This is the first of seven posts about the memoirs of Aimé Thiévin who was a wireless air gunner with 425 Alouette. Of all the research I have done on 425 Alouette Squadron, these seven excerpts seem to be the most realistic account of what these airmen went through during the war. The veterans I have met since 2010 have told similar stories, but never wrote them down. I have written parts of their stories on my blog, but never the whole story.
Last week, both Aimé’s son Denis and his granddaughter Dana left comments on the blog. They both offered pictures and what you are going to read for the next six Sundays on this blog. Some of the pictures are taken from Antoine Brassard’s personal collection, and are shared by his daughter. Most pictures are being shared for the first time.
Danielle, who is a personal friend, wrote a touching homage to her father on November 11, 2012.
Three years later, Tony and Aimé are getting together again for the first time since they said au revoir in 1945.
Aimé Thiévin’s Memoirs – Excerpt 1
Pilot Antoine “Tony” Brassard from Strickland, Ontario
Navigator Johnnie Bourke from Montreal, Quebec
Bomber aimer Louis “Bernie” Bernatchez from Baie-Comeau, Nova Scotia
Wireless air gunner Aimé Thiévin from Benson, Saskatchewan
Mid upper gunner Gérard “Gerry” Lalonde from Valleyfied, Quebec
Rear gunner George “Blondie” Alarie from St. Jerome, Quebec
Flight engineer Sergeant Reginald Fuller, RAF
We were now always to fly together. This we did ending there [No 22 Operational Training Unit at Wellesbourne Mountford] with about 85 hours. We flew Wellingtons and we were there three months.
Here too we had a very nice time and were in a very nice spot in England. Quite in the central part. Stratford-Upon-Avon (Shakespeare’s birthplace) was our nearest town. We all bought a bicycle and went to town every opportunity we had. That was very often. It was only four miles.
collection Antoine « Tony » Brassard
There was a nice river right through town and we could hire boats and use them all day if we chose. We spent most of the time in them as it was the best sport and was ever so peaceful out there on the water with our feet dangling over the side. We had great times. There was a little pub about two miles north of town where we would go for our parties. « The Stag » it was called.
I thought I’d go to Birmingham this time as I’d heard it was a nice place for leave. So I went. It turned out to be very nice and there was a lot to do there. The city itself was quite a bit smaller than London and much neater. There was a very nice dance hall, and while there was nothing else to do, I would go quite often as I enjoyed myself there. During the day and instead of going to dances, I went to shows. Many of them. Sometimes three a day. Leave was just a chance to rest and prepare for more work. And it did good. I slept till noon every day and went either at a show, dance or the pub. The fourteen days there soon went, and once again, I was on the train to my new station. This time, headed for Dalton in Yorkshire. This was just a holding unit where we would be re-posted elsewhere. We were there only two weeks and then posted to a conversion unit. This was our last stage of training before we would actually go on our operations.
CONVERSION UNIT IN DISHFORTH
( from 6 September to 1 November 1944 )
Here, we would fly the big four engine bombers we would use on operations. We had an addition to the crew here. He was the Flight Engineer. An Englishman, Reginald (Reg) Fuller. Although I never did like an Englishman, I got to like Reg very well as he was a very nice fellow. He was also a smart, well-educated man and really knew his stuff.
Once again, we took ground school for two weeks and then began our flying. The work was much easier now as that was all we did. We usually slept in the morning and flew a few hours in the afternoon when the weather was fit. Then, the rest of the time was ours. Anyway, it gave me plenty of time to write my letters and keep my correspondence, so to say. There was always some mail for me. Most everyday. And it was so appreciated and kept me from getting too lonesome.
Our flying consisted of practice bombing and evasive action from fighters. Sometimes, we flew what they called: ‘cross-countries’, which was just a long trip, usually at night, and used navigation only as our guide.
At night, after the letters of the day had been written, we usually took our parcels and made a snack before bed. Each one had his turn at making the supper. But it was always good as we had many kinds of canned meat and fruits. We never went out because it was about 10 miles to the nearest town. There was a station theater with shows every night. So, we went whenever we pleased. We also had a very nice bar in the mess where we spent a lot of time drinking and usually coming in pretty pie-eyed.
