Your article: Station personnel celebrated end of war with parties and stage shows

Station personnel at RAF Pocklington celebrated the end of the war with parties, music and stage shows.
Station personnel at RAF Pocklington celebrated the end of the war with parties, music and stage shows.

At 12.01am on 9 May 1945 the war in Europe ended.

102 (Ceylon) Squadron had remained operational throughout the war and suffered the heaviest losses in 4 Group (shared with 78 Squadron) and the third heaviest losses in Bomber Command. The squadron had been stationed in Pocklington since 7 August 1942 and left on 8 September 1945.

The squadron had commenced operations against the enemy on the night of 4 / 5 September, 1939, when three aircraft dropped propaganda leaflets over the Ruhr area. Further leaflets operations were carried out during September, October, and November, also reconnaissance patrols over enemy territory. Apart from a number of short detachments to Coastal Command in 1939 and 1949, the squadron spent the entire war at the forefront of the operations of Bomber Command and 4 Group.

The squadron’s last two operations were against the fortified Islands of Heligoland and Wangerooge on the river Elbe near Hamburg, in the daylight hours of 18 and 25 April respectively. Both attacks were highly successful and were a fitting finish to a very fine record of operations.

Of the 2,000 personnel which were housed at Pocklington, only 10% were aircrew and many valuable jobs were done by members of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force. Many others were required to prepare each Halifax for flight and the ground crew were most appreciated by the aircrew. Generally working outside, the conditions, especially in the winter, were often windswept, wet and cold. Their contribution was essential to the success of the operations and the survival of the crew. The ground crew which were associated with each aircraft took immense pride in their aircraft and often would joke that they were only “loaning” the bomber for a few hours and that the aircrew were “not to break it.”

After VE Day, bombs were now being dropped in the North Sea, they were no longer required as being surplus to requirements. In addition, shortly after the end of hostilities in the summer months of 1945, several ‘Cooks Tours’ were made to Germany, the nickname (after the travel agent) for sightseeing flights over Europe. Bomber Command allowed many of those who had served in support of the Command’s aircrew, including ground crews, non-technical personnel and the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, to see first hand the damage which had been inflicted upon the targets, to which many had never been known or had been merely names on a map or spoken during a conversation.

Later in May group photos of all the aircrew in each occupation and ground crew sections were taken.

The station personnel took the opportunity to celebrate the end of the war with parties, music and stage shows.

On 7 May 1945 102 (Ceylon) Squadron was transferred to Transport Command, equipping in October of that year with liberators to participate in the Transport Command Repatriation Scheme flying to Karachi, Cairo, Castel Benito, Habbaniyah and Shaibah.

Between 1939 and 1945 the honours and awards gained by the squadron include: 1 CGMs, 5 DSOs, I67 DFCs, 5 Bars to DFC, 74 DFMs and numerous Mentioned-in-Despatches

The final testimony was written by the then group captain G. A. Walker, C.B.E., D.S.O., D.F.C., A.D.C. in 1947 of the squadron’s time at Pocklington.

“In September I945, Pocklington bade sad farewell to 102. After four years of hard and bitter endeavour the squadron had become so much an integral part of the local community — the very nerve centre of its little world — that the departure left a gap and a feeling of sadness and loss, which provided a fine testimony to the prestige of the squadron. Despite all the anxious moments suffered by the local people — and there were many such — the squadron truly won its way into the hearts of those Yorkshire folk. Thus in keeping with the times the squadron transferred its role from war to peace — whilst, as always, living up to its motto “Tentate et perficite”—Straight and True.”

Ref: Its Suicide but its Fun, by Chris Goss

4 Group Bomber Command – On operational record by Chris Ward