Posting to 50 Squadron, RAF Lindholme (3rd July 1941)
This is a brief record of the operational flights made by Walter Henry Layne (known as Wally) with 50 Squadron. The information contained here is compiled from 50 Squadron’s Operational Record Book, Walter Layne’s Flight Log Book and private research.
Firstly an introduction to the Handley Page Hampden that served with 50 Squadron from 1939 to 1942.
Handley Page Hampden
A flight of 44 Squadron Hampdens
General characteristics Crew: 4 Length: 53 ft 7 in (16.33 m) Wingspan: 69 ft 2 in (21.08 m) Height: 14 ft 4 in (4.37 m) Wing area: 688 ft² (63.9 m²) Empty weight: 11,780 lb (5,344 kg) Loaded weight: 18,756 lb (8,508 kg) Power plant: 2× Bristol Pegasus XVIII 9-cylinder radial engine, 980 hp (730 kW) each Performance Maximum speed: 265 mph (410 km/h) at 15,500 ft (4,724 m) Range: 1,095 mi (1,762 km) Service ceiling: 19,000 ft (5,790 m) Rate of climb: 980 ft/min (300 m/min) Wing loading: 27.3 lb/ft² (133 kg/m²) Power/mass: 0.104 hp/lb (0.172 kW/kg) Armament Guns: 4-6 × .303 in (7.7 mm) Vickers K machine guns: one flexible and one fixed in the nose, one or two each in dorsal and ventral positions Bombs: 4,000 lb (1,814 kg) bombs or 1 × 18 in (457 mm) torpedo or mines.
Built in England and Canada the Hampden was flown by some of the most famous Bomber Command personnel – including Guy Gibson, Rod Learoyd VC, and John Hannah VC. A total of 714 were lost on Operations (almost half of all Hampdens built) accounting for 1,077 aircrew members killed and another 739 missing. Eventually withdrawn from Bomber Command Operations in 1942 it continued as a torpedo bomber and maritime reconnaissance aircraft.
On the twin-engined Hampden bomber the crew members are listed in the following order, Pilot, Navigator, Wireless Operator/Gunner, and Rear Gunner.
Operational Flights (July 1941)
1. 6th July 1941 BREST (FRANCE)
Take off time 2220 from Lindholme. Hampden 839. Crew: Pilot F/Lt Fox, P/O Helmore, Sgt. Ballantyne, Sgt. Layne.
One of a force of 88 Hampdens and 21 Wellingtons on his first operation Walter Layne’s crew was detailed to bomb the Battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau along with the heavy cruiser Prince Eugen then sheltering in Brest harbour. With an estimated 1,000 flak emplacements of varying caliber surrounding the warships, Brest was described as the most heavily defended target in Europe
The route out was via Upper Heyford and Chesil Beach. The crew was fortunate to follow an aircraft into the target area that was drawing considerable fire. Smoke screens hid the battleships but a good run over the target area was made at 14,500 feet. Over the target flak and tracer were very intense working in cooperation with searchlights. The two 2,000 lbs. bombs were seen to burst on the estimated position of the warships from the docks which were clearly visible in the bright moonlight. An aircraft at approximately 3,000 feet was seen to be shot down in flames to the west of the town. Later research has revealed this aircraft that crashed at Guilers, was 12 Squadron Wellington W 5360 piloted by S/L A.G.G. Baird and crew. There were no survivors. Returned to base with a total time of 6.00 hours operational flying.
F/Lt Thomas Ronald Fox, the photograph was taken in 1948
2. 8th July 1941 HAMM (GERMANY)
Take off time 2255 from Lindholme. Hampden 928. Crew: Pilot F/Lt Fox. Sgt. Onions, Sgt. Ballantyne, Sgt. Layne.
