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Thread: Questions surrounding bomber crashes

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    Default Questions surrounding bomber crashes

    There are a number of theories regarding the crash of the Lancaster I am researching. I am trying to find evidence to prove/disprove some theories in order to come up with the most logical of outcomes. Does anyone have any answers to the following?

    1. Is there a way of knowing if a bomber had dropped its bombs or not if it did not return to base? (408 squadron states all bombers dropped their bombs but notes 2 did not return... this is not clear if they mean all who returned dropped bombs or all who went regardless of return dropped bombs)
    e.g. was there a code sent to base to confirm target hit?

    2. Does anyone have a select sample of photos showing Lancaster bombers that crashed with bombs on board versus bombers that crashed without bombs on board?
    (There should be some difference between a bomber crash site where bombs versus no bombs were included in a crash. I want to verify the difference.)

    3. What altitude did a bomber normally return at after dropping its bombs?

    4. On the night of March 15/16 1944 bombers were routed south of Paris and Strasbourg as far down as the Swiss border before turning towards the north to go to Stuttgart. Is there proof they would have used the Rhine as their guide/turning point?

    5. On exiting the bombing area the bombers were to exit to the north and head home north of Strasbourg and Paris etc. What are the chances empty bombers would have been flying below the loaded bomber stream for some distance after dropping the bombs and be flying below the designated bomber exit to the north of Stuttgart, Strasbourg and Paris?

    6. Although I am under the impression there was no time difference between Germany and the Alsace region of France on March 15/16 1944 I am trying to verify what time it was in the UK, Alsace and Stuttgart if the bombers bombed Stuttgart at approximately 23:20 according to RCAF records. What time were they going by... UK time local German time... what?

    Cheers,
    LadyWolf

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    A route map would be your best bet to determine if outbound or returning, but I:m afraid I can:t help there.

    I've never seen any indication that times given in allied reports were "local time at target2. They generally seem to have been local UK time, though in some cases the ORBs seem to have used GMT, not local British time.

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    Hi LadyWolf,

    add 1. there was a signal NGZ reporting to base that the plane dropped the bomb load. So if the NGZ was obtained from all aircraft and the 2 were shot down later yes it would be possible to say that all bombers dropped their bombs... But on the other hand I think that the lost bombers were not in most cases included in the statistics there were no signals from them...

    add 2. well I think it depends on the crash type - during crash landing or just free fall... With the bomb load I would say the crater should be bigger and the pieces of wreckage in the larger surroundings as the result of explosion...

    add 4. I can not say exactly for this particular raid but in the early war years river was often used as the navigational aid. In 1944 I will expect use of HS2 rather than a river...

    add 6. According to information earlier published on this forum from 1944 January 1st till April 2nd the British and German time were equal.

    Hope this helps a little

    Pavel
    Czechoslovak Airmen in the RAF 1940-1945
    http://cz-raf.webnode.cz

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    Point 2: The crash site of a lancaster would be the same for both a bomber carrying a load and not carrying a load.The only way there would be a difference is if there was a fire and explosion or simply an explosion due to the bomb load going off. Or if the bomb load went off on impact. There have been cases where the bomb load has been found during an excavation here in the uk but normally the RAF would not grant a licence for an excavation if they knew of a bomb load still on board.

    There are many variables such as condition of the ground and if it was hard stoney ground or boggy ground and angle of attack as well as speed etc etc.

    Too many variables to be able to tell.

    On the ground however if you have access to it. You should be able to see craters if a bomb load was present and exploded.
    Regards Scott McIntosh

    ACIA Researcher

    Search for Air Crash Investigation & Archaeology on Facebook for our groups page.

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    Hello

    I'd rather go along Scott's view about the crash site, with or without bombs. Just think of the kinetic energy of the impact (mass x speed) and the fuel in the bomber. I imagine there might be some statistics about the percentage of bombs still onboard a plane and which didn't explode after impact. I know of several cases in my area, an unexploded Tallboy from a No. 617 Lancaster (The Germans were really eager to recover it, and used Russians prisoners to dig it up), a, unexploded 250 Lb bomb from a Typhoon, and some unexploded bombs from a Halifax (the latter from an eyewitnesses).

    I confirm from my own studies that in Bomber Command Statistics, the bombs dropped by the bombers lost during an operation, over enemy country, are usually not counted. This is what I've seen for several cases I was searching, when survivors told me that they were lost after "bombs gone". But when the statistics were compiled by the Operational Research Section of Bomber Command, usually in the days after a raid, these informations were just not available to the compilers, because the survivors were either "on the run" in occupied countries, or in PoW camps.

    As for the time in Alsace and Germany, you must realise that in WW2, Alsace and Lorraine were part of Germany. These two régions were French until the 1870-71 war against Prussia, then became German, re-became French after WW1 up to 1940, were German again during WW2, and since 1945 are French. So it was German time there.

    There are often route maps in the "Interception & Tactic Reports", which are in the public domain at the National Archives in Kew. I seem to remember that some samples were available to view, probably in Ross' (the webmaster here) section of archive documents. These reports are also very interesting documents about the German reaction against a raid, both Flak and Night Fighters.

    Joss

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    Hi,
    1. On any raid route maps that I have come across there was a well defined route in and the route out was through a different area.
    2. There are no difinitive answers on what any crash site looks like as there are many factors. An aircraft like a Lancaster coming down from around 18000ft out of control may break up due to overstressing before impact loosing outer wings and engines, tail and possible the cockpit section leaving the inner engines and centre fuselage to impact hard. Depending on the soil the engines and bomb load (if it hasn't gone off) being heavier and having more kinetic energy will penetrate to greater depth leaving fuselage/wing wreckage near the surface. Can send you some wartime and recent recovery photos of two Lancaster crashes if of use which will show this. In short- angle of impact, weight, terrain and altitude descended from plus the bomb load will determine the crash site.
    3. Luftwaffe nightfighter claims for 15th March are mainly around the 5500-6500 meter range.
    4. Doubt they would have been using the Rhine as a guide as GEE and H2S were in use by then.
    6. There should be no time difference to GMT but I think we stopped doing the British summertime, one hour back/forward shennanigins during wartime which may mess times up abit.
    You may have seen the Luftwaffe claims for 15th March listed here:-
    http://www.don-caldwell.we.bs/claims/tonywood.htm

    Alan.

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    Hi

    I believe that for extended periods during WWII, the UK worked on double BST to ensure the times in both the UK and Europe were the same . . .

    Rgds

    Tony

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    I doubt this will shed much more light but...

    The Lancaster came down in a farm field, not yet dug up for that spring crop. Being a cold March 1944, I'm assuming fairly hard ground... but it is hard to say.

    The plane was in two parts. The main body falling in the field and the tail end falling closer to the forest some ways away e.g maybe 300 metres or quite a bit farther depending on where one interprets the edge of the adjoining village.

    There is no crater visible, at least now anyway, but then I would expect after so long with farming done each year there there may not be any signs? I have looked at other areas where other bombers came down that night and cannot say either on foot or by google earth that there is any crater/dip or anything suggesting anything to do with bombs either being on board or without and I can verify that one of the bombers defiitely had bombs on board and no crater present from my view. Again, it seems I'm no further ahead in determining one way or another...

    I do know that nothing would grow in the crash area for a very, very long time in the one I'm researching but that could be due just to fuel, oil etc and not necessarily bombs/incendiaries...

    It seems very unlikely that they would have been empty. The theory puts the boys in the wrong area for a return flight if you go by a separate flight path out. It would mean they dropped their bombs either on target nearly an hour earlier than the rest of their squadron or dropped them deliberately early and were returning for some reason. The first cannot have happened if they followed the target flight path and the second could happen but is unlikely. I cannot find anything suggesting bombs that night were dropped off target areas by that kind of margin.

    Most say it was part of a night fighter attack and collision with other bombers so it really puts a number of variables into the mix.

    Another problem is that the crash has 3 different times! 2230, 2330 and 2345.
    Germans say 2230 and then later change to 2345.
    The Alsace locals state 2230 for various crashes but the Mayor, 3 years later, states 2330.

    Alan, I'd be happy for any pics to get some perspective on the matter.

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    LadyWolf,
    From the information I have at hand, it would appear that the Lancaster came down at Hilsenheim some 70 to 80 miles short of the target. This means that they almost certainly, still had the bomb load on board.
    Once the bombs were released, a bomber would endeavour to fly straight and level for approx. 30 seconds to enable them to get their aiming point photograph.
    There was no precise ruling as to what height bombers should leave the target area so far as I am aware. Suffice it to say that most pilots would push the nose down to gain speed to get away from the target. One German night-fighter pilot is on record as saying that if the British pilots had climbed away, rather than diving, many more would have survived, because they would have been lost in the darkness of the sky above instead of being silhouetted against the fires below. Added to this, a climbing bomber is more difficult to engage for a fighter diving to attack.
    It is most unlikely, given the routes in and out of the target area, that those who had already bombed would pass beneath the incoming bomber stream.
    Best Regards,
    Bill.
    Last edited by BillG; 24th November 2011 at 20:44.

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    I very much agree with all of you here and you have verified my beliefs.

    One of the not so fun bits of researching and writing is spending time trying to remove odd theories etc from clouding the case. However, it is my responsibility to ask questions, prove or disprove theories etc. I would not be doing my duty to the crew otherwise.

    Thanks for the verification!

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