Sortie 20

Date:  23rd December 1944

Target:  Cologne

Crew:  AE Johnson, GB Thomas, H Coulton, RM Jenkins, R Neale, DF Hadland, CA Butler

Aircraft:  ME337 (A)

Role:  Bomber (Yellow)

Take Off: 10.39  Landing: 14.34

Crew Report:

35 Squadron ORB: 10 aircraft took off to attack in daylight the Gemburg marshalling yards, Cologne, where the conditions were clear. Formation was maintained until about ten minutes before the target was reached when, owing to the excellent conditions, crews bombed  visually.

Aircraft “F” and “H” collided over the sea on the outward journey and both were lost. 3 aircraft “J”, “Z” and “X” after being seriously damaged over the target landed at Manston. F/O Card and F/O Herod received slight injuries.

Bomber Command:

Aircraft Used: 27 Lancasters and 3 Mosquitos of No 8 Group

Summary:  The raid went very badly. The force was split into 3 formations, each led by an Oboe-equipped Lancaster with an Oboe Mosquito as reserve leader. During the outward flight, 2 Lancasters of No 35 Squadron collided over the French coast and their crews were all killed. On approaching the target, it was found that the cloud which had been forecast had cleared and it was decided to allow the bombers to break formation and bomb visually; this move was made because the formations would have been very vulnerable to Cologne’s flak defences during the long, straight Oboe approach. Unfortunately the order to abandon the Oboe run did not reach the leading Lancaster, a No 582 Squadron aircraft piloted by Squadron Leader RAM Palmer, DFC (on loan from No 109 Squadron), who continued on with his designated role, even though his aircraft was already damaged by flak. German fighters, who were being directed to intercept an American bomber force, also appeared and attacked. The bombs from Squadron Leader Palmer’s aircraft were eventually released and hit the target but his plane went down out of control and only the tail gunner escaped, by parachute. Squadron Leader Palmer, on his 110th operation, was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross, the only Oboe VC of the war. The formation suffered further losses when another Lancaster and a Mosquito were shot down by flak and fighters and a further Lancaster had to be abandoned by its crew over Belgium. The losses were thus 6 aircraft out of the 30 dispatched.