153 Sqn Jan 14th 1945 - Leuna


Lancaster dropping incendienry bombs. Duisberg, Oct 14 1944

These posts follow 153 Sqn operations from Jan '45 to the end of hostilities in real time.

16 aircraft were sent to the Leuna oil plant on the 14th, but NG 184(P4-U) had to abort when the rear-gunner was taken ill. The other 15 crews, again in heavy cloud, aiming at skymarkers dropped by the Pathfinder Force, considered the raid to be scattered and unsuccessful. Perversely, after the war, the Germans stated that this was one of the most damaging raids ever mounted against the synthetic oil industry. Light flak was encountered and there was little interference from night fighters. No operational losses were reported on this mission.
Leuna is a town in the Saalekreis, Saxony-Anhalt, eastern Germany, south of Merseburg and Halle. It is known for the Leunawerke one of the biggest chemical industrial complexes in Germany.

The Lancaster was 67 ft long and had a wingspan of 102ft. Powered by 4 Rolls Royce Merlin engines it had a cruising speed of 216mph, a maximum bomb load of 14,000lbs and a maximum ceiling of 22,000ft. Maximum fuel would give it a range of almost 2,000 miles in theory but this would be dependant on bomb load and wind conditions. Other weather conditions, such as ice could also threaten the aircraft stability, operation and ultimately its flying capacity. The bomb load compared to other aircraft used in WWII was immense, being almost double what a flying fortress could carry. While all metal construction and considered a solid and dependable aircraft to fly, the toll on these aircraft was considerable. The average 'lifespan' of a Lancaster was 13 sorties before it was either lost or so badly damaged it required replacement. Its worth comparing this to the number of sorties in a crew tour of operations which was 30, and at one point was raised to 36.

The difficulties encountered by Navigators were severe. F/Sgt Freddy Fish found that to reach Leuna oil plant (which lies 12 degrees east of Greenwich) required flying 250 miles after leaving the allied lines. His last GEE {radio navigation} fix was at 8.30 degrees East, so the remaining 175 miles to the target was all on DR (Dead Reckoning) a manual calculation of airspeed and direction taking wind and drift into consideration. His concentration was disrupted by having to traverse a flak belt of around 50 miles in depth before reaching the target, which was bombed just one minute over their allotted time. Similar conditions applied for the return journey; it was some 97 minutes before he was able to obtain another GEE fix, during which time they had flown 350 miles on DR alone. Long journeys would often incorporate a number of course changes on the outward journey, designed to keep the enemy guessing as to the actual target. These would also be calculated with DR where required. This gives some indication of the skill and concentration that went into navigation at the time.

Comments

Big Swifty said…
Hi Al, I'm still catching up on your longer blogs from the period we were away. I have a connection with this posting. My former father in law was a Lancaster bomber pilot in WW2, involved in Dresden bombings and others. He died last year, and I was honoured to speak about his life at his funeral. He was a good plane pilot but struggled with a motor car! He was a religious man, and I believe the duties of his wartime role troubled him deeply. His crew kept in touch all their lives, and I met some of them. He once crash landed a damaged plane, and they all got out unscathed. He had enough adventure in the war, and lived a quiet life for the next 60+ years. We salute them all.

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