03 March, 2012

03 March 1945

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
3 March, 1945      1000
Dearest darling Wilma –

When I have to skip a day in writing to you I hate it, dear, particularly when you’ve been telling me how good I was about writing you. But I had to miss another day yesterday – and that makes the second time this week. But it’s in a good cause and I know you understand. The war goes well here and soon all of the Rhineland will be ours – and it’s really a good chunk of Germany – at that. If it were not for censorship regulations, sweetheart, I could write you lots of interesting things right now – but it will have to wait.

Our aid station now is in what was left of a rather nice six room house – although last night we all thought it wise to sleep in the cellar. The Germans are going to remember all of us for a very long time. When we finally find a spot that is fairly decent – we have to clean up the rooms before we move in. Usually the infantry has been ahead of us and they start it. But it ends up in throwing the furniture etc. out the nearest window. Everything goes out – as a matter of fact and then we set up. Destruction has lost its meaning to all of us I think – although once in awhile you see something begin destroyed and you feel a little bit queer about it. And then you realize that it was these same Germans who were responsible for your being here – and your mood changes – and that’s all there is to it.

I got your letter of Feb 16th day before yesterday, dear. You told me about the long Bridge session you had had one night with Frank, Jerry and Barbara. That seems to be a pretty steady foursome. I was sorry to hear that Jerry was lame – although I don’t know him. I hate to hear that about anyone. I don’t recall the first time you met Frank – or much else about him. What’s his story, dear? I was disturbed by what you had to say about Irv and his “friend” calling him a draft-dodger etc. In the first place – he can’t be much of a friend to write anything like that – and I just can’t see how some people can be so crude. Irv is a very sensitive person and I know he must have taken something like tha pretty hard. As for my own attitude – I resent the fact that some people I know managed to stay out – but I would never write and tell them about it. I’ve never felt that way about Irv. I know the details in his case; it was borderline – and happened to fall the right way. Furthermore – he made an attempt to get into the Navy – but was anxious to get a commission – for which I don’t blame him a bit.

At any rate, sweetheart, what interests me more than anything else is the fact that you think I’m a man, your man. The “your” part is definite, dear; I am yours in every sense of the word and I hope it will always be so. The “man” part – I don’t know. As tough as the war and separation have been darling, I think it would have been almost as tough and more uncomfortable – had I managed to say out of the war. I don’t see how some of the fellows stand it – but that’s their business.

And – whatever gave you the idea, dear, that I didn’t want you to write – just as you felt – and as often? My letter of 8 January couldn’t have implied that. I love your letters – emotional, matter-of-fact, dealing with love, us, the future – all your letters – and for Heaven’s sake – don’t change them. And mine – I hope – aren’t all exactly matter-of-fact – are they? I’ve saved a few of your letters, darling. I’ve destroyed most of them – not for security reasons but because I just don’t have any place to keep them. We travel too much and space is at a premium. Of course I keep your pictures with me, dear. They never leave my left shirt pocket – and do I look at them! I’ll say! About every day, darling – and many times – several times a day. I’m still waiting for that picture of you in uniform – by the way.

And now sweetheart – things are starting to happen and I’d better close this letter. I love you deeply, dear – and don’t you ever ever forget that fact. My love to the folks and
All my love is yours, darling


about The Night of the Intruders

In early March 1945, the German Luftwaffe, in an isolated display of resistance, developed a tactic which, had it been deployed earlier, could have neutralized the WWII operations of Royal Air Force Bomber Command. In the late hours of 3 March 1945, in Operation Gisela, some 200 Junkers JU88 nightfighters of the Luftwaffe Night Fighter Destroyer Group were deployed to intercept the allied bombers returning to base at their most vulnerable point, just before landing. The marauding aircraft crossed the North Sea at points stretching between the Thames Estuary and up the East coast to the North Yorkshire moors. The fact that these intruders were able to cross the North Sea coast without being picked up by English radar operators would seem to have been a result of a degree of complacency that had set in amongst Bomber Command, as the Luftwaffe appeared to be subdued.

