Gordon Cruickshank life on squadrons 1940-1944



Gordon Cruickshank life on squadrons 1940-1944


Mentions time as a balloon operator at Felixstowe and then training as an air gunner. First tour on 50 Squadron RAF Swinderby on Manchesters, but had to wait for aircraft to arrive as squadron still flying Hampden when he arrived later transferred to Lancaster. First operation Gardening off St Nazaire. Mentions first 1000 bomber peration and story of Leslie Manser VC. Lists operations on first tour including Guy Gibson and daylight operation to Le Creusot. Story of last trip on first tour to Hamburg on 9 November 1942- some crew wounded and killed. crash landed on return. Posted to 44 Squadron for second tour and later to 630 Squadron, Lists operations and events. Mentions Leonard Cheshire led attack on Munich and his award of Distinguished Flying Medal. Mentions post war events and 50 Squadron reunions. Many mentions of crew and colleagues as well as losses.




Fifteen page handwritten notebook

Conforms To


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[underlined] I flew rear [/underlined]
It was December of 1941, when I was told that my squadron was to be number 50, then stationed at Swinderby in Lincolnshire.
Having packed my kit and set off from Abingdon a O.T.U, having now become a fully trained airgunner.
It was late when we arrived at Swinderby several other gunners & myself!! we were posted in for crewing on the Manchester bombers – the sqdn were flying Hampdens at that time, but it was many weeks after before they arrived, so our life was one long rest! and was feeling pretty browned off, and more so when detailed for a bearer of one of our fellow aircrew who had been killed, he was one of the many that I knew – who was to get killed in action.
On the arrival of the Manchesters I was crewed with Flying Officer Norman Goldsmith & crew, they were a grand lot of chaps & soon settled down & wondering when I would start
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on operations – then on 15/4/42 in Manchester L7516 we started, our target “St Nazaire!! a trip of 6 hrs 15 mins – very quite [sic] I thought.
The Manchesters were rotten – and losses among them heavy, infact [sic] I hated them!! we were pleased when the news came through that we were going on “Lancs” the new four engine bombers
In the meantime we had to put up with what we had, after only a few raids – learnt that we were on a bombing raid in Germany & the target
Our second pilot was Leslie Manser, who was one of those chaps one always took an instant liking too!! and hoped that when Norman finnished [sic] he would take over our crew, the raid went off well, and although we couldn’t get much height – did manage to bomb at 5,000 ft, will alway [sic] remember this particular raid – for not only was it my first bombing raid on Germany, but because of those I flew with, & who later were to be killed in action.
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The months went by, and early July Norman Completed [sic] his tour – and our new pilot was Reg Calvert, with him I was to do a good number of operations!!
First [underlined] let me [/underlined] tell you about Leslie Manser It was May 30th of 42 the crew list up – and a buss [sic] around about it being a large force!! it was, the first 1,000 bomber raid & the target was
[underlined] Cologne [/underlined]
Leslie Manser & Crew [sic] were on, also mine !!
Less [sic] & crew got caught by searchlights on approaching the target area – then it happened!! hell let loose when hit by intense & accurate anti aircraft [smudged]fire [/smudged], the rear gunner being wounded, they pressed on in great difficulties to bomb there [sic] objective still caught by searchlights & flak – when fire broke out, after [smudged] awhile [sic] [/smudged] this was mastered with efforts of all, but it left its mark
A badly burnt wing & the engines failing the Manchester began losing height Less [sic] held on & gave orders for his crew to bail
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Out at very low height of 1000ft.
Disdained the alternative of parachuting to safety himself – held on for all to get safely out!! but to [sic] late for himself & plunged to earth and burst into flames with a man of great courage & strength
Flying Officer Leslie Manser was awarded the V.C Posthumously [sic]
The boys of 50 Sqdn were a grand lot but kept changing as the losses increased, one [smudged] would [/smudged] go on leave for a short period – on returning find quite a few new faces around!! & so & so missing
Time, which we had plenty in between raids were spent – either drinking, carding or both most of the night – or day, but the raids keep piling up – Frankfurt, Bremen, Wilhelmshaven, Essen, Wismar!! Then low level training – and our Cos remark!! now remember lads dont [sic] go mingling with the traffic in the streets
Then came the expected, a daylight low level raid on “Le creusot [sic] in France, led by Wing Commander Gibson, who later had my
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Navigator Terry Teurum [sic], and did the Dam [sic] raid – Winning the V.C.
