23/24.02.1945 582 Squadron Lancaster III PB538 Capt. Edwin 'Ted’ Swales VC, DFC
Operation: Pforzheim, Germany
Date: 23rd/24th February 1945 (Friday/Saturday)
Unit No: 582 Squadron, Pathfinder Force (PFF), 8 Group
Type: Lancaster III
Base: RAF Little Staughton, Huntingdonshire
Location: La Chappelle-aux-Bois (Nord), France
Pilot: Capt. Edwin Essery 'Ted’ Swales VC, DFC 6101V SAAF Age 29. KiA (1)
Flt Eng: Flt Sgt. Gerald Walter Bennington DFM 1593461 RAFVR Age 21. Returned (2)
Nav I: Sqn Ldr. Dudley Peter David Archer DFC & Bar, DFM 135430 RAFVR Age 26. Returned (3)
Nav II: Plt Off. Ross Alfred Wheaton DFC 417544 RAAF Age 22. Returned (4)
Bomb Aimer: Flt Lt. Clive Dodson DSO, DFC 131563 RAFVR Age? Returned (5)
WOp/Air Gnr: Plt Off. Albert Vivian Goodacre DFC 432150 RAAF Age 26. Returned (6)
Air Gnr (Mid Upp): Flt Sgt. Bryn Leach DFM 1000028 RAFVR Age 24. Returned (7)
Air Gnr (Rear): Plt Off. Alan Alexander William Bourne DFC J88180 RCAF Age 22. Returned (8)
REASON FOR LOSS:
On the 23rd February 1945, 582 Squadron was detailed to provide 8 aircraft for the first and only operation against Pforzheim in Germany. PB538 took off from RAF Little Staughton at 16:36 hours as the Master Bomber on the Mission to Pforzheim.
Master Bomber - The Master Bomber role was for an appointed Pathfinder (usually an experienced senior officer) to circle the target, broadcasting radio instructions on VHF to both Pathfinders and Main Force aircraft, correcting aiming points and generally co-ordinating the attack.
They made an uneventful trip to the target, keeping below 5000 ft as briefed and then climbed to 8000 ft over the target. H2S was not operated during this part of the mission and therefore Fishpond was not available. Carpet was operated and provided jamming up to when the two inner engines were put out of action when it was switched off.
They reported moderate to intense heavy flak from the target area, mostly bursting at 7500 ft. They dropped their Target Indicators (TI) and bombs at 19:58 hrs and then orbited the target giving instructions to the Main Force.
At 20:06 hrs when about 3 miles north of the target at an altitude of 8000 ft and on a heading of 120 degrees the Rear Gunner (RG) sighted an unidentified aircraft on the starboard quarter flying level with them at about 1000 yards. The RG lost sight of the aircraft for a few seconds and then observed a twin-engine aircraft coming up from fine starboard quarter. The RG attempted to inform the Captain of the sighting on the intercom but was unable to do so owing to noise on the VHF.
When the overtaking aircraft was about 800 yards away the Rear Gunner signalled by using the call-button for a starboard dive, but there was no response until the attack was over, some 4 to 5 seconds later.
The enemy aircraft, positively identified by the Mid-Upper Gunner (MUG) and RG as an Me410, opened fire with a long burst of cannon and machine-gun fire at about 600 yards followed by a second long burst. The RG replied at once at 600 yards and claimed hits but his four guns jammed after firing about 300 rounds. He could not clear the guns before the attack had finished.
The MUG sighted the enemy aircraft when it pulled its nose up at about 400 yards astern but could not bring his guns to bear at first, but, as it broke off climbing to port he fired about 100 rounds and claimed hits at a range of about 300 yards. The enemy aircraft fell away vertically and was not seen again. They claimed a German night fighter as damaged.
Both the MUG and RG were highly experienced, a requirement for selection onto a PFF Sqn, but is probable that they misidentified a Ju88G as a Me410 as both aircraft are of similar airframe layout. Research has found that there were no Me410 units operating in this area on this night. The only units came from NJG6 which flew out of Groß Sachsenheim and Schwäbisch-Hall and were equipped with the Bf110 and the Ju88G.
