Bomber Command Losses - 31 March 1945

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

  1. ltdan

    ltdan Nietenzähler

    Here is a map of crashes in Lower Saxony. The relatively dense cluster is striking.

    I am also interested in the often reported firings with R4M missiles: Especially this mission is always mentioned in the secondary literature as a supposed proof for its effectiveness - which I doubt for a long time.

    Regarding the numbers: out of about 1200 Me 262s produced, just under 200 made it to the operational squadrons. And about 60(!) of them were equipped with R4M.
    Even in the serious literature there are often fantastic figures about `kills` with this wonder weapon - in extreme cases up to 500 aircraft. However, this cannot be reconciled with the realities of the last weeks of the war.
    Enclosed an excerpt from the entries of the chief of the technical air armament (Chef d. Technischen Luftrüstung/TLR) regarding development R4M:

    27. Dec. 1944
    Series preparation for R 4 M on-board missiles pushed ahead. Deployment of some 10.000 targeted for front-line use in February.

    28. Jan. 1945
    Shortage of detonators. Preliminary planning for February: 25.000.

    05. Feb. 1945
    Run-up to shortened requirement (75.000 pieces) can take place at short notice, material situation clarified.

    05.March 1945
    R 4 M propellant chamber production had to be changed again. Since manufactured propellant chambers cannot be used, large-scale production will not start in March as planned. The operational aircraft will be supplied by selected ammunition and laboratories at the development company. Securing of 50 % of production by underground (production) transfer to "Mittelwerk" in preparation. Production of the final rail for R 4 M has started.

    25. March 1945
    Meeting in Carinhall with Mr. Reichsmarschall. Installation of as many R 4 M as possible in the aircraft. As a quick fix, development of the 48 mount for the 8-262

    16.March./4. April
    The R 4 M on-board rocket was used by the troops in the month under review. Excellent shooting results were achieved with it. *
    (...) Production expected to be severely impacted by western front situation, as drives are only manufactured in the Horn area. Other companies only just starting up.

    Source: durch Florian.pdf

    * Interesting in this context is that apart from the field report of lieutenant Karl "Quax" Schnörrer there is no written evidence at all about the effectiveness of the R4M rockets.
    BA-MA RL 3/2575 BA-MA Bd IV, : Lt. Karl Schnörrer: Erfahrungsbericht Me 262 mit R4M, 8. 3. 1945)

    Ultimately, it boils down to this: When these missiles hit, the effect on bombers was devastating.... IF they hit!
    But this required experienced pilots who knew their stuff - and those were a very rare commodity in April '45.

    Long story short: This quite excellent thread helps debunk yet another one of those "too little, too late" wonder weapon legends
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  2. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member

    Many thanks for adding that map, very useful.


  3. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member

    And here are the details from the O.R.B. of No. 103 Squadron RAF:

    No. 103 Squadron R.A.F.

    31 March 1945 ELSHAM WOLDS
    0625 to 1201
    Eight aircraft were detailed for this daylight operation, the object of which was to destroy the submarine yards of Blom of Voss [sic].
    All aircraft took off safely in poor weather conditions and on arrival in the target area it was found to be covered in 10/10ths cloud, tops around 7000/8000 feet.
    The P.F.F. used the smoke puff markers and all crews on the Master Bomber’s instructions bombed these, but they were very few in number and rather scattered. The results of the attack could not be observed, due to the cloud coverage, but smoke was seen rising through the cloud when our aircraft turned for home.
    U/103, F/O. MEIKLEM, was unable to bomb as he could not release his load through a faulty bomb release key.
    Defences were quite active and consisted of a heavy scattered flak barrage and some fighters were also seen, but none of our aircraft were hit or damaged.
    All aircraft returned and landed safely at Base.


