467 Postblog XIX: Sunday 30 January, 1944

There was little respite for the crews of Bomber Command, with yet another trip to Berlin laid on for tonight. As Flight Commander, Phil Smith did not go on quite so many operations as a ‘normal’ squadron pilot might, and his navigator was still sick, so he and his crew sat this one out again. Phil was however able to write a letter home. Leave was due in a week or so and he intended to spend it with his Uncle Harold. He also said he would try to get a current photograph of himself made, and perhaps even procure a film from somewhere to take some snaps of his new crew: “I have an English engineer – bomb aimer and gunner – and Australian navigator wireless operator and gunner. They are quite a good crowd all keen and hard working types.”[1]

Fourteen aircraft left for Berlin from 463 Squadron, but just ten from 467. Take off began just before 5pm. There was one early return, with 463’s Pilot Officer Charles Schonberg returning in ME614 with an overheating cabin and a sick navigator a couple of minutes before 9pm.

Flying Officer Dave Gibbs and crew (in DV277) just before take-off on 30 January 1944. It will be their seventh raid on Berlin. From the Waddington Collection, RAF Waddington Heritage Centre
Flying Officer Dave Gibbs and crew (in DV277) just before take-off on 30 January 1944. It will be their seventh raid on Berlin. From the Waddington Collection, RAF Waddington Heritage Centre

The rest of the Squadrons (part of a larger force of some 540 aircraft on the target) once again found Berlin covered in thick cloud, necessitating a skymarking attack that was later described as “concentrated”. The Night Raid Report for this night includes reports heard on German radio that “extensive areas” of the city had been hit, with “heavy damage caused to cultural monuments etc”.[2] Meanwhile, smaller forces of Mosquitoes attacked Elberfeld and Brunswick, along with some radio counter-measure sorties, Serrate anti-nightfighter patrols and minelaying in the River Gironde.

The nightfighters, it seems, caught up to the main bomber stream quite late in the piece, but once in it they didn’t lose it again and many combats were witnessed. A nightfighter was engaged and destroyed by 467 Squadron’s Flight Sergeants Henry Thompson[3] and Col Campbell, in Pilot Officer Bruce Simpson’s crew, on their way out of the target.[4] The aircraft was seen crossing underneath them and the gunners called for a corkscrew. They “brought all [their] guns to bear on the [aircraft]. Hits were observed and it was seen to turn its back and disappear.” It was not over for this crew however. Later one engine required feathering, and they came home on three.

One aircraft of 467 Squadron failed to return, probably DV378,[5] with Flying Officer Alex Riley and crew aboard. It was hit by flak and crashed near the target area. The only survivor was the Canadian bomb aimer, Warrant Officer J Valastin who became a POW.[6]

It was far worse for 463 Squadron, however. They lost no less than four crews, led by Pilot Officers Lindsay Fairclough, Peter Hanson, George Messenger and Doug Dunn. There appear to be some errors in the Operational Record Book concerning which aircraft they were flying when all four crews disappeared without trace, but they were most likely HK537,[7] JA973, ED772 and ED949.[8]

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] Smith, Phil 1944: Letter to his Father, 30JAN44

[2] Night Raid Report No. 518

[3] Thompson’s first name from The National Archives: AIR78 (thanks Graham Wallace)

[4] Account of this – from which the subsequent quote is taken – is in 467 Squadron ORB, 30JAN44. The type of nightfighter is unknown – in one section the ORB states a FW190 but in the other it states ME110.

[5] Recorded in the Operational Record Book as DV372 but in Blundell, 1975, Robertson, 1964 and Storr, 2006 as DV378. Robertson records DV372 as surviving the war to be scrapped in October 1945.

[6] Storr, Alan 2006

[7] Recorded in ORB as ED545, but Robertson, 1964 has that aircraft lost on 14MAY43. HK537, in the same source, is shown as being missing on 31JAN44 – there were no major raids on that night (no NRR), and the 30JAN44 trip returned near to or just after midnight so it is reasonable to take this as being the same raid.

[8] ORB and Blundell, 1975 agree on the latter three serial numbers, though Blundell wrote his entry under the wrong date (29JAN44) and misattributes ED772 as a 467 Squadron aircraft when Robertson shows it was actually with 463 Squadron.

7 thoughts on “467 Postblog XIX: Sunday 30 January, 1944

  1. ADAM, 1355357 F/SGT HENRY THOMPSON, originally part of A415204
    SGT H WARREN crew, posted in on 17/6/43 from 1660 CU.
    Information from AIR 78.
    Great blog, enjoy reading it, very informative and well put together.
    regards GRAHAM

    1. Graham,
      Many thanks for this – a resource I was unaware existed. I’ve made the appropriate amendment to the text. There are a few more airmen I mention in future posts who also don’t have known first names (yet), so I’ve had a look at TNA’s website for future use. Unfortunately the 250mb file size precludes receiving sections of the records via email (my account doesn’t handle such large attachments). Do you know if there’s another way to download them?

      1. ADAM, glad it was of use, you dont have to down load the files to view them, if you open air 78 it lists on a scroll bar the surnames in alphabetical order.It helps if you have there service number because like thompson there literally hundreds.Find you surname range click on details and it then takes you to the file, and then choose preview this record.It then opens the file and gives you 5 pages, it sometimes is a bit labourous but you just need to choose which end you surname will be the closest.I did put it on DOM’S forum but nobody replied, it is very useful when looking up POW’s.
        I have probably forty of the files downloaded, but is a pot luck selection, if you send me some of the ones you want including service number I will see if I have the file, it is really quick then.
        regards GRAHAM

  2. ADAM, looking into the night fighter claimed over BERLIN, THEO has it that 2 twin engined were shot down over BERLIN by 5 group crews.He says that only 1 single engined fighter was lost, it running out of fuel & crashing at MONCHENGLADBACH, it belonged to 1/NJ300, ME109-G5 of LT OTTO BRUNNING, he was killed.From NACHTJAGD WAR DIARIES VOL 1 pages 350-352.

    1. Thanks again Graham, I will have a look at the TNA website again and see if I can find my way in.
      Presumably one of the two twins shot down over Berlin was the one claimed by Bruce Simpson’s gunners.

  3. That is my father Maurice Giroux, top left. Have the picture in his war scrapbook

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