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Thread: Clandestine Transport of V-2 Components from Germany/Poland to UK in WW2

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    Default Clandestine Transport of V-2 Components from Germany/Poland to UK in WW2

    Hello All,

    I am re-reading the late John Keegan’s excellent book “Intelligence In War” (Vintage Books edtn, 2004. ISBN 0375700463). In the sections dealing with the V2 (German A-4) rocket he infers that some of the failed launches scattered “bits” all over the place. Some, in neutral Sweden, and some in the Baltic (from where the Swede’s recovered them). British technical staff were allowed access to these 'Swedish' bits. But, also, interestingly, (p.288 in my edition);

    (though providing the resistance fighters of the Polish Home Army with plentiful wreckage to forward to London; one Pole cycled 200 miles with components to reach an airstrip from which a liaison aircraft carried them back).

    Has anybody any idea (a) how this might have been done, and (b) the aircraft involved, and (c) the particular airstrip? Bit far for the Tempsford lot? Bit ‘dodgy’ for the Mossies on the Sweden runs? My original thoughts were that there was some clandestine method which was ‘hidden’ behind the cloak of ‘a liaison aircraft’ – but Keegan (originally published in 2002) would have known, and/or had access to, all the secrets (Enigma, SOE, SIS, etc) of the time?

    TIA
    Peter Davies
    Meteorology is a science; good meteorology is an art!
    We might not know - but we might know who does!

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    Hello,

    Wildhorn III/Saucepan/Most.
    25/26 July 1944
    No.267 Sqn.
    Dakota III KG477

    Took off Brindisi 1939 (escorted part of the way by a 1586 [Polish] Flt Liberator), on the 25th to deliver prominente and radio sets, and retrieve vital V-2 parts and data. After landing in the vicinity of Tarnow, Southern Poland, the Dakota became bogged and had to be dug out of the soft earth. The aircraft eventually was able to take off and return to base with its load, landing at sunrise.

    NZ412659 F/L (Capt.) Stanley George CULLIFORD RNZAF
    P-1805/793402 F/O (Co-pilot) Kazimierz Jozef SZRAJER PAF (1586 [Polish] Flight).
    53430 F/O (Nav.) John Pemberton WILLIAMS RAF
    1316512 F/Sgt (W.Op.) John APPLEBY RAFVR

    That's the basics - there is lot more to the story than l have recounted.

    Col.
    Last edited by COL BRUGGY; 14th December 2014 at 14:06.

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    Col, Hi,
    That's fantastic! Mni tks yr early reply!
    I reckon that when Culliford and his crew went in to briefing they were surprised to be told they were going to fly, in an unarmed a/c, about 1700 nm across enemy occupied territory, land in a soggy meadow, take some strange folk/kit outbound, and bring some strange kit back (I do note, however, that the Co looks to have been of Polish extraction? - good move if flying to Poland?!!). Any gongs forthcoming for this one? Or was it just considered a 'normal' Op?
    Brilliant response!!
    Tks again
    Peter Davies
    Meteorology is a science; good meteorology is an art!
    We might not know - but we might know who does!

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    Hello,

    Subsequent RAF awards, not specifically for "Wildhorn III":

    CULLIFORD - DSO, VM V. kl.(Pol.), Polonia Restituta (DoC).
    SZRAJER - VM V kl., DFC.
    WILLIAMS - DFC, VM V kl.(Pol.).
    APPLEBY - DFM, Cross of Valour (Pol.).

    Col.
    Last edited by COL BRUGGY; 14th December 2014 at 22:11.

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    Very right and proper!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Meteorology is a science; good meteorology is an art!
    We might not know - but we might know who does!

