Edward Allan McDonald's wartime memories



Edward Allan McDonald's wartime memories


The first part is an eye witness account by Alan McDonald of an aircraft crash and its aftermath.
The second part describes the 'Skilling Follies', an aircrew who completed 25 operations from RAF Skellingthorpe.
The third part describes an operation from RAF Market Harborough. On their return from Germany they were shot down by 'friendly' fire over Belgium and crash landed at Juvincourt. He then describes a crash landing in a Wellington at Juvincourt. They were offered turkey for dinner and insisted on no vegetables.
The next day he describes looking at crashed aircraft before they were flown back to Great Bitain in a Lancaster.





Five typewritten sheets

Conforms To


This content is available under a CC BY-NC 4.0 International license (Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0). It has been published ‘as is’ and may contain inaccuracies or culturally inappropriate references that do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Lincoln or the International Bomber Command Centre. For more information, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ and https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/legal.





S/L Horsley and Sgt Hoskisson both returned to 61 Sqn, and continued their service again as members of the same crew.

S/L Horsley’s 13th operation….. Target SEIGEN 1 ….. 1st of February 1945.

Lancaster NF 912 Take Off 1542hrs Return----


S/L H W Horsley (Capt)
W/O H J Pyke (F/E)
F/S S Fleet (Nav)
F/S Merrow (A/B)
F/S Chapman (WOP/AIR)
Sgt A A Sherriff (AG1)
Sgt R T Hopkisson (AG2)

Aircraft crashed soon after take off due to engine failure. All crew killed except rear gunner.

An eye witness account of this happening was given by Sgt Alan MacDonald, a rear gunner on 50 Sqn, he had boarded his aircraft to join the same operation. His aircraft was still at it’s [sic] dispersal point, and he was in his rear turret, going through the pre-checks on his guns prior to take off.

Sgt McDonald saw that the fated aircraft NF 912 was in difficulties immediately after leaving the ground, and was vainly struggling to land back on the runway. Ove the runway it plunged to the ground, to explode with great violence. The aircraft was completely destroyed, being blown to bits by it’s [sic] own exploding bomb load.

Amazingly the runway was not damaged, and, after a contingent of other ranks, equipped with sweeping brushes, had cleaned the bits from the site, then the operation proceeded.

All aircraft were given an inspection for blast damage, some having been holed by shrapnel, and then, after a delay of some forty minutes, the take-off continued.

Some hours after the explosion, an airman, cycling in the dark on the airfield, spotted something glinting in a hedge. It was the rear turret of the lost Lancaster, and, amazingly, inside was the blackened body of the still alive gunner. That man was Hoskisson.

[Page break]

Skilling’s Follies

In June 1944, 7 young men came together to form a bomber command aircrew and began their final months of training at RAF Winthorpe with 1661 Heavy Conversion Unit. They were, L to R

Fred Clark, flight engineer (London)
Dougie Cruickshanks, bomb aimer (NZ)
Bert (Bob) Martin, wireless operator (Bristol)
Hugh Skilling, pilot (NZ)
Len Retford, navigator (London)
Johnnie Meadows, mid upper gunner (Epping Forest)
Alan “Mac” MacDonald, rear gunner (Hull)


Following training, the crew were posted to 50 Squadron (5 group) and were based at Skellingthorpe in Lincolnshire. They flew Lancasters on 25+ operations and all survived the conflict to return to civilian life. (with the exception of Hugh Skilling who joined the NZ Air Force). Collectively they became known as “Skillings Follies” and the following are short stories about some of their experiences. These were told to me by Alan MacDonald, (pictured below in 2013) the sole surviving member of the crew and I hope that I have retold them accurately. What these brave young men experienced needs to be told and preserved for future generations. I have been privileged to hear what I like to call “Mac’s Tales” first hand and I hope that others will find them as fascinating and at times amusing as I have.


Paul Martin September 2015

I can smell petrol skipper.

On the evening of 3rd June 1944, the crew took off from Market Harborough (No 14 Operational Training Unit) in a Wellington X to carry out a night bombing/navigational exercise.

Shortly after takeoff, Alan MacDonald radioed through to Hugh Skilling to report that he could smell petrol. Hugh checked instruments etc, couldn’t see anything wrong so asked Mac to keep him informed. Mac did so a further 3 times and on the last occasion said that the floor of his turret was awash with petrol and his clothes soaked with fuel.

[Page break]

We are in the billet at Skellingthorpe sat smoking and chatting, its [sic] just after breakfast and the tannoy goes ‘will the following 9 crews report to the briefing room the 9 crews ‘this included us {Skillings crew of 50 squadron) and 8 others all file up to the briefing room

Wing Commander Flint arrives and proceeds to inform us that this mission is of particular importance and he explained the mission is about a new tank that the German have developed and we have nothing to stop it. But we must stop it! The Germans have tried to move the tank on the road and railways but these have been successfully blocked by fighter command. The Germans are now moving this tank via barge on the Mitaland cannal [sic].

The briefing was concluded by giving the take off times and local conditions.

Briefing over we all headed to the cook house for our eggs and bacon (the usual pre flight meal) then to the locker room to retrieve our flying kit which comprised of flying boots up to your knees, padded suit to prevent hypothermia, gloves, leather helmet with microphone and ear phones, flying goggles, Thermos flask and the service penknife (this was for cutting off the tops of the boots if you were grounded so the boots became shoes).

Now off to the aircraft for pre flight checks (every member had his own equipment to inspect) mine was to inspect the 4 guns, the oxygen, intercom, perspex, turret rotation, guns hydraulics and the gun sight. This was all reported to the skipper by each member of the crew for each section.

New years [sic] eve 1945/45 time of take off was approx. 22.00 hrs the night was the blackest night I had ever seen pitch black with full cloud cover and little to no wind it was a dowdy sort of night like a November night. On take off one of the 9 aircraft malfunctioned and so this left 8, enrout [sic] to target 2 Lancaster were on our starboard side and one was shot down, flames pouring from it we had to leave it behind. A short while later the second Lancaster was on fire who we also had to leave behind. Both had been shot from underneath. it [sic] wasn’t long before our aircraft was the target of a FockerWolf (F/W) 190, he attacked us via the front (this is a very unusual way of attack) I couldn’t fire at him because he was heading towards us so he was behind me. When he passed over the top of us I still couldn’t fire at him because the Lancaster behind us would have been taken out with the F/W 190 and I couldn’t do that to our crews. It was lucky that the mid upper gunner shouted to the pilot to corkscrew to the port because the F/W190 had fired a rocket at the turret, this filled my rear turret with fumes carrying on with the corkscrew until it was safe when we resumed normal height and carried on to the target site to drop the bombs.

[Page break]


heading home we have to cross Germany then Belgium half way across Belgium as anti aircraft gun fires at us (Belgium was in allied hands) so this was a bit of a shock, we were one of three Lancaster that got hit that night from the anti aircraft shells, these shells were proximity fused, the shrapnel that came from the anti aircraft gun blew a sheet of aluminium from the Lancaster from the nose turret to the flight engineers position approx 20 to 15 foot long and by 3 to 4 feet wide it smashed the skippers [sic] dashboard set the two port engines and the wing on fire and at the time we were diving out of the searchlight, a piece of shrapnel jammed the flying controls and everybody but me had received the order to JUMP JUMP. I hadn’t received this order because my intercom had been cut by a piece of shrapnel. Dug the bomb aimer was nearly cut in two with the shrapnel as he was nearest to the shell that had exploded, he exited through the floor of the aircraft into a forest. The skipper puts out a mayday and we were invited to land at a place called Juvincourt near Reams, [sic] the skipper flew us on two engines and landed as smooth as ever although be-it we ended in a corn field as we had no brakes, the plane was so badly damaged it was U/S.

