Site 24. RAF Wick : June – December 1942

Air Operations – June to December

JUNE – Things quietened down a little this month with 608 Squadron’s Hudsons only flying 82 offensive maritime patrols.

These resulted in two merchant vessels being bombed off Obrestad in Norway on the 2nd and an oil tanker being attacked and bombed off Åalesund on the 3rd.

The squadron bombed a U-boat on the 10th and later that day came across another U-boat on the surface which was attacked using machine guns. The Beauforts of 86 Squadron only flew 13 sorties this month but scored direct hits on a merchant vessel on the 11th when a pair of them made a torpedo attack against a small convoy off the coast of Norway.

The Hudsons of 608 Squadron attacked and sank a U-boat on the 13th, as well as 48 Squadron attacking a U-boat the same day. Another U-boat was bombed by 48 Squadron on the 14th, but that was the only combat they would see for the month despite flying 84 offensive maritime patrols. The convoy escort sorties by the two Hudson squadrons were down this month as well, with a total of 46 being flown between them.

86 Squadron - Bristol Beaufort
Bristol Beaufort Mk II of 86 Squadron RAF

JULY – The Beauforts of 86 Squadron started to transfer south for a posting to Malta, and 608 Squadron spent much of the latter part of the month spread between Wick, RAF Sumburgh and RAF Stornoway.

On the 4th a Hudson from 608 Squadron bombed a U-boat, and on the 14th a Hudson of 48 Squadron was engaged in a serious dogfight with three Focke-Wulf Fw 190 fighters. This resulted in one Fw 190 being shot down and the Hudson suffering serious damage as well as two crew members being seriously injured. Another dogfight took place between a Hudson of 48 Squadron and a Junkers Ju 88 on the 17th, with the Hudson escaping after the pilot was wounded and the aircraft badly damaged. The month ended with two U-boats being bombed by 48 Squadron on the 21st and 29th. A total of 213 offensive maritime patrols had been carried out this month by 48and 608 Squadrons, as well as 40 convoy escorts.

AUGUST – The Hudsons of 608 Squadron transferred from Wick on the 7th and were replaced by Bristol Beaufighters and Vickers Wellingtons of 415 Squadron. Whitleys of 58 Squadron carried out 23 anti-submarine patrols this month in the northern waters, but no U-boats were found.

The crews of 415 Squadron spent the month carrying out training exercises to hone their skills which left only 48 Squadron to carry out the bulk of the operational patrols. The squadron flew 95 offensive maritime patrols and 21 convoy escort sorties. They also bombed and machine gunned two Danish merchant vessels on the 20th and depth charged two U-boats on the 29th, possibly sinking one.

SEPTEMBER – September saw the departure of 415 Squadron on the 9th, and the arrival of 612 Squadron on the 16th, closely followed by 489 Squadron on the 24th. This month would also see the departure of 48 Squadron on the 25th, but not before carrying out some very successful attacks on German U-boats.

September would prove to be disastrous for the German U-boat fleet, with 48 Squadron dropping depth charges on six U-boats. A U-boat was attacked on the 2nd, sinking it. Another U-boat was attacked on the 12th which was suspected to have sunk. Another was sent to the bottom on the 13th and two more attacked the following day with one confirmed as sunk. A further two were attacked on the 18th which resulted in one sinking.

The Hudsons of 48 Squadron were not the only aircraft from Wick that inflicted U-boat losses this month, as the Whitleys from 612 Squadron attacked a U-boat on the 16th blowing it’s bow completely off, and two more were attacked on the 23rd and 26th. Three Handley Page Hampdens of 489 Squadron torpedoed a large merchant vessel escorted by five corvettes on the 17th with three hits recorded.

489 Squadron - Handley Page Hampden
Handley Page Hampden TB Mk I of 489 Squadron RNZAF

A total of 93 offensive maritime patrols were flown by 48 Squadron, 45 by 489 Squadron and 42 by 612 Squadron. A further eight convoy escorts were flown by 48 Squadron with 19 more by 612 Squadron.

OCTOBER – This was the first month since October 1939 that Lockheed Hudsons had not been stationed at RAF Wick and was a turning point in the war for the station. Now the majority of the ongoing operational combat sorties would be carried out by Armstrong Whitworth Whitleys, Bristol Beaufighters, Handley Page Hampdens, and Vickers Wellingtons. The bulk of operations this month were shouldered by 612 Squadron which flew 127 offensive maritime patrols, as well as ten convoy escort sorties. This squadron was only involved in one attack on enemy shipping during October when a U-boat was depth charged on the21st. On the same day Hampdens of 489 Squadron attacked and torpedoed a merchant vessel off Norway scoring a direct hit on the stern of the ship. 144 Squadron flying Hampdens arrived at Wick on the 20th.

NOVEMBER – The Hampdens of 489 Squadron flew 40 offensive maritime patrols this month and on the 7th five aircraft made an extensive search of the Norwegian fjords for the German heavy cruiser Admiral Scheer, but the search proved to be fruitless due to thick fog over Norway. The squadron also torpedoed a merchant vessel off Stadlandet on the 15th and another off Kristiansand on the 25th.

The Hampdens of 144 Squadron were also busy and bombed naval targets and shore facilities in Norway on the 19th, 22nd and 26th.

Again, the bulk of the sorties this month were flown by 612 Squadron who took part in 102 operational flights, with only three being related to convoy escorts and the remaining 99 as offensive maritime patrols. The squadrons from Wick were involved in 23 sorties to search for downed aircraft from various RAF airfields in the north of Scotland.

DECEMBER – The year ended in a flurry of activity with 612 Squadron’s Whitleys and Wellingtons flying 70 offensive maritime patrols.

612 Squadron - Armstrong Whitworth Whitley MK VII
Armstrong Whitworth Whitley Mk.VII of 612 Squadron with ‘Stickleback’ ASV antennae on the fuselage.

Only one attack was carried out when a U-boat was depth charged on the 4th, causing damage to the submarine but not sinking it.

The Hampdens of 489 Squadron flew 42 missions this month and, on the 18th and 19th, merchant vessels were attacked with torpedoes off Norway.

The squadrons got a well-deserved break on Christmas day except for 144 Squadron which launched a raid against shipping off Utsira Island in Norway, but no targets could be located due to thick fog.

The month ended with a force of Hampdens from 489 Squadron attacking a convoy off the coast of Norway on the 28th, which resulted in two vessels being hit by torpedoes. A further ten convoy escorts were also carried out by 612 Squadron during December.

RAF Wick 1942 Losses