Lincoln Era 1945-54

In May 1945, 100 Squadron was a full strength Bomber Squadron equipped for combat operations. Summer 1945 saw the start of the contraction of the Royal Air Force to a peacetime role. Hundreds of the faithful Lancs were being gathered at bomber airfields to be scrapped. At Elsham Wolds, 100 and 103 Squadrons took part in Operation Exodus, the repatriation of POW’s from Belgium, Germany and Italy. Starting in the last week of April, this effort continued into the summer of 1945.

Early in December 1945, 100 Squadron moved to RAF Scampton and began to re-equip with the Avro Lincoln. The Lincoln was a larger and improved version of the Lancaster with a maximum speed of 319mph, a ceiling of 30,500 feet, and a range of 1,470 miles carrying a bomb load of 14,000 pounds. On May 8th 1946, re-equipping and training over, the Squadron moved again, this time to Lindholme, where it would remain for only a short time until 28th October 1946.
From Lindholme, the Squadron took part in two tours to ‘show the flag’. The first of these tours was the Prague Flying Display, where the new Lincoln competed with the USAF B29 ‘Superfortress’. The pilots of 100 Squadron demonstrated that the Lincoln could shut down three engines and still carry on flying!

The second tour was to Valparaiso, Chile in October 1946. The journey involved flights crossing the Sahara, the South Atlantic, Copacabana and the 20,000 ft peaks of the Andes Mountains. Three Lincolns formed the detachment, led by Wg Cdr Bell, the Squadron Boss, who was in operational control of the tour. The purpose of the tour was to take part in the inauguration of President Gonzales Videla. Ground crews flew in the aircraft, and spares were carried in the bomb bays. Thousands of Chileans were shown over the Lincolns, and the three aircraft provided an air display over the Chilean and American fleets in Valparaiso harbour. The three aircraft departed on 12th October, arriving back at Lindholme on 19th having flown 20,000 miles in 80 hours flying time.

On 28th October 1946, the Squadron completed yet another move, this time to Hemswell, where it would remain until March 1950. During the time that 100 Squadron was resident at Hemswell, it took part in Group and Bomber Command training exercises. These included cross-country flights, astro navigation, bombing practice at various ranges and fighter affiliation exercises mainly for Meteor crews. Additionally, the Squadron carried out exercises with the Royal Navy, during which H2S was used to demonstrate that naval vessels could be targetted using this airborne radar. 100 Squadron also carried out detachments to Malta and Shallufa whilst based at Hemswell.

On 23rd March 1950, 100 Squadron moved to Waddington. On 31st May, 3 Lincolns were detached to Tengah, joining 57 Squadron to take part in ‘Operation Musgrave’ against the communist insurgents in Malaya. At the end of July 1950, Wg Cdr Ronnie Jell assumed command and the whole Squadron then moved to Tengah to relieve 57 Squadron. 100 Squadron thus became engaged in full time offensive operations only 5 years after the end of World War II. Communist insurgents were making raids against rubber plantations and road and rail communications, and were also carrying out ambush attacks against British ground troops. The original technique used to ‘flush out’ the insurgents was to fly in box formation, with a lead aircraft putting down smoke markers for the main formation to bomb some two minutes later. Target areas, selected by Army and Police, were surrounded by troops during the bombing, so pinpoint accuracy was essential. Wg Cdr Jell improved on this method by instituting a timed run from a precise pin-point of smoke provided by the Hampshire’s and Green Jackets in forward positions. This worked so well, that the lead aircraft could also be loaded with high explosives. Night operations were undertaken using a vertical searchlight instead of the smoke. This mode of bombing kept the insurgents on the move, and the ground troops took the action to the enemy by laying ambush traps. Solo air strikes were also undertaken, and Flt Lt Barnie Collen provides a description of a raid that was undertaken to ‘destroy anything that could be associated with the enemy’. During this operation he dropped a single bomb from minimum height, surveyed the results and repeated the process. After running out of bombs to drop, they carried out low level strafing attacks.

The Squadron also carried out nightly escorts of trains from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur, which had been the target for insurgents. After daylight sorties the Lincolns would return to Tengah at low level ‘buzzing’ the homes of plantation manager’s en-route as morale boosters. High temperatures and thunderstorms made flying in Malaya hazardous. On one occasion, Barnie Collen’s port inner engine ‘died’ on take off, but he managed to hold the aircraft level and get airborne. He then went on to complete the mission on three engines. The return was also a problem, as he had to land in a thunderstorm with the only available runway out of the wind. This was a splendid demonstration of crew courage and devotion to duty very much in keeping with the 100 Squadron culture to ‘keep it going.’

