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Thread: Nickel queries

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    Default Nickel queries

    ‘Nickel’ operations were leaflet-dropping missions: can anyone help with a couple of details?

    1 When did the name ‘Nickel’ enter use?
    2 Were mixed loads of bombs and leaflets carried?

    Thanks,
    Bruce

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    Hi Bruce,
    Can't help with first query but the answer to your second is yes. From my fathers Log Book with 37 Squadron .
    Examples.
    25/6/43 Ops Italy-Bari-Oil Refineries (6x500lbs plus Leaflets)
    1/7/43 Ops Sicily-Palermo (5x250, 9x500, plus Leaflets)
    and one with Leaflets only
    8/8/43 Ops Italy-Florence (leaflets).
    The word Nickel was never used by my father in his Log or Diary.
    Hope this helps.
    Regards,
    Rob Jerram.

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    Rob,
    Thanks, I have been looking at some 205 Group ORBs and was surprised by the number of aircraft dedicated to Nickel missions and it got me thinking. There was no indication that the task was given to the 'new boys', although that may have been omitted from the ORB.

    Bruce

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    Hi Bruce,
    I don't think there was any selection by experience for Nickel Ops, Dad and his Pilot R Lavack on the Florence Op were only 3 Ops away from completion of their tour. The rest of crew were however relatively new.
    The other Ops quoted were with a crew that had been together for some months. The Florence Op was a solo mission as the 4 aircraft that night sent up, all had different targets. A clear night and the fact that Dads crew were one of first to fly over Flornce, plus fact Dad was held by 2nd pilot whilst he chucked leaflets out of escape hatch was not for faint hearted. Also clear night on your own and very real threat of night fighters which had been very active in recent days (8.35hr mission) made for an interesting Op to say least. I don't think there was an easy Operation experienced or not. Skill and a lot of luck were to my way of thinking the main reason they survived.
    Regards,
    Rob Jerram.

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    Bruce,

    I think you will find that Bomber Command's first operations over Germany were leaflet (Nickel) raids (Chris Ashworth's 'RAF Bomber Command'). 'Nickels' were certainly used by some squadrons to provide young crews with experience in flying over enemy territory before taking part in 'real' operations. 295 Sqn at Netheravon (actually not a Bomber Command unit) certainly used this approach.

    Brian

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    Rob,
    I have seen general statements that leaflet dropping was often used to introduce crews to operational flying. Perhaps this was the case in some sectors, but not all, as your father's experience shows.

    Is it that the OTU flights were used in this role in the larger theatre of Western Europe, where the numbers of aircraf participating were so much larger than those in the MAAF? Also, for all the reasons you have given, the notion that these flights were somehow 'easier' certainly appears to be flawed if they accompany the bombing aircraft to the same target, which is the situation in the 205 Group records I have been viewing. Again, this points to a different policy in different theatres.

    Bruce

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    Hi Bruce,
    I would agree that there would appear to be different approaches to the use of Nickel Ops between the Western Front and those used by 205 Group. In my father's case mid 1942 he had experienced two 1000 plane raids with OTU and then a Ferry Fight from Portreath to M.E. but had to bale out over Chad before finally arriving to join 37 Squadron. Most of the Ferry Flight crews got their experience so to speak from those flights. Even so it appeared that it was practice to mix the less experienced crew members with others who were getting towards the end of their tours as a matter of expediency as much as any other reason. I go through Dad's Log Book and Diary and find that this certainly appeared to be the case. It didn't help those who were getting to end of tour feel confident having inexperienced members but lack of experience seemed to be the reason for mixing the crews up. Circumstances meant that because of shortages especially pilots that the mix occurred, it was I guess a case of making the best out of the situation rather than throwing totally inexperienced crews to the wolves so to speak. It would appear as has been discussed else where in the forum that in the later half of the War that this changed due to the numbers of aircrew being trained increasing and coming on stream. It still doesn't detract from the fact that whether they were doing a cross country run with an OTU in UK or a Nickel Run the risks were still there as is proven by the losses incurred whilst undertaking these "safe" tasks. As Brian points out Nickel Ops were used by some Squadrons of Bomber Command for training purposes. I would guess that this took place from late 1943, early 1944 but this is conjecture on my part. I would be interested in more knowledgeable Forum members comments regarding this.
    Best wishes,
    Rob Jerram.

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    Nickelling was being done in 1944 from the SAAF Celone base ,Foggia, Italy .

    A former RAF x 31 SAAF member told me that he took part in two particular nickelling missions over, I think, Yugoslavia [but not sure] ,in the late winter of 1944 which he regarded as a risk to crew & bomber safety . He had been at 31 SAAF since September '44. His pilot refused to fly the third time as the bomber's guns had frozen up on the previous flights, leaving them vulnerable to enemy fighters. For this refusal he was court martialled .

    I don't know the full story.

    Anne
    Last edited by aestorm; 31st May 2009 at 14:18.

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    Hi Bruce,
    Quoting from The 1000 Plan by Ralph Barker..... (page 147)...As the people of Cologne hurried into the vast underground shelters that had been constructed for them, many of them picked up scraps of paper that were falling from the sky. On them, in heavily printed capitals, they read of their destiny. " The offensive of the R.A.F. in its new form has begun."
    Not your typical Nickel Operation (1942), but answers your question re Bomber Command and leaflets with bomb payloads.
    Regards,
    Rob Jerram.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RobJ View Post
    As Brian points out Nickel Ops were used by some Squadrons of Bomber Command for training purposes. I would guess that this took place from late 1943, early 1944 but this is conjecture on my part.
    Best wishes,
    Rob Jerram.
    As late as May/June 1944 crews under training at 30 OTU were doing Nickel raids. One mid upper gunner who went on to 101 Sqn told me this was not only done to see how they worked as a crew but that they were used as diversions from the main stream. He also sent on to tell me that the wind currents being what they they were the leaflets were back in the UK before he and his crew were.

    His exact comment was he didn't know he would spend the war advising British farmers of German atrocities, via leaflet.

    regards,

    Dave
    Last edited by alieneyes; 31st May 2009 at 12:52.

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