467 Postblog XIV: Friday 21 January, 1944

A clear day dawned at RAF Waddington to the news that operations, once more, were on for tonight. Phil Smith and his crew completed a half-hour air test in Lancaster EE143[1] but they again found themselves off the battle order for the evening’s raid.

Fourteen 463 Squadron aircraft were detailed for tonight, with most headed for the night’s main force attack on Magdeburg. Two however went on a diversionary 5 and 8 Group raid to Berlin and one of the Magdeburg force made an early return. 467 Squadron sent thirteen aircraft to Magdeburg and two to Berlin, with take-off commencing at 19.50 hours.[2] Interestingly another crew (captained by Pilot Officer Ross Stanford) took EE143, the aircraft that Phil Smith had air tested earlier in the day.

Elsewhere, Bomber Command also attacked military targets in the Pas de Calais and Cherbourg areas, Mosquitoes bombed targets in the Ruhr. Other aircraft scattered leaflets over France, laid mines off St Nazaire and carried out intruder patrols.

This was the first big raid to Magdeburg, with a total of 648 aircraft despatched. The Pathfinders initially marked the target accurately but decoy markers set by the Germans successfully distracted the Main Force and the raid became scattered. The diversionary raid to Berlin may have contributed to a delay in the defenders identifying the main target, but in any case it appears that German nightfighters had infiltrated the stream before it had even crossed the enemy coast. Consequently it was believed that a large proportion of the 55 aircraft lost fell to the fighters.[3]

One of those missing was ED803, piloted by Pilot Officer Jack Mitchell, of 467 Squadron. It departed Waddington at 20.20 but crashed near Eikendorf, south of Magdeburg. There were no survivors.[4]

ED803, the aircraft lost tonight, is shown with a different crew in this photograph from some time in 1943. The crew depicted was lost on a raid to Milan on 15 August 1943. From the Waddington Collection, RAF Waddington Heritage Centre

ED803, the aircraft lost tonight, is shown with a different crew in this photograph from some time in 1943. The crew depicted was that of Flying Officer John Sullivan, lost on a raid to Milan on 15 August 1943. From the Waddington Collection, RAF Waddington Heritage Centre

Tonight the Germans launched what they called a ‘Steinbock’ (Capricorn) raid on London. Among the attackers were fifteen Heinkel He177s, the first time that aircraft was used on operations. 21 of the raiders failed to return.[5]

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] Flight is recorded in both Jack Purcell’s and Phil Smth’s logbooks; intriguingly the 467 Squadron ORB entry for this day states “there was no local flying for today”.

[2] 463 and 467 Squadron ORBs, 21JAN44

[3] Raid details from Night Raid Report No. 512, and RAF Bomber Command Campaign Diary, January 1944

[4] Storr, Alan 2006

[5] Bowman, Martin 2003 p.128

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