Archive for the 'Operations' Category



467 Postblog LXXIIIb: Wednesday 3 May, 1944

Squadron Leader Tom Bennett was a navigator in one of the 617 Squadron Mosquitos marking for the second wave of the attack on a Wehrmacht tank depot at Mailly-le-Camp in France. At the appointed time they had just begun their dive to the target, but aircraft of the first wave – which should by this stage have attacked and cleared the area – were still bombing:[1]

“…a stick of bombs exploded on the target. Gerry [Fawkes, Bennett’s pilot] wheeled out of the dive and climbed to regain the altitude we had lost and to reposition the plane for the dive. Further bombs fell while we were doing this. We commenced our second dive and yet again sticks of bombs fell. In 617 Squadron discipline was strict and we had grown accustomed to the rules. Timings were strictly observed. I took a very dim view of the lack of discipline that the main force was showing. I didn’t appreciate the chaotic conditions that were developing above us.

As we sought to re-position, Gerry buttoned the VHF, ‘PLEASE STOP BOMBING. We are trying to mark for the second wave.’

For the first and only time we heard another voice across the ether. ‘Well get a move on mate,’ came a calm but firm Australian voice, ‘it’s getting a bit hot up here.’”

For the nightfighters had also found the datum point and the bombers circling around it. Lancasters everywhere began to go down in flames. Flying Officer Bruce Buckham had to “take immediate diving action after bombing to avoid disintegrated parts of another aircraft falling on us.”[2] Denys Goodliffe, a 101 Squadron Flight Engineer, told Burkett & Gilbert[3] that aircraft were “being shot down at an alarming rate […] the light of the moon was enough for me to read their identification letters.” Goodliffe counted thirteen Lancasters shot down before his crew decided to turn away from the designated datum point and hold off away from the massacre. They were not the only ones to do so. Jack Spark, the 576 Squadron wireless operator, quoted his pilot: “To hell with this, it’s like moths caught in a candle.” They circled thirty miles away.[4]

Confusingly there are also reports of pilots at the datum point calling the Controller, which presumably would have been via R/T, perhaps out of range of the interferance. Pilot Officer Tom Davis of 467 Squadron said the “Controller had considerable trouble with captains calling him asking for permission to bomb, and offering helpful advice.” Davis was being polite. “Come on you markers, pull your bloody finger out!” is one such transmission, quoted in Laurie Woods’ book Flying into the Mouth of Hell.[5] The rest, Woods says, were too rude to be printed. But clearly the situation was becoming difficult:

Suddenly a voice obviously a pilot requested:

‘For Christ sake shut up and give my gunners a chance!’. The chatter still carried on when suddenly we heard an English voice:

‘For Christ sake! I’m on fire!’ answered immediately by an unmistakable Aussie voice, ‘If you’re going to die, then die like a man, quietly!’

The Deputy Controller eventually took over control of the attack at about 00.28 and the order for all 1 Group aircraft to attack was finally sent at 00.34, by which time all the Waddington aircraft had bombed and were on their way home.[6] And despite the chaos at the datum point, when crews did bomb they were extraordinarily effective. The Night Raid Report[7] says dispassionately that “the weight of the attack fell on the large and compact group of M.T. [Motorised Transport] and barracks buildings. None of the 47 M.T. buildings escaped damage and 34 were destroyed.” More directly, WJ Lawrence quotes the Commander of the 21st Panzer Division, the German unit based at Mailly-le-Camp at the time of the raid: [8]

In that part of the camp which was destroyed, the concentration of bombs was so great that not only did the splinter proof trenches receive direct hits, but even the bombs which missed choked them and caused the side to cave in…

A measure of the accuracy of the raid is established by the 463 Squadron Operational Record Book reporting that eleven out of eleven returning crews achieved aiming point photographs. “Great devastation revealed,” it goes on, “which must have killed some thousands of Germans trained on top pitch for the meeting of our invasion forces.”

But the cost to the bombers was horrific. No fewer than 42 aircraft failed to return from Mailly-le-Camp, a casualty rate of well over 11%. At least 25 aircraft went down in combat with nightfighters, “rather more than half of these over the target” said the Night Raid Report, though a number also fell on the way home. Nine fell to flak. Eight more had unknown fates and two, not counted in the 42, got home but were so badly damaged by fighter attacks that they never flew again. 460 Squadron suffered most severely, losing five out of the 17 Lancasters it sent[9]. The two Waddington squadrons also lost one each. Flying Officer Graham Fryer was the pilot of LM458.[10] The aircraft was shot down in the target area and crashed at Poivres (Aube), just a few miles north-east of the Mailly-le-Camp township with the loss of all on board. Pilot Officer Col Dickson was flying JA901 – Jack Colpus’ old aircraft – and was shot down, probably by a fighter, on the homeward journey. Five of the crew were killed but there were two survivors, Flight Sergeants Stan Jolly (the bomb aimer) and Bob Hunter (the wireless operator), who both managed to evade capture, though Jolly reported not making contact with anyone else in the crew and it appears made his own way home. Hunter received extensive burns when he bailed out from around five or six thousand feet and was looked after by the Resistance until liberated by the Americans in late August 1944. [11]

JA901 - Naughty Nan - at Waddington in happier times. Photo from the Waddington Collection, courtesy RAF Waddington Heritage Centre

JA901 – Naughty Nan – at Waddington in happier times. Photo from the Waddington Collection, courtesy RAF Waddington Heritage Centre

What went so badly wrong at Mailly-le-Camp? The proximate cause is quite clear: the failure of both the R/T and the W/T systems resulted in a delay over hostile territory. It was the delay itself which allowed the defending nightfighters to get into position, and the clear moonlit conditions which enabled them to make the most of the chance presented to them, which accounted for most of the casualties. The delay was a consequence of the high degree of accuracy required for pre-invasion raids on France, itself stemming from the desire to avoid French civilian casualties wherever possible (and of course in the interests of military efficiency the more accurate an attack the better). In the never-ending quest for greater accuracy came increasingly complicated tactics and plans. When everything worked as planned the results could be spectacular. But when one little thing failed at a critical moment, the plan could and frequently did fall apart and the target was missed or casualties were unacceptably high or both. At Mailly-le-Camp the original W/T failure was compounded by the unfortunate coincidence of the American broadcast on the R/T frequency and the inability, due to other operations taking place nearby on the night, to pre-arrange an alternative frequency to use if required.[12] “Lingering around a target for accurate visual marking,” wrote Max Hastings in 1979,[13] “could be fatal.”

