Halifax L9508 was one of nine No. 35 Squadron aircraft which took off from Stanton Harcourt to attack the Battleship Scharnhorst (anchored at La Pallice) on 24th July 1941 (daylight raid).
Its seven-man crew comprised:
- George Arthur Litchfield Elliot (Pilot)
- James Braidwood Stark (2nd Pilot)
- [-] White (Observer)
- John Collins (WOP / AG)
- [-] Elcoate (WOP / AG)
- [-] Hill (Air Gunner)
- [-] Berwick (Flight Engineer)
The squadron’s Operations Record Book shows “During the attack, Halifax L9508 suffered, in all, nine attacks by enemy fighters. The tail gunner, Sgt. Hill, not only successfully defended the aircraft throughout and enabled its withdrawal, but came away with one enemy aircraft confirmed shot down to his credit. Aircraft returned safely to England on three engines, landing at St Eval”
AM Form 78
The AM Form 78 shows that aircraft was classified FB (AC) on 24th July 1941 and it is possible that it was posted to 43 Group (Maintenance Unit), although no date is shown. The aircraft was operational again by 7th August 1941.
Journey to the target
The squadron’s Operations Record Book describes the journey to the target as follows:
“The aircraft took off and proceeded via Lizard Point to a point 50 miles west of Ushant and then direct to the target. The journey from base to the turning point was made at a height of 1,000 feet and below, with the climb to the bombing height taking place between this point and the target. 19,000 feet was the intended bombing height but only 15,000 feet was reached before arrival at the target area. The weather was excellent, brilliant sunshine and no cloud, with perfect visibility.
An enemy destroyer was passed in the proximity of the Île d’Yeu, which, apparently believing itself to be under attack, commenced evasive action and opened fire, but did no damage”.
It was assumed that the destroyer warned the authorities of the impending attack and the German defences were fully prepared for the arrival of the aircraft.
The squadron’s Operations Record Book goes on to describe the arrival and subsequent attack as follows:
“As the squadron approached the target area, a very heavy barrage of A.A. fire was immediately put up, and some 30 enemy fighters were observed, some in the air and others taking off from aerodromes in and about La Rochelle.