Lancaster NG399 EM-O 207 squadron

Discussion in 'The War In The Air' started by TPBK, Feb 25, 2020.

  1. TPBK

    TPBK Member

    Sorry Itdan

    My tinternet was running at the speed of British Rail and I only got your last after I posted|
  2. ltdan

    ltdan Nietenzähler

    Welcome to the club - my connection is sometimes worse than in ALBANIA ;-)

    Cobbled together all the accounts and reports regarding the losses. As expected they are very contradictory – business as usual
    Speaking of my experiences regarding such kind of research we have to value the source.
    In this case the sad documents from the CWGC has to be the primary sources: Here nobody had any interest in exaggerate numbers and the sites were also for sure.
    Regarding the claims we can determine 8 claims for just 3 documented losses at the Leuna – Naumburg area

    Unit // serial // burial site // final resting place

    207 Squadron. //NG399 EM-O. //Bad Berka //Berlin
    49 Squadron. //RF153 EA-K. //Braunsbedra //Berlin
    50 Squadron. //NG177 VN-L. //unknown

    57 Squadron. //NG398 DX-N. //Bad Windsheim //Durnbach
    227 Squadron. //PA214 9J-P. //Illesheim //Durnbach
    227 Squadron //RA 546 9J-J //Illesheim //Durnbach
    189 Squadron //NX567 CA-Q //Crailsheim? //Durnbach
    106 Squadron. //LL948 ZN-V. //S Karlsruhe

    For reasons of comparinson the claims:
    21:53 -- NC5 (Bad Berka)---- Becker
    21:59 --MD7 (Bad Sulza) -----Becker
    22:03 --MD5 WSW Leuna ----Becker
    22.04 --SW Leuna --------------Daborer
    22:05 --MD5 WSW Leuna ----Becker
    22:06 --MD5 Naumburg -------Becker
    22.10 --10km W Leuna --------Bunje
    22:15 --ND2 --------------------- Becker

    Comparing claims and actual crash sites its obvious the remaining 5 Lancs came down roughly 250 - 300km SW to the Naumburg area. For a simple navigational error caused by battle stress or else this seems a bit too much deviation.
    But it matches roughly to Beckers claims regarding the close locations of
    LL948-- PA214-- RA 546
    If I´m allowed to speculate I would assume Becker embellished his account for reasons only known to him (and Johanssen)
    Last edited: Feb 29, 2020
  3. KevinBattle

    KevinBattle Senior Member

    Reading the Falke Eins report in the earlier link, Johanssen describes the initial series of attacks as being with the 20mm cannon, but that they malfunctioned and the fuse relays had to be held in, and kept tripping.
    Then Johanssen attacks other bombers with his twin machine guns, accounting for the SW direction of the returning bomber stream.
    That series of events could give the cluster of losses close to the target, then others intercepted on the homebound leg, before being forced to call off further pursuit, possibly fuel or ammunition running low.
  4. ltdan

    ltdan Nietenzähler

    Comparing facts and claims draws an interesting picture of that night:

    At 19:45 the german observers identified the bombers S Metz flying SE
    The bombers entered german airspace at 20:15 at Straßburg, heading Freudenstadt – S Stuttgart, than turned NE via Crailsheim-Nürnberg-Bayreuth-Plauen-Altenburg
    The bombing lasted 21:33 - 22:15, from 22:10 the first bombers went back to base
    Filght path was Weimar-Schweinfurt-Mannheim direction France. At 23:45 the last bomber left german airspace

    3 German night fighters (Becker, Daborer, Bunje) claimed 8 bombers at the Leuna airspace between 21:53 and 22:15 whereas only 3 get lost there
    Alltogether 7 crews (Becker (9), Daborer (1), Bunje (1), Friedrich (3), Gaul (1), Lütje (1), Drünkler (1)) claimed 17 Abschüsse.

    In fact, eight Lancasters, one B-17 and one Mossie were lost due to enemy fire. Three Lancasters and a B-17 returned to the UK with damage inflicted by night fighters.
    Further losses were one Lancaster by accident and one Mossie shot down by US AA fire

    So we have a score of 17 claims against 13 actual losses/damages - which is a very moderate deviation

    But what makes me REALLY puzzling is the huge discrepancy between the claimed locations and the actual crash sites:
    Only three bombers get lost during the bombing in the Leuna area, whilst the remaining 10 losses happened approx. 250km farther south between Nürnberg and Karlsruhe
    Why should Becker claim 6 Bombers over Leuna when he actually did most engagements 250km away?
    Last edited: Feb 29, 2020
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  5. KevinBattle

