97 Squadron – Leaving the Pathfinders

97 Squadron was broken up in March 1944, “C” Flight going to 635 Squadron.

The following month, “A” and “B” flight of the remaining two-flight Squadron was “lent” to Cochrane of 5 Group, against the strongest opposition from Bennett, the leader of 8 Group, Path Finder Force.

The following entries in the ORB detail how the squadron left Bourn.

19.3.44        Movement Order is attached for the move of “C” Flight to form one flight in No 635 Squadron at Downham Market.  This move reduces 97 Squadron to a two flight Squadron with aircraft on basis of 16.1.E and 41.R in accordance with Estab. LVE/BC/3364.  The Advance Party moved off on the 18th March and the Main Party moved off with equipment by road on 20th March.

20.3.44        9 aircraft and crews also took off by air.  The rear party consisting of 2 crews leave on the 21st.  14 aircraft were detailed for operations today but were cancelled soon after briefing.

21.3.44        The move of “C” Flight to No 635 Squadron has been completed today.  14 Lancasters have been detailed for operations for tonight and crews briefed.  The operation was cancelled in late afternoon.


15.4.44        News heard today of the Squadron’s impending move and return to 5 Group.  Some training carried out.

16.4.44        No flying today, pending move of Squadron tomorrow.  Arrangements made for move commencing the 17th but held in abeyance owing to transport difficulties.  Postponed until the 19th/20th April under instruction signal from PFF HQ.  Late in the evening these instructions were cancelled and the original order to move on the 17th (tomorrow) to take place.  Transport has now been organised and the movement order as referred to in the Appendix will be amended for movements on the 17, 18 and 19th April in place of the 19th, 20th, and 21st April.

17.4.44        Advance Party moved off early in the morning with the Equipment under command of F/O Broome.

18.4.44        Main party and equipment, under command of S/Ldr Leatherland, moved off by road in the morning according to order.  21 aircraft and crews departed by air about midday for RAF Coningsby.

19.4.44        Rear party clearing at Bourn.  The Advance and Main Parties are now at RAF Coningsby.  On the 18th April two of our pilots flew with 617 Squadron from Woodhall to watch the operational method of bombing and marking as used by 5 Group.  The attack was carried out against Juvisy, France.  The raid was considered successful.

20.4.44        15 aircraft have been detailed for operations.  The raid was carried out against the marshalling yards at La Chappelle, Paris.  The attack was made in clear weather.  Fighters reported on route and flak over target more troublesome than expected.  Green TI clearly seen by all aircraft.  Flares dropped in tight cluster.  VHF and 1196 generally failed over target, but success of operation unaffected.  Very large petrol explosion and other minor explosions seen.  The second attack on the northern AP followed same lines as first attack, with believed equal success.  Two aircraft were damaged by enemy action.  S/Ldr Leatherland and crew failed to return from the operation.

21.4.44        Crews resting for remainder of day, and settling in.

22.4.44        The rear party from Bourn arrived today.  The movement is now complete and the Squadron is now temporarily detached to Coningsby until further orders.  15 aircraft have been detailed for tonight’s operations against Brunswick.