Narrative: MM421 – Missing from night intruder to Greifiswald 10.5.44
Public Record Office WO 208/3320 had his MI.9 report; he had left Stockholm on 16 June 1944, arrived in Britain 17 June 1944 and was interviewed on 18 June 1944.
“I was captain and first pilot of a Mosquito aircraft which took off from Coltishall on 16 May 1944 at about 1300 hours on a Day Ranger operation across Denmark, and covering German aerodromes on the Baltic. When approximately over Rostock we were hit by flak at about 1530 hours. One engine was rendered completely unserviceable, and the fuselage was badly damaged.
“It was obvious that we would not be able to reach base, so I took the only alternative of attempting to get to Sweden.
“When over Ystad we were fired on by flak, although it was obvious that we were in distress. This compelled me to fly out to sea again. I ditched outside the three-mile limit, exactly south of Ystad at about 1700 hours. The aircraft broke up badly, but we both got out safely. The water was so cold that I just managed to inflate my dinghy and got into it before becoming unconscious. When last seen my navigator was trying to get his dinghy inflated. When I came to about half an hour later there was no sign of him.
“I was picked up by a Swedish fishing boat, which also found my navigator’s body. I was taken ashore and to a hospital in Ystad. I was there till 22 May. On the second day a member of the British Legation at Malmo came to see me. On 22 May I was taken to the internment camp at Falun. After a trip to Stockholm to report the details of our accident to the authorities. I returned to Falun whilst negotiations were being carried out with the Swedes for my repatriation.
“At no time was any interrogation pressed on me, and I was treated with great consideration. On 11 June I was taken down to Stockholm and repatriated on 16 June.”
W/Cdr (J/5756) Howard Douglas CLEVELAND DFC (pilot) RCAF injured
F/Sgt (1503804) Frank DAY DFM (nav.) killed.
418 RCAF is claimed to be the RCAF’s highest scoring fighter squadrons in the Second World War, in terms of both air-to-air and air-to-ground kills, and of both day and night operations. Its night operations were carried out without airborne interception radar.
There is an excellent well written account of the expereince of 418 aircrew, ” Terror in the Starboard Seat: 41 Trips Aboard a Mosquito, a True Story of 418 Squadron” by Dave McIntosh.
This aircraft took off from RAF Coltishall, which continued to serve as an RAF airfield until its closure in November 2006. It is currently awaiting disposal with plans for reused as the site of a prison, immigration centre and housing.
The crew of MM421 were not based at Coltishall. 418 Squadron were based at Holmsley South airfield in the New Forest in Hampshire on the South Coast. Presumably the day ranger operation in the Baltic needed to operate from East Anglia. It is possible to visit the site of Holmsley South where the is a memorial to the units which operated from the airfield.
14th May 2014 is the 750th anniversary of the Battle of Lewes, a key event in the Barons wars, which resulted, in the cocmmitment of the Kings of England to abide by the Magna Carta signed just under fifty years earlier.
The Battle of Lewes was one of two main battles of the conflict known as the Second Barons’ War. It took place at Lewes in Sussex, on 14 May 1264. It marked the high point of the career of Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester, and made him the “uncrowned King of England”. Henry III left the safety of Lewes Castle and St. Pancras Priory to engage the Barons in battle and was initially successful, his son Prince Edward routing part of the Baronial army with a cavalry charge. However Edward pursued his quarry off the battlefield and left Henry’s men exposed. Henry was forced to launch an infantry attack up Offham Hill where he was defeated by the Barons’ men, defending the hilltop. The royalists fled back to the castle and priory and the King was forced to sign the Mise of Lewes, ceding many of his powers to Montfort.
King Henry III, in his efforts to subdue the reforms springing from the Provisions of Oxford of 1258, provoked a baronial faction led by Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, to the extent that civil war as only a matter of time.
Simon de Montfort and the baronial army marched on the King at Lewes and positioned themselves on the crest of the Downs to the north-west of the town. The King’s foot soldiers followed the cavalry under Prince Edward up the long hill, but were pushed right back against the Castle and Priory in the town. The royal army suffered significant casualties, several leading supporters of the King had fled, and much of the town was ablaze.
The only near contemporary account is from one William of Rishanger. Chronicle of William de Rishanger of the Barons’ Wars ed. J.O.Halliwell (Camden Society 1840). Here in the English Heritage Battlefield report.
Earl Simon passed that night without sleep, giving time, as was his habit, to divine offices and prayers and exhorting his men to make sincere confessions. Walter de Cantilupe, Bishop of Worcester, absolved them all, and commanded that for the remission of their sins they should manfully strive for justice on that day, promising to all who should die thus the entry into the heavenly kingdom.