    KevinBattle Senior Member

    Even stranger, not a single flak loss?
    As Cranston reported they hadn't bombed, they must be one of the 3 losses close to the target, so early, not on the home leg. I too, often wonder about how accurate the interception points are, suddenly locating a target, closing in and then attacking and watching for the crash in pitch darkness, bad weather, dodging flak, searchlights and other bombers defensive fire? And bombers don't obligingly fall straight to earth, often the pilot corkscrews away, a fighter seeing bullet strikes and a flash could assume he'd shot it down only for the pilot to recover, or be spotted by another fighter which finishes the job. A bomber could limp miles before finally crashing, and could swerve many miles off any plotted course.
    But what do I know, which is right?
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  6. ltdan

    ltdan Nietenzähler

    Here´s the timetable:
    At 21:24 Maj. Lütje claimed 1 Lanc NW Nürnberg heading to target. This is not confirmed by RAF sources
    40 min later Olt. Daborer and Ofhr. Bunje claimed each 1 Lanc over the target area, also the Flak got one confirmed – these match exactly with the RAF records
    And here also Becker claimed his 6 kills until his 20mm jammed
    Then there´s a again delay of 45 minutes until the real carnage begun, causing 6 A/C lost and some damaged which comes VERY close to the 7 Luftwaffe claims

    Well, I´m not even remotely attached to conspiracy theories, but I have slight doubts if Becker at all appeared somewhere close to Leuna. Instead someone could assume he circled around his Base at Kitzingen and waiting for the returning bombers.
    But to quote Kevin: What do I know?
    Tricky Dicky likes this.
  7. TPBK

    TPBK Member

    A couple of things.

    In one of my earlier posts I mentioned the "Always Prepared" book the story of 207 squadron. In that is a description of this raid by F/O Rose. His bombing time was 22:03. On the run in he was attacked by two fighters at the same time he managed to shake them off just in time and continue the run but probably bombed from a lower than planned height. "The bomb aimer says steady skip you're coming up fine. This marker is right in there. Suddenly the sky is lit up with a horrible blinding flash. An aircraft has just blown up behind us skip says the rear gunner. ?NG177 or RF153 by Bunje at Braunsbedra .... did Becker go much further north than Naumburg? All around us flak is bursting like mad. Just wait a few more seconds then Bombs gone steady now for the camera run.

    About 1hr away from the target the rear gunner reports an aircraft coming underneath. He orders me to stand by, as he thinks it's a fighter. Sure enough it is. For a solid half hour that Ju88 stays with us, always just a bit in front and below. ?Becker? My gunners have fired all all their ammunition on him, so it's just a case of keeping on moving about. I do everything I can to try to shake him off. For brief moments I do, but he comes back again. Aircraft are going down one after another to the port of us.

    I have no idea when this account was written. It does have inconsistencies like briefing times being later than when they took off.
    I was under the impression that the night fighters crept underneath and fired forward and upwards from slightly behind. But the description of the fighter being below and forward is consistent with using the rear armament.

    Itdan, I think you are right the only truely independent record is that of the graves and their initial location. In reality can you expect the descriptions to match perfectly? I know that the rear gunner's family (the one's that visited Buchfart) seemed to persuade Jack C that the aircraft they found was NG399. Persuaded enough for Jack C to write an article (extract below) in 1993 newsletter 1: 207 squadron 75th anniversary entitled "The finding of NG399 EM-0, lost 14/15.4.45: author was the pilot - Jack Cranston, Pilot 11/44-7/45"

    In June of last year (1992) 207's Newsletter Editor sent (Jack C) a cutting from British Aerospace Group News "The Last Flight of NG399". That article had been handed in by the sister of the Rear Gunner Cyril Watkins to the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre at East Kirkby. The sister was the mother-in-law of a BAe employee and had asked whether he, through contacts in his work with Royal Ordnance, could get any information on her brother's death. Eventually he did get some of the story from AHB RAF(5). Whilst incorrect on some details, the account indicated that the burning Lancaster had crashed into pine trees on the side of a hill west of Buchfart village. The family undertook to make a 'pilgrimage' to the site of the crash, arriving in Buchfart in October 1991. They took a prepared German text to show to anyone prepared to help.The local pastor was located and was able to show them where Bishop and Watkins had been buried 1945-48 before being reinterred in a military cemetery in Berlin. Optimistically, they approached anyone who looked old enough to have any recollection of the crash, to get further details.They got nowhere.
    They noticed a young tractor driver working in the field next to where their car was parked. With nothing to lose, they showed him the text. To their delight, he smiled and in reasonable English explained that his father, then ten years old, remembered the incident - and the father was expected to arrive at any moment! And so they followed the young man and his father to a point about 1km out of the village: "At the crown of the hill, which was quite heavily wooded, we stopped and the farmer pointed to some indentations in the ground, exclaiming in broken English "Motor here!"".
    "To our amazement, as we now scanned the woodland floor, metal objects - partially hidden by fallen leaves - became apparent. We realised that we were looking at parts of the airframe and broken fuselage, with some surfaces still bearing paintwork in good condition in the green, brown and black colours of the Lancaster. Closer searching revealed rounds of .303 ammunition, which seemed conclusive proof that what we had found was indeed the remains of Cyril's aircraft".