    Eight aircraft were detailed for this daylight operation and the route followed was:-
    BASE – SKEGNESS – 5313/0230 – 5315/0400 – 5245/0850 –
    TARGET – 5343/1012 – 5410/0940 – 5400/0800 – 5400/0500 –
    The object of this operation was to destroy the Blom and Voss submarine yards.
    All aircraft took off in fair weather conditions but on arrival in the target area it was found covered in 10/10ths cloud, tops about 7,000/8,000 ft, and smoke puff sky markers were used by P.F.F.
    The Master Bomber was quite clear and gave all crews instructions to bomb these, but the markers were very small in number and not very well concentrated. The results of the attack were unable to be assessed due to the cloud coverage.
    Defences were quite active and consisted of scattered heavy flak. Some enemy fighters were also observed, but none of our aircraft were hit or damaged.
    U/103, F/O. MEIKLEM was unable to bomb as he was unable to release his load over the target area, as his bomb release key was unserviceable.
    All aircraft carried window and camera and the bomb load was:-
    (A) 12 x 1,000 S.A.P. (B) 12 x 1,000 G.P. ‘V’ only.
    3 x 500 lb. G.P. 3 x 500 lb. G.P.
    All our aircraft returned and landed safely at Base.
    [Aircraft were Lancaster I & III; time of take off @ 0600; time down was @ 1200; bombing was at @ 0846 from 17,000 – 18,000 ft].

    More to follow,


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  4. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member

    PB.517 - Lancaster III - Pilot was F/L. A.C. Pope. 156 Squadron R.A.F.
    KB.869 - Lancaster X - Pilot was F/O D.S. Bowes. 419 Squadron R.C.A.F.
    NP.806 - Halifax VII - Pilot was F/O K.K. Blyth. 408 Squadron R.C.A.F. [edited to add: this appears to have been a definite Me 262 victim - see books by Blyth - "Cradle Crew" and "Who Shot Down EQ-QUEENIE?"]
    KB.859 - Lancaster X - Pilot was F/L. P.J. Hurley. 431 Squadron R.C.A.F.

    Not sure about ING.345 though. [Edit to add: Ah ha! Not ING. 345 but Lancaster I NG345 - Pilot F/O R.R. Jones. 429 Sqn RCAF]


    Last edited: Sep 26, 2021
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  5. ltdan

    ltdan Nietenzähler

    perhaps of help:

    According to the O.K.L. daily report, JG 7 claimed a total of eighteen aerial victories against RAF and USAAF A/C on March 31
    known claims for Hamburg were:

    Oberleutnant Gustav Sturm = 1 Lancaster + 1 Halifax

    Oberleutnant Franz Schall = 2 Lancaster

    Leutnant Hermann Buchner = 1 Lancaster

    Oberfeldwebel Hans Todt = 2 Lancaster

    Fähnrich Friedrich Ehrig = 1 Lancaster

    ?? Willi Strübing = 2 Lancaster

    Kracker Luftwaffe Archive
    JG7 - Squadron Details - Aviation Directory
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  6. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member

    Very helpful, thanks.

    These are the loss details I've managed to track down so far:

    31 March 1945

    156 Sqn RAF
    Lancaster III PB517 – F/L. A.C. Pope – crew of 8 all killed (Becklingen War cemetery/originally buried in Stemmen Cemetery) – crash site SW of Hamburg (
    Near Stemmen, 15 km NE of Rotenburg (Wümme) (Niedersachsen)) (Source: Accident Avro Lancaster Mk III PB517, 31 Mar 1945 (
    Lancaster III PB468 – F/O H. Benson – crew of 8 all killed (Hamburg Cemetery) – crash site: Hamburg-Langenhorn, 4 km NNE Hamburg Airport (Source: Accident Avro Lancaster Mk III PB468, 31 Mar 1945 (]

    408 Sqn RCAF
    Halifax NP806 – F/O. K.K. Blyth – no fatalities – crash site south of Hamburg

    415 Sqn RCAF
    Halifax MZ922 – F/O G.A. Hyland – crew missing – believed collided mid-air with Lancaster KB761

    419 Sqn RCAF
    Lancaster X KB761 – F/L. H.A. Metivier – crew missing – believed collided mid-air with Halifax MZ922
    Lancaster X KB869 – F/O. D.S. Bowes – 4 fatalities (Becklingen War Cemetery) – crash site south of Hamburg

    425 Sqn RCAF
    Halifax III MZ418 – F/L. C. Lesesne – pilot killed (Hamburg Cemetery) – crash site unknown

    429 Sqn RCAF
    Lancaster I NG345 – F/O. R.R. Jones – 5 fatalities (Becklingen War Cemetery) – crash site south of Hamburg

    431 Sqn RCAF
    Lancaster X KB859 – F/L. P.J. Hurley – 6 fatalities (Becklingen War Cemetery) – crash site south of Hamburg.

