Category Archives: Second World War

16 MAY 1944 DID NEUTRAL SWEDEN KILL FLIGHT SGT DAY DFM?

Date: 10-MAY-1944
Time: 17:00
Type: Silhouette image of generic MOSQ model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
de Havilland Mosquito FB.Mk VI
Owner/operator: 418 (City of Edmonton) Sqn RCAF
Registration: MM421
C/n / msn:
Fatalities: Fatalities: 1 / Occupants: 2
Airplane damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location: sea 3 mile S of Ystad –   Sweden
Phase: En route
Nature: Military
Departure airport: RAF Coltishall
Destination airport:

Narrative:
MM421 – Missing from night intruder to Greifiswald 10.5.44
Public Record Office WO 208/3320 had his MI.9 report; he had left Stockholm on 16 June 1944, arrived in Britain 17 June 1944 and was interviewed on 18 June 1944.
“I was captain and first pilot of a Mosquito aircraft which took off from Coltishall on 16 May 1944 at about 1300 hours on a Day Ranger operation across Denmark, and covering German aerodromes on the Baltic. When approximately over Rostock we were hit by flak at about 1530 hours. One engine was rendered completely unserviceable, and the fuselage was badly damaged.

“It was obvious that we would not be able to reach base, so I took the only alternative of attempting to get to Sweden.
“When over Ystad we were fired on by flak, although it was obvious that we were in distress. This compelled me to fly out to sea again. I ditched outside the three-mile limit, exactly south of Ystad at about 1700 hours. The aircraft broke up badly, but we both got out safely. The water was so cold that I just managed to inflate my dinghy and got into it before becoming unconscious. When last seen my navigator was trying to get his dinghy inflated. When I came to about half an hour later there was no sign of him.
“I was picked up by a Swedish fishing boat, which also found my navigator’s body. I was taken ashore and to a hospital in Ystad. I was there till 22 May. On the second day a member of the British Legation at Malmo came to see me. On 22 May I was taken to the internment camp at Falun. After a trip to Stockholm to report the details of our accident to the authorities. I returned to Falun whilst negotiations were being carried out with the Swedes for my repatriation.
“At no time was any interrogation pressed on me, and I was treated with great consideration. On 11 June I was taken down to Stockholm and repatriated on 16 June.”
Crew:
W/Cdr (J/5756) Howard Douglas CLEVELAND DFC (pilot) RCAF injured
F/Sgt (1503804) Frank DAY DFM (nav.) killed.

Sources:
http://www.airhistory.org.uk/dh/_DH98%20prodn%20list.txt
http://www.rafcommands.com/forum/showthread.php?3359-Crash-location-418-Sqdn-RCAF-Mosquito-MM421-May-44/page2

12 May 1944 – The 8th AF Takes on the Oil Targets

Lutzpage-10
Lutzkendorf under air attack May 1944

EUROPEAN THEATER OF OPERATIONS (ETO)

(Eighth Air Force): Mission 353: 886 bombers and 735
fighters were dispatched to hit synthetic oil production facilities in Germany and Czechoslovakia; there was strong Luftwaffe fighter reaction and 46 bombers and 7 fighters were lost:

1. 326 B-17s were dispatched to Mersenburg (224 bomb) and Lutzkendorf (87 bomb); 1 hit Hedrongen and 1 bombed Bullstadt; 2 B-17s were lost, 3 damaged beyond repair and 189 damaged; 4 airmen were KIA, 6 WIA and 20 MIA.

2. 295 B-17s were dispatched to Brux, Czechoslovakia (140 bomb) and Zwickau(74 bomb); 11 hit Chemnitz, 14 hit Gera marshalling yard, 15 hit Hof and 4 hit targets of opportunity; 41 B-17s are lost, 1 was damaged beyond repair and 162 damaged; 3 airmen were KIA, 8 WIA and 377 MIA.

3. 265 B-24s were dispatched to Zeitz (116 bomb) and Bohlen (99 bomb); 14 hit Mersenburg, 1 hit Ostend Airfield, Belgium and 12 hit targets of opportunity; 3 B-24sweare lost, 5 damaged beyond repair and 61 damaged; 7 airmen were WIA and 33 MIA.

The Escort was provided by 153 P-38s, 201 P-47s and 381 P-51s; P-38s claim 2-0-0  Luftwaffe aircraft, P-47s claim 26-0-8 and P-51s claim 33-0-3 in the air and 5-0-2 on the ground; 4 P-47s and 3 P-51s were lost and 4 P-47s and 9 P-51s were damaged; 7 pilots are MIA.

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Flak over Lutzkendorf May 1944

About 800 bombers of the US 8th Air Force, with a substantial fighter escort, attack synthetic oil plants at Leuna-Merseburg, Bohlen, Zeitz, Lutzkendorf and Brux (northwest of Prague). The Americans claimed to shoot down 150 German fighters and reported losses of 46 bombers and 10 fighters.  (From Chronology of the USAAF) 

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Lutzkendorf Oil Refinery late 1944 showing bomb damage.

