Personnel Index - Detail
21 November, 1944; GRAVENHORST (MITTELLAND CANAL):
Whilst a 5 Group force of 123 Lancasters attacked the Dortmund-Ems Canal, 10 aircraft from 49 Squadron joined 128 other 5 Group Lancasters in bombing the Mittelland Canal at Gravenhorst. Take-off started just after 17.30hrs and included Group Captain 'Ginger' Weir (PB300), Fulbeck's irrepressible Station Commander, piloting K-King. The Main Force, led by 6 Mosquitoes arrived in the target area shortly before 21.00hrs. Orbiting the target, the Controller originally ordered the forces to stay at pre-briefed bombing heights, but at 20.58hrs, he then ordered the Main Force to attack from below the cloud base which was given as 4,000ft. These instructions were subjected to severe jamming of W/T which caused much confusion. The controller next ordered the crews to bomb the southern red T.I's as planned. Consequently some crews bombed through cloud and others from below, with the markers being visible through the cloud layers. In the light of photo flashes, some 49 crews did obtain visual identification and despite the communication problems, the canal was successfully breached.
49 Squadron de-briefs show that the crew's of F/Lt Len Mellor (PB373), F/O Jock Galloway and F/O Carlyle (PB484) bombed below the clouds, whilst five other crews bombed red T.I's from above. This just left the two aircraft being flown by F/O Maul (PB354) and Grp/Cpt Weir - it has been speculated that one of these two aircraft exploded after being hit by bombs or light flak, which in turn caused the other aircraft nearby, to also explode. This speculation is confirmed by the fact that there were no Nachtjagd claims for the whole raid and all the Flak reports in Northern and Western Germany make no reference to a claim in this area.
The only survivor from this tragic incident was the Group Captain. His own remarkable escape, in which he was forcibly blown out of an exploding Lancaster does not confirm the cause, Grp/Cpt Weir had no recollection of what happened. He remembers regaining consciousness laying on his back on the muddy bottom of the breached and drained canal, his deployed parachute trailed behind. This miraculous saving of the Group Captain’s life would not have been possible but for two reasons; one, he wore a seat-type parachute and two, 5 Group's crews being successful in hitting their target and draining over 30 miles of the canal.
Lancaster PB300 (EA-K)
G/C C.T. Weir Pilot (P.o.W.)
F/O F.A. Wooding F/E (Killed)
S/L P. Kelly NAV (Killed)
P/O A.W. Bishop W/OP (Killed)
Sgt P. Telford A/G (Killed)
F/O H.W. Hayward B/A (Killed)
F/O A.R. Verrier A/G (Killed)
Click on each of the images below to read the report from P/O Bishop's brother in law and two pages of a report by the only survivor, Group Captain Weir.
Captain W Roberts
Group Captain Weir Part 1
Group Captain Weir Part 2
(All open in a new window and can be enlarged using the magnify icon)
On the occasion of the 70th anniversary (November 2014) a memorial service was held in Gravenhorst to remember all those who died.