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|Tom Bennett DFM (deceased)|
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.
Items Signed by Tom Bennett DFM (deceased)
|The Rail Strike by Robin Smith.|
Price : £95.00
|Mosquito BIV of 105 Sqdn. attacking rail yards at Nantes in 1944. ......|
Packs with at least one item featuring the signature of Tom Bennett DFM (deceased)
|Squadrons for : Tom Bennett DFM (deceased)|
|A list of all squadrons known to have been served with by Tom Bennett DFM (deceased). A profile page is available by clicking the squadron name.|
Country : UK
Founded : 1st April 1916
Fate : Disbanded 31st March 1967
Ante lucem - Before the dawn
|No.38 Sqn RAF|
Full profile not yet available.
Country : UK
Founded : 15th April 1916
Fate : Disbanded 1st May 1965
Cave canem - Beware of the dog
|No.49 Sqn RAF|
49 Squadron was formed on 15th April 1916, during the First World War. In the course of the war, it flew DH4 and DH9 aircraft before disbanding in July 1919. Reformed in 1936, they flew Hind and Hampdens before war broke out in 1939. It was in a Hampden of 49 Sqn that Roderick Learoyd won the first Victoria Cross awarded to Bomber Command, when on the night of 12th August 1940, he and four other aircraft attempted to breach the heavily defended Dortmund-Ems canal. The squadron transferred to Manchesters and Lancasters, and after the war to Lincolns, before being disbanded once again on 1st August 1955. Less than a year later, on 1st May 1956, the squadron were reformed, equipped with Valiant V-Bombers of Britain's nuclear deterrent programme, but exactly nine years later, with the aircraft grounded, the squadron disbanded for the last time.
Country : UK
Founded : 23rd March 1943
Apres mois, le deluge - After me, the flood
|No.617 Sqn RAF|
Full profile not yet available.
Country : UK
Founded : 7th January 1917
Fate : Disbanded 31st August 1969
Strike to defend
|No.83 Sqn RAF|
Full profile not yet available.
|Aircraft for : Tom Bennett DFM (deceased)|
|A list of all aircraft associated with Tom Bennett DFM (deceased). A profile page including a list of all art prints for the aircraft is available by clicking the aircraft name.|
Manufacturer : Avro
Production Began : 1935
Retired : 1968
Number Built : 11020
he Avro Anson originated from the Avro 652 commercial aircraft which first flew on 7th January 1935. It was a twin-engine British-built multi-role aircraft which saw distinctive service with both the Royal Air Force and The Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm as well as The Royal Canadian Air Force during and after the Second World War. The prototype 652A first flew at Woodford on 7th January 1935 and was developed from an initial airliner design and named after Admiral George Anson. The adaptation for a coastal reconnaissance role resulted in the production variant, the Avro 652a, which flew at Woodford on New Years Eve 1935 with the type entering service in March 1936 as the Anson Mk1. Initially it was flown with a 3-man crew but later developments in its reconnaissance role required a 4th crew member. The Anson entered service on 6 March 1936 with 48 Squadron equipped with the Anson. At the start of the Second World War, the RAF had received 824 Ansons and there were 26 RAF squadrons operating the Anson I: 10 with Coastal Command and 16 with Bomber Command. All of the squadrons in Bomber Command in 1939 with Anson Is were operational training squadrons that prepared crews for frontline service. 12 of the squadrons were in No. 6 (Operational Training) Group. Newly formed crews having completed individual flying and technical training were first trained as bomber crews in Ansons and then advanced to the various frontline aircraft types, which were also in the same squadrons with the Ansons. After training in the frontline aircraft type, crews would advance to the frontline bomber squadrons with those aircraft types (Fairey Battle, Bristol Blenheim, Vickers Wellington, Armstrong Whitworth Whitley, and Handley-Page Hampden). At the start of the war, the Lockheed Hudson was beginning to replace the Ansons in Coastal Command with one squadron of Hudsons and one with both Ansons and Hudsons. Limited numbers of Ansons continued to serve in operational roles such as coastal patrols and air/sea rescue. Early in the war, an Anson scored a probable hit on a German U-boat. In June 1940, a flight of three Ansons was attacked by nine Luftwaffe Messerschmitt Bf 109s. Remarkably, before the dogfight ended, without losing any of their own, one of the Ansons destroyed two German aircraft and damaged a third. The aircraft's true role, however, was to train pilots for flying multi-engined bombers such as the Avro Lancaster. The Anson was also used to train the other members of a bomber's aircrew, such as navigators, wireless operators, bomb aimers and air gunners. Postwar, the Anson continued in the training and light transport roles. The last Ansons were withdrawn from RAF service with communications units on 28 June 1968. The Royal Australian Air Force operated 1,028 Ansons, mainly Mk Is, until 1955
Manufacturer : Bristol
Production Began : 1935
Retired : 1956
Number Built : 4422
