A year in the Life

BBrindKJBrindKJv1.pdf

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A year in the Life

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Ken Brind's autobiography detailing his tour of operations.

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62 printed sheets

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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.

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BBrindKJBrindKJv1

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[Royal Air Force 626 Squadron crest]

A Year In The Life

By

K.J. Brind

[page break]

To My Beloved
MARY,
our children
and grandchildren

I wish to express my appreciation to
"The Wickenby Register"
and in particular to its president
Don Wells and archivist
Jim MacDonald who, as well as
flying on many of the operations
described here, researched and
provided me with much of the factual
information in this book.

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A Year In The Life

By Kenneth Brind

In the village of Aldbourne on October 17th 1922, Ken was born to William and Emily Brind, the oldest of their three sons. Educated at St. Michael's School and Marlborough Grammar School, he entered the Royal Air Force shortly after the outbreak of World War II.

Trained as an Air Navigator, he flew a tour of operations with 626 Squadron Bomber Command, was commissioned and continued to serve in the RAF after the war as a navigation instructor, fighter controller and administrative officer.

He transferred to the RCAF in 1955 and served in a similar capacity until his retirement from military service in 1968.

This book is a description of the events which took place between his 21st and 22nd birthdays.

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[photographs]
Kenneth John Brind CD C de G

[photograph]
Able Two

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Prelude To Action

I'm not quite sure where to begin this narrative, but I suppose the R.A.F. Hospital Rauceby, Lincs. would be as good a place as any. I was there because of a pilonoidal sinus which was operated on and refused to heal so I spent a fairly lengthy period from early October 1943 to January 1944 (including my 21st Birthday on October 17th) out of action. It was my wife, Mary, who insisted I get treatment so I suppose, in a way, I owe her my life.

I had trained as a navigator and, after graduation from #10 Observers Advanced Flying Unit, Dumfries Scotland, had spent much of 1943 with a crew captained by Sgt. Geoff Clark. Geoff and I had met at No. 18 Operational Training Unit, Finningley, in May 1943, and taking an instant liking to each other, decided to throw in our lot together and jointly invited other crew members, bomb aimer, wireless operator and air gunner, to join us. During the summer we learned to operate as a crew on Wellington aircraft and completed our first operational sortie, which was an O.T.U. training exercise, on July 25th to Alencon, France, dropping leaflets inviting the Germans to surrender! On August 4th we moved on to No. 1656 Conversion Unit at Lindholme, picked up a flight engineer and second air gunner and learned to operate the Avro Lancaster Bomber. During the conversion process we had one very unfortunate experience. We were at the end of the runway one very dark night in the middle of September when another Lancaster taxiing behind us collided with our rear turret. One engine of the following aircraft smashed into the turret with Graham Uttley inside. Both pilots switched off all engines immediately and we managed to extricate Graham, but he was dead before the ambulance arrived. Another rear gunner immediately joined us and by the end of September the crew of Sgt. Clark, Pilot; Sgt. Brind, Navigator; Sgt. Naylor, Bomb Aimer; Sgt. Parkinson, Flight Engineer; Sgt. Whitmarsh, Wireless Operator; Sgt. Sugden and Sgt. Walker, Air Gunners was considered competent and ready to join a squadron, and were duly posted to No. 625 Squadron, Kelstern.

With our training now completed it seemed a good time to get the very minor surgery required to fix my pilonoidal sinus so I reported to the hospital. What we didn't know was that my recovery would take much longer than expected and that Geoff and the boys would not be able to await my return. They were forced to commence operations without me and were shot down over Berlin two days before Christmas, on December 23rd, 1943. They were all killed. I never met my replacement as Navigator, but I have always had guilt feelings that I should have been with them. Had I been there things might have been different. One thing is certain, they were a group of dedicated, enthusiastic, well trained young men.

Following my discharge from hospital I went on sick leave and it was not until April 1944 that the doctors certified me ready to crew up again and return to the war. In the meantime Mary had become pregnant and gone to Aldbourne where she would be safe. She had been with me during my O.T.U. and Conversion Unit Training.

I met Flying Officer Hicks and his crew at No. 1662 Conversion Unit, Blyton on May 14th. So many Lancasters had been lost during the winter of 1943/44 that they had been withdrawn

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[photograph]
The Wellington Crew
No. 18 O.T.U. Finningley
July 1943

Sgt. G. Uttley Sgt. W.E. Whitmarsh
Sgt. K.J. Brind Sgt. G.E. Clark Sgt. R.A. Naylor

from the heavy conversion units and replaced by Halifaxes. So crews converted on to the Halifax, then to the Lancaster at No. 1 Lancaster Finishing School, Hemswell. I did 3 cross country exercises (1 day and 2 night) with my new crew on the Halifax followed by a short conversion at No.! L.F.S. on to the Lancaster (with which I was very familiar from my time spent with my former crew) and then to No.626 Squadron, Wickenby on June 5th, 1944.

I should mention some of the characteristics of the Lancaster which by now had become the preeminent bomber aircraft of the Royal Air Force. It had a wingspan of 102 feet with a

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[photograph]
The Lancaster Crew
No. 626 Sqdn. Wickenby
July 1944

F/S J. Saletto F/S K.J. Brind F/L.A.C. Hicks F/O C. Bursey F/O P.M. Graves
Sgt. A.B. Jones Sgt. S.G. King

length of 69 feet and maximum height of 20 feet 6 inches. Powered by four Rolls Royce Merlin engines each developing 1,460 horsepower it had a maximum speed of 240 knots at 15,000 feet fully loaded and a cruising speed of 175 knots. The range varied with the load carried being 2,200 nautical miles with a 7,000 lb load, and 1350 nautical miles with a 22,000 lb load. Maximum fuel capacity was 2,154 gallons. Maximum bomb load varied with modifications which were made but essentially the main force carried not more than 15,000 lbs. Service ceiling was 19,000 – 20,000 feet depending on load and maximum ceiling was 24,000 feet. Take off distance loaded was 1,550 yards and the rate of climb was 250 ft/minute. Landing distance was approximately 1,000 yards. Maximum take off weight was 72,000 lbs. The aircraft carried a

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defensive armament of 3 gun turrets, the front carrying 2 x .303 machine guns, the mid upper the same and the rear turret 4 x .303's. Later the mid upper and rear turret were equipped with 2 x .5's. The primary navigation system was "GEE" by which the navigator could calculate the position of his aircraft by observing the time taken to receive pulse signals from three different ground stations. By now the enemy was aware of frequencies, etc., and jammed the signals before one reached the European coast. The other radar navigation system was "H2S". Here the aircraft transmitted signals which were reflected back from the terrain over which it was flying by providing a map of coastlines, islands, rivers, etc. But because the aircraft was transmitting it became vulnerable to interception by enemy fighters or prediction by anti aircraft guns. So it had to be used with discretion. The crew required to man this aircraft was seven as I have already mentioned.

My new crew was quite different from my previous one. Here 3 of the 7 were officers and Arthur Hicks himself was ten years older than I. He had done most of his flying training in the U.S.A., at Pensacola, Florida, and wore a silver bracelet proclaiming his proficiency. The other officers in the crew were Peter Graves, a burly London policeman, the bomb aimer and Bill Bursey, strangely enough the rear gunner, both were Flying Officers. The other N.C.O.s were Jack Saletto, an Australian and sole survivor of a 460 squadron crew, the wireless operator, Stan King, a youngster from London, the flight engineer, and Bert Jones the mid upper gunner.

We were welcomed by the Squadron Commander, Wing Commander Rodney, in his office and advised of two things; one was that a crew had just completed a tour of operations (the first to do so for some time) and the second was that the invasion (Operation Overlord) was to take place tomorrow, so we had arrived at a good time. We were then allocated to "A" Flight with whom we would remain for the duration of our tour with the squadron. We settled into our quarters but this crew, being mixed, officers and N.C.O.s, did not all share the same accommodation. The officers went to their quarters and the N.C.O.s to theirs.

The next few days saw us getting acclimatized, going through the various administrative procedures to ensure we would be paid and fed and generally getting to know our way around.

On June 13th an aircraft was made available for us to demonstrate that we were ready to operate so we took it on a 5 1/2 hour night cross country. On our return we were debriefed and our logs and charts were analyzed and checked. We passed muster.

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Operation No. 1 Rheims

The invasion of Europe (Operation Overlord) had commenced on June 6th 1944 and the allied armies were struggling to establish a bridgehead in Normandy. The Germans were trying to reinforce their defences so railway marshalling yards became prime targets. So it was that our first operation was against the railway yards at Rheims, France. It was June 22nd.

Our route took us from Wickenby to Gravesend then south to cross the English coast near Hastings, across the channel to a point on the French coast just east of Dieppe then south east directly towards the target. After bombing we headed west to a point just west of Dieppe then north back across the channel to make a landfall near Brighton, thence to Reading and back to base.

The bombload was 9,000 lbs consisting of eighteen 500 lb high explosive bombs which Peter Graves dispatched without difficulty. The aiming point was marked with cascading yellow target indicators (TI's) at H-5 and H-4 (H being the Time on Target of the first wave of bombers) and backed up with green TIs. The initial markers were scattered and short of the target but the Master Bomber backed up with red spot fires.

The weather called for patchy clouds enroute increasing to 9/10's clouds with tops at 6,000 feet. As the main force was at 18 – 20,000 feet some crews could not see the reds so bombed the glow of the markers through the clouds. The weight of the attack fell on the sorting sidings cutting every line and destroying 61 rail cars.

Ground defences were not heavy but there was heavy flak (anti-aircraft fire) and searchlights in the Abbville area. We were coned in searchlights for several minutes which is always a hair-raising experience but Hicky put the nose down and we eventually dived clear and resumed our homeward course. We returned to base without further incident and landed at approximately 0240 having been airborne for four hours and forty minutes.

Of the 19 aircraft of 626 Squadron which had started out one developed an engine fire, aborted the mission and returned to base, and one (Sgt. Woolley and crew) was shot down and all on board were killed. Bomber Command always kept statistics and on this night our squadron loss was 5.26%. Statistically if we continued at this rate we would last for twenty missions and our tour called for 30. We ate our eggs and bacon and went to bed.

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Operation No. 2 Les Hayons

In the summer of 1944 the Germans had developed their "ultimate weapons" the V1 and V2 and were using them indiscriminately against London and Southern England. The V1 was a winged bomb with a jet propelled engine which flew until it ran out of fuel then crashed and exploded. The V2 was a rocket propelled bomb which left the ground on a high trajectory, crossed the channel and came almost straight down on to it's target. There was some defence against the V1 in that it could be shot down by ground fire or by a fighter aircraft. There was no defence against the V2. The launching sites for both were in the Pas de Calais area of Northern France and in the low countries so the obvious way to eliminate the problem was to destroy the launching sites and storage sheds on the ground. A job for Bomber Command.

Our first attack against a launching site followed two days after our trip to Rheims, on June 24th, and the target chosen for 626 Squadron was Les Hayons in the Pas de Calais. These operations were not considered difficult as they were fairly short with not too much time over enemy territory. Our squadron's contribution of 17 aircraft included the squadron commander.

We took off at 1535 hours with a bomb load of 9,000 lbs (18 x 500 lb bombs) and climbed enroute to our bombing height of 18,000 feet. There were scattered patches of cloud between 3 and 8,000 feet, but the target area was clear with good visibility.

Our route took us again to Gravesend (but this time in daylight), to Hastings where we crossed enroute outbound, then straight to the target crossing the French coast near Calais. Calais was heavily defended and we came under a heavy and accurate flak attack on our approach to the target area, but fortunately we did not see any enemy aircraft. The aiming point was marked by red TIs but they were not dropped until after several of us had already bombed the target. Visibility was good and we were able to identify the launch ramps and storage buildings visually and attack them. We came under attack again as we crossed the French coast on our way home. We returned via Reading and arrived at Wickenby having been airborne 3 hours and 40 minutes. Two of our squadron aircraft sustained damage from the flak attack but no one was injured.

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Operation No. 3 Ligescourt

The next day we were at it again. This time our target was the flying bomb site at Ligescourt just a few miles from Les Hayons which we visited yesterday. But now we were going in the early morning rather than late afternoon. Twice in less than 24 hours.

Take off commenced at 0722 hours and our aircraft, A2 (Able Two) was airborne at 0730. The 626 squadron force was again 17 aircraft each carrying 18 x 500 lb bombs. The weather again was cloudy over England clearing over the channel with no cloud and excellent visibility in the target area.

The target marking of cascading red and yellow TIs was carried out by Mosquito aircraft. The red TIs were 2 minutes late and were slightly north east of the target but visibility was so good that the bomb aimers were able to visually identify and attack the target.

For some reason we did not come under the accurate flak attack which we experienced yesterday. Except for a few bursts at Berck sur Mer we were trouble free. A lone German fighter was sighted over the channel and was promptly shot down by spitfires of No. 11 Group who were providing fighter cover for us. The squadron sustained no losses and there were no reports of damage to our aircraft.