However we got to know each other well and to our advantage too as we were to fly together all the time and this, our friendship would be to our advantage. When we finished here we had 14 days leave and each went his way.
collection Antoine « Tony » Brassard
On the last night there, we decided to go to town to a little black market restaurant we knew, for a meal of eggs and ham. We all took the bus and went after having made some arrangements. After supper, which turn out quite good, we all went down to the pub for a bit of celebration. We certainly had a party. Reg did the ‘comedian’ act. What a card he was when he got feeling quite good. We almost split our sides from laughter. When the evening was over we took our bus back and went to bed.
The next morning, we got up, packed up our belongings and loaded them in the truck that was to take us to our next station. We piled in and headed for the No. 425, the Alouette Squadron, where we would at last begin our job.
This was the 1st of November 1944.
The first thing we did was meet the Wing Commander and then the Adjudant. Then we got settled in our new barracks. Our new home it was to be.
In the middle, Tony with Aimé on the right
collection Antoine « Tony » Brassard
That same night [1 November, 1944] Tony was on ops. He had to do one trip with an experienced crew, before he could take his own on operations. Every pilot did this upon arriving at the Squadron*. We were all so excited and went to watch them take off. After they had gone, we went back to the mess where we met most of our old friends we had known at the training stations before. We talked about ops and what it was like to some of the experienced boys and it sounded so fantastic to hear all about their experiences.
The next morning we saw Tony.
collection Antoine « Tony » Brassard
He had done his first trip O.K. and how anxious we were to know all about it and how he had liked it. The following two weeks we did more training in preparation for the real thing coming up. The other boys were on ops almost every day and at that time we had practically no losses
Once in a while one or two crews were missing and as we were getting to know most of the boys on the stations, we felt pretty bad when they went and never returned.
One night [November 15, 1944] when the « Battle Order » came out, there we were listed among those who would be on this next operation (Jülich). Boy, were we excited! We had to go to bed early for an early call the next morning. The Op was to be a daylight. But this made us feel better as we heard they were much easier and we wouldn’t get so nervous as if it had been at night.
We were awakened at four A.M. and told to rush over for breakfast. My heart jumped all over with excitement as I hurriedly ate my breakfast and went down to the Crew Room. Here we were to prepare for the trip and this was called the Briefing. We were shown all our Trip or route and target, also all the tactics which were rules to follow in order to get there and back with the rest. There was a large map of Germany and England on the wall and the route was marked on it with a colored ribbon showing all turning points and courses to follow.
collection Marcel Baillargeon
Each navigator had this marked on his map the same way as it was on the board, therefore there were no errors.
collection Roger St-Amour
We all listened intently as the Intelligence Officer gave us all the details about this certain target its importance etc., and what we could expect in the line of resistance from the enemy. This was all flack guns and fighter stations along the route where we could expect to be fired at or chased by fighter planes.
Then there was Mr. Weatherman who gave us the forecast and weather conditions along the route (usually wrong). And lastly the WingCo. had to read us the tactics and throw in his little line about the whole thing to sort of encourage us I guess.
I was really excited. My heart pounded so fast just to think that today I was actually going on a bombing Trip to Germany, and drop a real load of bombs on a real target. When briefing was finally over, we went into the other room and there awaiting us was tea and sandwiches which we readily ate to hurry and get into flying suits, and get out to our aircraft. The bomb-bays were full of bombs. There was a big 2000lb « Cookie » and the rest composed of smaller ones. We checked everything in the « Kite » and prepared to take off. We even started the motors and checked them and then, when everything was in order, we taxied to take-off point and stopped to wait the signal. There was still a half hour yet before we would leave so we all got out for a smoke. The big shot came around in his car and asked if everything was in order to which we replied all O.K. Then along came the padre, Father Laplante who gave us his blessing and wished us all luck.
collection Jacques P. Lamontagne via Laurent Lamontagne
Ahead and behind us were rows and rows of aircraft all waiting for the last signal.
Then it was time and we all got in and started our motors in preparation to go. The first kite pulled up to the end of the runway. The light from the caravan glowed green and his motors started and he was away! Everyone moved up a few feet and thirty seconds later, the light glowed green again and another one was away. Then another and another till we were next to go. When the light told us it was time we did the same and away we went. Just as Tony saw the green light he notified us with a « Ready for Take-off » and he opened his four motors to their capacity and released the brakes. Down the runway we bounced while the engines roared. Any little thing could happen. If an engine should stop or a tire blow out it meant the end of us all. Especially with this bomb load under us.
But we were soon lifting from the ground and were airborne.