Mission 353 was the first trial raid on oil targets to test the claim that the Luftwaffe would defend oil targets in Germany more than they had defended transportation targets.  RLV fighters put up their largest force ever, but five synthetic oil plants were successfully attacked.   This has been argued as part of the attrition battles which reduced the capability of the Luftwaffe to intervene in the Normandy Landings.

457 BG Mission Board may 1944

457 BG Mission Board may 1944.  Lutzkendorf is the forth mission on the board

One of the units participating in the attack was tyhe 457th Bombardment Group.    Their website has an account of the day  here 

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457th BG B17 returning from a mission to France 1944

The long awaited blitz on the German synthetic oil refineries occasioned the largest air raid the Eighth Air Force had yet undertaken. The 45 7th furnished the lead and low boxes for the 94th B Combat Wing for the assault on Lutzkendorf, producer of 30,000 tons of petrol and diesel oil annually. The target was six miles west of Merseburg. Major Fred A. Spencer flew as Air Commander of the B lead box with Lt. Jerry Godfrey flying as pilot. Captain Jacob M. Dickinson led the B low box, with Lt. Clarence E. Schuchmann as pilot.

The weather was CAVU, but ground haze and smoke Obscured visibility. Bombing results were fair. No enemy fighter opposition was encountered, and flak was moderate but accurate. Eleven craft sustained damage.

B17_kg200
This B17 was flown by KG200, but there is no evidence from the German side that these ever flown in the same air space as US bombers, due to the risk to the air crew from German fighters or AA guns. The stories of German operated B17s by 8th AF crews may mask cases of friendly fire.

On the return trip to the base, a German operated B-17 joined the formation near Coblenz and continued with the formation to Brussels. Also, the craft piloted by Lt. John Akers encountered engine trouble. His plane began to lag behind the formation and was last seen near Eisenach on the trip back to England. With only one engine providing power and flying at 1,500 feet altitude, the crew bailed out over Belgium and all were taken as POWs. Because of the seriousness of his injuries, Lt. Akers was later involved in a prisoner of war exchange through the International Red Cross and returned to the States. He was hospitalized until May 1946, when he was discharged.

Although the 457th’s crews saw no enemy fighters, wings of the 3rd Division met severe attacks, causing the loss of thirty- two bombers. It was reported the Luftwaffe pilots resorted to ramming the B.-17s. Total losses for the Eighth amounted to forty-two craft.

RAF_Glatton_-_Control_Tower
Control Tower RAF Glatton 1945

The mission was the first of many to be directed against the synthetic oil refineries.

Meanwhile, on the Base, a lack of military courtesy by members of the command was noted. As a consequence, classes were conducted for all personnel reported for having failed to salute. The course consisted of two one-hour lectures on military customs and courtesies. The crew of Lt John Akers was lost on this date

Glatton_Water_Tower_Memorial
Memorial Plaque Peterborough Airport

The 457th Bombardment Group were based at RAF Glatton about ten miles North of Huntingdon.   This is now Peterborough Airport.  The Water Tower is about the only surviving Ww2 structure.  

If you would like to find out more about the stories of the raids on Germany and where to see the heritage in Britain contact British Battlefields.

13 MAY 1944 RAF BOMBER COMMAND RAID ON LOUVAIN/ LEUVEN

Lanc3
Aircraft of 419 Sqn RCAF line up

12/13 May 1944
Louvain: 120 aircraft – 96 Halifaxes, 20 Lancasters, 4 Mosquitos – of 6 and 8   Groups.3 Halifaxes and 2 Lancasters lost. The bombing was more accurate than on the previous night and considerable damage was caused in the railways yards.

One the same night the RAF also bombed Hasselt, ineffectively and carried out mining and intruder operations.  The total  effort for the night: 355 sorties, 14 aircraft (3.9 per cent) lost.  This appears to be the Bomber command war diary entry (whatever happened to the  Day by Day Bomber Command  Dairy entries?) pages? 

This was the second night in succession that Bomber Command had raided Leuven (knonw by Francophone Wallons as Louvain) On the night 11-12th the results had not been satiusfactory wioth the bombing scattered and little evidence of damage to the rail infrastructure. On The raid which started shortly after midnight on 13th May caused the following damage.

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Bomb Damage in Leuven.

 474 buildings in Leuven were completely destroyed, including a university building, three churches, two schools, thirty-seven factories, two buildings of city and a monastery. No less than 1300 buildings were severely damaged, including five university buildings, a church, four monasteries, eight factories and six public buildings (including the Palace of Justice and the Little Prison). A thousand buildings were slightly damaged.   In the parish of Wilsele 183 buildings were completely destroyed, 280 severely damaged buildings and 150 mildly affected panden.Te Herent 14 buildings were completely destroyed, 58 severely damaged and 80 slightly damaged. All bombing in 1944 together accounted

Damaged buildings in Leuven
Damaged buildings in Leuven

for the destruction of 634 homes and become uninhabitable for 1,166 homes on a total housing stock of 4,223 homes, about 25%. A large part of Blauwput had disappeared. The 15th century Chapel Blauwput was badly damaged as the Parish Church.

