WW2 – Bomber Command 1942

That 100 Squadron had suffered severely during late 1941 and early 1942 is not to be denied. We shall remember those brave souls who fought heroically against almost insurmountable odds. 100 (Torpedo Bomber) Squadron, true to its proud traditions “Had kept it going” until the bitter end, and in so doing had ‘given birth’ to 100 Squadron Royal Australian Air Force. The Squadron had stumbled in its journey, but it was just a stumble, as 100 (Torpedo Bomber) Squadron metamorphosed into 100 (Bomber) Squadron in Bomber Command back in England at the end of 1942.

On the 15th December 1942, 100 Squadron re-emerged at RAF Station Waltham, close to Grimsby, in Lincolnshire, equipped with Lancaster MkIII aircraft. The squadron received 16 ‘Lancs’ plus 2 in reserve. Wg Cdr JGW Swain assumed command of the ‘reborn’ Squadron on 26th December 1942. Earlier, the ground crews were attached to 101 Squadron at RAF Holme on Spalding Moor, and 103 Squadron at Elsham Wolds to gain experience on their new aircraft. These ground crews, who were to play such a vital and important part during the remainder of the war, returned to Waltham to greet the new Lancs as the aircrews flew them in from 1656 Conversion Unit on 12th January 1943; ED553 being the first to arrive. An affinity quickly developed between the Squadron erks and aircrews and the people of Holton le Clay, Cleethorpes, Grimsby and Waltham, who came to regard 100 as ‘their Squadron’.

The aircrews were a mix of men drawn from many parts of the world, including Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Poland, the USA, Argentina and many Canadians. All of them fought and died with their British comrades in the skies over occupied Europe with distinction and valour. The first operational sortie for 100 Squadron in Bomber Command was a mine laying operation against the U-Boat base at St Nazaire on 4th March 1943. One Lanc was lost during the raid with a second crashing in Nottinghamshire on return to the UK. The second operational sortie was flown on 8th March when 100 Squadron joined a force of 329 heavy bombers in a raid on Nuremburg; Wg Cdr Swain led this sortie, and no losses were suffered.

It needs to be emphasised that the bomber war was a war of attrition, the sole aim of which was to destroy German cities, factories, infrastructure, ports, communications and the moral of the German population. This was ‘total war’. There had been many developments and improvements in airborne radar, including GEE, OBOE, G-H and H2S, which, in turn led to improved tactics and greater accuracy in target identification and bombing. It is worth noting that at this particular time, not all of these aids were actually in use, and that 100 Squadron never used G-H during WWII. Even so, German counter measures, including the jamming of GEE and the location of bombers transmitting on H2S, resulted in a dilution of Bomber Command effectiveness. German night fighters and flak took a heavy toll of bombers with losses of both aircraft and aircrews over enemy territory. Additionally, fog and low cloud often hampered returning aircraft leading to mid air collisions and numerous crashes when approaching to land after otherwise successful sorties.

100 Squadron’s first Battle Honour of the air war in Europe was awarded for the ‘Battle of the Ruhr’ between March and July 1943. During this period, Battle Orders included operations against Stettin, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Mannheim, Duisberg and Dortmund.

Wg Cdr R V McIntyre assumed command of 100 Squadron on 24th April 1943. He led an attack against Bochum during the night of 13th May in HW-P PETER. The aircraft suffered severe flak damage over Cologne that put two engines out of action. Despite this, The Boss continued the attack, bombing on two engines. The WOP/AG, Flt Sgt Renno, suffered shrapnel wounds, which he did not disclose during the flight, continuing to obtain radio fixes to assist in the homeward navigation. After crash landing without loss of life at Coltishall, Wg Cdr McIntyre received an immediate DFC with Flt Sgt Renno receiving an immediate DFM.

By June 1943, 100 Squadron were regularly putting up 25 Lancasters per night. A raid on Dusseldorf during the night of 11th June involved 770 heavy bombers and 13 Pathfinder Mosquitoes caused extensive damage. 100 Squadron participated in many operations. Between the middle of July and the end of August 1943, the Squadron carried out operations against Turin, Hamburg, the V2 Rocket Research Base at Peenemunde, Berlin, Munich, Hannover and Mannheim. During these raids, the Squadron, along with the rest of Bomber Command, suffered heavy losses.

In October of 1943, 100 Squadron produced an ‘offspring’ when ‘C’ Flight was formed into 550 Squadron to be based at North Killingholme. 550 Squadron was to inherit EE139 HW-R ROGER the ‘Phantom of the Ruhr’, which went on to complete over 100 missions. We shall meet the ‘Phantom’ again a little later on in our journey.

In November, during a raid on Leipzig, 100 Squadron encountered 10/10ths cloud with heavy icing and electrical storms. One aircraft, piloted by WO White, suffered an engine fire during the outbound leg, but White pressed home his attack on three engines bombing some 16 minutes late. He brought the aircraft home on the three engines, remaining in the cockpit directing operations until the fire crews had extinguished the flames. It was acts such as these that serve to demonstrate the bravery of the aircrews of both 100 Squadron and Bomber Command.

So, in the middle of November 1943, 100 Squadron prepared to face yet another stern test of its mettle and the resolve to ‘Keep it Going’ would be tested to the limit. 100 Squadron had made a major contribution to the Bomber War during its first year in Bomber Command.100 had been ‘resurrected’ from the disaster in Singapore, and was very much ‘alive’ again. 100 Squadron was about to enter the ‘Battle of Berlin’; a campaign which would take many 100, and indeed. Bomber Command lives.