Collection Georges Tremblay via Gerry and Sharon Tremblay
We circled and climbed over base till set-course time. At that time when Johnnie the navigator said it was time–now– we set course for Germany to do our little bit in this devastation. Everywhere we looked in the sky, above, below ahead, behind and on our sides were aircraft. Hundreds of them and all were heading in the same direction.
collection Rodolphe Lafrenière DFC via André Lafrenière
We pushed on. I listened on my radio and got time checks and messages which I passed on to the navigator. In two hours we were crossing the French coast. It hardly seemed believable but there on our starboard was Paris. We could see it so plainly. Pretty soon we were crossing the German boundary. Johnnie told us so. It really wasn’t necessary that he told us as we all knew by the little black puffs of smoke. All deadly flack. Now I really was scared. I didn’t think it would affect me as it did but I tell you I was so scared I couldn’t say a word for a few minutes. I just thought now if one of those millions of shells ever touches us or our bomb load, well—it was no use to think about it. But we steered through. The target was only twelve miles inside of Germany and we soon found it. There it lay ahead of us. Already there were signs of dust and explosions from the aircraft who were already there bombing.
Bernie was in the nose and beginning to give corrections to Tony. We were on the run up to the aiming point « Left left » and then « Right steady » he said and then « Bomb doors open » and Tony pushed the lever that opened the bomb doors. Bernie pressed the button and said with satisfaction, « BOMBS GONE »
Tony on the left with Aimé on the right
collection Antoine « Tony » Brassard
What a relief to know that that deadly load was on its way down and had left us. Still millions of black puffs around us all over but we put on speed and left the place as quickly as we could. Then we were over France again and coming home. Gee but it felt nice to be in safety again. One of our 30 trips was finished. It seemed quite an accomplishment but the future sure looked plenty dull.
* About this mission
Oberhausen: 288 aircraft – 202 Halifaxes, 74 Lancasters, 12 Mosquitos – of 6 and 8 Groups. 3 Halifaxes and 1 Lancaster lost. The target area was cloud-covered and the bombing was not concentrated.49 Mosquitos to Berlin, 12 to Cologne and 4 each to Karlsruhe and Mülheim, 28 RCM sorties, 46 Mosquito patrols, 25 aircraft on Resistance operations. No aircraft lost.
Tony Brassard was flying as a second dicky with pilot Lucien Marcotte DFC.
La traduction de ce premier extrait devrait suivre cette semaine.
About the operations flown by the RAF in November 1944
1 November 1944
226 Lancasters and 2 Mosquitos of No 5 Group, with 14 Mosquitos of No 8 Group attempted to attack the Meerbeck oil plant at Homberg. The marking was scattered and only 159 of the Lancaster crews attempted to bomb. 1 Lancaster lost.
2 RCM sorties, 1 Hudson on a Resistance operation.
1/2 November 1944
Oberhausen: 288 aircraft – 202 Halifaxes, 74 Lancasters, 12 Mosquitos – of 6 and 8 Groups. 3 Halifaxes and 1 Lancaster lost. The target area was cloud-covered and the bombing was not concentrated.
49 Mosquitos to Berlin, 12 to Cologne and 4 each to Karlsruhe and Mülheim, 28 RCM sorties, 46 Mosquito patrols, 25 aircraft on Resistance operations. No aircraft lost.
2 November 1944
184 Lancasters of No 3 Group carried out a G-H attack on the oil plant at Homberg. Large fires and a thick column of smoke were seen. 5 Lancasters lost.
2 Wellingtons flew RCM sorties without loss.
2/3 November 1944
992 aircraft – 561 Lancasters, 400 Halifaxes, 31 Mosquitos – dispatched to Düsseldorf. 11 Halifaxes and 8 Lancasters were lost, 4 of the losses being crashes behind Allied lines in France and Belgium. This heavy attack fell mainly on the northern half of Düsseldorf. More than 5,000 houses were destroyed or badly damaged. 7 industrial premises were destroyed and 18 were seriously damaged, including some important steel firms. This was the last major Bomber Command raid of the war on Düsseldorf.
42 Mosquitos to Osnabrück and 9 to Hallendorf (only 1 aircraft reached this target), 37 RCM sorties, 51 Mosquito patrols. No aircraft lost.
Total effort for the night: 1,131 sorties, 19 aircraft (1.7 per cent) lost.