The Bristol Blenheim, the most plentiful aircraft in the RAFs inventory when WWII began, was designed by Frank Barnwell, and when first flown in 1936 was unique with its all metal monoplane design incorporating a retractable undercarriage, wing flaps, metal props, and supercharged engines. A typical bomb load for a Blenheim was 1,000 pounds. In the early stages of the war Blenheims were used on many daylight bombing missions. On the day that war was declared on Germany, a Blenheim piloted by Flying Officer Andrew McPherson was the first British aircraft to cross the German coast and the following morning 15 Blenheims from three squadrons set off on one of the first bombing missions The Blenheim units operated throughout the battle, often taking heavy casualties, although they were never accorded the publicity of the fighter squadrons. The Blenheim units raided German occupied airfields throughout July to December 1940, both during daylight hours and at night. Although most of these raids were unproductive, there were some successes; on 1 August five out of 12 Blenheims sent to attack Haamstede and Evere (Brussels) were able to bomb, destroying or heavily damaging three Bf 109s of II./JG 27 and apparently killing a Staffelkapitän identified as Hauptmann Albrecht von Ankum-Frank. Two other 109s were claimed by Blenheim gunners. Another successful raid on Haamstede was made by a single Blenheim on 7 August which destroyed one 109 of 4./JG 54, heavily damaged another and caused lighter damage to four more. There were also some missions which produced an almost 100% casualty rate amongst the Blenheims. One such operation was mounted on 13 August 1940 against a Luftwaffe airfield near Aalborg in north-western Denmark by 12 aircraft of 82 Squadron. One Blenheim returned early (the pilot was later charged and due to appear before a court martial, but was killed on another operation); the other 11, which reached Denmark, were shot down, five by flak and six by Bf 109s. Blenheim-equipped units had been formed to carry out long-range strategic reconnaissance missions over Germany and German-occupied territories, as well as bombing operations. In this role, the Blenheims once again proved to be too slow and vulnerable against Luftwaffe fighters and they took constant casualties While great heroism was displayed by the air crews, tremendous losses were sustained during these missions. The Blenhiem was easy pickings at altitude for German Bf-109 fighters who quickly learned to attack from below. To protect the vulnerable bellies of the Blenheims many missions were shifted to low altitude, but this increased the aircrafts exposure to anti-aircraft fire. In the German night-bombing raid on London on 18 June 1940, Blenheims accounted for five German bombers, thus proving that they were better-suited for night fighting. In July, No. 600 Squadron, by then based at RAF Manston, had some of its Mk IFs equipped with AI Mk III radar. With this radar equipment, a Blenheim from the Fighter Interception Unit (FIU) at RAF Ford achieved the first success on the night of 2–3 July 1940, accounting for a Dornier Do 17 bomber. More successes came, and before long the Blenheim proved itself invaluable as a night fighter. One Blenheim pilot, Squadron Leader Arthur Scarf, was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for an attack on Singora, Thailand, on 9 December 1941. Another bomber of No. 60 Squadron RAF was credited with shooting down Lt Col Tateo Katō's Nakajima Ki-43 fighter and badly damaging two others in a single engagement on 22 May 1942, over the Bay of Bengal. Katō's death was a severe blow to the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force.
Manufacturer : Avro
Production Began : 1942
Retired : 1963
Number Built : 7377
The Avro Lancaster arose from the avro Manchester and the first prototype Lancaster was a converted Manchester with four engines. The Lancaster was first flown in January 1941, and started operations in March 1942. By March 1945 The Royal Air Force had 56 squadrons of Lancasters with the first squadron equipped being No.44 Squadron. During World War Two the Avro Lancaster flew 156,000 sorties and dropped 618,378 tonnes of bombs between 1942 and 1945. Lancaster Bomberss took part in the devastating round-the-clock raids on Hamburg during Air Marshall Harris' Operation Gomorrah in July 1943. Just 35 Lancasters completed more than 100 successful operations each, and 3,249 were lost in action. The most successful survivor completed 139 operations, and the Lancaster was scrapped after the war in 1947. A few Lancasters were converted into tankers and the two tanker aircraft were joined by another converted Lancaster and were used in the Berlin Airlift, achieving 757 tanker sorties. A famous Lancaster bombing raid was the 1943 mission, codenamed Operation Chastise, to destroy the dams of the Ruhr Valley. The operation was carried out by 617 Squadron in modified Mk IIIs carrying special drum shaped bouncing bombs designed by Barnes Wallis. Also famous was a series of Lancaster attacks using Tallboy bombs against the German battleship Tirpitz, which first disabled and later sank the ship. The Lancaster bomber was the basis of the new Avro Lincoln bomber, initially known as the Lancaster IV and Lancaster V. (Becoming Lincoln B1 and B2 respectively.) Their Lancastrian airliner was also based on the Lancaster but was not very successful. Other developments were the Avro York and the successful Shackleton which continued in airborne early warning service up to 1992.
Manufacturer : De Havilland
Production Began : 1940
Retired : 1955
Number Built : 7781
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.
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Killed aged 21 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 Oliver Beard and Margaret Beard, of Rock Ferry, Cheshire.
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