We again returned via Reading and at 1045 hours landed at Wickenby. At this period of the war everyone avoided flying over London so as not to impede those defending the city against flying bombs, so we were routed east or west of London depending on the location of the target.

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Operation No. 4 Sirracourt

It was now June 29th and operations scheduled for the 27th and 28th had been cancelled because of poor weather. There was now a slight improvement with a forecast of fair to cloudy with light showers. At 1000 hours we were advised that the daylight operation planned for yesterday was to be put on at once. Lots of rushing around getting everything ready, bombs, fuel, briefing, etc. The target was another flying bomb launching site, this time at Sirracourt, a few miles south of Les Hayons and Ligescourt.

For this operation we were joined by aircraft of 12 squadron which shared Wickenby with us. The force consisted of 29 Lancasters, 15 from 626 and 14 from 12 squadron. We were part of a concentrated attack on flying bomb launching sites by 286 Lancasters and 19 Mosquitoes of Bomber Command.

Our bomb load for this operation was a mixture of 1,000 lb and 500 lb high explosive for a total of 13,000 lbs per aircraft. Fuel load was 1,450 gallons. We always knew from the fuel and bomb loads, even before being given the target at briefing, whether we were going on a short or long trip. The maximum fuel load for a Lancaster was 2,154 gallons. We knew if full fuel load was called for the trip would be long and the bomb load smaller to remain within the maximum takeoff weight of 72,000 lbs. Conversely on shorter trips we carried less fuel and more bombs.

Getting 29 Lancasters off one runway takes a little time but we had got it to a fine art. Number one started rolling and when he was halfway down the runway number two started. By the time number one became airborne number two was halfway along and number three started so there were always 3 aircraft on or just leaving the runway. It was very efficient so long as there were no problems.

The first aircraft took off at 1151 and we were airborne at 1210 hours. Our route to the target was again via Gravesend and Dungeness and the weather was good to within a few miles of the target, then the cloud thickened to about 7/10s with tops at about 14,000 feet which meant that Peter Graves could not visually identify the target so we reduced height to bomb at 12,500 ft. We were above the clouds but came under intense and accurate heavy flak from the French coast to the target. We were again escorted by 11 Group Spitfires and saw no enemy fighters.

The target marking was by red TIs cascading from 4,000 feet on to the Master Bomber's yellow TIs cascading from 3,000 feet. Unfortunately, the Master Bomber was shot down while dropping his yellow TIs. This resulted in scattered bombing particularly in the early stages of the attack. Because of the weather it was difficult to assess the results of the attack but at 1402 hours a large explosion was reported with smoke rising to 4,000 feet.

We again returned via Reading and arrived back at Wickenby at 1540 hours. Four of Wickenby's aircraft were hit by flak, two from each squadron and one from 12 Squadron (P/O Underwood) was lost. It was on fire and abandoned in the air and crashed at Troisvaux. The pilot, navigator and rear gunner were killed while the wireless operator, bomb aimer, flight engineer and mid upper gunner were all taken prisoner of war. The Wickenby loss rate was 3.45%.

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Operation No. 5 Vierzon

Vierzon is a town some 120 miles south of Paris. It was a major rail and transportation centre for German troops and supplied on their way to the front some 160 miles to the north west. It was our "target for tonight" on June 30th and 31 Lancasters from Wickenby were detailed for the mission. Twelve Squadron supplied 13 and 626 Squadron 18.

Take off commenced at 2151 hours and our aircraft became airborne at 2155 with a bomb load of 13,000 lbs, mixed 1,000 and 500 lb high explosive and 1,450 gallons of fuel. We climbed towards Reading, the assembly point, and reached our operational altitude earlier than normal as we were briefed for 8 - 10,000 feet instead of our usual 18 - 20,000 feet. We were aware that disruption of rail traffic was vital to stop German troops and supplies reaching the beachhead in Normandy. We were also aware that inaccurate bombing would kill innocent French civilians. Targets were, therefore, brilliantly lit with chandelier flares and to ensure accuracy we flew at less than half our normal bombing height. From Reading we headed to a point midway across the channel then crossed the French coast between Dieppe and Le Havre and headed south towards the target.

On arrival in the target area we found the aiming point illuminated with flares and marked with impact yellow TIs backed up by red spot fires. The TIs fell to the north east of the yards but the reds were accurate and the bombing was concentrated on them. The Master Bomber instructed the main force to bomb between two sets of TIs. At 0119 hours a broadcast was heard on the radio telephone (RT), not the Master Bomber's voice but using his call sign, instructing the main force to cease bombing and go home. No code word for "stop bombing" was used so the broadcast was ignored. Shortly after a Canadian voice interjected over the RT telling the German, in the most ungentlemanly fashion, what to do.

In spite of everything the bombing appeared to be extremely accurate and results showed that all through lines were cut, much of the rolling stock and two thirds of the locomotive depot was destroyed. Regretfully residential and business property to the east of the target was severely damaged.

There was some light flak in the target area and because of our reduced altitude, it was exploding at our height but the one searchlight was shot out by the first marker. The fighters were initially confused as to our location but after we had been over enemy territory for 54 minutes they were ordered to Orleans and, having identified our target, they attacked with considerable ferocity. They made contact by moonlight and held the bomber stream for 80 miles on the return route when most of our losses occurred.

This was the deepest penetration my crew had made so far and in spite of all the activity going on around us we were able to fly home unscathed and arrived back at Wickenby at 0325 hours having been airborne for 5 1/2 hours.

Of Wickenby's aircraft on this night one from 626 Squadron aborted the mission with an electrical failure and one from 12 Squadron was damaged by light flak. Four combats with fighter were reported, 3 by 12 Squadron aircraft and one from 626. Of the 30 Wickenby aircraft

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to reach the target 4 were lost, two from each squadron. 12 Squadron lost P/O Honor and P/O Pollard, and both crews were killed. 626 lost P/O Pocock who was killed together with his whole crew on their very first operation, and P/O Orr who was killed together with his flight engineer and both gunners while his navigator, bomb aimer and wireless operator managed to bail out. The navigator and bomb aimer were both wounded and taken prisoner but the wireless operator evaded capture.

Bomber Command loss rate for this operation was 11.86% while that for Wickenby was 12.9%. We had paid the price for operating a lower level than normal. 626 Squadron had lost 2 aircraft out of 18, a loss rate of 11.1%, the highest we had experienced since starting our tour. It was now 9 days since we started operational flying and we had already flown on 5 operations. And so we reached the end of June 1944.

On July 1st the weather was cloudy but becoming fair with showers – 23 Lancasters were detailed for a night attack which was cancelled. "Salute the Soldier Week" was held from July 1st to 8th with a target of £2000. Whether the target was reached is not known. A discipline notice on the bulletin board read "Airmen with cycles in their charge fitted with "rat trap" pedals are to ensure that all sharp points liable to damage footwear are filed off".

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Operation No. 6 Domleger

On July 2nd the weather was cloudy becoming fair with showers later. Twenty five Lancasters from Wickenby were detailed against a flying bomb site at Domleger. We were part of a force of 286 Lancasters and Mosquitoes attacking 2 flying bomb sites. 626 Squadron provided 14 aircraft. Domleger was in the vicinity of the other flying bomb sites we had already attacked. Our bomb load was 13,000 lbs mixed 500 and 1,000 lbs high explosive.

We were the first aircraft to takeoff and were airborne at 1215 hours and climbed to our normal bombing height of 18,000 feet enroute to Gravesend. The weather as we progressed was 8 - 10/10s cloud with tops between 7 and 10,000 feet.

As we approached the target area the Master Bomber instructed all crews to bomb on DF (Direction Finding) radar or radio then 3 minutes before H hour these instructions were cancelled and we were instructed to bomb the TIs. In the meantime we reduced height to 14,000 feet, the cloud layer broke, and a large hole enabled us to bomb visually at 1415 hours. As with all visual bombing the concentration was good with smoke rising to 5,000 feet.

There was a minimal amount of light flak in the target area but considerable heavy flak in the Abbville area on the homeward route. No enemy fighters were seen, fighter cover again being provided by 11 Group.

Our losses were nil and only one of our aircraft was hit by flak with no casualties. We returned to Wickenby 3 1/2 hours after we left.

On July 4th twenty-two Lancasters from Wickenby were detailed as part of a force of 151 plus 6 markers against the railway yards at Les Aubrais near Orleans. 626 Squadron's effort was 11 aircraft.

Take off commenced at 2147 with our aircraft becoming airborne at 2200 hours. All went well until we were over France and, as we thought, heading in the direction of the target. But at H hour when the target should have been in view, or at least the TIs should have appeared ahead of us, there was nothing to be seen. We were flying over an unbroken layer of cloud and were certainly not where we were supposed to be. As the navigator it was my responsibility to know where we were at all times. Something had gone wrong and I was not certain what it was. We could not go on to the target, we didn't even know where it was, so Hicky made the only decision possible. We would head for home. It is a rather scary position to be in – flying around over enemy territory with 9,000 lbs of bombs on board – knowing you are somewhere between your base and your target, but not knowing how to get to either and with navigational equipment which is unserviceable. Under such conditions you revert to basics. I stuck my head into the astrodome and located Polaris – the North Star, and directed Hicky to fly north, using the star to steer by. We knew that by flying north we would cross the French coast and eventually the English channel but at this point did not know where or when. Once we had settled on course I was able to assess what had happened.

The Distant Reading (DR) compass had become destabilized and was slowly rotating so that we had not been steady on any course but going round in a huge circle. We were alone and

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at the mercy of any defences we might encounter. In the meantime, Hicky, Peter Graves and Stan King were all looking ahead searching for any sign of the French coast. Bert Jones and Bill Bursey in the gunners turrets were searching the black skies for anything approaching us while Jack Saletto and I were working feverishly for any bearings or any radar fix which would help us locate our position. Then it happened! Heavy flak appeared before us and about the same time the H2S told me we were approaching Le Havre, one of the most heavily defended ports on the coast. We had no choice but to fly through the defences which we proceeded to do weaving gently to try and prevent the anti aircraft prediction radar getting a "lock on" to us, and we were lucky enough to get through unscathed and headed out over the channel.

We still had our 9,000 lbs of high explosive just beneath where we were sitting and the prospect of landing with it still on board, in the dark, was not a pleasant one so, discretion being the better part of valour, it was decided to jettison our bomb load over the channel. We were back within GEE range by now so I selected a spot well away from the shipping lanes which were very busy between southern England and the Normandy beachhead and Peter dropped them safe, i.e. not fused, into the English Channel.

We returned home without further incident after almost 6 hours and had to report that we had aborted the mission. The log showed the reason as "DR compass unserviceable". So for us this counted for naught and our number was still 6 completed operations.

For the rest of the squadron the night had been successful. The assessment of the attack was that all through rail lines were cut and a large quantity of rolling stock destroyed or damaged.

626 Squadron reported one aircraft damaged and one combat with a JU88. 12 Squadron lost one aircraft with the pilot (F/S Turner), bomb aimer and flight engineer taken prisoner and the other four crew members killed.

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Operation No. 7 Dijon

On July 5th the weather was fair to cloudy with moderate visibility. I had our instrument technicians working on the DR compass and had the master unit replaced and swung. Hopefully it will be O.K. for tonight we go to Dijon.

Twenty two Lancasters from Wickenby, 12 from 12 and 10 from 626 Squadron were part of a force of 154 detailed against the marshalling yards at Dijon, a city some 160 miles south east of Paris and about 60 miles from the Swiss border. Because of the distance involved the fuel load and bomb loads were adjusted and we carried 9,500 lbs (8 x 1,000 lb and 3 x 500 lb).

We took off at 2000 hrs in daylight and were gradually wrapped in darkness as we headed towards France. Our route took us south west from Wickenby to Bridport crossing the English coast just west of Weymouth. We then headed south to a point near the Channel Islands before turning south east towards France. We had deliberately kept clear of the European battlefield and now crossed the coast at a point some 35 miles north of Rennes and moved in a series of zig zags towards the target area. A tactic used by Bomber Command was to try not to indicate to the enemy until the last minute where the actual target was, so we finally headed to a point north west of Dijon then made a sudden turn south east for a relatively short bombing run over the marshalling yards before turning west and heading for home.

The weather over England was 10/10 cloud with tops to 7,000 feet so we soon climbed through it and were in the clear above. The cloud layer dispersed by mid channel and visibility was perfect from then on. Perfect visibility is a two edged sword though, not only can you see where you are going and who is with you, but you can also be seen by the enemy fighters and anit aircraft defences. Visibility was so good that the Swiss Alps were clearly visible from a distance of one hundred miles or so. It was worth the trip just to see Mont Blanc at 15,780 feet glistening in the moonlight.

There was a good deal of light flak in the target area which considerably troubled the Master Bomber. Initial yellow TIs were dropped by using radar and were found to be one mile north west of the target. The Deputy Master Bomber arrived in the target area ahead of the Master Bomber and dropped one red and one yellow TI within 50 yards of the aiming point. Bombing was accurate though some crews bombed the early markers. Photographic reconnaissance assessed that all the through rail lines were cut and the locomotive round house and workshops destroyed.