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    Hi Peter,
    The incident is also mentioned in R. V. Jones' 'Most Secret War' including the monitoring of the V-1 and V-2 tests.
    Ian

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    From C M Hanson’s By Such Deeds – Honours and awards in the Royal New Zealand Air Force, 1923 – 1999 :

    CULLIFORD, Flight Lieutenant Stanley George, DSO, Virtuti Militari (Pol).
    NZ412659; Born Napier, 18 Jul 1920; RNZAF 4 May 1941 to 3 May 1945; Pilot.
    Later S G Culliford DSO, Virtuti Militari (Pol), Polonia Restituta (Pol).
    Virtuti Militari (Pol) (1 Sep 1944): Not available. “Conferred by the President of the Republic of Poland in recognition of valuable services rendered in connection with the war.”
    Citation Companion of the Distinguished Service Order (15 Oct 1944): [267 Sqn RAF (Dakota)] Flight Lieutenant Culliford has completed, as pilot and captain of aircraft, numerous operations against the enemy in the course of which he has invariably displayed the utmost fortitude, courage and devotion to duty.
    Polonia Restituta (Degree of Commander) (Pol): (1969). This award, made by the Polish Government in 1969, included further recognition of his outstanding services to Poland during the war.
    Official records note that one of the outstanding flights of the war was carried out by 267 Sqn at the end of Jul 1944. The operation was to land four passengers and luggage at a point in southern Poland in the vicinity of Tarnow, and to bring passengers back from the landing field to Brindisi, Italy. The aircraft, a Dakota, fitted with four long range cabin tanks, was flown by Flt Lt Culliford, captain, with Fg Off Williams as navigator and F/S Appleby, wireless operator. The second pilot was a Polish Fg Off of 1586 Polish (SD) Flight RAF. Take-off was made before darkness with an escort of a Liberator of the Polish Flight which broke away when almost complete darkness had descended. In spite of the thick haze covering most of the ground, some excellent map reading was performed by the navigator and the Polish second pilot, and a pin-point was made on the Danube. The final turning point being reached only a minute later than ETA after a leg on which there were no pin-points and most of the navigation had been done by radio. Shortly before the target landing field was reached, a road was crossed on which a large amount of traffic could be seen moving from East to West. Ground signals as planned were seen and the airfield lights came on immediately the aircraft was near. The aircraft was unloaded and reloaded with incredible rapidity, and in less than five minutes was ready for take-off. The people on the ground said that only that morning about 400 Luftwaffe personnel, including aircrew under training, were encamped about a mile from the field and had been doing circuits and bumps in training aircraft. Some 4,000 German troops were also reported in the vicinity, moving westwards. During Flt Lt Culliford’s operation the landing field was guarded by about 400 members of the Polish underground whose torches formed the flare path. The incidents which follow are best described in the pilot’s report: “I experienced some difficulty in unlocking the parking brake, then, when I had done so, I opened the throttles for take-off to the north west. The machine remained stationary, though at approximately 50 inches boost, the tail left the ground. I sent the second pilot to see if we were bogged, and he returned to say that he didn’t think so, so I got out myself to have a look. The wheels had sunk slightly into the ground which was softish underfoot, and the marks where we had taxied were clearly visible. But in view of the boost used, the ground in front of the wheels did not appear to me sufficient to stop it moving. I concluded that although the brakes were off in the cockpit, the mechanism might have broken somewhere, and therefore the brakes were still in fact on. My second pilot came up to tell me that the Germans were only a mile away, and that unless we could take off at once we would be forced to abandon the aircraft and go underground with these people. With the aid of a knife supplied by a Polish gentleman on the ground, we cut the connections supplying hydraulic fluid to the brake drums. In spite of all the boost used, the machine still refused to budge. I stopped the engines and reluctantly prepared to destroy the machine. But first we managed to persuade the people on the ground to delay a little, and on investigation it was found that the wheels were deeper into the earth, although they showed no signs of having revolved. The second pilot managed to produce a spade and each wheel was dug out. The passengers were reloaded with their equipment, the engines started and we tried again. At 50 inches the machine slewed slightly to starboard and stopped. We again stopped the engines, and once again prepared to demolish the machine - the wireless operator tore up all his documents and placed them in a position where they would burn with the aircraft; we unloaded our kit and passengers, and again looked at the undercarriage. The port wheel had turned a quarter of a revolution. Knowing that the personnel and equipment were urgently needed elsewhere, we persuaded the people on the ground to dig for us for another 30 minutes. This time the machine came free, and we taxied rapidly in a brakeless circle, and finding that the people holding the torches for the flare path had all gone home, we came round again with the port landing light on and headed roughly north west towards a green light in the corner of the field. After swinging violently to port towards a stone wall, I closed my starboard throttle, came round in another circle, and set off again in a north west direction. This time we ploughed along over soft ground and waffled into the air at 65 m.p.h., just over a stop-bank some 10 to 20 feet high, at the far end of the field. Beyond this was a tributary of the river Vistula. Airborne, we found that we could not raise our undercarriage, having lost all our hydraulic fluid, and finding our speed thus materially reduced, we poured water from the emergency rations into the hydraulic reservoir until we could pump up the undercarriage by hand. Since it was now late, after over an hour’s delay on the ground, a course had to be set through an area known to be infested with night fighters, because it was necessary to be out of Yugoslavia before daylight. No opposition was however encountered. Brindisi was reached just as the sun was rising, and a successful landing, in spite of the lack of brakes, was made on a runway under construction.” After repairs Flt Lt Culliford flew his passengers on to Casablanca. A few weeks later, in London, he was invested with the Virtuti Militari by the Polish Commander-in-Chief General Sosnkosk. It was here that he learned that he had been responsible for bringing to safety one of the leading Polish Underground leaders, Tomasz Arciszewski, who shortly after his arrival in London was appointed President-Designate of Poland, and who a few months later became Prime Minister. Two large sacks, under the care of a Polish courier, contained parts and plans of the German V2 rocket, which provided vital data to the British authorities. The Polish Government has erected a Memorial Cross on the site where the Dakota landed.

