Following up on an interesting article I found written by S/L John David Pattison (later W/C Pattison)
on a fouled up attack on Essen.
It was necessary to match up this particular operation and the facts it contained with those found in yet another source, but neither had actual dates
of the mission they were referring to and had slight differences in the facts.
What I did find were two operations within the range of dates mentioned.
One, April 3 1943 five aircraft from 419 squadron were on a mission to Essen. On this operation the losses were high considering that only five aircraft were mentioned to go on the mission, one crew was lost and another crew were shot up with three wounded but still managed to return to RAF Coltishall.
The missing aircraft crew of Halifax DT617 were pilot P/O Peter. D. Boyd, P/O Gordon.W.Lawry Navigator, Sgt. John .B. Langley Bomb Aimer, Sgt. Lawrence H. Ransome WAG, Sgt. Serbert N. Hall F/E, P/O Hamish T. MacDonald Air Gunner, Sgt Beverley W. Agar.
Wounded on DT669 were Sgt.R.E. Ross, Sgt. J.H.Thomson and Sgt. L.A. Wallis
The second operation to Essen was on April 30th and with the full squadron of 14 Halifax aircraft heading out of which five had to return to base for various reasons. On this mission there were thankfully no losses. This description from the squadron Operations Log best matches the narrative given my second source which itself reflects the account given by S/L Pattison. For this reason I will date the action as April 30 1943.
419 squadron was again to attack targets in “Happy Valley” Essen was to be the first target in a string of what was planned to be nine straight raids into the Ruhr area. On this particular operation against Essen, an old target for 419, the action never was to reach it's expected goals. Signs of things to come showed up even before the take-off. There were multiple changes in the weather forecasts and no clear decision on how the PPF would mark the target.
The forces of 419 would be decreased by both the elements and the aircraft themselves. The five that had to turn back faced problems with icing, engine failures, communications failures, ASI failures and gun turrets malfunctioning all were causes. The objective had even more problems to throw at the remaining force that did with great determination make it to the target. The marking of the target was sadly lacking and the navigators and pilots had to use almost dead reckoning to do their bombing runs. Some flares it seems did eventually start appearing according to S/L Pattison's description of the events. The defenses were also formibale and accurate. But through good luck no losses or heavy damage was reported.
The diary of S/L Pattison “B” Flight Commander of the squadron maybe describes in terms which clearly give a picture of the night’s operation:
“ I briefed the squadron at 1800 hours, after the take-off time had been changed several times and Command had refused to decide whether it would be the sky-or ground-marking technique by PFF. After briefing, the Group Captain read us a message from Joe Stalin thanking us for hitting the great German industrial centres. The met. wallahs were a little unsure of themselves tonight, forecasting a westerly wind for take -off, a great front over the North Sea, and solid cloud over Europe from the ground up to 15,000 feet. Then, from out of nowhere, those same weather merchants dug up some new winds and a new position for the frontal system over the North Sea, all of which necessitated a change in our tactics and also a much earlier take-off. There followed pangs of panic as harassed navigators sweated to prepare their new flight plans and worried-looking skippers scuttled about rounding up crew members who had temporarily "bogged off". Then, to complicate matters further, the local wind changed. All the aircraft had therefore to taxi in the dark from one end of the aerodrome to the other, a feat that was somehow performed without a single kite's becoming stuck in the mud. As I was taxiing my aircraft to the marshalling point, flying control sent a man out to tell me that the met. people had changed their minds and that there would be west wind for take-off after all. So we marshaled at the east end of the drome, which proved to be the right end. This caused considerable confusion, as all the aircraft were taxiing out by this time, and positioning themselves sat the other end of the field. But the mess finally straightened itself out. "W" - Willy, myself and crew got airborne on time and climbed over base, setting course at 17,000 feet. Almost at once we ran into the front and were flying in thin cloud with solid stuff below us ... This gave us good protection from fighters but made it impossible to use astro navigation as only the stars directly above us were visible. We reached the Dutch coast at 22,000 feet and met little opposition. At the turning point in Germany just north of the target we were fifteen minutes late because of faulty winds ... From then on, despite our relatively great height, we .were subjected to rather intense and accurate flak. When our ETA over the target was up, there were no target markers to be seen and I was getting a little worried, especially since we were being buffeted about by flak; and the Ruhr is no place in which to lose one's bearings. Just then a white flare burst behind us, followed by a red which shot out green stars ... We swung around to do an orbit and get back on the proper heading for a bombing run. I don't think there was another aircraft around at the time, because we got quite a pasting on that bombing run. We could hear the "crumps of bursting shells and the tinkling of splinter s on our wings and fuselage ... We had an uneventful trip home, except that the gunners, (Sgts. G. F. Clarke and J. A. Mills) were very cold. The temperature up there was minus 40 degrees Centigrade ...”