Wing Commander Hughie Edwards wins the VC

The Bristol Blenheim light bomber as flown in the daylight attack on Bremen on the 4th July.

The Australian pilot Hughie Edwards was so disabled that he had a wire attached between his right hip and his foot to assist with walking. He had fractured both feet very badly when he had been forced to parachute from an iced up aircraft – his parachute had been caught up with the tailplane and he had been dragged down with the aircraft for most of the descent – hitting the ground close to the crashed aircraft. He was determined to get back to flying and even more determined to lead attacks on the enemy.

On the 4th July he lead a particularly hazardous daylight raid in which four of the twelve aircraft were shot down and all of the surviving aircraft were badly damaged by flak. The recommendation for the Victoria Cross describes the raid:

The raid comprised nine aircraft from 105 Squadron and six from 107 Squadron. For various reasons three aircraft of 107 Squadron failed to cross the German coast and returned to home base. Undeterred by this Wing Commander Edwards flying at sea level entered the Heligoland Bight and flying a South Easterly course crossed the German Coast in the vicinity of Cuxhaven. Several ships had been seen and therefore the leader knew that his approach into Germany would have been reported.

Flying close to the ground with a compact formation of bombers he continued his over-land leg to Bremen. During the approach he flew so low that he had to fly underneath high tension cables to avoid collision, while one of his other aircraft in the formation collided with, and brought back on the tail wheel, telegraph wires.

Bremen was reached in fairly clear conditions with slight river mist and the sun breaking through the early morning haze. The formidable balloon barrage at Bremen was a risk he had decided to ignore and he first saw these when leading his squadron in at chimney height. Flying in between the cables he carried out a most determined attack in which some six tons of bombs were dropped on the city.

Direct hits were scored on a large factory resulting in explosions, debris and masonry being thrown to a height of over 800 feet. Direct hits were also obtained on a timber yard and derricks on the inland dockside were seen to be hit and crash into a nearby factory. At the moment when the formation crossed the perimeter of Bremen a barrage of flak of all kinds was opened up on the Squadron which was described by the crews as being terrific.

In view of the serious losses encountered by flak by the night bomber phase of this operation there is no doubt that the anti-aircraft defence was one of considerable magnitude. Two aircraft of No.107 Squadron were immediately shot down, while two aircraft of No. 105 Squadron were also destroyed by flak fire. One of these crashed in flames on a factory, its bombs detonating on impact. All eight aircraft remaining in the force were heavily hit by anti-aircraft fire and three members of the crews in these aircraft were wounded.

Wing Commander Edwards with, in his mind, a clear well made plan of attack and withdrawal from the objective, flying low turned away for the valley of the Weser river and later having made good tactical use of a cloud bank North West of Bremen, withdrew his Squadron and avoided being brought to action by enemy fighters. The aircraft returned to home base flying low over the sea.

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