Military History Books
by Harold A. Skaarup   www.SilverHawkAuthor.com   
 
Canadian Warplanes 3: The Second World War, and post-War, North American B-25 Mitchell

North American B-25 Mitchell, RCAF

Data current to 21 March 2020.

 (DND Archives Photo via Etienne du Plessis)

North American Mitchell Mk. III, No. 406 (Auxiliary) Squadron, "City of Saskatoon", deployed on Exercise Sun Dog III.  It is being “bombed up” at RCAF Station Goose Bay, Labrador, 4-12 Feb 1952.  Sun Dog III was a joint training exercise carried out by the RCAF and the Canadian Army in the Labrador-Ungava area.

The North American B-25 Mitchell is an American designed twin engine medium bomber flown by the RCAF during and after the Second World War.  The RCAF flew the B-25 Mitchell for training during the war and continued flying operations after the war, in Canada with most of 162 Mitchells received.  The first B-25s had originally been diverted to Canada from RAF orders.  These included one Mitchell Mk. I, 42 Mitchell Mk. IIs, and 19 Mitchell Mk. IIIs.  No 13 (P) Squadron was formed unofficially at RCAF Station Rockcliffe in May 1944 and flew Mitchell Mk. IIs on high-altitude aerial photography sorties.  No. 5 OTU (Operational Training Unit) at Boundary Bay, British Columbia and Abbotsford, British Columbia, operated the B-25D Mitchell in a training role together with B-24 Liberators for Heavy Conversion as part of the BCATP.  The RCAF retained the Mitchell until October 1963.

No. 418 (Auxiliary) Squadron received its first Mitchell Mk. IIs in January 1947.  It was followed by No. 406 (Auxiliary), which flew Mitchell Mk. IIs and Mk. IIIs from April 1947 to June 1958.  No. 418 Operated a mix of Mk. IIs and Mk. IIIs until March 1958.  No. 12 Squadron of Air Transport Command also flew Mitchell Mk. IIIs along with other types from September 1956 to November 1960.  In 1951, the RCAF received an additional 75 B-25Js from USAF stocks to make up for attrition and to equip various second-line units.

North American NA-62B, B-25B Mitchell Mk. I (7), (Serial Nos. FK164, FK166, FK171, FK176- FK178, FK180), NA –87, TB-25L, B-25C/D Mitchell Mk. II (74), (Serial Nos. 891-894, FW220, FW237, FW246, FW251, FW259, FW260, FW272- FW274, FW278- FW280, HD310-15, HD310-17- HD310-20, HD310-22- HD310-26, HD310-31- HD310-35, HD310-37- HD310-45, KL133-61), NA-108, B-25J Mitchell Mk. III (77), (Serial Nos. 5200, 5220, 5227-5237, 5239, 5242-5283, KJ641, KJ764), B-25J Mitchell Mk. IIIA1 (6), (Serial Nos. 44-30314, 90, 44-30439, 44-30442, 44-30444, 44-30449), for a total of 164 aircraft)

 (RCAF Photo)

North American Mitchell Mk. IIs, Boundary Bay, British Columbia, ca 1942.

 (RAF Photo)

North American Mitchell Mk. II (Serial No. FV914), coded VO-A, No. 98 Squadron RAF based at Dunsfold, Surrey, unloading its bomb load over a flying-bomb launching site in northern France, during a 'Noball' operation, ca 1944.

     (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4447477)

    North American Mitchell Mk. II, coded EV, painted in D-Day invstion stripes, taking off, ca June 1944.

    The Royal Air Force received just over 700 Mitchells, many of which were flown with RCAF aircrews.  The RAF units included No. 98, No. 1890, No. 226, No. 305, No. 320, No. 342, No. 681, No. 684 Squadrons and No. 111 Operational Training Unit (OTU), RAF.  

    The B-25B was a modified Mitchell that had the tail and gun position removed and replaced by a manned dorsal turret on the rear fuselage and a retractable, remotely operated ventral turret, each with a pair of .50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns.  23 B-25Bs were supplied to the Royal Air Force as the Mitchell Mk. I. 

