Archive for February, 2014



467 Postblog XXIV: Wednesday 16 – Friday 18 February, 1944

Following the previous evening’s Berlin trip, the crews of the two Waddington squadrons could have expected a rest on Wednesday. But in the morning, despite the poor weather, they found that a raid had been planned for the evening. Consequently the weekly dance was cancelled. But though the weather cleared up towards the afternoon, at 14.30 hours, operations were cancelled and the crews were stood down. The dance stayed scrubbed.[1] The story was much the same on Thursday.

Another day of bad weather, another big effort planned.

Another day of “the usual bustle with the prospect of Ops”.[2]

Another late scrubbing.

And again on Friday. As the 467 Squadron ORB put it:

18 on – scrubbed – bed, and we wait the ‘morrow.

There are no Night Raid Reports covering this period of time. But one raid that was carried out in daylight is well worth a mention. On Friday, 18 February, a small force of Mosquitos from 487 (RNZAF) Squadron, 464 (RAAF) Squadron and 21 (RAF) Squadron made an extremely low level precision attack, code-named Operation Jericho, on a prison in the French town of Amiens. Among the prisoners being held there were twelve members of the French Resistance who were due to be executed the following day. The Mosquitos succeeded in blowing down a wall of the prison. Though 102 prisoners were killed, several hundred managed to escape, among them the condemned men. Two Mosquitos and two escorting Typhoon fighters were lost, with three aircrew killed and three captured,[3] but it had been an impressive demonstration of low-level precision bombing.

Next post in this series: 19 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] 463 and 467 Squadrons ORBs, 16FEB44

[2] 467 Squadron ORB, 17FEB44

[3] Amiens Raid, Australian War Memorial web page

467 Postblog XXIII: Tuesday 15 February, 1944

The crews at Waddington awoke to find that operations were on, for the first time in sixteen days. This was particularly significant for two members of Phil Smith’s crew: navigator Jack Purcell and bomb aimer Jerry Parker would make their operational debuts on this night.

Not having flown in so long, Phil decided to take his aircraft on an air test during the day. He flew for 25 minutes in EE143, one of the veteran aircraft belonging to his flight, though it is not clear which of his crew came with him.[1]

Seventeen aircraft from 463 Squadron and eighteen from 467 were, once again, detailed for an attack on Berlin.[2] It would be the biggest attack of the war on the German capital in terms of numbers sent, with 891 aircraft despatched. At the same time, a small force of Lancasters “carried out a diversionary attack on the marshalling yards at Frankfurt-on-Oder, beyond Berlin, while Mosquitoes bombed Aachen and airfields in the Low Countries.”[3] Mine laying took place in Kiel Harbour and the Bay of Biscay and some Mosquitos carried out intruder patrols.

Squadron Leader Arthur Doubleday led the crews from Waddington off in LL746, at two minutes past five o’clock in the evening. The last Lancaster roared over the fence at 17.36. 35 aircraft had departed at a rate better than one a minute.

Phil Smith in EE143 opened the four throttles at 17.25.[4] But all was not well on the take-off roll. Well after the war, Phil wrote about what happened: [5]

When we were about two thirds way down the runway with a full load of petrol and bombs, I glanced down at the airspeed indicator to check that we were at about the right speed to float off the ground. I was horrified to find that the instrument was not working. I decided immediately that it would be impossible to stop before the end of the runway and that we would have to proceed with the take-off. I climbed away at a much smaller angle than usual. I remember wondering if anybody on the ground noticed our unusual take-off and wondered if we were in trouble.

They were able to climb away flying on recommended power settings, and decided to jettison their bomb load before returning. This required going well out to sea to avoid endangering lives on the ground. Once over the water though, and after attempts by both Phil and flight engineer Ken Tabor to fix the problem behind the instrument panel, they were well on their way towards Denmark and could feel the slipstreams of other aircraft around them.

“Clearly,” Phil wrote, “we were on track and with the mob going to the target.”

And having got that far, he thought, why not keep going?

I put it to the crew who came to agree with me, so we carried on and dropped our bombs somewhere in the Berlin area.

A long way in front of Phil Smith and his crew, the first Pathfinders arrived at Berlin and began marking the target, a little early, at 21.11. The planned ground-marking was once again foiled by cloud, but the skymarking attack that developed appeared to most crews to be well concentrated.

Jerry Parker, in the bomb aimer’s position in the nose of EE143, could see no skymarker flares in the early stages of the run-up to bomb,[6] but just in time some fresh ones were dropped by a preceding Pathfinder aircraft and he pressed the ‘tit’ that sent the bombs tumbling from their hangers at 21.31, twenty minutes after the first flares went down.[7] The attack was scheduled to finish four minutes later but there were some stragglers. The final aircraft from Waddington bombed at 21.45. Pilot Officer Freddy Merrill and crew, of 463 Squadron, would have felt quite lonely, having the defences of Berlin more or less to themselves by that time.

