Richard Perry joined the Royal New Zealand Air Force at the age of seventeen, completing a tour of thirty operations with No. 218 Squadron as a pilot. A member and supporter of the Nanton Lancaster Air Museum, he has been practicing as a consulting engineer in Vancouver ever since. He is one of the founders of the No 218 Squadron Association.
(please see http://www.goldcoastsquadron218.co.uk/).
Excerpts from the Diary of F/L Richard P. Perry
Robbie Robertson, Dick Perry, Reg Churcher,
Frank Aspden, Harry Mullett, Dennis Outhwaite, Johnny Limb.
218 (Gold Coast) SQUADRON, METHWOLD, 1944
October 7, 1944
Daylight raid on Kleve, our first trip
We took off at noon into a clear sky and climbed up to 14,000 feet to meet the bomber stream. Crossed the Dutch coast at The Hague with very little flak in evidence. As usual GEE was out and, being a clear day, map read our way in to the target for our final bombing run. The target was a railway marshalling yards and, still, with little flak to trouble us, unloaded our bombs as a clear straddle across the tracks. Bomb load was 11/1000’s & 4/500’s. A Halifax, right in front of us, had its wing shot off and crashed, not the best of sights for us on our first bombing sortie. Map read all the way back to base, again encountering very little flak at the Belgian coast. All of our aircraft returned safely.
October 14, 1944
Daylight raid on Duisberg, trip #2
Off the ground at 7 am and climbed to 18,000 feet to meet the bomber stream and away out across the Channel for Belgium. Arrived over the target at 9 am to find heavy flak and a master bomber yelling “FREEHAND”. We took him at his word, picked a target, a bridge over the Rhine, and bombed visually straddling the west end with our bomb load, 11/1000’s and 4/500’s. We raced away from the target, throwing out ‘Window’ as we went and headed northwest for home. Map read across Belgium and so to base. All of our aircraft returned safely.
October 14, 1944
Night raid on Duisberg, trip #3
Briefed at 8 pm, took off at 10.15 and were over Reading at about midnight, making for the French coast. Over the target, bombed on markers and were away again before anything serious started coming up. Same bomb load as for the previous trip. Looking back one noted the evident destruction. Searchlights weaving about the sky, flack bursting around and behind us like balls of smoke, markers floating down to lie on the city like varicolored flowerbeds and the streets lighted up by fires burning all over the city. Uneventful flight back to base and the usual de-briefing and bacon and eggs. Big headlines in papers. 10,000 tons of bombs and incendiaries during the 24-hour period. Germany’s greatest inland port demolished.
October 19, 1944
Night raid on Stuttgart, trip #4
Briefed at 2 pm, took off at 5.00. Same route to the French coast. Took over from Robbie for part of the trip out, which he found useful, as it allowed him to spend some time with the other members of the crew. Used H2S for the first time as a navigating aid and Frank, our Navigator, used it until we were some 20 miles from the target which was a marshalling yards. Bombed target visually in clear sky and very little flak. Bomb load was a 1/4000 (affectionately known as a cookie} and 6/1000’s. On the way home we lost all of our navigational aids and had to rely on Frank’s dead reckoning to bring us back to base. Proof of the pudding was that we were first to land.
October 31, 1944
Night raid on Cologne, trip #5
Took off into very bad weather and carried on to the target over 10/10ths cloud. Very pretty over target, very little flak, sky markers, bright moonlight and German fighters circling above us. Saw our first jet/rocket aircraft which went straight up through the bomber stream and started circling above us. Did not note that it accomplished anything. Bombed on sky markers, a cookie and 14 cans of incendiaries. Very uneventful trip and arrived back at base at 11.30 pm.
November 4, 1944
Day raid on Solingen, trip #6
Took off at 12 noon and proceeded to the target over 10/10 cloud. No flak evident and were able to bomb, visually, through a gap in the cloud cover. Target a marshalling yards and bomb load a cookie, 6/1000’s and 6/500’s. One unnerving experience, the aircraft next to us blew up for no explainable reason. Was it sabotage, who knows? Then to top things off, the Germans sent up two scarecrows, the first we’d seen. Very evident that they were not planes as there was no sign of any wreckage and we actually flew right through some of the debris. Flew back by way of the sunken island of Walcheren but could see no sign of activity even though it was a battlefield at the time. Map read back to base through clear skies and landed at 5.30 pm.
