420 Squadron Halifax Period
Oct 1943 to June 1945
The Halifax flew its first bombing mission on the night of March 11, 1941, when seven from 35 Squadron bombed LeHavre. Over the course of the war from 1940, and post war to 1946, 6,176 Handley Page Halifax bombers were built. More than 75% of the operations undertaken by RCAF 6 Group during World War II were flown in Halifax bombers of various marks. The "Halibag" Mark III, considered by most to be the ultimate war time mark, became the standard bomber for 6 Group, and was the mark flown by 420 Squadron. The Mark III was powered by four 14 cylinder Bristol Hercules engines which could "pump out" 1,650 hp each. The wingspan was just over 104 feet and it was 70 feet long. The Mark III had an empty weight of about 39,000 lbs and an all up weight of 65,000 lbs with a range of 1260 miles. A full bomb load weighed 13,000 lbs. Maximum speed was 312 miles per hour. Ceiling was 24,000 feet. It had four guns in the middorsal turret and tail turret. Air crew consisted of: pilot, flight engineer, navigator, bomb aimer, wireless operator, mid upper gunner, and tail gunner. (The August 17, 1943 attack on the Peenemunde rocket experimental facility acquainted the aircrews with "jazz music" ("schrage Muisk") equipped night fighters. These were fighters with an upward aiming machine gun. This allowed the German pilot to fly underneath a bomber and fire into its unprotected "belly". Eventually such fighters became so common that an mid under gunner position was added to many Halifaxes and Lancasters to defend against these fighters).
Most information suggests the Halifax was the poor substandard cousin to the Lancaster thus minimizing the former's contribution to the war effort in the popular press of the day and since. (A similar relationship existed with the Hurricane and Spitfire.) While the Halifax seems to lack the glamour of the Lancaster, could not carry the same bomb load, or type of bomb load, and cost more to build, it was much closer to the Lancaster's equal than usually described and performed outstanding service for over a year prior to the Lancaster entering service. This period stretched over some of the most critical parts of the bombing campaign.
The Halifax, especially the Mark III, became loved by many crews who flew it. As written by J. McIntosh, DFC, in Garbetand Goulding (1992), whose crew converted from Lancaster II's to Halifax III's the latter had its good points which are paraphrased here: The cockpit was likely "designed by Hitler" with gauges and controls scattered everywhere. However, it could climb like the Lancaster and had a ceiling of about 4000 feet above the Lancaster II. In fact McIntosh admits his crew bombed from 29000 feet one night. The forward escape hatch was on the floor just forward of the pilot's seat while in the Lancaster the escape for the pilot was a tiny hatch above the cockpit. McIntosh points to this fact as why he likely surived the war! In the same vein another advantage was the wider fuselage of the Halifax compared to the Lancaster (Lake 1999). This enabled more rapid departures when seconds could mean the difference between life and death. The Halifax also was more adaptable to other roles such as mining, paratroop drops and meterological flights.
The National Airforce Museum of Canada at 8 Wing/CFB Trenton, Ontario and The Yorkshire Air Museum located in Elvington, just outside of York, England, have the only existing static displays of complete restored Halifax bombers. Efforts are underway to recover a second Halifax bomber by Halifax Rescue Canada.
An excellent read and one of only a few books to deal with 420 Squadron is: McKay, R. 1989. One of the Many.
Halifax Bomber Manual
Halifax MZ587 "C" for Champ. Painted by Floyd "Skip" Rutledge. For a time, PT-C was shared by the McAdam crew and the Torchy Pritchard crew [see Mac and Torchy going strong] by the pilot's window. "DARK EYES" was the wop position; the Gen Spot was the nav [window blacked out] and Randy and Dally were the Bomb Aimers. "C" was one of four "kites" my father, Bert Parker, noted as being under his care during this period. MZ587 PT-C's last op was to Cologne on Oct 30, 1944. On this mission it was flown by F/Lt Sefton's crew. It was then sent to Topcliffe on Nov 1, 1944.
In the abridged squadron records below entries summarized from the 420 Squadron Operational Record Books (ORB's) are in normal type. The actual bomb crew debriefings are indicated in brown bold italic. Entries taken from my father's diary (January 1, 1944 to June 1945) are indicated in blue bold italics. Supplemental information, mostly from Middlebrook and Everitt (1990) and Dunmore and Carter (1991), and my comments are in green bold italic. I have also included the aircraft losses for the particular mission as documented in Middlebrook and Everitt (1990) and Dunmore and Carter (1991) bold (Bomber Command-#; 6 Group-#) at the end of each applicable entry. Information related to the 420 Squadron planes that did not return are in italic.
November 9: The London Ontario, Air Force Wives Association want adopt the squadron. The offer was accepted and a cable to Mrs. Pidgeon was sent to that affect. All luggage has arrived without any loss!! The Adjutant's bag did fall into the water but was quickly retrieved.
December 1, 1943: Orders through to prepare for move to Tholthorpe on December 12.
December 9 to 12: Five aircrews sent to 1659 Conversion Unit at Topcliffe to begin conversion to Halifax III. Preparations were made for move to Tholthorpe. Move commenced at 10:00 on December 12. A-Flight was allocated #6 Site and B-Flight #7 Site.
December 13 to 22: Busy setting up the various sections. A number of postings out of all trades. More aircrews were sent for conversion. A number of Halifax bombers began arriving at squadron.
December 23 to 31: Preparations were made for Christmas. Messes were decorated, menus prepared, dances were planned (Invitations to many young ladies from York were sent.) All festive activities were a great success.
January 1 to February 14, 1944: The squadron was going through a number of personnel changes of both aircrew and ground crew during this period. As well it was converting to the Halifax III which entailed an intensive series of training flights, when weather permitted, and lectures. On January 5 an inspection was carried out by Air Commodore McEwen. Pilot WO2 Wass was found to be too short to fly the Halifax and regrettably had to be posted to another squadron. By January 8 the squadron was up to its full operational strength of 20 Halifax III's. January 13 it was learned the ground crew would not be entitled to 1939-1943 ribbon for service in North Africa. On January 18 F/O Baker crashed at 1659 Conversion Unit in a Halifax II. Baker and two of the crew were taken to hospital in serious condition. ba F/Sgt Sharpe and gun F/Sgt Petry died from their injuries. On January 23 S/Ldr McKenna took over A-Flight. On January 27 thirteen pilots were sent to 426 and 408 Squadrons to fly as "second Dickey's" to Berlin.
February 11: The squadron is now operational with thirteen crews. A number of crews on bullseye tonight. A court marshall was held at the base today. A very busy day. Seven of our kites off tonight on bulls-eyes. Lots of panic. Had to change plugs in both "D" and "C". No mail.
February 12: Night cross-country flying of seven hours for eight crews. A fairly good day's work. All our kites returned OK. B-Flight had two return early. 425 Squadron had four return early and lost one over Birmingham. Two letters and a parcel from home.
February 15: This was the first night of operational sorties for 420 Squadron in the Halifax III. Ops through for twelve bombers to attack Berlin. "Boys are in high spirits." Base closed due to weather all bombers were diverted. Ops to-night after a heavy day's work. Changed several plugs on "D" and it got off OK. Sent six off from "A" flight. Got a letter from Aunty A. Heavy raids there lately. Eleven aircraft loaded with 264x30 lb, 7920x4 lb, and 990x1 lb X. LW418 was an early return due to u/s outer starboard engine. Bombs were dropped at 21:18 to 21:31 from 19,000 to 22,000 feet through 10/10's cloud. No results were observed although some crews reported seeing fire glow on the clouds. Defences were small amounts of heavy flak shot in barrages. Some searchlights were operating as well. All diverted on return. LW396 "T" piloted by F/O Dungaard crashed trying to land at base after completing mission, killing two crew members. Bomber Command sent 891 aircraft to the German capital for this the last raid of "The Battle of Berlin". This was a large raid as all the aircraft were "heavies", 561 Lancasters and 314 Halifaxes. 6 Group contributed 150 aircraft to the total. Over 2600 tons of bombs were dropped which was a record for a single raid. The cat and mouse game played by Bomber Command and German night fighter controllers continued with a diversion attack not working but a "detour" over Denmark by the bomber stream caused many of the night fighters to break off their pursuit to refuel. Although Berlin was mostly covered by cloud it still received substantial damage. Over 1500 houses and shelters were damaged and about 320 people were killed. After so many raids on Berlin much of the population had left hence the low number of casualties. (BC-43; 6 Group-4) LW396 "T" crashed trying to land at base killing gun Sgt B Downey and wop Lt LL Whale. Both are buried in Harrogate Cemetery.
February 18: Bombers are returning from diversion bases. Ops for tonight scrubbed. Had an evening out with some of the boys. Ops scrubbed. "F" is OK in southern England. Damaged by flak.
February 19: Ops for eight bombers to attack Leipzig. Only four were able to takeoff. The crews believe they successfully bombed the target, All returned safely. Ops tonight. So we've had a pretty busy day. Rather rainy off and on. No mail. The aircrews dropped their loads of incendiaries on target between 4:14 and 4:22 hours from 19000 to 23400 feet. Target was completely covered by clouds so bombing aiming was done with skymarkers. Defences included flak and searchlights. Both were not effective. Aircrews suggested decoy fires and marking were being used by the enemy. Fire glow in the clouds could be seen for 100 miles. Bomber Command targeted Leipzig with 823 aircraft. Of these 129 were from 6 Group. It was a slaughter with almost 15% of the Halifaxes, mainly Mark II and Mark V's, reaching the enemy coast being lost. The bomber stream was attacked relentlessly by a large force of German night fighters. Errors in forecasting the winds on route to target resulted in many bombers arriving early over target and had to orbit thus increasing their chance of being attacked by night fighters or coned by searchlights and flak. When the Pathfinders arrived Leipzig was covered by cloud and skyflares had to be used. No official reports of damage were reported. After this raid the two substandard Halifax Mark II's and Mark V's were removed from the front lines. (BC-78; 6 Group-18)
February 21: Stand down. Funerals for Whale and Petry held at the Regional Cemetary, Harrogate. Ops went fairly well last night. A very late takeoff and so they got back at daylight. All our's OK. No mail today. Two kites on cross-country and so nearly all of us have a 1/2 day.
February 24: Thirteen bombers were sent to Schweinfurt tonight. One early return due to overload u/s. All planes diverted on return. One reported missing. Lots of ops tonight, so lots of work when they return. Two letters today. Target bombed with high explosives and incendiaries from 23,000 to 25,000 feet in a ten minute period beginning at 23:10 in good visibility with slight ground haze. The target was defended by moderate heavy flak bursting to 23000 feet. Searchlights operating but not effective. Aircrews commented the bombs appeared scattered. LW 427 "C" reported as missing. Bomber Command sent 734 aircraft to attack Schweinfurt and the ball bearing factory there. The contribution by 6 Group was 143 aircraft. On this raid the bombers were split into equal waves. The second half attacked about 2 hours after the first attacks had finished. This was an attempt to exhaust the German night fighters and catch them returning to base for refuel and rearming thus enabling the second wave to bomb relatively unmolested. It appeared to have worked to some extent with apparently no bombers of the second wave being destroyed by night fighters. (BC-33; 6 Group-5) LW427 "C" was lost with crew of, Sgt D Crawley, Sgt HE Hirst, P/O MA Knight, pilot F/O HM Long, F/Sgt DB Richardson, Sgt W Botterill, F/Sgt R Gile. "C" was apparently shot down by a nightfighter and crashed near Ostelheim. All but J Gile are interred at Durnbach War Cemetery. J Gile (USAAF) is now buried at the US Military Cemetery Neuville-en-Condros, Belgium.
February 25: Ops on for seven aircraft to attack Augsburg. One returned to base after completing mission. Remainder landed at diversion bases. One aircraft missing. Lost "C" last night, a very good crew. Snags on "J" mag and a broken priming line. "J" and "A" off again tonight. Last nights ops were 8 hrs. Weather fair. Target was attacked beginning at 1:15 with bombs and incendiaries from 22,000 to 23,500 feet. PFF TI's were well concentrated. Enemy night fighters were seen by some aircrews in the target area. Crews reported bombs were scattered over the town with many fires and columns of smoke to 16000 feet. Reported missing was LW420 "U". Augsburg was targeted by 594 aircraft, 65 were from 6 Group, which dropped more than 2000 tons of bombs on the city in clear weather. Again two waves of bombers were used plus diversionary raids resulted in only 3.6% loss rate. The raid was extremely concentrated and accurate with the city centre being destroyed and an aircraft parts factory damaged. Almost 8000 residents were destroyed or damaged leaving an estimated 85,000 without shelter and there were about 3200 people injured or killed. (BC-21; 6 Group-6) All of the crew of LW420 "U"; pilot F/O LF Blakeney, F/O ED Patterson, F/O FA Arnston, Sgt P Burgon, Sgt HC Oswald, Sgt S Eden, F/Sgt GM Bessette were killed but the ag WL Bourdat survived as a POW. The deceased crew members are interred at Durnbach War Cemetery.