Whatever the reason, it was becoming clear that, on nights like this when something went wrong casualties could very easily meet and even exceed those suffered on a German target. The defences could still extract a high price.

The policy of only awarding one-third of an operational trip for raids on French targets once again came under fire after this operation. “Consider one third of a trip most unjust,” thought Pilot Officer John McManus. “If this is still a third of a trip I’m verging on LMF,” said Pilot Officer ‘Blondie’ Coulson somewhat more forcefully. They didn’t know it yet, but the aircrews’ complaints were being heard at the highest levels within Bomber Command. But it would take one more disaster of an operation before anything changed.

Coming back from [Mailly-le-Camp], we didn’t need a navigator, because the fighters were all along the route out, and they were picking us off like anything. Not only our squadron, but all the others. There were forty four odd bombers shot down. You just had to follow the burning planes on the ground, to take you out over the coast, and back to England. That was a horrific show.

-Noel Sanders, 463 Squadron pilot[14]

 

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] Burkett & Gilbert 2004, p.17

[2] 463 Squadron Operational Record Book

[3] Burkett & Gilbert 2004, p.23

[4] Burkett & Gilbert p.59

[5] Woods, Laurie 2003, p.91. Based on reports from Woods’ friends Flying Officers Vic Neal and Bill Gourlay of 460 Squadron, who were on the Mailly raid

[6] NAA: A11234, 34/AIR Enclosure 9A

[7] No. 595

[8] Lawrence, WJ 1951, p.187

[9] RAF Bomber Command Campaign Diary, May 1944

[10] The ORB gives this as LM458 but Storr shows LM439. Robertson shows LM458 lost on Mailly and LM439 as a 576 Sqn aircraft lost later in May 1944 so the ORB is most likely correct.

[11] Details on fates of both aircraft from Storr, 2006

[12] NAA: A11234, 34/AIR

[13] Hastings, Max 1979, p.341

[14] Sanders, Noel 2003. Australians at War Film Archive #0526

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467 Postblog LXXIIIa: Wednesday 3 May, 1944

Sometime in March 1944, a Frenchman named Raymond Basset[1] used false documents supplied by British Intelligence to sneak into the German tank depot at Mailly-le-Camp, some 80 miles east of Paris, to undertake reconnaissance on the ground. A French Army facility dating back to the turn of the century, Mailly-le-Camp had been taken over by the Wehrmacht following the French surrender in 1940, and at the time of Bisset’s infiltration was hosting elements of the 21st Panzer division. After his mission Bisset drew, from memory, maps of the camp and these were eventually passed on to London along with details of what he had found there. His information was enough, imply Molly Burkett and Geoff Gilbert in their 2004 book Not Just Another Milk Run, for Mailly-le-Camp to be placed on the list of targets to be attacked by Bomber Command in the build-up to the invasion of the continent. One of the main tank training centres in use by the Wehrmacht in France, some 15-20,000 troops were believed to be stationed there.[2]

And so it came to pass, as it were, that on this fine morning on 3 May 1944, aircrews of Nos 1 and 5 Groups Bomber Command found themselves summoned to their briefing rooms. “I think we were all relieved when the covers were taken off the maps and we saw that our target was in France”, said Jack Spark, an appropriately-named wireless operator at Elsham Wolds.[3] “The target and route was explained to us at the briefing together with the details of the bomb load we were carrying and the weather conditions we could expect en route. We were told that it would be a piece of cake and we believed it.”

What would eventuate over France, however, was far from a ‘piece of cake’.

At Waddington, meanwhile, Flight Lieutenant Bill Hodge, the compiler of the 463 Squadron ORB, wrote that the airmen “went into the attack with zeal, knowing they were going to kill a few thousand German soldiers, with their Staff Officers, billeted at the Camp.” The squadron sent twelve crews on the operation, with their sister squadron, 467, contributing ten. Take-off was just before 10pm.[4]

Elsewhere, 84 Lancasters and eight Mosquitos were raiding a Luftwaffe airfield near Montdidier in northern France, fourteen Mosquitos attacked an ammunition dump at Châteaudun, south-west of Paris, and 27 Mosquitos hit Ludwigshafen, forty miles inside the German frontier. Subsidiary operations included minelaying off France and the Frisians, radio counter-measure sorties, Serrate and intruder patrols, special operations and leaflet drops.[5] But the night’s biggest raid by far was carried out by the 346 Lancasters and 16 Mosquitos that were sent to Mailly-le-Camp.

The bombers assembled at Reading and set course for occupied Europe via Beachy Head. Ominously, they were flying in bright moonlight. “I could map read accurately by its light,” said Squadron Leader Tom Bennett of 617 Squadron later.[6] “I could never recall doing such a thing before, except perhaps when I had crossed the Alps en route for Italy in mid October 1942.” The bombers flew on. Crossing the French coast at Dieppe, they flew south-east for almost 150 miles before turning south towards Mailly-le-Camp. About 85 miles from the target, passing Compiegne, the first nightfighters appeared. At this stage though, the momentum was with the attackers and three or four fighters were shot down without inflicting any losses on the bombers. This happy state of affairs did not last long.

At Mailly-le-Camp, two aiming points had been designated.The south-easternmost of the two was to be attacked by the first wave, made up of 5 Group aircraft (which included, of course, all of the 22 aircraft from Waddington). The second aiming point was to be attacked about ten minutes later by aircraft from 1 Group. Mosquitos equipped with OBOE were to open each wave of the attack, marking the aiming points with green target indicators, before red spot fires were dropped visually onto the aiming points themselves by the light of illuminating flares.[7] While the marking was underway, inbound bombers were to orbit a route marker dropped at Germinon, some fifteen miles north of the target. It was visible from a long distance away and as the marking at the target progressed, more and more Lancasters could be seen circling the datum point.

If we could see them from that distance, so could the Germans.

