467 Postblog XVI: Thursday 27 January, 1944

A week after the last big raid on the city, Berlin was once again the target for operations for tonight. This would be the twelfth major operation against the German capital since the so-called Battle of Berlin began in November last year. Each squadron at Waddington briefed sixteen crews. Once again Phil Smith’s was not one of them. Though Jack Purcell was still in the Station Sick Quarters it is unknown why the others did not go either. Flight Lieutenant Ivan Durston began the mass take-off at 17.18 hours. All were away a little over 40 minutes later – with an average of less than a minute and a half between each heavily-laden aircraft. One aircraft was “unable to take off,” possibly due to an engine failure on the runway, and there was one early return – Pilot Officer Bruce Simpson in ED657, who ‘boomeranged’ due to compass trouble three and a bit hours after take-off. [1]

In all Bomber Command sent 530 aircraft on this trip to Berlin. In a good example of how the entire Command was coordinated to support the main force, significant diversionary and harassing operations were carried out across a wide front. Halifaxes laid mines in the Heligoland Bight and Wellingtons and Stirlings did the same off the Dutch coast (one Stirling was lost); Mosquitos dropped imitation fighter flares well away from the bombers’ route to and from the target and other aircraft flew radio counter-measure and intruder sorties targeting nightfighters. Though the fighters did intercept the bomber stream early, it appears that the spoof operations had the desired effect and “half the German fighters were lured north by the Heligoland mining diversion”.[2] Consequently fewer fighters attacked the bombers enroute to the target than usual. Even so, fighters were known to have claimed at least seventeen of the 32 aircraft that were lost on this trip.

The Main Force arrived over Berlin to find it once more blanketed in thick cloud, necessitating the use of less-accurate skymarkers. Crews reported a fair concentration of markers from the Pathfinders but there was no way to determine whether the markers themselves where anywhere near the target, so actual results of this raid remain uncertain.

The first successful aircraft arrived back at Waddington just after 01.30 in the morning. The last crew back, at 02.48, was that of Squadron Leader Bill Brill of 463 Squadron in DV274. They had been struck by incendiaries falling from higher-flying aircraft over the target and were close to baling out until Brill regained control and they set course for the long and uncomfortable trip home.

When word was received that two aircraft had landed away (Flight Lieutenant Geoff Baker in ED545 landed at a Coastal Command base at Thorney Island, near the Isle of Wight, and Pilot Officer John McManus diverted to Coleby Grange in JA901), there were still three aircraft outstanding from Waddington. Flying Officer Alan Leslie in ME563 from 463 Squadron crashed near Teltow, 16km south west of the centre of Berlin. 467 Squadron’s Pilot Officer Cec O’Brien, in ED539, crashed in the Berlin suburb of Kopenwick, 8km south east of the city. And Pilot Officer Stephen Grugeon (who had flown Phil Smith and crew to Little Snoring a few days ago) crashed east-north-east of Kassel in Germany.[3] All members of the three crews were killed.

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] 463 and 467 Squadron ORBs, 27JAN44

[2] Details of all operations from Night Raid Report No. 515. Further details and quote from RAF Bomber Command 60th Anniversary Campaign Diary, January 1944

[3] Storr, Alan 2006