Royal Air Force

A good bastard: Squadron Leader Tom Bennett

This guy is a seriously good bastard. Squadron Leader Tom Bennett, who has died aged 93, flew as a navigator in one of the specialist crews on No 617 (Dambusters) Squadron.

Squadron Leader Tom Bennett, who has died aged 93, flew as a navigator in one of the specialist crews on No 617 (Dambusters) Squadron .

In April 1944 Bennett teamed up with his former pilot, Gerry Fawke, to convert to the Mosquito before joining No 617, where the CO, Leonard Cheshire, was perfecting low-level target marking techniques. The Lancaster-equipped squadron had four Mosquitos for this specialist role.

Fawke and Bennett flew their first operation on April 18, with the Juvisy marshalling yards the target. They dived to 400ft to drop their markers before the Lancasters attacked, and the success of the operation proved to be the prelude to a concentrated period of similar operations in advance of the D-Day landings .

Just before the landings No 617 received the huge 12,000lb ‚ÄúTallboy‚ÄĚ, often referred to as the ‚Äúearthquake bomb‚ÄĚ. Its first use, on the night of June 8, was a spectacular success. Trains bringing German reinforcements from the south of France had to pass through the Saumur tunnel near the Loire. The four Mosquitos marked the target for the Lancasters attacking from 10,000ft, and a Tallboy fell 60 yards from the tunnel mouth. The shock waves devastated the tunnel.¬† Read more »

Titanic – 100 years

100 years ago today the Titanic sunk with the loss of 1514 lives.

The burning Cap Arcona shortly after the attack.

Last night I watched a documentary about Goebbels and his propaganda film about the Titanic. The ship where some scenes were shot was the Cap Arcona which was sunk in¬†May 3, 1945 by action from the Royal Air Force. Aboard were thousands of concentration camp prisoners and about 500 SS guards. Most of the guards escaped but over 5000 prisoners were killed…far more than died in the Titanic disaster.

It was a fascinating documentary, but put into perspective that the Titanic sinking had a loss of life many thousands lower than plenty of other maritime disasters.

One of the largest was the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff. 

On 30 January 1945 while evacuating civilian refugees, German soldiers and U-boat personnel, the Gustloff was sunk by a Russian submarine in the Baltic Sea. 5,348 are known dead but it has been estimated that up to 9,400 died as a result of this disaster.

So while Titanic was one of the most famous disasters, it was nowhere near as disastrous as many other maritime disasters. Perhaps the confluence of a maiden voyage, a speed record and utter luxury has led the Titanic to claim the most famous slot.

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