467 Postblog LXIIa: Saturday 22 April, 1944

More operations tonight. And just for something different, the Waddington crews would leave French railway targets alone for a night and go back to a German city.

But first, Wing Commander Arthur Doubleday was posted out today. The outgoing ‘B’ Flight Commander of 467 Squadron had been at Waddington since 10 December last year, and went to take command of 61 Squadron[1] at nearby Skellingthorpe. His replacement would not arrive at Waddington for another two weeks.

There was also some daytime flying. Phil Smith’s logbook records a half-hour-long “Air Test for AVRoes” in Lancaster W5004. This was not a 467 Squadron aircraft. It appears that it had come out of a period of maintenance or repair, and in May 1944[2] it went to 5 Lancaster Finishing School at RAF Syerston, about 20 miles south west of Waddington. It’s likely that this air test with Phil Smith was part of the re-acceptance of the aircraft after its rebuild, possibly something to do with the Avro maintenance unit based at Bracebridge Heath which was immediately adjacent to Waddington airfield.

Phil did not record names of the airmen he flew with on non-operational trips in his logbook, referring to them as simply “CREW”. While this can normally be understood to include all members of his usual crew, it’s probable that on this occasion he only took the bare minimum (perhaps only flight engineer Ken Tabor). If it was only a local flight a navigator would not necessarily be required – and indeed Jack Purcell’s logbook does not show this air test. Instead, Jack flew to Predannack and back in Cornwall with a 463 Squadron crew, with a different pilot in each direction.

And after all that, the crew of B for Baker were not on the battle order for tonight anyway. Pilot Officer Doug Hislop took LM475 again and the only member of Phil Smith’s crew to operate was Flight Sergeant Gilbert Pate who once more filled the rear turret of LL792 with Pilot Officer Bill Mackay’s crew.

In all more than 1100 aircraft would be flying for Bomber Command tonight. The largest single raid was carried out by 596 aircraft which attacked Dusseldorf. Other operations included 181 aircraft on railway yards at Laon, diversionary raids to Mannheim, Wissand and airfields throughout north-west Europe, some Serrate patrols, leaflet flights and special operations. Meanwhile 463 and 467 Squadrons would be part of a 265-strong force of Lancasters and Mosquitos sent to Brunswick, home to 100,000 people with an aircraft component works as its main industry.[3]

For the past few weeks, Bomber Command – and 5 Group particularly – had been heavily engaged in attacks on French railway targets in preparation for D-Day. The need for more careful bombing on these sorts of operations saw the development of some specialised tactics for improved marking and bombing accuracy, mostly using low-flying Mosquitos to mark the aiming point visually with red spot fires. It was decided to see if these tactics would also work on a larger-scale city-busting attack, and Brunswick was chosen for the first test.

The raid would take place in two waves. The first wave of the Main Force would fly over the target to support the ‘flare force’, which dropped hooded flares to illuminate the ground, against the defences. The Main Force was then told to orbit clear of the target to allow the Mosquitos to do their bit. After the accuracy of the markers had been assessed the Main Force would be called back in, and after bombing they would make a hard right turn and vacate the target area heading south. By this time the second wave would be approaching and would have renewed red spot fires to aim at. If the spot fires were off the target or the enemy put up spoof flares, cascading green target indicators (Wanganui flares) would be dropped to emphasise the correct spot fires for the Main Force to aim at, with full Wanganui skymarking available as an ultimate back-up if the weather failed to cooperate. And for the first time, the new ‘J’type’ liquid-filled incendiary bomb would be used in operations.


Next: The Waddington crews take off for Brunswick

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] Service Record, 402945 Doubleday, AW

[2] Robertson, Bruce 1964, p.155

[3] 463 Squadron Operational Record Book, 22APR44