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Thread: Polish Halifax Bombers Disaster

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    Default Polish Halifax Bombers Disaster

    This subject was discussed on this forum some time ago and I would like to tell you how I was involved.

    I was in an all Australian crew on a 38 Sqdn detachment at Rosignano ( the main squadron was at Foggia ).

    The Polish crews of the bombers were travelling north and had left the planes for servicing while they had a night leave in Florence. A Leigh light Wellington returned from a sortie with a hung up 250 lb bomb and efforts to dislodge at sea failed. The Flight Lieutenant pilot had to land with the bomb and a tyre burst on contact. The bombers were adjacent to the main runway and the Wellington caught fire. The crew escaped but the captain had to run back and warn an approaching fire truck that there was a bomb onboard which then exploded and the 6 bombers were destroyed.
    I saw nothing of this because our crew were also in Florence on leave and everything was cleaned up. However, I found myself involved in the incident later on.

    After survivors leave the nervous pilot was assigned to the copilot's seat in our Wellington on a dusk unarmed recco
    from Genoa to Spezia. Of the 3 Wags on board it was my turn to man the tail turret and, except for some off target flack, the operation was uneventful.

    We considered we had the best pilot in the world and we never bothered to vacate the turret when landing was approached. I got al little uneasy when a our nervous copilot declined the opportunity to land the plane. Our captain knew that, if he had to do the landing, our guest's flying career could be finished and a possible LMF tag attached.
    The story has a happy ending because the guest carried out a perfect landing.

    Many years later I met up with our pilot at a NSW country venu because my 4 adult sons wanted to meet the man who brought their dad safely home from the war. I reminded John of the incident and, God bless him, he apologised if he caused us distress.

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    Could someone tell me the earlier thread reference? It sounds like these were losses that ought to be in Volume Two of Bomber Losses in the Middle East and Mediterranean, but the ORB for 1586 Flight seems to be non-existent, and I gues it was the unit involved.

    Thanks

    David

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    David,

    No.301 (Polish) Sqn was the unit involved.*

    Here is the earlier reference for the Wellington/Halifax incident (on 26-2-1945):

    http://www.rafcommands.com/dcforum/DCForumID6/Data/7843.txt

    Ross, or one of the other Forumites, might give you details on how to convert the mess into something readable.

    * One of the Halifaxes involved in this incident, was; LL465. See: The Halifax File/Roberts p.78.

    Col.
    Last edited by COL BRUGGY; 17th December 2012 at 08:49.

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    Unfortunately, I can't get the quoted thread , by Col, to open except as a load of gobbledegook!!

    I can't trace the mass destruction of Polish Halifax aircraft as cited above.

    I can find that on 26/27 Feb 45, Halifax LL465 of 301 Sqn was hit by Wellington NC637 of 38 Sqn and both were destroyed by fire. The Halifax had just returned DNCO from Operation STARKADDER, which it had undertaken with a mixed bag of Halifax and Liberator aircraft from the sqn.

    Could it be that only the two aircraft I have quoted were actually destroyed and that the other aircraft sustained minor damage or none at all?

    David G, you might want to look at the book "Though Without Anger" as this lists a number of 'bombers' - Stirlings, Halifax and Liberators which were operated by SD squadrons in the Middle East and which - whilst not employed on bomber ops per se - might be within the scope of your new book. If you don't have access to a copy of TWA, let me know and I will get one to you.

    Colin Cummings

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    God lads do yee read the sticky notes on the forum ever!!

    Post number #22 on this thread explains a way to make them a bit more readable

    http://www.rafcommands.com/forum/showthread.php?5-How-to-access-posts-on-old-board/page3
    Dennis Burke
    - Dublin

    Foreign Aircrew and Aircraft Ireland 1939-1945
    www.ww2irishaviation.com

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    The only Polish aircraft involved was LL465 GR-J. Bulk of 1586 SDF ORB is missing, just only few pages are attached to 301 Sqn ORB. Quite possibly it is misplaced somewhere at TNA, and still to be found. Activities of the Flight were recreated by Kajetan Bieniecki, however. He was based on other documents, mission reports, log books, etc., and there are only few gaps to be filled.

    I enclose two relevant posts by Jack from the old thread for convenience.

    Franek, please tell me how you know of this incident. You have the aircraft and the time correct but not the facts. I was on leave in Florence at the time. On returning we heard all about the horror night at Rosignano. Crews of 6 Polish Halifaxes had left their aircraft parked on the airfield while they had a brief leave. They were in transit but I don't know their destination. F/LT David Grantham and crew were returning from an operation and spent some time at sea trying to dump a hung up 250lb bomb. Dave had no choice but to land with the bomb still there. A tyre burst on landing and veered off the runway towards the Polish aircraft. The Wellington burst into flames and the crew evacuated with great speed. Dave then sighted a fire truck heading to the wreck and raced back screaming " BOMB ON BOARD ". Soon after the bomb exploded and every Halifax was destroyed. Can you imagine the reaction of the Poles returning from leave? At least nobody was physically damaged but pilot Dave suffered a case of nerves for some time. Franek, don't forget to tell me how you heard about this event. Cheers, Jack.



    Franek, for some reason I'm unable to post on the site so this reply comes through my son. I cannot supply any more details or photos and remember I was not an eyewitness. However, the incident was the talking point of the squadron for some time afterwards. F/LT Grantham was assigned to our crew as second pilot for his first operation after the incident. He was still very nervous but our caring captain insisted he landed the aircraft. He did this skillfully and progressed well afterwards. If your Polish connections can supply any more details I would love to hear them. Cheers, Jack.

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    I am sorry to have to return to this topic and to dispute information posted by others.

    I have looked in Merrick "Flights of the Forgotten" and "The Halifax", "The Halifax File" by Air Britain, "The Polish Air Force at War" and one or two other tomes and some of my own research notes. I can find no reference to the mass destruction of Polish Halifax aircraft as suggested. The Poles sent six Halifaxes and a Liberator on STARKADDER but there is only a single loss that I can find and is the aircraft LL465.

    Please can we have further information which identifies the aircraft lost.

    Colin Cummings

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    Default Re the 6 Halifax bombers

    Franek. I am indebted to you for bringing back the original postings. I had forgotten that my account was that there was no doubt there were 6 Polish Halifax bombers but I relied on the facts as told to us by people present.

    I am pleased I renewed the subject because I can read again all the information I should have remembered.

    Forgive me because I'm approaching the 90s with a loss of a few brain cells. Best regards, Jack.

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    At your service!
    I hope that pictures documenting the crash will surface one day. It was customary to take some, but bulk of them in official archives was destroyed as having 'no historical value'.

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