RAF RAID ON TURIN & GENOA FROM GUERNSEY & JERSEY – JUNE 1940

Whilst RAF aircraft operated from both Guernsey & Jersey prior to the Occupation of the Channel Islands by the Germans on 30 June 1940 their role was primarily reconnaissance and some fighter patrols. The night of 11/12 June 1940 saw the only air raid on mainland Europe that took place by the RAF from the Islands.

As part of Operation Haddock the raid was an attempt by the British to support France when Italy was about to enter the war. It was not well received by some of the French as they were concerned about retaliatory attacks on poorly defended areas due to a lack of fighter aircraft in the south of France, however, the British Air Ministry paid little heed to this and ordered that the raids go ahead.

In addition to the aircraft that operated from the Channel Islands for this raid there were also Vickers Wellington bombers which flew from England but refuelled at Salon-de-Provence  outside of Marseille. These aircraft did not conduct their raid until the 15/16 June as the French blocked the runway.

No. 4 Group dispatched Armstrong Whitworth Whitley bombers to Guernsey and Jersey to launch a raid on Turin with a secondary target of Genoa. At the start of the war No.4 Group were the only trained night bomber force in the world.1

Aircraft from 10, 51, 58, 77 and 102 Squadrons carried out the raids from Guernsey and Jersey. In total 36 aircraft took part in the raid. 13 found the target and two failed to return. The fact that all but two came back is amazing given the weather conditions on the night, they encountered severe thunderstorms and suffered lightening strikes and severe icing. Both of which prevented them from flying above the storms.

One aircraft that was lost was from No 77 Squadron was lost on the homeward route,Sgt M N Songest and his crew were killed when N1362 crashed at Lignieres-Orgeres,Le Mans in the Mayenne Department.

Several of the bombers accidentally bombed neutral Switzerland hitting Geneva and Lausanne killing four people and injuring another eighty.2

Eric Gaba – MAP

they encountered severe thunderstorms and suffered lightening strikes and severe icing. Both of which prevented them from flying above the storms.

The accounts from the various Squadron records are below and well worth a read to see what the crews endured. One aircraft flew over the target for sixty-five minutes dropping flares to illuminate the target!

Whitley Bomber of 102 Squadron by Royal Air Force official photographer – This is photograph CH 2052 from the collections of the Imperial War Museum.
Squadron Number: 10 Appendices: Y National Archives Air 27/147
Squadron Number: 10 Appendices: Y National Archives Air 27/147
Squadron Number: 10 Appendices: Y National Archives Air 27/147
Squadron Number: 10 Appendices: Y National Archives Air 27/147
Squadron Number: 10 Appendices: Y National Archives Air 27/141
Squadron Number: 10 Appendices: Y National Archives Air 27/141
Squadron Number: 10 Appendices: Y National Archives Air 27/141
Squadron Number: 10 Appendices: Y National Archives Air 27/141

Squadron Number: 51 Records of Events: Y National Archive AIR 27/491/18
Squadron Number: 51 Records of Events: Y National Archive AIR 27/491/18
Squadron Number: 58 Appendices: Y
Squadron Number: 77 Appendices: Y National Archives AIR 27/659B/1
Squadron Number: 102 Appendices: Y National Archives AIR 27/812

Thanks to Nick Beale who advised that the Italian Commando Supremo war diary is online and records that 45 bombers raided Turin between 01.30 and 02.00. Flares were dropped and damage was done to the Fiat Mirafiori plant as well as to railways. The commercial district of Porta Palazzo was hit and a gasometer set on fire in the via Clemente Damiano Priocca. 15 people were killed and 30 injured.

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Footnotes

  1. Moyes, Philip J. R. The Armstrong Whitworth Whitley. Leatherhead, Surrey, UK: Profile Publications, 1967 Page 11.
  2. Richards, Denis (1974) [1953]. Royal Air Force 1939–1945: The Fight At Odds. Vol. I (pbk. ed.). London: HMSOISBN978-0-11-771592-9

Author: Nick Le Huray 🇬🇬

Guernsey based history geek. Interested in the Occupation of the Channel Islands and wider Second World War history.

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