just of the Norwegian coast. Shulemson, ever the cool and collected airman nursed the Beaufighter back to friendly skies to a successful landing at Sumburgh with NT890 EE•F as escort. The main group all landed at Dallachy after an average of just over five hours each in the air.

A few scrubbed missions, an air test that featured a runaway airscrew and subsequent successful crash-landing on the airfield, and some firing practice – both cannon and R/P consumed the remaining days of November 1944. The start to December was not much different. More planned ops cancelled due to local weather or to the met report on the target area, more R/P practice, and the usual business of maintenance air tests, and a funeral for the crew of a Canadian Halifax that crashed nearby.

Finally 5 December dawned with cold but clear skies and just after noon Shulemson (in NE669 EE•A) led twelve Buffaloes to accompany a similar number of 144 Squadron Beaufighters on an A/S patrol of the Norwegian coast. The patrol was completed without enemy contact. Two squadron aircraft separated on the return leg to escort an limping Beaufighter from another force into Sumburg. All others, including Bundy with Elliott as nav aboard NT916 EE•S, and Jones with Wright in “their” NE800, were back at Dallachy by 1725, having spent an average of five hours aloft.

Bundy wasn’t along the next day when the OC, W/C Pierce, led a force of 15 Dallachy Strike Wing Beaufighters (six from 404), together with Mustang escorts and Mosquito outriders picked up at Banff on an A/S patrol. After one of the outriders found a target anchored in Sor Vaagsoy, the force tried to set up a coordinated attack from seaward, but intense flak from several directions at once within the particularly narrow fjord foiled the effort. A Mustang and a 489 Beaufighter went missing while all others made it back to base.

After this things really started to pick up. Reunited with usual his navigator and kite, F/O Allan Bundy was part of a really Big Do heading out from Dallachy and Banff to strike shipping in Allesund Harbour on 7 December. With S/L WR Christison DFC as leader, the 40 Beaufighter strong Dallachy element was to concentrate on the shipping, following the smaller Banff Strike Wing Mosquito force into the target while their escort of 12 Long Range Mustangs (out of Peterhead) were to tie up the Luftwaffe fighter force expected from nearby Gossen Airfield. Sure enough, some 25 Messerschmitts and Focke Wulfs rose to the occasion but the escort was ready for them. In the ensuing melee, the Mustangs claimed 6 destroyed and 2 probables for the loss of one of their own. And still some of the German fighters made it through to the strike group. Two Mosquitoes and a 489 Squadron Beau were lost to enemy fire. Flynn’s S/404 was hit by Bf109 cannon fire and Michaels, his navigator, received minor wounds when one round exploded in the cupola. He made for Sumburg and landed there with two squadron mates as escort. The rest made for home, deprived of their target by the Gossen fighter force. It was a long haul. Some had as little as 10 gallons of fuel remaining by the time they shut down. Bundy and Wright had their first close encounter with enemy fighter aircraft.

An ominous title is ascribed to this photo in LAC Ed Lee’s personal scrapbook: “The last flight of X.” However, it may be that this was the last time Ed – who was the engine mechanic on this, the OC’s personal aircraft – remembered having something to do with this particular Beau, for some other aircraft in the taxi line-up did not fly on 9 December. It is more likely 5 December when all four aircraft, whose codes are visible in the original photo, were part of the same strike force. EE•S is the fourth aircraft along the line under the wing of the stationary Beau. Allan Bundy flew this S/404 on the 5th. Ed Lee via the author’s  collection

Two young airmen are lost: The full fury and attendant dangers of a Beaufighter anti-shipping strike are well illustrated in this haunting image. The strike camera of an unknown Beau had the dubious honour of recording the demise of a very new crew out on their second op in the OCs personal aircraft. The M/V (Motor Vessel) is nearly invisible amidst the R/P and cannon splashes and smoke, the aircraft impact is directly above it in frame while the dark artifact with a smoke cloud beyond it to the right may be the stricken aircraft’s wing. Two Beaufighters can be seen just leveling out from their R/P run. Flak is coming up to the right of the camera aircraft. From the official caption… “Attack by Beaufighters of No. 404 Squadron on motor vessel off Utvaer, Norway, 9 December 1944.  Aircraft “X” (pilot A.K. Cooper, navigator WO C.F. Smith) was believed to have struck the mast, lost its port wing and is shown here exploding on striking the water.”  CF (DHH file copy) Photo PMR 92-585.

