420 Squadron Wellington Period
August 1942 to October 1943
The Vickers Wellington bomber became operational in 1939 and was used in a variety of roles through the war. By war's end 11,461 had been built. 420 squadron flew two versions of the "Wimpy", the Mark III and Mark X. The bomber had a wingspan of just over 86 feet and a length of sixty-four seven inches. The maximum speed was around 250 miles/hour. The Mark III was powered by 1,375 hp Bristol Hercules engine. The ceiling for the Wellington was 22,000 feet or higher. Its range with a 1,500 lb bomb load was in the order of 2,200 miles. It had a bomb bay large enough to carry a 4,000 lb cookie "blockbuster". Defensive armaments included two .303 gun turrets one in the nose (two guns) and one in the tail (four guns). The typical aircrew for the Wellington consisted of five: pilot, navigator, bomb aimer (who operated the front gun turret), wireless operator, and rear gunner.
The only two existing static displays of Wellington bombers are both to be found in England. One is in The Brooklands Museum in Weybridge, Surrey and the other is at the London Royal Air Force Museum at Hendon, just outside of London.
There are a number of books related to the Wellington bomber. A very readable one is "The Wellington Bomber" by C Bowyer. He covers the history of the bomber plus the various squadrons that flew it. There is an error in the book related to the flight from England to North Africa. Bowyer indicates there were no losses due to the encounter with German fighters over the Bay of Biscay but two bombers and crews were lost. On page 262 there is a picture of "Erks of 420 Squadron: AR Meadows , KR Paul, ME Costello, B Pullen, GA Deverall, ML Mounk, RJ McMillan, Mj Jackson, Jg Edwards, JC Collins, JG Bradley. W McCollough. A picture of WC D McIntosh appears on page 178.
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/6 Group). Information related to the 420 Squadron planes that did not return are in italic.
August 6 to August 12, 1942: The main squadron force arrived at the airbase just north of the village Skipton-on-Swale, seven miles west of Thirsk, on August 6. All aircrew were paid and given seven days leave along with half the ground crew. Liberty passes were issued for Thisk. Wellingtons arrived from 419 Squadron and dual flying kits were installed in two of them. A dental van arrived at squadron and it was arranged for a barber to visit. A softball diamond was laid out complete with backstop and 420 squadron beat 425 Squadron. Entertainment included movies at base such as "49th Parallel" and ENSA shows at Leeming.
Operational flights were flown from Leeming air base rather than Skipton-on Swale, requiring the planes, aircrew and supporting ground crew transported to Leeming whenever the squadron was detailed for ops.
October 5: Nine planes assembled at Leeming along with ground crew and aircrew for ops. Last minute bomb load change resulted in only three aircraft taking off. One of these lost their intercom and had to return early. Other two bombed target and returned safely. These were the first operational missions for the squadron in Wellingtons. Bomb loads for the mission were 6x500 plus 2 SBC (90x4). Take off time was ~19:10. Crews reported seeing many fires and bomb bursts in the target area. Skies over the area were broken cloud. Weather over England was very bad with intense thunderstorms and static electricity build up on the planes. This night Bomber Command attacked Aachen with 257 bombers. Poor weather and target marking resulted in bombs being scattered with little damage to Aachen. The nearby Dutch town of Lutterade was heavily damaged with 800 homes damaged and over 100 casualties. Although only ten aircraft were reported missing on the mission an additional six crashed in England trying to land due to the bad weather. (BC-10)
October 13: Ten aircraft on ops. Three successfully bombed target. One was damaged slightly when it crashed into another. One had a forced landing causing injuries to two crew members. One aircraft crashed into a house while landing at Leeming in poor weather. All five crew were killed. On route to the target BK295 "H", flown by P/O Hynam, was in collision with an unidentified aircraft at 14000 feet near the Danish coast. The crew jettisoned the bombs and turned for base. The collision cut off about 1 foot of the tail and rudder as well as damaging the port wing. Only "O" and "N' reached the primary target. The target was illuminated by PFF. Large fires were developing as the result of the attacks. "J" attacked a concentration of search lights near Kiel and "U" attacked a town. X3963 "D" crashed at Docking with no serious injuries to the crew. The pilot, P/O Adilman, tried to overshoot but the engines cut out and the aircraft stalled. DE636 "S" crashed at Leeming killing all aboard. On this night Bomber Command targeted Kiel with 288 planes. Half the force was tricked by decoy fires to bomb countryside. Extensive damage was reported to roofs. The mix of bombs used by Bomber Command included large blast bombs, which were supposed to blow the roofs off buildings. Once the roofs were damaged incendiaries would be able to fall into the structures enabling fires to start more easily. Only about 140 casualties were reported. (BC-8) DF636 "S": In poor visibility the plane overshot flare path and runway at Leeming. The pilot tried to go around for another attempt but at low altitude the engine was heard to quit resulting in the plane crashing into a house. Fire consumed the crash site. Pilot WB Croft; REE Gurd; AM Wardrop, WJ Jones, HJT Gray were killed. All the crew were buried in the Ripon Cemetery.
