Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Captain Warren's Mistake

While the Little Ships were crossing the Channel 70 years ago today, a less inspiring event was taking place elsewhere.

At 8.30pm, Captain Warren and the crew of his Whitley bomber took off from RAF Dishforth on a mission to bomb on a German airfield in Holland. After a change of course necessary to avoid a violent thunderstorm over the North Sea, they arrived at the coast and searched for their target.

Amid anti-aircraft fire, they followed the river and turned right; the second pilot called out, "I've got it! Bombs Away!" Mission accomplished, they set a course for home. At the estimated arrival time, they dropped through the cloud only to find themselves over an unfamiliar city with the sea beyond.

A horror-stricken Warren recognised it as Liverpool. "According to my calculations, we can only have bombed something inside England. Christ, what are we to do?"

Flying by a magnetic compass damaged by the thunderstorm, they had dropped their entire load on the Fighter Command base at RAF Bassingbourn. Fortunately for them, if discouragingly for the RAF, the attack caused no casualties and almost no damage at all.

The unfortunate Captain Warren was demoted as a result and dubbed 'Baron von Warren' by his fellows for the rest of the war - two fly-boys in Spitfires even dropped an Iron Cross on RAF Dishforth in tribute.

Caveat: I can find no internet or encyclopedia reference for this story - my sole source is 'The Wrong Kind of Snow' by Woodward and Penn, who sadly do not give provenance.


  1. Great minds think alike. Or is it fools seldom differ. Whatever, we both posted about Captain Warren today and cited the same source.

    Shooting Parrots.co.uk

  2. SP, I'd be happier if I could find any official reference at all - although the timescale fits; the first British bombs to fall on German soil were dropped on the 10th June 1940.

    Whether it's a wartime cover-up, lavish embroidery of the truth or complete fiction, it was still too good a story to miss!