On 9 December the Wing sent a strike force comprising 23 Beaufighters from 144, 404, and 489 Squadrons to the Utvaer area. The force picked up its Mustang escort from Peterheads’s 315 Squadron on the way out. Amongst the nine 404 aircraft led by F/L HL Wainman, Bundy and Wright were in NE800 once again. Soon an “unescorted M/V in the 1000 ton class” [sic] was located and the attack went in. The vessel was saturated with 8 dry hits, 2 possible dry, and 22 wet R/P hits. Six of the Buffaloes also attacked with cannon and five of those made two passes. Sadly the inexperienced crew of Cooper and Smith, who had been with the squadron less than a month, were lost within the first wave. Reading between the lines of the ORB entry for the day, it would seem that their rockets did not fire. One could speculate that the young pilot may have busied himself momentarily trying to figure out why, and took his eyes off of the outside world for a split second too long. Still considered new, but with the number of combat experience nonetheless, Allan Bundy was one of the more successful attackers. As the marauding Beaus departed, the M/V was left ablaze from bridge to stern and racked with explosions. A half hour later it was found beached and burning fiercely by a recce aircraft. Later intelligence identified the vessel as the 687-ton Havda, a Norwegian coaster.

This mixture of sadness and success was to be 404s last combat operation of 1944. On the 10th, the Squadron was released for training; formation flying in the morning and fam trips for two new crews as well as an air test on which Z/404s forward bottom hatch came loose and chopped three inches off of a  starboard prop blade. Weather turned back an afternoon A/S patrol on the 11th and a morning one on the 12th returned due to a lack of suitable targets. Similarly, after determining that a potential target was a Red Cross vessel a Rover to Svinoy Light area returned without incident on 13 December. Bundy was along for the next “no joy” trip on the 14 th; his first op in nearly a week. They left Dallachy on this “cloudy day with a feeling of snow in the air”. Before the force broke off the patrol, he was detailed to provide navigation escort to a troubled Mustang and landed at Milltown at 1520. Another 3 hours and 35 minutes logged. Meanwhile, crosswinds were so bad at Dallachy that the rest of the force had to land at Banff. The next day, despite ominous cloud and strong winds many Buffalo aircraft were in the air. Everybody who had landed out the day before returned home to Dallachy while another strike went out just after noon, only to be turned back by weather before reaching the target area. December 16 had the airfield socked in by “very windy and wet” weather to the extent that there was no flying. Dances were held in both the NCOs’ and Officers’ messes with full attendance. On the 17th, a number of promotions came through and Bundy’s navigator, Flight Sergeant Wright, became one of three newly commissioned officers on squadron. The “turned back due to bad weather theme” featured in the ORB entries detailing sorties launched on the 18th and 19th. Flying Officer Bundy and Pilot Officer Wright were aloft in trusty old NE800 for the latter. Meanwhile the much respected and talented R/P expert S/L SS Shulemson DSO was posted out to a new job at RAF Station Banff on the 18th. With a cancelled op “due to unfavourable met reports” on 20th, the squadron spent the day formation flying and on air tests. Personnel also sent confections from their personal Christmas parcels to some 75 children at Spey Bay School. The next day no ops were on and the weather was typically duff. Thus released for training the Buffaloes kept busy with formation flying practice, R/P practice, and air tests. This activity continued on the 22nd as the weather improved over Dallachy but remained untenable in the usual target areas.

With a “cool, clear” sky over the airfield 23 December started out with the promise of activity. S/L RA Schoales DFC in NT991 EE•E led 10 Buffaloes aloft with the first take-off at 0715. The Bundy/Wright crew was present in NE686 EE•T. They were accompanied by nine other Beaus from the Dallachy Wing’s 144 Squadron along with a 333 Squadron Mosquito outrider and an ASR (Airborne Search and Rescue) Warwick out of Banff. Despite an organized search in the Itteroene – Stadlandet area, Drem markers laid out by the Warwick, and an independent Rover by two 404 aircraft, nothing was found and all, except one, returned to base after four and a half hours in the air. The one was Y/404 who became separated in the soup trying to locate the Drem and not finding it, wisely set course for home.

