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Page history last edited by PBworks 13 years, 3 months ago

The Free French and D-Day

No 342 (Lorraine) Squadron was formed from Free French personnel on 7 Apr 1943, as part of Bomber Command at West Raynham in Norfolk. On 6 Sep 1943 the squadron flew their Bostons into RAF Hartford Bridge, remaining here for just over a year. They flew dangerous daylight raids, attacking acutely sensitive targets such as railyards, locomotives and industrial sites, where innocent French personnel and civilians might be killed.

On 13 Nov 1943 the Allied Expeditionary Air Force was created with three main components: the US 9th Air Force, the Air Defence of Great Britain (temporarily replacing Fighter Command), and the 2nd Tactical Air Force. All medium bomber squadrons at Hartford Bridge, including the Free French, now made up 137 Wing of No 2 Group of the 2TAF, with very little change of mission, continuing to bomb tactical sites in Northern France. They also flew missions in the Pas de Calais (Operation Bodyguard) to hoodwink Hitler into believing the invasion was going to be at Calais. When the construction phases of the launch sites for the V1 doodlebugs and V2 rockets were detected, 137 Wing at RAF Hartford Bridge was tasked with destroying them. Other squadrons from Hartford Bridge continued to carry out photo-reconnaissance and rhubarb raids, now all directed at preparation for the landings on D-Day.

On D-Day the Free French Bostons laid smokescreens to give some protection to landing American troops and their Navy. After D-Day No 342 Squadron made day and night sorties in the so-called interdiction campaign to isolate the invasion area from German reinforcements until the Allied breakout. On 17 October 137 Wing, including No 342 Squadron, was transferred to Vitry-en-Artois, and French crews were finally back on French soil.

Following the fall of France to the Nazis in 1940 the Free French Army had been established at Old Dean Common in Camberley, taking over a camp site previously used for troops evacuated from Dunkirk. Lorraine Squadron personnel could visit there for good French cuisine. Local people found the Free French very courteous, and much admired their smart blue uniforms.


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