RCAF 420 SQUADRON (PT)
CITY OF LONDON: THE SNOWY OWLS
This webpage is my small tribute in memory of my father, Bert Parker (1917-2009) and the men and women of 420 Squadron with whom he served during World War II.
Bert Parker, enlisted in the RCAF on August 15, 1941.
On September 12, 1941 he arrived at St. Thomas, Ontario to begin training as a fitter (engine mechanic).
Upon completing his training and embarkation leave he arrived in Halifax on March 26, 1942. He was shipped overseas on the M/S Batory on May 3, 1942. On May 11, 1942 the ship docked in Scotland. He arrived at 420 Bomber Squadron, based at Waddington, on June 11, 1942 and served with A-Flight in England and North Africa as a "fitter" until being discharged in September 1945. Bert was promoted to Corporal in December 1943. In January 1945 he was Mentioned In Despatches in the King's New Year's Honours list for distinguished service. The citation reads: "PARKER, Corporal Bertram (R115948) - Mention in Despatches - No.420 Squadron (No.62 Base) - Award effective 1 January 1945 as per London Gazette of that date and AFRO 425/45 dated 9 March 1945. Recommended for MiD, 22 July 1944 by the Commanding Officer, No.420 Squadron, who wrote: Corporal Parker has displayed a very fine example in his section by maintaining a high standard of efficiency. He is a conscientious and willing worker and has proved himself to be a very capable NCO. His untiring efforts have been an inspiration to all."
420 Squadron History:
On December 19, 1941, 420 Squadron was formed in RAF 5 Group at Waddington airbase four miles south of Lincoln. 420 Squadron was one of the first three squadrons formed during World War II that were to be fully Canadian. 408 Vancouver Squadron was formed seven months earlier on April 23, 1941 in 4 Group and 419 Moose Squadron was formed on December 15, 1941 in 3 Group just four days prior to 420 Squadron's formation. On January 1, 1943 these three squadrons became the basis for RCAF 6 Group.
The first CO of the squadron was J. Collier who was followed by WC D.A.R. Bradshaw on April 30, 1942. The squadron flew the Handley Page Hampden Mark I from January 1942 to the first week of August of that year. The squadron then moved to a nearly completed airfield just north of the village of Skipton-on-Swale, 7 miles west of Thirsk. Here it began the conversion to the Vickers Wellington Mark III. It also was transferred from 5 Group to 4 Group. When it became operational in the Wellington it flew from Leeming airbase as the Skipton-on-Swale air base was not fully functional.
In mid October, 1942, the squadron moved to Middleton St. George, 6 miles east of Darlington. It became a part of Canadian 6 Group on January 1, 1943. On April 12, 1943 CO Bradshaw was replaced by W.D. McIntosh, DFC.
In May, 1943 the squadron, along with 424 and 425 squadrons, was deployed to North Africa to become 331 Wing of RAF 205 Group. On May 16 most of the squadron personnel boarded a ship in Liverpool and nine days later arrived in Algiers. Two days later it was transported to Boufarik, Algeria. Then on June 16, the squadron was moved to a newly created airstrip "Zina" scraped out of the barren plain 22 km sw of Kairouan, Tunisia. The squadron's twenty Wellington Mark X's were flown from England to Africa on June 1. The squadron flew its first operational mission as part of 331 Wing on June 26. The Wing came under the jurisdiction of 205 Group RAF on July 9. From Zina, it actively took part in the campaign against the Axis powers in Sicily and Italy. On September 29 it moved to Hani/East. The squadron's final operational sorties occurred on October 8. It left for Algiers by train on October 18, arriving three days later. On October 26 the squadron was loaded on the SS Samaria, which sailed for Liverpool the following day.
The SS Samaria arrived in Liverpool on November 6, 1943. The squadron disembarked and was transported to Dalton airbase. From Dalton it was moved to Tholthorpe, 12 miles northwest of York, on December 12, 1943. At Tholthorpe the squadron converted to the Handley Page Halifax Mark III. The squadron remained at Tholthorpe until the end of the war. McIntosh was replaced as CO by G. A. McKenna on April 6, 1944. McKenna, in turn, was replaced by G.J. Edwards on October 24, 1944. W.G. Phelan DFC took over as CO on November 25, 1944. The last CO the squadron had during World War II was F.S. McCarthy who succeeded Phelan on January 30 1945.
The last bombs dropped by the squadron's Halifaxes occurred on April 18, 1945. The squadron was on ops April 22, 1945 but did not drop their payloads due to cloud cover and orders from the Master Bomber.
The squadron began converting to the Avro Lancaster Mark X in mid April, 1945 but hostilities in Europe ended prior to the squadron becoming operational on the Lancaster. The squadron aircrews flew their Lancasters to Debert, Nova Scotia. Those personnel not transported by air were sent to Canada by ship. 420 Squadron ended its mission in England on June 14, 1945. At Debert the squadron prepared to be a part of Tiger Force for attacks on Japan, but Japan surrendered before the squadron became operational in the Pacific Theatre.
420 Squadron Battle Honours:
English Channel and North Sea 1942-44; Baltic 1942; Fortress Europe 1942-44; France and Germany 1944-45; Biscay Ports 1942-44; Berlin 1944; Ruhr 1942-45; Normandy 1944; Rhine, Biscay 1942-43; Sicily 1943; Italy 1943
City of London: The Snowy OwlsAs 420 Squadron was to be a predominantly Canadian squadron shortly after its formation the squadron was adopted by the City of London, Ontario via the National Air Force Association adoption program. During Bradshaw's tenure as CO in 1942 a request was made by the squadron to the chapter to provide a stuffed snowy owl to serve as mascot for the squadron. The requested owl was duly procured and delivered to the squadron. Hence the squadron's nicknames.
On November 9, 1943 the London Ontario Air Force Wives Association asked if they could adopt the squadron. Their request was gratefully accepted and a cable to Mrs. Pidgeon was sent to that effect. So the squadron became informally known as the "City of London Squadron." Ties continued between the city and squadron throughout the war. On Oct 15, 1944, W/C Brickendam visited the squadron to assess how the City of London Women's Air Force Auxiliary could improve the welfare of the men serving with the squadron by supplying "comforts". Shortly there after the squadron raised a $500 Victory Bond in honour of the women's auxiliary.
Misc. Papers and Maps:
420 Squadron was involved in two major activities, dropping bombs and mining coastal waters. Bomber Command had a number of bombs in its main arsenal. There were general purpose bombs of sizes from 250 lbs to 2000 lbs. "Cookies", that were made from a thin metal canister filled with explosive, weighed in at 4,000, 8,000 or 12,000 lbs. The latter were one or two 4,000 lb cookies connected together. (There were also special purpose bombs used by modified Lancasters such as the spinning/bouncing "dambuster" and the huge 22,000 lb Grand Slam and the 12000 "tallboy" which were used to destroy hardened submarine pens, deep bunkers and tunnels. All were designed by Sir Barnes N. Wallis who also was the genius behind the geodesic design of the Wellington.) Incendiaries, fire starting bombs, were mostly of the 4 or 30 lb variety, some of phosphorus, that were packed in containers. When the container fell from the bomber it would break apart releasing its "bomblets". Many of the incendiaries and general purpose bombs had delayed fuses that would explode hours or even weeks after they were dropped (Dunmore and Carter 1992).
As well as dropping bombs 420 Squadron was heavily involved with aerial minelaying, also known as "gardening", along the European coast line and in some major inland waterways. This technique proved very successful in damaging German shipping as well as involving many men and resources needed to continuously sweep for mines. 6 Group, according to Dunmore and Carte (1992), was the premier mining group in Bomber Command. Aerial mining involved precision flying from a "fix" to a specified locale where the mine would be dropped. The mines weighed from 1000 to just under 1900 lbs. Early versions had to be dropped from a very low altitude and at a specific speed or they would explode or be damaged when they contacted the water. Later mine designs enabled the bombers to fly much higher. The mines dropped would lay on the bottom until detonated by a ship's propellor sound or metal hull. The mines were battery operated so they had a limited life expectancy. "Gardening parties" were not milk runs. Flak from shore batteries or mobile flak ships and prowling night fighters protected the German coastal waters and caused many losses. Other dangers were the weather and flying into the black sea due to faulty instruments and/or weather.
A third mission 420 Squadron flew was that of dropping propaganda leaflets, "nickelling" over cities and towns in enemy held territory. While these were not as glamorous as bombing or minelaying they were considered essential to the Allied war effort and not without risk.
420 Squadron Statistics
(Based on Middlebrook and Everitt, 1990 and squadron logs)
The squadron flew 3,479 operational sorties while completing 314 missions as part of Bomber Command during World War II flying over Europe. The majority, 79% (247), of these were bombing missions. Mine laying accounted for 18% (47) and the remaining missions were related to leaflet dropping (eight missions) and weather reconnaissance (two missions). It also participated in a number of channel searches for downed aircraft. The squadron had the fourth highest number of sorties of all RCAF squadrons flying over Europe. Only 405, 408 and 419 squadrons had higher numbers of sorties. Its loss rate of 1.7% (60 planes) was the lowest of these squadrons and was the fourth lowest of all 6 Group squadrons in Europe. Additionally, from May to November 1943, 420 with 424 and 425 Squadrons, was part of 331 Wing, RAF 205 Group stationed in North Africa. Here 420 Squadron was involved in 65 bombing missions and completed 641 sorties plus seven (eleven sorties) nickelling missions against Sicily and Italy. In North Africa it had eight losses, two of which occurred over the Bay of Biscay during the squadon's transit from England to North Africa prior to it becoming operational.
During the Hampden period the squadron flew 44 bombing and 37 mine laying missions as well as eight nickelling and one weather mission for a total of 535 sorties. During this phase it incurred 19 losses (3.6%). Flying Wellington Mark III's and Mark X's in the European and Mediterraean theaters the squadron was engaged in 108 bombing missions, 20 minelaying missions, seven nickelling and a single weather mission for a total of 1119 sorties. It lost 22 (2%) planes while flying Wellingtons. The majority, 60% (2477), of the sorties flown during the war by the squadron was while they flew Halifax Mark III's. These were all bombing missions over Europe from February 15, 1944 to April 22, 1945. During this period only 1%, 25 bombers, were lost. The squadron never flew the Lancaster Mark X on ops.
In the abridged squadron records below (I have not included every day's activity or every mission the squadron was involved in.) 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 intel debriefings are indicated in brown italic. Supplemental information from various sources and my comments are in green 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.
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 it 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.
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 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.
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
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 put 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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 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 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.
420 Squadron North Africa Period
(331 Wing of 205 Group RAF)
May 25, 1943 to October 27, 1943
420 Squadron flew tropicalized Wellington Mark X's from western North Africa bases. The main changes for operation in the desert were sand filters in the carburetor intakes and larger 1,675 hp Bristol Hercules engines. These air cooled radial engines were much preferred over the liquid cooled Merlin engines, in Wellington II's and Halifaxes that were also used in this theatre, which would often overheat and were more affected by dusty conditions. The tropicalized Wellington Mark X were also slightly lighter than the Mark III with an empty weight of 26,325 lbs and when fully loaded was 31,200 lbs. Another quality of the Mark X was its improved performance over other marks to fly on one engine which aided many crews to return to base over the Mediterranean.
The Mediterranean Theater:
Bombing operations in and from North Africa were very different from those conducted against "Fortress Europe". For most of the campaign the majority of the bombing missions were carried out by twin-engined bombers like the Wellington. Missions were often shorter because the targets were closer. The targets were often more precisely defined and therefore required more accurate bombing from lower levels, 10,000 feet or less. A technique of "illuminating" the target area with flares so the bomb aimers could see the aiming points was very successful. Many courageous pilots and crews would drop their bomb loads singly. Thus requiring ten or more bomb runs over a target. Often these crews would then fly low over the target so the gunners could strafe the targets. And, more regularly than in the European theater, the targets were in direct support of the ground troops. The massive area bombing armadas of many hundreds of aircraft used by Bomber Command in Europe did not occur in the North African campaign as there simply were not that many bombers in theatre at any given time. Defences such as search lights, flak and nighter fighters, were also usually fewer, compared to "hot" European targets, however the low number of bombers and their low bombing altitude meant the defences available could concentrate their efforts on individual bombers.
One of the most striking differences between the European and North African campaigns was that in North Africa, early in 1942, the squadrons were made mobile and operated from forward landing grounds rather than permanent bases as they did in England. This was necessitated by the often rapidly changing front lines resulting from the advances and retreats of the German and Allied armies in the African theatre. It made little sense for the construction of permanent bases, by either side, in the desert only to have the base regularly bombed out of existence or overrun by opposing forces. It was also of little value to have the bombers flying from permanent bases in Egypt, as they would not have enough range to deliver their bombs to strategic enemy targets. The use of forward refuelling stations eleviated some of this problem but added many logistical issues. Thus squadrons became mobile units, flying from landing grounds scraped out of the desert sand and mud. These temporary bases could be packed up and moved to another landing ground on very short notice.
By May 1943, when 420 Squadron set off for Algiers, the German army had been defeated in North Africa and the focus of strategic bombing efforts were on Sicily and Italy in preparations for the allied invasions.
In late June 1943, 420 Squadron became operational in North Africa as part of 331 Wing. The Wing consisted of 420 Squadron and two other Canadian Squadrons 424 and 425. All were flying Wellingtons. Initially 331 Wing was under direct control of the North African Strategic Air Force (NASAF). 331 Wing worked closely with 205 Group RAF during this period. By July 6 direct control of 331 Wing was shifted to 205 Group.
G/C Dunlap selected two sites for 331 Wing to operate. The Wing HQ, 420 Squadron and 425 Squadron were based on an airstrip (Kairoun:Zina) scraped out of a barren plain some 22 km sw of Kairouan. 424 Squadron was based at (Kairoun:Pavillier), a similarly rough airstrip scraped out of scrubby unused olive groves 15 kilometers away. HQ for 205 Group was at Kairoun.