Battle being therefore certain, at daybreak before the rising of the sun, they went out from the village of Fletching, where a great part of them had spent the night, and which was about ten miles from Lewes. Before the start earl Simon de Montfort girt Gilbert de Clare with a knight’s sword.
When they had marched near the town of Lewes and were hardly two miles distant from it, Simon with his men ascended a hill and placed his chariot there in the middle of his baggage, and having purposely placed and firmly erected his standard upon it, he encircled it with many armed men.
Then with his own forces he held the ground on either side and awaited the issue of events. In the chariot he set four London citizens, who a little before, when he passed the night in Southwark, had conspired to betray him. This he did as a warning.
When he had thus prudently arrayed his forces, he ordered white crosses to be sewn on their backs and breasts over their armour, so that they should be distinguished from their enemies, and to indicate that they were fighting for justice. At dawn the baronial army suddenly attacked the king’s guards who had gone out to seek for food or fodder and killed many of them.
When the king therefore was sure of the coming of the barons, he soon advanced with his men, with his standards unfurled and preceded by the royal banner, portending the judgment of death, which they call the ‘Dragon’. His army was divided into three parts: the first line was commanded by Edward, the king’s eldest son, together with William de Valance, earl of Pembroke, and John de Warenne, earl of Surrey and Sussex; the second by the king of Germany with his son Henry; and the third by king Henry himself. The baronial forces were divided into four, of which the first line was given to Henry de Montfort, the second to Gilbert de Clare together with John FitzJohn, and William of Montchensy; in the third were the Londoners under Nicholas Segrave; while the earl himself with Thomas of Pelveston led the fourth.
Then Edward with his line rushed on his enemies with such violence that he compelled them to retreat, and many of them, to the number of sixty knights, it is said, were overwhelmed. Soon the Londoners were routed, for Edward thirsted for their blood because they had insulted his mother, and he chased them for four miles, slaughtering them most grievously. But through his absence the strength of the royalists was considerably diminished.
Meanwhile many of the might men of the royal army, seeing the earl’s standard on the hill and thinking he was there, made their way thither and unexpectedly slew those London citizens, for they did not know that they were on their own side. In the meantime the earl and Gilbert de Clare were by no means inactive, for they smote, threw down and killed those who opposed them, endeavouring with the utmost eagerness to take the king alive. Therefore many of the king’s supporters rushed together – John earl of Warenne, William de Valance, Guy de Lusignan, all the king’s half brothers, Hugh Bigod and about three hundred warriors – and seeing the fierceness of the barons, fled. There were captured Richard, the king of Germany, Robert Bruce and John Comyn, who had led the Scots thither. Also King Henry had his horse wounded under him, and giving himself up to earl Simon was soon brought under guard to the priory.
There were killed on that day many Scottish barons, and a great number of the foot soldiers who came with them had their throats cut. Meanwhile Humphrey de Bohun earl of Hereford, John FitzAlan earl of Arundel, William Bardolf, Robert de Tateshale, Roger de Somery, Henry Percy and Philip Basset were taken prisoner. But on the king’s side there fell the justiciar, William of Wilton and Fulk FitzWarin, the one slain by a sword, the other drowned in the river. On the barons’ side fell Ralph Haringod, baron, and William Blund the earl’s standard bearer. On both sides five thousand are said to have fallen.
When Edward and those fighting with him returned from the slaughter of the Londoners, not knowing what had happened to his father, he went round the town and came to Lewes castle. When he did not find his father there, he went to Lewes priory, where he found his father and learned what had happened. Meanwhile the barons made an assault on the castle, but as those shut up in it defended themselves manfully, the barons withdrew. When Edward saw their boldness within the castle, he was greatly inspirited, and collecting his men again, he wished to continue the battle afresh. Discovering this the barons sent arbitrators of peace, promising that they wished to treat for an effectual peace the next day.
12/13 May 1944
Louvain: 120 aircraft – 96 Halifaxes, 20 Lancasters, 4 Mosquitos – of 6 and 8 Groups.3 Halifaxes and 2 Lancasters lost. The bombing was more accurate than on the previous night and considerable damage was caused in the railways yards.
This was the second night in succession that Bomber Command had raided Leuven (knonw by Francophone Wallons as Louvain) On the night 11-12th the results had not been satiusfactory wioth the bombing scattered and little evidence of damage to the rail infrastructure. On The raid which started shortly after midnight on 13th May caused the following damage.
474 buildings in Leuven were completely destroyed, including a university building, three churches, two schools, thirty-seven factories, two buildings of city and a monastery. No less than 1300 buildings were severely damaged, including five university buildings, a church, four monasteries, eight factories and six public buildings (including the Palace of Justice and the Little Prison). A thousand buildings were slightly damaged. In the parish of Wilsele 183 buildings were completely destroyed, 280 severely damaged buildings and 150 mildly affected panden.Te Herent 14 buildings were completely destroyed, 58 severely damaged and 80 slightly damaged. All bombing in 1944 together accounted
for the destruction of 634 homes and become uninhabitable for 1,166 homes on a total housing stock of 4,223 homes, about 25%. A large part of Blauwput had disappeared. The 15th century Chapel Blauwput was badly damaged as the Parish Church.
The Allied Commanders responsible for planning D Day were keen to use the strategic bombers of Bomber Command and the 8th Air Force against targets which would delay rthe rate at which allied reinforcements could reach the Normandy battlefield. These attacks would need to take place across Belgium and Northern France to conceal the site of the landings. British Airman Arthur Tedder was Eisenhower’;s Deputy and credited with leading the transportation plan. There were two obstacles in persuading the allies to adopt this plan. Firstly he had to overcome the resistance of the commanders of the strategic air forces to switch from the targets they considered important, Secondly, Churchill needed to be persuaded that the results would justify the casualties among the allied populations.
Churchill anguished about giving an order which would kill Belgians and Frenchmen. Churchill made many decisions during the war which would result in the loss of lives which were to some degree or other “innocent”. He ordered the Royal Navy to sink the French Fleet in 1940, and the aerial bombing of German cities, containing civilians and foreign workers. The decisions to bomb key points on the railway system in Belgium and France bothered him more than most. Alanbrooke’s diary entry for 5th April mentions “At 10.30, had to attend one of those awful evening meetings with the PM. We were kept up till 12.45 a,m. discussing use heavy bombers to support the invasion. he is opposed to Tedder’s plan”.
The rais d was carried out by No 6 Group with aircraft from 419, 420, 425, 426, 427, 429, 431 and 432 Sqns RCAF. Five heavy bombers were lost on this raid, two in the route in and one of the return. One was shot down by flak and four by night fighters, at least three of these were by “Experten” Major Martin Dawes.
419 RCAF appear to have the heaviest losses, losing two aircraft and 13 men dead.
“Louvain May 12/13th 1944 Takeing off at 2155 and heading out to the target the crew and aircraft were shot down near Sint-Genesius-Rode which was 12 km S of Brussels. None of this very experienced crew survived. VR-W KB710 P/O H I Smith Pilot 22nd sortie F/O J Moore Navigator F/O W R Finlayson Bomb Aimer F/O W W Price Wireless Op. Sgt. R Bull Field Engineer Sgt. J C O’Connell Upper Gunner Sgt. S G Livingstone Rear Gunner VR-W ‘s crew was a very experienced one with many of them at the 16 operation mark. The Wireless Operator F/O Smith having a total of 22 trips. And The crew of VR-X had P/O Edwards and F/O Campbell who were a quarter of a way through their tours while the other airmen were on their second or third operation. VR-X KB713 P/O B F Edwards Pilot on his 8th sortie F/O R R Campbell Navigator F/S P Dewar Bomb Aimer F/S R S Smith Wireless Op. Sgt. J R Carruthers Flight Engineer P/O J A Webber Upper Gunner P/O H E Oddan Rear Gunner
419 Sqn RCAF were based at RAF Middleston St George. This is now Teeside Airport. Photos here
Leuven was rebuilt and its name appears on every can or bottle of Stella Artois beer, which is brewed there.
No one will know whether the Battle of Normandy would have been D Day invasion would have succeeded without the bombing campaign. The civilian and air force losses are as much a part of the campaign as that of any infantryman storming ashore.
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(Eighth Air Force): Mission 353: 886 bombers and 735
fighters were dispatched to hit synthetic oil production facilities in Germany and Czechoslovakia; there was strong Luftwaffe fighter reaction and 46 bombers and 7 fighters were lost:
1. 326 B-17s were dispatched to Mersenburg (224 bomb) and Lutzkendorf (87 bomb); 1 hit Hedrongen and 1 bombed Bullstadt; 2 B-17s were lost, 3 damaged beyond repair and 189 damaged; 4 airmen were KIA, 6 WIA and 20 MIA.
2. 295 B-17s were dispatched to Brux, Czechoslovakia (140 bomb) and Zwickau(74 bomb); 11 hit Chemnitz, 14 hit Gera marshalling yard, 15 hit Hof and 4 hit targets of opportunity; 41 B-17s are lost, 1 was damaged beyond repair and 162 damaged; 3 airmen were KIA, 8 WIA and 377 MIA.
