14/4/45 ATTACK ON POTSDAM – Troop Barracks & Railway Facilities. This was the last raid of the war by a major Bomber Command force

14 apr PotsdamCrew
F/S Vernon John Zinzan. Pilot
W/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. J. McManus. Rear Gunner

Lancaster Mk.I LM276
“S” for Sugar

Bomb load 1x4000HC, 5x500ANM, 1×350 Munro.
Primary target – POTSDAM.
Bombed centre of TI’s. Town area from edge of water seemed well alight

Up 18.11 14th April
Down 02.52 15th April
Total Flight Time 8 hours 41 minutes

75 (NZ) Sqn RAF Operations Record Book (ORB)
25 aircraft were detailed to attack POTSDAM. There was no cloud and visibility was good. A very concentrated attack developed and the target was well alight by the time the last aircraft were on their way home. Flak was slight and bursting well below stream. AA’T’ (F/O A.R. Baynes) was attacked by two enemy aircraft believed to be JU.88’s 20 miles S.W. of Potsdam on the homeward journey. The Flight Engineer (Sgt. Sliman) was killed by canon shell.

Page 193, 1944. Form 540/ 541 AIR27/ 647  75(NZ) Squadron RAF, Mepal. National Archives.

Sgt Allan Melrose Sliman RAFVR 1826936. FE. 1st to 14th Apr 1945. Died Saturday 14th  April 1945, age 39, during a daylight raid on Potsdam. Buried Chelmsford (Writtle Road) Cemetery England. Read more about Allan here

Bomber Command War Diary
14 April 1945
500 Lancasters and 12 Mosquitos of Nos 1, 3 and 8 Groups attacked Potsdam. This was the first time that Bomber Command 4-engined aircraft had entered the Berlin defence zone since March 1944 but the approach, across parts of Germany recently captured by Allied troops, and the Cuxhaven diversion led to only 1 Lancaster being lost; it was shot down by a night fighter.
This was the last raid of the war by a major Bomber Command force on a German city. The aiming point was the centre of Potsdam and the intention was to destroy the local barracks (depot of the old German Guards regiments) and the railway facilities. The attack was reasonably successful and severe damage was caused in Potsdam but bombs also fell in the nearby northern and eastern districts of Berlin.
24 Lancasters and 4 Mosquitos in a diversion raid to Cuxhaven, 62 Mosquitos to Berlin and 10 to Wismar, 54 RCM sorties, 50 Mosquito patrols. No aircraft lost.
Total effort for the night: 716 sorties, 1 aircraft (0.1 per cent) lost.

Page 695, The Bomber Command War Diaries. 2011. Everitt Middlebrook. Midland publishing.

And so, that as they say, that, was that. Pretty much as Bob’s first tour, his second tour with 75(NZ) Squadron RAF comes to an end after this raid. In some respects, I feel a little sad that there is no sign off, or message from his skipper (as in ‘Titch’ Halliday’s logbook from his pilot Martin) – even simply a ‘Tour Expired’ stamp or comment from his C/O. Maybe this is my fault for being sentimental or viewing Bob’s logbook in hindsight – it may well have been that Dad simply saw it as a point in time within his career in the R.A.F. – who knows……..

It is difficult to know the exact details of the days at Mepal following the end of this raid – the war was all but won, but was still going on, but the boys had met their numbers Vernon had clocked up the magic figure of 30 first tour ops – he was going home. James, Miles, Sgt. Hutchinson and Ackroyd had all totalled 29 (Vernon got an extra as 2nd dickie with Wylie Wakelin). Bob had scored 21 – one more than he need as  second tour crew, but I think it was a case of sticking together – they all probably knew by this point in the war that as soon as the Skipper was on 30 everybody was off home…..

I currently know nothing about the movements of the crew past this last raid date, apart from Bob and Vernon. On the 25th of July Vernon is listed as going to No. 12 Personnel Dispersal and Reception Centre (12 PD&RC) at Padgate, Warrington (ironically just 15 miles from where I now live). After disembarking back in New Zealand, he ceased to be attached to the R.A.F. as of 13th August 1945.

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