Shortly after another Daylight [sic] on Milan Italy, back on nights with, Genoa, Genoa, Genoa – blimey dont [sic] they know any other place!! They did – Hamburg!!
It was November the 9th when I looked up the crew list & saw our crew were on, made my way out to my aircraft & give my guns (brownings) [sic] the once over, checked my turret ex [sic] & later after the N.F.T. atended [sic] briefings
The Target Hamburg
This was the last of my first tour – so I hoped for a quite [sic] one!!
It was dusk when we climbed aboard, Skipper ran up the engines, I closed the fuselage door & Climbed [sic] back rear – pluged [sic] in intercom & reported, we made our way to the runway in use when [smudged] given [/smudged] the O.K – cleared engines and we off on our way!! 3,000 ft, oxygen on – set course
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for Germany.
From then on one keen look out for fighters ex [sic] Enemy [sic] coast ahead – sharp look out now Crooky!! things seemed quite [sic], then this was broken by the Nav, target up on the right – new course, bomb aimer now getting down front – O.K Skipper all set, plenty of Searchlights [sic] about – and built up area below this must be Hamburg Skipper? OK bomb doors open – Left, [sic] left, steady – but that was it!! Hell let loose on use [sic], where am I upside down or the right way up, God, I dont [sic] know!! just kept hold tight & prayed – a strong smell of cordite around, [smudged] no [/smudged] [one indecipherable word] intercom [smudged] must [/smudged] [one indecipherable word] quite lonely [?] without it, & the holes in us, these boys on the ground certainly had us taped – but I just kept where I was, still looking for fighters!! not that it mattered for both turret & my guns were completely out of action, time seemed endless
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before a knock on my turret – Alan out other gunner with a note come up front, say what a mess – holes everywhere, I wondered how did they miss us!!
Alan said Pilot wounded, Nav wounded, & wireless operator badly wounded we were to learn later that he was killed instantly when flak hit him in the [one indecipherable word], real cold now, most of the windows [smudged] were [/smudged] blown out!! then word were [sic] clear of the enemy coast & over the North sea, then a sudden up lift – blimey that our bomb load? had we gone through that lot with a full bomb load! gee wont [sic] I be damned pleased to place my two feet on firm ground again – Good old England soon [smudged] popped [/smudged] up!! [smudged] no [/smudged] wireless ex [sic], hope they dont [sic] start shooting at us, then the coast, & Roy started flying in a traingle [sic]!! Up poped [sic] our searchlights showing us [?] a way for the next dreaded moment & crash landing
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Crash positions – this is it lads, and down & down we went to a perfect crash landing, good [one indecipherable word] Roy, what a pilot, what a crew!!
It was some months later, and I was now an instructor stationed at Westcott an O.T.U, and still feeling the effects of that raid, & much the worse for ware [sic], late of 1943, found myself going back for yet another tour of operations, and a new crew who had never been on operations before!! Gee its Just [sic] my luck to click [?] a pupil crew for my second time!!! my new Sqdn was to be 44, under Nettleton V.C. just a few miles from home & my dear wife, some luck anyway, Terry Flynn turned out a darned good pilot – but due to one or two misadventure after only 4 operations with him – he decided to take over a new crew - & me, I phoned up Roy!! & within days was with him as his gunner at 630 sqdn then stationed at East Kirkby, Lincs.
Operations soon started rolling in - & lots of aircrew out – for the losses were high
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now, 78, 83, 67-97, boy things are hot – Germany must be feeling the full strength of Bomber Command too? Berlin, Berlin, & Berlin again, Essen, “ Nurnburg”, Paris, Brunswick – then Munich, that was the night of April 24th of 44, Group Captain L. Cheshire was to lead us on that night, he was awarded the V.C. for that raid.
