467 Postblog XI: Friday, 14 January 1944

After more than a week with no operations, the two Waddington squadrons were tonight going to war once more. And for the first time since arriving at the squadron, some members of Phil Smith’s crew found themselves on the battle order for the night’s trip. Phil himself “elected to follow custom”[1] and went as second pilot with Pilot Officer Doug Harvey and crew, in Lancaster LM440. Eric Hill joined Pilot Officer Hugh Hemsworth in LM376, filling in for Hemsworth’s own mid-upper gunner. The rest of the crew, though, were still waiting to make their operational debuts.

In all, 467 Squadron sent sixteen aircraft on the operation and 463 got thirteen away, out of a total force of 498 Lancasters. The target was Brunswick in central northern Germany, and take-off from Waddington commenced from 16.15hrs.

Elsewhere, military targets in Northern France received attention from Bomber Command, and diversionary raids were made to Berlin and Magdeburg. Other aircraft “laid mines off the Frisians and in the Bay of Biscay, dispersed leaflets over France and completed intruder patrols” for no loss.[2]

Unfortunately Pilot Officer Clive Quartermaine returned to Waddington in DV372 a little over an hour and a half after take-off with multiple aircraft defects[3] and one 463 Squadron aircraft came back with compass trouble,[4] but for the rest of the crews it was a good trip, and everyone from Waddington was safe (though Pilot Officer Bill Mackay, in DV240, landed away at Little Snoring). Menacingly, no fewer than three 467 Squadron machines showed evidence of damage from incendiaries and bombs dropped from higher-flying aircraft – they were declared ‘Cat. A/C’, to await the attentions of Avro for repair.

The Pathfinders achieved a good concentration of skymarker flares at the beginning of the raid[5] and a good fire glow was seen by Harvey’s crew (including, of course, Phil Smith), but thick cloud over the target would prove decisive and later reconnaissance revealed only minor damage in the town itself, with many groups of craters well to the south of the aiming point. German defences were very active. Harvey reported no less than eight aircraft seen going down in flames near or over the target area, and Eric Hill received a worrying introduction to ops when his aircraft was hit by flak over Brunswick itself. In the end it would be determined that at least 23 aircraft were lost to fighters and six to flak. Another nine were lost to unknown causes, for a total of 38 bombers missing – including eleven Pathfinders. In return, five enemy aircraft are known to have been destroyed by the attacking Lancasters.

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] Phil’s Recollections of 1939-1945 War, p. 20

[2] Night Raid Report No. 510

[3] 467 Squadron ORB

[4] ED606 of 463 Squadron, captained by P/O ARS Bowan – 463 Squadron ORB

[5] Description of raid comes from Night Raid Report No. 510 and 467 Squadron ORB, 14JAN44

467 Postblog X: Thursday 13 January, 1944

There was some commotion at Waddington this morning preparing for a visit by the Australian Chief of Air Staff, Air Vice Marshal Jones, to the two Australian squadrons, accompanied by the Air Officer Commanding, RAAF Overseas Headquarters, Air Vice Marshal Wrigley. In the end, however, the two senior officers simply “had a hurried look around the Squadrons, stayed for lunch and departed for Binbrook.”[1]

It was a busy day for Phil Smith though. Not only did he officially assume command of ‘A’ Flight from the outgoing (and promoted, since the last time we saw him) Squadron Leader Forbes today, in the afternoon he presented a lecture to the aircrew of 467 Squadron about Bomber Command tactics and he was also detailed, along with his crew, for a practice bombing flight after that.

They took off uneventfully in a Lancaster[2] but part way through the flight, the starboard inner engine spluttered and failed. Even with one engine out, however, the Lancaster barely noticed. “After feathering the propeller the machine seemed to be remarkably little affected in level flight”, Phil later wrote, “and the subsequent landing was trouble free.”[3]

Later in the evening, the Officers’ Mess hosted a “merry” going-away party for Bill Forbes. And elsewhere, the Mosquito light bombers were out again. Twelve aircraft went to Essen, nine to Duisburg, and two each to Aachen and Koblenz. One failed to return from Essen but all others came home safely.[4]

