12/12/44 ATTACK AGAINST WITTEN – Ruhrstahl steelworks

F/S Vernon John Zinzan. Pilot
P/O James Sydney George Coote. Navigator
P/O Kenneth Mesure. Air Bomber
Sgt. Miles Parr. Wireless Operator
Sgt. A. Ackroyd. Flight Engineer
Sgt. H. Hutchinson. Mid Upper Gunner
Sgt. Herbert Steele. Rear Gunner

Lancaster Mk.I HK562
“L” for Love

Bomb Load 1 x 8,000 H.C., 8 x 500 cluster 4 lb.
Primary target Witten
Nothing to report.

Up 11.15 12th December
Down 16.35 13th December
Total Flight Time 5 hours 20 minutes

75 (NZ) Sqn RAF Operations Record Book (ORB)
Sixteen aircraft were detailed to attack Witten in daylight and again found their target obscured by ten tenths cloud. Moderate flak was encountered and enemy fighters were seen attacking the first wave of aircraft ahead. No results were observed owing to cloud. The aircraft captained by F/Lt Hannan collided with another aircraft just before reaching the target, however the target was bombed and base reached safely. The a/c captained by F/S Zinzan was damaged in landing and the Air Bomber F/O Mesure sustained a broken leg.

Page 354, 1945. Form 540/ 541 AIR27/ 647  75(NZ) Squadron RAF, Mepal. National Archives.

As well as passing on the picture of Vernon and his crew, Peter also said he was still in contact with Ken Mesure. A brief series of emails to and from Ken provided a warm memory of Vernon and a short description of the Witten raid.

I flew with “Taffy” Zinzan and was put out of action on the Witten raid, Dec. 12 1944. I am Ken Mesure and Taffy was the greatest. Dec 12 was a daylight raid but there was little of that the visibility being non-existent from the surface to 20,000; even the birds weren’t flying but 75, the old “Chop” squadron was sent up anyway. The target was invisible and we had to bomb on the “marker flares” positioned by the Pathfinders”.

The Witten daylight raid was ghastly due to rotten weather and blind bombing, but the diversionary force sent to draw the fighter forces into the air and thereby cause them to land to refuel was intended to delay attacks on our bomber stream failed. They were waiting for us the moment we entered their airspace and many a/c were attacked. Luckily we were not one of them.”

It is difficult to chronologically place the following comment. Given the fact that it would appear that L-Love was damaged after the collision with F/Lt Hannan, it was perhaps inevitable that the landing would not be text book.

“I remember once at dispersal, shortly after landing, and hearing over the intercom the various kites calling up requests to pancake, and all of us turning to watch, I’ve forgotten which kite, but we knew it was Zinzan who was known for ropey landings. Sure enough, that particular landing is still visible in my mind. They were lucky to be able to get airborne again and do another circuit.”
Douglas Williamson, Flight Engineer, Wood crew, 2nd Dec 1944 to 5th Apr 1945.
courtesy Douglas Williamson/ Chris Newey  

Bomber Command War Diary
12 December 1944
140 Lancasters of No 3 Group on a G-H raid to the Ruhrstahl steelworks at Witten. German fighters intercepted the force in the target area and 8 Lancasters were lost. It was the town’s first major raid of the war. The steelworks were not hit and bombs fell all over the town, destroying 126 houses and 5 industrial premises.

Page 630, The Bomber Command War Diaries. 2011. Everitt Middlebrook. Midland publishing.

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