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Author Topic: True Stories?  (Read 23184 times)

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Offline peterchall

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Re: True Stories?
« Reply #23 on: January 25, 2012, 12:57:28 »
The topic on ‘Sand Filled Bombs…’ in Air Raids has provoked some discussion on the reliability of witness accounts of events. Since this is a history forum I think it only right that we should consider the source of any reports, because I accept that, however unlikely they might seem, they do have an origin somewhere, and this might be the best thread to discuss them. Here is one to start with:

In ‘The Real Dads Army’, about the Hythe Home Guard, the entry for 17 May 1941 reads “Williams is an interesting lad (who was he?). He was in the ….. Lofoten Islands commando raid…..our men were so cold they couldn’t get out of their boats until the locals gave them hot coffee”. So when the ramps went down the commandos were frozen stiff and couldn’t move, whereupon the local population immediately realised what was wrong, brewed coffee and waded out to the landing craft with it. Thereby they enabled the commandos to destroy the local fish-oil plants (and hence the inhabitants’ living), and take some German prisoners (who presumably had been just watching events).  OK, there must have been some basis behind what he wrote, and I think it’s interesting to think of what it might have been. Any ideas?
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Offline Bryn Clinch

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Re: True Stories?
« Reply #22 on: November 04, 2010, 09:01:37 »
Michael Bentine used to tell the story of how they bombed Cherbourg (missing all the ships) got shot down and crash landed at Farehamonly to find Cherbourg peninsula was Portsea Island.

Michael Bentine also told the story that they also attempted to bomb the Hythe, Romney, Dymchurch Railway believing it to be an important railway line.
He had many hilarious wartime tales one of which entailed falling out from the back of an ambulance in Folkestone, but I can`t remember the full story.

Offline ellenkate

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Re: True Stories?
« Reply #21 on: March 20, 2010, 16:18:26 »

Under True Stories? (first post)  -    in reply to Peter Chall's reference to Butterfly Bombs:
Re BUTTERFLY BOMBS:

"These were the original cluster bombs, recorded as first being dropped on Ipswich on 28 October 1940, and at Grimsby and Cleethorpes in 1943, and thereafter in the Middle East. They weighed 2kg and were fitted with a mixture of impact fuses, up to 30-minute delay fuses, and anti-handling fuses. This was only discovered after a dud one was recovered. After that no attempt was made to de-fuse them; they were dealt with by keeping clear of them for at least 30-minutes, then exploding them with
a small charge, carefully hooking them with a piece of string and jerking it from a safe distance, or by rifle fire.
So if he or his friends had them, or even still have them, they are the luckiest people alive ? someone was killed by disturbing one in Malta as late as 1981. An 11-year old boy in Malta found one as recently as 29th October this year, but fortunately he didn?t touch it.
I?m aware that it's easy to substitute imagination for memory when telling a story from your dim and distant past, but I think this is going too far and the Archive keepers should check carefully, because this sort of thing casts doubt on the credibility of other accounts.
                                                  (see       SD2 Bomblet   picture in this thread)

Yes, Grimsby (where I was born) was a casualty of many of the anti-personnel or
so-called butterfly bombs,  which were dropped I think in the daytime when children were leaving school to come home.  No-one knew what they were.  These small bombs did not go off when dropped but many, many, people in the town were killed when they kicked them or picked them up, many with the comment 'That b-thing won't hurt me!'  I didn't know they had a 30-minute delayed fuse after being dropped.

Ellenkate



--------------------------------------
I'm Lincolnshire born and bred

Offline peterchall

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Re: True Stories?
« Reply #20 on: November 21, 2009, 11:58:29 »
I've been delving into events on the night the FW190s landed at West Malling.
The 'little blitz' occurred over the winter 1943/44, and whilst other 'blitzes' and sporadic raids took place throughout the war, I can find no specific indications that these particular aircraft were fighter-bombers on a raid, which I thought they might be.

"The Bomber Command War Diaries" by Middlebrook and Everitt has these entries:

15/16 April 1943:
23 aircraft minelaying from Brest to Lorient. No losses.

16/17 April 1943:
271 aircraft attack Mannheim. 18 aircraft (6.6%) lost.
327 aircraft attack Skoda factory at Pilsen. 36 aircraft (11%) lost.

