WO Robert Gordon Douglas - Bomb Aimer - Halifax DT669 - VR-L
It was the first operation flow by Warrant Officer Smallwood's crew and Bomb Aimer Warrant Officer Douglas was
in his place at the nose of the bomber looking through the bomb sight when the Halifax violently pitched over.
A wave of
energy from flak detonating in proximity of the bomber flipped the Halifax on its back. In this inverted position
the bomber went into a dive. Smallwood was now blinded by the beams of the search lights as they penetrated the
cockpit windows of the inverted aircraft.
Unable to judge his height as the Halifax fell, Smallwood ordered the crew to bail out.
Within that same instant he regained control> He then quickly countermanded the bail out order.
For Douglas it was too late, he had already bailed out and was drifting down to the ground to be
captured and in time interned at Stalag Luft VI. Then later to be part of a tragic ending for himself
and twenty nine other POWs.
WO Warren Ellwood MacKenzie - Navigator - Halifax -DT731
From available squadron records this would also appear to have been WO MacKenzie's first sortie. Mechanical
problems had arisen on the Halifax shortly after take-off. The undercarriage refused to close fully the pilot
F/S Hopkins and the F/E Sgt. J. Chambers were retrying and retrying the controls, the drag created by the
lowered wheels. The load of petrol and bombs was also working against the attempts at gaining altitude.
Eventually the F/E managed to retract the undercarriage, but not fully as the wheels could still be seen sticking
out. The decision was made to
lighten the aircraft and continue on to the target by dropping the incendiary bombs. After jettisoning those
bombs they managed to climb to 20,000 feet and carry on with the main bomb load to the target area.
The mechanical problems proved to be only the first of crew's worries on this sortie. After completing the bomb
and headed to point "P" on the intended return corridor to make a course change, there was suddenly an
enemy night fighter flying past the nose of their Halifax, VR-M
As the evasive action began the starboard outer engine caught
fire. No tracer had been seen by the crew and the failure was later put down to mechanical problems.
The Ju88 meanwhile had made course adjustments once it was past the bomber and now attacked DT731 from
a new position below. The attack created so much damage to the Halifax
Hopkins was no longer able to keep his aircraft airborne. Hopkins had to order a bail out, which was
successfully carried out by all the
Nothing can be found in the records of how WO MacKenzie was captured all that is known is that he ended up in
same Stalag Luft as Douglas. WO Douglas had never met MacKenzie while at Middleton St. George as Douglas
had been shot
down almost nine months before Warren MacKenzie has arrived at the base.
It can only be assumed that
coming from the
same squadron they did meet at the POW camp. In the coming months both he along with Douglas would become
found themselves on the "March".
George Spenceley recounts the events some time later:-
"It must have been next day that a tragedy happened that we might have anticipated. With clear skies and Allied
air forces active above, neither the high bomber formations nor low flying fighters gave us anything but joy. When
some ground attack machines flew low over us we waved. It seemed impossible that our long ragged column could ever
be seen as a target. Tragically, we were wrong."
"Two such parallel columns of our men were approaching the village of Gresse when a flight of six British Typhoons
came over and flew south again. They then returned, low and in line astern, aiming at the other column. We watched
horrified as puffs of smoke came from under the wing of the first one. Five attacked with rockets, then cannon.
The sixth turned off, perhaps aware of the error. The ultimate tragedy had occurred: our own air force in which
we had all served, had killed and maimed their own."
"Any thought of rushing over to the other column was barred by our guards who ordered us to continue, doubtless
anxious to find concealment in the forest ahead. At least we were spared the sight of our fellow airmen, some
prisoners of four years, killed within two weeks of release."