17/18.04.1945 608 (North Riding) Squadron Mosquito B.XVI PF505, Flt Lt. Graham G. Dixon
Operation: Berlin, Germany
Date: 17th/18th April 1945 (Tuesday/Wednesday)
Unit No: 608 (North Riding) Squadron, Fast Night Striking Force (FNSF), 8 Group
Type: Mosquito B.XVI
Base: RAF Downham Market, Norfolk
Location: ALG Y.59 Straßfeld, WSW of Bonn, Germany
Pilot: Flt Lt. Graham Gordon Dixon 415295 RNZAF Age? Returned
Navigator: Fg Off. Henry Richard Smith 165989 RAFVR Age? Returned
REASON FOR LOSS:
PF505 took off from RAF Downham Market at 20:54 hrs on the 17th April 1945 for a 61 Mosquito operation Berlin. Flt Lt. Dixon and Fg Off. Smith had been flying together as a crew for about a fortnight, and this was their 1st operational operation.
After taking off the Port wheel drooped and three selections had to be made before it retracted satisfactorily. The outward trip was uneventful apart from intermittent flap droop. They successfully dropped their 4000Ib High Capacity (HC) ‘Cookie’ on Berlin at 22:56 hrs from 25,000 ft on an estimated position of a Red Target Indicator (TI) seen burning on the ground but was later obscured by cloud. No flak or searchlights were seen, nor was there any evidence of fighters, although a good look-out was kept.
Five minutes from target at 25,000 ft and on the homeward track the aircraft suddenly ran into a high bank of Cumulonimbus cloud with tops at about 28,000 ft and experienced severe lightning.
The pilot throttled back, changed into S. Supercharger gear and began to climb at normal engine settings. After climbing about 2,000 ft to 27,000 ft, still in cloud with intense lightning, the Port engine exhaust flames died away and, for no apparent reason, the Port engine suddenly failed. The Port undercarriage indicator showed red. Pressure and temperatures were normal immediately prior to the failure.
Supercharger - The later Merlin (60, 70, 80, and 100 series) incorporated of a two-stage, two-speed supercharger, which provided a considerable increase in power, especially at higher altitudes. Two-stage refers to the use of two impellers on a common driveshaft, constituting two superchargers in series.
At low to medium altitudes, the supercharger was in Moderate Supercharger = MS or M Gear.
Once the aircraft reached and climbed through a set critical altitude, (20,000 feet (6,100 m) for the Merlin 61 and 70 series) the power would start to drop as the atmospheric pressure (the density of air) dropped.
The supercharger would either be automatically selected to Full Supercharger = FS or S Gear, or manually by the pilot.
The pilot instructed the navigator to got a Gee fix before he feathered the engine. Owing to the long distances involved some five minutes elapsed before a satisfactory fix was obtained, meantime pressure, etc, remained normal whilst the Port engine windmilled.
The pilot changed back to M. Supercharger gear and selected fuel from the outer tanks. There being no sign of the Port engine picking up so he reselected the main tanks, checking all switches and cut-outs, which were found to be in order. Efforts to raise the Port wheel by normal and emergency methods proved fruitless. Flaps, which had show inclination to droop throughout the entire trip, continued to droop. The pilot then tried again to feather the Port engine and was eventually feathered after about 7 minutes of trying. He noticed that exhaust flames appeared at very slight throttle opening.
The navigator obtained a second Gee fix whilst the pilot was endeavouring to feather the Port engine. The fix showed the aircraft to be about 70 miles from Berlin, slightly south of the briefed route.
From Berlin the briefed route was SW to Lat/Long 52 20N, 13 05E (Bergholz-Rehbrücke) and then west to 52 45N, 01 40E making landfall at Norwich.
The aircraft remained controllable throughout, but with normal single engine flying settings it was found that height was being lost at the rate of some 500 ft per minute. It was, therefore, decided to turn onto a heading of 220 deg so as to take the aircraft across the Ruhr towards France. Reaching 13,000 ft they were losing height at the rate of about 100 ft a minute.
At about 24:00 hrs a call for help was broadcast on VHF. An immediate reply was received from KENWAY station giving homing directions and instructions to contact a number of of other stations. Eventually they arrived at two vertical searchlights and an illuminated flarepath and were given permission to land. Landing directions East/West were received, but no QFE could be given. The altimeter showed 4500 ft.
QFE or Q-Code is an atmospheric pressure for an altimeter setting.
Pilot circled the airfield, doing a right-hand circuit, and lost height to 1,800 ft. downwind. The undercarriage was selected “Down” at the end of the downwind leg. The Port wheel locked immediately but the Starboard red light came on. The lever was returned to neutral soon after with the red light still on. The "Down" position was re-selected and Fg Off. Smith was instructed to work the hand pump, which proved to be stiff. The aircraft was turned into wind at an indicated height of 800 ft., but visually it looked about 350 ft. The navigator continued pumping but the red light remained on.
With the navigator continuing to hold the lever down the aircraft touched down. It ran steadily for some distance and then the Starboard wheel began to retract. Finally this wheel retracted completely, whilst the Port wheel remained in position. The aircraft swung to the right and off the runway slowing up quite gently. All switches and petrol were immediately turned off. They had touched down 00:50 hrs on the 18th April. The starboard wing, engine and nacelle, as well as the tail unit, were severely damaged in landing but both crew members were uninjured.
Assistance was forthcoming very rapidly but before the hatch could be opened an American serviceman had clambered up onto the wing to warn the pilot that he was in a minefield. The crew were taken off direct from the aircraft onto a jeep and informed that they had landed at ALG Y.59 Straßfeld which was occupied by the USAAF 9th Tactical Air Force.
ALG Y.59 Straßfeld was about 16½ km WSW of Bonn, Germany. It was opened on the 29th March 1945 and abandoned on the 17th May 1945.
They were taken to the Intelligence Officer, who was requested to arrange for a guard to be placed over the aircraft. Later that day an Airspeed Oxford was sent out from RAF Downham Market they were flown back to base. The crew were unable to suggest a reason for failure of the Port engine.
The crew returned to operations with a mission to Berlin on the 19th/20th April 1945.
This was the last Bomber Command aircraft to be written off during operations to Berlin. The first was 10 Sqn Whitley IV, K9018, ZA:?, tasked to release nothing more lethal than leaflets. The aircraft was last heard on R/T at 05:05 hrs roughly 180 miles east of St. Abb’s Head, Berwick, Scotland on the 2nd October 1939. The five crew were posted MiA . In October 1939, Berlin stood proud as Germany’s capital city, while on this day just over 5 years on, much of the metropolis lay in ruins, a stark and bitter testament to the follies of Adolf Hitler.
None – both survived
Researched by Ralph Snape for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this crew.
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