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A Bedfordshire Bomb Aimer - Part Two

by bedfordmuseum

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Archive List > Royal Air Force

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People in story: 
Flight Lieutenant Raymond Howitt Marshall, DFC
Location of story: 
Dunholme Lodge, Lincolnshire
Background to story: 
Royal Air Force
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Contributed on: 
31 January 2006

‘A Bedfordshire Bomb Aimer’ Flying Officer Raymond Howitt Marshall, DFC.

Part two of material edited from ‘A Bedfordshire Bomb Aimer’ written by David H. Marshall about his brother, Flight Lieutenant Raymond Howitt Marshall, DFC (1918-1981).

“Raid Two — Essen 25th July 1943 - Sgt. Mogford pilot

Raid Three — Mannheim 9th August 1943 — Sgt. Mogford pilot

W for ‘William’ landed back at Dunholme Lodge at 05.37 hours. At the crews de-briefing, Sgt. Mogford reported that the route and flight plan had been good. The PFF was good ‘ … as far as known, but could have allowed more time for late aircraft.’ Sgt. Mogford’s observation that the Met. forecast had been accurate except for the winds, which were up to 30 mph out, may have been the reasons his comment about late aircraft. In his opinion the effort had been moderately successful. The total flying time that night was 6 hours 10 minutes.

Raid Four — Nuremburg 10th August 1943 — Sgt. Mogford pilot

This was F/O Ray Marshall’s last operation with his old pilot. F/O Ray Marshall joined F/O Parsons crew. He later re-joined his old (minus Sgt. Mogford) crew in late September.

Raid Five — Leverskusen 22nd August 1943 — F/O A.E.H. Parsons pilot

F/O Ray Marshall flew in K for ‘King’. Lancaster ‘K’ was airborne for four hours and 35 minutes. If there had been a moon that night the crew would have been pleased to see Lincoln Cathedral as they made their circuit prior to landing.

There would have been a few days before the next operation so many of the crew would be frequenting their local favourite off-duty haunts. These would have been The Saracen’s Head at Lincoln, the George Hotel at Grantham, the White Hart at Newark and of course, Betty’s Bar at York.

Raid Six — Nuremburg 27th August 1943 F/O Parsons pilot

The marking of this raid was based mainly on H2S. Nuremburg was found to be free of cloud but it was very dark. The initial Pathfinder markers were accurate but a creep back quickly developed which could not be stopped because so many of the Pathfinder aircraft had trouble with their H2S sets.

Raid 7 — Berlin 31st August 1943 — F/O Parsons pilot

On the return journey, F/O Ray Marshall’s aircraft was attacked by a German night fighter. F/O Parsons earned a Distinguished Flying Cross that night for bravery. The aircraft had received severe damage and two of the crew were injured.

Pilot’s remarks — Wind was lighter than forecast which upset timing. Route good, P.F.F. satisfactory. Navigator did very well in difficult circumstances. Rear gunner wounded but elected to stay in turret although cut off from intercom and took his lead from actions of mid upper gunner. Bombardier put (on) excellent show by removing injured M/U gunner and manning M/U turret, keeping excellent watch despite failure of guns. As a result of their wounds the mid-upper gunner lost an eye and the rear gunner lost a foot. The rear gunner and pilot were subsequently awarded immediate DFC’s.” F/O Ray Marshall did not fly in Lancaster K for ‘King’ again until 5th January 1944.

Raid Eight — Hanover 22nd September 1943 F/O C. A. West pilot

It had been three weeks since F/O Marshall had been on a bombing raid, the leave was well deserved. Tonight, F/O Marshall would fly in a new aircraft, KM-T (JB136) T for ‘Tare’ and with a new pilot and crew.

Raid Nine — Bochum 29th September 1943 F/O West pilot

F/O West was flying Lancaster W for ‘William’ (DV283) that night, taking off at 6.35 pm. There were 352 aircraft in the bombing force. 213 Lancaster, 130 Halifaxes and 9 Mosquitoes.

Raid Ten — Hagen 1st October 1943 F/O West pilot

The aircraft was Lancaster KM-T (JB136), T for ‘Tare’. Two crew members had been promoted since the last raid. Sgt. Clayton had been made up to Flight Sergeant and F/O Marshall was finally posted as being a Flying Officer. Total flying time was five hours and half an hour.

Raid Eleven — Munich 2nd October 1943 F/O West pilot

The crew flew in Lancaster III was KM-F for ‘Freddie’ (ED716). They had a late take-off as their aircraft was not serviceable until 20 minutes before the scheduled take-off time. F/O West landed back at Dunholme at 03.03 hours. They had been airborne a total of eight hours. At de-briefing the crew reported eight very good fires burning in their target area. The colour of some of the flames would indicate oil, or some similar substance, was burning. It had been a very busy night for F/O Marshall, he had pushed out 186 bundles of WINDOW. The quantity is probably indicative of being so alone after all the other bombers had left6 and were on their way home. Prior to take-off, the crew must have voted on whether they should continue on, or turm back, and had agreed on the former. As punishment for his poor landing on their return from Bochum, or for another reason, F/O West was sent to the Air Crew Rehabilitation School at Sheffield for three weeks. (8-28th October 1943). This was the ‘Glass House’. As a result of F/O West’s absence F/O Marshall did not fly on operations for over five weeks. Rather than hanging around as a ‘spare bod’ to make up a crew in the event of sickness, he insisted on either being put with a permanent crew or be posted to another squadron. His persistence resulted in him being posted to the recently formed 630 Squadron based at East Kirkby. He credits his survival to this move.

Raid Twelve — Modane (early return) 10th November 1943

On this raid 313 Lancasters took part. This operation was F/O Marshall’s first for nearly five weeks. The rest would have stood him in good stead, for in another week he would be taking off on his 13th Operation and the first of three raids on Berlin that he would make within eight consecutive nights.

Unfortunately for F/O West and his crew in Lancaster X for ‘X-ray’ (ED 999) having taken off at 8.38 pm (20-38 hours) they had to return early. The problem for the aborted raid was that both engine driven generators (EDG’s) were over charging at 50 amps each for over half an hour. The port EDG dropped to 40 amps but no lower. The wireless set was turned off between broadcasts (from Group) to relieve the electrical load which apparently made no difference. As the EDG’s could not be adjusted in the air the Ground/Flight switch was set to Ground. The port EDG remained at 40 amps and the starboard at 36. There were two 1,500 watt generators on each inboard engines connected in parallel at 24 volts. The probable cause was the synchronising circuits between the generators or the voltage regulators were at fault. It was unusual for both EDG’s to act up at the same time.

The decision was made to return to base after F/O Marshall had jettisoned the 4,000lb Cookie. This was dropped off Skegness at 54.11 N.-02.15 E. The four 1,000lb ‘safe’ HC bombs remained on board. X for ‘X-ray’ landed back at Dunholme at 23.17 hours after a very frustrating two hours and thirty nine minute flight.

However, it was not a completely disappointing night for F/O Marshall. The Order of Battle posted that night showed for the first time the letters ‘DFC’ following his name. F/O Marshall’s citation, that arose from his courage shown on 31st August/1 September raid on Berlin, is quoted below:-

‘Award promulgated in the London Gazette dated 2nd November 1943’

Distinguished Flying Cross

Flying Officer Raymond Howitt Marshall (133703)
Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, No.44 Squadron.

‘Flying Officer Marshall has participated in numerous sorties and has displayed praiseworthy keenness and devotion to duty throughout. One night in August 1942, he was air bomber of an aircraft which attacked Berlin. Soon after the bombs had been released, the aircraft was hit by machine-gun fire from a fighter. Some damage was sustained, while the mid-upper and rear gunners were wounded. Displaying commendable initative, Flying Officer Marshall promptly manned the mid-upper turret and used its guns most effectively to drive off an enemy aircraft which was rapidly closing in. This officer set a highly encouraging example in perilous circumstances.’

A very good excuse for a party!

Raid Thirteen — Berlin 18th November 1943 F/O West pilot

The night of 18/19 November 1943 was the start of an all-out assault on Berlin that was not to end until 31st March 1944. This was the RAF’s heaviest raid on that city. It was F/O Marshall’s second raid on the German capital. Little did he know he would have to make four more.

