H Adams memoir - training and operations



H Adams memoir - training and operations


Shows maps of North Wales and the Midlands as well as an explanation of the Douglas protractor as well as diagrams of the Dalton computer and photographs of Wellington. Describes training at RAF Lichfield from end of March to 21 June 1944. Shows photograph of his crew which he describes as well as crewing up process. Describes navigation techniques in great detail using air position indicator, GEE and astro and crew navigation procedure. Describes first trip in Wellington as well as subsequent training flights. Goes on to describe post course leave including visits to the theatre and historical places in London as well as other activities. Goes on to describe training at RAF Swinderby on Heavy Conversion Unit flying Stirling. Describes flights including one hairy landing. Then moved to Syerston where they did Lancaster Finishing School before moving to RAF Waddington 467 Squadron. Describes arrival on squadron and first operation to Le Havre. Writes that because of short trips during Normandy campaign tours were now extended to 36 trips as well as describing bomber command's targeting strategy. Then provides some extracts from "The Hardest Victory - RAF Bomber Command in WWII by Dennis Richards". Followed by photographs of people and aircraft.




Twenty-eight page handwritten document

Conforms To


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[map of North Wales and the Midlands showing where Herbert Adams was stationed at Llandwrog]
A piece of the map-reading (topographical) map of Midland & Wales. The arrows show the A.F.U’s at Llandwrog & Mona where I & Sid trained. The other 2 arrows are to the castles at Caernarvon & Conway.
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[extract detailing the methods of use of the Douglas protractor with diagram]
This is one of the simple instruments used a lot in navigation chart work, along with a pair of dividers, a parallel rule & a pencil.
All our chart work was done on Mercator projection maps with a scale of 1:1000000 …. All the meridians were parallel, and latitudes at right-angles but further apart as latitude increased.
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[map of parts of the Midlands and Wales]
This piece of the Midlands & Wales map-reading map is to a scale of 1:500000 on a modified polyconic projection which results in shapes about as good as possible considering that the earth is spherical. The meridians converge about 5 cm in a map of their size for England’s latitude.
After we finished the A.F.U. course we left, & on 27th March, moved to Lichfield, No 27 OTU (Operational Training Unit) where we were to “crew-up”, and fly in Wellington bombers (designed by Barnes Wallis of Dambusters fame. Lichfield is not for NNE of Birmingham. The town has a nice cathedral
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At Llandwrog, and all later airfields, we used the Dalton computer for doing flight plans (given track, speed & wind-velocity – it works out course & ground speed.) and for all changes of direction &/or speed. It was a huge improvement on the C.S.C. we used at Cootamundra.
We had the loose-leaf pad disconnected.
[diagram of Dalton Navigational Computer Mk. IIID]
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[diagram of underside of Navigational Computer Mk. IIIH]
This reverse face of the Dalton computer is really a circular slide rule for quick calulations [sic] of time distance & speed.
The slots allowed setting of altitude and temperature for converting Indicated Air Speed (I.A.S.), to True airspeed; this was used on each leg of a flight plan.
[black and white photograph of a Wellington aircraft in the air]
We were at Lichfield from 27th Mar. to 21st June. We didn’t have our first flight in the Wellington until 20th Apr. the first few days involved “crewing-up” then a lot of ground work; pilots using simulators.
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[black and white photograph of a Wellington on the ground with airmen in front of it]
With a range of 3,200 miles and a heavy bomb-carrying capacity, the Wellington has figured prominently in attacks on enemy war concentrations. An all-metal structure, with fabric covering, its distinctive feature is the tail rudder. Wings (span 86 ft. 1 in.) and tailplane taper sharply. Guns are mounted in nose and tail, and a third turret, which is retractable, is situated under the fuselage.
Two 1,000 h.p. Bristol Pegasus XVIII air-cooled engines give a speed of 265 m.p.h. There is a crew of five.
The Wellingtons we flew were Mark X which had more powerful Bristol Hercules engines of about 1600 H.P. each. We crewed-up with 2 gunners who took turns in the rear turret … later on, the Sterlings & Lancasters had a mid-upper turret.
