Its a pity that you set it where you did, if you read the air combat reports of the Lancaster's First 'Staring role' as a heavy bomber in 1942 'The Augsburg Operation' (Op Margin) - several Lancs went down in this exact manner to a mixed force of FW 190s and ME 109s over Europe.
The South African Raid Commander was awarded the VC for his actions in this raid - he was also the only one from his Squadron to return from the Operation (JD Nettleton). He was killed later in the war - much like Guy Gibson in something of a mystery - being brought down attacking Italy with the same Squadron on his next tour. Like so many others he was lost without trace, somewhere between the target and his airbase.
As a sad post script, John Nettleton was married on 17 July 1942 after falling (like so many others) for a young english lady who was a WAAF at his airfield. John's only child a son, was born in England on 19 February 1944 - John never knew that his wife was pregnant nor ever saw his son. He was killed flying Lancaster ED331 KM-Z for Zebra on 12/13 July 1943 attacking Turin - he was confirmed as Killed on 23 February 1944 only days after the boys birth. He, like my own relation who was killed in 1945 also on Lancasters, is listed on the Runnymede Memorial to Aircrew with No Known Resting Place near London. Several other members of the aircrews involved in this operation were also lost on future operations or in training accidents at the end of their tour. The W/OP Killed with my relation was also on this Operation and was flying his 3rd tour - he had started on Hampdens in 1940.
Briefly the Aircrews involved and their fate were -
44 (Rhodesia) Sqd RAF Bomber Command
KM-B for Beer R5508 S/L JD Nettleton and Aircrew
KM - A for Apple R5510 F/O AJ Garwell DFM and Aircrew
KM-H for Howe L7536 Sgt GT Rhodes and Aircrew
KM- P for Peter R5506 F/L RR Sandford DFC and Aircrew
KM-T for Tommy L7548 W/O HV Crum DFM and Aircrew
KM - V for Victory L7565 W/O JF Beckett DFM and Aircrew
97 (Straits Settlements) Sqd RAF Bomber Command
OF-K for Katherine L7573 S/L JS Sherwood DFC and Aircrew (Sqd Commander - 2nd in charge of Operation)
OF-B for Beer R5537 F/L BRW Hallows and Aircrew
OF-F for Freddie R5488 F/O E Rodley and Aircrew
OF-U for Uncle R5496 F/L WM Penman DFC and Aircrew
OF-Y for Yorker L7575 F/O EA Deverill DFM and Aircrew
OF-P for Peter R5513 W/O TJ Mycock DFC and Aircrew
17 April 1942 - Airborne in 2 waves from 1500 Hrs. Height 60 Feet over the Channel - then lower over France and onwards ('so low the slipstream bent over the grass and wheat as we flew over it').
Luftwaffe Fighters were returning to base, belonging to II/JG26 and Stab/JG26 (30 ME 109 Fs and FW190 As) and were on landing approach at Everux, when they spotted the rear group of the 44 Sqd formation and then broke off their landings and attacked the Lancasters.
W/O Joe Becket went down first to a pair of fighters making a stern attack almost at once, he had been already damaged by FLAK crossing the coast and his rear turret had been damaged and was not functioning before the fighters had even turned up.
He is rapidly followed by W/O Bert Crum - who went down while being attacked by 6 ME 109s all at the same time, loosing both port engines and with both his Gunners also wounded in the battle and at such a low height that no one could jump clear, they crashed into a wheat field no more then a few minutes after the first Lanc had gone in.
F/L Nick Sandford the rear groups commander was the last to go down - also to a large number of fighters making combined attacks from astern and above. His Lancaster was last seen on fire by the lead sections Rear Air Gunners, who could only watch with 'mute horror' as the Lancaster disappeared into a 'sheet of flame' as it ploughed into the ground and exploded on impact.
All 3 Lancasters and their aircrews were shot down in under 10 minutes - some say as little as less then 5 mins. Joe Becket and Harry Crum crashed only 500 Yards away from each other.
Now the fighters hit the lead group with John Nettleton at the front slightly in his Vic of 3 Aircraft.
Dusty Rhodes and his Aircrew went down first without firing a shot of return fire - the fighters stayed out of range of the Brownings and used their 20 MM cannons on them. At one point the pilot was clearly seen to be hit or killed as was his nose gunner, as the Lancaster was seen to rear upwards almost out of control, at one point it even seemed like it would fall down on the others and take them down with it, but with all its engines set on fire the aircraft stalled then slid over onto its back and flew into the ground missing both aircraft by a few feet as it crashed astern of them 'in a ball of flames'.
Then the miracle that saved them - already badly shot up and with still over 300 miles to go - the fighters were there and then they were just as suddenly gone. Already low on fuel when landing, they were forced to break off the attacks and return to base - otherwise its doubtful anyone in 44 would have survived this initial attack.
97 Sqd was only 2-3 miles away and could only watch with 'absolute horror' as the other squadron 'were chopped to pieces right in front of us', while being able to do nothing to save them. No attacks were made against them - most likely due to the fighters fuel situation.
Then over the Target Garwell and his Aircrew in an already crippled bomber due to the fighters and later after the attacks FLAK damage ('the Lancaster moved sluggishly and wallowed through the sky from side to side..') were hit by FLAK on the bomb run and crashed almost at once after his rear fuselage had been seen to catch fire. He hit the ground hard - blinded by smoke - crashing to earth at over 80 Miles an hour, both Air Gunners had no chance being burnt alive despite desperate efforts to set them free and his W/OP was thrown clear on impact and died of a broken neck being found near one of the aircrafts wings afterwards.
All the survivors were in the nose area only.
John Nettleton was also hit several times but escaped - just.
97 were next to bomb.
S/L Sherwood lead his vic of 3 in from the head and was also brought down by FLAK over the target, the Lancaster hit the ground and exploded almost at once - seemingly with no chance of survivors.
all the aircrews were damaged badly in this attack by the FLAK in both of 97s formations.
Another Lanc flown by W/O Tommy Mycock and Aircrew was seen to be hit on the bomb run in the port wing which turned quickly into a raging inferno but yet again as on 9 Jan 1942 over Brest for which he was awarded the DFC, he continued to stay in formation and he dropped his bombs onto the target. Even as the last of his bomb load fell clear, his Lanc was seen to 'vanish' from view as it disappeared completely when it exploded over the target - no doubt due to the fire in the port wing hitting his fuel tanks.
The aircrews remaining turned for home - most now on 3 engines, all shot up in one way or another .
These 5 made it home against the odds - John Nettleton landed at his base at 0100 on 18 April 1942.
3 of 97s shot up lancs were written off due to damage from the FLAK as being 'Beyond Economical Repair'.
Of 85 Airmen that took part - 49 were now Missing. Only 12 Survived to be later listed as POWs.
Bert Crums Aircrew all survived, his second pilot Sgt Dedman dumped their load of bombs just before they went in unarmed, they never exploded like the others and were able to get clear before the fire burnt the wreckage out. The Pilot rescued his trapped nose gunner Bert Dowty with a fire axe from inside the lancaster, as the fire started to get closer, he ignored his gunners demands that he leave him and get clear.
4 Aircrew from from Ginger Garwells Aircrew survived including Ginger. (see above)
One Airmen was able to evade capture for a period, the 19 Year Old Air Gunner Bert Dowty who was Bert Crums nose Gunner - he was captured after being on the run for 16 days and was the only gunner not to be wounded in the loss of his Aircraft.
As in the case of the Dambusters there were also many decorations awarded and as mentioned above, the VC went to John Nettleton. There were also DFCs to 3 of his Aircrew, and the DFM to the remaining members of his Aircrew.
Decorations went to Ginger Garwells Surviving Aircrew, Ginger got the DFC, the DFM also went to the other members of his Aircrew who survived the loss of their Lancaster.
John 'Flaps' Sherwood was the only survivor from his Aircrew. His was perhaps one of the most amazing of the war, still strapped into his pilots seat when found he was blown clear after being blasted out through the cockpit canopy by the resulting explosion after the crash that killed all his Aircrew and landed in some nearby trees which helped to break his fall. He survived with nothing worse then a few minor burns, and some cuts and bruises.
Flaps was recommended for the VC as well, but when news came through he was alive it was downgraded to the DSO.
Of the Survivors - 4 Pilots were decorated, the DSO went to one and 3 received the DFC. Additionally 2 of Jock Penmans Aircrew also received the DFC, his Rear Air Gunner was also awarded the DFM.
Rod Rodleys Aircrew also received decorations with the DFM going to 2 Members, and the DFM also being awarded to 2 members of Ernest Deverill's Aircrew. Both of these Aircrews came back in Crippled Lancasters due to FLAK Damage as did Jock Penman and his Aircrew.
The damage to the target was at best minor - production was barely even affected. To add insult to injury not even half of the bombs dropped exploded, despite hitting the target.
Of those Involved -
South Africa 2 Rhodesia 8 Australia 1 New Zealand 2 Canada 2 Uk 70
Among the Luftwaffe Pilots present in this battle was the 'Experten' Major Walter Oseau, he is now credited with shooting down Dusty Rhodes and his aircrew with his wingman Oberfeldwebel Edelmann. Hauptman Heine Greisert shot down Joe Beckets Aircrew, while Feldwebel Bosseckert shot down Nick Sandfords Aircrew.
Unteroffizier Pohl shot down Harry Crums Aircrew, and by doing so while flying his ME 109 Black 7 became their 1000th Wartime Victory Claim for the 'Richthofen' Gruppe.
Taken from The Avro Lancaster By Francis K Mason
You get a A plus for effort - but the location ruins it.
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