It seems likely that the German fighter pilot that attacked PB538 was Oblt. Wilhelm Engel, the Staffelkapitän of 3./NJG6, in Ju88 G-6 2Z+XL (Werk #621807). His Ju88 was hit by return fire and he and one of his two Bordfunkers (Radio/Radar operators) were slightly wounded by shrapnel but he brought his aircraft back to base at Groß Sachsenheim, where it was assessed as having sustained 10% damage. On this night he claimed 3 Lancasters and one damaged. (Nachtjagd Combat Archive (1 January 1945 - 3 May 1945) Part 6 - Theo Boiten).
Oblt. Wilhelm Engel survived the war with 20 confirmed Abschüsse and 1 unconfirmed. He was awarded the Deutsches Kreuz in Gold albeit no record has been found to confirm this award.
The first burst of enemy fire hit the port inner engine which caught fire immediately. The engine was feathered and the fire extinguished. The port inner engine was hit by a cannon shell from the second burst which holed the oil tank which caused the engine to vibrate violently and had to be feathered.
The aircraft suffered further damage to the port tailplane and rudder, and to the No.1 fuel tank losing 50 gallons of petrol. From this damage the Lancaster tended to pull to port and the sustained use of rudder trim caused it to fail. The captain told the crew to don their parachutes immediately after the attack but later told to remove them. Altitude was lost during and immediately after the attack and they left the target area at about 5000 ft. They flew due south for about 10 miles before heading WSW for 50 miles then due west and then NNW.
The aircraft was under good control and the intention was to make for Base which was then changed to RAF Manston. By 22:30 hrs the aircraft managed to climb to 5800 ft and was fairly stable in flight until they met a weak cold front. The flight instruments became increasingly unreliable, because of damage sustained in the attack, and the aircraft became more difficult to control. It stalled several times losing altitude each time.
When the aircraft descended to between 2500 ft and 3000 ft Capt. Swales again ordered the crew to don their parachutes and to bale out. The Bomb Aimer (BA) removed the front parachute exit hatch (located in the nose under the BA position). The Captain got the "OK" from everyone on the intercom and he then ordered them to bale out.
The BA went first at 23:00hrs at a height of about 2200 ft. He stood on the rear edge of the front parachute exit hatchway, and rolled forward head-first. His Mae-West jammed momentarily on the front edge of the hatchway. His decent and landing were uneventful and he saw and heard the aircraft crash.
The Flight Engineer (FE) followed the BA out of the front hatch. He sat on the rear edge of the hatchway and dropped straight down. He misjudged his height from the ground and landed heavily on his head and shoulder.
The Wireless Operator (WO) dived out of the starboard door (located between the MUG and RG positions) head first. He believed that the aircraft was in a banking dive to port. The RG followed the WO out, however, his parachute opened as he left with part of it flying back into the aircraft which was immediately thrust out by the MUG. The RG did not believe that he had pulled the release handle prematurely. The MUG followed the RG out after plugging into the intercom and getting the “OK” from the Captain.
The Navigator I (NAV I) plugged into the FE intercom and the Captain told him to hurry up as he could not hold the aircraft much longer. He keep his helmet on but tucked the cords in (He had bailed out twice before and admitted afterwards he should had known better). He dived head first from the rear edge of the front parachute exit and when the parachute opened the shrouds caught on one earpiece and ripped off the helmet.
The NAV II was the last to leave and as he went forward he gave the Captain the 'thumbs up' to indicate that everyone else was safely out and believed that the Captain understood. He sat on the rear edge on the front hatchway and at once he lost his flying boots. He had to force himself out against 'G' forces and thought that the aircraft was pulling out of a slight dive. He counted five before pulling the rip-cord and the parachute opened without delay, but the aircraft had crashed before it opened. He estimated that he baled out at about 800 ft He landed on soft ground with his feet together which went in about 18 inches and as he rolled over he slightly sprained his ankle.
