Canadian Lancaster pilot dies trying to save crew

Vertical aerial photograph taken during a daylight attack on an oil storage depot at Bec d'Ambes situated in the Garonne estuary at the confluence of the Rivers Garonne and Dordogne, France. An Avro Lancaster of No. 514 Squadron RAF flies over the target area while dense clouds of smoke rise as bombs burst among the oil storage tanks. Label An Avro Lancaster of No. 514 Squadron RAF over the target during a Bomber Command attack on oil storage tanks at Bec d'Ambes in the Garonne estuary, 4 August 1944.

Vertical aerial photograph taken during a daylight attack on an oil storage depot at Bec d’Ambes situated in the Garonne estuary at the confluence of the Rivers Garonne and Dordogne, France. An Avro Lancaster of No. 514 Squadron RAF flies over the target area while dense clouds of smoke rise as bombs burst among the oil storage tanks, 4 August 1944.

Avro Lancasters of RAF Bomber Command on a daylight raid over the Normandy battlefront, August 1944.

Avro Lancasters of RAF Bomber Command on a daylight raid over the Normandy battlefront, August 1944.

The heavy bombers were still very busy over the Normandy battlefield. As well as direct support for the Army they had been making sustained attempts to neutralise the V1 launch sites. Now more operations were introduced to bomb bridges over the Seine and other rivers, in an attempt to isolate the German forces still further.

Less than a year after he began flying operations in September 1942, Ian Bazalgette had been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross

This officer has at all times displayed the greatest keenness for operational flying. He has taken part in many sorties and attacked heavily defended targets such as Duisburg, Berlin, Essen and Turin. His gallantry and devotion to duty have at all times been exceptional and his record commands the respect of all of his squadron for his actions of late 1942, having flown many missions and survived significant enemy fire as well as a crash landing.

Citation for D.F.C. awarded 1 July 1943

Squadron Leader Ian W. Bazalgette VC

Squadron Leader Ian W. Bazalgette VC

It was such qualities that led him to be selected for the Pathfinders, flying Lancasters with No. 635 Squadron, RAF from May 1944. By August he and his crew had already flown 25 operations. Once again they were attacking targets in Normandy.

On 4th August 1944, Squadron-Leader Bazalgette was master bomber of a Pathfinder squadron detailed to mark an important target at Trossy St. Maximin for the main bomber force.

When nearing the target his Lancaster came under heavy anti-aircraft fire. Both starboard engines were put out of action and serious fires broke out in the fuselage and the starboard main-plane. The bomb aimer was badly wounded.

As the deputy master bomber had already been shot down, the success of the attack depended on Squadron-Leader Bazalgette and this he knew. Despite the appalling conditions in his burning aircraft, he pressed on gallantly to the target, marking and bombing it accurately. That the attack was successful was due to his magnificent effort.

After the bombs had been dropped the Lancaster dived, practically out of control. By expert airmanship and great exertion Squadron-Leader Bazalgette regained control. But the port inner engine then failed and the whole of the starboard main-plane became a mass of flames.

Squadron-Leader Bazalgette fought bravely to bring his aircraft and crew to safety. The mid-upper gunner was overcome by fumes. Squadron-Leader Bazalgette then ordered those of his crew who were able to leave by parachute to do so. He remained at the controls and attempted the almost hopeless task of landing the crippled and blazing aircraft in a last effort to save the wounded bomb aimer and helpless air gunner. With superb skill, and taking great care to avoid a small French village nearby, he brought the aircraft down safely. Unfortunately it then exploded and this gallant officer and his two comrades perished.

His heroic sacrifice marked the climax of a long career of operations against the enemy. He always chose the more dangerous and exacting roles. His courage and devotion to duty were beyond praise.

The London Gazette, 17th August 1945

For more on Squadron-Leader Bazalgette see the Canadian site For Valour.

Four 1,000-lb bombs from a US Ninth Air Force B-26 Marauder bomber fall towards their target, the railway bridge over the Loire at Les Ponts-de-Ce, Angers, France, 1 August 1944. The attack was part of the Allied plan to disrupt the Germans' ability to reinforce their forces in Normandy.

Four 1,000-lb bombs from a US Ninth Air Force B-26 Marauder bomber fall towards their target, the railway bridge over the Loire at Les Ponts-de-Ce, Angers, France, 1 August 1944. The attack was part of the Allied plan to disrupt the Germans’ ability to reinforce their forces in Normandy.

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