    The B-25C was an improved version of the B-25B, its powerplants were upgraded to R-2600-13 radial engines; de-icing and anti-icing equipment were added; the navigator received a sighting blister; and nose armament was increased to two .50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns, one fixed and one flexible.  The B-25C model was the first mass-produced B-25 version; it was also used in the United Kingdom (as the Mitchell Mk. II), in Canada post war.

    The B-25J-NC had a transparent nose, but many of the delivered aircraft were modified to have a strafer nose (J2).  Most of its 14–18 machine guns were forward-facing for strafing missions, including the two guns of the forward-located dorsal turret. The RAF received 316 B-25J aircraft, which were known as the Mitchell Mk. III.  The J series was the last factory series production of the B-25 with 4,318 built.

    The RAF was the only force to use the B-25 on raids against Europe from bases in the United Kingdom.  The USAAF used the Martin B-26 Marauder for this purpose instead.

    The first Mitchells to reach the RAF were 23 B-25Bs which were designated Mitchell Mk. I by the RAF and assigned the RAF serials FK161 through FK183. They were delivered in August 1941, and were assigned to No. 111 Operational Training Unit based in the Bahamas.  These planes were used exclusively for training and familiarization and never achieved operational status.

    The first operational B-25s to serve with the RAF were B-25Cs and Ds, which were designated Mitchell Mk. II by the RAF. Some of these were used by No. 13 Operational Training Unit (OTU) in England, but again most of them went to No. 111 OTU in the Bahamas.  A total of 93 Mitchell Mk. Is and Mk. IIs had been delivered to the RAF by the end of 1942.  The Mitchell Mk. II served with No. 2 Group, the RAF's tactical medium bomber force.  These planes were assigned to No. 98, No. 180, No. 226 and No. 329 Squadrons.

    The first RAF operation with the Mitchell Mk. II took place on 22 Jan 1943, when six aircraft from No. 98 and No. 180 Squadron attacked oil installations at Ghent.  Flak over the target was intense, and the German anit-aircraft gunners brought down one Mitchell, and Luftwaffe Focke-Wulf Fw 190s destroyed two more.  RAF Mitchell squadrons stood down to improve their tactics, and in the process, developed the practice of flying in extremely tight formations in order to concentrate their bombing pattern and to ward off enemy fighters.  The RAF Mitchells generally retained the retractable ventral turret, since protection from below was absolutely essential for medium-altitude operations over Europe.

    The RAF Mitchells returned to action on 13 May 1943.  After the invasion of Europe, all four Mitchell squadrons moved to bases in France to support Allied ground forces.  The British Mitchell squadrons were joined by No. 342 (Lorraine) Squadron of the French Air Force in April of 1945.

    Altogether, 167 B-25Cs and 371 B-25Ds were delivered to the RAF as Mitchell Mk. II.  Twelve RAF serial number batches were allocated to the Mitchell Mk. II.  The RAF was allocated 316 B-25Js as Mitchell IIIs. Deliveries took place between August 1944 and August of 1945. However, only about 240 of these planes actually reached Britain, with some being diverted to No. 111 OTU in the Bahamas, some crashing during delivery and some being retained in the USA.

    The Mitchell Mk. IIIs that did reach Britain were issued as replacement aircraft for 2 Group's Mitchell IIs from Nov 1944, although two Group squadrons retained the Mk. II since they regarded it as having a better control response than the Mk III because it was lighter.  On 1 Jan 1945, No. 80 Squadron lost 13 Mitchells on the ground during the Luftwaffe's New Year's Day raid on Allied airfields on the Continent.

    In addition to the 2nd Group, the B-25 was used by various second-line RAF units in the UK and abroad.  In the Far East, No. 3 PRU, which consisted of Nos. 681 and 684 Squadrons, flew the Mitchell (primarily Mk IIs) on photographic reconnaissance sorties.  393 Mitchells were still on RAF rolls in December 1945.  A total of 910 B-25s went to Britain under Lend-Lease, but some were returned at the end of the war.  (Joe Baugher)

     (RAF Photo)

    North American Mitchell Mk. II, coded EV, painted in D-Day invstion stripes, ca June 1944.

