4How did AD730 come to reach Ireland?
The crew did not acknowledge the fix from Watton, which indicates that the radio may have failed shortly after the request for it. Receiving no acknowledgement of the fix Lindholme and Bomber Command 5 Group continually tried to contact them with no success. RAF records are quite clear that no other aircraft was in the Watton area at that time.
There are three possible reasons why the fix was not acknowledged. The receiver or the whole radio was malfunctioning, the wireless operator was injured or the crew did not believe the fix. The second reason is unlikely since both gunners were trained as wireless operators and had access to the radio. If the third explanation is correct the reason would probably have been similar to that of the crew X3189 (see above) who also thought they had reached Berlin but on return to base realised that almost certainly they could not have done. Like most of the other aircraft on this raid AD730 bombed what in fact was an unidentified target and turned for home on a correct bearing but still in 10/10 cloud.
AD730s flying time from base to receiving the first fix was only 5 hrs 47
mins, about 1 hr 15mins before they might have expected to have reached their
target. It is thus possible that, at the time of the Watton fix, on their
estimates they still had 100 miles to go before reaching the English coast
although, if this was the case, it is strange that they should have asked for a
fix at that time. This hypothesis could account for the time of asking for the
fix but not for why they ignored it.
The Final Phase
The next report of the aircraft, heard but not seen, was at 0405 hrs (1 hr 48 mins from the time of the fix and nearly 300 miles from Watton) from an Irish Look Out Post between Dalkey and Bray Head, about 8 miles south of Dublin. At this point they may have spotted some dimmed lights from Dublin through a break in the clouds and must have realised that they were lost. Cloud over blacked out England and the North Sea was 10/10 so there was no opportunity of pinpointing during that sector. The fact that they must have crossed the Welsh
Mountains at about 3,000 ft strongly suggest that they thought they were still on course for Lindholme. It would have taken some minutes for them to realise that the lights which probably they had fleetingly seen must have been in Ireland and most probably near the Dublin harbour area of Dun Laoghaire.
The next report at 0418 hrs, 13 minutes later, was from a Look Out post at Carbury (35 miles west and slightly North of East of the coastal crossing point, about 50 miles south of the border with Northern Ireland and 20 miles north west of the crash site) of an unseen aircraft heading northwards. The course as far as Carbury was possibly much the same as that followed by L4045 when, in May 1940, it landed on Curragh race course near Dublin (see page 23)
Map 2 indicates a possible path of AD730 from crossing the Irish coast to the crash site. It fits the data given in the Irish Department of Defence daily Summary Report No 497:
Why the aircraft might have taken such a path cannot be explained.
The data shows
There is some mystery about AD730 heading north from Carbury and 16 minutes later appearing 30 miles south of it but heading N.E. The timings are consistent with a ground speed of 150 m.p.h. but the changes of direction to say the least, are puzzling. A possible explanation is that in the prevailing conditions the Carbury post could have mistaken the aircraft’s heading.
However this does not explain why the crew decided to turn South. It could be that having identified Dublin and knowing that fuel was running low they decided that the shortest sea crossing back to Lindholme was almost due east from where they had crossed the coast and they were heading back towards Dublin to get a fix, as did the crew of L4085 of 44 Squadron which ditched off Aberystwyth on returning from a raid on Misburg.
The question is how did an experienced crew with an apparently undamaged aircraft crash into Black Hill at an altitude of about 1,300 ft when apparently they were turning for home? They were unlikely to have been trying to land in those weather conditions in the dark and over unknown territory. They knew that they would have to cross the Welsh mountains on their return and would be unlikely voluntarily to drop below 3000 feet. There is no evidence that the crew prepared to bail out. They were not wearing parachutes at the time of the crash. The aircraft had managed a long return flight from England at a normal speed on a correct bearing so it is unlikely to have had mechanical trouble.
The most probable answer is that they ran out of fuel. The aircraft did not
catch fire on hitting the ground. They were still turning northwards immediately
before the crash. The fuel supply to the starboard engine would almost certainly
have failed. If so the pilot would have had no chance. The plane would
immediately have gone into an uncontrollable dive from which they were too low
to recover. (see page 16). The extent of the crash damage and injuries to the
crew suggest that this may have been the cause. In the absence of further
evidence it seems the most likely explanation of the cause.
Was the Raid justified?
It may have been justified for political reasons but there seems little tactical or strategic reason for undertaking it in the prevailing conditions. Of the three Squadron records examined covering 20 aircraft (50% of Hampdens in the raid) only two claimed to have hit their primary target, six bombed Berlin on estimated positions and one blindly dropped its bombs on the city. Less than half therefore reached Berlin. One dropped its bombs on an unidentified town, six bombed alternative targets, two failed to reach Germany and two crashed. Over the 17 months during which Hampden Squadrons raided Berlin they lost an average of two aircrafts per month, 60% due to fuel shortage and only 21% to enemy action (see page 44). This seems to confirm Harry Moyle’s view that the attacks on Berlin were really beyond the safe range of the Hampdens, leaving no time for a returning aircraft to search for a landing place.