Bomber Command Aircrew Chronicles
On 31 March 1945, Bomber Command dispatched 469 aircraft to attack the Blohm & Voss shipyards at Hamburg where new types of U-Boats were being assembled. It was to be a daylight attack.
Two hundred of the bombers were from 6 Group. The end of the war was just over a month away. However, it was still a dangerous time for Bomber Command aircrew.
As the third wave flew over the target in a loose 'gaggle' formation, the 6 Group bombers were swarmed by thirty of the Nazi's new Messerschmitt 262's. Operational in mid-1944, the Me 262 was the world's first jet-powered fighter aircraft. With a maximum speed of 900 km/h (560 mph), it was armed with four 30 mm. cannons and some carried 50 mm rockets.
F/O Don Saunders, a 424 Squadron pilot, was amazed at their speed, "I felt as if we were standing still. The gaggle closed in and we were wing tip to wing tip . . . creating the closest formation of bombers I have ever seen! Each time the jets came the gunners were at work." F/O Saunders saw five bombers shot down.
Eleven bombers, eight Lancasters and three Halifaxes, were lost during the raid, most being shot down by the Luftwaffe's jets. Of the eleven, eight were from 6 Group.
Eight of the fourteen 434 Squadron Lancasters on the Hamburg raid reported combat with the Me 262 jets. The following ORB page includes entries for three of the aircraft. Note that F/O Dawson's gunners engaged three fighters and likely shot one down. Although the fate of F/O Haliburton and crew was not known when the ORB entries were made, it was later determined that they too had engaged in combat with the Me 262’s. Enemy fire struck the cockpit, killing F/O Haliberton, his navigator, and his flight engineer. The four other crewmembers baled out and were captured.