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Thread: RAF WWII bombing mission mystery

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    Default RAF WWII bombing mission mystery

    On the night of 2nd August 1940 6 Wellingtons of 115 Squadron set out from RAF Marham on a mission to bomb oil refineries at Hamburg. The 6 included Wellington Mk.1C serial number R3202 coded KO-J which took off at 2124hrs. The Squadron Operations Record shows that at 0145 the following morning SOS messages were received by Marham from this aircraft '... for about half an hour which seemed to indicate that aircraft was losing and gaining height as engines cut out. Last signal received about 100 miles from coast NE of Marham'. 17 to 20 days later the bodies of 4 of the crew were washed ashore in northern Holland within a few miles of each other.

    It is not certain if the last position was 100 miles from the coast of England or Holland. However this does not seem important as this position was probably approximately equidistant between the 2 coasts. Given the time of the SOS it would appear that the aircraft was on the return journey to Marham. Unless for some unknown reason they turned around and headed for Holland when they got into difficulties it would seem that the tide/currents/wind took them at least 100 miles in the 17 to 20 days to all arrive within a few miles of each other on the north coast of Holland.

    Could anyone comment on this? Is the scenario presented possible or is it likely that some of the facts are wrong?

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    I am unable to advise upon your particular incident but can advise on similar tide and time related circumstances. In many cases the sea decided to give up the hold on these gallant men in many differing ways some men were many miles apart and even split between significant geographical areas. Time delays created unique circumstances which influenced the behaviour of the deceased despite them originating from one ditching location.

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    It appears, from what you say, that "Last signal received about 100 miles from coast NE of Marham' "

    Although the AM 1180 cause has been left at F9 (undetermined), the Category has been changed from 'FB' to 'AO', so it was classed an Air Operations loss (Bomber Command Operations Directorate would also have looked into the reasons for the loss). It sounds like they were heading for home ... with time of loss put at 0215 3/8/1940 for Wellington R3202. Letters 'EI' given against the write off.

    "S.O.S. Signals from a/c from 0143 to 0215 on homeward journey - nothing since. Signals appeared to indicate that a/c was losing & gaining ht. alternatively as if engines cutting out." Place is given as "Sea?" In the K box it has "6 m." [missing].

    The G.P.O. Monthly List of Distress Broadcasts indicate an S.O.S. Distress Broadcast was originated by "Fighter Command Watford" who instructed "Humber Radio" "W/T Station" to make a distress broadcast. RAF Aircraft returning over the sea usually made S.O.S. distress calls on the M.F. D/F Service and the D/F Service would be plotting their position.

    Their parent Station Marham would usually be receiving any messages their aircraft made on HF and they would usually pass any aircraft problems (which might result in a ditching) to the M.L.O. in the M.L.S. (Movement Liaison Section) at Fighter Command.

    But if making multiple S.O.S. signals while returning over the sea, it is likely their radio would be on M.F. D/F and their positions fixed, although when some RAF aircraft were having trouble over the sea, but the crew felt they were not in immediate danger, they usually made multiple signals to their parent Station on HF (my Grandfather's crew did this once in 1940 when one engine had failed and the other engine would only give half revs) with their problem and also so that their position could be re-fixed at regular intervals, should they end up ditching, according to family information and a photocopy of the 1940 A.M. Distress Policy file and procedure I have.

    I am very skeptical of the huge numbers of RAF Operational aircraft, being given as "lost without trace" or "missing" or "lost" with no further information and the accident files having claimed, to have been destroyed!

    The tabulated lists of British Telecom confirm their reference as "No. 643" "Aircraft (Brit)" "3" [August] "Humber" "SOSA" ['A' being aircraft, as opposed to a ship], Humber I believe was GKZ, but the record indicates they were receiving/transmitting a Distress Broadcast in relation to a British aircraft and looking at the 27th July 1940 AMCO No.4 Group were a Group Area Distress HQ., so you could try all the RAF Station ORBs of No.4 Group, especially RAF Linton and Leeming (Regional Control), worth checking No.3 Group Stations too in case any snippets of info were recorded as No.3 Group began a new trial Flying Control system in July 1940 involving Regional Control (RC) Stations. The ORBs of No.18 Group and No.16 Group (East coast) and both having a Distress Area HQ might record something too about aircraft distress calls. The crew may even have been in receipt of 'diversion signals' and instructions to contact No.4 Group Regional Control and Distress HQ. Humber would figure because you said they were NE of Marham. Unfortunately the A.M.1180 Accident Card is not detailed enough, as in the case of others.

    Mark
    Last edited by Mark Hood; 28th May 2013 at 09:05. Reason: Last paragraph

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    Default Wellington Mk.1C R3203 KO-J of 115 Squadron lost on 3rd August 1940.

    Mark,

    Thank you for your very interesting reply. There is much in it for me to take in and follow up on. I have sent off to Hendon for a copy of the Accident Record Card. However, when reading cards for other accidents I have been puzzled by many of the abbreviations used. I have tried to find if there is a guide available that covers all of them. Hendon referred me to the Air Accident Investigation Board who referred me to the RAF Air Historical Branch who referred me to the Military Air Accident Investigation Branch. All I got from this was one page of 'Abbreviations commonly used on Air Ministry Forms 78 & 1180'. It is certainly not a comprehensive list. Do you know of anything else that would provide this information? Can you tell me what 'EI' stands for. I know of 'E1' used from 1941 but it can't be that. Could you also please tell me what 'In the K box it has "6 m." [missing]' means.

    You say: "I am very skeptical of the huge numbers of RAF Operational aircraft, being given as "lost without trace" or "missing" or "lost" with no further information and the accident files having claimed, to have been destroyed!" Can you give me some idea of your thinking about what alternative explanations there could be.

    You mention a number of possible ORBs to look at. I need to consider now if it is practical to try to obtain these without a visit to Kew which I would not find possible.

    You refer to the 'G.P.O. Monthly List of Distress Broadcasts' . Can I clarify please. Are you here referring to the actual incident or to what the normal procedure is? I am fairly certain that you refer to this incident but just want to make sure. I am not familiar with this List and don't know where it can be found. However, I take it that you have told me all that is relevant in it and I don't need to look further.

    I hope that you may be able to reply further to my queries. If you think it would be easier I can be contacted directly at: railton.david'at'btinternet.com

    David Railton

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    Hello David

    Just to help in your research I note at the following archive, the "Nederlands Instituut voor Militaire Historie", their website indicates that they have some material on this aircraft (ref T768) the link being http://www.defensie.nl/nimh/collecties/documentatie/ and is listed under the 1940 losses PDF. It might be worth getting in touch to see what they have on file.

    Kind regards
    Pierre

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    Thanks Pierre,
    I do have contacts in Holland who are researching the same aircraft and crew. I am not sure if they have been in contact with "Nederlands Instituut voor Militaire Historie" but I will certainly direct them to it.
    David

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    David

    I have been looking at a sample of about 100 Accident Cards throughout 1940 and some definitely are two letters ‘E.I.’ or ‘EI’ or "confirmed by EI", with the letter ‘I’ crossed at the top (as opposed to a figure 1). There was an 'E1' damage code, but too many cards have two letters E.I., for it to be a single, or odd mistake for E1.

    The write off cannot be ‘enemy interception’ as many cards with 'EI' do not appear to be in the ‘FB’ Category.

    "FB" meant both ‘Flying Battle’ and ‘Unknown’ according to some Signals Appendices I discovered in a 1940 file.

    Regarding the aircraft R3202 Category "A.O." the description is stating losing and gaining height alternatively and I am going to suggest carburettor intake or venturi evaporation icing, but you need to find out if the Wellington type was fitted with hot air intakes. I have the Whitley Mk IV, V and VII brief contract spec and they were not fitted to start with. Moisture from air humidity, especially cloud was enough to cause ice to form in the carb intake even in summer, where the petrol and air were mixed due to evaporation cooling. See also “Most Secret War” by R. V. Jones Chapter 41 “‘Flames’: Problems of Bomber Command” and the Professor George Temple report (which seems to be AWOL in TNA).

    As the aircraft sank into milder air and/or the pilot sometimes introducing a back fire, the ice might clear enough for the engine/s to pick up and the aircraft to gain height again.

    Searching the other ORBs outside the Group of the lost aircraft might not be fruitful. I expect when the card was completed 6 crew were missing. Looking at the accident cards, they don't always seem to be fully updated.

    Mark
    Last edited by Mark Hood; 29th May 2013 at 07:58.

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