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Thread: Would they have made it to their target?

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    Default Would they have made it to their target?

    Hello All,

    I've posted threads before on my favourite Blenheim, 13 Sqdn's Mk IV T2254 but here's another thing that's been puzzling me.

    Aircraft took of from RAF Wattisham on 25.06.1942 at 23.50 hrs, target the German night fighter base at Venlo, in Holland near the German border. Crashed on 26.06.1942 at 02:39 hrs in a field near Aartselaar in Belgium, to the South of Antwerp, presumably after flak damage.

    There are still controversies surrounding the crash. Eyewitnesses of the "morning after" agree that the aircraft had apparently made a belly landing which went awfully wrong as none of the crew survived. Some talked of an explosion but a witness I've been fortunate to interview myself can't recall an explosion (and he lived only about 200 metres or so away from where the Blenheim came down). This gentlemen also distinctly recalls that the wreck lay there more or less in shape, ie with wings and tailplane in more or less the correct position but with the nose and cockpit section totally wrecked. I have an RAF PRU photo of the area taken only about 14 days after the crash but on that there is no sign of a crater that would have been the result of an explosion. As a matter of fact, on that very photo I see something that might be the wreck of T2254 but the location is a bit off as to what the witnesses recall. Sadly the focal length with which the photo was taken does only allow zooming in to such an extent that one could positively identify the "object" as a Blenheim wreck.

    I have seen several photo's of Blenheims on their belly after a forced landing, with wings and tailplane more or less intact but with the cockpit section destroyed so they above might make sense. The remains of the three airmen where in such a state however that 2 caskets were sufficient to carry them away...

    The aircraft carried a bombload comprising 250 lb GP instantaneous, 250 lb GP 30 minute delay and 40 lb A/P bombs.

    So the question is, would the 2 hrs and 49 min that passed between take-off and crash have allowed them to reach their objective, Venlo? I have been unable to find a map showing the relevant part of the UK together with the Dutch/German border area so I am not sure of the distance fm Wattisham to Venlo.

    Presuming they did not make it to the target, the fact that they belly landed the aircraft would imply they were still in control of it and that they would have jettisoned their bombload before, or wouldn't it?

    As always, any answers, tips or suggestions will be most welcome.

    Seasons greetings to all!

    Walter

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    Hello Walter,
    A couple of points: if you download GoogleEarth (it's free!) on your computer, you can do all sorts of fancy tricks including superimposing lat and long grids, plotting courses and measuring distances in miles or kms. As the crow flies, the distance from Wattisham to Venlo is 229.74 miles, but would they have flown straight there - quite possibly I guess at that relatively early stage of the war when bombers flew singly to their target.
    Secondly, according to Theo Boiten's recently published "Nachtjagd War Diaries" (which seems to have escaped the attention of this forum), Blenheim T2254 was possibly shot down at 03.18 by Hptm. Erich Simon (his 3 abschuss) of Erg./NJG2.
    regards
    Max

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    Hi Walter
    I don't know if this helps but from "Blenheim" by Graham Warner, this a/c is reported as FTR from a night intruder operation to Venlo in support of the 3rd 1000 Bomber Raid. It is reported as shot down by a Night Fighter of NJG1, but no location is given. The crew were,
    F/O P Looker, pilot, F/Sgt W O'Neill, RNZAF, Nav, and Sgt G Cox, W/op AG, all of whom were killed, and they are now buried in Schoonselhof Cemetery, Antwerp. They may have been buried closer to the crash site at the time and then moved post war to Antwerp.
    Someone may have details of a NJG1 claim for this a/c which was 1 of 2 that were shot down by NJG1 on this night. The other was attacking St Truiden
    Regards
    Dick
    Last edited by Dick; 22nd December 2008 at 20:56.

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    Hi Walter:

    Do you have Java installed in your browser? If so, you can go to this site:

    http://www.uk.map24.com/

    and input Wattisham into the Start box, then Venlo into the destination box, you can get an interactive map which shows relative positions. If you then look just above the map, you'll see some tools, one of which resembles a measuring tape. Click on this, wait for it to load, then click at Wattisham and drag to Venlo. You'll see the distance is about 370km.

    You can also put Aartselaar into the stopover box, and use the tape measure tool again.

    As the Blenheim (so far as I know) cruised at around 180 mph or 300 km/h, there's more than enough time to get to Venlo. In fact, the elapsed time is so long I was beginning to wonder whether there had been some mistake with the times.

    However, I note that Chorley has your crew on an Intruder sortie, which involved reaching a target airfield then "lurking with intent", waiting for enemy aircraft to enter the circuit and drop their guard. Therefore the time of the crash makes sense - they must have reached their target and patrolled it for some time.

    As for the bombload, there's also every possibility that they had the bombs still aboard, even having reached Venlo. So far as I know, the general intention was to bomb the runway before heading for home, however if the flak gunners were on their guard, their return fire could easily make a bombing run impossible, obliging the intruder to return with retire with bombs still aboard.

