49 Squadron Awards

3/4 May, 1944; MAILLY-LE-CAMP:

The target, a German military camp which housed the 21st Panzer Division, lay close to the northern French village of Mailly. The force consisted of 346 Lancasters from 1 and 5 Groups plus 16 Pathfinder Mosquitoes. W/Cmdr Cheshire led the low-level marking of the target, which went well, but when W/Cmdr Deane the main force Controller ordered the force to come in and bomb, his VHF transmissions were drowned out by a wrongly tuned American forces wireless broadcast. The delay was fatal; it enabled German night fighters to roam at will amongst the orbiting Lancasters, resulting in a dreadful loss of men and machines. Eventually, 42 Lancasters fell in the battle which ensued around the markers and on the bombers’ return route.

In the treacherous sky over Mailly, P/O Ball had not abandoned N-Nan, as his post-operational interrogation report reveals:
"We approached the target at 7,200 feet in the first wave. Bombs were jettisoned on the point of bombing as the aircraft was hit by flak and filled with smoke. I gave the orders to put on parachutes, then the intercom went u/s... the gunners baled out, then Eric Wardman, the flight engineer, saw an enemy aircraft on the starboard quarter. I continued violent turns down to zero feet managing to lose the fighter. The starboard-outer engine had to be feathered due to fire and the port-outer was giving only half power - returned safely to base."

For his fine display of airmanship and skill, P/O G.E.Ball was awarded an immediate DFC.