Dropping Mines in Kiel Bay

This was an operation from RAF East Kirkby, 630 Squadron, with Joe Lennon and crew.

630 Squadron were often called upon to carry out special missions, pin-point bombing (what today is called precision bombing). On our 9th operation on the 21 May 1944 we were told at briefing that we were going to a very special target, and that three Lancasters would not carry any bombs.

This surprised us (no bombs!), whatever was going on, it sounded crazy!

We were then informed that instead of bombs, we would carry 9,000 lbs of mines, to be dropped into the sea at Kiel Bay.

Information had been received from our spies that a large convoy of ships was being loaded with armaments and soldiers, and was almost ready to set sail to sea. Therefore, if at least one, and ideally all three, Lancasters could fly in low under the cover of darkness, without being spotted, drop their deadly cargo of mines, the ships would sail into them and be destroyed.

The three Lancasters were selected for the job, and ours was one of selected crew.

We were to fly out under the diversionary cover of the main bomber fleet, who would continue on to their designated targets, then at at a specified navigation point, we were to break away, and if possible, below radar, without being spotted, head off towards Kiel Bay. We then had to rely on the skill of our navigator, bomb aimer and pilot to pinpoint the exact spot in Kiel Bay without any markers or flares to guide us in. A very difficult task.

We managed to drop our mines without incident, then headed straight back home.

Back at East Kirkby we were debriefed. Not that we had a lot to report. The Squadron Leader then informed us that our Lancaster was the only one of the three that made it to the target. One Lancaster had technical problems and had to return home. The other Lancaster was shot down before getting anywhere the target, which saddened us all to learn this news. It meant though, that our Lancaster was the only one that succeeded in reaching the target.

About a month later we were summoned to the Group Captain's office. Very worrying. For what, why? It was very rare, almost unknown, for a crew to receive a summons to the Station Commander's office.

The Duty WAAF showed us in and the Group Caption told us to 'stand at ease', then sit down. He then proceeded to tell us that the intelligence agents had just got through to London informing them that the mines we dropped had caused a considerable amount of damage to the ships and prevented them from sailing.

The Group Captain said he was very proud of us, shook our hands and asked us to keep up the good work.

Word soon got around the camp and we didn't have to buy our own beer for a week.

Our crew for this missions was

On all our bombing trips we were given chewing gum, Horlicks tablets and chocolate, to stave off hunger. If we had any left over when we got safely home, these would be given to girlfriends and WAAFs, especially to WAAFs who packed our parachutes, as like with our dedicated ground crew, we quite literally, placed our trust in their hands.

Many years later, when the war was over, and people learnt that you had served in an operational bombing squadron, they quite naturally asked you about their relatives, asked if you knew their brother, nephew, father or grandfather, who was in the same squadron. This was always a sad time and a very difficult question to answer, because all the crews were so knitted together with their own crew members, that it was very rare that they knew anyone on the base, or any other crews, other than their own dedicated ground crews, and the WAAFs who looked after and packed their parachutes.

As a crew of seven, you lived together in the same hut, went out together, played together, got drunk together and when not on operations, did training together, for example, air-to-sea firing, night and day cross country training and three-engine landings.

Then, if you were lucky enough to finish a tour of operations, sadly you were separated, posted to all parts of the country to serve as instructors to new crews on conversion units. You lost contact with each other because you did not know where each of you were going. Some overseas personal were lucky and were sent back home.

Many, many years later, when several of these stories were posted on the BBC website, I was contacted by John Pollard, son of Joe Pollard, one of our Australian crew. Whilst I was very happy to hear from him, he brought with him the sad news that his father Joe Pollard had died the year before. About a year later, I was contacted by Greg Pollard, another of Joe's sons. We have been in regular contact ever since.

Lincolnshire ~ Harry Parkins ~ 630 Squadron ~ East Kirkby
(c) Keith Parkins 2008 -- January 2008 rev 0