The crew all landed within a mile of the burning aircraft the tanks of which exploded when it hit the ground. The NAV II and FE landed within 150-200 yards of each other and within 300 yards of the burning aircraft. They and the other members of the crew went to the aircraft but close approach was impossible owing to the heat. There was no sign of the Captain inside or outside of the aircraft.
The following day they visited the the wreckage of the aircraft, which was located at La Chappelle-aux-Bois (Nord), and found a body, not identified but presumed to be that of the Captain in a position that suggested that he had made no attempt to bale out. The general opinion of the crew was that the Captain attempted to make a belly-landing, but that the aircraft was not sufficiently under control and hit the ground in a moderate dive.
The Captain, FE, NAV II, WO and MUG, had completed 35 operations together. The BA had completed 18, the RG, 6 and NAV I, 2.
Upon the crews return to the Squadron early in March 1945 they flew as a crew with Wg Cdr. Stafford Pulleine Coulson DSO, DFC as Captain for a further 6 PFF operations. Their last PFF operation was on the 18th April 1945.
(1) Lt. Swales was posted to 582 Sqn along with the core of his crew from 83 Operational Training Unit (OTU) on the 17th June 1944. He was promoted to Capt. during November 1944.
Capt. Swales was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) whilst with 582 Sqn. London Gazette 23rd February 1945.
Citation reads: "This officer was pilot and captain of an aircraft detailed to attack Cologne in December, 1944. When approaching the target intense anti-aircraft fire was encountered. Despite this a good bombing attack was executed. Soon afterwards the aircraft was attacked by five enemy aircraft. In the ensuing fights, Captain Swales manoeuvred with great skill. As a result his gunners were able to bring effective fire to bear upon the attackers, one of which is believed to have been shot down. Throughout this spirited action Captain Swales displayed exceptional coolness and captaincy, setting a very fine example. This officer has completed very many sorties during which he has attacked a variety of enemy targets".
Capt. Swales was awarded the Victoria Cross (VC) whilst with 582 Sqn. London Gazette 24th April 1945.
Citation reads: "Air Ministry, 24th April, 1945. The KING has been graciously pleased to confer the VICTORIA CROSS on the undermentioned officer in recognition of most conspicuous bravery: - Captain Edwin SWALES, DFC (6101V), SAAF, 582 Sqn. (deceased). Captain Swales was "master bomber" of a force of aircraft which attacked Pforzheim on the night of February 23rd, 1945. As "master bomber" he had the task of locating the target area with precision and of giving aiming instructions to the main force of bombers following in his wake. Soon after he had reached the target area he was engaged by an enemy fighter and one of his engines was put out of action. His rear guns failed. His crippled aircraft was an easy prey to further attacks. Unperturbed, he carried on with his allotted task; clearly and precisely he issued aiming instructions to the main force. Meanwhile the enemy fighter closed the range and fired again. A second engine of Captain Swales' aircraft was put out of action. Almost defenceless, he stayed over the target area issuing his aiming instructions until he was satisfied that the attack had achieved its purpose. It is now known that the attack was one of the most concentrated and successful of the war. Captain Swales did not, however, regard his mission as completed. His aircraft was damaged. Its speed had to have been so much reduced that it could only with difficulty be kept in the air. The blind-flying instruments were no longer working. Determined at all costs to prevent his aircraft and crew from falling into enemy hands, he set course for home. After an hour he flew into thin-layered cloud. He kept his course by skilful flying between the layers, but later heavy cloud and turbulent air conditions were met. The aircraft, by now over friendly territory, became more and more difficult to control; it was losing height steadily. Realising that the situation was desperate Captain Swales ordered his crew to bale out. Time was very short and it required all his exertions to keep the aircraft steady while each of his crew moved in turn to the escape hatch and parachuted to safety. Hardly had the last crew-member jumped when the aircraft plunged to earth. Captain Swales was found dead at the controls. Intrepid in the attack, courageous in the face of danger, he did his duty to the last, giving his life that his comrades might live".
