467 Postblog XII: Saturday 15 – Wednesday 19 January, 1944

Still more of nothing […] this is a very quiet period with little doing as the weather is not behaving at all well.

So wrote Flying Officer Alan McDonald, the officer who had the job to compile the 467 Squadron Operational Record Book, on Tuesday 18 January. And that more or less sums up this period for Bomber Command. Even the Mosquitos left Germany alone.[2] At Waddington it was foggy on Saturday, and foggy with frost on Sunday. It cleared up a bit on Monday morning before the weather closed in again in the afternoon, there was a low cloud base on Tuesday and then it was very wet and miserable on Wednesday.

Even so, Phil Smith wrote to his mother on Saturday that the winter hadn’t been, in his opinion, particularly bad – “but there is still plenty of time I suppose.”[3] Having been in the UK since August 1941, this was Phil Smith’s third British winter. As he sat down to write his weekly letter home (albeit six days late), he was clearly of the opinion that, while the weather had prevented much happening in terms of operations while he’d been at Waddington, he had seen worse before. He was, however, quite impressed with the food that the RAF fed him, and credited it with a quick recovery from a mild cold he had suffered last week.

Gil Pate also took the opportunity to write a couple of letters home, getting one off to his mother on Sunday,[4] to thank her for a recently received parcel. He was also getting regular parcels from his father usually containing a newspaper or a ‘Bulletin’ magazine. Once he’d finished with the periodicals, he would forward them on to his uncle Herbert, who lived in Padiham in Lancashire.

Otherwise, airmen’s time was taken up with some more lectures or films. On Sunday the Squadron Medical Officer presented “First Aid on Operations” with the aid of a ‘volunteer’ airman who, standing in the cold being poked in the ribs, only made everyone else “feel colder than ever”. “Ditchings and Dinghy Drill” was covered on Tuesday and “Fuel Consumption” on Wednesday. Perhaps coincidentally, or perhaps not, the 463 Squadron Commanding Officer, Wing Commander Rollo Kingsford-Smith, took off shortly after the last one for a fuel consumption test in a Lancaster… but the weather closed in again in the afternoon and he had to divert to Acklington. Some physical training was carried out in both the gym and on the playing field as the 467 Squadron rugby competition continued on Monday.[5]

There was a little flying carried out in breaks in the weather. Phil Smith and his entire crew caught a lift in a Lancaster, flown by Pilot Officer Stephen Grugeon, to Little Snoring on Monday on their way to collect the aircraft that had been left there by another crew after they diverted on the way back from the Brunswick operation on Friday night. They flew the aircraft (serial DV240) home themselves, an uneventful trip of a little more than half an hour each way.[6]

They also took the opportunity to carry out an Air Test on Wednesday (19th) in Lancaster DV378, a flight which included practice bombing at Owethorpe near the Wainfleet range.[7] On arrival back at Waddington they carried out a practice three-engined overshoot; perhaps a response to the engine failure of six days previously. Their 1.25hrs of flying (including 0.20hrs on instruments – ie in cloud) contributed to a total of three hours in four flights carried out by the Squadron as a whole on this day.

Next post in this series: 20 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


[1]  467 Squadron ORB, 18JAN44

[2] There are no Night Raid Reports covering this period

[3] Smith, Phil; Letter to Mother, 15JAN44

[4] Pate, Gilbert; Letter to Mother, 16JAN44

[5] All recorded in 467 Squadron ORB

[6] Flights are recorded in logbooks belonging to Phil Smith and Jack Purcell.

[7] Route described in Jack Purcell’s logbook; aircraft and time in Phil Smith’s logbook