Donald Cochrane's memoir



Donald Cochrane's memoir


A detailed account of when his Lancaster 'Q', ND392, was attacked by an enemy aircraft. He repeatedly travelled the length of the aircraft to assist the air gunners.
The second part describes an operation when a great number of aircraft were lost but his aircraft experienced little enemy activity.
After a spell of leave which he thoroughly enjoyed, his next operation was to Cologne. This was followed by a night of free beer in the Sergeant's Mess.
The next operation was to Dusseldorf and there were large numbers of searchlights but they suffered no damage.
The next operation was to Karlsruhe in terrible weather. Ice caused three engines to stop and they could only hold 7000 in the clouds. The warmer air allowed the engines to restart and they managed to bomb successfully and return home.



IBCC Digital Archive


Steve Baldwin
Andy Hamilton


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16 handwritten pages




Conforms To

Temporal Coverage


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Sgt Donald Harvin Cochrane

I am Wireless Operator on aircraft in “B” flight of 460 squadron RAAF. On the night of the 22/23nd [sic] of March 1944 while proceeding on operations in aircraft “Q” (ND392) to Frankfurt, we were attacked by an enemy fighter, and hit by both cannon and machine gun fire, which cut away the rudder controls, and trim controls, also 3 cannon shells going into the rear turret, injuring [sic] the rear gunner. The captain instructed me to go to the rear of the aircraft and investigate the welfare of the gunner. Having already called them

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up on the intercommunication and getting no reply.
When I got to the rear I found the mid-upper gunner half out of his turret in a semi-conscious condition and hanging by his oxygen tube, I released him from his hanging position and at the same time dropped my torch, having then to go foreward [sic] and get another torch. When I got back to the mid-upper gunner again, he was holding himself up with his parachute on. He had removed his helmet and after some trouble managed to replace it. I [deleted] could then s [/deleted] then realized that he was nearly passing out through

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lack of oxygen, so I immediately gave him my emergency oxygen bottle, after which I had to go forward again for oxygen for myself. As soon as I obtained another oxygen bottle I went aft [deleted] again [/deleted] to attend to the gunner again, only to find that the main entrance door was open and the mid-upper gunner missing. I then carried on to the rear gunner, but on the way discovered a fire smouldering on the port side of the fuselage, which I managed to put out with my hands. I then carried on to the rear gunner, who I found leaning back against the

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half of the turret doors [deleted] when [/deleted] that had not been blasted [deleted] again [/deleted] away when the cannon shells exploded. On a closer inspection of the rear gunner I thought I could see the place where a cannon shell had hit the base of his spine, and therefore presumed him dead, then as I could feel myself slipping away through lack of oxygen I made my way back up front as best I could, when I had partly recovered I reported the whole thing to the captain. The whole incedent had occurred over the target area. A little while

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latter [sic] the bomb aimer went back to the mid-upper turret to see if it was still serviceable about an hour and a half latter [sic] I went back to see if he was still okay and found him sitting on the rest bed, I took him up to my position and gave him my oxygen, and for the rest of the trip he remained in my seat. We the[sic] made the trip back to base as best we could, and after landing we discovered much to our relief that the rear gunner was still alive and able to speak. We learnt afterwards that if we had

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moved the rear gunner he would [deleted] have [/deleted] probably have died from loss of blood as it was the blood froze over the wound.

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30th, the trip where we had the greatest loses of the war, losing 96 aircraft. This trip for us though was quite a quiet one, although right across the continent, our whole course was lit up by the lights on the ground, and every now and again we saw [deleted] an [/deleted] aircraft going down, nothing came anywhere near us. I am perfectly certain that from the way our whole course had been lit up, that information had leaked through to the enemy as to where we were going that night and the route we were taking.
The day after returning from

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that op, we went on leave, a leave that I think we fully earned, and deserved.
during [sic] that leave I had a really good time, for I still had it fresh in my memory that ops were a very risky business, and as I always have done believed in having a good[deleted] experience [/deleted] time while I had the chance. When the time came to [deleted] come [/deleted] go back to camp, I felt very reluctant to do so. I was that “Browned Off” that at lunch time before I went back I refused to drink more than a pint of beer. When on the train to go back to camp, as it started to move out of the station I had a good look out of

