Sunday, April 11, 2010

South Normay-April 12, 1940 by Fl/Lt. M.W Donaldson, Royal Air Force

This is the account of a bomber pilot whose bombers formation attacked and sank the German cruiser "Karlsruhe" Flight Lieutenant Donaldson who is a Canadian flying with The Royal Air Force, hails from Lethbridge, Alberta, held a short term pre-war comission in the R.A.F.

This is a day i shall not forget in a hurry as it landed in Gafangenenschaft where i have resided. I was in a night bomber squadron, but owing to the invasion of Norway and our almost complete lack of long range day bombers we were called up to operate in daylight.

A German heavy cruiser (later identified as the Karlsruhe) had been damaged in the early morning hours by our Navy, but owing to heavy seas and bad visibility had made good escape. We were ordered to locate and destroy her. After a sticky trip across the North Sea the 12 of us arrived over the south coast of Norway and opening up into a wide view of sanctions commenced a sweep. I was a little worried about our formation as operating over ennemy territory with heavy and consequently slow aircraft, we ran every chance of meeting fighters. However we carried on and after two hours sweeping we sighted our quarry lying in Kristiansand harbour. "What very shortly proved to be a very costly mistake was made here as our leader ordered us into sections astern, aircraft astern which presented a long line of single bombers to the ennemy, any one of which could be engaged without assistance from another, and it also cut down our firepower to a bare minimum.

Opening the bomb doors we fused our bombs and commenced our run up. The picture is and will be clear in my mind; a cloudless sky, height 12,000 feet, airspeed 180 miles per hour, the cruiser appearing as a small gray silver of steel dashing headlong for the open sea and a pumping up of A.A. for all she was worth. Leading the last section of three, i was just coming onto the target when low and behold enemy fighters, six Messerschmiths 109's. Needless to say they attacked my section and in less time than it takes to put in writing my No.3 airman was shot down in flames and all hands were sadly lost. My No.2 and i managed to weather the storm, ran up, bomded, and as i did a turn to the west saw a direct hit scored just forward of my funnel. But i had very little time to observe as i was unable to catch up to the rest of my formation owing to the increased speed and the heavy and accurate attacks of the ennemy.

Being completely unable to hold them off, having neither the speed nor the firepower i came down to sea level, that at least protected our belly. The two of us had only just arrived there and got properly formed up with No.2 and simply exploded in mid-air in a mass of flames and in the twinkling of an eye had dissappeared forever under the cold gray surface of the sea. I was just about to throw in the towel then and there as with all my section except myself shot down, one of my gunners killed, the rest of us all hit and bullets and cannon shells simply raining in from all directions, we were a gone goose. But one dosen't surrender in the air and fight on we did.

After about three-quarters of an hour of concentrated hell my starboard engine took fire and i was forced to turn north and try to make the Norwegian coast. On the run in, the Jerries figuring we were cold meat threw caution to the winds and attacked relentleely right up to 20 yards. It was a bad mistake on their part as we still had a certain sting in the for of two Vickers K's. By simply heroic work my remaining rear gunner bounced three of them in quick succession with the result the remainder held off to a more respectable distance. Just as we were approching the shore, a well placed burst brought us crashing down in flames in the sea. By the grace of God and a lot of luck, we in the aircraft who were alive as we were shot down all emerged alive and kicking from what had a few seconds before been an aircraft.

Well there it is Jerry, you will no doubt think it is just one big moan--probably it is, but one does hate like hell to be as throughly thrashed as we were and have practically no means of fighting back but let me tell you the war is not over for me. I will continue fighting to my last breath!      

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