It is certified that I have received instruction in and fully understand the following Crew Drills:-
1. Parachute Drill. 2. Dinghy Drill.
3. Crash Landing Drills.
Date 12/4/44 Signature [signature]
CERTIFIED that I have received instruction on the Wellington III fuel and oil system and that I thoroughly understand the operation of this system and manipulation of the control.
[signature] Officer o/c Synthetic Fuselage. Signed [signature]
This was part of our “ground-work”; if the Wellington flew for more than 4 hours it was the job of the navigator to pump oil to the engines, using a hand-hydraulic pump inside the fuselage.
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[four drawings of Vickers Wellington aircraft]
[black and white photograph of six airmen standing in front of a hut]
Our crew at Lichfield L. to R. Eric Taylor W.O.P.
Bert Adams. Nav
Ken Nicholls, Rear Gunner.
Ray Giles, Mid-Upper Gunner.
Peter Gray-Buchanan. Pilot.
Sid Payne, Bomb-Aimer.
There was no official direction for crewing up. A couple of days were allowed (& nights in the sergeants mess) for us to “sort our selves [sic] out.” Sid Payne and I made a pair & we went looking for a pilot. I was able to boost Sid’s qualifications by telling that he’d begun as a pilot, passed EFTS on Tiger Moths, but was ‘scrubbed’ near the end of his SFTS on Wirraways … this plus his Observor [sic] training in Australia was the same as mine. Sid had worked, after leaving school, at the main office of the Dept of Road Transport, Bridge St., Sydney.
We joined up with a Pilot-W.O.P. combination from Queensland, looking for a likely nav-bombaimer pair. Both pairs seemed happy with each other. We began looking for gunners.
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It turned out that the two gunners who’d topped their AFU course had paired up and had a good look at the groups needing gunners. I guess we were lucky that they picked us.
Ken hailed from Sydney. I’m not sure if he’d already married Tina Mitchell from Mudgee or if they wed after the war. Tina’s mother was the live-in caretaker of the A.U.A. rooms in Market St. Ray came from a farmland district in W.A., he was 25 & married; the other 5 of us were all 20. Peter was a very quiet lad from a wealthy family in Brisbane – he’d spent some time as a jackaroo in Western Queensland. Eric was more extrovert and came from Mackay.
For navigation we were introduced to two invaluable aids. The first was the Air Position Indicator, or H.P.I. Up until now we had drawn manual air-plots on the chart, needing to change it for every alteration of course or speed & requiring the pilot to steer his course accurately & keep the speed constant (which may not be convenient over Germany). The A.P.I. had an input of airspeed, corrected for altitude & temperature to give True Air Speed; also it had an input of direction from a big Distant Reading Compass mounted near the tail of the plane (less magnetism from the engines there) which combined magnetic direction & gyro stability (2 seconds from each alternately I think); the resulting [inserted] magnetic [/inserted] direction was sent (by wire) to a V.S.C. above the Nav’s table where he set the Variation for that local area & any compass deviation for that direction thus feeding True directions to the A.P.I. and to the bombsight and to the pilots display.
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The A.P.I. had 2 knobs and scales. The nav. could set known latitude & longitude, (of his airfield normally), then as the plane flew, regardless of directions & speed changes, the API scales kept track of it all & gave latitude & longitude to the nearest 1 minute ([symbol] nearest 1 nautical mile) [underlined] relative to the air [/underlined] … so we had an automatic air plot.
Therefore if we flew for say 20 min. and got a FIX (known ground LAT + LONG), the difference between the FIX and the API reading would be the wind effect for that 20 min. Plotting both on the chart, measuring with protractor & dividers, allowed the nav. to get the wind velocity.
But getting accurate fixes (up ‘till now) mostly relied on map reading (not possible on dark nights or above cloud.).
Now enter the 2nd aid, called GEE. A box on the nav. table with an oscillograph screen & 2 knobs allowed the nav. to pick up pulsed radio signals from ground stations. The master station triggered 3 other stations (I think about 50 miles apart) and the GEE-box measured the differences in time for the pulses to reach the plane. The nav. only had to pick the better pair, twiddle the knobs to align the blips with that from the master station, flip a switch & read off 2 numbers from a scale, and note the time. We learnt to do that in 1/2 a minute or less. We had special GEE charts, just like our Mercator plotting charts, but overprinted with many curved lines, in 3 colours for the 3 stations, and numbers printed on the curves often enough for us to find where the 2 numbers met. That was our FIX, and it could then be transferred to the plotting chart with dividers.
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The curves on the charts gradually became to cut at shallower angles at long distances, but all over Britain, and as far as the front line in Germany, the GEE box gave fixed with an accuracy of 1/2 mile or less. This was enormously helpful, even though the Germans jammed the G.EE frequency so that we couldn’t read the blips much beyond the front line. Much of the first week or two at Lichfield was spent learning to use the API and GEE.
[extract detailing the purpose of the Astro Compass Mk. II with photograph]
We carried this in case of emergency, but didn’t have to use it. (I still have one in the shed, souvenired after VE day.)
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[underlined] AIR NAVIGATION [/underlined]
When we began learning air navigation, we had to rely on our pilot to fly straight and level on the compass course given without any alteration to airspeed. Thus we could keep an airplot, corrected for every change of course, speed or height. Pilots flew at an indicated air speed (IAS), which had to do with stalling-speed safety, but the true air-speed changed considerably with increased height (& a bit with temperature). For example, an IAS of 165 mph at 14000’, -8o C, gave a TAS of 206 mph to use on a manual air-plot. Also, the pilot flew on a magnetic compass course, which the navigator needed to correct to a true course allowing for magnetic variation (it was 11o W at Lincoln) and deviation due to metal in the aircraft (engines, bomb-load) and which varied with the direction flown … hence the need to “swing-the-compass” on the ground to record a deviation chart for use in the air.
A simple manual air-plot could look like this:-
By the time our training (in England) graduated to operational type aircraft (Wellingtons, Sterlings, Lancasters) we had the benefit of an Air Position Indicator (API) … a clever little black box with windows showing latitude & longitude to the nearest minute. These aircraft had a master compass (distant-reading) down towards the tail so that deviation would be minimal, and it fed magnetic direction to a Variation Setting Control (VSC) above the navigator’s table. The navigator set the VSC to the local variation & then repeater compasses for the pilot, bombsight & navigator all read [underlined] true [/underlined] directions.
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Also, the API had an input of I.A.S. altitude and temperature & (somehow) converted that to T.A.S. (true air speed). The API now had the 2 inputs which enabled it to produce an automatic air-plot, regardless of any changes of direction, speed, height or temperature! For shortish trips, we would set the A.P.I. to read the latitude & longitude of our airfield. On longer trips, or when expecting strong winds, the wind vector could become too long as to be cumbesome [sic] (longer than our parallel ruler). Early in our operations we would reset the API to the lat. & long. of a “good” fix … but after some errors in resetting (& perhaps a “bad” fix) we, later, offset the API to about 1/2 the expected wind vector so that it shrank for the first half of the trip, the [sic] grew again coming home … a much safer and more elegant solution to that problem.
With the API giving us air-position all the time, we now had the ability to find accurate wind-velocities whenever we could get a good fix. The most usual fix was from the GEE-box … a gadget about a 1’ cube size, which picked up radio pulses from ground stations spread across England & linked so that the master station triggered pulses from the other 2 stations. We could twiddle the 2 knobs to line up 2 lots of blips simultaneously, note the time & Air Position, then flick a switch which showed 2 lots of 3-figure “numbers” to draw in freehand arcs on special GEE-charts – and where the arcs crossed was a fix, quite accurate over & near England, less so as we got further away. And the Germans jammed the frequency so that we’d lose GEE about where the front-line existed. This generally meant we had about 2 hours of good wind-finding to allow us to amend the forecast winds sensibly and enable us to proceed to our target on dead-reckoning without seeing the ground for a visual fix.
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Our first 9 flights in Wellingtons were called Circuits & Landings. The first 6 were with an instructor pilot, then 3 with Peter going SOLO. I practiced GEE fixes (except that GEE-box didn’t work on 4 of them.) We did 4 daylight cross-country navigation trips (4 or 5 hours each) usually combining some bombing & gunnery practice, and 3 pure bombing flights, dropping 12 bombs singly each time. Then 4 dual flights with a pilot instructor at night and 4 more SOLO, circuits & landings. I practiced GEE fixes, and Eric did so on two of those flights. We did 4 night cross-country nav. flights with some gunnery & bombing practice, a gunnery trip with an instructor pilot and 5 gunners aboard, another solely bombing flight at 20000’, with Sid getting an average error of 165 yds. We also did a BULLSEYE flight where we and lots of other Wellingtons flew out over the North Sea as if to attack Wilhemshaven, while a large Bomber Command force flew in towards another target. We were a diversion hoping to divide their night-fighter reaction. We turned back before getting really close to land, saw no fighters nor searchlights, but had the privilege of counting that as one operational sortie.
In total at Lichfield we flew a bit over 77 hours, 1/2 of them at night. We left there for a week’s leave on 14th June. Our first stop was at Birmingham where we changed trains for London. We went first to the Boomerang Club in Australia House where we got the address of a Servicemans Club west of Kensington where we stayed for 17/6 a night, which was OK as we’d been told that London was expensive; we also got 4 lots
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of free Theatre tickets for stage shows, which we used, & they were worth about 16/- each. We did a couple of tours over some of the old historical places … the Tower, Abbey, St Pauls & the Art Gallery. Our 2 gunners were tee-totallers (a good thing we reckoned, as we knew a lot of gunners who drank a lot & often) so we put in a fair bit of time at cinemas and a visit to the Windmill theatre where music dancing & vaudeville acts seemed to be secondary to their showing of almost-nude girls who posed around the set without moving .. the sets were changed, the girls too, frequently. Most had elaborate headwear, feathers etc. We didn’t get about as a crew all the time. Sid, I think, went to a ballet or two … he often burst into song in bits of Italian while waving arms like a conductor. He did have a nice voice. Peter had some people to visit known to his older brother who’d already done a tour (probably 2 tours by now) as a rear-gunner on Lancasters. I went out to Taplow and revisited Margaret Vyner and her mother … a nice talk with lunch.
Our crew was pleased with the results on our course at Lichfield; I was rated above average & recommended for a commission, perhaps in 3 months. We heard a rumour that we’d next go to a conversion course on Halifaxes, then probably to an RAAF squadron on Lancasters, in 5 Group.
For our final night in London we decided we’d all visit the Savoy Hotel, the poshest nightspot. We had very little money left, so just bought a drink each, listened to the orchestra & prepared to leave.
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We were all Flight-Sergeants (we got automatic promotion after 6 months) & I guess stood out among the high-ranking officers (many American) and well-heeled Britons. One of them came over & introduced himself & invited us to join his table. We thanked him but said we’d no money, we just wanted to say we’d been to the Savoy. But he said they’d foot the bill, so we joined him & his wife & 2 daughters and an American Colonel. The man was the managing director of Lysaghts at Wollengong. He seemed pleased to hear where we were from and a bit about our training. There was a dance floor and a famous band, Carol Gibbons the leader. The girls wanted to dance. We all said we couldn’t dance, but I said I could waltz OK. Carol was called over & asked to play a waltz. I got up with one of the girls & the music was a jazz-waltz, which I couldn’t manage. (I should have asked for old-time, like the Blue Danube.) We stumbled around for a while, I very embarrassed, and retreated early to the table. Apart from that it was a great night-out, nice food, a few drinks and interesting conversations.
On return we were posted to 5 Group Air Crew Category School, on 21st June, at Scampton, just north of Lincoln. We were there for 10 days, but did no flying there. I can’t remember what we did do but I guess it was some sort of training.
We moved to 1660 H.C.U. (Heavy Conversion Unit) at Swinderby on 2nd July, where the planes were Sterlings … huge planes 100’ long; with tail undercarriage – no danger of losing you [sic] head walking under a propellor, as you can see from this photograph overleaf.
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[black and white photograph of a Sterling aircraft on the ground with a few airmen around it]
The Short Sterling. Our pilot Peter, hand on wheel, Ken, Sid & Eric at the end of the tailplane, Don Coutts our new Engineer with 2 of the ground crew closer to the plane & me, with Nav. bag & Ray Giles, our mid-upper gunner at the door.
Don, the engineer, had been a policeman in Coventry & Birmingham. He was “old”, about 42 I think. He was born in Scotland; his parents now lived in Ireland.
I read that the Sterling was originally designed to have a greater wingspan, perhaps 120’, but none of the regular hangers could take such width, so they clipped the wing design back without changing the rest of the design. They didn’t have 2-stage superchargers like the Lancasters, and although their big radial engines were more powerful than Merlins they didn’t perform well above about 15000’. So as more & more Halifaxes & Lancasters were built the Sterlings were used as trainers and as glider tugs, particularly in the big Market Garden debacle around Arnhem and in the Normandy invasion.
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This is about the sextant we carried in the nav. bag on all flights but never used on Operations. It came in a solid carrying box … I still have one that I “souveneered” [sic] after VE day. As well as charts, maps etc we had to carry the current Air Almanac & 1 or more books of A.N. Tables, each book only covered 4o of latitude, in a green canvas carry bag.
[extract detailing the methods of use of the Bubble Sextant with photograph]
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We did a bit over 48 hours of flying at Swinderby spread over a month. 10 of the 27 flights were with instructor-pilots doing day & night circuits & landings including 2 & 3 engined landings. 3-engined overshoots, corkscrews & banking searches, feathering propellors, fighter affiliation using cine-camera “guns”. Most of the other flights were bombings & gunnery, 3 cross-country nav. trips, and practice at all the other things mentioned above.
One “hairy” landing stands out. We’d had some wet weather & the grass verges beside the runways were boggy. Another pilot, trying to land in a cross-wind touched down with one wheel off the runway – the undercarraige [sic] collapsed & the plane plowed to a stop in the mud. We helped dig the bomb-aimer from the nose (he should not have been there for landing) where he was jammed up into the front turret by mud. The next day we were trying to do a 3-engined landing. The “rule” was, once you got below 1000’ on 3-engines you must land, … I guess the rule applied to emergency situations where the other engine couldn’t be restarted & may be some damage to the plane. Anyway, there was a cross-wind & when we were about to touch down, Peter said “we’re going around”, slammed the throttles forward & told the Engineer to get the 4th engine restarted. My job, on landings, was to call out the airspeed to save the pilot having to look down at the airspeed indicator. The stalling speed with flaps down was about 80 mph, and I’m calling 65, 65, 65 … while Peter juggled the controls to keep us just above the mud.
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He managed it and once the 4th engine started, the speed built up and we just cleared the hedges beyond the runway’s end. Peter was “dressed down” for ignoring the rule, but I reckon he saved them a Sterling … and us some bruises or worse.
We were moved from Swinderby to Syerston, a bit further S.W. of Lincoln on 12th of Aug. and got a week’s leave at once. I went to Edinburgh; Ray & Don were going to Rugby & Birmingham respectively & the others to London. I had intended joining them after 3 or 4 days, but since it wasn’t long since I’d been there, and they were getting a fair number of VI flying bombs I didn’t bother. While in the bath there someone stole my wallet including my identity card, army discharge papers, my pen & some other papers. Then on the way back to Lincoln, I stopped for a meal at Newcastle & someone stole my gas-mask bag which also held my pay-book, log book, & the few clothes etc. I took for a week. I was in big trouble (reprimanded) for losing the identity car, and inconvenienced for 2 months of no pay, until a duplicate pay-book was arranged. Months later the police at Newcastle sent the log-book back.
A couple of pages on, I’ve underlined the airfields we trained at on the map, with Lincoln near the top, & have shown Waddington & Wigsley underlined too.
At Syerston we converted to Lancasters … it was called 5 L.F.S. (Lancaster Finishing School). We did 9 flights totalling 18 hours, 5 of them with an instructor pilot, doing circuits & landings, 3-engined overshoots & landings, corkscrews & banking searches.
We moved from there to No 467 Squadron (RAAF) at Waddington on 7th of September.
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I’d forgotten, but while were [sic] still at Syerston we went in to Nottingham to the indoor swimming pool, and practiced dinghy drill … all the crew working together had to learn the technique of turning it upright from being upside down as they may be that way after being automatically ejected & inflated in case the plane crashes in the sea. We managed it OK although it was a shock putting on cold wet Mae Wests before diving into the cold water; I can imagine it might be much tougher at night in a rough sea. We had time for lunch & a wander in the town. Peter has bought a second-hand Ford 10 sedan for $25, which he & Don have “restored” to good running condition. Civilians get no coupons for petrol. Doctors etc. get a ration. Airmen on Operations get about 5 gallons a quarter, with some more if going on leave to a place not serviced by train. I had an auto-cycle … like a pushbike with a tiny 2-stroke engine, and was able to scrounge a little petrol from some of the drivers of the transports which took us out (& back) to the planes … a bottle full now & then. It need [sic] a bit of pedalling going up steep grades. I was given a licence to ride it, drive a car/truck/tractor merely by showing my expired Aussie licence … no test, just pay the small fee.
After settling in to our nice brick, centrally-heated room, 6 of our crew down one side, 6 of another crew on the other side, 8 rooms altogether like that, in our block, with toilets & ablutions in the centre of the [symbol] (same upstairs) all the new crews, 8 of us, assembled in the C.O.s office next day for a welcome talk. The C.O. was Wing Commander Bill Brill, originally from Ganmain.
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[map of Lincolnshire detailing RAF bases]
He and another young man from Ganmain, Arthur Doubleday, had enlisted early in the war. Both had done 2 tours with Bomber Command. Bill had earned D.S.O., D.F.C and Bar, & I think Arthur had the same decorations … he was then C.O. of 463 squadron also at Waddington, though he soon moved on.
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One of the things Bill told us Flight-Sergeants was that if we applied for a commission after about 20 Operations he’d recommend anyone who hadn’t done something stupid. What he didn’t say was that he didn’t want to waste time interviewing those who hadn’t got that far because a lot of them wouldn’t. As it turned out, when we finished our tour in Jan ’45, only 3 of the 8 crews remained.
After he finished his welcome talk, he dismissed the other 7 crews, and asked us to go up with him for a dual check, airtest. The reason he favoured us was that Peter’s older brother had been his rear gunner in his first tour. (Years later I met Arthur Doubleday at Wagga where he addressed Air Force Association members. I had an invitation and I mentioned Bill & Peter’s brother. He said “Old Buck eh, I had him as my rear gunner in my second tour.” Small world eh?)
He seemed satisfied with the way Peter handled the Lancaster, until he asked him to do a corkscrew. Then he took over the wheel (the Lanc’s [sic] had dual controls although only 1 pilot in the crew) and showed how he’d do it. He said the Lanc. was tough, you wouldn’t hurt it by being harsh with the controls even with a big bomb load. So it was “down port”, with a vengeance, really steep diving turn, “down starboard” still steep but faster, up port, up starboard as usual – quite harsh on the controls. He had Peter copy him.
When we’d landed he told us that there was an easy daylight Operation on Le Havre coming up on the 10th & he’d put us on for our 1st Op. despite Peter not having first done a “second-dickie” operation with another crew.
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The next day we did 2 flights, the first a fighter affiliation with cine-camera “guns”, the second a 5 hr 4 min cross-country navigation exercise with 6 bombs at the end, with Sid getting an ‘A’ assessment.
We did our first Operation the next day on Le Havre. I have already done some commentary, along with my original logs & charts for our tour of Ops, so I’ll leave that & just mention that Peter did his “second-dickie” the next night, 11th Sept. on Damstadt; and I’ll digress a bit about the lead up to D-Day and the months that followed, particularly from the viewpoint of Bomber Command.
Up until that time a tour of operations was 30 trips, and 20 more for a second tour. Because Bomber Command (I’ll use B.C. from now on) did so many short trips leading up to D-Day, and for some time after, they raised the quota for a tour to 36 trips, which was the case when we bombed Le Havre. From June to August, B.C. maintained a running battle against VI “buzz-bomb” launch sites & supply depots; these were short trips and once they eased off in August, the quota was lowered to 33 Ops. in mid-September. By the end of ’44, many of B.C.’s ops were longish, so the quota was back to 30 again, in time for us to end our tour on 16 Jan ’45.
When we started Ops, the maximum all-up-weight for take-off was 63000 lb. It was found that Lancasters handled that so well so that it was raised to 65000 lb approaching winter. Then, they replaced the existing Merlin engines with a later Mark, & raised the max. weight to 67000 lb in November. And 617 squadron (Special Ops) later carried the 20000 lb “grand slam” bomb with take-off weight 72000 lb.
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Here are some Extracts from “The Hardest Victory – RAF Bomber Command in WWII by Dennis Richards. (Hodder & Stoughton, 1994.).
The Transportation Plan, preparatory to OVERLORD … the invasion in Normandy. As part of the plan to convince the Germans that the landings would be in the Pas de Calais, far more bridges & railway workshops & marshalling yards were attacked North of the Seine than South of it. In this phase, B.C. dealt with 37 of the railway targets, American 8th Air Force heavies 26, and AEAF (fighters, fighter-bombers, light & medium bombers & reconnaissance planes, a mixture of RAF & USAAF squadrons) 20. B.C. dropped nearly 45000 tons on these centres, twice the tonnage of the other 2 combined. Harris in “Bomber Command” wrote:- “B.C.’s night bombing proved to the rather more accurate, much heavier in weight & more concentrated than the American daylight attacks, a fact which was afterwards clearly recognised by SHAEF when the time came (later) for the bombing of German troop concentrations within a mile or so of Allied troops.”
In this Transportation phase, B.C. made 69 attacks, flew 9000 sorties & lost 198 planes (1.8 percent loss rate). They caused enormous damage. At the end about 2/3 of the 37 centres were completely out of action for a month or longer, with the remainder only needing some further “attention” from fighter-bombers.
Unhappily, the toll of friendly civilian lives was sometimes more than the “prescribed” limit of 100-150 per raid. (Coutrai 252, Lille 456, Ghent 482), but the overall total was much less than the 10000 people they hoped would not be reached.
The attacks on rail centres by all 3 air forces
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proved catastrophic for the German armies. Only about 12 percent of rolling stock was fit for use. A division from Poland took 3 days to get to West Germany, then 4 weeks to the Normandy battlefront!
During the struggle in Normandy, B.C. operated in strength close to battlefields. On the night of 14/5 June, 337 planes attacked troops & vehicles at Aunay and Eurecy (near Caen). On 30th June, B.C. did its first daylight raid … 266 Lanc’s [sic] & Hali’s [sic] & a few Mosquitos, with Spitfire escort bombed a road junction at Villers-Bocage from 4000’ and thwarted a Panzer attack. Of B.C.’s 5 other attacks in close support, the biggest was on 18th July … operation GOODWOOD … a maximum effort involving 1056 heavies of B.C. and 863 American bombers to help the push SE of Caen towards Falaise … but bad weather and unsubdued anti-tank guns stopped the push at 6 miles at best. However, it impressed the Germans. Von Kluge, who’d just replaced Rommel, wrote to Hitler on 21st Jul.:- “There is no way by which, in the face of the enemy air forces’ complete command of the air, we can discover a form of strategy which will counterbalance the annihilating effects [underlined] unless we withdraw from the battlefield. [/underlined] Whole armoured formations allotted to counter-attack were caught beneath bomb carpets of the greatest intensity so that they could be rescued from the torn-up ground only by prolonged effort. The psychological effect of such a mass of bombs coming down with all the power of elemental nature on the fighting forces, especially the infantry, is a factor which has to be taken into very serious consideration. It is immaterial whether such a carpet catches good troops or bad. They are more or less annihilated, & above all their equipment is shattered.” (He suicided a month later when Hitler wouldn’t allow a withdrawal.)
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On 7/8 Aug. (night), 1019 heavies of BC. raided 5 points ahead of Allied troops … helping the Canadian 1st Army to open the way to Falaise.