Conditions were spartan for the airmen. All personnel were accommodated and messed in tents and the men had to often scrounge for all variety of life's "essentials" such as bed frames, cooking/heating stoves, latrine construction materials and the like. Meals were often supplemented by local produce, meats and even wild desert lilies. Flies, scorpions and snakes were in abundance and there was a good chance of contracting malaria, dysentry, jaundice (hepatitis?) and "gypy tummy". Temperatures ranged from below freezing to over 120 F. When it was dry, strong desert winds would blow down tents and cause zero visibility sand storms. Sand and dust would fill every crack and orifice and make breathing and eating difficult. Often rains turned the rudimentary landing strips and surrounding tent cities into a sea of sticky mud. Through all of this the bombers had to be maintained in the open. This was a ground crew's nightmare. But somehow the ground crews and aircrews were able to continue their jobs. In fact the serviceability of the aircraft was often extremely high considering there would be stretches of ops every night for more than a week straight. A testament to the quality and efforts of the ground crews.
Only a few of good references related to this period exist:
Shores, C. F. Mediterranean Air War Vol I and II. (I found these to be well illustrated books regarding the Mediterranean conflict however extremely dry.)
Chappell, F.R. 1992. Wellington Wings: An RAF Intelligence Officer in the Western Desert. Crecy Books Ltd.
Lihou, M. G. 2007. Out of the Italian Night: Wellington Bomber Operations 1944-45. Pen and Sword Aviation, Barnsley, England.
I am indebted to R. O'Hara of Public Record Searches who provided me with page images of the Operational Records Books of 205 RAF Group and 331 Wing for the pertinent time periods.
May 16 to May 27: Arrived at Liverpool at 7:45. Started boarding S.S. Samaria immediately. All on board by 9:30. Quarters were assigned and equipment stowed. Sailed at 20:30 hours for the mouth of the Clyde River, Scotland. Arrived Clyde River at 12:00 hours on May 17 to join convoy. Remained at anchor until May 19 waiting for other ships of the convoy to assemble. On May 19 at 17:50 convoy began sailing to Algiers. Life on board was somewhat boring after the novelty wore off. Thankfully the seas remained relatively calm throughout the voyage. On the evening of May 25 the convoy passed through the channel with Tangier, Morocco to the right. On May 27 at 10:00 hours the ship arrived at the port of Algiers. The unloading of baggage proved unsatisfactory with many kits lost for some time.
Advance parties were detailed to proceed to Kairouran by road in preparation of the main company arriving by train.
Unit had forced march of 4 miles from Algiers port in scorching sun to transit camp at the Agricultural School. Departed Tunis at 21:00, May 27 by train to Bourfarik. Left Bourfarik for Tunis arriving at 8:00. Transport took the men the following morning to Pavillier, Kairouan area. The trip from the UK to Pavillier took 34 days.
At base tents were scattered over large area. All men allotted their quarters. Messes and latrines had to be prepared. Oil and gas stoves had to be constructed from anything that could be found in the dumps. The squadron had a number of cases of dysentery and abdominal cramps. Men are now taking daily salt rations. Aircraft dispersals were set up along with petrol and bomb dumps. "Rations are good-- but oh for a juicy steak." The Padre, F/L Ashford, has been finding grass mats and water jugs for the men. He will hold his services in the "Y" tent.
May 31 to June 3: Twenty Mark X (Tropicalized) Wellingtons left Middleton St. George on May 31, at 9:20 hours bound for Portreath. Accompanying the aircrews were some ground crew as passengers and to assist if required, including my father who flew with the Lewington crew. All were under the command of W/C McIntosh. The bombers left Portreath at 06:15, June 1, for North Africa. Over the Bay of Biscay German fighters spotted three of the Wellingtons and shot down two of them.
The following is an excerpt from the book, Bloody Biscay by Chris Goss, which includes notes related to the shooting down of the two Wellingtons. The account states that three Wellingtons were seen on a routine fighter sweep. Wellington HE568 piloted by Sgt Sodero was shot down by F/O Hostmann at 08:05 and the second Wellington, HE961, flown by P/O McCullough, was shot down by Uffz-Unteroffizier Heinz Hommel fifteen minutes later. What follows is Hommel's account of the engagement with the second Wellington HE961: "On the 1st of June 1943, I was flying as Rottenflieger (wingman) to my Staffel Kapitan (squadron leader) Oblt (Flying Officer / 1st Lieutenant) Horstmann. After sighting the Wellington, my Rottenfuhrer (Tactical Leader-Horstmann) climbed over the enemy plane and attacked from the front and above. I had to break off my first attack because of the enemy plane's evasive actions and I had got into it's rear turret's field of fire and got a lot of machine gun fire. During this first action, my plane was hit by one bullet in the port wing. A short time after that, I was able to get into a favourable position and attacked head on from above, watching the cannon and machine gun hits in the enemy plane's starboard wing. From a distance of 100 meters, I saw a tongue of fire coming out from the starboard wing which became even larger. Soon the whole wing was ablaze and then broke off. The plane went into a spin and exploded on hitting the water. I saw the rear gunner bailing out but his parachute was also burning. No survivors were seen, only wreckage." (Thanks to J. Everitt for providing this information.) HE568: pilot Sgt AT Sodero, ba Sgt WR King, nav F/O GH Hubbell, gun F/Sgt JL Davis, wop Sgt RS Hollowell and passenger JF Mackenzie. HE961: pilot P/O McCullough, G.S. ba P/O Greig, P.J. nav Sgt KM Gillies, Sgt wop JR Nicol, gun Sgt GD McDougall and passengers electrician LaC AC Coates and fitter LaC JB Leitch.
