Bomber Command Losses - 31 March 1945

Discussion in 'The War In The Air' started by Tom OBrien, Sep 4, 2021.

  1. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member

    Hi Olli,

    We might also perhaps speculate that the obvious (and probably spectacular) damage sustained by PA226 might also have understandably caused multiple claims to be made by the several Me 262 pilots who attacked it.

    The combat reports also suggest that a heavy bomber performing a corkscrew evasion manoeuvre wasn't an easy target to hit - even for a jet fighter with or without rockets! :D


  2. ltdan

    ltdan Nietenzähler

    To quote Hermann Buchner:
    My Lancaster lay directly in my sights and I only had to get a bit closer. I opened fire, the hits were good, but the pilot of the Lancaster must have been an old hand. He turned his Lancaster steeply over on its right wing, making a tight turn around the main axis. With my speed I was unable to follow this tight manoeuvre and was also unable to see if my shots had had any effect, or to see how he flew on.

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  3. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member

    And other of the escorting Mustang squadrons with little to report:

    No. 234 Squadron R.A.F. (AIR27/1440/27)

    31 March 1945 BENTWATERS
    Today’s chief activity consisted of an escort provided by the squadron to Lancasters bombing the U Boat pens at Hamburg. Squadron was airborne at the early hour of 07.05 hours, rendezvoused with the bombers according to plan and provided the necessary escort on penetration and withdrawal. Bombing was not observed owing to 10/10ths cloud. Medium heavy flak was met within the target area. Landed back at base at 10.35 hours. Eleven out of the twelve aircraft dispatched completed the mission, F/O. Halloran having to return owing to technical trouble.


    [Ramrod 1523; Aircraft were Mustang III (only 11 (inc. F/O. Halloran) noted on Form 541.]
    Escort to 500 Lancasters bombing the U Boat yards at Hamburg. Bombing not seen owing to 10/10ths cloud. Moderate heavy flak experienced in the target area.
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  4. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member

    Thanks, that must have been an incredible sight! Does anyone know if US bomber pilots were trained to evade attack in a similar way or instructed to hold their place in the bomber box come what may?


  5. ltdan

    ltdan Nietenzähler

    Evasive maneuvers in the tight formations (see attachment) were hardly possible because of the risk of collision.
    There would also have been a risk of breaking open the "box", which was also to be avoided.
    If I remember correctly, the bombers were only instructed to perform appropriate maneuvers by climbing or descending. Otherwise, they probably continued to rely on the combined defensive fire - which claimed numerous victims among the Jets.
    The actual defense, however, was the responsibility of the escort fighters, which used a variety of tactics for this purpose.

    The corkscrew maneuvers of the British bombers on the other hand were not yet known to the German 262 pilots, one may at least assume that this minimized the losses.


    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Oct 12, 2021
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  6. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member

    Hi Olli,

    Thanks for those detail, that all makes sense but must have been terrifying for the crews.

    Here is another of the escorting squadrons - one of the Polish squadrons this time. They had encountered Me 262 previously on 23rd March so the fact that the ORB doesn't identify the enemy aircraft is a bit frustrating.

    No. 306 (Polish) Squadron (AIR27/1674/29)

    31 March 1945 ANDREWS FIELD

    Ten pilots took part in Operation Ramrod No.1532 – escorting a bomber formation to HAMBURG. Nothing to report. There was no other flying today.


    [Aircraft were 10 x Mustang III: take-off at 0700 hrs; back down 10.35 hrs.]

    Our Squadron pilots, with pilots from 309 Squadron took off from Base. Two Squadrons were led by G/Capt. Relski, T. the Officer Commanding 133 Wing. Escorted a formation of Lancasters/Halifaxes/Mosquitoes – in all 400 – to their T/A at HAMBURG. Moderate “Flak” was met in T/A. Results of bombing were not seen due to 10/10th cloud. Some E/A dived and attacked the formation of Bombers en route. But our pilots made no contact. Several bombers were seen to go down. Pilots landed Base after this Operational mission without loss.


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  7. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member

    And one of the Pathfinder Lancaster Squadrons of 8 Group, this time details taken from the on-line Canadian records here:

    Royal Canadian Air Force operations record book... - Héritage

    No. 405 Squadron R.C.A.F. (C-12270)

    31 March 1945 R.A.F. Station Gransden Lodge, Beds.

    Weather:- Mainly cloudy with slight rain during early evening. Visibility 8 to 15 miles. Wind, moderate W/S/W’ly at first becoming strong S/W’ly, gusty, during afternoon and evening.

