Rear view - Ralph Briars memoir

SBriarsRA1299161v1.pdf

Title

Rear view - Ralph Briars memoir

Description

Starts with tribute to crew and has colour photograph of a 617 Squadron Lancaster over Lincoln. Writes of his joining the RAF, selection as an air gunner and his basic training. Goes on with description of gunnery training, before going to OTU at RAF Cottesmore where he crewed (describes crew) up while training on Wellington. Carries on with description of heavy conversion unit flying Halifax and Lancaster. Provides description of turrets in both types. Provides a long description of a night sorties and discusses the level of training in the RAF for aircrew as well as problem of collisions. He is finally posted to become operational on 49 Squadron at RAF Fiskerton. He then provides a very detailed diary of the 14 operations he carried out on 49 Squadron followed by the 25 he carried out after the crew were posted to 617 Squadron. These sorties included the Saumur tunnel, V1 and V2 sites, the Tirpitz, Dortmund Ems canal and the Bielefeld viaduct. He concludes with some more anecdotes and his activities after he finished operational flying including getting married.

Creator

Date

1989

Language

Format

Thirty-nine page printed document

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

Rights

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.

Identifier

SBriarsRA1299161v1

Transcription

[picture]
REAR VIEW
Ralph Briars

[page break]

[photograph]

TO MARK AND AMANDA, IN THE FERVENT HOPE THAT THEY AND THEIRS NEVER BECOME INVOLVED IN WORLD UPHEAVALS SUCH AS HAPPENED BETWEEN 1939 AND 1945

DEDICATED FIRSTLY TO MY TRAVELLING COMPANIONS IN THOSE UNFRIENDLY SKIES, PARTICULARLY TO JOHN SANDERS WHO FLEW US THERE AND BACK, AND JAMES BARRON WHO GUIDED US. THE OTHERS AL AND ARTHUR, ROY AND TOMMY, ALL STRANGERS THROWN TOGETHER IN THE COMMON CAUSE.
SECONDLY TO BILL HUDSON WHO CAME WITH ME FROM GUNNERY SCHOOL TO FISKERTON, A WARMLY REMEMBER [sic] PERSON WHOSE FAVOURITE TIPPLE WAS GUINESS AND GIN-MIXED. SADLY HIS AIRCRAFT DID NOT RETURN FROM A RAID IN MARCH 1944, SHORTLY BEFORE WE WERE POSTED TO 617 SQUADRON.

[page break]

[underlined] FORE-WORD [/underlined]

TO EMPLOY A WELL WORN BUT NONE THE LESS ACCURATE CLICHÉ, LIFE IS FULL OF SURPRISES. THUS I PONDERD [sic] RUEFULLY, IN JANUARY 1944, ON FINDING MYSELF SITTING AT THE REAR OF A LANCASTER BOMBER EN ROUTE TO STETTING, WHICH IS THE WRONG SIDE OF DENMARK. NOT THAT I AM UNPATRIOTIC REALLY, BUT DURING THE TIME THAT HAD PASSED SINCE JOINING THR [sic] ROYAL AIR FORCE I DID THINK THAT SOMEONE OUGHT TO GET A MOVE ON AND WIN THE WAR BEFORE I BECAME INVOLVED.
THE R.A.F. INVITED ME TO JOIN IN 1941 ON THE ROSY PROSPECT THAT TRAINING AS A WIRELESS OPERATOR/AIR GUNNER – KNOWN IN THE TRADE AS A WOP/AG – WOULD FOLLOW INITIAL INSTRUCTION ON GETTING THE LEFT FOOT AND RIGHT ARM IN SYNCHRONISATION ON MOVING OFF. SO AWAY TO SAMPLE THE DELIGHTS OF THE BLACKPOOL LANDLADIES, BLESS-EM. SOME WERE LIKE MUVVERS, OTHERS LET YOU WASH IN THE YARD AND NO WARM SHAVING WATER. ONE LEARNED, USUALLY TOO LATE, NEVER TO EXPOUND THE VIRTUES OF THEIR COOKING – OR ANY OTHER ACTIVITY – FOR THE PERMANENT STAFF SOON HAD YOU OUT AND THEMSELVES IN, TO USE THE VERNACULAR, WITH THEIR FEET AND TRULY UNDER THE TABLE.
NOW I WOULD NOT SAY THE MORSE CODE IS PARTICULARLY DIFFICULT TO LEARN GIVEN MORE TIME MY INSTRUCTORS WERE PREPARED TO OFFER, AND AS THE WAR WAS NOT GOING ALL THAT WELL I HAD TO DEPART FROM THIS POSH PART OF LANCASHIRE. ALTHOUGH I WAS A BIT MIFFED AT THE TIME, THE DECISION WAS EVENTUALLY ADVANTAGEOUS, AS I WILL EXPAND LATER,..
SO THERE I WAS, WITH A FEW OTHER FAILURES, ON THE ISLE OF SHEPPEY, BEING INSTRUCTED ON A DIFFERENT SUBJECT, PARACHUTE AND CABLES. BEAR WITH ME, IF YOU WILL, YOU’LL NOT BELIEVE THE REST. SOME BRIGHT SPARK IN THE MIN. OF DEFFENCE [sic] INVENTED A FORM OF DEFENCE AGAINST LOW FLYING AIRCRAFT CONSISTING OF A ROW OF TUBES SET VERTICALLY AND CONTAINING ROCKETS TO WHICH WERE ATTACHED. [sic]

[page break]

2

LONG LENGTHS OF STEEL CABLE, WITH INCREDIBLE ACCURACY YOU FIRED THESE OFF JUST AS AN AIRCRAFT – PREFERABLE [sic] BELONGING TO THE OTHER SIDE – WAS ABOUT TO CROSS THE LINE, WHERE-UPON UP THEY WENT TO AROUND 800 FEET, EJECTING A PARACHUTE FIXED TO THE CABLE WHICH THEN SLOWLY DROPPED TO THE GROUND. IF THEN YOUR TARGET WAS NOT ENTANGLED IN THE STEEL CURTAIN, OR A SECOND ONE CAME ALONG, YOU NEEDED AT LEAST 30 MINUTES TO REFILL THE SYSTEM, PRESUMABLY THIS VISIONARY TYPE OF DEFENCE AROSE DURING THE PROBLEMS OF SUPPLYING CONVENTIONAL WEAPONS AT THAT STAGE OF THE WAR, AND WAS USED TO DEFEND MERCHANT SHIPPING AS WELL AS AIR FIELDS.
ANYWAY, I WAS PACKED OFF TO SAVE THE R.A.F. BASE AT LINTON-ON-OUSE, NEAR YORK, AND IN THE PERIOD FROM CHRISTMAS 1941 TO AROUND FEBRUARY 1943 WE FIRED NOT ONE SHOT. NO DOUBT THE LUFTWAFFE HAD HEARD ABOUT IT ALL. DURING THIS EXCITING PERIOD I MADE REGULAR APPLICATIONS TO TRAIN AS AN AIR GUNNER, FOR NOT ONLY WAS THIS DEFENCE WORK FARCICAL – FOR EXAMPLE ONE COULD NOT OPERATE AFTER DARK AS THERE WAS NO REFERNCE [sic] TO JUDGE DISTANCE – OUT DEFENCE DUTIES WERE BEING SLOWLY TAKEN OVER BY THE NEWLY FORMED R.A.F. REGIMENT, WITH ALL THE ASSOCIATED ARMY STYLE TRAINING WHICH I COULD PLAINLY SEE WAS NOT GOING TO BE MY CUP OF TEA AT ALL.
EVENTUALLY I FOUND MYSELF IN ST. JOHNS WOOD, IN LONDON, ONCE AGAIN ON ASSESSMENTS AND INITIAL TRAINING LEADING TO A GUNNERY COURSE. THENCE TO BRIDLINGTON FOR THE REAL THING, WHERE AMONGST DIVERS ACTIVITIES WE SPENT HOURS IN A LOCAL GARAGE WHIRLING AROUND ON DIFFERENT TYPES OF GUN TURRETS MOUNTED UPON METAL FRAMES CONTAINING SMALL PETROL ENGINES WHICH SUPPLIED ELECTRIC AND HYDRAULIC POWER. NEARBY FLAMBOROUGH HEAD WAS USED FOR LIVE FIRING MUCH TO THE DISCOMFORT OF THR [sic] RESIDENT GULLS, FOR THE CONTINUAL USE OF OLD GUNS SEEMINGLY SO WIDENED THE BORE THAT TRACER BULLETS RARELY FOLLOWED EACH OTHER BUT WANDERED ABOUT LIKE GUNSHOT.

[page break]

3

THE NEXT STOP WAS DALCROSS, THE FLYING SCHOOL NEAR INVERNESS WHICH IS NOW THAT TOWN’S AIRPORT. WHERE WE SPENT SEVERAL WEEKS IN LOVELY WEATHER FLYING OVER THE MORAY FIRTH IN OLD DEFIANTS AND ANSONS FIRING AT TOWED TARGET DROGUES OR SEA MARKERS. MANY OF THE PILOTS WERE POLISH, TEMPORARILY WITHDRAWN FROM ACTIVE DUTY, AND THEY UNDERSTANDABLY WANTED TO RETURN TO BASHING THE HUN RATHER THAN FERRYING AROUND THREE TYRO GUNNERS AND THEIR INSTRUCTOR. ONE OCCURRENCE THAT WOULD INVITE A FLOW OF FURIOUS POLISH – THE PURPORT OF WHICH WAS CLEAR EVEN THOUGH THE LANGUAGE WAS NOT – WAS WHEN AFTER PAINFULLY CLIMING [sic] TO HEIGHT AND AWAITING THE ARRIVAL OF THE TARGET TOWING AIRCRAFT THE FIRST GUNNER IN THE TURRET SHOT OFF THE DROGUE. AMONGST US GUNNERS THIS WAS SEEN AS EVIDENCE OF GREAT PROWESS, BUT THE RESULT WAS RATHER A LONG HOPEFULL [sic] WAIT FOR A NEW DROGUE TO BE STREAMED BY THE TOWING AIRCRAFT, OR, AS MORE OFTEN HAPPENED, A RETURN TO THE AIRFIELD. EACH GUNNER FIRED 200 ROUNDS. THE TIPS OF WHICH HAD BEEN DIPPED IN A STICKY SORT OF PRINTERS INK, RED PURPLE OR GREEN, SO THAT THE HITS COULD BE COUNTED. THE PROCEDURE WAS FOR US TO LAND FIRST AND AWAIT THE DROPPING OF THE DROGUE TARGET, WHICH WE HAD TO LUG INTO THE SCOOL [sic] FOR ASSESSMENT. OH! THE EXCITEMENT! HOW MANY WOULD YOU HAVE? HAD YOU, IN FACT ANY? 10 WAS EXCELLENT 15 INCREDIBLE, MORE OFTEN IT WAS SINGLE NUMBERS. AIR TO AIR FIRING WAS WILDLY WASTEFUL, NONE OF YOUR HEAT-SEEKING MISSILES THEN!
WE DID A LOT OF GUN TURRET TRAINING, AND COULD EVENTUALLY WRITE OUR NAMES BY MEANS OF A PENCIL WEDGED INSIDE THE GUN BARREL WHICH ENABLED ONE TO TRACE THE LETTERS ONTO A BOARD HELD IN FRONT OF THE TURRET. HOURS WERE SPENT INSIDE LARGE WHITE WASHED DOMES WHERE MOVING FILMS OF VARIOUS ATTACKING AIRCRAFT WERE PROJECTED, AND WITH A TORCH STRAPPED TO THE GUN BARREL ONE HAD TO SHOW CONVINCING ABILITY TO TRACK AND LEAD THE TARGET. ALERTNESS WAS EVERYTHING, FOR SOMETIMES A BRITISH AIRCRAFT WOULD BE SHOWN, AND IF NOT

[page break]

4

IDENTIFIED HEAVY SARCASM WOULD BE OBSERVED BY THE INSTRUCTOR, HAD NOT THE SERVICE ENOUGH TROUBLES ALREADY?
THE END OF THE COURSE CAME AND WITH THE EXCEPTION OF ONE UNFORTUNATE SOUL WE ALL PASSSED [sic]. THERE WE WERE AGAIN, BACK ON THE OLD L.M.S., TRAIN, DESTINED FOR VARIOUS COMMANDS AND GROUPS THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY. PASSING ALONG THE GRAND SCOTTISH SCENE THROUGH AVIEMORE, PERTH AND CARSTAIRS, AND THEN BY WAYS DEVIOUS I ENDED THE JOURNEY, WITH ONE ACQUAINTANCE FROM DALCROSS, AT 14 C.T.U. [sic] 9 (OPERATIONAL TRAINING UNIT) AT COTTESMORE IN WHAT AT THE TIME WAS THE PLEASANT COUNTY OF RUTLAND.
HERE FOR THE FIRST TIME WE MET OTHER FLYING TRADESMEN, PILOTS, NAVIGATORS, WIRELESS OPERATORS AND BOMB AIMERS. FIVE TO A CREW FOR THE TIME BEING, AS WE TRAINED ON WELLINGTON TWIN ENGINE AIRCRAFT. IN A SURPRISING BUT SOMEHOW VERY BRITISH WAY, A NOVEL WAY OF FORMING CREWS WAS ADOPTED.
NOT FOR US A LIST OF WHO WOULD FLY WITH WHOM, WHICH MIGHT HAVE BEEN EXPECTED, BUT INSTEAD A PERIOD – FROM LONG MEMORY AROUND TWO DAYS – IN WHICH WE MADE OUR OWN SELECTION. ANYONE NOT CREWED UP IN THE TIME ALLOTTED WAS MADE UP WITH OTHERS SIMILARLY PLACED. SO IT WAS DOWN TO THE (GEORGE) AT OAKHAM, AND BY THE TIME WE WERE CHUCKED OUT MOST CREWS WERE ARRANGED. HOW, YOU MIGHT SAY, DID ONE CAREFULLY SELECT SUITABLE SKILLED, ALERT, ETC. COMPATRIOTS WITH WHOM TO GO SWANNING AROUND GERMAN SKIES? DID ONE EARNESTLY ASK A PILOT HOW MANY HAD HE WRITTEN OFF ALREADY, OR SEEK A NAVIGATORS OPINION ON THE TRIANGLE OF VELOCITIES? YOU MUST BE JOKING! AFTER A FEW DRINKS WE WERE ALL EXCELLENT FELLOWS! THIS NAVIGATOR STEADIED HIMSELF ON ME AND SAID HE HAD A PILOT, WAS I FIXED UP? SEEMINGLY REASONABLY RESPECTABLE I WANT ALONG WITH HIM TO SEE THE PILOT, WHO HAD TWO WINGS UP SO WAS CLEARLY RELIABLE, AND HE TOOK ME ON, WE THEN ALL FOUND A WIRELESS MAN APPARENTLY KNEW ALL THE PUBS IN NOTTINGHAM, AND ON---

[page break]

5

ON THE WAY BACK ASSISTED THIS CANADIAN BOMB AIMER WHO WAS NOT SURE WHICH WAY EAST OR WEST, AND SO SANDERS SAINTS WERE FORMED.
TOGETHER WE TRAINED AS A TEAM UNTILL [sic] THE END OF SEPTEMBER, FLYING OUT OF SATELLITE AIR FIELDS AT MARKET HARBOROUGH AND HUSBANDS BOSWORTH, TOTALLING AROUND 80 HOURS FLYING TIME. INITIALY [sic] THE PILOT WAS MOST INVOLVED IN FAMILIARISING HIMSELF, UNDER INSTRUCTION, WITH THE LARGER AND HEAVIER AIRCRAFT. ONE HAS SOME FEELING FOR HIM IN THIS, FOR HIS SKILL AND PROGRESS WERE WITHIN SIGHT AND SOUND OF THE REST OF US PASSENGERS DURING SEVERAL HOURS TAKINF [sic] OFF AND LANDING, COLLOQUIALLY KNOWN AS CIRCUITS AND BUMPS. HOWEVER JOHN SANDERS WAS QUITE UP TO ALL THIS, AND BEFORE LONG WE ALL HAD TO JUSTIFY OUR TRAINING DURING CROSS-COUNTRY EXERCISES, PRACTICE BOMBING AND GUNNERY. IN THESE THE PILOT AND NAVIGATOR WERE OF COURSE CONTINUALLY EXTENDING THEIR EXPERIENCE AND EXPERTISE, AS WAS THE WIRELESS OPERATOR, TUCKED UP IN HIS LITTLE NICHE, AND HERE I WOULD INTERPOSE MY FEELINGS TOUCHED UPON EARLIER CONCERNING MY SUMMARY EXIT FROM THE WIRELESS SCHOOL.
THE VITAL WIRELESS OPERATOR, - RECEIVING INFORMATION ABOUT WIND SPEED AND DIRECTION CHANGES, ALTERATIONS TO BOMBING TECHNIQUES, CHECKING THE INTERCOM, TUNING IN TO ENEMY AIRCRAFT AND THEIR CONTROLLERS WAVELENGTHS SO THEY COULD BE JAMMED VIA A MICROPHONE IN AN ENGINE COMPARTMENT, TRACKING POSSIBLE NIGHT FIGHTERS ON A SMALL VDU, - SAW LITTLE OF ACTUAL WAR. SOME MAY THINK IMAGINATION WOULD HAVE WORKED OVERTIME WONDERING WHAT WAS HAPPENING OUTSIDE, LISTENING AND FEELING BUT NOT KNOWING. THE SIGHTS I SAW FROM MY VANTAGE POINT AT THR [sic] REAR WERE NOT ALWAYS ENTIRELY REASSURING, BUT THAT’S REALITY, AS AN ALTERNATIVE TO NOT KNOWING AT ALL, WAS PREFERABLE.

[page break]

6

SHORTLY BEFORE LEAVING COTTESMORE AT THE END OF OCTOBER 1943 TWO MORE CREW MEMBERS ARRIVED, THE ENGINEER AND THE MID-UPPER TURRET GUNNER. WHILST THE FORMER COULD BE ACCOMMODATED IN THE DUAL COCKPIT OF THE WELLINGTON, THE NEW GUNNER WAS LESS FORTUNATE AND SPENT A FEW DRAUGHTY COLD SPELLS IN THE FUSELARGE [sic]. ROY MACHIN WAS A LITTLE LESS THAN DELIGHTED WITH LIFE, BUT IT WAS NOT LONG BEFORE WE MOVED AND HE HAD HIS OWN NEST.
SO IT WAS OFF TO THE LAST STAGE OF TRAINING AT WINTHORPE, NEAR NEWARK. THIS PERIOD OF SIX WEEKS WAS SIMILAR TO THAT AT COTTESMORE, EXCEPT THAT THIS UNIT, 1661 CONVERSION UNIT, FAMILIARISED US WITH THE SAME TYPE OF AIRCRAFT USED IN OPERATIONS, THE HALIFAX AND THE LANCASTER. I BELIEVE OUR 5 GROUP WAS PHASING OUT THE HALIFAX AT THE TIME, ANDWE [sic] ONLY FLEW ABOUT FIVE HOURS IN THEM. FROM THE GUNNERS POINT OF VIEW THE MAIN DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO TYPES WAS THE BOULTON AND PAUL (BP) TURRET IN THE HALIFAX AND THAT MADE BY FRAZER-NASH IN THE LANCASTER. BOTH HAD FOUR GUNS FED BY AMMUNITION CONVEYED ON TRACKS FROM BINS NEAR THE CENTRE OF THE FUSELAGE TO AVOID UNWANTED WEIGHT AT THE REAR OF THE AIRCRAFT. THE BP TURRET WAS ELECTRICALLY OPERATED AND CONTROLLED BY A SINGLE JOYSTICK, WHEREAS THAT IN THE LANCASTER WAS HYDRAULICALLY DRIVEN WITH BICYCLE TYPE HANDLEBAR CONTROLS. I PREFERRED THE LATTER, PROBABLY DUE TO FAMILIARITY THOUGH BOTH HAD A SMOOTH AND PRECISE ACTION, EACH ‘303 BROWNING GUN FIRED ABOUT 1200 ROUNDS A MINUTE, AND WERE (HARMONISED) THAT IS FOCUSED FOR MAXIMUM CUMULATIVE EFFECT ON TARGET AT 400 YARDS. HAVING SEEN THE DEVASTATING RESULT OF SIX GUNS ON AN ENEMY AIRCRAFT DURING OUR FIRST OPERATION TO STETTIN WE HAD MUCH CONFIDENCE IN THEM.
THE PROBLEM WITH NIGHT OPERATIONS WAS, SIMPLY, SEEING THE ATTACKER. THE REAR GUNNER SEARCHED BEHIND AND BELOW, THE OTHER GUNNER BEHIND AND ABOVE, BOTH CONSTANTLY SCANNING THE SIDE AREAS AS WELL. THE MAIN DANGER CAME FROM TWIN ENGIND [sic] ME110’S AND JUNKERS 88’S NEITHER OF WHICH WAS ------

[page break]

7

PARTICULARY [sic] FAST BUT EASILY SURPASS A LADEN LANCASTER’S CRUISING SPEED OF 170 M.P.H. FURTHERMORE, SOME FIGHTERS WERE FITTED WITH UPWARD FIRING 20 M.M. CANNON, AND WOULD CREEP ALONG BELOW BOMBERS WHICH TENDEDTO [sic] SILHOUETTE AGAINST THE LIGHTER UPPER SKY. THEY WERE VERY DIFFICULT TO SEE, UNLESS THE GROUND WAS SNOW COVERED AND ALL WE COULD DO WAS TO CARRY OUT A BANKING SEARCH – THE PILOT DOING THE HARD WORK TILTING THE AIRCRAFT ENABLING THE AREA BELOW TO BE INSPECTED. THIS WAS, OF COURSE, DIFFICULT WITH A LOADED BOMBER, AND DOUBTLESS MANY GOOD CREWS WERE LOST DUE TO THE SHEER SLOG OF CONTINUAL SEARCHING AND A CONSEQUENT FALLING OFF OF EFFICIENT LOOKOUT.
THERE IS THOUGHT, HOWEVER THAT AS THE CANNON WERE, I BELIEVE, INCLINED AT 60 DEGREES ABOVE THE HORIZONTAL, IN ANY LIKELY FIRING ATTITUDE THE FIGHTER HAD TO BE BELOW, AND BEHIND, THUS WITHIN THE REAR GUNNERS FIELD OF SEARCH. PROVIDED NATURALLY IT WAS NOT TOO DARK TO SEE ANYTHING AT ALL!
MANY OF THE RADIAL ENGINED LANCASTER II WERE FITTED WITH AN EXTERNAL GUN POSITION OPERATED REMOTELY FROM WITHIN THE REAR FUSELARGE [sic], PROBABLY WITH A PERISCOPIC SIGHT VISIBILITY AT NIGHT WITH THE NAKED EYE IS OBVIOUSLY LIMITED AND MOST REAR TURRETS EVENTUALLY HAD THE PERSPEX PANEL FRONT OF THE GUNSIGHT REMOVED ENTIRELY. ANY FORM OR [sic] PERISCOPE WAS NO DOUBT FOUND TO HAVE SUCH A POOR FIELD OF VISION TO NOT JUSTIFY THE ADDITIONAL CREW MEMBER AND THE WEIGHT PENALTY INSTALLATION.
I HAVE INTERJECTED ONE OR TWO MATTERS FOR THE RECORD, AS THIS FORWARD TO THE DIARY FINISHES WITH COMPLETION OF THE COURSE AT WINTHORPE AND OUR POSTING TO 49 SQUADRON AT FISKERTON, A FEW MILES EAST OF LINCOLN, IN DECEMBER 1943.
A WORD ABOUT THE DEPTH OF TRAINING THE R.A.F. GAVE US. DESPITE THE WAR LOSSES OF PERSONNEL AND MATERIAL – MANY AND MUCH OR [sic] WHICH CAME BY HAZARDOUS SEA PASSAGES – THERE WAS NEVER ANY FEELING OF HASTE IN INSTRUCTING TRAINEES SO THEY COULD BE PASSED ON QUICKLY TO OPERATIONAL DUTIES.

[page break]

8

THE INSTRUCTING AND TRAINING SOMETIMES WAS UNIMAGINATIVE AND REPETITIVE, BUT IN THE OUTCOME IT WAS OF SUFFICIENT DEPTH FOR ONE TO ACHIEVE SOME SKILLS AND QUICK REACTION TO EVENTS. THIS IS PROBABLY TRUE OF THE OTHER SERVICES, AND SOMETHING FOR WHICH ALL TRAINEES SHOULD BE THANKFULL [sic]. HOWEVER, IT IS AN INEVITABLE FACT THAT IN WARTIME THE HIGHEST DEGREE OF TRAINING IS SUBJECT IN MANY RESPECTS TO LUCK, OR FATE, OR WHAT YOU WILL. THAT IS, BEING IN THE RIGHT PLACE AT THE RIGHT TIME OR BEING IN THE WRONG PLACE AT ANY TIME.
CONSIDER AIR COLLISIONS, A MATTER MUCH DISCUSSED IN THESE ‘80’S OBVIOUSLY IT CAN NEVER NOW BE KNOWN WHAT PROPORTION OF WARTIME LOSSES WERE DUE TO THIS CAUSE, BUT VISULISE [sic] THE FACTS. IN 1944 UP TO 800 OR SO BOMBERS TAKING OFF IN THE DARKNESS FROM DOZENS OF AIRFIELDS IN THE MIDLANDS AND EASTERN ENGLAND, NAVIGATION LIGHTS EXTINGUISHED BEFORE CROSSING THE COAST, ALL CLIMBING TOWARDS THE FIRST TURNING POINT. AS TIME TO BE OVER THE TARGET IS STAGGERD [sic] THROUGHOUT THE FORCE OVER A PERIOD OF SAY 20 MINUTES, AND THE NAVIGATOR FINDS SOME TIME MUST BE LOST, (DOG-LEGGING) IS RESORTED TO. SIMPLY THIS MEANS THE AIRCRAFT DIVERGES FROM THE COURSE BEING FOLLOWED AND RETURNS WHEN SUFFICIENT TIME HAS BEEN DROPPED.
THE IMPLICATION OF DELIBERATELY TURNING ACROSS THE PATHS OF MANY UNSEEN OTHERS AND RETURNING A LITTLE LATER STILL CHILLS ME. WHILST STILL OVER THE NORTH SEA IT WAS NOT UNUSUAL TO SEE AN EXPLOSION IN THE SKY, FOLLOWED BY BURNING DEBRIS, AND IN THE ABSENCE OF ANY PREVIOUS AIR TO AIR FIRING IT WAS REASONABLE TO ASSUME A COLLISION HAD OCCURRED. SOMEWHAT WORSE WAS WHEN THE TARGET WAS REACHED AND GROUND MARKERS HAD NOT BEEN DROPPED, OR WERE IN THE WRONG POSITION OR HAD BURNT OUT, AND IT WAS NECESSARY TO CIRCLE WHILST AWAITING FRESH MARKERS. CLEARLY, NOT ALL AIRCRAFT WOULD BE CIRCLING CONCENTRICALLY!

[page break]

9

THEN UPON RETURN TO ENGLAND THERE WOULD BE A CONVERGING OF THE THRONG, WHICH FOR VARIOUS REASONS WOULD BE FROM MANY DIRECTIONS. ONCE AGAIN WITHOUT NAVIGATION LIGHTS UNTILL CLOSE TO BASE (OR NOT AT ALL IF THE LUFTWAFFE WAS INFILTRATING THE STREAM HOPING TO FIND SOMEONE ASLEEP) WHERE WE CIRCLED HOPEFULLY WELL AWAY FROM ONE ANOTHER BEFORE BEING CALLED TO LAND. THIS WAS IRKSOME AT WOODHALL SPA BECAUSE BEING CLOSE TO CONINGSBY THE RING OF MARKER LIGHTS GUIDING AIRCRAFT AROUND EACH FIELD ACTUALLY INTERSECTED AND TO AVOID COLLISIONS AT THIS POINT WE ALL HAD TO FLY THE DOUBLE CIRCLE THUS CONSIDERABLY EXTENDING THE TIME TAKEN TO LAND. THIS PROCEDURE WAS OF COURSE PARTICULARLY TIRING TO THE PILOT WHO HAD BEEN AT THE CONTROLS CONTINUALLY FOR MANY HOURS.
THE POINT OF ALL THIS IS TO REITERATE THAT THE HIGHEST DEGREE OF TRAINING CANNOT NECESSARILY OVERCOME CIRCUMSTANCES WHERE THE ODDS ARE ADVERSELY STACKED. THE MIRACLE IS THAT SO MANY SURVIVED THESE ODDS; THE SADNESS THAT SO MANY CAPABLE CREWS WERE LOST, OFTEN THROUGH CAUSES OTHER THAN ENEMY ACTION. AN EXAMPLE OF THIS IS MENTIONED IN THE NOTES CONCERNING A RAID ON A TARGET NEAR RHEIMS ON THE 31ST OF JULY.
AS TO THE DIARY, WELL, THIS WAS WRITTEN UP SHORTLY AFTER EACH TRIP, USUALLY IN BED FOLLOWING THE TRADITIONAL SUPPER OR BREAKFAST OF EGG AND BACON. I HAVE NO RECOLLECTION WHY I WROTE IT, IT’S JUST THE SORT OF THING I USED TO DO. THE DIARY WAS MISSING FOR YEARS, BUT I HAD A FEELING IT WOULD RE-APPEAR, AND WHEN IT DID I DECIDED TO PROPERLY LAY IT OUT BEFORE IT WENT AGAIN. DESPITE WINCING AT THE STYLE AND PROSE OF THOSE TIMES I FELT IT RIGHT TO REPRODUCE IT VERBATIN [sic], WARTS AND ALL.