– Squadron Leader Tom Bennett, 617 Squadron marker crew[8]

The first target marker fell some 800 metres north of the aiming point[9] one minute before midnight. The second, dropped by Australian Dambuster pilot Flight Lieutenant Dave Shannon, was more accurate and the order to attack was sent to the main force by R/T.[10]

A short aside here to explain the method of controlling bomber raids. Under the 5 Group tactics in use at the time of the Mailly-le-Camp raid, the Master Bomber, who typically was also the leader of the attack flying in a Mosquito, kept in contact with the rest of the marking force via a VHF radio which transmitted his voice. But there were not enough VHF radio sets with which to equip the entire Main Force of bombers,[11] so an intermediary was required. This role was carried out by the man known as the Controller, flying a Lancaster which had a VHF radio specially fitted, who would relay instructions from the Master Bomber to the rest of the force by radio telephone (R/T, which transmitted the pilot’s voice via high-frequency or HF waves) and wireless telegraphy (W/T, sent in encrypted Morse code by the Controller’s wireless operator, also over HF). Both HF systems would be less than effective at Mailly-le-Camp.

The first few main force aircraft to bomb came away evidently quite impressed by the organisation, accuracy and effectiveness of the bombing raid. Squadron Leader Phil Smith in B for Baker thought his might have even been the first aircraft to attack, aiming at 00.06 at a “good concentration of spot fires in buildings themselves. Bombs fell across same buildings.” Half a minute later, Pilot Officer Bill Felstead saw “bombs […] bursting among buildings. A very good attack indeed.” But then the careful plan began to unravel.

Three Waddington aircraft bombed before 00.08 and at least one of those reported that the “order to attack [was] received clearly over W/T”.[12] But after that not one crew reported being able to receive anything on that system. It would later be discovered that the Controller’s W/T set was incorrectly tuned, so while the signals were being sent they were 30 kilocycles off the correct frequency and so were not being received.

Normally, the separate R/T system would cover a failure of the W/T. But at Mailly-le-Camp, R/T control failed as well. Out of the eleven 463 and 467 Squadron crews who commented about communications in their post-operational report, four never heard anything over the R/T, and three of those that did reported jamming or an American broadcast on the frequency. Yet at least one crew (that of Pilot Officer Ernie Mustard) called the R/T control “good”, and a signal sent from 5 Group Headquarters the day after the raid[13] suggested that “in spite of the jamming […] a proportion of the 1 Group and 5 Group force did, in fact, receive their instructions satisfactorily.” But many, it appears, did not.

The result of the confusion was that, after the first few crews had attacked, the raid stalled. Many crews remained circling at the datum point, though there is evidence that some more experienced crews who had not heard the order to bomb on either control channel saw the raid evidently well in progress and went in to bomb anyway.[14] And now the second wave – made up of 1 Group aircraft – was about to arrive.

 

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] Basset’s story is related in Burkett & Gilbert 2004, p.7

[2] Lawrence 1951, p.187

[3] Burkett & Gilbert 2004, p.58

[4] 463 and 467 Squadrons Operational Record Books, 03MAY44

[5] Other operations detailed in Bomber Command Campaign Diary, May 1944, and Night Raid Report No. 595

[6] Quoted in Burkett & Gilbert 2004, p.16

[7] Plan of attack from Night Raid Report No. 595

[8] Bennett is quoted in Burkett & Gilbert 2004, p.16

[9] Burkett & Gilbert, p.11

[10] Reported by Pilot Officer Noel sanders in the 463 Squadron Operational Record Book

[11] Lack of VHF sets implied in NAA: A11234, 34/AIR Enclosure 9A

[12] This was Pilot Officer Bill Felstead, in the 467 Squadron Operational Record Book

[13] NAA: A11234, 34/AIR Enclosure 9A

[14] At least three 463/467 Squadron crews reported in their respective Operational Record Books bombing despite not hearing an order to do so

467 Postblog LXXI: Monday 1 May, 1944

Starting the month off with war.

-467 Squadron Operational Record Book, 1 May 1944

A return to the south of France this evening for the crews of 463 and 467 Squadrons, Bomber Command, RAF Waddington. The target was the aircraft assembly plant in Toulouse, last attacked almost a month ago on 5 April. Evidently sufficient repairs had been made to the factory in the meantime to enable production to resume, so another visit was in order.

Nine 467 Squadron crews were detailed for the Toulouse trip, along with eleven from 463 Squadron. The entire crew of B for Baker would fly in their usual aircraft, accompanied by a second dickie pilot named Flying Officer Robert Harris, whose crew had been posted to Waddington the previous day.[1]

In all 131 Lancasters and eight Mosquitos, all from 5 Group, were sent to Toulouse, but not all would attack the aircraft factory. A short distance away was the Poudrerie Nationale explosives works, which would be simultaneously hit by the rest of the bombers.[2] The Waddington crews were all detailed on the aircraft factory raid.

Meanwhile, taking advantage of expected fine weather conditions and a half-moon to aid bombing precision, five other targets would be hit tonight as well, spread all over Belgium and France. In Belgium, railway targets at Mechelen[3] and Saint Ghislain were each attacked by forces of more than 130 aircraft. While both attacks caused damage to their respective targets some bombs also fell onto surrounding residential areas. One Halifax was lost at Mechelen and two bombers failed to return from Saint Ghislain.

Near Paris, the large railway depot at Chambly was, by contrast, subjected to what the Night Raid Report called “one of the most concentrated ever” attacks delivered by Bomber Command. 120 aircraft put the depot out of service for ten days, though three Lancasters and two Stirlings were lost. Close by, the Acheres yards were harassed for the third night running but this time only by two Mosquitos. 75 Lancasters went to Lyon to attack a vehicle factory, which they badly damaged for no losses. Some bombs went wide however, damaging nearby railways and factories though it is unclear whether any civilian losses were suffered.

50 aircraft from 5 Group attacked an aircraft repair workshop at Tours, completely destroying the main buildings for no loss. As this bombing photo, from 630 Squadron pilot Wade Rodgers, shows, the bombing was reasonably concentrated and many large craters were left:

Bombing photo from Tours. From the Wade Rodgers collection, courtesy Neale Wellman

Bombing photo from Tours. From the Wade Rodgers collection, courtesy Neale Wellman

To cap off a busy night for Bomber Command aircraft, 28 Mosquitos attacked Ludwigshafen in Germany while others flew radio counter-measure, Serrate or intruder sorties. 35 aircraft laid mines off the French coast and the Frisians and 40 aircraft flew special operations. One Serrate Mosquito failed to return. In all, just over 800 sorties were flown tonight.[4]

The Waddington aircraft got away shortly before 10pm. The flight to the target, it appears, was entirely uneventful. The plan, as was usual on targets of this nature, was to fly to a datum point some distance from the aiming point to wait for the markers to go down. The yellow target indicators marking the datum were not quite on the right spot[5] and it seems the first markers were dropped a little late (Flight Sergeant John Waugh said that there were “no flares over [the] target until 0117 1/2”), but at around[6] 01.22 the order was given by W/T to “attack Reds 11 o’clock 300 yards”.

Squadron Leader Phil Smith and the crew of B for Baker were among the first of the Waddington aircraft to bomb. There was, Phil wrote in his logbook later, “bags of light flak over the target – one burst near enough for us to hear it”, but otherwise defences were fairly weak in the target area. The attack, it seems, opened up in a slightly scattered fashion and very quickly smoke and dust kicked up by the explosions obscured the target. This had happened before – the 10 April 1944 raid on Tours is a case in point – and Bill Brill, for one, wasn’t happy. “Instantaneous fusing on H.E. [is] hopeless for precision targets”, he fumed in the Operational Record Book. “Dust and smoke obscure Target after first bomb is dropped.”

The Master Bomber evidently agreed. At 01:35 a signal went out by wireless telegraphy and by radio telephone to stop bombing to allow the target to be remarked. To reinforce the order two red Verey cartridges were fired.[7] Even after all of that, some crews were still seen dropping their bombs while the target was remarked.[8] These errrant crews may not have been entirely culpable. Phil Smith was one of two captains who reported bad interference or jamming of the raid controller’s early broadcasts, though he did say that it improved upon approaching the target and once in the actual target area it was very good. From the data available in the Operational Record Books no Waddington crews bombed during the lull.

In any case, the target was marked again and less than ten minutes after it had been stopped the bombing was ordered to recommence. This time the marking was spot on. “Red spot fires appeared to be on roof of main assembly shop”, said Pilot Officer Bill Felstead, who bombed on his third run over the target. The smoke continued to make life difficult, however, and numerous crews reported not being able to see the red spot fires at all.

The marking, while it was reasonably accurate, does not seem to have been particularly clear to see amongst the smoke and explosions of the aiming point. Adding to the confusion was the concurrent attack on the explosives works, just a few miles to the south east. “The other target being marked very much better than ours,” suggested Pilot Officer Noel Sanders, “[we were] apt to bomb the wrong one.” Pilot Officer Fred Cassell suggested a possible solution to the problem: “We think that it would be better when two targets are close to use distinctive marking. If it could be certain that both could be marked simultaneously with the same colour there would be no difficulty but there is uncertainty then at times the markers may have gone out or are not visible on one target but can be seen on the other one as was the case tonight.”

But in the end both attacks were successful. Numerous large explosions were reported towards the end of the raid (though as the distance from the target increased it would have become more difficult to discern from which of the two factories that were hit in Toulouse they came) and later reconnaissance found that severe damage was caused. The only opposition was the light flak which Phil Smith and crew, among others, encountered over the target and there were no casualties from either of the Toulouse raids. Pilot Officer John McManus reported that his aircraft was hit by flak in the fuselage under the mid-upper turret and Pilot Officer Ernie Mustard noted, not unreasonably, that “bombing within range of light flak is a detriment to accuracy.” Possibly also resulting from the flak damage, the starboard outer engine on McManus’ LL846 caught fire on the way home and needed to be feathered. They landed at Tangmere as a result. Everyone else, it seems, had an easy trip home.

 

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] 467 Squadron Operational Record Book, 30APR44

[2] RAF Bomber Command Campaign Diary May 1944, and Night Raid Report No. 593

[3] Mechelen is the Dutch/Flemish name of this city, referred to in the Night Raid Report by its French name of Malines

[4] Details of other operations from Bomber Command Campaign Diary, May 1944, and Night Raid Report No. 593

[5] As reported by Flight Lieutenant Dan Conway and Pilot Officer Ernie Mustard in the 467 and 463 Squadron Operational Record Books

[6] One pilot recorded in the 463 Squadron Operational Record Book that the order to bomb was given at 01.22, but another said 01.25

[7] As reported by Pilot Officer Bryan Giddings in the 463 Squadron Operational Record Book

[8] Pilot Officer Tom Davis, 467 Squadron Operational Record Book

467 Postblog LXIX: Saturday 29 April, 1944

The last of 27 aircraft returned to Waddington from last night’s abortive raid on the explosives works at St-Medard-en-Jalles at 07.18 this morning.[1] But when the crews awoke from their post-operation slumber they found that ops had been laid on again for tonight, and they were going back to the same target in the south of France. Seventeen out of the nineteen crews sent were on the battle order for the second night in succession. The total offering from Waddington would have been 21, except that it was belatedly discovered that Flight Sergeant Tom Scholefield – who was Dan Conway’s second dickey last night – had not completed any training cross countries or practice flights with his crew since they arrived at the squadron yesterday. They were sent on a Bullseye instead. The 467 Squadron Operational Record Book also notes that one other captain – Pilot Officer Tony Tottenham – did not go either, though no details are recorded about why.

In any case a total of 68 Lancasters and five Mosquitos, again all from 5 Group, were detailed for the new attack on St Medard-en-Jalles. Elsewhere, 59 aircraft, also from 5 Group, bombed a Michelin tyre factory at Clermont Ferrand (about 180 miles east of Bordeaux) and small groups of Mosquitos attacked Oberhausen and the marshalling yards at Acheres (near Paris). Mines were laid in the Frisians and off French ports by 38 Stirlings and Halifaxes, nine Wellingtons from Operational Training Units dropped leaflets over Northern France, 25 aircraft carried out sorties in support of Resistance operations and six Mosquitos went on Serrate patrols. A final Mosquito made a weather recce flight.[2]

The Waddington aircraft began taking off for St-Medard-en-Jalles from 22:30. All nineteen were away by 22:55, but there was one early return when Flight Sergeant Sam Johns had the starboard outer engine fail on LM338 exactly an hour after he took off. He left the stream, jettisoned his full load of bombs over the sea and flew home, landing at 02:04.[3]

The rest of the bombers, though, enjoyed an entirely uneventful trip to the target with minimal opposition. This time the leading aircraft found that, while there was still some slight haze present, in the main the weather conditions were ideal for bombing with no cloud in the area. Almost 200 miles to the east, crews could see a large column of flame marking the attack which was by that stage underway on the Michelin works at Clermont-Ferrand.

