|159 Sqn Liberator damaged 23 July 1942||Hi, Peter,
The lack of 159 Sqn ORB records during part of 1942 is very frustrating. However, I do have some information on 159 Sqn's Benghazi shipping op of that date, from "Chocks Away!", the memoir of W/Cdr J. Leighton Beck DFC & Bar. And also from the paperwork for his recommendation for a DSO, downgraded to a Bar to his DFC. He was a S/Ldr and Flight Commander on 159 Sqn in the Middle East and then India.
From his memoir:
[I]Daylight missions were very different. We had no fighter air cover so we flew in formation to give mutual support in fire power. To get under the German radar screen we flew low down the Med or down the Quattara Depression (a vast stretch of land below sea-level which ran westward for hundreds of miles south of the coastal strip) then at the last minute we would climb as rapidly as possible to bombing height for the final attack. We could not escape detection as we neared the target and it was sickening to have to witness the fighters taking off from their desert air strips as we approached. Meantime the ring of anti-aircraft defences were being manned to put up a terrific barrage over our target.
This happened on 23rd July, 1942 on one of my sorties against shipping and port installations at Benghazi in Libya. We had flown for six hours 100 ft up over the bottom of the Quattara Depression and climbed up to 18,000 ft south of Benghazi and at that height I could see the fighters taking off to attack us. Then way above us on our run up to the docks I saw a formation of American Liberators attack right in front. They had supercharged engines so could fly at 32,000 ft out of flak range (their Nordyn bombsight was better than ours in the RAF) and I was amazed to see a large cargo ship in the docks receive a direct hit. It just exploded upwards and outwards with complete destruction.
We were all tensed up in my formation naturally and on the approach it was like watching a film in slow motion. The noise of the engines blanked out most sounds except directions “left left” or “right right” from the bomb aimer or information from the gunners of fighter activity on the intercom system when the ME 110 attacked on the run up to the docks.
Then all hell was let loose as we flew through the dense flak barrage. I could hear the crump, crump of shells exploding all around us and see the black puffs of smoke. The sound is somewhat like heavy doors being slammed shut at the end of an echoing corridor at each burst. Then “bombs away” and shortly after the formation’s bombs were seen to hit the docks and shipping given over the intercom by my rear gunner.
As soon as we were clear of the target I could feel that my aircraft had received some damage but had no time to check as we were immediately attacked by three fighters. An ME 109, a ME110* and an Italian Macchi 200. My fighter direction officer Flt. Lt. Dalton was already in the astro-dome giving me information as to where each fighter was co ....Read More.||Matt Poole on 5th August 2014 09:30:11|
|Liberator AL566 loss, near Benghazi, 15 July 1942||Greetings fellow curiosity seekers,
I tend to be wordy, for those who love detail. Apologies to all others...
Can anyone point me to an official document giving the approximate time on [B]15 July 1942[/B] when Liberator [B]AL566 “Y”[/B] of 159 Squadron was lost on an op to Benghazi?
Christopher Shores, in his book [I]“History of the Mediterranean Air War 1940-1945, Vol. 2: North African Desert, February 1942 - March 1943“[/I], states that AL566 was shot down at [B]1750[/B]. This sounds close, based upon the flight logbook of an air gunner who flew that day aboard then-S/Ldr J. Leighton Beck’s AL544. Takeoff of AL544 was at 1340 on a 9-hour op, so the halfway point was at [B]1810[/B] and the return to base was at 2240.
I’d love to see another official source, if possible.
All seven crewmen died – one New Zealander, four Australians, and two Englishmen:
RAAF 402134 P/O John Campbell POTTIE (Captain)
RAAF 402634 F/Sgt Hilary Eldred BIRK (Pilot)
RAF 521648 W/O William Stevenson MILLER (Observer)
RAAF 402036 P/O Henry LEISK, H (Wireless Operator/Air Gunner)
RAAF 402092 P/O George Gilmour MALLABY (Wireless Operator/Air Gunner)
RNZAF 402118 F/Sgt Martin Costin FELL MID (Air Gunner)
RAF 812278 Sgt John Stephen Arthur HODGE.
Only Birk’s body was recovered; he is buried in Benghazi War Cemetery. The others are commemorated on the Alamein Memorial.
July ’42 records are missing from the 159 Sqn Operations Record Book, and the ORB of Headquarters, 242 Wing – to which 159 Sqn was attached – does not give times.
The on-line Nat’l Archives of Australia A705 casualty files of two of the Australians aboard, POTTIE and LEISK, include no documents which mention the time of the action.
Here is more from Shores:
[I][B]Wednesday, 15 July 1942[/B]
Six US B-24s and Liberators of 159 Squadron undertook the long flight from St Jean[/I] [Palestine] [I]to attack the harbour and shipping at Benghazi. One RAF crew saw another of the unit’s aircraft under attack by fighters, this spiraling down into the sea. This was also reported by the American crews (see also Chapter Ten). At 1750 two MC.200s of 150° Gruppo had intercepted Liberators over Benghazi. M.llo Augusto Manetti, of 363a Squadriglia, claimed one shot down in flames and Serg Magg Bruno Benassi, of the same unit, chased and hit another, claimed as a probable.
For the record, there is slightly different unit info, in the book’s separate listing of Italian claims by the two MC.200 pilots involved:
[I]364a Sq, 150°Gr Aut CT Serg Magg Augusto Manetti
363a Sq, 150°Gr Aut CT Serg Magg Bruno Benassi.[/I]
I’ve been told that Chapter Ten of the Shores book has no further detail; I do not have a copy of the book.
So, is there corroborating time evidence from British records?
There is a possibility that US records at the National Archives, not far from my home, will provide details, but I haven’t been able to snoop there yet.
Here is a shor ....Read More.||Matt Poole on 22nd March 2016 07:10:53|