The Germans were monitoring the target’s defences, overhearing traffic from six night fighters. One machine of the US 416th Night Fighter Squadron was on patrol and two RAF squadrons, Nos. 255 and 600, scrambled night fighters as the bombers arrived over Bari. Control was provided by 267 Mobile Radio Unit which was not severely affected by the Düppel. 255 Sqn. unit put up three Beaufighter Mk. VI at 19.35 hours (I.e. as the raiders struck). Pilot Officer Nichols and F/O Carter got multiple contacts which turned out to be Düppel but were able to close to visual range on what they believed—“by position of four exhaust stubs”—was a Do 217. The enemy was taking violent evasive action and escaped them by suddenly peeling to port.
None of the other crews fared any better and the Operations Record book remarks that despite the fighters being airborne within five minutes of getting the order, “Raid appeared to be over when [our] aircraft reached Bari. Warning of raid not received by local Ground Control until bandits were within 20 miles of Bari”.
From 600 Sqn., F/O "Happy" Hine and F/L Powell (Beaufighter Mk. VI, V8492 “M”) had taken off from Foggia/Tortorella at 19.10 “for raid in the Barletta area” (50 km up the coast from Bari) and saw anti-aircraft fire over the target area. After being giving a number of unproductive vectors, they had to land with technical trouble. S/L Horne and F/S Cadman (Beaufighter Mk. VI, V8827 “H”) were scrambled from the same airfield at 19.35 Once airborne they also saw AA fire over Barletta but obtained no contacts. On sighting a “huge explosion and pillar of smoke to 10,000 feet” (3,000 m) they called ADDEW control which was unable to give any information. Finally given a vector, they got to within 5 miles (8 km) but lost contact.
The Anti-aircraft defences responded with over 2,000 rounds from their heavy guns, 8,000 x 37 and 40 mm and almost 4,000 x 20 mm but made no claims although they were held to have been as “effective as topography and quantity available permitted”.
Despite the failure of the gunners and fighters to score, two of the raiders failed to return:
A later casualty of the raid may have been a reconnaissance machine shot down by fighters over Bari on 4 December 1943, probably while trying to obtain photographs of the damage done. It had taken off at 11.05 hours.
This aircraft sent an SOS at 11.44 GMT but was not heard from again.
ULTRA reported reconnaissance aircraft lost in the Adriatic on the 4th: Ju 88 5M+S of Wekusta 26 which ditched off Falconara at 01.30 with only its observer and air-gunner saved. This was Ju 88 D-1, W.Nr. 430914, which made an emergency landing at sea with pilot Fw. Paul Brüggert and Uffz. Josef Geßler posted missing. The Quartermaster General’s loss report gives the date as 3 December. This suggests that the aircraft was operating overnight on the 3rd/4th.
continued on next page …
PART THREE OF SIX
© Nick Beale 2019