3 November 1944
1 Wellington flew an RCM sortie and returned safely.
3/4 November 1944
55 Mosquitos to Berlin and 9 to Herford but only 3 aircraft reached Herford. No aircraft lost.
4 November 1944
176 Lancasters of No 3 Group were dispatched to Solingen but the raid was not successful and the bombing was badly scattered. 4 Lancasters lost.
2 Wellingtons and 1 Halifax flew RCM sorties.
4/5 November 1944
Bochum: 749 aircraft – 384 Halifaxes, 336 Lancasters, 29 Mosquitos – of Nos 1, 4, 6 and 8 Groups. 23 Halifaxes and 5 Lancasters were lost; German night fighters caused most of the casualties. No 346 (Free French) Squadron, based at Elvington, lost 5 out of its 16 Halifaxes on the raid. This was a particularly successful attack based upon standard Pathfinder marking techniques. Severe damage was caused to the centre of Bochum. More than 4,000 buildings were destroyed or seriously damaged. Bochum’s industrial areas were also severely damaged, particularly the important steelworks. This was the last major raid by Bomber Command on this target.
Dortmund-Ems Canal: 174 Lancasters and 2 Mosquitos of No 5 Group. 3 Lancasters lost. The Germans had partly repaired the section of the canal north of Münster after the No 5 Group raid in September, so this further attack was required. The banks of both branches of the canal were again breached and water drained off, leaving barges stranded and the canal unusable. A report from Speer to Hitler, dated 11 November 1944, was captured at the end of the war and described how the bombing of the canal was preventing smelting coke from the Ruhr mines reaching 3 important steelworks – 2 near Brunswick and 1 at Osnabrück. In his post-war interrogation, Speer stated that these raids on the Dortmund-Ems Canal, together with attacks on the German railway system, produced more serious setbacks to the German war industry at this time than any other type of bombing.
43 Mosquitos to Hannover and 6 to Herford, 39 RCM sorties, 68 Mosquito patrols. No aircraft lost. The No 100 Group Mosquitos claimed 4 Ju88s and 2 Me110s destroyed and 2 other night fighters damaged, possibly their most successful night of the war.
Total effort for the night: 1,081 sorties, 31 aircraft (2.9 per cent) lost.
5 November 1944
173 Lancasters of No 3 Group carried out a G-H raid on Solingen. 1 Lancaster lost. Results of the raid were not observed, because of the complete cloud cover, but German reports show that this was an outstanding success. Most of the bombing fell accurately into the medium-sized town of Solingen. 1,300 houses and 18 industrial buildings were destroyed and 1,600 more buildings were severely damaged.
1 Wellington flew an RCM sortie and returned safely.
These 3 near-perfect raids in 24 hours – the area-bombing raid on Bochum marked by Pathfinders, the selective attack on the Dortmund-Ems Canal by No 5 Group and the No 3 Group G-H raid on Solingen – are good examples of the versatility and striking power now possessed by Bomber Command. All groups had taken part, dispatching 1,098 sorties and dropping 5,130 tons of bombs accurately on the targets. The loss of 28 bombers from the Bochum raid also shows, however, that the German defences could still be effective.
Solingen – Before and After5/6 November 1944
65 Mosquitos to Stuttgart – in 2 waves – and 6 to Aschaffenburg. No aircraft lost.
6 November 1944
Gelsenkirchen: 738 aircraft – 383 Halifaxes, 324 Lancasters, 31 Mosquitos. 3 Lancasters and 2 Halifaxes lost. This large daylight raid had, as its aiming point, the Nordstern synthetic-oil plant. The attack was not well concentrated but 514 aircraft were able to bomb the approximate position of the oil plant before smoke obscured the ground; 187 aircraft then bombed the general town area of Gelsenkirchen.
1 Wellington flew an RCM sortie.
6/7 November 1944
235 Lancasters and 7 Mosquitos of No 5 Group attempted to cut the Mittelland Canal at its junction with the Dortmund-Ems Canal at Gravenhorst. The marking force experienced great difficulty in finding the target. The crew of a low-flying Mosquito – pilot: Flight Lieutenant LCE De Vigne; navigator: Australian Squadron Leader FW Boyle, No 627 Squadron – found the canal and dropped their marker with such accuracy that it fell into the water and was extinguished. Only 31 aircraft bombed, before the Master Bomber ordered the raid to be abandoned. 10 Lancasters were lost.
128 Lancasters of No 3 Group to the new target of Koblenz, making a night G-H attack. 2 Lancasters lost. This was a successful raid with most of the damage being caused by a large area of fire in the centre of the town. The British Bombing Survey Unit later estimated that 303 acres, 58 per cent of the town’s built-up area, were destroyed.
48 Mosquitos to Gelsenkirchen, 18 to Hannover, 11 to Rheine and 8 to Herford, 32 RCM sorties, 82 Mosquito patrols, 12 Lancasters minelaying off Heligoland. 4 aircraft lost – 1 Mosquito from the Gelsenkirchen raid, 2 Mosquito Intruders and 1 RCM Fortress.
7 November 1944
1 Wellington flew an uneventful RCM sortie.
8 November 1944
136 Lancasters of No 3 Group attacked the Meerbeck oil plant at Homberg. 1 Lancaster lost. The raid opened well and 2 large fires were seen but smoke then concealed the target and later bombing was scattered.
1 Wellington RCM sortie.
8/9 November 1944
59 Mosquitos to Herford and 50 to Hannover, 4 RCM sorties, 24 aircraft on Resistance operations. 2 Stirlings on Resistance work were lost.
9 November 1944
256 Lancasters and 21 Mosquitos of Nos 1 and 8 Groups to attack the Wanne-Eickel oil refinery. Cloud over the target was found to reach 21,000 ft and the skymarkers dropped by the Oboe Mosquitos disappeared as soon as they ignited so the Master Bomber ordered the force to bomb any built-up area. The town of Wanne-Eickel reports only 2 buildings destroyed, with 4 civilians and 6 foreigners killed. It must be assumed that other towns in the Ruhr were hit but no details are available. 2 Lancasters lost.
9/10 November 1944
6 Mosquitos each to Gotha and Pforzheim, 4 to Schwelm (which was not reached) and 3 to Kassel, 22 aircraft of 100 Group on a Window feint to draw up German fighters, 8 Mosquito patrols, 3 Stirlings on Resistance operations. No aircraft lost.
10 November 1944
2 Wellington RCM sorties, 2 Mosquito Rangers. No losses.
10/11 November 1944
59 Mosquitos to Hannover and 4 each to Gotha and Erfurt (Erfurt was not reached), 30 RCM sorties, 40 Mosquito patrols. 1 Mosquito from the Hannover raid was lost.
11 November 1944
122 Lancasters of No 3 Group carried out a G-H attack on the synthetic-oil refinery at Castrop-Rauxel. The bombing was believed to be accurate and no aircraft were lost.
2 Wellington RCM sorties.
11/12 November 1944
Harburg: 237 Lancasters and 8 Mosquitos of No 5 Group. 7 Lancasters lost. The aiming point for this raid was the Rhenania-Ossag oil refinery, which had been attacked several times by American day bombers.
Dortmund: 209 Lancasters and 19 Mosquitos of Nos 1 and 8 Groups. No aircraft lost. The aiming point was the Hoesch Benzin synthetic-oil plant in the Wambel district. A local report confirms that the plant was severely damaged. Other bombs hit nearby housing and the local airfield.
41 Mosquitos to the Kamen oil refinery, 12 to Osnabrück, 9 to Wiesbaden, 6 to Gotha and 3 to Erfurt, 36 RCM sorties, 59 Mosquito patrols, 26 Lancasters and 24 Halifaxes minelaying off Oslo, in the Kattegat and in the River Elbe. No aircraft lost.
12 November 1944
30 Lancasters of Nos 9 and 617 Squadrons and a No 463 Squadron Lancaster with cameramen on board flew from Lossiemouth to attack the Tirpitz, which was still moored near Tromso. The weather was clear. Tirpitz was hit by at least 2 Tallboys and then suffered a violent internal explosion. She capsized to remain bottom upwards – a total loss. Approximately 1,000 of the 1,900 men on board were killed or injured. German fighters which were stationed near by to protect the Tirpitz failed to take off in time and only 1 Lancaster, of No 9 Squadron, was severely damaged, by flak; it landed safely in Sweden with its crew unhurt.
2 RCM sorties, 2 Mosquitos on Ranger patrols. No losses.
13 and 14 November 1944
1 Wellington flew an uneventful signals patrol on each of these days.
15 November 1944
177 Lancasters of No 3 Group carried out a G-H attack on the oil plant at Dortmund. The raid, through thick cloud, was believed to have been accurate. 2 Lancasters lost.
