Raid on Railway Targets in Douai, Lens and Somain: 11th August 1944

Pathfinder aircraft have just released markers on the target. Ready for the bombing.

Railway targets, 11th August 1944, 16:19 1/2 hours, 16,000 ft

Log book states – Bomb load: 13 x 1,000 pounds, 4 x 500 pounds.

A description of the raid as appearing in the Bomber Command War Diaries, M. Middlebrook, C. Everitt:

459 aircraft – 270 Lancasters, 169 Halifaxes, 20 Mosquitos – of 1, 3, 4 and 8 Groups attacked 3 railway yards and 1 bridge. Forces of between 133 and 142 aircraft attacked Douai, Lens and Somain; the bombing at these targets started well but ground features rapidly became covered by smoke and dust. 1 Halifax lost on the Somain raid. 49 Aircraft attacked the Etaples railway bridge without loss and claimed direct hits on the bridge.

Excerpt from "Flying into the Mouth of Hell", by Laurie Woods:

Bull's Eye – No Recognition

The railway marshalling yards at Douai, Northern France, was our next target. Our crew had settled down into a well disciplined unit with each crew member having confidence and respect for the other members of the crew. There were no orders given, but plenty of laughing and joking between each other.

We all knew our jobs and we had a good pilot whom we trusted to fly our plane even though on occasions jokingly we had to remind him he was flying with a crew and was not a fighter pilot as he had been trained.

Take off time for this raid was 13:45 in K2 "Killer" on 11 August, 1944. We were among the leaders coming up on the target and had a perfect view. It was such a pleasant afternoon that it was hard to believe there was a war raging.

Second photo indicates the first bombs dropped.
5845 BIN 11.8.44 // 8" 16,000" <- 355 16:19½
DOUAI M. 13x1,000, 4x500 c. 33 secs F/O Owen K2 460

Approaching the target there was always a certain amount of the fear and trepidation that we experienced when on a raid. As we got closer it was always a question did intelligence get it right? Did they have the latest on the number of guns or of searchlights? Have we been routed clear of flak positions? Are we away from the fighter packs?

On this particular raid there was not a great deal of flak over the target and our bombs were the fifth salvo to hit the target. Our second or third bomb hit an ammunition train standing in the middle of the yard

It was a fantastic and exciting hit for me, as the explosion was the most tremendous eruption I had ever seen. It went like a flash of lightning, from my first bomb burst then raced right through the middle of the railway yard, erupting as it went into great explosions as the train was blown sky high.

What a measure of excitement to contemplate as we cleared the target area. We had blown up an ammunition train and we had succeeded in getting a bulls eye on the target. We claimed the blowing up of the ammunition train, but even though our photo was enlarged, and sent away to Commander in Chief Bomber Command, our claim was disallowed.

The disallowing of claims was so bad that the crews often were reluctant to lodge a claim. The resentment on the disallowing of claims always surfaced. If we were an RAF squadron there would be no doubt and we would be decorated instead of having our claim disallowed, or perhaps it was the reluctance of station officers to push a claim on behalf of the colonials.

Later from the plotting of the photographs taken on this raid, the Intelligence Officer stated there was no doubt in his mind; our bombs had definitely hit the ammunition train and started the tremendous explosion of the train. In his opinion our claim should have been recognised.

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