Sgt. Sydney Thomas Woodbridge 83 Sqd. KIA 29 March 1942

Steveib
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Sgt. Sydney Thomas Woodbridge 83 Sqd. KIA 29 March 1942

Post by Steveib »

Good afternoon members. Thank you for allowing me to join this very honourable group. I alas am not ex RAF and my post is in support of my Brother in law (Jeff Woodbridge) who was in the process of researching his family history for his grandchildren. Alas he became unwell and all too very soon he became so very unwell and within 6 weeks he had passed on. I now wish to pick up where he left off in a bid to encourage his son and grandson to continue the family search.

My enquiry relates to his uncle Sydney Thomas Woodbridge. 83 Squadron. He was an Observer? on a Manchester Bomber and was killed/ shot down on 29 March 1942 and is laid to rest at Kiel War Cemetery Germany. He was 21 yrs old. I understand the Mancester was replaced by an aircraft I am aware of, the mighty Lancaster bomber. I have been looking on ebay etc for a good pictire of a Manchester but alas nothing special at present.

What I have found in my Brother in laws file is Syndney was a member of the RAF Volunteer Reserve, I am suprised that a man would have been allowed to fly with a crew as an observer? I am guessing this was some kind of trial to see if he was suitable to make air crew? ? His parents were Charles & Elizabeth Woodbridge, from Plumbstead. London. If you can advise me of where I can request his service papers, if they still exsist taht would be wonderful as I would include this in the history pack I am trying to put together. I apologise for my ignorance in this matter but I am trying to put a package together for my Nephews son who will be 18 in a few months.

As a volunteer would he have been awarded any medals postumostly, victory medal seeing as he was killed in 1942?

I apologise for my ignorance in this matter but I am trying to put a package together for my Nephews son who will be 18 in a few months.

Any assistance /advise you may offer would really mean a great deal not only for me but also for my Nephew, and his son Alf who at present is the last male of the Woodbridhge line. Thank you.

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PeteT
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Re: Sgt. Sydney Thomas Woodbridge 83 Sqd. KIA 29 March 1942

Post by PeteT »

An "Observer" was the fully trained (qualified) navigator and was therefore a key member of the aircrew team. The trade was renamed "Navigator" in 1942 when the composition of the heavy bomber crews was changed (as part of the evolution of the crew structure)

His service record can be obtained via the following route (but I would highly recommend that the next of kin route is taken otherwise you will get a highly redacted version) https://www.gov.uk/get-copy-military-service-records

The Bomber Command Loss Card for his aircraft can be found at http://lancasterbombersinfo.ipage.com/L ... ex.html#13
Researching:
CA Butler, flight engineer Lancaster ME334 (KIA over Bonn with 35 PFF on 4th Febuary 1945) http://rafww2butler.wordpress.com/
Ground Crew and Aircrew Training WWII
"The History of No 35 Squadron" http://35squadron.wordpress.com/

jamesinnewcastle
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Re: Sgt. Sydney Thomas Woodbridge 83 Sqd. KIA 29 March 1942

Post by jamesinnewcastle »

Hi Pete

Without an Observer/Navigator you don't get to the target or get home, at least with any certainty. The Pilot I read was often considered to be just the driver. Some people consider the Navigator to be the key crew member.

I'm not an expert but weren't all RAF personnel voulenteers? Someone correct me.

The Manchester was developed into the Lancaster since the Manchester gave a very poor performance. The designers at AVRO added a couple of engines to 'beef it up'. While the Stirling was no great shakes, it is often said that the Lanc was a 'second bite of the cherry' and so really it had no right to be bad or mediocre!

Sadly you might find out more about the aircraft than Sgt Woodbridge and you may need to research in German records. Perhaps a request to local German newspaper for records/past papers? Possibly to a German local history web site? There have been a few people who have managed to talk to witnesses who were 'there'. As an example, I have talked to a man who as a small boy watched a german fighter attack my aircraft of interest over his home in the UK - that contact was via the local village web site.

I have found that reseach is like growing a tree - much grows quickly but you have to wait longer for the fruits.

Good Luck
James

Steveib
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Re: Sgt. Sydney Thomas Woodbridge 83 Sqd. KIA 29 March 1942

Post by Steveib »

PeterT & JamesinNewcastle
Thank you so very much for the valuable information you have posted. I had no idea that an Observer aws later to be known as the Navigator. I will speak with my Nephew anfd ask him to submit the enquiry to the MOD. Again thank you so very much for this information.

My plan is to make a folder and arrange to meet my Nephew and his son at the Bomber Command memorial in London and present him with this information you have kindly provided. I do hope to order a set of his medal ribbons that Sydney would have been awarded, I hope that information will be included in his service records.

One more think if you dont mind, is there a web site that has a library of aircraft photograhs? I hope to get a clear picture of a Manchester again as part of my gift.

I thank you both so much and I wish you a Happy Peaceful New Year.

Kind regards.

Steve.

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AlanW
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Re: Sgt. Sydney Thomas Woodbridge 83 Sqd. KIA 29 March 1942

Post by AlanW »

Steve,
Sgt Woodbridge was posted to 83sqdn from 44sqdn on 29th Feb 42 and flew his first op with the crew of T.A. Lumb on 20th March 42 was a Gardening op to the Frisian Islands. F/O Lumb was posted to the squadron from 25 OTU on 13th Jan 42 and flew as 2nd pilot with the crew of P/O Morphett for 3 ops before taking his own crew out for the first time on 13th March 42.