The remaining eighteen Wellington's arrived at Ras el Ma airfield in Morocco at 15:00 hours. The planes left here at 13:00 hours on June 2 for Bleida where they arrived at 15:00 hours. Sgt Kennedy overshot the runway causing damage to the plane's tail. This resulted in Sgt Kennedy's plane remaining at Bleida until repairs could be completed. The remaining seventeen left for Telergma and arrived at 20:30. At 15:30 the following day the seventeen planes left for Kairouan to meet the rest of the squadron and prepare for active operations.
From June 3 until June 26, 1943 the squadron established their base and began orientation and training flights to prepare for operations.
June 26: After a long lay off to get organized ops came through for five aircraft. The aircraft were bombed up and took off to attack landing ground at Sciacca, Sicily. The attack was successful with good bomb pictures taken. Bombing between 22:42 and 23:35. Visibility was good with slight haze over target. Four aircraft attacked this target. One aircraft had a hang up of 9 X 500 general purpose bombs. Flak over target fairly accurate with search lights working with night fighters. One aircraft bombed alternate target. 331 Wing was on ops for the first time in theater. 14 ac were sent to attack Sicilian airfields. 15 ac from 231 and 236 Wings were sent to attack the Naples Harbour and marshalling yards. The planes dropped 29 tons of bombs in the target area along with 180000 nickels. A warning was received from North African Strategic Air Force (NASAF) that enemy paratroopers may attack the aerodromes during the night of June 28.
June 28: Squadron stand down. Aircrew went to Sousse for a swim. 76 ac from 231, 236, 330 and 331 Wings were sent to Messina to attack the ferry and marshalling yards. 50 tons of bombs were dropped. An ac each from 104 and 70 Squadrons did not return.
July 21: Ops through for eleven to attack the aerodrome at Capodichino. The attack was not successful due to weather conditions. Flak was active at target. Nickels dropped over Naples. One aircraft reported as missing and another diverted to another base. Take off time was ~23:22. Crews bombed through broken cloud to overcast, cloud tops to 5000 feet, at ~02:50. The target area was visible intermittently through the clouds. Most crews bombed on inaccurate flares and flak positions and using DR runs. Defences included search lights cooperating with heavy flak. Nickel packages of "Foglio Volante" #3 were dropped over Naples. The aircraft missing over Naples was found to have ditched. Orders came through for another split attack. This time the targets were Salerno railway and Capodichino aerodrome. 24 bombers from 331 Wing and 8 from 330 Wing were assigned to the Capodichino raid. On take off a 420 bomber veered off the runway putting out the flare path so six bombers behind it could not take off. 23 bombers reached the target which was covered by 50% cloud making it difficult for the crews to identify the target area. 41 tons of bombs were dropped. Most of the crews bombed on dead reckoning. Only two claimed to have visually identified the target. A 420 Squadron crew piloted by F/O East has not been heard from since take off. The crew of HE334; pilot F/O RC East, F/O JA Melrose, F/O LH Walton, P/O EB McCutcheon, Sgt RC McLellan were all killed.
July 23: Ops through to attack San Giovanni for thirteen aircraft. One, HE259 flown by Sgt Mason returned early due to his illness. Flares were used to illuminate the target area for bombing. Effort good against light and heavy flak defences. One reported missing. Take off time ~20:30. The crews started bombing the primary target at 01:30 and continued bombing for 55 minutes. The attacks were from 5000 to 12000 feet in good visibility and with the aid of flares to identify the aiming points. HE476 flown by S/Ldr McCarthy acted as illuminator. Crews reported good concentration of bomb bursts near the aiming point and one large explosion and fire visible from 40 miles away on the return flight. Light flak was moderate. Crews speculate there was a flak train on a siding in the target area. Moderate heavy flak encountered working cooperation with search lights. A naval operation bombarding the shore area at Trapani was seen plus fires in the Palermo area. The starboard engine of a 425 Wellington caught fire due to a backfire. No extinguishers were nearby so the men tried to put the flames out with tarps. They almost succeeded when the dinghy popped out and knocked the men off the wing. The fire spread and destroyed the plane. The incident is to be investigated. NASAF ordered attacks on the Salerno rail junction again and the docks at San Giovanni. The raid on Salerno was to be mostly done with incendiaries due to intelligence reports of a number of tanker rail cars in the yards. 331 and 236 Wings were assigned to Salerno. The attack was considered successful by the crews and three large fires were reported. Over 250,000 nickels were released over the target as well. HE461 flown by F/O AS Bellingham and crew of F/O RF Coulson, Sgt RN Barlow, Sgt AS Hopping, Sgt S Harrison were all killed.
August 12: Twelve aircraft were detailed to the area. One did not take off. Intense flak with search lights near Capa Peloro. Bombing was considered successful. Two crews missing. Bomb loads were 6x250 plus 6x500 or 6x(8x40). Take off time was around midnight. Crews attacked the target ~03:20 from 4800 to 6000 feet. Visibility was good and the target was identified visually. Some fires and bomb bursts amongst buildings were observed. Minimal flak and search light activity. A plane was seen going down in flames at 02:53 in the target area. Two crews were reported missing. An RAF regiment has been stationed here to act as guards. Two aircraft from 420 Squadron are missing. The mission was a repetition of the last few night's targets. 331 Wing was asked for 30 aircraft again. This night 86 crews attacked the beaches with 180 tons of bombs. Crews again saw bomb bursts on coastal roads and among barges just off shore. One crew reported seeing a direct hit on a bridge at S. Agata. Four bombers are missing including two from 420 squadron F/L Gourlie and F/Sgt Ludgater. NASAF complained to Group that the exclusion zone for aircraft was being violated and the gun defences were firing on the Wellingtons and Beaufighters were intercepting some bombers. NASAF signalled that after today's missions the number of sorties required would be reduced to 70 per night to reduce the strain on the aircrews and ground crews. HE520 flown by F/L RN Gourlie and HF459 failed to return. The crew of HF459; pilot Sgt AC Ludgater, nav Sgt J McAdam, ba F/O CA Tindall, wop/ag P/O Hotson, ag Sgt H Lilley were all killed.
August 14: On this night ops came through for fourteen aircraft were detailed to areas around Pizzo and Lamezia. One did not take off. Eleven bombers successfully attacked villages, railways, beaches and small boats in good visibility. Crews observed many fires. Two aircraft were not heard from again. Bomb loads for the attack were 6x250 plus 6x500 or 6SBC (8x40). One aircraft detailed to Larmezia carried a 4000 lb cookie. Take off times varied from 19:03 to 20:14. Attacks appeared to be successful with fires and explosions observed. Opposition was minimal. One crew over Pizzo reported what appeared to be plane crash. One crew was reported missing but were reported safe in Sicily after crashing their plane. 70 bombers were required to attack the beaches from Messina to Acqualadrone. These orders were cancelled and the beaches from San Giovanni to Palmi and the area of Pizzo were targeted instead. 25 crews from 331 Wing were detailed to attack the Pizzo target. Nineteen bombers succeeded in attacking the area with 32 tons of bombs. Fires were started in the towns and on the beaches. A barge was sunk with a direct hit. Two crews from 420 Squadron were reported missing. A signal was sent from Group asking night fighters to avoid target areas.HE524 with crew of; Pilot P/O AB Long, nav F/O E/I Fairweather, ba F/O A Brown, wop F/O CW Dickinson, ag Sgt WH Garbutt; and LN431 with Pilot Sgt JM Parr, nav Sgt DJ Nettle, ba Sgt WCH Dadge, wop Sgt ESR Norgrove, ag Sgt DD Boyd did not return. All were killed.
August 17: Ops through for eleven aircraft to bomb the beaches of Briatico/Capo Suvero/Pizzo area. HF458 returned early with a malfunctioning intercom. Nine bombed the primary target and returned safely to base. Crews observed no enemy activity or barge concentrations on or near the beaches. Bombs appeared to hit fuel storage as large fires were started. One aircraft reported as missing. This was the last crew lost by the squadron in North Africa. Bomb loads for this attack were 6x250 plus 6x500 or 6SBC (8x40) and two carried 4000 lb cookies. Take off time was~20:06. The crews started bombing ~22:35 and bombed for almost 50 minutes. Bombing altitudes ranged from 4500 to 6500 feeet. Visibility over the target was good with some haze. Many crews saw bomb bursts and fires. No defences were noted. Only 50 aircraft were requested this night to cover the area between Cape Suvero and Briatico. The crews were to attack throughout the night looking for barge and railway targets. 331 Wing contributed 30 bombers to this mission. 88 tons of bombs were dropped on small craft, rail lines and towns in the target area by 47 bombers throughout the night. A single crew from 420 Squadron was reported missing. The invasion of Sicily ended as ground troops entered and subdued the last resistance in Messina. The liberation of Sicily took 30 days. DF686 flown by P/O AW Freeman with crew members, ba P/O HJ Dowds, Nav P/O EH Douglas, wop Sgt WF Hill, and ag Sgt TH Lasenby were all killed.
