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1st 1000 Bomber Raid on Cologne

by bedfordmuseum

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Ian A Robertson
Location of story: 
Orfordness Island Coast
Background to story: 
Royal Air Force
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
26 May 2005

I well remember the 30th May 1942 the date of the first 1000 Bomber raid on Cologne. To muster 1046 Bombers aircraft from training units had to be used to supplement the operational squadron of the RAF. These aircraft were mostly old Wellington bombers relegated to training duties, obsolete for operational use. We took off from Upper Heyford in Oxfordshire in one of these Wellingtons with a full load of fuel and incendaries. At full throttle the aircraft was very slow to climb and by the Dutch coast we had only reached 9000 feet. Shortly after crossing the coast the starboard engine failed and as the aircraft
could not maintain height on one engine the bomb load was jettisoned. Even after this the aircraft was losing height and some fuel was jettisoned. We hoped to be able to reach an emergency landing ground at Woodbridge, near Orfordness. On reaching the coast of England at Orfordness, at 800 feet, it was obvious that we could not make the airfield and it was decided that rather than crash land on land we would try to land on the beach, as near to the sea as possible. In the dark at least the seashore could be seen. The landing was successfully achieved, no-one was injured and there was no fire. We were rescued by Coastguards from Orfordness Lighthouse, who had heard and seen us land and taken by rowing boat to Orfordness and then to Woodbridge. The following day, with another pilot from Upper Heyford and our crews borrowed an aircraft and flew back to Heyford.

40 aircraft were lost on this raid with some 300 aircrew. It was considered a military and propaganda success. Was it?

Some forty years later I read in a book "Orfordness Secret Site" - a paragraph describing the incident and saying the pilot was extremely fortunate to land on the beach. I contacted the author and enlightened him that the landing was deliberate but the outcome was fortunate.

The cost in lives of aircrew was tremendous. It was not until the end of the war that I found out, that of the six RAF pilots at our wedding in 1941, I was the only one left alive.

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