1 Tour of RAF and USAAF WW2 BOMBER BASES DAY 1 Drive to Duxford by mifei


									Tour of RAF and USAAF WW2 BOMBER BASES

USAAF and RAF WW2 roundels

DAY 1 Drive to Duxford. Leave M11 at Junction 10. Drive past first entrance on left to Duxford Museum & Airfield - the Visitor Entrance - and on to the next entrance, the Staff Entrance (also on left). Meet LINDA MASON (Special Visits Officer 01223 499312) at gate at 12.00 p.m. for tour of AMERICAN (Norman Foster) MUSEUM. [see PETER WARD of Classic Wings – by Control Tower – upon arrival] Then 12.30 Visit inside B17 Flying Fortress 13.15 LUNCH Runway RESTAURANT 14.30 Visit inside LANCASTER 15.15 Visit inside SUNDERLAND flying boat 16.00 Trip in De Haviland RAPIDE [ ] over Cambridge and Madingley (contact is: Peter Ward 07931 500591). Briefing before flight

DUXFORD IN WW2 Many RAF and USAAF units served during WW2 at Duxford (and its satellite Fowlmere) and it is notable for being the RAF’s first Spitfire station. But it is forever associated with Bader and the Duxford Wing. Flying Officer Douglas Bader [ with Park, Dowding, Leigh-Mallory] was posted to No. 19 Squadron at Duxford, seven years after being discharged from the same airfield after the loss of both legs in a flying accident. In March 1

‘40 he transferred as a flight commander to No. 222 Sq. (Spits) and left with them in May before the Battle of Britain (No. 264 Sq. replaced them, equipped with vulnerable Defiants, replaced in turn in July - when the Defiant proved a failure - by Czech 310 Sq. flying Hurricanes). Bader, now Sq. Leader, returned end Aug. with the Hurricanes of 242 Sq. from Coltishall and immediate success led Air V-M Leigh-Mallory (comm. 12 Group) to authorise Bader to lead the other two Duxford squadrons as well (19 – now at Fowlmere - and 310) and eventually a total of five – 302 (Polish) and 611 were added in Sept. On Sept. 15 this ‘Big Wing’ claimed 42 victories for the loss of 6 planes. By the Battle’s end the Wing claimed an optimistic 152 enemy planes destroyed.

But Air V-M Keith Park, No. 11 Group commander in the thick of the fighting, criticised the Wing for being unwieldy – and late. After the Battle L-M and Bader won the PR war and Park and Dowding, C-in-C Fighter Comm., were all but airbrushed from the official history. In April 1943 Duxford became USAAF Station 357, the home first of 350th Fighter Group and then 78th FG, equipped with P-47C Thunderbolts and (Dec. ’44) P-51D Mustangs with their trademark b/w chequered markings. The 78th flew 450 ops. in support of US 8th AF heavies. ………………………………………………………………………………………….. Drive to Louth, Lincs for 2-night stay plus dinners at PRIORY HOTEL [01507 602930] DAY 2 Drive to EAST KIRKBY [see APPENDIX for airfield plan] (9.30 arrival – HAROLD PANTON 01790 763207) Bomber Command WW2 airfield for day's visit to museum (with briefing) including trip around perimeter track in WW2 vintage Avro Lancaster [ ]. Lunch included. East Kirkby was part of No. 5 Group from 1943-45 (630 and


57 Squadrons). 212 operations were flown from which 121 Lancasters failed to return. DAY 3 10.00 – 11.15 Visit to Battle of Britain Flight [ ] (contact: Phil Tetlow) at RAF Coningsby (No. 5 Group in WW2). Planes will include the only operational Lanc in Britain (1 in Canada), several marks of Spits / Hurricanes etc. and a Dakota. 175 Bomber Command aircraft were lost in ops flown from here, 17 Manchesters, 57 Hampdens (both troublesome aircraft) and 101 Lancasters. The following squadrons all served – 83, 97, 106, 617, 619, 61. 617 (Dambusters) Squadron moved here from Scampton in August ’43 and stayed until Jan. ’44. They were involved in special ops. Their most notable op was the disastrous low-level raid on the DortmundEms canal when 5 out of the 8 Lancs despatched were lost. 11.30 Private visit to Metheringham [see APPENDIX for airfield plan] Bomber Command WW2 airfield and small museum (in the old ration store) by courtesy of Peter and Zena Scoley (01526 378270). Metheringham was home from 1943-46 to 106 Squadron (flying Lancasters) of No. 5 Group. They lost 65 Lancasters in ops. 12.45 LUNCH Royal Oak, Scopwick (Angela Robinson 01526320285) 14.15 3 mile drive to a private visit to the restored WW2 OPS ROOM [ ]at the only fighter station in No. 5 Group, RAF DIGBY – still an RAF fighter station.


DIGBY was host in WW2 to 30 or more RAF fighter squadrons (from Sept.1942 it was known as RCAF Digby - 13 Canadian squadrons were based here) and saw Hurricanes, Spitfires, Blenheims, Beaufighters etc. Bader was here in 1941 (222 Sq.), Guy Gibson (29 Sq.) before he transferred to Lancasters. RAF DIGBY is the oldest RAF station, dating from 1918. In June ’40, many of 46 Sq. and 263 Sq., based at Digby, were lost when the carrier HMS Glorious was sunk, an event featured in the museum. In Feb. ’44, 144 Wing was formed here (441, 442, 443 Squadrons) under the command of Wing Co. ‘Johnnie’ Johnson [ ], the top RAF ace with 38 kills. Meet contact (Corporal Richard Casey 01526327422) in Guard Room [Main contact: Sgt. Yvonne Gray 01526327505]. 17.30 Arrive Thorpe Abbotts (Norfolk/Suffolk border) WW2 USAAF base, home of the 'Bloody Hundredth' 100 Bombardment Group, 3rd Air Division, 8th USAAF (contact: Sam Hurry 01553766089; if delayed to ring museum 01379740708). Tower and museum opened specially for our group [ airfield from tower; tower; runway]. Airfield is accessible and unspoilt.

The 100 BG flew 306 missions and lost 229 aircraft. 860 officers and men were killed in action from Thorpe Abbotts. Although a high loss rate, it was comparable to that of other groups; but the 100th was known as a ‘Hard-Luck Group’ because high losses came in individual missions, reducing strength to critical levels.


Night and dinner at Cornwallis Hotel, Brome [01379 870326]. Memorial to the 490th BG nearby. DAY 4 10.00 Visit by special arrangement to SEETHING tower [ - and in Oct. ’45 from the air ], museum and airfield [Patricia Everson 01508 550787]. Home - from 1943 to ’45 - to the 8th USAAF 448 BG, 2nd Air Division (712, 713, 714, 715 Squadrons flying B24 Liberators). The 448 also suffered a high loss rate – 101 Liberators lost in 262 ops. On the evening of April 22, 1944, 5 Liberators were bounced by


Me410s as they circled to land, returning from a raid over Germany. 11.00 Two light aircraft – a Cessna 172 and a Piper PA28 Archer – will take the group on a 20 min. tour of USAAF bases, from where naturally the layout of runways and buildings are best seen [contact: Alan Young of Waveney Flying Club 01508 550 222 – Home; 01508 550 453 - Club]. Flight times and duration dependent on vagaries of weather. Then home…


AVRO LANCASTER ENTERING SERVICE at the beginning of 1942, the Lancaster’s design grew out of a failed predecessor, the Avro Manchester, both designed by A.V. Roe [ by the wreck of a triplane]. While its airframe offered a stable platform for heavy bombing, the Manchester’s twin engine design was inadequate. The solution was to upgrade to four Merlins. 7,366 Avro Lancasters were built during the war, the most of any British bomber. Armament included eight to ten .303 Browning machine guns for fighter defence (depending on model variant) mounted in the nose, upper dorsal turret and the tail. The first Lancs had the equivalent of the B17’s ball turret beneath the fuselage – Air Ministry ‘suits’ deemed this useless and it was removed, with fatal results for many crews unable to defend their ship from raking fire from Me 110 nightfighters shooting from below and just behind (‘Jazz Music’). .303 ammunition had neither the range nor the killing power of the American .50 round. Experience with a variety of bomb loads eventually led to adoption of the ‘Grand Slam’ 22,000 lb bomb, the largest carried by any aircraft in the war. For the dam-busting raid in May 1943, the Lancaster dropped Barnes Wallis’s ‘bouncing bombs’ which skipped on the surface before impact.

