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At Second Sight
Gestapo Headquarters, Oslo - Bob Boyden

This article was published in Hangar Lines, the magazine of the Alberta Aviation Museum Association of which Bob was an active member until he died in 1999. Everyone on the Squadron had a particular fondness for Bob and this article is reproduced here as a tribute to him.

I have read about what others have guessed at or documented concerning the raid on Oslo, December 31, 1944. Forty-five years is a long time ago and like cream coming to the top in a container of milk, only the highlights are crystal clear. The everyday routine of life in the RAF is almost lost.

I was a Canadian bomber pilot attached to the RAF’s 627 Squadron which was stationed at Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire. We were flying the fabulous Mosquito bomber and after nearly a year of constant practice, I was a confident pilot. The Mosquito had become a part of me. Our unique dive-bombing technique had been developed by W/C Cheshire. He had done quite a number of dive-bombing marking trips for the big bombers – Lancs, Halifaxes and Stirlings – and became a member of the Pathfinder force. We used visual means of marking, instead of the technical equipment used by No 8 Group. This took a great deal of practice and our accuracy had become so dependable that we grew from a “toy airplane” to a lethal weapon. A quick accurate placing of our bombs would keep the damage centred on the main target and that is why we were chosen for the Oslo raid.

We followed the same routine procedure, getting ready for a big one. Our target practices over the Wash increased a little and the aircraft that were slated to fly were checked out. My aircraft was no DZ611 and I had flown her on a number of previous trips. We didn’t get all excited about this target beforehand, as the crews knew nothing of what the upper ranks were planning.

Our first information about the trip to Oslo was that we were to fly to Peterhead in the northern part of Scotland which would be our advance base. Peterhead was an American base for B17s and would cut off at least two hours flight time and give us a good start. The trip would be a long one – four to four and a half hours – and that can be very tiring if weather conditions require continuous instrument flying or if there are a few unfriendly happenings along the way. Briefing told us that Oslo was the target – not target for tonight – as this would be a daylight raid, which we did not do very often. In fact, I believe I flew only three trips in daylight. It’s quite different as you feel like you stand out like a sore thumb.

At this time of our action against the enemy, we flew to our destination at 28,000 feet and around the target area we would descend to 3,000 feet to look over the area for a pre-determined aiming point. We would then dive to 1,000 or 500 foot levels. After we had done our marking, we would climb back to 28,000 feet and return to base. This time, the target had flak positions and the German Navy was in the Oslo Fjord. W/C Curry was our new squadron commander and would lead the group which was made up of two flights of six Mosquitoes each. F/L Mallender would lead the second wave.

The North Sea is a long trip and we had been told that the water was so cold, we’d last only two minutes. I don’t remember worrying too much about it – it was such a beautiful day. We realised and enjoyed the scene below us – snow covered mountains and bright sunshine. F/O Willis and I did not talk much, if at all. Each of us absorbed in his own thoughts, thinking of what could happen and Willis no doubt wondering what this bastard was going to do next. We cleared the Norwegian coast, with the Oslo Fjord to our right. The target was ahead of us but not in sight, lost in the haze. Suddenly bursts of flak came up, seemingly one for each aircraft and right on altitude. This was the first time that I had seen, heard and smelled it all at the same time as we flew through the cloud.

W/C Curry called out to descend to target, probably with his usual “Tally-Ho”: he started the dive with us following his movement. No 2 disappeared from my view and left a gap between the leader and myself. He told No 2 to close in and after a couple of instructions like that I realised I was the one he called No 2. I had already pushed up my throttles at the start of the dive to close the gap. I broke radio silence to tell him I was No 3 and closing fast.

Everything happened so quickly. We had, of course, fooled the flak defences by our diving attack and at last – the target. Bomb doors open, wait for the right moment, push the button, hold 1,000 feet. I felt concussions that closely followed one another. There was no smoke, no dust. I then pushed lower over the city and I remember seeing an open-air skating rink with people skating around, unaware of the chaos and explosions behind them.

Suddenly, No 4 was descending down on top of us. Once again I had to break silence. A mountain loomed up right in front of us and as we changed our straight and level to a steep climb, flak came off the mountain, then we were up and over. Curry ordered us to break up, every man for himself.

I was doing a left-hand turn to head back when I saw a valley to our right. I slid down into the valley and kept at a low level. We passed over the coast and I began the climb back to our operational altitude of 28,000 feet. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and no enemy aircraft were in the vicinity. I didn’t know until years later that the second phase did not drop their bombs. All they saw was smoke and dust at the target site.

The trip back to Peterhead was uneventful. Those Mosquitoes were really smooth and reliable and much credit must go to the manufacturer and of course our aircraft mechanics who worked hard to keep them flying.

All aircraft returned to base and all had some flak marks. Mine also had a cracked landing light cover, which they said had been caused by the concussion. Only one crew member was injured by shrapnel.

The next morning we did a fly past the control tower as we headed back to base. A few officers of high rank met us, shook my hand and said a few words. I received the DFC for this trip and years later when I read the citation I felt proud to have taken part in this once in a lifetime adventure. I have often wondered if someone, somewhere has recorded what German ships were in the Oslo Fjord that day. Our diving technique certainly fooled their gunners as the next time they would have been right on target.

Copyright 1943-2012 627 Squadron in Retirement or as credited