467 Postblog XLIX: Monday 27 – Wednesday 29 March, 1944

I have been fairly busy just lately but have no adventures at all to write about

– Squadron Leader Phil Smith, writing to his mother, 27 March 1944

Following the reasonably high intensity of operations over the last little while, the airmen of both Waddington squadrons were much relieved to find that, despite a bright sunny day, operations were not scheduled for Monday and most crews were stood down early.[1] Phil Smith took advantage of that to cycle into Waddington village to send a telegram home. He also caught up on a few letters. “I have given myself a brand new aeroplane which helps matters along very nicely”, he wrote to his mother, referring to B for Baker.

As Flight Commander, however, he had a problem to solve. EE143, which had been his previous aircraft, had been the subject of many complaints from pilots. The main issue was that, whatever they did, the aeroplane always appeared to be flying on its side a little. Pilots were (and still are) taught to always trust their instruments, a vital skill for flying in cloud where the horizon is not visible, and they found it hard to do so in this Lancaster. It would only fly straight with the judicious and unusually large application of trim tabs, and in this condition refused to climb above 20,000 feet with a full bomb load.[2] The aircraft flew last night to Essen but does not appear in Phil’s logbook until the end of April, nor is it known to have flown operationally until May. This is therefore the most likely time when it was sent, probably at Phil’s request, to the Avro works at Bracebridge Heath, adjacent to Waddington airfield, for inspection. We will revisit the story of EE143 later on in this series.

Tuesday was misty. Though it cleared into a nice spring day, once again no operations were planned. No stand-down this time, however, with parachute and dinghy drill on the programme. Phil even gave a lecture about Air-Sea Rescue during the afternoon.[3] He and his crew also took Lancaster LL792 up for some fighter affiliation practice for an hour and a quarter (though this flight does not appear in Jack Purcell’s logbook).

Flight Sergeant Gil Pate found time to write a wistful letter to his mother. He wrote about the weather in Sydney, his family’s chickens and his old dog, ‘Jig’. There’s much evidence that he was beginning to miss home a lot, and the only sign of his service was a clipping from today’s ‘Daily Express.’ It mentioned Sunday’s raid on Essen, to which Gil added the concise comment “Another one in the book”.[4]

He would have put “another one” in his logbook the next day, but after most of the preparations for an operation to Brunswick were complete on Wednesday the planned raid was called off at 17.00 because of unfavourable weather conditions.[5] This was fortunate for the aircrews because they could then join in farewelling Group Captain Charles Elsworthy, the Waddington Station Commander who was about to leave, at a party which had been planned in the Officers’ Mess after dinner.

As usual, while the Main Force was not operating during this period, smaller forces of bombers were still out and about. On Monday (27th), Mosquitos attacked Krefeld and Duisburg. And on Wednesday (29th), 84 Halifaxes and Mosquitos attacked a marshalling yard in Vaires, near Paris, causing immense damage in bright moonlight. On the same night a small force of Lancasters raided an aero engine factory at Lyons and Mosquitos went to Kiel, Aachen and Cologne. One Halifax that failed to return from Vaires was the only casualty of the period.[6]

Next post in this series: 30 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


[1] 463 Squadron Operational Record Book, 27MAR44

[2] The story of EE143 and attempts made to solve the problem are related in Phil Smith’s Recollections of 1939-1945 War

[3] 467 Squadron Operational Record Book, 28MAR44

[4] The original clipping has since disappeared, but it and Gil’s annotation are referred to in a note believed prepared by Gil’s sister Joyce and send by his father to Don Smith, father of Phil, 10JUL44. Part of Mollie Smith’s collection.

[5] Middlebrook, Martin (1973), p.82

[6] Night Raid Reports 565 and 566

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