420 Squadron Hampden Period
January 1, 1942 to July 31 1942
The Handley Page Hampden Mark I bomber was nicknamed the "flying suitcase". It was powered by two 1,000 hp Bristol Pegasus XVIII nine cylinder radial engines. The wingspan was just over 69 feet and it was 53 ft 7 inches long. Empty the aircraft weighed 11780 lbs. Its all up weight was 18,756. Maximum speed 254 m/hr with a ceiling of 19000 ft and its effective range bombed up with 4000 lb of bombs was 1095 miles. The aircrew totalled four; pilot, observer/navigator (nav), wireless operator/gunner (wop/ag) and rear gunner (ag). Defensive armaments consisted of six 0.303 cal guns. One fixed gun firing striaght ahead used by the pilot and a moveable nose gun operated by the observer/navigator. Twin guns were mounted above and below amidships behind the cockpit and operated by the wireless/gunner and rear gunner. Although the Hampden was faster than the Wellington with the same bomb load and it had served well in the early stages of the war it was considered outdated and by April 1942 and was taken out of the operational front lines except for 408 and 420 squadrons. 1,432 were built including 160 in Canada.
The Canadian Museum of Flight located at the Regional Airport in Langley, British Columbia, Canada, has the only existing static display of a complete restored Hampden bomber (RAF P5436 built in 1942).
A good reference for this period is Sainty, P. J. 1988. "Zig-Zag"- The Hampdens of 420 (RCAF) Squadron. P.J. Sainty, Derby, England.
In the abridged (I have not included every day's activity or every mission the squadron was involved in.) squadron records below I have tried to summarize significant squadron events for the period. 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. Supplemental information from various sources and my comments are in green bold italic. I have also included the aircraft losses for each mission as documented in Middlebrook and Everitt (1990) (Bomber Command). Information related to the 420 Squadron planes that did not return are in italic.
January 1, 1942: Waddington Squadron in process of formation. CO J. Collier is presently attached to 44 Squadron as its commander. As well as its first CO, 420 Squadron received a number of personnel from 44 Squadron and their Handley Page Hampden I aircraft. The twenty-one aircraft were divided into "A" and "B" flights and a maintenance flight. 44 Squadron was one of the first squadrons to convert to the new Avro Lancaster.
January 4: Church parade followed by aircrew lectures. Local test flying for aircrews. Games were purchased along with wirelesses (radios) for aircrews. Ultraviolet ray treatment provided. Only twelve Canadians were in the squadron.
January 21, 1942: "A Red-Letter day." The first operational sorties for the squadron were undertaken less than one month after it's formation. The squadron was "keen as mustard" to begin operations. Six aircraft were prepared for the squadron's first sorties. Five were to bomb Emden, bombing point "A", and the sixth was detailed for a gardening operation to the Frisian Islands. AE130 "S", failed to return. Bomb loads consisted of 4x500 plus 2x250. Take off time was ~17:20. Visibility ranged from good to cloud cover. Crews bombed from 11000 to 12000 feet at ~20:07. One crew, flown by F/Sgt Pinney, bombed an alternate site in the town of Emden. Crews reported some explosions and fires in the target area. Heavy and light flak was intense over the target area. F/O Gibson's crew released their mine in the target area from a height of 700 feet. The rear gunner reported the parachute opened successfully. The five were part of 38 aircraft that attacked Emden, Germany. AE130 "S" was flown by S/Ldr pilot V.T.L. Wood (OC of B-Flight) and his crew of nav Sgt. D.D. Grealy, wop/ag Sgt D.G. Semple, ag Sgt R.L. Bott. All were later listed as POW's. (BC-4)
February 12, 1942: 12:30 hours six aircraft were ordered to attack the German battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. This was the famous "dash" up the English Channel made by the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. Two aircraft took off one hour later with the same objective. A further four aircraft took off at 14:45 to attack the ships. One succeeded in finding the ships and dropped its bombs with no observed results. Two aircraft P4400 "J" and AT134 "K" did not return. A further two aircraft were prepared with mines but ops were cancelled. The first two bombers took off at 13:37. P/O Gibson's crew reported cloud cover dissipated over the channel and no fighter support was seen so the crew abandoned the search. P4400 flown by P/O Topping was reported missing. The second search by four aircraft took off 14:45. Only one crew, F/Lt Smith, found the cruisers and dropped 4x500 on the target. Cloud obscured the results. P4400 "J": pilot P/O JR Topping, DFM; nav F/O FW Ashfield; wop/ag F/O EG Fowler; ag Sgt TH Mate. The crash site has not been found. The crew is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial. AT134 "K": pilot S/Ldr GLB Harris; nav F/O HH Miller; wop/ag F/Sgt AH Brunt; ag Sgt PVE Rothery. Appears the plane was lost at sea. All but Miller are buried in Dutch cemeteries .
February 18: Four aircraft were sent on ops with bombs and one mine each to the Frisian Islands. Two others were detailed to drop nickels. One plane reported missing. Planes were loaded with a single #22 mine. Take of time was ~18:11. Cloud base was at 1000 feet. Mines were dropped from 500 or 600 feet. P/O Smith's crew dropped wing bombs on flak guns. AD915 "F" reported missing. 420's aircraft were part of a force of 25 Hampdens laying mines in Frisians, and around Wilhelmshaven and Heligoland. (BC-1) AD915 "F" was hit by flak at 8000 feet and the crew ditched off the coast of Schiermonnikoog. The wop/ag Sgt H Baker and ag Sgt JRB Adams were killed and are buried in Vredenhof cemetery, Schiermonnikoog. The pilot, R Kee and nav WHJ Rutledge became POW's .
March 26: Air gunners practiced clay pigeon shooting. Aircrew received lecture from Signals Officer. Link training practice. Five aircraft were detailed to drop mines off Frisian Islands. Four were successful but one aircraft, AE298 "D", is reported missing. Aircraft carried 2x250 bombs on wing hard points in addition to the mine (PDM 3, Ass22, PDM2, Ord). Four successfully deployed their mines and two dropped their bombs on targets of opportunity. (BC:-2) AE298 "D": pilot Sgt WR Groff; nav Sgt LO Stalker; wop/ag Sgt RHD Morgan; ag F/Sgt AF Williams. All on board were killed in the crash.
April 12: Six aircraft prepared for ops; one nickelling and five for bombing. Two aircraft turned back including the aircraft detailed for the nickel ops. Three remaining aircraft successfully bombed target. One aircraft, P1239 "Y" was lost. The nickelling crew captained by P/O Cook returned early due to engine malfunction. bomb loads consisted of 1x2000 or 1x1900 plus 2x250. The bombers took off ~21:26. The aircraft flown by Sgt Kaufman returned early due engine malfunction. Three crews bombed the primary target ~1:20. Bombing heights were 10000 to 14000 feet. Visibility was good with some ground haze. S/Ldr Campbell, flying in 144 "A", had the bomb hang up initially but it finally fell into a search light area. Crews reported many search lights. Essen was the target for 251 aircraft from Bomber Command. Although the squadron records report bombing was successful, photos showed very scattered impacts. (BC-10) P1239 "Y": pilot F/S Johnson; nav Sgt Butler; wop/ag F/Sgt RH Black; ag Sgt J Salmon. The crash site has not been discovered. The crew is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.