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the window at home, for I was quite positive at the time that I should never see it again.
The next op we did was to Cologne, a trip that very little of importance happened, heavy defences at Koln itself, but other than that nothing to worry about.
The night after that we had a sqdn[sic] party, where everyone was invited, and best of all FREE BEER, well from 8 o-clock when I arrived with my own glass, pinch[sic] from the Sergeants Mess, as you had to bring your own glass, myself and the crowd of chaps I was usually with, were queing[sic] up, filling our glasses, [deleted] and [/deleted] walking round to the

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end of the queue drinking the beer on the way down and filling up again. That went on for about 2 to 2 1/2 hours, after which the beer ran out, but I think I had had enough to drink [deleted] At [/deleted] to last me the rest of the night. The next morning I woke up with a terrible hang over, only to find that ops were on again that night. At briefing time we found that it was again to the [deleted] m [/deleted] ruhr, a place where we had learnt [deleted] it [/deleted] to pray for cloud, for they had too many searchlights for our or anybody else’s liking. Well that night we went to Dusseldorf. It was one of the nights where there was no cloud. On the way across enemy territory we saw no signs of fighters [deleted] or [/deleted] flak or searchlights, but as we approach our target, we saw the [deleted] whole [/deleted]

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[deleted] st [/deleted] searchlights begin to spring up, one or two to begin with, then in their 10’s and before long the whole sky seemed to be one blasé of light. We carried no to the target and drop our bombs successfully, we then turned our nose for home and got out of the searchlight [deleted] over [/deleted] areas as quick as possible. It was not long then before we saw home sweet home again.
We arrived back at our drome at about 3-30 in the morning and as usual we were one of the first, but never the less there were still quite a few in at interrogation before us, so we had to wait about

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half an hour before our turn came, but as soon as we were seated, the interrogation officer started asking his usual questions, and we gave [deleted] a [/deleted] our usual answers, that we had neither seen nor heard anything for all we were thinking about at that time in the morning, was to get to bed, and we knew that the less we had to report, the quicker we should our thoughts fulfilled. [deleted] W [/deleted]
We eventually got to bed about 4-30 and slept until[sic] about 5 in the [deleted] fo [/deleted] afternoon. Then seeing as there were no ops on that night, we dressed up in [deleted] a [/deleted] our best togs, and went out to Grimsby to have our

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few drinks that we figured we were entitled to.
The following night, we were on ops once again, this time to Karlsruhe.
We took off at about 9-30 PM, and as we had been told at briefing we met dirty weather, although at briefing they told us that we might miss it with a bit of luck. It turned out a lot worse though than we had expected. We were somewhere just over the French coast when it hit us. Clouds, rain, snow, sleet and ice. At the time we were somewhere up at about 18 thousand feet, at first we tried to climb over it, but found that it was imposible[sic], as

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it was going up to somewhere between 30 & 35 thousand feet. So we started to decend[sic] below it, but we had not got down far before our port outer engine stopped because of the ice gathering round it, it was not much longer before three of them had stopped, when we were down at about 7 thousand our only remaining engine began to splutter, we were just about ready to bail out when we got below freezing level, and one of other engines picked up again, [deleted] before [/deleted] not long after that everything was going merrily again, and we were climbing like the clappers, to gain height

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again before [deleted] I [/deleted] reaching the target, having at last past through the bad weather and out in the open again. After that everything was plain sailing up to the target which we made quite a nice mess of. On the return journey we again ran into bad weather, but it was nothing like what we had experienced on the outward journey, and we passed through it without anything more than a few sparks running up and down our aerials, happening to us, [deleted] A [/deleted]and so on back safety to base again.
Just as a matter of interest, the bomb aimer told me later, that while we were passing through the storm going out, he

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was quite enjoying himself watching sparks flashing from the end of his fingers to the perspex in the nose, by [deleted] the [/deleted] him being able to do that, it will give you some idea of the intensity of the [deleted] of the [/deleted] electricity in the storm.


Donald Cochrane, “Donald Cochrane's memoir,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed November 19, 2019,

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