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At First Sight
Canals

The canals of north west Germany were very important wartime transport arteries, especially in the final year of the war when the Allied advance had reached Belgium and Holland. They were slightly less vulnerable to destruction than the railways with their massive marshalling yards, which were very popular targets.

The Kiel, Kaiser Wilhelm and Weser Canals, having been cut out of the land throughout their entire length were susceptible only to individual attacks on vessels and lock gates, both extremely difficult targets, particularly in very well defended areas. The waterways were, however, reasonably simple to locate even on a dark night, appearing like a ribbon of glass across the countryside and on several occasions 627 Squadron visited these canals and the Elbe River, sometimes to mark the banks of the correct section for the heavies to lay mines, but once or twice the Mosquitoes themselves carried naval mines, Types B244, F246, F638 and F64U, code named “Young Yams”, and successfully carried out their own “Gardening” on lengths of canal.

These mines were delivered to the Squadron by the Royal Navy and their own personnel assisted the squadron armourers in loading the mines. After bomb doors were closed instructions were given not to reopen under any circumstances and the air crews did not see their loads and were not given any information on them, presumably to prevent any details falling into enemy hands via interrogation, should the aircraft be shot down. Presumably the mines were acoustic or magnetic or a mixture of both.

Mine laying operations by 627 Squadron:

29-11-44

 

River Weser

29-12-44

 

Elbe River

28-2-45

 

Kiel Canal - 10/10 Cloud - only one a/c dropped mines

2-3-45

 

Kaiser Wilhelm Canal - Marked

2-3-45

 

Kiel Canal - Marked

21-3-45

 

Weser Canal

22-3-45

 

Elbe River – Mines dropped by MkVI H2S

27-3-45

 

Elbe River

30-3-45

 

River Weser - Marked


However, towards the end of 1944 it was realised that both the Dortmund Ems and the Mitteland canals crossed natural rivers and were therefore carried over these by means of aqueducts. Several operations were mounted by 5 Group with 627 Squadron Mosquitoes putting down TIs at the side of the aqueducts, which were breached, emptying considerable lengths of canal water into the rivers below. The accompanying Marker Plots of Ladbetgen illustrate clearly how the waterways were affected: in November when the first attack was made the canal junction and the river course were clearly defined, but by March 1945 the eastern channel had completely disappeared, although the aqueduct on the west branch had been rebuilt, only to be breached again and the canal emptied once more into a vaguely outlined flooded area which was once the river’s course.

The aqueduct on the bend of the Mitteland canal was given similar treatment between November 1944 and January 1945 and the disruption of war material transport must have been considerable, the visual marking technique and limited number of heavy bombers required on these operations making a valuable contribution to the final collapse of Germany.








Copyright 1943-2012 627 Squadron in Retirement or as credited