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Thread: Scarecrow

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    Default Scarecrow

    I have just read a report of a Halifax aircraft involved on a night operation over Trappes, France on 3 June 1944 seing several "Scarecrows" on the ground. Could someone please explain what this means. Other unusual words in the report I have found an explanation for, but this one I'm stumped. Thank you.

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    It was believed by the crews that the Germans were using Scarecrow shells to simulate crashing aircraft, possibly as a way of demoralising them. This was at a time when the Germans were using the upwatd firing cannons on their fighters (Musik), but the idea was initially dismissed by the RAF authorities. So the crews carried on believing that these couldn't be real aircraft crashing because there had been no evidence of an attack, and so blamed it on these fictitous shells/pyrotechnics.

    A

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    Eddie Fell Guest

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    I believe this was something attributed to Intelligence Officers and was 'fed' to aircrew as an alternative to the probabability that what they had actually seen was a bomber exploding. The Germans, even after the, war maintained they did not use any such pyrotechnics

    Eddie

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    Your Halifax crew's report may have referred to 'scarecrow' fires deliberately set by the Germans in open country to divert attention from the primary target.

    "Scarecrow" appears to be a generic term used by U.K. forces to describe fake or dummy devices/installations designed to deceive the enemy.

    The London Times mentions the German scarecrow rocket/flare contraption on 1 April 1944 - "intended to imitate a big aircraft going down in flames, eventually crashing with a great flash".

    Coastal Command, according to the Times, accompanied convoys with "scarecrow flights" of unarmed light aircraft including Tiger Moths in British coastal waters in 1939-1940 to discourage German submarines.

    The Australian War Memorial has a night-photo purported to be one of the scarecrow rockets detonating near Magdeburg: http://cas.awm.gov.au/photograph/SUK12055
    Last edited by Ken MacLean; 13th August 2008 at 18:41.

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    My father refers to scarecrows in his audio tapes. He indicates these were visible in the mid-air and were thought to be shells or explosive devices as part of the German defensive systems. He goes on to say that post-war, these were thought to be path-finder aircraft exploding together with their target indicators. I believe Middlebrook has the same conclusion in one of his books.

    Here are Dad's comments in his logbook (419 Squadron, Lancaster X's) refering to scarecrows:
    October 14, 1944. Operations Duisburg (Day): "Flak Moderate/Intense Predicted; 4 scarecrows; Weather Cloudy"
    December 29, 1944. Operations Gelsenkirchen: "Flak Mod/Heavy; "Scarecrow" burst all over A/C; Synthetic Oil Plant "came up to meet us;" Beautiful Prang."
    March 11, 1945. Operations - Essen. "Flak Nil; 3 "Scarecrows"; Bombed Sky Markers;"

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    Hello Jim,
    The 3 scarecrows your father saw on the Essen raid in March 1945 would have been the 3 Lancasters lost on that raid.
    4 Lancasters were lost on the Oil Refinery raid on December 29, and 5 lancasters and 2 Halifaxes were lost on the Duisburg raid.
    I am sure that what your dad saw were aircraft exploding after suffering a direct hit.
    On your tapes does your dad say if the crews were told they were just explosive devices designed to look like aircraft exploding?

    Wayne.

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    Wayne: He doesn't say whether they were told, per se, what scarecrows were, rather I believe it was what he and others thought they were. As I mentioned, he was persuaded from books he had read later on that he was under the wrong impression during the war. I have no idea if the myth was one that was perpetuated at the aircrew level or was a delibrate attempt to mislead the crews. The Squadron W/C's may have been under a similar impression. I personally don't think this was a deliberate attempt to deceive, from the Group or HC level, but I don't have evidence to back my supposition.

    I would imagine however, that a "scarecrow" bursting all over your aircraft would have been a terrifying experience.

    Jim
    Last edited by JDCAVE; 16th August 2008 at 16:18.

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    Default Scarecrow

    Hello,

    From "Glossary of RAF slang and terminology"
    Crews reported aircraft blowing up without evidence of attack and the story arose that germans were using firing scarecrow shells to simulate stricken aircraft so as to demoralise crews.

    From "WW2 People's war"
    It turns out that most of the "shotdowns" bombers were only flaming objects use to demoralise our crews.

    Best regards

    René

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    Middlebrook, in his book "The Nuremberg Raid" (Fontana edition 1975) writes about scarecrows on page 73-74. The scarecrow is not indexed in his other books on famous Bomber Command raids. In the Nuremberg book, He states that after some considerable effort, he was unable to confirm the existence of scarecrows from German sources (including flak crews). He "believes" that the scarecrow was a result of a sudden demise of a bomber after a "schrage musik" attack. This is a belief based on the absence of other information, rather than a conclusion based on fact. I think that a direct hit in a vital location from an artillery shell from a flak battery could presumably cause the same end result.

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    Given that some observers did report other bombers under attack by upward-firing night fighters - not necessarily identifying Schrage Musik as such but as opposed to fire on the approximate level - I don't think that an Schrage Musik attack would be so "stealthy" as to account for a significant number of "scarecrows". I think any explosive loss of a bomber could have that effect, and a Flak hit might well be more likely. Damage from nightfighter's smaller calibre weapons would perhaps be more likely to result in a fire or spin rather than an explosion as observed.

    Indeed, as the crews linked the presence of "scarecrows" to flak, this seems more likely a cause. Losses due to nightfighters would generally be outside the flak areas , and links to flak sites clearly false.

    I certainly think the one-for-one link of three observed scarecrows to three known losses highly dubious. Did all these bombers explode in the air - not one descend (comparatively) gracefully, even leaving a fiery trail?

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