49 Squadron Awards
26/27 March, 1944; ESSEN:
Harris surprised the German night fighters when he suddenly switched his attention to the Ruhr. Over 700 bombers set out on this Sunday evening led by Oboe' equipped PFF Mossies, which marked the target well. Subsequent reports confirmed that the raid had been successful and the loss of 9 aircraft and crews, represented just 1.3 per cent of the force.
One Lancaster which failed to regain Fiskerton was that of P/O Bert Shinn (ND676) and crew in M-Mother; their story of determination and heroism begins over Essen.
At the commencement of their bombing run over the target, they were attacked by an enemy night fighter. The bombs were jettisoned as cannon shells ripped into the rear of the aircraft; rear gunner, Sgt Armstrong battled the fire out after 15 long minutes. The damage sustained included both turrets u/s and the starboard inner and outer engines were practically powerless. During the dive the aircraft had lost 5,000 feet, but as they levelled out, flak or possibly the fighter hit them again; this time the intercom, hydraulics, H2S and Gee were all rendered destroyed.
A check on the crew positions revealed that the navigator, Sgt Hague was wounded and the wireless operator, F/Sgt Herd was unconscious with head injuries. Losing height with just two good engines and the controls very heavy, P/O Shinn somehow struggled back to England. Reaching the Norfolk coast and not knowing if his wireless operator was dead or alive, the pilot ordered his crew to bale out over Swanton Morley; the pilot then went on to make a wheels up crash landing at Coltishall.
The pilot’s decision to stay with his W/op had been fraught with many dangers. Despite the pilot’s valiant effort, when Sgt Mervyn Herd RAAF, was removed from the aircraft, he had already lost his fight for life.
P/O Bert Shinn received an immediate DFC.