3. 265 B-24s were dispatched to Zeitz (116 bomb) and Bohlen (99 bomb); 14 hit Mersenburg, 1 hit Ostend Airfield, Belgium and 12 hit targets of opportunity; 3 B-24sweare lost, 5 damaged beyond repair and 61 damaged; 7 airmen were WIA and 33 MIA.
The Escort was provided by 153 P-38s, 201 P-47s and 381 P-51s; P-38s claim 2-0-0 Luftwaffe aircraft, P-47s claim 26-0-8 and P-51s claim 33-0-3 in the air and 5-0-2 on the ground; 4 P-47s and 3 P-51s were lost and 4 P-47s and 9 P-51s were damaged; 7 pilots are MIA.
About 800 bombers of the US 8th Air Force, with a substantial fighter escort, attack synthetic oil plants at Leuna-Merseburg, Bohlen, Zeitz, Lutzkendorf and Brux (northwest of Prague). The Americans claimed to shoot down 150 German fighters and reported losses of 46 bombers and 10 fighters. (From Chronology of the USAAF)
Mission 353 was the first trial raid on oil targets to test the claim that the Luftwaffe would defend oil targets in Germany more than they had defended transportation targets. RLV fighters put up their largest force ever, but five synthetic oil plants were successfully attacked. This has been argued as part of the attrition battles which reduced the capability of the Luftwaffe to intervene in the Normandy Landings.
457 BG Mission Board may 1944. Lutzkendorf is the forth mission on the board
One of the units participating in the attack was tyhe 457th Bombardment Group. Their website has an account of the day here
The long awaited blitz on the German synthetic oil refineries occasioned the largest air raid the Eighth Air Force had yet undertaken. The 45 7th furnished the lead and low boxes for the 94th B Combat Wing for the assault on Lutzkendorf, producer of 30,000 tons of petrol and diesel oil annually. The target was six miles west of Merseburg. Major Fred A. Spencer flew as Air Commander of the B lead box with Lt. Jerry Godfrey flying as pilot. Captain Jacob M. Dickinson led the B low box, with Lt. Clarence E. Schuchmann as pilot.
The weather was CAVU, but ground haze and smoke Obscured visibility. Bombing results were fair. No enemy fighter opposition was encountered, and flak was moderate but accurate. Eleven craft sustained damage.
On the return trip to the base, a German operated B-17 joined the formation near Coblenz and continued with the formation to Brussels. Also, the craft piloted by Lt. John Akers encountered engine trouble. His plane began to lag behind the formation and was last seen near Eisenach on the trip back to England. With only one engine providing power and flying at 1,500 feet altitude, the crew bailed out over Belgium and all were taken as POWs. Because of the seriousness of his injuries, Lt. Akers was later involved in a prisoner of war exchange through the International Red Cross and returned to the States. He was hospitalized until May 1946, when he was discharged.
Although the 457th’s crews saw no enemy fighters, wings of the 3rd Division met severe attacks, causing the loss of thirty- two bombers. It was reported the Luftwaffe pilots resorted to ramming the B.-17s. Total losses for the Eighth amounted to forty-two craft.
The mission was the first of many to be directed against the synthetic oil refineries.
Meanwhile, on the Base, a lack of military courtesy by members of the command was noted. As a consequence, classes were conducted for all personnel reported for having failed to salute. The course consisted of two one-hour lectures on military customs and courtesies. The crew of Lt John Akers was lost on this date
The 457th Bombardment Group were based at RAF Glatton about ten miles North of Huntingdon. This is now Peterborough Airport. The Water Tower is about the only surviving Ww2 structure.
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Prince Louis of France was invited by the rebel barons to become king of England following King John’s refusal to accept the Magna Carta he had sealed at Runnymede. Over 200 castles in England were besieged, by the rebel barons or King John’s forces, in what became the First Barons’ War. This aimed to safeguard the rights, privileges and liberties of the clergy and the nobles as enshrined in the Magna Carta, but spilt out into a dynastic war for the English throne. This was only settled with the death of King John, and his succession by King Henry III. Even then, the dispute continued until the end of the century.
The Battles and Sieges
There were dozens of battles and sieges between 1214 and 1267. This was an era of castles and sieges. Many of the castles still stand. At Rochester you can still see the damage caused by John’s army when it undermined the corner of the keep using the fat of 40 pigs to create a fire fierce enough to burn the props. These are events populated by heroes, heroines and villains that could have been created by Hollywood. There are princes fighting for their kingdom, wicked sherriffs, heroines, callous mercenaries, treacherous pirates and outlaws. A summary of the main military events are here.
