RAF Tornado Losses During Desert Storm

Tornado GR.1 Desert Storm

The Royal Air Force’s Panavia Tornado GR.1 was one of the most versatile combat aircraft available to the Coalition forces poised to remove Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Army from Kuwait. A total force of sixty Tornado GR.1s participated in Operation: Granby, the British contribution to Desert Storm, flying from Tabuk and Dhahran in Saudi Arabia as well as Muharraq in Bahrain. The aircraft were instrumental in helping keep the Iraqi Air Force on the ground thanks to its JP233 munitions dispenser system and flew most of its missions at very low level under the cover of darkness.

Naturally, with such a dangerous mission there would be casualties and six Tornados would be lost in combat;


Date: 17th January 1991
Aircraft/Code:
ZD791/BG
Squadron: No.15 Squadron
Pilot:
Flight Lieutenant J. Peters
Navigator: Flight Lieutenant J. Nichol
Details:
The aircraft was part of a formation conducting an ultra-low level attack on Ruma airfield with 1,000lb General Purpose (GP) bombs. During the egress from the target the formation encountered dense anti-aircraft defences primarily in the form of Anti-Aircraft Artillery (AAA) fire before the Tornado’s Sky Guardian Radar Warning Receivers (RWR) detected several Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) guidance radars zeroing in on their aircraft.

Flight Lieutenant Peters took evasive action in an attempt to throw off the Iraqi targeting radars but soon afterwards their aircraft was hit by a SAM. The aircraft remained airborne and under control for around three minutes as fire consumed the starboard wing by which time the crew realised their predicament and elected to abandon the aircraft. Both Peters and Nichol managed to escape their aircraft safely although both sustained some injuries from the violence of the ejection. Shortly after landing they were taken prisoner and notoriously paraded on Iraqi television.


Date: 17th January 1991
Aircraft/Code:
ZA392/EK
Squadron: No.15 Squadron
Pilot:
Wing Commander T. N. C. Elsdon
Navigator:
Flight Lieutenant R. M. Collier
Details
: The aircraft was part of a four aircraft formation conducting a low level attack using the JP233 dispenser weapon against Shaibah airbase in Southern Iraq. Despite intense anti-aircraft fire encountered all the way to the target the four aircraft managed to reach their target and carry out a successful attack before turning on a northerly heading.

A short while later the formation then conducted a turn east before one of the aircraft in the formation saw a ball of fire rising up from the desert floor. The formation leader called out for the formation to check in but received no reply from Wing Commander Elsdon and Flight Lieutenant Collier’s aircraft. The aircraft failed to return to its base and it was therefore concluded that the fireball was their aircraft hitting the ground during a low level turn. Tragically, both Wing Commander Elsdon and Flight Lieutenant Collier were killed.


Date: 19th January 1991
Aircraft/Code:
ZA396/GE
Squadron: No.27 Squadron
Pilot:
Flight Lieutenant David Waddington
Navigator:
Flight Lieutenant Robbie Stewart
Details:
During a night attack against an airfield in South West Iraq with 1,000lb GP bombs the Tornado came under fire from defensive SAM batteries as the aircraft began a rapid climb from low level in the first stage of a loft-attack. Flight Lieutenant Waddington attempted to take evasive action but a SAM detonated ahead of the aircraft damaging the nose including the cockpit rendering Waddington unconscious.

Flight Lieutenant Stewart initiated the ejection at very high speeds resulting in both men sustaining injuries. After three days evading the Iraqis they were captured and detained as POWs until end of the conflict. In 2006 the now Squadron Leader Robbie Stewart MBE took to the skies in a Tornado for the last time in his military career. At the controls was non-other than Wing Commander Dave Waddington.

Some Russian sources claim that it was this aircraft that was shotdown by an Iraqi MiG-29. (see The MiG-29 Question below).


Date: 22nd January 1991
Aircraft/Code:
ZA467/EK
Squadron:
No.31 Squadron
Pilot: Squadron Leader G. K. S. Lennox
Navigator:
Squadron Leader K. P. Weeks
Details:
The aircraft was carrying out an attack on the Ar Rutbah air defence site at low level armed with 1,000lb GP bombs. The aircraft successfully bombed the radar site despite intense anti-aircraft fire enroute but approximately five seconds after weapon release another Tornado involved in the attack saw an explosion on a nearby hillside. As the Tornado flew over the site a series of fires were observed and wreckage was strewn across the landscape. It would not be until the formation returned to base minus Lennox and Week’s aircraft that it was confirmed that their aircraft had been the one that crashed. The exact cause of why the aircraft crashed has never been determined however the Iraqi Air Force later claimed that a MiG-29 “Fulcrum-B” brought down the aircraft with an R-60 (NATO codename AA-8 “Aphid”) air-to-air missile. (see The MiG-29 Question below).


Date: 24th January 1991
Aircraft/Code:
ZA403/CO
Squadron: No.17 Squadron
Pilot:
Flying Officer S. J. Burgess
Navigator:
Squadron Leader R. Ankerson
Details:
The aircraft was carrying out an early morning, medium level attack against an airfield in South West Iraq with 1,000lb GP bombs. As the weapons were released the aircraft was rocked by a large explosion from a proximity detonation of what the crew believed was a SAM that left the wings of the aircraft burning. The crew attempted to escape to the Saudi Arabian border but the aircraft was becoming increasingly uncontrollable until finally all control was lost forcing the crew to eject. Upon landing in the Iraqi desert they were captured and held as PoWs until the end of the war.

A post war investigation of the wreckage and the flight recorder from the aircraft discovered that in fact the most likely cause for the explosion that brought the aircraft down was that one of their 1,000lb bombs detonated prematurely as it fell from the aircraft. Shrapnel fragments found in the wreckage confirmed that the aircraft had indeed been damaged by its own bombs although why the weapon exploded so early remains a mystery.


Date: 14th February 1991
Aircraft/Code:
ZD717/CD
Squadron:
No.17 Squadron
Pilot:
Flight Lieutenant R. J. Clark
Navigator:
Flight Lieutenant S. M. Hicks
Details:
The aircraft was flying as part of a daylight, medium-level precision strike mission with Blackburn Buccaneers providing laser designation duties for the Tornado formation armed with Laser Guided Bombs (LGBs). The target was an airfield in central Iraq and less than two seconds before weapon release the formation’s Radar Warning Receivers (RWRs) detected Iraqi radars “painting” them. The aircraft dropped one of its two LGBs on to the target but then the Buccaneer crew reported SAM launches to the north of the formation’s position.

