21/22.02.1945 No 582 Squadron Lancaster III PB652 60-L F/O. J. Gale
Date: 21/22nd February 1945 (Wednesday/Thursday)
Unit: No. 582 Squadron
Type: Lancaster III
Base: RAF Little Staughton, Cambridgeshire
Location: RAF Manston, Kent (note)
Pilot: F/O. John Gale RAFVR Minor injuries, survived
Fl/Eng: Sgt. J. Buxton RAFVR Minor injuries, survived
Nav: Fl/Sgt. A. McDougall RAFVR Minor injuries, survived
Air/Bmr: Fl/Sgt. N.P. Smith RAFVR Minor injuries, survived
W/Op/Air/Gnr: W/O.2 C.M. Hutton RCAF Minor injuries, survived
Air/Gnr: Sgt. G.T. Everett RAFVR Minor injuries, survived
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Charles A.H. Dixon RAFVR Severe head injuries, survived
Information for this loss page kindly submitted by Richard Epson, with details provided by the tail gunner, his relative, Sgt. Charlie Dixon - October 2014.
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off from RAF Little Staughton, Cambridgeshire at 20:32 hrs on the last operation to Duisburg of the war. 362 Lancasters with 11 Mosquitoes taking part in what has been described as a success with major damage to the target.
8 Lancasters were lost with 21 killed, 33 crew taken PoW. Aircraft lost were either on or returning from the operation.
Lancaster PB652 bombed the target at 17,000 ft at 23:00 hrs. The aircraft was then hit by flak on its return, losing one engine, with severe damage to the aircraft. They called various fighter bases in allied hands in France for permission to carry out an emergency landing - no reply was received. They then called RAF Manston who provided them with permission to carry out an emergency landing.
(note) Many publications incorrectly list this aircraft as returning to its base, RAF Little Staughton, Cambridgeshire.
They reached Manston, but on touch down, due to the serious damage, the pilot had very little control of the aircraft - the undercarriage collapsed resulting in the aircraft breaking up. Sgt. Charles Dixon was thrown out of the rear turret and suffered severe head injuries. He remembers being dragged away from the aircraft which had subsequently caught fire. The rest of the crew escaped with minor injuries.
Charlie Dixon was taken to the hospital at RAF Manston, receiving treatment from Sq/Ldr. McGregor. The remainder of the crew were picked up the following day by Captain Edwin Swales SAAF, DFC, (1) VC (2) of 582 Squadron and returned to base at RAF Little Staughton. Sgt. Dixon re-joined them at a later date - but never flew again.
The aircraft was categorised as E on the 22 February 1945, later being struck off charge on the 12th March 1945.
Left to right: Satherley, John Gale and Charles Dixon in about 2000, the first time they met up after the war.
None - all crew survived.
For further details our thanks to the following, Richard Empson, Charles A.H. Dixon. Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vol's. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', ‘Bomber Command Database’, Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries (Updated 2014 version), 'Paradie Archive'.
(1) His DFC Citation reads:
"This Officer was pilot and Captain of an aircraft detailed to attack Cologne in December, 1944. When approaching the target, intense anti-aircraft fire was encountered. Despite this, a good bombing attack was executed. Soon afterwards the aircraft was attacked by five enemy aircraft. In the ensuing fights, Capt. Swales manoeuvred with great skill. As a result his gunners were able to bring effective fire to bear upon the attackers, one of which is believed to have been shot down. Throughout this spirited action Captain Swales displayed exceptional coolness and captaincy, setting a very fine example. This Officer has completed very many sorties during which he has attacked a variety of enemy targets."
Right: Major Edwin Swales SAAF. DFC. VC. (wikipedia)
(2) His VC Citation reads:
"Captain Swales was 'Master Bomber' of a force of aircraft which attacked Pforzheim on the night of February 23rd 1945. As Master Bomber he had the task of locating the target area with precision and of giving aiming instructions to the main force of bombers in his wake.
Soon after he reached the target area he was engaged by an enemy aircraft and one of his engines was put out of action. His rear guns failed. His crippled aircraft was an easy prey for further attacks. Unperturbed, he carried on with his allotted task; clearly and precisely he issued aiming instructions to the main force. Meanwhile the enemy fighter closed the range and fired again. A second engine of Captain Swales’ aircraft was put out of action. Almost defenceless, he stayed over the target area issuing his aiming instructions until he was satisfied that the attack had achieved its purpose.
It is now known that the attack was one of the most concentrated and successful of the war. Captain Swales did not, however, regard his mission as completed. His aircraft was damaged. Its speed had been so much reduced that it could only with difficulty be kept in the air. The blind-flying instruments were no longer working. Determined at all costs to prevent his aircraft and crew from falling into enemy hands, he set course for home. After an hour he flew into thin-layered cloud. He kept his course by skilful flying between the layers, but later heavy cloud and turbulent air conditions were met. The aircraft, by now over friendly territory, became more and more difficult to control; it was losing height steadily. Realising that the situation was desperate Captain Swales ordered his crew to bail out. Time was very short and it required all his exertions to keep the aircraft steady while each of his crew moved in turn to the escape hatch and parachuted to safety. Hardly had the last crew-member jumped when the aircraft plunged to earth. Captain Swales was found dead at the controls. Intrepid in the attack, courageous in the face of danger, he did his duty to the last, giving his life that his comrades might live."