In Juvingcourt [sic] We had crash landed with a Wellington a [sic] I got soaked to the skin with high octane fuel whilst flying in the aircraft. I had reported several times that the petrol was coming in as vapour when the aircraft was flying on the forth [sic] time I reported it the skipper said he would return to base as I was soaked to the skin. On returning to base we were entering funnels (approaching the runway) when the port engine stopped and we did an about turn and we landed narrowly missing a building and hit nothing other than the ground stopping in a field, I had sat on the open turret getting ready to jump out when we came to a stop. As we were bumping along my parachute had pulled open and dragged me out of the plane I landed in the field we had just crossed and my parachute and I parted company (jettisoned it).

We were greeted by the officer with a sten gun, the skipper asked why has he come to see us with his gun and he told the skipper that they thought a German was around as last night a pilot was stabbed by a man who came out of the darkness so I am taking precautions.

We were taken inside the building and shown to the cook house, the cook asked if I liked turkey? I said I did , he asked me if I would like some? and I would, he asked me how much I would like? How much can I have? As much as you like. I asked if I could just have turkey and no veg, the answer was yes eat as much as you like as it will only go in the bin, I filled my plate with turkey and no veg the other crew members asked for the same and when the second planes [sic] crew came in they thought there was no veg, they were told they had plenty of veg but they could just have turkey if they wanted as they had so much food. In total three full crews just had plates of turkey for supper and no veg.

I took my deployed parachute to the section which issued and repacked them. As a coincidence I met my old colleague who packed my last parachute, and the first thing he asked while laughing and smiling was for the 7 and 6 I owed him from Market

[Page break]

harborough. Furthermore, he wanted paying for repacking this chute and said it was a standard charge if it safely deploys. I promptly told him the circumstances of its deployment and jovially argued that it should be free as it was an accident whilst on the ground, but my colleague stated it would only ever be free if it failed to open. We were both laughing so much.

Later on the sleeping arrangements were discussed and we were told that the only place left to sleep was the brothel, the first question was were the women still present. The answer was no sorry. Non [sic] of us minded our sleeping quarters as it was getting late. Although by the morning I wasn’t so agreeable as my bed had a pivot at each end and as a result I fell onto the floor each time I tried to get into it, I used my tunic to pack the bed to stop it tipping, when I got into bed again it tipped the other was as a result I didn’t get any sleep that night.

After breakfast a friend and I went to look at VNG George, it was in a sorry state, we walked round a little and found a F/W190 I climbed up on to it and tried to open the cockpit canopy when an officer came up and told me to get down and not try to open it as it might be booby-traped [sic, so I duly did as I was told, we walked some more and found a Heinkle [sic] 111 I thought id [sic] try my luck on that one only to be un lucky as the same officer found me trying to gain entry again and said come down of [sic] there, I will stop here and make sure you won’t come up here again.

After this we decided to look at the battle field through the trenches and through the fields were [sic] we found a tank, when we got closer I discovered that it was a radio controlled tank, when we reached the tank an Army personnel had shouted to us that we had just walked through a mine field. We could have stayed at this base for a long time, we found pistols, petrol tanks, shovels, uniforms, helmets etc..we could have searched for weeks finding treasures.

We were told to watch our step and return back to base. When we reached base there was a Lancaster waiting to take us back to ___________ on our return we didn’t even get debriefed, life just returned to normal.

The bomb aimer dug [sic] who dropped in the forest in Belgium came out of the forest and found a main road he turned right on the road walking for about 30min and came to a sharp bend to the left to be confronted by two German century’s [sic] with fixed bayonets on there [sic] rifles so he pulled back his shoulders and marched past them, they didn’t even speak to him and let him pass. He kept marching and he came to an American or British century, [sic] he was taken and questioned and was thought to be German, it was decided that he should be tied up with the other two prisoners and shot so they took him outside with the others and when the officer came out to ask him if he had anything to say? Dug used such bad language that the officer said ‘no German could know such bad language let him go’.

Dug was returned back to the _____ drome and the skipper said we should all get ready and take him out for the night.


Paul Martin and Allan McDonald, “Edward Allan McDonald's wartime memories,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed May 24, 2024, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/10478.

Item Relations

This item has no relations.