Questions questions, I know... Sorry!
Can I enquire about the "Spare Bod" on the crews... Did their trip count towards their total tour of ops?
Some of my Canadian friends from 6 Group have told me about the 1/2 and 1/4 of an op if you went on what was regarded as "easy" trips! I was wondering if dropping 'window' or 'nickels' might have been regarded as one of those 1/2 or 1/4 ops?
Again, might I give my thanks to you for doing your bit, even if you DID enjoy it
All the best
Dear Margaret and Ian.F.
Sgt G.A.E Sanday. Flight Engineer. 462 RAAF ( Bomber Support)
Squadron. 100 Group.
I am sorry but I am unable to recall Sanday's first name, we often just used surnames.
Sgt Sanday was crewed with F/O Astill and on 14th Jan.'45 they took off at 17.05 on a spoof raid to Mannheim. Shortly after T/O an engine caught fire and the plane crashed near Shiphdam which is about 12 miles S. of Foulsham. Sanday and rear a/g. F/Sgt Reed baled out but sustained minor injuries. The other six crewmen were killed.
Two or three weeks afterwards Sanday told me about the crash. He and spare bod, Sgt. Smith ( not his real name), were at the rear of the kite and having been ordered to bale out Sanday opened the rear door/ escape hatch which is situated on the port side at the junction of the side and bottom of the kite, more or less on the ' corner' of the fuselage. When the aircraft is parked or flying straight and level it is easy to enter or leave by this hatch.
But, Sanday told me, the kite was rolling to starboard which meant that the door opening was getting higher and the floor was tilting. Sgt Smith had slipped as the kite rolled but Sanday was holding on to something with one hand and desperately trying to haul Smith to the escape hatch with the other. You will appreciate that all this only took seconds. At some point Sanday realised that if they did not scramble out of the escape hatch then, it would roll too high and be out of reach and neither of them would make it.
As he struggled, Sanday lost his grip on Smith but managed to grab the bottom edge of the fast rising hatch with both hands, hauled himself up and out, he was a tall man, murmured a prayer and pulled the ripcord of his 'chute. He must have done it with nano seconds to spare. The aircraft must have been very low by now and he was lucky to escape with only minor injuries.
Although this conversation took place almost sixty years ago I can still recall his distress as he recounted his story.
It is fairly certain that if Sanday had asked to be taken off flying or 'rested ' for a while, at this late stage of the war, it would have been granted but he was made of sterner stuff and within five weeks he was flying again, albeit without a crew.
22 Feb '45 Flew as spare bod with Ridgewell ( note the name) on an op to the Ruhr.
23 Feb '45 Flew as spare bod with Byrom to Neuss.
24 Feb '45 Flew as spare bod with ELY and lost his life with the other seven crew members
He lost his crew in January and his life in February.
.Operations on the night of 24th February 1945.
Ten a/c were required for spoof and bombing operations against Neuss for the second consecutive night. 100 Group operated alone this night. Take off at 1700 hrs, return at 21.50. There were no non starters or early returns. Bomb load: three- 750 lbs incendiary clusters + I 500 lbs GP bomb.
By 21.50 four crews had failed to return:
F/O. V. Ely. Skipper and seven crew members all killed.
Fl/Lt A Rate. Skipper and six crew members killed, A/B Reg Gould* baled out and made POW.
Fl/Lt Ridgewell. Skipper and three crew killed. 3 became POW's and the fate of the third is unknown.**
Fl/Lt Tootal. Skipper and seven crew members all killed.
In all 26 aircrew were killed, exactly half the squadron total between January and end of March 1945.
The following six crews returned;
F/O J. E. Byrom ( RAAF)
F/O W.J. Frazer '' ( our rear a/g, Fred, flew as spare bod.)
P/O G.M.Langworthy ''
F/O P.S . Sherron ''
F/O D.M. Taylor ''
W/O P.F. Whatling ( R.A.F).
What really happened that night?
I am sorry to say that I don't really know. 462 Operations Record Book simply records that unfortunately four of our aircraft failed to return.
Byrom reports ..´sticky trip
.held in searchlights´.
I cannot find any comments by any of the other surviving crews other than that they dispensed their Window, dropped their bombs and returned to base. Reg Gould ( survivor from Allan Rate's crew)said that they were in the area of Kreffeld in the Ruhr when they were hit by flak in the port wing which caught fire.
The Ruhr was well defended and perhaps the fact that this was the second night in succession that Neuss had been attacked may have a bearing on it. They were flying alongside OTU and HCU ( trainee ) crews but I do not think that in its self was significant. We have some inconclusive evidence that in fact the OTU and HCU contingent did not cross into Europe but 'spoofed' towards Norway. Bomber Command was on daylights that day so did not operate that night which meant that there would be few Allied aircraft over enemy territory. Not sure whether that meant it was safer or more dangerous over Germany that night.
I am sorry to say that I do not think we will ever hear the full story.
Finally. I have tried to tell this story to honour the memory of gallant men, some who died and some who endured. Never forget that they died to give us all a better tomorrow.
* Reg Gould dislocated his shoulder as he baled out. He was captured and met up with the three survivors of Ridgewell's crew, two of whom were injured but he was later separated from them. Interned in Stalag 111 near Berlin he and 10.000 others were forced marched in groups to Stamlager 7a near Munich, a distance of 300 miles. He survived the war as, I think, did all 462 POW'S. Reg seems to have born all his tribulations with great fortitude and good humour. He died peacefully about three years ago.
**F/O Watson, Air Bomber, flew with Ridgewell but is not listed on 462's Roll of Honour or in the list of POW'S. It is possible that he was an evadee. If any one knows what happened to him I would be very pleased to hear from you.
Bill Johnson ( Co. Durham). If Bill had not spent many hours in the Records Office and even more hours collecting and recording stories and reminiscences of 462 aircrew this story could not have been written. Thanks pal.