W/O Andrzej Gorski Recollections

2 March 1945. Target: Cologne. Day mission.

        We were to bomb a railway station. During the briefing the IO mentioned amassed one thousand 88 and 105 mm guns forming target’s flak defenses. That didn’t really cheer us up.
    We took off early in the morning and flew in a perfect weather. Visibility was excellent in a crystal clear blue sky adorned with occasional white cumulus, which indicated a cold front. Starting from Reading gathering point, I could see the endless stream of bombers flowing over the North Sea toward the Dutch coast and Germany. Our escort consisted of long range Mustangs to meet us near the target.
    I didn’t see enemy fighters but they must have been present as I observed spots in the bomber stream where aircraft tightened up their formation to have a better chance fending off the attackers.

    Approaching Cologne we saw its Gothic cathedral, dominating the view of the city. The flak intensified and its close by explosions jogged our N for Nun, making it harder for me to keep it on course. I located approximate position of my target and made a turn. The railway station was covered with dense smoke and couldn’t be seen. Only the cathedral’s steeple was visible. Therefore, I decided to use it as an aiming point. I told Fabrycy (my bomb aimer) to unload right past it. The station was located some 100 meters away. Bombs always dropped in a sequence and their explosions formed a line on the ground. While flying at the right course, this would give a good chance to hit our target. I risked striking the cathedral only to achieve my objective: locating some bombs in the railway station.
    During the bombing run my aircraft was tossed around by flak bursts. Just then, somebody reported a gaping hole in the port wing. It was right where the third tank was located (by then empty) and I didn’t think much about it.
    After welcomed “bombs gone” and about three minutes for pictures taking, I put my Lancaster in a course straight for home and in a shallow dive. I wanted to get out of the AA artillery range as quickly as possible, turn off oxygen and have a cigarette.
    I passed by one of our unit’s plane, which lost its upper gun turret. The gunner was in a hole and waved to us gaily. I met him later on during debriefing, but for this day I don’t understand how come nothing happened to him that day. While we were having our usual treat of grog, tea and sandwiches, he was still finding shrapnel pieces in his battledress. I took one for a souvenir.

    The weather continued to hold, so it was all pilot navigation. Approaching the coast I invited my navigator Jan Sierbien to the cockpit for a smoke, where he could enjoy a beautiful view. Navigator couldn’t see anything from his post. I identified the coast crossing point and relaxed as once over the sea we were out of danger of enemy attack.
   
The rest of the trip was uneventful and we made an easy landing. After taxing to the dispersal and switching off engines, I sent my upper gunner Zbyszek Torka to investigate port wing damage. As I was sitting in my chair resting and meditating our mission, I was astounded to see him taking out of the ripped tank an incendiary with broken fins. I yelled at him to keep it as a souvenir. Wanting to get off the wing, he dropped it into hands of one of the ground crew, who in turn threw it on the grass, and the bomb started to burn.


Faldingworth 1945.
W/O Gorski's crew (from left to right) in front of Lancaster
BH-N, NN746: W/O Pietrzak, F/Sgt Sobczak, W/O Gorski,W/O Golicz, F/O Sierbien, W/O Torka, F/O Fabrycy. 

7 March 1945. Target Dessau. Night mission.

    As usually, it started with the briefing. The Intelligence Officer droned something about the strategic importance of the target, but not very convincingly, and it was clear he was straggling. Of what I heard there, Deassau had no important industry. Its marshalling yards located at back of German Army withdrawing before Soviet offensive were a neuralgic point and our target. Reportedly, it was jammed with German refugees.
    At one point I stood up and interrupted saying that I’m not a butcher and my bombs will go off target. At this, our CO, W/Cdr Jarkowski, told me that he had not heard what I just said, probably hoping I would withdrew my statement and the incident could be avoided. But few others stood up as well in my support, and refused to take pert in the mission. On such a dictum, Jarkowski came to the front and gave us a little speech. He spoke about deteriorating relationship between Polish and British governments, our role as an air force, at that time, and gave us half an hour to rethink our decision.
    It is imperative to explain that, although independent, the Polish Air Force was under the "Kings Regulations" which gave each pilot a great privilege to refuse the flight. Other crewmembers had no such a privilege and their refusal would result in court martial.
    Jarkowski left the briefing room and we were given farther details about bombs, fuses, etc. F/Lt Kot described our route, its major points, bomb run, and four-minute ‘window’ in which our squadron was to unload. The raid was divided into several four minutes bomb runs with four minutes intervals between waves of bombers. The planned separation of waves served its purpose. The objective was to prevent congestion over the target to minimize collisions.
   
