After more than a week with no operations, the two Waddington squadrons were tonight going to war once more. And for the first time since arriving at the squadron, some members of Phil Smith’s crew found themselves on the battle order for the night’s trip. Phil himself “elected to follow custom” and went as second pilot with Pilot Officer Doug Harvey and crew, in Lancaster LM440. Eric Hill joined Pilot Officer Hugh Hemsworth in LM376, filling in for Hemsworth’s own mid-upper gunner. The rest of the crew, though, were still waiting to make their operational debuts.
In all, 467 Squadron sent sixteen aircraft on the operation and 463 got thirteen away, out of a total force of 498 Lancasters. The target was Brunswick in central northern Germany, and take-off from Waddington commenced from 16.15hrs.
Elsewhere, military targets in Northern France received attention from Bomber Command, and diversionary raids were made to Berlin and Magdeburg. Other aircraft “laid mines off the Frisians and in the Bay of Biscay, dispersed leaflets over France and completed intruder patrols” for no loss.
Unfortunately Pilot Officer Clive Quartermaine returned to Waddington in DV372 a little over an hour and a half after take-off with multiple aircraft defects and one 463 Squadron aircraft came back with compass trouble, but for the rest of the crews it was a good trip, and everyone from Waddington was safe (though Pilot Officer Bill Mackay, in DV240, landed away at Little Snoring). Menacingly, no fewer than three 467 Squadron machines showed evidence of damage from incendiaries and bombs dropped from higher-flying aircraft – they were declared ‘Cat. A/C’, to await the attentions of Avro for repair.
The Pathfinders achieved a good concentration of skymarker flares at the beginning of the raid and a good fire glow was seen by Harvey’s crew (including, of course, Phil Smith), but thick cloud over the target would prove decisive and later reconnaissance revealed only minor damage in the town itself, with many groups of craters well to the south of the aiming point. German defences were very active. Harvey reported no less than eight aircraft seen going down in flames near or over the target area, and Eric Hill received a worrying introduction to ops when his aircraft was hit by flak over Brunswick itself. In the end it would be determined that at least 23 aircraft were lost to fighters and six to flak. Another nine were lost to unknown causes, for a total of 38 bombers missing – including eleven Pathfinders. In return, five enemy aircraft are known to have been destroyed by the attacking Lancasters.
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