OPERATIONS AND THE 1,000 BOMBER RAIDS
I was still at the O.T.U. on May
31, 1942 when the first 1,000 plane raid was carried out. In order to get 1,000
planes, the R.A.F. used training planes from O.T.U.'s. Our target was Cologne
and we got there without incident. I was amazed at the anti-aircraft shells they
seemed to fill the sky. A large part of Cologne was already on fire and we
dropped our bombs on our target and turned for base. Our pilot took evasive
action throughout our flight.
Pilot's Map for
Getting Ready for
the Cologne Raid
Pilot's Map for|
It was a bright moonlight night and
visibility was excellent. Our pilot was P.O. Skelley an R.A.F. pilot who had
come from Training Command with "Pop" . The next night we were on operations
again, this time to Essen. There was a fog layer about 11,000 ft. and it created
a problem. If you flew above it the plane was silhouetted against the white
cloud background, an excellent target for night fighters. Also, one could not
see the ground for map reading and location purposes. Below the cloud you were
an easy target for the anti-aircraft (ack-ack) guns. We had trouble locating the
target, and our pilot Skelly decided to look for a target that was visible
through the cloud. We found a large railway marshalling yard through a break in
the clouds so we turned around, dropped down to about 8000 ft. for bombing
accuracy and dropped our bombs onto this railway centre. We then climbed through
the clouds and got on course for our return to Wellesbourne. A week or so later
our crew was posted to #158 Squadron at Driffield on the East Coast. We picked
up a new Wellington and we flew into Driffield. This station had just been
bombed and the runways were cratered with holes and mounds of dirt. Some of the
station buildings had been destroyed as well. It was decided to move the
squadron to Marston Moor which was a satellite of a station at Linton-on-Ouse.
Here we were converted to Halifax bombers.
They were a four engine heavy bomber with a crew of seven. So we had to
augment our crew with a Flight Engineer and a Mid-Upper Gunner. The F.E. was Joe
Gissing also peace time R.A.F. and he was an excellent F.E. The Mid-Upper Gunner
was George Collins also R.A.F.. The conversion course was mainly for the pilot
to get used to handling the newer four engine plane, also the F.E. with their
backgrounds. Pop and Joe got through the conversion quickly and with no trouble.
We went on a search over the North Sea for a plane from the Squadron which had
been "ditched" after being shot up over Germany. But we had no luck. This was in
daylight so you had to look below for a dinghy with men in it and also keep an
eye open for enemy fighters.