diary of bruce johnston diary of bruce johnston





Mission Notes: Valenciennes

( see map at bottom of screen )

Operation Summary:
184 Lancasters carried out night operations to bomb railway yards at Valenciennes and Lens.

Planes from 115 Squadron:
21 (6 from A flight, 8 from B flight, 7 from C flight)

Planes lost from 115 Squadron:
1 (Anaka)

Johnston’s Plane: KO-F (F.HK 556)

Take-off: 11:20 pm

Landing: 2:45 am

Round trip time: 3 hrs 25 mins

Bombing Height: 7,000 ft


RAF Bomber Command, 115 Squadron at Witchford, near Ely

Flights - Operational offices and control centre for the squadron

“C” flight - One of three smaller groups of planes that comprised the squadron – 115 had “A”, “B” and “C” flights, of which Johnston was normally assigned to “B”

“F” for Fox - Lancaster bomber, with “F” as the final code letter

Mark I - Lancaster Mark I

26 hours on it - 26 total hours of flight time

Box of tricks - GEE based bombing system

Valenciennes - French city 200 kms north of Paris, near the Belgium border

U/S - Unserviceable, or unusable

Bags of flap - Lots of chaos / disorganization

Proforma - Paperwork for the mission, such as the flight plan and bombing instructions

Bob - Livingstone, Johnston’s bomb aimer

Had to orbit - The crews could not drop their bombs until the target had been marked with flares by the master bomber

Bombs hung up - Bombs would not release

Fighter flares - Flares dropped by German fighters to make Allied bombers more visible

Jinked - Dodged, used quick turns to avoid danger

210 - 210 miles per hour

Flak - German anti-aircraft fire

Anaka - Canadian pilot in 115 squadron at Witchford

Scarecrows - Bombers exploding in flight, usually as a result of the bombs on board being hit by enemy fire – to preserve morale, crews were told that these were enemy explosive devices designed to look like planes blowing up

June 15, 1944 (Thursday)

Operation # 2 - Valenciennes

Eighteen 500 pound bombs

Up about noon. Down to flights after dinner and found myself on tonight. Flying from “C” flight in “F” for Fox. Went out and gave it the “once over” with the boys. Seems to be OK, a Mark I with only 26 hours on it – no “box of tricks” on it. The gunners were disgusted with the guns on it – full of rust apparently, however they worked on them and got them OK.

At briefing, target was found to be a railroad yard at Valenciennes (never been bombed before). Everything went wrong! Crew late getting to aircraft. Port gun in mid-upper turret U/S and bags of flap and panic until fixed. Just as it was fixed the bomb aimer came rushing out - he’d lost his proforma. He went tearing in on a bike to control to get another and meantime the wireless operator found it in the grass outside.

We got all ready to go but never thought we’d make it but Bob got back just in time, then as we were going out to take off (last) the flight engineer’s helmet was found to be U/S. Got the spare which was too big and set off (I was in a spin by this time - didn’t know whether on my head or my heels).

Weather hopeless. Cloud supposed to be layered but I couldn’t find any layers so flew through it at 9,000 ft until about the enemy coast where we came out above it.

We didn’t get any opposition on the way in. Searchlights at the coast but they couldn’t see us through the cloud.

Early at the target so we had to orbit. When we did bomb all the bombs hung up (distributor U/S) and Bob jettisoned each way off the target I think. Saw two combats and two fighter flares just past the target so jinked all over and started home late. Did 210 all the way, jinking occasionally for fighter flares and especially searchlights at the coast.

Just got to within three miles of enemy coast when some predicted flak bounced the aircraft (which is close – and the last straw too). Jinked all the way home. Saw two combats about a mile to port over England. Set wrong coordinates and lost time that way.

Last to land and what a trip! Anaka got the chop. Saw three scarecrows over target one may have been him.

Lost my hat. Think it’s in the aircraft.

Valenciennes bombing run photo
from 7,000 ft

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