207 SQUADRON ROYAL AIR FORCE HISTORY
The Wesseling Raid of 21/22 June 1944
This page is based on Chapter 7 of ONE OF OUR AIRMEN IS NO LONGER MISSING, edited by FW Haslam, unpublished. It is derived from the log book of his father the late Sgt Frank R Haslam, a Wireless Operator on 207 Squadron, shot down and an evadeer on the Wesseling Raid, and published and unpublished sources and interviews.
With thanks to all named sources, some of whom have now died, and to Raymond Glynne-Owen, Ron Winton and Bill Chorley of 207 Sqn RAF Association. Any errors and omissions are the responsibility of the editor.
Bomber Command War Diaries, Middlebrook & Everitt - 21/22.6.44 - WESSELING
"133 Lancasters and 6 Mosquitoes to attack the synthetic-oil plant at Wesseling; all the aircraft in this force were from 5 Group except for 5 Lancasters provided by 1 Group. The weather forecast for the target area (and for the attack on Scholven/Buer which took place at the same time) predicted clear conditions but the bombing force encountered 10/10ths low cloud. The planned 5 Group low-level marking method could not be used and the reserve method, in which the Lancasters bombed on H2S, was used instead.
German night-fighters made contact with the bomber force and 37 Lancasters were lost - 44, 49, and 619 Squadrons each losing 6 aircraft. The casualty rate represented 27.8% of the Lancaster force."
There were many small raids, especially in the early part of the war, on which the loss rate was very high - sometimes 100%.
The worst major RAF bomber raid in terms of chop rate was on Tuesday 14th May 1940, when 71 Battles and Blenheims of the AASF, escorted by a large force of fighters, attacked pontoon bridges near SEDAN: German flak and fighters claimed 40 bombers (56%) and 31 fighters
(Combat Report - the RAF and the fall of France, Kate Caffrey, p45).
FW Haslam's own analysis of the Bomber Command War Diaries for major raids which had a casualty rate of 10% or more, from February 1942 onwards - the beginning of Harris's tenure of Bomber Command, shows that Wesseling on 21/22.6.44 was the worst in terms of chop rate (although the 30/31.3.44 Nuremburg raid was the worst in terms of the number of aircraft lost):-
MAJOR BOMBER COMMAND RAIDS
LOSS RATES OF 10% OR MORE FEB 1942 ONWARDS
(based on analysis of Bomber Command War Diaries by FW Haslam)
no. a/c lost
Revigny (5 Group losses)
On WESSELING, according to Francis Mason It was clear from a study of the crews' post raid reports, the number of sightings of German aircraft and the almost continuous warnings by the MONICA equipment, that a large number of enemy fighters had penetrated the stream from the rear and then steadily worked their way forwards, shooting down bombers as they went: -
- 619 Sqn at the rear lost six out of sixteen
- 44 Sqn just ahead also lost six out of sixteen
- 83 Sqn's Pathfinder Lancasters were at the front and lost (only) two out of ten
No WINDOW [anti radar metal foil strips] was dropped and ABC Lancasters [radio countermeasure aircraft] were not flying that night. It can only be conjectured that the raid planners were not anticipating much reaction by the enemy night fighters. Clearly, Bomber Command had momentarily lost the initiative in the countermeasures battle. (The Avro Lancaster, Francis K Mason, p190-191)
In fact 101 Sqn did have at least one ABC aircraft on the raid and eyewitness accounts from more than one squadron and including Sgt FR Haslam's aircraft [Arthur Barton, F/E EM-M LL973, to FWH] refer to the use of WINDOW.
Haslam's analysis of the raid based on looking at take off times within squadron, to see if there was any 'clumping' of losses shows that 28 of the 37 WESSELING losses look as if they could have been close together in the stream - about two thirds of all the aircraft lost. It certainly looked as if it was unhealthy to be around trouble.
Marking on the raid was done by 83 Squadron, lead by W/C Deane, who was the Controller on MAILLY; W/C Tait of 83 Sqn controlled the attack - he later also flew against the TIRPITZ on 617 Sqn. Quoting from the 83 Sqn ORB report by W/C Deane: -
The target was expected to be clear but was covered in 10/10 cloud. Route in and out heavily attacked by fighters from and beyond the enemy coast.
Target flak predicted and very accurate. The Controller decided it would have to be a blind attack owing to 10/10ths low cloud so called in the two deputy blind markers at 01.32hrs. Only one replied. Did two runs releasing own TIs on second one. Called the Controller on release, could not get a reply, subsequent non reply to VHF calls & no W/T transmission from Controller made me assume he was out of action so I took over control at 01.39hrs.
According to Bomber Command War Diaries, "post-raid reconnaissance showed that only slight damage was caused to the oil plant and this is borne out by a local German report which adds that 15 Germans, 5 foreign workers and 1 prisoner of war were killed in the nearby town of Wesseling. But a secret German report quoted in the British Official History (Vol IV; p323) records a 40% production loss at Wesseling after this raid. It is possible that the loss was only of short duration."
Bomber Command War Diaries also record that Wesseling was attacked again by 194 aircraft of 1, 6, and 8 Groups on 18/19 July 1944, with the loss of just one Halifax. This was a very successful raid and a credit to Pathfinder marking. Approximately 1,000 high explosive bombs fell inside the area of the plant, in twenty minutes. 20% of the installations were destroyed, but, because some important buildings were particularly hard hit, the loss of production was greater than this figure.
In the raid on the Scholven/Buer plants the same night, of the 550 bombs which fell in the plant area, 233 failed to explode! Mosquitoes continued to raid Scholven/Buer for several nights, indicating the importance of these oil targets.
see Dennis Dear's target map for the raid - he was 2nd bomb aimer in Lancaster LM125 EM-G of 207 Squadron, aboard to tutor a crew.
page last updated 2 Jul 2005