History of RAF Wratting Common

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of 195 Squadron
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"Although Wratting Common had been visited by many Lancasters during the previous couple of years, usually diverted there on return from operations, none had been based there until the arrival from Witchford of 195 Squadron on 13 November 1944. Re-formed as recently as 1 October 1944 from a nucleus of 'C' Flight of 115 Squadron, 195 Squadron, under the command of W/Cdr. D. H. Burnside DFC and Bar, consisted of three Flights: 'A' Flight, commanded by S/Ldr W. L. Farquharson DFC; 'B' Flight, under F/Lt. D. Ft. Forster; and 'C' Flight, which was not quite ready for operations, under S/Ldr. H. E. Prager DFC.

Lancaster - W
"Willie the Conk"

The Squadron quickly settled down, and on 16 November mounted its first operation, a daylight raid on a military concentration area at Heinsberg by fifteen Lancasters which managed to achieve a fairly concentrated attack. Oil plants, marshalling yards and other strategic locations were targets for 195 Squadron over the next few days. Eighteen aircraft attacked an oil plant at Homberg on 20 November, a raid which was deemed not very successful as the bombing pattern was scattered, after which twelve of the Lancasters had to divert to Woodbridge, two to Sudbury, two to Wormingford and one to Earls Colne, with only one landing at base. Next day, twelve aircraft had another attempt at the same target, and on 23 November a similar oil plant at Nordstern (Gelsenkirchen) was raided by sixteen aircraft. The marshalling yards at Cologne received 195 Squadron's attentions in a daylight raid by eleven aircraft on 27 November.


Night raids began on 28 November with a fourteen-aircraft attack on Neuss, and all returned safely by 07.45 hours. 'C' Flight became operational on 30 November, but the first raid in which they were to have taken part was cancelled.

195 Squadron was host to a party of eleven Russians, accompanied by two senior RAF officers, on 1 December 1944. Ostensibly they came to watch the Lancasters being refuelled, but this sounds more like an excuse to visit the airfield than a reason! One wonders what they really wanted to see.

Lancasters in

During December 1944 the pattern of attacking strategic targets continued, and on 12 December the Squadron suffered its first sad losses, during a raid by seventeen aircraft on Witten. Three Lancasters failed to return from that operation, and only four landed back at Wratting Common. Five were diverted to Siverstone, two to Husbands Bosworth, one to Enstone, one to Thurleigh and one to a Belgian airfield. Shortly after this, the weather deteriorated, and on 15 December was so bad that ten aircraft which set out to attack Siegen were recalled on reaching the rendezvous point as the fighter escort had not arrived. Fog prevented operations completely until 23 December, when twenty Lancasters raided Trier.

After Christmas, sixteen aircraft attacked St. Vith in support of ground forces, with such success that the Base Commander offered his special congratulations to the Squadron. During the last few days of 1944 marshalling yards at Rheydt, Cologne and Vohwinkel were at the receiving end of 195 Squadron's efforts, but one aircraft was lost on 31 December. The mid-upper gunner baled out over Germany and the other crew members over Allied territory, to return to the Squadron in due course. January 1945 was an awful month: it was intensely cold, with snow, frost, and high winds. A great deal of time was taken up in defrosting aircraft, but despite this aircraft serviceability was maintained at a high level. Maintenance was carried out at night to fit the aircraft for the daylight raids which now predominated, and during the month 196 sorties were carried out and 885 tons of bombs dropped on a number of different marshalling yards, and, towards the end of the month, synthetic oil plants.

Target Cologne,
28 October 1944

The following month was a record month for operational flying, during which 195 Squadron made 286 sorties, many of them very successful, and 1090 tons of bombs were dropped. Warmer weather made both living and working conditions more tolerable, and March was much the same. Even heavier bomb loads were dropped that month on eighteen targets, the most successful raids being on Bocholt and Wesel in direct close support of the Allied armies advancing over the Rhine, with negligible opposition. When not on operations, all aircrews spent time in tidying and improving the appearance of the Station.

With the slackening of hostilities in northwest Europe, 195 Squadron was only called upon to attack eight targets in April 1945, although nine more raids were cancelled as unnecessary due to the rapid advance of Allied troops. The weather was above average for April, and spirits were high. The last raid in which 195 Squadron took part was mounted on 24 April 1945, when twenty one Lancasters attacked a railway bridge at Bad Oldsloe, between Hamburg and Lubeck. There was no opposition and the bomb load was seen to hit the railway junction near the target.