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Air Vice Marshal Sir Arthur Tedder

The Allied Commanders responsible for planning D Day were keen to use the strategic bombers of  Bomber Command and the 8th Air Force against targets which would delay rthe rate at which allied reinforcements could reach the Normandy battlefield.  These attacks would need to take place across Belgium and Northern France to conceal the site of the landings.  British Airman Arthur Tedder was Eisenhower’;s Deputy and credited with leading the transportation plan.  There were two obstacles in persuading the allies to adopt this plan.  Firstly he had to overcome the resistance of the commanders of the strategic air forces to switch from the targets they considered important,  Secondly, Churchill needed to be persuaded that the results would justify the casualties among the allied populations.

Churchill anguished about giving an order which would kill Belgians and Frenchmen.   Churchill made many decisions during the war which would result in the loss of lives which were to  some degree or other “innocent”.  He ordered the Royal Navy to sink the French Fleet in 1940, and the aerial bombing of German cities, containing civilians and foreign workers.  The decisions to bomb key points on the railway  system in Belgium and France bothered him more than most.  Alanbrooke’s diary entry for 5th April mentions “At 10.30, had to attend one of those awful  evening meetings with the PM.  We were kept up till 12.45 a,m. discussing use  heavy bombers to support the invasion. he is opposed to Tedder’s plan”.

The rais d was carried out by No 6 Group with aircraft from 419, 420, 425, 426, 427, 429, 431 and 432 Sqns RCAF.  Five heavy bombers were lost on this raid, two in the route in and one of the return.  One was shot down by flak and four by night fighters, at least three of these were by “Experten” Major Martin Dawes.

05F58694_5056_A318_A8AA986A005F58DF
419 Squadron Lancaster Bomber markings

419 RCAF appear to have the heaviest losses, losing two aircraft and 13 men dead.

Louvain May 12/13th 1944
Takeing off at 2155 and heading out to the target the crew and aircraft were shot down near Sint-Genesius-Rode which was 12 km S of Brussels. None of this very experienced crew survived. 
VR-W KB710
P/O H I Smith Pilot 22nd sortie 
F/O J Moore Navigator
F/O W R Finlayson Bomb Aimer
F/O W W Price Wireless Op.
Sgt. R Bull Field Engineer
Sgt. J C O’Connell Upper Gunner
Sgt. S G Livingstone Rear Gunner
VR-W ‘s crew was a very experienced one with many of them at the 16 operation mark. The Wireless Operator F/O Smith having a total of 22 trips. 
And
The crew of VR-X had P/O Edwards and F/O Campbell who were a quarter of a way through their tours while the other airmen were on their second or third operation. 
VR-X KB713 
P/O B F Edwards Pilot on his 8th sortie
F/O R R Campbell Navigator
F/S P Dewar Bomb Aimer
F/S R S Smith Wireless Op.
Sgt. J R Carruthers Flight Engineer
P/O J A Webber Upper Gunner
P/O H E Oddan Rear Gunner

419 Sqn RCAF were based at RAf Middleston St George.  This is now Teeside Airport. Photos here 

Leuven was rebuilt and its name appears on every can or bottle of Stella Artois beer, which is brewed there.

No one will know whether the Battle of Normandy would have been D Day invasion would have succeeded without the bombing campaign. The civilian and air force losses  are as much a part of the campaign as that of any infantryman storming ashore.

5 May 1943 – A Turning Point in the Battle of the Atlantic

SS Harperely, sunk by U 264 on the night 4-5 May 1943
SS Harperely, sunk by U 264 on the night 4-5 May 1943, her master was Captain J E Turgoose

“Both torpedoes struck almost simultaneously on the port side, the first one in the vicinity of the engine-room, whilst the 2nd torpedo struck in the way of the fore-mast. The explosion was not very violent, and appeared to be more of a dull thud. I did not notice a flash, neither was there a column of water thrown up, although I later learned from survivors of another vessel that they saw a big flash. Neither the submarine, nor the track of the torpedoes was observed.  I was in the wheel-house at the time, and was surprised to find that apparently there was practically no visible damage. Even the glass windows of the wheel-house were unbroken, the only visible damage being that one of the port boats was destroyed and No. 4 raft had carried away. The ship listed very heavily to port, submerging the holes in ship’s side, thus making it impossible to see the extent of the damage.    Owing to the heavy list I ordered “abandon ship”. A W/T message was sent out, and the rockets fired, one of which failed to function. I endeavoured to ring the engine-room telegraph but found that it was jammed, although the engines must have stopped when the first torpedo struck as it was the first”  Extract from the Master’s Report on the loss of SS Harperley 4-5 May 1943

On the 5th May 1943  Slow Outbound Convoy Convoy ONS 5, outbound from Liverpool to Halifax lost eleven merchant ships to U Boat attack in a force 6 seas in the mid Atlantic.  The Battle of the Atlantic was the most important naval campaign waged by Britain in WW2 and the only matter which Winston Churchill said kept him awake at night

By the time the week long voyage n the course of a week, ONS 5 had been the subject of attacks by a force of over 40 U-boats. With the loss of 13 ships totalling 63,000 tons, the escorts had inflicted the loss of 6 U-boats, and serious damage on 7 more.

This battle demonstrated that the convoy escorts had mastered the art of convoy protection; the weapons and expertise at their disposal meant that henceforth they would be able not only to protect their charges and repel attack, but also to inflict significant losses on the attacker.

U264
U264, a type VII C U Boat. The SS Harperley was one of three ships sunk by this U Boat. over two years. She was sunk by depth charges dropped by the British sloops HMS Woodpecker and HMS Starling on 19 February 1944. There were no deaths, fifty-two men survived.

ONS 5 marked the turning point in the battle of the Atlantic. Following this action, the Allies inflicted a series of defeats and heavy losses on the U-boat Arm, a period known as Black May. This culminated in Dönitz withdrawing his forces from the North Atlantic arena.

The official historian, Stephen Roskill commented: “This seven day battle, fought against thirty U-boats, is marked only by latitude and longitude, and has no name by which it will be remembered; but it was, in its own way, as decisive as Quiberon Bay or the Nile”(1)

More on the battle here 

The ships lost on 5th May are shown in the following table from the U Boat Net. 

5 May 1943 U-264  Hartwig Looks Harperley 4.586  br
5 May 1943 U-264  Hartwig Looks West Maximus 5.561  am
5 May 1943 U-266  Ralf von Jessen Bonde 1.570  nw
5 May 1943 U-266  Ralf von Jessen Gharinda 5.306  br
5 May 1943 U-266  Ralf von Jessen Selvistan 5.136  br
5 May 1943 U-358  Rolf Manke Bristol City 2.864  br
5 May 1943 U-358  Rolf Manke Wentworth 5.212  br
5 May 1943 U-584  Joachim Deecke West Madaket S 5.565  am
5 May 1943 U-628  Heinrich Hasenschar Harbury 5.081  br
5 May 1943 U-638  Oskar Staudinger Dolius 5.507  br
5 May 1943 U-707  Günter Gretschel North Britain S 4.635  br

Although the battle has no name or location other than a track over points of latitude  and longitude, there are places to see the U Boat war in Britain.

It is possible to see a U Boat in Birkenhead on Merseyside. This is a type XI larger than the type VII Uboats used by the German wolf packs against ONS 5.

U boat conningtower
U 534 preserved in Birkinhead

The Western Approaches control room in Liverpool is where the Atlantic war was fought.

The  Commonwealth War Grave Commission lists 736 fatalities on 4-5 May 1943, a time when there were operations on  land in Burma and Tunisia  and in the air over Germany. Of these 114 were lost at sea, most oif them in the battle for ONS-5

The merchant marine sailors who lost their lives on ONS 5  are recorded on the Tower Hill memorial to the missing.    The Royal Artillery and Royal Navy Gunners are listed on the Chatham , Portsmouth and Plymouth Memorials.

Unknownsailor
Tower Hill Merchant Marine Memorial

If you would like to visit any of the places associated with this battle contact British Battlefields

3-4 May 1944.The Raid on Mailly-Le-Camp:- No Milk Run

“We were circling this flare for approximately half a hour and becoming increasingly worried as it appeared impossible to receive any radio instructions due to an American Forces Broadcasting Station blasting away. I remember only too well the tune, “Deep in the heart of Texas”, followed by hand clapping and noise like a party going on. Other garbled talk was in the background but drowned by the music.

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Memorial at Mailly-le-Camp Cemetery, France

Whilst this noise was taking place I was suddenly aware from my position that several Lancasters were going down in flames, about five aircraft and the fire in  each was along the leading edge of the main plane. I saw some of the planes impact  on the ground with the usual dull red glow after the initial crash.  My job was to keep my eyes open for enemy aircraft so I did not dwell for more  than fleeting seconds on those shot down planes.
Account by Sgt Eeles 49 Sqn

Pz  VI B  "King Tiger" Tanks training at Mailly -le-Camp
Pz VI B “King Tiger” Tanks training at Mailly -le-Camp

On 3–4 May 1944, during the German occupation of France, the town was subject to a heavy Allied bombing. During preparations for the Normandy invasion (Operation Overlord), 346 British Avro Lancasters and 14 de Havilland Mosquitoes of RAF Bomber Command attacked the German military camp situated near the village of Mailly-le-Camp. Mailly-le -Camp was a French military training area used by the germans for training their armoured Troops and the raid was an attempt to hinder the Germans preparing their reserved for the forthcoming invasion. .

35ceivo
German PZ Mk V Panther Tank unloading at Mailly-le -Camp, presumably aftert the raid, from the damage to the station buildings.