During the six months in Malaya, 100 Squadron flew 376 operational sorties, including 11 night operations. Additionally, 252 photo reconnaissance sorties were flown. 2,106 tons of bombs were dropped, and just under 67,000 rounds of ammunition were expended in ground strafing attacks. Wg Cdr Jell paid tribute to the high morale of the Squadron at Tengah, and he was particularly proud of the average serviceability rate of over 98%. He praised the ground crews for achieving this very rate in an adverse tropical climate despite being far away from UK main servicing support.

The Squadron returned to Waddington in January 1951, and photographs of 100 Squadron appeared in a special edition of ‘The Tatler’ Magazine. Wg Cdr Jell received a Mention in Despatches for his work in Malaya.

In May 1952, 100 Squadron was sent overseas again to take part in ‘Operation Alacrity’. This time the Squadron was detached, initially for three months, to Shallufa in the Canal Zone. King Farouk had been overthrown in a military coup led by General Neguib. Egypt became politically unstable, and Neguib was making threats against British occupancy of the Canal Zone. 100 Squadron arrived at Shallufa to find conditions somewhat primitive with no NAAFI, no medical facilities, runways covered in sand, no support facilities with the control tower having a pack R/T set operated by an officer and an air traffic assistant sent to see the squadron in. The immediate task for Wg Cdr Jell was to maintain morale. He realised that everyone needed to be kept busy. He organised flights to collect mail from BFPO and set up an ‘aircraft cleaning competition’ in an effort to win the endless battle against the sand. This was so successful, that on return to Waddington, 100 Squadron had the cleanest aircraft on the base!

100 Squadron were briefed to provide air cover for the Second Infantry Brigade should military operations occur. Under such conditions, the Squadron were to take out any resistance points and an Egyptian Army Barracks in the path of an Army move on Cairo. The detachment was extended to five months, and the Squadron flew many training flights and made dummy runs on the barracks at Heliopolis and the gun emplacements at Alexandria. This was something of a re-run of the ‘Yo-Yo Club’ at Waltham, in that bombs were unloaded after a trip to Heliopolis, and then winched up again for a visit to Alexandria. The recreational facilities at Shallufa were minimal, and to break the monotony, a trip to Cyprus was arranged. Aircraft were ‘loaded to the gunwales’ with groundcrew for this trip.

The Squadron returned to Waddington in October 1952, and the final duty of Wg Cdr Jell, before he handed over command to Sqn Ldr Alexander, was to select the Battle Honours for the Standard. However, it would be another four years before the Squadron would be presented with its Standard. On 15th July 1953, six 100 Squadron aircraft led the fourth formation of Lincolns in the Queen’s Birthday Fly past at RAF Odiham, and in August 1953, the Squadron moved to Wittering.

January 1954 saw a further detachment. ‘A’ Flight was sent to Eastleigh in Kenya, for operations against Mau Mau. During this two-month detachment, 100 Squadron would fly 53 attack missions over heavily wooded country in which the Mau Mau groups took refuge. Two Lincolns would rendezvous with a marker aircraft, which would pinpoint targets 1 and 2. The first Lincoln would drop 10 500-pound bombs on each target. The marker aircraft would then mark targets 3 and 4, and the second Lincoln would repeat the process. After the bombing had been completed both Lincolns would carry out low level strafing attacks using both nose and tail gunners. ‘A’ Flight returned to Wittering early in March 1954, and on 22nd March 1954, the Squadron said goodbye to its Lincolns, to commence the re-equipment with Canberra B2 aircraft. The piston-engined age was over, and the jet age had arrived.

In the 8 years since the end of World War II, 100 Squadron had been in offensive action in both Malaya, and in Africa. Yet again, 100 Squadron had been called upon to undertake missions under a war footing, and true to the tradition ‘had kept it going’. 100 Squadron had yet again given splendid service under conditions of peace and war. The Squadron had undertaken offensive action in Malaya, and had performed well under difficult conditions, superbly led by Wing Commander Ronnie Jell, DFC, AFC. The fact that 100 had returned to the scenes of its bloody defeat in 1942 had laid the ghosts of World War II to rest.

100 Squadron had been selected to carry out the dangerous offensive missions in both Malaya and Africa. This selection was a testament to the regard with which 100 was held by Bomber Command as a premier Squadron. The Squadron had been selected to re-equip with the new Canberra aircraft in order that it would continue to contribute during the 1950’s and beyond. Our journey now moves into the ‘jet age’.