Operation Record Books (ORBs)
Operation Record Books (ORBs) were kept by each squadron which, although not always 100% accurate, served as a written document similar to a daily diary. They show the targets, dates, losses, crews, bomb-loads and de-briefing comments by the crews. The maintenance of these records was the responsiblility of the Adjutant, they were signed off by the current Commanding Officer, whose comments and notes they also include.
This is an extract of 3rd and 4th March from the "summary" pages for March 1945.
3 March reads: "Crews were up early today in preparation for the operation but the daylight was cancelled and the raid became another night attack. 15 aircraft took off, and the guess was correct - the target being DORTMUND-EMS Canal.
4 March reads: Disaster - This target has cost us another C.O. and this time also two other crews. W/Cdr E.L.Langlois (whose promotion came through this morning). F/O R.T.Ward and F/O R.B.Eggins were the captains of the other missing crews. W/Cdr Langlois had the new gunnery leader with him F/O R.K.Taylor - who had just arrived to take over. The C.O. was on his 18th trip of his second tour, and it was certainly a shock to find him missing.
The standard of ORBs and their content varies from squadron to squadron. Fortunately both 467 and 463 squadron adjutants were very efficient and ensured that their ORBs were maintained to a very high standard, although mistakes were inevitable on a busy front-line squadron where changes to targets, take-off times, bomb-loads etc occurred frequently.
The following items refer specifically to the destruction of some of the Lancasters, the information will be formatted and explained more fully at time permits.
Navigator's log extract:
The image below shows an extract of the navigator's log from 463 squadron Lancaster NG401 JO-G, the navigator being Australian Doug Wheeler, for the Dortmund-Ems operation on the 3rd March. They have just dropped their bombs and turned onto the homeward leg:
Read the extract above in conjunction with the map below, Doug's map which has been overlaid onto a GoogleEarth map showing the crash sites of the four Lancasters shot down as they approached the target:
Note that the log above refers at 22.05 to "A/C DOWN ON PT BEAM", NG401's position as they start their home leg at "F". There is a very strong likelihood that the aircraft going down was ME453, its crash site shown by the yellow pin.
The image to the left and enlarged section below are extracts from the 189 squadron ORB which make reference to a Lancaster being hit very near to the target. Only two Lancasters were lost in the target area, ME453 (PO-L) and PB806 (PO-W), the latter flown by W/Cdr Langlois the squadron CO.
Cy March, an ex-miner from Durham was the rear gunner with Nev "Bug" Emery's crew which arrived on the squadron a few days after the Ward crew in early February. Cy's Lancaster, ME487 PO-H took off at 18.41, 12 minutes ahead of Ward's. This was the Emery crew's fourth operation, they had already visited the infamous canals twice before on 20th and 24th February.
Cy wrote the following graphic description of the operation on 3rd March:
Flight Sergeant Peter Barlow was the navigator of ME427 of 463 squadron. He wrote of this operation:
"Onward over Germany now. Still working, watching and waiting. The pilot flying and searching, the gunners rotating their turrets, looking for trouble, the bomb aimer watching below, the flight engineer checking his engines and instruments but watching and searching too. Only the navigator and wireless op. hidden behind curtains are working without watching - but their ears are strained to catch the second-hand reports from the rest of the crew.
There's a Lanc going down. See! On the port bow. Yes, watch out fellows! Better log it navigator.
Ten minutes to the target. The radio receiver switched on, and comes over the intercom, mingling with crackles and whistles with the voices of our own crew, as we strain to hear the Master Bomber talking to his 'markers'.
And now, with the coloured flares on the ground still in the distance, our aircraft seems to hover, taking ages to creep nearer to the target, droning on and on with no perceptible forward movement.
And now we look ahead! The flares are not alone now. A network of tracer shells is criss-crossing the sky ahead of us and the sky is starred with the pinprick flashes of shell bursts. White streaks - red and green hosepipes of coloured lights, drifting upwards, apparently lazily - slowly - like the "cats eyes" on the highway, streaming in the headlights towards the eyes of a tired driver. The streams and traces seem to fill the sky. Nobody can ever get through it! Oh that horrible feeling now that the target is disappearing beneath the nose of the aircraft! That feeling that something is going to come up through the floorboards and hit you in the balls........so I take my parachute out of the rack and put it on my bench seat, gripping it between my knees as I stand looking out of the windows. And my knees are trembling shamefully and won't stop. Tension everywhere! Voices are staccato - intent....
Why can't he drop the load so that we can get away from here? It's not healthy. I'm frightened and it seems very warm now in the cockpit. It's hot and I'm sweating! I am frightened! Why shouldn't I be? But I've got work to do now, quickly! It seems such an effort to duck beneath the curtains to make that final check on the course out from the target. I can't concentrate. My work seems desperately slow because my mind is on the activity out there, wondering what's happening.
Out from under the curtains now. Another Lancaster goes down in flames over the starboard wingtip. The dark silhouette of another passes slowly, and very close just above us, from port to starboard. A burning object, probably somebody's engine on fire - slides across the sky behind us. Still the streams of coloured fire are drifting up through the sky on all sides of us. Bursts of shells above us - and the dark puffs of spent shells pass almost scraping the cockpit roof.
And there is silence! All the nosies - gunfire, bombing and the engines of a hundred aircraft are drowned by the background roar of our own engines - which our ears tune down to the zero point of silence!
Flashes ahead and below us light up the scattered clouds. Violent shining flares appear in the sky, lasting for a few seconds and imprinting the momentary picture on our eyes. Aircraft everywhere, in all attitudes. Some banking crazily, probably evading fighters - others diving. So we aren't alone after all!"