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Thread: Nuremberg 30-3-1944, Scarecrows, F/S Whinfield, and Air Ministry Bulletins?

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    Default Nuremberg 30-3-1944, Scarecrows, F/S Whinfield, and Air Ministry Bulletins?

    Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen,

    I have been working on a manuscript documenting my late uncle, WOII James Chandler Horne RCAF, and I have discovered a wonderful passage from Martin Bowman's Bomber Command Reflections Of War V.4. which quotes Flight Sergeant Robert (Bob) Ford Whinfield. This man was the pilot with whom my navigator uncle had been teamed up with from OTU until their deaths 26/27 April 1944. The passage, which I will quote below, leaves me with a couple of questions.

    The first is the mention of "scarecrow rockets." I believe that there was a popular belief within the aircrew, and possibly the brass, that the Germans were firing firework type munitions into the sky that would resemble an exploding bomber in the hopes of demoralizing aircrew. It now seems almost certain that they were truly exploding bombers perhaps the victims of tracer-less cannon, or flak, thereby not giving the telltale signs of typical air combat. My question would be, how prominent was the belief that these scarecrow munitions existed?

    My second question is about the Air Ministry Bulletin broadcast on 31 March 1944 that the author is referring to. I have been able to access, often with the kind assistance of fellow RAFCommands members, my uncle's 619 Squadron ORB, Bomber Command Report on Night Operations, Summary of Aircraft Damaged on Night Operations, and a pair of Air Combat Reports involving their aircraft. I am not familiar with the document type being referred to here. Is there a collection of debriefing type documents from pilots that I am missing? Is there a similar type of collection from navigators?

    Reading the pilot's words took my breath away. I had assumed that his voice had been lost, at least to me. I have very few of my uncles words and had none from his crew until last night. Of course this has me greedily wanting more. If any of you could help point me in a direction I would be most appreciative.

    Here is the passage from Bowman’s book:

    Flight Sergeant Bob Whinfield of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, on his 13th trip as a Lancaster pilot on 619 Squadron was fascinated by what he believed to be “scarecrow rockets”; but they were Lancasters exploding, of which he said:
    “They came up like flares and hung in the sky. Then they burst and scattered on the ground like clusters of incendiaries. The explosion of one of them as it hit the ground looked almost as if a one-thousand pounder was going off. There was just one damned thing after another, all the way to the target and on the journey home. Tracer showed that air-combats were going on all the time and still more lights of various colours were being shot up as signals from enemy airfields as we passed overhead.”

    Thanks,

    Kenny Horne
    Edmonton, Canada
    Last edited by Kenny Horne; 8th February 2015 at 15:51. Reason: typo

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    Hi Kenny,

    Night Raid Reports for the Jan-Mar 44 period mention rocket projectiles and scarecrows, as do ORB's - e.g. Kelstern Station ORB on 2 Jan 44: 'There was a good deal of heavy flak, some scarecrows and a few rocket shells.' I can't identify when 'scarecrow flares' first enter the lexicon, but the Bomber Command Quarterly Review, July – September 1943 refers to 'scarecrow flares, reported many times before.' This is long before Schrage Musik was first used.

    ORS investigated the phenomenon in their Report 53, which seems to be dated 9 Mar 44 although it's not absolutely clear. The covering letter to the Report states 'there has recently been an increase in the number of reports by returning aircrew of aircraft seen falling in flames along the route to the target and we consider that in all probability some of these reports are due to scarecrow flares.' It refers to a USAAF photo taken by a crew in daylight on 31 Dec 43 and described as 'being rather a poor imitation of an aircraft exploding.' However, in the next paragraph the letter states that the majority of the crew who obtained the picture thought that it was an aircraft exploding. The PFF Flak Liaison Officer is then quoted as saying it was 'almost certain' that the photo shows a scarecrow - 'it resembles very closely the type of thing he himself has very often seen over German targets at night.'

    Report 53 describes two pyrotechnic phenomena, which it says crews have generally lumped together as 'chandelier flares.' The description for the second phenomenon is very cursory (e.g. doesn't specify colour(s) used), but it seems to describe fighter flares - it says they are dropped over G.B. so must be carried in a/c.