     (RAF Photo)

    North American Mitchell Mk. II, RAF.

     (IWM Photo, CH 20592)

    North American Mitchell Mk. II, RAF.  

    The Mitchell Mk. II had a 5-man crew, with a pilot, copilot, bombardier/nose gunner, navigator/upper turret gunner, and radio operator/belly turret gunner.  The early model B-25B had a Bendix L-type power-operated turret installed on the top of the rear fuselage which carried a pair of 0.50-inch machine guns.  In addition, a pair of 0.50-inch machine guns were mounted in a solid Bendix remotely-controlled ventral turret.  This turret could be retracted into the belly when not in use, the gun barrels fitting into slots in the fuselage when the turret was in the fully up position.

    The retractable ventral turret was generally disliked by the Mitchell crews.  The guns were sighted by a complex periscope system of lenses and mirrors mounted on the top of the turret's center column.  A kneeling gunner aimed the guns by looking through the periscope sight eyepiece and directed the guns by operating a dual hand control.  The optical sighting system was clumsy and cumbersome for gunners to use.  Cramped in an awkward kneeling position and peering through the sight, the gunner could not see what his hands were doing, and he could not see the barrels of his weapons in his sight.  The gunner often became dizzy when tracking enemy fighters through the sight, and he sometimes got so disoriented and nauseous that he could not even fire his guns.  In addition, the turret took 55 seconds to be lowered into place and set up for firing.  If lowered too quickly, the retracting micro switch could be damaged, jamming the turret in the down position and creating excessive aerodynamic drag. In addition, the ventral turret often collected mud and dust when operating from unimproved airfields, which obscured its sighting system.  The system was usually considered more trouble than it was worth, and was generally removed by combat units in the field, saving 600 pounds in weight and providing useful space for a long-range fuel tank.

     (IWM Photo, CH 13071)

    Three North American Mitchell Mk. IIs, FV905 ?MQ-S? "Stalingrad", FW130 ?MQ-A? and FW128 ?MQ-H?, of No. 226 Squadron RAF based at Hartford Bridge, Hampshire, about to bomb railway yards in northern France on the evening of 12 May 1944.

     (IWM Photo CL107)

    North American Mitchell Mk. IIs of No. 226 Squadron RAF based at Hartford Bridge, Hampshire, dropping 500-lb MC bombs over the Foret de Grimbosq south of Caen, in the evening of 12 June 1944.  This operation was the biggest daylight raid mounted by No. 2 Group since 6 June, in which 90 aircraft bombed the 21st Panzer Division which was dispersed in the forest.

     (RAF Photo)

    North American B-25 Mitchell Mk. III with uppper turret removed, RAF.

     (RAF Photo)

    North American Mitchell Mk. II, coded EV-W, RAF.

     

     (RAF Photo)

    North American Mitchell Mk. II, RAF.

     (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4447459)

    North American Mitchell Mk. IIIs, being bombed up, 22 Mar 1945.

    RCAF Post-war Mitchells

     (S/Sgt Ret. WJ Davidson Photo)

    North American Mitchell Mk. 2 PT (Pilot Trainer), RCAF (Serial No. KL160), coded SV, possibly in Manitoba. This Mitchell Mk. 2 PT is from No. 2 Air Observer School at RCAF Station Winnipeg, Manitoba.  It served with the unit from Sep 1957 until being taken out of service and stored as War Reserve in Mar1959.  It was struck off strength on 8Aug 1960.

     (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 5012359)

    North American B-25 Mitchell, W/T Operator's position, RCAF Station Boundary Bay, British Columbia, 29 Feb 1944.

     (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3574062)

    North American Mitchell Mk. II, RCAF (Serial No. 892), No. 14 (Photo Survey) Squadron, 4 July 1944.

     (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3583345)

    North American Mitchell Mk. II, RCAF (Serial No. 892), ca 1948.

