26 giugno 1944 - Baltimore V Nr. FW441 - Provincia di Pistoia

Operation Records Book (RAF Form 541): Tarquinia 26/27 June 1944 Baltimore V F.W.441 "S" F/O I. Campbell - F/O S. Hulme - W/O E. Evans - F/O T. Clarcke - Recce of Pistoia Bologna road - Up 21.15 - Failed to return.

http://www.joebaugher.com/usaf_serials/usafserials.html: Martin A-30A-10-MA 43-8598 to RAF as Baltimore V FW441. MIA in night interdiction mission to Bologna area,Italy Jun 28, 1944.

Il Baltimore fu colpito da flak mentre attaccava movimenti tedeschi sulla Strada Porrettana. L'intero equipaggio ebbe comunque il tempo di lanciarsi e di disperdersi nelle montagne dell'Appennino tra Pistoia e Firenze. Dopo varie peripezie e con l'aiuto dei partigiani locali gli aviatori riuscirono a passare le linee e a ricongiungersi con il loro Squadron fra il luglio e l'agosto successivi. La cronaca di questo episodio viene riportata dal pilota F/O Campbell (Report on Absence to 26 June to 11 July 1944, to Officer Commanding, No. 55. Squadron:) e dal mitragliere F/O Thomas Clark nel suo libro di memorie "From Hitler's U-Boats to Khrushchev's Spyflights" da cui estrapoliamo la parte inerente l'abbattimento del Baltimore.

"On the evening of Monday, 26 June 1944, we were briefed to attack transport on the Pistoia-Bologna roads. (Map references Q.5383 - L.8948 named the 'Gothic Line'.) Our take-off time 2118 hours from Tarquinia airfield and our crew comprised of Flying Officer I.C. Campbell, Pilot; Flying Officer S.F, "Stan" Hulme, Navigator; Warrant Officer E.H. Evans, Wireless/Air and Myself, Air Gunner. We took off at time stated, in the Baltimore MkV FW.441 (S), and duly set course for the target. Flying at 8,500 feet, we crossed the bomb-line at approx 2150 hours and the IEP was switched off. Arriving over Pistoia we set course on 031 degrees, to take us along the road to Bologna, and saw some light flak ahead, as well as some bursts of heavy, silhouetted against the last light. We concluded that the Hun was shooting at one of our aircraft, as there were reputed to be forty Allies operating over the area at the same time. "The flak gunners soon obtained our range, and soon we were the target for several batteries of heavy and light guns. We made a turn to bomb some lights on the road, with flak bursting very close all the time. After bombing, we turned up the road again and saw more lights, which we bombed, and when we dropped a flare, more guns opened up on us. Our work being finished for the night, we turned on a wide circuit, all the time weaving side to side, in order to try and miss the 'hot spots' previously passed. Eventually we set course for home; on 216 degrees, but in spite of our efforts, there was no respite from the flak, and it continued to burst uncomfortably close, in boxes of four or five. The W/CP, at the bottom hatch, reported seeing an aircraft below us to starboard and no sooner had he spoken, and there were two or three very brilliant flashes, one not far away on the port beam, accompanied by audible explosions, and the smell of cordite. I remember being amazed that none of us were hit, although the pilot reported that a piece of shrapnel flew past his head through the cockpit. The aircraft began to vibrate, the pilot told us that the starboard engine was out of action, and the airscrew would not feather. He told us to prepare to abandon aircraft as we were losing height, but said that if he could stop the starboard engine, there might still be a chance. At this time I would like to put it on record that the pilot Flying Officer Campbell flew the aircraft with the utmost skill and coolness, and his calm observations and reports were an inspiration to us all. "Eventually came the order to 'Bale-Out!' and I left the turret to clip on my pack, which was lying ready by the flare chute. The W/Op went first, and I attempted to leave in a similar fashion, immediately after, but my long legs (Tom was 6'3" tall) stuck in the metalwork on the other side of the bottom hatch. I then knelt down, and tucking my head in as far as possible, rolled forward and out, successfully clearing the aircraft. I waited until I thought I was dropping vertically and pulled the ring. There was a considerable jerk, and I was soon swinging slowly to and fro below the canopy. The moon was shining, in the first quarter, and I remember thinking that I might be shot at from the ground if the white parachute showed up. I eventually landed beside a tree in the middle of a farm track, and immediately dived into a ditch on the other side dragging my chute in after me. I lay 'doggo' for twenty minutes or so, until I was sure that no one was looking for me in the immediate neighbourhood. I lost my helmet on the way down, and cursed myself for not leaving it in the aircraft, as it might be found, to my disadvantage. I landed at approx 2230 hours.


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