Operation Paravane

A good bastard: Squadron Leader Tom Bennett

This guy is a seriously good bastard. Squadron Leader Tom Bennett, who has died aged 93, flew as a navigator in one of the specialist crews on No 617 (Dambusters) Squadron.

Squadron Leader Tom Bennett, who has died aged 93, flew as a navigator in one of the specialist crews on No 617 (Dambusters) Squadron .

In April 1944 Bennett teamed up with his former pilot, Gerry Fawke, to convert to the Mosquito before joining No 617, where the CO, Leonard Cheshire, was perfecting low-level target marking techniques. The Lancaster-equipped squadron had four Mosquitos for this specialist role.

Fawke and Bennett flew their first operation on April 18, with the Juvisy marshalling yards the target. They dived to 400ft to drop their markers before the Lancasters attacked, and the success of the operation proved to be the prelude to a concentrated period of similar operations in advance of the D-Day landings .

Just before the landings No 617 received the huge 12,000lb “Tallboy”, often referred to as the “earthquake bomb”. Its first use, on the night of June 8, was a spectacular success. Trains bringing German reinforcements from the south of France had to pass through the Saumur tunnel near the Loire. The four Mosquitos marked the target for the Lancasters attacking from 10,000ft, and a Tallboy fell 60 yards from the tunnel mouth. The shock waves devastated the tunnel.  Read more »