There was some night fighter activity over the target and as far as Tours on the way home. Four of 626 Squadron crews reported combat with night fighters and one of our aircraft was damaged.

We returned home on a reciprocal route and arrived back at Wickenby at 0440 hours after a flight of 8 hours 40 minutes and the furthest penetration yet into Fortress Europe. There were no losses.

Until now our operations were against flying bomb sites to reduce these attacks on Southern England, and railway marshalling yards and communication centres in France to try

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[map]
[underlined] DIJON [underlined].
[underlined] 5/6 JULY 1944 [underlined].

[page break]

to prevent German reinforcements from reaching the battle area. Now we were going to use bomber aircraft as heavy artillery in direct support of the forces on the ground. The Allied armies had established a beachhead in Normandy but were experiencing difficulty in breaking out and advancing. Particularly troubling was Caen where German resistance was especially stubborn.

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Operation No. 8 Caen

On July 7th a Bomber Command force of 283 Lancasters, 164 Halifaxes and 20 Mosquitoes were detailed against troops and armour at Caen. Wickenby's contribution was 30 Lancasters, 13 from 12 Squadron and 17 from 626. The weather was cloudy with intermittent rain in the morning, fair later. The operation was scheduled for evening.

The bomb load was 13,000 lbs, mixed 1,000 and 500 lbs high explosive. Takeoff commenced at 1910 hours and we became airborne at 1930. The enroute weather was 7 – 8/10's cloud with a base at 5,000 feet and tops at 12,000 feet until nearing the French coast then clearing to small amounts of broken cloud only.

Target marking with red and yellow TIs was on time and accurate which made the work of the bomb aimer that much easier. However, there was intense heavy and light flak in the target area. After all we were attacking an army on the ground who were well trained and well equipped and who were going to defend themselves. As we flew through the target area there was smoke, exploding shells, exploding bombs and aircraft everywhere. A very confusing scene.

However, the bombs straddled the markers and it was apparent that a raid of outstanding success was achieved. Photo reconnaissance showed the bulk of the bombing fell within a radius of 450 yards with very few isolated sticks of bombs.

A message from 2nd Army Headquarters read "The heavy bombing that took place this evening was a wonderfully impressive show. The 2nd Army would like appreciation and thanks passed to all crews".

One of 626 Squadron's aircraft aborted with an unserviceable port inner engine. Three of 12 Squadron and 3 of 626 Squadron aircraft were damaged. Among them was ours. We were hit by flak in the mid upper turret and the front windscreen over the target but fortunately none of us was injured though Bert Jones obviously had a close call.

626 Squadron lost one aircraft (P/O Oram) which was hit in the target area and subsequently became uncontrollable. The crew abandoned over the channel and 5 of them were rescued from the sea and returned to fly again. Unfortunately, both air gunners were killed. The squadron loss rate was 5.9%.

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Operation No. 9 Tours

Thirty-four Lancasters from Wickenby were detailed against Tours on July 12th as part of a force of 378 Lancasters and 7 Mosquitoes attacking railway targets. This was a continuation of the attacks against marshalling yards and communication centres in France in support of Operation Overlord. Dijon, Orleans, Vierzon and Rheims were previous targets. 626 Squadron's contribution was 18 aircraft. As with previous attacks of this type the bomb load consisted of 1,000 and 500 lb high explosive. On this occasion it was again 13,000 lbs with 2,000 gallons of fuel.

Again, we headed southwest from Wickenby to Bridport and crossed the English coast near Weymouth then south east to the French coast and the target. After the attack we returned to Bridport via the Channel Islands then back to Wickenby.

The weather was clear enroute except for some broken patches of medium cloud. There was some thin cloud between 4 – 6,000 feet north of the target area but it cleared before we arrived and all that remained in the target area was some haze.

The first TIs undershot the aiming point by 500 yards, but the Master Bomber was able to direct the main force to overshoot the markers. As the target was clear the marshalling yards were visible and bombing was concentrated on the target though smoke rising to 9,000 feet eventually obscured it.

Photo reconnaissance confirmed the target to be completely covered in craters with all railway tracks cut, the bridge collapsed and embankment roads obliterated. The storage sidings and railcars were so covered with close packed craters an estimation of railcars destroyed could not be made.

Some light flak and sporadic heavy flak was experienced and fighters were active on the homeward journey. A diversionary raid to the low countries drew many night fighters from the main raid.

One of our aircraft sustained flak damage while in the target area and one of 12 Squadron reported an engagement with a JU88. There were no losses.

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Operation No. 10 Caen

On July 18th an early morning raid in direct support of the British Second Army against troops and armour east of Caen was ordered. This was the second occasion we were used as heavy artillery prior to a ground attack against enemy troops. The allied armies at this stage of Overlord were experiencing very stubborn resistance all along the front and even though we had helped by bombing Caen on July 7th resistance east of Caen was still very strong, and a major attack was required.

Bomber Command's force was 667 Lancasters, 260 Halifaxes and 15 Mosquitoes – over 900 aircraft in all. 38 of the Lancasters were from Wickenby with 626 Squadron providing 20. The bomb load was again 13,000 lbs with 11 x 1,000 lbs and 4 x 500 lbs.

Whereas our raid on July 7th was in the evening, on this occasion takeoff commenced at 0300 hours so that we were over the target at first light. The enroute weather consisted of low cloud over England with thick haze at the English coast. It cleared as we crossed the channel and the target area was clear with excellent visibility.

The marking was by low bursting red TIs from H-5 to H-1 then by yellow TIs bursting at 4,000 feet leaving a trail of white smoke. Markers were accurate and punctual except for one which the Master Bomber identified as being 100 yds south. Accurate marking and bombing was essential as we were attacking the enemy a short distance ahead of our own troops, a fact we were all well aware of. Bombing commenced one minute early and excellent concentration was achieved. The aiming point was soon obscured by dust and smoke but the TIs were still visible.

Flak was negligible in the target area but accurate predicted heavy flak was encountered as we left. No enemy fighters were seen as cover was again provided by No. 11 Group.

Three of 12 Squadron and 3 of 626 Squadron aircraft were hit by flak, including ours, but fortunately no one was injured. One of 626 Squadron found a live 1,000 lb bomb rolling on the closed bomb bay doors after leaving the target area. I had failed to release with the rest of the bomb load but was safely jettisoned over the channel.

We arrived back at Wickenby at about 0700 to debrief, breakfast and bed.

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Operation No. 11 Courtrai

Courtrai was a rail centre and marshalling yard some 50 mile west of Brussels, the Belgian capital, through which supplies, reinforcements and equipment passed on their way from Germany to the front. It was our first target not in France and received the attention of 302 Lancasters and 15 Mosquitoes on the night of July 20th. 35 Lancasters from Wickenby were detailed as part of this force and 626 Squadron's contribution was 18.

The bomb load was again 13,000 lbs with the usual mixture of 1,000 and 500 lbs high explosives. Our route took us south east to Orfordness, across the North Sea to the Belgian coast west of Ostend then to the target.

We took off at 2330 and climbed in darkness towards the coast. We passed through a 10/10th layer of cloud over England which cleared as we crossed the North Sea. As we approached the Belgian coast we were startled to see a streak of light from the ground rush vertically past us at tremendous velocity and disappear above us. It was a rocket propelled V2 on it's way to London. One launching site down there somewhere which needed to be dealt with, or perhaps it had been and was already repaired. We were aware, of course, that the German war machine, with it's huge quantity of slave labour, worked to repair everything which we damaged as soon as possible.

In the target area there was no cloud but some haze with fair visibility. As we were climbing out Hicky was having some trouble with the Constant Speed Unit (CSU) on the port outer engine which he and Stan King were unable to stabilize but we carried on with them nursing the problem as this was not a very long trip.

As we approached the target Mosquitoes marked the aiming point with red TI's at H-8. Other pathfinders dropped flares and red and green TIs. The marking was on time and accurate and resulted in bombing being well concentrated on the target. Peter Graves released our bombs at 0156 hours. Photo reconnaissance reported that reception, forwarding and sorting sidings were utterly destroyed. A large water tank was hurled from the centre of the track to property outside the yard. The main loco sheds, passenger station, and a bridge carrying 5 tracks across a road were all virtually destroyed.

Flak defences were light but fighters were extremely active in the light of our marker flares (we could be seen from above silhouetted against them) and near Ostend and over the sea on our way home. The result was predictable, 5 of 626 and 2 of 12 Squadron crews reported combat but the only damage to returning aircraft came from a 626 and 12 Squadron aircraft which collided in circuit over the aerodrome on return. Both landed safely but the incident emphasised the importance of proper height and distance separation in the landing pattern particularly when returning a large number of aircraft in a short space of time. After returning from any operation everyone is stressed and tired and anxious to land as soon as possible.

However, we did suffer major casualties. One of 626 Squadron (F/O Wilson) and one of 12 Squadron (P/O Hagarty) were lost and both crews were killed, and another of 626 Squadron (F/O Bowen) was shot down over the target. The rear gunner was killed but all others either evaded or were taken prisoner.

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[map]
[underlined]COURTRAI. [/underlined].
[underlined] 20/21 JULY 1944 [/underlined].

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The Wickenby loss rate was 8.57% while Bomber Command's was 2.84%. 626 Squadron lost 2 of 18 – 11.1%. Hicky nursed A2 back home and we landed at Wickenby after being airborne 3 hours 15 minutes.

I should mention here that we have now completed 11 operations, 6 by day and 5 by night (and aborted one) and have been hit by flak only twice and so far never attacked by an enemy aircraft. The navigation section at Wickenby had a sign on the wall which read, "KEEP ON TRACK, KEEP ON TIME, KEEP ON LIVING". A Bomber Command operation was always a concentration in time and space with literally scores of aircraft crossing a target every minute. If you could stay on track and on time you were assured of being somewhere in the centre of a huge gaggle of aircraft. It was generally the stragglers or those who wandered off course who were attacked by fighters. My crew maintained that my ability as a navigator kept us close to the middle of the pack and minimized the risk, but I like to think that it was a crew effort. Everything that went on outside the aircraft around us even if it seemed inconsequential was reported and if necessary acted upon.

Weather on the 21st and 22nd of July was cloudy with drizzle and moderate visibility. On the 21st 28 Lancasters from Wickenby were detailed against Dortmund but the operation was cancelled and on the 22nd 36 were detailed for a daylight operation which was also cancelled. On the 21st we took advantage of the cancellation to carry out some fighter affiliation exercises to keep the gunners sharp. They had not yet had to fire their guns in self defence. On July 23rd the weather was cloudy but visibility was good and our target was announced as Kiel naval base.

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Operation No. 12 Kiel

A force of 519 Lancasters, 100 Halifaxes, and 10 Mosquitoes were detailed against Kiel and Wickenby's contribution was 33 with 15 of these from 626 Squadron. This was our first attack against a target in Germany and our first purely strategic attack, so we were both excited and apprehensive. Kiel was a port city on the Baltic Sea with shipyards, a naval base and manufacturing facilities known to be well defended.

We took off at 2100 hours on July 23rd and climbed through a layer of cloud with tops about 5,000 feet into the clear with good visibility. We carried 9,000 lb of bombs (18 x 500 lbs). Our route took us to Mablethorpe then across the North Sea to a point west of the North Frisian Islands then east into Germany proper and on to a southerly heading for the bomb run. This route gave me a good opportunity to use the H2S equipment to fix our position accurately before entering enemy territory. H2S was the radar equipment which transmitted a signal from the aircraft to the ground and the returns showed features such as islands, coastlines, etc. So we were on track and on time as we crossed the German coast and headed for Kiel and our target at 21,000 ft.

The target marking was by sticks of flares which were dropped at H-6 followed by Path Finder Force (PFF) marking the aiming point with mixed red and green TIs. The marking was punctual, reasonably accurate but scattered in the early stages. As we were above cloud and the markers were only visible by glowing through the clouds Peter bombed what he could see, as did all the other bomb aimers.

So we were unable to access the accuracy of the bombing until later when photo recce showed that severe damage was caused to the north east portion of the shipyards, buildings and hangars of the airfield and seaplane base were partially destroyed and considerable damage was caused to a large barracks and other buildings in the marine depot. As we left the target area we could see the glow of the fires reflecting on the clouds for a hundred miles.

We experienced heavy flak and some light flak in the target area, some of which appeared to come from ships in the harbour. There were a few searchlights. There was some fighter activity over the target and on the homeward route for distance of about 100 miles.

Two of 12 Squadron's aircraft reported combat and one of 626 Squadron engaged an ME 110 on two occasions some two minutes apart at 16,000 feet.

No damage was reported and no casualties. I have no report on Bomber Command losses for this operation but Wickenby and 626 Squadron had none.

