Peenemunde, 17/18 August 1943

Coming up to the anniversary of the famous raid on Hitler’s secret weapons site, we started thinking about what we have in the Archive which is related to this night. It was not difficult to come up with three items, all in Special Collections.

The three aircrew concerned are Arthur Orchard, a gunner with 156 Squadron; Dudley Archer, a navigator, flying with 35 Squadron; and Clement Boyce, the Senior Air Staff Officer for the Pathfinders, who flew as second pilot with one of 97 Squadron’s best crews, that of Squadron Leader Rodley.

Arthur Orchard (who is on the cover of Pathfinder Aircrew and whose story is told in the book) was only flying his second operation when the crew went to Peenemunde. They had not yet been transferred to the Pathfinders and were flying with 101 Squadron from Ludford Magna. Arthur’s logbook notes in an understated way the extraordinary nature of the operation – they bombed at 8,000 feet; he also notes it was a ‘Sharp Attack’.

Dudley Archer, a navigator with 35 Squadron, kept the standard navigator’s log for the trip. This is a large document with pencil notes and time recordings on both sides, but here is a detail from when they arrived in the target area:

In his notes, Dudley records the extremely effective smoke screen at the target area, and this smoke screen is also noted in the crew’s debriefing comments, made after they returned to Graveley after the operation.

Lastly, we include an entry from Clement Boyce’s Flying log Book:

Boyce, who like Bennett did not generally fly on operations, had been attending the pre-op briefing at 97 Squadron when the sound of the operation appealed to him and he asked Fresson, the Commanding Officer, to pick him out a good crew to fly with. Fresson picked Squadron Leader Rodley. Much later, Rodley would tell Boyce’s son Sam that his father has spent the entire trip sitting imperturbably next to him, puffing on his everlasting pipe.

Interestingly, the fact that Boyce flew with Rodley’s crew is not recorded in 97 Squadron’s ORB, presumably because it was so last minute. This is one of several instances we know of when the records were not correct.

John Searby, Commanding Officer of 83 Squadron, was master bomber directing and focusing the operation, the first time that this technique had been used.

RPA Special Collections: Arthur Orchard, Dudley Archer, Clement Boyce