[page break]

10

[underlined] 6 – 1 – 44 STETTIN [/underlined]

FELT MORE INTEREST THAN NERVOUSNESS ON THIS TRIP – QUEER,. NOT TOO COLD AT 22,000 FEET, TARGET WELL ALIGHT. ENGAGED 109 WHICH WAS FINALLY SEEN WITH BROWN SMOKE POURING HEAVILY FROM THE ENGINE, OUR DAMAGE WASA [sic] FEW BULLETS FROM M.U. THROUGH THE FUSELAGE AND ONE THROUGH THE TURRET, SHAKY DO! SIX HOURS BACK – TERRIBLE, SAW SUN RISE OVER THE SEA, TEA NEVER SO WELCOME. SHORT OF FUEL, S.O.S. PREPARED, READY TO DITCH, FINALLY MADE IT AND LANDED AT THE FIRST DROME, LUDFORD MAGNA. PRETTY TIRED, 9 HOURS 50 MINUTES IN THE AIR. DICKENDS [sic] OF A JOB TO KEEP AWAKE, LUCKILY BAGS OF CLOUD, NEVER DID LAND LOOK MORE WELCOME AS THE COAST OF LINCOLNSHIRE.

[underlined] NOTES [/underlined] 109 WAS A SINGLE ENGINE MESSERSCHMITT AIRCRAFT, NORMALLY A DAY FIGHTER, BUT OCCASIONALLY SEEN AT NIGHT. WHEN THE ATTACK TOOK PLACE WE HAD JUST ENTERED AN AREA ILLUMINATED BY FLARES DROPPED BY HIGH FLYING GERMAN AIRCRAFT; THE FIGHTER APPROACHED FROM NEARLY DEAD ASTERN, FIRING – BUT MISSING – ALL THE WAY IN. AS I STARTED FIRING I SAW TRACER PASSING OVERHEAD FROM ROY MACHIN IN THE – UPPER TURRET (M.U.) AND ALTHOUGH INTERUPTER [sic] GEAR SHOULD HAVE PREVENTED HIS FIRE FROM DAMAGING OUR AIRCRAFT IN THIS INSTANCE IT DID NOT, FORTUNATELY WITOUT [sic] DISASTROUS RESULTS.

[underlined] 14 – 1 – 44 BRUNSWICK [/underlined]
FAIRLY COLD, -32 CALL LIGHT REPEATEDLEY [sic] FLASHED FOR NO GOOD REASON, HAD TO SMASH BULB HAVING NO WISH TO ADVERTISE OUR POSITION. CLEAR MOST OF THE WAY, 7/10 OVER TARGET, FIRES WERE NOT SO GOOD AS BEFORE, SAW 110 BUT DID NOT ENGAGE, LITTLE FLAK, BAGS OF SEARCHLIGHTS, NO OTHER FIGHTERS SEEN. SCARECROW FLARES SEEN, TWO LOADS JETTISONED NEAR TEXEL,. ENGINEER SHORT OF OXYGEN, DROPPED MY KNIFE WITH LEAFLETS. BACK AT 10-30 BEST LANDING JACK MADE. EGG, SAUSAGE, AND BACON FOR SUPPER, LOVELY;
[underlined] NOTES NEXT PAGE [/underlined]

[page break]

11

[underlined] NOTES [/underlined] CALL LIGHT WAS A SIGNALLING LIGHT AT ALL CREW STATIONS FOR USE IN CASE OF FAILURE OF THE NORMAL INTERCOM, IN THE GUNNERS POSITION IT COULD BE SEEN FROM OUTSIDE THE AIRCRAFT. 110 WAS A TWIN ENGINE MESSERSCHMITT, MUCH USED AGAINST THE R.A.F. AT NIGHT. SCARECROW FLARES GAVE THE EFFECT OF AN AIRCRAFT EXPLODING PRESUMABLY EMPLOYED AGAINST MORALE. WHEN BOMBS HAD TO BE JETTISONED THE RESULTING LINE OF EXPLOSIONS GAVE AN INDICATION OF ROUTE TO ANY NIGHT FIGHTERS IN THE AREA. BETTER THE BOMBS WERE DROPPED (SAFE) BUT THIS WAS UNDESIRABLE OVER ENEMY OR OCCUPIED TERRITORY AS THEY COULD BE RECOVERD [sic] AND EXAMINED. FUSES WERE OFTEN RE-DESIGNED TO FRUSTRATE, UNEXPLODED BOMBS BEING MADE SAFE BY THE ENEMY. TO BE HONEST, HOWEVER, IN AN EMERGENCY NECESSITATING JETTISONING A HEAVY LOAD IT SEEMS UNLIKELY THAT THE (SAFE) OR (LIVE) ASPECT WOULD OFTEN BE CONSIDERED! 7/10 INDICATED PROPORTION CLOUD/SKY.

[underlined] 20 – 1 – 44 BERLIN (MY BIRTHDAY) [/underlined]
NICE TRIP, FELT QUITE GOOD ALL WAY, EXCEPT USUAL SINKING FEELING OVER TARGET; THIS WAS WELL LIT UP, ANOTHER BROCKS BENEFIT, SCARECROWS AND ROCKETS ABOUT, FLAK NOT TROUBLESOME, NO FIGHTERS SEEN. DICKENS OF A JOB TO KEEP EYES OPEN LAST TWO OR THREE HOURS, EVEN STICKING HEAD INTO THE WIND DOESN’T HELP MUCH. MIKE WAS U/S FOR A PERIOD, HEARD SKIPPER SAY WAS I ASLEEP, CHEEK! FIRED TEST BURST OVER TARGET, GUNS O.K. WASN’T VERY COLD. CAME HOME A BIT QUICKER THAN USUAL, HOPE ALL TRIPS ARE AS PEACEFUL.

[underlined] Notes [/underlined] (MIKE) WAS MICROPHONE BUILT INTO OXYGEN MASK AND OFTEN FROZE DUE TO BREATH EXHALATION FREEZING. EVENTUALLY SMALL HEATERS WERE FITTED INTO THE MASK, AND THESE CURED THE PROBLEM.

[page break]

12

[underlined] 21 – 1 – 44 MAGDEBURG [/underlined]

HAD LITTLE TROUBLE OURSELVES, NO ENGAGEMENTS, A FEW FIGHTERS SEEN, BAGS OF FIGHTER FLARES AND SOME SCARECROWS. MIKE FROZE AS WE CAME ON TO THE TARGET, LUCKILY THERE WAS NO TROUBLE, IT BECAME U/S 1 HOUR FROM BASE. SPOOF ON BERLIN ABSOLUTELY USELESS, THERE BEING NO FLAK, FLARES OR ANYTHING, RAN INTO COASTAL FLAK ON RETURN, NO DAMAGE. TARGET WELL ALIGHT, LIKE STETTIN, 3/10 CLOUD. DON’T KNOW HOW I KEPT AWAKE AFTER LAST EFFORT, DARNED TIRED NOW.
[underlined] NOTES [/underlined] (SPOOF) WAS A DIVERSIONARY RAID, OFTEN CARRIED OUT BY MOSQUITO AIRCRAFT TO SOW DOUBT INTO THE GERMAN DEFENCES AS TO THE REAL TARGET. LIKE MANY THINGS IN WARTIME, SOME WORKED, OTHERS DID NOT.

[underlined] 27 – 1 – 44 BERLIN [/underlined]
VERY QUITE TRIP ON THE WHOLE, WARM TOO, TEMP. ABOUT – MINUS 20, DIFFICULT TO CLIMB – OVER TARGET AT .17,500 FEET. 10/10 CLOUD OVER CITY, NO FIGHTERS SEEN, THO’ OBVIOUSLY ACTIVE, QUITE A NUMBER OF FIGHTER FLARES, SAW ONE LANC. ONLY, NOT MUCH DOING OVER THE TARGET, QUEER. LONG ROUTE BACK, TERRIBLE BIND, ARRIVED AT ENGLISH COAST BANG-ON, DON’T KNOW HOW JOCK DOES IT. JACK WHEELED KITE IN, PERFECT LANDING NO TROUBLE WITH MIKE THESE DAYS.
[underlined] NOTES [/underlined] (JOCK) WAS THE NAVIGATOR JAMES BARRON, A CHEERFUL, SCOT WHO GUIDED US THERE AND BACK WITH LITTLE FUSS BUT WITH MUCH EXPERTISE. LIKE MOST BRITISH AIRCRAFT OF THE TIME, THE LANCASTER NORMALLY LANDED ON TWO MAIN WHEELS AND THE TAIL WHEEL, (THREE POINT) LANDING. OCCASIONALLY THE PILOT WOULD TOUCH DOWN ON ONLY THE TWO MAIN WHEELS, HOLDING THE TAIL WHEEL OFF THE RUNWAY UNTILL SPEED REDUCED. THIS WAS MUCH MORE COMFORTABLE FOR THE REAR GUNNER.

[page break]

13

[underlined] 29 – 1 – 44 BERLIN [/underlined]
THE BOYS WERE CERTAINLY WAITING FOR US TONIGHT, SAW COMBATS ALL THE WAY IN FROM THE COAST, BAGS OF FIGHTER FLARES, ROUTE LIKE PICCADILLY IN PEACE TIME. FIRED AT ORIGIN OF GREEN TRACER, SAW SOMETHING FALLING. TARGET HORRIBLY WELL LIT UP, HOW WE GET AWAY WITH IT BEATS ME, MARVELLOUS PRANG, FAR BETTER THAN PREVIOUS, SAW GLARE WHILE NEAR ROSTOCK ON THE WAY BACK. BAGS OF CLOUD MOST OF RETURN, - VERY USEFUL. CLOUD AT BASE DOWN TO 800 FEET, DON’T CARE FOR HEDGE HOPPING IN EARLY MORNING. VERY TIRED, BUT WE GO ON LEAVE TOMORROW!

[underlined] 15 – 2 – 44 BERLIN [/underlined]
10/10 CLOUD OVER MOST OF GERMANY, LITTLE TROUBLE EXCEPT AT TARGET, - LOADS OF FIGHTER FLARES AND FAIR AMOUNT OF FLAK BELOW, NO FIGHTERS SEEN. GENERATOR WENT U/S AFTER TARGET, GYRO COMPAS [sic] U/S, HAD TO USE P4. JACK MANAGED WELL. 23,000 FEET ON THE WAY BACK, SUITS NOT VERY USEFUL OWING TO LOW VOLTAGE. R/T U/S AT BASE, HAD TO USE VERY’S TO COME IN. TARGET NOT MUCH TO LOOK AT GENERALLY
[underlined] NOTES [/underlined] I DON’T REMEMBER HOW MANY GENERATORS THERE WERE, BUT CLEARLY MORE THAN ONE! THE P4 WAS A STANDBY MAGNETIC COMPASS, QUITE RELIABLE BUT NOT SO EASY FOR THE PILOT TO FOLLOW AS WAS THE GYRO COMPASS REPEATER. (SUITS) REFERS TO ELECTRICALLY WARMED SUITS WORN BY BOTH GUNNERS. THERE WAS NO HEATING IN THE FUSELAGE AFTER THE MAIN SPAR AT THE WIRELESS OPERATORS POSITION, -- AND NOT A LOT FORWARD EITHER. VERY’S ARE SIGNALLING PISTOLS, USED HERE TO SEEK LANDING PERMISSION BY FIRING APPROPRIATETCOLOUR [sic] TO RUNWAY CONTROLLER IN THE CARAVAN, WHO SIMILARLY RESPONDED.
I NOTE FROM MY LOG BOOK THAT DURING THESE FIRST SEVEN OPERATIONS 261 AIRCRAFT WERE LOST. TOWARDS THE END OF FEBRUARY THIS INFORMATION WAS OMITTED, PRESUMABLY FOR BEING TOO GLOOMY TO INCLUDE.

[page break]

14

[underlined] 19 – 2 – 44 LEIPZIG [/underlined]

ON THE WAY OUT COULD GET NO GUN DEPRESSION, AGREED TO GO ON, FLACK AND SEARCHLIGHTS OVER COAST, SAW A NUMBER OF COMBATS, AND AIR WAS FAIRLY LIVELY ALL THE WAY TO THE TARGET; ARRIVED EARLY AND HAD TO STOOGE AROUND UNTILL THE MARKERS WENT DOWN. NOT A LOT OF OPPOSITION OVER TARGET, WHICH BLAZED UP QUITE WELL. SOON AFTER LEAVING THE TARGET OXYGEN TUBE DISCONNECTED FROM MASK, AND HAD TO COME HOME SUCKING TUBE – NOT VERY COMFORTABLE CLOUD MOST OF THE TRIP, COLD TOO – MINUS 30.

[underlined] NOTES [/underlined] ONE OF THOSE TRIPS; DESPITE PRE-FLIGHT AIR TEST, FAULT OCCURRED IN TURRET HYDRAULICS THAT PREVENTED GUNS BEING DEPRESSED BELOW HORIZONTAL. FORTUNATELY WE WERE NOT ATTACKED, - AND 79 AIRCRAFT WERE LOST.

[underlined] 20 – 2 – 44 STUTTGART [/underlined]

COLD TRIP, ABOUT 20,000 FEET MOST OF THE WAY, WENT OVER READING, FELT QUITE HOMESICK. VERY QUIET TRIP, COUPLE OF FLAK BURSTS OVER FRENCH COAST SHOOK ME A BIT. MIKE FROZE UP SOME TIME BEFORE TARGET, GETTING A REGULAR HABIT. 5/10 OVER TARGET, SAW BITS OF GROUND, GOOD PRANG, NOT MUCH FLAK, FIGHTER FLARES DID NOT ARRIVE UNTIL ABOUT 15 MINUTES AFTER LEAVING. HAD TO LAND AT DUNHOLME OWING TO TAKE-OFF CRASH AT BASE. PRETTY TIRED, BED LOOKED GOOD TO ME

[underlined] 24 – 2 – 44 SCHWEINFURT [/underlined]
ARRIVED AT THE SOUTH COAST IN TIME TO GET MIXED UP IN HUN RAID; CONED BY OWN SEARCHLIGHTS, LUCKILY COLOURS OF THE DAY DOUSED THEM BUT IT WAS PRETTY WARM. OVER THE OTHER SIDE IT WAS VERY QUIET, DIDN’T SEE ONE FIGHTER FLARE OR COMBAT. GOOD VISION, NO CLOUD, BOMBS WELL CONCENTRATED ON TARGET, BAGS OF SMOKE -----

[page break]

15

--- AND FIRES AS WE LEFT, AIRCRAFT CLIMBED WELL 23,000 FEET WAY BACK; FOR ONCE MIKE DIDN’T FREEZE, BUT ICE FORMED ON MASK OVER FRANCE.
[underlined] NOTES [/underlined] COLOURS OF THE DAY WERE FIRED FROM A VERY PISTOL FOR IDENTIFICATION PURPOSES, RED/WHITE GREEN/RED ETC. COLOURS WERE CHANGED AT REGULAR INTERVALS, SOMETIMES EVERY 12 HOURS, LEST THE ENEMY USED THEM TO PROTECT THEMSELVES AGAINST OUR DEFENCES.

