Chapel Chimneys Whatlington Road

Author: 630pete

An American aircraft reported as a “Vengeance” crash landed in the funnel of the main runway at East Kirkby on Sunday 1st April, its 4 USAAF crew members walked away unhurt.

On Monday 2nd April at 11:50 the squadron was ordered to stand-by for a mining mission that night but the order was canceled at 15:18 hours. The following day at 14:07 an order was received to prepare for a night attack on Nordhausen, flight planning commenced at 16:30 hours, aircrew were briefed from 18:00 to 19:00 hours and at 19:40 the attack order was canceled. Air Commodore Louis Dickens DFC AFC [i] took over command of No. 55 base.

Wednesday 4th April 1945 - crews were awoken to attend an 02:30 hours briefing to attack Nordhausen in daylight. 243 Lancasters and 1 Mosquito of 5 Group attacked troop concentrations and military barracks at the town of Nordhausen. 17 aircraft and crews of 630 Squadron were detailed for Ops, these were each armed with 1 x 4000lb HC and 14 x 500lb AN-M64 bombs, 9 aircraft attacked the barracks and the remaining 8 attacked the town of Nordhausen.

4th April 1945 Daylight Bombing Attack on Nordhausen

Take Off: at 06:16 hours Tom Baker and crew (PD237) with a Second Dickie aboard, were first away.

  • RF192-A F / O LW Jacob RAAF
  • JB290-C F / O CRM Richardson RAAF
  • PD253-D F / O LM Duggan RAAF
  • RA520-E F / O LA Barnes
  • NG125-F Capt DCB Reynolds SAAF
  • ND412-H F / L HF Kirkwood
  • NN702-J F / O JL Bathgate RNZAF
  • LM216-K Capt DS Turner SAAF
  • NN774-L F / O GR Scott RAAF
  • NG413-M F / O HA Ramsey RNZAF
  • NG259-N F / L NG Roberts RAAF
  • PA266-P F / O K Hallett RAAF
  • PB344-R F / S DS Tillett
  • RF122-S F / O RJ Sassoon
  • ME739-T F / O AV Cameron RAAF
  • NG123-U Lt MT Ackerman SAAF
  • PD254-W F / O AM MacLean RCAF
  • PD327-Y F / L TB Baker RAAF (P / O FA Robinson)
  • ND949-Z F / L LF Ovens

PA266 “P-Peter” returned early as its rear turret went unserviceable the Hallett crew jettisoned their cookie and landed back at East Kirkby at 09:36 hours. Desmond Reynolds' NG125 “F-Fox” suffered an engine failure as it crossed the French coast at 10,000 feet on the way out, with at least six hours flying ahead and their port inner engine out of action he decided to press on and risk straggling .

The outward leg of the sortie was accomplished without problem and on arrival. Crews had little difficulty in identifying the barracks but the target was soon covered in smoke and dust due to explosions on target and crews attacking after the first 2 minutes had to estimate the position using the road and railway lines. Several sticks of bombs were definitely seen to fall across the barracks. No opposition was encountered from the ground or in the air. Crews bombing the town did so on the Red TI’s which were placed in the center of the town. The Master Bomber reported he was quite satisfied with the attack, the barracks and town were severely damaged. “Barney” Barnes and crew were the last to land back at base at 13:01 hours.

Desmond Reynolds and crew had completed their tour, they were promptly posted and their captain would receive a DFC for his leadership. Also completing their tour that night were Doug Turner and crew, two of the squadron’s South African pilots would be returning home.

At 16:40 hours that same afternoon aircraft were bombed-up in readiness for an army support attack if required but the operation was not ordered. On the morning of Thursday 5th April at 10:25 hours a preliminary warning for Ops was received but the projected operation was canceled at 15:50 hours.

Saturday 7thth April 1945 - at 09:45 hours a warning was received to prepare for a night attack on Molbis. At 10:39 a further instruction arrived to ready 3 aircraft for mining in Kiel Bay. The mining mission was confirmed at 11:12 but then canceled at 12:55 hours but at 14:05 an instruction was received to bomb up the aircraft which had been detailed for mining, they were to join the attack on Molbis. Flight Planning commenced at 14:30 hours, briefings at 16:30 hours. At 17:05 the order to reduce the number of aircraft operating by one third came in. In the end 5 Group despatched 175 Lancasters and 11 Mosquitoes to the benzol refinery plant, electricity power station and tar refinery at Molbis near Leipzig. 11 aircraft of the squadron participated, these were all armed with 1 x 4000lb HC and 12 x 500lb AN-M64 bombs.

7th/8th April 1945 Night Bombing Attack on Molbis

Take Off: at 18:11 hours Wing Commander Grindon was the first airborne.

  • RA520-E F / O HA Ramsey RNZAF
  • ND412-H F / L H Thompson (F / S RF Mercer)
  • NN702-J F / O RJ Sassoon
  • NN774-L F / O JW Hoare RAAF
  • NG259-N W / C JE Grindon
  • PA266-P F / O K Hallett RAAF
  • ME739-T F / O AV Cameron RAAF
  • ND949-Z F / O JC Clingin RAAF
  • NG123-U F / L RG Waterfall (Group Capt Casey)
  • NG413-M F / L GE stamp
  • PD327-Y F / L TB Baker RAAF (F / O FA Robinson)

ND949 “Z-Zebra” returned early landing on 3 engines at 21:42 hours with the port inner unserviceable. It is unclear if “Z” was flown by F / O Clingin’s crew or by F / L Les Oven’s crew and also unclear if “J-Jig” was flown by the crews of Richard Sassoon or Colin Richardson. Darkness fell as crews crossed the Rhine and with very much stronger head winds than predicted on the outward route resulting in a large number of crews arriving on target late and some not getting a chance to attack before the controller ordered stop bombing at 23:10 hours . Crews had been unwilling to force the pace upwards (using more fuel) due to fears of diversions as far north a Scotland for landing. Weather was clear in the target area with some ground haze being thickened by a smoke screen. Based on target photos bombing was very concentrated particularly in southern districts. A huge explosion at 23:10 hours was reported. Several large explosions were noted but some might have been decoys. Intense searchlight activity around target area and heavy flak was moderate but largely inaccurate. The only fighters seen were over the target.

NG123 “U-Uncle” had one engine fail, needing to be feathered just 15 minutes after take off but her pilot Reg Waterfall and crew with Group Captain Bernard Casey (Base Commander) aboard, pressed on and bombed on 3 engines, bringing “U -Uncle ”home safely, the last to land at 3:03 hours. Bombing was so effective that all production at the refinery ceased.

Four of the squadron’s veteran crews made their last op of the war that night, Geoff Stemp’s crew had flown 32 ops, Henry Thompson’s 34 ops, Aussie Tom Baker’s 35 ops and that of Reg Waterfall 32 ops. All four pilots were recommended for DFC’s and later received them.

Sunday 8th April 1945 - A preliminary warning for readiness was received at 10:15 hours, the target was confirmed as Lützkendorf, flight planning commenced at 14:00 and briefings at 15:00 hours. As the Lützkendorf oil refinery had not been destroyed on their previous attack 5 Group sent 231 Lancasters and 11 Mosquitoes to complete the job. 17 of the squadron’s aircraft and crews were detailed to participate and the aircraft were bombed up with 1 x 4000lb HC and 14-16 x 500lb AN-M64 bombs.

8th/9th April 1945 Night bombing attack on Lützkendorf

Take Off: at 18:00 hours Squadron Leader Marcel Cuelenaere in NG413 was the first away.

  • RF192-A F / O LW Jacob RAAF
  • JB290-C F / O JW Wallace RNZAF
  • PD253-D F / O LM Duggan RAAF
  • RA520-E F / O LA Barnes
  • NG125-F F / O KO Gibson
  • ND412-H F / S RF Mercer
  • NN702-J F / O JL Bathgate RNZAF
  • LM216-K F / L HF Kirkwood
  • NG413-M S / L MR Cuelenaere RCAF
  • NG259-N F / O NG Roberts RAAF
  • PA266-P F / L LF Ovens (F / L JD Richardson)
  • PB344-R F / S DS Tillett
  • RF122-S F / O RJ Sassoon
  • ME739-T F / O AV Cameron RAAF
  • PD254-W F / O FA Robinson
  • PD327-Y F / O JC Clingin RAAF
  • ND949-Z F / O CRM Richardson RAAF

Two Lancasters were unable to take off for this attack, “L” (F / O GR Scott) and “U” (W / O R Grange) due to last minute unserviceability. Darkness fell as the formation crossed the Rhine and there was no fighter or flak activity on the route to the target. With approximately 250 miles still to fly to reach the target and at only 5,000 feet the starboard outer engine of “M-Mother” failed but Squadron Leader Cuelenaere decided to press on aware that he would have to attack from lower than the expected bombing height of 8,000 feet. At the target where the weather conditions were hazy but with no cloud, markers were laid in good time for H-hour (22:45 hours) and the crews were called in to bomb at H -1 from 8,000 to 14,000 feet. Crews were able to attack the Red TI’s with an 11 second overshoot. Major explosions followed and a particularly huge explosion was recorded by many crews at 22:52 hours. Consumate team work brought the Cuelenaere crew to the target on time and they attacked successfully from 7,500 feet. Staggered search light batteries were the main ground defenses and flak was negligible. Some combats were reported, however. The oil refinery was comprehensively put out of action. Aircraft were diverted to Honeybourne on their return due to nasty weather conditions over base. The last of Six-thirty’s aircraft to return safely was LM216 (Harold Kirkwood) at 03:37 hours.

At 03:10 hours ND949 “Z-Zebra” with it's “Almost - All Australian” crew had crashed at Foxton near Market Harborough before reaching the diversion airfield and sadly all of the crew were killed.

Lancaster III, ND949 (codes LE - Z)

  • Pilot - F / O Colin Robert Moore Richardson RAAF. Age 23 †
  • F / Eng pilot - Sgt Bernard Gibbons. Age 21 †
  • Navigator - F / S Herbert Eric Burton RAAF. Age 25 †
  • Bomb Aimer - F / O Robert Martin RAAF. Age 23 †
  • Wireless Op - F / O William Forrester RAAF. Age 20 †
  • Mid Upper - S / S Anthony Ellis Bowman RAAF. Age 23 †
  • Rear Gunner - F / S Fredrick James Howlett RAAF. Age 29 †

Four of Colin Richardson's crew were buried at Oxford (Botley) Cemtery, Sgt Gibbons a qualified pilot was flying as F / Eng and is buried at Norton (St Nicholas) Churchyard, Letchworth, F / O Robert Martin RAAF who had served at Tobruk with the Australian Army before transferring for aircrew duty was buried by family members at Sunderland (Southwick) Cemetery and F / S Howlett RAAF is at Cambridge City Cemetery.

Tuesday 10th April 1945. At 10:45 hours the crews at Honeybourne were ordered to prepare to return to East Kirkby about 13:00 hours. The station had already been advised to provide 10 aircraft and crews from each squadron for a night attack. At 11:20 the decision was made to detail experienced crews only and at 12:00 the route was received. Flight planning commenced at 12:10 hours.In an operation in support of ground troops 76 Lancasters and 19 Mosquitoes fo 5 and 8 Groups were sent to attack the Wahren railway marshalling yards near Leipzig. Briefing was held at 16:00 hours for the crews of the 11 aircraft of Six-thirty detailed to participate, their arcraft were each armed with 10 x 1000lb MC bombs.

10th/11th April 1945 Night Bombing Attack on Leipzig-Wahren

Take Off: at 18:20 hours Squadron Leader Marcel Cuelenaere in NG125 was the first off the deck.

  • RF192-A F / O PS Weston RNZAF
  • JB290-C F / O JW Hoare RAAF
  • PD253-D F / O HA Ramsey RNZAF
  • NG125-F S / L MR Cuelenaere RCAF
  • ND412-H F / O LA Barnes
  • NG259-N F / L NG Roberts RAAF 0317
  • PB344-R Lt MT Ackerman SAAF
  • ME739-T F / O AV Cameron RAAF
  • RF122-S F / O RJ Sassoon
  • LM680-Z F / L LF Ovens
  • NN702-J F / L OJS Atkinson RAAF

The outward journey in excellent weather was uneventful but on arrival over the target area lack of flak suggested that fighter activity would be intense. Marking was completed punctually and accurately after which crews were ordered to attack the south western edge of the concentration of red and yellow TI’s. Most crews visually identified the marshalling yards and bombing from 11,200 to 14,000 feet appeared well concentrated with a large explosion at 23:00 hours. The lower level attack was carried out by Neil Roberts and crew who attacked on 3 engines after their starboard inner engine failed. A large number of decoy TI’s were lit by the Germans south of the target. Fighters were active over the target, probably working with the searchlights, but did not seem to follow the main force homeward. Once clear of the target of the 5 Group “rapid let down” to 3,000 feet was deployed again and fighter interference escaped on the route homeward.

Les Ovens crew aboard the brand new “Z-Zebra” (LM680) were unable to attack as its bomb doors would not open after a hydraulics failure. Half of the railway yard was assessed as destroyed.

Harry Ramsay's “D-Dog” (PD253) had received the attentions of German nightfighters, over the target a Fw190 attacked at high speed with machineguns and cannons but with warning given Ramsay was able to throw the Lancaster into a violent corkscrew as Sergeant Matt Barry in the mid-upper turret and Sergeant HL “Mac” McDonald in the rear turret opened fire. The single engined fighter broke up in the air before their eyes. Leaving the target area another Fw190 was sighted, before it could maneuver to attack Matt Barry raked it with machinegun fire and it burst into flames spiraling into the ground where it exploded. Two Fw190’s destroyed within minutes.

The last of the squadron’s crews to return safely was unsurprisingly that of Neil Roberts crew in NG259 “N-Nan” which landed still on three engines at 03:17 hours.

Two of the seven crews who failed to return from the attack were from six-thirty.

Lancaster I, ME739 (codes LE - T)

  • Pilot - F / O Angus Vernon Cameron RAAF. Age 24 Prisoner Of War
  • Flight Eng - Sgt Reginald William Beardwell. Age Prisoner Of War
  • Navigator - Sgt George Stanley W Hooper. Age Prisoner Of War
  • Bomb Aimer - S / S Grenville Gould. Age 22 Evaded
  • Wireless Op - F / S John Edward Hogan RAAF. Age 21 Prisoner Of War
  • Mid Upper - Sgt John Radford Dicken. Age 19 †
  • Rear Gunner - Sgt Gerald George E Bourner. Age 23 Evaded

ME739 crashed at Zwochau just north west of Leipzig and is almost certainly the bomber claimed as shot down by Hauptmann Ernst-Georg Drünkler of 1 / NJG 5 over Leipzig at about 23:05 hours, his 42nd victory. All of the crew balanced out but the Sergeant Dicken’s canopy caught fire and he fell to his death.

Later an American Graves registration unit searching Zwochau for the crew of a missing B-17 located his grave and reburied him at Choloy in France as per the US policy of routinely moving casualties from within Germany for re-burial on friendly soil.

Rear gunner Gerald Bourner, who had celebrated his 23approx birthday just 2 days previously, later recalled that on their bombing run there were sudden loud bangs in “T-Tare” and the fuselage was immediately ablaze. He heard the order to bale out as the flames spread and promptly did so, landing with a thump in a plowed field some time after 23:00 hours. The Bournemouth former draftsman hid his chute in a ditch and headed westwards meeting his bomb aimer Grenville Gould a former engineer from Leamington Spa, as he went. As dawn broke they hid-up in a haystack where they were found by two Polish force laborers who gave them food. Moving on at midday they trudged towards Lansberg where they met two British prisoners of war from a nearby work camp who had been in a working party which had scattered when caught in an air attack and were resting up. Deciding to hide-up in plain sight the two airmen arrange to meet the soldiers that night at the perimeter of their camp, managing to sneak inside where they received military uniform, boots and could be fed. On 13th April the camp was evacuated by the Germans who were unwilling to march far for fear of marching towards the rapidly approaching Russians rather than falling into the hands of US forces. Eventually camping at a farm at Mutzchlena they were liberated by the US Army on 19th April. Grenville Gould recalled that he landed by parachute about 4-5 miles North of Leipzig before 23:30 hours, buried his parachute and harness and walked westwards for about an hour before joining Bourner. Just four days later Angus Cameron celebrated his 25th birthday.

Lancaster I, RF122 (codes LE - S)

  • Pilot - F / O Richard Joseph Sassoon. Age 2 1 †
  • Flight Eng - Sgt Stanley Charles Walton. Age †
  • Navigator - P / O John Hopwood. Age 32 †
  • Bomb Aimer - F / O Patrick Francis Fleming. Age 22 Prisoner Of War
  • Wireless Op - F / S Murray Swanson Munro. Age 24 †
  • Mid Upper - Sgt William Howard Roger Jenkins. Age 22 †
  • Rear Gunner - F / S Ivor Lancelot Lynn. Age 37 Prisoner Of War

RF122 was shot down by a night fighter and crashed at Glebitzsch, 11km eastwards from Bitterfeld where the dead airmen were initially buried, they were later moved to Berlin War Cemetery. It is very possible that Ernst-Georg Drünkler (see above) who is considered to have shot down ME739 next attacked RF122 also shooting that down although the loss might also be attributed to pilots of NJG100 who were also operating in the area and did make claims .

Ivor Lynn was possibly the oldest member of aircrew to serve with 630 Squadron, he was born 5 September 1908 in Newport, Monmouthshire and had been a Brewers Drayman in Oxford prior to joining the RAF. He had previously served in the Tank Corps from 1927 to 1933 including a tour in India with 15/19 Hussars, he’d lied about his age to join up under age. Known as "Pop" to his crew as the result of the age difference he recalled their Lancaster being hit hard in the mid-section from below, the explosion causing his chin to impact the breech of the .303 Browning machineguns in front of him. The force was so great it propelled him up head first through the Perspex which shattered. Fearing possibly being machine gunned in his parachute Lynn delayed deploying his chute on the way down, he saw the Lancaster spiraling down and a lone fighter circling down after it. He sprained his ankle on landing and paused to brush slivers of perspex out from around his neck. Hearing animals running around the field Lynn didn’t move until daylight wary of the possibility of attack dogs and knowing that the live bomb load was still in the plane. Discounting the possibility of evasion due to his damaged ankle Lynn waited for dawn before hobbling into a nearby village on his damaged ankle and surrendered to the postman. He was very fortunate, in multiple incidents captured aircrew were very badly beaten or even lynched by crowds led by local Nazi Party district or block leaders while the authorities turned a blind eye.

"Barney" Barnes had flown the last op of the second half of his tour, which had been delayed for some months after he was shot down over occupied Europe and returned after evading capture. He remained with the squadron until it was disbanded. Post-war he became manager of the Priting Department of Williams & Glyns Bank being awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honors list of 1980 [London Gazette 14 June 1980].

At 10:10 on Wednesday 11th April orders were received for an attack on Leuna / Merseberg to commence at 22:30 hours, the route arrived at 11:10 and flight planning commenced at 14:00 hours. As the first aircraft took off at 17:45 hours a cancellation order was received from SHAEF. At 18:25 that evening a 158 Squadron Halifax code “N” from Lissett which was on an attack against Nuremburg landed at East Kirkby due to a hydraulic leak. The station’s ground crews worked to repair the visitor’s problem. Flying was restricted by several days of cloudy or foggy weather when even the best weather conditions always seemed to include a haze.

Friday 13th April 1945 - a “Raid Assessment Meeting” was held for both 57 and 630 Squadrons in the 630 Squadron Captain's briefing Room ”starting at 09:30 but during this at 10:05 a preliminary warning was received for a Gardening mission in Kiel Bay that night, expected H-hour 22:45 hours. Four of the squadron’s Lancasters (and two of 57’s) were detailed for mining and each armed with 6 x Mk.VI mines. Briefing for Navigators commenced at 14:00 hours, for Captain’s at 14:30 and the main briefing at 15:00 or 16:30 hours by which time H-hour had been amended to 23:30 hours.

13th/14th April 1945 Night Minelaying - Kiel Bay area

Take Off: at 20:30 hours George Cowan and crew in NN774 were the first away from East Kirkby.

  • RA520-E F / O PS Weston RNZAF
  • NN774-L F / O GH Cowan
  • NG123-U W / O R Grange
  • PA266-P F / L NG Roberts RAAF

The crew of “L-Love” had to abort their task over the target area due to faulty H2S equipment however the others successfully laid mines in their allotted positions using H2S and without opposition. The last to return was Neil Roberts ’PA266 at 02:12 hours.

On Sunday 15th April warning was received at 10:20 hours for an attack on Pilsen, expected H-hour at 22:30, but the order was canceled at 16:05 due to poor weather in the target area after completion of the aircrew briefings and five aircraft had to be de-bombed to participate in training flights. On Monday morning the College of Arms returned the crest and motto of 630 Squadron to 5 Group HQ complete with royal approval.

Monday 16th April 1945. At 10:10 hours the squadron was ordered to prepare to attack Pilsen at 22:45 that night, aircraft were to be fueled with 2,000 gallons of fuel, the route was received at 11:35 and flight planning commenced at 13: 00 however an instruction was received to change H-hour to 04:00 so flight planning re-commenced at 16:30 with briefing times adjusted to 20:30 for navigators, and 21:00 for Captain's and main briefing. 5 Group despatched 222 Lancasters and 11 Mosquitoes to attack the railway marshalling yards at Pilsen. 14 aircraft and crews of Six-thirty were detailed to participate in the attack, each was armed with 1 x 4000lb HC and 14 x 500lb AM-N64 bombs,

16th/17th April 1945 Night Bombing Attack on Pilsen

Take Off: at 23:36 hours the first away was RA520 flown by Ken Gibson. Four crews had Second Dickies aboard to gain operational experience.

  • RF192-A F / O PS Weston RNZAF (P / O JT Bignell RAAF)
  • JB290-C F / L JD Richardson RAAF
  • RA520-E F / O KO Gibson
  • NG125-F F / O LM Duggan RAAF
  • ND412-H F / O JW Wallace RNZAF
  • NN702-J F / S RF Mercer
  • LM216-K F / L HF Kirkwood
  • NN774-L F / O LW Jacob RAAF
  • NG413-M F / O HA Ramsey RNZAF (F / O JB Dobbie)
  • NG259-N W / C JE Grindon (F / L J Barnes)
  • PA266-P F / L OJS Atkinson RAAF