659 Air Observation Squadron:

The Squadron was formed at Firbeck on 30 April 1943, under the commmand of Major E.D.V.Pendergast, and was equipped with Auster Mark III. After an intensive period in England, the Squadron less one flight flew overseas to Normandy on 13th-14th June 1944. The remaining flight joined them on the 17th. The Squadron was actively engaged in operations troughout the campaign in N.W.Europe, finally reaching Kiel on 10th May 1945.

 

1 October 1944: 09.30 - ALG recce by Capt. D.E. Richards and Capt. J.M. Jardine. ALG and accommodation for C Flt. Major E.D.V. Prendergast indisposed with severe chill. Name of 14324220 Gunner C.J. Corke forwarded for C in C's certificate for Good Service. C. Flt. 658 Sqn. placed under comd. Capt. Murray went to recce ALG in area Haps where 8 AGRA are moving. B Flt moved accros river Maas.

 

2 October 1944: HQ 8 Corps moved from Geldrop to Mill C Flt. ground party moved to new ALG to clear obstacles - aircraft hope to arrive tomorrow.

 

3 October 1944: Truck sent to Einghen to collect unit clerk for C Flt (on arrival found not available). A Flt moved as present ALG required for fighter strip.

 

4 October 1944: Major E.D.V. Prendergast admitted to 34 CCS with jaundice.

 

5 October 1944: Capt. E.C. Prest, O.C. A Flt arrived at Sqn Tac HQ to comd squadron in absence of Major Prendergast. Very little activity on Corps front except 11 Armd Div arty with whom A Flt are working hard in support 7 US Armd Div.

6 October 1944: 11.00 - Capt. E.C. Prest attended conference held by Brig. A. Campbell (acting CCRA) who outlined plan for coming operation by Second Army and First US Army. 8 Corps is attacking with rt 15 (S) Div (one bde up) and left 3 Br Div (two bdes up) with heavy preliminary air support. Forecast date 10 Oct.

 

7 October 1944: Regrouping.

 

8 October 1944: Operation cancelled and limited clearing attack only to be made. Truck sent to collect two pilots from 31 RHU but is was found that they had not yet arrived. Capt C.H. Ramsden shot at and slightly wounded in leg while doing a sortie. Capt. E.C. Prest awarded D.F.C.

 

9 October 1944: B Flt moved to C Flt's ALG as 3 Br Div now conc for OP Constellation. C Flt preparing new ALG for cooperation with CBO and 8 AGRA. Visits made to 'Stars in Battledress' produced in Mill.

 

10 October 1944: RA 8 Corps O.O. No.6 dated 9 Oct for OP Constellation recd. Object to clear whole area West of River Maas. 3 Br Div is to capture Overloon and Venray and enable 11 Armd Div thereafter to adv on Venlo. 7 US Armd Div is to press fwd on rds Deurne - Venray and Deurne - America during attack of 3 Br Div. Sp programme includes air, crocodiles, flails and AVRE.

 

11 October 1944: Heavy rain all day. OP Constellation postponed 24 hrs. Peculiar aircraft resembling a Typhoon with tapering, pointed wings appeared to make two runs at Capt. E.M.B. Shepherd's aircraft but did not attack. 83 Group asked to investigate.

 

12 October 1944: 0930 - Capt. D.E. Richards went on recce with harbour party from HQ 8 Corps. Next location for 8 Corps HQ is Deurne. 1200 - H hr for OP Constellation. 8 Bde are attacking towards Overloon. 1530 - H.M. King George VI accompanied by Field Marschall Montgomery and Lt. Gen. Dempsey arrived at the Command Post of 8 Corps HQ. 1730 - B Flt inform us that own tps are now through Overloon and several hundred yards south. An attack is being put in now to clear the woods on the south side of Overloon.

 

13 October 1944: 0830 - 3 Br Div attacking to broaden the salient. Very little progress so far. Capt. E.C. Prest recce'd field near Deurne for future location 8 Corps HQ. Capt. D.E. Richards later inspected this from the ground and confirmed that is was suitable. Adjutant warned that squadron HQ would move there and that recce for accommodation should be carried out as soon as possible. B Flt moved to A Flt pending construction of new ALG.

14 October 1944: Slow progress by 3  Br Div - squadron engaged in counter mortar role. No move of Corps HQ likely before 18th.

 

15 October 1944: Overloon now clear of enemy.

 

16 October 1944: 15 Div planning OP to conc area Weert and be directed on Roermond. C Flt in support and carrying out recce to ALG area Weert. REs will lay coia matting strip 200x long if required.