    The other issue you must remember is that Intruder sorties were flown at low level, so if an aircraft were hit, there was very little time, if any, to jettison bombs and bale out.

    Also take note of the Nachtjagd War Diaries info which Max has posted above - this is the very latest research on the subject, and a mighty achievement. (In fact, I owe Theo an email, which I hope to send shortly...)

    Hope this helps,

    Mark

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    Many thanks for your input gentlemen,

    Max - I do have GoogleEarth on my pc but never realized it could also do those things! I found it very handy in fact to compare the PRU photo with the crash area as it now is.

    In Bill Chorley's relevant Bomber Command Losses volume T2254 was given aircraft letter "A" and the kill was attributed to Hptm Reinhold Knacke.

    After five years of research I now have documentary and photo evidence that the aircraft was in fact "I-ink" and not "A-apple"! The 1942 volume of the BC Losses was published I believe in 1990 and many new things have come to light since then and it was in fact Bill Chorley himself who let me know that as per the most recent Luftwaffe victory lists Knacke did not claim a single kill on 25/26-06-1942 nor did any other pilot of his unit, I/NJG 1. Bill Chorley was kind enough to use my findings to update the info on T2254 on his BC Losses website.

    Always looking for further info I got in touch with a German amateur aero historian by the name of Winfried Bock (I was given his details by no else than nachtjagd ace Heinz Rökker) and this gentlemen proved to be very knowledgeable. Here's the important bit out of his letter to me (other readers on this forum may find it of interest too):

    Quote

    As per the OKL (Oberkommando der Luftwaffe) report 45 enemy aircraft were downed that night, as per the OKW (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht) report, nightfighters and flak jointly claimed 52 kills. (my records show in total 18 flak kills and 36 nightfighter kills). The RAF admitted having lost 25 Wellingtons, 9 Halifaxes, 8 Whitleys, 3 Stirlings, 2 Blenheims, 1 Lancaster, 1 Manchester and one Hampden (Bomber Command) as well as 3 Hudsons (Coastal Command) and one fighter command Hurricane, totalling to 54 aircraft missing. Two more aircraft, a Wellington and a Stirling, crashed on their return.

    Of those 54 missing aircraft, regrettable, only 29 crash sites are known. On the nightfighter claims list 4 crash site indications are missing as well, which makes identifying the one time opponents very difficult.

    The crash sites of the two missing Blenheims however are known, Z6094 crashed at Houwaart and T2254 crashed at Aartselaar.

    If we now consider the German Blenheim claims, we find following information :

    01.39 Oblt von Bonin II/NJG 1 Blenheim 16 km N Tirlemont
    02.10 Flak Blenheim 5 km W Bergen op Zoom
    02.36 Flak Blenheim W'brück (?)
    03.18 Hptm Simon III/NJG 2 Blenheim Map Grid 2246/05 East

    Z6094 can clearly be attributed to Oblt von Bonin (Houwaart being approx 16 km N Tirlemont) and as far as the two flak claims go we clearly have a case of mistaken identity (the crash near Bergen op Zoom matches with the crash site of Wellington R1349 of 12 OTU). So at first sight T2254 would have to be attributed to Hptm Simon but here we have another case of miss identification!

    On the fighter grid map Aartselaar is not situated in Grid 2246/05 East but in Grid 4273/05 East. Grid 2246/05 East is situated in the North Sea, 75 km WNW of Westkapelle on the Dutch island of Walcheren. Hptm Simon's opponent may therefor have been a Wellington.

    If we now consider the German claims in the Scheldt estuary (ie near Antwerp) we find following data :

    01.32 unknown pilot III/NJG2 Boston 1 km S Ouddorp
    01.13 Obfw Strüning III/NJG2 B 24 unknown site
    02.10 flak Blenheim 5 km W Bergen op Zoom
    03.07 Oblt Wittgenstein III/NJG2 Wellington unknown site
    03.18 Hptm Simon III/NJG2 Blenheim Map Grid 2246/05 East
    03.58 Hptm Müller III/NJG2 Wellington Map Grid 3385/05 East

    We can in first instance ignore the claims by flak and Hptm Simon as we know for sure these aren't correct. But what about the others?

    The Boston claim doesn't match as Ouddorp is on the Dutch island of Goeree, far to the North of Antwerp, the kill wasn't confirmed either, for that matter. Hptm Müller's kill is over the sea, about 60 km NW of Rotterdam so doesn't match either. Obfw Strüning reported a four engined bomber with twin fins (can't have been a Blenheim) and he shot it down over the sea in sector "Biber" which is in the Hook van Holland / Rotterdam area. The opponent wasn't of course a B 24 but most probably one of the two missing Halifaxes of 76 or 102 Sqdn.

    Based on the above, the only possible claimant for the kill of Blenheim T2254 would be the more succesfull of the two night fighting princes, Heinrich Prinz zu Sayn-Wittgenstein.

    Of course I cannot provide proof of this statement which is only based on elimination. If Wittgenstein's 10th kill was indeed T2254 can only be proven if one finds a source that contains the crash site indication linked to his claim. Wittgenstein may well have shot his opponent into the sea for all we know.

    Alternatively, T2254's crashing may also have been due to technical problems, ie without enemy involvement, "Absturz ohne Feindeinwirkung" as they say in German.

    Unquote

    So the options open to me without having the time of the crash were that T2254 indeed fell victim to a night fighter or that we had an "Absturz ohne Feindeinwirkung".

    Several months ago however I managed to obtain information out of the MR&ES investigation report on the crash of T2254 and from this it appeared that the investigators had found German death cards giving the hour of the crash as 02:39 hrs on 26.06.1942 and cause of crash Flak damage! So it definitely can't have been Erich Simon as he claimed a kill nearly an hour and a half later anyway.

    Dick - the three airmen were initially buried in the Schoonselhof cemetery on 29.06.1942 and they still rest there (see also my thread "Mistery man - E H Turner").

    Mark - I agree that the intruder mission would entail a relatively low flying height but I would assume that flying home from Venlo they would have been able to climb a fair bit to a safer height...

    Well, as I said, it's been 5 years now that this story's been haunting me and the more questions I find answered the more new ones turn up! It's been a fascinating quest so far however. I've written two accounts on this research project so far and I'd be happy to e-mail scans to anyone interested in the story in full, just send me a PM.

    Thanks again gentlemen!

    Merry Christmas,

    Walter

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    As you say Walter, fascinating stuff! I'm sure Theo Boiten would be interested in your detailed research, I know he's already working on an update to the NJWD, due for publication in 2013!
    Regards
    Max
    PS Although not a Blenheim, you may be interested in my research into Lancaster ME453 of 467 squadron, see my website www.galgos.co.uk I'm also not 100% sure of the nachtjager responsible, the MRES report says flak, I think either Schnaufer (most likely) or Greiner. But I'll never know!

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    Hi all,

    Apologies for opening up this "oldie" again! Something's still puzzling me - we have a take off at Wattisham at 23.50 hrs and a crash near Aartselaar at 02.39 hrs the next morning. The take off time will have been UK time of course and the crash time Belgian time. I was just wondering if in June 1942 there was a 1 hour difference between central European time and UK time as there is today.

    Any feedback welcome.

    Cheers,

    Walter

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    Classic post, bears repeating:















    "This article was published in Bulletin Airwar 1939-1945 Nr. 99 page 26/27.

    Time calculation 1940-1945. By Rob de Bruin/Great Bookham, England.

    I have checked two sources; first my own Whitaker Almanac and I have contacted the Royal Observatory at Greenwich.
    The situation is as follows:
    1) In Great Britain (from now on called England) there is since 1916 summertime. In the winter they have GMT and in
    the summer GMT+1.
    2) Middle European Time (MET), that was the time in the Netherlands during the German occupation, was equal to GMT+1
    and during the summer Middle European Time is equal to GMT+2.
    3) The English introduced at February 25th, 1940 their summertime GMT+1. In the Netherlands we had Dutch Time.
    This means that from February 25th, 1940 it was 40 min. later in England than in Holland. From may 16th, 1940 the
    Germans introduced MET and the Dutch were one hour ahead of the English.
    4) In England it was summertime during the war from February 25th, 1940 till October 7th, 1945.
    5) To get more daylight went over to Double British Summertime(DBST). This was during:
    a. 1941 May 4th till August 10th.
    b. 1942 April 5th till August 9th
    c. 1943 April 4th till August 15th
    d. 1944 April 2nd till September 17th
    e. 1945 April 2nd till July 15th
    6) During these periods the time in England was GMT+2 and that’s the same as
    MET(Summertime)
    7) To make thing more clear some examples:
    Date Time in Holland/Germany Time in England.
    30-05-1940 12.28 11.28
    22-06-1941 06.05 06.05
    03-11-1942 14.18 14.18
    01-04-1943 23.25 22.25
    01-05-1943 20.08 20.08
    06-06-1944 05.30 05.30
    05-05-1945 08.00 09.00
    8) The change of time was done in the early Sunday morning hours at 2.00 O’clock.
    9) Here a list of dates were the German time was equal to British time.
    a. 1941 May 4th till August 10th.
    b. 1942 April 5th till August 9th and November 2nd till December 31.
    c. 1943 January 1st till March 29th and April 4th till August 15th and from
    October 4th till December 31st.
    d. 1944 January 1st till April 2nd and April 4th till September 17th and October 2nd
    till December 31st.
    e. 1945 January 1st till April 2nd.


    This is an translation of the essence of an article published in Bulletin Airwar 1939-1945 Nr.99. With many thanks
    to Mr. Robert de Bruin, Great Bookham, England.
    The translation has been made by Jaap Woortman."

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    Many thanks for that brilliant bit of info Mark! So Belgium and England were in the same time zone on 25/26.06.1942 and T2254 would have been airborne for 2 hrs 49 minutes. Plenty of time to get to their target then.

    Thanks again,

    Cheers,

    Walter

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