Ex TIFFIE TACTIC: 3(F) Sqn Normandy Staff Ride
At the end of May eight members of 3(F) Sqn travelled to Normandy for Ex TIFFIE TACTIC, a staff ride to study the 2nd Tactical Air Force (TAF) during the Normandy Campaign of 1944.
The trip was also co-incident with the annual visit to Normandy by the Typhoon Entente Cordial Trust members who travel over each year to lay wreaths at memorials and remember their lost comrades.
After a few interesting last minute changes of programme we finally left the 3(F) Sqn HAS Site at 1700L on Thursday 24 May 2012 with the JENGO, Alex Wood, not quite tearing his hair out. It wasn’t long (passing Grantham) before one of the cars, containing the boss, had to turn around as it became apparent that a certain holding officer, who shall remain nameless, “hadn’t realised” that you need a passport to travel to France! Despite the hold up both cars reached Folkestone Barracks at a sensible time and a comfortable night was had on the plastic green mattresses in multi-man barrack rooms.
The next day saw the team travel to Dover, ultimately to catch the ferry, however the morning was spent warming up to the idea of the Staff Ride by visiting Dover Castle where the Holding Officer, Fg Off Neil McFarlane, gave a very accomplished stand explaining Dover Castle’s role in the planning and execution of the Dunkirk evacuation of 1940. The weather was excellent, (remember that’s when we had summer this year!) but we then had to leave the sun and head underground to visit the Secret Wartime Tunnels to see for ourselves where the planning and co-ordination, that we had just heard about, was conducted. Once back above ground and, having had lunch in the castle grounds, it was time for us to head down to the ferry port where, either because of the JENGO’s charming manner or simply through luck, we managed to get on the ferry an hour early, ultimately allowing us to arrive in Caen at a far more respectable 2100L.
Saturday saw the Staff Ride really swing into action, in the morning the team split into two, one team travelling to a memorial plaque unveiling with the TECT for Sqn Ldr Jack Collins (formerly of 3(F) Sqn) at the site where his Typhoon crashed in 1944 (particularly poignant for Flt Lt Collins of 3(F) Sqn) before joining the veterans for lunch and some excellent reminiscences. The second team spent the morning at JUNO beach to experience one of the sites where the campaign began and another excellent stand this time from Cpl Steve Smith. That afternoon the team joined up for more wreath laying memorials before travelling to the Chateau de Baron d’Huard in Monts-en-Bessin, where the Sqn and TECT were hosted for dinner. Whilst here we listened to David Ince (a former 2nd TAF Typhoon pilot) recount his recollections of “The Day of the Typhoon” in August 1944, when the 2nd TAF halted the German’s Mortain Counter Offensive and prevented the beachhead being pushed back into the Channel. It was incredible to hear David speak and it was made all the more powerful because of the location in which we were hearing it. After this OC 3(F) Sqn treated the TECT to a briefing on the modern day Typhoon’s role in Libyan Operations before we all sat down for dinner French Chateau Style.
Sunday saw us all drive to Noyers-Bocage for a remembrance service in the local church before walking down to the Typhoon memorial there, for a wreath laying ceremony and flypast from a BBMF Spitfire. This provoked a wonderful reaction from all of the locals and TECT members present, for whom it was particularly special that a Spitfire could make the journey all the way from the UK. There then followed another extended lunch with the TECT and local dignitaries before we travelled back to Caen and spent the afternoon catching up on the Stands that had been missed over the last couple of days due to the late notice changes in the programme (flexibility is the key to airpower).
On Monday morning we travelled over to Pegasus Bridge, scene of that famous airborne operation on the night before D-Day where Cpl Jase Ramage gave such a good account of events to us that a number of other visitors to the museum also gathered round to listen. At lunch we began the drive back to Calais for the 1700L ferry and eventually arrived back at RAF Coningsby just before 2200L.
The Staff Ride had been a first for most of us and an excellent success. The weather had been perfect and we had all gained a much greater appreciation of the events of 1944. Combining this with the Stands allowed us to set what we had learned into a context appropriate to the modern applications of Air Power, all in all it was felt that the objectives of the Staff Ride had been completely satisfied and a good time had been had by all. This combined with the appreciation of the TECT for the involvement of RAF Coningsby in their annual visit made the whole thing
Flt Lt Collins