R/P! The 3” Rocket Projectile (R/P) with its armour piercing (AP) warhead was the primary anti-shipping weapon used by 404 Squadron from early 1944 until the end of the war. The four rounds under the wing of this Beaufighter are tipped with the later AP Mk.II warhead which gave much better water entry and underwater travel ballistics due in large part to its double ogive profile. Each rail is set at a slightly different angle of incidence which indicates that this aircraft’s rig is harmonized for a predetermined impact grouping at a set dive angle. The “pigtail” electrical leads hanging out of the back of each rocket body would be plugged in to the aircraft's electrics just prior to take-off. Beaufighter NE686 EE•T sits in the background in November-December 1944 era markings. The author’s collection

Christmas Day 1944 dawned to a fine morning and the Squadron was released from 1100 to 2359. The officers served two sittings of Christmas dinner at 1200 and 1300 as rain showers developed outside. The festivities, as they were, continued into the afternoon when free issue candy, chocolate bars, and cigarettes at the base’s newly established Canada House and later onwards to the Flights’ crew room where ground and aircrew mingled.

Another op was on for Boxing Day. F/L HL Wainman led nine Buffaloes in company with 12 other Dallachy Wing Beaus and an ASR Warwick on an early morning patrol. They searched the Norge coast from Feisten Light to Okso. Although shipping was sighted in Kristiansand (S)  Harbour, the position was determined to be less than ideal for attacking aircraft so they left it alone and landed back after a five hour trip. Later in the afternoon (1400) three Buffaloes accompanied a larger force from the Wing’s other squadrons on a no joy patrol between Egero and Songvaar. Although the next day was considered “fine… although somewhat cloudy”, flying was limited to training hops and air tests.

After an overnight snowfall that rebated to gentle flakes in the morning of 28 December, 404 Squadron contributed 12 aircraft to a 26 aircraft strike force out of Dallachy. Picking up 2 Mosquito outriders and 2 ASR Warwicks out of Banff and 6 of Peterhead’s 315 Squadron Mustangs [the ORB mistakenly identifies them as Mosquitoes) staging from Banff the force set out across the North Sea to make landfall at Holmengraa. Patrolling north they found no enemy shipping and returned to base. Bundy and Wright logged another four and a half hour operational flight in NE800. They were up again the very next day for a Rover of similar duration. They made the coast but weather turned them back sometime into their patrol. There was no operational flying on the 30th. Released for training, two new crews were taken up for local flying familiarization and others did some formation flying. The last day of 1944 was a mild one with ops on the board. 404 Squadron contributed nine (a tenth launched but returned almost immediately with electrical problems) Beaus led by F/L JD Taylor in “The Ancient Mariner” (see LZ451 EE•M above). With a potential target turning out to be four neutral Swedish M/Vs, the force returned without incident.

Squadron Operations – 1945

Although he may have participated in some training flights in the interim, Bundy flew his last operational sortie of 1944 on the 28th. He and Wright participated in only two ops through January 1945. A mishap on the first of these may have had something to do with their limited involvement.

Aboard NE800 EE•N as (almost) always, they were part of a determined A/S patrol effort 6 January. Taking off into weather described as “mild, cloudy…” six Buffaloes formed up with 20 other aircraft, including an escort of 12 Mustangs from Peterhead’s 315 Squadron and a 279 Squadron ASR Warwick from Wick. Soon after making the Norge coast at Helliso Light in deteriorating weather a self-propelled barge was attacked by a single Buffalo Beau and three from 455 Squadron. T/404 claimed 2 dry and 3 possible wet hits plus numerous cannon strikes. The target was last seen drifting without power towards the shore. The weather continued to worsen as other larger vessels were spotted. “Snow squalls prevented attack” as noted in the diary. After making their way back to Helliso Light, apparently in singles and pairs, the strike force set course for home. B/404 who had returned an hour after take-off due to electrical failure, along with H/404 and L/404 made it back to Dallachy. G/404 landed at Lossiemouth while N/404 – Bundy’s aircraft – accompanied T/404 into Milltown. They had taken off from Dallachy between 1315 and 1327 in the afternoon. By the time they arrived over Milltown darkness was setting in. Rancourt (in T/404) landed at 1740 and Bundy at 1814. Although scattered, everybody had made it back to airfields along the Morayshire and Spey Bay coast. Rancourt returned to Dallachy but “’N’ was found to be have been slightly damaged on landing so did not return.” Beaufighter NE800s Form 78 shows a FB Cat AC for 8 or 9 January 1945 (depending on how you read the this particular aircraft movement card), a repair on site at Milltown commencing 12 January, and a return to 404 Squadron at Dallachy on 16 February. And though she stayed with the squadron until they converted to Mosquitoes, she did not fly as frequently, at least not on operations, as before.

