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Thread: Schweinfurt 26/27 April 1944 - WO James Horne navigator 619 sq

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    Default Schweinfurt 26/27 April 1944 - WO James Horne navigator 619 sq

    I’ve decided to start a new thread, as I suspect this will go in a new direction. For background see Thread: Back to Back Berlin Raids - WO James Horne 619 sq Jan '44

    Thanks again for the detail Richard,

    I feel as though I’m a child listening into an adult’s conversation, though I promise that I am working hard to keep up.

    The questions of wind and navigation again play an important part on the final chapter of my uncle’s story. Jimmy’s final flight, (navigator on LL904 PG-S 619 Squadron, pilot F/S Whinfield) was a relatively small raid against Schweinfurt 26/27 April 1944. The BC Report on Night Operations notes strong headwinds as a problem that caused the late and scattered dropping of flares, and the poor overall result of the raid. I have been shown that the 619 ORB speculated that the two missing Lancasters that night, (F/L Gunzi and F/S Whinfield) became “off track owing to inaccurate Broadcast Winds and encountered heavily defended areas en route.”

    Jimmy’s Lancaster was shot down near Oppenau, Germany, which seems to be quite far north of the route as drawn on the Report on Night Operations map. As this was their 20th operation, I would say that they were unlikely to be making rookie mistakes but of course all it would take is one error… I also admit to having a bit of a time reading the Night Ops map.

    All in all it was a failure of a night, 21 lost aircraft (9.3%), about 150 airmen, all for practically no results.

    What say you, does the RAF assumption that they were off track and shot down on their way into Schweinfurt make sense?

    Cheers,

    Kenny
    Edmonton, Canada

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    Hi Kenny,
    Without more information as to the actual planned route etc. it's difficult to give an opinion on whether the entry in the Squadron ORB made sense or not.
    Given that the Ops Report noted strong headwinds and the ORB says the broadcast winds were inaccurate, I have to say that anything was possible.
    A little more info might be of some assistance if you can supply it.
    Regards,
    Bill.

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    Hi Bill,

    I have been given the route map though I'm having a bit of a time plotting the actual route. I am out of town this weekend, but will plot it on a proper map when I get back home.

    Before I can get that, I'll ask a question. How wide might a bomber stream become, while still being considered a concentrated or effective stream?

    I have been told that PG-S LL904 was a victim of Martin "Tino" Becker (his 28th), and from government letters home that the plane crashed at Lierbach, near Oppenau Germany. Doing some poor plotting on a bit of a map, it appears that they went down near to the point where the stream was to turn from west to north-west. As I say, I will be able to give a better estimation once I get my hands on a proper map.

    Thanks for your help and suggestions,

    Kenny Horne,
    Edmonton, Canada

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    Kenny - plotting the course is a breeze in google earth, just put the lat-long in the search bar. The best part is you can save it.
    Cheers
    Dave
    Last edited by David Wallace; 17th February 2014 at 14:54.

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    Kenny,
    Without the outbound route to refer to, but with your assertion that Jimmy's aircraft was north of track when shot down, I can only offer a theoretical explanation. Being an experienced crew, (20 ops) it is quite possible that Jimmy's skipper, being aware of stronger than forecast headwinds and realizing that they would be late "on target", decided to "cut the corner" on the planned route to make up time. This was an oft adopted practice by crews realizing that they were behind planned time and being aware of the dangers of arriving over the target late and possibly after everyone else had bombed and turned for home. It is possible that this corner cutting may have taken them near Oppenau as they endeavoured to make up lost time.
    I hasten to point out this is all theory but, knowing how a lot of the boys sought to stay within the bomber stream, I think it is not without merit.
    Regards,
    Bill.

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    Hi guys,
    I'm home now and trying to learn how to read a map... Before you begin to wonder how it was possible that my uncle ever found his way home, rest assured that both my father and brother have used their advanced science degrees to great profit. I'm afraid that I'm the artsy one.

