467 Postblog XXXI: Wednesday 1 March, 1944

The snow of the past few days was beginning to thaw on Wednesday, though the work parties were still trying to shift it from the movement areas of the Waddington aerodrome.[1]

Snow at Waddington, 1 March 1944. From the Waddington Collection, RAF Waddington Hertiage Centre

Snow at Waddington, 1 March 1944. From the Waddington Collection, RAF Waddington Hertiage Centre

Bomber Command’s Main Force had not operated since last Friday (the 25 February raid on Augsburg) and it was now time to resume their fight against the enemy. The target for tonight was Stuttgart, being attacked in force for the second time in a fortnight.

It was not considered practicable to use the ‘splitting’ tactics which had proven so useful in recent raids of this scale because a bright moon was expected to be above the horizon for the early part of the route to the target and strong winds were forecast for the return leg. Consequently the bomber stream was planned on a course keeping south of Strasbourg while the moon was up, and home on almost the shortest possible route.[2] Heavy cloud was forecast along most of the route and so a mixed Parramatta and Wanganui attack was planned using ground target indicators and airborne release-point flares, both dropped using H2S.

Bombing instructions as carried on the Stuttgart trip by Bill Kelleher, Fred Smith's bomb aimer. From the Waddington Collection, RAF Waddington Heritage Centre

Bombing instructions as carried on the Stuttgart trip by Flying Officer Bill Kelleher, Pilot Officer Fred Smith’s bomb aimer. From the Waddington Collection, RAF Waddington Heritage Centre

Supporting the Main Force tonight were small forces of Mosquitos on a diversion raid to Munich and attacking airfields in Holland, six Radio Counter-Measure sorties and ten Serrate patrols. Also planned were a number of Special Duties sorties, some OTU bullseyes and a single Mosquito attacking a flying bomb site.[3]

557 aircraft were sent on this operation. Among them were thirteen Lancasters from 463 Squadron and fifteen from 467 Squadron. Low, icing-type cloud hung over Waddington just before 11pm as the first aircraft, LM458 piloted by 463 Squadron Commanding Officer Rollo Kingsford-Smith, rolled down the runway. Phil Smith, with his normal crew plus the addition of Pilot Officer Bill Felstead, a newly-arrived pilot on a ‘second dickie’ observation flight, was the last to leave, lifting into the murk in EE143 a little more than an hour later.

All available aircraft from 467 Squadron had taken off for this raid (the remainder being ‘Cat A.C.,’ or requiring repair by the manufacturer, according to the Operational Record Book). Three however made early returns, all due to problems with their starboard engines.[4] The Operational Record Book later attributed the three engine failures to the heavy snowfall creating difficulties for the engine fitters working at exposed dispersals.

Bombing up for operations in March 1944. From the Waddington Collection, RAF Waddington Heritage Centre

Bombing up for operations in March 1944. From the Waddington Collection, RAF Waddington Heritage Centre

463 Squadron didn’t get off entirely scot-free either with two aircraft making ‘boomerangs’ – one because of frozen guns in the rear turret (thought to have been caused by a faulty valve) and the second due to an oxygen failure in the mid-upper turret. “Being such a clear moonlight night”, reported the crew concerned, “it was too risky to carry on”.[5]

Meanwhile, the Main Force continued on towards Germany.

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 Squadron ORB, 01MAR44

[2] Night Raid Report No. 540

[3] RAF Bomber Command Campaign Diary, March 1944

[4] The pilots concerned were F/L W.D. Marshall in LM376, P/O N.R. McDonald in ED532 and P/O W. Mackay in DV240 – 467 Squadron ORB, 01MAR44

[5] P/O C.M. Schomberg was the pilot of ME614 with the rear turret issue (landed 02.03), and P/O A.R.S. Bowman was flying ME573 with the mid-upper issue. He landed at 02.29. 463 Squadron ORB, 01MAR44

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