March 1, 1944: Ops through for ten aircraft. One did not takeoff and another was an early return due to problems with oxygen. Seven were successful. "D" and "J" both OK today all signed up and ready for tonight's ops by 3 pm. Pretty windy today and so quite chilly. No mail. One year ago today Ed Townsend cracked up and Earny, Ken and Sam all killed. The primary target, Stuttgart, was attacked by seven bombers carrying loads of 40x30, 540 x50 and 9x4. Takeoff time was ~23:30. Target was entirely cloud covered with tops reaching as high as 15000 feet. Defences were rated at most as moderate. LW590 "R" was an early return with an u/s oxygen supply. Bomber Command sent 557 aircraft against Stuttgart this night. 6 Group contributed 60. Due to heavy cloud German night fighters were ineffective. Although the target was cloud covered the attack caused substantial damage to Stuttgart and factories there in and caused over 600 casualties. (BC-4; 6 Group-0)
March 2: Stand down. Ops went well last night. All returned. "J" got shot up but repairable. Wing CO well pleased. Held a small flight parade to tell us so. Little or no ops during the full moon but bullseyes and training.
March 6: Ops through for four aircraft. Three were successful. Pilot Sgt McKay landed at a dispersal base due to u/s compass. Rainy the best part of the day. "D", "A" and "C" Ok. No ops for awhile but they finally did go. Got a letter. Got the service ribbon and maple leaf today. Takeoff time was ~18:24. Three attacked Trappes with 10x1000 and 2x500. Bombing occurred ~20:50 from 12,000 feet. PFF marking was good. Clear conditions over target. "N" landed at Thorney Island without bombing due to a malfunctioning compass. Bomber Command attacked the railway yards at Trappes with 261 aircraft. 6 Group provided 116 aircraft. This was the beginning of the methodical bombing of railways throughout France and Belgium to disrupt the German transport system prior to the D-day invasions. The attack was very successful with a large amount damage to the rails and trains. (BC-0; 6 Group-0)
March 7: Ops through for six aircraft. Five bombed target. One brought back bombs because it could not identify target as this was a target in France. Flight training. Response for blood donors quite good. Worked real hard all day without dinner to get "D" off tonight with six tons for "Jerry". She took off lovely after the engine trouble she had. Rained a little this pm. Sunny in the morning. Bomb loads were 6x1000 and 9x500. Takeoff time was ~18:40. Target was completely overcast with tops to 8000 feet. Bombing was late, ~21:30, due to late marking of target by PFF. As a result many aircraft had to orbit target area. The target for Bomber Command's 304 aircraft this night was Le Mans. Again the specific target was the railway yards. The bombing was very successful with only a small amount of collateral damage and less than 100 French civilian casualties. (BC-0; 6 Group-0)
March 15: Ops through for twelve aircraft. Eleven successful but one is missing. Housing shortage for officers and NCO's is getting critical. Finished work at 3:30 this morning so did not get up until noon. Wrote some letters. Ops on tonight. Bomb loads were 6x30 IB's, 25x4 IB's and 60x4 IB's X type. Takeoff time was ~18:54. Crews bombed ~23:22 from 24000 feet. The target was covered by broken clouds. PFF marking was scattered as were the fires resulting from the attack. Fires were visible from 100 miles away on the return flight. LW418 "E" piloted by Sgt McAdam was hit by flak on route to target killing the nav Sgt Briggs, wounding McAdam in the legs and damaging a tire and making the starboard inner u/s. The crew continued on and bombed the primary target. On the return flight the bomb aimer, Sgt Ranson, navigated. The plane was again hit by flak and would not keep altitude. It managed to make it to Friston where it landed and ground looped with no further injuries to the crew. Four aircraft returned to base. Six diverted to Tangmere. LW426 "Q" did not return. Stuttgart was targeted by Bomber Command with a relatively large raid of 863 bombers including 130 from 6 Group. The cat and mouse game with the night fighters continued. The bomber stream was sent almost to the Swiss border before turning toward the target. This was to force the night fighter controllers to guess where the attack was going to be and any night fighters scrambled early would have to refuel. However, the controllers split the night fighters in two waves so there were fresh planes taking off once the bomber stream's diversion was complete and its intention known. As a result the stream was attacked with a vengeance just before Stuttgart. Thirty-seven heavies were shot down during the night including "Q" from 420 Squadron. "Q" was the only loss from 6 Group this night. The bombing was a relative failure with few bombs landing in the target area. (BC-37; 6 Group-1) LW426 "Q" was lost with pilot F/O DH Calder, eng Sgt WP Dunbar, 2nd pilot P/O CI Elsley, mdag P/O WH Heidman, ba F/O RH Jackson, nav P/O CA Ritchie, wop Sgt P Bethell, ag Sgt E Lee. The crew is believed to have been shot down by a night fighter and crashed by Echterdingen airfield. The crew is now interred in Durnbach War Cemetery. WH Heidman was only 18 years of age. LW418 "E" was hit by flak killing nav Sgt WBriggs and wounding the pilot, WD McAdam in the legs.
March 22: Ops on for ten bombers to Frankfurt. All returned. Nine landed at base and one was diverted to Foulhem. Two planes on x-country. W/C McIntosh returned from leave. Ops on tonight. All off OK, "J", "C", "A", "D" and "B". Had pictures taken with Squeak and Glen. Is supposed to be in the Saskatoon, Star Phoenix. Bomb loads were 30x63 and 4x62. Takeoff time was ~18:50. Attacked at ~22:04 through partly cloudy to completely overcast skies up to 8000 feet. Bombing height was 21000 feet. Many fires were observed over target and 150 miles away they could still be seen. Bomber Command again attacked Frankfurt. This time 816 planes took part in the raid. 6 Group contributed 99. The main bomber stream again followed a circuitous route and diversionary raids were carried out trying to confuse the German controllers. The rouse worked with the fighter controllers thinking Hanover was the main target. Consequently few night fighters found the main bomber stream. Frankfurt was again hit hard. Casualties numbered over 1200 and 120,000 lost their homes. Many industrial areas also received substantial damage. (BC-33; 6 Group-0)
March 24: Berlin was the target for twelve of the squadron's aircraft. LW692 "V", flown by WO2 Leonard, returned early due to hydraulic malfunction. Ten returned, five to base and five to Collishall. One is missing. Night flying continued. Ops tonight and I am on. "J" got pranged by a tractor driver with a stand and I am a witness when he goes before the wing CO. What a mix up. Both "D" and "C" blew a feathering oil line on a check with motors going. Bomb loads were 66x30 and 1000x4 X. Takeoff times were around 18:50. Attack occurred from 22000 to 24000 feet at 22:26 to 23:10. Attack was through broken cloud on markers. Many fires observed around markers. With smoke rising to 10000 feet. Fires could be seen from 150 miles away when leaving target. Some crews resented the "language used" by the master bomber for the attack. Bomber Command attacked Berlin with 811 aircraft. Of this number 113 were from 6 Group. Due to unforecast very strong winds the bomber stream was scattered all over Germany. Bombing was also scattered but still an estimated 20000 people lost their shelters. The winds created a nightmare for navigation and many bombers flew over concentrations of flak batteries which claimed about 50 of the 72 bombers lost this night. This was also the final large bombing attack of the war that Bomber Command sent to Berlin. (BC-72; 6 Group-13) LW373 "W" reported missing with crew of pilot F/O Rice, ab F/S Fraser, nav F/O Altic, wop WO1 Renwick, muag Lt Thomson, ag Sgt Boire and eng Sgt Bushell. All became POW's.
March 26: Thirteen readied for attack on Essen. "X" and "N" early returns due to generator and engine malfunctions. Eleven attacked the target and returned to base. Two years ago today I arrived in Halifax after my embarkation leave. Ops again tonight. The case postponed until he has his leave and gets married. A real lovely day. Takeoff time was ~20:10. Crews bombed from ~22:08 at 24000 feet. Skies over target were entirely overcast. Black smoke from target area rising to 22000 feet. Defences were barrages of heavy flak bursting up to 24000 feet. Essen was attacked by 705 aircraft. The 6 Group contribution was 105 aircraft. Due to cloud cover Oboe mosquitoes marked the target. It turned out the target was accurately marked and bombings were accurate. Many factories were destroyed along with over 1700 residents. Over 2100 casualties were reported by authorities. (BC-9; 6 Group-1)
March 30: Fourteen on ops to Nuremburg. Two were early returns with oxygen and hydraulic malfunctions. Planes were diverted on return to Tangmeres, Thorny Isle, Ford. One force landed near Cranwell when it ran out of fuel. The crew was not injured. Ops on tonight so lots of work in the morning. Seems like a pretty important trip tonight. Got battle dress today and so work in battle dress now. Lost 96 tonight. Bomb loads were 50x30 and 100x4. Takeoff times ~22:08. "R" returned early due to hydraulics. "U" was an early return due to oxygen supply malfunction. Target was bombed ~01:20 from 20000 feet. PFF flares and markers appeared to be scattered. Some crews observed explosions other than bomb bursts. Clouds were in layers up to 2000 feet. MZ540 "H" flown by G. Ward force landed near Cranwell. Although the moon was near full Bomber Command sent 795, 118 from 6 Group, to Nuremberg mainly based on the prospect of cloudy conditions most of the way for the bomber stream. Even when the Met Mosquitoes checking out the prospective flight route reported no cloud cover Bomber Command went ahead with the attack. This turned out to be disastrous for the bombers and resulted in 95 bomber going down. This was the largest loss percentage (12%) for a big raid that Bomber Command would suffer during the war. The German night fighters began attacking the bomber stream before it reached Belgium and carried to the target. Night fighters brought down 82 heavies on their way to the target. Due to refuelling night fighters were less numerous as the bombers returned to base. The bombing was scattered over an extremely wide area, including a village 50 miles from Nuremberg, due to unforecast winds causing navigation difficulties and poor marking. Only minimal damage was reported from Nuremberg. (BC-95; 6 Group-13)
Toronto Star clipping regarding the crash landing of MZ540 "H" flown by Ward's crew. (Provided by R. Barclay).
April 6: Ops through for three aircraft plus thirteen on night cross-countries but all were cancelled. Some day flying including fighter affiliation. Informed that the C/O McIntosh would be succeeded by S/Ldr McKenna of A-Flight. A little flying today. A couple of Mosquitoes in today. Got a parcel today. B. had his charge today. Wing CO referred it to the CO and the CO gave him a 10 pound fine.
April 9: Fourteen on ops to rail yards at Villeneuve St. George, France. All returned safely to base. Bombing photos taken indicated many crews hit the aiming point. Two on cross-country training. The Sixth Victory Loans are quite successful with many airmen signing up. On duty tonight and ops are on. All the kites we have. Weather very hazy all day but clear towards evening. Bomb loads consisted of 6x1000 and 8x500 mc. Takeoff ~21:00 with the attack occurring just after midnight. Bombs were dropped from 13000 to 15000 feet on target indicators laid down by PFF. Aircrews saw many fires and explosions. One large explosion was seen by many crews. Some crews experienced heavy flak just prior to target. Bomber Command attacked the railway yards at Lille and Villeneuve St. Georges with 239 and 225 bombers respectively. The squadron's bombers went to Villeneuve St.Georges. Almost half, 107, aircraft sent to Villeneuve-St-Georges were from 6 Group. Although the raid was considered successful by Bomber Command reports from the town indicate over 400 buildings damaged or destroyed with no indication of any damage occurring to the rail yards. (BC-0; 6 Group-0)
April 10: Thirteen on ops to attack the rail yards at Ghent. One was a nonstarter. The rest were successful and returned to base safely. Routine flight training continued. Two members of the Canadian infantry were attached to squadron for a week to learn how a bombing squadron operates. Boy what a lot of work last night. Finished at 6:30 am. All returned safely. Slept until 5:00. Bomb loads were 9x1000 and 6x500 mc. Takeoff ~20:50. Aircrews bombed ~22:48 from 13,000 feet. PFF indicators reported as on time and concentrated. Crews reported many bomb bursts in the target area. Bomber Command targeted the railways in five communities in Belgium and France. The squadron's bombers were detailed to Ghent, Belgium. All of the aircraft for this target, 122, were from 6 Group. The rail yards received substantial damage but there was significant collateral damage including 1600 buildings damaged or destroyed and 728 civilian casualties. (BC-0; 6 Group-0)
April 18: The squadron has 23 aircrews available for operations now. Op through for fifteen to attack the rail yards at Noisy. All returned safely. Four aircraft carried mid under gunners which was a first for the squadron. All returned safely. One was diverted to Ford and another to Bosworth. The one diverted to Ford had been struck by falling bombs. Ops on tonight. Got "J" fixed. Had trouble on "D" but its OK and all nine got away. This was the first time mid under gunners were used by the squadron. Bomb loads were 6x1000 and 9x500 mc. Takeoff was ~20:55. Bombs were dropped on target just before midnight from heights between 14,500 and 15,400 feet. PFF marking was on time and concentrated. "J" had one 1000 lb bomb hang up. Bomber Command attacked the rail yards of four towns on this night. The squadron's bombers were part of 181 sent to Noisy-le-Sec, France. Three quarters of the bombers were from 6 Group. While the bombing successfully damaged the rail lines and yards over 2700 buildings were damaged or destroyed and civilian casualties numbered over 820. (BC-4; 6 Group-4)
April 20: Ops through for thirteen aircraft to attack Lens, France. One missing. Ops on tonight. Seven off. No mail. Weather fair. Bomb load 9x1000 plus 6x500. Takeoff ~21:25. Most crews dropped their bombs ~23:45 from 10,500 feet but the Lapointe crew in "A" dropped from 17000 feet. The aiming point was again designated by PFF markers and comments from Master Bomber. Overall the crews felt it was a good attack with many reporting extensive fires and a few large explosions. Bomber Command attacked railways and industry in four centers in Germany and France. The 420 Squadron's bombers were part of the attack made by 175 aircraft on Lens. 6 Group as a whole provided 154 aircraft to this raid. The attack was successful with bombing concentrated around the rail yard.420 Squadron's "V" was the only loss on this raid. (BC-1; 6 Group-1) LW692 "V" failed was lost with crew of P/O GR Leonard, W/O2 HC Wilson, Sgt P Gough, Sgt A Warren, Sgt C Wheelhouse. The plane is believed to have been hit by flak causing it to crash near Cany-Barville. The two ag HIF Bourcier and ag RA Anderson became POW's. The graves of HC Wilson and C Wheelhouse are in Grandcourt War Cemetery. The remaining crew members are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.
