Operation No 19
Target: Fighter airfield at Donnauworth
Loss of Halifax (MZ467) 462 Squadron
As told by Allan Lodder and published in the book "Pimpernel Squadron" an anecdotal history of 462 Squadron RAAF, August 1944 - May 1945 by Flight Lieutenant Ted McGindle D.F.C
F/O Allan Lodder of “A” Flight recalls his disastrous trip to Donnauworth near Augsberg on the night of 16th April 1945, only 3 weeks before the war ended. The target was a fighter airfield, this trip cost the lives of 5 crew members and left Allan with severe burn injuries.
It is perhaps another example of the reason why Aircrew were renowned for their superstitions, for on this night their own Flight Engineer was on Compassionate Leave and was replaced by Squadron Leader Swann’s Flight Engineer, who was killed. The night’s account is best told in Allan’s own words:
Augsberg, south-west Germany is well towards the Austrian border, in addition to incendiary bombs and flares, we carried two long range belly fuel tanks.
On our bombing run we were suddenly hit by what appeared to be cannon fire from underneath. The aircraft shuddered, as if in a “stall”. The control column was jammed forward and we were in a steep dive. I called the crew on the intercom to abandon aircraft, but it was dead. At this moment the fighter attacked from astern. A hail of tracer shells raced through and passed the aircraft. The Flight Engineer was ablaze with flames and screaming, and rushed into the cockpit, collapsing in a heap beside me. I reached for my parachute and clamped it onto the harness clips, but I forgot to first undo my seat harness straps. The flames were now belching into the cockpit, my oxygen mask caught on fire and my face and hair were burning.
At this point, I had not seen or been able to communicate with any of the crew. The aircraft was now well ablaze and with the belly overload fuel tanks, could explode at any moment. In preparation to abandon aircraft, I jettisoned the cockpit escape hatch above the Pilot’s seat. I put my head out of the side window to try to ease the terrible burning in my face and head and to get rid of the “stench” of burning flesh. I had only been married four months earlier and thought of my young wife and my family back home.
Suddenly, everything went black. When I came to, I was falling through a rush of cold air. The sky “markers” were way above me. Instinctively, I felt for my chute. It was clamped to my chest. I don’t remember pulling the rip-cord, but then the cords were pulling out of the pack, everything went red and then I hit the ground amongst the trees.
The burning plane crashed not far away, so I started to walk towards it, hoping to see or find some of the crew, but without any luck. Ammunition was exploding all around the plane, so I headed off in the direction I thought Switzerland would be. I eventually found a path in the trees, which eventually led to a cart track and into a small village.
At this stage of the war, it was believed the JU.88 German night fighter had upward firing cannons, which were aimed from directly underneath at the inner starboard engine and fuel tank area in the wing, a vulnerable spot. P/O Bob Jubb believes this is what happened to his aircraft when it was hit from underneath, causing a massive fire before suddenly blowing up. At this stage I was in great pain and shock, and didn’t care what happened to me.
A small group of German villagers were standing on a corner, so I just walked straight up to them without caring what they might do. I was taken to a nearby house, where I was given a clean cloth and oil for my burns and a mirror. I was horrified at what I saw, my hair was burnt off and my face badly burnt. My right foot was swollen and in pain. It appeared the bone was broken just below the shin bone.
The villagers were very kind to me and carried me to a horse and cart, which they had harnessed. They covered me with a blanket to protect my burns from the cold morning air and drove me to a nearby pre-war Convent, Kloster Holzen, which was being used as a German Military Hospital. They shook my hand as they left me in the care of the hospital staff.
For some days I remember little, but about two weeks later the Americans overtook the town and I was transported back through various Field Hospitals, and finally flown back to England. It was not until after my return to England that I learned of the fate of the rest of my crew.
All had been killed except for my Rear Gunner and Bomb Aimer. My Rear Gunner seeing the plane ablaze amidships, turned his turret outwards and baled out backwards, losing his boots in the process.
The Bomb Aimer was at the bomb sight when we were first hit. It appeared the Navigator was dead, slumped across his table. The Wireless Operator could not be seen. He grabbed his chute pack and clipped it on. He crawled back to the Perspex nose to see the starboard engines were on fire. At that moment the aircraft blew up and he was blown out encased in the nose dome. Both landed safely by parachute, uninjured, and met up on the ground. They were free for days before being caught by German troops whilst crossing a bridge.
After prolonged medical treatment, I was invited to attend the final 462 Squadron Mess Dinner to celebrate the Squadron’s formal disbandonment. It was indeed both a proud and sad moment for all those who had served.
Note: Recent information
received from Rod M and sourced from the Combat report (Abschussmeldung)
filled by Ofw, Schmidt on the 19-4-1945 and countersigned by Peter Spoden.
Ofw, Schmidt made two attacks
upon MZ467 from behind and at the same height. He
fired 200 rounds at a range of 150 metres from the four frontal MG 151/20
cannon on his Ju88 G6. The
claim was Schmidt's 15th victory.