Australians Bomb Germany - Newspaper Report Argus December 1943 Part 1

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  1. diversdream

    diversdream Member

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    (Original Available on 463/467 RAAF Squadron Website, other Reserch own work)

    From Our London Editor AWV King.

    BOMBER STATION

    SOMEWHERE IN ENGLAND

    3 December 1943.

    Superb in the savage beauty of its light, but terrifying as a spectacle of devastation by explosive and burning, was the scene in a portion of Berlin as it appeared last night from a Lancaster of one of the Australian bomber squadrons in which I flew.

    Hundreds of searchlights probed the skies and coned several bombers.

    “Scarecrow” flares soared up and burst into a cascade of light which turned night into day.

    Other flares broke into ominous red and green orbs, and flak burst in angry blobs around us.

    The skies over the target were indeed in turmoil, but the target area itself was in even greater turmoil as 4000lb bombs, “cookies”, smashed amid the built-up area and thousands of incendiaries cascaded down and took a hold among the blocks of buildings in fantastic alphabetical designs.

    Symbolic of the purpose of the attacks, one of the early strings of incendiaries flared up in an almost perfect V - for victory.

    Other strings formed “I’s”, “T’s”, and “L’s.

    The “cookies” exploded in seemingly slow mushroom-like glows.

    They burned a dull red for some time, and then died in plumes of smoke.

    The pilot of the crew with whom I flew was Squadron-Leader William A Forbes RAAF, an old man at 23, whose parents live at Hornsby, and his wife lives at Bundaberg.
    The Flight-engineer was Pilot Officer Frank Miller, of Laidley, near Brisbane .
    The others comprised two Scots, two Englishmen, and a Canadian.
    They were doing their 27th operation together, and their Lancaster ‘G’ for George its eleventh.

    It had not been scarred, not even scratched on its previous 10 sorties, which were represented on the fuselage, not by orthodox bomb replicas but by foaming mugs of beer.

    “Why that symbol”, I asked Sergeant Laurie Parker, of Bundaberg, one of the ground crew, when I was standing to board “George”.

    Parker grinned, “Trips to the Land of Mugs - big mugs”, he said, laconically.

    Typically the Aussie sense of humour that is lost on the rest of the world.

    The experienced crew brought “George” efficiently and uneventfully past heavily defended areas on the way to the “King of Targets”.

    Then the crux of the tense drama began.

    Cloud protected us practically the whole way.

    Then, 10 miles from the target, it became wispy.

    Visibility was perfect over the target itself.

    But if the break in the clouds made the job easier for the bombaimers, it enabled the defenders to concentrate hundreds of searchlights and light and heavy flak against the raiders, The Germans used all their defensive devices but we saw one raider perfectly coned in search lights without fighters attacking it or flak directed at it.

    CONFUSION OF COLOURS

    “George” was among the first waves of bombers over the target, which had been defined with remarkable clarity by the Pathfinder force a few minutes earlier with target-indicators of different colours.

    The bombaimers’ particular objective stood out like beacons amid a confusion of colours.

    From the time we sighted them, about 10 miles out, until we passed beyond them was the most exciting ten minutes through which I have lived.
    The two central figures in that brief period were Forbes and the bomb-aimer, Pilot Officer William Grime, of Ealing, London , two “bills” who co-operatively directed and instructed each other over the intercom phones.

    I stood behind the imperturbable Forbes and watched the fascinatingly fantastic scene over his shoulder.

    As soon as he sighted his target indicators, for which he was on the lookout, Forbes asked Grime whether he had seen them.
    Grime answered confidently in the affirmative and then gave the pilot a slight alteration of course, adding:

    “You can weave a bit, Bill”.

    Bill Forbes weaved to lessen the danger from flak, but it was only for seconds.
    Then Forbes settled down to hold his plane to the level, undeviating run so essential for accurate bombing.
     
  2. diversdream

    diversdream Member

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    FLAK FAILS TO DISTURB “GEORGE”

    Flak poured upwards, though none burst close enough to “George” to threaten the crew’s safety.

    But these were those few seconds which bomber crews dread and against which they must summon up all their courage, determination, and imperturbability, a few seconds in which they never know whether the next flak burst is going to extinguish their life, smash their limbs, cripple their plane, or whether they will slip past the German gunners.

    The flak, to the uninitiated reporter, seemed desperately dangerous, but according to “George’s” veteran crew of youngsters, it “wasn’t much”.