    Errol

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    Try this for both the recovery of the V rockets and the later airlift. It's a script for a seminar in which I participated. It does not go in to too much detail but might help.

    Colin Cummings


    SPECIAL DUTIES OPERATIONS – THE POLISH DIMENSION

    This last presentation of the seminar summarises the involvement of Special Duties (SD) crews in one of the less well-known but very significant campaigns conducted in, or perhaps from,. the Mediterranean theatre and one which was to have long-term political repercussions – the uprising in Warsaw in August and September 1944. As a precursor to that, however, we should first consider the WILDHORN sorties flown by No 267 Sqn earlier in that same year.
    The Poles of the Brindisi-based No 1586 (SD) Flt had been delivering supplies and agents to the resistance movements in their homeland, and elsewhere, since February 1944 but their Halifaxes and Liberators lacked the ability to handle pick-ups. What was needed was an aircraft that could fly into and out of a relatively short airstrip while having sufficient performance to permit it to fly to Poland and back with a worthwhile payload and to complete the round trip within the hours of darkness.
    Dakotas of No 267 Sqn at Bari.
    As was so often the case with air transport problems during WW II, the answer, was the ubiquitous Dakota. By 1944 several squadrons were operating them in the Mediterranean theatre, among them No 267 Sqn, nominally a general purpose transport unit but one which often provided crews and aircraft for one-off operations.
    On 15 April 1944, the first WILDHORN sortie was flown from Brindisi into a clover field near Lublin. The Dakota, which had been fitted with eight additional fuel tanks, was flown by Flt Lt Edward Harrod. His co-pilot was Fg Off Boleslaw Korpowski, an experienced SD pilot, attached from the Polish-manned No 1586 Flt, who had been shot-down over France and made a successful ‘home-run’. The sortie succeeded in delivering two couriers and bringing out five high value personnel, including General Stanislaw Tatar, the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Armia Krajowa (AK) – the Polish Home Army. The aircraft was only on the ground for about fifteen minutes during which it encountered some problems with soft ground, a tendency to become bogged down while standing still, followed by a difficult take-off.
    Having proved the concept, a second sorties was flown some six weeks later. On this occasion, the captain was Flt Lt O’Donavan and his co-pilot, again drawn from No 1586 Flt, was Plt Off Jacek Blocki. The sortie, escorted as was the first WILDHORN, for part of the way by a pair of Liberators, delivered two senior officers to a field at Zaborow near Tarnow and after only six minutes on the ground it took off with three passengers. Perhaps because of their sensitivity there is little reference to these missions in No 267 Sqn’s Operations Record Book, although the Polish Air Force history is more forthcoming, as is Blocki’s autobiography, First Tango In Warsaw.
    The third WILDHORN operation was probably the most important of these sorties and it also came the closest to failure. The landing strip was the same one as had been used for the previous sortie but the load to be brought out was extremely valuable. Following the RAF attack on the experimental establishment at Peenemunde, the Germans had moved their rocket development programme to Mielec in Poland. The Blizna artillery range was rapidly expanded and exceptional security arrangements were implemented – all of which served to attract the attention of the AK.
    When the test firings began, the Germans deployed teams to retrieve the wreckage of rockets which had failed. On 20 May 1944 a relatively intact V2 fell into a swamp. Before the Germans could find it, the Poles had camouflaged the site so successfully that the search was eventually abandoned. A few nights later, it was dragged from the swamp by three pairs of horses and spirited away to be dismantled and examined. In due course London was informed of this major coup and WILDHORN III was mounted to collect detailed drawings and some parts of the salvaged missile.
    This time the Polish co-pilot was Kazimierz Szrajer, another special duties pilot, with over ninety sorties to his credit, and the captain was a New Zealander; Stanley Culliford. The escorting Liberator was flown by the co-pilot from WILDHORN I – Boleslaw Korpowski on the final sortie of his third tour. On the flight to Poland, the aircraft carried four Polish officers and nineteen suitcases of special equipment. (You actually said ‘inbound’, but the placing of the info indicates ‘to’ Poland. Was this the load they flew into, or out of, Poland?)
