F/S Vernon John Zinzan. Pilot
P/O James Sydney George Coote. Navigator
F/O Robert Douglas Sommerville. Air Bomber
Sgt. Miles Parr. Wireless Operator
Sgt. A. Ackroyd. Flight Engineer
Sgt. H. Hutchinson. Mid Upper Gunner
Sgt. Frank Watts. Rear Gunner*
*note – Frank Watts was the usual rear gunner with Douglas St.Clair Clement’s crew. Recently I have clarified that there was in fact another ‘F.Watts’ flying at the same time in the squadron – also as a rear gunner. Until I have logbook evidence, I am unable to confirm which of these individuals actually flew with the boys.
Lancaster Mk.I ME450
“W” for Willliam
Bomb Load 1 x 4,000 H.C., 3 x 750 No. 15 cluster 1 x 50 No.17 cluster. 1 Munro.
Primary target Dresden
Should have been a first class show. One or two loads jettisoned short.
Up 22.13 13th February
Down 06.32 14th February
Total Flight Time 8 hours 19 minutes
75 (NZ) Sqn RAF Operations Record Book (ORB)
Twenty aircraft attacked Dresden as detailed. Very slight H/F was only opposition. The first aircraft over the target reported thin cloud which had cleared for later aircraft. Some aircraft were able to bomb visually. Crews reported the whole town was well alight and could see the glow of fires 10 miles away on return A highly successful raid.
Page 65, 1945. Form 540/ 541 AIR27/ 647 75(NZ) Squadron RAF, Mepal. National Archives.
Bomber Command War Diary
13 February 1945
The Air Ministry had, for several months, been considering a series of particularly heavy area raids on German cities with a view to causing such confusion and consternation that the hard-stretched German war machine and civil administration would break down and the war would end. The general name given to this plan was Operation Thunderclap, but it had been decided not to implement it until the military situation in Germany was critical. That moment appeared to be at hand. Russian forces had made a rapid advance across Poland in the second half of January and crossed the eastern frontier of Germany. The Germans were thus fighting hard inside their own territory on two fronts, with the situation in the East being particularly critical. It was considered that Berlin, Dresden, Leipzig and Chemnitz – all just behind the German lines on the Eastern Front now – would be suitable targets. They were all vital communications and supply centres for the Eastern Front and were already packed with German refugees and wounded from the areas recently captured by the Russians. As well as the morale aspect of the attacks, there was the intention of preventing the Germans from moving reinforcements from the West to face the successful Russian advance. The Air Ministry issued a directive to Bomber Command , at the end of January. The Official History. describes how Winston Churchill took a direct hand in the final planning of Operation Thunderclap – although Churchill tried to distance himself from the Dresden raid afterwards. On 4 February, at the Yalta Conference, the Russians asked for attacks of this kind to take place, but their involvement in the process only came after the plans had been issued. So, Bomber Command was specifically requested by the Air Ministry, with Churchill’s encouragement to carry out heavy raids on Dresden, Chemnitz and Leipzig. The Americans were also asked to help and agreed to do so. The campaign should have begun with an American raid on Dresden on 13 February but bad weather over Europe prevented any American operations. It thus fell to Bomber Command to carry out the first raid.
Dresden: 796 Lancasters and 9 Mosquitos were dispatched in two separate raids and dropped 1,478 tons of high explosive and 1,182 tons of incendiary bombs. The first attack was carried out entirely by No 5 Group, using their own low-level marking methods. A band of cloud still remained in the area and this raid, in which 244 Lancasters dropped more than 800 tons of bombs, was only moderately successful. The second raid, 3 hours later, was an all-Lancaster attack by aircraft of Nos 1, 3, 6 and 8 Groups, with No 8 Group providing standard Pathfinder marking. The weather was now clear and 529 Lancasters dropped more than 1,800 tons of bombs with great accuracy. Much has been written about the fearful effects of this raid. Suffice it to say here that a firestorm, similar to the one experienced in Hamburg in July 1943, was created and large areas of the city were burnt out. No one has ever been able to discover how many people died but it is accepted that the number was greater than the 40,000 who died in the Hamburg firestorm and the Dresden figure may have exceeded 50,000. Bomber Command casualties were 6 Lancasters lost, with 2 more crashed in France and 1 in England.
311 American B-17s dropped 771 tons of bombs on Dresden the next day, with the railway yards as their aiming point. Part of the American Mustang-fighter escort was ordered to strafe traffic on the roads around Dresden to increase the chaos. The Americans bombed Dresden again on the 15th and on 2 March but it is generally accepted that it was the RAF night raid which caused the most serious damage.
Böhlen: 368 aircraft – 326 Halifaxes, 34 Lancasters, 8 Mosquitos – of Nos 4, 6 and 8 Groups attempted to attack the Braunkohle-Benzin synthetic-oil plant at Bohlen, near Leipzig. Bad weather – 10/10ths cloud to 15,000ft with icing – was encountered and the marking and bombing were scattered. No post-raid photographic reconnaissance was carried out. 1 Halifax was lost.
71 Mosquitos to Magdeburg, 16 to Bonn, 8 each to Misburg and Nuremberg and 6 to Dortmund, 65 RCM sorties, 59 Mosquito patrols. No aircraft lost.
Total effort for the night: 1,406 sorties, 9 aircraft (0.6 per cent) lost.