November 5, 1944
Back to Solingen, trip #7
Took off at 10.30 am and proceeded to the same target. My first experience with the Elsan, it was full up and liquid sloshing about. Used a perfectly good Mae West in order to clean myself up. This time we bombed over 10/10 cloud on sky markers. Also dropped some of our own markers for the following aircraft to bomb on. Same bomb load. Came home to pouring rain and had to virtually feel our way down to the runway. Advised that aircraft had been bombed by other aircraft on both of these days. Is it any wonder that we keep Dennis, our mid-upper, searching the skies for aircraft above us with their bomb doors open.
November 15, 1944
Day raid on Dortmund, trip #8
Took off at 12.30 pm into 10/10 cloud and followed the main stream to the Belgium coast. This time we used GEE which was working for a change. We took an unorthodox course over Belgium and, as a result, arrived over the target before the bomber stream. We were leader to three other aircraft, AA-K, Y and B and they followed us faithfully, dropping their bombs when we dropped ours. Bomb load was a cookie and 14/500’s. Target was a marshalling yards. There was very little flak although we heard, later, that it was much heavier when the main stream arrived. This was the first time that we had used GH as the bombing device. Once again had scarecrows tossed up in front of us, two of them. Then our GEE caught fire and, fortunately, went out by itself. Back to map reading with the aid of H2S. Got back down at 5.30 pm with one aircraft, AA-K, still following us.
November 17, 1944
Day raid on Heinsberg, trip #9
Army co-operation, breakthrough to Cologne. Took off at 1.30 pm in terrible weather which fortunately cleared up over the target. Ran up on GH but were ordered to bomb the town visually rather than use either GH or markers. That was the last we heard from the Master Bomber although we heard later that he had been shot down. Orbited around looking for a likely target and, then, dropped our bombs, a cookie, 6/1000’s and 6/500’s, in the town center. Very heavy light flak by this time so quickly exited from the area. Took over from Robbie as usual, and note that this time he went up in the nose where he probably took a nap. He took over from me after we left the Belgium coast and proceeded to base. No brake pressure so were diverted to Woodbridge where we had a hairy landing using FIDO. Almost ran off the end of the runway before we came to a stop. Spent three of the worst days we have ever experienced, cold, wet, nothing to do. Finally left for base again but were diverted to Newmarket. Eventually made it home on the 20th.
November 20, 1944
Day raid on Homberg, trip #10
Really duff met, we hit cloud at the Belgium coast and it stayed with us, with few breaks, till we reached the target. Once again we bombed on GH over 10/10 cloud and no flak. Carrying a cookie and 14/500’s. In cloud all the way back till we were over the Channel when it cleared until we reached the English coast where it thickened up again. What a sight coming back. Hundreds of aircraft all leaving BLACK vapor trails behind them and, at one stage, climbing up to 24,000 feet to get over the CuNimbs. On this trip we actually saw three aircraft destroyed by bombs dropped from aircraft above them, and swerved away, ourselves, from beneath one that would have passed right over us with it’s bomb doors open. I’ll always remember our mid-upper, Dennis, yelling out the instruction to swerve right.
November 21, 1944
Return to Homberg, trip #11
Yesterdays effort was no good so back we go again, takeoff 12.30 pm. Bursts of cloud all the way back until we reached the target where it cleared so bombed visually on sky markers. No flak and great visibility, a perfect bombing run and bombs right on target. Once again, the target was a marshalling yards. We carried a cookie and 14/500’s. Back to base and arrived home at 5 pm.
November 26, 1944
Day raid to Fulda, trip #12
Takeoff at 8 am over 10/10 cloud, essentially to test the range of our GH equipment. A very easy trip, no flak, no fighters and 10/10 cloud. The trip was unsuccessful as we were unable to pick up a signal at that range. Target was to be a marshalling yard. Returned to base, jettisoning our bombs over the Channel.