Raid Fourteen — Berlin 23rd November 1943 F/O West pilot

Gee was only helpful to the navigator until 04.18 E (53.03 N). They found a line of German fighter flares leading to the target. Berlin was attacked at 20.04 hours from 20,000 feet, approaching the city from the WNW (100 degrees magnetic) at 206 IAS. The cew found 10/10th cloud with the alto-cumulus tops at 12,000 feet. Visibility was hazy looking down but good horizontally. F/O Marshall saw a line of red and green flares and released his bombs between them. As they were leaving the city they saw that the fires were concentrated around an area illuminated by Wanganui flares (PFF ‘sky-markers’). The glow from the fires were seen fifty miles from Berlin.

Raid Fifteen — Berlin 26/27th November 1943 F/O West pilot

Three days after the crews last operation, X for ‘X-ray’ was on its way to Berlin, again, with the same crew as on the 23rd November. They took off at 17.24 hours. It was just 12.05 am when F/O West and his crew landed back in England after a flight of six hours and 39 minutes. All the Squadron planes and crews returned safely.

On 28th November 1943 F/O Marshall was sent on a one month Bomber Leader Course at No.1 Air Armament School (AAS) at Manby, Lincolnshire. Before he left his crew asked for his good luck charm, his wife’s signet ring for them to take with them on operations during his absence.

It would have been a great shock to F/O Marshall to learn six days later that his crew, with whom he had flown the last eight raids, were all killed. F/O G.A> West and his crew were lost over Berlin on the night 2/3 December 1943. The aircraft was KM-P and not the reliable X for ‘X-ray’. The crew are buried in the Berlin Heerstrasse War Cemetery.

Raid Sixteen — Settin (Szczecin) 5/6th January 1944 P/O Albert Wright pilot

It had been a month since F/O Marshall had flown on Operations over Germany. Time to qualify as ‘Bombing Leader (Cat.B)’ on the 23rd of December 1943. Plus a week or two of leave perhaps to celebrate the birth of his first born on the 1st December 1943, a son they named Brian Howitt and his second wedding aniversary.

F/O Marshall was flying with a new, but experienced pilot for this trip. P/O Albert Wright was nearing the end of his second tour. His regular bomb-aimer was ill so F/O Marshall had volunteered to take his place.

When the bombing photographs had been developed it was found that P/O Wright and his bomb-aimer F/O Marshall had, between the two of them, hit the ‘Aiming Point’. Crews who had hit the ‘Aiming Point’ received a Certificate. The certificate was signed by the Air officer Commanding No.5 Group, Air-Vice Marshal the Hon. Ralph Cochrane.

Raid Seventeen — Berlin (early return) 27th January 1944 P/O P.H.Smith pilot

F/O Marshall was flying with a new crew in K for ‘King’ (EE185) and his pilot for this night raid was P/O Smith. The take-off time was 5.27pm and the target again was Berlin. This nights effort would not be counted as an ‘operation’ as they had not reached the target or bombed an alternative. When F/O Marshall took off that night he had eight operations to reach the tour limit of 30. When they landed back at Dunholme Lodge he still had eight more to go!

Raid Eighteen — Berlin 30th January 1944 F.Lt Wiggin pilot

Lancaster Z for ‘Zebra’ (ND515) was piloted by F/Lt. Wiggin. The Squadrons ORB lists F/O C.G.Rodgers as Bomb-Aimer on this operation. It is probably that F/O Rodgers had reported sick and F/O Marshall took his place at the very last minute.

Raid Nineteen — Augsburg (Bombed Dieppe) 25th February 1944 F/Lt. Wiggins pilot

F/Lt.Wiggin and his crew in Lancaster K for ‘’King’ having taken off at 18.26 hours took no direct part in this raid having experienced engine trouble. They bombed Dieppe as an alternate target and were back at base 3 hours and 46 minutes later.

Raid Twenty — Ossun Aerodrome, South of France 10th March 1944 F/Lt. Wiggins pilot

Flying in Lancaster III ND573, S for ‘Sugar’ they took off at 9.10pm and it would be at least 5am the next morning before the crew would be sitting down at Dunholme Lodge to well earned breakfast of eggs and bacon followed by a good nights sleep.