[underlined] 25 – 2 – 44 AUGSBURG [/underlined]
7 HOURS SLEEP, AND NO SQUARE MEAL BEFORE TAKE-OFF, BAD SHOW ARRIVED FRENCH COAST IN SOME LIGHT, PROMPTLY GOT SHOT-UP BY FIGHTER, FEW HITS ON PORT WING AND COCKPIT. LOTS OF ACTIVITY OVER FRANCE, SAW SEVERAL KITES GO DOWN. 30 MILES FROM TARGET LANCASTER BELOW SQUIRTED AT US, DAMAGED AIRCRAFT BEHIND DOOR SEVERELY, ON FIRE, ROY AND I PUT IT OUT, REAR TURRET U/S, NO OXYGEN, HAD TO GO FORWARD. BOMBS JETTISONED, STARBOARD ELEVATOR FABRIC STRIPPED, BALANCE TAB PRACTICALLY SHOT OFF, INTERCOM U/S, KITE DIFFICULT TO HANDLE, SKIPPER DID WIZARD JOB GETTING US HOME AND LANDING – SHAKY NIGHT.
[underlined] NOTES [/underlined] (SQUIRTED) – FIRED AT US FROM REAR TURRET. U/S – UNSERVICEABLE. THE FOLLOWING WAS ADDED TO MY DIARY ENTRY, UPON SUBSEQUENT EXAMINATION IT WAS FOUND THAT THE AIRCRAFT HAD BEEN HIT BY CANNON SHELLS SO IT SEEMS WE WERE HIT BY STRAY SHELLS AT THE IDENTICAL MOMENT THE LANCASTER FIRED. ALTERNATIVELY THE LUFTWAFFE WAS USING A CAPTURED LANCASTER WITH CANNON IN THE TURRET. THE 5 GROUP INVESTIGATOR THOUGHT IT HIGHLY UNLIKELY. WONDER IF WE’LL EVER KNOW? I STILL HAVE NO DOUBT AS TO WHAT I SAW THAT NIGHT. THE LANCASTER BELOW US WAS QUITE VISIBLE AT INTERVALS WHEN WE PASSED OVER PARTLY SNOW COVERD [sic] LAND, I HAD NOTICED IT EACH TIME THE TURRET WAS ROTATED IN THAT DIRECTION, AND NO ONE WAS MORE SURPRISED THAN I WHEN THE STREAM OF TRACER CAME TOWARDS US – AND WE WERE ON FIRE. THE DIRECTION OF THE SUSTAINED DAMAGE AND THE EXPLOSIVE EVIDENCE SUGGEST
S THAT POSSIBLY -------

[page break]

16

------- AND AT THE SAME TIME WE WERE STRUCK BY CANNON SHELLS FROM A NIGHT FIGHTER BELOW AND TO THE OTHER SIDE. IT SOUNDS A BIT THIN, BUT THE CASE WILL HAVE TO REST.
PILOT JOHN SANDERS WAS AWARDED A IMEADIATE [sic] D.F.C. THE WIRELESS OPERATOR ARTHUR WARD AND THE TWO GUNNERS ROY MACHIN AND RALPH BRIARS WERE AWARDED IMEADIATE D.F.M.

[underlined] 10 – 3 – 44 OSSUN [/underlined]
FIRST TRIP IN BRIGHT MOONLIGHT, FELT VERY OBVIOUS IN THE SKY, VISION ABOUT 3 MILES. EXPECTED BAGS OF FIGHTERS, BUT NONE SEEN, DIDN’T GET IT; OVER FRANCE AT 15,000 FEET TEMPERATURE MINUS 14, LOVELY, TARGET AT 8,000 FEET. CLEAR OVER OSSUN, HAD TO IDENTIFY TARGET FOR A CHANGE, WERE STOOGING AROUND FOR ABOUT 20 MINUTES BUT DIDN’T FEEL UNDULY WORRIED, - IT WAS TOO PEACEFUL. AL FINALLY SAW THE TARGET AND WE BOMBED, WE HAD D A’S SO DID NOT SEE RESULT, BUT SAW AND HEARD OTHER BOMBS GO OFF. SAW PYRENEES, LOKED [sic] GRAND BUT RATHER FORBIDDING. RATHER TIRED ON RETURN.
[underlined] NOTES [/underlined] AL WAS OUR CANADIAN BOMB-AIMER, D A’S WERE DELAYED ACTION BOMBS, JUST TO CONFUSE OUR FRENCH ALLIES, WHO NO DOUB-T [sic] HAQD TO DEFUSE THEM.

[underlined] 15 – 3 – 44 STUTTGART [/underlined]
BAGS OF OPPOSITION ON THE WAY IN, SAW SEVERAL COMBATS – AND SEVERAL GO DOWN, NOT SO GOOD, MAKES ONE WONDER WHO’S NEXT. FLAK HEAVY OVER TARGET, NO FIGHTER FLARES, SAW ONE COLLISION. BIT IF [sic] A MIX UP, PFF LATE, FEW T I’S UNTILL WE LEFT, APEARED [sic] TO BE QUITE A GOOD BLAZE ON TARGET LATER. VERY QUIET RETURN, SAW NOTHING; CLOUDS UP TO 20,000 FEET IN PLACES, CON TRAILS APPEARD [sic] NEAR FRENCH COAST, MOON BRIGHT, EXPECTED TROUBLE, NONE CAME.
[underlined] NOTES [/underlined] PFF WAS PATH FINDER FORCE WHO IDENTIFIED THE TARGET AND DROPPED TARGET IDENTIFIERS – COLOURED GROUND MARKERS WHICH THE MAIN FORCE FOLLOWING BEHIND SIGHTED UPON -----

[page break]

17

----- AND THESE WERE BACKED UP AS NECESSARY AS THR [sic] RAID PROGRESSED SO POOR OLD PFF HAD TO CIRCLE AROUND UNTIL EVERYONE HAD DONE THEIR BIT, NOT AN ENVIABLE JOB; CON. TRAILS THEN, AS NOW, OCCUR WHEN AIR CONDITIONS ARE SUCH THAT WATER VAPOUR IN EACH ENGINE’S EXHAUST BREEZES [sic] AND TRAILS ALONG WHITE PLUME, JUST RIGHT FOR A NIGHT FIGHTER TO FOLLOW. CHANGING HEIGHT DOWNWARDS WAS THE CURE AND THE PILOT PROMPTLY DID SO ON HEARING THE WAILS FROM THE GUNNERS.

[underlined] 30 – 3 – 44 NUREMBURG [/underlined]
VERY COLD TRIP, OPPOSITION HEAVY SOUTH OF RHUR, FULL MOON NO CLOUD TO KEEP FIGHTERS DOWN. USUAL TROUBLE, ROUTE TOO LONG, JERRY MARKING TRACK ON BOTH SIDES WITH COLOURED FLARES, 96 AIRCRAFT LOST A.M. WILL HAVE TO REVISE ROUTING METHODS. SAW AT LEAST A DOZEN KITES SHOT DOWN, BAD FOR MORALE IF NOTHING ELSE, SEVERAL ROCKETS OBSERVED. TARGET LOOKED POOR, THICK FLAK AT 17,000 TO 19,000 FEET. WAY BACK AGONY TO SIT TWO HOURS AND KEEP AWAKE. PERHAPS DAYLIGHTER WOULDN’T BE SUCH A STRAIN. TIRED AS HELL, BED;
[underlined] NOTES [/underlined] THE LOSSES ON THIS RAID WERE THE WORST SUSTAINED DURING ONE OPERATION. AIR CHIEF MARSHALL HARRIS LATER SAID THAT AGAINST AN EXPERIENCED, WILY ENEMY, WHO WAS FAMILIAR WITH MOST OF OUR AIR WAR STRATAGEMS BY 1944, THINGS WERE INEVITABLE OCCASIONALLY DISASTROUS. SEEMINGLY THE LONG STRAIGHT ROUTE LEGS WERE, HOPEFULLY, A RUSE TO SUGGEST TO THE LUFTWAFFE THAT WE WERE GOING TO NUREMBURG, WHERE UPON THEY WOULD, BY EXPERIENCE, SUSPECT WE WOULD SUDDENLY DIVERT ELSEWHERE AND DISPOSE THEIR FORCES ACCORDINGLY, THIS TIME THEY WERE NOT DECEIVED. TRULY ONE CANNOT WIN’EM ALL, PARTICULARLY IN WARTIME. REFERENCE TO (DAYLIGHTS) REFERRED TO DAY OPERATIONS, OF WHICH AT THAT TIME, WE HAD NO EXPERIENCE. WHEN, LATER, WE FLEW MANY SUCH RAIDS, I ADDED A FOOTNOTE TO THIS DIARY ENTRY – AFTER 22 DAYLIGHT TRIPS I FOUND THIS TRUE – WELL, THERE’S NO ACCOUNTING FOR TASTES.

[page break]

18

FOLLOWING THR NUREMBURG TRIP WE WERE POSTED, QUITE SUDDENLY AND FOR WHATEVER REASON, TO 617 SQUADRON AT WOODHALL SPA, NORTH OF BOSTON LINCOLNSHIRE. THE MUCH PUBLICISED RAIDS ON THE GERMAN DAMS AT MOHNE, SORPE AND EDER WERE CARRIED OUT BY THIS SPECIALLY FORMED SQUADRON, WHICH WAS SUBSEQUENTLY, THOUGH NOT ENTIRELY RETAINED FOR SPECIALISED OPERATIONS. LEONARD CHESHIRE WAS THE WING COMMANDER WHEN WE ARRIVED AND HE WAS REPLACED BY WILLY TAIT IN JULY, I THINK BOTH WERE OF SIMILAR MOULD AND MUCH RESPECTED.

[underlined] 18 – 4 – 44 JUVISY RAILWAY YARDS – PARIS [/underlined]
DARK NIGHT, 10,000 FEET ALL THE WAY, TEMPERATURE MINUS 5,. DROPPED FLARES TO HELP MOSQUITOES IDENTIFY MARSHALLING YARD, THEN CIRCLED AND BOMBED THEIR MARKER, SAW ONE MOSQUITO CIRCLING AT 2-3000 FEET APPARENTLY UNCONCERNED AT WHAT LITTLE FLAK THERE WAS, IMAGINED BOMBS SHOOK IT RATHER. NO FIGHTERS, FLAK SHIP IN THE CHANNEL FIRED AT US, WISH WE HAD BEEN LOW ENOUGH TO DO THE SAME. CIRCLED BASE FOR 50-55 MINUTES BEFORE COMING IN, - SHADES OF FISKERTON.
[underlined] NOTES [/underlined] MOSQUITOES WERE TWIN ENGINE AIRCRAFT, LARGELY BUILT OF PLYWOOD AND GLUED TOGETHER. FAST AND HIGHLY SUCCESSFUL IN VARIOUS ROLES – NIGHT FIGHTERS, BOMBERS THAT COULD DROP 4000 POUNDS ON BERLIN, RECONNAISSANCE AND CLANDESTINE MISSIONS INCLUDING CONVEYING DIPLOMATS AND OTHERS IN THE (VERY COLD) BOMB BAY BETWEEN BRITAIN AND SWEDEN. BOTH CHESHIRE AND TAIT USED THESE FOR TARGET MARKING, LATER CHANGING TO ANOTHER EXCELLENT DESIGN, THE ROLLS-ROYCE ENGINE MUSTANG FIGHTER. PHOTOGRAPHS SHOWED AN UNUSUALLY CONCENTRATED BOMBING PATTERN, AT THE TIME WE DID NOT FULLY APPRECIATE THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THIS RAIL DISRUPTION SIX WEEKS OR SO BEFORE THE JUNE INVASION OF FRANCE. REFERENCE TO FISKERTON IS DUE TO THE GOOD OLD HABIT OF BELIEVING THE LAST WAS BETTER THAN THE NEW; ------

[page break]

19
------ INITIALLY I THINK WE FELT PROCEDURE AT WOODHALL WAS NOT TO THE STANDARD OF FISKERTON, IN OTHER WORDS WE WERE KEPT WAITING FOR OUR SUPPER; THIS SOMETIMES WAS DUE TO HAVING TO FLY AROUND TWO OUTER MARKER CIRCLES OF LIGHTS WHEN NEARBY CONNINGSBY WAS ALSO RECEIVING AIRCRAFT, AS MENTIOND [sic] IN THE FORWARD. TO BE FAIR, THOSE IN THE CONTROL TOWER WERE NO DOUBT JUST AS ANXIOUS TO GET US DOWN QUICKLY AS WE WERE; ONE’S FIRST DUTY WAS TO THE KING, THE SECOND TO GRUMBLE ABOUT THE METHOD OF SO DOING ..

[underlined] 20 – 4 – 44 PARIS – LA CHAPPELLE [/underlined]
INTRUDERS OVER AS WE TOOK OFF, STARTS STRAIN AT ONCE, STILL THERE WAS NO APPARENT TROUBLE. QUIET ALL IN AND OUT, BOMBED AT 11,500 FEET, TARGET, BEING NEARER THE CENTRE OF THE CITY, HAD QUITE A BIT OF MEDIUM AND LIGHT FLAK. LONG STRINGS OF RED AND GREEN CAME ALL ROUND, BURSTING ABOUT 1000 FEET BELOW, WITH BRIGHT SPARKLING FLASHES – PRETTY; AL WELL AND TRULY HIT THE YARDS WITH OUR BOMBS, CARRIED 12 X 1000 LBS BOMBS, NICE LOAD. SAW MOSQUITO RUN INTO AREA – AND SHOOT HELL OUT OF THEM. TEMPERATURE MINUS 5.
[underlined] NOTES [/underlined] (INTRUDERS) WERE NIGHT FIGHTERS PROWLING AROUND FOR SOMEONE LEAVING THEIR NAVIGATION LIGHTS ON TOO LONG AFTER TAKE-OFF MIND YOU, A TRICKY DECISION. LEAVE THEM ON FOR FRIENDS TO SEE – AND THE LUFTWAFFE, TURN THEM OFF AND RISK A COLLISION.

[underlined] 22 – 4 – 44 BRUNSWICK [/underlined]
LITTLE FIGHTER OPPOSITION IN OR OUT, CONDITIONS HAZY OVER TARGET ABOVE 18,000 FEET, SO WE DIVED THROUGH TO ABOUT 16,000 FEET TO BOMB, PFF A FEW MINUTES LATE SO IT WAS A NIGHT-MARE OF KITES COMING IN ALL DIRECTIONS. HEARD FLAK BURSTING FOR THE FIRST TIME, TARGET WAS WELL ON FIRE. LONG TRIP BACK, TO AVOID ANOTHER LANCASTER JACK DIVED SO SUDDENLY AND STEEPLY MY NEW THERMOS WAS BROKEN, MY KNEE BRUISED AND ALL THE AMMUNITION WAS THROWN OUT OF THE TANKS. -----

[page break]

20

----- INTRUDERS ALL THE WAY HOME, DARNED NUISANCE BUT WE HAD NO TROUBLE, TEMPERATURE MINUS 15 TO MINUS 20
[underlined] NOTES [/underlined] AS MENTIONED IN THE FOREWARD, CIRCLING THE TARGET WHILST AWAITING MARKERS TO BE DROPPED BY THE PATHFINDERS WAS NOT THE MOST DESIRABLE OCCUPATION. LOOK AT THE MOANS AND GROANS, TOO, DON’T YOU KNOW THERE’S A WAR ON.

