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RAF Downham Market was situated in the flat fens of Norfolk close to the small market town that bears its name. Positioned close to the River Great Ouse, the airfield nestled comfortably into this rural farming landscape. It was from this peaceful setting that the air war was taken to the very heart of Nazi Germany and Northern Italy. The airfield opened for business in the summer of 1942 and from that first day the squadrons would operate almost continuously until VE Day, May 8th 1945. The first and longest occupants were No.218 (Gold Coast) Squadron of No.3 Group RAF Bomber Command. They would, in time, be joined by No.623 Squadron and finally No.214 (Federated Malay States) Squadron. All three units were equipped with the massive four-engined Short Stirling. The station was honoured by the award of the Victoria Cross in 1943, won by a 21-year-old Sergeant pilot from Yorkshire, Arthur Aaron DFM. Almost a year later the station saw another Victoria Cross awarded to one of its airmen, a young Canadian, Ian Bazalgette DFC.
This book covers the period in which the Short Stirling bomber, and the multitude of nationalities that made up the air and ground crews, operated almost daily. The resident squadrons participated in every major bomber campaign undertaken between the summer of 1942 and winter of 1943/44 when the Stirling, ultimately rendered obsolete by the increasingly vicious German defences, was withdrawn from the skies over Berlin. Steve "Smudger" Smith is the association historian for both 218 (Gold Coast) and 623 Squadrons, a role he has held for almost 15 years. During that time he has researched extensively the operational history of RAF Downham Market and its Stirling squadrons. Steve is the author of 'A Short War', the history of 623 Squadron, also available from Mention the War, 'From St. Vith to Victory', the story of 218 (Gold Coast) Squadron and co-authored '3 Group Bomber Command' with Chris Ward.
New book by Steve Smith titled "A SHORT WAR" A History of 623 Squadron.
This is a history of a often overlooked and neglected bomber squadron, No.623 Squadron. Formed from No.218 (Gold Coast) Squadron in August 1943 the squadron flying from RAF Downham Market participated in a number of the important raids on Germany, losing a number of crews in the process. Made up almost entirely of Dominion skippers the squadron flying the Short Stirling had its fair share of ups and downs, losses ten crews before it was disbanded in December 1943. This 260 page history will include numerous never before published photographs, crew by crew biographies, individual aircraft histories and much more.
Books can obtained via Amazon, or via the publishers Mention The War Publications Facebook page
All proceeds are going to the RAF Downham Market Memorial Appeal.
Canadian military historian Nathan Greenfield's newest book, The Forgotten, tells the story of the more than 10,000 Canadian servicemen, merchant mariners and civilians whose war ended in surrender, capture and imprisonment, through the eyes of a group of men in Hitler’s grasp: Private Stan Darch, who had already survived the cauldron of Dieppe; seventeen civilian priests and brothers captured at sea, one of whom risked his life to hide an escape tunnel after the Great Escape; Edward Carter-Edwards, who endured the hell of Buchenwald concentration camp; and RCAF Sergeant Ian MacDonald, who, having been on the run for six weeks after being shot down, was betrayed to the Gestapo and survived six weeks in the notorious Fresnes Prison in Paris. To survive the often horrid conditions of Stalags across Europe and the hunger marches through the freezing snows of the winter of 1944–45, these otherwise ordinary Canadians demonstrated extraordinary valour and commitment to each other and to the Allied cause. Included in this book is the story of the crash of the Halifax bomber described by this website. Nathan Greenfield has interviewed the surviving family members of the crew to obtain details about this incident more than 70 years after it occurred. More details about the book are available at the publisher's website
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