We were in the last wave - and on arriving at the target – which was now well on fire, & life was no piece of cake!! for plenty of night fighters were around, started our run in – searchlight soon got hold of us as we started evasive action!! Then fighters – four of them at us, we opened fire one damaged, one down, possible one more – but down and down we came, Say [sic] we down [sic] want to end up in Munich main street, the fires looked to [sic] hot for me!! & don’t think we’ll be welcomed [sic] guest with the people below – once clear of searchlights our hearts [smudged] felt [/smudged] lighter, and when the nav give the new heading knew we were on our way home
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once more.
Just two more, then I could say goodbye they came shortly after – “Schweinfurt”, Clermont – ferrand [sic]!! my last!! boy I feel 10 years younger, but looking back!! would I do it again? well the answers Yes!!
Hast ever flown deep into Hunland, [?] where the cold searchlights shimmer & shake, where like pink snakes the tracor [sic] uprises [sic] and life is no helping of cake
Where the heavy flak rattles and rends you, while Messerchmitts [sic] queue for a shot [smudged] and [/smudged] you’ve only your guns to defend you?
You haven’t?
Then you’ve missed a lot!
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After my reserve finished [sic] in 1960 – had very little contact with the R.A.F, until I received an invitation to atend [sic] for the [smudged] purpose [/smudged] of Cyril Manser to hand over his brother’s V.C. for keeping with 50 Sqdn – this was great thing to do, and Cyril’s a grand chap, it was our first meeting – also part of Mansers crew – who I hadn’t seen for 24 years
Last year another reunion – this time the squadron’s 50th birthday, a great reunion
Now ready for the coming “Royal Standard” in June, Her Royal Highness Th [sic] Princess Marinia [sic]
Which will no doubt bring to a close memories of 50 Sqdn and all who flew with it.
June the 15th of this year brought that day – and I attended with my wife & three daughters
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[underlined] I flew Rear [/underlined]
22 NOV 1967
It is 1940, and I find myself a corporal Group II Balloon operator – stationed at Felixstowe, single – with 8/3 per day, but restless, so I put my name forward for aircrew – and during the summer of 41 found myself packing, and on my way to number 8 gunnery school Evanton.
After only 4 weeks of training – I passed out to become a Sgt airgunner!! with a 6d aday [sic] rise in pay, not forgetting my 7hrs 25 mins flying time – was soon on my way to O.T.U, after leave I found myself at 10 O.T.U Abingdon flying rear on Whitleys – then early 1942 with a grand total of 23 hrs I am stationed at Swinderby with 50 Sqdn of 5 Group Bomber Command, with the Hampden Bombers.
At the mess I meet new & old friends – Ginger Dacy, Colin Gray – Hagin Mason & others, and informed my old pal Smithy was at Binbrook, and Vic Greenwood at 44 Sqdn Waddington – we were for crewing up on Manchesters, but it was some weeks before there [sic] arrival at the station – and things got very boring – more so when detailed for bearers
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of a fellow aircrew who had been killed during a raid.
Then the Manchesters started arriving – Colin Gray & myself were [smudged] crewed [/smudged] up with[?] Norman Goldsmith, Terry Tuerum [sic] was our “Nav” – later he flew with Gibson on the now famous dam raids
After a few hours of flying together we were ready for operations – and my total increased to 30 hrs. 15.4.42 the crew lists up – we’re on, a short NFT – no snags, a briefing ex [sic] and my first thought a keen look out Crooke for nightfighters.
St Nazaire” Gardening, Height 800 ft with 4 [one indecipherable word] – time 6.15, nothing unusual – quite [sic], four days later another gardening trip Ameland – shortly after on 22.4-42 [sic] again gardening!! This time Kiel Bay Ht 1,000 ft
A couple of days later on Manchester [smudged] L5786 [/smudged] found us on our first bombimg operation – the target Rostok [sic] north Germany.
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Our Second [sic] Pilot was Leslie Manser – who very soon after won the V.C.
The raid was good – but the aircraft bad – and very soon after they were all grounded – as death traps.
Leslie Manser had his crew – and Colin Gray – myself, were looking foranother [sic] Pilot, Norman had completed his first tour Having leave ex [sic] find we are crewed with a Pilot Officer Calvert, Alan Conner, Lew [?] Austin Flt/Sgt Stevens Sgt Branch – a grand lot, and I was proud to be a member of it.
