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409 Squadron RCAF: The Nighthawks

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Operating against the enemy over the latter's 'drome has a special appeal of its own and is the expressed ambition of every nightfighter crew.

The Nighthawks, in common with other night- fighter Squadrons, had always yearned to do some 'intruding'. From time to time special exercises were carried out to keep crews up to scratch in navigation but it was not until shortly after D-Day that the Squadron began to participate in the Intruder programme.

These lone wolves who patrolled enemy air- fields had a schedule which must be adhered to with clock like rigidity. The programme was drawn up to provide the maximum amount of intrusion against those enemy aerodromes known or believed to be active. Crews might be required to fly an hour and a half before reaching the 'dromes to be patrolled, yet they were expected to reach their objective on time.

A high degree of navigational ability was required; crews had to cross the enemy coast at those spots where radar coverage was least effective; navigational aids were not available and crews had to map read their way to the enemy aerodromes; exacting work-yes, but exciting too!

S/L Johnny Hatch DFC and F/L Jack Eames DFC were in on the ground floor of the Squadron's intruding. Their sortie of the night of 12/13th July, 1944 is typical of the resourcefulness and daring of the crews who carried out this work.

Detailed to patrol the French 'dromes of Laon Couvron, Laon Athies and Juvincourt, John successfully attacked an Me 110, in all probability destroying it. Yet because he lacked confirmatory evidence John very modestly claimed a damaged.

The Intelligence Report of the attack is recorded in part.

"The crew crossed the French Coast near Nieuport at estimated time of arrival, where they were coned briefly by searchlights and engaged by inaccurate light ack ack. After evading the searchlights and flak they proceeded on course to patrol the scheduled aerodrome.

After half an hour's patrolling, six red flares were observed fired from the air and almost simultaneously Juvincourt aerodrome was lit up. The crew investigated and F/L Eames obtained a contact on an aircraft orbitting the 'drome at a height of 1500 feet. S/L Hatch closed fairly quickly and obtained a visual of a Me 110.

He opened fire from 250 yards dead astern, strikes being observed on the port wing and engine followed by a large explosion. S/L Hatch was forced to pull up the nose of his aircraft, and turn hard port to avoid large pieces of flying debris, causing both him and his navigator to lose sight of the enemy aircraft. He immediately turned star- board to locate the enemy aircraft but no fire was observed on the ground.

The crew searched the air for several minutes but were unable to find an aircraft airborne. It is believed therefore that the enemy aircraft must have crash-landed at base."