No. 487 Squadron RNZAF wiped out in daylight raid

Vertical aerial photograph taken during a daylight raid.

From an earlier raid. Vertical aerial photograph taken during a daylight raid on shipping in Dieppe, France, by 12 Lockheed Venturas of No. 487 Squadron RNZAF. One group of bombs is straddling the Quai du Hable and the entrance channel to the docks, while another group explodes on the cliff top above the Avant Port.

In 1943 daylight bombing raids on Germany and occupied Europe were mostly left to the USAAF. However the RAF mounted smaller attacks using their medium aircraft. The Mosquito was well suited to this role, given its speed. Less suitable were Ventura aircraft, which were heavily dependent on a fighter escort to give them protection. They did not last long in RAF frontline service and this raid was one of the reasons why.

The exact circumstances of how this raid was pressed home did not emerge until after the war, when Squadron Leader Trent was awarded the Victoria Cross. He saw it as a measure measure of recognition for the whole Squadron:

Armourers load 250-lb GP bombs into a Lockheed Ventura Mark II of No. 464 Squadron RAAF at Methwold, Norfolk, using a bomb-trolley borrowed from No. 487 Squadron RNZAF.

Armourers load 250-lb GP bombs into a Lockheed Ventura Mark II of No. 464 Squadron RAAF at Methwold, Norfolk, using a bomb-trolley borrowed from No. 487 Squadron RNZAF.

The KING has been graciously pleased to confer the VICTORIA CROSS on the under-mentioned officer in recognition of most conspicuous bravery:—

Squadron Leader Leonard Henry TRENT, D.F.C. (N.Z.2481), Royal New Zealand Air Force, No. 487 (R.N.Z.A.F.) Squadron.

On the 3rd May, 1943, Squadron Leader Trent was detailed to lead a formation of Ventura aircraft in a daylight attack on the power station at Amsterdam.

This operation was intended to encourage the Dutch workmen in their resistance to enemy pressure. The target was known to be heavily defended. The importance of bombing it, regardless of enemy fighters or anti-aircraft fire, was strongly impressed on-the air crews taking part in the operation.

Before taking off, Squadron Leader Trent told the deputy leader that he was going over the target, whatever ‘happened.

2. All went well until the Venturas and their fighter escort were nearing the Dutch coast. Then one bomber was hit and had to turn back. Suddenly large numbers of enemy fighters appeared. Our escorting fighters were hotly engaged and lost touch with the bombing force. The Venturas closed up for mutual protection and commenced their run up to the target. Unfortunately, the fighters detailed to support them over the target had reached the area too early and had been recalled.

3. Soon the bombers were attacked. They were at the mercy of 15 to 20 Messerschmitts which dived on them incessantly. Within four minutes six Venturas were destroyed. Squadron Leader Trent continued on his course with the 3 remaining aircraft.

4. In a short time 2 more Venturas went down in flames. Heedless of the murderous attacks and of the heavy anti-aircraft fire which was now encountered, Squadron Leader Trent completed an accurate bombing run and even shot down a Messerschmitt at point-blank range. Dropping his bombs in the target area, he turned away.

The aircraft following him was shot down on reaching the target. Immediately afterwards his own aircraft was hit, went into a spin and broke up. Squadron Leader Trent and his navigator were thrown clear and became prisoners of war. The other two members of the crew perished.

5. On this, his 24th sortie, Squadron Leader Trent showed outstanding leadership. Such was the trust placed in this gallant officer that the other pilots followed him unwaveringly. His cool, unflinching courage and devotion to duty in the face of overwhelming odds rank with the finest examples of these virtues.

See London Gazette 1st March 1946

Left to right : Squadron Leader Leonard Henry Trent, later awarded the Victoria Cross; Wing Commander G J "Chopper" Grindell, Commanding Officer of No. 487 Squadron RNZAF; Squadron Leader T Turnbull. circa. April-May 1943

Left to right : Squadron Leader Leonard Henry Trent, later awarded the Victoria Cross; Wing Commander G J “Chopper” Grindell, Commanding Officer of No. 487 Squadron RNZAF; Squadron Leader T Turnbull. circa. April-May 1943

Personnel of No. 487 Squadron RNZAF .

Personnel of No. 487 Squadron RNZAF grouped in front of a Lockheed Ventura Mark II at Methwold, Norfolk. Standing eighth from the left is the Commanding Officer, Wing Commander G J “Chopper” Grindell On his right is the ‘A’ Flight commander, Squadron Leader T Turnbull, and on his left the ‘B’ Flight commander, Squadron Leader L H Trent, who, on 3 May 1943 led the Squadron in a disastrous daylight attack on the power station at Amsterdam. Ten of the eleven aircraft participating were shot down, including Trent’s, who was captured. In 1946 he was awarded the Victoria Cross when the story of his outstanding leadership and determination during the raid became known.

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