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Thread: An untold story from a rear gunner's viewpoint

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    Default An untold story from a rear gunner's viewpoint

    Uncle Harry's war in Burma and Africa and being sunk by a U-Boat he documented. Going through Harry's legacy I came across the flying log of his friend Len Reece. Len a rear gunner in a Halifax of 427 Sqd documented bombing raids during 1943. Raids on Wuppertala and Cologne were in 'gin clear skies' attracting flax. The following night's raid on Cologne involved a close encounter of 200 yards with a Me 109 that evaded Len's fire. Raids on Geisenkirchen, Aachen, Montbeliard, Hamburgh, Essen, Millan followed. The raid on Peenemunde on August 17, 1943, saw one Halifax go down while the raid on Berlin on August 23/24 claimed four aircraft due to flax. During the big raid on Kassel, October 22, 1943, 'we lost 44 bombers.' Returning from Leverkusen on November 18, 1943, 'our Halifax was hit. Our kite went down in a steep dive. The skipper turned the fuel off to extinguish fires in the engines. Now down to 600 ft skipper ordered stuff to be jettisoned as we limped over the sea on two engines. We had to ask for permission for an emergency landing. When we landed we counted 200 holes in the Halifax! I don't know what happened to Len Reece as Harry is now deceased but at least his war effort can be recorded here. Incidentally, Harry captured two Japanese soldiers injured in a grenade attack. They expected the worse but Harry bandaged their wounds and gave them a cup of tea. So Japanese soldiers did surrender and Harry did the British thing.

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    Default Re: An untold story from a rear gunner's viewpoint

    Hi Robin,

    Nice story, thanks for sharing, my uncle did his first op on the Peenemunde raid, and his last on the Berlin raid of 23/24 August 1943, he was also a rear gunner on a Halifax, 158 Sqn.

    Cheers,

    John.

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    Default Re: An untold story from a rear gunner's viewpoint

    John, squeeze into the rear turret for the raid on Berlin Agust 23 1943 lasting seven hours, 30 mins. Over the first part of the flight there were patches of cloud. It disappeared on reaching the enemy's coast. Visbilty was good. A clear starlite sky above us. There was a good number of search lights and heavy flak. At Hanover one Halifax was hit and went down in flames hitting the ground. At Berlin we found a huge mass of searchlights around the city but little flak. We approached the target at 19000 ft and lost 2000 ft diving through the searchlights. The moon was just rising. We saw five of our planes shot down. The Germans were relying totally on night fighters. One fighter got two bombers within a minute as they were caught by searchlight. Fighters followed us across the Baltic. Canon tracer from a fighter came feet withn my rear turret. The skipper dived and we lost the flighter. However, another bomber was now going down slowly in flames. Thankfully we finished the trip flying just above cloud without incident. It had been a sticky op because of the number of fighters.
    #p.s. any info on Len Preece { not sure of 427 sqd} would be appreciated via the forum.
    Last edited by robin bird; 20th March 2021 at 11:29.

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    Default Re: An untold story from a rear gunner's viewpoint

    It was hard to define Len's surname, which on reflection looks like Preece, not Reece, although this does not effect his bombing account. Flight magazine 1943 mentions 'Sgt Leonard Preece, airgunner of proven ability' so maybe this was my man. I have a photograph, too, of a rear gunner in his turret with Uncle Harry's stuff. Unfortunately there is no name on the back but most likely Preece.

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    Default Re: An untold story from a rear gunner's viewpoint

    Hi Robin,

    Some thrashing around on Google and TNA using the dates in your posts above as a guide has led me to 77 Squadron

    AIR 27/656/35
    https://discovery.nationalarchives.g...mageViewerLink
    Image 26/49

    17/18 Aug 43: Peenemunde
    Halifax II DT643 V
    F/O Warren, G W
    Sgt Brookes D G E
    Sgt Taunton D
    Sgt Gibbons C D
    Sgt Griffin A H
    Sgt Williams E R
    Sgt Preece L G

    Also 22/23 Aug 43: Leverkusen
    Image 31/49
    Same crew and aircraft

    Also 23/24 Aug 43: Berlin
    Image 36/49
    Same crew and aircraft


    AIR 27/656/41
    https://discovery.nationalarchives.g...mageViewerLink
    Image 14/24

    19/20 Nov 43: Leverkusen
    Halifax II JD472 V
    F/Lt Warren, G W
    Sgt Brookes D G E
    P/O Taunton D
    Sgt Gibbons C D
    Sgt Griffin A H
    Sgt Williams E R
    Sgt Preece L G
    and Sgt Pettigrew J K (2nd Pilot)


    From AIR 78/129, there seems to be two candidates,
    https://discovery.nationalarchives.g...ils/r/C4005895
    Image 743/2197

    1580557 Leonard Geoffrey PREECE, or
    1140687 Leonard George PREECE

    1580557 Temp W/O Leonard Geoffrey PREECE was commissioned 27th Jan. 1945
    https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/...upplement/1647
    No luck on Leonard George Preece.

    Hope this helps,

    Jeff

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    Default Re: An untold story from a rear gunner's viewpoint

    jeff, thank you for your time and trouble. that will be him, a sergeant. Looks like Preece was a friend of Uncle Harry, probably lived in same neck of woods. Harry, too, had an eventful war capturing Japanese soldiers then being sunk by a U-Boat. Post war Harry was a quiet man, headmaster of the village school even though he drove a MG sports car post war. thanks again

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    Default Re: An untold story from a rear gunner's viewpoint

    Hi Robin,

    Just out of interest do you know what ship your uncle was on when it was sunk by a Uboat, or the date?

    Cheers,

    John.

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    Default Re: An untold story from a rear gunner's viewpoint

    incomati from memory. will look it up in morning if of interest. U508 captain Statts I think. Men in water expected to be machine gunned, Harry tried to contact him after the war but U508 lost with all hands.

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    Default Re: An untold story from a rear gunner's viewpoint

    Hello,

    https://uboat.net/men/staats.htm

    https://uboat.net/allies/merchants/ship/3015.html

    U-508 was reportedly attacked and sunk by a PB4Y-1 (32032 "C") of VB 103 Sqn USN, on 12 November, 1943, which in turn was brought down by U-508. No survivors on U-boat, or aircraft.

    http://www.clubhyper.com/reference/calvertncokejh_1.htm

    Col.
    Last edited by COL BRUGGY; 22nd March 2021 at 14:27.

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    Default Re: An untold story from a rear gunner's viewpoint

    thanks again Col. Harry was torpedoed by U508 captain Georg Staats, at 7. 56 July 18, 1943. He was one of 223 aboard troop ship Incomati, 222 survivors. Route Takoradi Walvis Bay Durban Middle East. Apparently Staat allowed them to man lifeboats before finishing it off with gun fire. Harry was so thankful that they were not machine gunned he tried to contact Staats after the war to thank him. Survivors had been picked up by HMS Boaducea and HMS Bridgewater that went to the scene. When Harry caught Japanese soldiers he bandaged them and made them tea. He then spent a a lot of time just after the war trying to contact Staats until he learned of his death aboard U508 .

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