The Allies had 14000 aircraft against Germany’s 1000 in those weeks. By 3rd Sept the British 2nd Army was in Brussels, but had by-passed the ports which were needed to boost supplies to the troops. Le Havre & Dieppe were left surrounded, but the attack inland aimed at Antwerp (the biggest port) swung inland leaving Boulogne, Calais & Dunkirk and a bit of territory East of the coast still strongly held by Germans, including the Schelt [sic] estuary, leading to Antwerp, which was heavily mined and defended by heavy guns both on its south bank and on Walcheren Island to the North.
B.C.’s resumption of attacks on oil targets were delayed by the V1 threat. Hitler had hoped to begin mass attacks by VI’s on London as a “New Year Present” in Jan ’44, but damage to “ski” sites & raids on the Fiesler works at Kassel, plus their own trouble getting the bomb to function reasonably, caused set-backs. Allied bombing of railways held up deliveries of launchers & bomb components. It wasn’t until 12/13 June that the first VI attacks occurred, & then only 7 of 55 sites managed to launch a total of 10, of which only 3 reached England. But on the 2 nights of 15/6 & 16/7 June, 144 crossed the Kentish coast and 73 reached London.
In operation CROSSBOW, B.C. & 8th US Air Force and AEAF attacked VI sites from Mid-June to mid-August, using 40 percent of B.C.’s strength. Targets were the modified launch sites, supply depots, and “large sites” preparing to launch the big VII rockets.
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B.C. attacked these day & night; they flew 16000 sorties, & dropped 59000 tons of bombs on VI & VII targets only losing 131 planes, a loss rate of less than 1 percent.
By mid-August, there was less need, because of better defences (A.A. & fighters began using proximity fuses on shells, that with balloons resulted in less than 20 percent reaching their target, and finally the Canadian & British armies over-ran the launching sites.
On every day but one from 5th to 11th September B.C. sent 300 or more heavies to bomb the German-held territory at Le Havre. The total for the week was 2500 sorties dropping 9750 tons. The ground attack there on 11th, after the last air-raid, captured the port, and a lot of Germans with only 50 fatalities. However, the garrison had destroyed the port facilities; it was not able to be used by ships until mid-October. (Our first ‘Op’ was on the 10th, as part of 992 heavies that day.)
A week later, on 17 Sept, BC. did a big raid on Boulogne … 762 heavies, opening the way for an attack by the Canadian Army. The garrison surrendered on Sept 22nd. A quote from a diary of a captured German officer:- “Sometimes one could despair of everything if one is at the mercy of the RAF without any protection. It seems as if all fighting is useless & all sacrifices in vain.”
The Canadian Army captured these 2 ports, plus Dieppe (without a fight), plus the big cross-channel batteries at Cap Gris Nez, losing only 1500 men, but capturing 29945 prisoners. However it took over a month to repair the port at Boulogne, and all of them, including Cherbourg were unable to unload the big crates of heavy equipment from USA … the cranes were beyond repair, so the big crates had to be unloaded in England then ferried across the Channel.
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This slowing of supplies plus Eisenhower’s reluctance to stop the American armies in the south, especially Patton’s 3rd Army, slowed the Canadian advance on the Schelt [sic] Estuary due to lack of supplies; and probably influenced Montgomery to plan Market Garden without enough support from the British Army, who hadn’t enough supplies. (Bad luck and bad weather & bad radios also contributed to the actual failure of Market Garden.).
[black and white photograph of two men. One laying in bed and one sitting up]
Ken Nicholls & Bert in our room, sergeants quarters at Waddington, late 1944.
[black and white photograph of two men loading bombs into the bomb-bay of an aircraft]
Loading 1000 bombs into D-Dog’s bomb-bay.
[black and white photograph of six airmen standing in front of an aircraft]
Morrie & Rupe (ground crew)
Ken Nicholls, Ken (“ “ mechanic)
Don Coutts, Ray Giles near tail of D-Dog.



H G Adams, “H Adams memoir - training and operations,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed February 29, 2024, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/27238.

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