 

17 October 1944: OP of 15 Div now cancelled. 15 Div plus two med regts RA and one hy regt less two 155mm btys moving to under comd 12 Corps. C Flt reverted to under comd 8 Corps.

18 October 1944: Decided that C Flt would carry out experiments in photography as soon as equipment complete.

 

19 October 1944: Main Sqn HQ ordered to move to C Flts previous location area Mill as soon as possible. Adjt and Equip Offr visited TAC HQ and were shown ALG and accommodation available.

 

20 October 1944: Capt E.C. Prest, D.F.C. visited 83 Gp Rear and saw w/C Carroll and later visited Major E.D.V. Prendergast at 34 C.C.S. Major E.D.V. Prendergast awarded D.F.C. 1430 - Flt Comds conference at Tac HQ re policy of continental leave. Capt. D.E. Richards flew to Main Sqn HQ to ascertain how soon it could be moved. Probably not until Tuesday. C Flt in support 3 Div for use with 25 Fd as flank protection.

 

21 October 1944: Capt C.P. Roberts (now grounded until 10 Nov) left C Flt and took charge of Sqn HQ. RAO 18 re future ops received from RA 8 Corps. A Flt report burnt out Auster M? 121 with 2 graves.

 

22 October 1944: 8 Corps merely improving present posns as opportunity affords. Likely to remain present location for a month. F/Lt. K. Smith granted 7 days compassionate leave.

 

23 October 1944: Major E.D.V. Prendergast, D.F.C., R.A. returned from 34 CCS but was not allowed to take over comd of Sqn yet.

 

24 October 1944: 0930 -  Sqn HQ moved to Mill. F/Lt. K. Smith posted to 125 Airfield. 1600 - C Flt moved under comd 12 Corps. Placed under comd 653 Sqn for employment with 15 (S) Div.

 

25 October 1944: Major E.D.V. Prendergast, D.F.C., R.A. re assumed comd of Squadron. Capt. E.C. Prest, D.F.C., R.A. experimented with aircraft fitted with camera but weather too misty.

 

26 October 1944: 1400 - Major E.D.V. Prendergast, D.F.C., R.A. visited flts. 12 Corps attack going well - in strength in 's Hertogenbosch and advancing on Tilburg.

 

27 October 1944: Nothing to report.

 

28 October 1944: 15 Div in Tilburg.

 

29 October 1944: Enemy counter attack against 7 US Armd Div by a Pz div and Pz Gr Div. Meijel and Liesel occupied by enemy. 15 Div brought back from 12 Corps to protect Helmond and stem enemy adv.

 

30 October 1944: 53 Div to be brought into 8 Corps on rt flank. Sqn may have to provide flt. C Flt 658 Sqn now at Helmond - responsibilities for 2 HCR front taken over by B Flt at request of 8 AGRA.

 

31 October 1944: B Flt 653 Sqn coming under comd for 53 Div. HQ 8 Corps moving tomorrow to area Mierlo. HQ 2 Army moving to Geldrop. Recce for accommodation carried out by Capt. D.E. Richards. No ALG found yet.

 

1 November 1944: 10.30 - Tac HQ moved with HQ 8 Corps to Mierlo. Major E.D.V. Prendergast, DFC, RA carried out recce for ALG and found site. Interpreter Sgt. Gerrits att. from Netherlands Mission.

 

2 November 1944: 09.30 - RE rep, Major E.D.V. Prendergast, DFC, RA and capt. C.P.

Roberts, RA visited site of proposed ALG. RE assistance necessary. Accommodation fixed for Sqn HQ. Phot/R area Maashees carried out. 23.30 - Photo's sent to HQRA 3 (Br) Div.

 

3 November 1944: 10.00 - REs started work on AL - levelling, filling in ditch and laying matting strip. Rain interfered with progress. 13.00 - Advance Party SHQ arrived.

 

4 November 1944: 09.30 - ALG ready and aircraft flown in. 14.00 - Remainder of party arrived. Phot/R sorties flown.

 

5 November 1944: Attack by 145 (S)Div towards MEIJEL. Held up by mines - 6 Gds Tk Bde bogged down. No progress made and attack cancelled. 14.00 - Major E.D.V. Prendergast, DFC, RA attended CCRA's conference. 15.00 - 5 pilots incl Lt. R.R. Graham, RA (crashed and evacuated in first op of 8 Corps in June) joined sqn.