Having completed the entire operation without an airspeed indicator, Phil Smith was becoming a little concerned as he neared home about how a landing would go without such a vital instrument. But in the end it was a non-event.

Following the usual settings and techniques and with much help from the glide path indicators we landed reasonably with only a slight bump. What a tremendous relief it was to be safely on the ground and taxying back to our dispersal.

They landed at 00.40 hours having logged seven and a quarter hours in the air. Thirteen minutes behind them was Pilot Officer Clive Quartermaine and crew in LM338, who had arrived back overhead the airfield at the same time as a big bunch of other aircraft They were delayed in the air, and Quartermaine felt compelled to note his frustrations in his interrogation report:

Had to circle base for 40 minutes before landing. Quick Landing Scheme disappointing.

Though Quartermaine may have found it ‘disappointing’, it was still an impressive display of safely recovering many aircraft in a reasonably efficient manner. Between midnight and 1am, 30 aircraft landed at Waddington – including three in a single minute at 00.15.[8] All Waddington aircraft returned safely, though there had been a couple of early returns due to oxygen problems in one aircraft and an overheating engine on another.

Raising a mug at Waddington to their rear gunner (Sgt Cliff Fudge) after the Berlin raid of 15 February 1944 is the crew of Pilot Officer John McManus (on right in hat). It was Fudge's 21st birthday. The Waddington Collection, RAF Waddington Heritage Centre

Raising a mug at Waddington to their rear gunner (Sgt Cliff Fudge) after the Berlin raid of 15 February 1944 is the crew of Pilot Officer John McManus (on right in hat). It was Fudge’s 21st birthday. The Waddington Collection, RAF Waddington Heritage Centre

It was not as successful a night elsewhere however. In all, 42 aircraft were missing. Of these, fourteen were observed to fall victim to flak (eight on the way out, two over the target and four on the way home), and seventeen were lost to fighters, the German controllers failing to fall for the spoof raid on Frankfurt-on-Oder. A further seven aircraft were destroyed in landing accidents.

Against this cost, German broadcasts reported some damage to “residential districts, cultural monuments and hospitals.” The bombers left the target burning steadily with a column of smoke later reported rising to 20,000 feet.[9]

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 logbook records “crew” as going along but this flight does not appear in Jack Purcell’s logbook.

[2] 463 and 467 Squadron ORBs, 15FEB44

[3] Night Raid Report No. 530

[4] 467 Squadron ORB, 15FEB44

[5] This and subsequent quotes on this story are from Smith, Phil, Phil’s Recollections of 1939-1945 War

[6] Night Raid Report No. 530 records no flares were burning between zero+12 and zero+14. Other details of this raid come from the same report, or from Smith, Phil, Flying Logbook 1940-1945

[7] Time of bombing is from 467 Squadron ORB, 15FEB44

[8] Figures from my own analysis of landing times as recorded in both 463 and 467 Squadron ORBs for 15FEB44.

[9] Casualty figures and extract of German broadcast in Night Raid Report No. 530

467 Postblog XXII: Monday 14 February, 1944

A new crew arrived at 467 Squadron today. Led by Flying Officer Jim Marshall, the crew included an Australian navigator by the name of Arnold Easton. “We were pleased to see them,” wrote Flying Officer Alan McDonald, the compiler of the Operational Record Book, “our ranks were becoming depleted.”[1]

The crew of Flight Lieutenant J

The crew of Flight Lieutenant Jim Marshall, in front of the Lancaster that would become ‘theirs’ – DV372 PO-F ‘Old Fred’ (The Fox). Marshall himself is on the far right; third from right is navigator Arnold Easton. From the Waddington Collection, RAF Waddington Heritage Centre

January had been a grim month and, though the first few weeks of February had been quiet in terms of operations, these were only the second new arrivals since Flight Sergeant John Sayers and crew arrived on 24 January.

It was a foggy day and the lack of trips for 463 and 467 Squadrons – which had now not operated in more than two weeks – continued. Jack Purcell and Jerry Parker attended a lecture about ‘Photographic Interpretation’, along with all the rest of the Squadron’s Air Bombers and Navigators, but otherwise, very little happened.[2]

Gil Pate wrote a letter home.[3] He’d also spent his leave in London and, as a consequence, was “quite worn out [from] running about”. It appears he was feeling a little homesick: “I would like to spend an afternoon at the cricket just to be in the sleepy atmosphere of Australia.” Perhaps the reality of life on an operational squadron was beginning to make itself felt.

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, 14FEB44

[2] Ibid.

[3] Pate, Gilbert. Letter t his Mother, 14FEB44. In Gil Thew’s collection.

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


Archives