    The two aircraft flew together until just before nightfall, when the Liberator turned off to proceed on its own task. Navigation was hampered by haze until a positive pinpoint was obtained as the Dakota crossed the Danube. The Hungarian Plain was crossed at about 7500 feet as it was believed that German night fighter radars were badly affected by ground returns below 8000 feet. The wireless operator was able to assist in the construction of fixes by taking bearings on radio transmissions from German airfields. A final turning point over the Carpathian Mountains was reached almost on ETA and the aircraft descended rapidly towards the airstrip. As it transpired, enemy troops had been camped nearby that morning and two aircraft had actually been using the strip for circuit training during daylight hours.
    While approaching the airstrip, which had not been marked as previously briefed, the Dakota passed over a road along which a large military convoy was moving. Nevertheless, having been obliged to carry out an overshoot, the aircraft landed successfully off its second attempt. Once on the ground, the aircraft was rapidly off-loaded and reloaded and was ready to depart within minutes. It was then that the trouble started.
    Boleslaw Korpowski.
    Kazimierz Szrajer
    At first the parking brake would not release and after this had been resolved, the aircraft still declined to move, even with full power applied. Reasoning that the brakes had seized, the captain decided to cut the hydraulic pipes, but this did not help. Several bouts of frantic digging, encouraged by the indomitable Szrajer, followed and the aircraft, now with no brakes, finally broke free – and proceeded to go round in circles. By using differential throttles, Culliford eventually managed to get the aircraft lined up for take off. Wet ground meant that the first attempt to get airborne had to be abandoned and the second only just succeeded with the Dakota narrowly clearing a ditch as it was pulled off the ground at 65 knots.
    The undercarriage was still a problem, as it could not be retracted because the hydraulic fluid had bled away. The pilot’s report merely says that the reservoir was recharged ‘with all available fluids’ until sufficient pressure was obtained to permit the undercarriage to be pumped up by hand. To ensure the aircraft’s safety, it was imperative that it should be clear of Yugoslav airspace before daylight. Now 65 minutes behind schedule, this meant that corners had to be cut, putting the aircraft dangerously close to known night fighter hotspots. Fortunately, no serious challenges were made and the aircraft arrived at Brindisi, where a brakeless landing was made on a runway that was still under construction.
    For Culliford there was a DSO, with the briefest of citations, and for his navigator and wireless operator a DFC and DFM respectively. The Poles were also generous with their awards and Culliford received the Virtuti Militari and was further rewarded by them many years after the war.
    THE WARSAW UPRISING
    The Poles had sound reasons to be cautious in their dealings with the Russians. For example, the massacre of several thousand Polish officers and others at Katyn in 1940, the annexation of a large part of Polish territory and the arrest or disarming of Polish AK forces who had assisted the Soviets in some recent battles had all served to show the likely direction the Russian leadership would take in their handling of Polish sovereignty after the Nazis had been driven out.
    With the Red Army approaching the Vistula and urging the Home Army to rise up, the prospect of retaking their own capital must have been almost irresistible and, the kudos that would accompany success would stand the post-war Polish cause in good stead. In pursuit of this ambition, the AK, through their exiled government in London, had asked the British for various forms of assistance. Most of these were completely impractical or could not be supported, even if the initial request could have been met. For example, the AK had wanted the Polish Air Force fighter squadrons in the Mediterranean to be redeployed to operate from airfields near Warsaw. Apart from the difficulties involved in getting them there, it would not have been possible to resupply them with the fuel and ammunition required to sustain them in combat; nor was there any means of protecting the force on the ground while operating from what was still German-occupied territory. Another request, that the UK-based Polish Parachute Brigade should be dropped into Warsaw, was also impractical as it would have required more than 100 Dakotas, even if these could be deployed far enough forward to give them the necessary range without having to sacrifice payload for extra fuel.
    It was against this background that one of the men flown into Poland by WILDHORN III was Lt Nowak, a Polish courier bearing memorised instructions and advice from the Polish Government in exile as to the level of support that could realistically be expected in the event of an uprising against the German occupation. Unfortunately, the die was already cast. Nowak’s intervention was too late to influence the Home Army’s commanders and the uprising in Warsaw began on 1 August.
