12/8/43 Attack Against Targets at Turin

Crew
F/S Allan Johnson Mayfield RNZAF. Pilot
P/O Jack Francis David Jarmy. Navigator
Sgt. Robert Douglas  Sommerville. Air Bomber
F/S J. Scarll. Wireless Operator
Sgt. A. Warburton. Flight Engineer
Sgt. Thomas Darbyshire. Mid Upper Gunner *
Sgt. John Sebastian Hulena RNZAF. Rear Gunner

Aircraft
Striling Mk.III BF461 (ORB says BF564) ‘W’ for William

Flight
Up 21.00 12th August
Down 06.00 13th August
Total Flight Time 9 hours

*Sgt. T. Derbyshire joins the crew. As mentioned elsewhere, Tom originally arrived at Mepal  on 30th July and was/ is believed to have been part of the Jack Thomson crew, F/S Thomson being lost with the Bailie crew on the Hamburg raid of 2nd August.

75 (NZ) Sqn RAF Operations Record Book (ORB)
12/8/43
Operations.
Eighteen aircraft were detailed to attack the above targets with bombs of 1,000lb., 50lb. and incendiaries of 30lb and 4lb. All of the aircraft successfully dropped their bombs in the target area, which was an absolute mass of flames, colossal fires and heavy explosions were also seen. Very feeble A.A. fire and a few searchlights were encountered, but were ineffective. Some enemy aircraft were seen and one combat took place. The aircraft captained by P/O A. Burley sighted an unidentified aircraft on the way to the target in the Chartes area, which approached from astern, the rear gunner gave a short burst, the Stirling corkscrewed and the enemy aircraft broke away. The Stirling’s port outer engine was badly damaged and had to be feathered. The captain however, continued to target which was 380 miles distant on three engines, successfully bombed it and returned to base, making a perfect landing. The weather was clear with a bright moon over the target. Navigation was excellent.

Page 558, 1943. Form 540/ 541 AIR27/ 646  75(NZ) Squadron RAF, Mepal. National Archives.

Bomber Command War Diary
12/13 August 1943
504 aircraft – 321 Lancasters and 183 Halifaxes despatched to Milan and carried out a successful raid. 2 Halifaxes and 1 Lancaster lost.

152 aircraft of 3 and No 8 Groups – 112 Stirlings, 34 Halifaxes, 6 Lancasters to Turin. 2 Stirlings lost.
7 Mosquitos to Berlin, 24 Wellingtons minelaying off Brittany ports, 9 OTU sorties. 1 Mosquito and 2 Wellington minelayers lost.

One of the bravest Victoria Crosses was won on this night. A Stirling of 218 Squadron was badly damaged by a burst of fire while approaching Turin. The navigator was killed and several members of the crew were wounded, including the pilot, Flight Sergeant Arthur Louis Aaron, who was struck in the face by a bullet which shattered his jaw and tore part of his face away; he was also injured in the chest and his right arm could not be used. The flight engineer and the bomb aimer took over the controls of the aircraft and set course for North Africa although one engine was useless, the pilot was out of action, having been dosed with morphia, and the navigator was dead. The Stirling reached the cost of Africa and Flight Sergeant Aaron insisted on returning to his seat in the cockpit to help prepare for the landing. Twice he tried to take over the controls and, although he had to give up this attempt, he continued to help by writing down instructions for landing with his left hand. He could not speak. Under Aaron’s guidance, given in great pain and at the limits of exhaustion, the Stirling landed safely at its fifth attempt at Bône airfield with its wheels up. Flight Sergeant Aaron died 9 hours later. It was considered that he might have survived if he had rested after having been wounded instead of insisting on helping his crew. The wireless operator, Sergeant T Guy, and the flight engineer, Sergeant M Mitcham, were each awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal. It was later established that the machine-gun fire which struck the Stirling was fired by a nervous tail gunner in another bomber. Flight Sergeant Aaron was 21 years old and came from Leeds.

Page 421, The Bomber Command War Diaries. 2011. Everitt Middlebrook. Midland publishing.

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