October 15: Most squadron personnel moved to Middleton St George. Seven aircraft prepared for ops and attacked Cologne from Middleton St George. One aircraft missing. Bomb loads consisted of 6x500. Take off time was ~18:55. The plane flown by P/O Maitland was an early return due to troubles with both engines. The primary target "aiming point A", in Cologne was attacked at ~21:02 from 12500 to 15000 feet. The target was almost completely cloud covered to 5000 feet so the crews bombed on the flares of PFF. Crews reported scattered fires. X3808 "B" did not return. The seven bombers from the squadron were part of 289 sent to attack Cologne on this night. The raid turned into a failure due to winds blowing from a direction not forecast. This caused navigation errors by the pathfinders. By the time the pathfinders marked the target a decoy fire had attracted much of the force. Only about 200 bombs fell on Cologne causing minimal damage and casualties. (BC-18) X3808 "B": Pilot Sgt LE White nav P/O RG Bing, F/O FW Buck; JM Joynt; gun Sgt DB Smyth were lost without a trace. There is no known crash site for this plane. The crew members are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.
November 9: On ops. Eleven aircrafter from squadron requested to attack Hamburg. Six were successful, 4 jettisoned bombs and one is missing. Bomb loads were 9SBC(90x4). Take off time was ~ 17:55. P/O Maitland was an early return in BK330 "K" due to an oxygen failure. Sgt Thomson, flying X3335 "D" was another early return because the fuel cocks were not set properly and all the fuel was drained from one wing. The crew had jettisoned the bomb load before the mistake was detected. The S/Ldr Smith, flying "U", aborted the mission and returned early when he had a problem with his hearing. S/Ldr Jaccobs flying BK295 "H" attacked a heavy flak concentration at an unknown location. 10/10's cloud over target. Flak caused minor damage to the plane. Crews that claimed to have attacked the general area of the primary target did so on estimated time of arrival (ETA) and dead reckoning (DR) because of large area of heavy cloud. Crews encountered intense flak. Z1679 "B" were reported missing. Bomber Command detailed 213 aircraft for the attack. Bad weather conditions and winds not forecast caused many navigation errors. Hamburg was receiving heavy rains at the time of the attack. Most bombs fell in the countryside with little damage to the primary target. (BC-15) Z1679 "B" crashed into the sea near Pellworm. Pilot WS Beale, Sgt AJM Smith, Sgt C Snider, Sgt C Collard, Sgt JD McDonald were all killed. Only C Collard has a known grave. His remains are now interred in the Hamburg Cemetery, Ohlsdorf.
November 22: Eight aircraft bombed up to participate in raid on Stuttgart. One was damaged by flak and injured the second pilot. It crashed at a base. The rest returned safely. Primary target Stuttgart "C". Take off about 18:00. Bomb load 2x500, four SBC (90x4). Target identified visually and with the aid of PFF flares. Bombed target about 21:55 from 12,000 to 16,000 feet. Bombs were seen to burst in target area and fires starting. Fires were seen from 150 miles away. Diverted on return to Stradishall landing about 2:00. X3392 "C" was returning from the target with the second dickey flying the plane and ended up over Paris where it was caught in search lights. The pilot, P/O Burt, took over and dived the plane to 50 feet to get out of the search light cone and flak. The plane was hit by a flak burst just behind the instrument panel damaging hydraulics, all instruments and the starboard engine. S/L Williams, the second dickey, was slightly injured. The pilot was able to fly the plane back to Runaden where he crash landed. Bomber Command sent 222 aircraft to Stuttgart. Due to haze and cloud the pathfinders were not able to mark the center of Stuttgart. Most bombs were dropped in the southern suburbs, however two bombers, flying at low levels, managed direct hits on the railway station. In all over 400 houses were damaged and about 100 casualties were reported. (BC-10)
December 24: Christmas festivities began with the officers serving airmen Christmas dinner.