Given that the latitudes of both these towns are south of any part of the UK, it is likely that the raiders would return over the southeast, although having to avoid London could cause problems.

Of the total of 54 losses, the report mentions that 14 came down in the sea, and the Luftwaffe probably had a hand in that. So Stewie's suggestion that the 190s were chasing returning RAF bombers seems the most plausible explanation.

While the event is recorded as happening on 16th April, it was probably the morning of the 17th.

On the subject of accuracy, and pilots getting lost, it is interesting to compare the results of the two attacks, on a night when there was a full moon.

At Mannheim the target was marked by the Path Finder Force (PFF) and 41 factories were badly hit.

At Pilsen, PFF marked an Initial Point (IP) some distance away, from whence the main force started its run-in (the diaries don't say why - perhaps a lack of available PFF aircraft for two targets) and each aircraft was expected to locate the target for itself. The main attack fell on an asylum 7 miles away from the target, and ONLY SIX CREWS (out of 327!) brought back photos from within 3 miles of the target! (A photo-flash bomb was released just after the bombs, timed to go off just before the bombs hit the ground - crews were expected to produce a photo showing an identifiable location in the target area).

Also, compare the difference in the loss rate of the two attacks.

In view of this, the fact of experienced (if they were experienced) pilots mistaking West Malling for France does not seem so unbelievable.

Incidentally, the overall loss rate on this night was 8.9%, and the tour of duty for a bomber crew was 30 ops!!!

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seafordpete

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Re: True Stories?
« Reply #19 on: November 18, 2009, 17:36:39 »
Michael Bentine used to tell the story of how they bombed Cherbourg (missing all the ships) got shot down and crash landed at Farehamonly to find Cherbourg peninsula was Portsea Island.

Offline peterchall

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Re: True Stories?
« Reply #18 on: November 18, 2009, 17:32:43 »
Most RAF bombers were based in eastern England and we didn't see much of them here unless the target was in France. I'm not entirely sure of dates, but my feeling is that it was at the time of the 'little blitz' when the Luftwaffe would come in with a few fast bombers (E.g. - JU88) and fighter-bombers (the FW190 was used for this - a wasteful use of an excellent fighter) dump their bombs on London and out again. It was said they climbed to maximum height over the Channel and came in and out again in one long shallow dive. It was about then that I had the moment mentioned in my posting in 'Fireservice War Heroes':

QUOTE: "My defining moment of WW2 came one night standing in the garden during an air-raid alert. Some aircraft were going over when there was the 'brrrr' of cannon fire and a moving light appeared in the sky, which burst into flaming pieces as a German plane came down. I was yelling "Hooray, they've got him" when my father, an ex-regular soldier who'd fought in WW1 and not known for his love of Germans, said "Shut up, there's men in that!". Suddenly those flaming pieces said everything about the awfulness of war!"

Agreed about the oddity of experienced crews being so badly disorientated, but not entirely a surprise, because there were instances before radio aids of RAF bombers dropping bombs 50 miles from their targets, yet convinced they had hit them!

QUOTE Paul: "There was a story about a bomber in trouble that landed at a decoy runway".
A US Liberator made a wheels-up landing at Rochester airport and slid partly onto Rochester - Maidstone Road near where the caravan site is now. We went to look at it and were shocked by the bullet holes all over it. Perhaps it's the same story.
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Offline Paul

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Re: True Stories?
« Reply #17 on: November 18, 2009, 13:41:50 »
There was a story about a bomber in trouble that landed at a decoy runway :)
It overshot the area and hit a Fence and a farmhouse or a wood, I cant rember now i think it was an American crew all survived but the plane was wrecked.


I think it was a thread on here somewhere?
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Offline Stewie

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Re: True Stories?
« Reply #16 on: November 18, 2009, 13:21:31 »
This incident has it's origins in the way the Luftwaffe allowed their night fighters to opperate. It was not unusual for a German fighter to take off from one base and land at another after completing it's oppertational flight, giving the pilot more scope than a fixed radius area from a home base, and so the pilot would not have necerssrily been looking for familiar landmarks.
Presumably, if the pilot had been chasing the returning bomber stream back from the european coastline, then they could become disorientated. However it does seem odd that an experianced pilot even under wartime conditions could make such an error of misjudgement.
As you say the FW190 was a fine aircraft used in a variety of roles capable of outperforming both the Spitfire and Mustang at low altitudes. Due to it's size it also presented a small target for other fighters. The late war 'Ta 152' variant designed to intercept B29 'Superfortresses' would have been a formidable opponent if the Luftwaffe had the resources to have made it opperational in any numbers.

Offline peterchall

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Re: True Stories?
« Reply #15 on: November 18, 2009, 11:31:29 »
Re Reply#12: "KG200 group who flew special missions and tested captured Allied aircraft".

The RAF also had a unit dealing with captured enemy aircraft. It was No1426 Flight, based at Duxford until it was realised it was a bit dicey to be flying an enemy aircraft around SE England, then it was moved to Collyweston. Even then it had its own flight of Spitfires to escort the captured planes while they were test flown.

On 16th April 1943, at RAF West Malling, the runway was lit for a night-fighter to land when a strange aircraft landed and stopped at the end of the runway. Thinking that it was the expected night-fighter and that it must have a problem, the control tower sent a truck out to it. There were two surprised people - the truck driver and the German pilot climbing out of a FW190 fighter! Before that was sorted, another FW 190 touched down, but the pilot realised his mistake and was 'shot down' on the runway as he tried to take-off again. Yet a third 190 was shot down on its approach run! Apparently, for a reason not recorded, the pilots thought they were over France. The FW190 was one of the war's finest fighters and was the bane of the RAF - to be presented with one in flyable condition, so that its characteristics could be assessed, was priceless!

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merc

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Re: True Stories?
« Reply #14 on: November 17, 2009, 22:31:42 »
I?ve been trying to find out if there were any ?Starfish? sites in Kent

Hi Peterchall,
There appears to have been one at Lullingstone.

http://www.kenthistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=3104.0

Offline Paul

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Re: True Stories?
« Reply #13 on: November 17, 2009, 22:30:16 »
"I've been trying to find out if there were any 'Starfish' sites in Kent, but no luck"

This might help?

http://www.kenthistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=1083.0
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Offline peterchall

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Re: True Stories?
« Reply #12 on: November 17, 2009, 21:43:27 »
I'm not aware of bending of the German radio beams in the sense that we could make them drop their bombs where we wanted, in open country, only to the extent that they would drop them somewhere other than the target. Our widening of the Knickebein simply caused random dropping. The false crossbeam applied to the X-Gerat caused the bombs to be released 3 miles short - hard luck on the people living there! Causing the Germans to set the V1s to fall short of London was another case of protecting an important target by sacrificing a less important one. When the Germans set-up the beams over a target before that night's attack, we picked them up, but to evacuate the population would have let on that we had discovered their system - the best that could be done might be to strengthen the defences with mobile guns and hope the Germans wouldn't notice and wonder why. There must have been some agonising and difficult decisions by the authorities as to how to make use of what was known about the enemy without letting him know we knew!

One way of inducing the enemy to drop his bombs where we wanted was by the so-called 'Starfish' sites. These were sites where fires could be lit to draw the bombers away from he target, but had to be reasonably near to appear plausible. Timing was important too; starting the fires before the first bombers arrived looked suspicious, and too late meant the real target would have already been hit. The best place was just short of the target on the most likely approach route. Even if the bombers' instruments told them it was the wrong place, most crews would go for the nearest fires and then get-the-hell out of it. RAF Bomber Command called it 'creep-back', and pathfinders dropped the markers beyond the target so that the fires and bombing moved back across the target as the raid progressed.

I've been trying to find out if there were any 'Starfish' sites in Kent, but no luck - has anybody any info? These are not to be confused with dummy airfields, which many "real" airfields had nearby and had lit up 'runways' etc as decoys.
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Offline Stewie

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Re: True Stories?
« Reply #11 on: November 17, 2009, 19:05:02 »
Peter

You are a gentleman sir! Found your other comments quite interesting too. I have hear of the beam system employed by the Luftwaffe, I also understood the British tried to 'deflect' or 'bend' them to throw the bomber stream off course. The fascinating thing about warfare is the advances in technology which come about because of it.
Was not aware of the KG 100 squadron (or Staffel) but have heard stories of the KG200 group who flew special missions and tested captured Allied aircraft (found a lovely picture of a B17 in Luftwaffe markings).

Regards

Stewie.

Offline peterchall

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Re: True Stories?
« Reply #10 on: November 17, 2009, 18:38:01 »
Stewie,

No offence taken. If members didn't disagree at times there wouldn't be much discussion and no point to the KHF.

I have re-read my post and stick to my original guns; the writer specifically mentions butterfly bombs as being 'dangerous', for instance, so is not confusing them with shrapnel. It is the possibility that the media may have embellished the original statement, as you suggest, that was partly the reason for my post. With professional reporting that shouldn't happen.

I was careful not to mention the source, so no individual can be recognised, except possibly the original writer by himself.

So again, no offence taken, none intended, and I hope none given.

Best wishes,
                       Peter
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Offline peterchall

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Re: True Stories?
« Reply #9 on: November 17, 2009, 14:28:27 »
I know this is not strictly Kent history, but Kent must have been indirectly affected, so here goes.

On the evening of 21st June 1940 an RAF Avro Anson, carrying a specially adapted American police radio, set out over eastern England to search for radio signals in the 30-35mHz frequencies. It picked up a signal that turned out to be a beam coming from Germany and passing over the Rolls-Royce factory at Derby. The pilot found that if he strayed left or right he got dots or dashes in his earphones, but by keeping in the continuous zone in the centre he could fly with an accuracy of less than 200 yards. This information was passed to Dr RV Jones, of the Air Ministry, to whom it confirmed what he already suspected from other sources.

And so 'Knickebein' ('Crooked Leg') was discovered. This was a radio beam passing over the target along which the pilot flew until he got another signal from a crossbeam, whereupon he released his bombs, accurate to within a 200yards 'crossways', but only about a mile 'alongways'. Hospital diathermy sets were issued to police stations and mobile vans which, when switched on by instructions from Fighter Command, blotted out the signal in the pilots ears. Later we developed transmitters that duplicated the enemy signal and simply widened the beam so much that its accuracy was destroyed. This had the advantage that the pilot still received a signal, so might not realise he was being duped. Thus the first German radio system was neutralised.

Another German system was a series of radio beacons along the Channel and North Sea coast, from which aircraft could get fixes. These were countered by the GPO setting up beacons in England which caused false readings, to the extent that a German aircraft mistook the Bristol Channel for the English Channel and landed in Cornwall, thus giving us our first look at some new German radio equipment.

The next system was X-Gerat, first used on a large scale against Coventry on 14th November 1940. It consisted of a main beam along which the aircraft flew, with 3 crossbeams that started a complex timing system that released the bombs automatically to an accuracy of less than 200 yards, as good as could be obtained in daylight by visual bombing. Due to its complexity it was only issued to one unit - K.Gr.100 - who lit-up the target with incendiaries for the rest of the attackers. The first countermeasure was simply to transmit a false crossbeam that caused the bombs to be released about 3 miles short of the target. This was OK until the Germans realised something was wrong and didn't set-up the beams until just before the raid was due to start. This gave us little time to locate the beams and set-up the crossbeam, but also made the system less accurate because of the speed with which it was set-up by the Germans.

However, a K.Gr.100 aircraft crashed almost undamaged on Chesil Beach and enabled Dr Jones to work out exactly how it worked, and so a jamming system was devised by early-1941 that blotted out the X-Gerat signal.

Using his technical knowledge, coupled with some secret intelligence, Dr Jones figured out what the Germans would do next, and devised a jamming system - thus he effectively jammed the Y-Gerat before the Germans invented it!

Y-Gerat used a single beam and the distance of the aircraft along it was measured by timed pulses; a signal was sent to tell the aircraft where it was, all automatically of course. The BBC transmitted false pulses and the system was jammed on its first use.

After this the Germans never again caught-up with Britain in what became known as the 'Battle of the Beams'. RAF Bomber Command developed these systems to awesome effect - truly a case of 'He who sows the wind reaps the whirlwind'.
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