First published in 1973, the book is still readily available.
This is a very well researched and written book and informative read.
RAF BC launches 214 Handley Page Halifaxes, 9 de Havilland Mosquitoes, and 572 Avro Lancasters against Nuremburg, Germany. This raid is launched despite this night having a full-moon, which is usually cause for a stand-down. A meteorological forecast of heavy cloud-cover over the planned route gives cause for launching the strike regardless, supposedly protecting the force from moonlit visibility. This cloud cover does not occur. Instead, the only real cloud cover is over the target area, and as a result, most of the Pathfinders and bombers mistakenly bomb nearby Schweinfurt. This is the costliest operation of the entire war for RAF BC and is the final strike launched before absorbed under SHAEF (14 April 1944). RAF BC is not released from SHAEF’s control until 3 September 1944. (69 killed)
F/O J D Laidlaw, J/23294, RCAF (Pilot) (KIA)
Sgt D G Cutler, 1391319, RAFVR (Flt Engr) (KIA)
F/Sgt F W Shuttle, 174066, RAFVR (Navigator) (KIA)
F/O M M Corcoran, 414769, RAAF (Bomb Aimer) (KIA)
Martin Michael Corcoran (8/7/1918 - 31/3/1944)
F/Sgt J Henderson, 1108757, RAFVR (WOp AG) (POW)
F/O J Austen, 145520, RAFVR (Mid Up AG) (POW)
F/Sgt K A Bush, 410590, RAAF (Rear AG) (POW)
Kevin Alexander Bush (19/1/1921 - 20/7/1989) (DoD recorded on Ancestry for a Kevin Alexander Bush born in 1921 who, at time of death, was in Western Australia.)
Perhaps nothing can illustrate more clearly the horror of being in a shot-down bomber than the story of the last moments of a 640 Squadron Halifax which was caught by a single schräage Musik* burst. As the Halifax was weaving at the time, the explosive cannon shells hit the nose section as well as the starboard wing and engines. The Canadian pilot received terrible injuries to his legs and just had time to order his crew to bale out before he died. The flight engineer was either killed outright, or like his pilot, mortally wounded. The navigator, also badly injured, fell across the forward escape hatch and prevented others using it. Three men managed to leave by the rear hatch but the seventh man in the crew, Flying Officer Martin Corcoran, an Australian from a little town in Queensland, refused to leave the injured navigator and, although he had time to escape, was last seen by the side of his dying comrade.
*Schräge Musik, which may also be spelled Schraege Musik, was a common name for the fitting of an upward-firing autocannon or machine gun, to an interceptor aircraft, such as a night fighter. (Wikipedia)
The following description of the crash is from a pdf: RAAF PERSONNEL SERVING ON ATTACHMENT IN ROYAL AIR FORCE SQUADRONS AND SUPPORT UNITS IN WORLD WAR 2 AND MISSING WITH NO KNOWN GRAVE
"When outbound the aircraft was shot down by an ME110 and it crashed at Wolferbutt, a village on the west bank of the Ochse, 6kms SSE of Vache. Four of the crew were killed and Flt Sgt Henderson, FO Austen and Flt Sgt Bush were POW’s. Those killed are buried in the Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery, Germany.
640 Squadron lost three aircraft that night and LW549 is mentioned above and LW555 mentioned below leaving Halifax LW500 outstanding.
From Aviation Safety Net
Takeoff at 22:05 hrs for an operation to Nürnberg in Germany.
Homeward-bound, the aircraft was attacked by the night fighter crew of Hauptmann Modrow & Unteroffizier Schneider of the 2./NJG 1, who had taken off from Venlo airfield in the Netherlands at 02:07 hrs, in He 219 A-2 G9+CK. It was ditched off the coast, all seven crew members are missing in action.
From Air Crew Remembered
W/O D. W. Burke
Pilot Officer David Warnock Burke (25 yrs) RCAF J/6415
Sgt. W. Crory
Air Gunner Sgt Weir Crory (20 yrs) RAFVR 1795076
Sgt. R. A. Eastman
Air Bomber Sgt Reginald Arthur Eastman (U/K age) RAFVR 1251915
Sgt. W. Haden
WOp/AG Sgt William Haden (U/K age) RAFVR 1431390
Sgt. A. J. N. Jamieson
Flight Engineer - Allan James Nolf Jamieson (20 yrs) RAFVR - 1823518
Sgt. M. M. Stillard
Air Gunner Sgt Michael Martin Stilliard (19 yrs) RAFVR 1588796
F/O. F. W. Woods
Navigator F/O Frederick Walter Woods (28 yrs) RAFVR 136862
All crew were missing in action, believed killed. Memorialised at Runnymede Memorial.
(Relative to the raid on Nuremberg on 30-31 March 1944)
German fighters were responsible for the destruction of five bombers between the German border and the Channel coast. Another was either a fighter victim or had succumbed to heavy icing - it is only known that a propellor came off and hit the fuselage with the loss of the entire crew.
"Another had been hit by Flak as it flew over Metz and crashed later and a third Halifax was seen by many crews to be hit by Flak and go down into the sea off Dieppe It is not known whether it was hit by a coastal Flak battery or by a Flak ship. The aircraft concerned was probably a 640 Squadron Halifax which was the only heavy bomber lost on that night not subsequently traced by the R.A.F.'s Missing Research Teams."
See separate page on crew of LW500.
Those men who had landed in the south with badly damaged aircraft returned to their home airfields by train. A 640 Squadron crew were surprised that, when they crossed London by Underground, complete with flying suits and parachutes "nobody took the slightest bit of notice of us despite our impedimenta and generally scruffy appearance and, when we reached Beverley, the station master refused to let us use his telephone to ring Leconfield for transport. We couldn't raise tuppence between the seven of us and it was some time before we found a 'phone. All of which went to show that the world did not think us heroes even if we did ourselves."
F/O O'Brien C. - Pilot
F/O Van Fleet R. - Bomb Aimer
F/O Carleton R.H. - Navigator
Sgt Wangler A.L. - Wireless Operator
Sgt Mc Fadden T.C. - Air Gunner
Sgt Bake E. - Air Gunner
Sgt Martin E. - Flight Engineer
All of the crew are buried in the Rheinberg War Cemetery, Germany.
640 Squadron, Leconfield. 16 Halifaxes dispatched, 13 bombed, 3 missing, 3 damaged. 18 men killed, 3 prisoners.
Halifax LW555 (F/O C. O'Brien, killed), 27th down by fighter attack; crashed at Halbs, 5 kms north of Westerburg. Crew on 4th operation, 7 killed.
Halifax LW549 (F/O J. D. Laidlaw, killed), 58th down by fighter attack; crashed at Wolferbutt, 25 kms south west of Eisenach. Crew on 21st operation, 4 killed, 3 prisoners.
Halifax LW500 (P/O D. W. Burke, killed), 96th down, presumed by coastal or naval Flak near Dieppe and crashed into sea. Crew on 5th operation, 7 killed.
Quote from C. E. Willis,
I was in the nose of our Halifax and no matter in which direction I looked I could see tracer fire and balls of flame falling, which I believe were aircraft going down. We were in the middle of all the activity so I put on my parachute as I envisaged a short career with Bomber Command. Incidentally, on only one other occasion during my tour did I deem this action necessary.
Quote from L. D. Leicester,
It was without doubt the worst night that I can ever remember and I could not recall when the R.A.F. was thrown into so much confusion resulting, of course, in bombs being scattered anywhere.
Pilot Officer John Cotter of Crew 20, Squadron 640.
Pilot Officer Cotter, a Halifax pilot on his thirtieth operation, carried the experienced Base Bombing Leader as his bomb-aimer but his navigator was only on his first or second trip.
"With the heavy fighter attacks, the navigator could not have had a more unfortunate introduction and eventually he was unsure of his position. Before we were due at Nuremberg we saw Pathfinder markers going down just off our track. We had not been briefed of any diversionary target here and I immediately assumed we were at Nuremberg. I just thought we were lucky that, with minimum navigational assistance, we had got to Nuremberg and bombed. Not one of us queried the target. I still believe that the markers had been put down by the Pathfinders. When you fly over a city which is marked, is apparently being bombed heavily, where you see several combats in progress, you assume it is your target."
Pilot Officer John Cotter, Squadron 640.
"As we flew up over Lincolnshire and south Yorkshire we began to suspect that all was not well. When the bomber force was returning from a raid, the flarepaths of the bomber airfields illuminated the countryside. This night, all seemed to be in darkness. When we got to Leconfield, the airfield lights were out; they were not expecting us so soon. We knew then that we had bombed the wrong target."
"Even now, when I see a bright moon, I think of it as a Nuremberg moon."