Personal info

  • Name: Edwin SWALES
  • D.O.B: 3rd Jul, 1915
  • D.O.A: 23rd Feb, 1945
  • D.O.D: 23rd Feb, 1945
  • Award: Victoria Cross
  • Occupation at time of action: Captain, seconded to No 582 Squadron, Royal Air Force, South African Air Force
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Over North-West Europe 23 February 1945

23 February 1945

More details about:
The Second World War 1945 

On 23 February 1945 there was a raid by 374 aircraft on Pforzheim halfway between Karlsruhe and Stuttgart, a rail junction, vital to German defences against the advancing American 7th Army. On his return from this raid Captain E Swales’s plane crashed in northeast France.


 Captain Swales was “master bomber” of a force of aircraft which attacked Pforzheim on the night of February 23rd, 1945. As “master bomber”, he had the task of locating the target area with precision and of giving aiming instructions to the main force of bombers following in his wake. Soon after he had reached the target area he was engaged by an enemy fighter and one of his engines was put out of action. His rear guns failed. His crippled aircraft was an easy prey to further attacks. Unperturbed, he carried on with his allotted task; clearly and precisely he issued aiming instructions to the main force. Meanwhile the enemy fighter closed the range and fired again. A second engine of Captain Swales’ aircraft was put out of action. Almost defenceless, he stayed over the target area issuing his aiming instructions until he was satisfied that the attack had achieved its purpose. It is now known that the attack was one of the most concentrated and successful of the war. Captain Swales did not, however, regard his mission as completed. His aircraft was damaged. Its speed had been so much reduced that it could only with difficulty be kept in the air. The blind-flying instruments were no longer working. Determined at all costs to prevent his aircraft and crew from falling into enemy hands, he set course for home. After an hour he flew into a thin-layered cloud. He kept his course by skilful flying between the layers, but later heavy clouds and turbulent air conditions were met. The aircraft, by now over friendly territory, became more and more difficult to control; it was losing height steadily. Realising that the situation was desperate Captain Swales ordered his crew to bale out. Time was very short and it required all his exertions to keep the aircraft steady while each of his crew moved in turn to the escape hatch and parachuted to safety. Hardly had the last crew-member jumped when the aircraft plunged to the earth. Captain Swales was found dead at the controls. Intrepid in the attack, courageous in the face of danger, he did his duty to the last, giving his life that his comrades might live. 

Fifth Supplement to The London Gazette of 20 April 1945. 24 April 1945, Numb. 37049, p. 2173

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