460 Squadron : A history, by Peter Firkins

1942 – First Operations

The squadrons first operation to Emden on 12 March 1942 followed four months of intensive training under the guidance of the C/O, Wing Commander A.L.G. Hubbard, DFC, and the two Flight Commanders, Squadron Leaders C.L. Gilbert, DFC, and A.D. Frank, DFC. Hubbard and Gilbert were both Australians who joined the RAF on short service commissions before the war, whilst Frank was an RAF officer attached to the squadron until succeeded by Squadron Leader J.W.E. Leighton, DFC, another Australian serving in the RAF.

Five crews, led by Gilbert and Frank, participated in the attack on Emden which was not particularly successful because of bad weather conditions but all aircraft returned safely. This modest introduction to operations was followed by a series of attacks on U–Boat installations along the French coast, completed with only one loss.

The squadron played a minor role in Bomber Command's first major attack on a city when Lubeck was raided on 28 March 1942 and sent three crews to Rostock on 24 April 1942, devastating the city.

On 30 May 1942, Cologne became the first target for a 1000 bomber raid in which the squadron dispatched 18 crews, all returning safely from this highly successful attack, creating enormous damage to the German war industry. This attack was followed by 1000 bomber raids to Essen (1 June 1942) and Bremen (25 June 1942) in June, to which the squadron contributed 19 and 20 aircraft for the loss of two crews.

P/Os A. W. Doublday and W. L. Brill whose crews were the first to complete a tour of operations on the squadron in 1942. They finished the war as Wing Commanders, each winning the DSO and DFC whilst Brill added a bar to his DFC later.

Pilot Officer W.L. Brill (pictured left) was the first member of the squadron to be decorated when he received an immediate award of the DFC, for his courage in the attack on Gennevilliers on the night of 29/30 May 1942.

Wing Commander W.L. Brill, of Narrandera, NSW (is witness to the fact that), the Lanc could take punishment. He came home from Brest on three engines, with one elevator shot off and 150 holes in her. Before that he had been hit by 27 incendiaries over Berlin and lost his rudder. Again, over Nuremburg, the blowing–up of another aircraft knocked out his port engine and rear turret and for a while he flew on two engines. Three times a badly damaged aircraft brought him and his crew home' (Hodson, J L, Bomber's Life [1944]).

Pilot Officer A. W. Doublday (pictured left) was also awarded the DSO and DFC (see RAAF Awards pictured below). His DFC citation reads: "Throughout his operational career he has shown outstanding ability coupled with a strong sense of duty. On numerous occasions he has pressed home his attack from a low altitude with a complete disregard for enemy opposition. Among objectives he has attacked are Emden, Le Havre, Cologne, Rostock, Essen and Kiel."

In the period from its first operation on 12 March, 1942 to 28 August, 1942, the squadron became fully involved in Bomber Commands campaign against the German war industry, attacking 69 targets from which 26 crews were lost, including two flight commanders, Squadron Leaders C.L. Gilbert and J.W.E. Leighton.

RAAF Awards - Distringuished Flying Cross awarded to
Pilot Officer Arthur William Doubleday (460 Squadron)

The German anti–aircraft defences were considerably strengthened during 1941–42 with the searchlights and guns of the Kammhuber Line stretching along the whole of the enemy held coast. In support of the Kammhuber Line was a closely integrated network of ground controlled interception boxes each containing a ground controller who directed the enemy fighters onto a bomber as soon as it entered the area. A deep gun defended zone which worked in conjunction with these defences, completed the enemy network. 460 Squadron crews had become increasingly conscious of the German night fighters and numerous attacks had occurred.

Pilot Officer J.A. Falkner's aircraft was attacked on the night of the 25th June, 1942 during the raid on Bremen, first by a Ju–88, which his rear gunner, Sergeant R.C. Witney shot down, followed by attacks from two Me–109's. On the 6th July, Sergeant J.C. Pearson's crew were attacked by a Me–109 whilst bombing L'Orient–Ile de Quiberon which his rear gunner, Sergeant P.C. Henderson destroyed and who, on the 17th September, in a raid on Osnabruck, claimed a Ju–88 as probably destroyed. Three nights before, in an attack on Dusseldorf, Sergeant E.K.F. Brasher's aircraft was attacked by a Ju–88 which seriously damaged his aircraft but his rear gunner Sergeant K. C. Bennett gave their attacker a long, accurate burst which caused the fighter to go into a climbing turn to port, stalled and fell away enveloped in flames. Brasher's received an immediate award of the DFM, for bringing his badly damaged Wellington back to base but was killed in action two days later. Similarly, Henderson was awarded a DFM, for his actions against night fighter attacks.

