The first day of the New Year began as a very quiet winter’s Saturday morning at RAF Station Waddington. This, after the previous night’s fancy dress dance in the Mess, was probably just as well. Despite all that, though, there was still a war to be fought, and ops were on tonight for the airmen of 463 and 467 Squadrons.
Various aircraft across Bomber Command were given a variety of taskings for the evening. Mosquitoes were sent on precision raids against Witten, Duisberg, Bristellerie and Cologne. Eleven Wellingtons scattered propaganda leaflets over France. A diversionary force of fifteen more Mosquitoes harassed Hamburg, to try and draw defenders away from the main target – which, for the ninth time this winter, was Berlin. In all, the two Waddington Squadrons offered ten aircraft each. They were part of a force of 421 Lancasters destined for the Big City.
Two new crews arrived at Waddington during the day, both to join 467 Squadron. The captain of the first crew was a Flight Sergeant by the name of James Mudie. He got cracking quickly, joining Flight Sergeant Leo Patkin’s crew as a ‘second dickie’ on the Berlin trip while his own crew settled in to their new surroundings. The other crew was led by a quiet but highly experienced Australian Flight Lieutenant. Donald Philip Smeed Smith, better known as Phil, completed his first tour of operations flying Wellingtons from Elsham Wolds with 103 Squadron, followed by almost a year and a half instructing at an Operational Training Unit in the Cotswolds. There were three more Australians in his new crew: the Navigator, Flight Sergeant Jack Purcell, Wireless Operator Flight Sergeant Dale Johnston and Rear Gunner Sergeant Gilbert Pate. The balance of the crew was made up by Englishmen: the Flight Engineer, Sergeant Ken Tabor, the Bomb Aimer Sergeant Jerry Parker and the Mid-Upper Gunner, Sergeant Eric Hill.
While Mudie wasted no time in getting into action, Phil Smith had some additional administration to attend to, having been selected to replace the outgoing Flight Lieutenant Bill Forbes as Officer Commanding, A Flight, 467 Squadron, and he and his crew wouldn’t be flying tonight.
For the crews who were, take-off was set for midnight.
This post is part of a series called 467 Postblog, posted in real time to mark the 70th anniversary of the crew of B for Baker while they were on operational service with 467 Squadron at RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire. See this link for an in-depth explanation of the series, and this one for full citations of sources used throughout it. © 2014 Adam Purcell