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No. 618 Squadron RAF was a squadron of the Royal Air Force during the Second World War, intended to carry of a variation of the Barnes Wallis designed Bouncing bomb code-named Highball. Due to various circumstances the Highball weapon was never used and the squadron disbanded at the end of the war.

History

Formation

618 Squadron was first formed at RAF Skitten on 1 April 1943, as part of No. 18 Group of Coastal Command, from crews of No. 105 Squadron RAF and No. 109 Squadron RAF. The unit was initially equipped with Beaufighter IIs fighter-bombers, but quickly changed to converted Mosquito IVs.

The Highball

The Highball device was intended to bounce across the sea until it hit an enemy ship, sank and exploded. Unlike the cylindrical Upkeep weapon used by No. 617 Squadron RAF in Operation Chastise, the Highball was more spherical.The Mosquito selected for the conversion work to carry Highball was the Mk IV series II: the work entailed removing the bomb bay doors and equipping the aircraft with specialised carriers enabling them to carry two Highballs, each weighing 1,280 lb (580 kg), in tandem. The bombs were designed to skip across water and to provide weapon stability and accuracy. Before release they were spun backwards at 700 to 900 rpm by a ram air turbine mounted in the bomb bay's mid section, fed by an extendable air scoop. The bombs were to be dropped from a maximum altitude of 60 ft (20 m) at a speed of 360 mph (600 km/h).

In the event, through lack of weapons, training and aircraft, 618 Squadron was kept frustratingly inactive and never attacked the Tirpitzmarker. Instead the unit was selected for carrier-borne operations in the Pacific.

For this role 25 Mosquito B.Mk.IVs were further modified:
  • Each aircraft was equipped with Merlin 25s, adapted to provide peak power at low altitudes, driving four-bladed Rotol propellers: these propellers had narrower blades than the standard three-bladed units, meaning that the engines would rev up faster and respond quicker to throttle movement, factors vital in the limited length of carrier take-offs.
  • Longer intakes under the engine cowlings were fitted with tropical filters.
  • The undercarriage legs were made of heavier-gauge metals and the wheels were fitted with the twin brake units of FB Mk VIs.
  • The rear fuselages were structurally modified with a special internal longeron and reinforced bulkheads designed to take the additional loads imposed by carrier landings: an additional bulkhead (No. 5a) was fitted.
  • Externally a "V-frame" arrestor hook was fitted. The "snap gear" which released the hook was operated by a Bowden cable from a lever mounted on the cockpit port side.
  • An access hatch was moved from the starboard rear fuselage to underneath, and an extra longitudinal stiffening strake, identical to that already fitted to the starboard side of production Mosquitos, was fitted to the port fuselage.
  • The tailwheel fork pivots incorporated end plates to avoid being caught in the arrestor cables.
  • Armoured windscreens were fitted, along with hydraulic wipers.
  • Three PR.Mk.XVIs, which were to be used for reconnaissance duties were also fitted with the four bladed propellers and fuselage modifications for carrier operations.


These Mosquitos were transported to Australia on board the carriers and , arriving on 23 December 1944. In order to keep up aircrew proficiency and safeguard the modified Mosquitos 12 disassembled FB Mk VIs were also sent, arriving in Sydney in February 1945. These were reassembled at de Havilland Australia's Mascotmarker factory. Once again, because of political-strategic infighting between the British Pacific Fleet and the U.S. military, the unit was never in action, and was disbanded at RAAF Narrominemarker in July 1946.

The converted Mosquitos were stripped of all military equipment and sold off. The sole surviving 618 Squadron Mosquito, an FB. Mk.VI HR621, is currently undergoing restoration at the Camden Aviation Museum, NSW.

UK Squadron Movements

The squadron's primary target was designated as the Kriegsmarine Surface Fleet, primarily the battleship Tirpitzmarker, so the squadron remained training in Scotlandmarker and waiting for the Surface Fleet to sortie into the North Seamarker until July 1944, when this threat had lessened. During this time, as the German Surface Fleet never emerged from its bases in Norwaymarker, 618 Squadron did not have the opportunity to use the Highball weapon. In August 1944, the squadron deployed to RAF Becclesmarker in Suffolk, and in September changed aircraft again to Mosquito Mk.XVIs. The squadron deployed to RAF Bensonmarker in September, transitioning to Mosquito XVIIIs in October. They later deployed to Wickmarker in June 1944, and reequipped with Mosquito VIs the following month.

Australian deployment

In January 1945, 618 squadron deployed to Australia, as Japanese targets for the Highball weapon were still available. Arriving on 23 December 1944, the aircraft were sent to Fisherman's Bend aircraft factory for reassembly. Training began at Narrominemarker in February 1945. A detachment was sent to British Pacific Fleet base at Manus Islandmarker in March, but the squadron was unable to go into action against Japanese shipping, mostly because there was no target in the area anymore. The squadron was therefore disbanded (officially) at Narromine on 14 July 1945

Aircraft Operated

Aircraft operated by 618 Squadron
From To Aircraft Variant
April 1943 June 1943 Beaufighter Mk.II
April 1943 June 1945 Mosquito Mk.IV
July 1944 October 1944 Mosquito Mk.VI
October 1944 June 1945 Mosquito Mk.XVI
Dec 1944 Dec 1944 Barracuda Mk.II
March 1945 June 1945 Mosquito Mk.VI


Commanding Officers

Officers commanding No. 618 Squadron
From To Name
April 1943 April 1943 S/Ldr. C.T. Rose, DFC, DFM
April 1943 September 1943 W/Cdr. G.H.B. Hutchinson
September 1943 July 1944 F/O. H.B. Mcready
July 1944 October 1944 W/Cdr. G.H.B. Hutchinson
October 1944 July 1945 G/Cpt. R.C. Keary


References

Notes

Bibliography

  • Curtis, Des. A Most Secret Squadron: The Story of 618 Squadron. Wimborne, East Dorset, UK: Skitten Books, 1995. ISBN 0-9525-2470-8.
  • Curtis, Des. A Most Secret Squadron: The First Full Story of 618 Squadron and its Special Detachment Anti-U-Boat Mosquitos. London: Grub Street, 2009. ISBN 1-9065-0251-X.
  • Halley, James J. The Squadrons of the Royal Air Force & Commonwealth 1918-1988. Tonbridge, Kent, UK: Air Britain (Historians) Ltd., 1988. ISBN 0-85130-164-9.
  • Jefford, Wing Commander C.G., MBE,BA,RAF (Retd). RAF Squadrons, a Comprehensive Record of the Movement and Equipment of all RAF Squadrons and their Antecedents since 1912. Shrewsbury, Shropshire, UK: Airlife Publishing, 2001. ISBN 1-84037-141-2.
  • Rawlings, John D.R. Coastal, Support and Special Squadrons of the RAF and their Aircraft. London: Jane's Publishing Company Ltd., 1982. ISBN 0-7106-0187-5.


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