On 22nd September, 1942, Pilot Officer D.T. Gault was shot down in an attack on Stuttgart but evaded capture, returning to England six weeks later. He was transferred to Coastal Command but was lost on his first trip with his new squadron. In September 1942, the squadron temporarily left the line to re–equip with multi–engined Halifax bombers but on the 20th October it was decided to re–arm the squadron with Lancasters. The crews were sorry to lose their faithful Wellingtons but the change from twin to four engined aircraft, symbolised the changing nature of RAF Bomber Command's strategic campaign.

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1943 – The Allies join the war

1943 heralded the first year in which the Allies were on the offensive and the month of March saw the commencement of the battle of the Ruhr which would do enormous damage to the heart of the German war machine, an area described by the crews laconic humour, as "Happy Valley". It was fortuitous that at this particular period when the crews were to be called upon to make enormous sacrifices, there came two officers whose appointments were almost simultaneous and whose contributions were of incalculable value to the squadron.

The first was Group Captain Hughie Edwards as Station Commander, the first airman to win the VC, DSO, DFC, in WWII. His courage, leadership and inspiration was largely responsible for the extraordinary operational record the squadron achieved for the remainder of the war.

Wing Commander C. E. Martin, DSO, DFC.

About the same time Wing Commander Chad Martin DFC, was appointed Squadron Commander in succession to Dilworth and was the first graduate (No 1 Course) of the Empire Training Scheme to Command a squadron in Bomber Command and he likewise set the highest standards of leadership.

The Battle of the Ruhr officially opened on the night of the 5th March, 1943 when 369 aircraft bombed Essen under perfect conditions, the squadron sending ten crews without loss. In the course of the next four months until the 25th July, 1943 when this campaign concluded, the squadron crews visited the heavily industrialized cities of Essen six times, Duisburg on five occasions and Cologne four times as well as the other Ruhr targets of Dortmund, Bochum, Dusseldorf, Krefeld, Wuppertal, Oberhausen, Mulheim and Gelsenkirchen. In addition, the young crews were called upon to make other far reaching attacks on Berlin, Nuremburg, Munich, Stuttgart, Spezia, Pilsen, Turin and Hamburg.

The Squadron lost three crews in the attack on the vast Skoda works at Pilsen and four nights later another three crews were lost in a heavy attack on Berlin. In addition to the aircraft lost on this raid, another six were damaged, among them Flight Sergeant H.L. Fuhrmann's whose Lancaster was badly damaged by fire from an armed ship while flying over the Baltic. Both he and his navigator, Flying Officer C. B. Anderson were seriously wounded but despite these difficulties they managed to fly their aircraft back to Britain where Fuhrmann made a crash landing and immediately collapsed from his wounds. Fuhrmann received an immediate award of the DFM, and Anderson the DFC, for their courage, skill and fortitude.

F/lt. A. B. (Paddy) Boyle, DFC and bar

Flight Lieutenant Paddy Boyle was a most interesting character, having served his time as a jackeroo in the outback of Queensland before his enlistment and was consequently as tough as nails. Squadron life to him was a perpetual challenge and adventure and he finished the war as a Squadron Leader being awarded the DFC and bar in the process. He came to the squadron in July 1942 and lost his crew almost immediately when they operated with another pilot. In all he had over 60 airmen fly with him on his first tour, a most unusual experience as in most cases a crew of seven airmen stuck rigidly together throughout their tour. When nearing the end of his first tour his plane was hit by incendiaries from above. He made a profound statement on his return from a later raid that operations had convinced him of three things:

  1. That the raids made his hair stand on end, causing his helmet straps to choke him,
  2. He could s**t himself,
  3. The long raids made him so stiff he couldn't move for hours after landing.
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