Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 17

Thread: Back to Back Berlin Raids - WO James Horne 619 sq Jan '44

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
    Edmonton, Canada
    Posts
    63
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts

    Default Back to Back Berlin Raids - WO James Horne 619 sq Jan '44

    Hello Everyone,

    My Uncle Jimmy was a Lancaster navigator with 619 squadron in 1944. All of his operational flights were with FS Rob Whinfield, both RCAF. I am trying to gain an understanding of his operational life.

    One of the most dramatic events must have been their first two solo ops, both to Berlin, Jan 27/28 & 28/29. What I am trying to imagine is how busy was the day between flights. How long did things like the debriefing take? How long would the next mission briefing take, and how much work would the navigators be involved in especially for a far trip such as Berlin? Did they get any sleep? His log book does not indicate an N.F.T. (Night Flying Test?) between ops, the day of the 28th. Did someone else perhaps take that aircraft up for a test that afternoon?

    I guess I am just trying to picture a typical day, but compressed by the back to back flights.

    Thanks

    Kenny Horne
    Edmonton, Canada

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    SW Wiltshire
    Posts
    237
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 1 Time in 1 Post

    Default

    Hi Kenny,

    Isn't it staggering to think that a freshman crew would do their first op to Berlin, and then return the very next night? Crews of the period report that Squadron life became very subdued. There were few parties and crews became rather insular - it isn't hard to see why.

    On 27th January, 'Goodwood Lancasters and Halifaxes on Whitebait' (Berlin) was ordered at 09.55. I don't know briefing times for 5 Group for this op, but in 8 Group they were: 1400 - Navs; 1430 - Main Briefing. Meals were 1530, with transport from Messes at 1600. 5 Group must have been earlier as t/o times were around 5.15 onwards. 5 Group aircraft were back around 0130-0215. After de-kitting, debriefing, transport to Messes, breakfast, they couldn't have been in bed much before 0400-0430?

    On 28th January, I can't be sure when the 'Goodwood' order was received, but 5 Group broadcast the route at 1020 hrs, with the comment that Zero Hour would be late with a dawn return. As an example, at Spilsby - 'Tea ordered to be served sharply at 1600', the Nav briefing was 1615 hours, Captains briefing at 1645 and Main briefing at 1700. Take offs started shortly after midnight and aircraft were back around 0740-0820.

    Those are very bald timings and there's no indication what times crews were awoken, say, on the morning of the 28th. But the Order of Battle would be posted up by around 1020-1030, so perhaps most were up and about by then (and Flight Commanders certainly were!)

    Regarding NFT's - 5 Group seems to have flown them almost as routine - in 1 Group they were definitely only flown when an aircraft had been repaired after damage or faults. Station ORB's suggest there were often lectures laid on during the day, even when ops were ordered.

    It must have been a long, long day on the 28th for crews short on sleep after return from Berlin, waiting for a 1700 hrs briefing for the next op. 29th was 'make do and mend', but at 0950 hrs on the 30th - 'Preliminary warning for tonight - Goodwood Halifax IIIs and Lancasters on Whitebait' ...

    HTH,

    Richard

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    London, Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    450
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 2 Times in 2 Posts

    Default

    Hi Kenny
    You can get a good feel for the operational process by seeing "Night Bombers" which shows at least part of the day and operation was like for a Lancaster crew heading for Berlin. It is a colour film of an operational crew on an actual operation to Berlin in 1943 and very good. You can find it on youtube. Flight testing an aircraft didn't happen before every operation from what I see in my father's log book. On his first tour there were fewer flight tests before an op if the crew had been flying the aircraft regularly. When they flew a different aircraft it tended to be flight tested. On his second tour he flew 27 different aircraft on ops and while he flew in some of them 7 or 8 times, they didn't tend to fly any one aircraft more than three times in a row and they almost always flight tested them. These aircraft got a lot of use from other crews as well so I think they were more cautious and less confident about how they may perform and what may have happened to them on their last op. If they had just used the aircraft and it had performed well they seemed to be less concerned about flight testing.
    The 27/28th would have been different for your Uncle Jimmy than the 28/29. The first op had a zero hour of 20:30 so preparations around the station would have begun in earnest in the morning, briefing in the early afternnoon. I have 101 Squadron taking off at 17:30 for this op & returning at 02:20, while the next night they took off after midnight as it's zero hour was 03:15 and they landed near 8 am. I wouldn't have felt like flight testing the aircraft for the second op either!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
    Edmonton, Canada
    Posts
    63
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts

    Default

    Thanks for the replies gentlemen,

    Thank you so much for that detail, it is exactly the kind of information I am after. And yes Richard, it is staggering to imagine. Not to downgrade any of the crew positions, but since my attention is primarily to those duties of the Navigator, I simply cannot imagine the pressure a 19 year old navigator on his first two ops would be under. Any idea what the weather reports were for those two evenings? Were the winds more confusing than usual, or were the skies clear enough to maybe see the bomber stream?

    Jimmy's log shows a couple of NFT flights that were not followed by OPS that night. Could that possibly be testing for a different crew, or more likely a mission that was later scrubbed?

    Thanks again guys,

    back to work,

    Kenny

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Sydney Australia
    Posts
    691
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 3 Times in 3 Posts

    Default

    Hi Kenny,
    For a more detailed look at these raids have a look at Martin Middlebrook's book 'The Berlin Raids' which covers the attacks on Berlin from 23/24 August 1943 to 24/25 March 1944. Its not likely anyone else took the aircraft for a test the day before an Op as each bomber had to be refueled and bombed up.

    Regards,

    John.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
    Edmonton, Canada
    Posts
    63
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts

    Default

    Thank you John,

    Yes, I've read Middlebrook's Berlin Raids, Nuremberg, and Bomber Command Diaries. The Nuremberg book (another raid my uncle flew) is so sad and fascinating. I will read them again soon though, as my point of interest has changed since I read them previously, from tactical to more personal. I know it sounds rather mundane, but day to day life, such as whether or not they would have tested the aircraft on such a quick turnaround day, I am now finding interesting. Again, my goal now is to further understand my Uncle's life.

    What is surprising and also overwhelming is that so much information is out there, and that with some leg work it can be uncovered.

    Thanks again guys,
    Kenny Horne
    Edmonton, Canada

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    SW Wiltshire
    Posts
    237
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 1 Time in 1 Post

    Default

    Hi Kenny - the Night Raid Report for 27/28th Jan says winds experienced were 290 degrees at 95-100 mph to 04E, and 300 degrees at 95 mph beyond 04E, so sounds like that would've made for quite sporty navigation. Results for the op weren't known - Berlin was covered by 10/10ths cloud and crews bombed on sky markers. the 1 Group ORB says:

    27/28 January – 149 Lancasters of this Group took off to attack BERLIN. The target on arrival was found to be completely obscured. The P.F.F. opened the attack punctually and with very few exceptions crews aimed their bombs at the release point flares. These are reported by the early arrivals as being well concentrated although tending to become a little scattered later in the attack. Although the cloud cover prevented any good view of the target area, and detailed results could not be observed, a well concentrated glow is reported to have been reflected on the cloud, with three columns of black smoke rising to 15,000ft. Ground defences are described as only moderate, only a little flak being experienced and although numerous searchlights were active they were largely ineffective and failed to penetrate the cloud. The majority of the sightings of enemy aircraft occurred in the target area and of the 10 combats reported, 6 took place over BERLIN. In one of these one of our aircraft claimed to have damaged a Ju88. 5 aircraft attacked last resort targets, 3 due to engine trouble, 1 due to sickness and 1 to intercom failure, whilst 8 other aircraft returned early due to technical faults. 12 aircraft are missing, nothing having been heard from them after take off. This heavy loss included 2 experienced pilots on their second tours.

    6 Wellingtons of 300 Squadron planted vegetables successfully in the TREFOIL and LIMPETS gardens.
    Middlebrook says 515 Lancasters and 15 Mosquitoes dispatched. 38 returned early (7.2% of those dispatched). Approx 1,704 tons of bombs on Berlin. 35 Lancasters failed to return (6.4% of those dispatched). This was the first night that supporters were used to open the attack as the PFF markers did their stuff. No PFF markers were lost over the target.

    1 Group ORB for 28/29th says:

    BERLIN was again the target for 125 aircraft of this Group, which took off to find 10/10ths cloud in the target area with tops up to 10,000ft. The cloud layer was thin enough for a fair proportion of the crews to see the ground markers. The P.F.F. opened the attack punctually, and a very good concentration both of Release Point flares and Ground Markers was achieved. Those crews carrying navigational aids found that the area marked agreed with their own indication of the central city area. Very large fires were soon started, and soon became very exceptionally well concentrated and even those crews bombing later in the attack reported that there was very little scatter. Several experienced crews report that in their opinion this was the most effective and concentrated attack that they had yet seen on BERLIN. Slightly more opposition was encountered from ground defences than in the previous night’s attack. Heavy opposition was encountered from the night fighter defences in the target area where all but 2 of the 10 reported combats occurred. The only other areas where enemy fighters were seen was off the DANISH coast and in the ROSTOCK area. 7 aircraft were abortive, all due to technical reasons and 4 aircraft are missing, nothing having been heard from them after take off.
    Middlebrook summary:

    677 432 Lancasters, 241 Halifaxes and 4 Mosquitoes dispatched. 66 returned early (9.7% of those dispatched).

    Diversionary and Support operations: 63 Stirlings and 4 Halifaxes mine-laying in the Kiel area, 18 Mosquitoes bombing night-fighter airfields in Holland (Deelen, Leeuwarden and Venlo), 6 Mosquitoes to Berlin 4 hours before the main raid and 4 on a decoy to Hanover, 6 Mosquito Serrate patrols. 2 Stirlings and 1 Serrate Mosquito lost.

    Minor operations: 16 O.T.U. Wellingtons carried out leaflet raids across France without loss.

    Total was, therefore, 794 sorties for the night, 49 aircraft lost (6.2%).

    T.O.T. 03.13 - 13.33hrs. Approx 1,887 tons of bombs on Berlin.

    46 aircraft failed to return (6.8%), 20 Lancasters and 26 Halifaxes, with 5 Halifaxes destroyed in crashes and landing accidents on return to England.
    My notes include an account of this raid in The Daily Telegraph:

    Daily Telegraph, Saturday 29 January 1944
    Sun rises 8.45am; sun sets 5.42pm.
    Moon rises 10.59am; sets 11pm

    Biggest All-Lancaster Force Hits Berlin

    The R.A.F., using the largest all-Lancaster force of heavy bombers yet sent against Berlin, dropped in 20 minutes on Thursday night nearly 1,500 tons of high explosives and incendiaries on the German capital. Zero hour was 8.25pm.

    Cloud over the target was 10/10ths, but the Pathfinders’ sky markers enable a dense concentration to be achieved. It was the 12th attack on the city since the Battle of Berlin began last November, bringing the total tonnage for such attacks to 17,800.

    Huge fires were visible 200 miles off to Mosquito crews going out nearly an hour later. The cloud was three miles high in places, but R.A.F. Pathfinders laid a dense concentration of sky markers, which the German A.A. guns tried unsuccessfully to destroy.

    One minute after the raid began, a “violent explosion” was seen. Sgt W.E. Blake, of Southampton, an air-gunner, said: “I saw the explosion when we were 150 miles from Berlin.”

    According to German accounts a feint attack was made on Heligoland. The Air Ministry communiqué announcing the raid stated that objectives in Heligoland, Western Germany and France were also attacked and mines were laid in enemy waters. 34 aircraft were reported missing from all the operations.

    F/S S.E. Campbell of Drumheler, Alberta, rear-gunner in a Lancaster belonging to the R.C.A.F.’s bomber group working alongside the R.A.F., shot down a rocket-firing Me.110 after it had attacked the bomber three times from a range of 400 yards.

    Two new features in the German ground defences were reported: rocket shells and Flak in new patterns forming an M and Z in the sky to trap the bombers.

    S/L E.H. Moss, of Sevenoaks, saw what was apparently a rocket fired from the ground. “It came straight up, shot past us, and burst with a whitish-yellow flash.”

    The high head wind encountered on the return journey, which was made by a roundabout route to deceive the fighters, made this one of the longest Berlin flights our crews have ever undertaken.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Posts
    273
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts

    Default

    Hi Kenny,

    Forgive me if this is old but just wondered if you have "619 The History of a Forgotten Squadron" by Bryan Clark.
    Published in 2004 but republished in 2005 by Woodfield ISBN I-903953-51-0.

    This started out as research on the discovery of EE109 in a canal in Hannover in 1977, but then became a more general Squadron look. Lot of interesting background information.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
    Edmonton, Canada
    Posts
    63
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts

    Default

    Hello Peter and thank you for the reply,

    Yes, I have purchased that book. You can still buy it from the publisher for a very reasonable price. In fact it was my tripping over that book on the internet that prompted me to begin digging deeper. What a rabbit hole this is turning out to be :-) The author's story into the search for info re:EE109 is interesting and of course the squadron detail provided is unique as 619 seems to indeed be a bit of a forgotten squadron. The only bit directly related to my uncle's story relates to his pilot. "F/S Rob Whinfield shared a room with Sgt. George Allen, the ex-apprentice fitter, who remembers the RAF police arriving in the early hours of the morning to remove Whinfield's belongings after he failed to return from this operation. Sadly this was an experience all too well known to ground crew senior NCOs."

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
    Edmonton, Canada
    Posts
    63
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts

    Default

    Hi Richard,

    Thank you so much for that depth of information. That weather as you say must have been tricky. Just over 16 hours flight time on those first two trips.

    The Daily telegraph report mentions F/SS.E. Campbell of Drumeller, Alberta. Drumheller is not too far from my home, even closer to my uncle's childhood home. A quick search revealed that he survived the war and was eventually left the service as P/O DFC. He died 2002 still in his small hometown of Drumheller. Near Drumheller is the town of Nanton. Quite literally the centre of the town is the Canadian Bomber Command Museum, which has grown around the fact that years ago the town was wise enough to keep and restore a Lancaster that, I believe, was locally destined for the scrap yard. After years of restoration the Lanc is now quite a beauty. I'll be going down to see her 25 April for a special night time event where they will run all four engines for one of the first times in decades. It will coincide with my uncle's death 70 years ago almost to the day.

    Thanks again,

    Kenny Horne,
    Edmonton, Canada

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •