Lancaster PB372 was one of ten No. 35 Squadron aircraft detailed to attack the Gremberg Marshalling Yards at Cologne on 23rd December 1944 (Daylight Raid).
It was equipped with Oboe and carrying 11 x 1000lb GP.
Its seven-man crew comprised:
- Edgell Jason Rigby (Pilot)
- Colin John Alfred Ramsey (Navigator)
- Harry Breeze (Air Bomber)
- Ernest Clifford Leslie Coombs (Wireless Operator)
- F / RF Dickinson (Air Gunner)
- Roy Frank Cooper (Air Gunner)
- Douglas John Varney (Flight Engineer)
The route was Base, 5030N 0500E, 5036N 0620E, Target, 5110N 0400E, Southwold, Base
The squadron’s Operations Record Book shows “10 x 1000lb jettisoned Cologne area at 13.05hrs from 17000ft. Fused. Aircraft hit by flak. 1 x 1000lb mc jettisoned at position 5104N 0133E at 14.12hrs from 6000ft, safe, (bomb hung up) Oboe run was spoilt by aircraft “A” formatting closely on us until the last moment and thereby not giving room to manoeuvre. Approaching the target, we were engaged very accurately by predicted heavy flak right from the beginning of the oboe run. We were hit seven times. The aircraft landed at Manston”
AM Form 78
The AM Form 78 (Movement Card) shows that the aircraft was classified as Cat FB/AC; it was repaired on site and returned to the squadron on 26th February 1945
AM Form 1180
There isn’t an AM Form 1180 (Accident Card) held at the RAF Museum and, as such, it has not been possible to establish any more details
It is worth noting that EJ Rigby was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and ECL Coombs and RF Cooper were awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal for their actions during this sortie.
The citation reads:
This officer and these airmen were pilot, wireless operator and mid-upper gunner respectively in an aircraft detailed to attack the Gremburg railway yards near Cologne. Whilst over the target the aircraft was hit repeatedly by anti-aircraft fire. Several oil pipes were broken, became ignited and started a fire in the fuselage. Although their clothes had become saturated with oil, thus in-creasing their danger, Flight Sergeant Coombs and Sergeant Cooper immediately devoted their endeavours towards quelling the flames. Both received slight burns but they succeeded in getting the fire under control. The aircraft had sustained much other damage. Both the starboard engines were out of action. The aileron trim controls had been shot away and the rear and mid-upper gun turrets had been rendered unserviceable. Nevertheless, Flying Officer Rigby who, during a very harassing period had set an example which greatly encouraged his crew, flew the aircraft back to the nearest available airfield. These members of aircraft crew displayed courage and coolness worthy of great praise.
“Heroic Endeavour -The Remarkable Story of One Pathfinder Force Attack, a Victoria Cross and 206 Brave Men” by Sean Feast.
The complete story of the attack on Gremberg Marshalling Yards on 23rd December 1944 (190 pages)