A Bomber Command Navigator 80 Years On – Operations Dortmund (14th April 1942) and Hamburg (18th April 1942)

Stirling Mk1 (Source: AirCrewRemembered.com)

After a quick trip to Manston on 13th April 1942 in Stirling Q9313, Alan embarked on his 10th operational mission the following day aboard Stirling J6072, again under the command of S/Ldr Ashworth. According to the logbook extract below, Alan and his crew took off at 2235 along with 7 other Stirlings from 218 Squadron, all bound for Dortmund.

Extract from Alan’s Logbook – April 1942. Source: S Green

Founded in 882, Dortmund was the largest city in Germany’s industrial “Ruhr” area. As a centre for steel and coal production (in 1938, Hoesch AG, the steel/mining conglomerate, employed 30000 people), Dortmund ended up being one of most heavily bombed German cities in World War 2. It can be seen from the Operations Record Book (ORB) below that the “attacks were made between eleven thousand and eighteen thousand feet” and “many fires were seen, but the glare of the searchlights and flares prevented accurate observation”.

Thanks to “T.R. fixes being confirmed by visual identification of the town or nearby landmarks”, it was reported that “over 55800lbs of bombs were dropped during this operation”.  In their specific report of the raid, Alan’s crew noted “the centre of the town received our bombs”,  while “a two engine fighter sighted about 600 yards on our port, when we were coned about 20 miles NE of Essen”, so “we fired two rounds from our rear turret and he drew off”. Despite this attention, J6072 made it safely back to base, along with the other 7 Squadron aircraft, 3 of which had been hit by flak.

218 Squadron Operations Records (April 1942) – Source: National Archives

Having swapped over a couple of aircraft (K7806 and S3717) during a day trip to Manston on 16th April 1942, Alan undertook his 11th operational mission on 18th April 1942 in a different Stirling, again commanded by S/Ldr Ashworth. According to Alan’s logbook and the ORB below, Q9313, one of 12 aircraft despatched by 218 Squadron on this occasion, took off in “fine” weather and visibility of “10-20 miles generally” at 0016 bound for Hamburg, Germany’s second largest city, situated on the river Elbe. Dating back to the Holy Roman Empire, Hamburg was one of the largest ports in Europe with great commercial and industrial influence.

Extract from Alan’s Logbook – April 1942. Source: S Green

While Alan notes “Elbe identified” in his logbook remarks, the ORB states that “fires were started including one which was observed 40-50 miles away” and that “over 78500lbs of bombs were dropped during this operation”. Although some aircraft were hit by flak, reference to the individual crew reports confirms that all 12 Stirlings landed safely back at their Marham base, although W7521 piloted by F/Lt Humphreys had to make an early return due to technical problems. It should be noted that Hamburg was subject to a sustained bombing campaign by the RAF and USAF in July 1943 (codenamed Gomorrah by the RAF), resulting a dreadful firestorm which devastated the city and killed over 42000 citizens, although the precise number is unknown. Hamburg eventually surrendered to British forces on 3rd May 1945.

218 Squadron Operations Records (April 1942) – Source: National Archives

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

9 Replies to “A Bomber Command Navigator 80 Years On – Operations Dortmund (14th April 1942) and Hamburg (18th April 1942)

  1. A salute to yet another of my Bomber Command heroes!
    He must have been all of 19 – 20 years of age at that time! God bless him and all, those who returned and those who didn’t.
    My late step father in law was Flight Engineer in 75 NZ Squadron Lanc. shot down over France. He and two others survived, and he with the tail gunner was taken in by the Maquis. The Nav. being wounded became a POW.
    Best wishes
    John ex RAF 1956 – 1961

    1. Thanks John – he was in fact 21, although the Captain was 40 which was quite unusual. Your father in law’s story sounds equally interesting – lucky to survive. What did you do in the RAF?

  2. Interesting paper. My father was 218 (Gold Coast) after a spell with 2 TAF. But this was later in 44 / 45, after the transition to Lancasters.

  3. Brave young men. Late father in law William Laird Strang RAF 218 Gold Coast Squadron also flew in raids over Hamburg and was shot down 29/30July 1943. POW in Stalag LUFT IVb till wars end. Lost two crew.

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