A Bomber Command Navigator 80 Years On – 10th and 11th January 1942: Operation Brest (contd.)

Join us as we explore the 4th and 5th missions of RAF Bomber Command Navigator, Alan Green – and his flying raids during the war. This time, Alan returned to Brest to continue the RAF’s efforts targeting two German ships.

The damage inflicted on Wellington X9679 during Alan’s third mission (on 8th January 1942) resulted in the aircraft being out of service until 31st January 1942. X9679 was one of 710 aircraft built by Vickers-Armstrong at Hawarden near Chester. It was delivered on 19th June 1941 and finally scrapped on 17th March 1944 (Source: B. Hope)

Extract from Alan’s Logbook (Source: S. Green)

As a result, Alan’s 4th operational flight took place on 10th January at 0350 on a different Wellington (X9755K) which was air tested by the crew the previous day in the local area. Once again, the target was Brest and the German ships, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, which were given the codename “Toads” in the Operational Record Book (ORB) shown below. Despite the cloudy conditions, Port Militaire, the French name for Brest, was spotted by the crew of X9755, who managed to drop their bombs and return to Marham without incident.

Extracts from 218 Squadron’s Operational Record Book Source: National Archives):

Alan returned to Brest the next day in the same aircraft – this time the trip was particularly eventful in that the aircraft suffered substantial damage and injuries to its crew, which necessitated an emergency diversion to Exeter. This is described in Alan’s logbook as “landed Exeter, very heavily damaged, W.Op (Wireless Operator) and Front Gunner injured”. According to the ORB below, the flak was intense, “the searchlights unusually active” and the “aircraft was shot up rather badly while over the target, causing damage to starboard wheel and bomb doors”. The report goes on to say, “the wireless operator Sgt.Allen was injured in the eyes by shrapnel, also the front gunner, Sgt Morrison, has a slight jaw injury, which was also caused by shrapnel”. The Wellington was held in high regard by its crew for its ability to withstand significant damage and still make it home. This was thanks to its unique “geodetic” airframe design (shown below) which was the brainchild of Barnes Wallis, who invented the bouncing bomb used in the famous “Dam Busters” raid in May 1943.

The Wellington’s remarkable ability to sustain damage (Source: www.airpowerworld.info and www.classicwarbirds.com)
Scharnhorst and Gneisenau in Brest (Source: weaponsandwarfare.com)

Lecturer in Air Transport Management at Buckinghamshire New University, Module Leader in Aviation Sustainability Management. Experienced Airbus/Boeing Captain.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *