467 Postblog XXVII: Monday 21 – Wednesday 23 February, 1944

After flying two operations in a little more than 24 hours, the crews of the Waddington squadrons breathed a sigh of relief on 21 February, when a stand-down was declared. A few crews took the opportunity to carry out air tests on their aircraft and one crew – that of the recently-arrived Pilot Officer Jim Marshall – went on a Bullseye training trip in the evening.[1]

Operations were scheduled for the next night, but the weather turned wet and snowy and it was no surprise to anyone when at 17.30 they were scrubbed. The groundcrews were particularly unhappy. They had toiled all day to bomb up and service all the aircraft, only to then need to unload the bombs again when, given the weather, ops were never going to be likely. “They are becoming quite ‘browned off’”, wrote Pilot Officer McDonald in the ORB.

Waddington Lancasters in the snow, February 1944. Photograph taken by the Station medical Officer, Flight Lieutenant Howarth. The control tower is visible at the left of shot. From the Waddington Collection, RAF Waddington heritage Centre

Waddington Lancasters in the snow, February 1944. Photograph taken by the Station medical Officer, Flight Lieutenant Howarth. The control tower is visible at the left of shot. From the Waddington Collection, RAF Waddington Heritage Centre

With nothing much doing, Phil Smith sat down to write his weekly letter home.[2] It’s worth quoting at some length, giving a good idea of how airmen filled in their time, and a flavour of the atmosphere of wartime England:

 Dear Dad,

The only letter since I wrote last was an airgraph from you written when the book on counters arrived. I was glad to hear that you found it interesting. I can’t think of much to write about these days as very little happens beyond our work. I have become hardened to the cold I think as I can go out on frosty mornings without tingling ears and aching hands. I keep pretty healthy these days the only troubles I have are with teeth and occasional sore throats. I very seldom get out of camp these days and still have not had a look at Lincoln cathedral. The town itself is very crowded with service people these days queues at barber shops tea shops and the cinemas. […] My main source of diversion is the camp picture show where we get a change on programme every second day. As at Esham [sic] I find that the mess is not a very pleasant place because of an automatic gramaphone [sic] which is used almost continuously at full volume. The watch you bought me is again giving good service after a spell of inactivity with something wrong – it is quite a hard job getting repairs done now. Love from Philip

Also writing letters home was Gilbert Pate. Of interest here, his mention of specific targets of his bombing operations, and his thankfulness for not being in the infantry:[3]

 Dear Mum,

Very happy to hear you are all quite well.

Today here is cold + snowing so I’m keeping indoors.

Would welcome a cake instead of a parcel.

I have been twice to Berlin + expect to go again to finish it off, so far we have had fairly good trips. I have posted Grace papers of the raids in which I took part.

Things aren’t to [sic] bad over here + when I see the ‘newsreels’ of the fighting in New Guinea + Italy I think I am quite well off.

Hope you are all well at home + Dad isn’t working too hard.

Tell Joyce I’ll try to send her some pictures.

Lots of love,

Gil

The Main Force again carried out no operations on Wednesday. There was some break in the monotony at Waddington with a visit by members of the Public Relations Branch of RAAF Overseas Headquarters, but apart from a few more air tests nothing else happened.

During this three-day period while the Main Force had a break, Bomber Command’s Mosquitos continued the pressure on Germany. On Monday, they harassed Stuttgart and attacked the steelworks at Duisberg and flying bomb sites at Sottevast and Harbouville. The minelayers were out off the French Atlantic ports and the Frisian islands (one Stirling failed to return), and Wellingtons scattered yet more leaflets over Northern France. On Tuesday the Mosquitos went to Stuttgart and Duisberg again, and also attacked Aachen. More Stirlings were sent to lay mines in Kiel Harbour, the Kattegat and the Heligoland Bight, but this force was recalled as the weather deteriorated at their home bases.[4] Finally, on Wednesday a Mosquito force attacked Dusseldorf dropping 4,000lb bombs – the first time Mosquitos had dropped a ‘cookie’ – more leaflets were scattered by Wellingtons over Northern France and some more Mosquitos carried out intruder patrols and weather reconnaissance flights.[5]

 

Next post in this series: 24 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] 467 Squadron ORB, 21FEB44

[2] Smith, Phil. Letter to father, 22FEB44. From Mollie Smith’s collection

[3] Pate, Gilbert. Letter to mother, 22FEB44. From Gil Thew’s collection

[4] Night Raid Report No. 534

[5] All details from Night Raid Reports Nos. 533-535

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