The History of NA337
Halifax Mk VII, serial number NA-337 was delivered to RAF’s 644 Squadron at Tarrant Rushton, Dorset, England on 5 March 1945 and was given the squadron’s identification code 2P-X. On 24 March 1945, NA-337 took part in Operation Varsity, the last large-scale allied airborne operation of the Second World War: the crossing of the Rhine River. For this operation, it towed a Hamilcar glider that contained a Dodge truck and an artillery gun to be used by the army. Between 30 March and 24 April 1945, it participated in three supply drop operations to resistance forces in Denmark and Norway. On April 23, 1945, Halifax NA-337 was assigned what became its final mission.
April 23/24, 1945 – Tarrant Rushton
On April 23, 1945, Halifax NA-337, carrying the No. 644 Squadron Code 2P-X, was assigned its fourth mission, flying to Norway on a Special Operations Executive (S.O.E) operation. It was flown by its regular crew of Flt/Lt Alexander Turnbull DFC (pilot), Flt/Lt Walter Reginald Mitchell (navigator), Flt/Sgt Gordon Russell Tuckett (bomb aimer), Flt/Sgt Goronwy Amman Bassett (flight engineer), Flt/Sgt Alec Naylor (wireless operator), and Flt/Sgt Thomas Weightman (rear gunner). Operation ‘Crop 17’ required the dropping of 13 containers and 2 packages from an easterly direction on drop zone 328 (60 27 50N, 11 51 23E) at Mikkelsberget in Norway.
0800 hrs Base wide daily weather brief and BBC news update.
Days not flying were spent studying flight call signs, station standing orders and daily routine orders. Ground crews did physical labour, such as digging slit trenches around the sleeping quarters. New planes were quality tested, inspection of parachute packs were done periodically, gunnery practiced firing at drogues. Other practice exercises often held in the mornings included: formation flying, glider towing, live drops of troops, air to air and air to ground practice firing, navigation practice.
1200 hrs F/L Turnbull tells 2P-X crew to eat, then rest. Looks like a long night ahead.
Flight Lieutenant Alexander Turnbull DFC (Pilot)
Turnbull was 20 years old when he enlisted in 1940. From Edinburgh, Scotland, he was a very good golfer and played often. He was a member of the Edinburgh MG Car Club and attended local car rallies. His intention was to become a flight mechanic or flight rigger. In that capacity his unit was part of the Allied retreat caused by the counter attack of Rommel’s Afrika Korps in the Libyan Desert. He became a pilot in 1943. He married Veronica Wood on August 25, 1943. They had one son, Billy, born in 1944.