    434 Sqn RCAF
    Lancaster KB911 – F/O. G.P. Haliburton – 3 fatalities (pilot missing/2 buried Hamburg War Cemetery) – crash site unknown.

    635 Sqn RAF
    Lancaster I PB 958 – F/O. A. Lewis – 6 fatality (1 murdered on ground) (Hamburg War cemetery) – crash site:
    Crashed into the garden of a house at Steinkamp 23, Hamburg-Billstedt.

    Looking at possible locations and will post up what I find.


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  7. ltdan

    ltdan Nietenzähler

    408 Sqn RCAF
    Halifax NP806 – F/O. K.K. Blyth – no fatalities – crash site south of Hamburg

    crash site HH-Boberg, glider airfeld - claimed by Willi Strübing
    000 Boberg.jpg

    425 Sqn RCAF
    Halifax III MZ418 – F/L. C. Lesesne – pilot killed (Hamburg Cemetery) – crash site unknown

    The crew members reported the A/C was hit first by flak into the bomb Bay
    Maybe the A/C disintegrated mid-air, as I was unable to trace a crash site between ergen-Belsen and Hamburg
    further information:
    Charles P. “Chuck” Lesesne – A Pilot’s Sacrifice – Bomber Command Museum of Canada

    434 Sqn RCAF
    Lancaster KB911 – F/O. G.P. Haliburton – 3 fatalities (pilot missing/2 buried Hamburg War Cemetery) – crash site unknown.

    Crash site HH-Nettelnburg, Püttenhorst 99 (red 8 on attached picture)
    001 Nettelnburg.jpg
    The second crash occurred on Easter Sunday 1945 on the Püttenhorst 99 property. An eyewitness: "The tail unit of the English aircraft 'came down' on Randersweide. The cockpit was on fire. And the tail gunner, he was just standing there alone, without his upper body, it was all cruel." In the summer, after the war ended, English officers investigated the crash site; the plane wreckage was lifted and three bodies recovered. Afterwards, a scrap dealer hauled away the debris.

    It can be assumed that the witness actually described the pilot... Presumably his remains were buried anonymously in one of the then unfortunately quite numerous mass graves.

    The wreck shown on both the attached pictures is a Lancaster, which crashed in 1943.

    415 Sqn RCAF Halifax MZ922 + 419 Sqn RCAF Lancaster X KB761
    31.03.1945 No.419 Squadron Lancaster X KB761 F/L Harry A. Metivier
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2021
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  8. ltdan

    ltdan Nietenzähler

    for the sake of German thoroughness - the completed list of all 262 pilots who made claims:

    I./JG 7, Kaltenkirchen
    Oberleutnant Hans Grünberg, Staffelkapitän 1. Staffel
    Oberleutnant Fritz Stehle, Staffelkapitän 2. Staffel
    Oberleutnant Gustav Sturm
    Leutnant Hans Todt
    Leutnant Hans-Dieter Weihs
    Flieger Gerhard Reiher
    Sturmführer Willi Strübing (NSFK Instructor)

    III./JG 7, Parchim (9. + 10. Staffel)
    Major Rudolf Sinner, Gruppenkommandeur III./JG 7, Parchim
    Hauptmann Franz Schall, Staffelkapitän 10. Staffel
    Leutnant Hermann Buchner
    Leutnant F. W. Schenk

    no further information available:
    Fähnrich Friedrich Ehrig
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2021
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  9. ltdan

    ltdan Nietenzähler

    635 Sqn RAF Lancaster I PB 958

    internet source:
    Geschichtswerkstatt Billstedt - Mord
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  10. ltdan