December 25: All squadron had "merry Christmas".
January 1, 1943: RCAF 6 GROUP WAS FORMED
January 21: Three aircraft went on mining ops. Two crews successful and one crew missing. Take off time was ~17:10. Two crews were successful in laying their mines. One crew is reported missing in BJ966 "R" Thirty-nine 6 Group planes were part of a force of 70 detailed to lay mines in the Frisian Islands. (BC-6; 6 Group-2) BJ966 "R" was was lost with pilot F/Sgt S Gergly, dickey F/O E Kendel RCAF, nav F/Sgt R Welsh, ba W/O2 C Hollingshead, wop Sgt A Olsen, gun Sgt C Dunphy on board. No crash site has been found. The crew is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial. All the members of the crew were RCAF.
January 29: Ops for twelve aircraft; eight to bomb Lorient and four for gardening the Bay of Biscay. Cumulus clouds on route to target. Pilots reported heavy rain and intense lightning and heavy icing conditions most of the flight. One plane failed to return and another crashed landed at Exeter killing four and injuring two. Bay of Biscay: Cloud cover caused three of the crews to not find their location so they brought back their mines. P/O Craton's crew was the only one to successfully lay their mines. Lorient: Bomb loads were either 1x4000 or 9x SBC (90x4). Take off time was ~16:46. DF626 "Y" crashed at 23:10 on the way to target near Exeter killing all but two of the crew. BJ917, flown by F/Sgt Wilson aborted the mission when the compass went u/s and the pilot blacked out diving. Pilot F/Sgt Tubman also did not attack the target due to u/s Gee. The other crews attacked at 20:48 from 10000 to 15000 feet. No results were observed beyond glow of blasts and fires through the clouds. DF615 "S" was reported missing. A total of 75 aircraft, 69 from 6 Group, were sent to bomb Lorient. There were no pathfinders assigned to this attack. As a result bombing was scattered. The gardening missions to ports in the Bay of Biscay also experienced bad weather. Bomber Command sent seventeen aircraft on the mining missions. The four from 420 Squadron made up the entire 6 Group contribution. (Lorient: BC-4; 6 Group-2; Bay of Biscay: BC-1; 6 Group-0) DF626 "Y" crashed near Exeter after aborting the mission and jettisoning their bomb load. PGE Beauchamp and HR Ernst were injured and the remainder of the crew; pilot W/O2 D Sanderson, nav F/Sgt C Downton, ba F/Sgt H Sealy, gun Sgt J Bittner died in the crash. H Sealy is buried at Bridgewater cemetery. Somersat and the other crew members are buried at Exter Higher Cemetery. DF615 "S" was not heard from again. Pilot P/O EJ Stanton, nav F/O WDB Marks, ba P/O F Noon, wop Sgt WG Goode and gun Sgt JCM Desrosiers were lost. The crew is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.
February 13: Aircraft readied for day ops but these were eventually cancelled. Fourteen were then readied for bombing against Lorient. One early return and one missing. Take off time was ~17:16. Crews bombed from 13000 to 17000 feet. It was clear with good visibility over the target area so ground details were easily seen. PFF marked the aiming point with TI's. The target was defended by relatively intense heavy flak and searchlights. Some crews reported seeing night fighters over the target. Crews reported seeing bomb bursts and fires. BK330 "K" was reported missing. Bomber Command sent a force of 466 aircraft against Lorient. 6 Group provided 95 aircraft to the mission. More than 1000 tons of bombs were dropped with good success. This was the largest attack Lorient was to see during the war. (BC-7; 6 Group-1) BK330 "K" crashed in the vicinity of the target killing all the crew: Pilot F/O L Gibson, nav F/O F Chapman, ba Sgt B Somerford, wop Sgt T Hughes, gun F/Sgt D MacDonald. All are buried in the Guidel Communal Cemetery.
February 17: Stand down. Quarterly party and dance held in Officer's Mess.
February 18: Stand down. Station parade. All were to wear antigas respirators.
February 19: Ops through for eleven aircraft. All attacked primary target and returned safely. One hit by flak and attacked enemy fighter. One crew member bailed out over target. Pilot F/Sgt Taylor recommended for DFM. Bomb loads consisted of 3x500 plus 4 SBC (90x4) and 2(8x30). Two planes carried 4000 lb cookies. Take off time was 17:50. Crews bombed at ~20:04 from 14000 to 19000 feet. Bombing was on PFF TI's as haze and low cloud obscured the target. Crews reported seeing a number of fires starting through the clouds. Dummy fires and marking were reported. Barrages of light flak defended the target. DF637, flown by F/Sgt Taylor's crew was hit over the target by flak and then attacked by a night fighter. The rear gunner baled out of the bomber over enemy territory. The pilot was able to fly the damaged plane back to England. Bomber Command sent 338 aircraft to bomb Wilhelmshaven. 6 Group contributed 83 bombers to the total. The pathfinders were unable to mark accurately resulting in the bombers dropping their loads north of the city. It turned out the pathfinders had outdated maps! (BC-12; 6 Group-1)
February 26: Twelve aircraft attacked Cologne in one of the biggest raids since the "1000 raids". Two returned early, one to Docking. One aircraft, "R", is missing. Bomb loads were a mix of cookies, 500 pounders, SBC (90x4), and SBC (8x30). Take off time was about 18:45. One crew returned early when the starboard engine went u/s. Visibility was good but ground haze made it impossible to see details. Crews bombed ~20:20 from 17000 to 18000 feet on PFF TI's. The target was defended by heavy flak which was for the most part not accurate. BK468 "R" was reported missing. Bomber Command sent 427 to Cologne this night. 6 Group provided 85 aircraft. It appears about 3/4's of the bombers missed the target still over 6300 people lost their shelters and casualties numbered around 260. (BC-10; 6 Group-3) BK468 "R" crashed in the vicinity of Monchengladbach killing all the crew: Pilot W/O2 H Hansen, nav F/Sgt R Jupe, ba F/Sgt B Chamney, wop W/O2 P Mitchell, gun F/Sgt L Kellaway. The crew members are now buried in Rheinberg War Cemetery.
February 28: Eleven planes bombed up and took off. Target the St Nazaire U-boat base. Canadianization postings into squadron are making accommodations difficult. Take off ~18:00. Bomb load 3x500, 4SBC (90x4), 2 SBC (8x30) and two carried 1x4000. One, piloted by Sgt Kennedy, turned back early due to engine trouble. Good visibility over target. The target, the dock yards, was indicated by green flares. Bombing occurred at ~21:20 from 15,000 to 18,000 feet, although one bombed from 9,000 feet. Crews experienced heavy flak over the target. Many fires were reported in the dock area. On return five were diverted to other bases. Bomber Command sent 437 aircraft to St Nazerine. 6 Group contributed 74 bombers to the attack. The raid was successful in that about 60% of the town was destroyed. Casualties were remarkably light. This was likely due to most of the population leaving prior to the attack. (BC-5; 6 Group-2)
March 1: The aircraft that had diverted on the attack of Cologne on Feb 26 returned safely to base. Z1724 "C" crashed while on a training flight near Leeming killing all the crew. Eye witnesses say the wing of the plane broke off causing the plane to crash. Killed in the crash were: pilot F/S PE Townsend, nav F/S J Wreakes, ba P/O S Spector, wop P/O EM Hollewell and P/O gun KJ Brown.
March 4: Stand down. A muster parade was held with a lecture on security given by F/Lt Phillips. Lecture was called for as there had been a serious breach of security. All assembled were warned the next such case would be dealt with by a court martial. The remainder of the day was spent in football and softball games.
March 5: Ops through for twelve aircraft to attack Essen. One early return. One, "V", is missing. All others successfully bombed the target. Funeral arrangements have been made for the training accident victims. The crew was near the end of their tour and well liked. They will be sadly missed. Primary target Essen "C". Take off ~ 19:10 with 3x500, 4 SBC (90x4), 2 SBC (8X30) and two planes carried a 4000 lb cookie. One early return with engine problem. Bombing was from 14,000 to 18,000 feet at ~ 21:15. Some ground haze with overall good visibility. Target identified via PFF indicators. Heavy flak and searchlights in target area. All crews considered the attack as successful. F/Sgt Taylor's plane holed by flak. HE280"V" is reported missing. Bomber Command sent 442 aircraft to Essen. 6 Group provided 77 of the aircraft. The Pathfinders accurately marked the center of the city for the three waves of bombers following. The forty minute attack left about 160 acres of the city in ruin including significant damage to the Krupps works. Over 5100 houses were damaged or destroyed and about 465 people were killed. (BC-14; 6 Group-3) HE280 "V" was lost with pilot P/O R Graham, P/O W Lee, F/O J MacDonald, F/O D Bennett, F/Sgt H Lawson, DG Culver on board. All are interred in the Riechswald Forest War Cemetery.
March 12: Ten on ops to attack Essen. Seven were successful. Two returned early and one is missing. Primary target Essen "C". Take off 19:25. Bomb load included 2x500, 2 SBC (30x8), 4 SBC (90x4) and four carried single 4,000 lb cookies. The Wellington flown by Sgt Tidy returned early due to engine trouble. Sgt Kennedy was also an early return with u/s intercom. Visibility over target was good with some ground haze and smoke. Bombing attack was made ~21:35 from 17,000 to 18,000 feet. Defences were heavy flak working with effective searchlight cones. Fires from the target were observed by the crews from 100 miles away. Sgt Sodero's bomber encounter an ME110. The rear gunner fired a burst and visual on the fighter was lost. HE690 "U" was reported missing. Bomber Command sent 457 aircraft to attack Essen this night. This night 6 Group contributed 93 aircraft to the effort. The Pathfinders used Oboe to accurately mark the target, the Krupps works. Bombing was concentrated with the Krupps works which received heavy damage. (BC-23; 6 Group-3) HE690 "U" was hit by flak near Brielle and crashed. Pilot GH Sgt Cooke and crew members, Sgt J Morris, Sgt R Mercer and Sgt T McKinnon became POW's. Sgt A Dawson was killed in the crash and is buried at Grooswjik General Cemetery.
March 13: F/Sgt Taylor awarded DFM. Nine on gardening ops in area of Lorient and Kattegat. Six successful. One failed to return. The planes each carried 2x1500 mines. Some of the successful crews used a silent glide approach mining run prior to release. This technique appears to have reduced defensive activity on the approach to the drop point. BK296 "J" was lost. Bomber Command sent 68 aircraft to mine areas from Lorient to Kattegat. 6 Group provided 19. (BC-3; 6 Group-1) BK296 "J" vanished without a trace with its crew of pilot Sgt CH Tidy; nav P/O JD MacFarlane; ba Sgt GRD Hall; ag Sgt JA Corbett. The crew is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.
March 29: Fourteen planes readied and sent to attack Bochum near Essen. Raid was a diversionary raid for an attack on Berlin. Due to bad weather and icing conditions four turned back with problems. One diverted to Driffield and one to Pocklington. Two, "V" and "P" are missing. Take off was ~19:35. Bomb loads consisted of 2x500, 3 SBC (90x4) and 4 SBC (8x30) and two carried 4,000 lb cookies. F/O Dunn returned early due to gyro and pitot head u/s. Sgt Sodero returned early due to bad weather. To and from the target the crews experienced thick cloud and icing conditions. However, skies were clear at the target area. Sgt Way jettisoned bombs 15 miles prior to target after being hit by heavy flak which damaged the turret. One crew thought they also observed a night fighter. Sgt Horaham experienced heavy icing on return flight. The bombing attacks was made ~21:52 from 14,000 to 19,000 feet. Flak and searchlights were accurate and intense. W/O Tubman landed at Driffield short of fuel. Two bombers MS484 "V" and 3814 "P" did not return. The diversion consisted of 149 Wellingtons and eight Oboe marking Mosquitoes. Half the planes for the diversion came from 6 Group. This diversionary attack and the main attack on Berlin were both failures due to poor marking and cloudy conditions. (BC-12; 6 Group-6) MS484 "V" was attacked by a night fighter and crashed near Boxmeer, Holland. Killed in the crahs were pilot P/O BA Grant; nav Sgt SV Bradshaw; ag Sgt PE Barron, Sgt R Dyson. AG Skiggs, the bombaimer, survived to become a POW. R Dyson is buried in Einhoven General Cemetery and the rest of the crew are buried in the Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery. 3814 "P" crashed in the vicinity of Metzkausen. The crew of Pilot Sgt RL Brandow; nav Sgt CW Cockaday; ba Sgt HC Sleep; ag Sgt JM Greer were killed. All are interred in the Reichswald Forest War Cemetery.
