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Thread: 263 squadron – Raid on Morlaix viaduct - March 1943

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    Default 263 squadron – Raid on Morlaix viaduct - March 1943

    Hello.

    Doing some researches on 263 Squadron "The Whirlibombers", I am trying to find out the exact type of bombs used during the bombardment of the Morlaix viaduct in the nights of March 20/21 and 21/22, 1943 and of the Ponthou viaduct in the night of March 22/23, 1943.

    And above all I am looking for the answer to the essential question: why all (all!) these bombs did not explode?

    Also, what was the diving angle of the aircrafts?

    These data are not in ORB’s 540 and 541.

    What I know :
    The Whirlwinds dived from 4000 ft to 1000 (or 1500) ft.
    March 20/21 : only 5 aircrafts bombed. 5 bombs were founded in Morlaix. So each aircraft had only one bomb, probably 500 lb GP. What type exactly?
    March 21/22 : only 5 aircrafts bombed. More bombs were founded. Therefore the aircrafts had two bombs? 250 lb or 500 lb (maximum charge)?

    Were these bombs with a delay of 3 seconds? Immediate delay would be too dangerous, the bomb exploding when the aircraft was just above.
    For attacks against ships, 263 Squadron used bombs 3 seconds delay. 11 seconds delay was used for the first time on June 15, 1943 against a minesweeper.
    About the diving angle for a land operation, the only time it is mentioned is in the ORB of March 26, 1943 where it is written “The Flight dived from 12,000 to 7,000 feet at 45°. Hits on aerodrome,... ”

    Thank you.

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    Default Re: 263 squadron – Raid on Morlaix viaduct - March 1943

    Hi Geneca

    On each occasion they look to have been carrying 2 x 500lb MC bombs with a fuse set at 3 second delay as you thought. If you download AIR 27/1551 you can find on the PDF from pages 174 to 177 the details you are after, tucked away in the appendices.

    Kind regards
    Pierre
    Last edited by Pierre Renier; 5th June 2021 at 14:32. Reason: typo

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    Default Re: 263 squadron – Raid on Morlaix viaduct - March 1943

    Thanks for the information.


    I have found indeed in AIR-27-1551 (Appendices), pages 143 and following, the reports on the raids Rhubarb 23 of March 20/21, 1943, Rhubarb 24 of 21/22 and Rhubarb 25 of 22/23 .

    For each were used two bombs of 500 pounds M.C (Medium Capacity), not G.P., which were with a delay of 3 seconds.


    What will pose another problem for me to resolve: why in the raid of 20/21, only 5 bombs were mentioned in Morlaix (while 5 planes bombed the viaduct).


    But above all I'm trying to solve the mystery: why no bomb thrown at 1000 feet exploded (none!).


    Would the fact that the bomb would'nt have time to prime before the impact prevented the explosion?


    Abrams of the 263 squadron which bombed the Ponthou viaduct on the night of 22/23 wrote verbatim in his handwritten report:
    In the Results section: "Unfortunately fused nace (difficult word to read) instead of tail"
    And in Remarks section: “Bombs were only tail fused”


    What does that mean ?


    I am not a bomb expert. I hope there could be an expert gunsmith on the forum.

    Regards.

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    Default Re: 263 squadron – Raid on Morlaix viaduct - March 1943

    For "nace", read "nose". Thus, many (most?) bombs in WW2 could be fused in the nose, or tail, or both. Others might care to comment on why these options were provided and what would be the expected effects of the three options.
    David D

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    Default Re: 263 squadron – Raid on Morlaix viaduct - March 1943

    Hi Geneca

    The other Whirlwind specific books worth having a look at those by Victor Bingham - The Westland Whirlwind Fighter and Niall Corduroy - Westland's Enigmatic Fighter. Niall's and Rob Bowater's books basically cover all that was written by Victor back in the 80's, but their books contain much additional research, photos and pilot interviews.

    Here are a few links that may help with your bomb query:
    https://www.rafmuseum.org.uk/documen...al_weapons.pdf
    https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.a...50515-11.1.pdf
    https://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ww2peo...a7017950.shtml
    https://kolding.blob.core.windows.ne...20PART%202.pdf

    This last one indicates that the 500 lb MC bomb was fitted with both a tail and a nose fuse. I hope that this helps with your research. (As a bit of a Whirlie addict myself I look forward to seeing what else you can find out about these raids!)

    Kind regards.

    Paul

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    Default Re: 263 squadron – Raid on Morlaix viaduct - March 1943

    Thank you for your information.
    The career of this aurcraft, the Whirlwind, absolutely unknown to the general public is indeed quite fascinating. A television documentary should be done on it. I have not studied the history of 137 Squadron, but know the history of 263 Squadron quite well. There are absolutely extraordinary stories, like that of F/Sgt George Wood, shot down on September 23, 1943 when attacking the airport of Morlaix-Ploujean, being hit by Flak in full dive, embarked on October 30 at Carantec by the Sibiril resistance network aboard the "Requin" (“the Shark”), a very small 5m80 sail cutter, with 8 escapees for Plymouth (21 hours of sailing), and reappearing to his unit who believed he was dead.
    Last edited by Geneca29151; 10th June 2021 at 12:36.

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    Default Re: 263 squadron – Raid on Morlaix viaduct - March 1943

    The bombs, of the 500-pound MC with a 3-seconds delay, were therefore apparently Mk 4, with a nose fuse and tail fuse, without a central tube.

    This was apparently the first time that the 263 Squadron had used them. Before, since August 1942, it was 250 lb GP Mk ???

    What strikes me is this remark by Abrams on the handwritten report of the raid of March 22/23, 1943 on the Ponthou viaduct: "Unfortunately fused nose instead of tail", and especially "Bombs were only tail fused".
    And strangely, these details are not put in the ORB typed. In Form 541, it becomes for Abrams: "Found target but unfortunately misfused bombs". The form 540 is very brief and blur. The only funny element is: “A telegram of congratulation on these operations was released from A.O.C. 10 Group”. Extraordinary when you know the result!

    As absolutely all the bombs did not explode, three consecutive days, I put the hypothesis: could there not have been a handling error on the nose fuse from the gunsmiths of the 263 squadron not accustomed to this type of ammunition?
    And one would have quickly decided to forget that, and keep quiet ...

    Currently, I will try to find documents in the archives from the other side, to find mine clearance reports. There is nothing on this in the Morlaix archives. What may exist was sent to the departmental archives of Quimper. But also many German archives were destroyed. In a not so distant time, what was "German", "Nazi", in that not understandable language, had to be destroyed, to make room. Thanks to the intervention of an archivist, some were saved and transferred to Quimper. But of course, nothing has been digitized. And COVID 19 does not help with its restrictions.

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    Default Re: 263 squadron – Raid on Morlaix viaduct - March 1943

    Thanks for the update Geneca - good luck with the ongoing research - I look forward to hearing how you get on.

    Kind regards.

    Paul

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    Default Re: 263 squadron – Raid on Morlaix viaduct - March 1943

    General principal, if you drop on a soft target and want bomb to go off immediately/soon after then nose fuse

    If you plan to drop it on something hard or want it to penetrate before exploding then tail fuse as nose fuses get damaged when they hit something hard.

    chris

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