    Flying Training Time:- NIL.

    OPERATIONS:- HAMBURG. 15 Aircraft detailed (Daylight attack)

    Fifteen aircraft successful ‘A’, dropping 128 x 500 MC, 8 x 1000 lb. Red Smoke Puffs, 58 x 1,000 MC, and 6 x 1,000 ANM .59, between 0843.6 and 0855.3 hours from 20,000 to 17,000 feet. Weather, 10/10th’s cloud, tops 8 to 12,000 feet. The Primary Visual Marker retained his T.I.s and bombed on H2S. The our [four??] Blind Sky Markers all dropped sky-markers on H2S. The Three Visual Centrers all retained T.I.s and two bombed on Smoke Puffs and the other on H2S. The seven Supporters all bombed on Smoke Puffs on Master Bomber’s instructions, after orbiting. The marking was continuous from 0843 hours and mostly checked accurately with good H2S and good Gee checks but 405/J at 0851 hours found the bombing to be to the N/E of the Aiming Point and it was brought to S/W later by the Master Bomber. No results were seen.

    Defences, slight to moderate heavy flak barrage bursting from 17 to 20,000 feet. Several Me.262 at target and three aircraft reported falling. All aircraft returned to base.

    Operational Flying Time:- 71.15 hours (Day).

    [Form 541 – C-12270 images 735 – 737]

    [Aircraft were 15 x Lancaster III]

    Lancaster III ‘V’ PB 653 S/L. Vann G.C.J.: “V” PRIMARY VISUAL MARKER:- 10/10th’s cloud, tops 8,000 feet. Bombed by H2S at 0843.6 hours from 17,000 feet. Ran in and bombed on H2S with very good image and one Red Smoke Puff fell alongside. Another fell close to first on leaving. Nothing else seen owing to evasive action at target against fighters and had three engines only from 1,300 feet after take-off to target and back. All T.I.s brought back, not required. Aircraft returned to base.

    Lancaster III ‘Y’ PB 282 F/O Forman W.E.: “Y” BLIND SKY MARKER:- 10/10th’s cloud, tops 12,000 feet. Bombed by H2S at 0855.3 hours from 18,000 feet. Three Sky Markers were seen on run in, close together, and coincided with own H2S. M.B. heard “Bomb on Sky Markers”, with corrections given from time to time. Slight hole in port wing over Hamburg at 0855.3 hours, fluing at 18,000 feet, from heavy flak. Aircraft landed base.


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  8. ltdan

    ltdan Nietenzähler

    Don't be too hard on the guys: from a certain distance, even for nerds, a flawless identification becomes difficult, especially under combat conditions ;-)

    The master bombers on the other hand apparently had difficulties correctly identifying the target: Most of the bombs fell too short on the districts of Harburg and Wilhelmsburg as far as Ochsenwerder


    Attached Files:

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  9. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member

    Yes, I absolutely agree.

    Yes, it will be interesting to see if any of the pathfinder squadron ORBs includes a report from the master bomber. The 405 Sqn RCAF aircraft narratives includes much detail of marking and the extent to which the strong wind dispersed the markers employed.


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  10. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member

    And a couple more Mustang squadrons:

    No. 316 (Polish) Squadron (AIR27/1705/29)

    31 March 1945 ANDREWS FIELD
    11 Mustangs took part in Ramrod 1523 30. Escort to 300 Lancasters and 100 Halifaxes bombing Hamburg. R/V according to plan. Two Mustangs returned early due to mech. trouble.
    6 Mustangs flying locally and on test.

    [Time of take-off 0640; back down 1125.]
    Ramrod 1523. Escort to 300 Lancasters and 100 Halifaxes bombing Hamburg. R/V and operation according to plan.

    No. 611 Squadron RAF (AIR27/2111/29)

    31 March 1945 HUNSDON
    Another very early start was made to-day, and the Squadron were airborne at 06.45 hrs to rendezvous with 400 Lancasters and Halifaxes and provide escort to them bombing Hamburg. Rendezvous was made as planned, and on to the target, where many Me.262’s were seen attacking the bomber stream, but although many attempts were made to intercept them, their speed made it impossible for us to engage. Moderate heavy flak was encountered from the target area, and two Lancasters were seen to go down in flames. On the return a further two Lancasters were seen to collide and go down into the sea. The Squadron landed back at base at 11.25 hrs and were released off camp for the remainder of the day.