November 27, 1944
Day raid to Cologne, trip #13
Takeoff at 1 pm in clear skies. Everything went fine until we reached the target and the flak started coming up at us. I have never seen so many shell bursts at one time. We picked our target, a marshalling yards, and went in on our bombing run. Everyone was yelling. “Drop those bombs and get out of here.” We pressed on, dropped the bombs, a cookie and 14/500’s, and raced for home. It’s hard to describe the sheer terror and beauty that accompanied a raid like this one. 500 odd bombers above us, beneath us and around us, flak bursts like myriads of balls of cotton wool, aircraft spiraling down to crash into the holocaust below and tail gunner, Harry, shouting “Weave” as the predicted flak crept up behind us. My comment, I note, was that I hoped we would never again have to fly over Cologne in broad daylight with no cloud cover. We were one of the few aircraft that returned without any damage, our lucky day.
November 28, 1944
Day raid on Neuss, trip #14
A marshalling yards and an uneventful trip over 10/10 cloud. Off the ground at 2.30 pm, very little flak over the target, bombing on GH and, for a change, equipment was operational. We ran up on the target, dropped our bombs, a cookie, 6/1000’s and 6/500’s, and headed for home to arrive back at 7.30 pm.
The period from this date until our next trip on December 1, 1944 was a very busy one.
We packed up all our gear, took off and proceeded to a new airfield at Chedburgh.
218 (Gold Coast) SQUADRON, CHEDBURGH
December 1, 1944
Day raid on Oberhausen, trip #15
Took off at 12 noon over 10/10 cloud for an uneventful trip. Target was a marshalling yards, we bombed on GH, a cookie and 14/500’s, and headed back to base and were on the ground again at 5 pm.
On leave until December 15,
then back again to support our ground forces in their battle with von Rundstat in the Ardennes.
December 21, 1944
Day raid on Trier, trip #16
The weather was so bad that 7 trips in a row were scrubbed. We took off at 12.30 pm over 10/10 cloud and proceeded to the target. Very little flak but, for the first time, our bombs hung up. Very disappointing. Came back over the Channel and jettisoned our bomb load and were on the ground again at 5 pm.
December 22, 1944
Back to Trier, trip #17
Off at 12.30 pm into a beautiful clear sky. Target, the town of Trier, stood out like a sore thumb. A classic bombing run and all of our bombs, a cookie and 14/500’s, right down on the target. Very little flak to contend with. Congratulations received from Bomber Harris. Two of us got direct hits on the target which was a tank concentration in the middle of the town. Back home at 5 pm.
December 24, 1944
Night raid on Bonn Airfield, trip #18
A clear night, off the ground at 3.30 pm. Once again we were supposed to bomb on GH but could not get any signal. Bombed visually on the aiming point, the airfield runways, and got a direct hit. Bomb load 11/1000’s and 4/500’s. Very little flak and were back at base at 8.30 pm.
December 26, 1944
Day raid on St. Vith, trip #19
Off the ground at 1.30 and clear skies all the way to the target. This was another tank concentration and, again, a classic bombing run with very little light flak. A cookie and 14/500’s. The German tanks were clearly visible and, once again, a direct hit on the target. Back to base to land at 5 pm.
December 27, 1944 (my 21st birthday)
Day raid on our “favourite”, Cologne, trip #20
Off the ground at 11.30 pm over 10/10 cloud. Target was a marshalling yard to the south of the city. Bombed on GH, a cookie and 14/500’s. Noted smoke going up to about 8000 ft so presumed that the target was hit. Very little flak to contend with, this time. Back to base to land at 5 pm.
December 28, 1944
Night raid on Vohwinkel, trip #21
Off the ground at 3.30 pm into clear skies. Bombed visually on target indicators, a cookie and 14/500’s. Target was, again, a marshalling yards, and was clearly visible. Masses of searchlights criss-crossing the sky and every now and then, holding an aircraft in their beam. Masses of fighter planes, both coming in and going out which kept Robbie and our rear gunner, Harry, very busy. Our first experience with flashless flak, impossible to see where it is bursting. Escaped, unscathed, and were back at base at 10 pm.
December 31, 1944
Day raid on Castrop Rauxel, trip #22
A daylight raid to celebrate New Year’s Eve. Again, a marshalling yards over 10/10 cloud. We were leading the group and got all the predicted stuff on our run in to the target. Bombed on GH, a cookie and 14/500’s. This was the first time that we’d been hit and, on landing, we counted 27 holes of various sizes and a piece taken half way through an elevator control rod!!!! Thankful for no injuries. Back on deck at 3.30 pm.
January 5, 1945
Night raid on Neuss, trip #23
Off the ground at 4 pm into 10/10 cloud. Another marshalling yards and bombed on GH, a cookie and 14/500’s. Very little flak. Used window on the way out from the target, very messy as the bundles tend to break up and the strips get jammed everywhere. On crossing the Channel we were told to divert to Mildenhall where we spent the night. Back to base on the 6th.
On leave again, back to work on January 20.
January 24, 1945
Cologne again, trip #24
Took off at 10 am over 10/10 cloud. The southern marshalling yards again and bombing on GH. Very impersonal. We follow the track on the screen until we see a blip, enter the wind speed data and start counting, open the bomb bay doors and, after the required time interval, drop the bombs. Often wondered how many of these bombs actually landed on target, sight unseen. Back to base and landed at 3 pm.
January 30, 1945
Day raid on Krefeld, trip #25
Up at 12 noon into clear skies. We saw very little flak but others told us that they were faced with heavy stuff. Bombed on GH, a cookie and 14/500’s, and headed for home where we arrived at 3.30.
This was the trip that saw F/O Evers and crew shot down on the last trip of their tour. Too bad but it happens.
February 1, 1945
Day raid on Munchen Gladback, trip #26
Up over 10/10 cloud at 10 am. Again bombing on GH and no flak. a cookie and 14/500’s. Arrived back at base at 3 pm. Uneventful!!!!
February 2, 1945
Night raid on Wiesbaden, trip #27
Off the ground at 8 pm over 10/10 cloud. Again bombing on GH and no flak. Usual load. Had to climb up to 22,000 feet on the way home to clear the CuNims. Back to base and landed at 1.30 am.
February 3, 1945
Night raid on Dortmund, trip #28
A very shaky trip. Took off at 5 pm to arrive over the target just after dark. Hundreds of searchlights everywhere, and flak bursts all over the sky. GH again went out and we bombed visually, on sky markers. Dozens of fighters around us but managed to get out without a scratch. Robbie and Harry again very busy. Back to base and landed 10 pm.
February 5, 1945
Day raid on Wanna Eickel, trip #29
Off the ground at 10 am and fine weather until we hit the French coast. Took the aircraft up to 25,000 feet to clear the CuNims and stayed there until we reached the target. Dropped to 22,000 to unload bombs on GH, the usual load, and back up again right after. Predicted flak followed us all the way in and out. Much weaving to avoid the predictors. We ended up being the only aircraft on the station that got the GH signal. Back at base at 3 pm.
February 9, 1945
Night raid on Hohenberg, trip #30 – OUR LAST
Briefed at 12.45pm and takeoff into clear sky at 4 am. A few scattered searchlights over the target and very little flak. One of aircraft in front of us blew up, again for some unexplained reason. Target was a marshalling yards and, again, bombed on GH. Back to base and landed at about 8 am. Congratulated all round on finishing our operational tour.
I have been asked over the years what it was like during those years and how I felt about the bombing. My answer is always that we had a job to do and we did it to the best of our ability. From the foregoing it will be evident that the bulk of the missions were to cause as much damage to the railway systems as possible. The only outstanding exception was Duisberg which was one of the main transport links with all parts of German Europe and, therefore, a prime target. We had our moments of terror and elation and, we who survived, are only sorry that so many bright young men were killed in the conflict. The above are excerpts from the diary that I kept during those years and lists all of the 30 trips that we completed during our tour. There are only two of our crew left, now, Reg Churcher, our WOP and myself. We both belong to the 218 Squadron Association whose Secretary, Margery Griffiths, keeps us up to date with her News Letters.
Richard P. Perry
January 2, 2002