Personnel Index - Detail
26/27 November, 1943; BERLIN:
On the previous trips Berlin had always been cloud covered, but on this occasion, as 440 Lancasters flew over the target the visibility was clear. Flak defences over Berlin, and fighters on the return leg accounted for 28 bombers and their crews.
As the bombers returned home, fog covered much of eastern England with many squadrons being diverted. As midnight approached, conditions at Fiskerton were quite severe. Radiation fog was 1;200ft deep and visibility down to 450yds. At 00.15hrs it was decided to light FIDO for 49 Squadron's returning crews. This was the first instance during the war, that FIDO was used operationally to bring down one complete squadron of bombers (Graveley had used its system the previous week to land four Halifaxes).
At 01.02hrs, Sgt Roy Richardson RAAF (JB235) flying 'Bandlaw C-Charlie' entered the 'funnel'. Next in the stack behind C-Charlie was 'Bandlaw A-Able' flown by fellow Australian, F/Sgt Clive Roantree (JB466).
The following extract is from Clive's own book,"To Fly Lancasters", and is reproduced here with his kind permission, Clive writes:
"We positioned ourselves to land immediately after C-Charlie. He would turn into the funnel, whilst we were on the down-wind leg and should be clear of the runway as we touched down. The two parallel bars of fire, one on either side of the runway could be clearly seen with bars of flame at each end to stop the fog rolling into the cleared area. On our practice (November 3rd), we had found that after we turned into the funnel at 600 feet and lined up with the runway, as we approached, the fire on the cross bar reflected on the perspex windshield so that it was impossible for the pilot to see out. To offset the problem my flight engineer called height and airspeed as soon as we lined up on the runway at 600ft. For the inexperienced pilot it could be a frightening experience as it is not until the aircraft crossed the bar of flame at less than 100 feet that it was possible to see clearly and then make a visual landing. Subsequently a shield was placed in front of the bar of flame to prevent windscreen reflection. On this night, with wheels down, pitch in fully fine with 20 degrees of flap, we were at the end of the down-wind leg ready to make our turn across wind before entering the funnel, when there was a dull flash on the ground right at the beginning of the funnel. I knew that an aircraft had crashed and to my horror realised that it must be Richardson in C-Charlie. I continued the landing procedure turning across wind and there, right below us was an aircraft on fire! Giving the crew the order that we were going to overshoot, I called flying control, 'Hello Passout, Bandlaw Able over shooting - an aircraft has crashed and is on fire in the funnel - I say again an aircraft has crashed and is on fire in the funnel'.
There was a short pause before we were called again from flying control to repeat the message. Because of the flames from FIDO and the position of the control tower, they could not see the burning aircraft. After completing our overshoot procedure we continued around the circuit and this time as we were completing the downwind leg, there was a flash of flame on the ground as C-Charlie’s fuel tanks exploded. Nerves and senses were now tuned to the dangers as we carefully made our approach in copy book style. There was a slight lift as we crossed the heat rising from the bar at the beginning of the runway and A-Able set down smoothly in a three-point-landing. It was bad enough when crews were missing over enemy territory, but there was an awful accentuation of loss when a crew had completed its mission and disaster struck so close to home and safety."
Tragically, the Lancaster burning in the funnel was that of the Richardson crew, returning from their first operation.
Lancaster JB235 (EA-C)
Sgt R.J. Richardson RAAF Pilot (Killed)
Sgt H.G. Boswell F/E (Killed)
Sgt H. Carr NAV/B (Killed)
Sgt L.H. Cartwright W/AG (Killed)
Sgt M.O. Mahony RAAF A/G (Injured)
P/O H. Lowe (USA)RCAF B/A (Killed)
Sgt Winterborn A/G (Injured)
Crew on their 1st operation