diary of bruce johnston diary of bruce johnston





Mission Notes: Biennais

( see map at bottom of screen )

Operation Summary:
477 Lancasters participated in this night-time attack on six flying bomb sites, including Biennais. The raids were considered successful.

Planes from 115 Squadron:

Planes lost from 115 Squadron:

Johnston’s Plane: KO-P (P.HK 541)

Take-off: 11:46 pm

Landing: 2:58 am

Round trip time: 3 hrs 12 mins

Bombing Height: 14,000 ft


RAF Bomber Command, 115 Squadron at Witchford, near Ely

“P” for Peter - Lancaster bomber, with “P” as its final code letter

Flying bomb - German V1 bomb, which was gyroscopically guided and powered by a jet engine – also called a Doodle Bug or Buzz Bomb

Rouen (Biennais) - French city 75 kms northeast of Paris near the Atlantic coast

Lancs - Lancaster bombers. The four engine Lancaster was the backbone of the RAF bomber offensive, flying 40% of all sorties during the war. Its extremely powerful engines allowed it to carry bomb loads of up to 22,000 lbs (10,000 kgs) – far more than any other bomber used during the war. Its seven person crew consisted of a pilot, flight engineer, navigator, wireless operator, bomb aimer, mid-upper gunner and rear gunner.

3 Group - Group of bomber squadrons to which 115 belonged

Alldridge - Canadian pilot in 115 Squadron at Witchford

Junkers 88 - German fighter aircraft

“K” for King - Lancaster bomber, with “K” as its final code letter

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

Spinner knocked off the PI with a 500 pounder - A 500 pound bomb dropped by a plane at a higher altitude hit one of the other Witchford Lancasters, knocking the spinner - the bullet-shaped faring over the nose of the propeller – off of the port inner, the engine closest to the fuselage on the left side of the plane

Corkscrew - A flying maneuver to evade an enemy, consisting of a fast downward spiral

Flak - German anti-aircraft fire

Hang-ups - Bombs that would not release

Woodbridge - One of three RAF bases specifically designed to accept damaged or fuel-short bombers returning from raids over Germany

Intruders - German fighter aircraft flying over England, often trying to intercept the Allied bombers as they returned to base

No nav lights - The bombers turned off their external navigation lights so the enemy fighters could not see them

Funnel - Approach lights in a funnel shape that directed planes coming in for a landing to the runways

Johnny - Peardon, Johnston’s mid-upper gunner

Mask gave him trouble - Oxygen mask – on night ops crews went on oxygen as soon as they were airborne

Frank - Marsden, Johnston’s wireless operator

Bob - Livingstone, Johnston’s bomb aimer

CSU - Constant Speed Unit, which kept propellers rotating at the same RPMs

SI - Starboard Inner, engine closest to the fuselage on the right side of the airplane

PO - Port Outer, engine furthest from the fuselage on left side of the airplane

Ropy - Crazy, mixed up

Bombed on ETA on one GEE line - Dropped bombs at the designated time and course

TI - Target Indicator - type of marker flare in different colours dropped by the Pathfinders that preceded the bomber stream, and used to identify a bombing target

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

June 27, 1944 (Tuesday)

Operation # 4 - Biennais

Eighteen 500 pound bombs

No mail – usual sort of day. In “P” for Peter tonight and went over it this afternoon and checked it to be OK.

The target for tonight was an assembly point for the flying bomb north of Rouen (Biennais) and our instructions were to bomb at any condition. There were 100 Lancs from 3 Group on the target.

On the whole it was a very quiet trip. Alldridge was attacked by a Junkers 88 but got away. Another (“K” for King of “A” Flight) had a spinner knocked off the PI with a 500 pounder – in a corkscrew at that – flak damage and three hang-ups so landed at Woodbridge. Others all got back safely.

Intruders about when we returned – shot down two Lancs within twenty miles of the base while we were landing – so no Nav lights until in the funnel.

First of all, Johnny’s mask gave him trouble – I don’t truthfully know whether it was his imagination or not. Neither Frank or Bob could find anything wrong with it but he complained of not being able to breathe (he lasted OK at 17,000 feet for an hour and half or so though).

Then at 9,000 ft over base the CSU on the PI, the SI and a bit on the PO started to kick up – revs fluctuated at least 300 (we were at 2,650, +7).

We cured it after a bit by moving the pitch control coarsely – then it happened again at approximately 16,000 and we cured it the same way.

I was nearly turning back but I didn’t fortunately as it behaved for the rest of the trip. The PO however wouldn’t give us any more boost at full throttle height than two pounds less than the other three engines (it was the same at all heights above 3,000 approximately). It wouldn’t climb worth a darn and altogether it was a pretty ropy aircraft!

The searchlights over England were something to see – great lanes and cones – must have been thousands of ’em. There were none over enemy territory and just a bit of flak at the target.

We bombed on ETA on one GEE line and it looked pretty good according to the glow on the cloud. We saw the TI got down from the coast but it was covered by cloud at the target and all we could see was the glow.

Two Lancs went above and below us in the opposite direction at the target - about twenty feet away – scared me funny! A few fighter flares and one combat to port on the way out – a good trip though - on time all the way.

Got back to base last as usual!

Lancaster bomber

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