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Thread: F/L William Ford Watson Porteous, DSO, DFM and Bar

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    Default F/L William Ford Watson Porteous, DSO, DFM and Bar

    On the old board (http://www.rafcommands.com/cgi-bin/dcforum/dcboard.cgi?az=show_thread&om=10527&forum=DCForumI D6&archive=yes) I said as follows:

    "I am trying to solve a mystery which is now 64 years old. My Uncle Bill was killed in action on the morning of 20 May 1944 over Le Mans, Sarthe, France, while bombing the railway marshalling yards. He was Bomb Aimer for the Deputy Master Bomber, and the family oral tradition had it that he was "shot down". Recent information from http://www.raf.mod.uk/bombercommand/may44.html has a different story:
    'Le Mans: 112 Lancasters and 4 Mosquitos of Nos 3 and 8 Groups. The majority of the bombs hit the railway yards and caused serious damage. The local report says that the locomotive sheds were destroyed, an ammunition train (or some ammunition wagons) blew up, 2 main lines were destroyed and all other lines blocked because overhead power lines were brought down across the tracks. Unfortunately the Lancasters of the Master Bomber and his deputy collided over the target and crashed. The Master Bomber was a brilliant young New Zealander, Wing Commander JF Barron, DSO and Bar, DFC, DFM, and the Deputy Master Bomber was Squadron Leader JM Dennis, DSO, DFC They were both killed; both were from No 7 Squadron. 1 other Lancaster was lost.'

    Does anyone have any idea where the details of the alleged collision might be documented? One of my correspondents has suggested that it might be considered unlikely for the Master Bomber and his Deputy to be in the same piece of airspace at the same time, and that they would have orbited on opposite sides of the target to guard against just such an incident."

    I had many responses on the old board, and my thanks to you all once again. I have been continuing my research as and when possible since my initial posting, and have found a few more details.

    I wrote to the RAF Air Historical Branch and they very kindly forwarded to me a report, Bomber Command Report on Night Operations, Night Raid Report No. 609, dated 2 September 1944. In Section 9 of this report reference is made to a possible collision ("The Master Bomber and his deputy were both lost over the target, possibly in a collision."). Later, in Section 19, reference is made to a collision ("2 of the Le Mans losses were caused by a collision, and the third by light flak S. of the target. These included the Master Bomber and his deputy."). This report is the earliest source document I have been able to find that mentions a collision.

    I also wrote to Stuart Hadaway, a curator at the RAF Museum at Hendon, after reading his excellent book "Missing believed killed". Mr Hadaway was kind enough to forward copies of aircraft loss report forms for both JB653 (my Uncle's aircraft) and ND845 (the Master Bomber's aircraft) which make no mention of collision whatsoever.

    At some point between 20 May 1944 and 2 September 1944, therefore, there was likely to have been a report (debriefing? intelligence?) that raised the possibility of a collision. My questions are, what form might this report have taken? Is it likely that the information survives today in a publicly accessible form? Where might I hope to look in order to continue my research?

    As I said originally, I have an electronic copy of Bill's Flying Log Book (my mother has the original) and would be happy to send a copy on CD to any researcher or historian who has an interest.

    All the best

    Pete

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    Default Bombs on Target

    Hello Pete,
    Ron Mayhill, bomb-aimer on 75 squadron, in his excellent book "Bombs on Target" knew Fraser Barron. He says the following:
    "Someone told us that Fraser Barron had gone missing on his 78th op over Le Mans. I'll always remember that young-looking wing commander, with two tours and the row of gongs, who gave me my first alcoholic drink (Ron was a teetotaller but Fraser Barron tricked him with a couple of "orange juices"!), Christmas Day at Westcott. Apparently he was the third OC at 7 PFF squadron, Oakington, to go missing in three months, all Master Bombers directing the Main Force while circling low over the target. Perhaps Master Bombers shouldn't have to fly a plane, and direct an attack with eyes glued to the ground at the same time." (Is this a significant statement viz a viz collisions?)

    Ron was an avid photographer and took many "unofficial" pictures including some on ops. One in his book shows the Master Bomber and his two deputies far below, just behind the bomb line. The deputies especially are 200 - 300 feet apart: I count that as the same patch of sky! I'll scan it and e-mail it to you if you wish.

    In the Nachtjagd War Diaries, it says of the 20th May,
    "The widespread Bomber Command activity over France profoundly confused the II.Jagdkorps controllers and prevented them from organising any co-ordinated movement of fighters.....From the French raids, seven main force Lancasters were lost....two Lancasters of the Le Mans force, both of 7 squadron, were due to a collision over the target."
    Regards
    Max
    Last edited by Galgos; 30th December 2008 at 15:30.

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    Default Master Bomber and Deputy in same airspace

    Max

    I'd be very grateful for a copy of Ron Mayhill's photo - must find his book too. Many thanks for the info and the offer.

    Regards

    Pete

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    hello,

    There's no mention of a mid-air collision in the Squadron Operations Record Book, but it's not a piece of evidence in itself. At night a mid-air collision could be confused with a direct Flak hit by other crews. As there was no survivor, it's also difficult to get details from one of the involved crewmembers. I don't have Tom Docherty's book on the History of No. 7 Squadron, but I presume other forumites have it on their bookshelves and might check in it.

    As there were two New-Zealanders killed in action that night (W/C J.F. BARRON and his wireless operation F/O J.W. WALTERS), there's a chapter about them in "For your tomorrow" volume 2 by Errol Martyn. I quote from it :
    ND845 was last heard stating its intention to descend below cloud to join deputy Master Bomber 7 Squadron Lancaster JB653, which had descended earlier, and it is thought the two collided. However, 115 Squadron Lancaster HK547 is also a possibility as it crashed in the same area as the Master Bomber, whereas the Deputy came down several kilometres away. There were no survivors from any of the three Lancasters. Captured German documents claim that ND845 was brought down by Flak and the other two 'presumably' and 'probably' so, respectively. It is possible that Flak damage to one Lancaster led to loss of control followed by a collision with one of the others."
    Errol adds that Lancaster III ND845 MG-C came down in the vicinity of the Renault works, 3 km NW of Le Mans airfield."
    Hope this helps

    Joss

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    Joss,
    Theo/Rod in their NJWD has Lancaster HK547 as possibly being shot down by Oblt. Jakob Schaus of 4./NJG4, the only abschuss of the night for the nachtjagd, this "south" of Lisieux which is 125 kms due north of Le Mans. Until, if, further info becomes available, the fate of these crews will never be fully known.
    Max

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