The Loss of Lancaster JA691

The Peenemünde Raid August 17/18th 1943

At 9am on the 17th August the preliminary order is sent from Bomber Command HQ at High Wycombe to all group commanders warning them that the attack on Peenemünde is to take place that night.

The operation has three requirements: a full or nearly full moon; no cloud over the target and clear weather over the UK for the bomber's return. It had been given a special code name…Operation Hydra.
A diversionary raid on Berlin by Mosquitoes was codenamed …Operation Whitebait.

While the aircraft are being prepared, squadron and flight commanders are busy compiling lists of crews that are to fly that night. Most units find this reasonably easy as they were not flying the previous night. There is no record as to the thoughts of the crew of JA691 who had just returned from Milan the previous night and were "very tired."

There was high security surrounding the briefing that evening and the crews were made well aware that they would have to return the following evening if insufficient damage was done to the target. Even the briefing officers did not know what was to be found at Peenemünde.

The cover story first used about five weeks earlier was that it was the location where the Germans were producing countermeasures against RAF attacks, particularly a new form of radar. At 2146 Lancaster JA691 with its crew roared down the 2000yd main runway on a heading of 263°. The photograph on the right (taken on the 17th August 1998), shows what remains of the runway today. Its full width of 50m is only visible where a chicken farm is built astride the runway about halfway down its length.


 

Many a Fiskerton veteran remembers that the main runway was directly in line with Lincoln Cathedral and the sight of this majestic building over five miles away silhouetted by the setting sun never failed to impress them. Sadly, on this day, it was a sight that 23 Fiskerton aircrew would never see again.Today, cornfields cover much of the Fiskerton site and all traces of the airfield to the west of the Fiskerton/Reepham road are lost. The photograph shows this area with the Cathedral in the background.

 
 

The route to Peenemünde crossed the North Sea and then over the narrow neck of Jutland before crossing Funen and Zeeland. A short leg over the Baltic brought the bomber stream to the Arkona Peninsula from where they began their approach run on the target.
 

 
 

The vast majority of the 596 bombers reached the target area with little or no interference from the German nightfighters. The probable reason is that most of the nightfighters were on their way to Berlin, which had been identified by the Germans as being the most likely target of the bomber stream.

The Lancasters of 5 Group were in the third wave designated to attack the experimental works at the northern end of the target area at between 00:43hrs and 00:55hrs. There are no records which indicate the success of JA691's bombing run but it must be assumed that they successfully bombed their target and at around 1am on Wednesday 18th August turned North West away from Peenemünde and headed for home.