    Whether heavy or light it failed to disturb “George’s” steady bombing run.

    Over the intercom, from the bombaimer’s compartment came Grime’s calm voice:

    “Bomb doors open”, magic words that thrill even the most hardened crews.

    “Okay”, came back from Forbes.

    Seconds passed.
    Then, from Grime came the even more magic words, in his unruffled voice:

    “Cookie gone”, “Okay”, came from the equally unruffled Forbes.

    I counted slowly to myself ....

    one, two, three, four, five.

    Then Grime again spoke: “Incendiaries gone”.

    “Okay”, came back from Forbes.

    We had delivered, free of charge, to Hitler and company, a 4,000lb building-blaster and morale-shaker, and many fire-raisers.

    This was the climax of the flight.

    Almost four hours from base to target.

    Down below - four miles below - early comers had already started fires, and our waves stoked them thoroughly.

    As they lightened “George”, I

    - the spare part on the plane-

    had the best opportunity to watch those fires increase in numbers, and from a band seemingly join in an immense conflagration.
    Amidst them glowed “cookies” , angry explosions like boils on white flesh.
    Some billowed and grew in volume above the flames.

    Below “George” another Lancaster nosed forward, silhouetted sinisterly against the flaming background like a shark in an aquarium pool.

    It was not without cost that the inferno in Berlin ’s heart was lit, three flak bursts seemed simultaneously to hit one Lancaster and it burst into flames.

    Another seemed to get into difficulties and later several parachutes could be seen floating down.

    For many miles beyond Berlin’s outskirts the flames and their reflections in the sky could be seen.

    The later waves had done their work as efficiently as the early comers.

    All the bombing was completed in less than a quarter of an hour.

    Forbe’s crew compelled my admiration with their thoroughness, confidence, and attention to their duties.

    Typical of "George" crew’s keenness and efficiency was the work of the navigator, Pilot Officer James Robertson, a likable young Scot from Elgin, who, cooped up in a cramped compartment, poured over maps, made calculations and kept “George” on the course and brought the aircraft to the right places at the right times.

    Another Scot, Sergeant Willie McLeod, of Ardrishaig (Argyllshire) tended the radio instruments with loving care and enlivened the intercom conversations with his broad accent.

    PRAISE FOR “GEORGE.

    One must not forget in telling this drama of the skies one other actor, “G for George”, who carried us without a hitch.

    Every crew which flies “George” worships him.

    He bears a charmed life.

    His engines for seven hours last night did not miss a beat.
    The 5000 horses in them gave unstintingly of their power.
    His body protected us in a temperature of -70 deg.F. below.
    He gave us all the shelter and usefulness a good bomber should.

    If emphasis is given to the drama’s climax, both the earlier and later acts had fascinating features.

    From the time Squadron Leader Forbes, having moved “George” along the runway, asked “All set? Okay, here we go”, and without hesitation gathered taxiing speed and became smoothly airborne until wheels touched down, new and absorbing experiences jostled one another for this reporter.

    FLYING HIGH

    We set off with a sliver of the blood red sun sitting prettily on top of a bank of slate-grey clouds.
    We soared up over lovely English fields, and as we gained height “George’s” occupants busied themselves in the settling process.
    Forbes completed odds and ends of instructions and checking necessary for success.
    Everything was shipshape in five minutes.

    “George” began a steady climb which was to take us into the high region in which the crew had been instructed to fly.
    There was little sensation of flying.
    “George” was as steady as the deck of an ocean liner in a smooth sea.

    The moon shone on a weird and wonderful cloudland far below, like a crumpled snowfield.
    Now and again we saw other bombers, all, like “George”, pursuing height.
    The oxygen was turned on after half an hour and we wore masks like characters in a Wellsian fantasy.

    For six hours the crew was silently intent for long periods because Forbes, like all good skippers, dislikes intercom “chatter”, which some film producers have romanticised.

    Miller confided presently that the temperature was minus 20 degrees centigrade.

    The flight proceeded without incident until we crossed the coast into enemy-occupied country, where the first flak feebly challenged us, doing service in breaking the monotony, which is one of a bomber crew’s most insidious enemies.

    The crew kept an anxious and intent watch against collision with other bombers in the cloud masses through which we passed.
    Occasionally they reported sighting other kites we knew to be bombers from dozens of stations linking up in the large attacking force - a real bombers’ procession to Berlin.