I should mention that F/O Hicks was promoted to F/Lt and I was promoted to F/Sgt during July. These were the only promotions my crew received during our tour.

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[map]
[underlined] KIEL [/underlined].
[underlined] 23/24 JULY 1944 [underlined].

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Operation No. 13 Stuttgart

On July 25th the weather was fair becoming cloudy with intermittent rain when Bomber Command decided to send a force of 412 Lancasters and 138 Halifaxes against Stuttgart, a large manufacturing city in southern Germany. 25 of the Lancasters were from Wickenby with 626 Squadron providing 12 of them.

The bomb load was fairly typical for operations against major German targets being 1 x 2,000 lb high explosive bomb and 12 incendiary clusters. For a mission to southern Germany full fuel tanks of 2,154 gallons were required.

Takeoff commenced at 2058 and seven minutes later we roared down the runway and off for our longest trip so far to a German target. The route took us a long way south before turning east towards the target area. We went to Reading then south across the channel and turned east after we were well south of Paris. We then went almost to the Swiss border before turning north east towards the major centres in that general area in the hope of confusing the defences. Our target could have been any one of half a dozen cities, including Frankfurt, Russelheim, Mannheim, Karlsruhe or Stuttgart. We made our final turn on to the bomb run between Karlsruhe and Stuttgart. The weather enroute was cloudy and in the target area there was 10/10th thin cloud with a base about 16,000. At 20,000 feet we were above this layer.

Sticks of flares and red TIs were dropped at H-6, P.F.F. then marked the aiming point with mixed red and green TIs. Release point flares of green and yellow stars were also dropped. The result of all this was that the bombing was scattered as several separate groups of markers each attracted concentrated bombing. Many fires were observed taking hold well and the glow from these was visible for 150 miles on the homeward route. This was the first occasion we had carried incendiary bombs which were designed to create damage by fire as opposed to damage by high explosive.

In spite of our efforts to conceal our route and target the enemy guessed we were going to Stuttgart some 30 minutes before H hour and elements of 14 night fighter Gruppen were deployed against us. Numerous combats were reported but flak was light to moderate over the target itself.

Our route home was also circuitous and was, in general, a reciprocal of our outbound flight. We came back via Reading and let down to arrive over Wickenby and land again after 8 hours 35 minutes of flying time.

Two of 626 aircraft failed to reach the target for quite different reasons. On one the navigator was sick so they returned early and the second was attacked before reaching the target, the bomb doors were damaged and would not open so they were forced to return with their bomb load still on board. They landed safely despite a flat tire[sic] caused by the enemy action. Two other 626 aircraft were damaged by flak as was one of 12 Squadron. Combat with night fighters was reported by 2 of 12 Squadron and 3 of 626 Squadron. There were no losses.

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Operation No. 14 Stuttgart

We returned from our long haul against Stuttgart in the early morning of July 26th, had a day off on the 27th and were detailed for the same target again on the 28th. Whilst we appreciated the necessity to follow up raids on some targets for a variety of strategic reasons those of us who were called upon to make the trip were not too enthusiastic. You may get away with bearding the lion in his den once but not twice in 3 days so we expected strenuous opposition.

The 22 Lancasters from Wickenby were part of a Bomber Command force of 494 Lancasters and 2 Mosquitoes. 626 Squadron's contribution was 10 aircraft.

Our route out and back was very similar to three nights ago with Reading the assembly point. Wickenby takeoff commenced at 2115 hours and again we were amongst the first to go taking off at 2120 hours. The weather had changed somewhat since the 25th. Now we encountered strata cumulus on the outward route with 10/10th low cloud with some slight breaks in the target area.

The target was marked with long sticks of flares and red TIs were dropped at H-6. P.F.F. then marked the aiming point with green and red TIs. Release point flares with green and yellow stars were also dropped so for the main force the marking for both the Stuttgart raids was very similar. Bombing was well concentrated on the markers but because they were scattered so was the bombing. Three groups of fires and 3 large explosions were seen. Photo recce later reported that many parts of the old city were devastated, the main railway station being damaged. It became apparent to myself and my crew that the further we had to travel to reach a target the more scattered the bombing became, and the less likely we were to achieve good concentration. Thus the importance of keeping on track and keeping on time became imperative.

There was moderate flak in the target area but there was intense fighter activity from south west of Paris all the way to and over the target but things were pretty quiet on the way home.

Two of 626 Squadron aircraft were damaged, both by fighter attack. One of 12 Squadron and 3 of 626 reported combats, and two of 12 Squadron (F/O Downing and F/O White, and one of 626 Squadron (F/Sgt Ryan) were shot down. Everyone in all 3 aircraft were killed except F/Sgt Ryan's navigator who became a prisoner. It was F/O Downing's 28th operation – two short of completing his tour. The loss rate for Bomber Command was 7.86%, for Wickenby 13.64%, and for 626 Squadron 10%.

German records for this night show that F/Sgt Ryan's aircraft was engaged in an air battle with a night fighter flown by Martin Becker which had taken off from Nurenburg. Becker's report shows that the Lancaster 626/Y2 was destroyed with serious burning to the starboard wing. "Parts fell off" reads the radio operator's log book. Only the navigator was saved by parachute. All other crew members were interred in a joint grave at Vachinger and in 1948 re-interred in a special cemetery for allied airmen at Durnbach near Munich. 626/Y2 was one of 4 British aircraft destroyed by Martin Becker that night. He was credited with destroying 58 aircraft during the war.

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We flew unmolested back to Wickenby, landed at 0515 hours, debriefed, had some sleep and went home for a few days leave. We did not know until we returned from leave that we had sustained a good sized hole in the starboard tailplane. It was repaired while we were away.

We had now completed almost half of our operational tour without any major problem and while we were unscathed through 14 operations between June 22nd and July 28th, our squadron, 626, had lost 7 aircraft as had 12 Squadron. So it averaged out to one Lancaster lost on each operation we had flown. In terms of crews the record shows that 77 crew members were killed and 12 taken prisoner. I must emphasize that this was the casualty figure for the operations on which I personally flew. There were others taking place when my crew was on stand down and I do not have the figures for these.

I mentioned earlier that I had taken Mary to Aldbourne while I was flying with the squadron. Just about all of the crew members who had wives and families preferred them to be away from the base. Fighting a war from a base in Britain and getting back to that base after each foray against the enemy was a radical departure from the accepted norm but it was the official opinion of the Air Force and the opinion of the combatants that they preferred their loved ones to be somewhere away where they would not be in day to day contact with what was going on. Can you imagine saying to your wife "Oh by the way dear I shall be late tonight I have to go and bomb Germany". The lady's nerves would be shattered after a week or two of this. When I was at O.T.U. Mary had given me a rag doll which looked rather like a gremlin (those of us who have seen gremlins know what they look like). This one was long and skinny with a green jacket and pants and a pointed cap. It was a good luck charm which I carried with me on every operation suspended over my navigation table. It never let me down.

So it was good to head for Aldbourne to see Mary and my family for a few days. Mary was by now about 6 1/2 months pregnant with Keith, our first child, and was in the longing way for sharp tasting fruit. She had already stripped the gooseberries from my mother's bushes and was waiting for apples to ripen a bit. She told me that she and my mother listened to the radio every morning to hear what Bomber Command had been up to the night before and to hear what losses we had sustained, then they waited hoping there would not be a telegram. If they hadn't heard by noon they figured I was still safe. This is certainly not the way to go through a pregnancy and thank goodness it was the only one she had to undergo in this way. My leave was over and I returned to Wickenby on August 6th but not until after a tearful farewell. Mary and my mother did not know if they would ever see me again so it was a poignant departure. I arrived back to typical summer weather for Britain, cloudy with intermittent light rain or showers and occasional sunny periods.

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Operation No. 15 Air-sur-Lys

On August 8th the weather was fair in the morning and afternoon with a build up of thunderstorms in the evening. I have not yet mentioned the American 8th Air Force who by now had been in Britain for some time and were operating by daylight only. Their tactics were different to ours – where we tried to sneak in under cover of darkness and escape without detection, they flew in huge formations and tried to fight their way in and out. Their bomber aircraft, B17s and B24s primarily, were much more heavily armed than we were but carried a significantly smaller bomb load. During this period of the war we were able to dovetail our operations with theirs with considerable success. They would visit a target by day, and we would repeat the effort by night. On this occasion we were to attack oil storage facilities at Air-sur-Lys in the morning but deferred to the 8th Air Force as they wished to attack the same target. So we were somewhat surprised when we were told that the U.S.A.F. had bombed the wrong target and we were going anyway.

Bomber Command detailed a force of 170 Lancasters and 10 Mosquitoes to attack two oil storage targets. Wickenby supplied 25 aircraft, 13 from 12 Squadron and 12 from 626.

I mentioned the forecast was for thunderstorms in the evening and as takeoff commenced at 2150 large thunderstorms lay across our intended track east of Lincoln. We climbed through the cumulo nimbus clouds but conditions were very difficult and numerous course alterations were necessary to avoid the worst of the weather. Once clear of the storm we were able to head for Orfordness, the assembly point. We were carrying our usual bomb load for this type of operation, 13,000 lbs of 1,000 and 500 lbs high explosive. After leaving Orfordness weather improved and by the time we reached the target there was no cloud and visibility was moderate to good.

Mosquitoes marked the aiming point at H-4 with red TIs. Other pathfinders backed up with green TIs. The reds were scattered but the greens were accurate so crews bombed the greens which resulted in accurate bombing. A large orange explosion at 2334 was followed by a dense column of black smoke indicating a direct hit on an oil storage tank. The glow of fires was visible for 75 miles. Photo recce showed many bombs in the target area; all the building[s] had their roofs stripped and there were hits on the canal wharf and rail tracks.

There was some flak and some fighter opposition was experienced. The fighters appeared to be using searchlights as assembly points but the tactic was not very successful.

We got back to Wickenby after a relatively short flight of 2 hours 55 minutes. One of 12 Squadron's aircraft was hit by flak and sustained some damage but no casualties. Another of 12 Squadron reported an engagement with a "Fishpond" radar indicator in which the rear gunner fired a burst but no enemy was seen.

We suffered our worst problems from the weather. Three aircraft, 2 from 12 and 1 from 626, aborted the operation. One was unable to get out of the Cu Nim and another dropped 12,000 feet in a Cu Nim. Not only are there violent currents and downdraughts in these clouds but also severe icing under certain conditions. The third aircraft to abort had it's starboard outer Constant

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Speed Unit (CSU) unserviceable so returned to base. Interestingly enough we had the same problem on our operation No. 11 to Courtrai, but elected to press on.

There were no losses on this night and we have now reached the halfway mark of our tour of operations. I wonder if the second half will be any more difficult than the first. Our gunners still have not fired their guns in anger. Let's keep our fingers crossed.

On August 9th the weather was not good and we were stood down for the day.

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Operation No. 16 Ferme du Forestal

On August 10th 15 of Wickenby's Lancasters were detailed, as part of a Bomber Command force of 60 Lancasters and 20 Mosquitoes, against flying bomb sites. Our target was Ferme du Forestal in the Pas de Calais area of Northern France.

This was a morning operation with takeoff commencing at 1045 hours. The enroute weather was cloudy, breaking up over the English Channel but thickening again from the French coast. Over the target was a 10/10th layer with a base about 2,000 feet. We carried our normal 13,000 lbs of bombs.

The Mosquitoes marked the aiming point with red TIs cascading from 5,000 feet and leaving smoke trails but because of the cloud in the target area we descended from our bombing height of 10,000 to try and get below the cloud layer and bomb visually. Our aircraft was successful in identifying the target and Peter bombed the launching ramp which he could see clearly.

We were then supposed to climb back to 10,000 feet for the return journey but chose to continue down to treetop level and return "on the deck". As we flew across fields and houses at rooftop level we could clearly see the local inhabitants waving a friendly greeting though I expect some of them were startled to hear a heavy bomber roar overhead. A short distance from the coast we passed near a military rifle range and as we flew past first Peter from the front turret, then successively Bert Jones and Bill Bursey all fired a few rounds in the general direction of the targets. This was much more fun than stooging back at 10,000 feet. As we approached the coast we were fired upon by the local defenders but they didn't expect to see the enemy approach them from the rear so by the time they had us in their sights we were safely out to sea. We climbed back to 10,000 feet over the channel and returned home, after a flight of 3 hours 35 minutes, as briefed.

One of 626 Squadron aircraft aborted the mission as he could not find the target, and one was hit by flak and damaged, but no one was hurt. Bomber Command did not sustain any losses.

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Operation No. 17 Falaise

On August 12th 626 Squadron participated in two attacks against widely divergent targets, one in support of the invasion forces in northern France and the other against a strategic target, Brunswick, Germany, some 120 miles west of Berlin.

I guess we were lucky on this occasion as we were selected with two other crews for the shorter mission to Falaise. We were part of a force of 91 Lancasters, 36 Halifaxes, 12 Stirlings and 5 Mosquitoes detailed for this target.

