Bomb damage to HMV (His Master’s Voice) gramophone shop, Oxford Street, London, 1940. The shop had been opened by Sir Edward Elgar in 1921Photograph: Cecil Beaton/Imperial War Museum
The Blitz, London, 1942. A workman with a wheelbarrow clears up fallen debris from the roof of St Mary-le-Bow after its first bombing. Subsequently the church was completely destroyed. The church was rebuilt after the war. It was said that a genuine Cockney was a person born within the sounds of the bells of St. Mary-le-Bow. Photograph: Cecil Beaton/Imperial War Museum
Bomb damage to the church of St Lawrence Jewry, Guildhall, London, 1940. Designed by Sir Christopher Wren, the church suffered major damage during the Blitz and was rebuilt to Wren’s original design in 1957. Photograph: Cecil Beaton/Imperial War Museum
London Blitz: Young woman pulled alive from rubble of bombed building by London Air Raid Precaution emergency workers
Payback is a Bitch
Stuttgart after a visit from RAF Bomber Command in 1943
Half of German U-Boats destroyed in World War Two were sunk by Allied aircraft.
Bay of Biscay relatively shallow and U-boats based in French Channel ports had to transit Bay of Biscay to reach Atlantic. Beginning in 1943, RAF Coastal Command began a major campaign to attack U-Boats on surface in Bay of Biscay. A tough fight because planes had to come in low to drop their depth charges and by that time U-Boats had far better anti-aircraft armament.
Most of the anti-submarine aircraft under command or seconded to
15 Group RAF Coastal Command HQ co-located with HQ C-in-C Western Approaches Command in secret bunker in Liverpool. Coastal Command under tactical command of Royal Navy in WW Two.
It took several years and much analysis of attack reports to formulate both a correct attack doctrine and design and manufacture special depth charge bombs for Coastal Command aircraft. But it was done.
U-705 meets its end during Coastal Command offensive in Bay of Biscay. In spite of after war memoirs and recollections, morale of UBoat crews very low by this point according to interrogation reports of Uboat crew rescued by Royal Navy and US Navy. The men knew their chances of survival by this point in the war very low.
Further, the statement by UBoat men and many historians that UBoat crews were all volunteers has been completely disproven by memoirs from several UBoat men as well as interrogation reports.
Below, U751 sinking after coordinated Coastal Command attack by several aircraft.
A Mosquito of the Banff Strike Wing in action in the Kattegat on 5 April 1945.
A Mosquito of the Banff Strike Wing in action in the Kattegat on 5 April 1945. There the Mosquitos discovered a convoy of seven ships evacuating Germans troops back to the Fatherland. In the ensuing attack a flak ship and a trawler were sunk, but one No 235 Squadron Mosquito struck a mast and spun into the sea, killing its crew. Losses among the embarked German troops were heavy. (photo courtesy of Imperial War Museum)
RAF Coastal Command was known as the “Cinderella Service” since they received nothing but hand me down aircraft from Bomber Command and anyone else they could find to scrouge aircraft. The planes pictured above are Lockheed Hudson’s orignally built for the Royal Air Force.
While useful, the planes were slow, 246 mph or 397 km/h, and range limited, 1,960 miles or 3,150 km. Keep in mind these specifications are for a properly maintained aircraft operating under good conditions. In operational service, I presume they were marked down for a range of 1600 miles. That would be 800 miles out over the ocean and 800 miles back. Even then, in bad weather, that would be pushing it.
Communications were problematic. Given the crewman isn’t on oxygen and is wearing a short sleeve shirt, the plane must be flying low and it must be summer.
In the first years of the war the main task of Coastal Command was maritime patrol and reconnasiance of the seas surrounding Great Britain. This task included attacking U-Boats, protecting Channel convoys, protecting Atlantic convoys, and occasional search and rescue.
The demands placed on Coastal Command were far beyond its capabilities as the pilots lacked training and the entire command suffered from a lack of aircraft and ground support. Finally, Coastal Command was placed under the tactical command of the Royal Navy in late 1940 and slow improvement began. But it took a long time.
One of the mainstays of Coastal Command in the early years was the Short Sunderland flying boat. (The plane was built by Short Brothers, Ltd. ‘Short’ is not a reference to the size of the plane)
The pilots and air crew performed a monotonous mission well. There were many crews who flew thousands of hours of reconnaisance patrols and never saw anything during the entire war. The ocean is a big place.
From the website historyofwar.org: “The Leigh Light was developed to solve a problem with anti-submarine radar during the Second World War. By 1941 the British had developed radar systems capable of detecting a surfaced U-boat, but interference from the surface of the sea meant that the radar signal would be lost during the final attack run.
The solution to this problem was to fit a bright light to the attacking aircraft. [A design] … by Squadron Leader Humphrey de Verd Leigh, used a controllable spotlight suspended below the belly of the aircraft….”
The blinding white Leigh light was often the last thing a UBoat kommandant saw before depth charges were dropped on top of him.
The breach in the Mohne Dam four hours after the Dambusters raid in May 1943. (courtesy Imperial War Museum, Foreign Office Political Intelligence Department, Classified Print Collection).
It would be interesting to know who took this photograph and how soon after it was taken that the British had it. While not well known today, Polish Intelligence, which went underground after Poland’s defeat by the Nazis, provided the majority of the human intelligence which flowed to the Allies from occupied Europe in World War Two.
Wing Commander Guy Gibson, who trained and led 617 Squadron known as Dambusters was an incredibly brave man although according to temporary accounts not a very likeable man. His crew disliked him and said he didn’t even know most of them by name just position in the crew. Gibson had a stormy marriage to put it mildly and was living with another woman instead of his wife when he died in 1944.
Gibson drank more than most pilots in a time when heavy drinking by pilots when they finished operations was normal and one of the few ways they had of relaxing. He often insulted other officers in the mess who didn’t have his decorations for bravery and no one could say anything because of who he was.
For leading the Dambusters mission, Gibson was awarded Great Britain’s highest honor, the Victoria Cross, the equivalent of the US Medal of Honor.That he deserved it cannot be questioned. Not only did he lead the squadron in and drop the first bouncing bomb, he circled the dam under a constant stream of ack-ack fire while the other bombers made their runs.
Gibson already held the Distinguished Service Order and Bar (which meant he was given the medal twice). The DSO was awarded for brave and meritorious service in combat. In addition, he also had been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and bar, which was only given for bravery in operational flying against the enemy.
Dramatized on film and in print, the Dambusters raid has become one of the most well known small operations of World War Two in Europe. The raid was conceived of
Given its relatively small population, Canada made an immense contribution to Allied victory in WW Two. Canadian troops, most of whom were volunteers, fought all over Europe although mainly in the Italian campaign and the battles in Northwest Europe. The 3rd Canadian Infantry Divison comprised a part of the Allied forces on D-Day.
Lest We Forget
44,000 Canadian soldiers, sailors, and airmen lost their lives in World War Two.
British built R5727, the pattern Lancaster, in Gander 23 August 1942.
“On September 18, 1941, a decision was made to build Lancasters in Canada and the first drawings arrived in January 1942. For a country still largely agrarian and just recovering from a decade of depression, the challenge was immense. 500,000 manufacturing operations were involved in building a Lancaster which was made up of some 55,000 separate parts even when engines and turrets were only considered as one and small items such as rivets, nuts, and bolts were not included. A Lancaster from England was flown across the Atlantic in August 1942 to act as a “pattern” and a Crown Corporation named Victory Aircraft was formed to do the work in Malton, Ontario.”
More than 130,000 Allied pilots trained in Canada which also “hosted” tens of thousands of German prisoners of war. Famed U-Boat ace Otto Kretschmer was held in a Canadian POW camp.
KB-882 is one of over 400 Mk-10 Lancasters built in Canada.
Workers at the Victory Aircraft Plant in Malton, Ontario celebrating the rollout of KB799, the one-hundredth Canadian built Lancaster.
Lancaster R-5727 over Montreal 24 Aug. 1942
ground crew of a Canadian Lancaster
Let’s Go Canada! by Henri Eveleigh 1939–1945
(Issued by the World War Two agency, Canadian Bureau of Public Information)
“…the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization….”
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to the House of Commons.
18 June 1940
One of the most haunting images from the Battle of Britain is that of Squadron Leader Brian Lane DFC (above middle) taken immediately after he landed from a combat sortie in September of 1940. (photo courtesy of IWM).
The strain and exhaustion on his face belie his young age (23) and make this one of the best-known and most powerful photographs to come from the era. (photo courtesy of IWM).This was taken during the Battle of Britain at Fowlmere, Duxford’s satellite station.
“Sitting nearest to the Spitfire’s engine on the wing is Brian Lane, who had joined the RAF after escaping a dead-end job as a factory supervisor. He was appointed temporary commanding officer of 19 Squadron, part of the Duxford Wing, in September following the shooting down of its CO. In one logbook entry, he describes an encounter with the enemy in suitably Boys’ Ownish terms. “Party over London. Sighted big bunch of Huns south of the river and got in lovely head-on attack into leading He 111s. Broke them up and picked up a small batch of six with two Me 110s as escort. Found myself entirely alone with these lads so proceeded to have a bit of sport. Got one of Me 110s on fire whereupon the other left his charge and ran for home. Played with the He 111s for a bit and finally got one in both engines. Never had so much fun before!” Lane was awarded a DFC for his bravery and survived the battle, but his luck was not to last. During a sweep over Holland in December 1942 his Spitfire was jumped by Me109s. No one saw his aircraft go down but it was assumed to have dived into the North Sea. Lane was 25. The men sitting next to Lane on the wing with German Shepherd Flash and spaniel Rangy are George “Grumpy” Unwin and Francis Brinsden, both of whom survived the war. So did the two men standing to the left, Bernard Jennings and Colin McFie – the latter after being shot down and captured during a sweep over France in July 1941. Howard Burton, the man in the dark jumper, and Philip Leckrone, the man on the far right, were not so fortunate. Burton went on to serve in the Middle East but died when in June 1943 when the Hudson bomber bringing him back to Britain disappeared over the Bay of Biscay. He was 26.
Leckrone was an American who had chosen to fight for Britain. Known to the boys as Uncle Sam, he went on to join 71 Squadron, an American volunteer unit flying Hurricanes. On 5 January 1941 his aircraft collided with another in the squadron during training and he was killed. He was 28. John Boulton (pictured on the left with two fellow pilots and a spaniel leaning on the tail of a Hurricane) was 20 when the battle claimed him. He was flying next to Gordon Sinclair (the man on the right by the tail) over Croydon on September 9 when their aircraft collided. Sinclair survived but Boulton’s aircraft careered into a Me 110 and plunged to earth.
The man in the middle with the moustache is Jerrard Jefferies, who changed his surname to Latimer later in the war to carry on an old family name. He joined the RAF in 1936 and fought in the battle with 310 (Free Czech) Squadron, as did Boulton and Sinclair. After the battle he transferred to Bomber Command and died over France when his Lancaster bomber was shot down. The spaniel in the picture, thought to be called Rex, died when he accidentally jumped into the propeller of Jefferies’ Hurricane as he tried to greet his master.
One of the two pilots pictured seated by a Nissen hut is the only man in the photographs still living. Wallace “Jock” Cunningham is 93 now, but in poor health. The officer next to him is Arthur Blake, a Fleet Air Arm pilot attached to the RAF and known in the wing as Sailor. the Battle of Britain was in its last days when it claimed him. Blake was ‘weaving’ behind his squadron – acting as lookout – when he was surprised by an Me109 and shot down. He was 23 when he met his death.
2353 British and 574 overseas aircrew fought in the battle of britain. 544 were killed between July and October 1940. Another 791 died later in the war, in combat and as a result of accidents.
Brian Lane. The epitome of the gallant few who won the Battle of Britain. Lane was No. 19 Squadron’s fourth Commanding Officer in less than 12 months. Of his predecessors, one was posted away, one was shot down and made a prisoner of war, and one was killed. Lane was extremely well-liked by his men and was a very gifted fighter pilot. He wrote a book about his experiences in the battle, “Spitfire!” which was published in 1942.
Lane was killed in action 13 December 1942. He was 25 years old. (Imperial War Museum)
LEST WE FORGET
Brian John Edward Lane
Squadron Leader No. 19 Squadron, Royal Air Force.
born 18 June 1917–reported missing-in-action presumed dead– 13 December 1942, age 25.