It was some weeks later before we were operational – this time the Lancaster, but first let me tell you about Leslie Manser & crew; we knew them personaly [sic] – good chaps.
Its May 30th 1942 the crews are listed for operations – a buss [sic] around camp of a large force taking part!! it was, the first 1,000 Bomber raid – target Cologne.
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Unfortunately Leslie got caught by searchlights on approaching the target area – then it happened, hell let loose, when hit by intense and accurate anti aircraft fire – the rear gunner wounded – they pressed on in great difficulties to bomb there [sic] objective – still caught in the searchlights & Flak [sic], when fire broke out, after awhile [sic] this was mastered with efforts of all – but it had left its mark
A Badly [sic] burnt wing, and the engines failing – the Manchester began losing height, Les held on - & gave orders for his crew to bail out at a very low height of 1,000 ft.
Desdained [sic] the alternative of parachuting to safety himself – held on for all to get safely out – but to [sic] late for himself it plunged to earth and burst into flames with a man of great courage and strength
Flying Officer Manser was awarded the V.C. Posthumously
And the crew, all but one returned back to
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England via the underground in ‘approx’ 21 days
The boys of 50 Sqdn were a grand lot – but kept changing as the loses [sic] increased – we had Micky Martin & crew, Boy [sic] wonder Everett, Dave Abercrombie, King Cole, Trevor Roper Undry, Roy Beattle Oxley – and a host of others
Soon after the raids started coming fast – Frankfurt, Bremen, Wilhelmshaven, Essen, Wismar.
During the summer of 42 we had returned from a raid – dibriefing ex [sic], a meal, then to bed, but after being asleep some hours was woke up to be told we were on again – but not to worry our aircraft would be NFT & serviced for snags – but later was a worry,
We were on route to the target – and over the north sea – called up Roy for permission to check my guns – OK Nav, no [smudged] ships [/smudged] about – OK Skipper, OK Crooks check guns, but on doing so – found none working, after carefull [sic] checking found to my dismay all the breech blocks were in the wrong guns – but
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desided [sic] to put them right, but the cold was intense – and with a struggle managed to get two working before gaining to [sic] much height, after sometime I managed to win – even now I recall myself sweating – and the weather about 50 below, after that I checked my guns daily flying or not.
With still more [smudged] raids [/smudged], Saarbrucken, Kaslimen [?] Bremen, Duisburg, Frankfurt & Dusseldorf – find my hours creeping up –
Then we start low level training and Beatle Oxleys remark at briefing – now lads remember dont [sic] go mingling with the traffic in the streets when you go over large towns or city's
Its now 17.10.42, with briefing over – the daylight expected is on, a low level on Le Creucot [sic] 94 Lancasters to be led by Wing Commander Gibson a good quite [sic] raid – but 10 hrs 20 mins in the rear turret was to [sic] long, and shortly afterwards another Daylight [sic]– this time Milan, Italy.
After crossing France at low level we started
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to climb for crossing the Alps – this was a lovely sight, once over we started coming down for a low level attack on Milan – we did drop our fire bombs at a very low height with great success – afterwards shooting up a train & gun ports – but not a fighter in sight. time [sic] 9hrs 20 mins.
Around this period we were busy bombing Wismar, Genoa, and I cannot recall ever bombing above 10,000FT., sometimes after dropping we would put the nose down and hedge hop home – this I didn’t mind for flying rear and being around 14 Stone [sic] couldn’t get into the rear turret with full flying clothes – so hence I used the top parts & a blanket[?] around my legs, this way I felt freer [?] & happier
My friend Dacey was killed – Vic Greenwood, & Smithy also, not forgetting those on my own sqdn.
Nov 5th of 42 when I received a postagram
My Warmest Congratulations on the award of your Distingushed [sic] Flying medal.
Signed H.T.Harris
A.O.C. Bomber Command
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November 9th 1942 when looking up the crew lists seen our crew was on, making my way out to our aircraft – ‘S’ for sugar give my brownings the once over, a short NFT with the crew & later attending briefing.
The target Hamburg – my last for my first tour.
It was dusk when we climbed aboard, Skipper Roy run up the engines, I closed the fuselage door, climbed back rear – closed the doors, pluged [sic] in intercom – connected up my oxygen ex [sic], reported to Skipper rear gunner OK.
We set off for the runway in use, given the all clear from the control tower, cleared engines, and at a steady increasing speed down the runway we were on on [sic] way for a perfect take off.
3,000Ft oxygen on, after pin pointing we set course for Hamburg, once over the sea – Crooke here Skipper!! OK to test guns, any ships about Nav’ – nothing around Skipper, OK Skipper, with a
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[underlined] 9 [/underlined]
couple of short bursts – reported back guns O K Skipper.
From then on – a keen look out for fighters, enemy coast ahead Skipper, OK bomb aimer – sharp look out now everyone – OK back there [smudged] Crooke [/smudged] – OK Skipper!!
Soon we were approaching the target area which was about 7/10 cloud, things seemed qiute [sic], this was broken bye [sic] the “Nav”!! target on your right Skipper, new course – bomb aimer ready Skipper, plenty of searchlights about – must be Hamburg below.
OK Skipper bomb doors open – left left, steady!! but that was it – hell let loose, where am I upside down – or the right way, God I dont [sic] know, but I do know that theirs [sic] a hell of a lot of holes in us.
And an intense smell of cordite around – no intercom, both my [smudged] turret [/smudged] & guns are out of action, and all I could do is to hold on and pray – which I did!!
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Those boys on the ground certainly had us for target practice, & I was still looking for night fighters – not that I could of [sic] done anythink [sic] if I had – still its [sic] was my job, it was some considerable time before a knock on the rear doors – Alan, with a note to come up forward, thought what a relief for I was cold back there with no heat on.
Say what a mess, holes – left, right & centre & wondered how we made it, Alan said Roy’s wounded, also Nav & Lews in a bad way.
Real cold now, no windows & I was nursing Lew not knowing of course that he was dead, then word we are over the North Sea – then a sudden up lift, whats that, OK Crooke, only dropping our bombs – Blimey dont [sic] say we went through that lot with a full bomb load – afraid we did mate
Shall be damned glad to get my feet on solid ground again, my wish soon came!!
Good old England soon came up – no wireless or nothing – but with flying a triangle, soon up (one indecipherable word] came friendly searchlights showing us a place to crash land.
OK lads here we go – crash positions!! this is it, down – down – down to a perfect crash landing
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Good show Roy – what a crew.
After my leave I was posted to Westcott an OUT, then I met Bob [smudged] Wetherall [?] [/smudged], George Cleary, Rory Calhoune – Patteson[?], Frazer [sic] Barron DSO D.F.C D.F.M.
Bob went back on operations with Frazer [sic] barron – bur on a raid on Paris hit head on with another Lancaster – poor Bob I’ll always remember.
I was married now and liked to get home as much as possible – but was also itching to get back on ops, and late 1943 was being crewed with a Flying officer Flynn a crew who had never been on ops before – just my luck, but I got the Sqdn that I asked for, 44 Rhodesia, Nettleton V.C. at Waddington – which moved to Dunholme Lodge, what luck a couple of miles from my wife & son
Nettleton V.C. He went down on one of the Italian raids, our new C.O. was Wing Commander Bows [sic] – Pat Dorkell [?] was also back on his second tour, and my warrant officer was through – a thing unheard of with gunners at that time of the war.
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I was now flying as a mid upper with point spires [?] felt more happier then – you could have the feeling of turning the turret & looking forward – instead of just sides and rear
Our crew were fated – the first raid Cassel [sic], having made a good take off, and making height to some 19 - 20,000 ft we headed for enemy territory
[ two indecipherable words]
We had crossed the enemy coast – when up shouts the Nav – sorry Skipper I can’t coup [sic]!! Pilot to Crooke, I was known throughout 5 Group as Crooke – my name being Cruickshank.
Whats [sic] the Gen [sic]?, well Skipper lets [sic] know how much off course – and how late we’ll be at the target area – I’ll check!!