Back at St-Medard-en-Jalles, the heavies circled for only a short time the yellow flare that marked the datum point before receiving, at around 02:15, the order to go in and bomb. “From then on”, recorded Pilot Officer Ernie Mustard, “there was one explosion after another.”

It was, said the 463 Squadron Operational Record Book, “a very spectacular scene”. Three red spot fires marked the target. A green target indicator was dropped shortly after 02:27, and then the crews were ordered to attack between one red spot fire and the green TI.

Just after this message was sent Pilot Officer John McManus was flying LL789 on its bombing run. His wireless operator passed him the message at a critical time and upset the run so, in the interests of bombing accuracy, McManus turned away and came around again. By this stage the attack was well underway with explosion after explosion lighting up the area, lighting fires and creating huge plumes of smoke. The confusion was enough to spoil McManus’ second bombing run as the spot fires were “unrecogniseable”, so he decided to take his bombs home. The bombing, meanwhile, had blown out the spot fires that had been dropped by the target markers[4] so that by 02:36 the raid Controller was telling crews to aim at the centre of a large fire in the target area[5], but by this time McManus was already on his way back. (Despite not attacking the target, McManus and crew would still be credited with a completed sortie for this trip).

In amongst the bombers, of course, was LM475, B for Baker, and her crew. Squadron Leader Phil Smith reported that there were so many rapid-fire explosions during their run-up to bomb that he couldn’t count them. They dropped their bombs and were waiting for the camera to turn over when, at 02:29, the world seemed to blow up:

“…some other Lanc put his 12,000lbs of goods down right on some big Ammo factory – Boy I thought our time was up.”

– Flight Sergeant Dale Johnston, wireless operator, in a letter to his father, 01MAY44[6]

“…our machine was almost blown out of the sky. Flames must have been almost 500ft high.”

-Flight Sergeant Gilbert Pate, rear gunner, in a letter to his sister Joyce, 01MAY44[7]

“We thought we had bee [sic] hit […] Heard the ‘crumph’ above the noise of the engines. The light of the explosion lit up the country for miles around.”

-Squadron Leader Phil Smith, logbook entry, 29APR44

The fact that we have accounts or descriptions of this incident from three different members of the crew of B for Baker suggests that it was one of the more memorable occurrences of their tour. Being a French target accuracy was the key, and to facilitate this the bombers went in at quite low level – most between 4,000 and 6,000 feet. In Phil Smith’s opinion, the explosion they encountered at 5,000 feet was so great that aircraft one thousand feet lower would probably have been destroyed by it. “A safety height of well over 4,000 feet should have been fixed for the raid”, he reported later. In fact, the 463 Squadron Operational Record Book says that “it became necessary to order the force to raise its bombing height,” though this does not appear to be reflected in a comparison of the actual recorded bombing heights and times in the 463 and 467 Squadron Operational Record Books.

About the only thing not present over the target was much sign of enemy resistance. Their close escape after the previous night’s raid was aborted had evidently not encouraged the Germans to improve defences deployed around the factory and virtually nothing, save some “very fierce”[8] light flak south of the aiming point, was encountered. Only one aircraft on the entire raid was attacked by a fighter.[9]

All aircraft returned safely from tonight’s operations. The target was, according to the Night Raid Report, heavily damaged, “especially around the boiler house and the group of buildings, half of which were damaged and m[any] destroyed.”

On the front page of The Sheffield Telegraph, 1 May 1944 edition, was a short article headlined “30-Minute-Long Explosions”.

Crews saw smoke rise to 5,000 feet in a series of colossal explosions which were still going on half an hour after the bombs went down during Saturday night’s attack by R.A.F. Lancasters on the French Poudrerie Nationale explosives works at St-Medard-en-Jalles, nine miles from Bordeaux.

 

A copy of this article is highlighted with pen, presumably by Flight Sergeant Gilbert Pate, who had pilfered it from the Mess and sent it to his family. With them it remains, clearly stamped “R.A.F. SGTS’ MESS WADDINGTON.”[10]

 

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 Operational Record Book, 28APR44

[2] Other ops detailed in Night Raid Report No. 591 and RAF Bomber Command Campaign Diary, April 1944

[3] Details from 467 Squadron Operational Record Book, 29APR44

[4] As reported by Flight Lieutenant Eric Smith in the 463 Squadron Operational Record Book

[5] Reported in the 463 Squadron Operational Record Book by Squadron leader Merv Powell

[6] Dale’s father Charles transcribed parts of this letter and sent a copy to Don Smith in a letter on 16 July 1944. From the collection of Mollie Smith.

[7] From the collection of Gil and Peggy Thew

[8] Reported in the 463 Squadron Operational Record Book by Flying Officer Dudley Ward

[9] Night Raid Report No. 591

[10] From the collection of Gil and Peggy Thew

467 Postblog LXVIII: Friday 28 April, 1944

Operations again tonight, as 28 Waddington crews were detailed for a raid on a munitions factory at St Medard-en-Jalles, near Bordeaux in the south of France. This would be an all-5 Group affair with a total of 88 bombers and four Mosquitos sent to attack the third out of four French State explosives works.[1] One crew was cancelled before take-off (for reasons not explained in the 467 Squadron Operational Record Book) but two others took second dickie pilots – Flight Sergeants Thomas Scholefield with Dan Conway and John Waugh with John McManus – and an unknown airman flew with Wing Commander Willie Tait as an extra “mid-under” gunner. For Scholefield in particular it was a quick introduction to squadron life, having arrived at Waddington on posting earlier the same day.

The crew of B for Baker all flew in their normal aircraft, LM475. Rear gunner Flight Sergeant Gilbert Pate scribbled a quick note to his mother while waiting for the crew truck to pick them up and take them to their dispersal, enclosing as he frequently did a newspaper clipping. This one covered the Schweinfurt raid of two days ago. That trip had been, he said, “a long stooge and one that I never felt happy on.”

Bombers began rolling down the runway around 22.30 in the evening. As well as the crew that was scrubbed before take-off, one aircraft returned early. Flight Sergeant Colin Dixon was setting course for the first leg, south-east towards Harwich, when the starboard inner engine on his Lancaster began overheating and caught fire. The flames died upon feathering the engine, but carrying on was not a safe option. They flew out half way over the North Sea to jettison their full load of bombs and returned to Waddington just after 01.30.[2]

The remainder of the force turned sharply south-west upon reaching the English coast and flew over the sea, overflying Brittany before they turned left and more or less followed the French coast southbound. Near the coast thirty miles west of Bordeaux itself was the datum point, which was marked by yellow flares. Aircraft began assembling there from about 02.30, circling round it to await the order to go in and bomb.

About twenty minutes ahead of the Main Force were the wind finders and target markers. They found no cloud over the target but the ground was shrouded in thick haze which made identification of the exact aiming point extremely difficult. Some of the illuminating flares reportedly set fire to nearby woods[3] and the resulting smoke only made matters worse. The Master Bomber, having dropped his red spot fire, called for more flares to assess its accuracy, but eventually decided that the haze was too thick to be able to guarantee the high degree of accuracy required for an attack on a French target and decided to abort the operation, ordering the crews home.

The problem now became one of communication. There was much back-chat from the pilots orbiting the datum point[4] and some signals were confused. Phil Smith himself heard a transmission saying “flares on red spot fires,” which he misinterpreted as an order to move in for the bombing run, but before they got there they heard another signal to stand by and orbited in the target area instead of at the datum point. The misinterpreted signal was probably the Master Bomber’s order to the flare force to illuminate the spot fire he had dropped.

Not many of the crew reports in the 463 and 467 Squadrons Operational Record Books include such detail, but of those that do the first order to cease bombing came around 02.50. Just after 3am the first crew reported receiving an order to return to base. It appears that many aircrew did not receive the first message and the orders were repeated regularly for the next half an hour or so, with most aircraft leaving the datum point having circled it for upwards of 45 minutes. Even then, one crew still reported bombing the target as late as 03.20. A green flash which was seen by Gilbert Pate from the rear turret of B for Baker was interpreted by Pilot Officer Tony Tottenham in R5868 (S for Sugar) as a verey cartridge, which he saw at 03.08 and understood as an order to bomb. Tottenham was one of 26 pilots in total who reported bombing the target but the remainder held off and went home, flying north over land.

The only other pilot from Waddington to definitely bomb was Flight Sergeant Sam Johns, who was attacked by a fighter on his bombing run and again on leaving the target. Apart from this one attack there was very little enemy activity enroute or at the target, with only desultory flak and very few searchlights encountered.

A basic aeronautical fact is that, all else being equal, the heavier an aeroplane is the more engine power is required to keep it airborne and therefore, the more fuel is required for a given flight. In planning the fuel loads for bombers engaged on an operation, of course, it would have been anticipated that each aircraft would lose some 12,500lb of weight when they dropped their bombs on the target, so less fuel would be required on the homeward journey. As they turned for home tonight however it now became clear on many aircraft that, having retained their bombs, the fuel remaining would be insufficient for the task given the unexpected extra weight still on board. Consequently out of the 26 Waddington aircraft that made it to the target, nine jettisoned some or in many cases all of their bombs on the way home. Flight Lieutenant Jim Marshall and Pilot Officers John McManus and Tom Davis made the decision early, flying just off the coast and jettisoning there, but others made it the length of France before becoming aware of their fuel situation and dropped their loads after crossing the coast again near Normandy. Pilot Officer Bill Felstead made it back to England but evidently discovered he had pushed it a little too far to make Waddington and instead decided to land at an OTU aerodrome at Wing, near Aylesbury, some 90 miles short.[5] There were no casualties from this operation.

There’s an interesting footnote to this raid hidden in the 463 Squadron Operational Record Book. Pilot Officer Murray Pratten made it to the target, dropped his bombs and came back safely. Yet next to his name is recorded the words “sortie NOT completed,’ implying that he and his crew were not credited with a sortie towards their tours from this trip. His report gives a fairly detailed account of signals and the times that they were received and appears to justify his decision to attack – and certainly the other two Waddington crews that bombed were credited with completed sorties – so it’s curious that this crew was not. A possible explanation is that the justification given for going into bomb was hearing a message in the clear on the W/T at 03.09:

From No. 1 drop your load.

This same message was also reported by Wing Commander Kingsford-Smith, though he said it came “between 02.38 and 02.42hrs” and was “ignored.” Perhaps its being in plain text and not encrypted raised Kingsford-Smith’s suspicions that the message might not have originated from a legitimate source, and not crediting Pratten with a completed sortie was a punishment for being taken in by it. One suspects this would not have been a popular decision with either Pratten or his crew.

A number of other Bomber Command units were operating elsewhere on this night. 51 Lancasters and four Mosquitos bombed an aircraft factory in Oslo, an effective attack in clear weather. 26 Mosquitos made a harassing raid on Hamburg and 40 Stirlings, Halifaxes and Lysanders carried out Resistance support operations. A couple of Mosquito intruders and a weather recce aircraft were also flying over the Continent. There were no casualties.

Meanwhile, the explosives factory at St Medard-en-Jalles survived for tonight. Tomorrow, it would not be so lucky.

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] Lawrence 1951, p.188

[2] 467 Squadron Operational Record Book, 28APR44

[3] RAF Bomber Command Diary, April 1944 and Lawrence 1951, p.188

[4] Reported by Wing Commander Kingsford-Smith, 463 Squadron Operational Record Book

[5] My copy of the Operational Record Book is unreadable at this point – thanks to Graham Wallace for picking up the error and decyphering it for me.