5 RCM sorties, 2 Ranger patrols to the Copenhagen area. No losses.
15/16 November 1944
36 Mosquitos to Berlin, 6 each to Gotha and Wanne-Eickel, 5 to Karlsruhe and 4 to Scholven/Buer, 29 RCM sorties, 30 Mosquito patrols. 1 Mosquito lost from the Berlin raid.
16 November 1944
Bomber Command was asked to bomb 3 towns near the German lines which were about to be attacked by the American First and Ninth Armies in the area between Aachen and the Rhine. 1,188 Bomber Command aircraft attacked Düren, Jülich and Heinsburg in order to cut communications behind the German lines. Düren was attacked by 485 Lancasters and 13 Mosquitos of Nos 1, 5 and 8 Groups, Jülich by 413 Halifaxes, 78 Lancasters and 17 Mosquitos of Nos 4, 6 and 8 Groups and Heinsberg by 182 Lancasters of No 3 Group. 3 Lancasters were lost on the Düren raid and 1 Lancaster on the Heinsberg raid. 1,239 American heavy bombers also made raids on targets in the same area, without suffering any losses. More than 9,400 tons of high-explosive bombs were dropped by the combined bomber forces. The American advance was not a success. Wet ground prevented the use of tanks and the American artillery units were short of ammunition because of supply difficulties. The infantry advance was slow and costly.
18 November 1944
479 aircraft – 367 Halifaxes, 94 Lancasters, 18 Mosquitos – of Nos 4, 6 and 8 Groups to Münster. 1 Halifax crashed in Holland. The raid was not concentrated and bombs fell in all parts of Münster.
3 Halifaxes flew RCM sorties.
18/19 November 1944
Wanne-Eickel: 285 Lancasters and 24 Mosquitos of Nos 1 and 8 Groups. 1 Lancaster lost. The intention of the raid was to hit the local oil plant. Large explosions seemed to erupt in the plant and post-raid reconnaissance showed that some further damage was caused to it. The local report does not mention the oil plant but states that the Hannibal coal mine was destroyed.
31 Mosquitos to Wiesbaden (a ‘spoof’ raid), 21 to Hannover and 6 to Erfurt, 29 RCM sorties, 44 Mosquito patrols. No aircraft lost.
19 November 1944
1 Hudson Resistance flight.
20 November 1944
183 Lancasters of No 3 Group made a G-H attack on the oil plant at Homberg but the weather was stormy and many aircraft were not able to maintain formation with the G-H aircraft on the bombing run. The bombing, through cloud, was believed to have been scattered. 5 Lancasters lost.
3 RCM sorties, 2 Mosquito Ranger patrols, 3 Hudsons on Resistance operations. No aircraft lost.
20/21 November 1944
43 Lancasters of No 8 Group made an unusual Pathfinder solo raid on Koblenz without loss. The purpose of the raid was not recorded. It is possible that either the large road and rail bridges over the Rhine and Mosel or the local railway yards were the targets. Only high-explosive bombs were carried. Koblenz was completely covered by cloud and all bombing was by H2S from 15,000 ft. The local report states that some bombs fell in the town, blocking several roads and railways and scoring hits on a road and a rail bridge, although these remained usable.
63 Mosquitos to Hannover, 14 each to Homberg and Castrop-Rauxel oil plants and 9 to Eisenach, 17 RCM sorties, 17 Mosquito patrols. No aircraft lost.
21 November 1944
160 Lancasters of No 3 Group to attack the Homberg oil refinery. 3 Lancasters lost. The bombing was scattered at first but then became very concentrated, culminating, according to the Bomber Command report, in ‘a vast sheet of yellow flame followed by black smoke rising to a great height’. This was a very satisfactory raid after several previous attempts by Bomber Command to destroy this oil refinery.
2 Wellingtons on RCM sorties.
21/22 November 1944
This was a night of mainly good visibility in which Bomber Command operations were directed strictly according to priorities given in recent directives.
Aschaffenburg: 274 Lancasters and 9 Mosquitos of Nos 1 and 8 Groups. 2 Lancasters lost. The object of this raid was to destroy the local railway yards and lines. The local report says that 50 bombs fell in the railway area, causing much damage to the marshalling yards and railway workshops but the: main through lines were not cut. Many other bombs fell in the centre and north of the town. About 500 houses were destroyed and 1,500 seriously damaged. Many old buildings were hit, including the local castle, the Johannisburg, which was hit by 5 high-explosive bombs and had a 4,000lb ‘blockbuster’ burst near by; the roof and upper storeys of the castle were burnt out.
