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During January 1944, 214 Federated Malay squadron moved into RAF Downham Market for one month to carry out operations along-side 218 Gold Coast squadron. The Squadron code for 214 (Federated Malay) squadron was BU.
Both squadrons were ear marked for the conversion and by the middle of 1944, 60 per cent of all heavy squadrons within Bomber Command had been converted to the Avro Lancaster.
March 1944 saw 218 Gold Coast squadron’s time at RAF Downham Market end after a 21 month operational stay the squadron was transferred to RAF Woolfox Lodge in Lincolnshire.
The combined operational history of the three Stirling bomber squadrons was hard fought, and for 218 & 623 their time at RAF Downham Market resulted in great sacrifice of both men and aircraft whilst carrying out vital front line bombing and mine lying operations night after night on key enemy targets and positions.
One 218 Gold Coast squadron mission which must never be forgotten is the valiant display of bravery on the 13th August 1943 during a night raid to the Fiat factory at Turin, Italy. The highest award for valour the Victoria Cross was posthumously awarded to 218 Gold Coast squadron pilot Flight Sergeant Arthur Louis Aaron DFM.
The cutting edge of the squadrons drive and excellent direction was due to the four Commanding Officers, Wing Commander Paul Davies Holder DSO, DFC. 01.01.42 - 30.07.42, Wing Commander Owen Aubrey Morris DSO. 05.10.42 - 28.03.43, Wing Commander Donald Teale Saville DSO, DFC 28.03.43 - 24.07.43, and Wing Commander William George Oldbury DFC 25.07.43 - 09.03.44 leading 218 Gold coast Squadron throughout a bombing campaign against heavily defended targets. The operational sorties were 1,787 of which 438 were Mine-Laying sorties. Whilst stationed at RAF Downham Market 77 Stirlings failed to return from Operations with a further 22 Stirlings crashing in Britain.
Incredibly 218 Gold Coast Squadron provided bombing support repeatedly attacking the same cities, so much so that the aircrew had bets among their flights of what the target location for that night was. The hot favourite was Hamburg which was attacked by the squadron 121 times. Turin, Italy 65, Berlin 58 times, Dusseldorf and Mannheim over 60, Cologne 54, Frankfurt, Nuremburg and the Fly-bomb sites all over 40, Stuttgart 34 and countless other cities along with many mine-laying outlets
The Fallen Continued
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Located in the county of West-Norfolk, England, RAF Downham Market was an important tactical Second World War bomber station, during July 1942 to March 1944, RAF Downham Market came under the administration of 3 Group Bomber Command.
The first of three front line 3 Group squadrons to be stationed there was 218 Gold Coast Squadron who moved into the newly built station during early July 1942 remaining until early March 1944.
The squadron flew the Stirling the first of four engined ‘heavies’ flying the MK I’s and also the MK III’s with squadron code HA. During August 1943, 623 squadron also flying Stirlings was formed at RAF Downham Market using seven aircrews & aircraft from 218 Gold Coast squadron operational until December 1943 with the squadron code IC.
In December 1943 it was decided by Bomber Command that 623 squadron would disband, and the aircraft and aircrews returned to 218 Gold Coast squadron due to a major change in directive ordered by the Commander in Chief of Bomber Command, Sir Arthur Harris who preferred the Avro Lancaster and with increased production of the Avro Lancaster, Harris informed Bomber Group Commanders that squadron by squadron would convert from Stirlings and Wellingtons to the Lancaster.
The Fallen Continued