Profile Photo
david leigh-smith
283 articles

On This Day…May 2nd.

May 2, 2019 · in Photo Collections · · 13 Comments

Today marks the 74th anniversary of the last Bomber Command raid on Germany during World War Two. The photograph above shows an RAF crew with their Mosquito and it's 4,000 lbs bomb to be used on a raid against the Kiel canal (Germany) to disrupt possible German retreat routes into Norway.

The ground and air crew were photographed on 2nd of May, 1945 at RAF Downham Market in Norfolk, England; the date is clearly seen chalked on the side of the bomb, suggesting someone recognised the possible significance of the date.

The Ministry of Defence's Air Historical Branch confirmed that this was Bomber Command's last raid against Germany.

‘Panther at the Zoo' - Tiergarten, May 2nd, 1945.

A captured Russian BM-31-12 Katyusha rocket launcher on Studebaker US6 chassis in Berlin, Germany, 2nd of May, 1945.

On the 2nd of May, 1942, the HMS ‘Edinburgh' was under tow, trying to make good to Murmansk at around two knots after being torpedoed on the 30 April by the German submarine U-456 while on escort duty. She was without her stern (as can be seen clearly in the photo below...) but the crew had miraculously managed to shore up the damage. If she could make it into port there was every chance the ship could be saved.

However, the Luftwaffe had been monitoring all radio comms, and a force of German destroyers appeared off Bear Island. Despite her horrendous damage, in the ensuing fight HMS Edinburgh damaged the destroyer Hermann Schoemann so badly that she had to scuttled and managed to chase off the other German destroyers.

After this battle, HMS Edinburgh was once again torpedoed, on the opposite side to the previous impact, – meaning she was virtually almost cleaved in two. The crew's second desperate battle for survival in less than two days took place below decks. One of the radar ratings Harry Cook, who had a miraculous escape, recounted his story...

"There were eight of us in this lower compartment when the torpedo hit. The deck plating above us, yielding under the pressure of the explosion jammed the hatch cover. In charge of us was a long-term petty officer who treated us with contempt. He despised us not only because we were young and inexperienced but principally because we were 'hostilities only'. We all shouted and battered at the hatch but no one heard us.

“Eventually, by exerting all our combined strength against the cover, we managed to move it open just wide enough to allow the petty officer to force his body through the gap and slide out. We were all very young and very frightened and the tension was terrible. We waited there in the dark for an hour assuring ourselves that the PO would soon be bringing help.”

“But still no one came. We tried the telephone but could get no reply. After what seemed an eternity the phone actually rang. It was from Damage Control. The voice said - 'We didn't know you were down there - we thought you were all out. We saw the petty officer who came barging up the ladder and when we asked, "Is everybody out?", he replied "Yes".

“As a result we locked the upper hatch cover in the deck above”. Very soon a Damage Control party arrived and forced the cover and in moments we were free. You can imagine how we felt. In fact if we could have found that PO at the time, I think we would have half-killed him. By his deliberate neglect we could have all died."

What the Germans (or most of the crew) could not know is that the Edinburgh was carrying 465 gold bars (payment from the Russians for US-leased equipment) in her hold. This treasure would be worth more than $150 million dollars today, and was largely salvaged in 1981.

There remain 5 bars unaccounted for...

Nice aerial photo of battleship USS Colorado (BB-45) at harbor, surrounded by tugs, 2nd May 1927.

Joseph Stalin inspecting a TB-3 bomber, 2 May 1932.

SBD-3 Dauntless, F4F-4 Wildcat, and TBF-1 Avenger aircraft aboard USS Enterprise (CV-6) northeast of Nouméa, New Caledonia, on the 2nd of May 1943. USS Washington in background.

James Flynt enlisted in ‘D Company, 2nd Arkansas Infantry' in the Confederate Army On May 2nd, 1862.

His service was short lived due to being killed at the battle of Murfreesboro (Stones River) just eight months later. The list of battles that he & the 2nd Arkansas participated in are;

Siege of Corinth: Apr-June 1862
Kentucky Campaign: Aug.-Oct. 1862
Battle of Perryville: Kentucky October 8, 1862
Battle of Murfreesboro: Dec.31, 1862- Jan.3, 1863.

USS Indianapolis (CA-35) off Mare Island Navy Yard, California, on May second, 1943.

And a small rant...

I am usually the first to counter the ‘snowflake generation' insult that is often bestowed upon our current generation of youth. Young people of today are making some very positive changesin the world, especially to old and tired predudices. I also like the Harry Potter canon. And there are several modelers out there who make some amazing miniatures of the ‘Potter Universe'.

But. But...for me this is just a little too far...but it was .

First time I've even considered fictional ‘memorial days' - maybe, just maybe, I'm getting too old.

Reader reactions:
11  Awesome

13 responses

  1. I know that you are preparing to fight. Your efforts are futile. You cannot fight me. I do not want to kill you. I have great respect for the teachers of Hogwarts. I do not want to spill magical blood. Give me Harry Potter, and none shall be harmed. Give me Harry Potter, and I shall leave the school untouched. Give me Harry Potter, and you will be rewarded. You have until midnight.

    (My 7 year old just finished the last book - it is a very serious business, this).

  2. Oh boy, I knew this’d push buttons...

    I read the books to my daughter also. God knows, I love Lord of the Rings when I was younger but could never see myself, even ironically, suggesting a day of mourning for Boromir.


  3. Who's Harry Potter?


  4. Gary, I think he flew with Air Group Six off the Enterprise...

  5. You almost had me with the TB-3, but price and size prevailed! For now, I'm NOT adding to my stash...!

  6. I swear, Greg, that sometimes running this thread feels like I’m pushing plastic. “Oh, go on, it’s only one little Tupilev, think of how she’d stand out in your collection - she wants you to build her...practically begging you to smooth down her seams...”

  7. That petty officer on the Edinburgh is another reminder of the many "otherwise-unemployables" one has to put up with in the service. Can't get away from them fast enough. He should have been put over the side without a life jacket.

    • There are people, Tom (two in particular, a very long time ago) whom I’ve detested so much, and had the means, motivation, and the will to rid the world of their genealogical stain. That I didn’t, is down to civilisation. It’s a thin veneer, and without it, people like that Petty Officer would drag us back to the animal in us.

      Thank all that’s good for civilisation, and the influence of good people.


      • david a pilot at the hanoi hilton was thrown in solitary for 6 months...he concentrated on every man he absolutely hated...ran them under his microscope...when he walked out he said he loved everyone of them...but some people are just no dam good...father flanagan was wrong...there are bad boys

  8. On the Battle of Murfreesboro (aka "Stones River"--Confederates tended to name battle for nearby cities; Federals for flowing water sources), my cousin, George H. Thomas, a Virginian who stayed with the Union, was quoted as saying in the discussion that led up to the clash at that locale southeast of Nashville, Tennessee, "Gentlemen, I know of no better place to die than here." That quote is a keeper for so many of the projects we build as commemorations.

    The Murfreesboro/Stones River Battlefield boasts the very first Civil War monument ever erected--built while the war was still happening. Walking on those fields (I've been to Stones River as well as Perryville) gives one the chills.

    1 attached image. Click to enlarge.

  9. Thanks for sharing this piece of your family history, David. Without such contributions these small stories are just old photos and dusty, detached narratives. Being able to place them in a context with someone you know gives a sense of connection, a small degree of separation between oneself and history. Brings these events alive.

    Much appreciated.

  10. nice tu art...

  11. Did the TB-3 have diesel engines? Also I think there's a movie about the life of JRR Tolkien is about to be released.

Leave a Reply