AVRO LANCASTER Mk I - Specifications Engines Four 1,460 hp Rolls-Royce Merlin XX inline piston engines. Weight Empty 36,900 lbs. Max. takeoff 68,000 lbs. Wingspan 102 ft Length 69 ft 6 in. Height 20 ft Crew 7 Performance Maximum Speed at 12,000 ft: 287 mph Service Ceiling: 24,500 ft Range with 14,000 lb load: 1,660 miles Armament Two .303 inch (7.7mm) guns in nose, ventral and dorsal turrets. Four .303 inch (7.7mm) guns in tail turret. Fourteen 1,000 lb bombs.







STATS of Bomber Command’s heroic performance – and ‘Bomber’ Harris



Statistical Summary for The 448th Bomb Group [Seething] for 262 missions from December 16, 1943 to April 25, 1945
85 men killed in action 875 men missing in action 119 men injured or died of wounds Of the original 70 crews, 2 were lost en-route, 27 completed their tours, 28 missing in action, 5 transferred to other units, 1 lost by accident, 7 split up for spares. 15,286 tons of bombs dropped 140 tons of supplies dropped 47 enemy aircraft destroyed 98 aircraft missing in action 17 aircraft abandoned on the continent 31 aircraft lost by salvage 68.7% of missions to Germany 29.1% of missions to France 2.2% of missions to Holland and Belgium 172 different targets - 110 in Germany, 57 in France, 5 in Holland & Belgium




ABOVE: THE COMBAT BOX: the theory being that the defensive firepower of the Forts and Libs would, if maintaining the perfect battle formation, keep the Hun at bay by mutual protection – in practice defensive firepower, however powerful, was no match for fighters flying at twice the bombers’ speed, and twisting and turning, unlike the bomber stream which flew mostly in a straight line. Only long range fighter escorts – Thunderbolts and then the superb Mustang - provided protection from ME 109s, FW190s and, at the end, ME262s.

The 100th Bomb Group, Thorpe Abbotts, Station 139 THE 100th BOMB GROUP flew its first combat mission on June 25, 1943, and its last on April 20, 1945. During those 22 months, some 7,000 men and a few women were stationed at Thorpe Abbotts. They flew 306 missions including six food drops to the Netherlands in May 1945, were credited with 8630 sorties, dropped 19,257.1 tons of bombs plus 435.1 tons of food on mercy missions. The Group was thought to have been targeted by the Luftwaffe because of the Knox incident…Capt. Knox’s plane was hit. He lowered his undercarriage as a sign of surrender but when German fighters flew alongside he shot them down. He was then destroyed himself. The story is nonsense. The famous B17F Hard Luck - actually a lucky ship. So called because she arrived on 13 Aug. ’43 and the last two digits of her rd serial no. were 13. She was lost on her 63 mission but her crew survived as POWs. She flew her first 50 missions on her original engines – a record. The record for most missions flown was the st 351 Squadron’s Fever Beaver with 125. The 100th Bomb Group received two Distinguished Unit Citations for the missions to Regensberg 17th August '43, and the 4/6/8 March '44 to Berlin. Over 800 men were killed in action or flying accidents. 177 B17s were lost in combat, 52 in operational accidents. The 100th’s gunners claimed 261 enemy aircraft shot down, 1,010 probably destroyed and 139 possibly destroyed. They were some of the first gunners who destroyed an Me-262. In 1943 the average life of an 8th AF B-17 crew was eleven missions. ‘The Bloody Hundredth’ lost 9 crews on the August 17, 1943, Regensburg-to-Africa shuttle. It lost seven over Bremen on October 8, 1943, with its lead plane being shot out of formation over the target and then returning alone on the deck before crash-landing on the shore of East Anglia. It lost 12 over Munster on October 10, 1943, with one plane, Royal Flush - piloted by the most decorated US bomber pilot, Robert Rosenthal - being the only one to return.* It lost 15 over


Berlin on March 6, 1944 (because the fighter escort failed to rendezvous), nine there on May 24 and 12 over Ruhland on September 9, 1944, and 12 over Hamburg on December 31, 1944. The 100th led the bombing of the German heavy water plant at Trondheim. It participated in three 8th AF shuttle missions, twice to Russia and once to Africa. For its part in the liberation of France and for mercy missions dropping food to the French Resistance, the 100th was awarded the French Croix de Guerre twice. For dropping food to Warsaw the Group earned a special medal from the Polish Government in exile. It received two Presidential Citations. In spite of its losses, the 100th never once went off operations. As Jimmy Doolittle said, ‘The 100th was always ready.’
* The story of the Munster raid is instructive. th The lead plane of the 100 BG’s combat box was hit and slowed, losing altitude. The others in the Group slowed too, to keep in formation. But they fell prey to German fighters. Rosenthal saw that to keep in the Group would be fatal and he – and one 390 BG guest plane – climbed agonisingly to the safety of the 390 BG high formation above, and successfully bombed the target. He returned to Thorpe Abbotts on two engines, with both waist gunners wounded. Royal Flush was later lost with another crew but Rosenthal stayed with the Group for a second tour (as a pathfinder) and twice crash landed, breaking an arm both times. He flew 52 combat missions.
100th over unknown target 1944


The USAAF Second Air Division in East Anglia RAF BOMBER COMMAND concentrated on night attacks while its American counterpart, the 8TH AIR FORCE, operated mainly in daylight.

B-24 Witchcraft in action; and a typical crew shot, c.1944

The US 8th Air Force was, in terms of men and aircraft, the largest offensive air force in history. The 8th was, ultimately, composed of 3 Air Divisions which were, in effect, air forces within an air force, each with fighter units and maintenance organizations to support the bomber operations. The 1st AD (Huntingdon area) and the 3rd AD (Suffolk and s/w Norfolk) flew B-17s while the 2nd AD (Norfolk and n/e Suffolk) flew B-24s. The Second Air Division's first bombing mission was flown on November 7, 1942; the last on April 25, 1945. A total of 95, 948 sorties were flown in 493 operational missions by the division's B-24s, dropping 199,883 tons of bombs. Targets attacked ranged from Norway in the north, as far east as Poland and Rumania, while several Mediterranean countries were reached from temporary bases in North Africa. Six 2nd Air Division groups received special presidential citations for outstanding actions and five airmen received the Medal of Honor (highest US award for bravery), four posthumously. 2nd Air Division gunners claimed 1,079 enemy fighters destroyed against losses of 1,458 B-24s missing in action, and many lost in accidents. A total of 6,700 men serving with the 2nd Air Division were killed. At one period the chance of an airman completing a tour of operations (25 missions, later 30-35) was as little as one in three, due to flak and enemy fighters. There was also little safety margin in the heavily loaded Liberators if some mechanical or equipment failure occurred. An airman endured between 4 to 8 hours flying -- sometimes as much as 10 -- in cramped, noisy conditions, wearing uncomfortable oxygen masks and heavy clothing (to avoid frostbite). For every man in the air there were three on the ground in support - cooks, clerks, mechanics, armourers… Second Air Division organisation Each airfield was occupied by a single Bombardment Group consisting of four flying Bombardment Squadrons, a squadron having an average complement of 12 to 16 B-24s and 200 combat airmen. Total personnel on a bomber


station varied between two and three thousand. The Group was the basic operational unit of the air force. At full strength the 2nd Div. had 14 bombardment groups. A cluster of three airfield groups (but sometimes 2 or 4) made up a Combat Wing and the groups of a wing usually operated in support of one another. The fighter contingent of the 2nd AD was the 65th Fighter Wing controlling five fighter groups based at airfields in Essex, Suffolk, and Cambridgeshire. A fighter group was composed of three fighter squadrons with approximately 30 aircraft each. Fighter types in the 2nd AD were mostly P-51 Mustangs, but a single group flew P-47 Thunderbolts. The 2nd Air Division Headquarters used Ketteringham Hall, six miles s/w of Norwich.

B24 from the 467 ; Lib and crew, returned safely, somewhere in East Anglia


The Liberator’s bomb load varied from 4,000 to 8,000 lbs, depending on the proximity of the target. Crews varied from 8 to 10 men, 5 or 6 of whom acted as gunners, manning the 10 machine guns usually carried for defence. After take-off bombers assembled formations of from 20 to 40 planes while climbing to an operational altitude of 20,000 to 25,000 feet. These formations were despatched from one airfield and joined with others to form a division column of perhaps 500 to 600 bombers. On reaching the target each formation released its bombs on the aim and signal of the leading aircraft. ______________________________________________________________ 2nd Air Division BATTLE ORDER

2nd Combat Wing 389 BG 445 BG 453 BG 14th Combat Wing 44 BG 392 BG 491 BG 492 BG

564 YO 565 EE - 566 RR + 567 HP + C B-24 700 RN 701 MK - 702 WV - 703 IS + F B-24 732 E3 733 F8 + 734 E8 - 735 H6 - J B-24

66 QK 576 CI 852 3Q 856 5Z

67 NB 577 DC + 853 T8 857 9H -

68 WQ 578 EC 854 6X 858 9A -

506 GJ + 579 GC 855 V2 + 859 X4 +


B-24 B-24 B-24 B-24


20th Combat Wing 93 BG 446 BG 448 BG 489 BG 95th Combat Wing 489 BG 491 BG 96th Combat Wing 458 BG 466 BG 467 BG 361 FG 355 FG 4 FG 56 FG 479 FG 5 ERS

328 GO 704 FL 712 CT 844 4R

329 RE 705 HN 713 IG 845 S4 -

330 AG 706 RT 714 EI 846 8R +

409 YM 707 JU 715 IO 847 T4 -

B B-24 H B-24 I B-24 W B-24

844 4R 845 S4 - 846 8R + 847 T4 852 3Q 853 T8 854 6X 855 V2

W B-24 Z B-24

752 7V 753 J4 784 T9 785 2U 788 X7 789 6A 374 B7 354 WR 334 QP 61 HV 434 L2 5F

754 Z5 786 U8 790 Q2

755 J3 787 6L 791 4Z 376 E9 358 YF 336 VF 63 UN 436 9B

K B-24 L B-24 P B-24 P-47, P-51 P-47, P-51 Spitfire V, P-47, P-51 P-47 P-38, P-51 P-47, B-17, OA10A

65th Fighter Wing 375 E2 357 OS 335 WD 62 LM 435 J2

3rd Air Division BATTLE ORDER

4th Combat Wing 94 BG 385 BG 447 BG 486 BG 487 BG 13th Combat Wing 95 BG 100 BG 390 BG 45th Combat Wing 96 BG 388 BG 452 BG 92nd Combat Wing 331 QE 548 708 CQ 832 3R 836 2G 332 XM 549 709 IE 833 4N 837 4F 333 TS 550 710 IJ 834 2S 838 2C 410 GL 551 711 IR 835 H8 839 R5 A B-17 G B-17 B-17 Codes not K used O B-24/B-17 P B-24/B-17

334 335 OE BG 349 XR 350 LN 568 BI 569 CC

336 ET 351 EP 570 DI

412 QW 418 LD 571 FC

B B-17 D B-17 J B-17

337 338 BX AW 560 - 561 728 M3 729 9Z

339 QJ 562 730 7D

413 MZ 563 731 6K

C B-17 H B-17 L B-17


486 BG 487 BG 93rd Combat Wing 34 BG 385 BG 490 BG 493 BG

832 3R 833 4N 836 2G 837 4F

834 2S 838 2C

835 H8 839 R5

O B-24/B-17 P B-24/B-17

4 3L 548 848 7W 860 -

7 R2 549 849 W8 861 -

18 8I 550 850 7Q 862 -

391 Q6 551 851 S3 863 -

S B-24 G B-17 T B-24/B-17 X B-24/B-17

66th Fighter Wing 55 FG 78 FG 339 FG 353 FG 357 FG 325PW(R) 25 BG VIII BC VIII GASC 27 BG 62 TCG 38 CG 82 MX 503 D7 350 LH 362 G4 652 653 YN WX 15 MQ 413 ES 714 338 CL 83 HL 504 5Q 351 YJ 363 B6 654 XN 343 CY 84 WZ 505 6N 352 SX 364 C5 P-38, P-51 P-38, P-47, P-51 P-51 P-47, P-51 P-51

B-17, B-24, Mosquito XVI Boston III

822 G2

51 - C-47 27 - Spitfire, F5A/B/C

325PW(R) 7 PG

North American P-51 Mustangs of the 375th Fighter Squadron, 361st FG, 1944. This great fighter could fly to Germany and back and still outperform all German fighters, except the ME262. Its development, from a British Air Ministry order, took a mere three months from drawing board to flight, but it was the marriage of the magnificent airframe with the RR Merlin engine that proved triumphant. As a fighter escort the Mustang was peerless.


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