    Dave, unless I'm simply not looking in the right place, I'm not sure where to look for coordinates of the route taken. Unlike earlier night reports that give a detail route in the Plan of Attack section, all I seem to have to go by is the map. I've plotted the route as accurately as my eye and dividers allow, and I've come up with the guess that they were about 18 miles SOUTH, not north as I had somehow originally thought, of the directed route. They would be at about the exact point that they would have to turn to the northeast to continue onto Schweinfurt. That being said, I'm not actually sure if they were target bound or home bound, though I'll take the ORB suggestion that they were target bound.

    The map has a little black flag at pretty much the point that I have plotted as Oppenau. Does any one know what the black flags are? Of course my guess is that they are reports of lost planes given upon debriefing, but that would lead me to believe that there was at least another plane up there to witness the crash, and that that crew knew where they were at the time. I still have a lot to learn about all of this.

    Bill, thank you for your hypothesis. I'm sorry that I was so wrong in my earlier plot, but that description that the pilot and navigator would be continuously working to update and alter their actions as new realities presented themselves is most interesting.

    Well guys, I need to go off to sleep now, thanks again for your patience and assistance,

    Yours truly,
    Kenny

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    Kenny

    I am not sure if this helps, but the loss cards for the two 619 aircraft show the route coordinates as: Reading, Selsey Bill, Cabourg? 481(7?)0 / 0130, 4845 / 0840, 4922 / 0925, 5033 / 0940, 5036 / 1015

    Regards

    Pete

    The cards are not very clear; hopefully someone will have one of the other raid reports to help clarify the bits that I can't read.
    Last edited by PeteT; 19th February 2014 at 12:07.
    Main areas of research:

    - CA Butler and the loss of Lancaster ME334 (http://rafww2butler.wordpress.com/ )
    - Aircrew Training (Basic / Trade / Operational / Continuation / Conversion)
    - The History of No. 35 Squadron (1916 - 1982) (https://35squadron.wordpress.com/)

    [Always looking for copies of original documents / photographs etc relating to these subjects]

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    Kenny,
    Working on the co-ordinates kindly supplied by PeteT, I agree that LL904 was a little south of track when it went down. If that was the case then the crash, or at least the combat, would almost certainly have been visible to other aircraft in the stream, hence the black flag. Crews were required, where possible, to log the loss of any aircraft they witnessed for a variety of reasons.
    The answer to your original question therefore is, they WERE off track, not by much, but enough for someone to consider it worth a mention. Whether that contributed to the loss of LL904 is open to question.
    Hope this is of some use to you,
    Best Wishes,
    Bill.

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    Kenny

    If you would like a copy of the Loss Card please e-mail me and I will send it to you.

    I also believe that one of the crew members (FS Young, RNZAF) was taken POW (Camp 357, POW No 3715 courtesy of Ross McNeil listing on this site); assuming he survived the war, you may find some more details regarding the loss in his Liberation Questionnaire.

    Regards

    Pete

    I have not looked up a RNZAF service file but they may well be digitised and available online.
    Last edited by PeteT; 19th February 2014 at 12:19.
    Main areas of research:

    - CA Butler and the loss of Lancaster ME334 (http://rafww2butler.wordpress.com/ )
    - Aircrew Training (Basic / Trade / Operational / Continuation / Conversion)
    - The History of No. 35 Squadron (1916 - 1982) (https://35squadron.wordpress.com/)

    [Always looking for copies of original documents / photographs etc relating to these subjects]

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    Kenny,

    Do you have any indication as to what the actual winds were that night other than 'strong headwinds'? The reason I ask is that the route Pete has described is, broadly, west to east across Europe, but the 18000 ft winds were probably north-northeasterly the whole way - in other words beam winds, not headwinds. That would tie in with the aircraft going down south of track.

    The source I've used for the winds is the German website http://www.wetterzentrale.de/topkarten/fsreaeur.html from which one can obtain a reasonable estimate of the wind pattern at 18000 ft (500 millibars). I hasten to add the charts are not based on contemporary analyses, but an American project to generate historical surface and upper air charts back to 1871 using a statistical approach. As such they should be treated with extreme caution.

    Brian

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