April 21: Weather too bad for flying. Stand down. All kites returned from our flight OK. "B" flight lost one and 425 Squadron lost two. Jerry was over last night. Plenty of flak last night and today delayed action bombs going off. No ops tonight.
April 24: Ops on tonight for fourteen aircraft to attack Karlsruhue. Two returned early. "R" with Gee and upper turret malfunctioning. And, "G", flown by F/Sgt Pritchard, had the starboard outer engine u/s and could not maintain altitude so returned early. Rest of the aircraft diverted to Eastmoor, Linton, Croft and Chadburgh. Ops on again tonight. Everything on. Was a short trip but now its overloads up and filled. 425 Squadron lost two on fighter affiliation today. Went into a spin. Ten killed. One a ground crew Radar Cpl. Bomb loads were 1x2000, 40x30, 390x4 and 60x4. Takeoff was ~21:40. Bombs were dropped ~23:45 from heights of 14000 to 20000 feet. Crews reported a good attack with PFF indicating target and many fires. "N" and "S" had bombs hang up. "U" had air speed indicators u/s from icing over target. "X" had drift monitor u/s. Missing MZ503 "L". Bomber Command attacked Karlsruhe with 637 bombers, 137 were from 6 Group. Target marking and bombing was affected by strong winds and clouds over target resulting in bombs being spread over a large area, even to Mannheim. Bomber Command also sent over 200 bombers to Munich. (BC-19; 6 Group-6) MZ503 "L" was lost. Crew members; pilot F/O D. Watterson, P/O A. Hansford, W/O2 E. Webb, F/O A. Redmonds and F/O W. Murphy died in the crash. Sgt G. Tanner and Sgt B. Cassidy became POW's. The plane crashed near Zaitbommel, Holland. The crew members that died in the crash are buried in Zuilichem General Cemetery. Tanner may have died as a POW. Cassidy survived the war and upon his death, at his request, was interred along side his crew members. (Thanks to M. Redmonds for supplying the grave site image).
April 26: Ops through for twelve aircraft. All returned safely. Ops on tonight and I am on. Six on with "D" as spare. Quite busy with ops every night but that is what we like. Bomb loads included 64x30, 570x4 and 60x4, or, 56x30, 480x4 and 60x4. Takeoff time was ~23:10. Bombs were dropped ~01:30 from 21000 feet. F/Sgt Pritchard's plane, "C", had an electrical failure over target and bombs could not be released. Bombing on PFF markers appeared to be good with many fires started. Some crews reported seeing fires from 160 miles away on return flight. Bomber Command sent almost 500 bombers to Essen. 6 Group's contribution was 117 aircraft. The attack was considered successful. Casualties numbered over 1500. (BC-7; 6 Group-1)
April 30: Squadron is made up of 478 personnel including seven WAAF's. Ops on for sixteen aircraft to attack Somain. All took off on schedule with no early returns. One diverted to Linton due to fuel shortage. One missing, LW476 "J" flown by F/Ldr Northern was on the last sortie of his tour. He was with the squadron during its deployment in North Africa. Ops on tonight, everything on. An extra short trip by gas load. I suspect France. Weather very nice lately. Took several snaps today. Am to be on duty tomorrow. Bomb loads were 9x1000, 6x500 or 9x1000, 4x500. Takeoff ~21:30. Bombs were dropped from 7000 to 7500 feet at ~23:40. The attack was marked by PFF TI's with a Master Bomber instructing the bombers. Some crews were told to orbit and to switch aiming points from red indicators to yellow indicators. Most reported seeing bomb bursts in target area with much smoke and many fires seen up to 60 miles away. Bomber Command sent small, less than 200 bomber, to three French towns. 420 Squadron was part of 143 bombers sent to Somain. 6 Group made up almost all of the aircraft, 114. The target marking was inaccurate resulting in the bombs falling in the countryside. (BC-1; 6 Group-1) LW476 "J" was lost. The crew included Pilot F/Ldr E Northern (Deputy Flight Commander), ba WO1 N Venber, nav F/O F Morrison, wop F/S CH Ianes, muag Sgt WH Young, ag F/O AH Hall and eng Sgt LS Franklin. The plane is believed to have crashed into the sea killing the entire crew. F Morrison's grave is in Cayeux-sur-Mer Communal Cemetery. AH Hall is buried in the St-Valery-sur-Somme Communal Cemetery. The other crew members are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.
May 1, 1944: For the month of April 420 Squadron dropped more tons of bombs than any other squadron in No 62 Base. Ops for fourteen to attack the rail yards at St Chislain, France. All attacked primary target. Routine flight training. Lost Ed in "J" last night. The only kite lost of 6 Group and it was his last trip too. War is hell in so many ways. Ops on again to tonight and I am on. Nine kites in all. Bomb loads were 9x1000, 4x500 or 6x500. Takeoff ~21:54. Bombs were dropped minutes after midnight from 6000 feet on red TI's. Master Bomber's instructions were good as was the PFF work and the route. Many crews reported fires and explosions in target area. Bomber Command continued wide spread attacks on transportation. 420 Squadron's bombers were part of 137 detailed to attack the railway yards at St-Chislain. 6 Group provided 115 aircraft for this raid. The attack was considered successful. (BC-2; 6 Group-2)
May 3: Stand down. Night flight training of bullseye and cross countries. "F" MZ596 was reported missing from night training. Training flights all day and night. Fairly hazy and high winds. A ladder fell over and hit J. Christie on the foot. He is hospital but OK. MZ596 "F" was not heard from again. The crew consisted of, PJ Lapointe, G Ellwood, JH MacDougall, EW Michie, RJ Monaghan, HE Simmons, W Stobbart, GW Beer The crash site has never been found.
May 4: Squadron has been informed the following crew members missing on March 24/25 are POW's(nav F/O Altic, wop WO1 Renwick, muag 2ndLt Thomson. ag Sgt Boire, ab F/Sgt Fraser,eng Sgt Bushell Training again tonight. Pete la Pointe is missing in "F" from last night's training. Got receipt for $50 bond. Airmen having a party tonight.
May 12: Fourteen to Louvain. All reached target and eleven bombed it. Three could not identify the aiming point. Interviews for commissions underway. Got to bed at 2:30 am and got up at 8:30. Went to York with Nip. Had plenty to eat and came home early. Ops are on for everything. Bombers were loaded with 13x500 bomb loads. Takeoff time 22:06. Most crews bombed from 7000 feet at ~00:30. Bomb bursts were seen to be concentrated around green TI's. The weather was hazy which made it difficult for some crews to identify the target. "D" had to orbit the target area three times while TI's were dropped. "E", "H", "K" could not positively identify the target so returned with their bomb loads. Bomber Command attacked the railway yards at Louvain with 120 aircraft this night. Almost all the bombers, 108, were from 6 Group. The railway yards were damaged but there was also over 360 casualties among the civilians. (BC-5; 6 Group-5)
May 27: Seventeen on ops for an attack on Bourg-Leopald Military Camp. Attack was successful. Ground fog at base required all aircraft to divert to other bases on return. Fifteen bombed target. One was attacked by a night fighter just prior to bomb run. One bomber is reported missing. Had a nice lay in this morning after no night flying last night on my night on. B-Flight lost squadron leader. Aircraft were loaded with either 16x500 or 13x500 bomb loads. Takeoff was ~23:55. The crews bombed the target ~02:12 from 8500 to 8800 feet. Crews saw many bomb blasts around TI's laid down by the Master Bomber. Many fires and large explosions seen. View of target area became obscured by smoke. A number of crews reported seeing night fighters on trip back to England. LW423 "G" piloted by P/O Kalle was attacked by a night fighter and electrical system was u/s. The pilot put the plane into a steep dive to put out the flames that had started to engulf the wings. The muag Sgt Elsliger likely thought the plane was going down so baled out over target area. He may have also been wounded. The dive put out the flames and the pilot was able to land in England after the bombs were jettisoned. The aircraft was so damaged that it was category A.C.. Bomber Command sent 331 bombers to attack Bourg-Leopold and the German military camp there.6 Group provided just under half, 149, the planes for this attack. The camp received a great amount of damage. (BC-10; 6 Group-6) MZ502 "U" was shot down by a night fighter killing pilot B-Flight S/Ldr G Beall, nav F/O E Andrews, ba F/O J Robison, wop F/O D Woolley, ag Sgt W Stainton, ag P/O A Goodall, ag W/O2 J Mohler and eng Sgt W Hickox. The plane crashed near Overpelt, Belgium. All are now interred in Haverlee War Cemetery.
June 5: Eighteen on ops tonight to attack a coastal battery in the vicinity of Houlgate, France. The target was successfully bombed and all aircraft returned to base. Squadron was confined to camp. Ops tonight and I'm on. Ten kites and have had quite a busy day so far. Invasion rumours everywhere. Aircraft were loaded with 16x500 bombs. Takeoff was ~01:55. The battery was bombed from 10500 to 11000 feet at ~03:50. Clouds prevented the crews from viewing their results. Bombs were dropped on TI's laid down by PFF. "K" had one bomb hang up. Most crews reported a small amount of icing. Coastal batteries were again targeted on the eve of D Day. Bomber Command sent just over 1000 aircraft to bomb coastal batteries within the invasion zone as well as outside the landing beaches to keep the invasion beaches a secret. 6 Group sent 106 aircraft to Houlgate. (BC-0; 6 Group-1)
June 6, 1944: D-DAY : Eighteen were sent to bomb a bridge at Coutances, France. All attacked the target and one crew was able to hit the bridge. All were diverted due to poor weather at base until conditions cleared. Invasion rumours were correct. Holland and France is where they started. All kites returned with tales of millions of fires and the channel full of ships. Kites off again tonight. I got to bed at 8:30 this morning. The weather is rainy after a lovely day. Bomb loads were 16X500. Takeoff time ~21:58. The crews bombed ~00:21 from 2500 to 5000 feet which was below the cloud base. All crews reported bombs falling on TI's and Master Bomber requesting slight adjustments to the aiming point relative to the TI's. Crews saw many bomb bursts. "E" had a malfunction with the bomb release and had to return with most of its bomb load. With the invasion much of Bomber Command's attention now shifted from strategic and area bombing to supporting the ground troops' break out attempts from the immediate areas of the beach heads with attacks on German troop concentrations as well as transport and communication targets in the area. Bomber Command was now large enough to send up aerial armadas of over 1000 heavy bombers, Lancasters and Halifaxes, and accompanying Mosquitoes. 6 Group provided 132 aircraft to the attack on Coutances, France. (BC-0; 6 Group-0)
June 7: Ops through for eleven to bomb the rail yards near Acheres, France. The bombing was considered very accurate. One crew did not return. Routine training continued. Ops on again tonight but only six on. All returned safely from last night. Quite a heavy day's work today but things are going OK now. Weather was pretty cloudy today. Parcel from home. Bomb loads were 16x500. Takeoff ~22:58. Bombs were dropped by the crews ~01:22 from 5000 to 6000 feet below the cloud bases. The crews considered the bombing to be accurate on the TI's with a number of explosions observed. Bomber Command continued its attacks on communications sending 337 bombers to various centres. 6 Group sent 100 planes to Acheres. (BC-28; 6 Group-4)NA505 "J" was lost.with pilot F/O HR Jones, P/O DW Sammon, P/O GS Tanuck, Sgt J McGlase, Sgt J Hampson, F/O FG Tilt, P/O JF Yates, F/O DB Norton. "J" is assumed to have been shot down by a night fighter and crashed near Neufchatel-en-Bray. Four of the crew have graves in Poix-de-la-Somme graveyard and four are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.
