Sergeant Donald Kibbe from Massachusetts, a U.S. citizen, volunteered for the Royal Canadian Air Force in order to get into the war.

RAF Bomber Command’s objectives now included support for the Russians, by attacking targets that might hinder the German war effort in the east. This included the German Baltic port of Stettin, an important stage in the supply route for German troops in Russia.

Stettin was also attacked on two nights. On both occasions the weather was favourable and the total of 112 tons of H.E. bombs, supplemented by 11,000 incendiaries, resulted in many large and small fires in the dock area and in the city. A warehouse was demolished, two ships in the waterway were set on fire and several bursts were seen near the railway station.

From the Air Situation Report for the week as reported to the British War Cabinet, see TNA CAB/66/19/4

Stettin was at the limit of range for the RAF bomber fleet including the aged Whitley bomber. Casualties from these raids came not just from the German defences near the target, but from the test of endurance that they represented for the aircraft and their crews. One of these aircraft was Whitley Z6871, flying from Topcliffe, Yorkshire in the north of England:

On the night of the 29th September 1941, ten 102 Squadron aircraft took off from Topcliffe to bomb Stettin railway station, this particular Whitley took off at 18.53hrs. The weather over the target was described as “clear with ground haze and flak was moderate to heavy”. This aircraft was first from the squadron to bomb and attacked from 12,000 feet, flashes were seen in the area which was already burning on the ground. In total 95 aircraft of a force of 139 aircraft of various types bombed around four aiming points in Stettin, over all good bombing was reported. Stettin was pretty much at the range that Whitleys could reach with standard fuel tanks.

During the early morning of the 30th of September 1941 the crew were well into their return leg of the flight and was more or less on course for their home base at Topcliffe. They crossed the Yorkshire coast at around 03.30hrs in the Middlesbrough area and a course was set for base at Topcliffe, at a height of 2000 feet to avoid striking the high ground they would have to cross over. There were no problems upto then in the flight.

A few minutes later at 03.55hrs the aircraft flew into the ground on the North Yorkshire Moors above Danby, in the region of Danby Head (or Fryup Head). The front end of the aircraft was badly damaged in the impact but it did not catch fire, when the aircraft finally came to a halt the crew were able to scramble out, all but the second pilot that is, he was sadly killed in the impact, he was on his first trip and was thrown from the aircraft in the impact.

The observer, who was uninjured and the other pilot, who had a slight cut to the head decided they would go for help, not knowing where they were they made their way off the moor and eventually found a farm some hours later, the farmer then took them to up to Danby Beacon Chain Home station for help. Some time later the airmen along with the help finally arrived back at the crash site, following a long walk from the nearest road where their lorry had parked.

It was not until 13.00hrs until all airmen were back at the lorry at the nearest road. They finally arrived back at Topcliffe four hours later, where upon they found that their lockers had already been cleared out on the assumption they would not be returning.

The crash was put down to the pilot falling asleep at the controls, because of this the aircraft had descended and crashed into the high ground which it was flying over.

This was an all too common occurrence. Of the 55,500 fatal casualties from Bomber Command in the war, 8,195 were killed in flying accidents or ground accidents.

One site that remembers these men is Yorkshire Aircraft which has kindly provided these details. The fatal casualty in this case was 2nd Pilot – Sgt Donald K Kibbe RCAF (R/56344), aged 23, of Westfield, Massachusetts, USA. He was one of a number of United States citizens who had volunteered to join the war by enlisting in the Royal Canadian Air Force. Although several American trained pilots had joined the RAF directly and eventually formed the Eagle Squadrons, the contribution of Americans who came via Canada at this stage of the war is less well recognised.

Richard Allenby’s very comprehensively researched Yorkshire Aircraft site maintains a fine memorial to these men.

Postscript

Some months after writing this entry I heard from Jerry Kibbe, younger brother of Donald. He kindly supplied the photograph above and was able to supply a little more detail about him:

Don was my oldest brother and his death was a crushing blow to our family.

I remember as a lad of ten, Don explaining to a group of neighbors gathered in our kitchen, why he would leave his own country to fight in England. We were not at war and many in our town thought we should stay out of the fight. Don patiently explained it was a conflict we could not avoid and that very soon we would all be involved.

My brother Bob, as a tribute to his brother, resigned his appointment to The United States Merchant Marine Academy and enlisted in The United States Army Air Corps. He was killed in a training accident midair one week before his squadron was shipped overseas.

It is an honour to have the privilege of remembering the extraordinary sacrifice of the Kibbe family.

The crew of a Whitley bomber preparing for an operation. The Whitley was the backbone of RAF Bomber Command until more modern four engined bombers came into service.

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Sep

29

1941

Surviving the massacre at Babi Yar

Jews are marched out of Kiev to the ravine at Babi Yar on the 29th or 30th September 1941.  Walking past corpses in the road they would have had no illusions about the German threat to those who did not co-operate but they would not have realised their true fate until the last moments.

After a while, when the shooting stopped, I heard the Germans climbing into the ravine. They started finishing off all those who were not dead yet, those who were moaning, hiccuping, tossing, writhing in agony. They ran their flashlights over the bodies and finished off all who moved. I was lying so still without stirring, terrified of giving myself away.

Sep

28

1941

Einsatzgruppe Operational Report USSR No. 97

A view over the river Dnieper at Kieev. German forces had captured Kiev on the 19th September.  Concealed bombs left  in the buildings most likely to be occupied by the Wehrmacht caused significant casualties when the exploded a few days later.

Verification of these statements has not been possible yet. In the course of the first action, 1,600 arrests, measures being evolved to check the entire Jewish population. Execution of at least 50,000 Jews planned. German Army welcomes measures and demands drastic procedure. Garrison commander advocates public execution of twenty Jews.

Sep

27

1941

Malta convoy under attack

The last moments of a german torpedo bomber as it comes under fierce anti aircraft fire during an attack on Royal Navy  forces in the Mediterranean.

On 27 September at 1340 we were very nearly hit – a torpedo from an aircraft missed us by only 20 yards. Attack by torpedo bombers was frightening. They would single you out and fly straight for you at masthead height before dropping their torpedo at very close range. They presented an impossibly small target and were below the depression of most of our guns.

Sep

26

1941

The Wehrmacht’s endless march East

The soldiers of the Wehrmacht often lived off the land and took shelter in whatever was available.

Underneath it quivered rabbits, pigs, and the vermin that would attack us. Bedbugs bothered us at night, fleas broke our rest, and lice multiplied in pur uniforms. Spiders, flies, wood lice, and cockroaches scuttled over the tables and over our faces and hands. The illumination was provided by an oil lamp.

Sep

25

1941

Enemy Attack on Seaborne Trade

Aircraft from HMS Audacity, the first of the new 'Escort carriers' had brought down the Focke Wolfe that attacked the Walmer Castle. The Escort Carriers were a huge advance on the CAM ships even though they were relatively crude conversions of ordinary merchant ships with hangars and limited facilities.

A rescue vessel, with survivors from the torpedoed ships in the outward bound convoy previously attacked by U-boats, was bombed and set on fire by Focke-Wulf aircraft when 550 miles north-east of the Azores, and was subsequently sunk by our own gunfire; ninety-nine survivors, twenty of whom were seriously wounded, were picked up, but the master and twenty-nine of the crew are missing.

Sep

24

1941

Force H departs Gibraltar with convoy

Loading a 16" shell on board HMS Rodney

On the evening of the 24th Admiral Somerville’s flag was raised on HMS Rodney and the band played on the quayside as if the battleship were departing for home. She then sailed westward with an escort of destroyers. Admiral Somerville had in fact remained on HMS Nelson and would lead the main force into the Mediterranean after dark. Those watching from Spain and Algeciras in North Africa were duped for a time.

Sep

23

1941

Base camp life in Cairo

Polish troops in tropical kit await embarkation for the swift overnight trip down the coast to Tobruk where they would relieve the Australians.

When I got outside, I noticed that everyone complained of the sickening smell from the coffins… Apparently the two revolver kings had been dead three days, which in this climate, is discouraged. I’d been too ill to notice any smell. All I’d observed was that there is something unmistakably peculiar about the movement of the feet of men carrying the body of another man.

Sep

22

1941

‘The last Jew in Vinnitsa’

One of the iconic images of the 20th century let alone the war or the Holocaust. Found in a German's photograph album with the words 'The last jew in Vinnitsa' written on the back.

The people in the first row thus having been killed in the most inhuman manner, those of the second row were now ordered to step forward. The men in this row were ordered to step out and were handed shovels with which to heap chloride of lime upon the still partly moving bodies in the ditch. Thereafter they returned to the tables and undressed.

Sep

21

1941

Rescue ship Walmer Castle bombed in Atlantic

The Walmer Castle was requisitioned by the Admiralty, provided with rudimentary armaments and used on convoys as a rescue ship to collect sailors who had to abandon ship.

Motorboat blown away, no.2 port lifeboat badly holed and foundered. Fire raging throughout midships accommodation and on boat deck, effectively isolating fore end of ship from aft soon after bomb explosion. Bridge searched for survivors, and accommodation above and below decks, as far as possible, fire having taken firm hold of port side and accommodation on starboard completely wrecked.