Winston Johnson, navigator, Special Duties

Winston Johnson’s wartime service was as a navigator/specialist wireless operator. He was involved in top-secret work, and his log book records a number of flights to Radlett in Hertfordshire, where 80 Signals Wing was located.

80 Signals Wing dealt with intelligence, radio, radar and radar-countermeasures. It followed on from the Radar Counter-Measures (RCM) unit, and was created in October 1940. The Wing’s motto was ‘Confusion to Our Enemies’. Initially based at a requisitioned country hotel, Aldenham Lodge, at Radlett, Hertfordshire, its HQ eventually moved to the Handley-Page factory aerodrome (also known as RAF Radlett).

In 1942, 80 Signals Wing was allocated an airborne unit, the Wireless Intelligence and Development Unit (WIDU). Increasing to squadron strength, this became 109 Squadron. Not long afterwards, in August 1942, 109 Squadron became a founding Mosquito squadron of the Pathfinders.

By December 1943 the work of 80 Signals Wing and 109 Squadron had become so extensive that 100 Group, Bomber Command, was formed. 80 Signals Wing was an integral part of this group. 109 Squadron continued to serve with the Pathfinders, variously at Wyton, Marham, and Little Staughton.

Bennett writes of the late 1943/early 1944 changes in his autobiography:

Early in 1944 Bomber Command formed a new Group called 100 Group, which took over some of the sundry duties which the Pathfinders had been carrying out before that date.


“Pathfinder” (Frederick Muller, London, 1958), p. 223.

Winston Johnson’s logbook is a small window into this secretive intelligence world. It is not clear whether Johnson ever served with the Pathfinders. Although he was a member of 109 Squadron when it transferred into the PFF, his notebook entry here suggests that he was allocated to other work and his logbook records him serving with 1473 Flight at Finmere.

However, he also appears to have occasionally flown on ops, as in the entry for 20 December 1943. The operation was from Marham, a Pathfinder station, where 109 Squadron was based at that time.

On 31 January 1945, Winston was posted overseas to the BLA, the British Liberated Area, where he remained until 18 May 1945, possibly as part of a mobile signals unit. It is thought that this mixed group of RAF, Army and civilian personnel (see below), probably taken in London, may have been something to do with the BLA posting. Johnson is far left, top row. The man in glasses standing in front of him appears to be the same man who can be seen in the second photograph, showing a German-marked lorry.

If anyone has any information which may further identify the people or the places in these photographs, please let us know.

One clue may be the insignia on the man in civilian clothing in the group photo – if you recognise this, please get in touch.

And one further photograph from Winston’s overseas posting – do you know where this townscape is? The tower in the background is very distinctive.

Images courtesy of Andy Johnson