We took off at 2336 hours and climbed towards Reading on a clear summer night with no cloud. From Reading we headed to Selsey Bill on the English south coast (a place I used to visit as a child on Sunday school outings from Aldbourne) thence across the channel to the target. As we approached the French coast the cloud thickened until over the target it was 10/10th with tops about 8 – 10,000 feet.

The target marking was by flares and red TIs backed up by green TIs. They were plentiful and accurate and in spite of the cloud layer we were able to bomb accurately laying our 13,000 lbs of HE across the target. The bombing was well concentrated and extensive damage was done. The German army used Falaise as a hardened position from which they were determined not to fall back, so the allies were left with no alternative but to attack it. There was some flak, both heavy and light, and some fighter activity in the target area, but the Bomber Command loss rate was nil. We returned back to Wickenby via Reading and landed safely after a trip of just over 3 hours.

In the meantime 22 Lancasters, 11 each from 12 Squadron, and 626 Squadron, were detailed as part of a force of 242 Lancasters and 137 Halifaxes against Brunswick. They commenced their takeoff at 2116 hours so we were able to watch them go before we departed ourselves.

They experienced clear weather until 50 miles from the target when it clouded over to 10/10th in the target area. They carried a bomb load of 1 x 2,000 lbs and 12 clusters of incendiaries, the typical bomb load for strategic targets.

There was no marking carried out on this target so crews bombed using their H2S equipment. H2S shows a differentiation between land and water, but it was much more difficult to differentiate between land and built up areas so bombing was not concentrated and not very effective though scattered damage was seen with hits on the power station and gas works.

Both light and heavy flak were experienced and there was considerable fighter activity particularly from the target back to the North Sea. One 626 aircraft reported several combats but no damage.

One 12 Squadron aircraft (F/O Hancox) was shot down and all on board, except the wireless operator and mid upper gunner were killed, and one 626 Squadron (F/O Bennett) was attacked by a fighter and set on fire. The crew bailed out and 4 were taken prisoner. The wireless operator, mid upper gunner and rear gunner were all killed.

Wickenby's loss rate was 9.09% while that of Bomber Command was 7.12%.

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Operation No. 18 Falaise

By August 14th the allied armies had managed to push forward on both sides of Falaise and had effectively trapped a very large force of the enemy in a pocket extending from Falaise to Posigny. To save allied lives on the ground we were asked to bomb them into surrender.

So 16 Lancasters from Wickenby were part of a force of 411 Lancasters, 352 Halifaxes, and 42 Mosquitoes detailed against this target, which would be our last operation in direct support of the invasion armies. 626 Squadron's contribution was 10 aircraft.

We took off at 1207 carrying a bomb load of 13,000 lbs high explosive and climbed towards Reading, our assembly point, then south to the coast and across the channel. We did not climb to our normal height but levelled out at 7,000 feet as we were briefed to choose our own bombing height depending on weather in the target area. We flew above a cloud layer until we reached the English coast then the cloud thinned as we crossed the channel and the target area was clear. With some 800 aircraft all heading in the same direction it seemed the sky was full, a huge gaggle stretching from the French coast all the way back to the English coast. Fighter aircraft from 11 Group provided cover and could be seen above us.

As we approached the target, and wishing to bomb as accurately as possible, we reduced height to 3,000 feet. We knew that our own troops were within 2,000 years of the aiming point which was marked with green TIs, but which quickly became obscured by smoke. There was considerable fire from the ground as the enemy fought back. Peter released the bombs and we turned away to clear the target area for those behind and as we did so the aircraft received a sudden violent pounding. We had been hit but at this point did not know with what or by whom. Then Bill Bursey's voice from the rear turret, "Skipper I've been hit, and I'm bleeding". The aircraft was still flying so we knew it had not sustained fatal damage. Peter Graves, having dropped his bombs was now free to assist Bill and went to the back of the aircraft. As he made his way he reported flak damage all the way to the rear turret. By now Bert Jones had left the mid upper turret to assist and between them they got Bill out of his turret and forward to the rest bed where they lay him down and administered morphine from the first aid kit carried on all aircraft. Peter then applied field dressings to Bill's wounds and made him as comfortable as possible. The important thing now was to get Bill to a hospital as soon as possible so Hicky and I discussed our options. We elected to go for Boscombe Down which we knew could handle a Lancaster and was close to a major hospital in Salisbury (I knew the area well as Mary and I had been stationed at Old Sarum, next door, some 3 years before).

I calculated a course for Boscombe Down and we were on our way. Over the channel Hicky wanted to check that the aircraft would not do any unusual manoeuvres when placed in the landing configuration so we climbed above a suitable patch of cloud and he and Stan King carried out a practice approach on the cloud including reducing power and speed, lowering the undercarriage, applying full flap and stalling on to the cloud patch as though landing on it. Satisfied that all systems were O.K. we continued to Boscombe Down.

We called Boscombe on the emergency frequency and were given permission to land our

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wounded rear gunner. We were met by an ambulance, doctor and medical team. Bill was removed from the rest bed and transferred by ambulance to the American General Hospital, Salisbury.

We had the aircraft checked by the engineering and technical people at Boscombe to make sure we could take it off again, took a look at all the shrapnel [sic] holes, climbed aboard and headed back to Wickenby, arriving in time for supper.

We were the only Wickenby aircraft to sustain damage but 12 Squadron had one aircraft abort the mission. It was forced to abandon over the target when the electrical supply to the bomb release mechanism failed. He brought his bombs back.

Photo recce assessed that every street in Falaise was blocked by craters or rubble and whole sections of the town were completely devastated. The German troops surrendered shortly after their bombardment.

We later discovered that Bill Bursey had received a gunshot wound to the right leg and a shrapnel wound to the right thigh with a fractured femur. The Americans came round the hospital next day and offered him a "Purple Heart" for shedding blood against the enemy. Bill declined with thanks. He did not return to the squadron and never flew with us again. The next day we were joined by Sgt. Stott, his replacement, who was also a sole survivor from another crew. So now out of the seven crew members, 3 of us were sole survivors, Saletto, Stott and I.

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Operation No. 19 Stettin

On the night of August 16th 461 Lancasters of Bomber Command were detailed against Stettin. Wickenby's contribution was 24 aircraft shared equally between the two squadrons. Stettin was a major city on the Baltic and some 120 miles north east of Berlin. It is now part of Poland. It was a long, long way from Wickenby and entailed a crossing of the North Sea from Mablethorpe to a point near the Danish coast at 5600N 0800E then due east across Denmark to Longitude 1045E, then south east across the Kattegat, the Danish island passing west of Copenhagen, and the Baltic Sea to the target. Much of the time we expected to be under enemy attack as Denmark had been occupied by German troops for some time.

We took off at 2041 hours carrying 1 x 2,000 lb and 12 incendiary clusters, rendezvoused at Mablethorpe and headed across the North Sea climbing as high as we could get with a full fuel and bomb load. The weather enroute was clear across the North Sea and Denmark building up to 10/10th cloud with tops at 17,000 feet over Germany but cleared just short of the target which was free of cloud. Our outward trip was long but relatively uneventful. On these long North Sea crossings I always attempted to get as many accurate GEE fixes as possible prior to losing it to the enemy jamming. It was very important to get an appreciation of the wind, to compare it to that forecast and to calculate a correction to be applied to courses and speeds once we were out of range of GEE. So I always attempted to get a fix and calculate the wind every 6 minutes. This gave me a good understanding of what was happening with regard to the weather, which always stood us in good stead when I had to navigate on DR (Dead Reckoning) as we became further away from England. There was light to moderate flak at isolated points on route and some fighter activity. Because there were good coastline responses on the H2S I was able to navigate without difficulty to the target.

Flares and green TIs were dropped at H-6 and P.F.F. marked the aiming point with mixed red and green salvoes backed by red TIs. There were so many markers and decoys operated by the enemy that Peter had difficulty identifying which one he should bomb. In the confusion of aircraft, flak, tracer fire and target markers we overshot and rather than bomb the wrong target went round again. With everyone keeping a sharp eye out for other aircraft in our vicinity Hicky closed the bomb doors and made a gentle turn to the left and eventually a complete 360 degree turn and we came over the target a second time. This time Peter selected the proper target marker and the bombs were duly released. We were all glad to leave the target area. Going across the target and being shot at once is dangerous enough but twice? Phew!! We left the area with relief and headed north west to cross Denmark then south west across the North Sea back home. There was some flak and isolated fighter activity on the way home but Wickenby did not sustain any losses. However, 2 of 12 Squadron reported combat where the gunners fired but were not fired upon and 3 aircraft, 2 from 12, and 1 from 626 were hit by flak. There were no casualties. Bomber Command losses were 5 aircraft – 1.08%.

The attack was considered successful with fires in the centre and south east of the city though considerable bombing was attracted by the decoys or wrong marking. Photo recce

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showed severe damage to shipbuilders Oderwerke A.G., sugar refinery and naval fitting out yard. Also a large area of devastation in the town centre.

This operation took us 8 1/2 hours from takeoff to landing back at Wickenby and the crew becomes very tired particularly on a long stooge home across the sea. Once clear of the Danish coast we are reasonably safe from enemy attack so Hicky put the aircraft on auto pilot and everyone relaxes. I am sure there were periods when I was the only one awake and the only reason for this was that it was my job to get us back home.

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Operation No. 20 Russeheim [sic]

On August 25th a force of 412 Lancasters were ordered against the Opel Works at Russelheim [sic]. Among them were 18 aircraft from each of Wickenby's two squadrons: a maximum effort. On July 25th and 28th we had paid visits to Stuttgart which together with Russelheim, Frankfurt, Mannheim and Karlsruhe form a heavily defended portion of southern Germany. Our trip to Stuttgrat [sic] on July 28th had not been a happy one for Wickenby aircraft so we approached Russelheim with some trepidation.

We carried a full fuel load of 2,154 gallons and a bomb load of 1 x 4,000 lb (Cookie) and 12 clusters of 4lb incendiaries. Our route was quite similar to that used previously for this area. Reading was the assembly point then south across the channel to a point S.W. of Paris, then east north east in a series of zig zags to the target. The weather was good all the way and the target area was clear with slight haze. Takeoff commenced at 1957 hours.

The target was well marked following sticks of flares dropped at H-7. The aiming point was then marked with mixed red and green TIs and backed up by red TIs.

The bombing was well concentrated and the fires could be seen for 150 miles. Photo recce showed severe damage to the plant with all the major units hit, including assembly shops, research labs, drop forge, machine shop and aircraft engine shop.

The target area was, as expected, well defended with intense heavy flak and very active fighters which made contact with the bomber stream in the target area and well into the return journey.

One of 12 Squadron aborted the mission with a sick navigator. Seven of 12 Squadron's aircraft reported combat with night fighters and one was so badly damaged that it crash landed on return and was written off. The only casualty in this aircraft was the navigator who suffered superficial wounds. One other 12 Squadron aircraft was hit by flak. One 626 Squadron aircraft suffered damage caused, it was believed, by an unusual incident. Shortly after bombing the aircraft was thrown out of control by a nearby explosion. All four engines cut but the pilot and engineer managed to get them restarted and flew home safely. It is believed the explosion was another aircraft blowing up. It is interesting that while 7 of 12 Squadron reported combat none of 626 did. However, 626 did lose two aircraft. F/O Harris who, together with 3 members of his crew were taken prisoner, the other 3 were killed and F/O Whetton who was killed together with all of his crew except the bomb aimer who was taken prisoner.

The Bomber Command loss rate for this operation was 3.64%, that for Wickenby 5.56%, while that for 626 Squadron, 11.1%.

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[map]
[underlined] RUSSELHEIM. [/underlined]
[underlined] 25/26 AUGUST 1944. [/underlined]

[page break]

Operation No. 21 Stettin

We had visited Stettin on August 16th and had been briefed several times between the 16th and 29th but weather had forced cancellations. So here we are on August 29th poised to go once again. The crews involved were concerned that our intentions may already have been communicated to the enemy and the element of surprise lost. So we expected a difficult time.

The total force consisted of 402 Lancasters and one Mosquito. For Wickenby the contribution was 31 aircraft. For 626 Squadron it was again a maximum effort of 18 aircraft. We were of course carrying a maximum fuel load of 2,154 gallons and our bomb load on this occasion was a total of 8,440 lbs - 1 x 4,000 lb H.E., 660 x 4 lb incendiaries and 60 x 30 lb incendiaries. If you add in 7 men, thousands of rounds of ammunition and the various other stores we carried such as bundles of "window" we were very close to our maximum takeoff weight of 72,000 lbs. Window was the code name for specially designed metal strips which, when dropped from an aircraft, gave a similar radar response to the aircraft itself. We dropped them by the thousands when in an area of high enemy defensive activity to confuse the defenses.