    The family did not look anywhere else other than Buchfart and there is no suggestion of serial numbers for instance. The location and the bodies are a really strong link. This was handed in to a heritage (a history) centre so why isn't the internet covered with the story that NG399 has been found? An attack near Bad Berka NC5 is consistent with a Buchfart crash site. There cannot have been many downed aircraft in that locality throughout the final year but was it NG399? Jack C visited the family whilst preparing his article and saw photos of the site (they had gone back again), he was convinced that it was his aircraft (what convinced him, I do not know).

    I agree Kevin, evasive action was very common, all I can say is Jack C didn't mention it, he didn't say if the Lancaster flew straight or banked to port or starboard. I still come back to the locations of the bodies and the observed bomber remains close to Buchfart as being the only "givens".

    As for the significant gap. The bombers were instructed to drop low to 3,000' after leaving the target and then climb back up to clear the front lines. One pilot complained about two very bright searchlights almost along the ground indicating the path across the front line and that these were visible to fighters as well.


  8. ltdan

    ltdan Nietenzähler

    In reality I know nothing for certain. All I can do is cross referencing as much as possible data and investigate conditional probabilities
    The wreckage of a Lancaster and 2 known crew members buried nearby is far more than in most cases experienced.
    I assisted 25 recoveries and more than often we found far less evidence. I remember a case when we were quite sure about the crash site of a Typhoon until we discovered cal .50 ammo: we never discovered the actual type of A/C nor the identity of the poor soul
    Also I may just assume MG399 and RF153 fell victim to night fighters and NG177 exploded by a direct AA hit
    Do I know that for sure? Certainly not as not even the involved individuals in 1945 did it
  9. KevinBattle

    KevinBattle Senior Member

    Cranston had been on Ops for 4 months and must have known that no one flew straight and level over Germany and came back to tell the tale. It was standard procedure for corkscrew and jinking around, although probably not too much in a bomber stream for fear of friendly collisions, but weaving to give the gunners a chance to check under and around for hostile aircraft must have been second nature and not worth mentioning. These tactics would have been explained and practised at OTU and even if the pilot flew straight and level, the rest of the crew would soon clamour for evasive manoeuvres!!
    Two of the NG399 crew were initially buried at Buchfart, and it wasn't the practice to bury them miles away from a crash site, so to me it seems likely that the wreckage at Buchfart with RAF camouflage ought to be NG399.
    ltdan likes this.
  10. TPBK

    TPBK Member

    Yes I agree Itdan & Kevin, if the crash site for NG399 is near Buchfart the only proof would be a fortunate find of a traceable serial number on an identified part (perhaps that's already happened). Think we have gone as far as we can with this gents.

    For completeness
    Just looked at your route for the raid Itdan; 189 squadron record of events report for NX567 states route believed (because it never returned)
    N 48.2 E 5.0 (~ Juzzenecourt)

    N 48.50 E 9.20 ~Reutlingen

    N 49.20 E 10.10 800m N of Bronnholzheim north of Crailsheim then target

    This was also referred to in the "Lancaster Crash Site" thread in 2005 although an additional turning point of N 49.20 E 11.10 (just south of Nuremberg) was added. I have not seen any reference to the additional turning point and in fact in all the AIR 27 documents at the National Archive this is the only occasion I have seen coordinates for the turns. I do know that at least 4 Lancasters were detailed to drop 2 bombs each on Ausbach which they did at just after 21:00 and then rejoined the main force.

    If you plot from 49.2 10.10 to the target as a straight line it takes you NW of Nuremburg, over Colburg, over Milda, between the two flak hotspots of Weimar and Jena, just W of Naumburg and on to Lutzkendorf. Very close to Bad Berka, Apolda, Bad Sulza and Naumburg and SE of Leuna all consistent with the claimed kills.


