Bill’s memories 3

Bill’s memories 3

For our 16th we took part along with another 737 aircraft in a daylight attack  on the Nordstern synthetic oil plant at Gelsenkirchen on the 6th November. Again we had a mid under gunner but it wasn’t Bill this time. F/O Harris and F/Sgt Davies flew with us but I don’t remember their gun positions. On our return to Full Sutton I was on the final tum in when the port inner engine suddenly cut so I had to open up for an overshoot while I tried to sort things out. I had my hands full, switching off the engine , feathering the prop, raising the undercarriage and flaps and straining to hold hard rudder against the power until I had time to return. Quite a tense period! Anyway we went round again and landed on 3 engines without further trouble. Arthur reminds me that we had an oil leak on this engine right from take off and adds that when it cut it caught fine and had to be put out with the graviner system. I don’t remember but I believe him as he would be looking at it. It was found afterwards that one cylinder had come through the cowling and according to Arthur the ground crew of this aircraft MZ525 weren’t very pleased. Well neither was I, so there! During debriefing the groupie came up and asked me how long I had been flying on 3 engines. I wasn’t sure whether he was trying to make me a hero or catch me out so I told him the truth. He lost interest!

On the 16th November we flew with Jim Langram to Odiham to pick up an aircraft, test it and fly it back to base. I note that we didn’t return until the 18th for some reason or other but we must have had a good time there. I remember flying back under the base of cumulus cloud and the conditions being very bumpy. At least one member of the crew owned up to being sick and I didn’t feel too good either.

On the 20th November we carried out an air test on S-Sugar and as we had an ATC cadet with us I thought I would give him a thrill and let him act as “2nd pilot”. All went well until we were coming in to land.  I had briefed him to hold the throttles back when I closed them and said CUT! I caught him just before he was going to push the pitch levers to fully coarse. I shouted NO! not these ones and knocked his hand away. The crew were not impressed. Anyway we landed safely and there was no real danger as I always did my own drills and was used to it. I wonder what that cadet became, I anything?

On the 21st November we went back to the “safety” of ops and our 17th was another night raid on a synthetic oil refinery  at Sterkrade in the Ruhr. Bill Bernard was with us again but this time he flew as mid upper as S-Sugar had H2S. The Germans placed T.I. Decoy markers off to each side of the track  but the colours were not right and no one was foded. They could never get them bright enough. 2 aircraft were seen to go down after a collision and both were in flames. One exploded on ground. We landed at 00.10 after 6 ½ hours flying. Never heard anyone complain about unsocial hours!

On the 29th November MZ923 failed to return from a raid on Essen. The pilot was Les Smith. Their aircraft was set on fire by incendiaries from another aircraft above them one minute after bombing. Some of the crew tried to put the fire out but they were unsuccessful so the aircraft was abandoned and crashed near Chimay. All the crew managed to bale out and although they were reported missing they managed to get back and carried on with their ops. Les is a member of the aircrew association and we meet regularly at meetings in Gateshead.

  • Halifax III MZ923 KN-N
  • 28-29 November 1944
  • Mission: Essen
  • Hit by bombs from another aircraft
  • The crew were forced to bale out
  • Crash: Near Chimay (Belgium)
  • P/O LE Smith  Safe
  • Sgt JA Banbury   Safe
  • F/S JJ Sturges RAAF  Safe
  • F/S RBT Sprintall   Safe
  • F/S EC Norvell   Safe
  • Sgt RB Weston   Safe
  • W/O KK Kemp RAAF   Safe

We flew number 18 on the 5th December in S-sugar in an attack on Soest, the A.P being railway installations. Sgt Coates joined us this time. 497 aircraft took part altogether and 77 sent 22 out of 23 detailed. Fighter flares were seen at the target but no aircraft were sighted. 2 Halifaxes were lost but they weren’t ours. Arthur recalls that at the main briefings for this one we were told to bomb across the tracks and that when this was queried we were told that damaged tracks could be repaired quickly but if the repair gangs were killed it would take  longer (sounds brutal). I don’t remember this but I do remember on one of these debriefings being told that the H.E. bombs were for the  tracks and the incendiaries were for the railway  worker’s homes. We carried both on this raid! I can’t recall such remarks being made at  other briefings. We would usually be told the type of target and the reason for bombing it but as far as we thought about it, it was just a  target and we did our best to hit it. This raid on Soest was reported as being successful since most of the bombing was in the northern part  where the railway installations were. We bombed on red and green target indicators from 19000 feet and landed at 00.45 after 6 ¾ hours.

The 19th was on the 6th December and was a night raid on Osnabruck. Again the aiming point was to be the railway system. I had tried for  some time to get Bill Bernard with us as permanent crew member and saw the gunnery leader Bill Brotchie again just before briefing. He  said that Bill was detailed to fly with S/LDR Egan-Wyer on this one and it was too late to change but he would see what he could do for the  next time. They didn’t come back. Sgt Parkin was our M.U. and I took F/O Ballantyne along for his “second Dickie trip”. The target was  obscured by 10/10 cloud, we did not hear the master Bomber and no PFF  flares or TIS were seen. We flew around for a while (short time really)  looking for something to aim at and eventually bombed on a white glow on  the clouds. I don’t remember seeing any of the FLAK that was reported but  I do remember seeing tracer being fined horizontally which would indicate  the presence of fighters but it was some way off. Our own trip was  uneventful but 7 Halifaxes and one Lancaster were lost. Come to think of  it? Wonder if we were over Osnabruck? Can’t recall what F/O Ballantyne  thought of it. Wonder if he bought me a pint of breaking him in gently? I  was upset Where I heard about Bill Bernard and still think “if only”.

  • Halifax III MZ428 KN-B
  • 6-7 December 1944
  • T/O Full Sutton
  • Mission: Osnabruck
  • Lost Without trace
  • S/L BO Egan-Wyer   KIA   Runnymede Memorial
  • Sgt J Clayton   KIA   Runnymede Memorial
  • F/O LM Hesketh   KIA   Runnymede Memorial
  • P/O GA Jackson   KIA   Runnymede Memorial
  • F/S R Youngs   KIA   Runnymede Memorial
  • F/S DW Mason   KIA   Runnymede Memorial
  • F/S W (Bill) Bernard  KIA   Runnymede Memorial

Number 20 on the 12th December was a night raid on Essen and it was  reported as being highly successful, the Krupps works being severely damaged. Even the Germans were surprised at the accuracy, as was  discovered later. Sgt Hogg joined us in S-Sugar and we bombed on red/yellow sky markers from 19400 feet so they must have been well  placed. 6 Lancaster FTR

We did our 21st on the 21st December in J-Jig with F/Sgt Duncanson as MU. I was a minelaying trip to the Kattegat. 30 Lancasters and 20  Halifaxes took part and there were no losses. Everything must have worked OK on this occasion because we laid our mines successfully  from 14200 feet. I note that after 5 hours 55 minutes we landed at Carnaby on the coast but can’t remember now if it was due to fuel  shortage or bad weather. They cut it pretty fine with the fuel sometimes in order to get the pay load.

The 22nd was carried out on Christmas eve, of all times and it was a daylight raid on Essen Mulheim Airfield, Sgt Pitts was MU. We  bombed on the intersection of the runways from 18500 feet and in return received a few FLAK holes in the tail plane. (exchange of gifts).  We were diverted on return as Full Sutton was fogbound and thereby hangs two tales or at least 2 versions. According to Arthur we circled  our divisionary airfield and got permission to land but on the approach we had to take avoiding action from another aircraft and go round  again. When we landed and asked for taxying instructions they said they couldn’t see us but to turn left off the end of the runway and head  for the dispersal on the right. When we stopped someone opened the rear hatch and asked what we were doing there?  He tries to tell me  that we were in touch with one airfield and landed at another which according to my log book was Leconfield. To add to the drama he thinks  we were reported missing for a while. I daresay it’s possible as I had done it before when doing an emergency landing on one engine during an OUT cross country flight. I was in touch with Middleton St George and landed at Croft. Well how the hell do you know who’s talking to  you in these circumstances? The main thing is to have a runway in front of you! Doug’s version is that we landed on Fido but he doesn’t  mention the airfield. He goes on to say that we started back to base in a crew bus and after several hours crawling along in the fog we  came to another airfield just as far away as when we started and we spent the night there. I can’t recall the true facts but I know we landed  at Leconfield and I remember spending some time there and noting that it was a permanent station. I seem to recall an all ranks club where  we spent some time too. I remember travelling in a crew bus in the fog and it was going so slowly that people had time to get out and  accomplish their mission before getting on again and I also remember arriving at another airfield which may have been Lissett where we  spent the night. There weren’t many people in the mess but I met some blokes that I knew from training days. Was willie Wilson  one of  them?  Arthur reckons that we all had a good time in spite of the fact that none of us had any money, having emptied our pockets before  take off. Did we borrow some? Or were all the drinks on the house.  I don’t remember Christmas dinner but thinking about it now all the  bods back at Full Sutton must have had a good time since we weren’t there to get our share. According to my log book we didn’t fly, the  aircraft back home until the 27th and we didn’t travel back to Leconfield by air so goodness knows how we spent these few days. We must  have got leave afterwards because I was home for the New Year. Reverting back  to the raid Doug thinks the Germans knew our route to  the target and had moved extra ack  ack guns into the area and were filling a box along the track with FLAK. He expresses surprise that the  bomber stream did not detour but flew straight through it. I always held a straight course through barrage FLAK as I reasoned that it was  just as likely that I could weave into a burst as away from it and a straight line was the quickest way through. 6 aircraft were lost out of 338.  I can remember landing on Fido on one occasion because of fog conditions and finding it a turbulent and nerve-racking experience but it  worked I’m glad to say. Don’t know if it was Leconfield or not as it is not recorded in my log book. For some reason I did not record any  detail which is a pity now.

Our 23rd OP took place on the 6th January 1945  and it was a night raid on Hanau the aiming point  being an important junction in the railways system.  F/Sgt Cade flew with us. The report says FLAK  opposition was slight and only one enemy aircraft  was sighted. (not much of a reception). We  bombed on H2S from 18500 feet so it’s not  surprising that the bombing was reported as being  scattered. We were airborne for 6 ¾ hours, landing  at 22.20. Another late night.

On the 12th of January MZ812 X “ failed to return”  from a minelaying trip in the Kattegat the pilot was F/Lt MP Braund one of twin brothers that we had on the squadron. Everyone felt sorry for his brother. 32 Halifaxes took part and 4 were lost. 3 aircraft were seen in flames so the enemy fighters must have been active. We did our  first in U-Uncle.

  • Halifax III  MZ812 KN-X
  • 12-13 January 1945
  • Mission: Gardening
  • Lost without trace
  • F/L MP Braund   KIA  Runnymede Memorial
  • Sgt GF Rutherford   KIA  Runnymede Memorial
  • F/O AT Hewett   KIA  Runnymede Memorial
  • F/O JA Masheder   KIA  Runnymede Memorial
  • Sgt LF Connel   KIA  Runnymede Memorial
  • Sgt J Donaldson   KIA  Runnymede Memorial
  • Sgt D Atkinson   KIA  Runnymede Memorial

Our next one, the 24th was a night raid on Dülmen the  target being a fuel storage depot. F/Sgt Cade was with  us again in MZ801 T-Tare. Although 115 aircraft took  part altogether apparently only slight damage was  caused and most of the bombs fell in open country  south and south east of the target. We bombed on red  TIS from 19000 feet so it wasn’t our fault if they were in  the wrong place. FLAK at the target was negligible but  one aircraft was reported to be shot down in the target  area. (It wasn’t negligible for him).

The 25th was another minelaying trip in the Kattegat on 16th January with F/Sgt Duncanson as M.V. and we flew Y-Yoke. It was a good  aircraft. 23 Halifaxes and 8 Lancasters were out altogether. No enemy opposition was reported and we laid our mines successfully from  15000 feet at 56.12 N and 12.20 E (Hope there was water there) Got back at 03.25 after 6 hours 40 minutes. These minelaying trips could  be uneventful or dangerous according to circumstances and they were sometimes used as diversions.  On one occasion (might have been this one) we were flying across Denmark on our way back when predicted FLAK started to burst  immediately underneath us. They were spot on for speed and direction but fortunately for us slightly too low. Each shell that burst under us  lifted us higher and higher and even when I turned off course they followed us round in the turn. Needless to say I got out of these quickly  and for once weaved all the way to the coast. On another occasion we had to fly back from Denmark on one steady course at 1500 feet  above the sea. That’s not very high at night taking possible altimeter error into account and I could see the white of the waves. It became  monotonous and for once I was reasonable warm. I decided to let “George” have a turn at flying and sat back released. I nodded off for a  fraction of a second and what a fright I got! I’m sure “George” laughed when I grabbed the controls and cut him out but I was wide awake  and relieved to note that we hadn’t lost any height. These trips usually lasted were than 6 hours and as we started some time before take  off with briefing etc and were usually on our way back in the early hours of the morning it’s no wonder we felt tired. We carried caffeine  tablets to keep us awake but in my experience they never worked until I got to bed. A few times I carried a vacuum flask containing coffee  and stowed it in a convenient spot but I never once got any as the bloody flask was always broken.