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Frank Taylor Watson

Flying Officer (Navigator) Frank Taylor Watson, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, 105 Squadron, Service No. 159930, died on January 2nd 1945, aged 27.

The Supplement to the London Gazette, published on December 10th 1943 records the award of the Distinguished Flying Medal to Frank:

"1149762, Flight Sergeant Frank Taylor WATSON, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, No. 9 Squadron."

The D.F.M was awarded for "an act or acts of valour, courage or devotion to duty whilst flying in active operations against the enemy". Frank won this while still a segeant; it was the equivalent to the commissioned and warrant officers' D.F.C.

Frank Watson report of promotion March 3rd 1944
Report of Frank's promotion in the Northumberland and Alnwick Gazette, March 3rd 1944

Frank was transferred to 105 Squadron, a pathfinder squadron, perhaps as a result of his winning the DFM. The Pathfinder Force (PFF) was an elite group that took the best pilots and crew for what was a crucial and highly technical role.

105 Squadron was the first to be equipped with Mosquitoes. Constructed of wood, these planes were fast and manoeuverable and were so effective that they added considerably to the losses of German night fighters. They so impressed Herman Goering that he famously said in 1943:

"In 1940 I could at least fly as far as Glasgow in most of my aircraft, but not now! It makes me furious when I see the Mosquito. I turn green and yellow with envy. The British, who can afford aluminium better than we can, knock together a beautiful wooden aircraft that every piano factory over there is building, and they give it a speed which they have now increased yet again..." Source: Wikipedia)

In the summer of 1941, it was found that only a third of bomber crews were releasing their bombs within 5 miles of their targets. To rectify this, Bomber Command introduced the pathfinder system. This involved specially equipped aircraft flying in advance of the heavy bombers, locating targets and marking them for the bombers that followed.

The first system used was H2S, where pathfinder planes were fitted with radar which scanned the ground below and the target's location was determined by interpreting the signals that bounced back to the aircraft. A more effective system was OBOE, which had a completely different strategy. The pathfinder aircraft was directed to the target by two ground based radar beams that gave greater accuracy than H2S. 105 Squadron was fitted with OBOE in the summer of 1943.(Source: RAF - Bomber Command)

The Mosquito had a crew of two, the pilot and the bombardier/navigator, whose job it would be to manage the radar and thus the marking of the targets. An explanation of how the two systems worked is given at RAF - Bomber Command.

It would appear that Frank was involved in a serious incident, when his plane crash landed, only a couple of days before the incident in which he lost his life.

The following incident was recorded on the Aviation Safety Network web site.

Date: 31-DEC-1944
Time: 21:30
Type: de Havilland Mosquito B.Mk.XVI
Operator: 105 Sqn RAF
Registration: MM225
C/n / msn:
Fatalities: Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 2
Other fatalities: 0
Airplane damage: Substantial
Location: at Manston, Kent
Phase: Approach
Nature: Military
Departure airport: Bourn
Destination airport: Manston

The plane was hit by flak and subsequently wrecked while making a forced landing at Manston.
Crew:
F/Lt (123.839) Gabriel Donald (pilot) RAFVR - OK
F/O (159.930) Frank Taylor Watson DFM (obs) RAFVR - OK

Frank survived this incident, but lost his life only two days later in another incident reported on the Aviation Safety Network Web site.

Date: 02-JAN-1945
Time: ?
Type: de Havilland Mosquito B.Mk.XVI
Operator: 105 Sqn RAF
Registration: PF431
Fatalities: Fatalities: 1 / Occupants: 2
Other fatalities: 0
Airplane damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location: at Wilsum, 11km E from the Dutch frontier
Phase: En route
Nature: Military
Departure airport: Bourn
Destination airport:

The plane was reported missing during an operation to Bremen.
Crew:
F/Lt (123.839) Gabriel DONALD (pilot) RAFVR - POW
F/O (159.930) Frank Taylor WATSON DFM (Obs) RAFVR - killed

Wilsum is on a direct line between Bourn airfield in Cambridgeshire and Bremen. His place of burial is some 60 miles to the south of where he was killed.

His loss was reported in the Northumberland and Alnwick Gazette as follows:

Frank Watson reported missing, January 19th 1945
Frank Watson reported missing in the Northumberland and Alnwick Gazette, January 19th 1945

Frank is buried at the Reichswald Forest War Cemetery, Kleve, Germany

Reichswald Forest War Cemetery, Kleve, Germany

Commonwealth War Graves Commission - Frank Taylor Watson

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