Bill Lucas, a short account of his Royal Air Force service



Bill Lucas, a short account of his Royal Air Force service


A little about his pre service life and his time on 9, 15 and 162 Squadrons. It mentions his interest in the Green Park Bomber Command Memorial and the IBCC.

Spatial Coverage



Two typewritten pages


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B[Author]LucasWEv10001, B[Author]LucasWEv10002


Squadron Leader William (Bill) E. Lucas, DFC Bill Lucas was born in Tooting Bee, London on January 16th 1917 in 'modest' circumstances; his father was a brick layer. The First World War still had almost two more years of slaughter to go before The Armistice was signed in November 1918. It was this slaughter which was to inform Bill's choice of military service when Europe was, once again, embroiled in another world conflict in 1939. But, before that, Bill, an only child, completed his education at Bee Grammar School, leaving in 1932 at the age of 1Syrs. His first job, for just a few months, was with a printers, then employment at an insurance company, the London & Lancashire. It was with the company sports club that Bill found he had a gift for athletics, particularly as a runner over longer distances (5OOOm was his best distance). Indeed, he was expecting to participate in the 1940 Olympics when war intervened. On September 1st 1939 Hitler's armies invaded Poland, and on September 3rd Great Britain found herself, once again, at war with Germany. Bill was 22 years old. His father advised against the infantry, with memories of the trenches in his mind; Bill hated the sea, so the RAF seemed to be the obvious choice. During the summer of 1940 many young men, including Bill, watched the air battles overhead as 'The Few' battled to overcome the might of the German Luftwaffe, and nurtured ambition to be a fighter pilot. When Bill was called up, The Battle of Britain was over and the pressing need for pilots was now in the fledgling Bomber Command. Much criticism has been levelled at Bomber Command since the end of the Second World War, much of it ignorant of the facts and some of it manipulated for political expediency. But in November 1940, when Bill started his pilot training, a bomber offensive was the only means available to the Allies for taking the war to a rampant Germany. There had never been a bomber offensive before in warfare, so a steep learning curve was in prospect for the young men of Bill's generation. Bill successfully completed his training and in August 1941 was posted to IX squadron at Honington, flying the Wellington bomber, a 2-engine 'medium' bomber - referred to at the time as a 'heavy' because the 4-engine genuine 'heavies' had not yet been introduced into Bomber Command. He completed 14 operations with IX, before being transferred to XV(B) squadron at Wyton in December 1941 to fly the 4 engine Short Stirling, the first, and largest of the 'heavies'. On January 29th 1942, at Wyton, the squadron was 'scrambled' to search for the two pocket battleships 'Gneisenau' and 'Scharnhorst' which had broken out of harbour at Brest - the 'Channel dash' as it became known. Bill says that he is thankful that visibility was so poor, because they were so low that, had they stumbled upon either ship, they would have been swiftly dispatched by her heavy guns. While with XV(B) squadron, among his successfully completed 'operations' , Bill participated in all three of the 'Thousand Bomber raids' which Air Chief Marshall Arthur Harris (appointed in February 1942) directed as a show of strength, not only against Germany, but to prove the fighting merit of Bomber Command. In August 1942, having completed his first 'tour' (30 operations) Bill was posted to Lossiemouth as a Flying Instructor, an occupation which could be as hazardous as flying on operations. In December 1944 Bill was posted to 162 squadron at Bourn, part ofNo.8 group (Pathfinder Force) to fly the de Havilland Mosquito, known affectionately as 'The Wooden Wonder'. Bill completed 40 'ops' with 162, fourteen as a pathfinder to Berlin, unarmed, relying on height and speed to keep him and his navigator out of harm's way. If not marking targets for Main Force, Bill was involved with 'nuisance' raids, dropping a 4,000lb 'cookie' on cities not earmarked for the attentions of the main force. When Bill joined Bomber Command in 1940, the odds against him surviving the war were over 500-1 against, so great were the casualties suffered by this Allied unit. Bill was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and Mentioned in Dispatches for his war service. He was 'de-mobbed' in January 1946, and returned to his job in insurance. Today, he is the oldest living holder of a British Gallantry award. In recent years, Bill, along with a small group of other Sussex veterans, has been actively raising funds for construction of the Bomber Command Memorial in London's Green Park, and the International Bomber Command Centre in Lincolnshire, a lasting tribute to the young men of Bomber Command.



“Bill Lucas, a short account of his Royal Air Force service,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 21, 2024,

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