Squadron Leader Bill Forbes and crew in late 1943. L-R: P/O H Robertson (nav), Sgt AJ Norman (RG), P/O F Miller (F/E), S/L WA Forbes (Pilot), Sgt F McLeod (W/O), P/O H Garth (MUG) and P/O W Grimes (BA). Photo: The Waddington Collection, RAF Waddington Heritage Centre
Squadron Leader Bill Forbes and crew in late 1943. L-R: P/O H Robertson (Nav), Sgt AJ Norman (RG), P/O F Miller (F/E), S/L WA Forbes (Pilot), Sgt F McLeod (W/O), P/O H Garth (MUG) and P/O W Grimes (BA). Photo: The Waddington Collection, RAF Waddington Heritage Centre

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] 467 Squadron ORB 13JAN44

[2] Phil’s logbook des not record a serial for this trip

[3] Smith, Phil, Phil’s Recollections of 1939-45 War

[4] Night Raid Report No. 509

467 Postblog IX: Sunday 9 – Wednesday 12 January, 1944

The weather at Waddington this week varied between cold, rain, fog, snow, or various  combinations of all four. Consequently operations were never on the cards for the two Squadrons. There was a Church Parade on Sunday and a dance in the N.A.A.F.I. on Tuesday night, and ground training took up more time during the days: an Intelligence film on Sunday, lectures about Prisoners of War and Pathfinder tactics on Tuesday and the Monica early-warning radar system (again) on Wednesday.[1]

In an apparent effort to keep airmen occupied, a rugby competition was organised on Wednesday afternoon, with aircrew playing seven-a-side as individual crews. Results were unfortunately not recorded in the Operational Record Book. 467 Squadron also received a number of visitors, with young members of the Air Training Corps being shown over the Squadron’s aircraft on Sunday and the Inspector General of the Royal Air Force, Air Vice Marshal Sir E.R. Ludlow-Hewitt G.B.E., K.C.B., C.M.G., D.F.C., M.C., alphabet and Bar dropping by on Monday. He arrived, inspected pronounced himself satisfied and left again.[2]

It began to snow on Monday afternoon. For the Australians on the station this was a great novelty, many of them never having seen snow before. With training flights planned for later in the evening, the ground crew were given shovels and told to clear the runway of the falling white stuff.[3]

Snow at Waddington in the winter of 1943-44. The Lancaster is ED606, JO-E of 463 Squadron. From the Waddington Collection, RAF Waddington Heritage Centre
Snow at Waddington in the winter of 1943-44. The Lancaster is ED606, JO-E of 463 Squadron. From the Waddington Collection, RAF Waddington Heritage Centre

Given the poor weather, many airmen found the time to write a quick letter or two home. Dale Johnston wrote to his father. He knew that he was getting closer to going into battle and sought to reassure his family:[4]

Perhaps next week we will be going on ops […] but don’t worry, there is nothing to panic about. I firmly believe that in these times, if a fellow has got to go, he will. If your number is up, then you are for it. Myself and the rest of the crew are all anxious to get into it, especially with the new skipper.

Operations were indeed getting closer; and to prove that they had learnt something during their operational training Phil Smith and his crew in Lancaster DV373 were among those who took off after nightfall (and after the snow had been cleared from the runway by the long-suffering groundcrews) on Monday 10 January for a ‘Bulls Eye’ trip. They spent five hours and twenty minutes flying a mock operation, with all members of the crew involved. Phil flew the aeroplane, with Ken Tabor managing fuel and other systems on the Lancaster. Jack Purcell found the target, and the way home again. Dale Johnston listened out for instructions from base. Fighter Command provided aircraft to act as enemy nightfighters, so Gil Pate and Eric Hill were keeping a good lookout. A flare dropped over an English city was the target, which Jerry Parker had to ‘bomb’, with a camera to record how close to the aiming point they got. With searchlight units also part of the exercise it was a fairly realistic simulation of a real operation.[5]

Meanwhile, despite the weather keeping the Main Force of Bomber Command on the ground during this period, limited operations did take place with smaller forces and smaller aircraft on Monday night. Ten Mosquitos went to Berlin, seven to Solingen, two to Koblenz and one to Krefeld, and all returned safely.[6]

 

Next post in the series is due on on 13 January.

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] Descriptions of daily activities at Waddington from 463 and 467 Squadron ORBs, 9-12JAN44

[2] 467 Squadron ORB, 10JAN44

[3] Blundell, HM 1975, p. 12

[4] Johnston, Dale. Letter to his Father, 09JAN44, as transcribed by Don Smith. From Mollie Smith’s collection.

