44 Squadron Lancaster Warms Up

Royal Air Force Avro Lancaster B Mark I, Serial R5729, Squadron Code "KM-A" of 44th Squadron, 5 Group, warms up at RAF Dunholme Lodge prior to a raid of Berlin on January 2, 1944. Note Rolls Royce Merlin engines. This aircraft flew 70 missions with 44 Squadron before it was shot down on the night of January 14/15, 1945. 44 Squadron was permitted to add "Rhodesia" to its unit crest in September 1941, as a quarter of its personnel were from that British colony. As losses mounted, 44 Squadron was crewed by Canadians, Rhodesians, Australians and British. Originally part of an order of 200 Avro Manchesters ordered in September 1939. When that type proved unacceptable, the order was converted to Lancaster Mark Is. R5729 was heavily damaged by a JU-88 night fighter on July 23/24, 1942; Pilot Officer Day managed to return to base. Flying as part of the RAF's night offensive into Germany, R5729 raided Turin, Stuttgart, Manheim, Munich, Berlin, Dusseldorf, Hamburg, Lorient, Nuremberg, Saint Nazaire, Stettin, Bochum, Oberhausen, and Hannover; many cities multiple times. At 1643 Hours on January 14, 1944, Pilot Officer L. Curatolo of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) flew off R5729 with Sergeant G.W. Williams, Sergeant P.R. Hughes, D.S. Mullin (RCAF), Sergeant T. Whitely, Sergeant S.W. Weldon, and Sergeant G. Armitt of the Royal Australian Air Force for Brunswick. The Germans were heard vectoring their fighters for attack as soon as the bomber stream crossed the frontier at Bremen; they tracked the bombers forty miles (64 kilometers) off England. Around 2000 Hours, R5729 was engaged by a German night fighter and destroyed near Gieboldehausen, 15.5 miles (25 kilometers) East-Northeast of Gottingen. The entire crew was killed and buried in Hannover Cemetery. Because Brunswick was not a major city and the Germans effectively eliminated the pathfinders (11 were lost) the city received only minor damage. Ten houses were destroyed and fourteen people killed. Many towns and villages to the south were hit by errant bombs, especially Wolfenbuttel. A total of thirty-eight Lancasters were lost.
Caption Written By: 
Jason McDonald
Imperial War Museum
Archival Identifier: 
IWM CH 11927
Date Photographed: 
Sunday, January 2, 1944