On 6th December 1942 the RAF mounted Operation Oyster, a daylight low level bombing raid on the Philips electronic company in Eindhoven, Holland. It was hoped that this approach would minimise casualties amongst Dutch civilians. It also provided the opportunity to build a well photographed publicity exercise around the whole raid. The Mosquito was developing quite a reputation for [permalink id=23050 text=”this low level work”], although only a small proportion of the aircraft on the raid were of this type.
Squadroner Leader Charles Patterson was one of the more experienced pilots taking part, his observers seat was occupied by Flying Officer Jimmy Hill from RAF Film Unit – the footage from this raid can be seen be seen in the video below:
There were no more fighter interceptions. Ahead of me I saw the front formation of Mosquitoes in the distance already climbing up to 1,500 feet so I immediately took my formation up as fast as I could to 1,500 feet to catch Edwards’ formation. We caught up about two-three miles south of Eindhoven.
He banked over to port and started to dive down on the Philips works in the centre of the town. The moment I turned to port I could see this factory standing out unmistakably, very prominently, right in the centre of Eindhoven.
We all went down in this shallow dive, full throttle, and at the appropriate moment, dropped the bombs. As I went across the Philips works the whole factory seemed to erupt in a cloud of smoke and flashes. It looked as though the whole thing was completely eliminated.
In the distance I could see masses of Bostons whizzing about across the trees at low level to port. I came straight down to ground level. Now the Mosquitoes all split up and we all had to come home separately.
It was midday, a lovely sunny day, virtually no cloud, so I set off across the Dutch countryside at high speed. I decided not to follow the given route out which was towards the coast of Holland and out into the North Sea. I decided that that’s where the fighters would be and therefore, I turned north, to the Zeider Zee.
The fighters would all be directed to the main formation. Pilot Officer J. E. O’Grady, who was on his first trip, latched on to me to see him home. He followed me all the way up the Zeider Zee and I knew we’d made it when we whizzed over the Causeway at about twenty feet.
I turned to port to come out between Den Helder and Texel. This was a mistake on my part because the flak from Den Helder and from the southern tip of Texel were sufficiently close together that if you flew between the two you were within range of light flak.
And so I had to cross a belt of light flak and weaving tracer as I went through between the two islands. But I was untouched. I took the usual evasive action and the Mosquito behind appeared to be perfectly all right but when we were about six minutes out into the North Sea, Hill said, ‘He’s gone into the sea!’.
At first I could not believe what he was saying because we were thirty miles out to sea now but I turned round to go back and I’m afraid it was only too true. There was a big boiling cauldron of water.
O’Grady was a very nice, cheerful, young Canadian. I’d known him as a pupil at OTU at Upwood when I was an instructor. He only looked about sixteen. I suppose he was about twenty. I had a moment of guilt that if I’d done something different and he hadn’t followed me, he’d still be alive.
This and many other similar stories from Mosquito veterans can be found in Martin Bowman: The Men Who Flew the Mosquito.
Amazing pilots eye view film of the raid: