467 Postblog XXI: Saturday 5 – Sunday 13 February, 1944

Moon period and from what can be seen only the Orderly Room staff and Adjutant remain. Everyone else seems to be on leave. – 467 Squadron Operational Record Book, 5 February 1944

With the coming of the moon period, there was little chance of operations for the Main Force of Bomber Command in the early part of February 1944. The opportunity was taken, then, to send on leave anyone who was due for it – which included Phil Smith and all of his crew.[1]

For those not on leave, there was a party in the Officers’ Mess (with Air Vice Marshall Cochrane himself attending) on Saturday night (5th). But in the following days, despite few aircrew being in attendance at Waddington there was a fairly busy training regime underway. In the week from 5 February, 467 Squadron did fighter affiliation on Saturday, and again on Monday with practice bombing also carried out later that night, sent ten crews on Bullseye exercises on Tuesday night, did bombing practice on Wednesday and sent a delegation to visit the Avro factory at Manchester on Thursday. There was also a lecture about minelaying from a visiting Naval Liaison Officer on Saturday 12 February.[2] Their counterparts at 463 Squadron spent their week in a similar fashion.

Bomber Command carried out no large-scale operations during this time, but the Mosquito Light Striking Force was out regularly and there were a couple of other interesting raids mounted. Berlin, Duisburg and Hannover were attacked on Saturday 5 January. Two nights later they raided Elberfeld, Krefeld, Aachen, Mannheim and Frankfurt. Mosquitos went to Brunswick and Elberfeld on 8 February, and a small force of Lancasters attacked the Gnome et Rhone aero engine works at Limoges, France on the same night. This was a very significant operation, carried out by twelve aircraft from 617 Squadron. It was one of the first raids on which Wing Commander Leonard Cheshire tried a low-level method of target marking using a Lancaster, and was a spectacular success: four of five 12,000lb blast bombs dropped made direct hits on factory buildings[3] and the target “sustained crippling damage”[4] for no casualties to the attacking aircraft.

Mosquitos continued the offensive over the next few nights, attacking Elberfeld, Krefeld and Aachen on the 9th, Berlin and Aachen again on the 10th, Brunswick, Duisburg, Aachen and Elberfeld on the 11th and Elberfeld and Duisburg on the 12th. Also on 12 February 617 Squadron were out again, attacking a railway viaduct at Antheor, though with less success than the Limoges trip a few nights previously. On most nights that the Mosquitos were out in this period, various other aircraft took part in minelaying operations off France, the Frisians and in the Bay of Biscay, or scattered leaflets over parts of France. [5]

All of this, though, was far from the minds of those of the Waddington crews sent on leave. Because Phil Smith wrote so many letters home, we have a good idea of what he got up to in his time off. He travelled south from Waddington and spent the first few nights staying with his Uncle Jack Smeed and Aunty Pat who had just moved to a new house in Denham, just outside London. “They have settled down very comfortably in their new home and both seem to be thriving”, he wrote.[6] Next came a few days in London, where he saw a film (Citizen Kane – “I quite enjoyed it despite the fact that it was a rather miserable story”), and a play called Junior Miss (“Quite amazing but not a show that is worth making an effort to get to”). As promised to his mother, and on the advice of the Boomerang Club (an institution set up to support Australian servicemen in London), he visited a photographer in Bond Street to get a formal portrait taken: “quite a lot of professional flourish and a pretty stiff price – I do hope that the effort will be worthwhile”.

Phil Smith in London, February 1944

Phil Smith in London, February 1944

An industrial chemist at a sugar refinery before the war, Phil maintained a keen interest in his peacetime profession. While in London he looked up a comparable company and simply wandered into their offices one day and introduced himself. They were more than hospitable: “They treated me to a meal in town and then took me to their works and back in their car which I thought was very hansome [sic] treatment for a complete stranger”.

The final couple of days of his time off were spent with more family, this time Uncle Harold who lived in March, Cambridgeshire. “I am so pleased to have had Philip here from Friday night to Sunday morning”, Harold wrote to Phil’s father, Don Smith, on 13 February.[7] “I put him on the train to London at 12 this morning, he looks well + evidently made a good job of his instructing.”

Phil arrived back at Waddington later that night to find a bit of consternation happening. A team from R.A.A.F. Overseas Headquarters (in London) had made the journey to Lincolnshire to play Australian Rules Football against a combined 463/467 Squadron team. But with operations planned for the evening, Waddington struggled to find sufficient numbers for a full game. They scraped up five players so the Headquarters side was split up and a game of 11 a side was played. It finished at about 4pm… at which time the planned operation was scrubbed. “It was not surprising”, says the Operational Record Book, “that the lads were somewhat hostile” as a result.[8]

 

Next post in this series: 14 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

Sources:


[1] Service Records for the four Australians in the crew confirm that they were on leave at this time, and it is reasonable to assume that the three Englishmen were also on leave at the same time. Gil Pate was definitely in London (mentioned in a letter he wrote to his mother 14FEB44), but no details are known of what he did and who he went with.

[2] 467 Squadron ORB, 05-12FEB44

[3] Lawrence 1951, p.158-159

[4] Night Raid Report No. 525

[5] Details of operations carried out in this period are in Night Raid Reports 523 to 529.

[6] Smith, Phil. Letter to his Mother, 12FEB44

[7] Smith, Harold. Letter to Don Smith, 13FEB44. In Mollie Smith’s collection.

[8] Story related in 467 Squadron ORB, 13FEB44

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