Realising the aircraft was under attack Flight Lieutenant Clark took evasive action and to increase the Tornado’s agility the remaining external stores were jettisoned. It would prove in vain however for a SAM exploded in close proximity to the aircraft which damaged the canopy and most of the cockpit instrumentation. A short while later a second SAM exploded near the aircraft spraying the wings and fuselage with shrapnel but Clark remained in limited control of the Tornado for a further two minutes although he was unable to contact his navigator in the rear seat.

When he finally lost all control of the aircraft he initiated the ejection and both he and his navigator were thrown from the Tornado before landing in the Iraqi desert. Clark was taken prisoner and it was only then he learned that his navigator, Flight Lieutenant Hicks, had been killed in the attack. Clark was held by the Iraqis until the end of the conflict.


The MiG-29 Question.

During and after the conflict a number of sources, mostly Iraqi and Russian, claimed that Tornado GR.1 ZA467 was shot down by an Iraqi MiG-29 “Fulcrum-B” flown by Iraqi pilot Captain Jameel Sayhood. The fact that exactly why Squadron Leaders Lennox and Weeks’ aircraft crashed has never been determined does add some weight to the claim however this claim has been dismissed by many western observers primarily on the basis that the Iraqis claim that the aircraft was shot down on the 19th when in fact the Tornado crashed on the 22nd. To further confuse matters some Russian sources claim that Sayhood shot down Tornado GR.1 ZA396/GE on the 19th flown by Flight Lieutenants Waddington and Stewart but the post-war RAF investigation confirmed this aircraft was lost due to SAM activity. Captain Sayhood himself would later be shot down in an engagement with the USAF.

The Iraqi Air Force is only credited with a single air-to-air kill during the entire conflict when on January 17th 1991 an Iraqi MiG-25 “Foxbat” piloted by Lieutenant Colonel Zuhair Dawood fired an R-40 missile at a US Navy F/A-18 Hornet. The US aircraft was hit and its pilot, Lieutenant Commander Scott Speicher, was killed.


Non-Combat Losses.

Military fast-jet flying is inherently dangerous in itself and consequently there were three non-combat losses leading up to and during Operation: Granby.

  • On October 18th 1990 Tornado GR.1 ZA466/FH was on approach to Tabuk, Saudi Arabia when the undercarriage caught the barrier which had been raised by mistake. The aircraft slammed nose first in to the runway and caught fire but fortunately both crewmembers escaped unharmed.
  • On January 13th 1991, during a training flight Tornado GR.1 ZD718/BH struck the desert 140 miles west of Masirah, Oman after the pilot entered a steep turn at very low level. The aircraft lost height and crashed killing both crewmembers.
  • On January 20th 1991, Tornado GR.1 ZD893/AG took off from Tabuk, Saudi Arabia for a ground attack mission. Shortly after take-off the pilot reported severely restricted movement of the control column and after declaring an emergency, jettisoned the external stores and attempted to return to base. Despite two efforts to land the aircraft had become almost totally uncontrollable and both crew ejected from their aircraft.
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None Came Back…

Bristol Blenheim IV (ww2today.com)

Bristol Blenheim IV (ww2today.com)

One of the biggest obstacles to the preservation of history is that the legend of an event tends to cover over the reality to the extent that for the vast majority the legend becomes the history. This is especially true when referring to passionate subjects that are in the public mind because of an anniversary and a classic example of this is the Battle of Britain. Throughout the summer of 1940 Britain stood on the verge of annihilation by the forces of Nazi Germany which seemed to sweep away all opposition on the continent. As the legend goes the Spitfires and Hurricanes of the RAF threw themselves against the juggernaut of Hitler’s Luftwaffe that sought to destroy them and pave the way for Operation Sealion – the Nazi invasion of Britain.

What this particular legend ignores however are the efforts of organizations such as the Royal Observer Corps who helped identify and track the attacking German formations. It also ignores the efforts of the British Army’s artillery units on land and the Royal Navy destroyers in the English Channel who turned their guns skyward to add to the defence. Perhaps one group’s contribution more than any other seems almost forgotten to history which is remarkable when you consider that they are an airborne force that fought just as hard a battle as the fighters in the sky – RAF Bomber Command.

History’s view on Bomber Command’s contribution to the battle is primarily focused in the retaliatory attacks on Berlin following the bombing of London’s docks by a flight of lost German bombers. The attacks on Berlin by British bombers forced Hitler’s hand and he ordered the Luftwaffe to turn their attention to London and other British cities thus sparing the RAF bases from attack and keeping Fighter Command operational. However this is only part of the story as Bomber Command, already bloodied and weakened from fighting in France and Norway, tried to take the fight to the Luftwaffe’s own bases in occupied Europe. It was a desperate effort to save the country from defeat for the Battle of France had proven just how vulnerable British bombers were to the German fighters such as the superlative Messerschmitt Bf 109E.

Bristol Blenheim I (commons.wikimedia)

Bristol Blenheim I (commons.wikimedia)

The Bristol Blenheim was a classic example of British thinking in bomber design during the years leading up to the Second World War. The Blenheim was conceived in a time when it was believed that bombers could fly higher and faster than any fighters sent up to intercept them. Consequently the Blenheim and its contemporaries like the Handley Page Hampden had quite light defensive armament. When the snub nosed Blenheim Mk.I first flew in 1935 it seemed like this view was justified since with its top speed of 266mph it was 60mph faster than the Heinkel He.51 biplane fighter which was then equipping the Luftwaffe. That lead however would be lost very quickly as by the time the Mk.I actually entered service in 1937 the first Messerschmitt Bf 109s were becoming operational with the first versions being able to fly at 285mph and that speed was due to rise in time. Operating over France in 1940 the Blenheims, now in the long nose Mk.IV form, couldn’t outrun or outfight the German fighters and they suffered accordingly.

With the Germans now amassing their forces for the invasion of Britain the only way that the RAF could hit back was to keep sending the Blenheim out on daylight raids to target the airfields where the Germans were basing their invasion aircraft such as the Junkers Ju 52 transports. One such base that was frequented by the Blenheims of RAF Bomber Command was Aalborg in northern Denmark. Aalborg had been vital to the German Luftwaffe during the invasion of Norway and now its strategic location made it just as vital in the coming invasion of Britain. During the Battle of Britain Aalborg served the dual purpose of housing a number of the Ju 52s to initially support the Luftwaffe’s logistics efforts for its forward bomber force before becoming a staging post of German paratroops when the actual invasion began. Secondly, Aalborg housed up to 50 Junkers Ju 88 medium bombers that were devastating the RAF’s bases. Aalborg therefore was a high priority target for Bomber Command and it was attacked several times leading up to mid-August 1940 albeit with very little success.

No.82 Squadron (www.raf.mod.uk)

No.82 Squadron (www.raf.mod.uk)

Nevertheless another raid was ordered and the date set for it to take place was August 13th 1940 now remembered as “Adlertag” or “Eagle Day” – the Luftwaffe’s all-out offensive to finally crush Fighter Command and allow the invasion to begin. Twelve Blenheim Mk.IVs of No.82 Squadron then under the command of Wing Commander Edward Collis de Virac Lart were selected for the mission. Lart had been in command of No.82 Squadron for a little over two months and was a competent and respected officer having flown with distinction on a similar raid to Leeuwarden in the Netherlands. Despite this however his new posting had been a difficult one for he had been brought in to replace the popular and charismatic Earl of Bandon who held the post previously before being transferred. Bandon left some big shoes to fill in that respect and while Lart was able to do the job the squadron felt the loss of their previous commander even if it wasn’t in action.

On August 13th the squadron’s aircraft were dispersed at RAF Bodney (designated “B” Flight) and RAF Watton (designated “A” Flight) in Norfolk. It was not uncommon for squadrons to disperse their aircraft among nearby bases during the Battle of Britain as this limited the possibility of the entire squadron’s inventory being destroyed in a single raid by the Luftwaffe. As the sun began its ascent in to a largely overcast English summer sky the two airfields began to drone with the sound of 920hp Bristol Mercury radial engines. Many of the crews were inexperienced replacements brought in after the loss of more experienced men over France including Lart’s navigator and this would have tragic consequences later in the flight. Just as the aircraft were about to start taxiing on to their respective runways one aircraft (believed to be flying from Watton) was ordered to cut its engines and its place to be taken by a spare crew who were on stand-by. The reason the aircraft was pulled from the mission was because the pilot had recently received news that he was to become an instructor and with experienced instructors in short supply it was decided not to risk him on another operation.

At 0830hrs the two flights of aircraft took off from their bases and headed out over the North Sea towards Denmark. The aircraft flew in four groups of three Blenheims flying in the then standard “vic” formation at 6,500ft. Each aircraft was armed with four 250lb bombs and eight 25lb splinter bombs that would spread over a large area to destroy or disable parked German aircraft. The flight out was unspectacular despite the intense air activity that was about to hit mainland Britain but the more pressing issue for the crews was that the Blenheim was operating at the very extreme of its range in reaching Aalborg. As the Danish coast neared for one aircraft this was about to prove a problem as the pilot of Blenheim R3915, Sergeant Norman Baron, calculated that his aircraft was burning fuel excessively and that if he continued then he would most likely have to ditch in the North Sea on the way back. He therefore signalled to his squadron mates that he had to return to base and turned his aircraft back to Britain.

Little could Baron know that he would never see any of those aircraft or their crews again.

Bristol Blenheim IV (www.iwmprints.org.uk)

Bristol Blenheim IV (www.iwmprints.org.uk)

Keeping their altitude low the aircraft passed over the Danish coast but when Lart’s inexperienced navigator, Pilot Officer Maurice Gillingham, identified their position as being Søndervig he realised that they were 55 miles off course due to strong winds. Operating in radio silence other navigators in the formation had realised the mistake and tried to signal the lead aircraft with their Aldis lamps but somehow the gunner in the upper turret of Lart’s Blenheim failed to spot the signals and therefore Lart and Gillingham remained oblivious to the fact. Lart’s decision to have the inexperienced Gillingham in his aircraft leading the mission was later brought in to question and many in No.82 Squadron believed that Lart chose him over other navigators that were available purely because he was the only one with a commission even though some of the other non-commissioned choices were more experienced.

Nevertheless the formation altered course and continued on to their target unaware that the navigational error had done more than put them off course. They had inadvertently alerted a German observation post at Søndervig who in turn alerted the local Luftwaffe fighter headquarters who began to organize an interception but a last chance to abort the mission presented itself when protective cloud cover began to disperse. Lart had instructions that if the cloud cover went below 50% then he was cleared to abort the mission and return to base; better have the aircraft available to fight another day then risk them unnecessarily. As the formation closed on Aalborg the cloud cover was now falling well below 50% and the increasingly nervous crews waited for Lart to give the order to turn around. That order never came.

It is difficult to understand why Lart never followed the instructions of his superiors. He was known to be an ambitious officer and perhaps he was concerned that if he had made it all the way to Denmark and not dropped a single bomb it might put a stain on his record. It is also possible that still living in the shadow of the Earl of Bandon he wanted to prove himself to his men that he was either the match or even superior to his predecessor. Either way the 33 men in the eleven aircraft with no cloud cover began to feel like their father’s did walking across no-man’s land on the Western Front of World War One; totally exposed to enemy fire.

The Germans were frenziedly hurrying to get fighters in to the air to meet the British. A formation of nine Bf 109s that was returning to Jever airfield from escort duty were refuelled and launched to protect Aalborg. Meanwhile, the British formation blundered in to a flak battery as a result of crossing the Danish coast off target and having to alter their approach. Puffs of red and black smoke filled the skies around the six Blenheims of “A” Flight as they made their way to Aalborg but the Germans failed to bring down any of the British planes which now pressed on to attack their target oblivious to the nine Messerschmitt fighters speeding to their location.

German 8.8cm flak gun (commons.wikimedia)

German 8.8cm flak gun (commons.wikimedia)

Less than a minute or so later “B” Flight ran the gauntlet of flak. Unfortunately they had not altered their height and so by now the German gunners had corrected their aim. At approximately 1217hrs the first aircraft was hit when Blenheim R1933 took a direct hit in the tail causing the whole rear fuselage to catch fire. The aircraft’s pilot, Pilot Officer D. Parfitt, lost control and the aircraft crashed at Restrup Enge killing Parfitt and his crew. Barely two minutes later and the flak gunners inflicted a second loss on “B” Flight bringing down Blenheim R3800 although this time all three crewmembers managed to escape their doomed aircraft. Between two to three minutes later another two of “B” Flight’s Blenheims were brought down in quick succession; one crew managed to bail out while the other were all lost. The last aircraft of “B” Flight made it all the way through the flak and despite being badly damaged attempted to attack Aalborg before the aircraft succumb to its damage and crashed on the outskirts of the airfield.