April 5: Conversion to Halifax to begin. Six of the most experienced crews were sent to Topcliffe for conversion training.
April 8: Conversion underway and squadron is still operational. Six aircraft sent to Duisburg. One early return. The rest assumed to bomb target. One failed to return. Primary target was Duisburg "D". A couple of bombers carried 4,000 pound cookies. Take off was from 21:14 to 21:20. "J" returned early due to starboard engine failure. Zero visibility over target. The weather report was not accurate. Bombing was done on markers or navigation from 17,000 feet. Duisburg was attacked by 392 bombers from Bomber Command. On this raid 6 Group provided 75 planes to the effort. Heavy overcast at the target caused the bombs to be scattered resulting in only a small amount of damage and casualties. (BC-19; 6 Group-4) MS479 "F" was shot down by a night fighter and crashed at Essen-Borbeck killing the entire crew of pilot F/O WA Walkinshaw, nav P/O KW MacDonald, ba W/O DF Evans, wop W/O F Bemi, ag W/O DG Rispin. All are now interred Reichswald Forest War Cemetery.
April 10: Ops for thirteen against Frankfurt. Eight successful. Four returned early. HE422 "Q" crashed near Warwick, Wales after all the crew bailed out. Primary target Frankfurt "A". Three returned early: "R", engine failure; "O", rear gunner was sick; and, "X" port engine overheating. The fourth early return, "Q", crashed after crew baled out near Tenby, south Wales. The pilot, P/O CW Jackson drowned. Target was cloud covered. Bombing was done on markers from 18,500 feet. Marking poor. Most of the crews experienced heavy flak over target. Bomber Command sent 502 aircraft against Frankfurt. This raid included 110 6 Group aircraft. Overcast skies at the target produced another failure. (BC-21; 6 Group-4) The crew of HE422 "Q" baled out over Tenby, Wales. The plane once left to its own devices flew for another 50 miles before crashing newar Warwick, Wales. The crew were only slightly injured except the pilot P/O CW Jackson drowned. He is buried in Carew, Churchyard. (I was able to visit the grave of P/O Jackson in 2012 and placed a Canadian poppy on his grave.)
April 11 to April 13: No ops. S/Ldr Dave Jacobs has been posted to London. WC Bradshaw replaced by MacIntosh.
April 14: Ops through for eleven aircraft to attack Stuttgart. Seven attacked target. Target was seen with smoke and fires. One early return and two aircraft missing. Primary target was Stuttgart "C". Take off was ~21:10 3 SBC (90x4) and 3 SBC (8x30). Sgt Horahan returned early with u/s engine and landed at Oulton. Skies were clear with some haze at target. Bombers dropped bombs on green target markers from 17,000 feet ~01:08. Crews observed fires and smoke in the target area. HE863 "G" flown by W/O2 Gozens and HE550 "C", flown by S/Ldr F Taylor, did not return. Stuttgart received the attention of 462 aircraft from Bomber Command. For this raid 6 Group contributed 109 bombers to the force. Accurate marking by the pathfinders was wasted as "creepback" by the later arriving main force spread the bombing into the suburbs. Still the attack was relatively successful with over 1300 building damaged and more the 200 casualties. NOTE: According to the squadron records S/Ldr Taylor's crew were flying in HE863-G and W/O2 PJ Cozens' crew were flying in HE550-C. It has come to my attention that the squadron records are in error and the planes should be switched which I have done for in this entry. (BC-23; 6 Group-8) Both missing aircraft were shot down by night fighters. HE863 "C" with pilot W/O2 PJ Cozens, nav W/O2 WG Blight, rgun F/Sgt L Dutton, ab F/Sgt SG Giffin, wop F/Sgt J Paplowski crashed at Rocquihny, France, killing all the crew. They are buried in Rocquigny Communal Cemetery. HE550 "G" crashed near Mesnil-St. Laurent rgun P/O JA Simpson and ab F/O S Brown are buried in the Mesnil-St. Laurent Churchyard. Pilot S/Ldr Taylor and nav F/O Crowther escaped capture. wop Sgt H Mckinnon was reported as a POW.
