Defiants over the Marches

Discussion in 'The War In The Air' started by Robert-w, Aug 25, 2019.

  1. Robert-w

    Robert-w Well-Known Member

    I'm trying to do some research on my local area - the Teme Valley in the Welsh Marches. The Teme Valley appears to have been part of a sort of rat run to Manchester and Liverpool for German bombers and I can find evidence of a lot of sightings. Also there were a lot of AA and Searchlight units in the area and of course a radar station on Clee Hill (which is still there - I can see the modern dome from my back garden).
    I have heard suggestions that at one time Defiant IIs were used over the area in the night fighter role but I can find no concrete evidence. The only account I can find of night fighter activity involves a Mosquito that brought down a German bomber near Malvern. A Ju 88 did come down on Clee Hill but that appears to have been through a navigational error.
    Does anyone know anything relevant?
     
  2. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    You have this
    Shropshire Airraft Crashes

    Pancakes and prangs which I have seen in the Castle bookshop in Ludlow might be worth a look
    Also if you get time to pop in there worth asking the owner about local ww2 historians they might be able to shed more light on your query

    Regards
    Clive
     
  3. Robert-w

    Robert-w Well-Known Member

    Well |I could ask the researcher for the Tenbury Museum but as that's me I suspect I might get a silly answer
     
  4. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    Time they got a new researcher then :)
     
  5. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    Generally the path of the Luftwaffe to attack Welsh and western English targets was from their bases in Brittany ledby Pathfinders out of Meucon airfield,a few miles north of Vannes. Brittany airfields were aided by navigation beams from several beacons on the Brittany peninsula.As navigation aids allied to bombing,these beacons were subject to beam bending....... ECM (electronic counter measures) by the British.

    The maximum range was just about north of Manchester.There were a few navigation errors which it is thought for example, contributed to the bombing of Dublin.On the homebound route,the Bristol Channel was at times wrongly identified as the English Channel resulting in the Devon/Cornwall peninsula being wrongly identified as Brittany.At least one aircraft landed at the Coastal Command RAF Chivinor near Barnstaple as dawn broke,the crew thinking the they were in Brittany.

    As regards the Defiant,introduced as a day fighter with the first ever 4 gun turret,a type with no frontal armament and depending on the gun turret rear of the cockpit.The Blitzkreig saw No 264 Squadron,the only squadron dedicated as a day fighter squadron, immediately into battle and the type accounted for over 60 aircraft by the end of May 1940,mainly against enemy bomber formations over Dunkirk where the Luftwaffe often mistook it for a Hurricane. However the type, by August was returning unsustainable losses and a decision was made to withdraw the type from daylight operations.

    A stop gap contribution to air defence of GB was successfully made in the autumn of 1940 when the type became the first night fighter to receive AI radar.With this equipment the Defiant night fighter returned the highest number of kills per interception of any night fighter in the winter of 1940-41.In all,the RAF operated 13 squadrons of Defiants as night fighters during the critical period following the withdrawal from France.A check on the airfields where these night fighters were based should reveal the cover they provided against Luftwaffe night bombing areas.

    When I think of the Defiant, my mind goes back to No 264 Squadron which was based at nearby Kirton Lindsey.

    Remembering F/O D K C O'Malley and Sgt L A W Rasmussen killed on 4 September 1940 in Defiant N 1628 when practising night flying landing at Kirton Lindsey.Both buried at Kirton Lindsey Cemetery.Laurie Rasmussen is recorded as being RNAF but other detail suggests that he was a Halton Brat.... a New Zealander who went through Halton?
     
  6. Robert-w

    Robert-w Well-Known Member

    As a night fighter the Defiant II had the advantage that the guns could be elevated to fire forward and upward at 45 degrees. As had been proven in WW1 this is the optimum trajectory if attacking from behind and below. The aircraft had the disadvantage that the radar had to be operated by the pilot as the gun turret was too cramped to install a screen there.
    Aviation archaeologists have uncovered the remains of a Defiant in Gloucestershire. It may well have been involved in operations against the German bombers following this route but I still need to find confirmation that they operated over the Teme valley. Most of the crashes in the area are British and American - this is not surprising as the area became surrounded by OCUs
     

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