  11. TPBK

    TPBK Member

    I found out one additional bit of info., Jack C said in an interview: I know the bomb aimer, engineer, navigator all went out the front, then I went out (no mention of dropping bombs). The wireless operator and the mid upper gunner and the rear gunner went out the back door. (Only my Dad survived for those who didn't go out of the front). So I don't know, really, what happened to them. They'd all baled out, I mean they had time to bale out. They all had parachutes, but once you bale out of an aircraft you're at the mercy of the winds. You don't know where you're going to land. (Winds were reported as being strong that night, 24mph from the NW at the target).

    He said he evaded captute for 7 days
    ( till about 21st March) and then taken to an interrogation centre (Dulag Luft he calls it, but doesn't say where?Stalag Luft V Halle?) where he met the navigator who had been at the centre for a few days as he was being moved onto a camp. Jack C stayed at the centre for about another week (till about 28th March).
    (Later he was then on a forced march towards Munich but escaped on the way) .... we marched out about 100 of us marching as a group. There was this American private which I'd met, and he was limping a bit so he was hanging on to me, and we dropped to the end of the column and then further back with one guard with a fixed bayonet and the column was 50 yards ahead. Then suddenly there was a shell whistling over the top of us. The guard disappeared and we hid. Then we got up and followed the column wich was going to the camp but before we got there we dropped away from them and set off west on our own. Shells started flying and the American shouted to his troops, we went out with our hands up and told them about the column. We got on the tank and followed the scout tank which freed the prisonner column.

    As he mentioned heading to Munich this is consistent with the Americans liberating Moosberg Stalag VII-A on April 29th. I have found info. on an American B-17 pilot shot down on March 19th north of Dresden who went Zwickau, Weimar, Nuremberg then on to Moosberg (consistent with the above). The only thing my Dad told me was they were being marched away from the Russians. It looks to me the above is the probable route my Dad took as well before being liberated. He has POW 15/0/45 till 29/04/45 in his log book. Even in later life he was never a navigator so I'm not surprised he didn't know where he was!

    Signing off, thanks once again folks, particularly to Kevin and Olli.


  12. Kiwiazza

    Kiwiazza Member

    Hi, I have been following this thread with interest as I researched my relatives Lancaster crash which was 9J-J of 227 Squadron and was part of the earlier thread “ Lancaster crash site” . In regards to the original burial of the crew of 9J-J RA 546 was not Illesheim. My relative Maurice Hunt was originally buried at Illesheim, however he was transported there after he was captured. The crash site of RA 546 was actually Schussbach, some 15 kms to the east of Illesheim. Two of the crew members W Johnson and WPosse are thought to have died in the plane crash as in we don’t think they manage to bail out. They were buried at Ansbach originally, which is some 28kms to the south of the crash site, which is a bit of a mystery. The reason why I think they perished in the crash is they now share a joint grave at Durnbach as the complete bodies of these two airman were not recovered. It’s just a mute point, my relatives Lancaster crashed in the second cluster of claims after the target was bombed. My research indicates my relatives Lancaster was shot down sometime around 2330 hrs. Great info on this thread and I have picked this research up again on my relative. Best regards Kiwiazza.
  13. TPBK

    TPBK Member

    Hello Kiwiazza, I read your original thread welcome back.

    Itdan, I found out a little more in the last couple of weeks. My brother recalled a conversation with my Dad which adds to your account of flight plan:

    The bombers entered german airspace at 20:15 at Straßburg, heading Freudenstadt – S Stuttgart, than turned NE via Crailsheim-Nürnberg-Bayreuth-Plauen-Altenburg
    The bombing lasted 21:33 - 22:15, from 22:10 the first bombers went back to base
    Flight path was Weimar-Schweinfurt-Mannheim direction France. At 23:45 the last bomber left german airspace

    Although I could find only 1 reference to the flight plan I acknowledge the comment in the original Lancaster Crash Site thread which supports your flight path. My Dad said they had engine trouble and were dropping behind so they didn't get to the target but "cut the corner" to join up with the returning bombers. So Altenburg-Lutzkendorf head West and you are on track for Weimar region. Sounds to me like some evidence in support of your route.

    Also Dad said instead of jumping through the exit door he went out through the hole in the bottom of the fuselage (the H2S blister) whilst exiting he got stuck and the wireless operator jumped on his shoulders to get him out. He thought the wireless operator got stuck too. Henry Bishop saved his life, a 20 year old saved the life of a 19 year old.

    Signing off T

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