    Although surprise initially favoured the insurgents, a firm German riposte was not long in coming and the Russian intervention, upon which success had been critically dependent, was withheld on Stalin’s orders. Furthermore, the intransigence of the Soviets was such that they even denied landing and refuelling facilities in Soviet territory to British and Americans aircraft attempting to provide the Poles with some, albeit limited, sustenance.
    On 2 August the Polish ambassador in London informed the Foreign Secretary that the uprising in Warsaw had begun and requested help and supplies. The request was passed to the senior British air commander in the Mediterranean; Air Mshl Sir John Slessor, who was presented with a dreadful dilemma. He knew that Warsaw could not be supported by the forces available to him without active Soviet participation and he understood the difficulties involved in operating over eastern Europe and the dangers associated with supply dropping at low level over a defended built up area, as opposed to the customary remote rural areas. Furthermore, the moon, which was often a vital factor in governing SD operations, was full at the time, which made it a serious hindrance. It was clear to Slessor that any attempt to support the Warsaw uprising was unlikely to succeed and equally clear that it would lead to significant losses of aircraft and their crews.
    Slessor sent CAS an appraisal of the situation but was told that he must comply. Weather and other factors prevented operations being mounted until the evening of 3 August, when fourteen aircraft, drawn equally from No 148 Sqn and No 1586 SD Flight, took off from Brindisi. Amongst the pilots flying that night was Szrajer, back in the more familiar cockpit of a Liberator, after his WILDHORN excursion and flying his 100th sortie, the last of his third tour.
    A late production Halifax II (Srs Ia) of No 148 Sqn at Brindisi.
    The outcome was predictably tragic. One Halifax, returned early with problems with its defensive armament but crashed on landing and was destroyed. Another suffered an engine failure and was obliged to jettison its load while another brought its load back having failed to identify the DZ. Four of No 148 Sqn’s aircraft simply failed to return, leaving the squadron with just one commissioned pilot, four serviceable aircraft and only one fully effective crew who were on the point of completing their tour. Of the fourteen sorties flown, only three had been successful, at the cost of five aircraft. Slessor informed CAS that he would not permit operations of this sort to continue at that phase of the moon, but political pressure exerted by the London Poles, forced him to relent and on two successive nights he permitted the Poles to operate small numbers of aircraft and these returned without loss.
    Eleven aircraft, drawn from No 148 Sqn and the Polish flight went back to Warsaw on the night of 12/13 August; seven made successful drops but a number of aircraft were damaged. The next night seven RAF aircraft were scheduled to fly but three failed to get airborne; one returned early and only two actually delivered their loads. By this time the situation on the ground was becoming increasingly confused and it was difficult to know if the supplies were being received. Furthermore, the smoke and fires made it increasingly difficult to identify the DZs and the low levels at which the aircraft needed to operate to achieve success placed them and their crews in great danger.
    It was decided to supplement the effort being made by the SD squadrons by employing some of the Liberators of No 205 Gp, specifically those of No 178 Sqn and Nos 31 and 34 Sqns SAAF.
    Incidentally, it is worth observing that neither the bomber nor the SD units were exclusively dedicated to events in Poland. Support of the Warsaw uprising was being conducted alongside support of the landings in the south of France, which also took place in August, and the routine resupply of partisan movements in northern Italy and the Balkans.
    The newly committed squadrons operated alongside their SD counterparts for the first time on the night of 13/14 August and again the next night. Of the fifty-four aircraft tasked over these two nights, twenty-nine managed to reach the city and drop their loads but about a third of these missed the AK enclaves. Twenty aircraft missed the city altogether and almost all returning aircraft sustained damage of some sort. Eleven aircraft had been lost, with few survivors among their crews. Among those who died was Zbignew Szostak, a most experienced SD captain who, at the start of the uprising, had made an impassioned plea to the RAF crews to try their hardest to bring relief to his countrymen.
    A Liberator VI of No 34 Sqn SAAF.
    One remarkable story emerges from the first night’s operations by No 31 Sqn. A Liberator was approaching the target when the aircraft was attacked by a night fighter and subjected to heavy Flak. The pilot ordered the supply containers to be jettisoned short of the target and commenced an evasive climbing turn to starboard. An AA shell struck the port outer engine, putting it out of action and the co-pilot feathered the propeller. The aircraft was then ‘coned’ by about a dozen searchlights and subjected to further AA fire, which the captain attempted to avoid. Then, without a word to the rest of the crew, he left his seat, donned his parachute and baled out! The co-pilot; 2/Lt Robert Burgess, whose experience in the Liberator was negligible, took the controls and flew the aircraft away from the target area. It was difficult to control, however, and a damage assessment revealed problems with the hydraulics and other systems, which made it unlikely that the aircraft would be able to make it back to Foggia. The navigator; Lt Noel Sleed and the bomb aimer; Sgt Allan Bates, assisted Burgess, with Bates assuming the role of co-pilot. Following a crew conference it was decided to attempt to reach Allied territory, rather than abandon the aircraft. For the next several hours the crew encountered and dealt with additional problems before making a wheels-down forced landing in Russian held territory. There were further adventures at the hands of the Russian authorities but the crew was eventually taken to Moscow on 19 August. After a few weeks in the Soviet capital, the crew was flown to Cairo on 4 September and repatriated to South Africa a month later. For their efforts, Burgess was awarded the DSO, the only such award to a second lieutenant in the SAAF, whilst Sleed received the DFC and Bates the DFM. The citation for their joint awards may be of interest, if only for its remarkable brevity. It read:
    ‘One night in August 1944, these officers and airman were second pilot, navigator and air bomber of an aircraft detailed for a vital supply dropping mission. In the operation great difficulties and considerable danger were faced and the skill, bravery and fortitude displayed by these members of aircraft crew set an example of the highest order.’
    It is perhaps appropriate to record that the other members of the crew, who were all RAFVR personnel were: Sgts I G Payne, D E D Lewis, J S Appleyard and W Cross. It is known that the pilot was made POW immediately following his departure from the aircraft but what happened to him subsequently is not recorded.
    A full load in Halifax was fifteen containers; nine in the bomb bay and three in each of the inner wing cells.
    Operations continued but the results being achieved were negligible when compared to the requirement and there were high percentages of failures and aborts. In order to assess the situation, Slessor needed to know the minimum daily quantity of supplies needed to sustain the AK enclave in Warsaw. This was eventually calculated to be ninety containers, which equated to fifteen Halifax loads. That assumed, of course, that all fifteen Halifaxes would actually deliver their cargoes, which was never likely to be the case. For example, over one four-day period, from twenty-six sorties despatched, it was known that only seven loads had actually been dropped over the city – and of those, it was not known how many had actually been retrieved by the AK. Even the Polish crews were now being forced to admit that they were being sent to almost certain death if they continued to fly over Warsaw at 600 feet.
    A downed Halifax V of No 148 Sqn.
    In view of the unacceptable loss rate and uncertainty over the quantities of supplies that were actually reaching the Home Army, Slessor suspended further flights to Warsaw itself on the grounds that they were militarily unjustifiable but he did permit sorties to be flown to DZs in the Kampinos Forest and occasionally to others even closer to the city. Nine aircraft went out on the night of 15/16 August; five of them made good drops. The following night eighteen aircraft went to the Warsaw area; four were lost to night fighters and two to Flak.
    By now aircraft and aircrew availability was becoming a problem which could no longer be ignored and ten replacement Halifax Vs were received along with some new crews. The depleted Poles of No 1586 Flt, for instance, were reinforced by several crews diverted from No 300 Sqn in the UK but in just two nights four of these crews failed to return. But non-operational factors were also having an adverse impact on the effectiveness of the campaign, including aircraft being lost or damaged in training accidents, two more crews being lost in a crash when one was screening the other. Receipt of a second batch of Halifax Vs was delayed because they had first to be overhauled, including replacement of their Merlin XX engines with Merlin 22s, because the former had a high failure rate (a problem that was eventually traced to faulty bearings being installed during overhaul). A third injection of eight Mk Vs was flown out from the UK in early September.