Despite “B” Flight’s annihilation, “A” Flight had succeeded in bombing the target and was now running for the coast when the Messerschmitt’s pounced upon them. The Bf 109s cut in to the British formation and Blenheim R3904 was quickly shot down with only its pilot, Pilot Officer B. Newland, escaping by parachute. At the same time two more Blenheims were attacked and shot down with three aircrew bailing out between them while the remaining three were killed. Of the eleven aircraft that crossed the Danish coast there were now only three remaining including the lead aircraft flown by Lart.

The Messerschmitts repeatedly made attack after attack on the aircraft as they flew south away from Aalborg in an attempt to shake off their pursuers. All three aircraft had taken heavy damage before finally Lart’s Blenheim was mortally wounded and crashed killing him, Gillingham and their gunner. At almost the same time another Blenheim went down but short on fuel and ammunition the Messerschmitt fighters had to return to base leaving the last Blenheim, T1889, to turn west back towards the coast. Its pilot, Sergeant J. Oates, could feel that his aircraft had been heavily damaged and had to wrestle with the decision of whether to press on over the North Sea and hope to reach Britain or bail out and be taken prisoner. As the aircraft reached the coast it became obvious that the aircraft would never make it to Blighty and with a heavy heart he turned his aircraft around. In one final twist however his route back across the Danish coast took the Blenheim directly in to the path of more pursuing Bf 109s which swooped down on the stricken aircraft unaware that the crew were surrendering. The aircraft crash landed near the town of Vust and Oates himself was seriously injured and would have probably suffered worse had the Germans and Danish not given him excellent medical care at Fjerritslev Hospital.

Back in Britain the magnitude of the disaster was becoming apparent as the hours ticked by and none of the attacking aircraft were returning. By the late evening it was confirmed that the entire attacking force had been annihilated and in the heated emotion of the tragedy Sergeant Norman Baron, the pilot of the Blenheim that had to turn back before reaching Denmark, came under intense scrutiny with some claiming he was a coward who left his comrades to die. These accusations became so serious that Baron found himself facing a court martial on the charge of being Lacking in Moral Fibre. Investigation showed that his aircraft was mechanically sound and the ground crew speculated that Baron had ran the fuel/air mixture at higher than normal levels which accounted for the very high fuel consumption.

When tempers had relaxed the charges against Baron were dropped on the grounds of his inexperience but the stigma of the accusation still loomed over him. Nevertheless, perhaps spurred on by the experience, Baron went on to have an exemplary combat flying career eventually earning the Distinguished Flying Medal for an attack on a large German merchant vessel in 1941. Less than two weeks after his medal was awarded Baron was killed attacking enemy shipping around Le Touquet. He was just 20 years old.

For the thirteen survivors of the attack on Aalborg all but one were forced to endure nearly four and a half years of captivity. Sergeant William Magarth whose aircraft was shot down by flak on approach to Alborg effected an incredible escape from his PoW camp in November 1941 and for the next five months worked his way to Gibraltar through France and then Spain arriving in March 1941 exhausted but alive and was soon repatriated. From the same aircraft as Magarth, Sergeant Bill Greenwood became endeared by his captive comrades when he fashioned together a makeshift radio from scrap laying around the camp so that they could listen in on the progress of the war.

These are two small positive stories that were born out of the tragedy of the Aalborg attack on August 13th 1940. As is too often the case the sacrifice of those who never came back has been overlooked by events elsewhere in this case in the skies over Britain as “Eagle Day” raged.

Battle of Britain 75th Anniversary

Battle of Britain 75th Anniversary

Imagine if as you read this the news came on the TV or radio and David Cameron said that Britain’s armed forces were going to go in to action against a hostile force hell bent on the utter annihilation of British culture. That over the coming weeks Britain (or whichever country you call home) would either survive or be completely subjugated by a foreign power.

You could make Euro-sceptic jokes here if you wish but don’t forget that for the people of 1940s Britain this was a very real situation.

Western Europe had fallen to Nazi Germany and with the conquest of France complete only Britain stood in the way of total victory for Adolf Hitler. July 1st 1940, the official start date of what Churchill called the Battle of Britain, saw the start of a sustained air campaign designed to smash the Royal Air Force in to oblivion. Success for the Luftwaffe would allow the German army to cross the English Channel with swarms of German planes above keeping the Royal Navy at bay and smashing ground defences as they had done so successfully against Poland, Belgium, Holland, Norway and France.

Never in the history of Great Britain had it come so close to defeat but over the next two months the RAF whose ranks included thousands of foreign nationals – ranging from pilots from the British Empire’s colonies, pilots who had escaped their own countries before they had fallen to the Nazis and Americans who recognised the threat posed by Hitler – fought the most bitter and desperate air battle in history. The memory of having such a gargantuan force from mainland Europe threatening to invade remains burned on the British psyche and goes some way to explain why now in the 21st century many Britons feel they are still fighting Europe albeit with bureaucracy rather than bullets. Perhaps there is some poetry in the fact that as we celebrate our victory in 1940 against overwhelming odds we are now having to consider what our future in Britain is as we consider whether or not to leave the European Union.

I am not making a case here for one argument or the other. We each have to answer that ourselves as we go to the polls in the coming referendum but we have to remember as we look back to those dark days in 1940 that it was those men and women who fought in the skies, the control rooms or even the factories that built the planes who allowed us to live in a world where we make our decisions through democracy rather than the gun.

And for that we must be forever grateful to those who gave their youth and their lives to preserve freedom.

Lacking in Moral Fibre (LMF)

LMF Hampden

In August 1942 a new stage production was doing the rounds in London’s theatres. Entitled Flare Path the civilians who went to see it were surprised by how many RAF officers and airmen were present in the audience. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise really after all the play was about a bomber crew taking the fight to Germany but one scene in the course of the play affected civilian and military audiences alike albeit for different reasons. The pilot of the bomber confides in his wife that he is “…lacking in moral fibre.” The wife, and indeed the audience, seem dumbfounded by this expression but the RAF men knew full well what it meant. The pilot, noticing the confused look on his wife’s face, then explains, “No guts!” For the civilian population it was the first time many of them had heard this strange remark but for the RAF men it was something that hung over all their heads.

It’s not entirely clear when the term came in to official use but “Lacking in Moral Fibre” or “LMF” was the euphemistic title placed on airmen accused of cowardice. Despite the post-war revulsion at their job which often involved killing thousands of civilians, the men of Bomber Command were painted as heroes during the course of the war. Night after night they risked everything by climbing in to their aircraft and setting off in to the dark to take the war to Germany. In this air of heroism those who didn’t seem to be as committed or cared more about their own survival than anything else risked becoming tainted with the term of LMF. To be found guilty of LMF by an official inquiry or even a court martial would see the airman stripped of rank and sent to the most menial of tasks such as washing dishes and cleaning barracks all the while receiving the scorn of active airmen.

PathfinderThe severity of such a stigma left a lasting impression on all new aircrew when they joined their squadrons. They found themselves facing intense scrutiny from the veteran crews who seemed to be hunting for those who didn’t have what it takes to do the job. Those who were, quite understandably, nervous of their first missions actually found the fear of being labelled as LMF more frightening than the German nightfighters and flak which in turn coaxed them in to completing their missions. This highlights the power the stigma of cowardice had in time of war but nevertheless there remained a small group who could not overcome their nerves.

Post-war research, a difficult process indeed as the RAF actively tried to cover up as many cases as possible, estimates that around 200 cases of disciplinary actions for LMF occurred each year in Bomber Command between 1940 and 1945. Considering that there were thousands of aircrew involved in operations this is a surprisingly small figure; not even 1%. Just what qualified as an example of LMF primarily revolved around a refusal to fly on operations. This is where things get vague. There were numerous cases throughout the war where crews offered some kind of protest to fly for various reasons. Sometimes there were mechanical reasons with regards to their aircraft not working properly. Other reasons for not flying were medical; a member of the aircrew not being sufficiently well enough to fly be it from injury or illness. The problem under these circumstances was that the commanding officer would have final say on whether this was sufficient reason for excluding them from the night’s operation or not. Many commanding officers hailed from the First World War where there were bona fida witch hunts for cowards and conscientious objectors and this mentality remained. As such refusals to fly for even the most reasonable of excuses were dismissed with threats of being labelled as LMF. Consequently there were indeed cases where valuable aircrew were lost because of an aircraft malfunction or because altitude had worsened a medical condition. There were fortunately less reckless commanding officers as well who risked their own careers for refusing to send a crew that was in less than ideal shape on operations.

Those who still refused to fly regardless of the consequences had their own reasons and preferred the stigma of cowardice over death or capture. Many of those “convicted” of being LMF were family men who couldn’t bear the thought of their wives raising their children alone in the days before the welfare state. These men were often faced with the question; if everyone who had families refused to fight this war what would happen to you and your family when Hitler crossed the Channel? Perhaps the least understood reason for refusing to fly, at least in the 1940s, were those suffering from shell-shock known today as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). There was a misguided belief that once a new aircrew got through its first two or three operations then the nerves and apprehension would be quashed. This was never true and most crews simply learned to either live with their fears or hide them altogether.

For some however the psychological trauma of flying through the night having German nightfighters lurking almost unseen in the sky until they suddenly attacked or having flak shells exploding around them would prove too much. For these unfortunate souls each operation slowly broke down the mental defences one puts in place in order to survive such ordeals. With Freudian psychology still widely regarded in professional circles there was no real way to treat or even diagnose such conditions and men were expected to simply buck-up and carry on. This had the inevitable consequence of a mental breakdown which could manifest itself in many ways such as alcoholism, self-harm, sabotage of machinery or even suicide. Many of these poor men then found themselves of being described as Lacking in Moral Fibre.

RAF 12It was one thing for individuals to be labelled as LMF but there were rare occasions where entire aircrews would find themselves punished for cowardice with one of the most dramatic examples occurring on the night of the 22nd/23rd of July 1941. Handley-Page Hampdens of No.144 squadron found themselves on a mission to attack Frankfurt. Flying through the night it was easy to lose sight of one’s compatriots and with navigation aids still primarily involving a stop watch, a map, a ruler and a pencil rarely did the bombers arrive over the target or return to base at the same time. In the early hours of the 23rd July the aircraft began returning to their base in Lincolnshire reporting a successful night’s work. One of the navigators seemed uneasy however and over the following days became quite withdrawn until finally he was sent to his commanding officer to find out what was wrong. It was then he confessed that his aircrew never reached Frankfurt or indeed never crossed the coast in to Europe. Instead they had flown up and down the North Sea and returned to base at around the time they were expected.

A court martial was called and the crew gave their testimonies. The pilot, realising that they risked being labelled as LMF, launched in to a frenzied attack on the navigator accusing him of incompetence. According to the pilot the navigator got them lost quite quickly and instead of returning to the UK with their bombs and the subsequent accusations of cowardice that they believed would follow the crew decided to cover up the whole thing. The officers holding the court martial found the men guilty and the pilot was sentenced to two years hard labour. To add insult to injury the court stated that had the pilot and his crew come clean the situation would have not progressed as far as a court martial as their records had been exemplary to that point. The court believed the pilot’s story but many of their comrades refused to accept it. Ironically, if it was true then their actions to cover up their mistake and not be labelled as cowards actually got them labelled as cowards. Either way this case dramatically highlights the power being branded LMF had on the crews of Bomber Command.

In the immediate post-war period Bomber Command saw its popularity with the British people smashed as video and picture footage of what they had done to Germany came back to the British people. The British people and indeed the world were appalled at the sheer scale of devastation that had been wrought on the civilian population which surpassed what German bombers had done to British cities many times over. In this period of hostility the RAF put an end to its policy of punishing men for Lacking in Moral Fibre and the term fell out of official use being replaced with the crime of insubordination which was a little more vague to a population that might start seeing those who refused to fly as moral heroes. A certain sense of irony falls over the matter at this point.

As the 20th century progressed the psychological effects of war began to be understood more clearly and methods of managing and treating such stresses have become more sophisticated although arguments rage even today if the British government is doing enough to support the psychological needs of its armed forces during and indeed after they have been in combat. While the RAF doesn’t legally prosecute its members for LMF anymore its stigma remains.

On the night of the 30th of April 1982 a pair of RAF Vulcan bombers took off from Ascension Island supported by a vast armada of tankers. Their goal was to bomb the runway at Port Stanley on the Falkland Islands in what was probably the most dangerous bombing mission the RAF had undertaken since the Dambusters and certainly the longest mission in history. One Vulcan would carry out the mission while the second was a spare however the lead Vulcan developed a pressurisation problem and had to abort just a short while after take-off leaving the spare Vulcan to carry out the mission. The problem was later traced to the relatively simple fact that a seal on one of the windows had been damaged when it was closed and when this was discovered to be the problem the Vulcan’s pilot, Squadron Leader John Reeve, said afterwards that he was afraid that he and his crew would be labelled as Lacking in Moral Fibre for not going through with the mission.