    [Aircraft were 11 x Mustang IV; take off at 0645 hrs; back down 1125 hrs.]
    Airborne at time stated to escort heavies bombing Hamburg. Rendezvous as planned. Over the target area many Me.262’s were seen attacking the bombers, but although attempts were made to intercept them, their speed made it impossible to engage. Moderate heavy flak from the target area, two Lancasters were seen to go down in flames, and on the return journey two more Lancasters collided and went down into the sea, just off the German coast. Weather 10/10ths at 9,000 ft, cumulus with some very high cirrus above.

    I don't think there is any doubt at all that 2 of the bomber losses were caused by collision - it is recorded by multiple squadrons (bomber and escorting fighter) and two full crews remain missing.


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  11. ltdan

    ltdan Nietenzähler

    In this context, it is also interesting to note that the 262 jets produced a new type of pilot: Some were completely unknown before and became very experienced veterans in a few weeks.
    This speaks volumes about the potential, since these aircraft were, after all, better prototypes that were thrown into front-line service out of sheer desperation.
    Others, such as Lützow, who was also a very experienced pilot on piston engine powered aircraft, could not achieve a single kill.
    Which tells us something about the peculiarities of this specific new air war.

    The German claims are unfortunately not very informative for us, because the typical German bureaucratic confirmation system simply did not work anymore at this point of the war. In favor of propaganda, such reports were seen completely uncritically: Success reports were ordered and they were delivered
    Buchner and many others noted in memoirs that claims were sometimes officially confirmed in less than an hour. A process that previously took several weeks to complete...

    Just as often, one reads in memoirs that practically no one even believed in a reversal of the war anymore.
    After all the sacrifices, these men just wanted to experience just once again what it felt like to be a successful pilot.
    Humanly, this is quite understandable....tragically, however, they prolonged the suffering of many victims of a criminal regime, whether intentionally or unintentionally.

    You can't be careful enough of two things: if you limit yourself in your field, from stubbornness, if you step out, from inadequacy.
    Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
  12. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member

    Some details from one of the pathfinder squadrons, I'll post some more individual aircraft narratives as they point to the difficulties the Master Bomber was having during the raid:

    No. 156 Squadron R.A.F. (AIR27/1043/5)

    31 March 1945 R.A.F. Station Upwood
    16 aircraft detailed for a daylight attack on the submarine works at Hamburg. The attack opened in 10/10th cloud, and crews marked and bombed on Master Bomber’s instructions. Red smoke puffs fell in will-timed succession throughout the attack, and were well concentrated. There was heavy predicted flak which later became a barrage. There was considerable fighter activity and the Squadron was involved in several combats on the target area with M.E’s 262 and one ME.262 was claimed as damaged. Other aircraft were hit and damaged by flak. Two aircraft missing. F/L. A.C. Pope and crew, and F/O. H. Benson and crew.


    Lancaster III MB.378. F/O. H.J. Rowe (CAN) Pilot; Take-off 06.50; back down 11.18: Visual centrer. Task HAMBURG. Target attacked at 08.46 hours from 18,000 feet. Master Bomber heard calling “skymarkers Yes”. First red smoke puff seen ahead at 08.45 hours approx. and own bombs released with this in sight. Just before bombs released, a further two Red skymarkers were seen to ignite to North West of own Aiming point. About two minutes after bombing, five further sets of markers were seen astern in well grouped cluster, but well to North West of those already down. No results of bombing seen. One Photo attempted. Bomb load 4 x T.I. Red/896/A.2 2 x T.I. Red/LB/896/A2. 8 x 1000 MC T/D.025.


  13. Julián Péter

    Julián Péter New Member

    Moin aus Hamburg,

    It has been greatly interesting to happen upon this thread. I live just a few streets over from where 635 Sqn RAF Lancaster I PB 958 crashed, and have been researching the story for well over a year now, especially the fate of F/SGT Kevin George Clark. I am currently in the process of transcribing the war crimes trial records, but given they are almost 200 pages long and mostly handwritten in 1946 style, it takes a long time.

    In regards to 434 Sqn RCAF Lancaster KB911, I believe I have found the last resting place of F/O. G.P. Haliburton (pilot). His name was mentioned in the file of F/SGT Clark. Based on same and the war crimes transcripts, it would seem that the man transporting F/SGT Clark´s body made a stop in Nettelnburg to pick up another´s remains. Eventually three bodies would be buried in Bergedorf old cemetery, those of Clark, Lesesne and Haliburton. After the war, the remains were transferred to Ohlsdorf Cemetery. The three graves lay on the edge of a row, next to each other, suggesting they were added later: Lesesne, Clark & Unknown Airman - the last I presume was Haliburton, but after the rocket attack on his plane, and the subsequent crash, there probably wasn´t much left. CWGC confirmed as much as that.

