30/7/43 Mine Laying off the Frisian Islands (Gardening)

F/S Allan Johnson Mayfield RNZAF. Pilot
P/O Jack Francis David Jarmy. Navigator
Sgt. Robert Douglas  Sommerville. Air Bomber
Sgt. F. Weaver. Wireless Operator
Sgt. A. Warburton. Flight Engineer
Sgt. R. Bullen. Mid Upper Gunner
Sgt. John Sebastian Hulena RNZAF. Rear Gunner

Striling Mk.I BF614 ‘H’ for Harry

Up 23.00 30th July
Down 03.00 1st August
Total Flight Time 4 hours

75 (NZ) Sqn RAF Operations Record Book (ORB)
One aircraft was detailed to carry out the above operation with mines of 1,500lb., which were successfully dropped in the allotted area. No A.A. Fire, searchlights or enemy aircraft were encountered. The weather was good except for 5/10ths cloud which prevented the parachutes being seen to open. Navigation was very good.

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

Bomber Command War Diary
30/31 July 1943
273 aircraft – 95 Halifaxes, 87 Stirlings, 82 Lancasters, 9 Mosquitos – were dispatched to the previously unbombed town of Remscheid on the southern edge of the Ruhr; only 26 people had been killed in Remscheid, by stray bombs, in the last 3 years. This raid marks the true end of the Battle of the Ruhr. 15 aircraft – 8 Stirlings, 5 Halifaxes, 2 Lancasters – were lost, 5.5 per cent of the force.
8 aircraft laid mines in the Frisian Islands without loss

Page 415, The Bomber Command War Diaries. 2011. Everitt Middlebrook. Midland publishing.

It was only relatively recently that it actually dawned on me that when Bob and the crew took off that July night, they were utterly alone. Perhaps I had assumed that they took off with the other 13 aircraft that flew to Remscheid that night. It was a quarter of an hour after  EE893, Piloted by P/O Rankin cleared the airstrip that the crew of BK614 left Mepal in the dark, on their first operational mission.

A discussion on the RAF Commands Forum, explored the nature of initial flights for new crews – one contributor said mining or ‘gardening’ missions were seen as an ‘easy’ first mission. I replied as follows;

“Dad’s gone now, So I can’t say how he felt, but personally, to fly on my first operational mission and have to leave the airfield with no other aircraft…….I’d be SH***NG myself……”

The term ‘Gardening’ refers to the dropping of sea mines in a large number of bays and sea lanes. Code names were given to the destinations/ target areas. Technically I assume Bob’s description should have applied this terminology, however to continue the horticultural theme, the ‘veg’ refer to the mines themselves – the correct codename for thr Frisian Islands – nectarines.

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