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The Squadron That Died Twice

The story of No. 82 Squadron RAF, which in 1940 lost 23 out of 24 aircraft in two bombing raids

The Squadron That Died Twice by Gordon Thorburn
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"Where's everybody else, Morrison?" –Wing Commander Paddy Bandon to Sergeant Jock Morrison, May 17, 1940

Morrison had brought home the sole surviving 82 Squadron aircraft of 12 that had set out on a bombing sortie over France earlier that day. His aircraft was so badly damaged by enemy fire that it had to be written off; none of the other eleven bombers made it back to RAF Watton, though some of their aircrew survived. Their stories form the core of this book. Apart from the quiet chatter of a few mechanics, who were checking that one aircraft was too badly damaged ever to fly again, there was a shocked silence over the aerodrome as everyone there tried to understand the impossible. Twelve twin-engined bombers of 82 Squadron RAF had set out on a fine May morning in 1940, from Watton, Norfolk, in a brave but hopeless attempt to slow down the German armor ripping through Belgium. Sergeant Thomas "Jock" Morrison was the pilot of the only one to come home. Heavy losses in Bomber Command in World War II were common, normal, came with the territory, but this? Eleven out of 12 were shot down, by flak and fighters, and lay in burning fragments along the Belgium/France border. It is said that history repeats itself. And so it was, almost exactly three months later, on a cloudy day in August 1940, that 12 more twin-engined Bristol Blenheim bombers, each with a crew of three men, set off from Watton, Norfolk, in a brave but hopeless attempt to destroy a Luftwaffe base in enemy-occupied Denmark. One aircraft had to turn for home before it reached the target. The other 11 pressed on as the clouds disappeared and, on a fine sunny morning, were all shot down, by flak and fighters, and lay in burning fragments on the shores of the Lymfjord. At the time, when the whole world was trying to understand the impossible, how Germany could conquer Denmark, Norway, The Netherlands, Belgium, and France in a few weeks, and Poland before that—and surely Great Britain next?—82 Squadron’s disasters were barely noticed. Based on the accounts of survivors and on squadron and other records, Gordon Thorburn’s moving retelling of the story, of the events of it and the men in it, at last puts right that terrible omission.
John Blake; November 2015
240 pages; ISBN 9781784186937
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Title: The Squadron That Died Twice
Author: Gordon Thorburn
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