    The description for the first phenomenon - scarecrows - is much fuller:

    'An investigation covering No 3 and 5 Groups was undertaken in collaboration with the Flak Liaison Officer of No 5 Group, in an endeavour to determine the probable purpose of these devices. M.I.14(e) is also looking into the matter in other Groups and a further report will be issued later...
    Phenomenon 1. These objects are undoubtedly shot up from the ground, either by a rocket with damping to render its trail invisible or by some mortar. It is possible that they are projected by heavy flak guns but unlikely owing to the size of the resulting object.

    The object first makes its appearance in the sky as an orange red ball of fire and its arrival is definitely not accompanied by any blast in its vicinity. It persists as a 'ball of fire' about 50 to 60 feet in diameter for a period of about 5-10 seconds after which period it begins to 'drip' multi-coloured fragments which fall for about 150 feet before burning out. This cascade continues for about half a minute or a little longer, after which the whole thing begins to burn out.
    [...]
    Aircraft have been very close to them (150-200 yards) when they have appeared and no ill effects at all were noticed. At a distance they are reported to look very similar to aircraft falling in flames and it is thought that they are intended to give crews the impression that a large number of aircraft are being shot down in flames and that the defences are stronger than they really are.'
    The report contains a number of inconsistencies - e.g. the comment above about crews seeing these displays up close is contradicted elsewhere by a statement that the enemy 'makes no attempt to aim them at our bombers, in fact the reverse seems to be the case.' There's a comment that they are chiefly observed once the attack is well developed. It also says they are only seen over gun-defended areas such as Bremen and the Ruhr, 'invariably accompanied by heavy flak.'

    With the benefit of hindsight, the description is chilling and the details tie in with bombers blowing up once the fighters have contacted the stream, or being hit by flak having strayed over defended areas. It's perhaps telling that the Report relates extensive but unsuccessful experiments by the Armaments Directorate to develop a pyrotechnic able to give the same effect. Perhaps the close ranges reported by some crews reflect the difficulty of estimating distance by night - instead of a harmless explosion nearby, they're witnessing a lethal explosion much further off. An earlier thread on bomber crews reporting jets at night highlights the way crew reporting 'follows fashion' - once scarecrows are officially recognised, everyone starts reporting them.

    Not sure about your second question, but there were 'special reconnaissance crews' nominated by Groups who submitted more detailed reports after each raid. Not sure why, but these are filed in Air14 with collections of Form B - if your 619 Sqn crew were nominated on 30/31 March, the report will be in AIR14/3115, Form B's for March 1944. Unfortunately, I copied the reports for 24/25 March (Berlin) but not those for 30/31 March as the crew I'm writing about weren't on the Nuremburg op. For the Berlin raid, the 5 Group 'Pilot's Reconnaissance Reports' were provided by Y/44 (PO Chatterton), R/49 (Lt Stevens), K/630 (PO Rodgers), P/57 (F/L Walton) and E/467 (P/O MacDonald).

    HTH,

    Richard
    Last edited by Richard; 9th February 2015 at 11:14. Reason: rubbish typing

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    Hi Richard,

    Thanks so much for the detailed reply. It was interesting to read that the question of the existence of scarecrow type munitions went to the higher levels of the RAF. One could dive deep into the psychology involved on all levels. I had previously assumed that it was more like a aircrew semi-belief in gremlins. Sadly, Flight Sargent Whinfield pretty much foreshadows his own demise, less than a month later. From what I have been able to piece together, they were most likely caught unaware by Hauptmann Tino Becker on their way to Schweinfurt.

    As far as searching for further documents that may be attributed to either the pilot Flight Sergeant Rob Whinfield (RAF), or navigator Warrant Officer II James Horne (RCAF), I was wondering if any of you had any experience with hiring a private researcher to dig around Kew for you. I hired a researcher to gather together my uncle's service record, along with the bomb aimer George Lanridge (RCAF), from the archives in Ottawa as it was quicker and cost less that having the archives staff look it up for me. I noticed a similar service is provided at Kew. To repeat from my original post, I have copies of my uncle's 619 Squadron ORB, Bomber Command Report on Night Operations, Summary of Aircraft Damaged on Night Operations, and a pair of Air Combat Reports involving their aircraft. Would any of you think that I am missing an obvious source? Certainly anything is possible, but am I missing something that I should be investigating?

    Thanks again,

    Kenny Horne,
    Edmonton, Canada
    Last edited by Kenny Horne; 9th February 2015 at 22:22. Reason: Can't type

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