Generally missions to targets in France rather than Germany were seen by the RAF as easy missions, and did not always count towards the number of operational sorties in a Bomber crew’s tour of duty. There were far fewer German night fighter and AA defences than over German cities, and the shorter routs gave the defenders less time in which to inflict casualties.

Although the target was accurately marked, communications difficulties led to a delay in the Main Force attack, during which Luftwaffe fighters intercepted the force. Subsequently, 1500 tons of bombs were dropped on the camp, causing considerable damage to the weapons and equipment held there and heavy casualties ot the Germans in the camp. No French civilians were killed in the bombing, although there were a small number of casualties when one of the Lancasters shot down crashed on a house.

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Bomb flash photograph from the Raid 3-4 May 1944

42 Lancasters – some 11.6% of the attacking force – were shot down – accounting for approx 300 personnel. Losses of 10% were regarded as unsustainable by Bomber Command. The losses on the 3-4th May were proportionately as bad as some of the raids on Berlin or the Ruhr.

The Commonwealth War Graves records show 356 RAF war dead on the 3rd and 4th May worldwide. Of these 299 are in France or on the Runnymede memorial. Mostly men in their early 20s. There were eighteen teenagers, including 18 year old Sgt Raymond Dance,(207 Sqn) from Benson Oxfordshire The two oldest, aged 36 were Sgt James Ellis (550 Sqn) and Sgt John MacDougall (431 Sqn ) from Canada.

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Before and after photogralhs showing damage to the barracks at Mailly-le-Camp

Thirty five men are listed as serving with 101 Squadron RAF,. (Though the RAF web site says that only 32 men were lost in four Lancaster Bombers) The RAF website entry also comments “101 Squadron flewon more raids than any other bomber Squadron during the bomber campaign and suffered the highest casualties, losing 1176 aircrew” It is sobering to consider that even at its largest establishment the squadron;might have had no more than 200 aircrew on its establishment.

The wikipedia Entry for this unit says “ 101 Squadron Lancasters were later equipped with a top secret radio jamming system codenamed “Airborne Cigar” (ABC) operated by an eighth crew member who could understand German, some with German or Jewish backgrounds known as “special operators” commonly abbreviated to “spec ops” or “SO”. They sat in a curtained off area towards the rear of the aircraft and located and jammed German fighter controllers broadcasts, occasionally posing as controllers to spread disinformation. The aircraft fitted with the system were distinctive due to the two large vertical antennae rising from the middle of the fuselage. Deliberately breaking the standing operating procedure of radio silence to conduct the jamming made the aircraft highly vulnerable to being tracked and attacked, which resulted in 101 Squadron having the highest casualty rate of any RAF squadron.” They certainly did over Mailly le Camp

800px-Lancaster_I_NG128_Dropping_Load_-_Duisburg_-_Oct_14_-_1944
A 101 Sqn Lancaster bombing on daylight raid on Duisburg, later in the war.

101 Sqn were based in RAF Ludford Magna. A stone memorial tothe Squadron’s dead, unveiled on the village green in July 1978, permanently marks its residency. Ludford Magna is twinned with the French Village of Voue whose churchyard is the burial place of nine men who died in the early hours of 4th May 1944. There is a emmorial to 101 Sqn in Ludford Magna. Although the airfield has been nretutrned to farmland it is possible to see the perimeter track.

Looking_towards_Harpgates_Plantation_-_geograph.org.uk_-_201014
RAF Ludford Magna airfield today, with the remains of the perimeter track still visible

3 MAY 1944 TARGET #78 WIZERNES NO BALL

C10/V-2The war in the West was a race between the Allies and the Germans. Could the Allies mount D Day before the Germans had perfected a new generation of weapons which would terrorise Britain into submission. The German revenge weapons included the Fi 176 cruise missile, (the V1 flying bom), the A4 surface to surface ballistic missile (the V2) and a very long range gun, the V3.

Mimoyecques-Eperlecques-Wizernes_map
Map showing the location of Wizernes and two other V Weapon sites in the Pas de Calais

Ever since the allies became aware of the existence of these weapons the Allied air forces had mounted a bombing campaign against the structures that the Germans were building to house these weapons. This campaign cost the allies 1,900 aircrew, a comparable number of fatalities to those lost on D Day.

Wizernes_site_octagon
1944 conjectre about the use of the Wizernes Site

On 3rd May 1944 the 8th USAAF Target was the the huge bunker at d’Helfaut-Wizernes, northern France. This vast structure was intended as a hardened launch centre for V2 and built with slave labour. This air raid was one of sixteen carried out by the allies air forces between march and the end of July 1944. 47 B24 Bombers of the 392nd Bombardment Group of the USAAF would drop 180 x 2000 lb bombs.