    ltdan Nietenzähler

    431 Sqn RCAF Lancaster X KB859

    After dropping their bombs on the Blohm and Voss submarine assembly
    shipyards in Hamburg Harbor, KB859 turned south where their Lancaster
    was then repeatedly attacked and badly damaged by rocket fire from a
    number of German Me262 fighter jets. Internal communications were shot
    out and pilot F/Lt. Hurley lost all contact with his crew, not knowing how
    many were killed or injured. With that in mind, and his aircraft going down,
    the pilot decided to attempt a belly landing in a German field, then realized he
    would never make it, he gave the order for his crew to bail out. Minutes later,
    the Lancaster bomber exploded in mid-air, with the rear tail section landing
    in a field at the parish of Lindhorst, and the main fuselage, main wing and
    four engines falling 3 k/m away in the village of Hittfeld, Germany. Pilot
    Hurley was blown clear of his aircraft at 200 ft. and his parachute had not
    fully opened when he landed in a farmer’s manure pile, which saved his life.
    The rear gunner [F/O J. J. Casey] was found dead in the tail of the Lancaster
    bomber, and the mid-upper gunner [F/O P.B. Dennison] had bailed out but
    his parachute did not have time to open. Four of the remaining aircrew,
    including F/Sgt. A. Dorey were found badly burnt in the fuselage section of
    the aircraft.

    (Today there is a petrol station on the site of the crash)


    with VERY detailed background information
  11. ltdan

    ltdan Nietenzähler

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  12. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member

    That's all great stuff and very thorough! :D:D

    Looking at the crash locations - I'm tempted to think that there could be a relationship between the clumps of crash sites and the suggestion that there were two waves of attacks by the Me 262s. That could be a coincidence of course.

    Here are some extracts from another ORB from 1 Group:

    No. 150 Squadron R.A.F.

    31 March 1945 HEMSWELL
    To end the month an early morning operation was laid on with crews briefed at 03.30 hours for an attack on HAMBURG. Thirteen aircraft of Squadron were detailed and all were safely airborne by 07.00 hours. Weather was cloudy, and over the Continent cloud of 10/10ths was experienced up to and over the target area. Smoke markers were used and bombed appeared highly concentrated, although no results were visible. Enemy opposition in the target area was light but accurate and a few fighters seen but no attacks were reported by Squadron. All aircraft returned safely to Base landing at 11.30 hours.


    Target HAMBURG. Target area obscured by 10/10 cloud. All crews bombed on release point flares on Master Bomber’s instructions. Flak moderate, no fighters encountered, all our aircraft returned from the operation.

    [Aircraft were 12 x Lancaster I, 1 x Lancaster III; time of take-off @ 0620; time down was @ 1145; no more details.]

    As well as the Bomber ORBs, I'm hoping to look into the fighter escort records and see if any record clashes with German aircraft.


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  13. ltdan

    ltdan Nietenzähler

    Leutnant Herrman Buchners memorial report about his very personal experience:
    31 mars 1945

    RAF report about the mission:
    March 1945 Daily Operations

    One reads out two things:
    1 - a REALLY fierce air battle took place.
    2 - the subjective impressions of all participants regarding shot down airplanes are basically to be taken with caution

    Overclaiming is de facto to be regarded as completely normal - and in view of the really brutal stress factor IMHO also understandable
    At any rate, I would not presume to judge the parties involved from the comfortable safety of my office chair: I already found the ride in an Antonov-2 biplane under quite peaceful circumstances quite exciting...:cool:
  14. ltdan

    ltdan Nietenzähler

    425 Sqn RCAF Halifax III MZ418 – F/L. C. Lesesne was hit by flak with bomb load somewhere SO of Hamburg

    From these data, one can roughly interpolate the approximate approach vector: Inbound from SO to Hamburg, then swing off to SW
    Supposed outliers like PB 468 do not fall out of this grid, since woefully wounded aircraft could continue to fly for quite a while.
    (With some probability the crash described in AIR27/169/5, pos t#16 described crash 15 miles NE Hamburg)

    Involved were I./JG 7 with 1. + 2. Gruppe (20 A/C), 5 minutes apart and also III./JG 7 with 9.+10. Gruppe (6 A/C)
    Somewhere I had once noted the flight data of Buchner.... from this one could deduce the approximate time of attack of the III./JG 7

    But a connection with the relatively close together crash sites and the attack waves seems at least obvious
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2021
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  15. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member

    Thanks, I think at least one bomber ORB contains the course on which the bombing run was conducted. I'll post that up when I can find it again.