The Hostility of Neutrality

Belgian Air Force Fairey Fox fighters

Belgian Air Force Fairey Fox fighters

Belgium found itself in a very unenviable position upon the outbreak of World War II. Geographically and demographically small it was faced with powerful warring factions on three sides of its borders. To the south east was Nazi Germany who had instigated the war through its annexation of territory in the east. To the south west was France with whom the Belgian’s shared a common ancestry and to the north west over a small strip of water was Britain. Like so many nations, Belgium suffered a form of national post-traumatic stress disorder after the First World War and so became determined not to repeat the horrors it suffered when war loomed once again. The Belgians therefore took the position of declaring itself neutral in Europe and as such had little part to play in confronting Hitler’s ambitions in 1939.

Almost invisible in the grand scheme of things throughout the 1930s, the country walked a rather fine line in maintaining its neutrality not wanting to show preference to one side or the other even if many of its citizens rightly feared the Nazis. In order to emphasize this point the Belgians took a very dim view on any of its neighbours who might try to violate its territory intentionally or accidentally and this was dramatically highlighted on the 9th September 1939. It had been a little over a week since Germany had invaded Poland prompting Britain and France to declare war in response. For the small and relatively poorly equipped Belgian air force, the Aeronautique Militaire, it meant constant patrolling to ward off any unwelcome visitors that might threaten the country’s neutrality and drag the country in to the war.

Whitley BomberJust a short distance over the water at RAF Driffield in Yorkshire the men of No.102 Squadron, Bomber Command, with their Armstrong-Whitworth Whitley bombers were taking off for their third mission in to Germany. Much to the frustration of most of the crews involved the mission was not to drop bombs on a strategically vital target but to litter the Ruhr area with leaflets. These leaflets delivered propaganda messages encouraging the German people to either rise up in revolt against the brutal Nazi dictatorship or commit acts of passive resistance such as refusing to work in the arms factories. All involved in this effort questioned its usefulness. The Germans appeared to be holding all the cards with Britain and France apparently powerless to stop Germany from decimating Poland. Hitler had not only restored German pride but had developed an almost cult following from his people so why on Earth would they listen to a propaganda letter dropped in the night by the RAF encouraging them to rise up against him?

What the operations did do however was give the crews valuable experience in flying at night on an actual operation and this would be put to good use when bombs finally replaced the useless leaflets. In the early hours of September 9th the Whitleys began their massive ‘littering’ exercise over the industrial Ruhr. In all the squadron had helped drop nearly 60,000 such leaflets on the three operations it had carried out over the previous week and with their bomb bays now empty they began to turn for home. One thing the RAF had learned very quickly in those early operations was that their night flying ability was woefully inadequate for the job at hand thanks to a combination of obsolete training and a lack of suitable navigation aids. In the early operations this often meant that instead of a stream of bombers going in to a target area together they often arrived in dribs-and-drabs if they arrived at all. Many simply got lost and headed for home without ever seeing the target.

As the sky behind them began to singe in to an orange colour with the rising sun the crews of three Whitleys from No.102 Squadron began to suspect that as well as being separated from the main force they had also strayed off course in a northerly direction – in to Belgium. This was bad news because as well as violating international law by carrying weapons (in this case their defensive machine guns) over a neutral country they also risked being interned by the Belgians should they be forced to land or bail out. Strictly speaking; if they were intercepted over Belgian territory then they would be required to land or else the Belgians would have the legal right to shoot them down.

At around 0600hrs, as the crews tried to find their location using landmarks for reference in the early morning light, Whitley K8985 piloted by Flying Officer William Cogman was spotted by a Fairey Fox and a pair of Fairey Firefly IIMs (not to be confused with the Royal Navy’s Fairey Firefly of a few years later; the Belgian Fairey Firefly IIM was a single seat development of the two-seat Fairey Fox built in Belgium by Fairey Avions). The biplane fighters swooped down on the Whitley with the intention of forcing it to land. In order to signal their intentions the lead Belgian fighter fired a spray of bullets ahead of the bomber. For the bomber crew this was their first taste of aerial combat and they mistook the warning for an attack.

9_32

Flying Officer William Cogman’s Whitley (Wings Pallette)

The bomber’s gunners defended themselves and fired a spray of bullets in to the lead Fairey Firefly IIM causing its engine to cough and spit. Realizing his aircraft was doomed the Belgian pilot took it down and force landed while his two wingmen now attacked for real. The fighters and the bombers exchanged fire for several seconds until the tail gunner of the Whitley scored a succession of hits on the Fox resulting in the aircraft becoming uncontrollable and the two crew bailed out. The Whitley had not come off entirely unscathed however and with one Firefly remaining the crew decided to surrender. The surviving Firefly escorted the Whitley to the airfield at Nivelles where both the aircraft and the crew were interned.

Meanwhile more Belgian fighters had stumbled across one of the two remaining Whitleys and were attempting to force it down as well. The crew were having none of it however and the tail gunner opened fire on two Fairey Fox VI biplane fighters. The lead Fox broke off its attack but the tail gunner then turned his weapons on the second aircraft causing fatal damage to the control mechanism. Once again its Belgian crew were forced to abandon their aircraft and the remaining two Whitleys escaped out of Belgian territory leaving behind three destroyed Belgian fighters and one interned Whitley.

It is a miracle that no one was hurt in the engagement but the damage to Anglo-Belgian relations was immediate if short lived. The British government offered to compensate the Belgians for their lost aircraft (reputedly by supplying Boulton-Paul Defiant turret fighters) but the deal was rejected because of the fear that it would show favouritism to the British and encourage German aggression. The RAF tried to amend its operating principles in the wake of the incident and indeed these seemed successful with only a small handful of accidental incursions occurring over the coming months including an incident where an RAF Hawker Hurricane landed in Belgium only for its pilot to literally run back across the border to France rather than be interned.

BlitzkriegIf Belgium was truly neutral in those early months of the war it certainly didn’t seem like it as 1939 gave way to 1940. The Luftwaffe frequently violated Belgian territory, far more than Britain or France ever did, and the Belgian air force fought numerous battles with their German counterparts until May 10th 1940 when Hitler dropped all pretence that he was going to honour Belgium’s neutrality and his forces smashed through country in a classic Blitzkrieg. The interned Whitley K8985 was destroyed by the Germans on the ground at Nivelles but by then its crew had long been repatriated.

Nuclear Vulcan Lightning Strike

142834303657527Before I get in to this article I would like to take you back to the very early hours of January 1st 2007. While the rest of the world was either tucked away in bed fearing the hangover that would surely visit them the next morning I was eking out a meagre living as a night security guard patrolling the grounds of the Museum of Welsh Life, St. Fagan’s on the outskirts of Cardiff. The museum is actually a little pseudo-village of small houses each representing different periods of Welsh history. I didn’t mind working the New Year’s Eve shift. At the time I had been married for just three months and my money paid for me and my wife to enjoy this early period of wedded bliss before real life hit like the sledgehammer that it is. New Year’s Eve offered double pay which meant an extra night out in town for us come pay day.

It was about 3am and there was a distinctly wet and cold chill blowing in over the old houses. Under such circumstances it’s no wonder so many claim the ghosts of the former tenants of the houses roam the streets at night. I’ll confess I had my own curious encounter one night during the year and a half I worked there which I am hesitant to say was a ghost but still remains something of a mystery. Anyway, I was walking towards a building known as the Toll House when there was a sudden downpour which saw me running for the doorway to take shelter.

FLASH!

I had been standing there for a few seconds when my eyes become overwhelmed by a bright white light. The intensity was such that my eyes physically began to sting as I was totally blinded and I remember throwing my hands to my face and yelling out. Next it was my ears turn to be accosted. Around half a second later a loud explosion roared through the night that was so powerful that my internal organs actually vibrated. Blinded and now deafened I found myself wallowing around in the rain as I blinked my eyes back to working order. It was then my radio crackled in to life as my supervisor called out to see if I was alright. It was only then that I found out that the main museum building had been struck by a bolt of lightning and I was looking straight at it when it hit.

Talking to my supervisor back at the security lodge I told him that it was like seeing and hearing a nuclear blast! And it scared me. Boy did it scare me.

Lightning has always been much more of a threat to aircraft than buildings (or even lowly security guards). From the earliest days of aviation it has wielded its powerful force from the heavens down on to unsuspecting pilots and passengers who by the very nature of their travel are making themselves more susceptible to getting struck. An aircraft is a combination of fuel, metal and other combustible materials that all serve to provide fuel for a possible flying bonfire should a lightning strike occur. Admittedly in the 21st century there are numerous measures in place to limit the effect of lightning but it would be foolish to think that the danger has been entirely eliminated.

But what if an aircraft gets struck by lightning while carrying a nuclear bomb?

Worryingly, it has happened. And the aircraft wasn’t even flying! It was a wet and blustery afternoon at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire and the weather looked set to worsen in the night. It was August 8th 1967 and Waddington was still on the frontlines of the Cold War with the Soviet Union by helping provide Britain’s nuclear deterrence with its force of Avro Vulcan bombers of Nos.50 and 101 Squadron. The glory days of the Vulcan were quickly diminishing however. Having enjoyed a certain degree of glory when it entered service in the mid to late-1950s the threat of surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) had forced the aircraft to drop its beautiful anti-flash white paint scheme for dirty looking camouflage that signalled the switch from high altitude to low altitude operations. In less than two years the Vulcans would relinquish the nuclear deterrent to the Royal Navy and their force of Polaris missile armed nuclear submarines.

In the meantime the aircraft remained Britain’s first response to a nuclear attack on the west and on this night a handful of aircraft sat on the apron fitted with nuclear weapons. In this instance they were armed with the WE.177 free-fall nuclear bomb, a British designed weapon intended to keep the bombers relevant until the navy could take over. The exact aircraft involved is unknown but as the weather closed in on Waddington bright flashes of lightning lit up the sky on the horizon but the groundcrews and pilots standing alert around the aircraft had no idea just how close the lightning was getting. They were about to find out just how close it was.

FLASH! BANG!

A group of groundcrew were stunned by the severity of the lightning and the noise of the thunder. Their heads turned in the direction of the lightning and realized that one of the aircraft had been struck. Their mouths opened, horrified by the realization that the aircraft was loaded with a WE.177 nuclear weapon. One of the groundcrew described the feeling in the immediate aftermath;

“[It was] a bit like a firework which you have lit and it has not gone bang.”

Confirming with their senses that they were still alive they rushed to secure the aircraft and its precious cargo. Thankfully, while the aircraft had sustained some minor burns on the fuselage the WE.177 appeared to remain undamaged. Nevertheless it was removed and inspected further but no damage had been sustained to the casing or the warhead.

Even if the weapon had sustained damage it is unlikely the nuclear warhead would have detonated. A nuclear weapon requires a very specific series of events to occur in order for it to detonate and a direct lightning strike would not achieve that. However there was the possibility of radiation leakage or even a small explosion spreading radioactive material over RAF Waddington.

The incident was not widely reported in 1967 and largely forgotten until 1999 when documents released under the Freedom of Information Act revealed a catalogue of close-calls involving British nuclear weapons. This has only served to further the anti-nuclear campaigning in the UK.

Operation Purposeful – Finding Rwanda’s Missing Refugees

Rwandan Refugee CampFew places in the world have known such pain as Rwanda in the 1990s. The conflict between the Hutu and Tutsi tribes stretches back in to antiquity but it was the end of colonialism and the creation of the new nations of Rwanda and Burundi that the hatred found new reasons to simmer. Both tribes were spread out across a tribal zone that stretched along the border with the once dominant Tutsi tribe in Rwanda becoming a minority compared to the Hutus.

Violence was sporadic but bloody throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Often there seemed to be no specific cause for it other than releasing the tension and it always resulted in brutal and merciless killings of large numbers of people usually families rounded up from their homes. A massacre carried out by one tribe would in turn spark a retaliatory massacre soon after by the opposite tribe and it was clear to anyone in the western world who looked at the situation that a powder keg was building and it needed only small spark for the situation to explode.

That spark came on April 6th 1994 when the president of Rwanda, Juvénal Habyarimana, and the president of Burundi, Cyprien Ntaryamira, were killed when the aircraft they were travelling on was shot down by a surface-to-air missile. In the political vacuum that followed both sides threw themselves at one another in a brutal orgy of rape and murder. Heavily outnumbered by the Hutus the Tutsi tribe suffered the worst violence aimed at them. Entire communities were murdered in acts of ethnic cleansing whose brutality rivalled that of the situation in Bosnia.

There was intense criticism of the international community by aid workers, the media and of course the Rwandan and Burundi people for their lack of action. This sparked a military airlift program to fly aid in to the region but there was little in the way of direct action to stop the violence. Terrified for their lives many ordinary Tutsi and Hutus abandoned their homes and made the dangerous journey to the border with Zaire. Leaving their homes made them extremely vulnerable to attack by an opposing tribe as well as problems with the lack of adequate food, rest and medical attention. Nevertheless it seemed almost overnight hundreds of thousands of refugees disappeared in to the jungles of western Zaire.

The plight of these refugees coupled with the fact that the situation had spilled over in to yet another African country provoked a more potent response from the United Nations and calls came for a peacekeeping force to be deployed on the ground to find these refugees and give them proper aid. The problem was however that any large scale military effort risked getting the foreign troops embroiled in a bitter and bloody conflict as was the case in Bosnia. Their very presence could even worsen the situation if it appeared that they favoured one side over the other.

Canberra PR.9 XH131The Royal Air Force, fresh from its experiences over Bosnia, offered another solution. They proposed deploying a Canberra PR.9 high altitude reconnaissance aircraft to mount a series of mapping flights along the border between Rwanda and western Zaire to locate the refugees and then direct ground units in to intercept them and escort them to UN safe zones. Seeing it as preferable to large numbers of ‘boots on the ground’ the UN embraced the idea.

The RAF’s Canberra PR.9 force was operated by No.39 (No.1 Photographic Reconnaissance Unit) Squadron based at RAF Wyton. The Canberra was the RAF’s oldest frontline type in 1996 with the original aircraft, a bomber, entering service in 1951. In its PR.9 guise it was capable of flying at very high altitudes and its array of cameras meant that a single flight could cover a vast area of land. Upon landing the photographs could be immediately viewed by RAF interpreters extensively trained in picking out tell-tale evidence of human activity on the ground.

In November 1996 a single Canberra PR.9, serial number XH131, left RAF Wyton for Entebbe Airport in Uganda. The airport itself had an interesting military history in that in 1976 during the rule of Idi Amin a group of Palestinian terrorists hijacked an Air France airliner from Tel Aviv full of French and Israeli passengers. While the French negotiated for the release of their people the Israeli’s instead mounted an impressive military rescue operation involving commandos flying a C-130 Hercules straight on to the runway.

Along with the Canberra an RAF Hercules airlifter landed at Entebbe (admittedly in a less spectacular fashion than the Isreali Hercules 20 years earlier) delivering the ground personnel and supporting equipment. Once the RAF had established themselves at Entebbe the aircraft departed for the first of a scheduled 23 missions on the morning of the 23rd November 1996. The crew of the aircraft didn’t really know what their cameras had observed until the aircraft returned and the film processed meticulously by interpreters.

In searching for the refugees in Zaire the interpreters were looking for;

  • Concentrations of people living in hastily assembled shelters
  • Signs of the mass transit of people such as tracks drawn in the ground by many footprints passing over the same area
  • Evidence of precious settlements such as extinguished fires or debris from destroyed shelters
  • Bodies from those who failed to survive the journey or were killed by fighting or starvation.

Locating bodies was nothing new to the Canberra. In 1988 a Canberra PR.9 was used to locate bodies of passengers from the Pan Am 747 that was blown up by Libyan terrorists over the remote Scottish town of Lockerbie. During the course of the deployment to Entebbe missions were also undertaken to monitor the eruption of Mount Bisoke and how it would affect the local population.

While the threat of interception by hostile aircraft was negligible the threat from shoulder launched surface-to-air missiles such as the SA-7 “Strela” was very real and therefore the Canberra was fitted with a pair of BOZ-107 chaff/flare dispenser pods under the wings borrowed from the RAF’s Tornado fleet.

The following is taken from the operational record book of No. 39 Sqn RAF and covers the date and times of the sorties as well as comments on the mission.


23rd Nov
0515-0750

No refugees seen in Biluma, Katale, Rumango and Rugari.

1015hrs-1230hrs
2,000 to 3,000 refugees in vicinity of Medaka. Mudaka to Karago and Hombo to Bunyakiri roads covered.

26th Nov
0505hrs-0740hrs

1,000 to 2,000 refugees travelling south on road between Kashewe and Mingasi. Four other areas cleared.

0945 1205
Road from south of Walikale to Makote cleared.

27th Nov
0515hrs-0805hrs
Main road from Goma to Sake containing approx 3,000 refugees probably moving towards Sake refugee camp at Minova.

28th Nov
0515hrs-0720hrs 
Minova refugee camp still occupied. 5,000 to 10,000 travelling north-west on road in river valley west of Lake Kivu.

0950hrs – 1210hrs
Shabunda and Walikale areas. 2,000 to 3,000 refugees on road moving towards Walikale. Checkpoint noted on road.

30th Nov
0525hrs-0755hrs
Three roads flown and cleared; no refugee activity seen.

1st Dec
0525hrs-0735hrs
Goma to Sake road cleared. Small number of people on road side near Lake Kivu.

2 Dec
0510hrs-0740hrs 
The Lowa river valley area. Large number of refugees camped along the road in the valley. Total 150K+. Minova camp now unoccupied.

3rd Dec
0500hrs-0635hrs 
Volcano only.

4th Dec
0505hrs-0805hrs
Goma airfield. Nzibi area flown as a mini-survey. No refugees were located.

5th Dec
0500hrs-0710hrs
Due to cloud targets not covered. An area search (target of opportunity) found no refugee activity.

0925hrs-1105hrs
Colour (photographs) of refugees in Lowa valley.

6th Dec
0630hrs-0920hrs
Lowa river valley. Refugees still present; however, new camps have been established and some of the older camps have been abandoned. General direction of drift is away from Rwanda.

8th Dec
0455hrs-0705hrs
No photography.

9th Dec
0630hrs-0920hrs
Road from Walikale to Lubutu. Small camp largely abandoned on side of road approx—500 occupants 2mm (sic) SE Lubutu.

10th Dec
0455hrs-0710hrs
PFO of volcano eruption.

11th Dec
0450hrs-0750hrs
Goma to Sake road cleared. Refugee camp 1,500 to 2,000 occupants in vicinity of Kingulubu. This camp has been in existence for several weeks but is probably getting larger.

12th Dec
0950hrs-1250hrs

Total camera failure. Crew report nil refugees seen along route Lubutu to Shabunda.

13th Dec
0435hrs-0750hrs
Roads from Lubutu to Kindu and around Shabunda cleared. No refugees were seen.

Before the Canberra returned to the UK its missions had helped locate some 300,000 missing refugees and probably saved more lives than putting soldiers on the ground to do the same job ever could have. Unfortunately the violence in Rwanda would continue for another year.