Briefing for crews was held between 0930-1000 hours. The mission was to be GH ship led with (22) aircraft carrying 2000# GP bombs. Despite fairly good visual bombing weather over the target with 3/lOths – 5/lOths cloud cover, bombing was poor with only a few hits in the target area of the (80) weapons released. While no enemy fighters were sighted, flak over the target was intense and accurate causing damage to (14) aircraft and wounding some crewmembers. No aircraft were lost and the mission recovered at base around 1740 hours after a 4 1/2 hour mission.http://www.b24.net/missions/MM050344.htm

B-24Bombs
B-24 Bomber being loaded with 2,000 lb bombs

The bombing by bombs of up to a ton in weight made no impact on the concrete dome, but wrecked the un-armoured facilites above ground, including the rail connections.

The bunker would be abandoned after a raid by 617 Sqn RAF :Lancasters and a on 17th July using six ton Tallboy bombs. Three of these exploded next to the tunnels, one burst just under the dome, and another burst in the mouth of one tunnel. The whole hillside collapsed, undermining the dome support, and covering up the two rocket vertical entry ways. The Germans abandoned the site in late July 1944.

Wizernes_low_level_6_July_1944
Photograph taken by a low flying RAF aircraft on 6th July 1944, before the raid by 617 Sqn RAF.

According the the French Records, the ultimate fate of the 1,100 Russian slave labourers who worked site is not known.

The Bunker complex is now a museum, easily accessible from Calais and a day trip from the SE of England. Although the Germans never used the site for its intended purpose, the sheer scale of the building , the conditions under which it was built and its sinister purpose make it a thought provoking place. It is part of the V weapon story and the defeat of the V weapon bombardment of London. The story of the aerial campaign waged by the RAF and USAAF against the V weapon sites deserves to be better known.

La Cupole Visitor Centre site

USAAF Official History – Chapter on Operation Crossbow

392 BG website

2 May – 70th Anniversary of the Largest Exercise ever staged in the UK

Troops_coming_ashore_from_landing_ships_during_an_invasion_exercise_in_Britain,_5_May_1944._H38213
Troops coming ashore landing from Landing ships during an invasion exercise in Britain 5 May 1944

Exercise Fabius 2-7 May 1944  was, arguably, the largest training exercise to take place in the UK.  It would be the final rehearsal for Operation Overlord .  It was a rehearsal of the landings on the four invasion beaches in the Normandy coast between the rivers Orne and Dives; ( Sword, Juno, Gold and Omaha beaches) .

Utah beach,  geographically separated from the other four beaches was considered a separate assault from  naval point of view. The rehearsal for the landing on Utah Beach was Exercise Tiger and took place on  26-30 April on Slapton Sands in Devon.

Ex Fabius  allowed participants the chance to rehearse under conditions as close as possible to those they would face.  It also allowed the ports to practice supporting a large scale landing.   This was a dress rehearsal with the landing forces approaching the beaches behind mine sweepers and landing craft lowered ten miles off shore.  The landings were accompanied by live firing from ships.

Men_of_6th_Battalion_the_Green_Howards_receive_48-hour_ration_packs_before_embarking_onto_landing_ships_during_Exercise_Fabius_5_May_1944._H38222
Men of 6th Battalion the Green Howards receive 48-hour ration packs before embarking onto landing ships during Exercise Fabius 5 May 1944. IWM H38222 These men will land on Gold beach a month later.

The assault troops for each of the D Day beaches would practice landing on a stretch of coast with a similar configuration to that they would face on D Day.   The exercise was too close to D Day for any  further experimentation or changes to the plan.  Some units would not return to their previous accommodation, but instread to their assault assembly area.

3rd British Infantry Division was assigned to assault Sword beach with the town of Ouistrhem and the River Orne on their left flank and the city of Caen as its objective.  On Exercise Fabius it landed near Littlehampton with the  River Arun on its Left and Arundel its objective.

beach_looking_west
On 5th May Hayling Island would substitute for Gold Beach.

Robin Dunn, who was Battery Commander  of 16 Battery of 7 Field Regiment claimed post war that there were problems which were identified and if put right would have  enabled the allies to do better on D Day.

” While at Bolney we had our final rehearsal of the invasion on the south coast near Arundel……..We had a new divisional commander, Tom Rennie, who had commanded  a brigade of 5lst Highland Division with distinction in 8th Army and had a high reputation. The commander of 185th Brigade was Brigadier K. R Smith, who had been with the brigade for some time and had so far in the war seen no action. He  was a good trainer of troops who had worked us hard during our training in Scotland. But he did not fully accept the role of the brigade in the divisional plan. We had  heard that 21st Panzer Division had been identified as having recently arrived about thirty miles inland of our landing beach. The presence of this division became a fixation in K.P.’s mind. He was haunted by the idea that, if 185th Brigade pushed too boldly inland, 2lst Panzer would come round our right flank, which was in open country and cut us off from the beaches. There was wooded country on the left and  KP. wished to infiltrate his infantry through the woods beside the river and approach the objective in that way along the divisional left flank. During our final rehearsal  he attempted this manoeuvre, which involved keeping one battalion on our original thrust line and passing the other two round their left flank in a wide turning movement. The result was chaos. The battalions became separated from one another  and the Brigadier lost communication with the flanking force which lost all momentum. I was at brigade HQ when Tom Rennie arrived and said wearily, ‘You won’t let this happen on the day will you KP?  It would have been better, even at that late stage, if he had sacked KP. on the spot.”  Robn Dunn   Sword and Wig.

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Littlehampton, the stand in for Ouestsrhem on the dress rehearsal for D Day

Although many fewer than on Ex Tiger, there were casualties on Exercise Fabius. On the Morning of 4 May twin engine fighter bomber aircraft of Coastal Command attached Allied motor boats inflicting many casualties.  Possibly the German attack on Ex Tiger had made the airmen a little trigger happy.

Places associated with the story of the training and rehearsals for D day can be found across Britain, from the sections of Atlantic Wall built in Scotland to the beaches which stood in for the Norman Coast.

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28 April 1944 – The Battle of Slapton Sands

US Forces rehearsing on Slapton Sands
US Forces rehearsing on Slapton Sands

Shortly after midnight on  28 April 1944 a German torpedo Boat flotilla ran into a convoy of landing ships containing US troops practicing for  D- Day.    Within a few minutes two tank landing ships were sinking and 749 soldiers dead.  The tragedy of Slapton Sands is commemoraterd by a monument, an M4 tank recovered from the sea.

More on the wikipedia article 

Pictures of the wrecks off the coast here

There are memorials on Slapton Sands. If you are interested in visiting Slapton Sands or seeing the places where the Allied armies rehearsed D Day contact British Battlefields.

 

 

 

29 April 1944 Raid #71 A Film Star at Old Buckenham

Old Buckenham Airfield Control Tower
Old Buckenham Airfield Control Tower  http://www.controltowers.co.uk/O/Old%20_Buckenham.htm
Operations Officers James Stewart on the Control Tower
Operations Officers James Stewart on the Control Tower

The Big “B”-Berlin! On the morning of April 29, 1944, Group Operations Officer, Jimmy Stewart, called out the German capital as the mission target for the day. Cold chills ran down the backs of many of the airmen of the 12 crews the 453rd was sending out. Bravado may have led some to applaud, but, among the group assembled for briefing, a number had “been there, done that” early in March. Doolittle had put his bombers over Berlin for the very first time in the war on March 6-and the Germans took out 69 of his bombers and 11 fighters! It was the greatest single loss of any air-raid of the war. The 453rd sent out 24 planes and lost four.

Among the 12 crews at the briefing on this morning was that of Lt. Richard C. Holman. The 453rd Unit History, page 21, records, “On the March 6 mission Holman had two engines put out by flak over the heart of Berlin. Attempts to tag on to passing formations failed, so Holman dropped to the cloud level, chased by six or seven FW 190s. With only top turret and waist guns in operation, the crew accounted for two and.possibly three of the enemy aircraft. Evading the attackers, the crew ran into flak over Amsterdam. Lt. Holman put the crippled Lib through violent evasive action, finally reaching the Channel. Desperately short of fuel, the crew tossed overboard guns, ammunition boxes, flying equipment, and all other equipment that could be detached. Despite serious damage by flak and 20 mm cannon shells, the ‘two-engined’ bomber brought Lt. Holman and his crew home!” This was one of those great ships that refused to die. Surely, the Holman bunch would have preferred to sit out the April 29 mission!

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The raid on the 29th April was the fifth bombing mission sent against Berlin.. The earlier missions were flown on the  6, 8, 9 and 22nd of March. The total number of bombers dispatched was 2,567—an average of 642 per mission. 69 planes and crews were lost on the first mission—the greatest loss on any single raid during the entire war. Total losses in the four raids were 126.

On April 29, the Eighth dispatched 679 planes. The plan was to make a disruptive raid on the German civilian population by striking several targets within the city. There was trouble from the start. The 3rd Air Division, flying 218 B-17 Fortresses, led the mission. Its formation was faulty and upon penetration of enemy airspace, it was so dispersed that fighter escort had difficulty providing coverage. Because of faulty navigation, one wing of B-17s wandered 40 miles off the briefed course, and lost 17 Fortresses. Other groups of the 3rd Air Division suffered losses as well. Total losses for the 3rd Division were 28 ships and crews. In contrast, the 1st Air Division’s 228 ships had tight formation, good escort by the “Little Friends”, and lost only ten ships.

The 2nd Air Division was assigned a target chosen for the adverse effect it would have on German morale and to impede their war effort by striking a principal artery of transportation. The 233 aircraft of the 2nd Air Division, among which were the planes and crews of the 453rd, were to carry out a raid on the Friedrichstrasse Bahnhof, center of the main-line and underground railway system in Berlin. But, like the 3rd Air Division, their formation and departure were not on time as briefed. They failed the test of being “on time and on target.” They were in trail of the 3rd and 1st Air Divisions, but flying thirty minutes behind schedule. The Jagdverbande, finding the 2nd Air Division last, struck in force. A single Mustang Group was their only protection when they left Celle airspace and it had to leave due to fuel requirements, just after the B-24s completed their bomb run. “Little Friends,” this time P-47 Thunderbolts, reappeared as the bombers were on their return flight, but German fighter ground controllers seized the opportunity and put up over 100 fighters to the Hanover area to intercept them. The B-24 armada gave up 25 ships with 246 airmen MIA.

