The aftermath of the bombing operation
Every bombing operation has a multitude of consequences on the locations and lives of people, in this case on those in Germany in the target area and of course the families of the airmen who failed to return.
From the Air Ministry's point of view the success or otherwise has to be assessed, whether it be via crew briefings as the bomber crew returned or via photo reconnaissance pictures. The German administration had to also assess the damage to the canal and its lock gates to decide on the feasibility of repair in order to get this vital transport link back into operation, as they had done many times previously, and of course the immediate task of finding the downed bombers and their crews, of repairing local damage to houses and farms where possible and roads etc.
Police reports filed the following day:
The final sentence above refers specifically to the crew of ME453; the two crew being burned were Rowland Ward and Colin Hill, the others in the field the remainder of the crew. This corroborates the testimony of Herr Heinrich Langkamp when I visited him.
The paragraph below is an extract from an MRES report, which will be shown fully later in this section:
It confirms the fate of ME453, though its cause of destruction cannot have been known by Herr Langkamp and the positioning of the crews' bodies and later interment in Greven.
RAF assessment of the success of the operation.
The accuracy of the attack can be seen in the photograph below, taken two days later:
Two weeks later, photographs and an assessment:
Despite signs of repairs being made in some sections, the Dortmund Ems canal was not in operation for the remainder of the war. Extracts from the raid report:
Operations Record Books (ORBs)
The first task of each crew on return to the air station was to be de-briefed on how the operation had gone, the time and altitude of bombing and any other observations. As will be seen below, whilst there is a degree of standardisation in the ORBs, each squadron had their own "formula".
The strain shows on the crew's faces as they drink their welcome cuppa.
Everybody's involved in the de-brief
The ORBs kept by each squadron though 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.
Extracts from the Operation Record Book from 467 Squadron tells its own story with those who bombed successfully and returned, and those who didn't:
467 Squadron's missing Lancasters, PB806 flown by W/C Langlois, ME453 flown by F/O Ward and LM677 flown by F/O Eggins. 463 Squadron lost one, flown by Frank Howells in NG469:
Below, 227 Squadron's ORB and the loss of NG170:
Below, 207 Squadron's ORB and the loss of NG204 (though the serial number is missing from the ORB):
The comment in the ORB below is interesting; at least four Lancasters spotted with their navigation lights turned on! This may have been an oversight by the crews or perhaps a conscious decision to try to avoid a collision with another Lancaster?
171 Squadron's ORB for the Mandrel screen operation:
214 Squadron's Fortresses on Window ops.:
214 Squadron's Fortresses on Window ops., plus Jostle and Piperack:
223 Squadron's Liberators on similar patrols:
141 Squadron's Mosquitoes on Intruder patrols:
Some of 85 Squadron's Mosquitoes flew in a Bomber Support role.....
...as did 239 Squadron's Mosquitoes:
And 169 and 157 Squadrons both supporting the bomber crews in their tasks:
These hand-written debrief notes from 169 Squadron contain an interesting observation of a flaming aircraft going down, not subsequently entered into the official ORBs:
The grid reference given is some 50 miles from the target area, what's not clear is whether this was the position of the Mosquito or that of the downed aircraft. I suspect the former, in which case it could have been either NG204 of 207 Squadron, or LM677 of 467 Squadron since they were the first casualties of the night around 20 miles short of the target.
ORBs for 462 Squadron show the "bomb loads" of all Halifaxes bar one comprised flares in an attempt to fool the enemy and thereby dividing its night fighter forces even more thinly.
They were also busy Windowing but given the comment from the Navigation Leader of 100 Group about the need for accuracy and timing in navigation in order to present an effective and convincing appearance of a considerable bomber force approaching their timing was suspect as this assessment shows::
There would have been a post-op de-brief about this! F/O Langworthy flying "L" would have got a rocket.