Film still showing Avro Lancaster B Mark Is of No. 5 Group, flying at low-level over the French countryside on the evening of 17 October 1942, while en route to attack the Schneider engineering factory at Le Creusot, France. The nearest aircraft, R5497 ‘OF-Z’, of No. 97 Squadron RAF, is being flown by Flying Officer J R Brunt and crew, who were shot down and killed on an operation in the same aircraft exactly two months later. The film was shot by the navigator of the Lancaster flown by the Commanding Officer of No. 106 Squadron RAF, Wing Commander G P Gibson, who was to command No, 617 Squadron RAF the following year.

Le Creusot (17th October).

The Schneider armament works at Le Creusot were attacked by 94 Lancasters in daylight. The force flew below 1,000 feet during the whole of the outward flight, which included 330 miles over Occupied Territory. The total flight was over 1,700 miles.

The main attack was made on the factory from a height of 4,000 feet; a small formation of six aircraft attacked the transformer and switching station from 500 feet. Only one aircraft failed to return.

The Schneider works are the Krupps of France. Their total area is 287 acres and their chief products big guns and locomotives.

Ten thousand workers were employed at this works and all plants were fully active. It is believed that the transformer and switching station was destroyed, thus depriving the works completely of electrical power. It is known that there is a great shortage of transformers in France and Germany, so much so that they are believed to be virtually irreplaceable under existing conditions.

From the fortnightly report on Bomber Command Operations as submitted to the War Cabinet see TNA CAB 66/30/44

Part of the special force of 94 Avro Lancasters of No. 5 Group, flying at low level over Montrichard on the River Cher, France, en route to attack the Schneider engineering works at Le Creusot.

Bomber Command’s Arthur Harris had decided to attempt another low level daylight raid despite the heavy casualties suffered on the Augsburg raid on 17th April. The raid was led by Squadron Leader ‘Slosher’ Slee of No. 49 Squadron RAF based at Scampton. In the aircraft following him was navigator Tom Bennett, who recalls that after crossing France at low level they gained altitude for the run in:

We reached 6,000 feet and flew straight and level. I calculated the data for the automatic bombsight and passed it to Sergeant Erwin Osler our Canadian bomb-aimer.

We always used this sight as a fixed sight. We found that trying to manipulate it in the automatic role often caused the bombs to fall early, if the wheel control on this bomb-sight was used clumsily.

Then I noticed that ’Slosher’s’ aircraft was pumping out red Very signals agitatedly. I looked to starboard and saw that part of the arc formed by 9, 57 and 207 Squadrons was threatening to take over the run-in! I smiled inwardly, as I could imagine those bods saying ‘Why should bloody 49 be the first in?’

Slee abandoned the disciplinary attempt and poked his speed up to something approaching 195 mph. We followed suit, naturally, and I rapidly re-calculated the bomb-sight data from scratch, warning Oz to scrub all the current settings.

Soon the sight was re-aligned. Gerry opened the bomb-doors and the bombing run was on. I looked out of the starboard blister. Opposition from the ground was negligible certainly nothing came our way. Gerry held the Lancaster level and steady at the indicated airspeed required. ‘Bombs gone!’ came confidently from the nose of the aircraft.

Dusk was gathering as I continued to survey the ground from the blister. Suddenly, my heart stopped in unbelieving horror, as black smoke and lurid flames belched from the thirty pound incendiaries as they burst amid a cluster of attractive French villas.

I knew we were the first aircraft in with a part-load of HE and these bombs. It was the very first time that I had personally observed the impact of bombs we had dropped. I thought ‘So much for the assurance that the incendiaries are timed to drop into the damage caused by the HE!’ My feelings were a mix of anger and horror … to think we had done this to French homes! Sickening!

This is part of a much longer account of the raid which appears in Martin W. Bowman: Bomber Command: Reflections of War: Live to Die Another Day.

The Operations Room board at Headquarters, No. 5 Group, at “St Vincents”, Grantham, Lincolnshire, after the conclusion of the famous daylight raid on the Schneider engineering factory at Le Creusot, France.

Low-level photographic reconnaissance photograph of blast-damaged buildings at the Breuil steelworks at Le Creusot, France, following the special low-level daylight raid by Avro Lancasters of No. 5 Group, Bomber Command, on 17 October 1942.

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The Eighth Army prepares for battle

16th October 1942: The Eighth Army prepares for battle

For three consecutive nights the Regiment rehearsed finding its way through our own minefields and those of the enemy. During these long, carefully planned exercises the guns and vehicles were guided through narrow lanes marked with white tape and lit by storm lanterns burning inside masked, empty four gallon petrol cans.




The unrelenting battle for Stalingrad continues

15th October 1942: The unrelenting battle for Stalingrad continues

1220 hours: A radio message from a unit of the 416th Regiment from the hexagonal housing block: “Have been encircled, ammunition and water available, death before surrender!”
1230 hours: Dive-bombers attack the command post of General Scholudov, who is without radio communications in a neighboring bunker that has collapsed. Take over the communications to the units of this division.




Spitfire Ace shot down over Malta

14th October 1942: Spitfire Ace shot down over Malta

Just as I shot Willie’s pal down, another Me nailed me from behind. He got me right in the belly of the Spit. A chunk of cannon shell smashed into my right heel. Another went between my left arm and body, nicking me in the elbow and ribs. Shrapnel spattered into my left leg. The controls were blasted to bits. The throttle was jammed wide open and there I was in a full-power spin, on my way down from somewhere around 18,000 feet.




British War Cabinet monitors German morale

13th October 1942: British War Cabinet monitors German morale

” Hamburg is unrecognisable. It looks as if an earthquake has taken place.” ” Very soon there won’t be even ruins in our Duisburg.” ” If the Tommies keep on bombing us like this Western Germany will soon cease to exist.” ” I cannot understand what you are doing at the front that we should be bombed four nights in succession.”




Brutal treatment in Japanese PoW camp

12th October 1942: Brutal treatment in Japanese PoW camp

When he was on the warpath he was very frightening. I have seen five or six hundred British sailors including myself standing stiff at attention, not daring to move an eyelid. A flood of Japanese would pour forth from his tongue; and the sound of this shouting was always the prelude to a scene. At night it was quite eerie and not unlike a mad dog. I doubt that anyone who lived in that camp could ever forget it.




Japanese surprised at Battle of Cape Esperance

11th October 1942: Japanese surprised at Battle of Cape Esperance

We sent out rescue craft the next morning to pick up survivors. Many of both sides were found, but few japanese were brought in. Some of the Naval personnel had gaping shrapnel wounds, severed limbs, or they were burned, with oil covering their bodies. They were all in various stages of shock. I counted over fifty American bodies lying on the beach in neat rows. These were the guys who had been recovered by our rescue teams and were either dead when found or died on the way to the beach.




Auschwitz – Dr Kremer indulges his medical curiosity

10th October 1942: Auschwitz – Dr Kremer indulges his medical curiosity

The patient was laid down still alive on the dissection table. I would go up to the table and ask the patient to give me some details essential for my research. For example, for his weight before his detention, how much weight he had lost since his detention, whether he had taken any medication recently, etc. After I had been given this information a medical orderly would come and kill the patient with an injection in the heart area. To my knowledge all these patients were killed with phenol injections,.




Troopship sunk 500 miles off South Africa

9th October 1942: Troopship sunk 500 miles off South Africa

Our lifeboat was by now more than half full of water. Bailing did not improve the position noticeably. Decided to find another boat. Eventually discovered one almost waterlogged, a steel effort which we managed to empty of its water and crude oil after two hours hard bailing. It was now mid-day and extremely hot. During the morning the two launches which had been safely got away had rounded up all the life boats, thirteen altogether. Set course for Freetown!




The battle for the Red October factory canteen

8th October 1942: The battle for the Red October factory canteen

On October 8th, some fascists burst out towards the Volga. They were drunk, walking completely upright, without stooping, shooting aimlessly as they went. But these were some sort of special fritzes. Even when they got wounded, they kept crawling forward, shouting something. This time, they nearly succeeded in driving us out of the factory canteen.