His crew came into the squadron on different dates and from various units.......
Lumb, from 25 OTU, 13th Jan.
Walsh, from 106sqdn, 11th March.
Woodbridge, from 44sqdn 29th Feb.
Cox, no info on his posting.
Rooney, from 25 OTU 13th March.
Thomas, from SHQ Waddington, 25th Feb.

Ops for F/O Lumb's crew......
20th March, Gardening in the Frisian Islands.
25th March, Aachen.
28th March, Lubeck.

Sgt Woodbridge did 4 ops on Hampdens with 44sqdn, all in Dec 41. No posting in details for this squadron.
There is no paralell in warfare, to such courage and determination in the face of danger, over so long a period. Such devotion, should never be forgotten.

jamesinnewcastle
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Re: Sgt. Sydney Thomas Woodbridge 83 Sqd. KIA 29 March 1942

Post by jamesinnewcastle »

Hi

You could download the Operational Record Books for his missions. Go to the national archives web site and search for ORB and the squadrons of interest. I believe that they have digitised most of them. Cost a few pounds for each download. You still see his name on the records. If you are lucky he may be mentioned in the general notes for the squadron. In any case the general notes will give a flavour of the activities.

I'm not on my pc but when i do I'll check out the site for you if you haven't found it

Cheers
James

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AlanW
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Re: Sgt. Sydney Thomas Woodbridge 83 Sqd. KIA 29 March 1942

Post by AlanW »

Hi James/Steve,
No need for Steve to download from National archives, i have the ORB's in my collection and when i get time over the w/end i'll upload the pages relating to the ops flown.
Regards Alan.
There is no paralell in warfare, to such courage and determination in the face of danger, over so long a period. Such devotion, should never be forgotten.

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AlanW
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Re: Sgt. Sydney Thomas Woodbridge 83 Sqd. KIA 29 March 1942

Post by AlanW »

Hi Steve,
Here are the ops flown by Sgt S. Woodbridge. 4 with 44sqdn and only 2 shown for 83sqdn as for some reason known only to himself, the squadron adjutant omitted the crew from the Lubeck operation possibly because he did not want to record them as missing :?: but, i have included the pages anyway. This practice seems to apply for other missing crews on other dates at this period in time.
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There is no paralell in warfare, to such courage and determination in the face of danger, over so long a period. Such devotion, should never be forgotten.

Steveib
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Re: Sgt. Sydney Thomas Woodbridge 83 Sqd. KIA 29 March 1942

Post by Steveib »

Many thanks Alan W for the very detailed and very interesting flight logs. Sorry dfor the delay I have been working night shifts.

Can I ask a further question please? On 20th March it records P/O Lumb duty "Gardening"? and Sgt Walsh as Frisian Islands? Sgt woodbridge as ASS22? also in details of the Sortie it records "Veg dropped..........."?

Is this code of some kind with one gardening and Veg being dropped???

Again I would appreciate your expert knowledge to guide me. But to all who have contacted me and to all who have not Thank you for supporting this amazing site. I for one would not have a clue about the finer details of what hese brave lads went through, and it really will be appreciated by my family and will form a vital part of our family history. Thank you.

jamesinnewcastle
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Re: Sgt. Sydney Thomas Woodbridge 83 Sqd. KIA 29 March 1942

Post by jamesinnewcastle »

Hi Steve

'Gardening' was the code given to the task of mining enemy waters (at night). To garden you 'planted' (dropped) mines which were the 'veg(tables)'. I vaugely remember that different mines had different vegtable names (I could be wrong there!).

This sounds easy but the crews had to fly very low to prevent the mines breaking up on hitting the water. The ORB shows that they were flying at 500 ft. Flying low in the dark over water means that the outside view from your aircraft would be black and featureless - unless there were a moon to reflect off the water I guess. Very dangerous. The Altimeters on aircraft were not really accurate enough and in any event the air pressure where you took off from may not be the same as where you were mining - hence more errors. (An altimeter is really just a barometer)

Equally the enemy had flak guns mounted on ships so even though you were not over land you were still in danger of low level flak.

As the mines were best dropped in the mouth of a river or in busy channels, you were never very far from the enemy. Google ASS22 Mines and any other term to get a better explanation. When Googling, add in some WW2 words in the search or your result may not float to the top of the hit list.

Stirlings were retired eventually from bombing work as they could not fly very high and so had a high loss rate, but they could carry 4 vegtables (I think) and so were good for gardening operations.

Later Stirlings had an American Doppler Radar system fitted which sent a radio pulse downwards and when the returning 'echo' were mixed with the original pulse you could produce a very accurate height display. The Pilot had an indicator showing the height but also had three lights, red = too low, green = the height you set on a control dial and Amber = too high.

I've written about Stirlings but the same probably applied for other bombers. I've attached two examples of the best internal photos of a Manchester that are around - the only ones I could find on Google anyway. You can get really good posters of these from the Imperial War Museum (watch out as one is incorrectly labelled as being a Stirling). The photographer was Cecil Beaton - who later became the Queens dress designer I believe.

In the photos the rectangular boxes were ammo storage for the rear gunner - there were long sets of rails leading from these to the guns at the rear. The items that look like 'bombs' are flares, used to illuminate a target to get the photos required or as sea markers or distress flares. The tube in the middle of the photo is a chute that was used to drop them from the aircraft.

If you want info about the Manchester then try the RAF Museum at Hendon who will most likely have the RAF 'Owners Manual' called The Aircraft Publication or AP. I believe that it is AP1660 for the Manchester (don't trust me). These come in different issues reflecting design changes as they happened.

Cheers
James
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