RAF airgunner's log book, POW

RAF airgunner's log book, POW

Code: P17144


Log book grouping to Flight Sergeant Norman Alexander 'Jock' Skinner RAF (990518), an airgunner with 101 squadron.  His log covers the period from January 1941 to July 1942.  He trained as a wireless operator on D.H. Dominies at No.2 Electrical and Wireless School, Yatesbury, qualifying on the 14th February 1941.  He also attended No.5 AOS (Air Observers School) RAF Jurby, Isle of Man (technically No.5 B&GS, Bombing & Gunnery School), qualifying as an 'average' airgunner on 26th September 1941.  At the begining of November he moved to 23 Operational Training Unit at Pershore, Worcestershire, flying as both airgunner and W/Op on Wellington bombers before being posted to 101 Squadron at Bourn, Cambridgeshire in January 1942.  Operational sorties began on the 22nd, target Dunkirk.  The next Op wasn't until 9th March, when he flew as front gunner, target Essen.  During April he undertook only training flights but May was much busier with minelaying operational flights in the Baltic to Middlefart, Warkemunde, Langland and La Rochelle (France).  Other targets that month included Mannheim and, on the 30th, the first '1000' bomber raid to Cologne.  1455 tons of bombs were dropped, over half of this incendiaries, that according to German records started 2500 separate fires.  3330 buildings were destroyed with a further 2090 seriously damaged causing 36 large firms to cease production.  Just under 500 people were killed and RAF losses were also high with 41 aircraft failing to return.  On the 1st June he took part in another 1000 bomber raid, this time to Essen, with a sortie to Bremen (U-boat and Focke-Wulf factories) on the 3rd.  Before the end of the month he flew Ops to Essen (twice), Emden (twice) and Bremen again (twice), including another 1000 bomber raid.  On the 2nd July Bremen was targeted again but then he and his crew undertook some training flights at Lossiemouth, his duties as bomb aimer.  Back at Bourn, operational flights continued to Duisberg on 21st, 23rd and 25th.  On the 26th they attacked Hamburg as part of a 403 aircraft force.  Good results were claimed with severe and widespread damage.  Two days later the target was again Hamburg, followed by the iron and steel engineering works at Saarbrucken on the 29th.  The last Op written up was to Dusseldorf - 630 aircraft took part, 453 buildings wre destroyed, 15000 damaged and 29 aircraft failed to return.  Skinner's final sortie isn't recorded but on the 28th August 1942, shortly after the Squadron have moved to Stradishall, Suffolk, he took off from with his crew in Wellington X3391 'A' for Apple to bomb Nuremberg.  Unfortunately they crash landed approximately 40km north west of Mannheim due to technical issues*.  The crew were able to scramble clear of the aircraft before fire broke out and destroyed it.  F/Sgt. Skinner, Pilot Peter John Cleverley Harper (70856), Sgt. James 'Jim' Rutherford Dixon (1030114), P/O James John Mullineaux DFM (42699) and F/Sgt. Alan Ronald Cook (550013) were all captured and became prisoners of war, Skinner being held at Stalag 8B/344, Lamsdorf, his POW number 26847.  Sadly F/Sgt. Cook was killed on 19th June whilst attempting escape from a working party.  He is buried in Krakow Rakowicki Cemetery.  Sgt. Hugh Colhoun* (1028525) is listed in the archives as an evader who reached neutral Switzerland.  He was flown back to the UK in a Dakota, arriving home on the 24th February 1944. Skinner completed 25 successful ops, failing to return on the 26th.  His log is neatly written up, has various official stamps and was signed off at the end of most months by his CO.  An interesting log well worth more research.  Stock code P17144.

*In 1993 Hugh Colhoun published a book about his evading escapade - 'One of a Few: The Story of a Successful Evasion'. In this he describes how after reaching Mannheim, their turning point, a course due east was set to the target but shortly afterwards the port engine failed due to unknown reasons.  Bombs, guns and wireless equipment were jettisoned in an attempt to maintain height but altitude kept reducing and the pilot ordered the crew to put on their parachutes.  He then decided to crash land the Wellington and carried out a successful belly landing with only minor injuries to the crew.  Once the aircraft had been set alight to destroy it, the crew set about evading in pairs.  Colhoun and Sgt. Dixon managed to remain on the run for quite a few days, seeking help from locals once they had crossed the French border.  Unfortunately some German workers intercepted them at one farm and Dixon was captured, ending up as a prisoner of war.  He was later shot attempting escape.  Colhoun succeeded in reaching Switzerland where he met up with fellow escapers including Pat Reid, Hank Wardle and Ronnie Littledale, all of whom had escaped from Colditz. 
A copy of Colhoun's book is included in the sale.

Some raid information sourced from The Bomber Command War Diaries (Middlebrook, Everitt) and war trial details found on Peter Clermont's facebook page.