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Thread: Loss of 218 SQN Wellington R.1135 on 16 November 1941

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    Default Loss of 218 SQN Wellington R.1135 on 16 November 1941

    Hi All

    I am writing a history of my wife's uncle Alan Cook. He was the pilot in command of a 218 SQN Wellington R.1135 that crashed in the North Sea in the early hours of 16 November 1941. In a message (included in Sgt Alan Cook Casualty File No. 163/98/360; available in the National Archives of Australia Barcode: 1056265) from RAF Marham to the Air Ministry, London dated 16 April 1942, which stated with reference to the final flight of R.1135:

    "...this aircraft took off 22:17 hours on the 15th November with an ETA base of 04:41. The petrol load was 750 gallons. Nothing was heard of this aircraft until 02:02 hours on 16th November when an S.O.S. was picked up by Hul. MF frequency who gave the aircraft a second class fix of 5653 in N.0330E at 02:04 hours, this fix was not acknowledged by the aircraft."
    "Every effort was made to establish communication without delay. Assurances can be given that everything possible was done to locate the aircraft, but as the last position known of the aircraft was so far out to sea, air-sea rescue services could not compete. No indication of the cause of the trouble was received."

    I am attempting to interpret this message. At present I have interpreted the fix as a latitude/longitude pair that has been somewhat corrupted in its transcription. A position of 56 degrees 53 minutes North; 3 degrees 30 minutes East places the aircraft in the middle of the North Sea, a very long way (at least 150 miles) North of its expected track. I am presently trying to reconstruct possible scenarios that could have put the aircraft in that position. As part of that effort, I need to know something about the accuracy of that fix. Hence, my questions include:
    • Is there an implied accuracy associated with the phrase "second class fix"?
    • Am I correct in interpreting the "Hul." as meaning that the fix was provided by a facility located at Hull?
    • To provide a fix, the providing facility must have had access to bearing information from at least two direction finding antennae. Did multiple antennae exist at Hull?
    • If so, where were they located. In particular how far apart were they?
    • Does anybody have any general information on RAF DF technology as it was in 1941 that might help me?


    I will be very grateful for any and all information that you can come up with.

    Thank you

    Bruce

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    Bruce, welcome to the forum!
    Can't be much help I'm afraid. You don't say what the Target was that night.
    Have a look at http://www.wetterzentrale.de/topkarten/fsslpeur.html - and put the date in. These charts should be used with some considerable caution as they are not 'actual' charts but later reconstructions. Additionally it is not certain whether they are the 00Z, or 12Z, chart for the date. But what this one does broadly show is that there was a fairly brisk SE'ly wind over much of the N Sea. So any error in the Forecast Winds (and remember Upper Air Forecasting was - like DF - in its infancy in 1941) would have had a tendency to push the actual track north of planned. It would appear that he was on the return leg (from wherever) when the 'dodgy DF' bearing was obtained.
    HTH
    Peter Davies
    Last edited by Resmoroh; 11th April 2014 at 13:17.
    Meteorology is a science; good meteorology is an art!
    We might not know - but we might know who does!

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    Peter

    Their target that night was Kiel.

    Thank you for the pointer to the met charts. That information certainly makes much more sense than the report in the Squadron ORB (Form 541) that includes a statement from Z.1103 (Sgt Tompkins) who reported "being driven off track by wind at 340 degrees rather than the predicted 120 degrees". Perhaps the actual and predicted wind directions got reverses in the transcription? The weather that night was certainly not pleasant with a number of the aircraft on the raid on Kiel being forced to turn back due to heavy icing.

    Bruce

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    Default M.F. D/F Sections Relating to Hull and General Notes 1940

    Hello Bruce

    My information below is late 1940, but hope it is helpful.

    Allocation of M.F. D/F Sections [dated October 1940], relating to Hull No.1 and Hull

    Section ‘D’.
    Heston No.1 – Hull No.1 – Newcastle No.1 (348 Kc/s)
    Security duties No.5 Bomber Group aircraft.
    Heston connected to Fighter Command M.L.S. by direct telephone.

    Section ‘K’.
    Hull No.2 – Heston No.2 – Renfrew No.2 (294 Kc/s).
    Security Duties No.3 Bomber Group aircraft.
    Hull connected to Fighter Command M.L.S.

    The above is part of a list with Air Ministry Dept. O.A. letter 6th October 1940 signed by A. J. Brister
    for AVM Director of Signals
    to A.O.C-in-C.:-
    Fighter Command
    Bomber Command
    Coastal Command
    Flying Training Command

    The first D/F Station underlined is the Control Station in the M.F. D/F Section.

    The M.L.S. was the ‘Movement Liaison Section’ at Fighter Command who were also part of the G.P.O. (General Post Office) S.O.S organisation in 1940. Fighter Command were sent before each bomber Operation, details of each a/c such as the aircraft M.S.I. (Movement Serial Indicator) and each aircraft Call-sign, according to my 1940 research.

    Unfortunately, despite trying to find particular M.L.S. Registry numbered files on our TNA online catalogue, M.L.S. files do not appear in the Archives catalogue.

    There are some A/S (Air/Sea) Rescue files with reports of ditchings etc., AIR 15/676 is one file, but I noted that the 1940 Reports typed up later and include other a/c, do not record all of the aircraft S.O.S. calls actually received by us.

    I can’t speak for 1941, but in 1940 as our aircraft returned toward the UK coast they would usually be on M.F. D/F to send their I.D. signal to their allocated Section as IFF was not always identifying our aircraft and also on M.F., ready to send any S.O.S. The problem was that aircraft communicated with their parent Station or control on H.F.

    Mark
    Last edited by Mark Hood; 13th April 2014 at 08:09.

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    Thanks for that Mark.

    It will be very useful in my attempt to confirm the last position given to the aircraft. I must admit that I expected that the grouped D/F stations would have been somewhat closer together geographically. All the better for getting an accurate fix though.

    Can you comment on the typical (bearing) accuracy achieved by these stations?

    Thanks again

    Bruce

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    Hello Bruce

    The term "second class fix". There were three classes of D/F fix.

    Only one (1944 Air Publication 3024) of my books covering D/F Fixes states:-
    "(ii) Second Class One 1st class bearing and one or more 2nd class bearings making a good cut.

    Ref to Part III, para. 11(ii) which states regarding the bearings:-
    (a) First Class Error 0 deg. - 2 deg.
    (b) Second Class Error 2 deg. - 5 deg.
    (c) Third Class Error over 5 deg.
    [note degree symbols substituted by "deg."]


    Both this 1944 publication and my 1940 RAF Nav. Manual states the D/F result would always be transmitted back to the aircraft, which is what they did according to Enc 52B in the file, but the a/c did not acknowledge this fix.

    An SOS is equivalent to both a "Mayday" and "Distress" the highest "Degree of Need", but the last position was too far out for the air-sea rescue service.

    Mark
    Last edited by Mark Hood; 22nd April 2014 at 11:43.

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