20th November 1944, Homberg – Loss cards for Gordon and Rees crews

PB689 003

PB689 002

PB689 001

Loss cards for PB689, Gordon crew and PB520, Rees crew. Both aircraft lost on 20th November 1944 on the Homberg Op.
© Department of Research and Information Services, Royal Air Force Museum, London

Many thanks to Belinda, Assistant curator at the Department of Research and Information Services, Royal Air Force Museum, London for passing on these Loss Cards, based on an inquiry I made a couple of weeks ago regarding the flight path for the raid.

In discussion with Anthony, son of Bob Freeman, Flight Engineer with the Gordon crew, he wondered if the reason for the loss of the crew was a falling bomb from another aircraft. Having an idea of where the aircraft crashed, I wondered if light could be shed on its fate regarding the direction of the stream over the target. My personal feeling, prior to getting the Loss Cards and I think also having looked at them is that PB689 was hit by flak prior to reaching the target, the full bomb load resulting in the 98% break up of the aircraft and the loss of all of its crew – but I stand to be corrected…….

I have found the results of my research a little frustrating. On the Loss Card for the Rees crew, a list of map coordinates are listed;Rendevous
5113N/ 0320E
5130N/ 0520E
5148N/ 0607E
Target
5150N/ 0710E
5158N/ 0650E
5100N/ 0400E

My first and obvious thought was to try to put these coordinates into Google Earth, however, having tried to do so, I end up with a series of points that seem way off, relative to the target at Homberg (I did however take 2 goes at getting my map reading badge in the Cubs……)

I’d be grateful if anybody could shed some light on my error – I suspect that the coordinates used during the war might differ in some crucial detail regarding the coordinates that are at now used in Google earth……

5 thoughts on “20th November 1944, Homberg – Loss cards for Gordon and Rees crews

  1. Adrian

    Simon, It may be down to the difference between True North, where the lines of longitude converge at the north pole and Magnetic North, where the compass points. If Google maps use True North and the coordinates on this sheet are with reference to Magnetic North then there will be a discrepancy. To add to the confusion the Magnetic North moves over time so will be different today than it was 70 years ago. My theory anyway, open to correction!

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    1. 75nzsquadron Post author

      Hi Adrian
      Many thanks for that insight – like I say navigation is not my strength – perhaps as a ‘creative’, I tend to remember routes visually, so a pile of numbers laid on a map that then makes no apparent sense is a bit frustrating to me. I am sure someone must be able to help if your hypothesis is correct – which I am sure it probably is – fingers crossed someone will see this and gives us the correct answer!

      Simon

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      1. Adrian

        Hi Simon. I think I may have cracked it, and you can probably dismiss my previous post! I think the secret lies with the format you enter the coordinates into google. I converted the coordinates from the degrees and minutes into decimal and then used google maps to plot the course, which to me makes sense. Try entering the converted figures as below into google maps, and in the same format:
        51.216, 03.33
        51.5, 05.33
        51.8, 06.116
        Homberg, Germany
        51.833, 07.166
        51.966, 06.833
        52.0, 04.0
        The only fly in the ointment is the last coordinate which was written as 51 deg latitude but I think this was a mistake, probably by someone who got too used to writing 51. I reckon it should be 52 degrees as above. It fits in perfectly.
        The icing on the cake is that the route from 51.8, 06.116 to the target passes virtually over Moers where this aircraft crashed.

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  2. Mark Rae

    Hi Simon, really great find well done. I will go there some day and report back. Interestingly we found a crash site in the Argonne with the help of two 85 year old farmers who saw it when they were kids. I filmed the trip its a pretty harrowing description they give in French there was aluminium and a rear gunner shell casing in the field on the surface .Thank you for the support on the song. Best Mark

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  3. Hubert L Rees

    Hello Simon: Is it possible that the coordinates offer a wide and possibly diversionary flight arc to/from the Homberg/Meerbeck oil refinery near Duisburg? Incidentally, I’m assuming the coordinates were those issued to crews before the raid and not a record of actual aircraft locations.

    I’ve a special interest as the son of (then) P/O Hubert Rees, who died in 2009. An O/H bomb is also a possibility for the eventual loss of his aircraft, though I’ve no information on this. Presently, I’m exploring/editing summary notes he left following his capture and internment at Stalag Luft 1 (near Barth on the Baltic coast). I’ll keep you posted on any information relevant to the raid on 20 November 1944 that may come to light.

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