September 9: Stand down. Men were confined to camp for medical check ups. Squadron informed it would be off operations on September 18 and to be prepared for a move to an unknown destination shortly thereafter. Even though Italy had surrendered hostile the German forces were still present in the country. NASAF continued the bombing of rail lines by sending 50 bomers to Grosseto's marshalling yards. Nickel drops were also ordered over Rome, Viterbo, Orvieto, Bologna, Modena, Parma, Leghorn, Spezia, Geno and Turi. 51 bombers dropped 87 tons of bombs on the Groseeto yards causing several fires. The success of the raid was confirmed by examination of bomber crew photographs. On crew had to ditch in the sea but were rescued the following day.
October 8: Off operations. Squadron is being shipped back to England. The return trip will be from Hani East to Tunis then Algiers will begin at 6:15 on October 17. Rumours finally confirmed that the Squadrons making up the Wing are to return to the UK.
October 12: The move involves the entire 331 Wing in two parts. 331 HQ, 420 Squadron and 296 Squadron are to be transported to Tunis in trucks. At Tunis it will board a special train to Algiers. The following day 424 Squadron and 425 Squadron will be moved. Motor Transport section has been busy transporting moving items of the squadron that are to be left behind.
October 13: Many of the men have come down with jaundice and the hospital tent is full. The squadron has been split into seven flights for the move.
October 18 to 21, 1943: The train engine broke down 25 miles from Tunis. The train was 6 hours late by the time it arrived. The train stopped periodically for rations to be distributed. One wagon was used as a medical center and it was almost always full due to jaundice, which had infected 25% of the men. The train finally arrived at Maison Carree where the men were loaded on to transport trucks to be driven to No 1 BPD at Fort De L'Eau some four miles away where a good meal was provided.
October 22 to 26: At Fort De L'Eau the squadron rested waiting to board the ship. Some men went to visit Algiers. Embarkation was set for October 26. The loading of the airmen on to SS Samaria was handled very smoothly and only to three hours.
November 1 to 5, 1943: In the Atlantic somewhere aboard SS Samaria returning to England. Destroyers began dropping depth charges at a possible target. So far the voyage has been uneventful. The ship is crowded but the men are relatively comfortable. The squadron is supplying watch details. Entered Mersey River on November 5.
November 6 and 7: SS Samaria docked at Liverpool at 9:30. We were met by the RCAF band and Air Vice-Marshall Brookes in the company of others came on board to bring greetings to Group Captain Dunlap and the Wing. We started unloading about 12:15. Within 45 minutes the squadron was aboard a train at Riverside Station. The train left for Topcliffe at 13:15, arriving at 18:00. Met by W/C's Sparling and Holmes, officers in command of Dalton. The squadron was transported to Dalton airbase by bus where it was fed and sleeping quarters provided. W/C Holmes complimented the men behaviour. Extra kit and equipment arrived and was distributed. Discipline among the airmen was very good considering they had essentially been without beer during their time in N. Africa.
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.
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.
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 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. 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 24: Thirteen bombers were sent to Schweinfurt tonight. One early return due to overload u/s. All planes diverted on return. One reported missing. 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. 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 15: Ops through for twelve aircraft. Eleven successful but one is missing. Housing shortage for officers and NCO's is getting critical. 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 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. 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.
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.
April 20: Ops through for thirteen aircraft to attack Lens, France. One missing. 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 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. 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.
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. 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 3: Stand down. Night flight training of bullseye and cross countries. "F" MZ596 was reported missing from night training and 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 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 425 Squadron 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 airfield. 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 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. 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. 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. 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. 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 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. 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 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.
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. 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.
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. 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.
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. 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.
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. 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 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. 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.
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. 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. 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.
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 18: Thirteen planes detailed to bomb Witten. F/O Manery had to land his plane on three engines. One, "Q", reported as missing. 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.
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. 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. 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.
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.
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.
Bibliography and Resources:
The main reference for these pages are the many yards/meters of microfilm that make up the RCAF Operational Records Books for 420 Squadron. The ORB's provide a daily report of the squadron's activities. Often these are very detailed documents relating the weather, important visitors, postings into and out of the squadron and recreational activities as well as the expected details of operations such as: targets, planes used, crews, bomb loads, enemy encounters, crew intel debriefs and of course aircraft losses. Unfortunately, some of these records have errors or are illegible, likely due to the number of carbon copies that had to be typed, the typists and the microfilm copying process. And, some were even hand written to make things worse! Not to mention that the records are not in chronological order. A digitized version of the microfilm has now been made available at the Bomber Command Museum of Canada: 420 Squadron Operational Record Books.