After what seemed ages were off route & running late!! best to turn back Skipper than be cault [sic] on our own, we did, dropped our bombs in the sea and pin pointed our way back to base
The Navigator was later Court Marhold [sic] and reduced to the ranks
After a couple of raids Dusseldorf, Berlin ex [sic] the next raid a near repeat to Cassel [sic] – so Terry decided on a complete new crew – felt sorry at the time – but pleased when I later heard he gone down on his 19th trip – because I would of [sic] gone to [sic].
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I didn’t care for being a spare! [one indecipherable word] So I give Roy Calvert a ring – going back on ops Roy – yes Crooke, want me? of course I do – leave it to me Crooke!! O K Roy.
A few days later I was on my way to East Kirkby – 630 Sqdn, Alan Conner was also there – Titch Freeman, Moody ex [sic] brought in made up our crew, Roy now a Sqdn / Leader
Operations started rolling in – Berlin, Schweinfurt, Stuttgart, Clermont- Ferrand, Stuttgart Frankfurt – Berlin & Essen, the losses up around the 80’s per raid.
Then on 30-3 44 [sic] we were briefed [smudged] for [/smudged] Nurnberg, on approaching enemy coast I reported of aircraft being shot down - your [sic] seeing things Crooke, but somehow I knew different, and they did next day when Bomber Command had lost 144 Lancasters – of our 12 taking part only 2 crews returned [smudged] ours [/smudged] was one.
Sorry Crooke – you was right, I knew that – but never forgive them, Bomber Command losses were high – to [sic] high for my liking still not many more now before my last, so I’ll keep my fingers crossed.
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I was now commissioned, Gibson V.C. was Wing Commander flying for our area – he went down shortly afterwards.
After Toulouse – Montraudan [sic], Danzig & Paris, Brunswick – this raid we were shot up by a night fighter, right action & timing we got away with Slight [sic] damage – this my 50th raid.
After the damns [sic] – Terry Tuerum [sic], Trevor Roper & rest of Gibsons crew went with a Sqdn/Ldr Holden, But [sic] heard whilst at 630 Sqdn they had all gone down on the Dortmund Ems Cannel [sic] raid, Micky Martin the crew coming back out of 4 from 617 Sqdn
One of our crews had tried to take off without success, after leaving the ground had plunged to the ground – the rear turret breaking off, and the rest blowing to pieces – and all killed except the rear gunner, later I learnt that he still carried on – But [sic] on returning from a raid – they were so badly shot up that the Pilot ordered them to Bail [sic] out, on going for his chute the rear gunner found it in ribbons – the Mid [sic] upper saw this, said come on – we’ll go together with mine – they did but on pulling the cord the sudden jerk he let goand [sic] fell to his death below.
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Munich was always a hard target – Cheshire said, give me one sqdn of P.F.F. and 5 Group I’ll show you it can be, they did.
On the 24.4.44 we were briefed for Munich, and we were in the last wave.
The target was [smudged] ablaze [/smudged] when we arrived – we had our run in – just released our bombs, when we caught by searchlights & four enemy night fighters, with good evassive [sic] action – and shooting from both gunners we downed one – damaged one, and down – down – down we went, say Skipper we dont [sic] want to be mixed up in those fires below, or the people either, dont [sic] think we’ll welcomed guest right now
OK Nav give me a course for home – with the new course & burning Munich behind us we headed for home.
On seeing the raid photos – Cheshire s [sic] aircraft was below the roofs of some Munich buildings, after that he was awarded the V.C.
Soon after, a raid on Schweinfurt – then Clermont Ferrand my last trip, and I was’nt [sic] sorry [smudged] either [/smudged]
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Hast ever flown deep into Hunland, where the cold searchlights shimmer & shake, where like pink snakes the tracer uprises [sic] and life is no helping of cake.
Where the heavy flak rattles and rends you, while Messerchmitts [sic] queue for a shot and you’ve only your guns to defend you!!
You have’nt [sic]
Then you’ve missed a hell of a lot.
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G. Cruickshank DFM
14, Somerville Close



G Cruickshank, “Gordon Cruickshank life on squadrons 1940-1944,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 22, 2024, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/17785.

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