[5] Description of Bullseye operation from Fallon, p. 55

[6] Night Raid Report No. 508

467 Postblog VIII: Saturday 8 January, 1944

After a couple of days off, aircrew were woken early this morning for the ‘usual weekly parade’. The weather was cold and dull.[1] No operations were scheduled, but finally some flying happened for Phil Smith and his crew. It was a training flight to learn the 5 Group ‘Quick Landing Scheme’, the procedure used for recovering the Squadron’s aircraft in a safe and efficient manner following an operation.

The scheme was based around the lights of the Drem System which marked the circuit around an aerodrome. Arriving aircraft would call up on the airfield’s frequency and be told to orbit at specified heights (with newer arrivals ‘stacked up’ above aircraft that had been waiting longer). When it was their turn to join the circuit for landing, aircraft changed to a second frequency to report passing a number of positions around the circuit: ‘Upwind’, ‘Downwind’ and ‘Funnels’. After landing, they reported clear of the runway. The idea was that each following pilot would hear those reports and could therefore keep himself one position behind the one in front in the circuit. As each aircraft left the bottom of the stack circling over the aerodrome, those still waiting above it could be stepped down a level until they were at the bottom, and therefore next to join the circuit. It sounds complicated, but in practice worked very simply and effectively in reducing the risk of collisions over base and had an added benefit of speeding up the process so aircraft needed to wait as short a time as possible before landing. To learn the scheme, pilots attended a lecture in the classroom, and then a “demonstration on the ground with officers walking around an oval and calling at the checkpoints”.[2] Finally they gave it a try in the air. Phil Smith’s logbook records flying for almost an hour in Lancaster DB372.[3]

RAF Waddington Flying Control. From the Waddington Collection, RAF Waddington heritage Centre
RAF Waddington Flying Control. From the Waddington Collection, RAF Waddington heritage Centre

In the afternoon, the crew saw a lecture on “Raid Damage to Germany”, delivered by a visiting officer called Squadron Leader Morris.[4]

Later in the evening Gil Pate sat down and wrote a letter to his mother.[5] Like his pilot, he recently received a parcel of goodies from home, and was particularly looking forward to getting stuck into the Christmas cake that was in it.

Meanwhile, Bomber Command sent 23 Mosquitoes to attack various targets in Germany. One ditched in the ocean on the way home and one other was lost without trace.[6]

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] 467 and 437 Squadron ORBs, 08JAN44

[2] Description of the 5 Group Quick Landing Scheme is in Conway 1995, p.123

[3] This flight is referred to as ‘Quick Landing Practice’ in Phil Smith’s logbook. In Jack Purcell’s it is shown as a ‘N.F.T.’, or Night Flying Test – I suppose for the navigator it would have felt much the same!

[4] 467 Squadron ORB, 08JAN44

[5] Pate, Gilbert. Letter to Mother, 08JAN44

[6] Night Raid Report No. 507

467 Postblog VII: Friday 7 January, 1944

Gilbert Pate, like the rest of Phil Smith’s crew, was due back from leave today. Before he returned to Waddington he made sure to send a quick telegram home to reassure his family that all was going ok: [1]

AM FIT AND WELL KEEP SMILING ALL MY LOVE DEAREST GILBERT PATE

As the moon period continued, it was declared a ‘make and mend’ day and no operations were planned. It’s uncertain if all the aircrew got back in time for a lecture about the early-warning radar system called Monica.[2] There was a little bit of flying during the day and ‘an attempt’ was made to fly some night circuits but it was abandoned due to poor visibility.

The conditions were not bad enough, however, to stop Bomber Command completely. While Main Force crews were given the night off, a bunch of Mosquitoes were sent to Germany to attack industrial targets in Krefeld and Duisberg. All eleven aircraft involved returned, though one crashed on landing back at its base. The leaflet droppers also operated tonight over Northern France. Fourteen Wellingtons and Whitleys sallied forth and all returned safely.[3]

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] Pate, Gilbert, Telegram to Family, sent 07JAN44, received 22JAN44

[2] 467 Sqn ORB, 07JAN44

[3] Night Raid Report No. 506

467 Postblog VI: Thursday 6 January, 1944

Waddington’s Lancasters arrived back from Stettin between 08.27 and 09.37 this morning.

Except for three.

One diverted to Wigsley (and was “outstanding for a while” until it was reported that he was safe on the ground there[1]) but two remained missing. Pilot Officer Frank Connolly and crew, in ED547, disappeared without trace. Flying Officer Colin Reynolds and crew, in ED994, crashed north of Stettin. Only the flight engineer, Sergeant W King, survived.[2]

The feint attack on Berlin worked as planned, successfully drawing defenders away from the main force, but even so the missing Waddington aircraft were two out of a total of 27 bombers lost in last night’s trip. 467 Squadron crews reported “one very big explosion” over the target and “all considered this the best effort for months”, with fires visible 200 miles away. Heavy damage was caused in the central part of Stettin, though the phenomenon of ‘creepback’ led to undershooting and scattered the bombing a little to the west of the aiming point.[3]

Aiming Point Certificate aarded to Pilot Officer Fred Smith and crew from the Stettin trip, from the Waddington Collection, RAF Waddington Heritage Centre
Aiming Point Certificate aarded to Pilot Officer Fred Smith and crew from the Stettin trip, from the Waddington Collection, RAF Waddington Heritage Centre

At Waddington itself, it was a clear day, but both Squadrons were stood down and nothing much happened during the day. After the very late return this morning from the operation, there were “very few aircrews who were on last night in evidence”.[4]

One of the few not needing to sleep off the operation, Phil Smith wrote to his mother[5] with his first impressions of his new posting: “As I expected I am now on an Australian squadron – my new station is a prewar one and very comfortable. I have not seen enough of the squadron to be able to pass any real comments but so far as I can see I think life will be very much the same as with an ordinary RAF unit over here.”

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] 467 Squadron Operational Record Book, 06JAN44

[2] Storr, Alan 2006. King was not RAAF so his full name is unknown.

[3] Night Raid Report No. 504

[4] 463 Sqn Operational Record Book, 06JAN44

[5] Smith, Phil. Letter to his Mother, 06JAN44

467 Postblog V: Wednesday 5 January, 1944

With many crews on leave and the moon period current, it was with some surprise that the Waddington squadrons were told this morning that operations would be on tonight. The target was Stettin. 463 Squadron put up seven aircraft and 467 detailed eleven for the trip,[1] among a total force of 333 heavies. Other Bomber Command units were also in action, sending Mosquitoes on a feint attack to Berlin and other targets in Western Germany, more Mosquitoes to the Cherbourg Peninsula, Lancasters to lay mines and a Beaufighter on a Serrate radio counter-measures patrol[2]– the last Beaufighter to carry out one of these before Mosquitoes took over the duty full-time.

Meanwhile, Phil Smith’s crew were still on leave. Gil Pate was living it up in London. By this time he’d been there a few times and was starting to find his way around like a local.[3] Today he decided to get a formal portrait taken:

Gilbert Pate in London. Photograph courtesy Gil and Peggy Thew
Gilbert Pate in London. Photograph courtesy Gil and Peggy Thew

He signed it ‘Love, Gil’, gave it today’s date and decided to post it to his mother when he got back to Waddington.

 

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] 463 and 467 Squadrons Operational Record Books 05JAN44

[2] Details of further operations in both Night Raid Report No. 504 and RAF Bomber Command Campaign Diary, January 1944

[3] Letter Gilbert Pate to his mother, 08JAN44

 

467 Postblog IV: Tuesday 4 January, 1944

As the weather was still poor and the moon period was beginning, no operations were expected for the Waddington squadrons over the next few nights so many crews were sent off for a short period of leave. Phil Smith’s crew were no exception. Rear gunner Gilbert Pate in particular got straight onto a train and headed for London.

There was no leave for Phil himself however. He had much work to do to get up to speed in his soon to be new role as Flight Commander, so he consoled himself by opening a tin of goodies that his mother had sent him for Christmas. Fudge… milk chocolate… caramels… all the things he was ‘particularly fond of’.[1] It made the foggy winter’s day go by that much quicker.

But just because there was a bright moon rising didn’t mean that Bomber Command stopped entirely. 80 aircraft – predominantly Stirlings with small numbers of Mosquitoes and Lancasters – headed off to attack a pair of flying bomb sites in France.[2] Mosquitoes raided Cologne and Krefeld. The usual ‘gardening’ (minelaying) and ‘nickelling’ (leaflet dropping) sorties were carried out over France. And Berlin, having been given a rest last night, was harassed once again, this time by a small force of Mosquitoes.

In all, 148 aircraft were involved in the night’s operations, for no losses (though one Stirling crashed on landing).[3]

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] Smith, Phil. Letter to his mother, 06JAN44

[2] RAF Bomber Command Campaign Diary, JAN44

[3] Details of the night’s operations are in Night Raid Report No. 503

467 Postblog III: Monday 3 January, 1944

An eerie silence hung over Waddington around the time the crews were due back from Berlin this morning. A quick look outside confirmed that thick fog had settled on the aerodrome and it was soon established that all aircraft returning from Berlin had been diverted to other bases. After two long trips on consecutive nights, and with the weather looking like staying duff all day, a stand-down was declared.

Which explained the silence.

The ‘Big City’ had become such a common target in recent months that some ground crew were now beginning to call it the Battle of Berlin.[1] Last night’s raid followed a now familiar pattern: the large force of aircraft found heavy cloud over the target and bombed skymarker flares with unknown success – the only evidence of note being an intercepted German wireless broadcast which referred to ‘attacks against various residential districts of the Reich capital’.[2]

What was certain, however, was that fighters were very active last night and consequently losses were high. The BBC news at midday reported 28 missing aircraft.[3] By midday all but two of the diverted aircraft, had returned to Waddington, but there was one from each Squadron still outstanding. Flight Sergeant Jack Weatherill and crew, in 463’s JA902, wouldn’t come back. They went down over the Ijsselmeer in Holland (five would be taken POW, with the other two killed in action[4]).

But Flying Officer Alex Riley, in ME575, had not been heard of yet either. As the fog cleared, the aircraft began to trickle back in from their diversion airfields. But it was now nearly four and a half hours after Riley had been due to land. The Committee of Adjustment had already collected his crew’s kit and the casualty signals had been made up and were juuuuuuust about to be despatched…. when in the Waddington Watch Office, the radio crackled with a familiar voice and a Lancaster landed. It was Riley, safe and sound with his crew. He’d landed at Lakenheath this morning, but someone forgot to pass the message on to Waddington.

By the time the B.B.C announcer read the six o’clock news, the number of missing had been revised to 27.[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] Blundell, HM 1975, p. 12

[2] Night Raid Report No. 501

[3] 467 Squadron ORB, 03JAN44

[4] Blundell, H.M.  1975, p.12

[5] F/O Riley’s story is recounted in the 467 Squadron ORB, 03JAN44.

467 Postblog II: Sunday 2 January, 1944

The Berlin trip last night was of mixed success. Thick cloud covered the target so the force instead bombed cascading skymarker flares dropped by the Pathfinder Force. The diversionary raid to Hamburg failed to have the desired effect. German fighter controllers were “never in doubt as to the identity of the main objective”, said the Night Raid report,[1] and the fighters had a field day. 28 bombers were lost.

Twenty aircraft left Waddington last night, but only eighteen came back. Both absent crews were from 467 Squadron. One finally arrived at Waddington late today, that of Pilot Officer Ross Stanford, who had run short of fuel and diverted to Ford. But Leo Patkin never returned. His aircraft crashed and exploded in a field near Hanover in Germany. There were no survivors.[2] The second dickie on Patkin’s aircraft was James Mudie, who it will be remembered arrived at Waddington just yesterday. His crew were now ‘headless’ and would be posted back to a Heavy Conversion Unit a week later.

But despite having arrived back at Waddington very early this morning, there was no rest for the crews. They were briefed, once again, for Berlin. Some air tests were flown during the day to check the aircraft over, but only eight from each Squadron were ready for take off in time.[3]

Elsewhere, aircraft of Bomber Command were being prepared for more precision attacks to Duisberg and Bristillerie. They would also lay mines off the Frisian Islands and complete intruder patrols over France and Germany, and a small force went to France to drop leaflets.[4] By far the largest force, however – 383 aircraft in all – were off to the German capital.

Phil Smith and his crew, still settling in, were not on the battle order tonight. They watched as the first aircraft took off into the darkness at two minutes past eleven o’clock.


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] Night Raid Report No. 500

[2] Storr, Alan 2006

[3] 463 and 467 Squadron ORBs. Note the 463 Squadron ORB Form 540 for this day clearly states 6 aircraft on, but the list in the back (Form 541) lists eight aircraft taking part. Of these, two made early returns so perhaps the implication was that they got six aircraft away to the target.

[4] Night Raid Report No. 501