Railroads were a prime mover of troops, equipment and supplies to the German forces in occupied
Europe. The railways themselves were constantly the target of the Underground forces destroying
sections of tracks or the switching points, the intersections of one line of tracks with another, and a times
these clandestine groups would molest larger targets such as bridges and control centers. The massive
rail centers with hundreds of miles of tracks leading into, out of and cross-hatching within them were
targets of the Allied air forces.
Every railroad has to have centers where the rolling stock, the freight cars and other movers of the goods, are assembled into the actual long line of cars that make up the train. Large numbers of interconnecting parallel tracks enable the controllers to sort, move, and connect the correct cars into the assigned engine for the journey to the designated city. Destruction of these marshalling yards with with their large expanses spreading out over hundreds of acres, miles of tracks and hundreds of railroad cars and engines provided a massive punch against the German effort to supply and reinforce their front lines.
With the days running up to “D-Day” and the Operation “Overlord” the invasion of Europe; Bomber Command was given the task of disrupting this supply system. The “Moose” squadron was to take part in many of these operations in the coastal areas of France and Belgium.
The cost to 419 squadron during the month of May alone can be seen from the list of operational losses listed here.
St. Ghislain May 1/2nd 1944
Although not a misson orginally planed for that day's operations,by noon it fell on the crews of both on the ground and planning to ready nine of 419’s aircraft for the attack on theyards at St. Ghislain. The weather cooperated with the planners who selected a rather direct route to the target. The weather though plays no favourites and the night fighters were there in numbers and with the German radar being able to pick them off almost from the English coast if not sooner the crews could expect trouble out of darkness at any point. The loss of crewmen of a Moose aircraft and first loss of a Canadian made Lancaster was to be the darkening point of the operation. After havine sucessfuly made their bomb run and heading over the coast to home KB711 was attacked by night-fighters bringing down the Lancaster and some of the crew members near the city of Ghent. Two of the crew were killed in the attack, with one other being badly wounded. The remainder of the crew destined to become Prisoners of War.
The first Canadian built Lancaster lost in operations.
P/O J C McNary Pilot 18th sortie KIA
F/O F H Love Navigator
F/S R C Long Bomb Aimer
WO J L E Chartrand Wireless Op. KIA
Sgt. A G Hill Flight Engineer
Sgt. J J Wilson Upper Gunner
Sgt. D S M Sangater Rear Gunner Seriously Injured, repatriated Aug or Sept 1944
MI9 reports on P/O R C D Long who was the bomb aimer after his liberation provided some insight into what occurred that night. After an uneventful approach to the target St. Ghislain and arriving late and not fully on course. It was decided on using a visual approach to the marshalling-yard. After numerous and dangerous orbits of the target area and the subsequent bombing they headed of to home base. While crossing the coast a night fighter found them and although they had seen him, it had changed course so as to attack the Lancaster from underneath, where the Lancaster was most vulnerable. Cannon bursts through the fuselage were the crews only indication of their opponents location. The fire that broke out inside the aircraft from this one attack caused the pilot to give the order to bail out. Long and the F/E Sgt. Hill went out through the hatch. The F/E had handed P/O McNary the pilot his chute and had found that the wireless operator WO Chartrand was badly wounded in the stomach. Sgt. Sangster had been wounded in both his eye and arm on the right side with help he had made it the hatch to become a Prisoner of War. That was all that P/O Long could fill in on the events in the aircraft.
Later communications to McNary’s family from Long made mention that P/O McNary had tried to help Chartland to bail-out. Before they could get out the aircraft had exploded in mid-air. Reports from others in the 120 plus bomber raid on St. Ghislain had mentioned that the Luftwaffe defenses were light with only four or five accounts of combat between all the bombers and the fighters. Light or not there were losses and KB711 was one of these.
Ghent May 10/11th 1944
Ghent’s marshalling-yards were known to have a very heavily laid out set of flak emplacements to protect it’s important track layouts and railway rolling equipment. On May 10th ten Lancasters of 419 carried out a bombing mission meeting with considerable defenseive actions by these ground forces as well as air based guardians. Providentially 419’s last aircraft had left the target area just as the moon rose. Perhaps the darkness of the night prior to the moon rise helped to hide the Moose aircraft and keep the nightfighters off. Although not all of the aircraft escaped the attenions of the flak batteries, VR-J piloted by F/O J H Calder did receive some light flak damage to his Lancaster KB718.
On arriving back at base though the squadron lost one of it's aircraft. VR-Y, KB704 ran off the runway crossed at least two ditches and became damaged to the point where it became designated as a Category “B” , labeling it too far gone to be repaired.
Pilot P/O G. E. Holmes and his crew were uninjured in the incident. A note in the squadron Ops log states ” … P/O Holmes’s logbook has been appropriately endorsed!”
On a previous mission VR-Y had carried the largest load of bombs flown out of Middle St. George, KB704 was loaded up with fourteen 1,000 pound bombs.
Louvain May 12/13th 1944
The yards at Louvain in Belgium on this night were the scene of the loss of two of 419’s Lancasters even though the oppposition was considered to be moderate. Takeing off at 2155 and heading out to the target the crew and aircraft were shot down near Sint-Genesius-Rode which was 12 km S of Brussels. None of this very experienced crew survived.
P/O H I Smith Pilot 22nd sortie
F/O J Moore Navigator
F/O W R Finlayson Bomb Aimer
F/O W W Price Wireless Op.
Sgt. R Bull Field Engineer
Sgt. J C O’Connell Upper Gunner
Sgt. S G Livingstone Rear Gunner
VR-W ‘s crew was a very experienced one with many of them at the 16 operation mark. The Wireless Operator F/O Smith having a total of 22 trips.
The crew of VR-X had P/O Edwards and F/O Campbell who were a quarter of a way through their tours while the other airmen were on their second or third operation.
P/O B F Edwards Pilot on his 8th sortie
F/O R R Campbell Navigator
F/S P Dewar Bomb Aimer
F/S R S Smith Wireless Op.
Sgt. J R Carruthers Flight Engineer
P/O J A Webber Upper Gunner
P/O H E Oddan Rear Gunner
Dortmund May 22/23rd 1944
With a little over 94 hours on it KB717 was lost on a raid to the marshalling yards at Dortmund. Shot down by a nightfighter some where near Monchengladbach. None of the crew were survivied. P/O Patterson had 21 sorties the other crew members had 16 to 18 sorties.
P/O C E Patterson Pilot
WO2 W A Bailey Navigator
F/S L E Derbyshire A/B
F/S O. Jones Wireless Operator
Sgt. R E N Wood F/E
Sgt. A P Chawanski Air Gunner
F/S A C Beckett Rear Gunner
F/O W W Mitchell 2nd. Pilot
Aachen May 24/25th 1944
Aachen another of the railroad marshalling-yards that 419 paid multiple visits to was the scene of another Lancaster loss on this night. P/O Robson and crew were attacked and shot at by Luftwaffe nightfighters. The damaged Lancaster coming down at Tilburg-Kronsstraat in the Neteherlands. P/O Lillico was severly wounded or injured in the crash. He two days later succomed to his injuries. The other crew members did not make it .
P/O D M Robson pilot
P/O P S Smith Navigator
F/O G R Lauder B/A
Sgt. T H J Smith Wireless Op. RAF
Sgt. J Hoarty F/E
Sgt. B R Morgan Air Gunner
P/O W D Lillico Rear Gunner