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Decoys and deception

Decoys and deception were just as much a part of the D-Day campaign as the fighters in the air and the troops on the ground. Operation Taxable was conducted on 6 June 1944 and involved aluminium foil being dropped from 16 Lancasters which acted as a 'window' and blocked German radar. Wing Commander John Bell MBE was a Bomb Aimer with 617 Squadron and he recalls what it was like on that night.

John says: "I was with 617 Squadron bombing targets in France until we were taken off bombing duties to practice a strange form of navigation and flying which eventually turned out to be the spoof raid which 617 Squadron flew on the night of the invasion, called Operation Taxable.

"In 1944 I was 21, we didn't know anything about D-Day and I can't remember if we were told while we were training that it was for the forthcoming invasion. But certainly on the night of the 5th June we were briefed that we were assisting the invasion forces. We knew that the invasion forces were moving across the Channel further west, heading towards the Normandy beaches.

"We were briefed on 5th June that our operation would take place that night, through the hours of darkness, and we took off at midnight.

"The spoof raid was initially operated by eight Lancasters flying in line towards the French coast, two miles apart at a height of three  thousand feet and a speed of 180 mph.

"While they were flying there were two air crew in the rear of each Lancaster and I was one of them.

"We were handed bundles of aluminium strip which we dropped at approximately three second intervals through the flare shoot.

"The strips varied in size and went from small to large as we approached the French coast and large to small when we turned back to the English coast.  A green light indicated when it was time to throw it.

Foil is dropped over Normandy"This created a huge cloud of aluminium strip, which was supposed to jam the German radars and  give the impression that something was happening behind the cloud, in other words were there ships approaching from behind that cloud?

"At the end of two hours we were relived by another flight of eight Lancasters that slipped in behind us to take over so there was no break in dropping the aluminium. That was our only mission on the night of the D-Day landings.

"There were lots of spoof raids to try and distract the Germans from the landing areas. There were some doubts as to how effective Operation Taxable was but the main thing was that the Germans were puzzled."

This blog is dedicated to the 55,573 men of Bomber Command who failed to return.

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