    SPECTACLE IN CLOUDS

    Orange-red flak-bursts studded the clouds from time to time along the route, but it remained for a strongly defended area to provide the most remarkable spectacle of the outward journey.

    A thick cloudbank interposed itself between “George”, and the ground.

    Eighty or 100 searchlights, ranged in rows with almost geometrical precision, probed through our protecting cover, but failed to penetrate it.
    The searchlights’ crests seemed to squat on top of the clouds like large diamonds on a black cushion in a jeweller’s shop.

    This area sent up more flak.

    We picked up markers which our Pathfinders had laid for us, and saw the first of the lanes of red fighter flares which recently became a feature of Germany’s aircraft defences.

    Soon after passing this strongly defended area our run into Berlin began.

    On our homeward journey, flak gave us a nasty three or four minutes with several bursts sufficiently close beneath “George” to set it tossing resentfully.

    On the rest of the homeward trip it was sheer monotony, in complete cloud, until the last half-hour, in which we descended into clearer levels.

    Then came the thrill of the aerodrome’s welcoming lights, and after circling it several times to allow earlier arrivals to land, “George” touched down as smoothly as it had left, and at least I breathed a sigh of happy relief, despite the thrills of an experience I would never have missed.

    SAFELY HOME

    All the crews of the two Australian Lancaster Squadrons at this Station returned safely, although one very popular pilot caused anxiety when he was not reported for an hour.
    He had been diverted to another aerodrome. (P/O CI Reynolds RAAF- landed at RAF Fiskerton).

    All the crews had experiences similar to that of “George”, although one reported seeing six fighters simultaneously and another had the rear gunner wounded by flak.

    Forbes was acting Squadron Commander.

    Other pilots in his Squadron operating included Flying Officer IG Durston RAAF, who completed his 18th operation; Pilot Officer HSL Crouch RAAF (Pymble Sydney), who completed his 17th operation; and Flight Sergeant SC Grugeon RAAF (Manly Sydney).

    The other RAAF Squadron was commanded by Wing Commander Rollo Kingsford-Smith RAAF.
    It was in action for the first time on 26 November 1943 and is still being built up.
    It operated with fewer planes last night than the older Squadron, which is establishing a remarkable record.

    Note:
    The wartime security defined that the “Bomber Station Somewhere in England” was the only address allowable.
    It refers to the Airstation RAF Waddington, near Lincoln, England, where the two Australian Lancasters Squadrons, 463 RAAF and 467 RAAF were established in November 1943.
    467 RAAF Squadron moved in from RAF Bottesford on 12 November 1943 and 463 RAAF Squadron was formed from it’s “C” Flight on 25 November 1943.

    Later Killed on Ops and Mentioned Above -

    F/L Ivan Durston DFC RAAF (Pilot), 28/29 January 1944 Aged 32 (No Survivors from Aircrew), His DFC being Presented to his Father Mr HC Durston on 8 March 1946 at Parliment House in Brisbane Australia.
    8 Airman on Board.

    W/C William Alexander Forbes DSO DFC RAAF (Pilot), 21/22 Febuary 1945 Aged 25 (5 POWs 3 Killed - 3 Air Gunners on board)

    Sgt Lawrence (Laurie) Maurice Parker RAAF - Ground Crew, Killed 4 December 1943 Aged 25, when Lancaster JB140 (G-George as Described Above) on take-off lost two engines and the aircraft swung off the runway, crashing into a party of groundcrew watching the take-off beside the runway.

    F/O W (Wily) Mcleod RAF, 21/22 Febuary 1945 Age not Recorded Still with Bill Forbes.

    F/O Colin Irwin Reynolds RAAF (Pilot), 5/6 January 1944, Aged 31 (1 POW 6 Killed)

    P/O Stephen Charles Grugeon RAAF (Pilot), 27/28 January 1944 Aged 22 (7 Killed)

    Other Airman Mentioned -

    F/L Francis George (Frank) Miller RAAF - Survived War

    F/L WJO (William) Grime RAF POW 21 Febuary 1945 still flying with Bill Forbes RAAF, Survived War

    S/L Henry (Harry) Stuart Lindsay Crouch DFC RAAF Survived War

    W/C Rollo Kingsford-Smith DSO DFC RAAF Survived War
     
  3. diversdream

    diversdream Member

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    Mislac Bombing Picks that Suit Above
     

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  4. Wildcat

    Wildcat Well-Known Member

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    A very interesting read Stephan. Thanks for sharing mate.
     
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