Destination Ladbergen - 3/3/45
On the 3rd and 4th of March, 212 Lancasters from England, part of Five Group, set off on a relatively clear, but windy night, determined
to succeed with the destruction of Ladbergen, Dortmund Ems Canal. Immediately the Luftwaffe sent up 140 night fighters, Mostly Ju88's
and ME 110's, staging, on this 2000th night of the war, a massive aerial circus. 30 Lancasters represented 463/467 Squadron. The Pathfinders
dropped their flares to locate the targets, but the high winds, impeded their goal. The combined 467/463 Squadrons had lost three
of their number even before reaching the target area.
3/4th March 1945 Ladbergen PB806 PO-W
Lancaster PB806 PO-W waiting to be bombed up
(RAF Waddington Archives)
Major Schnauffer (middle) and his crew (RAF Waddington Archives)
W/C E. LeP. Langlois DFC RAAF - Pilot
F/Sgt J. Scott RAF - Engineer
F/O J. Willmot RAAF - Bomb Aimer
F/O A.F. Reid
DFC RAAF - Navigator
F/O E.C. Patten DFC RAAF - Wireless Operator
F/O C.J. Cameron RAAF - Gunner MU
F/O R. Taylor RAAF
- Gunner Tail
2000th night of the war.
On the final approach to Ladbergen, W/C Langlois' plane was in a lead position and was attacked by a pair of ME110's. Rear-gunner
Taylor opened fire on one of the ME110's and claims that he managed to destroy it, however, the gunfire pinpointed their position
for the second enemy aircraft. The second ME110 pilot, Major Wolfgang Schnauffer, opened fire and hit PO-W in the bomb bay and it
immediately caught fire. W/C Langlois ordered 'parachutes on' and all of the crew acknowledged. The fire immediately intensified
and W/C Langlois ordered the crew to 'bail out'.
Breaking formation, his priority was to maintain a level line to allow his crew to escape. The rear gunner, F/O Taylor, escaped by
turning the rear turret and dropping backwards out of the turret. The bomb aimer, F/O Willmot, found the forward escape hatch jammed
and had to kick it open. He finally was able to drop through the hatch, however he was momentarily stunned when he hit his jaw on
the way through. The engineer, Sgt Scott, was right behind Willmot when he left the stricken aircraft. F/O Taylor saw 5 chutes as
he descended to earth. F/O Taylor saw one other of the aircrew land and walk away from his chute. Later F/O Taylor was told by French
farm workers that five allied aircrew, four Australians and one Englishman, were captured and shot by SS near Dortmund that night.
F/O Taylor was captured at 8am on 4th march by two German Home Guards and taken to the Rhine Airfield Jail. He was then taken to Stalag
VIIA until released by the Americans on 11th May 1945.
F/O Willmot injured his leg on landing and went to a farmhouse for assistance.
He was then handed over to civil police and taken to Rhine Airfield Jail where he met up with F/O Taylor. F/O Willmot was released
from Moosburg by the American Army on 29th April 1945.
This operation had its origins back in late February. On the 24th of February 30 aircraft from 463 (12A/C) and 467 (18A/C)Squadrons
were part of a daylight operation to bomb the Dortmund-Ems canal at Ladbergen. However, the target was covered by10/10ths cloud and
the operation was abandoned. On the afternoon of the 27th, aircraft were prepared for an early morning operation. The crews
were briefed for a return trip to Ladbergen but, after all the preparation was done, it was scrubbed.
March began with aircraft
being prepared for yet another attempt on Ladbergen, however, operations were again cancelled. Preparations were again made for an
early morning operation to Ladbergen on the 2nd of March. This was again cancelled an hour before takeoff.
At 0230 hours on 3rd
March the crews were woken for a 0330 hours briefing for the operation to Ladbergen. Take off was to be at 0800 hours, however, during
the final briefing the C.O. received a phone call to say that the operation had been postponed and that briefing would resume
at 1015 hours with a projected takeoff time of 1200 hours. Briefing was postponed until 1300 hours and the again until 1500 hours,
but again it was postponed. By this time all crews were convinced that it would ultimately be a scrub. By 1700 hours the crews were
again back in the briefing-room. Takeoff began at 1830 hours. By this time the crews had been up and ready for 16 hours and now had
a 6 hour mission ahead of them.
With so many scrubs and postponements for this operation, it is possible that the Germans had
a good idea of where the bombers would be heading and were ready for them.