LANCASTER CRASH FEBRUARY 20-21, 1945
ALEX ELLIOTT JENKINS - pilot
* October 29, 1924 (Melbourne, Australia)
Unit: 460th Squadron
Service: Royal Australian Air Force
Alex Jenkins wa born on October 29, 1924 in Melbourne, Australia. Hij behoorde tot de Royal Australian Air Force.
Before he joined the RAAF, Jenkins studied geology at the University of Sydney. Jenkins volunteered in the RAAF in Benella, Victoria on November 2, 1942 at the N°11 EFTS.
Jenkins made his first flight in a biplane D.H.82 to become familiar with flying. He did this with instructor Sergeant Eva.
D.H.82 Tiger (photo: http://usedom-aircraftsales.com/portfolio/de-havilland-tiger-moth-d-h-82/)
On April 16 Jenkins made his first solo flight.
In June 1943 Jenkins was transferred to N°7 SFTS in Deniliquin where he started an advanced course with a Wirraway on June 9..
(photo: Rudy Kenis)
Jenkins became a very skilled pilot thanks to his flying experience. That also meant he was doing some stunts with his airplane, for example on August 24 when he got a bit overconfident and hit some power cables with his airplane. This ended in an 28 day flying ban.
In October 1943 Jenkins endid his flying course in Australia with a total of 167 flying hours.
In January 1944 Jenkins crossed the ocean to England to participate the big war in Europe. He was brought to N°20 PAFU in Kidlington where made his first flight in an Avro Anson on May 25, 1944.
Jenkins was quickly transferred to a base in Croughton. There he was trained in an Oxford teaching plane. On June 15 he made a crash when his brakes blocked and the nose of his plane hit the ground.
He was transferred to N°1538 BAT-flight that same month, where he got trained for night- and bombing raids.
The real work started in August when Jenkins was transferred to N°30 Operational Training Unit in Seighford. There he was trained in an operational Wellington bomber. HIs first flight in this plane took place on August 17, 1944. This was the moment Jenkins was assigned to his permanent crew with whom he made his first flight on August 21, 1944. The crew members where:
- bombardier P/O Campbell
- flight engineer F/O Stone
- navigator F/O Swift
- radio operator F/O Clegg
- top turret gunner Sgt. Braddock
- tail turret gunner Sgt. Silcock (he was replaced by Sgt. Graham on January 3, 1945)
Wellington bomber (photo: Wikipedia)
All possible flying situations that might be needed during operational fligts were rehearsed: navigation, flying in formation, shooting enemy planes, bombing on high altitude, night flights, development maneuvres when under enemey attack, and so on... This all still happened in a Wellington bomber that was almost a veteran in the RAF.
In November Jenkins and his crew were transferred to Lindholm in the N°1956 Conversion Unit where they got to know the Lancaster bomber. At the end of 1944 Jenkins got 188 hours of flying during the night and 236 hours during daytime.
The crew was eventually moved to the 460th Squadron in Binbrook on January 1, 1945. Their first flight in their new squadron already took place on January 3. This was the beginning of the real war for them, and they were ready to go into battle.
Jenkins was taken on several flights over enemy territory to become familiar with these kind of flights.
Jenkins made his first operational flight over Germany on January 6 along pilot F/Lt. Holmes. The target was a railway junction in Hanau. 482 bombers took part in this operation. It was the first time Jenkins flew with his Lancaster AR*F² during this flight, the plane they would later get shot in.
Hanau (photo: http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/ )
Jenkins did a 2nd operational flight over Germany on January 16. He was the commander during this flight and flew with his own crew in the Lancaster AR°H². Today's target were the Braunkohie-Benzin synthetic oil raffineries in Zeitz near Leipzig. 1.283 planes took part in this raid of whom 30 got lost.
Jenkins and his crew did another raid with the AR*F² on February 2. The target during this raid was Wiesbaden. 1.251 bombers took part in this raid, 21 of them never came home.
Jenkins and his crew made a 4th operational flight the next night, on February 3. They flew in their Lancaster AR°F² again, this time on a raid to the Prosper gasoline plants in Bottrop. 510 planes took part of whom 12 didn't return.
The 5th operational flight took place on February 8 in the Lancaster AR°P. This time the target where the gasoline plants in Politz. 1.020 planes took off and 17 didn't come home.
The 6th operational flight took place on February 13. They flew in the AR°B2 and took part in the well known bombardment of Dresden.