    In any case, thank you for the many new details you have provided to this story, it helps a lot picturing the events of the day.
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  14. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member

    Thanks for your interest and the information you have added. Please feel free to add any more details as you come across them.

    Sorry, I've been away with work and unable to offer any more, but I've tracked down the Master Bomber who was the commander of No. 7 Squadron:

    No. 7 Squadron R.A.F. (AIR27/102/5)

    31 March 1945 OAKINGTON
    13 a/c comprising a Master Bomber and Deputy Master Bomber, 3 VC, 6 BSM’s 2 Supp[.] Weather was 10/10ths tops 5/10,000 feet vis good. First red puffs seen at 0840 and again at 0842, 0845 and 0844 hours. Master Bomber did not see any red puffs till 0843.5. Marking continuous but never good concentration. Markers soon drifted E.S.E. owing to very strong winds. M/F came in 2 waves 1 on H Hour before marking down and the next some minutes later on a heading of 000T and 2 miles E of H2S A/Pt.
    Slight predicted H/F turning moderate and accurate. ME 262’s sighted.
    1218 All aircraft returned safely.


    Lancaster III PB 587 “B” W/C D.A. Cracknell: HAMBURG M.B. 2 x 1000 Yellow T.I.
    4 x 1000 Yellow T.I.L.B. 4 x 500 M.C.Mincl. Realising it must be a blind attack planned to go in H – 1. First red puff down at 08.44.5 just S.E. of track 50-100 yds away. Succession new markers fell roughly in the same place. First told M/F to bomb left hand puff as wind was from N.W. then bomb concentration of puffs. 2 x 1000 yellow T.I. 4 x 1000 yellow T.I.L.B.

    Wing Commander Douglas Cracknell had an incredible war:

    49 Squadron Association : Personnel Index - Detail


  15. Julián Péter

    Julián Péter New Member

    I have once again reread the entire thread trying to find bits and pieces to fill in my story of PB958. According to the only survivor, they were first set on fire by a direct flak hit with controls shot away, and finished of by an Me262. This is supposed to have happened right over the target. It is said the flak hit came from the flak tower in Wilhelmsburg (FYI, the tower still stands and can be visited, there is a cafe at the top). As to the Me262, some website mentioned Franz Schall, but I cannot confirm. In any case, the plane was said to fly along the Archenholzstrasse jettisoning bombs from low altitude, before crashing in the garden of what is now Öjendorfer Steinkamp 23.

    PB958 had the role of Supporter within the PFF, understand they were responsible to help the main force stay on target, however I do not know where in the stream would they be and if they were up front. Following report from No. 635 Sq ORB:

    15 a/c detailed to attach HAMBURG. F/O Lewis failed to return (i.e. PB958).
    13 attached primary dropping (I´ve skipped to copy the detailed bomb load) between 08.42.5 and 8.56 hrs from 18/20,000´ weather 10/10 cloud, tops 7/10,000´ horizontal vis good.
    Target was completely cloud covered on approach and at 08.41 MB was heard broadcasting instructing BSMs to come in and mark. First red smoke puffs were seen at 08.44 quickly followed by 2 more in fairly good concentration. MB started instructing M/F at 08.45 to ``Bomb Red smoke puffs``. In the early stages M/F bombing appeared about 2 miles SW of main concentration, but as the attach developed they appeared well on the Red smoke puffs which were in good concentration.
    No results were observed until 08.50 when cloud began to billow upwards over target area.
    There was moderate predicted H/F and fighter activity.

    I have a book chronicle of JG7 by Manfred Boehme, in it one pilot remarks: ``It looked as if a flock of bugs was crawling over a bed sheet.´´
    The dark-paint Lancs must have stood out against the blanket of clouds as if they were shining bright had it been night.
  16. ltdan

    ltdan Nietenzähler

    Then the master bombers can't be blamed:
    strong winds from NW + 10/10 cloud cover drove the markers off, which explains why most of the bombs hit ahead of target
    Quite interesting how far this attack is broken down by now

    And also a "Moin" from Dannenberg/Elbe to Julian: Thanks for the complementary details (You have PN)


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