Bomber Command Pilot: From the Battle of Britain to the Augsburg Raid (Hardback)
The Unique Story of Wing Commander J S Sherwood DSO, DFC*
John Sherwood was commissioned into the RAF as a pilot officer on leaving school in 1936. In mid-1940, he was posted to a frontline bomber squadron. He went on to undertake a full tour of thirty sorties against enemy targets during the summer of 1940, earning himself a Distinguished Flying Cross for his part in what has become known as the ‘Battle of the Barges’.
Sherwood flew Manchesters on a further series of eventful bombing missions against the enemy, earning a Bar to the DFC in recognition of his determination and leadership. It was in the new Lancasters that Sherwood, by then a Squadron Leader, undertook his most daring mission. This was Operation Margin, the attack upon the M.A.N. diesel engine works at Augsburg in Bavaria on 17 April 1942. This involved a flight of some 600 miles in broad daylight with no fighter escort, flying at less than 250 feet in order to avoid enemy radar.
The raid was led by both Sherwood and Squadron Leader John Nettleton. Sherwood was shot down during the raid and was duly posted as missing. Assumed dead for six weeks, he eventually surfaced as a prisoner of war in German hands at Stalag Luft III.
Operation Margin was considered a success and both squadron leaders involved were recommended for the award of the Victoria Cross. Whilst Nettleton’s citation was approved, and the VC duly invested, Sherwood’s was amended by the Air Ministry to state: ‘To be recommended for DSO, if found to be alive.’ The DSO was gazetted on 30 June 1942.
Whilst in captivity, Sherwood witnessed at first-hand the Wooden Horse escape, the infamous Great Escape, and, finally, the Long March across Germany in the last winter of the war in Europe. He was finally repatriated to the UK during Operation Exodus after the fall of the Third Reich in 1945. Written by his son, Bomber Command Pilot provides a fascinating insight into the development of Bomber Command into the powerful strike force that helped turn the tide of victory in the West.
The all-too frequently cited mantra that ‘the bomber will always get through’ had dominated Britain’s strategic air policy in the decades preceding the Second World War. However, the experiences of the Battle of Britain and the Blitz indicated that aerial bombardments were not as effective at disabling a country’s ability to fight as had been believed. This assessment was reinforced when the RAF’s Bomber Command analysed the results of their precision bombing efforts during the early years of the war. A growing body of evidence indicated that the great ‘knock-out’ blow expected to…
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