     (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3583882)

    North American Mitchell Mk. II, RCAF (Serial No. 894), Op Eclipse, 20 Aug 1945.

     (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3583349)

    North American Mitchell Mk. II, RCAF (Serial No. 894), close up view of camera modification, No. 13 (P) Squadron, 4 July 1944.

     (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3583500)

    North American Mitchell Mk. II, RCAF (Serial No. 896), No. 1 Survey Detachment, 18 Sep 1945.

     (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3583502)

    North American Mitchell Mk. II, RCAF (Serial No. 896), No. 1 Survey Detachment, 18 Sep 1945.

     (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3584071)

    North American Mitchell Mk. II, RCAF, coded JA, ca 1950s.

    (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3207283)

    North American Mitchell Mk. II, RCAF, 28 Jul 1952.

    (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3584370)

    North American Mitchell Mk. II, RCAF (Serial No. HD331), coded AH-S, 3 July 1951.  Built as a B-25D (Serial No. 43-3844), this aircraft served at 5 OTU, Boundary Bay, later with No. 406 Squadron, Saskatoon, where it crashed on 13 August 1954.  The remains were scrapped 

     (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3584647)

    North American Mitchell Mk. II, RCAF (Serial No. HD331), 23 July 1951.

     (RCAF Photo, via James Craik)

    North American Mitchell Mk. II PT (Pilot Trainer), RCAF, (Serial No. 891), coded HO-891, "City of Edmonton", No. 418 Squadron.

     (RCAF Photo, via James Craik)

    North American Mitchell Mk. IIPT, RCAF, (Serial No. 891), coded HO-891, "City of Edmonton", No. 418 Squadron,

     (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3583510)

    North American Mitchell Mk. II, RCAF (Serial No. 891), No. 14 (Photo Survey) Squadron, 14 July 1944.

     (RCAF Photo)

    North American Mitchell Mk. III, RCAF, (Serial No. 5239).

     (DND Photo via James Craik)

    North American B-25J Mitchell (Serial No. 44-86699), coded O, Canada Aviation and Space Museum, Rockcliffe, Ontario.

     (IWM Photo, CH 13734)

    Ground personnel of No. 98 Sqn, RAF, who serviced North American Mitchell Mk. III (Serial No. HD372), coded VO-B, "Grumpy", during its record operational career, gather at the aircraft's nose at Dunsfold, Surrey, as Corporal V. Feast paints the 102nd bomb symbol onto its tally of operations.

     (Balcer Photo)

    North American B-25J Mitchell (Serial No. 45-8883), c/n 108-47734, coded VO-F, painted as "Grumpy", Reg. No. C-GCWM.   It is currently painted as now "Hot Gen",  and wears the colours of a B-25J of RAF No. 98 Squadron, which fought over North West Europe during 1944-45.  Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum, Mount Hope, Ontario.

    In 1976, the CWH Museum's Mitchell was painted in the colour scheme of a B-25 of No. 98 Squadron RAF as flown by RCAF F/O John W.D. Pudney of Vancouver, BC.  F/O Pudney was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) for his actions on 3 Dec 1944.

     (Hpulley4 Photo)

    North American B-25J Mitchell (Serial No. 45-8883), c/n 108-47734, coded VO-F

     (RAF Photo)

    North American B-25 Mitchell in RAF colours, ca 1944.

     (Author Photo)

    North American B-25J Mitchell Mk. III (Serial No. 5273).  Being restored.  No. 418 (City of Edmonton) Squadron, RCAF, was based in Edmonton from 1946 to 1957.  It was primarily a Search and Rescue Squadron and Tactical Air Command Squadron, with 12 Mitchells and two CT-133 Silver Stars stationed here.

     (Author Photo)

    North American B-25J Mitchell Mk. III, USAAF (Serial No. 44-86724), RCAF (Serial No. 5203).

     (dave_7 Photo)

    North American B-25J Mitchell, USAAF (Serial No. 44-86726), c/n 108-37520, RCAF (Serial No. 5237), Reynolds Aviation Museum, Wetaskiwin, Alberta.