Plane spotting: D-Day deception

lancaster silhouette front

Some time ago I suggested to BrownhillsBob that some images from an aircraft recognition manual from 1944 might be of interest. I am only just getting round to it.

I inherited the manual, which I think belonged to my late uncle Walter Dennis, who, after his shift at Kynoch, Perry Barr, Birmingham, was charged with spotting aircraft movements. There was a network of such people across the country: the Royal Observer Corps. They reported their observations to operations rooms by field telephone, which helped with decisions about defence against air raids, for example directing anti-aircraft artillery and fighter aircraft.

Self-evidently, this was most important during the Blitz and other raids on Birmingham’s manufacturing giants between August 1940 and April 1943. By the time the 1944 edition was available the raids on Birmingham had ceased, but, of course, the war raged on. I want to find out more about the sort of aircraft Walter would have seen, but on the anniversary of D-Day, it seems more appropriate to focus on allied aircraft that supported the Normandy landings on 6 June 1944.


A little known exploit of the famous 617 “Dambusters” Squadron, was that they took part in the subterfuge that helped to convince the German high command that the invasion would focus on Calais.  Consequently they did not commit their full force to repelling the real invasion, which might very well have been achieved.

The Lancaster bomber is more readily associated with precision bombing raids, such as the dams raid, sinking the Tirpitz, or destroying u-boat pens and other massive structures that other aircraft could barely scratch.

In the small hours of 6 June 1944 the task for 617 Squadron was to fly in formation dropping “window”, essentially clouds of metal strips, in a pattern that would lead German radar operators to think there was a big fleet of ships heading for Calais. One more piece of “evidence” that Normandy was merely a feint, or sideshow.

lancaster silhouette (640x456)
Silhouettes from The Aircraft Recognition Manual, p 94.


Gibbs-Smith, C H, Royal Observer Corps, 1944, The Aircraft Recognition Manual, for British Aviation Publications Ltd, by George Newnes Ltd., London.

Channel 5 TV:  What the Dambusters did next (sadly, the Youtube version is blocked in the UK).



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