467 Postblog LXVIb: Wednesday 26 April, 1944

Three bombers from Waddington had had made early returns from the Schweinfurt trip on 26 April 1944, but the rest of the force were flying on. Crossing the enemy coast near Cabourg, the attackers flew a hundred miles inland before turning east near Paris. The route had been designed to avoid wherever possible areas of known heavy flak, and in this it was mostly successful, though three aircraft fell to flak between Troyes, halfway along this 300-mile leg, and Strasbourg, and two more were shot down at Karlsruhe. “This was rather a long trip and required accurate navigation to keep out of defended areas,” said Pilot Officer Thomas Foster.

The fighters had a go as well. Two nights ago an extreme southerly route and multiple bomber streams foxed the fighter controllers, but they did not fall for the same trick tonight. From about Troyes the fighters got stuck into the stream. At least six aircraft fell to fighters on this leg. “Fighters busy from 0400E [approx Troyes] to target,” said Flight Lieutenant Jim Marshall. His navigator, Pilot Officer Arnold Easton, was a little more descriptive in his logbook. “Pretty hot trip,” he wrote. “Saw many aircraft shot down between Paris and the target.”

Now a more insidious problem made itself known.[1] The wind strengthened by ten knots and veered by 20 degrees, throwing navigators’ calculations out and delaying and scattering the bomber stream. “By the flak which I saw going up, on route many people must have strayed south of Strasbourg and Stuttgart,” thought Wing Commander Rollo Kingsford-Smith.

The wind change would upset the carefully thought-out plan. The intention was for two waves, 20 minutes apart, to attack the target. The first wave was to support the flare force, flying over the target at 02.00 and heading away for fifteen minutes to allow the marking to proceed. Low-level Mosquitos were to carry out the initial marking with red spot fires. The most accurate ones were to be backed up by green spot fires or cascading green target indicators dropped from Lancasters high above. But the wind scattered the markers and caused the late arrival of most of the marking force so some aircraft needed to hang around in the target area for some time until the markers went down. Searchlights were active in the area and there was some moderate heavy-calibre flak but the ground defences were less than effective. Fighters had reached the area before the second wave did however and are likely to have shot down six bombers near the target.[2]

Eventually at about 02.22 the Controller broadcast by W/T the order to begin bombing the markers through some low cloud and haze which had developed, probably augmented by smoke generators being operated by the defenders. The Main Force did just that, dropping their bombs so closely around the markers that at one point, Pilot Officer Col James reported, a green spot fire was extinguished or obscured by a stick of incendiaries. Good fires resulted around the markers.

“If markers were accurate,” opined Pilot Officer Arthur Bowman, a “good attack should develop.” The problem was, however, that the ground itself was only faintly visible.

Impossible to see whether it was a good do or not. – Pilot Officer Bill Mackay, 467 Squadron

And as it turned out the markers were not quite accurate enough, being displaced to the south of the actual aiming point.[3] So, consequently, was the bombing. Only 18 aircraft were definitively plotted as having bombed in the target area. The controller made an attempt to instruct the crews to overshoot the inaccurate green spot fires but this was hampered by poor radio reception and not all crews complied.  The bombers left Schweinfurt in flames, but the fires were not quite in the right spot.

The bombers turned and flew home over more or less the same route as they had taken to get to Schweinfurt. One more bomber fell to a fighter just after leaving the city. And when a 106 Squadron crew was attacked around this time it led to one of the more stunning stories of courage and luck in Bomber Command history.[4] The fighter’s shells started a fire in the starboard wing and Sergeant Norman Jackson, the flight engineer, asked his pilot for permission to try to extinguish the flames. He had already been wounded in the leg from shell splinters. Jackson tucked a hand-held fire extinguisher into his Mae-West lifejacket, put on a parachute, opened the escape hatch in the cockpit ‘greenhouse’ and climbed out, but his parachute got caught on something and opened, spilling into the cockpit. The pilot, bomb aimer and navigator gathered up the ‘chute and held onto it, paying out the rigging lines as Jackson crawled aft outside the fuselage. Jackson slipped and managed to grab hold of an air intake in the leading edge of the wing, but the fire extinguisher was lost. By this time the fire had spread and, unable to maintain his hand-hold, Jackson was swept backwards through the flames and over the trailing edge of the wing into space. He had been badly burnt and when last seen his parachute was only partially opened and burning in a number of places.

The aircraft was by now beyond saving and the order to abandon was given; four others got out but the captain and rear gunner died in the crash. Jackson himself, amazingly, survived, though he never quite got control of his parachute and landed heavily. With a broken ankle, eye closed through burns and serious hand injuries he crawled to the nearest village at daybreak and was taken prisoner. Jackson spent ten months in a German hospital. It was only after the survivors of the crew returned to the UK at the end of the war that the story came out; Sergeant Norman Cyril Jackson was awarded the Victoria Cross at Buckingham Palace on 13 November 1945. Jackson died in 1994.

Knowing nothing of this, of course, the rest of the bomber stream were still making their way back to the enemy coast. A couple of crews reported seeing fires and explosions in the direction of Paris as they flew past, likely the effects of the earlier raid on the Villeneuve-St-George marshalling yards. One crew, piloted by Pilot Officer Sam Johns, were attacked by a fighter. Both gunners – Flight Sergeants Ernie Dale in the mid-upper turret and John Fallon in the rear – fired and it was seen to go down out of control and crash. “It was claimed as destroyed,” said the compiler of the 467 Squadron Operational Record Book the next day, “and it was a fine effot on the part of the new crew.” They had made their operational debut on La Chapelle on April 20 and this was their second trip.

There’s a mention in the 463 Squadron Operational Record Book that Pilot Officer Dudley Ward lost an engine over the target and then another passing Orleans. After ordering his crew to man ditching stations he managed to get one of the inoperative engines to fire up again and made a successful Channel crossing and emergency landing at Tangmere. The problem, however, is that Ward does not show up in the sortie list section of the ORB, so we can’t confirm which aircraft or who the rest of the crew was.

All Waddington crews arrived back safely, most between 6 and 7am. A few days later Gilbert Pate sent home some newspaper clippings, purloined once more from the Sergeants’ Mess at RAF Waddington. “10th day of attack,” reads the headline on one. With perhaps a little embellishment, the reporter quoted an unnamed airman: “I have never seen a town more desperately defended. If it had been a land battle, you would have said that the place was fighting to the last.”