Raid Twenty One — Stuttgart 15th March 1944 F/Lt. Wiggin pilot

The Bosch factory was a primary target on this night. It made important components for aircraft and submarines such as, magnetoes, spark plugs, fuel injection pumps and other engine accessories. The flight time would be a long, cold seven hours and 45 minutes.

Raid Twenty Two — Frankfurt 18th March 1944 F/Lt. Wiggin pilot

This was, again, another major raid. Including the main force, diversion and support activities, Bomber Command would have 1,046 aircraft over Europe the night of 18/19th March 1944.

Raid Twenty Three — Frankfurt 22nd March 1944 F/Lt. Wiggin pilot

The crew were back in Lancaster KM-Z (ND 515) Z for ‘Zebra’. Loaded with three 2,000 lb. and six 1,000 lb. bombs. Take-off was at 6.47 pm and flying time would be five hours and 45 minutes.

F/O Marshall’s next operation would be on 5/6th April 1944. He therefore fortunately missed the disastrous Bomber Command raid on Nuremburg on the 30/31st March. This raid was made in brilliant moonlight in spire of many who thought that Harris would cancel the operation in view of the weather report. It had forecast conditions that would favour the German night fighters. Of the 795 aircraft in the main forve 95 were shot down. 64 Lancasters and 31 Halifaxes. 11.9% of the force. 44 Squadron lost two Lancasters and their crews that night. It was the biggest Bomber Command loss of the war. One German fighter pilot shot down six bombers that night.

Raid Twenty Four — Toulouse 5/6th April 1944 F/Lt. Dorehill pilot

Flying in KM-H (ME 628) H for ‘Harry’ and carrying a bomb load comprising seven 1,000 lb. bombs and six 500 lb. (delayed action) bombs, the crew took off at 10.20pm. F/Lt. Dorehill DSO, DFC, was completing his second tour, having se4rved with 44 Squadron before from July 1941 to August 1942. F/Lt. Dorehill was on the famour experimental daylight raid on Augsburg, 17th April 1942.

144 Lancasters of No.5 Group attacked and with unusual accuracy, destroyed an aircraft factory that was manufacturing German Junkers 88 night fighter/bombers on the south side of the airfield at Toulouse.

Raid Twenty Five — Mine Laying in Danzig Bay 9th April 1944

Again the crew under pilot F/Lt. Dorehill flew in Lancaster H for ‘Harry’ (ME 628). The Lancaster carried five mines each weighing 1,500 lbs. These operations were referred to under the code name of ‘Gardening’ and the mines dropped as ‘Vegetables’. Bomber Command assumed the overall responsibility for airborne mining operations, in home water, on 25th March 1942 and laid a total of 47,152 mines for the loss of 467 aircraft. . It obviously was not a ‘safe’ operation as crews were led to believe. Gardening operations were partly training exercises for inexperienced crews and a ‘quiet’ trip for veterans completing their tours.

F/O Ray Marshall was posted to No.14 OUT, Market Harborough, Leicestershire on 26th April 1944. He flew in Vickers Wellingtons Mk. 10.

On 6th November 1944 F/O Marshall was promoted to Flight Lieutenant, R.A.F.V.R. Date of Gazette 24th November 1944.

On 2nd June 1945 F/O Marshall was posted to No. 17 OTU as a Bombing Instructor flying in Vickers Wellingtons, Mk.10.

On 4th December 1945 Ray’s second son, Michael Howitt was born.

4th May 1946 F/Lt. Marshall was posted to 100 RAF Personnel Discharge Centre. Here he was demobilised Class ‘A’ Release. F/Lt. Marshall’s last day of Service was on 10th July 1946. F/Lt. Marshall transferred to the RAF Volunteer Reserve.

On the 10th of October 1950 his daughter, Victoria Louise was born.

F/Lt. Marshall relinquished his Commission on 1st July 1959. Ray Marshall retained the rank of Flight Lieutenant. This was confirmed in General Notice in London Gazette on 28th July 1959.”

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