    In the meantime, I thought this extract from the ORB of 64 Sqn RAF (part of the escorting force) might be of interest:

    No. 64 Squadron R.A.F. (AIR27/591/15)

    31 March 1945 BENTWATERS

    We had an early briefing this morning, setting course at 0700 to escort 300 Lancs. and 100 Halifaxes bombing Hamburg. The show went as planned but proved fairly quiet. One bomber shot down by a Me.262 far outside the main stream on starboard side. Two bombers hit by flak and went down in the T/A. Bombing not seen. 10/10 cloud over target.

    Escort Port Side of 300 Lancs and 100 Halifaxes bombing HAMBURG. Ramrod 1523 Para 3A.

    [Aircraft were 10 x Mustang III; time of take off was 0700; back down at 1050.]

    Another reference to some of the losses being inflicted by Flak whereas those who have used this engagement to talk up the Me 262/R4M combination would have us believe that all losses were only down to their favourites. :rolleyes:

    As always, the reality is so much more complicated. :D:cheers:


  16. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member

    And some extracts from another RAF Lancaster squadron:

    No. 166 Squadron R.A.F. (AIR27/1089/54)

    31 March 1945 R.A.F. Station KIRMINGTON, Lincolnshire
    Take-off: 05.55 hrs Target: HAMBURG

    21 aircraft were detailed to bomb the submarine building yards at Hamburg at the early hour of 05.55 on the morning of 31st March 1945. F/O. Martin, C.N. in “F” had to abandon the mission owing to the starboard outer feathering itself and his place was taken by “V” F/L. Glenesk.

    On take-off, cloud persisted to the target with the exception of a small break near the Dutch coast. Skymarking had been laid on for the attack however and these were well placed. Despite intense and accurate flak over the target, none of our a/c were hit. Several reported seeing jet propelled aircraft in the target area and it would appear that some aircraft were shot down by them, although in many cases the escort of Mustangs were seen in hot pursuit of the jets.

    Cloud conditions made it difficult to assess results of the raid but it appeared to be fairly successful. All our aircraft returned safely to base.


    [Aircraft were 21 x Lancaster; take off at 05.55; time back down @11.30; bombed at 08.45 - 0853 hrs from 17,500 – 19,000 ft. Edited to add: I subsequently noted that only 20 Lancasters are recorded in the Form 541!]


  17. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member

    Re course during the bombing run, I found the following details in the Form 541 of the ORB for 419 Sqn RCAF (AIR27/1823/30) but I'm not sure exactly what the meaning is:

    For example:

    Lancaster X KB 721 - Details included: "Target HAMBURG with 6 x 1000 lb USA SAP ANM.59 TF.025 9 x 500 lb USA GP ANM.64 TD.025, 1 x 500 lb MC TD.025, 2 x 250 lb GP TI, 3 x 4 DC 152 Nickels. Primary at 0905 hrs from 19,000 ft. 031 degs. 208 IAS. 10/10th cloud up to 10,000 ft..."

    Lancaster X KB 878 - "Target HAMBURG etc...Primary at 0905 hrs from 19,000 ft. 025 degs. 204 IAS."

    Can anyone explain what IAS stands for?

    The reports of the bombing run being on a course of around 030 degrees matches suggests that the bomber columns approached from the SW of Hamburg. That suggests that KB869, NG345 and KB859 could have been victims of the first Me 262 attack and that the subsequent attack could have claimed at least some of NB806, KB911 and PB958.


  18. ltdan

    ltdan Nietenzähler

    Exactly – but there is the small but subtle difference between shot up and shot down :pipe:

    MZ418 + PB 958 at least went down WITH bombs, for NG911 and NP806 who both crashed in the immediate vincinity of the latter I have no witness reports.
    Z418 went down somewhere SO Hamburg
    At least KB859 went down after bombs released and swinging south

    1./JG 7 (Stehle) took off between 0805 and 0810
    2./JG 7 (Grunberg) took off about 0815
    Strübing was credited for NP806

    Buchner from III./JG 7 reported being over Hamburg at 0900

    conclusion: NP806 fell victim to the first attack wave from I./JG 7 and crashed in the „Bergedorf row“

    This - but only this - was the basis for my assumption of the possible flight path. Statements of contemporary documents are to be given preference here in any case

    Last edited: Sep 30, 2021
  19. alieneyes

    alieneyes Senior Member

    Indicated airspeed.


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  20. ltdan

    ltdan Nietenzähler

    so the different dates could match
    Abschüsse 2.jpg

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