Meanwhile the squadron went on to fly additional successful ops on 8, 9, and 10 January. For the balance of the month, when not pitching in manpower to help clear the massive amount of snow at Dallachy mid-month, they were busy planning and launching strikes only to be confronted with bad weather or, except for some flak thrown at them every now and then, the nonappearance of the enemy. With NE800 still in the hands of the Bristols (the company which originated the Beaufighter) within the civilian repair organization, Flying Officers Bundy and Wright reappear in the ORB for the last op of the month flying Beaufighter NE687 EO•B (Squadron codes had changed from “EE” to “EO” earlier in January).  With F/O JR “Roj” Savard heading up the nine aircraft 404 Squadron element, a Wing effort of 26 Dallachy Beaus rendezvoused with their escort of 65 Squadron Mustangs from Peterhead and an ASR Warwick out of Wick headed out across the North Sea to make landfall at Stadlandet. The weather made for very bad visibility and the strike leader called it a day. All of the Buffaloes made it back okay but one of the Mustangs went missing and a 144 Squadron Beaufighter ditched off of Sumburgh.

Sometime in mid January 404 Squadron was assigned a new two-letter squadron identification code. The “EE” that had been with them for quite some time was replace by “EO” sometime in mid January. In this photo, L, S, Z, and D/404 pose in textbook formation for the camera. One of a series of similar images which were almost certainly taken on 18 February 1945 when S/L Schoales DFC and F/L Bolli took official Air Ministry photographer F/L BJH Daventry up in the base hack Beaufort while “four crews practiced formation flying.” Allan Bundy flew NV427 EO•L in these markings and NT916 EO•S before the code change. Hit in the starboard engine, L/404 went missing during a strike on 8 March 1945 with F/O Ridge and P/O McCartney aboard. IWM CH17872 via the author’s collection

February also came and went with only a small number of operational sorties recorded for Allan Bundy. He and Wright made three uneventful trips; the first and second were in NV291 EO•H on the 5th and 15th while the third was in NV427 EO•L on the 21st. All were uneventful due to either weather or the lack of suitable targets. Meanwhile, the squadron had suffered its darkest day – known by all Buffaloes as Black Friday – on 9 February when six of its Beaufighters, together with four aircraft from other units, failed to return. All were brought down by either flak or Luftwaffe fighters over the target in Førde Fjord. One of the downed 404 pilots, the ever-jovial “Roj” Savard, survived both the shootdown and POW camp.

While starting out highly variable, the weather tried its best to improve daily throughout March 1945. As it improved squadron activity started to pick up. Early in the month it, and presumably others of the Dallachy Strike Wing, made unorthodox (for a Coastal Command Strike unit) night patrols employing lone aircraft. While no positive concrete results – which were measured in tonnage sunk in the strike squadrons – were claimed, some dry hits were documented. One can only imagine that the sudden appearance of a rocket firing, cannon barking Beaufighter coming directly at you against the night sky had some effect on the morale of Kriegsmarine and merchant seamen alike. All the while sensing that there was a steadily decreasing number of ships navigating the Norwegian coast to feed industrial raw material into a collapsing Nazi Germany. These sorties went to handpicked navigation-savvy crews like S/L “Bobby” Schoales DFC and F/L Jackson (nav) who, at 2203, launched the first of the four coordinated Lone Wolves that went out 2 March 1945.

Although they had been gaining experience both on operations and in ongoing practice flying, like many others the crew of Bundy and Wright stuck with traditional daylight operations. Reunited with NE800 (now marked as EO•N) they took off at 1448 in the afternoon of 13 March as one of eight Buffaloes led by F/O Coyne. They headed east towards Sandoy together with 19 other Dallachy Strike Wing Beaus. McCallan and Cook in Z/404, armed with cannon only, filled the outrider role in the absence of a Norwegian-manned 333 Squadron Mosquito. Sniffing ahead after the force made landfall, they reported a lack of targets and worsening weather so, minus one of their number, the force set course for home and landed without incident. The one was N/404. She developed engine trouble early on and Bundy had her back safely on the ground at Dallachy by 1524. A very short hop indeed.

Engine problem solved, the crew’s next trip out as part of a larger force on 17 March was also in NE800. After patrolling the coast for a bit between Stadlandet and Storholm Light the weather worsened enough for the strike leader to call it off. Another uneventful trip but just a minute under five and a half hours logged nonetheless.

On 23 March, 40 Dallachy Strike Wing Beaus (including 8 Buffaloes) sortied to attack shipping in Allesund Harbour. Going overland just above the haze after making landfall at Itteroerne the entire force missed its mark and came out at Haried. A few aircraft “attacked a few small boats in error” but they all returned without seeing the actual target.  The force was accompanied by an RAF Film Production Unit (FPU) Mosquito which, no doubt, had to limit its recording to the picturesque ingress over the hazy yet rugged Norwegian terrain. One aircraft developed an unspecified serviceability issue while still over the North Sea. Bundy (with Wright in NV183 EO•P) was thus detailed to accompany C/404 (Bedell and Campanella in NT985) back to Sumburgh. The troubled aircraft landed at the Shetland Islands base at 1520 and Bundy recovered to Dallachy 35 minutes later.

The next day, even in the midst of a squadron move back to Banff, the Buffaloes still managed to contribute six aircraft, including the strike leader, to a full Wing effort of 28 Beaufighters on a shipping strike to Egersund Harbour. Once in the target area the strike leader, S/L WR Christison, DFC and Bar, spearheaded the first wave and was hit. After communicating his predicament, to cue his second to take over the strike, his aircraft (NV428 EO•R) was seen to ditch successfully. A survivor was spotted in a dinghy. The guys in the air presumed this to be “Chris”, since he’d reported that Toon (his navigator) had been wounded. A second flak-stricken 404 Squadron aircraft with the relatively inexperienced F/O LR Aljoe and F/S CE Orser crew aboard came down nearer the coast. Both made it to the dinghy and were waving as the force departed the area. Oddly enough, their aircraft was the very one Christison had survived Black Friday in, NE339 EO•U. F/O Bundy had flown this aircraft on several occasions as well. However, on this day he was flying a new “big tailed” Beau – RD421 EO•V. Given that all six of 404’s aircraft went in on the first wave, it can be assumed that some of his R/P had found their mark, for all six vessels present were left either smoking or burning and the largest M/V was seen to explode. The squadron’s other Beaufighter with the redesigned tail, RD427 EO•O, received flak damage. Two aircraft from the other participant squadrons also went missing on this strike.

So ended the Buffaloes last combat operation on the Beaufighter. Christison, “A” Flight commander, had been near the end of his second tour. He had joined the squadron at the same time as the other WOMs (wise old men), W/C Pierce, S/L Schoales DFC, and F/L Bolli about four years prior. Toon, his navigator was also a second tour veteran. Aljoe and Orser were at the other end of the scale with only a couple of operational trips. None of the downed airmen were ever seen again.

Beaufighter TF.X NE339 as EO•U of 404 Squadron when part of the Dallchy Strike Wing circa February / March 1945. Codes changed from “EE” to “EO” sometime in mid January and the white propeller spinners are from mid/late February. It is not known if it signifies squadron, or A Flight (within squadron) identity here, but by the time the squadron made the switch to Mosquitoes, all of its aircraft had white spinners. F/O Bundy and Wright crew flew this aircraft several times in November when it was still marked as EE•U. “Chris” Christison survived the Førde Fjord strike – Black Friday – in it on 9 February 1945. It was lost with a sprog crew aboard on a combat mission over Ergesund Harbour; S/L Christison DFC and Bar was lost in a different aircraft on this same operation. Bundy, flying V/404, survived it unscathed. LAC AC666 via the Carl Vincent collection

Allan Bundy and his navigator were somewhere in the middle of this experience range. These days they were crewing one of the squadrons newest Beaufighters equipped with some of the latest gear including a new technology beam approach system, an extremely sensitive radio altimeter, and a landing light (strangely enough, long missing from the port wing of R/P equipped Beaufighters!) and aerodynamic features which afforded better control in both pitch and yaw. This plus the likelihood that, by now, he and Wright worked as a tight cohesive team, had them up for one of the still-novel night Rovers in the wee hours of 26 March. Taking of in V/404 at 0326, followed by Bedell and Campanella (in NV177 EO•Z) at 0327, they made landfall at Feisten Light. Coordinated with other Dallachy Wing night Rovers in the area they completed their patrol along the coast in the haze as the day dawned and, not being able to see down through it, returned to land at 0717. The other 404 kite had already returned at 0653. This was their last operational hop in a Beaufighter. Other crews went out on night Rovers or day recces to the Norge coast on three of the remaining days of the month but, other than sporadic flak and one destroyer that was not engaged by the lone patroller due to flak, the enemy was nowhere to be found.

Beaufighter TF.X RD427 as EO•O of 404 Squadron circa March 1945. This series of late production TF.Xs featured a dorsal extension to the tail fin, enlarged elevators with refined balance, and either new or rearranged A.R.I. (Aerial Radio Installation) equipment. Also new was the single element landing light in the port wing. In previous production TF.Xs destined for R/P specialist squadrons like 404, the twin-element landing light installed at the factory was either removed or disconnected while its Perspex cover was replaced with a screwed-on sheet metal fairing. It is assumed that this was done because the type of Perspex used could not, as the R/P salvo left the wing, withstand the heat of the slower-burning rocket motors used through early/mid 1943. O/404 was one of three, possibly four, Beaufighters configured thus on the squadron’s inventory before they converted to Mosquitoes. Allan Bundy flew one of the few V/404 on two operational sorties. The author’s collection

A beautiful squadron photo of Beaufighter RD421 EO•V, with the entire squadron posing for a photograph. Bundy, sitting on wing beside the starboard engine nacelle, flew this aircraft on his last two missions in a Beaufighter.

Meanwhile the squadron was dividing its time and resources between Dallachy and Banff where a cohort was already in place to organize squadron facilities and accept their new aircraft; the deHavilland Mosquito FB.VI. Within 18 Group, which oversaw all Coastal Command activity in the north of Scotland, it was envisioned that Banff would specialize in Mosquito operations and Dallachy, Beaufighters. From a logistics standpoint it made perfect sense. In fact this was the reasoning behind the Buffaloes move the other way back in October, for the transition was already underway amongst other units at Banff. Now the Buffaloes were returning as the newest Mosquito squadron within the massive Banff Strike Wing. Even as the final Buffalo Beaufighter combat ensued over Egersund Harbour the ground crews of 404 Squadron and 8404 Servicing Echelon were a day into their technical training on the Mosquito. That morning the first of the aircrews, already bussed to Banff, commenced ground instruction. The OC, after flying two pilots into Banff on the 29th and returned to Dallachy to report that the first Mosquito had arrived. Two more came in the next day and conversion flying started on the 31st. By 3 April 1945 all personnel and most of the technical servicing equipment belonging to the Squadron and Echelon had been moved. by the 6th conversion flying was in full swing with nine crews up, while a few servicing personnel detached to Dallachy to service Beaufighters not yet reallocated. A “no absentees” aircrew-hosted, groundcrew-invited Officers and NCOs party in the Ops Canteen came after a day of intense Mosquito flying. It comprised three dozen individual sorties in all; 35 conversion exercise flights and an air test. With rare exception, this level of activity kept up until 404 Squadron could declare itself operational on 21 April 1945. This was accomplished without either the benefit of dual control trainers (i.e. the Mosquito T.III) or the advent of accidents. The conversion syllabus was made up of nine distinct exercises, which could be completed, one assumes ideally, over 20 flying hours. All of the 404 Squadron crews, experienced Beau men as they were, came through without a hitch. Presumably F/O Bundy and P/O Wright logged at least 20 training hours on the type through the better part of April.

