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Bomber Command vs the V1s

Don’t forget the bomber boys.

Last night, 80 years ago, Bomber Command carried out a mass attack against German V1 flying bomb launch sites in northern France – in direct defence of the London and the south-east of England. 739 aircraft took part, and the Luftwaffe nightfighters were waiting, notably engaging the force attacking the Prouville launch site. Here’s some excerpts from the veterans I interviewed and corresponded with when writing the book ‘Sledgehammers for Tintacks’.

Don Street, pilot 61 Squadron: ‘From the time the Lancaster force crossed the enemy coast it was running the gauntlet down a corridor of searchlights through to the target area.’

Fred Fossett, bomb aimer, 463 Squadron: ‘I remember the mass of searchlights, and flak, as we ran up to the target’.

Bob Riches, rear gunner, 9 Squadron: ‘The defences were using searchlight with a smoky blue beam, possibly radar-controlled, and when it picked up and locked onto an aircraft six or eight ‘normal’ ones coned the plane and nightfighters came in to destroy it. With the crew blinded they had no chance. At one time it appeared that aircraft were burning and crashing all over the place.’

Fred Whitfield, rear gunner 9 Squadron: ‘We were caught by 30 to 40 searchlights, which held us for six to eight minutes . . . The moment I spotted an Me109 coming down the searchlight beam from the starboard, I gave the skipper instructions to corkscrew starboard, which he did. I fired my four guns and could see four lines of tracer bullets ploughing into him. He broke away in flames.’

Bomber Command would lose 22 aircraft on the night of 24/25 June 1944, fifteen of which fell on the Prouville raid. In 2010 I visited many of the resting places of men lost that night. Herewith is a photo of the graves of six members of Australian John Martin’s 463 (RAAF) Squadron crew at Bussus-Bussuel Communal Cemetery.


Published inBomber CommandGeneral