Castrop-Rauxel: 273 aircraft – 176 Halifaxes, 79 Lancasters, 18 Mosquitos – of Nos 1, 6 and 8 Groups. 4 Halifaxes lost. The target was the oil refinery. The local report says that 216 high-explosive bombs, 78 duds and many incendiaries hit the oil plant and caused such a large fire that the fire-fighters could do little more than allow it to burn itself out. It is believe that the refinery produced no more oil after this raid. Bombs fell in many other places, including some important industrial and coal-mining premises.
Sterkrade: 270 aircraft – 232 Halifaxes, 20 Mosquitos, 18 Lancasters – of 4 and 8 Groups. 2 Halifaxes lost. The target was again the synthetic-oil refinery. Bomber Command’s report says that the plant was not damaged, though some labour barracks near by were hit.
Mittelland Canal: 138 Lancasters and 6 Mosquitos of No 5 Group. 2 Lancasters lost. The canal banks were successfully breached near Gravenhorst. Later photographs showed that water drained off over a 30 mile stretch and that 59 barges were stranded on one short section alone.
Dortmund-Ems Canal: 123 Lancasters and 5 Mosquitos of No 5 Group. No aircraft lost. The canal near Ladbergen was attacked, some of the Lancasters coming down to 4,000ft to get beneath the cloud. A breach was made in the only branch of the aqueduct here which had been repaired since the last raid and the water once again drained out of the canal.
29 Mosquitos to Stuttgart, 26 to Hannover, 19 to Worms and 4 to Wesel, 38 RCM sorties, 80 Mosquito patrols, 24 Halifaxes and 18 Lancasters minelaying off Oslo, 9 aircraft on Resistance operations. 4 aircraft were lost – 2 Mosquitos and 1 Halifax of No 100 Group and 1 Lancaster from the minelaying force.
Total effort for the night: 1,345 sorties, 14 aircraft (1.0 per cent) lost.
Mitteland Canal Breached
22 November 1944
1 Wellington RCM sortie and 1 Hudson Resistance flight. No losses.
The Fellowship of the Bellows22/23 November 1944
171 Lancasters and 7 Mosquitos of No 5 Group were dispatched to attack the U-boat pens at Trondheim but the target was covered by a smoke-screen and the Master Bomber ordered the raid to be abandoned after the illuminating and marking force had been unable to find the target. 2 Lancasters and 1 Mosquito lost.
17 Lancasters minelaying off Heligoland and in the mouth of the River Elbe without loss.
23 November 1944
168 Lancasters of No 3 Group carried out a G-H raid through cloud on the Nordstern oil plant at Gelsenkirchen. The bombing appeared to be accurate. 1 Lancaster lost.
4 Mosquitos on Ranger patrols in the Heligoland area, 1 Hudson on a Resistance operation. No aircraft lost.
23/24 November 1944
61 Mosquitos to Hannover, 9 to Eisenach and 6 each to Gottingen and Hagen, 43 aircraft of No 100 Group on RCM and Mosquito operations (separate figures not available). 1 Mosquito lost from the Hannover raid.
24 November 1944
1 Wellington RCM sortie and 1 Hudson Resistance flight.
24/25 November 1944
58 Mosquitos to Berlin and 6 to Gottingen, 13 Halifaxes minelaying off Denmark. No aircraft lost.
25/26 November 1944
68 Mosquitos to Nuremberg, 10 to Hagen and 9 each to Erfurt and Stuttgart, 36 RCM sorties, 38 Mosquito patrols. 1 Mosquito lost from the Nuremberg raid.
26 November 1944
75 Lancasters of No 3 Group were sent on a trial raid to attack the railway centre at Fulda to establish whether G-H signals could reach to this distance, 160 miles from the German frontier. The distance was too great, however, and the bombs were scattered over a wide area. No aircraft lost.
1 Hudson flew a Resistance operation.
26/27 November 1944
Munich: 270 Lancasters and 8 Mosquitos of No 5 Group. 1 Lancaster crashed in France. Bomber Command claimed this as an accurate raid in good visibility with much fresh damage, particularly to railway targets. It has not been possible to obtain a local report.