June 10: Ops through for ten aircraft to attack the rail yards at Versaille-Matelots, France. Nine were successful and returned safely to base. One is reported missing. Regular training flights on all day. All kites returned again from last night's ops and six more on tonight. Weather still showery and cloudy. Bomb loads were 16x500. Takeoff was ~22:10. The crews bombed at ~00:40 from 6000 to 7000 feet. The bombs were dropped on PFF TI's with instructions from Master Bomber. Crews reported good concentration of attack around TI's. W/C McKenna in "K" reported seeing a train smoking. Some crews reported seeing a number of night fighters. NA528 "G" piloted by P/O Kalle was fired upon by an ME109. The rear gunner spotted the enemy plane 600 yards away. It closed to 400 yards. A corkscrew to port was initiated. Bomber Command targeted various rail centers with 434 bomber. 6 Group provided 100 planes to the attack on Versailes. All attacks were believed successful. (BC-15; 6 Group-3) LW674 "E" was crashed at Theuville. P/O JW Chudzik, P/O FG Harrrop, F/Sgt H Waller, pilot P/O L Holoway, P/O RM Irwin, F/O JD Lancaster were killed. Two crew members, N Binnie and BE Brakes, were able to evade capture. The crew members that died were buried in the Theuville Communal Cemetery.
June 12: Fifteen on ops to attack Cambrai Junction. Fourteen successfully bombed the target with one early return. Routine training flights continued. Not a great deal to do today as there was no flying yesterday. Ops tonight. Eight on and a fairly long trip. Mail today. Bomb loads were 16x500. Takeoff ~21:57. "F" piloted by WO2 Ward returned early with over revving engines and landed with a full bomb load. Crews had clear weather except around Amiens. Most crews felt the attack was well concentrated around the TI's. The crews bombed from about 5200 feet around 02:30. Master Bomber was adjusting attacks on markers. "K" had most of its bomb load hang up. "Q" piloted by F/O Britt was attacked by a twin engined night fighter. It was observed by the under gunner from 250 yards who saw the tracers from the enemy plane's guns and fired 25 rounds as a cockscrew to starboard was carried out by the pilot. "A", F/S McAdam's crew, was also attacked by an FW190 after flares were dropped. Tracers were seen coming from the enemy plane from 600 yards by the mid upper gunner, Sgt White, who fired 150 rounds beginning at 600 yards and as the enemy closed to 400 yards. The pilot made a diving turn to starboard. MX687 "L" piloted by F/O Aldred was attacked three times by night fighters. The first attack was by a JU88. Fighter flares were used to aid the enemy aircraft in seeing the bombers. The rear gunner was the first to see the enemy aircraft from about 480 yards away as it started firing on the bomber. He fired 50 rounds as the fighter closed to 400 yards. The pilot went into a starboard bank. The midupper gunner, WO2 McLeod, spotted the fighter, an ME109, at a range of 400 yards when it started firing at the bomber. The pilot put the bomber into a corkscrew starboard while the mid upper gunner fired 800 rounds at the enemy fighter as it closed to 200 yards astern. The enemy aircraft then exploded. The mid upper gunner claims one enemy aircraft destroyed. The third attack was from astern at a range of 400 yards by an FW190. The pilot put the bomber in a corkscrew to starboard and the enemy fighter was lost from view. Communications centers were attacked by 671 bombers. 420 Squadron was sent to Cambrai Junction along with 92 other aircraft from 6 Group. The target was hit successfully but some bombs were scattered into the town. On this night P/O A Mynarski, of 419 Squadron, won a VC for heroic efforts to save the tail gunner. Mynarski died from wounds he received when the Lancaster crashed. The tail gunner survived and reported the account. (BC-23 (all raids); 6 Group-9)
June 28: Ops were cancelled today. Training continued. All our kites returned safely. 425 had one run into a loaded kite of their own and it blew up leaving a hole 12 ft deep and 22 ft in diameter. Pieces of both kites all over the drome. Three other kites were damaged by flying pieces. All the crew members were able to escape relatively unscathed from the burning, exploding wreckage. The tail gunner was trapped but Corporal Marquet, F/Sgt St. Germain and Air Commodore Ross cut open the turret and rescued him. In the incident a piece of shrapnel injured AC Ross resulting in him losing his hand. AC Ross received the George Cross, and the other two received the George Medal.
July 1, 1944: Daylight ops through for eighteen to attack Biennais, France. All bombed primary target. One returned to Linton on two engines and crashed injuring the pilot and eng. No defences observed at the target. Pilot P/O Kalle and eng Sgt Burton received, respectively, immediate DFC and DFM for their efforts on May 27/28, 1944. No training flights. Kites finally got off at 2:30 am and returned about 7 am. "C" and "Y" came in on feathered engines. "K" cracked up at Linton, crew OK but flight engineer got a broken leg. Kite really smashed. I was on duty. Planes were loaded with 16x500 lb bombs. Takeoff time was ~14:50. The crews bombed from 12000 feet at ~17:00 hours. The target was cloud covered so the bombing was done using GEE, and "Square Mile" given by Master Bomber. Defences essentially non-existant. Results were not seen due to clouds. LW421 "K" piloted by P/O Cain had both port engines feathered and made a belly landing at Linton-on-Ouse. The only serious injury was to the eng Sgt Monument who had a compound fracture of the left leg. Attack on two flying bomb sites and storage site by 307 aircraft. 6 Group contributed 101 planes to the attack. The bombing was done with the aid of Oboe marking as all targets were cloud covered. No results were observed. (BC-1; 6 Group-0)
July 2: Ops for today were cancelled. No training. Off today so slept most of the day. When "K" crashed it killed two cows. Rained nearly all day.
July 18: Two sets of ops were on for this day. One was a dawn attack and then a regular night raid. Ops to attack the steel works in Caen, France at dawn. Two were did not takeoff due to leaks. The rest bombed and returned safely. Bomb loads were 16x500. Takeoff time was ~03:20. Crews bombed at ~05:50 from 7000 to 8,500 feet. The attack appeared to be concentrated around TI's with adjustments made by the Master Bomber. Crews observed many large explosions and at times smoke obscured the TI's. The site was defended by heavy flak bursting to 10000 feet. "Z" had 5x500 bombs hang up over target that had to be manually jettisoned. "R", piloted by F/O Heron, collided with a Lancaster that was gaining altitude. "R" banked to port to try an avoid the collision but its wing cut the Lancaster's wing off around the outer engine. "R" was later hit by heavy flak damaging the upper turret and fuselage. The crew was able to bring the bomber back to base. Bomber Command sent 942 bombers, 6 Group contributed 98 planes, to bomb five German fortified villages in the Caen area prior to an assault "Operation Goodwood" by the British 2nd Army. Bomber Command dropped 5000 tons on the targets with good effect. The recipients of the bombing, the 16th Luftwaffe Field Division and 21st Panzer Division, suffered casualties and lost equipment. (BC-6; 6 Group-1) Ops through for fourteen aircraft to attack Wesseling. Training program continued today. One diverted on return. Lots and lots of work. Kites returned safely and are off again tonight. Changed fuel tank on "D". Lots of trouble on "C". Had to be on till takeoff last night. Bomb loads were 16x500. Takeoff time was ~22:12. The crews bombed the target ~01:15 in clear skies. Bombs were released from 10000 to 14,500 feet. The crews reported a good concentration of bombs with much smoke and many fires in the centre of the TI's. The fires were observed from 50 miles away on return flight. A little flak was reported although it was not effective. 6 Group provided 153 planes of the 194 that Bomber Command sent to Wesseling. The target was the synthetic oil plant at Wesseling. Due to good marking and accurate bombing the plant received substantial damage to a number of important buildings. (BC-1; 6 Group-1)
July 19: Stand down with training flights taking place all day. One aircrew flying LK803 "Z", crashed while training. Lots of work. Ops were good last night. All returned. Ops scrubbed tonight but lots of training. B-Flight's "H" crashed after a roll and spin during fighter affiliation over the drome perimeter just a few yards from me. All were killed.LK803 "H" spun into the ground near the base while on fighter affiliaton training killing all the crew of Pilot F/O SJ Joplin, wop WO1 GH Minchin, muag Sgt WS Barnard, eng Sgt NJ Shand and ag Sgt GA Kent. The crew, except for NJ Shand, are buried in Harrogate Cemetery.
July 24: Ops through for thirteen aircraft to bomb construction at Ferfey, France. One reported missing. Training flights were continued all day. Ops on and two, "A" and "D", on bullseye. Bomb loads were 13x500. The bombers took off at ~22:10 Only two bombed the target the remainder were instructed to abort their attack by the Master Bomber who gave the code "Apple Tart". The target was completely overcast to 8000 feet and the TI's were very scattered. This was another attack on a flying bomb site by 112 bombers. 6 Group provided all but a dozen of the aircraft for this mission. The others were from 8 Group Path Finders. (BC-1; 6 Group-1) MZ713 "U" crashed into the English Channel off the coast near Pas-de-Calais. Pilot F/Lt DH Trickett, ba F/O K Heron, nav F/L RE Knight, wop F/O EW Monk, muag Sgt J Sutherland, ag Sgt N Cushman, eng Sgt EW Walton, under gun Sgt HR Hebert. The bodies of only two crew members were recovered. EW Walton is buried in Bergen op Zoom War Cemetery, Holland and RE Knight's grave is in Etaples Military cemetery, France.
July 28: Ops on for seventeen to attack Hamburg. One did not takeoff due to engine trouble. One is reported missing. Wop WO1 Bourdat who was reported missing February 24/25, 1944, is a POW as reported by German authorities. Worked takeoff for ops. Lots of work. "A" didn't go. Hydraulic supposedly u/s but OK. Bomb loads were 16x500. Takeoff time was ~22:05. Aircrews bombed from 17000 to 19000 feet through broken cloud. Most of the bombs were observed to fall within the area of the TI's. Many explosions were seen by the crews. Heavy flak was at times intense. Searchlights were operating but with little effect due to clouds. "G", piloted by F/L Kalle, engaged a JU88 night fighter with machine gun fire with no results observed. "G" also had to feather the port inner engine after leaving the target area. LW388 "D", piloted by P/O Beairsto, was also attacked by a JU88 night fighter. The rear gunner, Sgt Adams, noticed the enemy aircraft at 300 yards and ordered corkscrew to port. He and the upper gunner, Sgt Dennis, exchanged fire with the fighter until at 100 yards the fighter broke away and was not seen again. Bomber Command attacked Hamburg with 307 bombers. Three-quarters of the bombers, 234 aircraft, were from 6 Group. Fighters attacked the bomber stream on its return flight causing most of the casualties. In particular, of the seventeen detailed by 431 Squadron for the raid five were lost. The raid was not successful as most of the bombs fell into areas of the city that had been destroyed by attacks in 1943. (BC-22; 6 Group-22) MZ645 "N" was shot down by a night fighter and crashed at Estoff. F/O VJ Hubbard, P/O N Novack, P/O J Unger, pilot F/Lt J Zavtiz, Sgt A Cracknell. The members of the crew that perished were buried there. The other crew members, EH Smith, JD Wintemute and CS Batt were taken prisoners.
July 29: Squadron on stand by for ops all day. These were later scheduled for early the next day. Flight training continued through the day. B-flight lost "N" last night. Ours returned OK. "D" got cannon fire through a prop blade. Rained on and off all day. Ops on and off all day. Now set for early tomorrow. No mail.
July 30: Ops through for fifteen aircraft to attack Amy-Sur-Seulles, France. All reported to have bombed the target. Three crews landed away from base on return. One, NA 528 "G", piloted by F/L Kalle, crash landed at ATS HQ, White Waltham when it overshot the runway and burned. All the crew were injured. A number of aircrew were screened after completing their first tour. Wop P/O Lefurgey was screened after completing his second tour. Night training flights were cancelled. Kites all returned OK. "G" crashed down south. One killed the rest in hospital. "C" and "Y" were missing but had diverted and showed up this morning. On for early morning ops again. Bomb loads were 16x500. The bombers took off from base ~05:40 and were over target by ~07:50. The crews dropped their bombs from 1900 to 3300 feet on markers and from instructions by the Master Bomber. The crews observed good concentration of bomb bursts in the target area and lots of smoke. Bomber Command sent 692 bombers to attack targets of German strength in advance of American troops in the Normandy battle area. To these missions 6 Group contributed 99 aircraft. Cloud cover resulted in only two targets of six being bombed and these were not very effective. (BC-4; 6 Group-0) C Cusack was also injured in the crash of NA 528 "G" and died later. He is buried in Oxford Cemetery.
August 10: Ops on for fourteen to bomb La Pallice, France. "A" was an early return with an u/s engine. Routine training continued. A large number of aircrew members were screend today after completing their first tour of duty. Quite a lot of work and ops as well. Weather fair. Had to weld the exhaust ring on "A"'s port outer. The parade for George and his missus is tomorrow. Bomb loads consisted of 15X1000 or 4x500 plus 11x500. Takeoff was ~1920. The crews bombed from 9500 to 11000 feet. Small fires and explosions were observed by the crews as a result of the bombing. The attack was considered reasonably successful. Opposition was moderate with very little heavy flak seen. Some crews reported the Master Bomber's commentary was being jammed. "G" had one 500 lb bomb hang up but the crew was able to jettison it after leaving the target area. Bomber Command sent 215 bombers to destroy the oil storage tanks at Bordeaux and La Pallice. 6 Group's contribution was 138 aircraft. The raids were successful. (BC-0; 6 Group-0)
August 11: Not on ops for today. A number of airmen received their medals from King George at Linton today. Sixty men from the squadron from all ranks and sections were present at Linton. All kites returned safely. "A" was an early return due to engine trouble. Went to Linton on the King's parade. Saw them both and the oldest princess. The Queen is lovely. King gave out lots of medals to aircrew.
August 12: Daylight ops for fifteen aircraft to bomb Foret de Montrichard. All attacked the primary target with good results. The squadron was then detailed to ready ten aircraft for an attack on Falaise. Routine training also continued. Seven kites off on ops before dinner and returned OK excepting "M" in B-Flight whose nav (P/O Axford) got killed by flak. A Stirling crashed a mile away and burst into flames all were lost. Bomb loads were 16x500. Takeoff time was ~10:57. The crews bombed from 15500 to 17000 feet at ~14:00. The crews reported the bombing of Foret de Montrichard was well concentrated around the TI's with lots of fires burning and smoke. "A" and "V" reported bomb hang ups. The nav, P/O Axford, of W/C McKenna's aircraft "M", was killed by flak over the coast. The crew continued on and bombed the target before returning to base. The plane was holed in the nose. Bomb loads for the Falaise attack were 16x500. Takeoff was from 23:55 to 00:12. Bombing was at ~02:18 from 7000 to 8000 feet. Good concentration of bombs on TI's. A very large explosion was observed by some crews in the target area. Little in the way of opposition. One LW580 abandoned attack with two outer engines u/s. Bomber Command sent 117 bombers to the fuel storage at Foret de Montichard. 6 Group provided 104 aircraft to the raid. The attack left the target covered in smoke. (BC-0; 6 Group-0) The night time attacks for the squadron were as part of 144 bombers sent to attack German troops near Falaise. For this attack 6 Group contributed 48 aircraft. The attack was believed to be successful in disrupting the German troops and road transportation. (BC-0; 6 Group-0)
August 13: No ops. Training continued. A number of crews were screened today. An air bomber sustained injuries when his bike crashed through an hedge. Ops again last night. We sent four with the spares. All returned OK. Had a little trouble with "J" and "A" but are again both ready for today.
August 14: Daylight ops through for seventeen aircraft to attack Tassilly. Two returned early due to u/s engine and u/s bomb site. Normal training excerises continued. A number of aircrew members were screened or posted today. Daylights today all returned safely. Daily inspections done tonight and ready to go again. Going on leave tomorrow and am going to try and get my pass tonight. Invasion of southern France by British, Americans and French troops. Bomb loads were a mix of 16x500 or 5x1000 and 8x500. Takeoff time was ~12:40. "L" had to turn back due to bomb sight and engine u/s. "R" also was an early return due to u/s starboard outer engine. Bombs were dropped over target from 8500 to 9000 feet at ~14:58. Bombing concentrated around TI's and instructions from Master Bomber. The crews saw a great deal of smoke around the target area rising to 5000 feet. The crews considered the attack successful with good visibility. The target was defended by only a little heavy flak. Bomber Command detailed 805 bombers to seven targets of German troop concentrations opposing the 3rd Canadian Division in the Falaise area. 6 Group's contribution was 225 aircraft. Target marking and bombing was accurate with good results. Unfortunately due to a mix up in colours the 12th Canadian Field Regiment released yellow smoke which was similar to the colour used by the pathfinders for marking the targets that day. As a result a number of bombers dropped their bombs on the smoke. The friendly fire incident resulted in over 60 casualties and a number of vehicles being destroyed or damaged. (BC-2; 6 Group-0)
August 15: Ops on for fifteen aircraft to attack Brussels Melbrook air field. Routine training continued. "X" overshot the primary target and bombed the air field at Louvain. All returned safely. Left for Gravesend on the 8:30 bus to York. Then the 10:15 train to King's Cross. Then to London Bridge and a train from #2 platform to Gravesend arriving at about 4:30. Saw lots of buzz bombs going just overhead and going off nearby. Bomb loads were 9x1000 plus 4x500. Takeoff time for the bombers was 09:40. The crews bombed from 13000 to 17500 feet at ~12:40. Very strong head winds, that were not forecast, caused the bombers to be late over target. Master Bomber was able to keep the bombs concentrated on target. Crews saw many bomb bursts in dispersal areas and on runways as well as fires and lots of smoke. The target was defended by moderate heavy flak fired in barrages. The flak caused some aircraft to take evasive actions. "D" had an engine u/s but was able to bomb the target. "G" and "H" received a few minor flak holes. Bomber Command sent over 1000 bombers to attack nine Luftwaffe airfields in Belgium and Holland that night fighters were known to operate from. 6 Group had 205 aircraft detailed for the attacks. The bombing was accurate and damaged all the targets. (BC-3; 6 Group-2)
August 16: Ops through for fifteen bombers to attack Kiel. Training continued. Nav P/O Axford was laid to rest at the Regional Cemetary, Harrogate today. Many from the squadron attended the funeral. One reported missing from ops. (Gravesend) My first day of leave and sirens going off every five minutes. Plenty of bombs all day. Bomb loads were 1x2000, 48x30 and 6 clusters #14 (Cap.C.6/10). Takeoff was ~21:18. Crews bombed from 17000 to 19500 feet at ~00:15. The bombs were dropped on red and green TI's laid down by the PFF. Many fires were started that could be seen 80 miles away. Smoke columns over the target reached 15000 feet. Searchlights were not effective. Slight to moderate heavy flak. "B" and "X" had bombs hang up. The plane, L?589 "N" piloted by F/O Kidd crashed into another bomber while returning from the target damaging the canopy, bent props of both port engines, and the starboard tailplane. F/O Kidd received cuts to his face which obscured his vision in the right eye and a broken right arm. He was able to land the plane at Carnaby air base without injury to his crew. The squadron's bombers were part of a force of 348 bombers, 144 from 6 Group, sent by Bomber Command to attack Kiel. Although bombing was scattered the dock area received substantial damage. (BC-5; 6 Group-3) MZ-687 "L" did not return. Pilot F/O GF Pritchard with crew of, 2nd Dickey P/O RH Davies, ba F/O Block, nav F/O Moffit, gun WO1 Surles, wop WO2 DBH Lorenz, ag F/Sgt AG Roski, and gun Sgt KG Boucock crashed into the North Sea. The eng EAJ Proud survived and became a POW. Of the remaining crew members only FW Moffit and DBH Lorenz have registered grave sites. Both are in the Kiel War Cemetery.
August 17: Ops for the squadron were cancelled. Routine training continued. (Gravesend) Had a fairly quiet night but at daylight the buzz bombs came over every hour or less. Have seen several go down. One hit a balloon. Many are falling in open fields and villages.
August 20: No ops today and all flying cancelled due to bad weather. Wop F/Sgt Brakes reported missing on the night of June 10, 1944 while flying in "E" was able to avoid capture and made contact with the 2nd Army in France. He was able to return to England yesterday. A number of posting and arrivals of flight crews occurred today. (Riegate) Had more buzz bombs last night and several at 6:30 am. Several low and close by.
August 21: Stand down. Flight training on today. (Riegate) Plenty of doodle bugs going over and in the area. Some came over at 3 am.
August 22: Not on ops. Routine training today. Eng Sgt Binnis of "E" missing June 10, 1944 was able to connect up with the 2nd Army in France as well and returned to England August 20. (Riegate) Sirens nearly all night and doodle bugs. Got up at 6:30 and leaving on the 8 am train for Kings Cross. Arrived in York at 2 pm. Got to camp at 5:30. Mail waiting for me. All my kites are on inspection so will have it easy I guess.
August 23: Not on ops for today. Normal flight training program undertaken. Postings to and from the squadron continued. Not much doing. Wrote letters. "A" came out this afternoon so will have a good go at it in the morning. Paris fell today. Was taken by the French patriots. Torchy and his crew were lost in "L" while I was on leave.
September 15: Ops on for seventeen to attack Kiel tonight. "B" was an early return due to hydraulic problems with the undercarriage. Crews reported the bombing was scattered although many fires observed. Normal flight training continued. Fourteen Lancs from 428 "Ghost" Squadron were diverted here and are going on ops with ours tonight. It is a late takeoff and a long trip. My four are in good shape. I hope they get off OK. My 27th birthday today. Bomb loads were 1x2000, 960x4, 120x4 X (phosphorus). Takeoff time ~22:00. The crews attacked ~01:29 from 19500 to 21000 feet. The visibility was good. Crews reported good bombing concentration on TI's. Fires and smoke seen in the target area. Some crews reported fires visible from 50 miles and heavy smoke visible 100 miles from target. Some crews noted many aircraft with navigation lights on after leaving England. "E" piloted by F/Sgt Tease was hit by heavy flak over target at 19500 feet. "W" piloted by F/L Motherwell ditched at 04:00 on return leg of mission after a major hydraulic failure caused under carriage, flaps and bomb doors to all come down on return flight. Sent out emergency message just prior to ditching with location. The rear gunner of "Q" saw an ME210 250 yards off starboard and opened fire on it as it closed in on the bomber. Nothing claimed. Bomber Command sent 490 bombers to Kiel. 6 Group's contribution was 201 to the total. The attack was very successful with good concentration of bombs in the center of the town. (BC-6; 6 Group-2)
September 16: Two aircraft, "P" and "X" were sent out in search of the ditched aircrew. The aircrew was spotted in a dinghy approximately 70 miles off the coast at 17:27. The crew was picked up by a rescue launch about 20:00 and transported to the Great Yarmouth Naval Barracks. All eight crew members were safe. Routine flight training carried out. A number of aircrew members were screened from active duty today. All kites returned OK. "W" in B-flight went down in the channel. Crew safe at Notherwell. "C" and "D" and a few others with flak holes. Two of the Lancs couldn't get off last night. Changed an exhaust ring on "C" and so pulled and put on my first prop. Anyway "C" is OK.
October 4: Early morning ops by fifteen aircraft to attack Bergen "B". Call 1 am, eating 1:30, Nav Brief 2:00, Pilot Brief 2:45, Main brief 3:00. Seven bombed the primary site and eight attacked the secondary target. Four diverted on return due to low fuel. Crews reported bombing in harbour scattered. One loud explosion and resulting fire and smoke observed. Aircraft came under fire from ships in harbour. All returned safely. An early morning call at 2:30 and we sent seven off by 5:30 on a long trip. Back at 12:30 from Norway. D.I.'s are done for the morning. Some training scheduled for tomorrow. We are to have kit inspection at 9:30 in the morning. Bomb loads consisted of 9x1000 plus 2x500. Takeoff was at ~05:32. Those bombing the primary target (aiming point B) bombed at ~09:35 in clear weather from 12000 feet. Target was identified visually and with TI's. Fires and explosions observed. Some bomb aimers reported seeing submarines. Alternate target (aiming point A) was attacked due to primary target obscured by smoke. Attack was made at ~09:24 from 12000 feet. Crews observed ships being hit by bombs as well as fires and explosions in the vicinity of submarine pens. Fires and smoke seen by some crews from 100 miles away. NA630 "N" and LL574 "R" had minor flak damage. Bomber Command sent 140 heavies to attack the Bergen, Norway, U boat pens. 6 Group's contribution was 128 aircraft. Although the bombers successfully bombed the pens the results were mixed. The pens roofs had been thickened so no bombs made it through but the electrical systems were damaged as were various buildings in the immediate vicinity of the pens including three ships. However, there was some scattered bombing beyond the target area causing damage to Bergen, in particular a school and a air raid shelter, resulting in about 200 civilian casualties. (BC-1; 6 Group-0)
October 6: An all out effort was required for an afternoon attack on Dortmund. Twenty-three took off. MZ540 "H", had engine trouble on way to target and aborted mission. Crews reported the attack as reasonably concentrated with many fires observed in target area. One large explosion and resulting fire observed. Likely an a large oil tank. All aircraft were diverted and landed safely. F/O Kidd and F/O Aldred were awarded DFC. Very foggy but ops on and a very long trip, over 2,000 lb fuel load. We got 11 off. Had to repair port inner of "A". Went to York. Had good meal and returned by 11 pm. Bomb loads were 13x500. Takeoff ~16:10. Crews attacked target in good visibility on TI's from 17000 to 20000 at ~20:35. Good concentration of bombs on accurate TI's with many explosions and fires observed. One explosion sent smoke up to 10000 feet. Defences were very light. Many Crews reported that many French towns and cities had lights on. NA632 "E" received minor damage. NA579 "J" had port engine go u/s just prior to target. NA509 had u/s engine and had to abort attacking primary target and instead dropped bombs somewhere in Germany. Lancasters were dropping bombs through the bombing stream below. Bomber Command attacked Dortmund with 523 aircraft. This was the largest raid of the war so far for 6 Group. The group contributed 293 aircraft to the effort. The attack was considered very accurate and the city sustained severe damage to infra structure and housing. Over 600 casualties were reported. (BC-5; 6 Group-2)
October 14: Early morning ops through for eighteen to bomb Duisburg. Sixteen bombed the target. One aircraft had a malfunction with the bomb doors and could not drop their bomb load and another jettisoned their bombs. Some crews identified the target visually and reported many explosions in the target area with reasonable concentration of bombing. Fires from the attack were observed from 100 miles away. One crew landed at Woodbridge. A quick turn around was requested and night ops for another eighteen planes to return to Duisburg. One returned early with its bomb load due to u/s engine and another returned with control problems. Sixteen attacked the primary target in what was considered a scattered attack. Crews reported a few fires and explosions. One of the squadron's bombers was in collision with another aircraft resulting in damage to the fin and rudder. The pilot was able to land at Woodbridge. A number of air crew men were screened from ops today. Early ops again this morning. Takeoff at 6:30. All returned, several full of holes. 11 are scheduled to takeoff again tonight. Very windy all day, but fairly clear tonight. No mail. Bomb loads were a mixture of 1000 and 500 lb general purpose bombs. Most aircraft carried a total of 10000 lb. Takeoff ~06:30. NA630 "N" had engine trouble and aborted the mission. MZ747 "O" had to abort mission because the bomb bay doors would not open. Crews bombed at ~08:54 from 17000 to 19000 feet. Visibility was good for most crews through broken cloud. The crews identified the target visually using river and airport. Master Bomber instructed crews to bomb visually with code word "Freehand". Defences in target area were heavy flak plus some nightfighters. Crews reported seeing fires and explosions in target area. NA509 "V' had a hydraulic malfunction and could not close bomb bay doors. MZ540 "H" was damaged over target by haevy flak. Holed in fuselage, rear turret and starboard wing. MZ952 "I" received minor flak damage to windscreen of cockpit. NA579 "J" had the bomb aimers compartment hit by flak causing minor damage. LL574 "R" had the fuselage slightly damaged by flak. LW392 "S" observed an FW190 at 300 yards. A corkscrew starboard was ordered and the rear gunner, F/Sgt Clifton and the upper gunner F/Sgt Anglin fired upon the fighter. The second raid on Duisburg took off ~22:35 loaded with 13 clusters XIV Mk. I (470 lbs each). LW393 "W" aborted the mission due to u/s engine. The bombers attacked at 01:44 from 21000 feet. A few clouds were over the target area. Bombing was on TI's. Many fires observed expanding into larger ones. The flames could be seen from 100 miles away. Crews reported the attack as successful. MZ952 "I" had a u/s engine for part of the trip. NA579 "J", flown by F/O Haslop aborted mission after colliding with another plane at 00:48 hours which removed the top half of the starboard rudder. This was a "show of strength" series of raids known as "Operation Hurricane". The purpose was to demonstrate to the German Command the superiority of the Allied Air Force in Europe. It was a combined effort with VIIIth Army US Air Force. Bomber command launched 1013 aircraft against Duisburg early in the morning (6:30 takeoff time) with fighter support. The VIIIth Army attacked Cologne with 1251 bombers and heavy fighter escort. Bomber Command did a rapid turn around of aircraft and attacked Duisburg again the night of October 14/15 with 1005 aircraft. 6 Group contributed 258 aircraft to the morning raid and 243 to the night attack. Almost 9000 tons of bombs fell on the city in the two raids. (BC-4; 6 Group-0) (BC-21; 6 Group-5)
October 20: Due to 420 Squadron having the least number of accidents in September for all of 6 Group the squadron received the "Handley-Page Minature Trophy" from AOC McBurny. All squadron personnel attended the ceremony. Raining all the time. Got a parcel from home.
October 21: Ops through for 20 to attack Hanover at 10:30. Two did not takeoff, "C" and "R". Aircraft recalled due to bad weather and returned by 19:15. Ground training continued. Squadron learned that eng P/O Proud who went missing on August 17 in MZ687 is a POW. A change of bomb load and fuel load stopped several going at the last minute.
October 24: Ops on for 13 aircraft but scrubbed after main briefing. No tea being served in officers mess. On standby till midnight. Morning ops for 18 aircraft. The following reported missing on August 15: F/S Batt, F/S Wintemute and F/O Smith are POW's according to German information released. F/L Zavits, F/Sgt Novack, F/O Hubbard and Sgt Crackmell reported as dead are now considered missing believed killed in action. An effort is underway to raise a $500 Victory Bond for the City of London via the London Women's Air Force Auilliary. Went to town yesterday afternoon and saw the show "Dr. Wassell" which was very good. Stayed all night returning on the morning bus to find plenty of work waiting me after last night's ops. "C" with an engine change and "A" and "J" back early. Ops tonight were scrubbed. Must go on pay parade.
October 25: Ops through for eighteen to attack Homberg in daylight. One was an early return due to u/s engine. LW386 "A" piloted by F/O Glover was hit by bombs over target. One bomb passed through the port wing causing fuel tanks to fall away and another hit the starboard elevator. The pilot was able to keep the plane under control. Crews reported bombing to be scattered due to the PFF indicators being dropped late and when they were dropped they could not be seen due to clouds. Germans passed on information that F/O Moffit's (nav of MZ687 missing on August 16) body was found on August 31. Stand by for early morning ops. On tonight and it looks pretty busy night. Kites took off about 11 and are due back at 6 pm. "D" and "F" didn't go. Weather still isn't very good. No mail. Bombloads were 6x1000 plus 8x500. Takeoff ~12:37. LW380 "B" flown by F/O Johnston had equipment failure and aborted the mission. Target was completely overcast. Crews bombed on skymarker TI's from 16000 to 18400 feet at ~15:49. Crews were unable to assess quality for attack but thought it was likely not very successful due to scattering of bombs, poor marking and confused Master Bomber. Bomber Command attacked Essen again, only 36 hours since the previous attack. This time 771 bombers dropped their loads on sky markers due to cloud cover. Reports indicate over 1100 buildings were damaged and 820 people killed. A smaller force of 243 aircraft, made up of 199 from 6 Group, was sent to attack Homberg. (BC-0; 6 Group-0)
November 8 to 17: On leave to Edinburgh and Glasgow. Nip got his pass OK so we caught the 10:30 bus to York had dinner at Ma's caught the 1:49 to Edinburgh and arrived about 7 pm. Reached the place before 8 pm. Had a swell supper of sausage (good ones) and an egg. Going to bed and am going to get plenty of sleep for nine days.
November 15: No ops but intensive flight training with fifteen aircrews involved. Information received that wop Sgt Unger reported as missing is now considered as have being killed in action.
November 17: Ops through for early this morning but these were cancelled at 06:15 after aircrews up at 05:00. Bad weather cancelled flying. Medical officer gave lecture. (Glasgow) Got up early and caught the train to Edinburgh and then the 10:30 to York. Got to York about 2:30 and had dinner at Ma's. Got to camp at 5:30. Lots of letters. Lots of replacements.
November 21: Nineteen on ops to Castrop-Rauxel. Meals at 11:00, nav briefing 12:30, main briefing 13:00. One, NA630 "N" was an early return due to hydraulic malfunction that would not allow the crew to raise landing gear. Remainder bombed primary and on return were diverted to other bases. NX346 "U" crashed at Thrintaft near Leeeming injuring four and killing the air bomber F/O Yarush. Ops, takeoff at around 3:30. Tried to get back at 10 pm. One of 426 Squadron's kites crashed into our billets. The kite is spread over half a mile. Five aircrew killed and two seriously injured. Another kite crashed nearby but the crew were able to bail out safely. All our kites have been diverted due to the crash on the drome. Bomb loads were 16x500. Takeoff ~15:32. Visibility was good over the target area with clear skies and only a small amount of thin cloud. Bombs were dropped at ~19:00 from 19000 feet. Aiming point indicated by red and green TI's. Smoke billowing to 8000 feet over target area. Many fires and a few large explosions witnessed. Overall crews considered it a good raid. Bomber Command carried out over 1300 sorties to various targets. 420 Squadron was sent to attack the oil refinery at Castrop-Rauxel along with 273 others. Of this number 6 Group supplied 230 aircraft. The target was successfully bombed and information suggests the refinery was destroyed. (BC-4; 6 Group-4) HX-346"U" crashed at a diversion base, Norton on Swale near Leeming killing ba F/O F Yarush and injuring the crew. F/O F Yarush is buried at Harrogate Cemetery.
December 5: All aircraft were grounded in order for a throttle linkage improvement to be installed. After repairs ops through for sixteen to attack Soest. All took off. NA192 "Q" was an early return due to a hydraulic malfunction. The rest bombed the primary target and returned safely. Regular flight training continued. (Sedgefield) A quiet wedding. Had lots of fun and met Bessie. Decided to travel with her to Newcastle so we wouldn't have to travel alone. It seems I have found a friend in her. After I saw Bessie on the train last night I caught the 10:30 from the Central station and arrived in York at 1:30 am. Stayed in the Y overnight on a mattress on the floor. My father and Bessie continued writing to each other for the next 55 years until my father passed away in 2009. Bomb loads were 1x2000 plus 7x1000. Takeoff time was ~17:50. Target was identified with TI's and Gee. Crews bombed at ~21:27 from 17000 to 18000 feet in mostly cloudy skies. Crews reported an overall good raid with many fires and explosions seen. A number had bombs hang up. Bomber Command sent 497 bombers to attack the rail yards at Soest. 6 Group contributed 195 bombers to the attack. The raid successfully focussed in the area of the rail yards. Over 1000 buildings were hit as well. (BC-2; 6 Group-2)
December 9: Not on ops. Fifteen air craft took part in "gaggle" formation flying excercise. Busy all morning. Had eight kites go on 6 Group formation training. Had DI's to do at night. Was on duty so worked on "B" and "I". We didn't get done until 3 am.
December 25: Fog caused a stand down for the squadron. All enjoyed their Christmas dinner and festivities. Unfortunately all the crews were still diverted and could not enjoy the fun. Too bad the kites were diverted. Had a very good meal. A big party was had by the whole station.
December 29: Ops through for sixteen to attack Troisdorf. Fifteen were successful in attacking the primary target. One "C" flown by F/Ldr McCarthy bombed an alternate target. All returned to base. A chilly morning. Saw a V4 while going to work. It circled several times before the pilot, on a one way ride, aimed it straight down. It was a long way off so we don't know the results. This is an odd entry in my father's diary. The most plausible explanation of what my father saw is an aerially launched V1 that had a gyroscope failure and was flying in circles until it ran out of fuel. By all accounts the V4 program involving manned V1 rockets did not become operational. Thanks to J. Larder of the Yorkshire Air Museum for clarifying this for me. But still if the V4 was top secret and not operational how did anyone at the Tholthorpe base know about it let alone to even suggest it was a V4? Obviously the normal version of the V1 was well known by all the airmen so they would have recognized it easily. Also, I have not been able to find any information about a V1 attack in the area for this date. There was a well documented attack on Manchester and area on Dec 24, 1944 involving a number of aerially launched V1's but obviously this incident is a separate attack. Kites took off about 3 pm so won't be back until late. Likely will be diverted. Troisdorf bomb loads were 16x500. Takeoff 15:40. Target was completely cloud covered. Crews bombed on TI's from 18000 to 20000 feet at 19:28. No assessment of damage could be made but it appeared bombs were concentrated on target markers. Bomber Command sent over 700 bombers to three targets, Koblenz, Scholven/Buer and Troisdorf (197). 6 Group bombers were sent to the last two targets in numbers of 48 and 149. It appears the railway yards at Troisdorf were not hit. (BC-0; 6 Group-0)
January 5: Ops through for fourteen to attack Hannover. Thirteen attacked the primary target but one "V" is missing. Night fighters were operating more than usual in the target area. Should be noted that this is the first aircraft missing from the squadron since August 17, 1944. Flight training ongoing. Got up at 11:30 and am going to town on the 1:30 bus. Went to town could not get Jim's laundry. Had dinner at Ma's. Ops tonight. "A" went and "C" went on training. Bomb loads were made up of 16x500. Takeoff time for the mission was ~16:50. The target was overcast with cloud tops to 6000 feet. Crews attacked on TI flares at ~19:30 from 17000 to 19000 feet. Crews were able to see some bomb bursts, fires and explosions through the cloud cover. Some crews had bombs hang up. On this night Hannover was attacked by 664 aircraft. 6 Group had 190 aircraft on the raid. The bombing damaged or destroyed almost 500 buildings and killed about 250 people. (BC-31; 6 Group-10) MZ471 "V" was posted as missing. F/Lt LW Brand, P/O G Walker, P/O JW Vandenbergh. "V" is believed to have been shot down by a night fighter. The crew members that perished in the crash were buried in Hannover War Cemetery. F Noble was wounded in the crash but succeeded in evading capture for a time. When he was captured he was taken to Hohemark were he died. The remaining members of the crew; RW Lander, JH Warren and DO Palmer, became POW's.
January 6: Fifteen aircraft were sent to Hanu from the squadron. All took off and fourteen attacked the primary target. "Z" attacked a secondary target due to electrical malfunction caused by freezing. All returned safely to base. Routine flight training. A pretty busy day. Kites took off by 4. "D" is on training but the rest went. I think the trouble with "D" and "A" will blow over. From last night's ops 425 lost three and "B" flight, one. We are still lucky as our last loss was nearly six months ago. The aircraft were bombed up with 1x2000 plus 12 clusters MK.14 (104x4lb). Take of was ~15:10. Crews bombed through complete overcast from 17,000 to 19,000 feet at ~19:12. Aiming point was designated using skymarker flares laid down by PFF. Crews observed some explosions and red glows through clouds. Bomber Command detailed 482 aircraft, including 189 from 6 Group, to attack Hanu and the major railway junction there. Bombing appears to have been scattered throughout the town and neighbouring villages and countryside. However, 90 people were killed and about 40% of the town was destroyed. (BC-6; 6 Group-2)
January 16: Eighteen aircraft readied for ops to attack Magdeburg. All took off successfully. Thirteen are known to have bombed the primary target. NA190 "U" had to abort due to aileron malfunction. MZ378 "S" flown by F/O Field was hit by another plane as it was leaving the target area causing damage to the H2S, entrance door smashed and the oil cooler of the starboard outer engine was damaged resulting in the plane landing on three engines at Carnaby. Four are missing "L", "E", "Q" and "M". This was to be the worst night the squadron was to experience during the entire war. Four bombers went down killing fifteen aircrew. Ops scrubbed for early morning. But came on again for 5:30 and we sent nine at 6:30. It has been a fair day and tonight is a little windy. The kites are due back in the early morning so it will be a tough night. Got three letters today and a parcel of 48 chocolate bars. Wrote MO tonight. Wonder if she will answer. (Personal footnote: Bert married MO in 1947) Bomb loads were made off 1x2000 plus 12 clusters Mk 14 (104x4lb each). Takeoff time was ~18:40. The primary target was bombed at ~21:45 from 19000 to 20000 feet. There was good visibility with slight haze over the target area. The target was marked with TI's. Bombing appeared concentrated with large fires reported visible from 150 miles. Night fighters were active in the area. NR208 "D" engaged an ME109. The upper gunner W/O Marchand spotted the fighter from 400 yards while the bomber was on its bomb run. The rear gunner W/O Mclean and W/O Marchand both fired upon the fighter which broke away at 125 yards. Four aircraft reported missing. Bomber Command attacked Magdeburg with 371 aircraft. 6 Group provided 125 aircraft to the attack. The raid supposedly wiped out 44% of the town and was therefore deemed successful. (BC-17; 6 Group-7) Four squadron Halifaxes were reported missing "E", "L", "M" and "Q" with a loss of fifteen crew members: NA188 "E":F/O R Ireland, Sgt R Hutchinson F/O W Dennis, F/O W Webb, P/O L Penny. Thought to have been attacked by a night fighter. The crash site is near Alfeid. The killed crew members are buried in Hannover War Cemetery. FW Poole and S Cameron were taken POW's. NR205"L": P/O R Harvey and P/O J McCormick killed and were burined in Becklington War Cemetery. The remaining crew members; PE Morissette, CF Bryce, RJ Wilson, D Reid and AJ Little were all captured and became POW's. NA183 "M": F/Lt E McCutcheon, F/O T Jones, F/O J Welk were killed in the crash after being attacked by a night fighter. The crash site is near Bokensdorf. Those members who died in the crash are buried at Hannover War Cemetery. DW Rithcie, JG Skidmore, GA Haacke and DO Mackey were taken prisoner. NA192 "Q": F/Lt E Watson, Sgt A Parker, P/O C Way, F/O Q Louie, P/O W Partridge were killed and buried in the Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery. DJ Jacobi and T Lynch survived the crash and became POW's.
January 17: Not on ops. Flight training continued. Bad breaks again. Lost six kites from the squadron last night. Three from Don's end, "E", "L" and "M" and B-Flight lost "Q" and two somewhere in England. Weather and fighters were the cause. It was a hot target near Berlin. Weather has turned foggy today so maybe I'll get it pretty easy tomorrow night. I hope.
January 31: Weather continues to be too bad for flying. Squadron stand down. Notified that F/L Knight is considered deceased. Very mild today with rain and fog in the morning. We were to have a big Liberator diversion but the fog stopped them so we only got one in. It thawed all night and by noon today we have little or no snow. Our own kites are still not back from diversion yet so the boys are having it easy.
February 3: Not on ops. Limited flight training today. Got up at 10 am to tend to a Spit. They have been coming in all day for fuel etc. Then four Hallies were ferried in and a Lanc landed just at dark.
February 13: Ops through for fourteen aircraft to attack Bohlen. All attacked the primary target. All were diverted. One, "J" flown by F/Lt McHolm is missing. Got up rather late and missed breakfast but got out to work on time. Weather fair but we had one on training this morning and sent eight on ops 5:30. Kites are to be diverted. B-Flight "X" was a no starter so "F" went. No mail. Missed pay parade tonight so will wait till next one. Raining a little tonight. Bomb loads consisted of 8x500 plus 4x250 or 4x500. Takeoff time ~17:50. The target was overcast (10/10's cloud) with cloud tops to 12000 feet. Target was marked with flares and Master Bomber adjusted the attack. Some crews orbited target to ensure bombing point identification. Crews bombed ~22:00 from 17000 to 20000 feet. Crews reported flares were somewhat scattered. Some reported seeing glow of explosions/fires through the clouds. All the crews diverted to Mendlesham. NR141 "J", flown by F/Lt McHolm, was running low on fuel so decided to land at Juvincourt in France to refuel. This bomber was initially reported as missing.
Below is the page from Sgt Wally Gibson's log book for the date and the telegram notification sent to his wife on February 14, 1944. This was followed the next day with a telegram saying the crew had landed in France and were all safe. Wally was the engineer for F/Lt McHolm (Provided by K. Gibson).
Bomber Command sent 420 Squadron's planes to Bohlen as part of a force of 368. 6 Group contributed 115 planes. The target was a synthetic oil plant. The crews were faced with clouds to 15,000 feet and icing. Bombing was scattered with no results. On the same night Bomber Command began Operation Thunderclap to attack a number of large centers (Dresden, Berlin, Leipzig and Chemnitz) critical to Germany's war effort. Just under 800 Lancasters accompanied by nine Mosquitoes attacked Dresden in two waves. Almost 1500 tons of bombs were dropped on the target. The resulting firestorm, similar to what Hamburg experienced in 1943, burned out many areas of the city and killed between 40,000 and 50,000 people. The night attack was followed by a daylight raid by 311, US B-17's to add to the destruction. (BC-1; 6 Group-0)
February 14: Nine aircraft through for ops to attack Chemnitz. All took off and eight bombed the target and returned. One "B" was an early return due to engine failure. It crashed. "J" flown by F/L McHolm reported safe in France after landing. Limited flight training undertaken. A fairly nice day. Kites returned at noon and "C" is right back on again at 4:30. Had a cooler to change on "A" and a lot of work on "D". Last night and tonight they went to the other side of Berlin. "B" of our flight returned early and undershot by half a mile and everything is spread all over. One of the crew got out. Pilot was Anderson I knew him well. My "J" was lost last night. Bombloads were 12x500. Takeoff time ~17:00. The target was bombed at ~21:10 through mostly cloudy (8/10's) conditions from 19000 to 19500 feet using red TI's as aiming point. Crews reported good concentration of fires. Also some fighter activity was noted. Bomber Command continued with Operation Thunderclap and sent over 700 aircraft, 118 from 6 Group to Chemnitz only to find it covered in cloud. Bombing was scattered with minimal damage to the target. (BC-13; 6 Group-3) NA-179 "B" returned early and crashed trying to land at the base. F/O W. Anderson, Sgt H. Evans, F/O J. Sinden, F/O L. Jones, F/O S. Hay, P/O E. Sills were killed and only WH Gilles survived the crash with injuries. The dead crew members were buried in Harrogate Cemetery and the body of H Evans was taken by his relatives for burial.
February 17: Fifteen through for ops. Fourteen did not attack target and brought their bombs back on orders from Master Bomber who cancelled attack due to visibility. All aircraft diverted. "X" is missing. All were to be out by 8 am and they took off by 11:30 which was surprising as it is still pretty foggy. We sent 15 and 425 Squadron sent 13. I started a 36 at noon. Got mail. Bomb loads were 12x500. Takeoff time was ~11:30. Only one crew from the squadron dropped their bomb load before the attack was cancelled by the Master Bomber. Bomber Command sent almost over 300 planes, including 110, to Wesel. Due cloud cover the bombing was stopped just as it started by the Master Bomber. (BC-3; 6 Group-0) NR-126 "X" crashed into a hill called Shillmoor in Scotland killing F/O M. Stock, Sgt B. Crollie, F/O R. Trout, F/O R. Floripe, P/O T. O'Kane, F/O D. Neil. Only JA Beasom survived the crash with injuries. B Crollie was buried privately by his relatives. The rest of the crew were buried in Harrogate Cemetery.
February 23: Seventeen aircraft on ops for attack on Essen. All took off. Fifteen successfully attacked the primary target. One, "R", was an early return due to u/s hydraulics. Another experienced severe icing and had to abort the mission. All returned to base. Information through about the following airmen missing on the night of January 16, 1945. F/O Webb and F/O Welk are believed to have been killed and P/O Haacke, P/O Mackay and P/O Skidmore are POW's . An early call out and we got ten away by noon. They returned at six and we had to go out and work on "J". "A" is still the same. Will put jet boxes in tomorrow. No mail today. Bomb load consisted of 1x2000, 12x#17 AN-M clusters (110x4). Takeoff was ~12:00. The planes flew in "gaggle". The target was cloud covered so Gee was used to identify target area. Bombs were dropped ~15:09 from 16000 to 17000 feet. "C" received flak damage. Essen was the target for this daylight raid. Bomber Command sent 342 aircraft to specifically attack the Krupps works. 6 Group provided 119 aircraft. The bombing was very accurate. (BC-1; 6 Group-0)
February 24: Fourteen aircraft on ops to bomb Kamen. All took off and successfully completed the mission. Another early call to get them away by 1 pm. All returned last night. Finally got "A" back to normal. An American Havoc (night fighter) crash landed on the drome this evening. No one hurt. A "Fort" came in just before our own returned from ops. So had to look after it. Bomb load 16x500. Takeoff time ~12:50. Planes flew in "gaggle" formation. The target was overcast so crews determined aiming point by Gee. Target attacked at ~16:50 from 16000 to 17000 feet. 6 Group contributed 110 of the 340 aircraft sent by Bomber Command to attack the oil plant just north of Kamen. Damage was severe in the village of Bergkamen and the central part of Kamen. The oil plant appears to not have sustained any damage. Over 220 people were killed. (BC-1; 6 Group-1)
February 27: Sixteen aircraft on day ops to raid Mainz. All were successful and safely returned but "J" flown by F/L Ledingham was damaged by bombs falling from above. Early call this morning but the kites did not get away until noon so won't be back until 7 or 8 tonight. We sent ten of them so it will be a busy night and I am on so I could get away on my leave. Bomb load was 1x2000 plus 11 clusters MK14 (106x4). Takeoff time was ~12:56. Planes flew in "gaggle" formation with fighter cover. The target was completely overcast so target was identified by green smoke puffs. Bombs were dropped at 16:30 from 17000 to 18000 feet. Bomber Command sent a daylight raid of 458 aircraft to Mainz. 6 Group contributed 187 to the effort. The target was obscured by cloud so sky-markers were used for aiming points. The bombers successfully dropped over 1500 tons of bombs with good concentration. Almost 5700 buildings were damaged or destroyed in and around the city centre. Over 1100 people were killed. (BC-2; 6 Group-0)
February 28: No ops but extensive training with nineteen aircrews involved. All kites returned safely but "J" had about 6 feet of the port wingtip knocked off by a bomb. Bob Ledingham was flying it and he did well to bring it back as his aerilons were useless. We had two bowsers. I drove one so we finished by 1:30 which was good as they landed at 8 pm. Len and I got our passes and got the 1:30 to York and will leave tonight on the 1 am train.
March 2: Ops through for fourteen aircraft to attack Cologne. All were successful and returned safely. (Gravesend) The rocket bombs are pretty thick here and come in quite regularly. Bomb loads 16x500. Takeoff time 07:15. Crews bombed through mostly cloudy skies around 10:16 from 17500 to 18500 feet. Crews bombed on Gee and blue smoke puffs. Master Bomber instructed "pickwick" (Code for dropping bombs 200 yards short of markers.) Visibility was very good with ground features seen through breaks in cloud. Crews reported seeing many fires in the city. For its last attack on Cologne of the war Bomber Command sent 858 bombers including 182 from 6 Group. The bombing was very accurate. The city was essentially on the front lines by this time. It was occupied by American troops on March 6. (BC-9; 6 Group-1)
March 3: Ops were cancelled for today. New orders read to pilots. Training flights were carried out by fifteen aircraft. (Gravesend) A noisy night with sirens, buzz bombs and rocket bombs. Lots of American bombers going over.
March 5: Ops through for fifteen aircraft Chemnitz. NA184 "W" shortly after take off. NA190 "U" crashed near Haslwood Castle, Yorshire. "R" flown by F/Lt McHolm was an early return due to icing. Three, "F", "V" and "H" landed in France because of fuel shortage. R144 "H" flown by P/O Manary crashed while attempting land but the crew was not injured. The rest of the planes diverted to the east coast of England due to fuel shortages. NP959 "N" flown by F/Lt Glover is missing. Bomb loads 12x500. Takeoff time ~16:35. Crews reported severe icing between 4000 and 11000 feet on the climb to altitude over England. Crews bombed at ~21:55 from 17000 feet on red and green flares. A large explosion in the target area was seen by many crews. Some crews reported fighter activity on the route to target. A number of crews landed in France low on petrol. Bomber Command sent 760 bombers to Chemnitz as a continuation of Operation Thunderclap. 6 Group contributed 183 aircraft. The attack started horrifically. Icing conditions caused nine crashes from 6 Group Squadrons shortly after takeoff. 426 was extremely hard hit with three Halifaxes going down. These losses were in addition to the 22 lost on the operation itself. The attack appears to have caused substantial damage to the city. (BC-22; 6 Group-6) NA184 "W" crashed shortly after take off. Pilot P/O EW Clark, Sgt J Kirby, F/O W Oakes, P/O J Epoch. The plane was subjected to icing and crashed in Marrow Flat Farm. JB Kirby's body was taken by his relatives for burial. The remaining deceased crew members were buried at Harrogate Cemetery. DV Freed, HR Arnold and HM O'Connor survived the crash. NA190 "U" crashed shortly after take off near Hazelwood Castle due to icing caused the plane to crash. P/O R. Sollie, Sgt R. Dinnen, P/O W. Gaba, F/O E. Kaechele, F/O R. Smith, P/O R. Battler were killed. Only mid upper gunner JH Waugh survived the crash by baling out. The crew are buried in Harrogate Cemetery. NP959 "N" did not return. P/O J. Kastner died shortly after being taken prisoner. He is buried at Choloy War Cemetery, France. The remaining crew members, VR Glover, DM Mottrick, HW Skipper, JR Gordon, VL McKinnion, DF Broadfoot and HE MacKenzie all became POW's.
March 7: A dozen aircraft on ops for Hemmingstedt. All were successful and return to base safely. Crews that landed in France returned today. (Reigate) American 1st Army across the Rhine at Remagen. Bomb load 12x500. Takeoff time ~1830. Visibility good. TI's used to pinpoint aiming point. Crews dropped bombs ~22:03 from 9000 to 12000 feet. Crews encountered some heavy flak and some reported enemy fighter flares and searchlight activity. Bomber Command flew over 1250 sorties this night to various targets. The squadron's bombers were sent to Hemmingstedt, along with 281 others, to attack the refinery. The attack was unsuccessful as the bombs fell a couple of miles from the intended target. (BC-5; 6 Group-?)
March 8: Ops through for fourteen to Hamburg. All were successful and made a safe return to base. A number of aircrew members were screened today. Squadron was informed that P/O Surles who was reported missing on August 16/17, 1944 is presumed dead as is P/O Hansford who was reported missing on the night of April 24, 1944. (Norwich) Left Reigate to visit friends in Norwich. Bomb loads were 8x500 plus 8 x250. Takeoff time ~18:19. Target area was almost completely overcast. Crews identified target by PFF TI skymarker flares. Bombs were dropped at ~21:26 from 18500 to 20000 feet. A large explosion in the target area was reported by a few crews. Enemy fighter activity was seen by crews on both the inward and outward routes. Bomber Command sent 312 aircraft, including 85 6 Group bombers, to attack the shipyards at Hamburg in an attempt to disrupt the construction of new U-boats. Hamburg was covered in cloud and the raid was not successful. (BC-1; 6 Group-1)
March 17: Ops for fourteen were cancelled. Little going on today. Jerry came over about 10 and dropped some flares and we saw some tracers.
March 18: Thirteen planes detailed to bomb Witten. F/O Manery had to land his plane on three engines. One, "Q", reported as missing. Got up before noon and went to a lecture. Then went to church in the evening. Bomb loads were 1x2000, 4x#14 clusters plus 8x#17 clusters. Takeoff time ~00:20. Visibility was good over target with only a slight haze. Crews bombed at ~04:20 from 15700 to 16000 feet on Gee and TI's. Crews reported many fires and smoke in the target area. Fighter flares were abundant over target area. The rear gunner of NR138 "T" saw an ME110 from 800 yards and the pilot, P/O Trudell, performed a corkscrew starboard while the rear gunner and mid upper gunner fired at it. Hits were seen on the enemy plane and it was claimed as damaged. This crew faced a second enemy aircraft on this night. In this case it was an ME410 and the rear gunner, Thompson and upper gunner Fandrick fired on it while the pilot made a corkscrew to port. This plane was also hit by the machine guns and is claimed as damaged. MZ910 "Q" reported missing. Bomber Command sent 324 bombers to attack Witten. 6 Group's contribution was 83. The town was devastated. Over 60% of it was destroyed or damaged. (BC-8; 6 Group-2) MZ910 "Q" crash landed near Barmen. DM Armstrong did not survive the landing and was buried at the site by the other crew members. His remains are now in Rheinberg War Cemetery. The other members of the crew; GJ Keeper, AV Padgham, RG Reid, AF Domke, AH Butler and WG Bridgeman became POW's.
March 28: No ops. Bad weather resulted in no flying. Order through for all instruments in planes to be changed from miles to knots. Got all my four kites back now so am trying to keep them nice as we are supposed to get Lancs soon. 420 Squadron had won the trophy for top efficiency of the group.
March 31: Crews were called at 01:30 and took off by 05:50. All were successful in attacking the primary target of Hamburg. The crews dropped their bombs on sky markers as the target was completely overcast. Kites took off about 4:30 am and returned shortly after noon. All returned safely. My turn to work again so it was pretty good as we were all finished by 7 pm even though we had a cooler on "A" and "D" besides our other work. Bomb loads were 16x500. Takeoff ~06:15. Target was overcast. Planes flew in "gaggle" with fighter cover. Crews used H2S and blue smoke puff TI's to identify the target. Crews bombed at~08:54 from 17200 to 17500 feet. Mater Bomber instructed crews to bomb on red smoke puff TI's. "P" reported seeing eight ME626's in the target area. The U-boat assembly yards at Hamburg were attacked by 469 from Bomber Command. 6 Group's contribution was 200 aircraft. The target was cloud covered resulting in the bombing being scattered. (BC-11; 6 Group-8)
April 4: Ops on again then scrubbed. Finally ops through for seventeen. All attacked primary target and returned safely. Takeoff finally at 8 pm. I volunteered for the Far East today. Ole Austenson got his repat today and is going tomorrow. He is a good pilot and deserves it. Bomb loads 16x500. Takeoff ~19:48. Broken cloud with tops to 6000 feet. Crews bombed on TI's and flares at ~22:32. Bombing height was 17000 to 18500. Crews reported many fires and some very large explosions. Some flak was encountered by some crews on route to target. Bomber Command detailed 327 to attack the Rhenania oil plant at Harburg. The squadron's planes were part of a force of 90 6 Group aircraft involved in the raid. The attack was successful. (BC-3; 6 Group-0)
April 7: Conversion ground school began. Ops through but then cancelled. S/Ldr Buchannan flew the squadron's first Lancaster. P/O Slipper, who was the engineer of F/Lt Glover's crew arrived at the squadron after being liberated from a POW camp in Germany. A little training today. Our first training Lanc PT "W" came in today. Mark I. Merlin 22.
April 18: Nineteen on morning ops. All took off and eighteen bombed the target and returned safely. NP946 "L" flown by P/O Dunnigan is missing. Crews reported seeing an aircraft crash into the sea on the way to the target. This was the last bombing attack by the squadron during the war. NP946 "L" was the last battle loss of the war for the 420 Squadron. Ops on. Takeoff in the morning. Came back about 3 pm. Call 06:00. Meals 06:30. Nav briefing 07:00. Main briefing 07:30. Bomb loads consisted of 9x1000 plus 4x500. Takeoff time ~10:00. Aircraft flew in a gaggle formation. Visibility was good over the target. Target was seen visually and bombing was on TI's at 12:30 from 18400. Crews reported the target area was covered in dust and smoke from explosions and fires resulting from the attack. Some crews reported seeing a number of ME262's and some crews encountered flak over the target. Bomber Command sent 969 bombers to the island of Heligoland. 6 Group provided 112 aircraft for this raid. The bombs successfully destroyed the naval base, air base and town. Sent to R&I today. (BC-3; 6 Group-2) NP946 "L" did not return. The plane was seen to crash into the sea on the way to target. Pilot P/O WJ Dunnigan, F/Sgt RA McDonald, f/Sgt GF Montgomery, Sgt LF Murphy, F/O DM Neilson, F/sgt DA Newman, F/O DF Ross were all killed. Three bodies of the crew were found and buried at Brookwood Military Cemetery.This was the last operational loss for the squadron during the war.
April 22: Ops through for seventeen bombers. All took off safely. All returned with their bombs. Signals came through that the squadron would stand down for a period of time in order to finish Lancaster conversion. I am finally in the hangar doing R&I's. Did a little work on a Parkard Merlin 224, which was quite interesting. Last Halifax op for 420. We are now converting to Lanc X's. Call 03:00. Meals 03:30. Nav briefing 04:00. Main briefing 04:30. Upon arriving at the target the attack was called off by the Master Bomber. Crews returned with their bombs. Bomber Command sent 767 bombers to Bremen to "soften it up" for an attack by the British XXX Corps. 6 Group provided 200 bombers for the raid. Due to cloud cover the Master Bomber stopped the bombing before any of 420 squadron's Halifaxes dropped their bombs. (BC-2; 6 Group-0)
420 Squadron Lancaster Period
May to June 1945
One of the most written about planes of World War II is the Avro Lancaster or the "Lanc". The Lancaster first became operational in early March, 1942 with 44 Squadron. It was the quintessential heavy bomber surpassing all of its contemporaries. Throughout the war 7,377 were built of the various marks, including 430 Mark X's built in Canada.
The Lancaster had a wing span of 102 feet and the total length was just over 69 feet. Empty it weighed about 36,800 lbs and could be loaded to 63,000 lbs. Most versions were powered by four RR Merlin V 12 engines that produced 1,460 hp. The Lancaster cruised at 210 mph. It had a service ceiling of about 24,500 feet and had an operational distance with a typical bomb load of 1,660 miles. The crew consisted of the pilot, flight engineer, bomb aimer, navigator, wireless operator, mid upper gunner and tail gunner. The gun positions were typically each equipped with four .303 Browning machine guns. A key feature of the Lancaster was its cavernous bomb bay of 33 feet of unobstructed space. A typical operational bomb load would be about 14,000 lbs. However, with specially "bulged" bomb bay doors, the Lancaster could carry a single 12,000 lb "cookie" and with further modifications it could hoist the largest bomb in the allied arsenal the "Grand Slam" into the air. This mammoth of a bomb measured 25.5 feet long and weighed in at a staggering 22,000 lbs, which was more than a Hampden bomber weighed fully loaded.
There are at least 17 representatives of Lancaster bombers still in existence around the world and two are still flight worthy. One is in Canada flown out of the Hamilton, Ontario airport by the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum and is dedicated to the memory of P/O Andrew Mynarski VC.
Mynarski Lancaster, Saskatoon, SK Air Show 1989:
The other flight worthy example is in England flown by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight based at RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire, England. Static displays of Lancasters can be found at the Nanton Lancaster Society Air Museum (Nanton, Alberta), the Greenwood Military Aviation Museum (Greenwood, Nova Scotia), the Canada Aviation Museum (Ottawa, Ontario), the Aerospace Museum (Calgary, Alberta), City of Edmundston, New Brunswick, City of Windsor, Ontario, Toronto Aerospace Museum (Toronto, Ontario).
420 Squadron never flew the Lancaster on ops. Just as the war ended it was converting to the Canadian built Mark X.
In the squadron records below entries summarized from the 420 Squadron Operational Record Books (ORB's) are in normal type. Entries taken from my father's diary (January 1, 1944 to June 1945) are indicated in blue bold italics. Supplemental information from various sources and my comments are in green bold italic.
April 23 to May 8 (Victory in Europe), 1945: During this period the squadron was not operational due to its conversion from the Halifax III to the Lancaster X.
May 8: VE day. Station parade was held. All men listened to Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Roman Catholic and Protestant church services were held. A dance was held in the evening and a large bonfire was lit. Very little damage done to camp from the celebrations. Left Manchester on the 8 o'clock train and arrived in York to catch the 1:30 bus to camp only to find nothing doing and won't be for next few days. So I may get paid tonight and go back. Heard Churchill speak at 3 pm and now as I am writing this listening to King George as today is V-Day.
From May 11 to June 14 preparations were made for the squadron's return to Canada. On June 12 and 13 the 20 Lancasters were flown by their crews to Canada. Those personnel not transported by air were sent to Canada by ship thus ending 420 Squadron's mission in England on June 14, 1945. At Debert the squadron began preparations to participate in Tiger Force attacks on Japan. However, Japan surrendered before the squadron became operational in the Pacific Theatre.
Cpl Bert Parker was discharged from the RCAF in September 1945. He was "Mentioned In Despatches" in the King's 1945 New Year's Honours list for distinguished service.