I reached England at the end of May 1942 and went straight off to see 75 at Feltwell. I was welcomed with open arms by one Ted Olsen, who arranged for my posting back to the Squadron.
It wasn't long before I was back in the swing, starting with Duisburg four times in a row. I developed a technique for getting back through the German defences by low flying which paid dividends in my case.
In an attack on Hamburg on the night of the 28th of July we were, as far as I could subsequently determine, the only crew to make a successful attack. Three times we crossed the city and three times we took photographs of the centre. We didn't get much support from any of the other chaps. Losses were said to be heavy that night due to icing, but we didn't see any - probably we didn't go high enough to find it.
I was congratulated by the A.O.C. 3 Group for these photos. It wasn't long after this that I was promoted to Acting Squadron Leader and again, not long after that I was awarded the D.S.O.
Shortly after that, a sign appeared on the door of O.C. 'A' Flight. It read:
ASHWORTH & CO. - AVIATORS
TRIPS TO 'HAPPY VALLEY’ AT GOVERNMENT EXPENSE
Some low type subsequently inserted below this: 'Return Trip Not Guaranteed'.
After an attack on Düsseldorf on the night of the 31st of July we were returning at low level when we spotted a train and stopped it by spraying the engine liberally from both front and rear turrets.
When we got back to base from this sortie there was fog on the ground and we were instructed to divert to the North, but, being confident of my ability to land using the 'Lorenz' system, I told ground control that I was coming in anyway and asked the Navigator to switch to the relevant beam frequency.
You will remember that I mentioned that I had completed a course at the Blind Approach Training Flight on using the 'Lorenz' system of blind approach. All pilots of my vintage and many from later vintages are familiar with this system, mainly through long hours of practice in the 'Link' trainer. The system consists of a fixed narrow beam which, when the aircraft is correctly aligned, gives a continuous tone signal. Deviation from the beam to one side results in dots being heard, while dashes appear when off the beam on the other side. There are also the warning signals from an outer and an inner marker and, at the source of transmission, a cone of silence. Back in 1941 I had often used the beam at Marham for navigational purposes.
A New Zealand squadron groundcrew with two Wellington bombers at RAF Feltwell.
The picture was taken in 1941. Picture: Archant archives
By 1942 beams had been installed at a large number of airfields including our own at Feltwell. I timed the beam, a procedure from which one could learn the direction from oneself of the transmitter, and then joined the beam. I was a bit nonplussed when I found that the beam I was flying did not appear to be aligned on the same compass heading as I had expected, but I put this down, wrongly, to a cross wind. (Strong cross wind in fog?)
Eventually, having checked the outer and inner markers and the cone of silence, I started my approach. We passed over the outer marker at the correct height and let down at the stipulated rate of descent to cross the inner marker. Shortly after this the flare path lights should have appeared and, sure enough, a line of lights shone through the fog on our port side and I set the aircraft down. Immediately there were marked movements by the aircraft and she showed that she was unhappy with the state of the surface on which she had been landed and there was a general indication of rough ground. I concluded that our airfield had been bombed and informed my crew to that effect. Because the navigator had selected the wrong frequency and I had been somewhat careless in my assumptions, we had landed off the runway of the newly finished airfield at Lakenheath, some miles from our base and the ground surrounding the runway had yet to be consolidated.
I left 75 on the 29th of August 1942 to join the H.Q. of the newly formed Pathfinder Force.
~ A small selection from Arthur Ashworth's autobiography.
Memorial to No 75 NZ Squadron at RAF Feltwell
Photo source: RAF Feltwell memorial page