Anygumchum? (at right)… one of those neat little plays on words that show up from time to time on the noses of operational Second World War aircraft. This one, likely in response to the sheer gumption exhibited by the snarly lightweight and maneuverable Mosquito compared to the equally powerful but heavyweight (some would say overweight!) and not nearly as agile Beaufighter. Also reportedly a favourite question asked of squadron personnel by the local children. Mosquito RF838 EO•A was the first one to be received by the squadron, and as far as is known to date, the only one with any sort of nose art. RF852 EO•E in the background was flown by Allan Bundy on the 12 May 1945 VIP escort mission. The author’s collection 

Anygumchum?… the author’s graphic interpretation of this 404 Squadron Mosquito aircraft’s finish and markings. Artwork by the author (available in model decal form at www.aviaeology.com:   RCAF Mosquitoes: Canadians in Coastal Command #3: Scale model decal sets with 8 pages of historical and technical details on 404 Squadron Mosquitoes Written and illustrated by Terry Higgins http://www.aviaeology.com/aod011-more-rcaf-mosquitoes.html


Commencing on the 22nd, 404 Squadron documented four operational missions on its new aircraft through the remainder of April. On the first one, Catrano and Foord carried out a morning shipping recce in RF851 EO•H. Snooping eastward along the south Norwegian coast they came upon one each Bv138 and He115 seaplanes at their Ksevik moorings some 200 feet offshore. They swooped in and hammered the Bv138, leaving as quickly as they came through intermittent flak. The black smoke, still visible from 40 miles away, marked the Buffaloes first Mosquito victory. McCallan and Cook used the same aircraft when they sortied on a similar recce at 0425 the next morning and retuned at 0750 after an uneventful trip to the Naze area. On the morning of the 24th the OC, W/C Pierce led four cannon and machine-gun armed (i.e. devoid of R/P) 404 Squadron Mossies as fighter cover to 31 other Mosquitoes of the Banff Strike Wing. When near the target area “Bad weather… prevented the formation from completing their patrol.” F/Os Gibbard and Burns flew a successful recce in RF842 EO•C on the morning of 26 April. Encountering “considerable flak” along the way they discovered multiple targets in a number of harbours and fjords and communicated the information to the inbound Dallachy Wing force, which carried out a successful attack: A fitting close to a busy month.

The squadron continued to enhance its Mosquito proficiency into early May as the weather tried to make up its mind between snow and rain, cloud and wind. All the while ops were still mounted. On the 2nd Catrano and Foord flew a flak-dotted lone Rover to the Naze environs, sighted several vessels but were forced to abandon the rest of their patrol due to weather. Earlier in the morning four Buffaloes provided fighter cover, together with 24 Mustangs out of Peterhead, to a strike force of 35 Banff Strike Wing Mosquitoes detailed to attack U-boats that intel had as moving north in the Kattegat. They and their minesweeper escort were found and duly attacked. R/404 returned due to drop tank trouble while the other three stayed above the action, as fighter cover should, and watched the melee unfold below.

The first R/P endowed mission for 404 launched with eleven Mosquitoes joining a massive evening strike force of 72 aircraft detailed to attack shipping in Kiel Bay on 3 May. A navigation error and poor visibility led to the mission being scrubbed while R/404, accidentally separated from the main force had a fleeting no-shots-fired encounter with a Ju188. Notably, all a/c had drop tank troubles on this outing.

The first successful R/P use by 404 Squadron Mosquitoes on operations occurred the next day. On the afternoon of the 4th W/C Pierce led six other 404 Squadron aircraft as part of a 41 Mosquito strike to the same area. All but two of the Buffaloes (those being tasked as fighter escorts) were armed with R/P. X/404 – the OC’s aircraft – and Q/404 attacked an R-boat enroute with R/P claiming 12 dry hits total.  Joined by D/404 and M/404 they came back around and attacked with cannon, leaving the “vessel a mass of burning debris”. A convoy of seven vessels was encountered and attacked a short time later. After severely mauling these vessels and leaving the scene a ship towing a U-boat was sighted and attacked. With the exception of A/404 which returned early with drop tank trouble, and the two tasked with fighter cover, all R/P armed 404 aircraft fired their ordnance.

