For the first time since joining 467 Squadron, Phil Smith’s name was on the Battle Order tonight as captain of his own aircraft. The target – as if anyone expected anything different – was, once again, Berlin, now being attacked for the thirteenth time this winter. Two members of Phil’s normal crew did not take part in this raid. Navigator Jack Purcell, who was still off sick, and bomb aimer Jerry Parker were replaced by Flight Sergeants Leonard Connolly and F.G. Craven respectively. In any case, twelve aircraft were detailed from 463 Squadron, and fourteen from 467. They joined a total of 679 heavies and four Mosquitos sent to the German capital.
In an effort to support the force attacking Berlin, Bomber Command also sent a mining force to Kiel Harbour and several Mosquitos to harass Hannover and to bomb Berlin a full four hours before the main attack was due. On the other side, sixteen Messerschmitt Me410s and ten Focke-Wulf Fw190s made a small incursion into East Anglia, Kent and Sussex. A Mosquito nightfighter accounted for one of the raiders but a defending fighter was also shot down.
At Waddington, take off was scheduled for midnight. The first Lancaster – ED949 of 463 Squadron, under the command of Flying Officer Doug Dunn – roared down the runway at two minutes past the hour, and most were away by 00.36. Flight Lieutenant Ivan Durston was somewhat delayed, departing in ED867 thirteen minutes after the previous aircraft, and Pilot Officer Noel McDonald encountered engine trouble on the takeoff roll and aborted the mission on the runway. Phil Smith and his crew, meanwhile, were in Lancaster DV372, the nineteenth aircraft to depart. They left the ground at 00.28, climbed away and set course eastwards.
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