Tony (second pilot to the Harrison crew) kept a diary whilst at Salbani. The text of the diary is unique in that it gives an almost day to day account of what it was like to be at Salbani. Except for the words in brackets, the text set down is a true and accurate copy of the contents of Tony’s diary. Wednesday September 13th (1944): Up at 4 a.m.…
William Ballantine Wheatley was born at Chester, New York, 17 December 1902, the first of three children of William A. Wheatley, a public school superintendent, and Mabel Ballantine Wheatley. He was twice married, first, about 1927, to Esther C. Wheatley, of Massachussetts. His second marriage was to Miss Grace Lenore Ray, 18 April 1935, at Washington, D.C. They would have a son and two daughters.
After two years of college, Wheatley joined the U.S. Army Air Corps as an aviation cadet, 3 March 1925. He trained as a pilot at Brooks Field, Texas, and was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant, 13 March 1926. On 4 May 1927, Lieutenant Wheatley was assigned to the 118th Observation Squadron, 43rd Division, Air Service, at Hartford, Connecticut, as a pilot and observer. He served in the Air Corps Reserve until 1937.
In 1928, Wheatley went to work for the Pratt & Whitney Aircraft Company as a test pilot. He was an air mail pilot in 1928-1929, and then, in February 1929, he became a test pilot for Reuben H. Fleet’s Consolidated Aircraft Corporation at Buffalo, New York. In 1935, Consolidated moved to its new headquarters at Lindbergh Field, San Diego, California. Wheatley moved with it. He and his family lived in a 3 bedroom home about three miles northeast of the airport. In 1940, his salary as chief test pilot of Consolidated was $50,000 per year.
Initially flew a tour on Whitley bombers with 10 Squadron and then joined the Wireless Development Unit (later 109 Squadron) gathering information about a radio beam from a transmitter near Cherbourg which was used by the Luftwaffe to guide German bombers to targets in England. These missions provided information for the scientists at the Telecommunications Research Establishment (TRE) who developed a similar aid. This led to the development of Oboe – so called because the radio tone, heard by the aircrew using the aid, was similar in note to the musical instrument. The system was based on the transmission of a radio beam from ground emitters located on the East coast and aimed at the target. A dot or dash in the pilot’s earphone would indicate whether the aircraft was to the right or left of the beam – a steady note indicated that the aircraft was flying on the beam. The navigator would be listening for the radio signal which determined the moment to release the bomb. Keith Somerville (KS) was one of five pilots who flew over Germany perfecting oboe. Flying a Mosquito KS and his navigator took part in the first oboe raid on December 20th 1942 - the attack achieved moderate success. Refinements were made and on the 5th March 1943 KS flew one of five Mosquitos used to mark the Krupps factory at Essen – some of the markers fell within 75 yards of the factory. Arthur Harris remarked ‘this was the precise moment that Bomber Command’s main offensive began.’ After two years with 109 Squadron KS was posted on a ‘rest tour’ to Pathfinder HQ. Some Lancasters were fitted with Oboe and through still on a ‘rest tour’ KS was the pilot of the first oboe equipped Lancaster operation which took place on the 11th July 1944. Four days before this operational flight KS had flown a Mosquito to France to collect the top secret oboe equipment salvaged from a Mosquito that had crashed in an area of fierce fighting near Caen. In October 1944 KS returned to operational status as squadron leader of 105 Squadron the second oboe equipped Mosquito squadron. In March 1945 he was promoted to group captain having flown 117 operational flights over enemy territory. In April 1945 the Mosquitos of 105 Squadron used their oboe equipment to pinpoint precise locations in western Holland to allow the main bomber force to drop food supplies to the starving Dutch people – Operation Manna.
Initially flew with 254 Squadron - flying Blenheims – having completed his trained as an observer in 1940. Finding flying coastal and convoy patrols tedious he answered a request for volunteers for ‘special duties’. Was sent for training as a navigator on night fighters. In June 1942 joined 85 Squadron who were equipped with Havocs. During his time with 85 Squadron Cairns and his pilot downed a Dornier bomber. Cairns was then sent on a rest tour – became a founder member of the Blind Approach Development Unit at Watchfield. In November 1943 he joined 488 Squadron – the squadron’s Mosquitos had just been fitted with AI (airborne interception) radar – his pilot was John Hall. In late January (21st/22nd) 1944 Cairns brought Hall to within visual range of a Dornier 217 which Hall then downed. As the Dornier fell out of the sky a Junkers 88 was spotted coned in some searchlights. The Mosquito gave chase and forced the Junkers in to the sea. In March 1944 Hall/Cairns downed a Junkers bomber. In the lead up to the Normandy invasion, the Mosquitos of 488 squadron flew night intruder sorties over northern France. After shooting down their fifth aircraft in June 1944 both Hall and Cairns were awarded the DFC. In November 1944 488 Squadron moved to Amiens. By the end of their tour with 488 Squadron Hall/Cairns had shot down eight enemy machines. John Cairns visited New Zealand in the 1990s to attend a squadron reunion.
Article taken from a document provided by the late Mike Jones of the 355 & 356 Squadron Association. Reproduced and published with the association's approval.
Although a wireless operator/air gunner Hank Cooper was destined to fly in Mosquitos. Prior to the war Hank Cooper was working on secret transmission systems at RAF Mildenhall. Within a few weeks of the outbreak of war he was called up and after completing training as a wireless operator/air gunner was posted to 149 Squadron who were operating Wellingtons from Mildenhall. Between January 1941 and July 1941 he flew 32 bombing raids attacking numerous cities including Berlin. By the end of this period he and one other were the only survivors from his original crew of six. He became an instructor at an OTU and whilst with the OTU took part on the first thousand bomber raid held on 30th May 1942.
In November 1943 Hank Cooper joined 192 Squadron who were based at Foulsham, Norfolk and operated specially equipped Wellingtons and Halifaxes. 192 Squadron were part of No 100 (Special Duties) Group which had been formed to provide radio countermeasures to confound German night fighters and air defence systems in an attempt to reduce the RAF’s heavy bomber losses. The machines of 100 Group flew with the main bomber force. Cooper had the task of gathering signals intelligence on German radar and radio transmissions. After ten of these flight Hank Cooper started to fly in Mosquitos and whilst not trained as a navigator went on to complete many long range operations over Germany. The data he collected allowed the RAF night fighters to identify and home in on enemy aircraft and destroy them before they could attack the RAF heavy bombers.
Having completed his tour with 192 Squadron and been awarded the DFC, Hank Cooper spent sometime in the air intelligence branch at the Air Ministry before, in November 1944, returning to 192 Squadron where he flew another 35 operational flights. On this flights he would travel with the attacking bomber force and once over the target switch on special transmitters carried in the bomb bay of his Mosquito to jam enemy radio transmissions and the radar of the enemy’s night fighters. His last flight with 192 Squadron took place on the 24th April 1945, it was his hundredth operation over Germany. Shortly afterwards he was awarded the DSO.
Winston Churchill commented that knowledge of German night defences was largely obtained through the work of No 100 Group. There is no doubt that the work of 100 Group was crucial to the success of the Allied bomber offensive.