7 Mosquitos to Erfurt and 6 to Karlsruhe (a ‘spoof’ raid), 20 RCM sorties, 20 Mosquito patrols, 31 aircraft on Resistance operations. 1 Intruder Mosquito was lost and 1 Hudson on a Resistance flight crashed behind Allied lines in Belgium.
27 November 1944
169 Lancasters of No 3 Group carried out a G-H raid on the Kalk Nord railway yards at Cologne. Good results were observed. 1 Lancaster lost.
27/28 November 1944
341 Lancasters and 10 Mosquitos of Nos 1 and 8 Groups despatched to Freiburg. 1 Lancaster lost. Freiburg was not an industrial town and had not been bombed before by the RAF It was attacked on this night because it was a minor railway centre and because many German troops were believed to be present in the town; American and French units were advancing in the Vosges, only 35 miles to the west. The marking of the medium-sized town was based on Oboe directed from caravans situated in France. Flak defences were light and 1,900 tons of bombs were dropped on Freiburg in 25 minutes. Photographs showed that the railway targets were not hit but that the main town area was severely damaged.
290 aircraft – 173 Halifaxes, 102 Lancasters, 15 Mosquitos – of Nos 1, 6 and 8 Groups to Neuss. 1 Mosquito lost. The central and eastern districts of Neuss were heavily bombed and many fires were started.
67 Mosquitos to Berlin, 7 each to Hallendorf and Ludwigshafen and 5 to Nuremberg, 35 RCM sorties, 61 Mosquito patrols, 18 Halifaxes and 12 Lancasters minelaying off Danish and Norwegian coasts. No aircraft lost.
Total effort for the night: 853 sorties, 2 aircraft (0.2 per cent) lost.
28/29 November 1944
Essen: 316 aircraft – 270 Halifaxes, 32 Lancasters, 14 Mosquitos – of Nos 1, 4 and 8 Groups. No aircraft lost. Bomber Command documents claim further damage to industrial areas, including the Krupps works. An interesting little item in the local fire brigade report congratulates the team working in the burning headquarters of the local Gestapo for saving valuable documents.
145 Lancasters of No 3 Group and 8 Lancasters of No 1 Group carried out a mainly G-H attack on Neuss. No aircraft lost.
75 Mosquitos to Nuremberg and 9 to Hallendorf, 35 RCM sorties, 3 Mosquito patrols. 1 Mosquito lost from the Nuremberg raid.
Total effort for the night: 623 sorties, 1 aircraft (0.2 per cent) lost.
29 November 1944
Dortmund: 294 Lancasters and 17 Mosquitos of Nos 1 and 8 Groups. 6 Lancasters lost. Bad weather caused the marking and resultant bombing to be scattered but fresh damage was caused in Dortmund.
30 Mosquitos of No 8 Group attempted to bomb a tar and benzol plant in the Meiderich district of Duisburg, using the Oboe-leader method for the first time on a German target, but 2 of the 3 formations of Mosquitos failed to link up with their Oboe leaders and bombed on timed runs from the docks south of Duisburg. Most of the bombs were believed to have fallen beyond the target. No Mosquitos lost.
1 Hudson flew a Resistance operation.
29/30 November 1944
67 Mosquitos to Hannover and 4 to Bielefeld, 27 RCM sorties, 38 Mosquito patrols, 19 aircraft on Resistance operations. 6 Mosquitos of No 5 Group to lay mines in the River Weser were unable to carry out the operation because of 10/10ths cloud over the target area. No aircraft lost.
30 November 1944
60 Lancasters of No 3 Group attacked a coking plant at Bottrop without loss.
60 Lancasters of No 3 Group attacked a benzol plant at Osterfeld. 2 Lancasters lost.
39 Mosquitos of No 8 Group attacked the oil plant at Meiderich without loss.
30 November/1 December 1944
Duisburg: 576 aircraft – 425 Halifaxes, 126 Lancasters, 25 Mosquitos – of Nos 1, 4, 6 and 8 Groups. 3 Halifaxes lost. The target area was completely cloud-covered and the attack was not concentrated but much fresh damage was still caused.
53 Mosquitos to Hamburg and 7 to Hallendorf, 88 aircraft of No 100 Group on RCM and Mosquito operations (separate figures not available), 9 aircraft on Resistance operations. 1 Intruder Mosquito lost.
Total effort for the night: 733 sorties, 4 aircraft (0.5 per cent) lost.
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