[underlined] 24 – 4 – 44 MILAN (ABORTED) [/underlined]
OUR FIRST BOOMERANG; (EARLY RETURN TO BASE) SHORTLY AFTER TAKE-OFF AN OIL PIPE IN THE TURRET BURST AND IN A FEW MINUTES THERE WAS NO OIL IN THE SYSTEM, - MOST OF IT WAS ON ME. AFTER A BIT OF NATTERY WE DECIDED TO RETURN, REMEMBERING THE LEIPZIG TRIP, AND IN VIEW OF A LONG JOURNEY – MILAN. PITY, BUT IT WAS THE BEST THING, BESIDES, WE GO ON LEAVE TOMORROW.

[underlined] 6 – 6 – 44 2ND FRONT (D-DAY) [/underlined]
AFTER NEARLY SIX WEEKS OF VERY BORING TRAINING AND INACTION WE DID OUR STUFF – SLINGING OUT WINDOW TO SIMULATE A CONVOY AND TO CONFUSE POOR JERRY; BY THE LACK OF OPPOSITION DURING TROOP LANDINGS IT APPEARS TO HAVE BEEN A USEFUL TRIP. TOOK TWO CREWS IN ONE KITE, ROY AND I TOOK TURNS AS FRONT GUNNER, QUITE A CHANGE. SAW SOME OF THE SHIPPING IN THE CHANNEL – GRAND SIGHT – ALSO THE LUFTWAFFE APPARENTLY ATTACKING A CONVOY, ONE SHIP CAUGHT FIRE AND BLEW UP. LOTS OF TUGS AND GLIDERS SEEN GOING OVER. QUIET TRIP.
[underlined] NOTES [/underlined] (WINDOW) WAS METALLIC COATED STRIP DROPPED TO CONFUSE ENEMY RADAR. WE FLEW OVAL COURSES, EACH CIRCUIT BEING PROGRESSIVELY NEARER FRANCE. THE INTERVALS OF DROPPING THE FOIL MATCHED THE SPEED OF AN IMAGINARY CONVOY IN THE CHANNEL APPROACHING THE COAST MILES TO THE EAST OF THE ACTUAL LANDING AREA IN NORMANDY -------

[page break]

21
------ I AM NOT NOW SURE, BUT POSSIBLY ANOTHER SQUADRON WAS WITH US. TWO CREWS BECAUSE OF THE QUANTITY OF WINDOW TO BE DROPPED. AGAIN, MANY AIRCRAFT ORBITING UNSEEN TO EACH OTHER OVER A FOUR HOUR PERIOD IN QUITE A NARROW SPACE. I DOUBT THE BLOOMIN’ INFANTRY BELOW CONCIDERED [sic] THERE WAS A LACK OF OPPOSITION! WE CAN ONLY HOPE OUR EFFORTS SOMWHAT [sic] REDUCED THE PRESSURE.

[underlined] 8 – 6 – 44 SAUMER (FRANCE) [/underlined]
FLEW THROUGH CLOUD MOST OF THE WAY THERE AND BACK, WEATHER CLEAR OVER TARGET. USUAL SCHEME, H2S KITES DROPPED FLARES AND MOSQUITOES MARKED WITH RED SPOT FIRES. SQUADRON CARRIED 12,000 POUNDER BOMBS, - LOOK LIKE TORPEDOES – AND WE TOOK 1,000 POUNDERS TO ATTACK NEARBY BRIDGE, WHICH TURNED OUT TO BE FAIRLY UNSUCESSFUL [sic]. BIG BOMBS MADE COLOSSAL FLASH AND WE SAW EARTH FLUNG TO HELL OF A HEIGHT, THIS WAS SUCESSFUL! FLAK FROM ONE GUN BURST AT OUR HEIGHT BUT ONLY IN ONE AREA, SO WE CIRCLED ROUND IT – NO FIGHTERS ARRIVED, - NO TROUBLE, DIVERTED TO METHERINGHAM AIRFIELD TO LAND BECAUSE OF LOW CLOUD.
[underlined] NOTES [/underlined] SAUMER WAS ON THE MAIN RAIL LINK TO NORTHERN FRANCE AND THE OPERATION WAS TO PREVENT PANZER DIVISIONS ARRIVING AT THE DEVELOPING BRIDGEHEAD AT NORMANDY. THERE ARE PICTURES SHOWING HOW COMPLETELY THE TUNNEL WAS BLOCKED. H2S WAS AN EARY [sic] FORM OF RADAR THAT GAVE THE NAVIGATOR A RATHER POOR PICTURE ON HIS VDU OF THE GROUND BELOW. RIVERS AND ESTUARIES SHOWED UP QUITE WELL, OTHER FEATURES WERE NOT EASILY DISTINGUISHABLE. THE EXTERNAL SCANNER WAS CONTAINED IN A PROMINENT HALF-EGG SHAPE HOUSING BELOW THE AIRCRAFT. THIS TRIP WAS THE FIRST TIME WE HAD COME ACROSS THE 12,000 LB. BOMB, CODE NAME (TALLBOY) AND WE SUBSEQUENTLY DROPPED MANY ON SPECIALIST TARGETS. THEIR TAIL FINS WERE OFFSET, AND WHEN DROPPED FROM NEARBY AIRCRAFT ONE COULD OBSERVE THEM STARTING TO SPIN AS THEY RAPIDLY FELL OUT OF SIGHT. MY LOG BOOK REVEALS THAT WITH CAPTAIN SANDERS I WENT TO METHERINGHAM BY ROAD TO FLY OUR LANCASTER BACK TO WOODHALL. AS FLIGHT ENGNEER [sic] (TEMPORARY UNPAID) I THINK I WAS PERMITTED TO RAISE THE UNDER-CARRIAGE (MY FINEST HOUR.)

[page break]

22

[underlined] 14 – 6 – 44 LE HAVRE [/underlined]
FIRST DAYLIGHT RAID – OVER THE TARGET ABOUT 10-30 P.M. FLEW IN FORMATION GOING, SOME SIGHT, WENT AS FRONT GUNNER AS WE STILL HAVE NO KITE OF OUR OWN. SECOND TO BOMB – WITH TALLBOY – TARGET QUIET UNTILL A FEW MINUTES BEFORE DROPPING THE BOMB, THEN THEY LET LOOSE BAGS OF LIGHT AND MEDIUM FLAK, PREDICTED, TOO AS BOMB LEFT FLAK HIT STARBOARD INNER ENGINE AND TOP TURRET, GUNNER OK, ENGINE HAD TO BE FEATHERED. E BOAT PENS, 25 FEET THICK, WERE HIT, GOOD BOMBING. SAW PART OF SPITFIRE ESCORT, NO ENEMY FIGHTERS SEEN, INTERESTING TRIP.
[underlined] NOTES [/underlined] THE LANCASTER WE FLEW FROM FISKERTON WHEN POSTED TO 617 SQUADRON IN APRIL 1944 REMAINED A 49 SQUADRON AIRCRAFT, ALTHOUGH WE USED IT ON SEVERAL OPERATIONS PENDING IT’S RETURN TO THAT SQUADRON. EVENTUALLY WE WERE ALLOCATED A 617 AIRCRAFT THAT HAD BEEN REPAIRED AFTER A SPOT OF BOTHER LATE IN 1943. OMINOUSLY NUMBERED ME562, IT NEVERTHELESS SERVED US WELL OVER NINE MONTHS FOR NINETEEN OR SO OPERATIONS, SURVIVED THE WAR AND WAS SOLD OUT OF SERVICE IN JANUARY 1947. BY CONTRAST, OF THE TWELVE OTHER OPERATIONAL LANCASTERS WE HAD FLOWN IN – EITHER ON RAIDS OR PRACTICE BOMBING OR OTHER EXERCISES – ONLY TWO SURVIVED, ONE BEING THE FIRST WE HAD FLOWN IN ON A CROSS-COUNTRY EXERCISE ON ARRIVAL AT FISKERTON.

[underlined] 15 – 6 – 44 BOULOGNE [/underlined]
FOUND PORT OUTER ENGINE MOUNTING HAD ALSO BEEN HIT AFTER LAST NIGHT, SO IT HAD TO BE CHANGED, THIS MADE US FORTY MINUTES LATE TAKING OFF BUT WE GOT OVER THE TARGET SHORTLY BEFORE REST OF KITES LEFT, VISIBILITY WAS VERY BAD WITH LOW CLOUD AND WE WERE TOLD TO RETURN TO BASE. BOB KNIGHTS, BEING A KEEN TYPE AND IN VIEW OF THE WORK THE GROUND CREW HAD DONE DECIDED TO BOMB. BAGS OF LIGHT AND MEDIUM FLAK, HOT FOR A FEW MINUTES, REAR TURRET AND OIL TANK HIT, NO ONE INJURED. TARGET LOOKED QUITE A MESS WHEN WE LEFT, SAW LITTLE FIGHTER COVER. TARGET HEIGHT 7,500 FEET. ------

[page break]

23
------ [underlined] NOTES [/underlined] HERE AGAIN, I FLEW WITH THE SAME PILOT AS THE DAY BEFORE. WHAT NOW PUZZLES ME IS WHY I FLEW FIVE SUCCESSIVE TRIPS WITH BOB KNIGHTS, AS FRONT GUNNER. WHAT WAS THE THEN P.O. SANDERS DOING ALL THIS TIME? I HAVE A FEELING HE WAS AWAY HAVING A BABY, FOR I HAVE A FAINT RECOLLECTION OF A CONSTANT AIR OF CRISIS CONCERNING THE EVENT. THERE WERE EVEN STRONG RUMOURS THAT A LANCASTER HAD BEEN BORROWED TO FURTHER THE ABOUT-TO-BE-FARTHER’S [sic] CAUSE.

[underlined] 19 – 6 – 44 WATTEN (PAS DE CALAIS) [/underlined]
TOOK OFF ABOUT 6 PM IN TRUE FIGHTER STYLE, ONE EACH SIDE OF THE RUNWAY, FLEW OVER IN FORMATION OF FIVE, WEATHER PERFECT. FIGHTER COVER OF SPITFIRES., MET US AT ORFORDNESS. TARGET 10-12 MILES INLAND, SAW RESULTS OF THE MARAUDERS WORK IN LOTS OF PLACES, A LITTLE FLAK OUTSIDE TARGET AREA DIDN’T TROUBLE US. CIRCLING FOR ABOUT 20 MINUTES BEFORE WING COMMANDER GAVE THE OK TO BOMB, TARGET DIFFICULT IT WAS IN A CLEARING ON THE EDGE OF A WOOD. BOMBING FAIR, BOMBAIMER’S [sic] A BIT DISAPPOINTED WITH RESULTS, WATCHED THE REST OF THE AIRCRAFT COMING IN TO BOMB AND THEN CAME HOME. BELIEVE BANDITS TURNED UP AS MOSQUITOES LEFT – GOOD SHOW, FLEW AT 17,000 FEET.
[underlined] NOTES [/underlined] THE OPERATION WAS AGAINST FLYING BOMB SITES AS WERE MANY OTHERS THIS MONTH AND AGAIN IN JULY. (MARAUDERS) WERE TWIN ENGINE AMERICAN BOMBERS MUCH USED BY THE TACTICAL AIR FORCES.

[underlined] 4 – 7 – 44 ST-LEV-D’ – ESSERENT (PARIS) [/underlined]
FULL MOON – EXPECTED – AND HAD A RECEPTION AS AT NUREMBURG, SEARCHLIGHT BELT JUST INSIDE COAST ANNOYING BUT NO FLAK. COMBATS SEEN ALL THE WAY IN AND OUT, AT TARGET WE TURNED AND HAD THE MOON BEHIND, HARDLY HELPFUL; FIGHTERS CAME IN FROM ALL DIRECTIONS, NEVER SEEN SO MUCH TRACER, GOT VERY MAD AND SCARED; ------

[page break]

24

------ JU88 AT LAST CAME NEAR ENOUGH TO GIVE IT TWO LONG SQUIRTS OF GUN FIRE AND IT APPEARED TO GO INTO ONE BIG BALL OF FIRE, LOST SIGHT OF IT BUT SKIPPER RECKONS IT BROKE IN HALF AND HIT THE DECK. UNABLE TO BOMB BECAUSE MARKERS INDEFINITE, PITY. FIGHTERS FOLLOWED ALL THE WAY TO OUR COAST, COULDN’T HAVE ANY COFFEE TILL WE GOT TO READING.
[underlined] NOTES [/underlined] TARGET HERE WAS A V.1 STORAGE DEPOT ON THE OUTSKIRTS OF PARIS. V1’S WERE PILOTLESS FLYING BOMBS V2’S WERE THE LATER GUIDED ROCKETS. THE LAUNCH SITES OF BOTH WERE THE FOCUS OF MUCH BOMBING EFFORT, AND WERE EXTREMELY DIFFICULT TO LOCATE.

[underlined] 17 – 7 – 44 WIZERNES (FRANCE) [/underlined]
TOOK OFF 11 A.M FLEW IN LOOSE BUNCH TILL REACHING TARGET, CLOSED UP A LITTLE THERE. WEATHER GRAND, ABOUT 1/10 CLOUD COVER OVER FRANCE, TARGET VISABLE [sic]. TARGET AREA HEAVILY BOMBED. SPITFIRE ESCORT, SAW NO HUN FIGHTERS, NO FLAK AT ALL, GENERALLY ALL WAS REMARKABLY QUIET. BOMBING SEEMED GOOD – ALTOGETHER VERY NICE AND QUIET TRIP. HAD TWO EGGS FOR DINNER, WONDER WHAT THE CATCH IS.

[underlined] 25 – 7 – 44 WATTEN [/underlined]
TOOK OFF ABOUT 07-00 FAIRLY CLEAR, COOL. SKY CLEARED NICELY OVER THE CHANNEL, TARGET EASILY SEEN. WATCHED KITES BEHIND AS WE RAN IN, SO INTERESTED THAT I FORGOT ABOUT DEFENCES, AND THEY LET GO SOME VERY ACCURATE FLAK JUST BEFORE BOMB WENT DOWN. DESPITE ALL THIS BOMBS WERE WELL DROPPED, GRAND SHOW ON BOMBAIMERS [sic] PART. WEAVED LIKE HELL FOR A FEW MINUTES TILL CLEAR OF AREA, NEVER FELT OR HEARD FLAK SO NEAR – SLUNG OUT SOME WINDOW MYSELF, STARBOARD TAILPLANE SLIGHTLY DAMAGED. SAW ONE KITE HIT IN ENGINE, SMOKE POURED OUT, ENGINE WAS FEATHERD [sic] AND THEY GOT BACK HOME.