The Allied Bomber Command mission scheduled for that evening had been a dual attack on the synthetic oil producing plant at Kamen and a raid on the Dortmund Elms Canal. 234 aircraft from the Northern 4 and 6 Groups took on the first mission while 222 bombers from 5 Group, Lincolnshire, tackled the canal, They departed bases at around 10:00 pm on 3 March 1945. The mission ran smoothly, until the return, when they ran into trouble in the form of Operation Gisela. On this clear night, some of the early returning aircraft had inexplicably switched on their navigation lights much earlier than usual, despite warnings of the dangers of possible predators. Those following did the same.This gave the circling intruders a clear, enticing target.

Having already claimed two Halifax Bombers of 158 Squadron returning to RAF Lissett, near Bridlington, Hauptmann Johann Dreher (Iron Cross) flying his Junkers JU88, set his sights on a French 347 Squadron Halifax returning to RAF Elvington. At about 1:50 am, as Capitaine Notelle approached Elvington, he received the warning of the attack just as the airfield lights went out. He pulled his aircraft up and headed north for Croft, narrowly escaping the menacing intruder.

Elvington Runways Today

The nightfighter continued its attack on Elvington, strafing the road at a passing taxi. Circling for another pass at 1:51am, the JU88 was too low, clipped a tree and crashed into Dunnington Lodge, a farmhouse on the outskirts of the airfield. Machine gun fire from the fighter had strafed the farmhouse before the aircraft crashed through one section of the building. Here, farmer Richard Moll and his wife, Helen, were waking up, having been startled by the gunfire. Their daughter-in-law, Violet, was making her way to their bedroom when the aircraft struck. Meanwhile, Violet's husband, Fred, was saving the life of their 3 year old son, Edgar, by scooping the child up in one arm and, with fire extinguisher in the other, fighting his way through flames and debris to the outside. Tragically, both Violet and Helen died as a result of their injuries, shortly after admission to hospital. Richard Moll survived initially, but suffered severe burns and died later. The JU88 ended up in a field at the junction of the Elvington and Dunnington roads.

This was the last German aircraft to crash on British soil during the war, preceded by a JU88 crashing at Welton, near Lincoln at 1:48am and a JU88 crashing near Halesworth, Suffolk, at 01:37am. Three French Halifaxes were brought down that morning, though with miraculously few casualties. On route to Croft in escaping the trap at Elvington, Notelle’s Halifax was hit three times by fire from the JU88 of Feldwebel (Sergeant) Gunther Schmidt, before he successfully belly-landed the burning aircraft at Rockcliffe Farm, Hurworth, near Darlington. All crew escaped, but some reports suggest that two civilians were killed by the skidding aircraft. Notelle was treated at a hospital at Northallerton for a head injury. Sous-Lieutenant Terrien, remaining at the controls of his burning Halifax whilst the other six baled out, crashed at Glebe Farm, Sutton on Derwent, close to the Elvington base. In a tragic irony, Capitaine Laucou, on his first mission, was brought down near Orford Ness, Norfolk, reflecting the extent to which the returning aircraft had been scattered by the attackers. Both he and the flight engineer were killed, but the others baled out.

The German JU88 that crashed near the village of Welton was piloted by 25 year old Feldwebel Heinrich Conte who spit cannon fire and machine gun bullets at a car driven by an Observer Corps official, Mr J. P. Kelway, father of two boys. Conte was apparently under the impression that the car's headlamps indicated activity on Scampton Airfield. While diving to attack, his aircraft struck telegraph wires and crashed on top of the car.

Feldwebel Heinrich Conze

Both car and aircraft were completely wrecked, parts of the burning aircraft being scattered over a wide area. All the members of the crew were killed together with Mr Kelway. Many years later, a farmer plowing his fields found a German identity tag thought at first to belong to one of the aircrew who had perished. But this was a new name. Checks were made and it was found to belong to a member of the squadron's ground crew, who had been reported as "absent without leave". He had evidently "hitched" a lift in the JU88, probably for a bit of excitement.

RAF Red Arrows are based at Scampton Airfield today

Intervention by Mosquito fighters brought the disastrous Night of the Intruders to an end, but, in just a couple of hours, Bomber Command had lost a further 19 aircraft in addition to the 9 reported missing on the raids themselves. The Luftwaffe also lost 25 fighters out of the 200 involved in the operation.

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