In an exclusive extract from the memoirs of the late Dambusters pilot Les Munro, he tells the story of the confusion created by brave Lancaster pilots who, flying without cover, created the impression the Allied Forces were attacking a different region of France. Les, who sadly passed away last year, donated his medals to the RAF Benevolent Fund in memory of his fallen comrades, to raise funds for the upkeep of the Bomber Command Memorial.
The medals were auctioned and bought by Lord Ashcroft KCMG PC who returned them to Les' native New Zealand and donated £75,000 to the Fund in their place. Here Les gives his own account of events that historic day...
On 5 June we were summoned to the briefing room and were advised that we would be operating that night on an operation designed to support the Normandy landings, codenamed Operation Taxable.
Operation Taxable was a spoof exercise, designed to simulate an invasion fleet on enemy radar screens, and thus deceive the Germans into thinking that the invasion fleet was taking place in the Pas-de-Calais area and thus divert their attention away from the Normandy coast.
The objective of the operation was to create the impression of a fleet of ships advancing at 8 knots, towards the French coast at Capd’ Antifer, and heading in the direction of a point between the towns of Fecamp and Le Treport, some 60 miles North East of the Normandy coast.
To create the impression of an advancing armada of ships on the German radar screens, each aircraft dropped bundles of window, as it was commonly called, of predetermined sizes every five seconds. The size of the strips increasing as the aircraft flew towards the French Coast and decreasing as they flew back on the return leg. No window was dropped on the turns. Window was aluminium foil strips of basically the same size used extensively by the main bomber force, to confuse and distort the German radar screens, making it difficult for the operators to pick out individual aircraft.
Adherence to both speed and the exact compass bearing on both outward and return legs was essential. The concentration required of the pilots in complying with these factors was relieved by completing the turns at each end of the circuits. I don’t remember the Operation as being unduly boring, the constant changes in maintaining the circuits helped to avoid that happening. The navigators had the most important role, both in respect to maintaining the accuracy of the circuits and in the dispatch of the window.
Timing was the essence and it was impressed on all crews, that no deviation from the detail of the flight plan should occur, as any variation would be detected on the German radar screens and arouse suspicion.
A second wave of eight Lancasters took over from the first eight after two hours into the operation. Each aircraft of the second wave joined the circuits at precisely the same time as the aircraft of the first wave were starting their last circuit but 500 ft above. Both aircraft then flew the same circuit together, with the aircraft of the first wave leaving the circuit at the end of the return leg. The second aircraft then losing height to 3000ft and commencing it's first circuit on its own. This change over had to be completed within a margin of 90 seconds.
While all the Lancasters were flying their continuous circuits and dropping window on the reciprocal tracks a number of naval ships in the area below were advancing at the same eight knots as the air pattern using radar counter measures and broadcasting sound effects to simulate a large convoy at sea.
It is believed that Operation Taxable did create doubt in the Germans minds as to where the main Allied landing was taking place to the extent that they delayed dispatching reinforcements to the Normandy bridgehead.
With thanks to Graeme Munro for providing Les's memoir.