ROCKET MEN: No 121 Wing Typhoons

The Hawker Typhoon took some time to perfect, but by the spring of 1944, with powerplant and structural troubles under control, it was in a position to spearhead the British and Canadian offensive into occupied Europe. There were, however, unforeseen problems to overcome before the rocket-armed machines of No 121 Wing were able to make their full contribution in Normandy

A pair of No 174 Squadron Typhoons raising dust on airstrip B-5 at Le Fresne-Camilly. With the top surface removed and runways made of SMT (square-mesh track), intensive use caused huge dust clouds that not only damaged engines and blanketed the whole airfield, but gave away the strip’s location and use to the German gunners.

On 1 April 1944, RAF Holmsley South in the New Forest, Hampshire, was subjected to an unfamiliar sound: the howl of massed Napier Sabre engines, when from mid-afternoon more than 50 Hawker Typhoons appeared out of the rain and gloom. These aircraft belonged to Nos 174,175 and 245 Squadrons, previously based at Westhampnett — now Goodwood — and under the control of No 121 Airfield, one of the 2nd Tactical Air Force’s original mobile airfield units formed in the wake of Exercise ’Spartan’ a year earlier. It moved to Holmsley and set up camp — the unit would be under canvas until it left for France, and none of its personnel were allowed to use any of the permanent facilities.

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