A Bomber Command Navigator 80 Years On – 2nd May 1942, “Gardening” in the Langelands Belt

After the aborted operation to Cologne on 27th April 1942, which had been caused by technical problems with the aircraft throttle system, Alan undertook his 14th mission on 2nd May 1942, once again in R9313 under the command of S/Ldr Ashworth.

Relevant extract from Alan’s Logbook (May 1942) – Source: S Green

On this occasion, R9313 took departed just before midnight, one of 5 218 Squadron Stirlings scheduled for “Gardening” operations in several locations, although “owing to engine trouble aircraft “P” captained by Sgt McAuley was withdrawn”, according to the extract from the Squadron’s Operations Record Book (ORB) below. “Gardening” was the codename for dropping anti shipping mines near ports/harbours, in estuaries and in busy shipping lanes to disrupt shipping and force the Germans to engage in constant minesweeping and anti-aircraft defence, preventing significant manpower and resources being allocated elsewhere. The European coastline was divided up in a range of target areas which, for the most part, were allocated tree or plant codenames, as indicated below.

Alan’s logbook entry confirms the target as the “Langelands Belt”, a stretch of sea near Copenhagen and close to the strategically important German port of Kiel. The ORB also notes that “Gardening was the order of the night and vegetables were planted in their allotted positions”, while “S/Ldr Ashworth aimed 2×500 (lb) G.P. (General Purpose) bombs at a ship and claimed a near miss”.  All 4 Stirlings safely returned to base, although the crew of W7503 reported their “port outer engine and wing hit by flak”. Even though many in Bomber Command regarded mine laying as much less risky than bombing missions, these operations tended to be long and clearly had their dangerous moments, especially when dropping at low level, as underlined by the fact that 408 bomber aircraft were lost “planting vegetables” in WW2.

Extracts from Air 27/1350, 218 Squadron Operation Record Book – Source: National Archives

Loading Mines on a 218 Squadron Stirling – Source: 218squadron.wordpress.com
Gardening Code Names and Map – Source: Aircrew Remembered


Falconer, Jonathan, Short Stirling, 1939-48 (all marks) Owner’s Workshop Manual (Yeovil, Haynes Publishing, 2015)

AIR 27/1350 218 Squadron, May 1942

Smith, Steve, From St Vith to Victory, 218 (Gold Coast) Squadron and the Campaign Against Nazi Germany (Barnsley, Pen & Sword Books Ltd, 2015)

Overy, Richard, Bomber Command, 1939-45 (Singapore, Silverdale Books, 2000)

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

2 Replies to “A Bomber Command Navigator 80 Years On – 2nd May 1942, “Gardening” in the Langelands Belt

  1. Thank you for this – it is very informative.
    My uncle Alf Farren and his crew went ‘Gardening’ on 25 Nov 43 in Stirling LJ 4564.
    The records just state ‘Duty carried out. Mines dropped, attacked by enemy aircraft …’ it doesn’t say where.

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