 

7 November 1944: 09.30 - Major E.D.V. Prendergast, DFC, RA held conference attended by Flt Comds, Equip Offr, WO (Eng) and Photographic Cpl. Agenda - points to be discussed at 2 Army and 21 Army Gp Air OP conferences. 23.15 - Visit by comds A and C/652 sqn who are coming in sp 4 AGRA (8 Corps) and 9 AGRA (12 Corps) for pending ops.

 

8 November 1944: Auster reported shot down near Venray but not traced to Air OP. Weather very bad. A/652 recce'd ALG near Deurne. Gnr. V.A. Slater placed under close arrest on charges of AWOL and breaches of security pending reduction of evidence to writing.

 

9 November 1944: Major E.D.V. Prendergast, DFC, RA visited HQ 658 Sqn. A/652 Sqn placed under comd on arrival in 8 Corps area.

 

10 November 1944: Re-grouping of Second Army - relief by First Cdn Army being carried out in Nijmegen area.

 

11 November 1944: Major E.D.V. Prendergast, DFC, RA attended Air OP Org conference at Second Army. Capt. D.E. Richards visited 83 Gp Rear HQ re possible court martial of Gnr Slater but was recalled on orders CCRA 8 Corps.

 

12 November 1944: Final moves carries out prior to Ops MALLARD and NUTCRACKER.

 

13 November 1944: Weater too bad.

 

14 November 1944: Flt. Lt. K. Smith posted to 124 Wing RAF. Flt. Lt. Twyford arrived from 125 Wing to take over appointment of Sqn Adjt. 12 Corps commenced Op MALLARD.

 

15 November 1944: Lt. J. Wilson, RA killed - aircraft stalled and crashed while carrying out L.F.P. 15 (S) Div moved to occupy Meijel (in adv of schedule).

 

16 November 1944: 51 Div adv going well. 15 Div have two Coys in Donk 1000 yards south of Meijel.

 

17 November 1944: 15 an 51 Div made contact and br canal. 51 Div adv towards canal de Derivation. 8 Corps fronts quiet. Enemy patrols out on 3 Br front and Boxmeer area.

 

18 November 1944: 51 Div across Derivation canal without having to bring up 49 Div. Beringe clear and Panningen. American 9th Army attack directed on Cologne going well at first but meeting enemy resistance incl tks and losing momentum. Air attack on enemey airfields (strat bombing). Very good photos taken in afternoon - 11 Armd Div front incl Amerika and weir over River Maas. 30 Corps commenced Op CLIPPER with rt 84 US Div and Lt 43 Div. Successful adv to line Prummern - Trispath. 9 US Army made small adv against stiffening resistance.

 

19 November 1944: Continued slow progress.

 

20 November 1944: Major E.D.V. Prendergast, DFC, RA visited A Flt, A/652 and 11 Armd Div. 1 French Army reputed to have broken thro' to the Rhine taken 10,000 prisoners on the way.

 

21 November 1944: 1 French Army reported building bridge over the Rhine without opposition. Attack towards Venlo going well in spite of very difficult going underfoot. Major E.D.V. Prendergast, DFC, RA took run of photos for 3 Br Div - ex results. Mosquito crashed near Corps HQ - observer from 137 Sqn RAF spent the night with us.

 

22 November 1944: 11 Armd Div begun local attack - going well no opposition. 2 French Armd Div advancing towards Rheims. Wretched weather all day - roads and fields water logged. Capt W.J. McWilliam, RA pranged NJ 688 on landing - no injuries to himself. Major E.D.V. Prendergast, DFC, RA visited 3 Br Div re photographs also A and B Flts and A/652.

 

23 November 1944: Weather still foul, limited advances held up by weather. Major E.D.V. Prendergast, DFC, RA visited C Flt. Christmas arrangements made provisionally.

 

24 November 1944: French report outskirts of Strasbourg, 3,000 prisoners. Weather still very bad and making progress towards Venlo very slow. Heavy counter attacks by 6 Pz Army against 30 Br Corps and XII US Corps.

 

25 November 1944: AA warning system closed down 1200 hrs. The C.O. again went out shooting. Major E.D.V. Prendergast, DFC, RA took run of photos of the Maas which is now flooded. Recce party went to Helmond area for new SHQ ALG - present position now water logged and approaches unusable.

 

26 November 1944: C Flight moved. Attacks all along the line slow but sure. Definite improvement in weather.

 

27 November 1944: Cpt CP Roberts, RA grounded for 3 months on account of health. SHQ main moved to new position - very good billets. Major E.D.V. Prendergast, DFC, RA visited B and C Flts by air - all officers agreed to paying 1 pound towards men's Christmas party.

