11. Russelheim, 25th/26th August 1944 - 103 Squadron Operation
Flying Officer Vernieuwe and his crew flew their first operation on the night of the 25/26th August 1944 when 103 Squadron detailed 18 Lancasters and crews as part of a heavy raid directed at the Opel motor vehicle factory at Russelheim.
Flying Officer Vernieuwe took off in Lancaster NF913 PM-M at 20:22 in good weather conditions, which continued throughout the flight. Visibility in the target area was good, the Pathfinder markers were well placed and concentrated, and a good attack developed. Defences consisted of heavy flak in barrage form and considerable searchlight activity. German night fighters were very active and manycombats took place. Approaching the target the Lancaster of Flying Officer Vernieuwe and crew was attacked by a twin-engined night-fighter which was shot down in flames by the mid upper gunner, Sergeant Relf.
They bombed the markers at 01:12 from 18000ft and on the return flight were attacked by a Fw 190 that was shot down by return fire from the rear gunner, Sergeant Quinlan.
A further attack was made by another night fighter but this engagement proved inconclusive and no claims were made.
In all Flying Officer Vernieuwe and his crew had 8 encounters with night fighters that night, three of which turned into actual combats. During one of these combats the evasive action taken which resulted in NF913 plunging from 18000ft to 2000ft and "popping a few rivets". At 04:49 the crew made a safe landing at Elsham Wolds after a very eventful baptism on operations.
During the same operation another 103 Squadron crew, that of Flying Officer Ryerse, also claimed a twin engined night fighter destroyed and another damaged.
103 Squadron Lancaster ND632 of Flying Officer Westcott and crew, returned from the operation very seriously damaged and crash-landed at Ford. Unfortunately there were no survivors from this crew.