The crew was detailed to bomb the railway marshaling yards at Hamm. The route out was via Skegness and Enkhuizen (Holland.) They made their approach in the bright moonlight with no clouds but thick haze up to 8,000 feet was encountered. Fifty minutes were spent on a search before a river and a canal was identified which gave the position of the target. Bombs were dropped from 16,000 feet and several fires were seen. Two enemy aircraft were seen but no interception took place. On the return trip, halfway between Den Helder and Cromer, what appeared to be an aircraft was seen to go down in flames from approximately 5,500 feet and explode on the water. A study of Bomber Command losses that night determines that this aircraft was 78 Squadron Whitley V Z6555 lost with no survivors from Sgt. McClean and crew. Total flight time of 5.20 hours. In this raid, a force of 45 Hampdens and 28 Whitleys attacked Hamm however only 31 aircraft claimed to have been able to bomb the target area.
Donald Onions killed July 12/13th 1941 on operations to Bremen.
3. 12th July 1941 BREMEN (GERMANY)
Take off time 2215 from Lindholme. Hampden 839. Crew: Pilot F/Lt Fox, P/O Bartley, Sgt Ballantyne, Sgt. Layne.
Along with 33 Hampdens and 28 Wellingtons from other squadrons, the crew was detailed to bomb the railway junction at Bremen, other aiming points for Bomber Command being the shipyards and the Altstadt or “Old Town. “The route chosen was Skegness to the target which was free of flak and searchlights. A small amount of accurate heavy flak was encountered over the target itself. Although there was a thick haze, the target was identified by the river. The bombs were released singly from 13,500 feet on three separate runs, all failed to hit the target and fell into the town. An unidentified aircraft fired cannon but was lost on the evasive action being taken by pilot Fox. The aircraft landed at Coningsby with a total time of 6.35 hours and returned to Lindholme the following day. Two 50 Squadron aircraft failed to return.
Hampden rear gunner. Notice the template fitted to stop him shooting the tail off.
4. 17th July 1941 COLOGNE (GERMANY)
Take off time 2250 from Lindholme. Hampden 928. Crew: Pilot F/Lt Fox, P/O Bartley, F/Sgt. Cooper, Sgt. Layne.
The crew set out to bomb an aiming point in Cologne. The target was partly obscured by 7/10th cloud and by considerable ground haze. A rising moon helped identify the target and a pin point was made over the river. The bombs were dropped in the town but were not seen to burst. There was remarkably little opposition over the target. The crew returned to base with no problems and with a total time flying time of 5.30 hours.
On 19th July 1941, 50 Squadron moved from Lindholme to Swinderby. The squadron departed Lindholme in formation. Shortly after takeoff, the airmen were horrified to see Hampden AD 897 roll onto it’s back and fly inverted for a few seconds before diving into the ground killing Sgt. E.R Bousfield, Sgt. J.E.S. Burke, F/Sgt. J.H. Tittley and AC1 H.L. Reed.
The photograph above was taken at Swinderby. Wally Layne can be seen directly under the aircraft’s left engine propeller hub. Dambuster Flt Lt John ‘Hoppy’ Hopgood can be seen sixth in on the starboard side, bottom row.
5. 20th July 1941 COLOGNE (GERMANY)
Take off time 2255 from Swinderby. Hampden 839. Crew: Pilot F/Lt Fox, P/O Bartley, F/Sgt. Cooper, Sgt. Layne.
The crews were detailed to bomb an aiming point in Cologne. The route out was via Orfordness and Namur. Unable to find their aiming point they actually bombed a factory situated 15 to 20 miles South West of Cologne. The attack was delivered from 16,000 feet and bursts were observed by the crew followed by a huge and exceptionally bright white fire which covered an area about one mile in length. There was 7/10th cloud over the target and a cloud base at 6,000 feet. They were amongst a force of 113 aircraft that attacked Cologne. Thick cloud obscured their target and only scattered bombing was reported. The crew returned to base with no problems with a total time of 5.30 hours.
6. 24th July 1941 NORTH SEA SEARCH
Take off time 1100 from Swinderby. Hampden 927. Crew: Pilot F/Lt Fox, Sgt Layne (Rear Gunner) rest of the crew are unknown.