[page break]

25

[underlined] 31 – 7 – 44 RILLY-LA-MONTAGE (NEAR RHEIMS) [/underlined]
WENT WITH ABOUT 200 MAIN FORCE KITES, - MADE A SIGHT WORTH SEEING. TARGET 120-150 MILES INLAND, JUST SOUTH OF RHEIMS, ANTICIPATED SOME JERRY ACTIVITY BUT NONE APART FROM HEAVY FLAK IN TARGET AREA. TARGET IN WOOD, DEPOT FOR FLYING BOMBS, RESULTS APPEARED GOOD, DIFFICULT TO ASSESS DUE TO SMOKE. JUST MANAGED TO WEAVE OUT OF THE WAY OF A STICK OF BOMBS FROM KITE ABOVE. BILL REID V.C. WAS HIT THE SAME WAY AND WAS LOST – SEE NOTES. WEATHER QUITE CLEAR. SPITFIRE ESCORT. ONE PIECE OF FLAK IN AIRCRAFT NOSE, AL (BOMB AIMER) DIDN’T KNOW TILL WE LANDED.
[underlined] NOTES [/underlined] BILL REID’S AIRCRAFT WAS TO ONE SIDE AND BELOW US AND WAS HIT BEHIND THE TOP TURRET BY A BOMB THAT DID NOT EXPLODE BUT SO DAMAGED THE FUSELAGE THAT IT MOMENTARILY SAGGED, THEN BROKE IN TWO AND SPUN AWAY. MIRACULOUSLY, BILL AND ONE OF HIS CREW SURVIVED. DURING THE LUNCH FOLLOWING THE SQUADRON MEMORIAL DEDICATION IN 1987, BILL TOLD US OF HIS FEELINGS AS HE FELL FROM THE STRICKEN LANCASTER, KNOWING HE HAD WON A FEW POUNDS GAMBLING, (THERE GOES THAT B----- REID) THEY WOULD BE SAYING (TAKING OUR MONEY WITH HIM) A LOVELY CHAP.

[underlined] 5 – 8 – 44 BREST [/underlined]
TOOK OFF 09-45, CLIMBED ON TRACK FOR A CHANGE. WEATHER PERFECT, COUNTRYSIDE LOOKED GRAND, ESPECIALLY IN THE SOUTH WEST. SPITFIRE’S MET US OFF SIDMOUTH. TARGET U-BOAT PENS, DIDN’T FEEL SO HAPPY KNOWING BREST’S REPUTATION FOR FLAK, OVER 80 HEAVY GUNS TO BE SHARED AMONGST SIXTEEN KITES. AS WE RAN IN FLAK BANGED VERY CLOSE, BUT CLEARED FOR BOMBING RUN. GOOD RESULTS, FIVE PENS HIT, REST VERY CLOSE. SAW ONE PARACHUTE FROM KITE THAT WAS LOST, QUEER THING, IT APPEARED TO BE UNDER CONTROL BUT MADE NO EFFORT TO COME HOME. WE HAD FLAK THROUGH THE NOSE AND ONE ENGINE COVER.

[page break]

26
[underlined] NOTES [/underlined] THE AIRCRAFT LOST AT BREST WAS PROBABLY F/LT CHENEY’S, AND BRINCKHILL’S BOOK (THE DAM BUSTERS) HAS A VIVID DESCRIPTION OF WHAT HAPPENED TO IT AFTER RECEIVING DIRECT FLAK SHELLS. THE PILOT AND TWO OTHERS WERE PICKED UP BY A FRENCH FISHING BOAT AND LATER RETURNED TO THE SQUADRON, THE REST WERE NEVER FOUND.

[underlined] 6 – 8 – 44 LORIENT [/underlined]
TOOK OFF ABOUT 18-00, WEATHER AND FLIGHT PLAN AS BEFORE, PROBABLY; SAW AN AIRFIELD BEING SHELLED NEAR TARGET. FLAK STARTED EARLY BUT AT 16,000 FEET WE SEEMED TO BE IN A FREE BELT, AS ABOVE AND BELOW IT WAS VERY THICK. BOMBING RUN GOOD, ALTOGETHER IT DIDN’T APPEAR TO BE SUCH A GOOD EFFORT AS YESTERDAYS, BUT DIFFICULT TO TELL REALLY. HEAVY FLAK FOR A FEW MINUTES OUT OF THE AREA, HIT IN TAILPLANE AND SPINNER, NO KITES LOST. HOPE THERE ARE NO MORE PENS TO HIT, JERRY GETS ANNOYED SOMEWHAT.

[underlined] 9 – 8 – 44 LA PALLICE [/underlined]
TOOK OFF 10-00, WEATHER GOOD. BEING A BIT LATE WE CUT ACROSS COUNTRY, PASSED QUITE CLOSE TO ALDERNEY AND GUERNSEY, EVENTUALLY CAUGHT UP WITH THE REST NEAR FRENCH COAST. WENT NEAR TO LORIENT AND FOLLOWED COAST TO THE TARGET. RAN IN FROM THE SEA, NO FLAK UNTILL BOMB WENT, RESULTS GOOD EXCEPT FOR ONE BOMB THAT WENT A LONG WAY WIDE AND HIT THE HARBOUR WORKS INSTEAD OF THE PENS. FLAK MODERATE, HIT ON ONE SPINNER. QUITEA [sic] LONG TRIP, SAW NO ENEMY FIGHTERS, ESCORT OF MUSTANGS AND SPITFIRES, MOST OF THEM MET US ON THE WAY BACK – HELPFUL; SKIPPER AND ROY’S THIRTIETH TRIP.
[underlined] NOTES [/underlined] ALTHOUGH AIRCREWS NORMALLY FLEW TOGETHER UNDER ONE PILOT, THERE WERE OCCASIONS WHEN INDIVIDUALS WOULD JOIN OTHER CREWS, AS I DID FOR SEVERAL TRIPS WITH BOB KNIGHTS. THE REASONS WERE MANY, SICKNESS OF ONE MEMBER MIGHT RESULT IN A REPLACEMENT FROM ANOTHER CREW, OR THE VARIOUS TRADES MIGHT BE FARMED OUT TO OTHER CREWS NEEDING TEMPORARY STAFF. ------

[page break]

27
------- THUS DIFFERENT MEMBERS OF THE SAME CREW OFTEN HAD VARYING NUMBERS OF OPERATIONAL SORTIES TO THEIR CREDIT, I SEEM TO REMEMBER THAT ON ARRIVING AT 49 SQUADRON OUR PILOT, JOHN SANDERS, FLEW HIS FIRST FLIGHT OVER GERMANY AS SECOND PILOT, SO HE WAS ONE UP ON THE REST OF US ALREADY; I SUPPOSE THE IDEA WAS TO SEE IF HE LIKED THE EXPERIENCE. . . . THE FIRST TOUR WAS THIRTY OPERATIONS, THE SECOND FIFTEEN.

[underlined] 11 – 8 – 44 LA PALLICE [/underlined]
TOOK OFF ABOUT 11.30, LOAD 6 X 2.000 LD. [sic] ARMOUR PIERCING, DON’T KNOW WHAT USE THESE ARE AGAINST PENS, - OURS NOT TO REASON WHY. ROUTE AS YESTERDAY, AS WAS THE ESCORT. MUCH MORE FLAK ON RUN IN, SAW ONE KITE HIT AND CONTINUE ON THREE ENGINES, HEARD LOTS OF BURSTS, BOMBS WENT DOWN BANG ON TARGET, WE WERE HIT IN THE AIRCRAFT NOSE AND ONE ENGINE, NOTHING SERIOUS. LANDED AT GROVE, SHORT OF PETROL. HOPE THIS TARGET IS FINISHED, FLAK FAR TOO ACCURATE FOR COMFORT,

[underlined] 12 – 8 – 44 BREST [/underlined]
TOOK OFF 07-00 – 12 HOURS AFTER LANDING. WEATHER PRETTY FOUL, TRIED TO CLIMB THROUGH CLOUD, BECAME ICED UP, HAD TO REDUCE TO 11,000 FEET AND CLIMB OVER CHANNEL. ONLY EIGHT KITES ON THE RAID, EXPECTED TO BE SHOT TO HELL, BUT LUCKILY FLAK WAS LIGHTER AND LESS ACCURATE THAN BEFORE, - ONE FLAK SHIP IN THE HARBOUR. PENS APPEARED TO RECEIVE SEVERAL DIRECT HITS, SMOKE POURED FROM GAP IN THE ROOF, SMALL DENT IN SPINNER, NOT BAD TRIP, INTERCOM BETTER THAN YESTERDAY, SO CREW WAS MORE SOCIABLE; SAW NO ESCORT, EXCEPT USUAL MOSQUITO.
[underlined] NOTES [/underlined] IT SEEMS WE HAD MORE DENTED SPINNERS THAN ANYTHING ELSE, WHICH IS PROBABLY VERY FORTUNATE, CURIOUS REFERENCE TOA [sic] MOSQUITO AS ESCORT, WHEREAS I KNOW VERY WELL IT WAS THE MARKING AIRCRAFT. PERHAPS THE CRACKS WERE BEGINNING TO SHOW.

[page break]

28

[underlined] 13 – 8 – 44 BREST [/underlined]
TOOK OFF 08-30, WEATHER GOOD. TARGET FOR US WAS A SHIP IN THE HARBOUR THAT MIGHT BE USED AS A BLOCKSHIP, OTHERS BOMBED PENS, AND 9 SQUADRON SUPPORTING HAD ANOTHER VESSEL. FLAK; COR! IT WAS HOT, JUST LIKE FIRST TIME TO BREST HIT IN UNDERCARRIAGE AND HYDRAULICS, BEFORE OUR BOMB LOAD (12 X 1.000 POUNDERS) WENT DOWN, BAGS OF HOT OIL AND VAPOUR IN THE NOSE, PANIC FOR A FEW MINUTES; TOMMY’S HARNESS WAS HIT AND THERE WERE OTHER HOLES. SAW ONE KITE GO DOWN, STRAIGHT DOWN AND BURST ON THE SHORE, NASTY, ONE BURST OF FLAK WAS PINK, - GREMLINS GOT ME AT LAST; ALTOGETHER FAR TOO LIVELY FOR MY LIKING.

[underlined] 14 – 8 – 44 BREST [/underlined]
TOOK OFF 08-30, USUAL TIME, WEATHER GOOD. AFTER YESTERDAYS EFFORT FELT LOUSY ON THE WAY ANTICIPATING EVERY SORT OF TROUBLE, THE OLD TUMMY GETS A BIT SORE THINKING OF FLAK THESE DAY’S. TARGET – SHIP IN THE HARBOUR AGAIN, 9 SQUADRON SUPPORTING RAN INTO TARGET IN MORE N.W. DIRECTION – OVER – BAY HEIGHT 16,200 FEET, FLAK BOUNCED US ABOUT A BIT BUT IT WASN’T QUITE SO BAD. PIECES OF FLAK THROUGH JACK’S SCREEN, MID UPPER TURRET AND ONE ENGINE, NOTHING SERIOUS. SAW SEVEN STICKS OF BOMBS GO DOWN, EACH JUST MISSED THE SHIP, HOPE SOMEONE HIT IT OR BACK WE GO ANOTHER DAY. BOMB LOAD 6 X 2,000 POUNDERS, ARMOUR – PIERCING.
[underlined] NOTES [/underlined] (STICKS) WERE THE ENTIRE BOMB LOAD DROPPED BY EACH AIRCRAFT. IT WAS INFURIATING TO WATCH THE FOUNTAINS OF SPRAY APPEAR AS EACH BOMB HIT THE WATER ON EITHER SIDE OF THE VESSEL. I WONDER IF IT EVER SANK, WE DIDN’T GO TO BREST AGAIN, THANK GOODNESS, (THE SHIP WAS THE GERMAN CRUISER GUEYDON) WE THEN WENT ON TO MORE INTERESTING THINGS. -----

[page break]

29
[underlined] 11 – 9 – 44 KAA FIORD NORWAY (VIA RUSSIA) [/underlined]
THE BIG ONE AGAINST THE GERMAN POCKET BATTLESHIP [underlined] TIRPITZ [/underlined], WHICH HAD SO FAR LED A CHARMED LIFE DESPITE A VARIETY OF ATTACKS BY EVERY – BODY EXCEPT THE ARMY, - AND SURVIVED THE LOT AS THE VESSEL WAS OUT OF RANGE FROM BRITAIN THE PLAN WAS TO FLY TO YAGODNIK, AN ISLAND AIRFIELD UPSTREAM FROM ARCHANGEL, REFUEL, CARRY OUT THE RAID, REFUEL AGAIN IN RUSSIA AND RETURN TO LINCOLNSHIRE. AS ADDITIONAL PETROL HAD TO BE CARRIED THE TOP TURRET WAS REMOVED, TOGETHER WITH MUCH OF THE AMMUNITION FOR THE REAR TURRET, SOME OF THE RADAR AND THE EXHAUST COWS [sic] FROM EACH ENGINE, - WHICH SEEMED RATHER EXTREME AND MAY HAVE BEEN DONE UNDER THE OLD DICTUM THAT EVERY LITTLE HELPS. A 250 GALLON FUEL WAS INSTALLED IN THE FUSELAGE, AND THE LENGTH OF THE TANK NECESSITATED THE DEPARTURE OF THE TOP TURRET. WE CARRIED TWELVE 450 POUND BOMBS – WHICH I HAVE A FEELING WERE A SORT OF SEA MINE – AND OTHERS HAD THE 12,000 POUND “TALLBOY”. THERE WERE TWENTY LANCASTERS FROM 617 AND EIGHTEEN FROM 9 SQUADRON. THE DIARY ENTRY:
TOOK OFF 19-00, HEADED FOR NORWAY AT 2,000 FEET, CLIMBED TO 6,000 FEET AT THE COAST TO CLEAR THE MOUNTAINS, BIT CLOUDY, SAW GLIMPSES OF THE PEAKS AT TIMES. SWEDEN WAS WELL LIGHTED, EVEN SAW NEON SIGNS OCCASIONALLY, SOME FLAK IN ONE AREA, ONE KITE DAMAGED. AS IT BECAME LIGHTER WE DROPPED TO AVOID CLOUD AT 500-1,000 FEET, CROSSED WHITE SEA VERY LOW, LOOKED SOMEWHAT INHOSPITABLE AND COLD. EVENTUALLY FOUND ARCHANGEL IN THE MOUTH OF THE RIVER, AND AFTER SOME SEARCHING CAME ACROSS THE AIRFIELD ON A [sic] ISLAND DOWN STREAM. LANDED ON GRASS WITH BOMBS ON BOARD. QUARTERS IN A OLD RIVER STEAMER, HAD TO CLEAN OUT, WASHING AND SANITARY CONDITIONS LOUSY. MEALS GOOD GENERALLY, PLENTY OF EGGS, BUTTER AND SUGAR. TEA WITHOUT MILK – IN GLASSES – SLIGHTLY SOUR BREAD AND SPAM WILL BE REMEMBERD [sic]; --------;

[page break]

30

----- SWAPPED CIGARETTES FOR CAP BADGES, COINS, PAPER MONEY AND BUTTONS. ENTERTAINED EVERY NIGHT WITH CONCERTS, FILMS AND DANCES. BAND COULD EVEN PLAY (LAMBETH WALK) SAND AND GRASS FIELD, WEATHER SLIGHTLY COLDER THAN AT HOME.
TOOK OFF 09-30 ON SEPTEMBER 15TH LOOSE GAGGLE, 1,000 FEET, ROUTE OVER FINLAND, SWEDEN AND NORWAY, A GOD-FORSAKEN COUNTRYSIDE OF HILLS, RIVERS, TIMBER AND MARSHES. WE LED J.W. FORCE AND CAME IN FROM A DIFFERENT DIRECTION. TO THE MAIN FORCE. SAW SMOKE GENERATORS START UP A FEW MINUTES BEFORE BOMBING, NUISANCE. SAW J.W’S SWINGING DOWN ON PARACHUTES, WEIRD SIGHT, FLAK SCATTERD [sic] AND INACCURATE, SUPRISING [sic] AS WE BOMBED AT 11,000 FEET, NO FIGHTERS. ONE KITE ONLY DAMAGED.
TOOK OFF 19-15 ON THE 16TH TO RETURN HOME. WEATHER DULL, POOR VISIBILITY, 1,500 FEET OVER FINLAND, CLIMED [sic] TO 7,000 OVER SEA AND SWEDEN. DARK NIGHT, SAW SOME AIRFIELDS LIGHTED, OCCASIONAL LIGHT FLAK. BAD WEATHER JUST AFTER LEAVING SWEDEN, HAD TO DROP TO 4,000 FEET TO CLEAR CLOUD AND HEAVY RAIN, OFF TRACK, RAN OVER NORTH DENMARK, SEARCHLIGHTS EVADED BY USING CLOUD COVER, FLAK SHIPS A DARN NUISANCE OFF COAST. CARRIED THREE OF ROSS’S CREW BACK. BET THEY WERE COLD IN THE FUSEELARGE [sic]. GLAD TO SEE ENGLISH SEARCHLIGHTS AND AIRFIELDS AGAIN – AND REAL EGG, BACON AND CHIPS ON RETURN.
[underlined] NOTES [/underlined] RE READING THE DIARY REMINDS ME OF THE PROFICIENCY OF OUR NAVIGATOR, JAMES BARON, WHO SO SKILLFULLY [sic] GUIDED OUR WAY TO RUSSIA AND BACK, BASICALLY WITH ONLY HIS EXPERTISE, MAP, AND SIX PAIRS OF ANXIOUS EYES TO ASSIST. NO NAVIGATIONAL AIDS IN THAT PART OF THE WORLD, SEVERAL AIRCRAFT FORCE-LANDED IN THE AREA WHEN FUEL RAN OUT IN THEIR VAIN SERCH [sic] FOR THE LANDING FIELD; SO FAR AS I RECALL, NO ONE WAS LOST, THE RUSSIANS BROUGHT THEM ALONG IN VARIOUS ANCIENT LIGHT PLANES AT INTERVALS. THERE IS A PHOTO OF A DOWNED LANCASTER, IT’S 12,000 POUND TALLBOY BOMB HURLED FREE ON LANDING INPACT [sic] AND LAYING FORLORNLY IN THE MUD. A CONSIDERABLE DISTANCE FROM THE AIRCRAFT.

[page break]

31
THE CREWS INVOVLED [sic] WITH THESE CRASHED LANCASTERS CAME HOME IN OTHER AIRCRAFT AND THEIR AIRCRAFT LEFT IN RUSSIA.
THE RUSSIAN FILMS WERE TERRIBLE, LONG AFFAIRS OF CONTINUAL WAR SCENES, AND I SEEM TO RECALL THAT THE ROYAL NAVY CONTINGENT AT ARCHANGEL SENT SOME CARTOONS WHICH CHEERED US UP AND LEFT OUR HOSTS BAFFLED. LIVING AROUND THE AIRFIELD IN VARIOUS PRIMITIVE HUTS WERE SOME OF THE RUSSIAN STAFF, INCLUDING, NO DOUBT, THE LADIES WHO FELL ABOUT IN LAUGHTER WHEN ASKED FOR HOT WATER TO SHAVE WITH – SUCH WESTEN [sic] DECADENCE. THE MEN SPENT MUCH TIME PLAYING CARDS ON THE RIVER BANK. THEIR WIVES ONLY APPEARED WHEN CALLED TO HAVE LARGE TREE TRUNKS, THAT HAD FLOATED DOWN FROM THE URALS, HOISTED ON TO THEIR STURDY SHOULDERS BY THEIR CARING PARTNERS; IT WAS A PEACEFUL SCENE, ONLY DISTURBED BY THE SOUND OF CHOPPING AND SAWING WHILST THE INTERRUPTED CARD GAME CONTINUED. LENIN WOULD SURELY HAVE APPROVED. I JEST A LITTLE, WITHIN THE LIMITATION OF THE TIMES, THE RUSSIANS WE MET WERE GENERALLY KINDLY, GENEROUS HOSTS. THEY BEAT US HANDSOMELY AT FOOTBALL TOO.
THE WAIT FOR SUITABLE WEATHER ACCOUNTED MAINLY FOR THE FEW DAYS THAT PASSED BEFORE ATTACKING THE (TIRPITZ) AND THE TIME WAS PROBABLY USEFUL TO ENABLE SOME AIRCRAFT SERVICING TO BE DONE. I THINK OUR J.W. BOMBS WERE KNOWN FOR SOME REASON AS JOHNNY WALKERS, AND AS DESCRIBED, THEY FLOATED GENTLY DOWN ON PARACHUTES. IF THEY HIT SOMETHING SOLID THEY EXPLODED ON CONTACT, IF THEY FELL INTO THE WATER THEY WOULD SINK ARMED THEM SELVES AND RISE TO THE SURFACE HOPEFULLY DETONATING UNDER A SHIP IF NO TARGET WAS FOUND THEY WOULD SINK AGAIN AND MOVE 30 FEET AND REPEAT.
AT THE TIME OWING TO THE SMOKE SCREEN THE RAID WAS NOT THOUGHT TO HAVE BEEN THAT SUCCESSFUL, BUT LATER IT WAS FOUND THAT TALLBOY NEAR MISSES HAD DAMAGED THE SHIP AND PREVENTED IT FROM RETURNING TO THE SEA.

[page break]

32
THE TAKE-OFF TO RETURN HOME TO ENGLAND WAS AN INTERESTING SIGHT FOR ONLOOKERS, AS REFUELLING HAD TO BE DONE WITH THE ONLY AVAILABLE LOWER OCTANE RATED PETROL SO THERE WAS SOME ENGINE COUGHING AND BANGING AS EACH LANCASTER SPED ALONG THE SO CALLED RUNWAY AND FINALLY STAGGERD [sic] INTO THE AIR.

[underlined] 23 – 9 – 44 DORTMUND-EMS CANAL [/underlined]
NIGHT TRIP AGAIN – DARNED IF I LIKE ‘EM TARGET – AQUEDUCT CARRYING CANAL ACROSS A RIVER, LOAD TALLBOY. HAD FIRST SHAKING WHEN TWO KITES COLLIDED OFF THE COAST; THEN ANTI-RADAR LIGHTS WERE LEFT UNCOVEREDAND [sic] FLASHES ALL ROUND THE TRIP. QUEER THINGS, RED GREEN AND YELLOW FLARES, ENORMOUS FLAK BURSTS, KITES GOING DOWN WITHOUT COMBAT, - NO TRACER USED BY FIGHTERS, I GUESS. SPOT FIRE JUST UNDER CLOUD, HAD SEVERAL TRIES TO BOMB, BUT IT BECAME COVERED JUST BEFORE RELEASE SO WE BROUGHT THE BOMB BACK FELT VERY TIRED AND SHAKEN ON RETURN, CURSE THE DARKNESS.
[underlined] NOTES [/underlined] I DON’T REALY [sic] RECOLLECT BEING UNDULY DISTURBED ABOUT OPERATIONS, BUT IT SEEMS THERE IS JUST A HINT OF BOTHER WITH MY DESCRIPTION OF THE EVENTS. USUALLY UNSYMPATHETICALLY REFERRED TO AS THE TWITCH, IT WAS QUITE OFTEN EVIDENT IN THE DEMEANOUR OF THOSE IN THEIR THIRD OR FOURTH TOUR.

[underlined] 29 – 10 – 44 KEMS BARRAGE (ON THE RHINE) [/underlined]
TOOK OFF 13-10 PLAN SEVEN KITES TO BOMB AT 7-6,000 FEET, SIX AT [underlined] 600 [/underlined] FEET, WE WERE ONE OF THE SIX, OF COURSE AFTER THE DRAW, MUSTANGS AS ESCORT AND ANTI-FLAK. WE BOMBED FIVE MINUTES AFTER HIGH FORCE, RAN IN TWO ABREAST DROPPING TALLBOY WITH DELAYED ACTION. NOT A LOT OF FLAK, BUT MACHINE GUNS VERY ACCURATE WHICH HIT TWO KITES AFTER BOMBING, THEY HIT THE DECK – HARD, SO ONLY FOUR OUT OF THE SIX MADE IT. MY PERSPEX WAS SHATTERED TWO SPLINTERS IN MY SHOULDER, (NOTHING MUCH) BLAZED AWAY AT FLAK POSTS, VERY HAPPY; AL’S BOMB ZIPPED OVER BARRAGE TOP, GATES FINALLY GAVE AWAY, GOOD JOB.

[page break]

33
[underlined] NOTES [/underlined] THIS WAS A PRE-EMPT EFFORT TO FORESTALL THE GERMANS FROM RELEASING THE PENT UP WATERS OF THE RHINE WHEN ALLIED GROUND FORCES WERE ABOUT TO CROSS. THE EFFECT OF A CONSIDERABLE HEAD OF WATER UPON TEMPORARY BRIDGES MAY BE IMAGINED. DURING A SWISS HOLIDAY IN THE MIDDLE 80’S WE TOOK A VERY FRAGILE BOAT TRIP TO A ROCKY ISLAND IN THE MIDDLE OF THE RHINE FALLS AT SCHAFFHAUSES, WHERE THE VIBRATION GRAPHICALLY DEMONSTRATED THE WEIGHT OF THE WATER FLOWING BY. THE TWO AIRCRAFT THAT WAS SHOT DOWN PILOTED BY (S/L WYNESS AND F/O HOWARD) IT HAS BEEN SAID THAT WYNESS AND HIS CREW MANAGED TO GETOUT [sic] OF THEIR AIRCRAFT AND INTO THE DINGHY TO SAIL DOWN THE RHINE TO GAIN THE SANCTUARY OF THE SWISS BANK BUT WERE SHOT BY THE GERMANS. PILOT JOHN SANDERS WAS AWARDED BAR TO HIS D.F.C.

[underlined] 29 – 10 – 44 TIRPITZ – TROMSO [/underlined]
TOOK OFF FROM LOSSIE MOUTH AT 2 A.M. AND LANDED BACK AT 2-55P.M. – DID I FEEL DONE. CROSSED NORWEGIAN COAST AT DAWN AND FLEW NORTH OVER SWEDEN, LOOKED VERY BLEAK AND COLD HAD TO ORBIT AT RENDEZVOUS, BOTH SQUADRONS WENT ON TO THE TARGET, BECAME VERY HAZY EVEN AT 15,000 FEET WITH 7-6/10’S CLOUD BELOW, SHIP HARD TO FIND, AL FINALLY BOMBED ON FOURTH RUN. BAGS OF FLAK, BUT VERY INACCURATE, ONE KITE HIT BADLY, LANDED IN SWEDEN. TERRIBLE STOOGE HOME, SAW NO LAND FOR FOUR HOURS, - HAD 16 HOURS SLEEP AT LOSSIE.
[underlined] NOTES [/underlined] THE VESSEL WAS MOVED SOUTHWARDS TO TROMSO AFTER THE SEPTEMBER ATTACK, POSSIBLY BECAUSE OF THE DAMAGED [sic] RECEIVED THIS PUT IT IN THE RANGE FROM LOSSIEMOUTH, AGAIN WITH LONG-RANGE FUEL TANKS. THE CLOUD PREVENTED ACCURATE BOMB-AIMING AND THE ‘TIRPITZ’ SURVIVED ONCE MORE, - BUT NEMESIS DREW NIGH; A SOME WHAT COMIC ASPECT OF THE LONG SEA CROSSING BACK WAS THE REASSURANCE GIVEN AT BRIEFING THAT ROYAL NAVY DESROYERS [sic] WOULD BE ON OUR RETURN ROUTE SHOULD ANY NEED TO PUT DOWN IN THE WATER ARISE. ------

[page break]

34
------ BY 1944 THE R.N. HAD QUITE PROPERLY DEVELOPED ITCHY GUN FINGERS WHERE AIRCRAFT WERE CONCERNED, PARTICULARLY IF THEY GAVE NO REGOGNITION [sic] SIGNALS. THUS WE WERE RATHER ALARMED TO FIND OURSELVES BEARING DOWN ON THIS MENACING LOOMING SHIP WITH AL IN THE NOSE FRANTICALLY DIGGING AROUND FOR THE COLOURS-OF-THE-DAY CARTRIDGES TO PUT IN HIS VERY PISTOL. I’M NOT SURE IF WE WERE ACTUALLY FIRED UPON, BUT CERTAINLY THE COLOURS WENT UP A TRIFLE LATE. ONE CAN IMAGINE THE IRATE OFFICER-OF-THE-WATCH DOWN THERE FUMING ‘THAT SHOWER’ UP THERE.

[underlined] NOVEMBER 1944 [/underlined]
MY LOG BOOK FOR THIS MONTH SHOWS ONLY A TRIP TO LOSSIEMOUTH FOR ANOTHER GO AT THE ‘TIRPITZ’, BUT THE WEATHER FORECAST WAS SUCH THAT WE RETURNED TO WOODHALL THE NEXT DAY.
MORE IMPORTANTLY, AN UN-DATED NOTE IS ADDED THAT MUST HAVE BEEN WRITTEN IN JANUARY 1945:- “BROKE MY FINGER WHILST TRYING TO FIX AN ESCAPE HATCH DURING NIGHT PRACTICE BOMBING – CLOT!! WENT U/S UNTILL AFTER CHRISTMAS. ROY AND AL MEANWHILE FINISHED THEIR SECOND TOUR, DIDN’T SEE AL AGAIN. LUCKILY MANAGED TO GET BACK WITH SANDY AND REMAINDER OF THE CREW.
NIGHT BOMBING PRACTICE AT WAINFLEET WAS NOT A FAVOURITE PASTIME, SO I DOUBT ANYONE REGRETTED THE EARLY RETURN ARISING FROM MY MISHAP. I CHERISH THE MEMORY OF OUR CAPTAIN SPEEDILY CALLING FOR AN AMBULANCE TO MEET US ON LANDING, AND HIS INSISTENCE ON HALF CARRYING ME DOWN THE AIRCRAFT LADDER TO THE GROUND. BEING A VERY FORTUNATE CREW, THIS WAS ABOUT THE WORST THING THAT HAPPENED TO US IN ALL THE TIME WE FLEW TOGETHER ON OPERATIONS.
THUS I DID NOT JOIN THE FINAL ATTACK ON THE “TIRPITZ” ON 29TH OF NOVEMBER, WHEN THE VESSEL CAPSIZED FOLLOWING DIRECT HITS WITH TALLBOY 12,000 POUND BOMBS; INSTEAD ROY MACHIN HAD A VIEW OF THE AFFAIR FROM THE TAIL RATHER THAN HIS ACCUSTOMED POSITION IN THE TOP TURRET. ONE OF THE MINOR MYSTERIES IS WHY NO ENEMY FIGHTERS APPEARED DURING THE LAST TWO RAIDS, WHEN IN NORWAY.

