Saturday, 6 March 2010

153 Sqn. 5th March 1945 - Chemnitz



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

Having been on 'stand by' throughout 4th March, the Squadron was ordered to send 13 aircraft to Chemnitz on 5th March, on yet another 'Thunderclap' operation. 'Met' accurately predicted severe icing conditions, which caused many crashes on both outward and homeward journeys. Among those lost was PB 872(P4-2ndX), flown by F/O Bill Bailey who crashed in Czechoslovakia, killing all the crew. Despite the foul weather experienced, the target was successfully attacked using sky-marking techniques, and suffered severe fire damage in the central and southern areas, which included several important factories, especially the Siegmar plant producing tank engines which was totally destroyed. My research indicates 16 aircraft and their crew lost on this mission - 27 RAF Lancasters lost in total that night.

Airborne 1640 5Mar45 from Scampton. All are buried in Praha War Cemetery. Their average age was 21. Both Air Gunners were ex-ATC Cadets. F/O W.J.Bailey KIA Sgt J.Howard KIA F/O R.G.D.Adlam RNZAF KIA F/O E.J.S.Morris KIA Sgt J.Dixon KIA Sgt W.B.Meecham KIA Sgt W.Simpson KIA "

Bill Meecham, the tail gunner, was a member of 137{Ayr}Sqn Air Training Corps with Dad.



Several crews reported seeing 'Scarecrows' which can be best described as an aerial explosion that gives an impression of a bomber receiving a direct hit and disintegrating completely. During the course of de-briefings, crews had regularly been reporting seeing far more aircraft exploding in mid-air than were actually failing to return. The disparity in numbers alerted RAF Intelligence to the new device, and crews were duly warned about 'scarecrows' in their briefings. Even though this may have been an elaborate ploy to sap their moral, at the very least it could act as a disturbing distraction, aimed to frighten crews during the run-up to the target.

During the bombing run aircraft flew straight and level for some 20 to 30 miles under the direction of the bomb aimer to align to the target correctly.
Once bombs had been dropped the crew were required to maintain this steady flight, usually under the most intense fire of the operation, until a photograph was taken to confirm the bomb damage before being able to begin evasive action and the run home to base. Night fighter tactics were often to follow the bomber stream and pick off any damaged stragglers who couldn't maintain height or position with returning bomber stream and the fire cover of the other aircraft. The relief of a successful bomb run and a possible lack of concentration due to increasing tiredness would all contribute to losses on the return leg also.

For more on the aircraft P4-X and its crew lost on this date see here and here

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hello

I a Canadian living in Prague, my father was a pilot with 158, so I have a great interest in bomber command crews.

I have seen the graves of these young men in this story.

It is nice to have some background on their mission and especially to see some photos to go with the names, it's so important to remember these brave souls.

The navigator's gravestone was the first I noticed, that he was such a long ways from home.

I would like to contact families if I am able to locate them to let them know about the annual Remembrance services there.

I have been in touch with one family of a fellow
Canadian, who is buried in the War cemetery,whose nephew just got over here this year with his father to see his brother's final resting place for the first time after 70 years.

They are happy knowing I will be looking in on him for them, this cemetery being just a few minutes away from my Czech in laws cemetery, so we stop to visit whenever we visit the family, and this year went to the
Rembrance services with a British ex army friend of ours.

I have recently written to the War graves commission in Belgium as there are some gravestones in terrible condition, with the engraving and lettering illegible, so sad for the families, and was told they have forwarded it to whomever is in charge and am waiting to hear back from them.

If you have any info or connections to the crew resting in Prague, please let me know, I could send their families photos from this year's services.
I follow the Facebook page Bomber Command Research Group and no. 4 group

Regards
Sharon

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