(2) Sgt. Bennington was the Flight Engineer on the Lt. Swales’ crew at 83 Operational Training Unit (OTU) and was posted to 582 Sqn on the 17th June 1944.
Flt Sgt. Bennington was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal (DFM) whilst with 582 Sqn. London Gazette 20th July 1945.
(3) Sgt. Archer 748742 was awarded the DFM whilst with 102 Sqn. London Gazette 21st November 1941.
Flt Sgt. Archer was commissioned and promoted to 135430 Plt Off. on the 5th November 1942. London Gazette 12th January 1943. He was promoted to Fg Off. on the 5th May 1943 and then to Flt Lt. on the 5th December 1943.
Acting Sqn Ldr. Archer 135430 was awarded the DFC whilst with 35 Sqn. London Gazette 11th February 1944.
Acting Sqn Ldr. Archer was posted to 582 Sqn on the 5th November 1944. His 1st operation with Capt. Swales was on the night of the 14th/15th February 1945.
He was awarded the Bar to his DFC whilst with 582 Sqn. London Gazette 23rd March 1945.
This was only his 2nd operation as Nav I with Capt. Swales.
After hostilities had ceased he was promoted to Flt Lt. in the RAF from Flt Lt., War Substantive on the 1st July 1946. On the 1st July 1954 he was promoted to Sqn Ldr. and he retired from the RAF as a Sqn Ldr. on the 3rd April 1959
(4) Warrant Officer (WO) Wheaton was the Nav I (He was trained as an Observer and could fulfil the Role of Navigator or Bomb Aimer) on the Lt. Swales’ crew at 83 Operational Training Unit (OTU) and was posted to 582 Sqn on the 17th June 1944. He was granted a commission and promoted to Plt Off. on the 18th October 1944.
Plt Off. Wheaton was awarded the DFC whilst with 582 Sqn. London Gazette 17th April 1945.
Citation Reads: “Pilot Officer Wheaton has completed numerous operations against the enemy in the course of which he has invariably displayed the utmost fortitude, courage and devotion to duty”.
Fg Off. Ross Alfred Wheaton returned to Australia after the war and was demobilised on the 24th September 1945.
Above Plt Off. Wheaton from his Service Record. Ross Alfred Wheaton was born on the 10th August 1922 in St. Peters, South Australia. He passed away, aged 78, on the 12th August 2000 in Campbeltown City, South Australia.
(5) Fg Off. Dodson was posted to 582 Sqn on the 18th June 1944. He was promoted to Flt Lt. on the 25th September 1944, London Gazette 13th October 1944. He joined the crew of Lt. Swales on the 27th November 1944.
Flt Lt. Dodson was awarded the DFC whilst with 582 Sqn. London Gazette 26th January 1945.
Citation reads: "This officer has proved himself to be a most devoted member of aircraft crew. As air bomber he has participated in a very large number of sorties, one of which was against Cologne in October, 1944. On this occasion his aircraft was hit several times by anti-aircraft fire whilst over the target area. In spite of this he directed the bombing run most coolly and skilfully and a successful attack was executed. His devotion to duty has been unfailing".
He was awarded the DSO whilst with 582 Sqn. London Gazette 26th October 1945.
(6) Sgt. Goodacre was the Wireless Operator/Air Gunner on the Lt. Swales’ crew at 83 Operational Training Unit (OTU) and was posted to 582 Sqn on the 17th June 1944. He was granted a commission and promoted to Plt Off. on the 17th October 1944.
Plt Off. Goodacre was awarded the DFC whilst with 582 Sqn. London Gazette 25th May 1945.
Citation Reads: “Pilot Officer Goodacre has completed numerous operations against the enemy in the course of which he has invariably displayed the utmost fortitude, courage and devotion to duty”.
Plt Off. Albert Vivian Goodacre returned to Australia after the war and was demobilised on the 6th December 1945.
Above Plt Off. Goodacre from his Service Record. Albert Vivian Goodacre was born on the 2nd March 1918 in Canowindra, New South Wales. He passed away, aged 85, on the 12th February 2004 in Orange, New South Wales.