[page break]

35
[underlined] 3 – 2 – 45 PORTESHAVEN (HOLLAND) [/underlined]
TOOK OFF 14-00, TARGET MIDGET U-BOAT PENS. WEATHER CLEAR, HEIGHT 14,000 FEET. OVERCOAST [sic] SAW WALCHEREN ISLAND, NEARLY ALL FLOODED, TERRIBLE DEVASTATION. LONG RUN UP TO TARGET AND JUST BEFORE BOMB WENT FLAK WAS VERY ACCURATE THO’ NOT PARTICULARLY HEAVY. WE BOMBED SECOND AND I SAW THE REST OF THE EFFORT, WHICH EXCEPT FOR THREE WIDE THE REST WAS DEAD ON. P.R.L. COVER DETERMINED THAT THE WHOLE STRUCTURE HAD COLLAPSED. IT HAD FIFTEEN HOLES.
[underlined] NOTES [/underlined] P.R.L. WAS THE PHOTO RECONNAISSANCE UNIT, OFTEN FLYING MOSQUITOES, SOMETIMES SPITFIRES, USUALLY ALONE – DODGY IN DAYLIGHT.

[underlined] 6 – 2 – 45 BIELEFELD VIADUCT (GERMANY) [/underlined]
ON THIS THE LONGEST TRIP INTO THE REICH, WE DEFINITELY EXPECTED BANDITS, SO GAGGLE WAS TIGHTENED AND ALTOGETHER WE HAD TEN SQUADRONS OF SPITFIRES AND MUSTANGS AS COVER, - VERY NICE FOR SEVENTEEN KITES; SOME HEAVY FLAK AT AACHEN AND COOLENZ, OTHERWISE NONE. 10/10 CLOUD COVER MOST OF THE ROUTE, SAW NO BOMBING. VERY SURPRISED AT NO LUFTWAFFE – AND RELIEVED. SKY WAS FULL OF OUR COVER, AND YANKS WERE VERY ACTIVE WITH HEAVY STUFF.
[underlined] NOTES [/underlined] BY 1944 THE AMERICAN AIRFORCE (U.S.A.A.F.) WERE WELL USED TO FORMATION FLYING NECESSITATED BY THEIR BOMBING TECHNIQUES, AND THE MUTUAL COVER AGAINST THE LUFTWAFFE. APART FROM INITIAL DISASTROUS DAYLIGHT SORTIES IN THE EARLY DAYS OF THE WAR, BOMBER COMMAND IN EUROPE LARGELY RESORTED TO NIGHT RAIDS UNTILL D-DAY IN 1944. THEN THE (GAGGLE) WAS THOUGHT UP AS A LOOSE FORMATION TO GIVE SOME PROTECTION AGAINST FIGHTERS WHILST STILL RETAINING EACH BOMB-AIMERS DESCRIPTION AS TO THE MOMENT OF RELEASE. HOWEVER, I FEEL THE WORTHY INTENTION WAS DIMINISHED BY THE RESULT IN THE AIR, AS AFTER YEARS OF INDIVIDUAL FLYING IN THE DARK THE DISCIPLINE-AND WILL-NEEDED TO KEEP IN CLOSE FORMATION WAS JUST NOT THERE AND WE TENDED TO JUST TRUNDLE ALONG FAIRLY NEAR TO ONE ANOTHER; ------

[page break]

36
------ AS IT HAPPENED IT DID NOT MAKE ANY DIFFERENCE ON THE DAYLIGHT TRIPS I FLEW ON. THERE IS NOT MUCH DOUBT IN MY MIND, HOWEVER, THAT AN ATTACK ON US BY THE LUFTWAFFE WOULD HAVE HAD SERIOUS CONSEQUENCES BEFORE OUR ESCORT COULD HAVE GOT AMONGST THEM. BOTH GERMANS AND AMERICANS FOUND THAT EFFECTIVE DEFENCE OF BOMBERS BY FIGHTERS IS MOST DIFFICULT TO ACHIEVE AGAINST DETERMINED ATTACKS, SOME WILL ALWAYS SUCCEED.

[underlined] 6 – 2 – 45 IJMUIDEN (HOLLAND) [/underlined]
TOOK OFF 06-00 UNDER DULL HIGH CLOUD THAT PERSISTED WAY TO THE TARGET, SAW BAGS OF LIBERATORS FORMING UP ON THE WAY OUT. SPITFIRE ESCORT MET US OFF THE COAST. BOMBING RUN SEEMED PLAIN STUPID; INSTEAD OF RUNNING IN FROM THE SEA WE CIRCLED IN LAND, NEAR AMSTERDAM, AND HAD A LONG RUN UP TO TARGET IN HEAVY FLAK AREA. JACK LED GAGGLE AND DID THEY PASTE US, FOR JUST OVER TWO MINUTES WERE CONTINUALLY PREDICTED, - NEVER FELT AND HEARD SO MUCH. U-BOAT PENS WERE HIT,
[underlined] NOTES [/underlined] NOW WE ARE CRITICISING ROUTEING[sic] – EVERYONE IS AN EXPERT AFTER TWO TOURS, THIS WAS THE LAST OPERATIONAL TRIP FOR ME. DURING RAIDS INVOLVING MANY AIRCRAFT FLAK WAS GENERALLY INDISCRIMINATE, BUT WHEN ONLY TWENTY OR THIRTY WERE OVERHEAD IT WAS POSSIBLE FOR THE DEFENCES TO FOCUS ON ONE BY RADAR AND (PREDICT) ITS COURSE AND FIRE ACCORDINGLY. FLAK BATTERIES WERE OFTEN IN FOURS, AND OCCASIONALLY ONE COULD SEE SUCCESSIVE BURSTS FOLLOWING BEHIND, EVEN WHEN TURNING. I NOTICED THIS PARTICULARLY DURING THE OCTOBER (TIRPITZ) RAID AS WELL AS THIS ONE. NOT A LOT COULD USEFULLY BE DONE – EXCEPT HOPE – IF ON THE BOMB RUN; EVENTUALLY, OF COURSE, WE FLEW OUT OF RANGE, OR THEY SELECTED ANOTHER LUCKY LOT FOR ATTENTION.

[page break]

37
[underlined] POSTSCRIPT [/underlined]

TO FORESTALL ANY BRIGHT SPARK WHO MAY HAVE COUNTED ONLY FORTY OPERATIONS IN THE DIARY, THERE WERE FIVE OTHER TRIPS MENTIONED BUT NOT DESCRIBED AS EACH TIME THE TARGET WAS NOT BOMBED DUE, TO CLOUD AT THE CRUCIAL POINT, FOUR WERE ‘V’ BOMB SITES IN NORTHERN FRANCE, THE OTHER LA PALLICE AGAINST U-BOAT PENS TO MY SURPRISE, AND NO DOUBT PLEASURE, THESE WERE INCLUDED IN THE TOTAL FOR TWO TOURS OF OPERATIONS, THAT IS FORTY FIVE TRIPS. THE ‘V’ WEAPONS WERE FIRSTLY SELF PROPELLED FLYING BOMBS DIRECTED AT LONDON, AND SECONDLY ROCKET PROPELLED MISSILES LAUNCHED FROM HOLLAND THAT FELL UPON THE CITY WITHOUT WARNING. FORTUNATELY THIS ALL STARTED AROUND THE SUMMER OF 1944, SO THE LAUNCH SITES WERE PROGRESSIVELY OVER RUN AS THE ALLIED LAND ARMIES MOVED EASTWARDS FROM NORMANDY LATER IN THE YEAR.
ONE MUST OBSERVE THAT AS A CREW WE WERE QUITE FORTUNATE, FOR I CANNOT RECALL ANYONE BEING HURT, NEITHER WERE THERE MANY DISAGREEMENTS. THE ONLY ONE OF THE LATTER THAT COMES TO MIND WAS AN ALTERCATION THAT AROSE WHILST WAITING AROUND OUTSIDE THE AIRCRAFT AS TO THE MERITS OF THE FLIGHT SANDWICHES ISSUED FROM THE OFFICERS PALACE AT THE PETWOOD HOTEL (OFFICERS MESS) COMPARED TO THOSE FROM THE SERGEANTS MESS; IMPORTANT MATTERS SUCH AS THIS COULD HAVE AFFECTED THE WHOLE COURSE OF THE WAR.
TO COMMENT ON LUCK, THERE IS A STORY OF THE BOMB-AIMER’S PARACHUTE HARNESS. WE WERE SETTLING DOWN AT DISPERSAL AWAITING TAXI CLEARANCE WHEN AN AGONISED CRY CAME FROM AL IN THE NOSE – I’VE FORGOT MY PARACHUTE HARNESS, JACK; MUCH HEAVY BREATHING FROM OUR ESTEEMED PILOT BRFORE [sic] HE GROUND OUT “YOU’D BETTER HURRY AND GET IT THEN” OR WORDS TO THAT EFFECT. WITH INTEREST I WATCHED AL LEAP OUT, GRAB ONE OF THE GROUND CREW’S BIKES AND VANISH IN THE DIRECTION OF THE LOCKER ROOM, HEAD DOWN, PEDALLING FURIOUSLY. ------

[page break]

38
------ MEANWHILE, IN THE COCKPIT THE CAPTAIN AND ENGINEER WERE DECIDING TO SWITCH OFF THE ENGINES AS THEY WOULD OVERHEAT QUITE QUICKLY WHILST IDLING DUE TO THE LACK OF AIR PASSING THROUGH THE RADIATORS FROM THE PROPELLERS. WHEN AL REAPPEARED FULLY KITTED AND BREATHLESS, THE ENGINES WERE RE-STARTED. ONE, HOWEVER, STUTTERD [sic] BANGED AND BELCHED BLUE SMOKE, RAN VERY ROUGHLY FOR A FEW SECONDS AND FINALLY STOPPED WITH A SHUDDER THAT SHOOK THE WHOLE AIRCRAFT. SO WE ALL CLAMBERED OUT AND JOINED THE GROUND CREW CLUSTED [sic] UNDER THE OFFENDING ENGINE, ONE STILL HOPEFULLY CLUTCHING A FIRE EXTINGUISHER, SOME STAGING WAS PUSHED INTO PLACE AND A FITTER REMOVED THE COWLING AND LOOKED INTO THE WORKS. “T’ARIN’T ARF A MESS” HE INFORMED THE THRONG, “RECKIN IT’S THE CYLINDER HEAD, THERE’S BITS AND PIECES EVERYWHERE”. THUS, IT SEEMS, OUR LUCK HELD AGAIN WHO KNOWS, BUT FOR THE DELAY, WHETHER THAT ENGINE MIGHT HAVE FAILED ON TAKR-OFF [sic], AND WE HAD A 12,000 LB BOMB ON ABOARD.
SO THERE IT IS. ON COMPLETION OF THE TOURS I WAS SOON POSTED AWAY TO BECOME THE SHIFT NCO I/C THE PARACHUTE STORE AT WOOLFOX LODGE, AND WHERE THAT WAS I NOW HAVE NO IDEA. HOWEVER, WHILST THERE I HAD MY LAST FLIGHT IN A LANCASTER ON THE 20TH OF JUNE 1945, STANDING BEHIND THE PILOT ON A SIGHT SEEING TRIP OVER GERMANY IN DAYLIGHT. NO FIGHTERS, NO FLAX [sic] JUST GHASTLY DEVASTATION IN THE RHUR DOWN AS FAR AS COLOGNE AND EASTWARDS TO DORTMUND. WHICH REMINDS THAT ONLY A FEW WEEKS AGO WE WERE IN THE STATION AREA OF DORTMUND, WHERE EVEN THE TAXIS ARE MERCEDES BENZ REFLECTING THE GENERAL WEALTH. BARMY, AIN’T IT.
IN DECEMBER 1945 I MANAGED TO GET ON AN AIRFIELD CONTROL COURSE AT WATCHFIELD, NEAR SHRIVENHAM. HERE WE OCCASIONALLY FLEW IN ANSON AIRCRAFT, THE SAME AS AT GUNNERY SCHOOL SEEMINGLY SO MANY YEARS AGO. NOTHING HAD CHANGED, THE UNDERCARRIAGE STILL HAD TO BE WOUND UP AND DOWN BY HAND. HAVING SUCCESSFULLY COMPLETED THE COURSE IN THE NEW YEAR, I WAS POSTED TO WELFORD, NEAR NEWBURY.

[page break]

39
WE WERE MARRIED AT THIS TIME SO I WAS ABLE TO COMMUTE FOR A WHILE VIA THE LAMBOURN VALLY [sic] RAILWAY AND PUSHBIKE. THE JOB AT WELFORD WAS LARGELY IN THE RUNWAY CARAVAN WHERE ONE IMPORTANTLY FLASHED LIGHJTS [sic] AND FIRED FLARES WHILST HOPEFULLY CONTROLLING AIRCRAFT MOVEMENTS. ACCORDING TO THE SHIFT ONE WAS ON RATIONS WERE SENT OUT TO BE COOKED ON AN OLD PRIMUS STOVE, AND WHEN THE WEATHER WAS KIND IT WAS ALL SORT OF IDYLLIC, MUNCHING ON A BACON SANDWICH WITH A POT OF STRONG TEA HANDY, OBSERVING THE WILD LIFE ALL AROUND BEFORE THE FIRST AIRCRAFT TO LAND OR TAKE OFF DISTURBED THEM. INEVITABLY THIS COULD NOT LAST, AS WELFORD WAS BEING LESS AND LESS USED, AND SO I WAS SENT AWAY AGAIN, FIRST TO DISHFORTH IN YORKSHIRE AND FINALLY TO TERN HILL IN SHROPSHIRE. HERE I RECALL ENDLESS HOURS IN THE CONTROL TOWER LOGGING TRAINING HARVARD AIRCRAFT MOVEMENTS. ONE HAD TO BE SURE THE NUMBERS THAT WENT OUT BALANCED THOSE THAT LANDED, OTHERWISE A GREAT FLAP AROSE, FOR WENLOCK EDGE AND THE WREKIN SEEMED TO ATTRACT THE UNWISE ATTENTION OF THE TYRO PILOTS.
EVENTUALLY THE R.A.F. AND I PARTED IN AUGUST 1946, WITH ME SENT TO OLYMPIA TO FIND A CIVVY SUIT. MY PARENTS HAD A FLAT AT POLPERRO AT THIS TIME, SO SYLVIA AND I WERE ABLE TO SOAK UP THE SUN IN THIS UNSPOILED VILLAGE BEFORE RETURNING TO NEWBURY AND WORK.
[underlined] WAS IT ALL WORTH IT; --- [/underlined] WELL, IT HAD TO BE, DIDN’T IT, AS I COME OUT UNSCATHED. AN ADVENTURE TO BE SURE, WITH GRAND AQUAINTANCES [sic] MET ON THE WAY. WITH OUR COMBINED GRATUITY WE BOUGHT SOME LAND ON WHICH OUR FIRST HOME WAS BUILT – BUT THAT’S ANOTHER STORY ----

RALPH BRIARS
BOURNMOUTH
1989

Citation

R Briars, “Rear view - Ralph Briars memoir,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed October 27, 2021, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/26481.

Item Relations

This item has no relations.