The last flight of Lancaster DV396(B)



The last flight of Lancaster DV396(B)


Derrick Allen's account of being shot down 2/3 November 1944. After a successful attack on Dusseldorf, the Lancaster was severely damaged by a night fighter. Goes on to describe battle with FW 190 and and order to abandon aircraft. Before bailing out Derrick Allen goes to the rear to free rear gunner from jammed turret. Aircraft explodes and he finds himself on parachute in tree. Describes meeting rest of crew, learning that pilot and rear gunner have been killed. Remarks that taking spare bod rear gunner, who had never flown with crew before was considered bad luck.


Temporal Coverage



One typewritten page


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The last flight of Lancaster DV 369 (R ) on 2/3rd November
My memories of this trip now rather faded over the years started like most did on the modern gunnery section crew room with the cryptic message War tonight chalked on the board.
After briefing we learned the target was to be Dusseldorf which at that time was 50-60 miles from the American front line positions.
The met forecast some cloud cover enroute but clear over the target area. ETA was I believe about one hour after midnight.
We had a good trip out and bombed very successfully, with very little cloud, and had just turned off target area and set course for base at about 17,000ft when a gaping hole was shot in the under belly of out Lanc, about a yard away from the Mid upper gun position which I was of course occupying at the time.
A german [sic] night fighter had spotted our engine exhausts and fired cannon shells in to our one blind spot, the under belly of the fuselarge [sic].
A FWI90 then appeared on the port quarter and we exchanged shots with my rear gunner and myself both giving him the works, but in the battle we lost one of our tail fins and the port engine was also hit and on fire.
The night fighter broke off the attack, possibly damaged and we were left alone in a very badly damaged aircraft rapidly losing height.
Our skipper Les Landridge gave us the order to bale out, and as our bomb aimer/w operator Flight Engineer and Navigator prepared to jump, our rear gunner Bill Lemin shouted over the intercom that his turret doors were jammed, and the skipper asked me to go back and help him.
On getting out of my gun position I realised the extent of the damage to the fuselage and my parachute had dropped off the turret step when it always hung on the floor close to the hole.
Having clipped my chute on I made my way aft pausing to open the reef door escape hatch, and I then forced the turret doors and Bill was able to get out and we started to move towards the rear door.
All this time of course Les had been wrestling with the controls up front, the crew having baled out at high level.
At this point the old Lancaster went in to a spin, flattening both of us against the rear fuselage. Then she broke in half at the spot where the hole had been torn in her and about the last thing I remember is floating face down and watching a dark mass of earth and trees coming up to meeet [sic] me, and when I recovered my senses I was hanging in the branches of a tree.
The Lancaster was blazing away in the next field, I got out my harness and slipped down the tree trunk to be met by a herd of cattle and I beat a hasty retreat over a small hedge.
It was by this time about 2AM and bright moonlight, having no idea where we had crashed I thought best to get away from the blazing aircraft, so I headed for an old outbuil-ding [sic] at the bottom of the garden to a bungalow.
As I sat in the potting shed I could hear dogs barking and a lot of activity and shouting some of which I decided was American, so I then walked down to a bend in the road where I was pleased to give myself up to an American GI leaning over a gate I was then reunited with the rest of the crew and I then learned of the death of both Les Lendridge and Bill Lemin whose bodies were only a hundred yards from my tree.
As a matter of interest most aircrew were a superstitious lot, and the carrying of good luck charms on aircraft was very common, but taking on a spare crew man when some one was sick was really tempting fate.

Our rear gunner that night was a spare bod who had never flown with us before, our regular rear gunner Bert Davis being unfit, who has it happened was shot down himself a few weeks later flying with another crew and taken prisoner of war.
After we were flown back to London from Brussells I was passed medically fit again to fly and after 21 days leave I joined [undecipherable] D.F.C. crew to finish the war



Derrck J Allen, “The last flight of Lancaster DV396(B),” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 24, 2024,

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