Making it back
For Halifax BB384’s captain F/O Phil Weedon the attack on Dortmund on the night of May 23/24 1943 was one to remember. The flak and searchlights of enemy defenses are hard enough to fight your way through on the way to and way out of the target area. But when your hit by another aircraft in your wave it is hard to take. There are a number of cases where Moosemen gunners have witnessed bombs of all sizes just miss hitting the aircraft they are in. Actual hits could have been the end of many a crew unknown to any of us.
In the case of F/O Weedon, the pilot of BB384 the cause of the damage to his aircraft only became when a incendiary device was found still intact
within the fuselage of his aircraft. The only damage indication while they were working their way home was the loss of fuel to the Halifax’s starboard
fuel tanks. Finding a safe and direct way home with the fuel leaking out of hole punched in a fuel line in the wing and making it all the way back to
base was a feat in it’s self. Then to find that there were reports of enemy night fighters flying in the area of their base and having to wait for an all
clear before landing must have been a stressful situation as the vital fluid escaped down the wing.
Coming in low on fuel
It appears that as they were making the approach when the two starboard engines both quit forcing the pilot to execute a forced landing which
was a bumpy metal shredding ride down a field with a wing and engine ripped away it was successful only because of the skill of the pilot. Amazingly
none of the crew were injured. For his skills and coolness during this incident and for his past gallantry and skill during in his previous missions he
was awarded the DFC.
The pilot was not the only one remaining cool the crew finished their debriefing along with the other crews as if nothing had
happened. Although the Navigator F/O “Paddy” Campbell was reported to have said to W/C Fleming “I didn’t like that aircraft anyway, when do I get a new one”
The ground crew found on inspecting the starboard wing that one of the incendiaries had severed the fuel system and there were still more sticking into the wing
The crew on board at the time were:
Pilot F/O Phil Weedon of Raddockwood Saskatchewan
Navigator F/O P. Campbell
Bomb Aimer F/O R. Kearney Shields of Redditt Ontario
WAG Sgt. M. Wigelsworth
F/E Sgt. Cliff. W. Nevins of Moosejaw Saskatchewan
Air Gunner S. Poole
Air Gunner Sgt. Dorland. G. Plyley of Rodney Ontario
In a July 1943 article “Sgt. Plyley Has Exciting Time On Duisberg Raid” the events of the night are told. But the name of the target were changed from the
correct Dortmund to Duisberg, most likely by war time censors.
The article states that he crew knew the aircraft was hit by incendiaries dropped on them from above. In fact the Bomb Aimer had to pick one up from inside
the aircraft and drop it down the chute used to drop flares to get rid of it. The article mentioned that this unexploded incendiary device was found next to the boxes of ammunition
likely the ones for the Middle Upper turret. If this had of detonated the ammunition it could have downed the aircraft and crew.
A description of the landing and how the aircraft hit a tree breaking off the port wing and sending the aircraft spinning across the field, the explosion of the remaining fuel tank.
The wing did catch fire but luckily for the crew the fuselage section did not catch fire but was very heavily damaged even in this condition the crew escaped without injury.
Leaving the aircraft in the best method each could find to get out, three out the front and three by the rear, then running to help the rear gunner Sgt. Plyley to escape from
his jammed turret. His fellow crewmen helped to turn the turret so he could fall back out of it.
In January of the next year WO Dorland Plyley became a prisoner of war when the aircraft he was in was lost while over Germany.