January had been a tough month. Though the Waddington Squadrons operated on only nine nights, they had lost, between them, sixteen crews – with five of those going missing on the second last night of the month. Berlin had been targeted no less than six times and, overall, Bomber Command had lost 5.5% of sorties it had despatched.
It was with some relief, then, that February got off to a very quiet start. Crews were stood down on Monday afternoon following Raid Assessment lectures. On Tuesday ‘A’ Flight 467 Squadron held a “conference on the recent losses of ‘A’ Flight crews. Intensive training was stressed and it is hoped that all crews will now become ‘gen’ crews and so cut down those losses.” As the relatively new Officer Commanding ‘A’ Flight, this conference was perhaps Phil Smith’s way of stamping his quiet authority on the men. On the same day Waddington held Station Defence Exercises and on Thursday there was a visiting American officer who gave a lecture to both squadrons about his home country and countrymen.
Wing Commander Sam Balmer – the 467 Squadron Commanding Officer – was required in London for a medical board from Wednesday, 2 February, and Phil Smith took temporary command of the Squadron. Phil remembered just one additional duty arising from this – interviewing an applicant for a commission. It was “quite a difficulty for the untrained and unprepared.” The results of this interview are not recorded. On the same day, however, Jack Purcell returned from the Station Sick Quarters.
As always, Bomber Command didn’t rest completely. Mosquitos attacked Berlin (again!), Aachen and Krefeld and carried out Serrate anti-nightfighter patrols on Tuesday. On Wednesday the Mosquitos attacked Elberfeld and Rheinhausen, on Thursday they went to Dortmund, Krefeld and Cologne, and on Friday to Frankfurt, Elberfeld and Aachen. Various other aircraft laid mines in Kiel Harbour on Wednesday, off the French Channel and Atlantic ports on Thursday and in the Bay of Biscay on Friday (4 February).
The Luftwaffe launched a raid on London and south-east England on 3 February. 95 made it to the coast, seventeen reached London and fourteen did not return. Mosquito nightfighters accounted for at least four of the victims.
Next post in this series: 5 February
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