On 29 April 1945 195 Squadron was able to begin its vital part in an operation which is remembered to this day in Holland and which is taught about in Dutch schools- Operation Manna. Part of Holland was still occupied by the Germans and the food situation had become desperate. There was no bread or potatoes, and such commodities as sugar beet and tulip bulbs were being eaten to stave off starvation. Negotiations were being conducted with the enemy in an effort to secure a local cease-fire, but so far nothing had been decided. So, on 29 April, fifteen of 195 Squadron's Lancasters, each carrying five packs in hurriedly-made fixing devices in the bomb-bays, took to the air at lunch-time to drop supplies on Rotterdam airfield. Thirteen of them succeeded, while the other two dropped on an alternative dropping zone at The Hague. The Dutch people gave the crews of all the Squadrons which took part an enormous welcome, displaying Union Jacks wherever they could, but some half-hearted and ineffective rifle fire from remnants of the Wehrmacht was noted.

Nineteen more aircraft of 195 Squadron carried out a similar mission next day, with equal success, although some difficulty was experienced with supply packs which would not release from the aircraft easily. Then the dropping zone was switched to Delft, which was visited by twenty-one Lancasters on 1 May. On the outward trip they encountered a stream of Lancasters of another squadron going the opposite way over Southwold at a slightly lower altitude, and it was generally felt that a disaster had been narrowly averted. Delft continued to be the dropping zone for 195 Squadron for four more days, but on 7 May The Hague received supplies dropped by sixteen Lancasters. Finally, on VE Day, 8 May 1945, the final sorties in Operation Manna by 195 Squadron were made, when eight aircraft dropped supply packs on Rotterdam airfield, which was flooded at the time, making collection by the civil population difficult.

During the nine days on which supply drops were made, Lancasters of Bomber Command as a whole dropped 7030 tons of food in 3154 sorties, and the scenes of great joy on the ground made an unforgettable impression on the Lancaster crews, who were delighted to be authorised to fly at an altitude of 200 feet! 195 Squadron's contribution to the recovery of the Dutch people was the dropping of 505 supply packs.

Hard on the heels of Operation Manna came another task in which the crews of 195 Squadron were delighted to take part: Operation Exodus. This dealt with the repatriation of some of the British prisoners of war from Europe, and 195 Squadron was detailed to begin its contribution on 9 May 1945. In the event it was 10 May when ten of the Lancasters flew to Juvincourt in France, where 214 former POWs, all soldiers, embarked. Making do with hastily-rigged seating, they were taken to Westcott in Buckinghamshire, one of the designated reception airfields. Nineteen aircraft collected a further 336 ex-POWs next day and took them to Tangmere, Sussex. On 12 May, however, the system did not work quite so well, as fourteen of the twenty-two Lancasters of 195 Squadron which flew to Juvincourt were kept circling the airfield there for 35 minutes before returning to base. The other eight brought 192 ex-POWs back to England.

Operation Exodus continued for the rest of May 1945, at the end of which 2804 former POWs had been brought home by 195 Squadron, landing at Westcott, Oakley, Ford or Tangmere. On 23 May and for several subsequent days, two Lancasters were used to fly ground crews over Germany to see the results of their sustained efforts, under a scheme known as Operation Baedeker.

These special operations completed, 195 Squadron settled down to a training routine, but many adjustments to crews had to be made when all the Australian and Canadian members were posted to their home countries. However, the Squadron managed to provide twenty five aircraft to take part in Operation Postmortem, the first of a series of investigations into German methods of plotting bomber formations. The 'target' was the town of Flensburg.

Squadron Photo,
Summer 1945 

Further postings away from the Squadron were made when, on July 1945, it was reduced in size from three Flights to two, one of them with H2S-equipped aircraft, one without. Each Flight was now allocated sixteen crews. Once this reorganisation became effective, most of the aircraft were employed, from 24 July, in dropping redundant incendiary bombs into the North Sea, but five aircraft made a long trip that day to Bari in ltaly as part of Operation Dodge, another POW repatriation programme. They returned via Tibenham on 26 July except for one Lancaster which had suffered damage to its fabric control surfaces. Further trips to Bari were made on 12 August by nine aircraft, which returned to Tibenham with 180 passengers two days later, and on 7 August, when twelve aircraft left for Bari. Five of these returned on 10 August (four to Glatton and one to Tibenham) with 100 ex-POWs, and the other seven arrived at Tibenham with 140 passengers on 12 August. The short trips between Tibenham and Wratting Common after the passengers had disembarked were the last flights made by 195 Squadron.

Air Vice Marshal R. Harrison, the AOC of 3 Group, was the guest of honour at a dinner in the Officers' Mess on 13 August. He congratulated 195 Squadron on its fine record and expressed sorrow at its pending disbandment, and the Squadron's acting CO, S/Ldr. Farquharson, replied suitably. Next day, 14 August 1945, 195 Squadron formally disbanded, and all but five of the Lancasters were ferried away for breaking up."

Notice: The majority of the photographs on this website are © Ron Pearson and/or those who supplied them to him, and may not be reproduced, whether online or any other form, without prior written permission. All remaining contents of this website where not otherwise attributed are Copyright © Colin Manning and may not be copied or otherwise reproduced, whether online or any other form, without prior written permission.