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Lancaster fighter-bomber at Caen

Discussion in 'Air War in Western Europe 1939 - 1945' started by Martin Bull, Jul 7, 2002.

  1. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    One of my favourite Normandy 'tales' comes, not from the usual sources, but from the famous book 'Wing Leader' by 'Johnnie' Johnson.

    During the daylight bombing of Caen, Johnson's Spitfires provided target-cover for Bomber Command - with no Luftwaffe in sight, he had a 'grandstand view'. As the raid finished : -

    'Instead of turning to the North..one of the Lancasters came down in a fairly steep dive towards the..enemy-held territory south of the city. I watched this manoeuvre in some amazement...Perhaps the aircraft had had its controls shot away or damaged.. But wait, the bomber has now levelled out and is still flying due south only a few feet above the Caen-Falaise road...What the hell is the pilot up to ?
    The road is packed here and there with stationary tanks and vehicles. As it sweeps down the road, both front and rear turrets of the Lancaster are in action and the gunners are firing bursts into the enemy vehicles. There is a lot of light flak, but the pilot obviously scorns this... For him this affair is a bit of a lark..Now the Lancaster carries out a slow wide turn to retrace its flight northwards to Caen. Majestically, it ploughs along over the straight road with ..guns blazing away.Enemy drivers and crews abandon their vehicles as the Lancaster pounds along and dive for cover... Speechless, I watch the role of fighter-bomber being carried out, and most effectively, by the 'heavy'...
    I fly alongside the Lancaster as it settles down for the flight back..and wave to the adventurers inside. Long after the war I discovered that the pilot of the . . bomber was a Scottish ex-bricklayer called 'Jock' Shaw. At the time of my story, he was the proud captain of his own Lancaster, and was to win the DFC and Bar.'

    I've always liked this story - one can imagine the bomber crews' urge to 'have a go'. ;)
     
  2. sommecourt

    sommecourt Member

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    Amazing story Martin - sounds like a VC action!!

    I wonder if the German unit concerned (HJ?) mention it in their operational papers - hardly a common occurance!
     
  3. Stevin

    Stevin Ace

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    A VC or a severe chewing out, I would imagine...But it sure is good reading!
     
  4. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    Right - Johnson does go on to say :-

    'We had seen a (a) bomber mission this evening which will never be recorded in any official log !'
    ( Wing Leader page 248 ).
     
  5. Bish OBE

    Bish OBE Member

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    I could just imagine the bollockin the pilot would have got. As for the German unit, any one who had reported it was probably told to stop telling silly stories. Definatly would have been a sight to see.
     
  6. Friedrich

    Friedrich Expert

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    Well, that's quite a story!

    It shows pretty well how good plane the Lancaster was and how brave that crew were.

    And yeah... perhaps some German soldiers where shot for being drunk on duty when they told the story... :D
     
  7. SpitfireMkII

    SpitfireMkII Member

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    The History Channel has been showing a special on the Lancaster Bomber all this week. It's been on quite a few times if anyone's interested in catching it.
     
  8. Greenjacket

    Greenjacket Member

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    I've also read Johnson's autobiography, its really fantastic. I've also read Roald's Dahl's and Gpt Cpt Wilfred G. G. Duncan Smith's (father of the Conservative Party leader IDS) - I would particularly recommends Duncan Smith's book, it is very illuminating.
     
  9. Panzerknacker

    Panzerknacker New Member

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    Martin-would you happen to know the name of the pilot, or some crew members, and if they were awarded any decorations for this or any other actions during their time on board-thanks...
     
  10. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    You've got me there, Panzerknacker.

    I've never seen this incident mentioned anywhere else. The only clues in Johnson's book are that Shaw won the DFC+Bar, and went on to become Johnson's adjutant post-war. That's it !

    I've tried all the Bomber Command search engines, no go. As the incident was very strictly 'off the record', the crew certainly wouldn't have been commended for it. :(
     
  11. Panzerknacker

    Panzerknacker New Member

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    Yes well Martin i can believe that-it wouldn't be the smartest thing to do to award a rogue aircraft now would it-we wouldv'e had guys flying everywhere doing whatever they please.....
     
  12. Craig Menzies

    Craig Menzies recruit

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    Sorry to resurect such an old thread, but I found this post via a web search when researching some stuff about my Grandad. This story has a special place in my heart and I am pleased to be able to share some details and reveal some of the mystery.

    The daring Lancaster, mentioned in Wing Leader, was piloted by Jock Shaw. My Grandad was one of Jock's crew and was Flight Engineer at the time of the incident. The Lancaster was ED905 "Press on Regardless" of 550 Squadron, based in North Kilingholme. They were all told to keep PDQ on the matter, for fear of Court Marshall and it was only in later years that my Grandad told us the story. He became a bit of a local hero (it was in the Hull press), but played it down - as he said, they were only boys and it was a bit of a lark !


    Some detail on the crew here;

    The Wartime Memories Project - RAF North Killingholme

    RAF 550 Squadron and North Killingholme Association
     
    lwd and Fred Wilson like this.
  13. Skipper

    Skipper Kommodore

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    Hi Craig, don't worry about the old threat , we always appreciate when it's for a good cause and adding useful information is one.
     
  14. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    Absolutely no 'apology' needed, Craig - many thanks indeed for providing the extra detail on a little story which has always fascinated me !:cool:
     
  15. Craig Menzies

    Craig Menzies recruit

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    Thanks guys. It's nice to be able to provide you with the detail behind the story. Apparently the whole crew were desperate to "have a go" on the guns as the Lanc strafed the German convoy - so they were all running around having a turn on the guns.


    I did like the comment above about the rogue aircraft and others following it's example - how very true !!
     
  16. 4th wilts

    4th wilts Member

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    Hi guys,sorry to just bungle in on your thread,but can you guys confirm that it was indeed possible to "loop" a Lancaster.?Just seen a bloke on Telly ,reckons you could.?once again,sorry for the intrusion.cheers,Lee.
     
  17. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    You couldn't - but it was done in extremis.

    I'm going from memory here, but I think it was 'Rod' Rodley of 97 Squadron who got caught in a storm and 'looped' his Lancaster. And I've heard Nachtjagd ace Peter Spoden recount how he'd seen four-engined bombers over Berlin 'loop' in an attempt to escape searchlight beams.

    One thing for sure - the Lancaster wasn't designed to do this, and certainly in Rodley's case, on landing virtually every rivet on the aircraft was found to be strained and it never flew again.
     
  18. Fred Wilson

    Fred Wilson "The" Rogue of Rogues

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  19. 4th wilts

    4th wilts Member

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    Thankyou gentlemen,once again forgive the intrusion on this great thread,to think a lancaster strafeing at Caen,it boggles the mind,it really does.:).Cheers,Lee.
     
  20. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    Brings up something I've always wondered about - how far below horizontal could the nose and tail turrets on Lancasters, B-24s, etc. depress?
     

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