In an interview with War Visitors Linkhout Jenkins said: "This was a dreadful order, but being wartime, we flyers had to go. Churchill who gave the Order to assuage Stalin, was never a friend of the Bomber Command and specifically disowned his responsibility following the public outcry which followed Dresden. As a direct result we RAF Bomber Command members were never represented in the great Victory Parades following the War's end in 1945 and were specifically excluded from the Victory Medal awards !!!. Our great Commander Air Marshal Arthur ("Bomber") Harris was treated disgracefully and had to bear the full consequences. We surviving Bomber Command men have never forgiven the disgraceful Churchill behaviour although of course he was a rallying point for Britain in it's time of need."
Dresden (photo: Wikipedia)
Jenkins' 7th operational flight was in the Lancaster AR°F². Dortmund was the target of this raid. This mission seemed to be a fatal flight for Jenkins and his crew. You can read this story on this website.
Dortmund (photo: http://www.wegnaardebevrijding.nl/ )
Jenkins was the sole survivor. He was sitting in his cockput unconciously when it was falling down to earth after the explosion. Luckily he woke up in time and was able to pull his parachute. He landed in an orchyard in Linkhout.
Jenkins in the garden where he landed with his parachute (photo: Nick Lieten)
Jenkins was not sure if he was in a village that was already liberated by the Allies. It was still at night and no one was out on the streets. He went to the church and walked past it on the right where he saw a power cabin. On this cabin was a German flyer which made him think the Germans were still here.
Jenkins at the power cabin (photo: Nick Lieten)
Jenkins decided to go and hide in the church. Unfortunately it was closed. He tried opening it using violence, but it didn't work.
On the left of the church he saw a farm and saw an old woman standing at the window on the upper floor (supposedly Mrs. Minten, wife of Jozef Vreven). Jenkins yelled 'anglais?' but the woman scared and closed the window and disappeared.
House on the left of the church (photo: Rudy Kenis)
Jenkins returned to his landing spot and saw a small path leading past a farm. He took the path and saw a truck at the end of it. He was relieved when he saw it was an Allied truck. No one was around so Jenkins honked the car horn. Immediately after honking, 2 soldiers of the 58th Royal Artillery appeared. They were looking for survivors of the Lancaster crash.
Jenkins was brought to a hospital in Diest where he spent the night, before being moved to Brussels.
Jenkins returned to base mid March. He was then apointed to the crew of Commanding Officer Nick Cowan. His new crew was: Roy Wilson, Alex Brown, Keith Teasdale, George Mottershead, Jimmy Lindroth and Johnny Hodson.
Alex Jenkins (front middle) with his new crew and a brand new AR°F² (photo: Rudy Kenis)
Jenkins flew his 8th mission on March 23 with a Lancaster AR°J2. The target was the Weser bridge in Bremen. Their Lancaster took FLAK bullet impacts.
Mission 9 took place in March 27, 1945. The target was Paderborn, a mission of approximately 1.930 kilometers.
The 10 mission on March 31, 1945 was a bombing raid on Hamburg. During this mission 11 of 400 planes didn't return.
On April 9, 1945 the 11th mission was flown to Kiel at night. The target was the harbour. During this mission the battleship 'Admiral Scheer' was hit and sunk. Jenkins hoped it wasn't one of his bombs that did this.
Admiral Scheer (foto: http://hmsjervisbay.com/Story.AdmiralScheer.php )
The 12th mission was a bomb raid on Berlin on April 14, 1945. Unfortunately the right inner motor broke down. The weather was awfully bad so Jenkins flew to the North Sea, dropped the bombs and returned to base.
On April 18 Jenkins flew his 12th mission. The target was Heligoland, a German marine base. Over 1.000 planes took part on this mission.
Four days later, on April 22, 1945, the 13th mission took place. Bremen was the target again. When the target came near, Jenkins got a message from bomber control that the bomb raid was cancelled because of the high chance of hitting Allied troops, since the target was about 1,5 kilometer from the frontline. The bombs were dropped at sea again.
On Wednesday May 2, 1945, Jenkins did his first Manna-flight. These are food droppings. 10 tons of food was dropped over Rotterdam. On the way back the right inner motor broke again. A day later there was a second Manna-flight to Rotterdam.
Another 4 days later there was a third Manna-flight over Rotterdam. Jenkins was pleased the flights finally got a human character and were not the killing raids like before.
On Thursday May 10, 2 days after VE-day (Victory in Europe), Jenkins flew to Brussels to pick up ex-prisoners of war. These flights were called Exodus. This was his last flight in over a month.
On June 13, 1945 Jenkins did a VLR-flight (Very Long Raid). They put mines by using their H2S-radar and returned to base.
In Jenkins' opinion, he made a remarkable flight over Germany on June 15, 1945, on an altitude of 300-600 metres. The flight route was: base - Shegness - Den Helder - Heligoland - Cuxhaven - Hamburg - Brunswick - Kassel - Mohnedam - Duisburg - Wupperthal - Essen - Dortmund - Düsseldorf - Keulen and some smaller places like the Göring steel factories.
On June 25 Operation Post Mortun was planned. Along with 200 other planes Jenkins took off to test the German radar system that was named Early Warning System.
On June 28 a new reconnaissance flight over Germany. The flight route was: base - Southwold - München-Gladbach - Duisburg - Essen - Gelsenkirchen - Düsseldorf - Keulen - Bonn - Koblenz - Wiesbaden - Mainz - Mannheim - Ludwigshaven - Karlsruhe - Saarbrucken - Brussels - base. It was now clear which havoc the bombers cauased in these cities. Some of them were completely destroyed.
One day later there was another Operation Post Mortum, this time over Denmark, and another one on July 4.
On Saturday July 14 there was a third sightseeing-flight over Germany. The flight route was: base - Antwerp - Diest - Zelem - München-Gladbach - Essen - Krefeld - Duisburg - Bochum - Dortmund - Mohnedam - Kassel - Hannover - Bremen - Wilhelmshaven - Heligoland - Den Helder - base.
Pictures were made of the remains and crash site of the AR*F² Lancaster and two pictures of a village Jenkins suspected to be Zelem or Linkhout during this flight. Eventually this seemed to be Lummen.
After VJ-day (Victory in Japan) the next flight only took place on September 1. The flight went to Bari and was 1.600 miles in distance, a flight of about approximately 7 and a half hours. The return flight on September 4 was also the final flight Jenkins made.
On September 6, 1945 Jenkins received a message his service was over. He shipped in in Liverpool on October 3 along with 4.000 other soldiers to take on the long boat trip home. He finally got home on September 6.
What happened after the war during his 'second life' as he named it, I'll let him tell himself:
"I landed back in Australia on my 21st Birthday and after a few months resumed my interrupted University course in Melbourne, firstly graduating in Metallurgical Engineering in 1948 and from there went into research to complete my Cambridge supervised Doctorate (Ph.D) 3 years later in 1951. I became eventually the Leader of an International Resarch Team in the field of High Temperature Alloys, with the emphasis on metallic Titanium alloy systems. This extended when I was appointed a Foundation Professor in the first Post War University in Sydney from where my team founded much of the early useage of Titanium Alloys in aircraft and as medical implants within the human body !!. Those 20 years or so took me all over the Materials Research World as it then existed. It was a period of intense change within both academic and corporate institutions which resulted in a complete change in my career activities. In 1970 I took up appointments in Industry, initially with The International Nickel Company (INCO) in Canada and later in Australia and several Pacific Countries. During the following 30 years I was engaged mainly in International activities within commercial and Goverment enterprises and retired finally in 1999 on medical advice to my present home in Orange, Central West New South Wales."
Jenkins in 2010
On January 23, 1985 Jenkins returned to Linkhout for the first time. He visited the tail piece of his rear wing of the Lancaster in Rudy Kenis' garden, the town hall in Lummen, the Commonwealth cemetery in Hasselt where his comrades are buried and the crash location in the Goeren.
The next stop was the centre of Linkhout where they first visited Jenkins' landing spot and a visit to the church. But like it occurred in 1945, the door was closed again so he couldn't enter the church again. He was confident he would succeed the next day.
The next morning the landscape was coverd under thick snow so Jenkins decided not to make the trip to the church again. But he did promise to return one day and finish his work in the church.
Jenkins' visit in 1985 (photo: Rudy Kenis)
Jenkins at the graves of his crew (photo: Rudy Kenis)
And so it happened. After being convinced to visit Linkhout in 1985 after all the research Rudy Kenis put in the incident, Jenkins decided to return to Linkhout in May 2012, partly encouraged by the renovation of the Lancaster monument by our association War Visitors Linkhout. The big day went ahead on May 24, 2012. We picked up Jenkins and his lovely wife in Brussels and took him to the centre of Linkhout. We followed his route he did in 1945 and visited the church. This time we arranged it to be open. A very emotional Jenkins whispered in my ear: "the circle is round". We went on to the town hall in Lummen and finished the day at the renovated Lancaster monument in the Goeren. I would like to speak in name of all War Visitors Linkhout board members to say that we're honoured to have met this man and that we made this day possible for him.
Alex Jenkins with a part of the War Visitors Linkhout-board members (photo: Nico Cypers)
After his visit in 2012 we had two beautiful drawings made by Maurice Bellings. He drew the church in Linkhout. We sent it to Alex Jenkins in Australia as a gift.
Alex Jenkins died on March 16, 2017 after being hospitalized. Jenkins was 92.
Lest we forget...
Source: Rudy Kenis