(7) Flt Sgt. Leach was an Air Gunner on the Lt. Swales’ crew at 83 Operational Training Unit (OTU) and was posted to 582 Sqn on the 17th June 1944.
Flt Sgt. Leach was awarded the DFM whilst with 582 Sqn. London Gazette 23rd February 1945.
Citation reads: "This airman was the mid upper gunner of an aircraft detailed to attack Cologne in December, 1944. Soon after leaving the target, the aircraft was engaged by seven fighters. The rear gunner was unable to give his pilot any evading directions as that part of the intercommunication system connected to his turret was inoperative. Flight Sergeant Leach therefore assumed the responsibility and directed the necessary combat manoeuvres during constant attacks by the enemy aircraft. Although his aircraft was hit many times by the attacker's bullets, Flight Sergeant Leach fought with great resolution. One of the enemy aircraft fell to his guns, whilst in two instances the other fighters attacks were rendered completely ineffective by his clever evading directions. Finally, the enemy aircraft broke off the engagement. Flight Sergeant Leach proved himself to be a cool and courageous member of aircraft crew. His excellent work contributed much towards the safe return of the aircraft".
(8) Fg Off. Bourne was posted to 582 Sqn from 443 (Porcupine) Sqn, RCAF on the the 11th October 1944.
He was awarded his temporary PFF Badge on the 12th February 1945, after his 12th operation and his permanent badge on the 5th May 1945 after his 19th and last PFF operation.
Fg Off. Bourne was awarded the DFC whilst with 582 Sqn. London Gazette 17th July 1945.
He was repatriated to Canada on the 5th August 1945 and retired from the RCAF on the 17th September 1945. He enlisted in the RCAF, Reserve Auxiliary as a Fighter Controller on the 27th January 1953 and retired on the 21st March 1964.
Above: Alan Alexander William Bourne was born in the 3rd Qtr of 1923 in Islington, Greater London. He passed away, aged 78, on the 4th January 2002 in Ancaster, Ontario, Canada.
Path Finder Force (PFF) Badge
The PFF badge of a hovering gold eagle was awarded on a temporary basis after a number of operations, during which the required standard of proficiency was reached. This number of operations appears to have varied, perhaps at the discretion of the squadron CO, but seems to have generally been around 6-10 operations. Additionally one step up in acting rank, e.g. a Plt Off. would become a temporary Fg Off. with a commensurate increase in pay.
The badge was worn on the left-hand-side breast pocket of the RAF Uniform, under any decorations.
The Pathfinder badge awarded permanently after the completion of a tour, or in exceptional circumstances such as an outstanding airman going missing on operations.
Above left: Maj. Swales VC, DFC (by unknown (Life time: 1945 for E Swales) - Original publication: unknown) and right: Grave marker (Courtesy of the TWGPP)
Maj. Edwin Essery 'Ted’ Swales VC, DFC. Leopoldsburg War Cemetery VII.C.5. Inscription: "IN PROUD MEMORY FROM COMRADES OF THE NATAL MOUNTED RIFLES AND S.A. AIR FORCE". Born on the 3rd July 1915 in Inada, Gauteng, South Africa. Son of the late Harry Evelyn and Olive Miriam (née Essery) Swales, of Durban Natal, South Africa.
Although his rank was widely reported as being a Captain at the time of his last flight he was in fact an acting Major. The South African Air Force (SAAF) authorities confirmed that he held the rank of Major at the time of his death.
SAAF memorial by By NJR ZA - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0
Maj. Swales VC, DFC is also commemorated at the SAAF Memorial at Swartkop in Pretoria, South Africa.
Researched by Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of Maj. Edwin 'Ted’ Swales and to those of his crew (Nov 2022). Thanks to François Dutil, our keeper of all things RCAF, for the additional information for Fg Off. Bourne. (Nov 2022).
Thanks to ‘The War Graves Photographic Project’ for their great work.
Other sources listed below: