Lancaster LL678 ‘Lily Mars’ – 2

Original Silver Gelatin photograph, December 1943

12 x 16 cm

Stamped to reverse ‘The Photograph has been passed by Censor’ ‘Copyright This TP copyright illustration from “The Aeroplane” must not be reproduced without the written permission of Temple Press Ltd’.

‘Lancaster II heavy bombers are now flying with RAF BOMBER COMMAND.’

300 Lancaster II aeroplanes were made, fitted with Bristol Hercules radial engines, as there was a worry that there would be a shortage of Merlin engines, reserved for the Spitfire and Hurricane.

Lily Mars was named after the 1943 American musical starring Judy Garland and was based at RAF Waterbeach, in Cambridgeshire. A podcast (click) gives details of the final flight on 13 June 1944 which was to be the final raid of the crew’s tour. The bombing raid was of 303 Lancasters against the Nordstern synthetic oil plant at Gelsenkichen in the Ruhr, deep inside Germany and the aircraft took off at 23.12 hrs. On the home run LL678 was intercepted and shot down by a night fighter capitained by Oberleutnant Schmidt in a Bf 110 at 01.24 hrs at Zuidloo, a small hamlet, where five of the eight crew are buried; the other three crew members baled out and escaped. A memorial plaque was laid on 4 May 2016 and a Lancaster flypast was arranged. Owing to technical problems a Dakota from the BBMF was sent instead. On 4 May 2022 the Lancaster of the BBMF undertook a flypast which can be seen here.

Dietrich Schmidt (1919-?) had 29 confirmed night kills by the time of LL678, achieving 41 kills by the end of the war off 171 missions and was awarded the Ritterkreuz – Knight’s Cross. In 1999 the living crewmembers, Dutch resistance, and Schmidt and his wireless operator met in the Netherlands.

Provenance: from the collection of Philip J R Moyes, author of many books on the RAF, most notably The Pictorial History which ran to several volumes.