Recollection of the navigator of a Lancaster which took part in the bombing of Dresden on 13/14 February 1945

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Title

Recollection of the navigator of a Lancaster which took part in the bombing of Dresden on 13/14 February 1945

Description

Aircraft from 153 Squadron at Scampton. Describes crew and some history of the aircraft "P" Peter. Goes on to describe operation in detail from briefing, through the flight with navigation details, bombing and return to base. Saw no sign of Luftwaffe during operation. Relates aircraft being hit on previous operation to Politz. Comments on having to do two very long sorties on successive nights. Relate later operation to Duisburg and seeing 5 Lancaster go down after being hit by fighters or anti aircraft fire. States what they were told of reason for Dresden operation. At the end gives a list of operations. Includes a separate copy of last page with list of operations.

Language

Format

Twelve page handwritten document typed final page

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

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This content is available under a CC BY-NC 4.0 International license (Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0). It has been published ‘as is’ and may contain inaccuracies or culturally inappropriate references that do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Lincoln or the International Bomber Command Centre. For more information, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ and https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/legal.

Contributor

Identifier

BHendersonIGHendersonIGv1

Transcription

Recollections of the navigator of one of the Lancasters which took part in the attack of Dresden on 13th/14th February 1945.

One of the Lancasters which bombed Dresden was “P” Peter which was one of the fifteen aircraft from 153 Squadron which was based at Scampton, Lincolnshire.

The crew of “P” Peter was made up of a South African, Donald Legg who was the pilot, a Canadian Russell Rawlings, the wireless operator, a Welshman from Liverpool, Dave Jones, who was the bomb aimer, an Englishman Andy Andrews, the upper gunner and three

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2.

Scots, Ian Henderson, the navigator Jack Ross the flight engineer and Jock Best the rear gunner.

Donald Legg, the South African was 32 and much older than the other members of the crew who were in their early twenties.

The Lancaster “P” Peter was the second one of that name which this crew had had. Their first one had been destroyed a few weeks earlier when after a bombing operation on the Urft dam the first “P” Peter had been hit by flak which had started a fire in the port engine. The fire could not be extinguished but the pilot had been able to fly as far as Brussells [sic] and to land there. Brussells [sic] was at that time in the hands of the Allies.

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3.

At the briefing before the operation the crews were advised that the target was to be Dresden and that the Russians had particularly asked that the RAF carry out the attack to help them. The Russians had believed that there was a build up of German troops and armour in Dresden preparing to make a counter attack on them.

To the crews involved it was simply another operation, the principal difference between it and the others being that it was for a longer distance than the average operation and that they would be under possible attack from enemy fighters and flak for a longer period of time.

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4.

There was a strong wind from the west blowing when “P” Peter took off at 21.22 pm.

After climbing to 10,000 feet it joined the main bomber force at Reading and then headed south east on a course of 148° crossing the English coast near Eastbourne and the French coast near Abbeyville. It then altered course to 109° until 0053 am when at a point 20 miles from Darmstadt it altered course to 086° and flew on it for 14 minutes for about 65 miles heading in the direction of Nurnberg. It then altered course again to 081° and flew towards a point to the north of Nurnberg.

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5.

At 0107 am it altered course to 045° and flew towards Leipzig. When about 35 miles south of Leipzig it made its last change of course to 082° direct to Dresden which it reached at 0138.

It had now flown 843 miles in 4 hours and 16 minutes and was at a height of 18000 feet. The temperature was minus 23c. and the speed of the wind was 82 miles per hour.

The bomb aimer Dave Jones then directed the pilot to the target which was a factory on the south bank of the Elbe and released the bomb load accurately on the targe at 1.40 am.

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6.

Immediately after the bombs were released the navigator gave the pilot a new course to fly south east from Dresden for 14 miles. At 146 am the pilot was asked to change his course to 243° ie to the south west and to fly to a point 25 miles south of Chemnitz (which incidentally the crew returned to on another operation the following night) After flying 62 miles on this course the aircraft again changed course to 226° and flew to a point about 20 miles south east of Nurnberg “P” Peter then flew the next 111 miles on a course of 248° to a point about 20 miles south of Stuttgart which it reached at 3.28 am.

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7.

At that point the navigator asked the pilot to change course to 268° and to fly on that course for 110 miles to a point 25 miles south of Strasbourg which was reached at 4.13 am.

“P” Peter was still flying at 18,000 feet into a westerly head wind which had increased to 90 mph. The pilot then realised that there was not enough petrol in the tanks to get home if the last dog leg on the flight plan was followed and that it was essential to fly on a straight course back to Scampton. He therefore asked the navigator to work out a new course direct to base and was given a course of 305°. He reduced height from 18,000 feet

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to 10,000 feet at which height the speed of the wind fell from 90 mph to 45 mph. At the lower height the temperature rose from minus 23c to minus 8c.

There were still 460 miles to fly to base.

“P” Peter crossed the French coast near Dunkirk at 6.21 am and reached Scampton at 7.36 am with its fuel tanks almost empty.

Dur to diversionary tactics which confused the Germans no enemy fighters were encountered on this operation but this was very exceptional and there had been no sign of the Luftwaffe being any less strong or active previous to or after the Dresden operation. in the previous week “P” Peter had taken part in a raid of Politz near Stellin and had being [sic] damaged after being hit in the port

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engine. On the following night, the 14th of February “P” Per and its crew were detailed to fly on another long flight to Chemnitz which was 35 miles west of Dresden when the aircraft was hit 5 times.

Most of the Dresden crews were given time to rest after the long Dresden flight and the writer cannot remember why his crew were asked to fly on two very long flights on two nights running.

In the following week on 21st February when “P” Peter and its crew took part in a raid on Duisburg the flight engineer Jack Ross counted 5 Lancasters going down in flames after being hit by enemy fighters or anti aircraft fire.

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The personal views of the navigator about the attack on Dresden are that at the time it was just one other operation which was intended to give assistance to the Russian allies and be a further step in defeating the enemy which had still a powerful war machine in operation and was quite capable of carrying on the war long enough to develop and use the more powerful weapons which they were working on namely guided rockets and the atom bomb.

He firmly believes that the devastating destruction caused to Dresden, which was contributed to by an exceptionally strong wind that night, was such a psychological blow to the Germans that it resulted in the war ending

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11.

many months earlier than it would otherwise have done and so saved probably hundreds of thousands of lives of death camp prisoners, British and American servicemen and British civilians.

At this stage of the war Germany still occupied much of Europe including Yugoslavia, Greece and the Channel Islands. Jews were still being murdered and the gas chambers were still operating in the concentration camps.

The Germans had developed a new weapon, the V2, and were attacking London with these rockets.

There was no clear indication of when the war which was in its fifth year would end.

The orders to bomber crews were to hit only military targets and this they endeavoured to do despite the heavy enemy defences.

“P” Peter seldom returned from raids over Germany with scaring.

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1. 26.9.44 – Calais. Day.
2. 28.9.44 – Calais. Day.
3. 6.10.44 – Saarbrucken. Near collision.
4. 7.10.44 – Emmerich. Day. Fullard shot down.
5. 14.10.44 – Duisburg. Day.
6. 19.10.44 – Stuttgart. Day. Attacked by ME 110. 7 hours.
7. 23.10.44 – Essen. Night. Severe icing and thunder storms.
8. 25.40.44 – Essen. Day. Hit 4 times.
9. 28.10.44 – Cologne. Night. Temp. minus 40c. Almost struck by bombs from above.
10. 30.10.44 – Cologne. Night. Landed at Dunholme Lodge by mistake.
11. 11.11.44 – Wanne Eikel. Night. Temp. minus 40c.
12. 16.11.44 – Duren. Day.
13. 18.11.44 – Wanne Eikel. Night. Diverted.
14. 29.11.44 – Dortmund. Day. X-ray missing.
15. 3.12.44 – Urft Dam. Day. Caught fire and landed at Brussels.
16. 28.12.44 – Bonn. Night.
17. 5.1.45 – Royan. Night.
18. 28.1.45 – Stuttgart. Night. Jones missing (shot down).
19. 3.2.45 – Bottrop. Night. Freeborne missing.
20. 4.2.45 – Higoland. Night. Mine laying Crane in S. Sugar shot up badly.
21. 8.2.45 – Politz. Night. 9 hours. Hit in port engine.
22. 13.2.45 – Dresden. Night. 101/2 hours.
23. 14.2.45 – Chemnitz. Night. Hit 5 times – once in port tailplane.
24. 21.2.45 – Duisburg. Night. Saw 5 aircraft go down in flames.
25. 1.3.45 – Mannheim. Day. Rhodes in U Uncle blew up over The Wash.
26. 5.3.45 – Chemnitz. Night. Saw 4 aircraft do [sic] down in flames. Weather Bad.
27. 15.3.45 – Misburg (Hanover). Night. Near collision.
28. 21.3.45 – Bremen. day. Hit 3 times on port tailplane, fusilage [sic] and starboard wing.
29. 24.3.45 – Largendreen. Day. Hit 4 times.
30. 27.3.45 – Paderborne. Day. Near collision.
31. 4.4.45 – Lutzbendorf. Night. Near collision. Hit once.

Collection

Citation

“Recollection of the navigator of a Lancaster which took part in the bombing of Dresden on 13/14 February 1945,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed September 22, 2021, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/30737.

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