April 16: Eleven to attack Mannheim. Two returned early. Eight were successful and one is missing. Numerous fires seen at target. Primary target Mannheim "B". Take off ~21:15. Bomb load consisted of 3x500 and 3 SBC (8x30). Sgt Mason returned early due to an u/s engine and Sgt Hall returned early due to hydraulic problems. Visibility good over target with some haze. Target identified visually and by TI's. Bombing was ~1:05 from 17,000 to 19,000 feet. Defences were ineffective searchlights and flak. Aircrews observed many fires. Seven were diverted to Westcott. Sgt Way bombed Homburg instead of primary target. 6 Group contributed one third of the force of 271 bombers that Bomber Command sent to Mannheim. Accurate marking and bombing resulted in over 3100 buildings being damaged and 300 casualties being reported. Almost 7000 people were left without shelter. (BC-18; 6 Group-5) HE682 "T" was shot down by a night fighter (Ofw Rahner, I./NJG4) and crasded near Wellin, Belgium. F/Sgt LM Horahan, F/Sgt JE Isaacs, F/Sgt LK Plank, Sgt H Radford were killed. LK Plank is buried in Sohier Communal Cemetery and the rest of the crew is interred in Heverlee War Cemetery. Airgunner KTP Allan survived as a POW.
April 17: Squadron stood down. Big news that squadron was selected to deploy to North West Africa. Each section is busy filling the positions with their best men as no RAF ground crew are going with squadron. Equipment needs to be sorted and crated and rekitting for tropical climate must be done. All personnel to receive dental and medical checks and firearms.
April 18: Stand down. Roll for all personel selected for N. Africa. The move is top secret. Roll was completed at 2:30 and rushed to G/C Dunlop CO of Leeming.
April 26: Eight took part on a raid to Duisburg from Croft. These were the last sorties 420 Squadron would fly in Wellingtons from England. Three returned to base and one had damage to port engine landed away from base and crashed with no injuries. One was damaged by flak and landed away from base. One, trying to land at base, crashed killing the second dickey and injuring the other crew members. One is missing. Primary target was Duisburg "B". Take off ~00:43 with 3x500, 2 SBC (4x30) and 2 SBC (70x4). One carried a 4000 lb cookie. Visibility was good over target and bombing was done on red/green TI at 2:30 from 15,000 to 19,000 feet. Accurate defences were encountered. Five bombers sustained flak damage. HE693 "W" is reported missing. Bomber Command sent 561 aircraft on this attack against Duisburg. 6 Group contributed 81 aircraft to the attack. This raid was only partially successful with bombs being dropped outside the city. Still the city had around 150 deaths and about 300 buildings damaged. (BC-17; 6 Group-4) HE771 "F" piloted by Sgt Hall crashed close to Leiston, killing second pilot Sgt C Alder. HE693 "W" crashed near Breda, Holland after being attacked by a night fighter. Sgt K Cooke, Sgt FJ Duffy, F/Sgt OK Glascock, Sgt R Mucklow, pilot F/Sgt EL Newburg were all killed. The crew are buried in the Bergen op Zoom War Cemetery.
April 28: Stand down. Several crews from 426 have arrived to bolster our aircrew numbers. Mark X Wellingtons are being tropicalized at Disforth. DFC awarded to A S/Ldr DS Jacobs, F/O T.R.McDougall, F/O RN Rayne, and A/W/O LHC Gardiner. DFM award to F/Sgt R Dorland, and F/Sgt CP Lumdren.
April 30: Stand down. Funeral for Sgt P.C. Alder held at Darlington. Aircrews have been cut to 20. "It was like throwing a monkey wrench in the works." Kits had to be returned and men posted. It rained most of the day.
May 1 to May 14: Squadron was off operations as it prepared for deployment to North Africa. It received the tropicalized Wellington Mark X's from Disforth as they were completed. Twenty aircraft were being prepared for the deployment. Half of the squadron was allowed to go on five days leave. Upon their return the other half was given leave.
May 15: We leave tomorrow at 00:20 hours.