Halifax HR929 was one of twenty four No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack the railway and marshalling yards at Cannes on the night of the 11th / 12th November 1943.
It was carrying 2 x 1000lbs GP and various target indicators. Its designated Path Finder role was Visual Marker.
Its seven-man crew comprised:
- John Rushbrooke Petrie-Andrews (Pilot)
- John Wright Armitage (Navigator)
- Horace John Backhouse (Air Bomber)
- Henry Randolph McMahon Stroud (Wireless Operator)
- George Dale (Air Gunner)
- Norman Wilken Barnett (Air Gunner)
- John Henry Morgan (Flight Engineer)
The route was as follows: Base, Selsey Bill, 49°20N 00°00E, 47°25N 01°00E, 43°18N 06°35E, Cannes, 43°40N 07°12E, 47°35N 01°20E, 49°20N 00°00E, Selsey Bill, Base
The squadron’s Operations Record Book shows “This aircraft sent message that one engine was unserviceable before the target was reached but proceeded to attack prior to heading for Sardinia. The aircraft finally ditched off the coast of Sardinia, the crew being rescued from their dinghy”
WR Chorley (Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War)
Reached the target flying on three engines and after bombing continued on a southerly course to Sardinia. Ditched off the island and all were rescued.
Information extracted from articles written by Petrie-Andrews [BBC WWII People’s War] and JW Armitage
The crew were afloat for three days before landing near Capo Testa lighthouse on Sardinia. After a a period of time on the island, helped by the Italians, they were picked up by taxi and taken to a local port where they boarded a vessel which took them to Royal Navy Headquarters based at Maddelena. From there, they were taken by a RN minesweeper to Adjaccio, Corsica and then on to Maison Blanche Aerodrome (Algeria) in an American DC-3. The crew then spent some time at Froha (Algeria) trying to get an abandoned Halifax cleaned up and ready to fly. A short test flight demonstrated that this would not get them back to the UK, so that option was abandoned. The Station Commander at Blida then suggested that they utilise the 44 Squadron Lancaster that was on the airfield. With the aircraft fully loaded with Christmas presents and hampers for relatives of the personnel based at Blida and with a number of service personnel on board, the aircraft took off with Petrie-Andrews at the controls but it iced up and had to return to Blida. On 13th December, the aircraft took off again, initially landing at Rabat before setting off for St Mawgan. After a short stay at St Mawgan, the aircraft headed for RAF Graveley where Petrie-Andrews decided to do a very low pass across the airfield and upon landing, he was promptly arrested. (Two weeks later, the charge of low flying [court martial offence] was subsequently changed to careless flying and he was confined to camp for 14 days)
A cartoon entitled “Joe’s return from Sardinia” which appeared in Glimlamp (March 2000)
JW Armitage’s Goldfish Club Badge (awarded to those that ditched at sea) [Courtesy of Nick Place]
JW Armitage’s recollections of the ditching
At briefing that night, we were informed the target was to be at La Bocca, large railway marshalling yards via Cannes in the south of France. The yards were supplying the transports for German Middle Eastern troops
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