Dortmund Ems Canal

The Dortmund Ems Canal was a major German industrial Highway and unlike British Canals was able to navigate substantial vessels which were used to move war material. It was very difficult to bomb but was in one place vulnerable as it was carried over a river on an earthen aqueduct. It was thought that if several 12,000lb high capacity bombs were dropped from low level that the aqueduct could be breached and the water would be lost closing the canal. Delayed action fuses would be used to allow the aircraft to escape before the bombs exploded. Since the Dams raid 617 Sqn had languished while the Air Ministry decided what they should do next. It was thought that using high capacity bombs dropped from low level that they could breach the Canal and that this would make best use of their low level expertise. The bombs had to be dropped from low level as they were aerodynamically crude and could not be dropped with accuracy from any height.

The raid (Operation Garlic) had been proposed and cancelled several times but took place initially on the 14th September 1943. After the aircraft were over the North Sea a recall was sent as the weather over the target had been reported foggy. Upon turning for home the aircraft of S/Ldr Maltby (ex Dams raid) was seen to hit the sea. Dave Shannon circled the spot for two hours and directed an ASR launch to the site but nothing was found.

In 2008 Charles Foster published a book “Breaking the Dams”, Charles Foster, Pen & Sword Books, ISBN 9781 184415 6863 in which he published new information about this crash. It seems likely in the light of his information that Dave Malbty’s Lancaster collided with Mosquito DZ598 of 139 Sqn which was lost returning from another raid on Berlin. This book is well written and very well worth reading for more information about Dave Maltby as well as this loss.

On the 15th September 1943 the aircraft took off again for the same target with 8 Lancasters and 6 Mosquitos (418 and 605 Sqds). The attack point was to be close to Munster at a place called Greven near Ladbergen where the canal divided into two branches. Amongst cargos carried by barges on the canal was iron ore from Sweden. The force was split into two with three Mosquito’s for each four Lancasters plus two reserve Lancasters. The Mosquito’s were escorting to deal with searchlights, flak and German fighters etc. The Sqn ORB reads:

DORTMUND EMS CANAL 15/16th September.

Eight aircraft under the command of S/Ldr. Holden took off again on the night of 15/16th. to attack the Dortmund Ems Canal. The crew were the same as those on the previous night, except that F/Lt. Martin took the place of S/Ldr. Maltby. Six Mosquito aircraft from 605 and 418 Squadrons. accompanied the aircraft, to attract ground fire and act as fighter cover. The visibility over the target was very bad, a thick haze preventing accurate locating of the target. On the inward journey S/Ldr. Holden’s aircraft was seen to be hit by light flak, and to crash. F/L. Allsebrook took over the direction of the attack and dropped his load. F/Lt. Knight called up on R/T. and stated that his two port engines were stopped, he asked for permission to jettison and return to Base. Permission was granted, but nothing further was heard from this aircraft. F/Lt. Wilson asked for permission to attack, permission was given, but nothing further was heard from him, as was the case with P/O. Divall. No contact could be made with F/Lt. Allsebrook so F/Lt. Martin took over command of the remaining aircraft. P/O. Rice could not identify the canal area owing to poor visibility, so he came back over the coast and jettisoned. F/Lt. Shannon dropped his bomb, which was seen to explode on the tow path on the East bank. Only three aircraft returned from this raid. The mosquitos patrolled the target area for one and a half hours and during this time no enemy fighters were seen, and few searchlights. All of the Mosquitos returned safely.

In summary it was a disaster as unlike the dams the canal was heavily defended with flak guns and due to mist and fog the aircraft spent some time over the target trying to pinpoint their target during which the Flak was able to see them and shoot at them. Five aircraft were destroyed and P.O Knight (Ex Dams raid) and crew were killed along with the new Sqn C.O Sqn.Ldr Holden and crew. This raid confirmed that heavy bombers operating at low level over heavily defended targets just did not work.
My thanks go to the Simon Wainwright and the Wainwright family, relatives of David Maltby