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Thread: Circumstances loss 419 Sqn Halifax DT615 27-28 Feb. 1943?

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    Default Circumstances loss 419 Sqn Halifax DT615 27-28 Feb. 1943?

    Dear all,

    I've recently obtained information on a German night fighter claim for a minelaying 'heavy' shot down off the Dutch Frisian Islands chain on 27-28 February 1943, which may well be tied to the loss of 419 Sqn Halifax DT615. However, the details given in Bill Chorley's volume on 1943 Bomber Command losses gives the cause of loss as 'hit by Flak'. I would dearly like to know the exact details surrounding the cause of loss of this a/c, i.e. location, time, etc. (The RCAF crew were all picked up from their dinghy by the RN).

    Cheers, Theo

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    From navigator Gordon Hansen Low's entries on the Honours and Awards database:

    http://airforce.ca/awards.php?search=&keyword=&page=436&mem=&type=rca f

    "This Non-Commissioned Officer, a Canadian, has completed 28 bombing and mining sorties against the enemy as a Wireless Operator/Air Gunner. His tour includes attacks on such heavily defended targets as Essen, Dortmund, Cologne, Hamburg, Bremen and Berlin. On the night of February 27th/28th, 1943, whilst returning from a mining operation off the Frisian Islands, the aircraft in which he was flying was forced to alight onto the sea owing to damage caused by enemy action. At no time on the homeward journey was the aircraft at a height making wireless communication easy but despite the difficulty in such an emergency, Sergeant Low maintained contact with a ground station and the position of the aircraft was fixed accurately up to the moment of ditching. His skill and coolness on this occasion played a major part in the subsequent rescue of the entire crew from a point 105 miles from the English coast. I consider the undoubted ability and great determination and spirit he has shown throughout his tour fully merits the Distinguished Flying Medal.

    On this occasion the Halifax aircraft (DT615, VR-P or “P For Peter”) was airborne at 1825 hours, 27 February 1943 from Middleton St.George to lay mines off the Frisian Islands (Nectarines Region). Hit by Kriegmarine Flak and ditched. Twenty-two hours later, having been sighted earlier in the day, the crew were picked up by the Royal Navy. Sergeant M.F.Gray RCAF, Sergeant C.F.Wilby RCAF, Flight Sergeant C.O.Hancock RCAF, F/O W.J.McNicol RCAF, Sergeant. G.H.Low RCAF, Sergeant M.S.Braniff RCAF, P/O R.Harling, DFC, RCAF "

    Edit:

    From the Honours and Awards entry on R/G Russel Harling:

    Pilot Officer Harling has taken part in numerous bombing operations against enemy centres such as Hamburg, Le Creusot, and targets in the Ruhr. During an attack on Bremen in September 1942, his aircraft sustained such severe damage to the petrol tanks that it was forced to descend on the sea. Again, whilst engaged on mining operations in February 1943, his aircraft was engaged at close range by an enemy anti-aircraft ship and had both port engines put out of action. The aircraft was compelled to come down on the sea and Pilot Officer Harling spent twenty-two hours in a dinghy before rescue. In addition to these harrowing experiences he had several combats with enemy night fighters, destroying one. He has completed an arduous tour of operations with unfailing courage and coolness.

    RCAF Press Release 1675 dated 15 May 1943 reads as follows:

    London (RCAF News Service) - Pilot Officer Russell Harling of 192 Home Street, Winnipeg, is one of the few members of the RCAF to hold a “dinghy badge and bar”. Many Canadians are members of the Goldfish Club and hold a dinghy badge. “Goldfishers”are airmen who have come down in the sea, spent some time in a dinghy and were rescued. They gain a “bar” to their dinghy badge when they repeat the performance.

    Harling first became a member of this unofficial club last September when he and his crew mates, returning from a raid on Bremen, had to ditch their aircraft after it ran out of gas. The aircraft’s tank had been holed by flak. They spent three and a half hours in the dinghy before being rescued.

    He was awarded a “bar” to his dinghy badge after a mine laying trip in February. Their Halifax, which was piloted by Flight Sergeant Bill Gray of Winnipeg, was just about to start the mine-laying run when a flak ship was sighted ahead and directly in the line of fight. Bill hoiked [sic] the big kite over hard, but not hard enough to avoid the flak that came lashing up at them.

    The hydraulics were shot away and the port outer engine packed up completely. Lowering the bomb doors by hand, the crew went on to sow their mines. The job done, they climbed and headed for home. Then the port inner engine went dead. Only 3,000 feet at the time, and losing a hundred feet a minute, Bill ordered the crew to take up ditching positions. Before they hit, Flight Sergeant Gordie Low, of Edmonton, the wireless operator, sent out a fix, giving their position to base.

    Cold, wet and miserable, the crew huddled together and covered themselves with a parachute to try and keep out the biting wind. The rest of the men in the dinghy were: Flying Officer W.J. McNichol, bomb aimer, Meyrone, Saskatchewan; Flight Sergeant C.O. Hancock, navigator, Strome, Alberta; Sergeant C. Wilby, flight engineer, Winnopeg [note: later awarded DFC with No.408 Squadron], and Flight Sergeant W.S. Braniff, mid-upper gunner, New Orleans, U.S.A.

    They cracked jokes to pass the time away and between jokes kept wondering if Gordie’s message had got through. They climbed into that dingy just after dark and sat there all through the night and the next day. Both the RAF and the Navy were on the job; a race developed and an RAF launch reached the dinghy first. It was the launch’s first rescue.

    Harling joined the 112, City of Winnipeg Auxiliary Squadron in August 1939. When the war broke out he joined 110 Squadron and took the first air gunner’s course at Rockcliffe. He came overseas with 110 and flew in Lysanders. He was posted to the “Moose” squadron early in 1942 and has been with them ever since."

    Regards,

    Dave
    Last edited by alieneyes; 16th April 2013 at 21:20. Reason: added data from Harling's entry

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    Hello Dave,

    Cheers & thanks for posting these most interesting details. What would like to know now is the time of ditching, and an accurate estimate of the ditching position, which would help to establish if the new details of the German NF claim could fit to this loss, or not.

    Cheers, Theo

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    Hi Theo,

    Ideally, they would have been included in the information I posted. I only posted what I did to show where Bill got "hit by flak" from.

    Navigator Low, who sent out the distress signal, passed in 2008. Perhaps in his papers the ditching position is given?

    I will PM you contact details for the son of R/G Harling who might be able to assist you.

    Regards,

    Dave

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