We were among the first to takeoff and on this occasion were followed down the runway by F/O "Lofty" Lofthouse whose crew shared our Nissen hut. As we left the ground and climbed away Lofty was moving along the runway when his feet slipped on the rudder pedal and he "ground looped" the aircraft. A ground loop is a rotation in the horizontal plane and inevitably tears off the undercarriage as it did on this occasion, the story was that Lofty required wooden blocks attached to the rudder pedals to reach them properly and his feet had slipped while pumping the pedals to keep the aircraft straight under full power. Sgt. Stott from his observation point in our rear turret looked right down on this incident and yelled to warn us all. In the few seconds it took for the rest of us to have a look every door and hatch on Lofty's aircraft had opened and seven bodies were running in every direction. Fortunately for everyone his bombs did not explode. Had they done so not only would his crew have been killed but we would have been blown out of the sky as we were very close. A fully laden aircraft now lay in the centre of the runway so it could no longer be used. We were O.K. as we were already airborne but there was a delay on the ground while the whole matter was sorted out, the runway changed and the departure of the rest of the force reorganized. I have spoken recently with Ernie Peressini, the bomb aimer in Lofty's crew, who now lives in Victoria, and he remembers the incident vividly even after 50 years.

We rendezvoused at Mablethorpe and set course north east across the North Sea but remained below a layer of cloud with tops at 5,000 feet to stay below the enemy's radar warning system. We were routed further north than on our last visit to Stettin passing over northern Denmark before heading south east towards the target. We were so far north that to get to the target we had to fly over Sweden which was a neutral country. This was deliberate and we were briefed to head for Sweden if we were unable to get home for any reason. Better to land in a neutral country than to be taken prisoner of war. We stayed low across the sea until approaching the Danish coast then climbed to our operational altitude and remained there until near the target. Below us were layers of thin cloud with tops at 17,000 feet.

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The target marking was punctual and accurate. At H-7 the target was illuminated by long sticks of flares followed by red and green TIs on the aiming point.

We experienced some light flak over Denmark but the serious problem on this night was fighters. The main force was plotted over the Danish coast and interceptions commenced immediately and continued to the target with a few on the return from the target. There was heavy flak in the target area, some bursts being so large they could only have come from high calibre naval guns. Searchlights were also very active. As we were approaching above the clouds in moonlight it was not difficult to see or be seen. As we neared the target the Master Bomber called us down below the cloud layer which was between about 12 and 14,000 feet. We let down and bombed at 12,000 feet.

The results of the bombing were good because we could see the markers as visibility was clear below the cloud layer. As well as high explosive we were all carrying large quantities of incendiaries and very soon fierce fires were burning with smoke almost to our bombing altitude. P.R.U. reported that buildings in Stettiner Oderwerke Shipbuilding A.G. were gutted, Labelsdorf Bahnhof Gasworks destroyed, telegraph office and five factories severely damaged. Three merchant vessels were sunk in the port.

We turned north west after bombing to head back to northern Denmark before returning across the North Sea. The fighter activity decreased as we left the target largely because a well timed force of Mosquitoes attacked Berlin and this drew them away from us. Letting down in the target area involves risks which are not normally there when all aircraft fly over at their predetermined altitude. In this case we were below someone else who did not reduce as low as we and released his bombs while above us. The consequence was that we were hit in the port wing by an incendiary bomb dropped from above. Fortunately for us it smashed right through the wing without damaging vital controls or control surfaces and did not set us on fire. We were very fortunate.

Two of Wickenby's aircraft aborted this operation. I have already mentioned F/O Lofthouse. The second abort was a 12 Squadron aircraft which started out but the wireless operator lost his nerve after setting course so the crew returned. Incidents of nerve failure on the part of crew members were not very frequent, fortunately, but I am sure there were times when we all felt like this poor wireless operator. I think what prevented more of it was the fact that everyone felt an overwhelming loyalty to their crew and would not do anything to let the crew down. On the rare occasion when it did happen the victim left the squadron immediately and was posted to a unit on the Isle of Sheppey in the Thames estuary, east of London for disposal. The R.A.F. used the term L.M.F., Lack of Moral Fibre, to describe these unfortunate souls and their hasty removal from the squadron was to ensure that their inability to cope did not spread. After all, we were all living on the edge wondering each time whether we would return.

Four of 626 Squadron crews reported combat with night fighters, two on the outward trip, one over the target and one on the return. Five of our aircraft sustained damage, including ours, being holed in the port wing, but others were more severe and one had to land at Dunholme Lodge being unable to get back to Wickenby.

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One of 12 Squadron (F/O Spurrs) was shot down over the target. Everyone who managed to bail out was taken prisoner but the two gunners were killed. One of 626 Squadron (F/O Hawkes) was attacked over the Kattegat on the way towards the target and he was able to maintain control only long enough to allow the crew to bail out, but they were close enough to Sweden that they all landed there and were interned. They were carrying a second pilot along for experience so there were 8 instead of the usual 7 aboard. The advice to head for Sweden if possible was sound.

F/O Hawkes later reported "On September 1st we were taken to Falun and kept for 2 days in an interment [sic] camp. On September 3rd we were billeted in the Solliden Pensionat Hotel, where we stayed until October 24th. On that day we were taken to Stockholm and stayed at the Continental Hotel until October 27th when we were sent by air to the U.K." On August 31st, 2 days after they were shot down, the squadron received the news that they were safe.

We left the target area and headed north west passing over Malmo, Sweden which, being neutral, was well lit. We climbed across the Baltic to 20,000 feet as we still had to cross Denmark which was defended. We were glad we did as the squadron aircraft which was attacked by a night fighter in this area was flying at only 14,000 feet.

We successfully negotiated our crossing of Denmark and proceeded out to sea before commencing a gradual let down towards the English coast. At 10,000 feet we took off our oxygen masks and breathed normally for the first time for several hours. Hicky, as was his wont, lit his pipe and the rest of us in the cabin enjoyed a cigarette. We came back into GEE range so I was able to fix our position accurately and get us safely home. We landed at Wickenby without further incident having been airborne 9 hours 35 minutes which turned out to be the longest of our 30 operations. Wickenby loss rate was 6.45% while that of Bomber Command was 5.71%. 626 Squadron's loss rate was 5.55%, one out of the 18 which were detailed to go, or 5.88% one out of the 17 which actually went, but in this particular incident the crew, having landed safely in Sweden, were all returned to the squadron.

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[map]
[underlined] STETTIN. [/underlined]
[underlined] 29/30 AUGUST 1944. [/underlined]

[page break]

Operation No. 22 St. Requier

We had not arrived back from Stettin until the early morning of August 30th (about 0630) so by the time we had debriefed, had a meal and got to bed the sun was high in the sky. We did not fly again that day but on the following day August 31st we carried out another attack against a V2 rocket store at St. Requier.

Twenty Lancasters from Wickenby were detailed as part of a Bomber Command force of 418 Lancasters, 147 Halifaxes and 36 Mosquitoes raiding 9 rocket storage sites. There were 10 from each squadron. St. Requier was the most southerly of the Pas de Calais targets.

We took off at 1325 hours carrying 15,000 lbs of H.E. (13 x 1,000 and 4 x 500 lb) and climbed towards Reading our assembly point, climbing through a cloud layer with tops at 17,000 feet. We encountered severe icing as we passed through the clouds. Ice builds up on leading edges of aerofoils and on the propellers. Leading edges were always de-iced if we knew we would be experiencing icing, to try and prevent build up reaching dangerous proportions. It was always reassuring to know that it was not building up on the propellers when you could hear the chunks of ice hitting the side of the fuselage as it flew off. Disconcerting at first, but reassuring as one got used to it. We cleared the tops and flew towards the target at 18,000 feet. The cloud formation changed to broken as we crossed the channel and approached the target.

The aiming point was marked by red TIs which were backed up with green and yellow throughout the attack. The marking was scattered consequently the bombing was not concentrated and some bombs fell between the target and the village. There was only light flak near Abbeville and little was experienced in the target area so there was really no excuse for not pressing home the attack.

Two of Wickenby's aircraft aborted this operation both under rather unusual circumstances. One of 12 Squadron was instructed to abandon by the Master Bomber and one of 626 found the target covered by cloud. I would think that both probably arrived late.

In spite of there not being a heavy concentration of flak what there was was predicted with great accuracy and no less than 5 of Wickenby's aircraft were hit by it, some with serious results. Two of 12 Squadron were hit, one so severely that he crash landed at Woodbridge. The pilot and second pilot received shrapnel wounds to the right leg, the bomb aimer had a shattered left foot and wounds to the right foot and the flight engineer had shrapnel wounds to the right ankle and left wrist. All of these crew members were at the front of the aircraft so the exploding flak was very close to the front. In crash landing at Woodbridge they went to an airfield which was specially equipped to handle such emergencies. The R.A.F. had equipped several airfields very close to the east coast for such eventualities - Manston, Woodbridge and Manby amongst them. They were equipped with long, wide runways, foam, special lighting to disperse fog, heavy equipment to move crashed aircraft quickly out of the way and of course, emergency medical facilities.

Three of 626 Squadron were also hit by flak. One had no casualties but one was damaged so that he was forced to feather both inboard engines and jettison his bombs. He made an

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emergency landing at Manston. The third (F/O Oram) suffered perspex wounds to the face and his flight engineer shrapnel wounds to the left leg. This is the same F/O Oram who on July 6th was hit and, with his crew, had to abandon his aircraft over the channel with the loss of his gunners.

We flew unmolested back to Wickenby and landed safely after a trip of 3 1/4 hours. The Bomber Command loss rate was 1%. All of Wickenby's aircraft got back to England but not to Wickenby so officially we had losses.

And so passed the month of August 1944. We had flown 8 operations since returning from leave and been briefed for several others which were cancelled for one reason or another. Of the 8, five were by night, 3 of which were long flights into Germany (2 to Stettin). We had sustained damaged to our aircraft on two occasions and had lost rear gunner Bill Bursey to injury.

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Operation No. 23 Le Havre

The allied armies had advanced south and spread outward from their initial bridgehead and it was now time to head eastward along the coastal areas and towards Paris. A deep water port was needed and the obvious one was Le Havre so on September 6th a force of 311 Lancasters, 30 Mosquitoes and 3 Stirlings was detailed against the German fortifications at Le Havre. This was the same Le Havre that had opened up on us when we were all alone on July 4th. Wickenby's contribution was 21 Lancasters of which 626 provided 11.

The weather was mainly cloudy with showers and thunder all day so it was decided to go in the evening but even then there was no improvement.

Takeoff commenced at 1656 hours and we followed a route pretty well due south taking us east of London to the target area. Our bomb load was 15,000 lbs H.E. We experienced 10/10th cloud all the way to the target and in the target area the base was at 7,000 feet with heavy rain.

The target marking commenced with green TIs at H-5 backed up with red TIs bursting at 4,000 feet and cascading leaving white smoke trails. Though we were above cloud these TIs burned with such intensity they could be seen and we had the added advantage of H2S. I was able to pinpoint the target and confirm for Peter that he was running up on the correct aiming point. There was some heavy flak in the target area but it was not severe. The bombing was accurate, a large explosion at 1927 hours was followed by flames and black smoke – probably a fuel storage.

One of 626 Squadron aborted on instructions from the Master Bomber.

Bomber Command sustained no losses on this operation and Wickenby aircraft all returned without damage. We landed back at Wickenby after a flight of 3 1/2 hours.

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Operation No. 24 Le Havre

On September 10th we were called upon to make a repeat visit to Le Havre to attack strong points which had survived the attack of September 6th. Bomber Command dispatched a force of 521 Lancasters, 426 Halifaxes and 45 Mosquitoes of which 33 Lancasters were from Wickenby. 626's contribution was 17 aircraft of a total force of nearly 1,000 attacking various targets.

Takeoff commenced at 1643 hours and we climbed on a southerly heading through broken cumulus cloud with tops about 10,000 feet. Above the cloud the sky was clear all the way to the target area with good visibility. We again carried 15,000 lb of H.E. The marking was similar to our attack of September 6th with green TIs and H-5 followed by red TIs bursting at 4,000 feet leaving trails of white smoke. However, on this occasion as the visibility was good the bomb aimers were able to see the aiming point and the bombing was concentrated in this area. Near misses were reported on 6 gun batteries, close enough to incapacitate them, and damage to business property.

There was no opposition and no losses or casualties were sustained. We arrived back at Wickenby after just under 4 hours of flying time. The army captured Le Havre shortly after.

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Operation No. 25 Frankfurt

I mentioned earlier there were a number of German cities in the southern part of the state which were considered good strategic targets. On September 12th we were detailed for another attack on Stuttgart which was changed at 1345 hours to Frankfurt. Wickenby's contribution to a force of 378 Lancasters and 9 Mosquitoes was 34 Lancasters, of which 626 Squadron supplied 15. We must have had an influx of new crews because no less than 7 of the 15 carried second pilots along for experience before going with their own crews. Our second pilot was F/O Hollowell.

The bomb load for this operation was 1 x 4,000 lb., 14 x 4 clusters and 120 x 4 lb incendiaries. The fuel load was 1,900 gallons, not quite full tanks. We took off at 1808 hrs.

Our route was fairly typical for an operation to this area. We headed for Reading, then south to cross the coast at Beachy Head. We then proceeded [sic] to 48°N 05°E passing north of Paris then north east towards the target. After bombing we turned west, crossed the French coast near Calais and home via Orfordness.

The weather en route was clear all the way and the target was also clear with some slight haze. Because we would be flying over friendly territory for much of the outward leg we were allowed to fly at low level and climb to our bombing height prior to reaching the target area. On the leg north of Paris another aircraft flying close to us flicked his navigation light on and off a couple of times. Bert Jones reported this from his mid upper turret and while we were considering the significance Stan King said "My God, we've got our nav lights on". They were promptly switched off. Our thanks went out to our unknown benefactor. It's not advisable to assist the enemy by lighting up your location.

When we reached the target we found that the Pathfinder Force had dropped long sticks of flares at H-7. The aiming point was then marked with mixed salvoes of red and green TIs and kept marked with red TIs. Crews were able to identify the target by the light of the flares. Most target markers were just south of the marshalling yards.

The bombing was concentrated though tended to spread a little to the west. Smoke rose to some 5,000 feet and the fires were visible for 100 miles. Photo recce showed that large areas of the city were severely damaged. The main railway station was half destroyed with damage to workshops and engine sheds. Twelve factories, the gas works and power station were also damaged.

Some light flak and moderate heavy flak was experienced up to about 18,000 feet but we managed to get above it. Numerous searchlights were coning, believed to be cooperating with night fighters which were active inward, over the target and outward.

One of 626 Squadron was coned over Mannheim, extensively damaged by heavy flak and landed at Woodbridge at the emergency airfield there. Two of 12 Squadron were attacked and damaged by night fighters. The mid upper gunner of one received gunshot wounds to both legs.

One of 626 Squadron (F/O Thorpe) was attacked by a night fighter and destroyed. Thorpe, his wireless operator and mid upper gunner were taken prisoner, all other crew members

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including the second pilot, who was along for experience, were killed. It was his first and only operation. His crew were returned to the Lancaster Finishing School to crew with another pilot.

We arrived back at Wickenby after flying for 7 hours 55 minutes. F/O Hollowell thanked us for the experience and went on to complete a tour with his own crew.

The Bomber Command loss rate was 4.39%, that of Wickenby 2.94% and 626 Squadron 6.66%

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FRANKFURT 12-9-44
626 SQUADRON

A/C
(a) Captain - 2nd PIL. (b) Nav. - W/Op (c) B/A - F/E (d) MuG - R/G

JB661 C2
(a) F/O G.A. Price - P/O R. McAinsh (b) Sgt. F.B. Beaton - Sgt. B. Walley (c) F/S T.H. Lightfoot - Sgt. S.A. Frew (d) Sgt. V.A. Lane - Sgt. J. Lee

LM113F2
(a) F/O T.H. Ford (b) F/S J.M. Jackson - W/O H.A.S. Tween (c) F/S J.C. Payne - Sgt. R.A. Wood (d) Sgt. J.C. Moore - Sgt. P.L. Potter

PD295 B2
(a) F/O G. Lofthouse (b) P/O R.C. McMillan - F/S A.V. Bettney (c) W/O E. Peressini - Sgt. K.W.T. Adams (d) F/S R.W. Smith - F/S F.C. Child

LM141 D2
(a) F/O D.S. Nelson (b) F/O T.R. Murray - P/O R.J. Lacey (c) F/O V.H. Halstead - Sgt. O. Old (d) Sgt. A.M. Walker - Sgt. C.C. Merriman

PB412 Z2
(a) F/O W.J. Cook (b) F/S H. Sulz - Sgt. L.A. Rolfe (c) F/S K.C. McCormick - Sgt. D.W. Garside (d) Sgt. A.H. Jones - F/S E. Smith

PA990 R2
(a) F/O G.A. Green - F/O R.J. Tierney (b) F/S W.A. Stephens - F/S W.A. Dickson (c) F/O K.E.F. Taylor - Sgt. O.F. Farley (d) Sgt. W. Norman - F/S G.C. Newton

ND163 T2
(a) F/O R.A. Collens - P/O L.A. Titmuss (b) F/Lt. J.H. Leuty - Sgt. K.T. Rainbird (c) F/S W.E. Birch - Sgt. H.S. Merry (d) Sgt. E.W. Roberts - Sgt. H. Davy

PB411 Y2
(a) F/O H. Winder - Sgt. R.C. Yule (b) P/O J.J. McDevitt - Sgt. A.W. Reid (c) F/S M. Parker - Sgt. H.S.G. Rich (d) Sgt. R.A. Albone - P/O W.G. Green

LL959 A2
(a) F/Lt. A.C. Hicks - F/O R.A. Hollowell (b) F/S K.J. Brind - F/S J. Saletto (c) F/O P.M. Graves - Sgt. S.G. King (d) Sgt. A.B. Jones - Sgt. D. Stott

PD287 U2
(a) F/O J.Y.N. Walbank - F/O R.M.Smith (b) F/S L.A. Sparrow - F/S J.M. Dewar (c) F/S R.N. Purves - Sgt. E. Shepherd (d) F/S G. Derrington - F/S J.C. Harris

LM137 G2
(a) F/O D.R.B. Thorpe - F/O G.T. Bolderstn (b) F/S A.C.L. Cox - Sgt. J. Peart (c) F/S S.E. Dunnett - Sgt. F.C. Foster (d) F/S R.H. Cross - F/S L.F. Beattie

NF907 K2
(a) F/O E. Fitzsimmons (b) F/S G.E. Dunsford - Sgt. C. Summers (c) F/S J.V. Gray - Sgt. D.W. Richards (d) Sgt. D. De Silva - F/O G.A. Pearce

LM689 N2
(a) F/O R.G. Harvey (b) Sgt. S.J. Partridge - Sgt. J.L. Nuttall (c) F/O R. Kelly - Sgt. R. Heys (d) Sgt. J.K. Hogan - Sgt. G.T. McMasters

PD 286 02
(a) F/O J.C. Campbell (b) F/O R. Cluston - F/S R.C. Champagne (c) F/S W.F. Palmer - Sgt. J. Akhurst (d) Sgt. J.G. Reynolds - Sgt. A.D. Winser

LL961 S2
(a) F/O E.W. Parker (b) Sgt. E. Arrowsmith - F/S J.D. McPherson (c) Sgt. J. Tordoff - Sgt. R.H. Westrop (d) Sgt. W.J. Standen - Sgt. G. Hopkins

AIR 27-2146 PUBLIC RECORDS OFFICE

With the weather fair to fine, 378 Lancasters carried out the last major attack on Frankfurt of the war.

12 Squadron dispatched 19 aircraft and all returned safely. 626 Squadron detailed 16 aircraft but F/O Jones failed to take off. On return, F/O Collens landed at Woodbridge with flak damage. LM137 UM-G2, F/O Thorpe failed to return.

F/O D.R.B. Thorpe. PIL.
F/O G.T. Balderstone RCAF 2nd PIL. Killed.
P/O A.C.L. Cox NAV. Killed.
Sgt. J. Paert. [sic] W/T
F/Sgt. S.E. Dunnett B/A. Killed.
Sgt. F.C. Foster F/E. Killed.
F/Sgt. R.H. Cross. MuG
F/Sgt. L.F. Beattie R/G. Killed.

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Operation No. 26 Rheine-Hopsten

The allied armies had by now broken out from their original bridgehead and pushed north west through Belgium into Holland, and a strategy was conceived for a massive airborne landing using gliders and paratroops in the Arnhem area to create a bridgehead across the Rhine River and ultimately link up with the forward moving army. On September 16th our job was to neutralize German held airfields in the area to minimize the opposition to our landings the next day. Different squadrons and different bases were allocated to specific targets. This was a pinpoint precision attack rather than area bombing.

Wickenby's target was the airfield at Rheine-Hopsten, other squadrons were given other targets. Thirty one Lancasters, 19 from 12 Squadron, and 12 from 626 were detailed for this attack.

Because of the nature of the target, buildings, runways, etc. we carried 10,000 lbs of H.E., in the form of 20 x 500 lb bombs. This was a night attack and we took off at 2200 hours climbing to Mablethorpe, then across the North Sea to a point on the Dutch coast just north of The Hague and so to the target.

The weather en route was good with small amounts of cloud and the target area was clear with slight ground haze. The target marking was carried out by "Oboe" equipped Mosquitoes. Oboe was a modification of the GEE navigation system used for precision bombing and marking. As the allied armies moved across Europe they overran some of the Jamming stations so we were able to use our navigation aids further east. On this night I was able to get accurate GEE fixes all the way to the target. So as we approached the target and I advised the crew we were there the target markers appeared before us. They consisted of red TIs. We had already opened the bomb doors and Peter had fused the bombs so release was a simple matter.

We experienced a small amount of light flak in the target area and night fighters were active but we did not engage in any night fighter activity. The night was very dark so visual assessment of the attack was not possible but photo recce showed that the airfield sustained considerable damage. At least 75 craters were created including 45 on the main runway and 3 on the secondary with 13 on the taxi way. The airfield was out of commission for 48 hours which was the object of our exercise.

The glider troops landed at Arnhem the next day but their effort (and ours) was for nought as they were never able to link up with the main army, became over extended, and were either captured or killed. A costly mistake, it was made into a very successful film, called "A Bridge Too Far" after the war.

Two of 12 Squadron reported combat with night fighters but no damage and no casualties were sustained by Wickenby aircraft on this night. Nor indeed did Bomber Command lose any aircraft. We arrived back at Wickenby and landed after a flight of almost 4 hours. F/O Hollowell completed his first operation with his own crew on this night.

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We were now into our last 5 operations. The conventional wisdom among Bomber Command crews was that if you weren't shot down during your first 5 missions, when you were inexperienced, you would be during your last 5 when you became over confident. We hoped our last few would be against lightly defended targets. Some hope, as it turned out.

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Operation No. 27 Calais

The allied armies had now fanned out across Europe but had bypassed a number of strong points along the French and Belgian coasts where the opposition was very stiff. One such strong point was Calais and the area surrounding the city which was our target on September 20th. This was an operation which had previously been planned for the 21st but was brought forward to the 20th. The Bomber Command force consisted of 437 Lancasters, 169 Halifaxes and 40 Mosquitoes. Wickenby's contribution was 39 Lancasters of which 626 Squadron provided 20. We assembled at a point east of London and headed straight for the target in the afternoon, but conditions were very cloudy with poor visibility which improved a little as we crossed the channel. In the target area there were thin layers of stratus with tops about 4,000 feet.

We carried 15,000 lbs of 1,000 and 500 lb H.E. Target marking was by green TIs from H-5 and H-3 then red TIs bursting at 2,000 feet leaving a trail of white smoke. The Master Bomber called us down to 3,000 feet and we bombed from there against the TIs which were accurately placed on the aiming point. Our own troops were only some 2.000 yards away so accurate bombing was mandatory, and as there was no real opposition not too difficult.

One interesting aspect of this operation was revealed by photo recce - a gun casement which received several direct hits only suffered shallow depressions in it's roof. Reinforced concrete several feet thick required much more than 1,000 lb bombs to do any real damage.

There was no damage to any of Wickenby's aircraft but we did have great difficulty getting back on the ground when we arrived home, as the weather had deteriorated significantly while we were away. We landed at 1750 hours after almost 4 hours flying. Comber Command loss rate was 0.15% - one aircraft.

It was now some seven weeks since we had leave and the rule of thumb was every six weeks or so, so off we went for a few days vacation. Aldbourne looked about the same as it always did but Mary had increased her measurements somewhat. She was now about 3 weeks away from her due date and was pretty uncomfortable. Stan King was getting engaged on this leave and had invited us to attend the party at his parents home on the outskirts of London. My mother did not want us to go as she was worried Mary might give birth on the train or in a London taxi or somewhere. However, being young and impetuous we decided to take the chance, so off we went to London. We were to stay at the King home by invitation of Stan's parents but when the party was in full swing the air raid sirens went off and we all trooped to the air raid shelter in the basement of their home, and there we stayed. It was ironic that in spite of the raids the R.A.F. and U.S.A.F. had carried out against the V1 and V2 launching sites the Germans were still able, as late as September 1944, to submit London to harassing air raids.

As a result of their efforts we never did get to bed and the next day took the train back to Hungerford and the bus to Aldbourne.

The few days went all too quickly but now we only had 3 more operations to complete and I felt very confident of success.

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Operation No. 28 Westkapelle

At the beginning of October there was some uncertainty about who should be going where. For example – on October 1st 40 aircraft were to standby for a tactical target in Northern France. At 1415 the squadrons were stood down. Then at 1730 they were again placed on standby for an attack on Bergen, which was cancelled at 1845 hours. On October 2nd at 1100 hours the squadrons were stood down and at 1645 18 aircraft were ordered to standby for an operation against Westkapelle tomorrow. And so it was that on October 3rd we became part of a force of 252 Lancasters and 7 Mosquitoes detailed against tactical targets in north west Europe. The 18 Wickenby aircraft were equally divided between the squadrons.

As I have already mentioned the allied armies moved out from their bridgehead but bypassed the coastal ports and cities and "mopped up" later when they had been softened by the air forces. They now needed a major supply port in Belgium and Antwerp had been captured but it's approaches were still under German guns. The island of Walcheren dominates the sea approach and was well defended. So the idea was to breach the sea wall at Westkapelle, at the western tip of the island, and allow flood waters to overrun the German positions.

A "Dambuster" type raid but with ordinary high explosive bombs. We carried 12,500 lbs consisting of one 4,000 lb, 8 x 1,000 lb and one 500 lb H.E. We took off at noon, headed to Aldeburgh, near Ipswich, then straight across the North Sea to the target. There was a cloud layer right from base to target but the base was at 5,000 feet so we stayed below where visibility was good.

The target marking was by green TIs at H-5 backed up by red TIs. The pathfinders were punctual, their initial marking undershot slightly but it didn't matter as we could see the target clearly as we approached. There were some small puffy clouds below the main layer so to make absolutely certain we went as low as was safe. We dropped our bombs from 1,500 feet which is, in fact, below the safety height for a 4,000 pounder and we felt the compression hit the aircraft as it exploded. We climbed away from the target and as we turned for home could see we had made a hole in the sea wall and water was already pouring through.

The photo recce report stated that the original breach was enlarged to approximately 130 yards due to the corrosive action of water passing through. A vast area was inundated, with sea water at least 2 miles inland and to the boundaries of Middleburg and Flushing.

There was some flak activity in the target area, mostly from Flushing, but Wickenby aircraft did not experience any damage or casualties.

The squadron commander, who participated in this operation had an unusual experience when he came under what may have been a mock attack by two fighter aircraft believed to be Mustangs. His rear gunner fired a short burst which appeared to be sufficient to drive them off as they were not seen again.

We landed back at Wickenby after a flight of 2 hours 50 minutes.

Bomber Command did not lose any of it's aircraft in today's efforts.

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Operation No. 29 Saarbrucken

While the British and Canadian armies pushed north east through Belgium and Holland, the American Third Army was heading east into Germany and were now some 20 miles from Saarbrucken and the other industrial towns which we had previously attacked in this area. Our attack on Saarbrucken on October 5th was at the request of the advancing Americans.

Thirty-nine Lancasters from Wickenby were part of a force of 531 Lancasters and 20 Mosquitoes detailed against Saarbrucken. 626 Squadron supplied 19. This was, of course, a night operation and takeoff commenced at 1817 hours.

Our route took us to Gravesend, Beachy Head, south to the French coast then east to the target. We climbed through a layer of 10/10th cloud which persisted to about 6°E then gradually cleared so that the target had merely some thin broken cloud and ground haze. Our bomb load was one H.E., a 4,000 lb "Cookie" and 7,000 lb of incendiaries for a total of 11,000 lbs.

The target marking consisted of long strings of flares over the target at H-7 followed by salvoes of red and green TIs.

For some reason there were no searchlights in the target area. There was however a moderate, heavy flak barrage with explosions above 15,000 feet. There were also some enemy fighters active in the target area.

Because visibility was good we were able to see that the markers were accurate and good concentrated bombing ensued. Several large explosions were observed and smoke rose to 12,000 feet. The glow of the fires could be seen for 100 miles on the return journey. At 2036 hours the Master Bomber gave the code word to abandon the mission adding that allied troops were getting near the target. Our aircraft had not been furnished with the code word, consequently most crews bombed the target. Photo reconnaissance showed that the steel works of Vereinigte Huttenwerke had every large building damaged. The Luttgens Wagon Factory, the Maschinenbau A.G. and the Portland Cement Werke were severely damaged. The infantry Barracks, the Dragoon Barracks and the Artillery Barracks were all gutted.

On leaving the target area we headed north west and crossed the French coast near Calais. We returned to Wickenby only to find the airfield fogged in and were unable to land. This presented a major problem as most of the airfields in the Lincolnshire area were similarly fogged in and it was from this area that many of the 531 Lancasters originated. However, the operations people on the ground were able to find diversionary airfield which were open and everyone got down safely. We landed at Methwold in East Anglia and spent the night there returning to Wickenby the next day.

One of 626 Squadron aborted this mission. He got airborne but his starboard inner engine cut out over base so he had no alternative but to land again.

Two of Wickenby's aircraft sustained flak damage, one from each squadron and one from 626 had two encounters with fighters but did not sustain any damage. Wickenby did not lose any aircraft on this occasion but Bomber Command lost 3 for a loss rate of 0.54%.

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Operation No. 30 Emmerich

There are certain days, certain events which are imprinted indelibly on the mind. The declaration of war, the day you marry, the birth of your children, days of great joy or great expectations or great terror. Such a day was October 7th, 1944. The weather was fairly typical for early October in Lincolnshire – cloudy with occasional rain.

The airborne landings at Arnhem had failed and there were heavy concentrations of enemy troops in the area of Arnhem, Nijmegen, Emmerich and along the Rheine river. Wickenby's target was to be Emmerich and this was the first daylight attack on Germany from Wickenby.

Forty-two Lancasters were detailed as part of a Bomber command force of 340 Lancasters and 10 Mosquitoes. Each squadron provided 21 aircraft – a maximum effort. We carried one 4,000 lb H.E. and 2520 x 4 lb incendiaries in clusters for a total of 14,080 lbs. We climbed to rendezvous at Cromer, on the Norfolk coast then cross the North Sea to The Hague and so to the target.

We had climber through a 10/10ths layer of cloud and at our bombing height of 10-12,000 feet we were in bright sunshine above it. Three hundred and forty Lancasters in a huge gaggle all headed in the same direction, sun glinting on perspex cabins and turrets. As we approached the Dutch coast the cloud cleared and all that remained was a slight ground haze.

I had given Hicky the final course to the target and as we approached I was standing between he and Stan King and slightly behind so I could see ahead, all round and behind us. We were nicely in the middle of the stream. Peter Graves was prone in the bomb aimers position in the nose watching the target coming down the drift wires of his bomb site. The flak was intense (we later learned the Germans had turned their 88mm anti tank weapons skyward and the shells were exploding at our altitude) and we were on a straight and level bombing run. Peter's voice over the intercom "Steady, Steady, Bomb Doors Open". Hicky, "Bomb Doors Open". Ahead I can see the intensity of the exploding flak – an aircraft is hit and catches fire. As it loses height I see one – two – three parachutes drifting down but no more. Then another is hit, this time a part of the wing is blown off and the aircraft spirals down – again parachutes but not seven. I think – my God, we're next. After all this time – after dark cold nights in the skies over major German cities – after warm sunny afternoons against V1 launching ramps in France – after 29 operations we are going to get written off. "Left, Left – Steady". I look behind just in time to see a Lancaster right behind us take a direct hit and spin out of control. "Steady, Steady – Bombs gone – Bomb Doors Closed".

The aircraft leaps as the 14,080 lbs of bombs drop away – then – thud – we are hit. "Bomb Doors Closed". We climb and turn away from the target and check for damage. No one is hurt and everything seems to be O.K. so we head for home. We have survived – we've come through – a cheer goes up from the crew, all the pent up emotion is released.

The reports state that there was moderate to intense predicted heavy flak from 11-13,000 feet on the run up, through the target and for a few miles after leaving the target area. No enemy aircraft were seen. Fighter cover was provided by 11 Group.

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Mosquitoes marked the aiming point with green TIs at H – 5 and maintained the marking with red TIs. The marking was accurate and the Master Bomber instructed the main force to bomb the red TIs. Bombing was accurate and many fires were started with smoke drifting up to 12,000 feet.

Allied troops who were only 8 miles south west must have had a good view of the afternoons activities.

The flight home, though routine, was full of joy as we knew we would not be called upon to do this kind of thing again. We landed at Wickenby after 4 hours 15 minutes of flying.

Wickenby did not lose any aircraft on this operation, but 3 of 12 Squadron and 4 of 626 sustained varying amounts of flak damage. Our aircraft, A2, had the "port undercarriage holed by heavy flak in the target area".

After briefing I sent Mary a telegram to let her know I had completed my tour of operations then we took our ground crew out to the local pub to celebrate our joint success. These were the men who kept A2 serviceable for us and who repaired her when we brought her back damaged. A rip roaring good time was had by all.

[telegram]Brind Cherry Tree
Aldbourne [indecipherable word]
Tour completed love darling
Ken[/telegram]

The next day the 8th was Sunday so we could not proceed with our clearance until the 9th (Mary's 22nd Birthday) which we did with all despatch and headed for home and leave on 10th. Just as a matter of interest the weather on the 8th, 9th and 10th was cloudy with rain and drizzle and no operations were scheduled for either day.

I arrived at Aldbourne on October 10th and of course by now Mary is due to have her baby.

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On the morning of October 12th she started in labour, we were driven to Savernake Hospital by a lady of the W.V.S. (Women's Volunteer Service) and at 6 pm Keith John arrived. All in all a masterpiece of timing.

The crew went their several ways after we had finished our tour. The normal practice was to become an instructor at an O.T.U. or H.C.U. I went briefly to Wigtown, Scotland, accepted a commission, and managed to get a posting to Cardington, Bedford where I became O.C. Headquarters Unit and where Karol was born. Gillian, Janet and Rod were to come along later. Jack Saletto was commissioned and returned to his native Australia. Peter Graves, the policeman, transferred to the Provost Branch and went to Germany after the war was over as a member of the control commission. The others were demobbed at the end of the war. Hicky went home to pursue his career as a civil engineer. I heard later he had died in the 1960s of a heart attack. Stan King went home, married his sweetheart, had a family, worked in the printing industry and died on December 1st, 1982.

Bert Jones went home to Yorkshire where he married and had a family. He became an Assistant Executive Engineer with the post office and died in retirement on December 16th, 1989.

Casualties sustained by 626 Squadron and 12 Squadron from the operations in which our crew participated:- 626 lost 10 Lancasters with 43 crew members killed, 12 taken P.O.W. and 8 Interned (albeit briefly) in Sweden. 12 Squadron lost 11 Lancasters with 58 crew members killed and 19 taken P.O.W. And, of course, there were a number of occasions when aircraft arrived home with wounded crew on board, the one most vividly remembered was the injury to Bill Bursey on August 14th. Our aircraft was damaged by flak on 5 occasions and by one of our own once (the incendiary through the wing on August 29th) but we never came under attack by enemy fighters and our gunners never did have to fire their guns in our defence. At the conclusion of our operational tour F/L Hicks was awarded the D.F.C. and later I received the Belgian Croix de Guerre with Palme.

I had spent my 21st Birthday in hospital, I had lost my first crew, I had crewed up again and completed a tour of operations, I had gone home afterwards and taken Mary to hospital where she had given birth to Keith on October 12th and on October 17th I celebrated my 22nd Birthday. All in all an eventful year.

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ROYAUME DE BELGIQUE
[crest]
[italics] Le Ministredela Défense Nationale
a l'honneur de faire savoir [/italics] au

Flight Sergeant: Kenneth - John [underlined] B R I N D [//underlined],

que, par Arrêté de S.A.R.,le Prince Régent, du 16.1.1947,No 3424,

LA CROIX DE GUEERE 1940 AVEC PALME,
lui a été décernée,

"Pour le courage et la bravoure dont il a fait preuve dans les glorieuses batailles qui ont amené la libération de la Belgique."

[signature]

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The Wickenby Squadrons

Twelve Squadron moved from Binbrook to Wickenby on September 25th, 1942. It was and still is a permanent R.A.F. squadron with battle honours dating from World War I to the Gulf War.

Their first WWII operation from Wickenby was on September 26th 1942 when 6 Wellingtons laid mines in the Baltic Sea. One aircraft was lost.

The Wellingtons were replaced by Lancasters in November 1942. On November 7th, 1943 No. 626 Squadron was formed from "C" Flight of 12 Squadron. Their first operation was on November 10th. The last operation of 12 and 626 Squadrons from Wickenby was against Berchtesgaden on April 25th 1945.

Both squadrons played a prominent role in Bomber Command offensive, and suffered their proportion of the heavy losses, with 763 members of 12 Squadron and 317 members of 626 Squadron losing their lives on operations from Wickenby, a total of 1,080 Killed in Action.

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Bomber Command Statistics

Air Crew Casualties

Of the 125,000 who trained and served in Bomber Command there were 73,841 Air Crew Casualties:

47,268 Killed in Action
[underlined] 8,232 [/underlined] Killed in Accidents
55,500 Total Killed (44.4% of total)

9,938 Shot down and taken P.O.W.
[underlined] 8,403 [/underlined] Wounded
18,341 (14.6% of total)

[underlined] 73,841 [/underlined] Casualties (59% of total)

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Collection

Citation

KJ Brind, “A year in the Life,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed December 1, 2022, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/34661.

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