The previous day 50 Squadron Hampden I AD843, piloted by Sgt. Holme had participated in a raid on Frankfurt. The last radio communication from the aircraft was over the North Sea. In the morning the squadron commenced a search which met with no success. It is presumed Sgt. Holme and crew crashed in the North Sea east of the Norfolk coast. The bodies of the two gunners washed ashore near Cromer.
Classified as an operation of 4.30 hours in duration and logged as “North Sea Search, Unsuccessful.”
7. 28th July 1941 KIEL (GERMANY)
Take off time 2200 from Swinderby. Hampden 2919. Crew: Pilot Sgt. Mudd, Sgt. Lord, Sgt. Dalgleish, Sgt. Layne.
The crews were tasked with a Gardening Operation (Mine Laying) in Kiel Harbour and planted their vegetables (Mines) successfully. The aircraft returned to Lindholme after 7.45 hours of flight time, returning to Swinderby the following day. The R.A.F. dispatched a total of 42 aircraft from various squadrons to take part in this operation, 50 Squadron reported 2 losses.
This painting by Michael Turner depicts a Hampden being prepared for a mine laying operation.
A brief description of the mines that were carried by the Hampden. Weighing fifteen hundred pounds the mine was dropped by parachute in a depth of water between thirty and seventy-five feet. The aircraft’s airspeed at the time of release had to be below two hundred miles per hour and at an altitude of between four hundred and a thousand feet. The magnetic mine would lie on the seabed until a passing ship distorted the Earth’s normal magnetic field enough to detonate the mine. Mine laying was given the code name of “Gardening” and the mines themselves were known as “Vegetables.” The mines were “planted” in areas identified in code by the names of vegetables and flowers, some examples being Yams, Daffodils, and Quince. On mining operations the Hampden would often carry two wing mounted 250 lb. pound bombs. Seventy-five Hampdens were lost on mine laying operations.
Loading mines aboard a 44 Squadron Hampden aircraft
Flying Log Book (July 1941)
Wally’s Flying Log Book for July reads as follows:
Operational Flight (August 1941)
8. 6th August 1941 KARLSRUHE (GERMANY)
Take off time 2240 from Swinderby. Hampden 158. Crew: Pilot F/Lt Fox, P/O Bartley, F/Sgt. Cooper, Sgt. Layne.
A force of 97 aircraft attacked railway targets. This aircraft was detailed to bomb an aiming point in Karlsruhe. When over the North Sea on the way out the starboard engine cut out without warning, eventually picking up as they proceeded on course. When the engine cut out a second time the bombs were jettisoned and the aircraft returned to base, almost colliding with a Whitley. Total time of 2.20 hours, one 50 Squadron aircraft was lost.
9. 16th August 1941 NORTH SEA SEARCH
Take off time 1705 from Swinderby. Hampden 116. Crew: Pilot P/O Helmore, P/O Graves, Sgt. Layne, Sgt. Hancock.
Logged as “Ops” North Sea search with 1082/1083 radio sets rated as O.K. with a flight time of 4.00 hours duration. The crew was in search of F/O Whitecross and crew of Hampden P 4408 who failed to return the previous day from an air-sea rescue sortie. The Whitecross crew were in search of 115 Squadron Wellington R1500 KO-K piloted by Sgt C G Alway and crew which had crashed in the North Sea when returning from an operation to Hannover the previous day.
The squadron conducted a fruitless search lasting over three days for the Whitecross crew. F/O Whitecross had returned to the squadron a few weeks prior to being lost, having successfully evaded capture after his aircraft was abandoned due to an engine fire on 28/29 April 1941 during a mine laying operation to La Rochelle.
10. 17th August 1941 NORTH SEA SEARCH
Take off time 0740 from Swinderby. Hampden 116. Crew: Pilot F/Lt Fox, P/O Bartley, Sgt. Moore, Sgt. Layne. Logged as “Ops North Sea Search.” The crew had to return to base early due to Sgt. Moore’s radio being inoperative. 1.40 hours of flight time were logged.
