Raids – Berchtesgaden - 25 April 1945


Berchtesgaden, the last of Hitler's lair on Anzac Day, 25th April 1945. The Squadron's last target and the site of Flying Officer H. G. Payne's superb gallantry and airmanship.

The raid in Hitler's mountain retreat was 460 Squadron's last raid of the war. The following is an account of Flying Officer HG (Lofty) Payne's experience of the raid:

Flying Officer HG (Lofty) Payne, a giant of a man, received a direct hit right under the bomb bay just a fraction after he had dropped his bomb load. The two port motors immediately were on fire and simultaneously the starboard inner was knocked out leaving only the starboard outer which a second or two later also became unserviceable. It quickly became evident that the fuel lines had been severed as fuel started to flood the fuselage and he had no alternative but to bail the crew out, ordering them to jump through the escape hatch so that he could count them as they went. He began unstrapping himself from his seat, thinking they had all gone when the rear gunner presented himself trailing his parachute behind. The rip cord had accidentally caught something as he was making his way up to the nose and his chute had opened in the plane.

Each aircraft was supposed to carry a spare chute but the gunner reported he could not find it and later it transpired that it had been taken out to be repacked and was not returned before takeoff. Payne could either leave his crewman to his fate and jump with his own parachute or take the very remote chance of riding his burning and stricken vessel down, which would at least give his unfortunate gunner some hope of living. As the fuselage continued to flood with escaping fuel and anticipating any moment the explosion that would blow them into the next world, he decided to attempt a landing.

They gradually decended lower and lower until about 500 feet Payne camly turned into wind to attempt the landing. Suddenly in front of them high tension wires appeared and Lofty had to make a snap decision whether to go over or under them. He was now close to stalling speed and decided to go under and as he did so the wires sheared off the tops of his tail fins but for a change fate was kind and he was able to put the riddled and burning bomber down in a perfect crash landing in a field that seemed made for the purpose. The fire in the port outer motor extinguished itself on impact with the ground and although fuel was about 6 inches deep throughout the fuselage the fraction of a spark that would cause the end did not eventuate.

They both jumped out and were arrested by a bunch of 10 year old Hitler youths nervously fingering tommy guns but the arrival of older men of the local home guard saved them from the horrible possibilites of being shot by the trigger happy youths. Payne and the rest of his crew spent the rest of the war as prisoners but his tremendous courage and selfless devotion to duty on this, his 7th operation, was never rewarded in the manner it so richly deserved. Besides being the last aircraft lost from 460 Squadron on operations, Payne had the doubtful distinction of also being the second last bomber command crew shot down in WWII.

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