467 Postblog XXIX: Friday 25 February, 1944

Despite returning at dawn this morning from Schweinfurt there was little rest for the Waddington crews, with a further operation on the cards tonight. In all, 23 crews were on the battle order to attack Augsburg, again in two waves, three hours apart. Twenty of them had operated last night – and no fewer than ten of those had been in the second wave last night but were scheduled for the first tonight. These unfortunates found themselves once again taking off for Germany a little more than fourteen hours after they had shut their engines down at their dispersals.[1]

A number of crews did not go on this raid. 463 Squadron detailed 13 crews but their Operational Record Book only lists eleven as having taken off. 467 Squadron detailed fourteen but had two crews miss out as their aircraft were unserviceable and not able to be fixed in time. Bruce Simpson, who had diverted to Tangmere after last night’s raid, returned to Waddington by lunchtime but was given the night off. And Squadron Leader Smith and his crew were also off. Though the reason for that is not recorded it was probably due to Phil’s position as Flight Commander. EE143, the Lancaster that they had flown in on their last three trips, was instead taken to Augsburg by Flight Sergeant Roland Cowan and crew. Cowan had been a ‘second dickie’ with Phil in the same aircraft last night.

Tactics used by Bomber Command for this raid were very similar to the Schweinfurt attack. The two waves of bombers (594 aircraft in all – 461 Lancasters, 123 Halifaxes and 10 Mosquitos)[2] were supported by diversionary attacks by Mosquitos on Saarbrucken, Mannheim, Aachen and Schweinfurt, continuing to harass the inhabitants of that town following last night’s large attack. There were also large mining operations in Kiel Harbour and the Bay of Biscay. Three Halifaxes and a Stirling from the mining force failed to return.

The route for the Main Force was once again across France and well into southern Germany – Flying Officer K. Schultz from 463 Squadron reported that “Switzerland looked attractive – like pre-war days” – before turning to the north towards the target. Combined with the diversions, this appears to have successfully deceived the fighters so the Night Raid Report[3] records few combats.

The bombers hit the city hard. The first wave found clear weather over the target and could easily identify the aiming point visually. The Pathfinder markers were extremely accurate. Searchlights and fighter flares were observed by a number of crews but the flak was not particularly strong. Pilot Officer Eric Smith’s gunners claimed a nightfighter destroyed over the target. Pilot Officer John McManus, in R5868 (S-Sugar), was coned over the target for some five minutes but managed to get away.[4] The Main Force left many fires burning and the glow from these was still visible up to 150 miles away.

Those fires made it very easy for the second wave to find the target. They simply added to the fires, though their attack spread a little further towards the south east of the town. Defences by this stage were less formidable: “Searchlights on target a little clueless”, said Pilot Officer Clive Quartermaine.

On the ground, the temperature was so low that fire hoses froze over.[5] The Night Raid Report estimated that 60% of Augsburg itself was devastated, with significant damage also caused in the industrial area between the town itself and the river.

21 aircraft were lost on this operation, twelve from the first wave (one to flak, six to fighters, four to collisions over the Channel and one unknown), and nine from the second (two to flak, three to fighters and four unknowns). Two Waddington aircraft, one from each squadron, were amongst those that failed to return. Pilot Officer Kevin McKnight and crew, in DV274, and Pilot Officer Herbert Stuchbury and crew, in LL756, were all in the first wave. McKnight’s aircraft crashed near Liesse in the Aisne region of France with the loss of all crew members. Stuchbury’s crew, only fairly recent additions to the squadron, had completed just three operations when they crashed near Deufringen in Germany. Again, all were killed.[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] Analysis based on details from 463 and 467 Squadron Operational Record Books, 25FEB44

[2] Bomber Command Campaign Diary, February 1944

[3] Night Raid Report No. 537

[4] Reported in the 463 and 467 Squadron ORBs, 25FEB44

[5] RAF Bomber Command Campaign Diary, February 1944

[6] Storr, Alan 2006

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