With victory not too far off and a real sense of it in the air, and with inclement weather threatening on the North Sea horizon from time to time, there was not much operational flying activity between 4 and 12 May 1945. Halfway along, V-E Day was official and the entire RAF Station Banff was released for the day. Either side of that training and skill sharpening wore on. Aircrew continued to be posted in and out. The admin types busied themselves with mountains of paperwork, the repat ship HMCS Buffalo – a single masted behemoth made up of three empty Mossie 100gal. drop tanks and fueled by various spirits – was launched, and effigies of Hitler and Goering were burned at the celebration bonfire stake.

The magnificent "Repat Boat” (Repatriation Boat) "designed" a built by 404 Squadron groundcrew as part of their VE Day celibrations. The sign reads “HMCS Buffalo” – 'Repat Boat' – Canada or Bust – Ted Pierce – And His – WAAF Pursuit Boys".  From Author's Collection

A massive bonfire is set to be torched as soon as the sun sets – part of the Wings's VE Day celebrations. The huge pile of combustibles is topped by effigies of Adolph Hitler and Herman Goering, chief of the Luftwaffe. Men like Bundy and Wright deserved the symbolic release from the stress of battle offered by the fun they were about to have this night. From Author's Collection

On the 12th Bundy and Wright were one of six Buffaloes tasked as A/A escort to a naval force proceeding to Norway with VIPs onboard. Originally taking off in RF844 EO•D he had to return due to an unspecified issue. After some 15 minutes he was airborne again in RF852 EO•E but it too had to be flown back early due to an unspecified snag. All told he and Wright spent what must have been a frustrating hour in the air while the rest of the escort continued with the four-hour sortie. The squadron pitched multiple aircraft into ASR sweeps on the 14th, 15th, and 16th. On the 18th F/O “Roj” Savard (shot down 9 February 1945) and W/C “Chuck” Willis (shot down 30 March 1944) arrived back at the squadron. They had telephoned from Bournemouth the week before having just returned as liberated POWs.

The next sortie to appear in the ORB took off from Banff at 0831. F/O Bundy and P/O Wright were up on a met recce in RF857 EO•Q. The purpose was to make sure all was well for two squadrons of Norwegian Spitfires to leave Dyce headed for Stavanger. Ranging as far as 0305E they reported clear skies and landed at 1012. The entry’s final words were “Task Accomplished.”

Although S/L Schoales DFC (fittingly enough in Z/404) and a 333 Squadron Mosquito escorted the Spitfires, landed with them at Stavanger-Sola later in the day and then flew on with them to Gardermoen near Oslo, returning on 24 May, it can be said that F/O Allan Bundy flew the last uninterrupted operational sortie –take-off to landing at RAF Station Banff – of a 404 Squadron aircraft. Buffalo soldier to the very last. His squadron was officially disbanded on 25 May 1945.

Mosquito FB.VI RF857 EO•Q  keeps company with another 404 Squadron Mosquito in the maintenance area at Banff, probably late April / early May 1944. By late May the factory-standard exhaust shrouds would have been removed and, whenever R/P launch rails were installed so would the drop tank guard rails as seen on A/404 above. These kept the R/P setup from being fouled by the drop tanks when they were punched off. Not being a combat tank, it was Coastal Command SoP for these large tanks to be dropped before any engagement. If they hung up, and they often did when first brought into service, then the aircraft had to abort the mission. Ed Lee via the author’s collection

by Terry Higgins

The editor would like to thank Terry Higgins for his enthusiastic response to questions about Bundy's history. At that time we knew little, if anything, of his combat history, but Terry jumped in with both feet and assembled a story with the Bundy thread from work he is presently completing on 404 Squadron.  The amount of research and labour (of love) required to assemble a coherent yet compelling chronicle of Bundy's service is not lost on this editor. Bravo Zulu Mr. Higgins. I look forward to purchasing my copy of his forthcoming book about 404's incredible history. If you wish to be kept apprised of its progress, or be on the list to receive a pre-order offer when it finally becomes available, please sign up for the publisher's e-newsletter, The Armchair Aviaeologist, here.


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