 

28 November 1944: Major E.D.V. Prendergast, DFC, RA saw Capt W.J. McWilliam, RA re his departure from the Squadron. Brig. Matthew saw Lieut's. A.L. Allan, J.A. Wilson and A.E. Strigner re their joining the Squadron. It was again terrible weather making roads and conditions very difficult. The Corps commander is reported going to take Eastern Command India and Lt. Gen. Barker is taking over 8 Corps.

 

29 November 1944: AOC 83 Group, RAF concurred with findings of court on fatal accident of Lt. J. Wilson, RA. Capt E.C. Prest, DFC, RA assumed comd of Sqn during temporary absence of Major E.D.V. Prendergast, DFC, RA (aircrew leave in UK). Sqn HQ and 6 Gds Tk Bde ad slight contretemps over billets in Helmond - settled by Q 8 Corps. 15 (S) Div and C Flt. passed to under comd 12 Corps for Venlo Op.

 

30 November 1944: Kasteel now reported evacuated by enemy. Re-shufling of divisions still proceeding. 50 Div leaving theatre of ops and relieved by 49 Div. 7 Armd Div is moving to under comd 30 Corps.

 

1 December 1944: B Flt provided one sec for C Flt in case of need. Capt. W.J. McWilliam, R.A. attached R.A. 15 (S) Div pending posting to Fd Regt after last aircraft accident. Received RA 8 Corps Planning Instr No.1 dated 1 Dec 1944. (Topsecret) relating to role of 8 Corps Arty and tasks for Air OP during period during which 8 Corps is holding line of river Maas. RA 11 Armd Div want A Flt to move nearer their HQ, but only possible to find ALG for use if a battle flares up.

 

2 December 1944: Received copy of G 8 Corps SIg Directive on wireless silence on moves of units (Topsecret). Sec from B Flt no longer required at C Flt. Received RA 8 Corps OP Instr No. 10 in confirmation of Planning Instr No. 1. Last pocket in Wanssum area cleared.

 

3 December 1944: Phot/R sortie of 11 Armd Div front in fine weather (excellent results). Rain spreading in afternoon and wind gusting to 30 mph. 15(S) Div started on op to clear Blerick (pt of Venlo west of river).

 

4 December 1944: A Flt probably moving to near HQ 11 Armd Div. C Flt request photos of 15 (S) DIv front tomorrow. 15 (S) Div finished clearing Blerick except for mopping up. No major changes. RA 11 Armd Div ordered 15 sets of photos taken 3 Dec. 2 TAF now agree to tour of duty in Air OP of 18 months for technical men. Preparations to be made for laying up 30% tpt during coming static period.

 

5 December 1944: Capt. E.C. Prest, D.F.C., R.A. took photos of 15 (S) Div front. Capt. W.J. Murray, R.A., O.C. C/658 rang up re proposal to establish mortar range near his ALG - matter probably ...

 

22 December 1944: ADLS cancelled. Capt. DJ Fletcher returned. Warning of possible attach on 11 Armd Div front. 11 Armd Div asked for return of 2 secs to A Flt. Maj Neilson, GSOII (Air OP duties) 21 A GP called to ascertain ALG between Helmond and Geldrop. 2 secs A Flt., ordered rejoing flight tomorrow.

 

23 December 1944: Weather slightly improved - photos taken of Sambeek Weir for Chief Engineer.

 

24 December 1944: C Flt 658 Sqn moving to A Flt. (HQ 8 AGRA now at Beringe).

 

25 December 1944: Maj EDV Prendergast and Capt DE Richards spent Xmas Day visiting flts and HQ. Quiet day on this front.

 

26 December 1944: C/658 moved to A Flt ALG. Americans (with aid of Br tps and RAF) appear to have situation nearly under control. C Flt shelled by 8 mm - no casualties.

 

27 December 1944: Bad weather - nothing to report. Further spasmodic shelling of C Flt ALG

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28 December 1944: Bad weather - nothing to report.

 

29 December 1944: Thick fog. Summary of Evidence in the case of AC1 Jones taken by F/Offr. L. Tomkinson. More shelling of C Flt - no casualties.

 

30 December 1944: Possible retaliation tgts investigated and air photos marked for engagement of tgts by datum pt method. Roads very icy.

 

31 December 1944: Weather very good and considerable air activity. Several runs of photos taken. Maj EDV Prendergast flew Lt. Gen. Barker (Comd 8 Corps) to look at Corps front. Capt DE Richards attended weekly RA conference at which Corps arty policy was reviewed.