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|Signatures on this item|
|*The value given for each signature has been calculated by us based on the historical significance and rarity of the signature. Values of many pilot signatures have risen in recent years and will likely continue to rise as they become more and more rare.|
Tom Bennett DFM (deceased)
*Signature Value : £30
|Born in 1919, Tom Bennett was a specialist navigator with 30 ops with 49 Sqn Lancasters followed by selection for Leonard Cheshires elite Mosquito Marker Force within the legendary 617 Sqn. Following the D-Day landings on 5 - 6th June, there was a very great danger that the Germans would reinforce their troops with their reserves Panzer tank corp. These had been stationed at Calais due to the Germans belief that the invasion would come at that point. The only way to get the Panzer through to the Beachhead at Normandy was via the French Saumur tunnel. 617 squadron were assigned to destroy this and were led by the famous Leonard Cheshire VC OM DSO DFC. He used 3 Mosquitoes as a marker force for the main 617 Bomber Force and the dropping of flares was so accurate that one of the Lancasters put a 12000 tall boy straight through the roof of the tunnel and the tunnel was not reopened until 1946. Thomas Ben Bennett was born in 1919 in Poplar. After a civilian career as a clerk he volunteered for military service in 1939. Called up in the spring of 1940, he was told that he did not qualify for pilot training as his maths was not sufficiently strong to enable him to cope with aerial navigation. Instead he would train as a wireless operator/air gunner. Tom's Morse skills were insufficient, with the result that he only qualified as an Air Gunner. Service life being what it is, he was then offered, and took, an opportunity to re-muster a navigator. (There were later to be a number of times over Germany when he wished he had taken the advice of the Wing Commander at Uxbridge). After an initial course on Ansons and Blenheims at Jurby, Isle of Man, in April 1942 he was transferred to No. 19 OTU, Kinloss, where he would team up with his pilot Gerry Fawke. His first operational posting was to No. 49 Sqn at Scampton in June 1942. He considered himself fortunate in that they had just declared Manchesters non-operational as he arrived and that the Squadron was converting to Lancasters. On an early operation to Duisburg, their aircraft was coned and only violent evasive action by Fawke saved the day. During a low level operation against Wismar in September 1942, he received a slight flesh wound from shrapnel and was admitted to RAF Hospital Rauceby Fawke and Bennett took part participated in the daylight Le Creusot attack of 24 October 1942 During that month Tom was recommended for the DFM and subsequently awarded a commission. Further trips followed, to include Berlin and targets in Italy. The crew were just about to depart on their 30th operation, against Bremen, when they were prevented from taxying out by Charles Whitworth, Scampton's Station Commander, who told them that they would not be going, and that their tour was over. Tom was then screened and posted for duties at No. 1661 CU, thence to HQ No. 5 Group at St Vincents, Grantham, before being sent to No. 1654 CU, Wigsley as an instructor. Promoted to Flying Officer in April 1944, he had just arrived on No. 83 Sqn at Wyton, a Pathfinder Squadron, when he received a phone call informing him that he was to team up with his former captain at the Mosquito Training Unit at Warboys, prior to transfer to 617 Sqn. As one of the Mosquito Marker crews Tom and Gerry Fawke were to help perfect the low level marking technique against increasingly defended targets, starting with the French rail yards of Juvisy and La Chapelle, then targeting targets in Germany, including Munich. Returning to their forward operating base at Manston after the latter trip on 24/25 April, the crew discovered to their chagrin that their markers had hung up and were still there suspended in the bomb bay.Transferring to the Lancaster for Operation Taxable, Tom was one of the key navigators responsible for perfecting the pattern of overlapping orbits and perfect timing that were vital to the operation's success. Such was Tom's desire to see recognition for ALL the Squadron's navigators that he was later to lobby Leonard Cheshire to campaign for a retrospective award, but without success. Reverting to the Mosquito and their marking role, the crew participated in the attack on the Saumur tunnel, and Le Havre. The Squadron then switched to daylight attacks on the large V-weapon sites at Watten, Wizernes, Mimoyecques and Siracourt, before again targeting U-boat pens and port facilities. During one of the latter operations, an attack on the Gueydon at Brest, after diving to low level Fawke opened fire on a vessel with the Mosquitos cannon and machine guns, prompting Tom to comment You've just killed four German sailors in LA PALLICE. Later operations also saw the crew armed with cameras to photograph proceedings, and he made the only known image of one of the Squadron s Mustangs as he used up footage filming Wg Cdr Cheshire formating on his Mosquito. With the Squadron's marker role now firmly established with No. 627 Sqn, Gerry Fawke and Tom returned to the Lancaster. Tom became Squadron Navigation Officer during August 1944, and was responsible for overseeing navigation for the first two Tirpitz operations and the attacks on West Kapelle and the Kembs dam. The latter would be Tom's final operation on the strength of 617 Sqn. Posted as Station Navigation Officer, Woodhall Spa at the end of October 1944, he was still able to keep an eye on his successor and in February 1945 flew with the Squadron on two further operations. He would later recall: I flew 62 trips, that's why I tell people I'm lucky to be alive. But I lost a lot of friends and you always remember them as they were — young men.Post war Tom remained in the RAF, serving with the RAF Delegation in Greece in 1949 and later with No. 38 Squadron, flying Lancasters on Maritime Reconnaissance in the Mediterranean. His final posting saw him as Wing Adjutant of the RAF's Initial Training School before he left the Service, as a Squadron Leader, in March 1955.|
|The Aircraft :|
|Mosquito||Used as a night fighter, fighter bomber, bomber and Photo-reconnaissance, with a crew of two, Maximum speed was 425 mph, at 30,300 feet, 380mph at 17,000ft. and a ceiling of 36,000feet, maximum range 3,500 miles. the Mosquito was armed with four 20mm Hospano cannon in belly and four .303 inch browning machine guns in nose. Coastal strike aircraft had eight 3-inch Rockets under the wings, and one 57mm shell gun in belly. The Mossie at it was known made its first flight on 25th November 1940, and the mosquito made its first operational flight for the Royal Air Force as a reconnaissance unit based at Benson. In early 1942, a modified version (mark II) operated as a night fighter with 157 and 23 squadron's. In April 1943 the first De Haviland Mosquito saw service in the Far east and in 1944 The Mosquito was used at Coastal Command in its strike wings. Bomber Commands offensive against Germany saw many Mosquitos, used as photo Reconnaissance aircraft, Fighter Escorts, and Path Finders. The Mosquito stayed in service with the Royal Air Force until 1955. and a total of 7781 mosquito's were built.|
See our aviation history timeline for all today's historical aviation events - air victories, aircraft losses and pilot details.
|RECENT UPDATES TO OUR AVIATION HISTORY DATABASES|
|Updates made to Airframes database for : Flying Fortress 42-5907 : Squadrons updated (added 388th Bomb Group)|
|Robinson added to aircrew database.|
|Sergeant Robert Freeland added to aircrew database :|
Killed aged 22 on 4th July 1943 when his Stirling BK718 WP-M of No.90 Sqn was shot down and crashed near Cologne. He is buried in Overloon War Cemetery. Son of John and Marion Freeland, of Hamilton, Lanarkshire.
|Updates made to Airframes database for : Whitley T4213 : Airframe notes updated (added 11-02-1941 : Whitley was abandoned in the Bagthorpe area after which the aircraft crashed and caught fire at Fulbeck in Lincolnshire.)|
|Updates made to Aircrew database for : Flying Officer Charles Parker :|
|Updates made to Airframes database for : Hampden X3001 : Airframe notes updated (added 10-02-1941 : Hampden was shot down by a night-fighter and crashed north of Alkmaar in Holland.)|
|Stirling BK718 (WP-M) of No.90 Sqn RAF added to the airframes database.|
|Updates made to Airframes database for : Flying Fortress 42-30047 : Squadrons updated (added 100th Bomb Group)|
|New victory claim added : He111 claimed on 29th July 1942 by William Hoy of No.604 Sqn RAF|
|Updates made to Aircrew database for : R. M. Carrapiett : Squadrons updated (added No.58 Sqn RAF), Squadron service dates updated|
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