467 Postblog XXXIII: Friday 3 March, 1944

Something momentous occurred for Phil Smith and his crew on Friday 3 March, though they probably didn’t realise its significance at the time. On this day, the serial number LM475 appeared in Phil’s logbook for the first time. A new aircraft (possibly delivered at the same time that 463 Squadron collected their three from Coningsby yesterday) for 467 Squadron, as wireless operator Flight Sergeant Dale Johnston would later write to his brother Ian, “the skipper liked her so much he decided to let another crew keep our old kite, and we kept this one.”[1] It would become PO-B, and apart from an occasional flight with another crew would remain with Phil Smith’s men. They were now, truly, the crew of B for Baker.

That first flight in their new aeroplane was a training flight to a practice bombing range at Owthorpe, east of Nottingham. Also on board were 467 Squadron Commanding Officer, Wing Commander John (‘Sam’) Balmer and the Squadron Bombing Leader, Flight Lieutenant Pat McCarthy, and Phil’s logbook notes that along the way they landed at Hunsdon, which was a nightfighter airfield some 20 miles north of London.[2]

It was a clear day but still the snow lay around the airfield and the ground crew got no respite on the shovels. No operations were scheduled so training was the order of the day for the aircrew, with Phil Smith’s flight in B for Baker being one of many that were completed.

A second practice high-level bombing sortie appears in both Phil Smith’s and Jack Purcell’s logbook for this evening, again one of many carried out by 467 Squadron crews. Pat McCarthy went along with them again, though there was no Sam Balmer this time. The target was in the Epperstone bombing range, north of Nottingham, and Phil recorded an average 145 yards bombing error. “With the moonlight conditions were ideal,” notes the ORB. “The snow showed up well and looked very pretty from above.”

Elsewhere, Bomber Command sent 16 Mosquitos to Berlin, 10 to Dusseldorf, one to Krefeld and one to a flying bomb site at Sottevast. 45 bombers laid mines off French ports and a small force of Wellingtons scattered leaflets over northern French towns. All aircraft returned safely.[3]

 

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] Johnston, Dale, Letter to Ian Johnston 20 April 1944, transcription probably by Don Smith, In Mollie Smith’s collection.

[2] There are some inconsistencies associated with this flight in some of the records. See this post for an explanation.

[3] Night Raid Report No. 542

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