467 Postblog XXX: Saturday 26 – Tuesday 29 February, 1944

Things go on as usual here with work depending mainly on the moon and the weather. The first sticks to the normal routine but the weather is very changeable. We are having a bad spot at the moment… – Letter Phil Smith to his mother, 27FEB44

After the busy few days of operations aircrews were given Saturday off. Phil Smith headed in to Lincoln to send an urgent telegram. He had received some unsettling news in the last day or so. In a letter from his sister Wenda, he was told that his mother had been involved in an accident involving a tram and a Peters icecream truck on Spit Road, just near the family home in Mosman, Sydney.[1] The accident resulted in Edith Smith losing a leg and for the rest of her life she used a prosthetic. Phil followed his telegram up with a letter written the next day (from which the quote that opens this post also comes). “It was rather a shock to hear how bad it really was,” he wrote, “and I am rather glad I did not get incomplete details only in a cable. I do hope that the wound is healing satisfactorily and that the enforced activity does not depress you un-necessarily.”

While he was in Lincoln, to escape the rain Phil went in search of a picture theatre. It appears, however, that the show was not to his taste, and he “walked out and came ‘home’”.

On Sunday it started to snow, heavily. The entire station – air and ground crews alike – was put on snow fatigues to attempt to clear the runways and taxiways. It was a losing battle: “It was quite remarkable how ineffective this project was,” Phil wrote after the war,[2] “apart from the fact that the exercise was very good for us. Our efforts were rewarded with a rum ration at the end of the day.”

Clearing snow at Waddington, probably February 1944. The original caption identifies Fred Smith as the centre one of the five men with shovels. From the Waddington Collection, RAF Waddington Heritage Centre

Clearing snow at Waddington, probably February 1944. The original caption identifies Pilot Officer Fred Smith with a shovel at the rear of the group. From the Waddington Collection, RAF Waddington Heritage Centre

The snow clearing operation carried on, in two-hour shifts, all night. Monday found a bright sunny morning with snow 12-18 inches thick blanketing the aerodrome. “Very pretty,” remarked the 467 Squadron Operational Record Book, “but it is going to take some shifting.” Almost unbelievably, operations were scheduled for Monday night. Then it started snowing again, and just before seven o’clock the raid was cancelled. The first Bomber Command aircraft to go out on operations since Augsburg was raided three nights ago were eight Wellingtons from Operational Training Units. They dropped nothing more dangerous than thousands of leaflets over France and all returned safely. A Mosquito also carried out a meteorological reconnaissance flight, but the Main Force remained grounded.

It was a “really brilliant day with sunshine all day” at Waddington on the last day of February. But the station was still covered in thick snow and all hands were set to snow clearing again. It would have been a curious sight for two new crews as they arrived at Waddington on posting to 463 Squadron.[3]

Bomber Command’s offensive operations began again later that night, though once again the Main Force was not involved. Fifteen Mosquitos bombed Dusseldorf. One more was sent to a flying bomb site at Sottevast and 20 Whitleys and Wellingtons scattered yet more ‘bumphlets’ over France. One Whitley failed to return.[4]

In all of February, 467 Squadron had operated to five targets, all in Germany. 74 completed operational sorties were flown involving 583 hours of flying, for a total of 356 tons of bombs dropped. Just one crew had been lost (Herbert Stuchbury and crew on Augsburg on 25 February).

February had been not as easy for their sister unit at Waddington. 463 Squadron lost four crews during the month: those of Ernie Fayle (Leipzig, 19 February), Charles Martin and Ron Mortimer (both on Schweinfurt, 24 February) and Kevin McKnight (Augsburg, 25 February).

Next post in this series: 1 March

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] Story of the accident related to me by Phil’s widow, Mollie Smith, in an interview 15JUL09

[2] Smith, Phil. Phil’s Recollections of 1939-1945 War, p.19

[3] 463 Squadron ORB, 28-29FEB44

[4] Night Raid Report No. 539, and RAF Bomber Command Campaign Diary, February 1944

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7 Responses to “467 Postblog XXX: Saturday 26 – Tuesday 29 February, 1944”


  1. 1 Richard kobelke February 26, 2014 at 13:12

    My father ,norman kobelke flew with rollo kingsford smith as navigator. First with 467 then 463.
    I appreciate very much to be able to read about waddington.
    Regards richard kobelke.

    • 2 Adam Purcell February 26, 2014 at 21:22

      G’day Richard,
      Happy to hear you’re getting something out of my work. I’ll be in touch via email shortly – would love to find out more about your father.
      Best wishes,
      Adam

  2. 3 Kris Beavis April 10, 2014 at 21:33

    Hi Adam
    I am the president of Ballina Lighthouse & Lismore SLSC Inc (Australia), and would really like to get in contact with Richard Kobelke as his father Norm was a member of our club before he enlisted in RAAF. If you could pass my email to him I would be really pleased as I do hope there may have been some old photos in the family. Appreciate any assistance you can offer.
    Cheers
    Kris

  3. 5 Kris Beavis April 11, 2014 at 14:44

    Adam – thanks heaps for that. Richard and I are now communicating about his dad. Cheers Kris


  1. 1 Norm Kobelke and the mystery of the man in the suit | Something Very Big Trackback on August 10, 2014 at 07:48

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