The 453rd Unit History contains the following account, “After a day of rest, the 453rd dispatched 12 planes for Berlin. The flak was terrific and retorting crews reported savage encounters with the Luftwaffe which was up in force in a vain attempt to protect the very heart of the Reich. Despite enemy action and undercast, results were thought to be good. Lt Col. Sears, Commanding Officer of the 735th Squadron was Air Commander, flying with the lead PFF ship when that ship was seen to be hit and fall out of formation. Lt. Tye of the 734th and his crew were also lost. Lt Davison ditched his ship and he and his crew, with the exception of tail gunner Harold G. Oakes were fished out of the channel by the ever-alert Air-Sea Rescue Squads.” Read more “Always out Front”  The Bradley Story. 

In April the Eighth lost 512 aircraft-fighters and bombers. Of that number, 361 were heavy bombers carrying nearly 3600 airmen MIA.  By comparison the Allied forces on D Day lost around the same number of fatalities.

   

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“We were at the IP and on the bomb run at about 24,000 to 25,000 feet altitude. I was in the nose turret and released the bomb load from that position. The German defenders were throwing a lot of flak at us-a carpet of black flak burst all around us! I only recall holding on and praying for a fast ride away from that place. Courage, or lack of it, didn’t matter then—it was just ‘make it or not make it’ Recollections of Herbert A. Bradley, Jr.

Old Buckenham is a working airfield which holds a range of heritage events. http://www.oldbuck.com/en/home/

http://oldbuckenham.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/moving-remembrace-at-old-buckenham.html

24 April 1944 Two B24 aircraft from the 392 BG did not return to RAF Wendling

 

Control Tower Wendling 1944
Control Tower Wendling 1944

 

On 24 April 1944 RAF Wendling, near East Derham, Norfolk  was the home to the 392 Bombardment Group (Heavy) of the 8th US Air Force.    It had been opened in 1942.

Wendling Airfield 30 March 1946
Wendling Airfield 30 March 1946

On that day twenty five  B 24 Bomber aircraft took off on Mission  # 71 Target: Leipheim in Germany.  Two aircraft did not return.

#44-40105 (NO NICKNAME) “B-Bar” flying its  first mission: Pilot  2Lt Carl F Ellinger.  

Eye-witness reports from returning crewmen of other planes (Lts. Ambrose, Kamenitsa, and Weinheimer) stated that the Ellinger ship (received a direct hit from AA guns at position 50-50 N; 03-20E at 1558 hours on route back from the target and this flak had struck the aircraft just behind the wing section with the plane starting down and disintegrating before striking the ground and, no chutes were seen.

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B24s of the 392nd Bombardment Group

The tail gunner, Sgt Hasenfratz later recalled that after flak hit his aircraft, the front section exploded into flames and the tail section spun out of control toward the ground. He and two other crewmembers were in the tail section as it plunged 18,000 feet to the ground. Hasenfratz was the sole survivor.

04362 AIRCRAFT: #41-28688 (NO NICKNAME) “Q-Bar” 18th Mission: Pilot : 2Lt Travis W Griffin

Returning crew members (Lts. Sabourin, Filkel, and Weinheimer) gave the following eye-witness account of this aircrew loss: At approximately 1330 hours, the Griffin plane left the formation before reaching the target with 2 engines out, reported to be due to mechanical failure. The plane was under control but losing altitude gradually and was headed in the general direction of Switzerland escorted by 3 x P-47’s. German Report #KU1603, 25 April 1944, Airbase Command A7NII, Freiburg, reported the crash of this Liberator at 1347 hours, (12) kilometers southwest of Freudenstadt near Schappach, Schwarzwald (Black Forest) with 8 crew members being captured in same vicinity and 2 others found dead.392bg-b24-2

Later after repatriation from POW status, Sgt. Kelly was interrogated by the Intelligence Section at Selfridge Field, Michigan (a l/Lt. Roeder) and the crewmember gave this account of their mission mishap: That due to mechanical failures of three engines, #2, #1 and #3 in that order, their plane was unable to hold bomber formation position or altitude which resulted in all members abandoning ship over Freiburg, Germany. All crewmen successfully bailed out including the two deceased members. Sgt. Bryant’s chute was observed as open, but Sgt Gallup was not seen after he left the aircraft. This report was the only one available from any crewmember made after war’s end. The German on-scene report noted that the captured members were sent on to Dulag-Luft, Oberursel on 26 April 1944 for interrogation processing. (Note: No indication further was given on the possibility of the engine failures being caused possibly by enemy actions, or perhaps, contributing fuel management problems)  For more information on the mission check this page on b24.net

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Wendling is now a Turkey farm, but the buildings and traces of the 392nd Bombardment Group remain.  More information on the http://www.airfieldinformationexchange.org/