11. 18th August 1941 NORTH SEA SEARCH
Take off time 1700 from Swinderby. Hampden 251. Crew: Pilot F/O Banker, Sgt. Wake, Sgt. Layne.
Logged as “Ops” North Sea Search. Duration 5.50 hours.
Flying Log Book (August 1941)
Wally’s Flying Log Book for August 1941 reads as follows:
Operational Flights (September 1941)
12. 2nd September 1941 COPENHAGEN HARBOUR (DENMARK)
Take off time 1940 from Swinderby. Hampden 116. Crew: Pilot P/O Carter, P/O Davidson, Sgt. Layne, Sgt. Gilmore.
The crew was one of 16 Hampden aircraft detailed to drop vegetables (mines) in the Daffodil (Copenhagen) area. Owing to adverse weather conditions and no pinpoint being obtained the mines were jettisoned at a position pinpointed as 57 degrees North, 10 degrees East.
On their return to base the fuel supply was running low and on reaching Skegness there were only 30 gallons left in the starboard tanks, with Waddington still some thirty miles distant. To further complicate things the whole of the flat lands of Lincolnshire were clothed in a thick layer of fog.
A fix and Q.D.M.’s (magnetic course) for Waddington was obtained. The intercom and TR9 (early radio transceiver) failed a few minutes later and Waddington could not be heard replying to transmissions.
On arrival at Waddington mist preventing the aerodrome from being clearly seen. The starboard engine cut out and a one engine circuit in the proximity of the airfield was made with the crew vainly searching for the runway.
With the loss of the right engine the hydraulic pump that operated the landing gear was made inoperative. Being concerned that his remaining engine would run out of fuel there was no time for Pilot Carter to crank the landing gear down by hand.
The aircraft made a wheels up, forced landing, in a ploughed field close to Waddington aerodrome, sliding through a fence in the process. Fortunately, there were no injuries to the crew and just slight damage to the airframe of the aircraft which was dismantled on site, repaired and returned to service with 489 Squadron as a torpedo bomber eventually being struck off charge on 9th June 1944.
It was later determined that the fuel gauges were inaccurate. At this time the pilot, P/O Carter had a total of 140 flying hours, 46 of those being night and 39 hours on Hampdens. On this operation flying time of 9.35 hours was logged by the crew.
In this painting of AE 116 by Mark Postlethwaite Pilot P/O Carter has slid his canopy back; the Navigator P/O Davidson is in the nose and Sgt. Layne the Rear Gunner has opened his canopy. All are searching the mist covered Lincolnshire countryside for Waddington airbase moments before running out of fuel and crashing.
The recovery of 50 Squadron Hampden AE 116 after crashing at Waddington
Air Ministry Form 1180 crash report for the crash landing of AE116
This was an interesting night for 50 Squadron. In addition to Hampden AE 116 crashing at Waddington, Hampden AE 157 crashed at the same airfield after also returning from mining Copenhagen Harbour.
In addition to mining the waters of Copenhagen, 50 Squadron also sent aircraft to Berlin. Three of these aircraft crashed on returning to England. AE 305 piloted by F/S Titcombe crash landed in Norfolk and X 2919 with Sgt. Mudd at the controls crash landed in Cambridgeshire between Wittering and Wansford while attempting to reach Wittering. P/O Waddell and crew in Hampden AE 250 ran out of fuel trying to reach Cottesmore
Both of the crashes at Waddington and those piloted by Titcombe, Mudd and Waddell were due to the aircraft running out of fuel after being airborne for in excess of 9 hours. There were only minor injuries to Mudd and another of his crew members. In his career Sgt. Mudd was at the controls of 4 Hampdens that crashed. Apparently, in addition to X 2919, Mudd was the pilot of AE229, L4120, and P4314 when they either crashed or were lost.
