Monday, 14 July 2014

NIGHT BOMBERS RAF HEMSWELL LINCOLNSHIRE 1943

On Saturday we drove to Wickenby Airfield, near Lincoln, as we have done before a few times.

This was once the home of two RAF bomber command squadrons: 12 and 626.  Lancaster bombers were housed and flown from RAF Wickenby during WW2 and from other airfields nearby.  Lincolnshire was known as Bomber County in those 1940s wartime days. 

RAF Hemswell was another bomber station not far away. It was here that a unique film was made, in colour, of the preparation for a night-time raid on Berlin by 40 Lancaster bombers and their crew of seven courageous men.

We all know much about the Spitfire and Hurricane fighters and rightly so.  These pilots undoubtedly deserve all the praise heaped upon them by Winston Churchill and others and I used to watch their vapour-trailing 'dog-fights' when I was a kid, but when one sees what these bomber crews went through I am overcome by emotion and pride. 

This 60 minute film is quite outstanding. Even if you have no connection with the war or the RAF it's so informative as to be un-missable in my opinion.  The average lifetime of a Lancaster bomber and crew was about 40 flying hours. Thousands were built and thousands were destroyed.  Only two survive in the UK, only one of those is still flying.

Here's the link: https://archive.org/details/NIGHT-BOMBERS

15 comments:

Shadow said...

I shall take the time to watch this at home. WW2 history is fascinating to me, no matter the aspect thereof.

PhilipH said...

Thanks; good to see you again. I think this unique film shows what these young guys went through every time they boarded these huge airplanes. Courage and determination, never knowing what was in store for them, is beyond belief. Per Ardua ad Astra "through adversity to the Stars" - a fitting motto for the RAF then, and now.

DUTA said...

Thanks for your kind oment on my last post.

It's interesting to watch the night bombers' video with its various stages: preparation of aircraft and bombs, the briefing of all people involved, the bombers' take off...
The people behind the bombing operation look so cool, so british, and so efficient!

Thank you for sharing.

DUTA said...

Sorry for the typo in the first sentence ; it should be 'comment' not 'oment'.

PhilipH said...

Yes Duta, there was so much more to these bombing raids than just flying these monster aircraft. What a huge pity that this was necessary in the first place as so many innocents on each side were the collateral damage, to use an awful American term.

Snowbrush said...

Being a member of a bomber crew was hell no matter no matter what said you were on, but none had it so bad as those Lancaster crews. Speaking of, are you familiar with the bouncing barrels of explosives that they lobbed against Nazi dams?

PhilipH said...

Yes Snowy, I live near RAF Scampton which was their squadron base and a great film was made of this dambuster raid and Barnes Wallis 'bouncing bomb' = very brave lads, the bravest imo.

Snowbrush said...

I saw that film plus a documentary about the dam bombing. I loved those big Lancasters. Maybe I'll get to see one someday. I thought the American air crew death rate was horrific, but then I learned that Britain sent it crews on about twice the number of mission, and in planes that were less equipped to defend themselves. This made death a near certainty.

PhilipH said...

Hi Snowy.
The bomber boys paid a very high price in this war of attrition. I cannot believe how so many of them faced up to it night after bloody night.
Some chaps lost their nerve and were labelled LMF (Lack of Moral Fibre)- a terrible accusation and totally uncalled for.
How could these nervous wrecks be accused of cowardice, which was what LMF really meant.
These guys were expected to face a minimum 30 operations or 'missions' and in the knowledge that the average 'life' of a Lancaster crew was 7 missions. Average age 22. Little training for their tasks because the need to fill the voids left by the heavy loss of crews was desperate.
I salute every one of these men, including those who earned the LMF tag.

Snowbrush said...

The difference the RAF crews and the Japanese suicide bombers almost seems negligible except for the fact that the Japanese only had to be terrified for one mission. I can see the need, but to make a task so dangerous that no one can expect to survive seems horribly sad, and to think that they weren't even issued parachutes so that they might at least have a chance of surviving. It's hard for me to see it any other way than the British high command didn't hold those men's lives to be important enough to make even minimal efforts to protect them. I mean, really, no armor on themselves or the plane, no guns to shoot back with, no parachutes, and four times the expected number of missions that would be enough to get them killed. I'm reminded of the commanders in WWI who sent men into the face of machine guns over and over and over.

PhilipH said...

Entirely agree about the way those 'in charge' of WW1 and WW2 paid no heed to the lives of the men and women forced to expose themselves to suicidal commands. Going 'over the top' in the trenches in WW1 or facing death in the skies in WW2 were similar; there was no choice, they just had to do what they were ordered to do. What was so repugnant in WW1 was the execution of those men who disobeyed the 'rules' of war. Refusing an order, cowardice, or whatever meant facing a firing squad manned by friends and comrades! Obey and get slaughtered or disobey and get slaughtered: some choice!
Currently reading a book "Men of Air" which tells the story of men who survived these bomber missions, in their own words. One chap was shot down during a raid on Leipzig in 1944. This large industrial target took a huge battering by both RAF and the 8th Air Force of America and the civilians of Leipzig were understandably traumatized by this blitz. The chap who was shot down was dragged through the streets of Leipzig and witnessed about six or seven airmen hanged from the lampposts and he was lucky to escape similar treatment. The stuff of nightmares.