That was the theory. In reality, to avoid flak or thunderstorms, pilots habitually chose their own routes and altitudes. The navigators had to cope with wind velocities (W/V) usually different from those reported by the Group, and often made more than 4 minutes errors. Everybody tried to finesse theirs time over the target more or less as previewed. Nobody wanted to be caught alone by the concentrated anti-aircraft fire over the target. It happened to quite few.
    When our CO came back, there were no flight refusals among pilots.

    Before take off, my navigator reported both "G" box and the radar out of order. But since were to take off and fly first leg at daylight, I decided to go. I was planning to keep with the bomber stream, hoping that my navigator would be able to get precise force and direction of wind, what was needed for dead reckoning.
    Over the continent the weather deteriorated rapidly. I flew at 18,000 ft between two layers of various clouds. At some point our a/c started to ice up and I lost speed. I tried to fly 2,000 ft higher, and then descended to 16,000 what was a much better choice. The ice fell off the wings. Perhaps an hour later we saw the target.


Allied bombers always met a deadly flak over targets. Left a battery of 88mm guns which could hurl a 22 pound shell over six miles up. On late stages of the war their fire was directed by a radar. On right, tracers fired by 37mm and 20mm flak. These small flak guns were effective up to one mile range. 

    It was illuminated with hundreds of searchlight, which reminded me of knight lances pointing straight to the sky and declaring upcoming danger. The black shapes of Lancasters reflected against the clouds above. They created dimness over the target, what with the lack of flak barrage, suggested we could expect fighter attacks. This tactic was called Wilde Sau, or ‘Wild Bore’.
    No Focke Wulfs were around me, but at instant, the whole of my crew started to bellow over the intercom. I told to shut up and realized that two Lancasters were boring at us in a dive. My rear gunner, Roman Golicz, reported the third one closing up on us dangerously. To avoid a mid-air collision I had to dive. I ordered the crew to keep quite and I asked Golicz to report positions of those three Lancasters. One of them had a speed advantage and was passing us in his nearly vertical dive. When its wingtip passed few feet off the Golicz’s turret I decided to pull up. We must have been doing close to 400 knots as the speedometer raced past the red mark set at 320 knots or so. At this speed and fully loaded I was afraid to use flaps to reduce the speed, as it was very possible to loose both wings. I ordered the flight engineer ‘power off’ and I lowered the landing gear. I started to pull up only when the aircraft slowed down to 320 knots, with a help of a trimmer. I lost 8,000 feet but I had the plane at level flight and in one piece.
    Then it was Bomb Aimer's turn to fly the bomber. During the bombing run I kept the course according to Jan Fabrycy’s corrections: left-left-steady- left-steady- right-steady...

    Suddenly I was astounded to see FW190 whose starboard wingtip was right under our fuselage. We were flying exactly the same course with similar speeds. I could clearly see pilot’s profile, starring closely at his instrument panel. He didn’t see me, as most likely being a day fighter pilot (Wilde Sau) he wasn’t experienced in night flying. Excited I wanted to shot him down, but none of our gunners could depress the guns enough to be able to shoot. The FW was simply to close. I had to be extremely careful, not loose the course or collide with the German at the same time. The only one who could have a shot at him was Fabrycy. But he was at the bombsight and his turret was empty. If I told him to climb back to his guns (it wasn’t easy with all this flying gear on us) the Focke Wulf would have been gone and our bombs off target. When I heard Fabrycy’s ‘Bombs gone’, the German plane disappeared.
    Relieved after preceding tense moments I took what I thought to be a homebound course. To avoid icing I took a southerly course intending to turn west later hoping to find better visibility. After about half an hour, the navigator reported that he lost his navigation. I upbraided myself for having decided to fly my "N for Nun" deprived of its radio navigational aids. I chose the most economical speed and altitude and turned in an approximate direction of Switzerland. I reason that I would be able to use its lights on the horizon as a reference point for my flight home.
    I was very happy to recognize identification codes of few lighthouses on the British coast. We landed at our base one-hour after everybody else. When we finally showed up for debriefing - always preceded by grog and sandwiches – our crew was listed as missing.

    This flight lasted over ten hours, and it was my longest. When together with my wife I visited my ex CO, Bolek Jarkowski in Jacksonville in Florida, he recalled the briefing, which by then I vaguely remembered. To Bolek who was a career officer it was the most trying event in his military career.

 
Left: Faldingworth 1945. The crew of Lancaster BH "N", with some ground personnel. From left to right, wearing Mae Wests: W/O Golicz tail gunner; Flt/Sgt Sobczak flight engineer; in center holding helmet is pilot W/O Gorski; W/O Torka middle gunner; F/O Fabrycy air bomber; W/O Pietrzak wireless operator; F/O Sierbien navigator. Right: Faldingworth 1946. The crew of W/O Gorski crew: W/O Golicz tail gunner, Piaskowski tair bomber (temporarily assigned to the crew), W/O Gorski, F/O Sierbien navigator, and W/O Pietrzak wireless operator.

 

27 March 1945. Target Bremen. Day mission.

    The object of our attack was a bridge on the Weser River. Northern Germany was under a cold front and visibility was fantastic. Our planned route had few legs. It was done mostly to keep Germans in uncertainty as what was the target our raid, and foil their air defenses.
At that phase of the war, we had our own escorts who normally were more numerous than the German fighters sent to attack. Sometimes we met our Mustangs at certain gathering points where they would fly some 10,000 feet above us, not being tied to our formations. No planes attacked us.
   
Approaching Bremen we flew unmolested as on a parade. Flak stayed put but the city was partially obscured by smoke screens laid by the city defenses.
   
I started my bomb run being the first or a second in line to unload. Head to head and some 100 feet on my right flew another Lancaster of one of the British squadrons. About 5 miles before target the flak opened up. First few explosions quickly grew to a one giant ball of black smoke of an approximate radius of one mile, and dappled with bright red spots indicating consecutive detonations.
   
I thought it to be impossible to fly unscathed through that cloud of blowups and I almost panicked, as I was going straight into the middle of it. I was to close to fly under or over it, and making a sudden turn meant missing the target. Whole tense, I decided to keep my course. As soon as I flew into the red-dotted black mass I could here explosions over the drone of engines. Shrapnel drummed staccato on the fuselage. Lancaster on my right disappeared.
   
Seconds later I flew out of that mess and into a bright sunshine, and I quickly assessed the damages. The inner starboard engine lost its spinner but the engine kept running. My windshield portion was cracked and all of it was blackened. I could hardly see through it.
   
That windshield was never replaced and impaired my forward vision, while flying at night, on several occasions I made sudden turns avoiding phantom plane which never was.
   
We unloaded and I took a shortest course for home. Some time later when we left Bremen far behind us, some battery took four very accurate shots at us. First one exploded right in front of us, the third under the fuselage and the fourth way behind the rear turret.
   
Not even ten minutes later, I saw ahead of us, a Me262 flying some 2000 feet below. It was the first time I saw that plane in real life. I put my Lanc in a shallow dive giving my gunners a chance to take a shot at him. Before they could try their lack with the jet plane, the German dove away. Most likely it was out of ammo or without sufficient fuel; otherwise we would had been an easy prey for him.
   
That day over Bremen I experienced the most intense AA barrage. Those who flew there few minutes later estimated it as regular, what told me that by that time, its intensity must have lessened quite a bit.


Faldingworth 7 May 1945. Heavy landing of BH-R.

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