April 14: Seven aircraft were prepared for a night bombing mission. One aircraft, AT219 "C" crashed shortly after take off killing all the crew. One aircraft was an early return. Four aircraft "successfully" attacked the target, Dortmund. AT218 "G" did not return . The planes were loaded either with 1x2000 or 1x1900 plus 2x250 and eight nickel bundles. Take off time was ~21:38. "Q", flown by Sgt Cybulski was an early return due to engine trouble. Sgt Hynam, flying 260 "O", did not attack the primary target but attacked an aerodrome. The three that made it to the primary target area bombed ~21:42 from 12000 to 16000 feet. Crews reported area defended by accurate flak and many search lights. "N" flown by P/O Adilman was hit by flak. Bomber Command sent 208 aircraft to attack Dortmund. Examination of the bombing photos after the attack again showed very poor accuracy with bombs dropped over a 40-mile area. (BC-5) AT219 "C": pilot P/O WJ Murry; nav P/O WFM McGarthy; wop/ag Sgt AJ Keith; wop/ag Sgt KA Birch. Crashed shortly after take off. The crash site was on the sw edge of Lincoln, North Hykeham. AT218 "G": pilot F/Sgt BW Johnson; nav Sgt HE Vosper; wop/ag Sgt JP Shipton; wop/ag Sgt CD McHardy. The plane was shot down close to Neuss. The crew is now buried at Rheinberg War cemetery.
April 19: Seven aircraft were detailed for a mining mission. Five completed it successfully. One crew brought mines back and the other released their mines into the sea. A plane on training flight crashed near Harmston killing all aboard. Mines laid included ass 22. Take off time was ~ 21:19. P/O Smith, flying 3149 "B" returned fifteen minutes after take off with an u/s intercom. Sgt Johnstone, in 267 "V", aborted the mission and jettisoned the mine because of bad weather. The remaining crews were successful in deploying their mines. The plane 136 "N" flown by F/O Cook encountered flak ships near one of the islands but no damage reported. The Hampdens of 420 Squadron were part of a force of 51 aircraft that participated in mining around the Frisian Islands. (BC-2) AD869 "L": pilot Sgt HH Davis; nav Sgt JC Pritchard; w/ag Sgt GGJ Laronde; ag Sgt GC Player. On a night x-country the plane crashed shortly after take off at Wispington. The crew are buried in St Micheal Churchyard, Waddington.
April 24: Eight squadron aircraft, again, participated in the raid on Rostock. Four planes made it back to base and three others were diverted. P5330 "J" was reported missing. The planes were loaded with 1x1900 and also carried eight nickel bundles. Take off time was ~21:32. Crews attacked ~01:55 from 6500 to 10000 feet in good visibility. Crews reported seeing many dummy fires in the vicinity of the target area. Crews reported that it was a good raid. This night 125 aircraft attacked Rostock. Bombing accuracy was good with the town's centre heavily bombed but the Heinkel factory remained unscathed. The only loss was "J" from 420 Squadron. (BC-1) P5330 "J": pilot Sgt J Potter; nav Sgt JH Hicks; wop/ag Sgt JH Smith. Crashed on Fyn Island, near Sonderby Klint, Denmark. The ag FGW Adams survived the crash and was a POW. The rest of the crew are buried in Assens cemetery.
April 30: Ten planes were prepared for night ops but were cancelled due to bad weather. The first CO of the squadron, J. Collier, was replaced by D.A.R. Bradshaw. Bradshaw later became Group Commander.
May 4: Ops through for seven aircraft to Stuttgart. Twenty aircrew newly graduated from 16 O.T.U. at Hayford arrived at the squadron. They were given lectures on bombing, flying, medicine, and began flying practice circuits. The planes were loaded with 1x1900 plus 2x250 or 1x2000. Take off time was ~ 21:56. The target was almost completely cloud covered so the crews bomb the general city of Stuttgart. Bombing was carried out at ~01:40 from 8000 to 11000 feet. Stuttgart was heavily defended by all types of flak and searchlights as well as night fighters. Crews reported seeing the glow of fires through the clouds. P1314 "S" was hit by flak near Osterd on the way to the target causing one engine to catch fire and holing the aircraft in 42 places. The pilot, Sgt Maitland, was injured but was able to land successfully at Martlesham. P1187 "X" flown by Sgt Hiley was hit by flak over Luxemburg on its return flight. It was then attacked three times by an ME110. The Hampden was able to evade the first two attacks but the third slightly injured Sgt Hiley, killed the ag Sgt Halward, damaged the electrical and hydraulic systems, and set the starboard engine on fire which resulted in the propeller falling off. Return fire from wop Sgt Johnson hit the fighter on its third attack. The fighter veered off and was not seen again. Flying on one engine the aircraft crashed landed near Great Bentley in Essex. Sgt Halward was the only casualty although the other crew members were suffering from shock of the crash. Bomber Command dispatched 121 aircraft to bomb Stuttgart. The attacks were to focus on the Robert Bosch factory in particular but the city was completely cloud covered resulting in very poor results. Bombers were also tricked into bombing a decoy site complete with fires, searchlights and flak near Lauffen. (BC-1)
May 7: Ten aircraft were sent off on gardening missions to the Kiel Bay area code name "forget-me-not". Mechanical troubles caused the early return of three aircraft and one was reported missing. The others were successful in deploying their mines. An aircraft from the squadron was used in a search light exercise. New crews practiced flying with full bomb loads. Mines carried were ord, ass 22, PIM2. Take off time was ~22:38. "H" (4086), "A" (144) and "Q" were early returns due to engine malfunctions. Many crews reported encountering intense flak and searchlights from flak ships. AE389 "D" was listed as missing. Bomber Command sent eighty-one planes to mine various areas of the coast. (BC-2) AE389 "D": The pilot, MF Carson was taken POW. The remaining crew members, nav GC Williams; wop/ag Sgt AS Urquhart; ag Sgt WA McDonnell were killed and are buried in the Kiel War cemetery.
May 8: Ops for seven aircraft came through to attack Warnemude. One was an early return and another was reported missing. The bomb loads for the mission were 1x1900. Take off was ~21:48. Sgt Cybulski flying "Q" returned early du to u/s port engine. Crews bombed ~01:47 from 10000 to 12000 feet. Crews reported seeing many explosions and fires in the target area. F/O Strour flying in "H" had a engine failure just at the target and had to jettison the bomb two miles from the target. The crew began to fly the plane on one engine back to England but the dead engine came started again as the plane approached the coast of Denmark. AT144 "A" flown by S/Ldr GC Campbell with nav F/Sgt RB Petersen, wop/ag Sgt RR Parry and ag Sgt GH Soper did not return from the mission. Bomber Command sent 193 aircraft to attack the Heinkel factory at Warnemunde. (BC-8) AT144 "A": The Hampden was hit by flak and crashed in the vicinity of Rostock. The pilot S/Ldr GC Campbell with ag GH Soper were taken as POW's. nav F/Sgt RB Petersen and wop/ag Sgt RR Parrywere were killed and are buried in the Berlin War cemetery.
May 20: CO instructed new aircrews on combat flying and the Medical Officer lectured them on hygiene. Eight aircraft were prepared for bombing but the weather conditions cancelled the ops. A Lancaster from 44 Squadron crashed into a 420 Squadron Hampden damaging both aircraft and killing one ground crew: AC2 OF Commins
May 30: This was the first of "Bomber Harris's" 1000 bomber raids. The target was Cologne. 1047 bombers were gleaned from front line squadrons and operation training units to reach the "magic 1000." The damage to Cologne was extensive. About 5480 people were killed or injured. In the aftermath it was estimated that almost 20% of the population of 700,000 left the city. 420 Squadron put up 15 aircraft in an all out effort. All but one aircraft from the squadron dropped their bombs on target and all returned safely to base. One crashed on landing. The bomb loads were 360x4 incendiaries. Take off time was ~23:25. "N" (136) was an early return due to engine malfunction. Crews bombed from 10000 to 12000 feet at 01:30. Visibility was good. Most crews reported their bombs falling within the target area adding to the existing fires observed. Defences were not as intense as expected. A number of crews witnessed many aircraft being shot down. One crew reported close calls while trying to land in England due to the large number of aircraft in the air. F/Sgt McDermid crashed AE399 "P" into a Lancaster of 44 Squadron when he landed. He and the navigator were injured. (BC-41)
May 31: Another maximum effort was called for. The squadron prepared 14 aircraft for ops but due to weather conditions they did not take off. Bomber Command sent five Mosquitoes from 105 Squadron to photograph, and drop some nuisance bombs, the damage done by the 1000 bomber raid on Cologne. This was the first operational mission for the type. One Mosquito was lost.
June 1, 1942: This was the second 1000 bomber raid. The target this time was Essen. Only 956 aircraft could be mustered for the attack. The attack on Essen was not as successful as the previous attack on Cologne had been. There were about 100 casualties reported and fewer than 200 buildings destroyed or damaged. Ground haze made it difficult for the bombers to find the target so the bombs were dropped over a wide area. 420 Squadron contributed fifteen aircraft loaded with incendiaries. Thirteen bombed the primary or secondary targets. All aircraft returned safely. The bombers took off at ~23:12 loaded with 360x4 incendiaries. Some crews encountered searchlights and flak shortly after crossing the coast line. The crews bombed ~01:15 from 9000 to 13500 feet through mostly cloudy skies. Most crews were not able to pinpoint the aiming point so released their bombs in the general area on existing fires. Defences over Essen were mostly light and heavy flak with little search light activity. Some crews mentioned the defences seemed less than previous attacks. A couple of tethered balloons were spotted by some crews floating 10000 feet in the air over the industrial area. One aborted the mission due to a faulty intercom. (BC-31)
June 2: Ops through for four aircraft were to go on a gardening mission and another six on a bombing mission. Only two aircrews detailed to lay mines were successful and only three aircraft successfully bombed the primary target. One aircraft failed to return from the mining op. The bombers carried 360x4 incendiaries plus 2x500 on the wings. Take off time was ~23:32. "A" and "V" returned early due to engine problems and "G" returned early due to intercom u/s. The crews that made it to the primary target bombed between 01:40 to 02:00 from 11500 to 12000 feet. There was haze over the target making it difficult for the crews to see the aiming point. P/O Anderson flying 422 "J" had to jettison the two 500 lb wing bombs in order to reach a safe bombing height. Crews reported their bombs fell with the target area. The mining crews took off ~22:56. 258 "W" flown by Sgt Kennedy returned early. Two mining crews successfully deployed their mines and returned to base. Another was reported missing. The primary target for Bomber Command was again Essen. Command sent 195 aircraft. As usual the attack was not successful with bombs scattered over a wide area. Reports of damage were minimal. (BC: Essen-14; Mining-1) AE260 "O" crashed near killing Lorient pilot Sgt E Harrison; nav Sgt JS Gething; wop/ag Sgt CJ Laing. The wop/ag LC Nall survived to become a POW. The rest of the crew were buried at the Guidel Communal cemetery.
June 8: 420 Squadron bomber up five aircraft. One aircraft from the squadron could not find the target. Another aircraft was listed as missing. Bomb loads consisted of 2x500 wing bombs plus 360x4 incendiaries. Take off time was about 23:12. Sgt Hudson, flying in 422 "J" was an early return when they got lost and could not pin point their position on the Dutch coast. Crews attacked the primary target or the alternate target, the city of Essen. The attack occurred at ~ 01:30 from 11000 to 14000 feet. Flares were again used to mark the target area. Crews reported intense flak and witnessed many bomb bursts in the target area and a large number of fires. AT136 "N" reported missing. Essen was the primary target for 170 aircraft of Bomber Command. The attack was not successful with little damage to Essen being incurred. (BC:-19) AT136 "N": pilot F/Sgt IM Reid; nav Sgt AJ Crabham; wop/ag Sgt HR Copeland; wop/ag Sgt CJ Bunn were lost. No crash site has ever been found. The crew is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.
June 19: Twelve aircraft were prepared, including two new aircrew, for ops. All aircraft from the squadron returned but F/Lt Ferris's crew and F/Lt Jacob's crew reported casualties. The aircraft were loaded with 2x500 wing bombs plus 360x4 incendiaries. Take off time was ~23:35. P/O Rayne flying in 390 "X" took off late, 00:15, because they had to change planes. They eventually turned around as their ETA over target would have been too late. P/O Burt, piloting 1314 "S" was an early return due to the port engine overheating. An error in the flare drop resulted in a number of crews bombing Osnabruck. Here the visibility was good and crews bombed from 10000 to 13000 feet. At Emden there were overcast skies. The crews bombed ~01:50 from 10000 to 12500 feet. The flare marking was only partially successful in setting the target due to the clouds. Flak was intense over the target and associated with many searchlights. Some crews experienced moderate flak from the Frisian Islands. P/O Anderson flew in a new plane, 225 "N". The crew found the new plane could not climb above 8000 feet with the wing bombs so these were jettisoned. They also had the engines overheat, generator u/s, lights u/s, and IFF u/s. On top of this the oxygen system was leaking. The Hampden, 786 "L" (or AE258 "W") with F/Lt Ferris' crew were attacked and damaged by a JU88. The attack injured gun, Sgt Collard, and wop Sgt Moris and caused damage to the starboard fuel tanks, wing, tire, undercarriage and propeller. 401 "Q" flown by F/Lt Jacobs was hit by two flak bursts from a flak ship while returning from the target. These injured the rear gunner Sgt RM Davidson and damaged the rear turret, wings, undercarriage and flaps. Bomber Command sent 194 aircraft to Emden. The town received only minor damage. As it turned out some of the marking flares were dropped 80 miles away on Osnabruck causing at least 29 bombers to attack this center. (BC:-9) AT401 "Q": gun Sgt RM Davidson later succumbed to his injuries.
June 20:: Two aircraft with new crews from the squadron were sent on ops. One aircraft did not return. The squadron also supplied four aircraft for a sea search mission. The crews took off at 23:08 loaded with 2x250 wing bombs plus 360x4 incendiaries. Sgt White, flying 390 "Z" bombed the alternate target, the town of Emden, due to overcast skies. The crew bombed from 12000 feet at 01:24. Bomber command detailed 185 bombers to attack Emden. The attack was only minimally successful. (BC:-8) AT185 "A": pilot F/Sgt GH Ellis; nav P/O HG Waddell; wop/ag F/Sgt BD Nidelman; wop/ag Sgt LG Still. PT "A" was claimed to have been shot down by night fighter pilot Hptm H Lent, II./NJC2. near the island of Ameland, Holland. GH Ellis is buried in Nes General cemetery and HG Waddell is in Sage War cemetery. The rest of the crew have no known graves.
June 23: Nine aircraft, including one new aircrew, were detailed to mine Lorient. Two returned early. One aircraft crashed at Grantham. Funeral for Sgt Davidson was held in the afternoon. Mines were ass 22, or, ass 1 set #10. Nickels and 2x250 wing bombs were also carried. Take off time ~23:15. "R" and "Z" returned early due engine troubles. Another two lost their bearing and could not pin point their drop zones. The rest deployed their mines successfully although the Ferris crew in AT132 U had to lay their mine in an alternate position due to intense flak. Sgt Townsend flying in AT228 "P" dropped bombs on a cargo ship and P/O Burt's crew, flying in P1257 "C" dropped their bombs on flak/search light concentration. AD786 "L" piloted by Sgt FS Hiley had the starboard engine fail under full load. The aircraft would not maintain height and went into a yaw and crashed at Boothby Pagnall, near Grantham,Licolnshire. This is an example where an aircraft clearly on ops crashed on English soil and therefore would not be reported as an operational loss. The official records only report two Wellingtons being lost. Such was the propaganda of the times. Bomber Command sent 52 crews to mine off Lorient. (BC:-2) AD786 "L": Crashed killing nav F/Sgt GH Germain; wop/ag Sgt GD Johnson; wop/ag F/Sgt KC Little and injuring the pilot F/S FS Hiley.
June 25: All out effort. Twelve aircraft were sent off. All returned safely to base. The bombers were loaded with 2x500 plus 360 x4 incendiaries. Take off time was ~23:05. W/C Brashaw, in P1257 "C", had problems with an overheating engine so attacked what was believed to be Nordan with incendiaries. The crew had to jettison the wing bombs. Only one crew specified they attacked the primary target the Focke-Wuld factory. The other crews, due to poor visibility caused by cloud cover identified and attacked the general city of Bremen using ETA, flak/searchlight concentrations and glows from flares or fires Some crews encountered flak on route to the target as well as intense flak and search lights over the target. Fighters were also active in the target area. Crews bombed ~01:48 from 9000 to 13000 feet. Many crews reported seeing large fires developing as a result of the attack. A maximum effort required by Bomber Group to bomb Bremen. This was another all out effort similar to the "1000 plane" raids. Every unit was gleaned for crews and any type of aircraft that could be bombed up. The attack in the end consisted of 960 aircraft. As well as general area bombing specific groups/squadrons of planes were given particular targets in Bremen to attack ie the Focke-Wulf Factory, shipyards. The entire force was to complete the attack within just over an hour to ensure concentration and hopefully overwhelm the defences. During the raid Bremen was covered in cloud. Fortunately the navigational device Gee was used by the initial attackers, which marked Bremen blindly. Of the total force 696 aircrews were reported to have successfully attacked Bremen. Overall the attack was a reasonable success as an area bombing considering the cloud cover. About 6,600 homes were damaged or destroyed with about 570 casualties. However, the factories and dockyards received little damage. (BC:-48)
July 2: Thirteen aircraft were readied and took off on ops. Five aircraft returned early due to mechanical issues. Six reported attacking the primary target, but at a cost of two aircraft reported as missing. Bomb loads were 2x500 plus 360x4 incendiaries. Take off time was ~23:00. "K", "R", "P", "H" and "F" were early returned due to engine problems or other mechanical issues. One crew believed they attacked the primary target, Bremen "D", and the rest area bombed the town. Crews dropped their bomb loads ~01:40 from 10000 to 13000 feet. Visibility was good over the target but details were obscured by flares and bomb flashes. Defences included flak, searchlights and night fighters. Crews reported seeing many fires in the target area. P/O Rayne in AE390 "Z" made a glide bombing run beginning at 17000 feet bombing and 13000 and restoring power at 11000. AE248 "A" and P5332 "T" did not return. Bomber Command sent a force of 325 aircraft to Bremen this night. Although it appears much of the attack occurred south of the city limits those bombs falling on target appeared to be effective. 1,000 homes, four small factories, dock facilities and seven ships were damaged including the Marieborg, which was sunk. (BC:-9) AE248 "A" crashed near Sneek, Holland killing nav Sgt RO Williams; wop/ag Sgt JN Waddington; wop/ag Sgt RW Whytock. The pilot KE Brown survived as a POW. The remainder of the crew are buried in Hemelumer-Oldeferd General cemetery. "A" was claimed by night fighter pilot OE Prinz sur Lippe Weissenfeld II./NJG2. P5332 "T": pilot F/Sgt CG Wilde; nav Sgt AD Bond, wop/ag F/Sgt TE Crothers; wop/ag F/Sgt JE Gibbs were all killed in the crash into the IJsselmeer. "T" is believed to have been shot down by a night fighter piloted by H Grimm, II./NJC2. The crews are buried in Holland cemetaries.
July 12: Seven aircraft assigned to mine "artichokes", Lorient area. Five were successful in mission. One returned early and one failed to return. The planes took off ~23:28 loaded with 250 lb wing bombs and ass 22 or ass 42 mines. "K", flown by F/O Adilman's crew was unable to deploy their mine or bombs due to a technical failure. Another crew flying "F" could not locate their position so brought the mine back to base. AE390 "Z" was reported missing. All the crew died in the crash. Fifty-five aircraft were sent to mine various coastal waters. (BC:-2) AE390 "Z": pilot F/Sgt TJ Hannah; nav Sgt WJ Chapman; wop/ag F/Sgt PE Bull; wop/ag F/Sgt JA Thompson were all lost. It is thought that the plane was claimed by flak near Lorient. WJ Chapman and JA Thompson are buried in Lorient Communal cemetery. The other crew members are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.
July 26: Ops through for fifteen aircraft to make an attack on Hamburg. Two aircraft failed to return. Sgt Shalospear and Sgt. Kirby arrived at the squadron. Bomb loads were 1x1900. Take off time was ~22:40. "G" and "T" returned early due to mechanical problems. "M" had a navigational error and could not pin point their location. "D" (P4036) was attacked by a JU88 night fighter on the way to target causing damage to the Hampden. The crew decided to return to base. The gunners saw bullet strikes on the fighter at 100 yards. The fighter dived steeply and was not seen again. Claim of a fighter damaged. Crews bombed the primary target Hamburg "D" or the city of Hamburg at ~22:50. Bombing heights ranged from 12000 16000 feet. Crews saw many bomb bursts and large fires in Hamburg. Two crews reported aircraft going down on return flight. AE202 "X" and AE267 "V" failed to return. Due to weather conditions over many of the bomber bases only 256 aircraft, a fraction originally assigned for the attack, were able to get airborne. Conditions deteriorated on route to the target with clouds and icing reported. But the skies cleared over the target and good bombing results were reported. Town officials reported extensive damage with over 5800 homes destroyed or damaged and over 1,300 casualties. (BC:-29) AE202 "X" crashed near Tonning killing the nav P/O JH Timmis; wop/ag Sgt NF Axford; wop/ag Sgt JR Elliott. The pilot RN Rayne became a POW. The crew members are now buried in the Kiel War cemetery. AE267 "V": pilot Sgt AT Johnstone; nav F/S HN Law; wop/ag Sgt GE Tilling; wop/ag Sgt JJ Price were lost. No details are known of the loss of PT "V". The crew members are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.
July 31: Ops through for ten aircraft to attack Dusseldorf. One crew was missing. These turned out to be the last operational sorties by 420 Squadron in the Handley Page Hampden III. Bomb loads were 4x500. Take off time was just after midnight. "U" was and early return due to engine malfunction and "T" also returned early because of intercom u/s. Crews bombed from 12000 to 14000 feet at ~02:15. Crews reported many fires burning in the target area. Flak and searchlights were intense over the target and in pockets along routes. Some planes were holed. AE355 "A" did not return. This night Bomber Command attacked Dusseldorf with 630 aircraft, including over 100 Lancasters. Three quarters of the crews reported bombing the target with over 900 tons of bombs of various types. Damage was extensive in Dusseldorf and nearby Neuss with almost 20,000 homes suffering some form of damage and almost 1,300 casualties. (BC:-29) AE355-A: pilot F/Sgt WJ Kaufman; nav F/Sgt RR Stewart; wop/ag F/Sgt WD Frost and wop/ag Sgt AJ Greenaway. There is no known crash site for this plane. The crew members are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.
August 3 to August 6: On August 3 the squadron began the process of packing and moving to Skipton-on-Swale. The main squadron force marched to Waddington Station on August 6.