For the European Theater Middlebrook and Everitt (1990) and Dunmore and Carter (1991) provided valuable supplemental information as well as information pertaining to losses. Further information related to losses in the European Theater is drawn from WH Chorley's series "Royal Air Force Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War" (1942, 1943, 1944, 1945).
For the period 420 Squadron spent in North Africa as part of 331 Wing 205 Group I have supplemented the squadron's ORB's with information from the ORB's from 331 Wing and 205 Group RAF that were researched for me in London by R. O'Hara of Public Record Searches.
Adkin, F.J. 1983. From the Ground Up: A History of R.A.F. Ground Crew. Airlife Publishing, Shrewbury, England.
Barker, R. 1967. The Thousand Plan: The story of the first thousand bomber raid on Cologne. Pan Books, London.
Baumbach, W. 1960. The Life and Death of the Luftwaffe: Germany's "Lost Victories" of the Air. Translated by F. Holt.Ballintine Books, New York.
Brickhill, P. 1954. Reach For The Sky: The story of Douglas Bader, CBE, DSO, DFC. William Collins Sons and Co. Ltd. England.
Brickhill, P. 1971. The Dam Busters. Pan Books, London.
Brown, D. 1996. Aerodromes in North Yorshire and Wartime Memories. David Brown, Stockton-on-Tees, England.
Caidin, M. 1962. The Night Hamburg Died. Ballintine Books, New York.
Chorley, W.R. 1998. Royal Air Force Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War 1945. Vol. 6. Midland Publishing Ltd. Hersham.
Chorley, W.R. 1997. Royal Air Force Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War 1944. Vol. 5. Midland Publishing Ltd. Hersham.
Chorley, W.R. 1996. Royal Air Force Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War 1943. Vol. 4. Midland Publishing Ltd. Hersham.
Chorley, W.R. 1994. Royal Air Force Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War 1943. Vol. 3. Midland Counties Publishing Ltd. Earl Shelton.
de la Ferte, Sir P.J. 1961. The Forgotten Ones: The Story of the Ground Crews. Hutchinson
Dunmore, S and W. Carter W. 1991. Reap the Whirlwind: The untold story of 6 Group, Canada's bomber force of World War II. McClelland and Stewart Inc. Toronto.
Garbett, M. and B. Goulding. 1992. Lancaster. Promotional Reprint Co. for Bookmart Limited, Enderby, UK.
Gibson, G. VC, DSO, DFC. 1946. Enemy Coast Ahead. Michael Joseph Limited, Great Britain.
Chappell, F.R. 1992. Wellington Wings: An RAF Intelligence Officer in the Western Desert. Crecy Books Ltd.
Galland, A. 1968. The First and the Last: The rise and fall of the Luftwaffe: 1939-1945. Ballantine Books. New York.
Gunston, B. 1988. The Illustrated Directory of Fighting Aircraft of World War II. Salamander Books, London.
Harvey, J.D. 1982. Boys, Bombs, and Brussels Sprouts: One man's irreverent account of flying for Canada with Bomber Command. McClelland and Stewart Limited, Canada.
Hillary, R. 1942. The Last Enemy. Macmillan London Ltd, London, England.
Jones, R.V. 1980. Most Secret War: British Intelligence 1939-1945. Coronet Books, London.
Lake, J. 1999. Halifax Squadrons of World War 2. Osprey Publishing, Oxford, England.
Lihou, M. G. 2007. Out of the Italian Night: Wellington Bomber Operations 1944-45. Pen and Sword Aviation, Barnsley, England.
McKay, R. 1989. One of the Many. General Store Publishing House Inc, Burnstown, Ontario, Canada.
Middlebrook, M and C. Everitt.1990. The Bomber Command War Diaries, An Operational Reference Book: 1939-1945. Penguin Books Canada, Toronto, Canada.
Moore, C. 1995. Lancaster Valour: The Valour and The Truth. Compaid Graphics, Warrington, England.
Peden, M., QC, DFC. 1979. A Thousand Shall Fall. Canada Wing, Stittsville.
Rapier, B.J. and C. Bowyer.1994. Halifax, Wellington. Promotional Reprint Co. for Bookmart Limited, Enderby, UK.
Read, S. 2008. The Killing Skies: RAF Bomber Command at War. Spellmount Limited, Chalford Stroud, UK.
Rivaz, R.C. DFC. 2003. Tail Gunner. Sutton Publishing, Stroud, England.
Sainty, P. J. 1988. "Zig-Zag"- The Hampdens of 420 (RCAF) Squadron. P.J. Sainty, Derby, England. And pers. comm.