It had been an expensive night. 21 bombers out of 226 – 9.3% – were lost.

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] Lawrence 1951, p.178

[2] Night Raid Report 588

[3] Account of this operation from 463 and 467 Squadron Operational Record Books, 26APR44,  Night Raid Report No. 588 and Lawrence 1951, p. 178

[4] Following account based on Lawrence 1951, p.179, and Jackson’s Victoria Cross citation, London Gazette 26OCT45, as reproduced at http://www.victoriacross.org.uk/bbjackso.htm

467 Postblog LXVIa: Wednesday 26 April, 1944

Squadron Leader Phil Smith’s old problem was back.

As the Flight Commander, ‘A’ Flight of 467 Squadron, one of his duties was to allocate crews to particular aircraft for operational flights. While some aircraft were always flown by the same crews, there were also some ‘orphan’ bombers on strength with the Flight which had no normal crews and which were flown by whoever was available on a particular night. Individual Lancasters varied greatly in quality and performance, depending on how hard they had been flown, and in every Squadron or Flight there were always one or two ‘dogs’ which no-one wanted.

And, on A Flight, 467 Squadron, no-one wanted EE143, the aeroplane we last saw in late March that wouldn’t fly straight. It seems that Avro had been unable to find a fault with its structure or dimensions and so the aeroplane was back at the squadron. Unwilling to send it on operations without a test flight and unwilling to force anyone else to so it, Phil decided today to take the aircraft up himself. His logbook does not specify the crew he flew with but it’s likely that at the least flight engineer Ken Tabor went with him. Navigator Jack Purcell did not record this flight in his logbook so it was probably intended to be a local flight only. In any case, Phil took off into a fine and sunny sky and headed towards Syerston, another RAF station about 20 miles south-west of Waddington.[1]

Meanwhile, Waddington was gearing up for operations again tonight. It would be another long one, though not quite as far as the Munich trip two nights ago. This time the target was Schweinfurt.

Bomber Command had attacked Schweinfurt properly for the first time only in February, which incidentally was one of the operations on which Phil Smith took EE143. Notwithstanding the mistaken bombing by crews who thought they were at Nuremberg in March, the city had more or less been left alone ever since. It was still however the centre of Germany’s ball-bearing industry, and since Sweden had reportedly ceased its supply of that resource[2] Schweinfurt now assumed an even greater importance and Bomber Command Headquarters decided it was time for another attack. Strongly defended with smoke screens and decoys and well beyond Oboe range,[3] it was a tricky target and it was thought that the recently developed No. 5 Group marking tactics might prove successful. 226 aircraft were sent.

The Waddington contribution to the force was intended to be 30 aircraft, but three 467 Squadron crews were cancelled. One (Pilot Officer Len Ainsworth) had gone sick and one missed for unrecorded reasons (Pilot Officer Tom Davis), but the third was the result of an accident. Flight Lieutenant Jack Colpus’s crew were readying their aircraft for the operation when the mid-upper gunner’s clothing accidentally fouled the mechanism of his guns, and they started firing. The bullets hit the perspex of the rear turret which shattered, lightly injuring the rear gunner who was inside it at the time. Because of the shock and the damage to the aircraft, the crew were stood down from the operation.

Perhaps Phil Smith was also supposed to go on this operation. But it’s also possible that he stayed at Syerston overnight after landing there on his test flight. His logbook records another test in EE143 the following day, and the aircraft does not appear to have been on the Schweinfurt operation. There’s insufficient information available in the records to be sure either way.His logbook records landing at Syerston on the test flight in EE143, and another air test in the same aircraft the following day. EE143 does not appear to have been on the Schweinfurt operation so it’s possible that he stayed away overnight.

Three other members of Phil’s crew, however, did attack Schweinfurt. Gilbert Pate again flew with Pilot Officer Bill Mackay and Jack Purcell went with Pilot Officer John McManus. It is also likely that Eric Hill flew as part of a scratch 463 Squadron crew captained by Wing Commander Willie Tait. The bombers began to take off from about 21.15, their track south passing the now familiar waypoints of Reading, Selsey Bill and Cabourg.

Bomber Command despatched more than 1,000 sorties again tonight, for the fifth time in nine nights. The biggest group attacked the Krupps works at Essen, an accurate raid by 493 aircraft. 217 aircraft caused great destruction to the railway yards at Villeneuve St George, south of Paris. Stirlings attacked railway targets at Chambly, Mosquitos went to Hamburg and carried out intruder patrols and Serrate patrols, a small force of heavies laid mines and there were some Resistance operations.[4]

Meanwhile, all was not well in the aircraft that had departed Waddington. Three crews made early returns. Pilot Officer John Sayers, in ED657, had been late to take off after an engine overheated on the taxiway. He tried to make up time by tracking direct to Cabourg and flying faster than usual but the need to run at a higher engine power setting caused the recalcitrant engine to overheat again. To keep height it was necessary to jettison the full bomb load and they limped back to Waddington, landing just before 1am.

And passing Peterborough about half an hour after departure, Pilot Officer Fred Cassell’s rear gunner, Flight Sergeant Max Milner, reported that his rear turret was unserviceable. On investigation it proved impossible to repair while airborne, so Cassell decided to abort the mission. He turned east and flew half-way across the North Sea to jettison his incendiaries and returned home with the 4,000lb ‘cookie’ still in the bomb bay, landing just after 3am.

Finally Flight Lieutenant Eric Smith of 463 Squadron turned back near Northampton because his rear gunner (Sergeant GR Pike[5]) fell ill. ‘He was quite willing to go on,” reported Flight Lieutenant Smith in the Operational Record Book,

but was unable to stand up and was having trouble in breathing. He was in much pain and was getting worse as height increased. Confirmation can be obtained from Medical Officer.

They flew over the sea to a point sixty miles east of Waddington to jettison half their incendiaries and brought the rest back home.

Next: The rest of the bombers fly on

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] Story of EE143 from Phil’s Recollections typescript and from his logbook

[2] Claim in 463 Squadron Operational Record Book, 26APR44

[3] Lawrence 1951, p.178

[4] Bomber Command Campaign Diary April 1944, and Night Raid Report No. 588

[5]  Pike was not RAAF so his full name is unknown


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