Site 22. RAF Wick : June – December 1941

Air Operations – June to December

JUNE – A Hudson of 220 Squadron attacked two German merchant vessels on the 1st whilst on patrol, and the squadron was once more heavily engaged in escort missions for allied merchant vessels and convoys, carrying out 128 such sorties during the month.

The airfield was attacked on the 4th by a single Junkers Ju 88 which destroyed ‘C Hangar’ along with one of 612 Squadron’s Whitleys, and damaged three more.

The harbour at Bergen was bombed on the 7th by a mixed force of Hudsons and Whitleys from 220 and 612 Squadrons, with one of the Hudsons managing to shoot down a Junker Ju 88. A detachment of Beauforts from 22 Squadron arrived to help search the Norwegian fjords for the German heavy cruiser Lützow. On the 13th, Hudsons from 220 Squadron shot down an enemy aircraft, attacked two enemy U-boats, and located and shadowed the Lützow.

Further raids on the decoy airfield at Sarclet occurred on the 13th and 22nd when low-flying Junkers Ju 88s tried to sneak below the radar, dropping eight bombs in total on the site. Whitleys from 612 Squadron carried out 67 anti-submarine patrols and 34 escort sorties in June, and the month ended with a Hudson from 220 Squadron dropping three depth charges on a German U-boat. 269 Squadron, which had been stationed at Wick since the start of the war, finally departed for a new home in Iceland where it would patrol the North Atlantic Gap.

JULY – Raids on Norwegian ports and installations intensified with a notable strike by 220 Squadron on the 4th against targets south of Kristiansand. Six Hudsons took part in the raid dropping General Purpose bombs and incendiaries on buildings and ships at anchor causing considerable damage.

Convoy and merchant vessel escorts continued with a total of 74 sorties being flown by 220 Squadron and a further 37 by 612 Squadron. A total of 94 anti-submarine patrols were also carried out by both squadrons, flying 47 each. Merchant vessels were attacked and bombed by Hudsons of 220 Squadron on the 16th and 21st, as well as a bridge and ground targets in Norway on the 17th.

AUGUST – Offensive maritime patrols continued this month with opportunistic bombing attacks on merchant vessels carried out on the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd by Hudsons of 220 Squadron. A Whitley of 612 Squadron was engaged in a dogfight with a Dornier Do 18 flying boat on the 8th, and 220 Squadron attacked more merchant vessels on the 12th. German U-boats were bombed by 612 Squadron on the 15th and 19th and again on the 26th by 220 Squadron. Between the two squadrons a total of 146 such patrols were carried out as well as a further 110 convoy escort sorties.

SEPTEMBER – A Whitley of 612 Squadron bombed a U-boat on the 2nd, and four Hudsons of 220 Squadron bombed the fish oil factory on Bergsøya Island in Norway on the 7th. A Hudson also bombed a merchant vessel and machine gunned the granary and wharf at Åalesund Harbour on the 9th, and further merchant vessels were bombed by the squadron on the 10th and 11th. Three more U-boats were bombed by 612 Squadron on the 13th, 20th and 24th, and an oil tanker was attacked and bombed by 220 Squadron on the 24th. A total of 130 offensive maritime patrols were carried out this month, along with 109 convoy escort sorties.

OCTOBER – Poor weather conditions prevented flying for 10 days this month, but despite this Coastal Command attacks on Axis shipping off the Norwegian coast reached a climax as the clear moonlit nights allowed for intensified night at Coastal Command attacks on Axis shipping off the Norwegian coast.

On the 9th, ten Hudsons of 220 Squadron attacked the harbour at Åalesund, bombing the herring oil factory, warehouses and five merchant vessels. Hudsons bombed a merchant vessel in Nordfjord and a German destroyer in Hjeltefjord on the 13th, scoring two direct hits on the destroyer. A further bombing raid on Åalesund Harbour by nine Hudsons of 220 Squadron was launched on the 29th, scoring hits against nine Vessels, harbour installations and a power station. The raid was later described by the Air Ministry as “One of the finest raids carried out by such a small number of aircraft”. During October, 220 and 612 Squadrons carried out 41 offensive maritime patrols and flew 92 convoy escort sorties.

NOVEMBER – The month started with a Whitley of 612 Squadron dropping depth charges on a U-boat which was stalking a convoy in the North Atlantic. The clear moonlit nights in November enabled night-time sorties to continue against targets along the Norwegian coast, and Hudsons of 220 Squadron bombed a power station, a merchant vessel and a fish oil factory at FlorøIsland in Norway. This was followed the next day by a similar attack against the fish oil factory at Bergsøya Island, destroying the facility.

Due to preparing for a transfer to RAF Reykjavik, only 20 offensive maritime patrols were carried out this month by 612 Squadron. The bulk of operations now rested on 220 Squadron which carried out 44 convoy escorts and 39 anti-shipping patrols which resulted in a large merchant vessel being sunk off Stavanger on the 28th.

DECEMBER – In spite of the inclement winter weather, 220 Squadron carried out 39 convoy escorts and 48 anti-shipping patrols during December. Five Hudsons bombed Axis shipping at Kristiansand on the 1st resulting in two merchant vessels receiving direct hits. This was followed up by another bombing raid on the 4th by five Hudsons against the wireless transmitter station at Vigra Island and a merchant vessel at Åalesund Harbour. Another small convoy was attacked on the 10th at RødneFjord scoring a direct hit on a merchant vessel.

By the 15th, 612 Squadron had fully completed their transfer of personnel, equipment and aircraft to their new home in Iceland, but they would return to Wick in late 1942. Two merchant vessels were attacked off the Norwegian coast on the 22nd, as well as a 6000 ton oil tanker which exploded after being hit with two General Purpose bombs.

The year ended with Wick providing bombing support for the Combined Operations raid “Operation Archery” on the Norwegian island of Vågsøy. 254 and 404 Squadrons equipped with Bristol Blenheims and 50 Squadron equipped with Handley Page Hampdens arrived at Wick just before Christmas.

A snow blizzard buried the airfield on the 26th causing a 24-hour postponement, but the assault force was able to take off on schedule the following day. 50 Squadron were assigned the role of knocking out the gun battery at Rugsundøya and dropping smoke floats to mask the landing of the assault troops.

The Blenheims accurately bombed and destroyed the Luftwaffe airfield at Herdla.

Meanwhile, Hudsons of 220 Squadron attacked Sola Airfield at Stavanger and 404 Squadron became entangled with Messerschmitt Bf 109s, scoring one probable victory. One of the Blenheims returned to Wick with the observer and rear gunner both badly wounded after an encounter with a Messerschmitt Bf 110. The aircraft managed to belly-land safely in the deep snow. This ended a very eventful year for the various squadrons operating out of Wick airfield, but 1942 would prove to be just as demanding.

1941 Aircraft Losses