The Battlefields Trust is planning to create a Battlefield Trail covering the battles and sieges of the barons wars. This will be a major project and be timed to coincide with the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta as well as the 750th Anniversary of the Siege of Lewes. The Battlefields Trust is a member of Magna Carta 800. One of the most exciting developments is the inclusion of battlefields in the Magna Carta 800 Trail being developed for Vist England. This is the first time it has been possible to promote Britain’s Battlefield heritage as part of a tourism strategy.
There is a chance to hear military historian Julian Humphrys talking about the military history of Magna Carta on Tuesday 19th March 2013 between 12:30-14:00. This will be hosted by The Fusiliers Museum London in the Officer’s Mess of The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers HM Tower of London
In his talk Julian Humphrys will focus on three key episodes in the Magna Carta War: King John’s dramatic capture of Rochester in 1215, Hubert de Burgh’s stubborn defence of Dover in 1216 and William Marshall’s crushing defeat of the French at Lincoln in 1217.
“Just before the first explosion I was on the Bridge; the SELVISTAN was rather close to the next ship abeam, which was an American Tanker, when suddenly I saw something moving through the water, which at first I thought was a porpoise, as it appeared to be spouting water. This object passed very close across the American Tanker’s bow, and when it was half way between the SILVEISTAN and the American ship, it jumped out of the waterm and then continued on its course; I immediately realised that it was a torpedo, si I rang “Full speed ahead”, and put the helm hard to port, but unfortunately the ship did not have enough speed to swing clear. This torpedo struck the ship in No. 5 hold,” Extract from the Master’s Report on the loss of SS Selvistan5 May 1943
On the 5th May 1943 Slow Outbound Convoy Convoy ONS 5, outbound from Liverpool to Halifax lost eleven merchant ships to U Boat attack in a force 6 seas in the mid Atlantic. The Battle of the Atlantic was the most important naval campaign waged by Britain in WW2 and the only matter which Winston Churchill said kept him awake at night
By the time the week long voyage n the course of a week, ONS 5 had been the subject of attacks by a force of over 40 U-boats. With the loss of 13 ships totalling 63,000 tons, the escorts had inflicted the loss of 6 U-boats, and serious damage on 7 more.
Many of these ships included detachments of Royal Artillery Gunners, who manned the armament of Defensively equipped merchant ship (DEMS) alongside RN Gunners. The ships sunk in ONS-5 typically had two or three RA Gunners in the gun detachments of around a dozen.
This battle demonstrated that the convoy escorts had mastered the art of convoy protection; the weapons and expertise at their disposal meant that henceforth they would be able not only to protect their charges and repel attack, but also to inflict significant losses on the attacker.
ONS 5 marked the turning point in the battle of the Atlantic. Following this action, the Allies inflicted a series of defeats and heavy losses on the U-boat Arm, a period known as Black May. This culminated in Dönitz withdrawing his forces from the North Atlantic arena.
The official historian, Stephen Roskill commented: “This seven day battle, fought against thirty U-boats, is marked only by latitude and longitude, and has no name by which it will be remembered; but it was, in its own way, as decisive as Quiberon Bay or the Nile”(1)
The Maritime Regiments.were the largest Regiments in the Royal Artillery in the Second World War. Their actions are also some of the most under appreciated. Serving in small groups which Bombardier as the most senior rank, out of sight, and largely of mind of the rest of the British Army. Their actions too numerous and disparate to attach particular attention. It is worth sparing a moment to consider the RA participation in ONS-5. Thirty one of the forty two merchant ships in the Convoy were British. With two or three Gunners on each ship, there would have been around 75 members of the Royal Regiment at this battle, a big troop or small Battery by modern standards. Not many fewer than in some of the smaller RA Battle Honours title engagements.
The Gunners are listed in the following table with the ship annotated where known.
2 Maritime Regt.
PORTSMOUTH NAVAL MEM.
SS North Britain
2 Maritime Regt.
PORTSMOUTH NAVAL MEM.
3 Maritime Regt.
CHATHAM NAVAL MEM.
3 Maritime Regt.
CHATHAM NAVAL MEM.
5 Maritime Regt.
CHATHAM NAVAL MEM.
5 Maritime Regt.
CHATHAM NAVAL MEM.
6 Maritime Regt.
PLYMOUTH NAVAL MEM
SS Bristol City
6 Maritime Regt.
PLYMOUTH NAVAL MEM
6 Maritime Regt.
PLYMOUTH NAVAL MEM
The accounts from the interviews with the Masters of the sunk ships gives some insight into the conditions under which these men served, and died. These were the records from the ships sailing in convoy , many of whose survivors were rescued. The men on the Lorient were on a vessel straggling from the convoy and any that managed to take to a life boat were subsequently lost.
There is no mention of the DEMS Gunners in The Cruel Sea, the book and film which is a portrait of the U Boat war.