    As the moon began to wane during the second week in September, operations to Warsaw were resumed and twenty aircraft, mostly Liberators, attempted drops using a high level technique from heights varying from 11,500 to 14,000 feet at an IAS of about 150 mph. However, weather conditions and smoke over the city impeded these drops and the returning aircraft encountered heavy Flak east of the city. Nos 34 and 148 Sqns each lost a crew while the Poles lost three. For this Warsaw received just seven loads of canisters and two more dropped in the Kampinos Forest to the west of the city. A few nights later, the Poles sent a pair of aircraft one of which failed to return.
    Throughout the agony of the Warsaw uprising, the Russians had flatly refused to allow allied aircraft to land on their bases, even if damaged or carrying wounded crew, nor would they assist with supplies themselves. Evidence from returning crews suggested that they were even being fired on by Soviet AA guns and sometimes pursued by their night fighters. Churchill drafted a letter saying that British aircraft would land with or without permission but, still hoping to draw Russia into the war against Japan, Roosevelt demurred. (Not really convinced. I know that FDR wanted the Stalin to join in, of course, but was that actually his rationale for stopping the letter – do you have a source for this?) {the only source I have is: Flights of the Forgotten by K A Merrick p 214}When the fighting in Warsaw was almost over, the Russians did eventually agreed to refuel Allied aircraft and after several false starts, a force of 110 B-17s, heavily escorted by long range fighters, flew from the UK. Most arrived over the city to make a high-level drop of 1,248 containers but only about 250 of these were retrieved by the defenders.
    This mass drop was almost the final chapter in the air support for Warsaw, with just a few sorties flown during the rest of September but by then any hope of making a difference was long gone.
    The AK forces in Warsaw capitulated on 2 October after 63 day’s fighting. The exact cost will never be known but 15,000 insurgents became prisoners, 10,000 were killed, as were some 200,000 civilians and 17,000 Germans. Those parts of the city not destroyed in the fighting were demolished by the Nazis.
    During the two months of the insurrection the Polish SD flight had lost 18 aircraft and 16 crews, whilst the RAF and SAAF units had between them lost a further 21 aircraft and 20 crews. These 39 aircraft and 36 crews had been lost in the course of flying a total of just 172 sorties; a clearly unsustainable loss rate of more than 20% in both cases.
    In November 1944, No 1586 Flt was increased in size and redesignated as No 301 Sqn which continued to fly supply missions into Poland until March 1945. However, the Soviet advance eventually made these sorties redundant and the squadron was withdrawn to the UK where it re-equipped with Warwicks and Halifax VIIIs.
    Many Poles blamed the British Government for failing to provide more help for the uprising but, even if it had been practical to do so, deploying the Polish Parachute Brigade and Polish fighter squadrons to Poland, where they could not have been sustained without Russian co-operation, would have been a tragically pointless gesture. The Russian stance is easy to understand, of course; it was a deliberate ploy to destroy – or, rather, to allow the Nazis to destroy – the Polish Home Army, thus removing a major obstacle to a post-war communist takeover.
    Perhaps the final word on the futility of the exercise can best be left to Sir John Slessor, who, speaking after the war and still deeply affected by these events, said:
    ‘A story of the utmost gallantry and self-sacrifice on the part of the aircrews, RAF, South African and above all Polish: of deathless heroism on the part of the Polish underground army fighting against desperate and increasingly hopeless odds in the tortured city of Warsaw and of the blackest hearted, coldest blooded treachery on the part of the Russians. It led to the fruitless sacrifice of some 200 airmen [. . .] it is usually considered easy to be wise after the event but Yalta and Potsdam were after the events of August and September 1944.’

  9. #9
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    Hello All,
    My thanks to all who have provided information on a truly remarkable, and fascinating, period of WW2 history. It was all the more fascinating for me as I spent several years (well post-WW2!!!) on the Met staff at HQ 38 Group where the task was mainly the aerial delivery of personnel and stores.
    VMT
    Peter Davies
    Meteorology is a science; good meteorology is an art!
    We might not know - but we might know who does!

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    Hello,

    The 1586 Flight Liberator (KG827), that accompanied 267 Sqn Dakota KG477 part of the way on the journey to Southern Poland on 25/26-7-1944, had the following crew:

    P-0982 F/L (Capt./Pilot) Boleslaw KORPOWSKI
    P-0771 F/L (2nd Pilot) Jan MIODUCHOWSKI
    P-1964 F/L (Nav.) Edmund Jerzy HELWIG
    783176 W/O (W.Op.) Franciszek OBUCH
    794245 W/O (Air Gnr.) Edward STASIAK
    794168 Sgt (Air Gnr.) Stanislaw Mieczyslaw BARAN
    703534 F/O (Air Gnr.) Tadeusz PIZIURA

    Comments/corrections welcomed.

    Col.

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