A Bomber Command Navigator 80 Years On – 8th January 1942: Operation Brest

We continue to follow the WW2 flying missions of RAF Bomber Command Navigator, Alan Green. This time we explore Operation Brest – in which the RAF were tasked with bombing two German pocket battleships sheltered in Brest, France.

Having completed an air test in Wellington X9679D on 7th January, Alan Green undertook his third Bomber Command mission in the same aircraft in the early hours (take-off 0336) of the following day.

This was the first in a series of raids in January/February 1942 against 2 German pocket battleships, the Scharnhorst and the Gneisenau (the new Kriegsmarine’s first capital ships, both launched in 1936), which had been sheltering in Brest for more than a year. Attacking these ships had been a great source of frustration for the RAF, as the Germans had an early warning system which enabled the defenders to cover the ships in a thick smokescreen ahead of the attack. Despite this, the RAF did hit the targets on a few occasions, although none of these hits were enough to put the ships permanently out of action.

Logbook entry (Source: Alan Green)
218 Squadron ORB Records (Source: National Archives)
Scharnhorst (Source: maritime-executive.com) and Gneisenau (Source: forum.worldofwarships.eu)

Moreover, the fact that Brest was the finest naval yard in France, with excellent dry dock and repair facilities, meant that the Germans were easily able to put right any random damage inflicted by the RAF.  These ships posed a significant threat to the Atlantic convoys and as a result the Royal Navy were required to keep substantial forces close by to prevent them breaking cover and heading out to sea.

218 Squadron ORB Records (Source: National Archives)

According to the ORB report above, the crew of X9679D dropped their bombs in 9/10 cloud conditions between 0553 and 0620 hours. It is clear from Alan’s logbook entry that this trip was quite eventful, as they made it back to their base at Marham even though they were “well shot up, but no injuries”.

Further 218 Squadron ORB Report (source: National Archives)

Do stay tuned as we continue to follow Alan’s missions, 80 years on from his involvement in the Second World War with the RAF Bomber Command.

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

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