Although the battle has no name or location other than a track over points of latitude and longitude, there are places to see the U Boat war in Britain.
It is possible to see a U Boat in Birkenhead on Merseyside. This is a type XI larger than the type VII Uboats used by the German wolf packs against ONS 5.
The Western Approaches control room in Liverpool is where the Atlantic war was fought.
The Commonwealth War Grave Commission lists 736 fatalities on 4-5 May 1943, a time when there were operations on land in Burma and Tunisia and in the air over Germany. Of these 114 were lost at sea, most oif them in the battle for ONS-5
The merchant marine sailors who lost their lives on ONS 5 are recorded on the Tower Hill memorial to the missing. The Royal Artillery and Royal Navy Gunners are listed on the Chatham , Portsmouth and Plymouth Memorials.
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“We were circling this flare for approximately half a hour and becoming increasingly worried as it appeared impossible to receive any radio instructions due to an American Forces Broadcasting Station blasting away. I remember only too well the tune, “Deep in the heart of Texas”, followed by hand clapping and noise like a party going on. Other garbled talk was in the background but drowned by the music.
Whilst this noise was taking place I was suddenly aware from my position that several Lancasters were going down in flames, about five aircraft and the fire in each was along the leading edge of the main plane. I saw some of the planes impact on the ground with the usual dull red glow after the initial crash. My job was to keep my eyes open for enemy aircraft so I did not dwell for more than fleeting seconds on those shot down planes. Account by Sgt Eeles 49 Sqn
On 3–4 May 1944, during the German occupation of France, the town was subject to a heavy Allied bombing. During preparations for the Normandy invasion (Operation Overlord), 346 British Avro Lancasters and 14 de Havilland Mosquitoes of RAF Bomber Command attacked the German military camp situated near the village of Mailly-le-Camp. Mailly-le -Camp was a French military training area used by the germans for training their armoured Troops and the raid was an attempt to hinder the Germans preparing their reserved for the forthcoming invasion. .
Generally missions to targets in France rather than Germany were seen by the RAF as easy missions, and did not always count towards the number of operational sorties in a Bomber crew’s tour of duty. There were far fewer German night fighter and AA defences than over German cities, and the shorter routs gave the defenders less time in which to inflict casualties.
Although the target was accurately marked, communications difficulties led to a delay in the Main Force attack, during which Luftwaffe fighters intercepted the force. Subsequently, 1500 tons of bombs were dropped on the camp, causing considerable damage to the weapons and equipment held there and heavy casualties ot the Germans in the camp. No French civilians were killed in the bombing, although there were a small number of casualties when one of the Lancasters shot down crashed on a house.
42 Lancasters – some 11.6% of the attacking force – were shot down – accounting for approx 300 personnel. Losses of 10% were regarded as unsustainable by Bomber Command. The losses on the 3-4th May were proportionately as bad as some of the raids on Berlin or the Ruhr.
The Commonwealth War Graves records show 356 RAF war dead on the 3rd and 4th May worldwide. Of these 299 are in France or on the Runnymede memorial. Mostly men in their early 20s. There were eighteen teenagers, including 18 year old Sgt Raymond Dance,(207 Sqn) from Benson Oxfordshire The two oldest, aged 36 were Sgt James Ellis (550 Sqn) and Sgt John MacDougall (431 Sqn ) from Canada.
Thirty five men are listed as serving with 101 Squadron RAF,. (Though the RAF web site says that only 32 men were lost in four Lancaster Bombers) The RAF website entry also comments “101 Squadron flewon more raids than any other bomber Squadron during the bomber campaign and suffered the highest casualties, losing 1176 aircrew” It is sobering to consider that even at its largest establishment the squadron;might have had no more than 200 aircrew on its establishment.
The wikipedia Entry for this unit says “ 101 Squadron Lancasters were later equipped with a top secret radio jamming system codenamed “Airborne Cigar” (ABC) operated by an eighth crew member who could understand German, some with German or Jewish backgrounds known as “special operators” commonly abbreviated to “spec ops” or “SO”. They sat in a curtained off area towards the rear of the aircraft and located and jammed German fighter controllers broadcasts, occasionally posing as controllers to spread disinformation. The aircraft fitted with the system were distinctive due to the two large vertical antennae rising from the middle of the fuselage. Deliberately breaking the standing operating procedure of radio silence to conduct the jamming made the aircraft highly vulnerable to being tracked and attacked, which resulted in 101 Squadron having the highest casualty rate of any RAF squadron.” They certainly did over Mailly le Camp
101 Sqn were based in RAF Ludford Magna. A stone memorial tothe Squadron’s dead, unveiled on the village green in July 1978, permanently marks its residency. Ludford Magna is twinned with the French Village of Voue whose churchyard is the burial place of nine men who died in the early hours of 4th May 1944. There is a emmorial to 101 Sqn in Ludford Magna. Although the airfield has been nretutrned to farmland it is possible to see the perimeter track.
The war in the West was a race between the Allies and the Germans. Could the Allies mount D Day before the Germans had perfected a new generation of weapons which would terrorise Britain into submission. The German revenge weapons included the Fi 176 cruise missile, (the V1 flying bom), the A4 surface to surface ballistic missile (the V2) and a very long range gun, the V3.
Ever since the allies became aware of the existence of these weapons the Allied air forces had mounted a bombing campaign against the structures that the Germans were building to house these weapons. This campaign cost the allies 1,900 aircrew, a comparable number of fatalities to those lost on D Day.
On 3rd May 1944 the 8th USAAF Target was the the huge bunker at d’Helfaut-Wizernes, northern France. This vast structure was intended as a hardened launch centre for V2 and built with slave labour. This air raid was one of sixteen carried out by the allies air forces between march and the end of July 1944. 47 B24 Bombers of the 392nd Bombardment Group of the USAAF would drop 180 x 2000 lb bombs.
Briefing for crews was held between 0930-1000 hours. The mission was to be GH ship led with (22) aircraft carrying 2000# GP bombs. Despite fairly good visual bombing weather over the target with 3/lOths – 5/lOths cloud cover, bombing was poor with only a few hits in the target area of the (80) weapons released. While no enemy fighters were sighted, flak over the target was intense and accurate causing damage to (14) aircraft and wounding some crewmembers. No aircraft were lost and the mission recovered at base around 1740 hours after a 4 1/2 hour mission.http://www.b24.net/missions/MM050344.htm
The bombing by bombs of up to a ton in weight made no impact on the concrete dome, but wrecked the un-armoured facilites above ground, including the rail connections.
The bunker would be abandoned after a raid by 617 Sqn RAF :Lancasters and a on 17th July using six ton Tallboy bombs. Three of these exploded next to the tunnels, one burst just under the dome, and another burst in the mouth of one tunnel. The whole hillside collapsed, undermining the dome support, and covering up the two rocket vertical entry ways. The Germans abandoned the site in late July 1944.
According the the French Records, the ultimate fate of the 1,100 Russian slave labourers who worked site is not known.
The Bunker complex is now a museum, easily accessible from Calais and a day trip from the SE of England. Although the Germans never used the site for its intended purpose, the sheer scale of the building , the conditions under which it was built and its sinister purpose make it a thought provoking place. It is part of the V weapon story and the defeat of the V weapon bombardment of London. The story of the aerial campaign waged by the RAF and USAAF against the V weapon sites deserves to be better known.
Exercise Fabius 2-7 May 1944 was, arguably, the largest training exercise to take place in the UK. It would be the final rehearsal for Operation Overlord . It was a rehearsal of the landings on the four invasion beaches in the Normandy coast between the rivers Orne and Dives; ( Sword, Juno, Gold and Omaha beaches) .
Utah beach, geographically separated from the other four beaches was considered a separate assault from naval point of view. The rehearsal for the landing on Utah Beach was Exercise Tiger and took place on 26-30 April on Slapton Sands in Devon.
Ex Fabius allowed participants the chance to rehearse under conditions as close as possible to those they would face. It also allowed the ports to practice supporting a large scale landing. This was a dress rehearsal with the landing forces approaching the beaches behind mine sweepers and landing craft lowered ten miles off shore. The landings were accompanied by live firing from ships.
The assault troops for each of the D Day beaches would practice landing on a stretch of coast with a similar configuration to that they would face on D Day. The exercise was too close to D Day for any further experimentation or changes to the plan. Some units would not return to their previous accommodation, but instread to their assault assembly area.
3rd British Infantry Division was assigned to assault Sword beach with the town of Ouistrhem and the River Orne on their left flank and the city of Caen as its objective. On Exercise Fabius it landed near Littlehampton with the River Arun on its Left and Arundel its objective.
Robin Dunn, who was Battery Commander of 16 Battery of 7 Field Regiment claimed post war that there were problems which were identified and if put right would have enabled the allies to do better on D Day.
” While at Bolney we had our final rehearsal of the invasion on the south coast near Arundel……..We had a new divisional commander, Tom Rennie, who had commanded a brigade of 5lst Highland Division with distinction in 8th Army and had a high reputation. The commander of 185th Brigade was Brigadier K. R Smith, who had been with the brigade for some time and had so far in the war seen no action. He was a good trainer of troops who had worked us hard during our training in Scotland. But he did not fully accept the role of the brigade in the divisional plan. We had heard that 21st Panzer Division had been identified as having recently arrived about thirty miles inland of our landing beach. The presence of this division became a fixation in K.P.’s mind. He was haunted by the idea that, if 185th Brigade pushed too boldly inland, 2lst Panzer would come round our right flank, which was in open country and cut us off from the beaches. There was wooded country on the left and KP. wished to infiltrate his infantry through the woods beside the river and approach the objective in that way along the divisional left flank. During our final rehearsal he attempted this manoeuvre, which involved keeping one battalion on our original thrust line and passing the other two round their left flank in a wide turning movement. The result was chaos. The battalions became separated from one another and the Brigadier lost communication with the flanking force which lost all momentum. I was at brigade HQ when Tom Rennie arrived and said wearily, ‘You won’t let this happen on the day will you KP? It would have been better, even at that late stage, if he had sacked KP. on the spot.” Robn Dunn Sword and Wig.
Although many fewer than on Ex Tiger, there were casualties on Exercise Fabius. On the Morning of 4 May twin engine fighter bomber aircraft of Coastal Command attached Allied motor boats inflicting many casualties. Possibly the German attack on Ex Tiger had made the airmen a little trigger happy.
Places associated with the story of the training and rehearsals for D day can be found across Britain, from the sections of Atlantic Wall built in Scotland to the beaches which stood in for the Norman Coast.
490 years ago, Pierre Terrail, seigneur de Bayard, the commander of the French rear guard at the Battle of the Sesia, was mortally wounded by an arquebus ball, on 30th April 1524. This French soldier, generally known as Chevalier de Bayard, was renowned by his contemporaries as the fearless and faultless knight (le chevalier sans peur et sans reproche). He himself preferred to be referred to as “le bon chevalier”, or “the good knight”. The death of a man famed for his chivalry at the hands of an anonymous arquibussier appear to symbolise a transition in warfare. However the Bon Chevalier was much more than just a symbol. While most of his military services was in Italy and the borders of France, there are parts of his story which touches British Military history.
From the insular Britain the reign of the Tudors is fairly peaceful, fgive or take the odd Scottish incursion or Yorkist plot. But the forty years from 1490 was a turbulent time in Europe, with France at war for most of the time with Spain and the Holy Roman Empire was fought in Italy and along France’s still ill defined boundaries. This was a period when military technology, organisation and tactics were changing rapidly.
The wikipedia entry on Chevalier de Bayard lists his military service over thirty years service for three successive French monarchs Charles VII, Louis XII and Francis I mainly in Italy but also in Flanders. He seems to have played an important role in many of the battles of the Italian wars, from Charles’ ,VII’s campaigns .
The Chevalier de Bayard seems to have combined the personal qualities expected of a medieval knight with the professional abilities needed in the new world of gun powder, and pike and shot. While his chivalrous deeds and gallantry charmed Kings and courtiers – and Lucretia Borgia, he was far more than a dashing knight. He was a good organiser and trainer. In 1509 he raised a body of horse and foot which set the standard for discipline and battlefield effectiveness in an army which had previously despised infantry as a mere rabble. As a commander he was known for his accurate knowledge of the enemy, obtained by skilled reconnaissance and efficient espionage. In 1521, with 1000 men he had successfully held the “indefensible” city of Mezieres in the Meuse valley against an Imperial army of 35,000
In 1503 the re was a battle on the line of , with the Spanish Army assaulted the French Army across the the River Garigliano, via bridges of boats. One of the more famous incidents of the battle is the single handed defence of a bridge over the Chevalier de Bayard single handed held off a force of 300 Spaniards. This took place close to the village of Minturno, close to where the British Army attacked in a similar fashion in January 1944 and a few hundred metres from the Commonwealth War Cemetery.
Ten years later Bayard fought at the battle of Guines, known by the English as the battle of the Spurs, in which a French cavalry force was defeated by the English. Fleeing from the field Bayard was trapped, but noticing an English knight un-armoured and resting he forced the man to yield and then in turn offered himself as a prisoner. This act of chivalry endeared him to Henry VIII who released him on parole.
On 30th April 1524 Bayard died in “the midst of the enemy, attended by Pescara, the Spanish commander, and by his old comrade, Charles, duc de Bourbon, who was now fighting on the opposite side. Charles is reported to have said “Ah! Monsieur de Bayard… I am very sad to see you in this state; you who were such a virtuous knight!” Bayard answered,“”Sir, there is no need to pity me. I die as a man of honour ought, doing my duty; but I pity you, because you are fighting against your king, your country, and your oath.”
That is an interesting view from a historic figure at a time which we assume is dominated by treachery, Machaivelli and mercenaries.
For more about Chevalier de Bayard check the following:-