4/4/45 ATTACK ON MERSEBURG – Leuna synthetic oil plant

4 apr MersebergCrew
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 RF127
“W” for William

Bomb load 1 x 4,000 H.C. 4 x 500 ANM. 1 x 350 Munro.Primary target – Merseburg.
Arrived early – orbited target, waiting for flares to be dropped – hard to assess results.

Up 18.36 4th April
Down 02.59 4th April
Total Flight Time 6 hours 35 minutes

75 (NZ) Sqn RAF Operations Record Book (ORB)
21 aircraft were detailed to make a night attack on MERSEBURG.. (AA’R’ F/O C Stevens) returned early through technical trouble. (JN’D’ F/O J. Wood) was hit by flak before reaching the target, the B/ Aimer (F/S Hooper) was burned about the face and the Pilot’s hands were slightly burned, the F/Engineer (Sgt. Williamson) apparently fell through the M.U.G Turret. Crews bomber glows of fires on Master Bomber’s instructions. Fires were fairly concentrated though reports indicate a rather scattered raid. Flak moderate to light.

Page 179, 1945. Form 540/ 541 AIR27/ 647  75(NZ) Squadron RAF, Mepal. National Archives.

Sergeant Douglas Williamson RAFVR XXXXXXXX. FE. 2nd December to 4th April 1945. After being hit by flak, a fire developed in the aircraft after the antifreeze reservoir, used as a step down into the bomb aimers compartment, was hit by a flak fragment and exploded. Panicking, the Bomb Aimer, opened the emergency exit door in the nose of the aircraft, preparing for a quick exit, but the sudden rush of air cause a blow torch like effect that resulted in the Pilot and Douglas being sprayed with antifreeze. Sgt. Williamson, disorientated and believing he was hit (actually some of the spilt antifreeze) stumbled over the main wing spar. Convinced the aircraft was mortally damaged decided to bale out of the mid under gun turret mounting site. Evaded for 4 days before being captured. Returned to England xxth xx 1945

Bomber Command War Diary
4 April 1945
327 Lancasters and 14 Mosquitos of Nos 3, 6 and 8 Groups attacked the synthetic-oil plant at Leuna. The target was cloud-covered, the bombing was scattered and only minor damage was caused. 2 Lancasters lost.
327 aircraft – 277 Halifaxes, 36 Lancasters, 14 Mosquitos – of Nos 4, 6 and 8 Groups attacked the Rhenania oil plant, Harburg. The target was easily identified and severe damage was caused to it. 2 Lancasters and 1 Halifax lost.
258 Lancasters and 14 Mosquitos of Nos 1 and 8 Groups attacked the oil refinery at Lützkendorf. Bomber Command claimed ‘moderate damage’. 6 Lancasters lost.
35 Mosquitos to Berlin and 31 to Magdeburg, 70 RCM sorties, 66 Mosquito patrols, 30 Lancasters minelaying in the Oslo Fjord and the Kattegat. 5 aircraft lost. 12 Mosquitos from the Magdeburg raid and 3 Lancasters of No 1 Group from the Kattegat minelaying operation. The 136 aircraft dispatched by No 100 Group on this night were that group’s largest effort of the war.
Total effort for the night: 1,172 sorties, 16 aircraft (1.4 per cent) lost.

Page 691, The Bomber Command War Diaries. 2011. Everitt Middlebrook. Midland publishing.

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