Snowbrush said...

I thought maybe this post was one I had missed, but I didn't. I just love those old bombers and the stories thereof. I'm horrified by what they did, but I know that it was considered vital to the safety of the country, and, given that, I know I would have done the same if I had the courage. I once read a book about courage under fire, and it made the point that it wasn't so much a case of courage to go into battle but an even greater fear of not going. As a social species, most of us fear censure by our comrades more than we fear death. I really hope you'll read The Dog Who Could Fly because you're a Brit, a dog lover, and someone with an appreciation of that era. It's as well-written as they come.

PhilipH said...

Hi Snowy. Yes, the Czec aircrews of WW2 were brave and dedicated people and the story you mention is one that I may chase up some time later. I am in the throes of moving house! HORRORS, but on 21st Nov we shall be moving on. Not far, just a few miles, but it is a stressful time.

The dog in your book is the same one as in War Dog, by the same author of course. The Dog Who Could Fly is available only from the USA but War Dog is a UK book.

Antis, a German Shepherd pup who flew with his master on bombing missions (Lancasters) is one of quite a few squadron dogs, one of the most famous here in England was 'Nigger' a black Labrador, the mascot of 617 squadron, the Dambusters, owned by Winco Guy Gibson. There are so many tales of RAF courage, bravery and endurance and they are all true as far as I know. 'Men of Air' is one I've recently enjoyed and it's factual accounts of scores of Lancaster crew members, collected by a dedicated author.
In 1994 I typed up the manuscript of Flt. Lt. Ken Whittle who flew over 70 missions from 1940 thru to the end of the war. He lived nearby and was seeking a volunteer to convert his hand-written records to type-script. I spent about six months at this task and my only disappointment was that Ken had to pay a publisher to take his book on. Sadly Ken died a few months after his book was launched at RAF Museum Hendon, struck down by pancreatic cancer. He was a 'Wop/AG' - a wireless operator/air-gunner. I still have the book he gave me: "An Electrician Goes to War" with the signature of his first crew of his Blenheim Bomber days. It was great that these three men met up again in 1994, more than 50 years since their first meeting.

They all began their RAF days as the lowest form of animal life in the RAF: AC2s (Aircraftman Second Class). After their initial training the Air Ministry issued an order that all such aircrew were to be promoted to Sergeant! This did not go down too well with the old sweats who has spent years to reach this rank, but I guess it was thought few of these sprog aircrew would survive very long. Eventually, all three were elevated to the officer class with one of them becoming a squadron leader (McPhee, a pilot) and the other two rose to Flight Lieutenants.

Ken's story was typical of so many airmen, surviving not only the air battles, flak attacks etc., but the freezing conditions they underwent in ill-equipped aircraft in those days. These bomber boys had to go through such terrible times, and keep on and on going through them, it beggars belief.

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Saya sangat bersyukur atas rahmat yg diberikan kepada saya dibulan ini karna alhamdulillah melalui MBAH RAWAIRE saya sekaran sudah bisa sukses atas nomor yg diberikan kepada saya dan saya yg dulunya cuma seorang TKW dari singapur yg gajinya tidak pernah mencukupi kebutuhan keluarga saya dikampun dan alhamdulillah berkat bantuan MBAH RAWAIRE kini saya sudah bisa pulang kampun,saya bersama keluarga dikampun sudah punya usaha sendiri dan saya tidak pernah menyanka kalau saya bisah seperti ini,jika anda ingin seperti saya silahkan hubungi MBAH RAWAIRE di nomor 085-316-106-111...karna alhamdulillah saya menan nomor togel dari MBAH dan kalau uang indonesia 750 juta,,ini bukan rekayasa dari saya dari IBU RISKA.untuk lebih lenkapnya silahkan buka SITUS MBAH RAWAIRE

pak slemett said...

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saya PAK SLEMET posisi sekarang di malaysia
bekerja sebagai BURU BANGUNAN gaji tidak seberapa
setiap gajian selalu mengirimkan orang tua
sebenarnya pengen pulang tapi gak punya uang
sempat saya putus asah dan secara kebetulan
saya buka FB ada seseorng berkomentar
tentang AKI NAWE katanya perna di bantu
melalui jalan togel saya coba2 menghubungi
karna di malaysia ada pemasangan
jadi saya memberanikan diri karna sudah bingun
saya minta angka sama AKI NAWE
angka yang di berikan 6D TOTO tembus 100%
terima kasih banyak AKI
kemarin saya bingun syukur sekarang sudah senang
rencana bulan depan mau pulang untuk buka usaha
bagi penggemar togel ingin merasakan kemenangan
terutama yang punya masalah hutang lama belum lunas
jangan putus asah HUBUNGI AKI NAWE 085-218-379-259
tak ada salahnya anda coba
karna prediksi AKI tidak perna meleset
saya jamin AKI NAWE tidak akan mengecewakan