467 Postblog LXIIb: Saturday 22 April, 1944

The Waddington contribution to the Brunswick raid on 22 April 1944 was 20 aircraft from 463 Squadron and 18 from 467. Two pilots from the latter went sick before take-off so the final tally was 36. Take-off was from 22.30.

To keep the German defences guessing, the strategy called for a twisting, turning route to the target. From England, the bombers flew eastwards to a point just north of the island of Terschelling, in the Frisian chain. They turned south-east for sixty miles, then crossed the German frontier on another sixty-mile leg heading almost due east (passing Emden at this point, off track to the north, Pilot Officer David Gibbs reported being engaged by flak, but no damage was recorded). Just when it would have looked like the target could have been Bremen, Hamburg or even Berlin itself, the bombers jinked again to the south-east, now threatening Hanover or perhaps Leipzig. The final turn to Brunswick was made south of Hanover, with a cascading green target indicator dropped nearby for the benefit of the early crews. “Numerous alterations of course on route seemed to be a very good idea”, said Flight Lieutenant Eric Scott, and indeed it was, with very few fighters seen by crews on the way out and no combats recorded. About the only trouble to befall a Waddington crew on the way to the target was a dicky engine on Flight Lieutenant Freddy Merrill’s 463 Squadron Lancaster, LL790. They climbed a few more thousand feet while the engine was still producing power, but eventually it needed to be shut down and they consequently gradually lost height until the heavy bomb load left the aircraft over the target (without the benefit of either the bomb sight or the Monica anti-fighter warning system, which were both run by power generated by the errant engine.[1] Merrill later said that subsequently his “gunners were human Monica’s” [sic].

The Waddington crews were all to be part of the second wave. Ahead of them, the markers were going in to do their work. There was some low, broken thin cloud present and some crews had to duck beneath more cloud at their operating height to be able to bomb. The flare force illuminated the target successfully and the Mosquitos dived in to drop their spot fires. The markers were assessed as being in the right spot so the first wave was called back in to bomb.

While the Night Raid Report claims that some 60% of all attacking aircraft successfully bombed the ground markers, slant visibility through the cloud made it difficult for the bomb aimers to sight the markers until they were almost on top of them, if they saw them at all. Adding to the confusion, the new J-type incendiaries were burning with an orange colour which too closely resembled the glow of the red spot fires.

This was precisely the situation for which green target indicators had been included in the marking crews’ loads. The TIs were dropped, but an unspecified ‘technical hitch’ meant they went wide, a few miles south of the aiming point. By the time the second wave arrived, the scene in front of them included smoke from the earlier bombs and incendiaries, haze and cloud and a confusing mix of the unfamiliar J-type incendiaries and red spot fires burning on the ground with the occasional green target indicator slowly drifting in the air. Crews simply bombed what they could find.

The confusion is best illustrated by a quote from Wing Commander Willie Tait, who once again was flying with a 463 Squadron crew and aircraft:

When attack opened 2 Red Spot Fires seen, one backed up with green T/I to the north. Principle bombing appeared around Southern Red Spot Fire. 1 red T/I seen to N.W. Some bombing seen around this believed spoof. Ran up to target after flares had been released and as first red spot fires went down. 2 markers about 1 to 2 miles apart and a red T/I were visible, so we orbited to North and approached again. One of the markers had been backed up by a Green, so we made a bombing approach. Marker and Green seemed to go out but a new Green T/I went down, and we bombed it. Red Spot Fire was then faintly visible.

The idea of using a distinctive green target indicator to emphasise the correct aiming point, and to assist in finding the flares marking the correct aiming point in conditions of poor ground visibility such as those encountered at Brunswick, was certainly sound:

There was a good fire burning around the Green T/I. This T/I made it easier to steady on a run. Doubtful if red spot fires only would have been seen in time. – Pilot Officer Graham Fryer, 463 Squadron

Green T/I is much more easily distinguished than red spot fire and in our case enabled us to get lined up and carry out a good bombing run. – Flying Officer Bruce Buckham, 463 Squadron

The bombing of the cascading green marker itself was certainly accurate. The problem was that it needed to be in the correct position itself, and at Brunswick it was not. Several crews realised that the marker was illuminating fields instead of the built-up area, but it still attracted much of the bombing.

But despite the scattered nature of the attack, Brunswick was left burning with fires developing as the crews left the target. An hour later a reconnaissance aircraft reported a “large conflagration”[2] at the city. German defences were unusually quiet. Flak over the target was only moderate or even negligible, and the fighters only arrived when the attack had been underway for some 20 minutes. “They made some attempt to harass our bombers on the way home, but even so only ten attacks were reported,” said the Night Raid Report. This was probably a result of the twisting, turning route taken to Brunswick and the distraction caused by the other bomber streams that were also out tonight.

Bombers began arriving back at Waddington around 04.30. There was some bother caused by interference on the Waddington frequency but a little over an hour later all were back on the ground.
Except one.

Pilot Officer Charles Schomberg and crew never came back. After the war it was discovered that their aircraft – LL892 – crashed on the outbound journey a little north of track near Groningen in the Netherlands. All on board were killed.[3]  It was one of only four bombers to be lost on this trip and was the first 463 Squadron loss since Pilot Officer Gardner and crew failed to return from Frankfurt on 18 March.

The raid itself had been a mixed bag. “Think it should be O.K.”, thought Flight Lieutenant Walter Marshall. He was only partly right. While six 463 Squadron crews and three 467 Squadron crews came back with aiming point photographs, only about 160 of the total force of 265 managed to bomb within three miles of the target. Areas south of the centre of the city suffered serious damage and various sites associated with the railways through Brunswick were also hit, but some of the attack also fell on open fields. As for the new ‘J’type incendiaries, they burned brightly and quickly and gave off less smoke than the standard incendiaries did. But when burning on the ground they were easily confused with the red spot fire target indicators and during ten trials conducted on operations between April and September 1944, it was discovered that they were “only half as effective per ton as the 4-lb incendiary”[4] and production was discontinued.

Of the other forces operating tonight, 29 aircraft failed to return from Dusseldorf and nine from Laon.

 

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] The bomb sight was operated by an air compressor run by this engine, and a generator also attached to the engine supplied power to various services including radios – Air Ministry 1944, p.10 and 36

[2] Night Raid Report No. 584

[3] Storr, Alan 2006, 463 Squadron p.19. Thanks also to Graham Wallace for the serial number correction.

[4] Harris, Arthur 1995, section II

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2 Responses to “467 Postblog LXIIb: Saturday 22 April, 1944”


  1. 1 graham wallace April 25, 2014 at 23:59

    ADAM, LL792 PO-E was lost on 11/5/44 with GRP/CAPT BALMER, on Ops to BOURG LEOPOLD, LL892 JO-L was the aircraft lost flown by SCHOMBERG.
    regards GRAHAM.

    • 2 Adam Purcell April 27, 2014 at 17:07

      Thanks Graham,
      Thanks for picking this up – a typo I suspect, my transcript of the ORB shows the correct serial so I’ve just entered it mistakenly. Have now fixed it in the body of the post.
      Thanks again,
      Adam


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