467 Postblog IX: Sunday 9 – Wednesday 12 January, 1944

The weather at Waddington this week varied between cold, rain, fog, snow, or various  combinations of all four. Consequently operations were never on the cards for the two Squadrons. There was a Church Parade on Sunday and a dance in the N.A.A.F.I. on Tuesday night, and ground training took up more time during the days: an Intelligence film on Sunday, lectures about Prisoners of War and Pathfinder tactics on Tuesday and the Monica early-warning radar system (again) on Wednesday.[1]

In an apparent effort to keep airmen occupied, a rugby competition was organised on Wednesday afternoon, with aircrew playing seven-a-side as individual crews. Results were unfortunately not recorded in the Operational Record Book. 467 Squadron also received a number of visitors, with young members of the Air Training Corps being shown over the Squadron’s aircraft on Sunday and the Inspector General of the Royal Air Force, Air Vice Marshal Sir E.R. Ludlow-Hewitt G.B.E., K.C.B., C.M.G., D.F.C., M.C., alphabet and Bar dropping by on Monday. He arrived, inspected pronounced himself satisfied and left again.[2]

It began to snow on Monday afternoon. For the Australians on the station this was a great novelty, many of them never having seen snow before. With training flights planned for later in the evening, the ground crew were given shovels and told to clear the runway of the falling white stuff.[3]

Snow at Waddington in the winter of 1943-44. The Lancaster is ED606, JO-E of 463 Squadron. From the Waddington Collection, RAF Waddington Heritage Centre

Snow at Waddington in the winter of 1943-44. The Lancaster is ED606, JO-E of 463 Squadron. From the Waddington Collection, RAF Waddington Heritage Centre

Given the poor weather, many airmen found the time to write a quick letter or two home. Dale Johnston wrote to his father. He knew that he was getting closer to going into battle and sought to reassure his family:[4]

Perhaps next week we will be going on ops […] but don’t worry, there is nothing to panic about. I firmly believe that in these times, if a fellow has got to go, he will. If your number is up, then you are for it. Myself and the rest of the crew are all anxious to get into it, especially with the new skipper.

Operations were indeed getting closer; and to prove that they had learnt something during their operational training Phil Smith and his crew in Lancaster DV373 were among those who took off after nightfall (and after the snow had been cleared from the runway by the long-suffering groundcrews) on Monday 10 January for a ‘Bulls Eye’ trip. They spent five hours and twenty minutes flying a mock operation, with all members of the crew involved. Phil flew the aeroplane, with Ken Tabor managing fuel and other systems on the Lancaster. Jack Purcell found the target, and the way home again. Dale Johnston listened out for instructions from base. Fighter Command provided aircraft to act as enemy nightfighters, so Gil Pate and Eric Hill were keeping a good lookout. A flare dropped over an English city was the target, which Jerry Parker had to ‘bomb’, with a camera to record how close to the aiming point they got. With searchlight units also part of the exercise it was a fairly realistic simulation of a real operation.[5]

Meanwhile, despite the weather keeping the Main Force of Bomber Command on the ground during this period, limited operations did take place with smaller forces and smaller aircraft on Monday night. Ten Mosquitos went to Berlin, seven to Solingen, two to Koblenz and one to Krefeld, and all returned safely.[6]

 

Next post in the series is due on on 13 January.

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

Sources:


[1] Descriptions of daily activities at Waddington from 463 and 467 Squadron ORBs, 9-12JAN44

[2] 467 Squadron ORB, 10JAN44

[3] Blundell, HM 1975, p. 12

[4] Johnston, Dale. Letter to his Father, 09JAN44, as transcribed by Don Smith. From Mollie Smith’s collection.

[5] Description of Bullseye operation from Fallon, p. 55

[6] Night Raid Report No. 508

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