RAF 158 Squadron Navigator's raid chart - Hanover (crash on return)

RAF 158 Squadron Navigator's raid chart - Hanover (crash on return)

Code: P23596

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RAF Form 441.  Approximately 28 x 43.5cm (opened out).  Document relating to a Bomber Command raid to industrial targets around Hannover, Germany, by a Halifax crew of 158 Squadron on 5th January 1945.  It names the aircraft captain Flight Lieutenant William McLennan (DFC, 158314) and Navigator, Pilot Officer Eric Geoffrey Huband (DFC, 184967).  This was part of a 664 strong aircraft raid with 340 Halifaxes, 310 Lancasters and 14 Mosquitoes of 1, 4, 6 and 8 Groups.  Large numbers of Luftwaffe nightfighers were deployed to intercept the bombers and during the chaos of the attacks McLennan's aircraft was struck by another aircraft.  Information about this taken from the History of 158 Squadron* fill in the details of the collision, "For F/O McLennan trouble seemed to be passing him by, that is until approximately 19.15 when he was on the last leg and about twenty miles from Hanover.  His navigator, F/Sgt. G. Huband takes up the story : 'Suddenly, there was a tremendous crash from underneath, followed by an awful vibration accompanied by ice-cold air which reduced the temperature in the forward compartment to minus 32 degrees C.  We had been struck by another aircraft.  My immediate reaction was to clip on my parachute, jettison the escape hatch below my seat in the navigation compartment, and get out.  In fact, the bomb-aimer and myself were about to abandon the aircraft which was now going down quite steeply when the skipper called over the intercom 'stay where you are'.  The terrible vibration stopped, and as we came out of the dive we saw the starboard fall from its mountings leaving wires hanging and sparks flying in all directions.  As our best course of action seemed to lie with remaining with the mainstream we held our course and dropped our bombs on the outskirts of Hanover'.  From his position in the mid-upper turret, Sgt. Hibbert had witnessed the collision.  The bomber, which he thought was a Lancaster, was being chased by a night-fighter and was undoubtedly corkscrewing when the smash took place.  He last saw it spiralling down on fire and out of control.  Now barely able to maintain control, F/O McLennan strove desperately to get back to the English coastline: 'All instruments were useless, and the hole caused by the collision was large enough to pass a table through.  The nose was bent to the right and this produced a tendency for the Halifax to fly in a circle.  With the aid of a bubble sextant I was able to take several fixes on the stars and slowly we continued westward, eventually crossing the North Sea.  Soon after switching on the IFF I saw searchlights on the east coast of England pointing the way to Woodbridge emergency aerodrome.  We had no means of lowering our wheels, or raising the bomb-doors which had jammed, and to our alarm we could see a 4,000-lb bomb still resting in the bomb-bay.  A further examination found the wire hawser still in place around the centre.  We tried to cut through this with an axe, but to no avail.  In desperation I pulled at an electric junction box and the bomb went, taking with it the bomb doors'.  A few minutes later F/O McLennan skilfuly crash-landed the battered Halifax onto the Woodbridge runway.  As it touched down another engine tore loose, and with a shrieking from tortured metal the bomber slid off the runway coming to a halt in rough snow covered ground near the airfield boundary.  From the various escape hatches the relieved crew began to scramble clear but the rear-gunner became trapped and needed rescuing.  Both McLennan and Huband were awarded the DFC and the wireless operator was awarded the DFM." 
Huband's raid chart gives the weather forecast and details the flight from take off at 1702hrs through to 1914hrs, about one minute prior to the collision.  One single entry follows 'Log Salvaged From Wreck At Woodbridge'.  It comes with the section of plotting map used on the raid.  The route to and from the target has been marked in pencil with times recorded at various points.  Very scarce original documents that were actually completed on the bombing raid and later salvaged from the Halifax after it crash landed.  Rather crumpled/soiled - unsurprising given the amazing history.  Stock code P23596.

1 sheet plus map.

*In Brave Company - 158 Squadron Operations, by W.R. Chorley, ISBN0950746711, 1990