Of the fifty-one aircraft deployed by the R.A.F. against Germany this night twelve were forced down in the fog that blanketed the East Coast of England.
P/O Carter and crew departed Swinderby in the afternoon of September 6th and flew north to Lossiemouth, the staging point for their next operation in the distant Oslo Fiord.
13. 6th September 1941 OSLO FIORD (NORWAY)
Take off time 2200 from Lossiemouth. Hampden 852. Crew: Pilot P/O Carter, P/O Davidson, Sgt. Layne, Sgt. Gilmore.
This aircraft was one of 24 tasked with a Gardening Operation (Mine laying) in Oslo Fiord. At that time the German capital ship Admiral Scheer was sheltering in Oslo harbour. Excellent weather conditions and a brilliant moon made pinpointing very simple.
After gliding down from 6,000 feet the vegetable (mine) was dropped a little South of the allotted position from 600 feet. Unfortunately, the wing bombs were released in error nearby into the sea. Considerable light flak with a few searchlights was encountered on the N.W. bank of the fiord, these flak guns positioned on the high cliffs above the fiords were able to fire down on the low flying Hampdens as they were on their mine laying runs. The searchlights were fired upon by Sgt. Layne.
On the return journey, one engine cut out owing to lack of fuel. An S.O.S. was sent out and the aircraft landed at Lossiemouth Scotland without further incident. A total flying time 8.30 hours was recorded for this operation.
The crew returned to their base at Swinderby the following day. This concluded a trying 10 weeks for 50 Squadron, during that time they lost 21 aircraft due to either enemy action or crashes.
Pilot P/O Derek Guy Carter was killed February 12th, 1942. He was one of eight 50 Squadron aircraft attacking the Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, and Prinz Eugen as they made their “Channel Dash” from Brest to Kiel
A W.A.A.F. driver delivers a crew to their waiting Hampden.
14. 20th September 1941 BERLIN (GERMANY)
The Hampden departed Swinderby earlier in the day for Swanton Morley, presumably because that airfield was nearer to Berlin.
Take off time 1950 from Swanton Morley. Hampden 158. Crew: Pilot S/L Mulford, P/O/ Watts, Sgt. Robertson, Sgt. Layne.
The crew was directed to bomb an aiming point in Berlin. On leaving Swanton Morley they climbed to 5,000 feet and eventually crossed the Dutch coast at 9,000 feet. On receiving a recall when just inside enemy territory, they dropped a flare to ascertain their position.
The I.F.F. proved very successful against active searchlights*. A bombing run was made from South to North on the Rhine attacking a S.E.M.O. (Self Evident Military Objective) with the wing bombs. No results were seen.
This aircraft was one of a force of 74 sent to Berlin that night. With weather conditions worsening all aircraft were recalled. 10 crews did not receive the recall and bombed other targets of opportunity. The aircraft landed at Finningley after a flight time of 7.20 hours, returning to base, the following day.
* There was an opinion among the aircrew that the I.F.F. jammed the searchlights radar. This was described by R.V. Jones in his account of scientific intelligence “Most Secret War.” The I.F.F. was equipped with a switch that caused it to transmit continually. This would not have been a wise thing to do as it would give away the aircraft’s position. It is not now thought to have been effective.
15. 29th September 1941 HAMBURG (GERMANY)
Take off time 1830 from Swinderby. Hampden 369. Crew: Pilot P/O/ Helmore, P/O Greves, Sgt. Layne (Wireless Operator) Sgt. Mills.
This crew and 92 others were detailed to bomb the Bloehm and Voss yards at Hamburg. In the target area, searchlight cones working under the control of a blue master searchlight were observed by the crews. The I.F.F. was very successfully used in combating these. Flak in the target area consisted of red tracer firing into searchlight cones under the control of a blue master searchlight, a return to base was made after a 7-hour operation.
Flying Log Book (September 1941)
Wally’s Flying Log Book for September 1941 reads as follows: