Dennis Raettig's wartime memoir



Dennis Raettig's wartime memoir


Wartime memoir covering Dennis Raettig's training at Blackpool and the posting to 104 Squadron at Royal Air Force Driffield in August 1941. Worked on Wellington aircraft and mentions that Driffield also hosted the blind approach landing flight operating Whitley and Battle aircraft. Tells of his time at Driffield including an attempt to deploy to Malta and deployment to RAF Pocklington during the winter. Notes that the squadron change number to 158 Squadron in February 1942. Relates training at RAF Leeming for squadrons eventual change to Halifax aircraft and preparations for the 1000 bomber operation on Cologne in May 1942 as well as the last Wellington operations shortly after. Goes on to tell of his time at RAF East Moor now with Halifax. with some anecdotal stories as well as relating story of a test flight and an abortive trip to RAF Harwell to prepare Halifax for glider towing. Describes another special operation trip to the south coast with problems with getting fuel for the aircraft. Talks of move to RAF Rufforth and describes routine as well as describing witnessing 'his' aircraft crashing on take off and its effect on him as the worst day of his life. Finally relates move to RAF Lisset.




Seven page printed document with illustrations

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104/158 Squadron Bomber Command
[photograph of a Wellington]
I started my Air Force life as a Flt./Mechanic (Engines) at Squires Gate, Blackpool, in January 1941. Everyone remembers their service number – in my case 1136657 – and their first months in the forces. The endless marching around, inspections and going for your ‘jabs’ – mine took place in a church hall [italics] ‘Suffer Little Children” [/italics] was written above the stage. Not having been inoculated before, I didn’t really know what to expect, but at the front of the queue grown men were fainting even before they got to the doctor! A punch in the middle of the back by the orderlies seemed to be the cure – it certainly cured me!
It is possible that I am the longest serving member of 158 Squadron, posted to B Flight, 104 Squadron, 4 Group Bomber Command, at Driffield, in the 2nd week of August, 1941. Driffield aerodrome was built in the early 30’s, with the usual living quarters and 4 hangers – there were no runways, just a large grass field, the standard for an airfield in those pre-war days. The aerodrome had previously been bombed - a barrack block and a hanger had been badly [inserted] damaged [/inserted], it was rumoured that several personnel had perished.
104 Squadron was composed of 2 Flights of Vickers Wellington Mk. 2 bombers, powered by Rolls Royce Merlin X engines. The airframe was of geodetic construction, covered by a fabric which was stitched on with a very strong twine. It was designed by Barnes Wallis, who a few years earlier, had been involved with the airship R100 which was built at near-by Howden. The aircraft were mainly disbursed around the airfield, but some were parked in a field across a road which skirted the ‘drome. There was also a Blind Approach Training Flight, with 2 Whitley [inserted] bombers [/inserted], a Fairey Battle used for target towing for air-to-air firing; and most unexpectedly – an Autogiro – definitely not a helicopter! (used for weather observations over the North Sea) I serviced it on 2 or 3 occasions; and finally 4 Westland Lysanders, which were attached to a nearby army unit.
It was during October of that year (1941) that we were confined to camp. A number of aircrew and groundcrew were given 48 hours leave and the rest of us told that we had to prepare the aircraft for a special mission. We were later told that they were all going to Malta and spares would also be loaded on the ‘planes. As soon as I heard of the destination I volunteered to go (due to an accident, my parents were stranded on the island – and later Egypt) I was told that if any of the groundcrew failed to return from leave I would be considered. As it turned out one person failed to return on time and I was actually on the ‘plane when he turned up. [deleted] It was to be an [/deleted]
Aircraft and crews were soon replaced but it was around this time that U Uncle ([deleted] the [/deleted] [inserted] a [/inserted] dual controlled training aircraft) crash landed. This was my time to take over servicing the ‘plane and as new aircrews arrived they all took their turn on the ‘circuits and bumps’ training. However, a few days later I was reading D.R.O’s (remember Daily Routine Orders?) One paragraph read (roughly) that anybody who could successfully design a means of hiding the exhausts on the Merlin engine would receive an award of £200 (the stubs glowed red hot and were thought to be an easy target for enemy fighters). I thought no more about it until someone came from our office and told me that U would be the aircraft to test any of the designs and that I had to move my ‘plane to the parking area across the road from the main airfield and to take reasonable precautions in case of fire. That afternoon I got the tractor to tow U across the road to the parking area
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[deleted] Across the road] [/deleted] and [deleted] I [/deleted] surrounded it with as many fire extinguishers as I could get hold of. The following day the first test arrived in the shape of a cowling to be fitted on the starboard engine, on the inboard [inserted] side [/inserted] so that I could see it all the time I was testing. After fitting the cowling to the engine, I started up the engine and waited for the oil pressure g[inserted]u[/inserted]age to ‘break’, but it was obvious from the way exhaust gases came out that it was a failure. Over a period of several days more were tested until one passed the ground test, so I asked for an aircrew to fly the aircraft. When the crew came out and I explained what the test was they refused to fly it – well any sane person would, wouldn’t they? However, we came to a compromise by agreeing that just the pilot and I would fly as low as possible within the confines of the airfield – which we did – it was a case of ‘Down quick’. On the third occasion of a test flight the airframe mechanic asked if he could go up as he wanted to do a check. I told him no it was too dangerous, however he said it was fairly important for him to check the wing in flight, so the three of us went on the test. Very quickly it was a case of ‘down, down’ both from me and the airframe mech.. Apart from the exhaust burning the cowling, the starboard wing had ‘ballooned’ due to the cord stitching the fabric had worn away. It was all down to the skill of the pilot, he quickly feathered the prop., somehow managing to control the landing despite having a damaged wing, and landed safely. However, all our troubles were not quite over – having had to cut the starboard engine the hydraulic pump no longer worked the flaps or the brakes. So the Pilot’s problem was how to stop the aircraft from crashing into two 500 gal. petrol bowsers on the perimeter track just in front of the hanger. Fortunately, it stopped about 20 yards away. That was the end of U Uncle – the next day it was loaded onto a ‘Queen Mary’ lorry back to the Vickers factory. The problem of the glow from the exhaust system took a little longer – a few days later we received some cans of a specially thick red paint developed by I.C.I., with instructions to paint it thickly on to the exhaust stubs, which was duly applied. When the engines were run the heat turned the red paint black – problem solved.
… and now we are 158 Squadron
As autumn turned to winter it became obvious that without runways, the aircraft would be in difficulties with take-off and landing. At one stage we helped to lay a steel wire ‘runway’, which was duly tested but considered unworkable, so it had been decided some of the aircraft would operate from R.A.F. Pocklington, at the foot of the Yorkshire Wolds.
Due to the lack of living quarters, some of the ground crew were based at nearby R.A.F. Melbourne (which was in the early stages of being built) and bussed to and from Pocklington every day. The bus used to drop us at the end of a short lane to our billet, where a farmer had conveniently (for us) built a potato pie to protect his crop from being frosted. There were about 15 of us and as each one passed the pie they helped them selves to a potato, then on to the cookhouse for tea. One of the gang would talk to the cook, while one of us grabbed a packet of margarine, which we soon found on a shelf at the other end of the counter. Later in the evening in front of a red-hot stove we baked and ate our baked potatoes – never have they tasted better! However, as they [sic] saying goes, all good things must come to an end, as an officer arrived one evening and ‘tore a strip off us’
It was during mid February at Pocklington that we were informed that we were now 158 Squadron and the recognition letters on the sides of the aircraft changed from EP to NP, so as we prepared for operations the airframe mechanic did the necessary alterations to the lettering. That evening the aircraft flew with the new insignia and more importantly, all returned safely from that first operation of the new squadron. 2 or 3 other raids were carried out from Pocklington with the loss of 1 aircraft.
The new squadron then returned to our own base at Driffield, and for the next 3 months was engaged in many raids on enemy targets in which many brave men lost their lives. Some however, were captured and for the rest of the war interned in P.O.W. camps. During early May, we were informed that the squadron was to move to another station and be equipped with Halifax Mk 2 Bombers. In due course we moved to different stations to learn more about these ‘planes.
About 20 of us went to RAF Leeming. The first question any sensible airman should ask on arriving at a new station is “What’s the grub like?” – the answer here at Leeming was mind blowing – pictures of a pre-war summer day, mother bringing a cool green salad to the table in the back garden and as a special treat a slice of [italics] pork-pie [/italics] – here the dream ended. Pork Pies (about 3” diam.) were available for breakfast, dinner, tea and supper at this station. You soon got your fill of them – it was a few years before I tasted another! On the whole our stay was like a holi-
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day as we had no responsibilities and the weather was fine enough for some of us to swim in a small river at the edge of the ‘drome – including my friend Doug. Waddie, who not having any swimming trunks decided to hide behind some bushes and wrap his loins (ahem!) in 2 large handkerchiefs, jumped into the fast running river and immediately lost his dignity much to the amusement of a group of WAAF. I quickly picked up his towel and threw it across, but unfortunately my aim wasn’t good and it landed in the water – there was a great cheer as Doug. revealed all, to retrieve his towel. Shortly after this dramatic incident I was ordered back to Driffield, as I went down the narrow road from the Leeming ‘drome I noticed a fairly new factory with a notice ‘Pork Pie Products’ – so if any of you get posted there, you know what to expect!
Arriving back at Driffield, I was told that I had to report to the Group Captain. On entering his office he told me that he was as mystified as me as to what was going on but I had to check all the remaining aircraft and await further orders. One of my airframe friends joined me later in the day, and together we inspected the planes – there were only 8 or 9 Wellingtons left of the original squadron plus the Whitleys of the B.A.T. flight who had [deleted] there [/deleted] [inserted] their [/inserted] own service crews. On the next day more tradesmen arrived and we serviced those few planes. The following day, the 30th May 1942, was to be an important day in Bomber Command history. We were told to prepare the planes for a special raid. Regardless of trade we all helped each other – whether it was filling up with fuel or bombing-up and finally the aircrews came out started the engines and where [sic] off. It was an amazing sight, as squadron after squadron flew overhead for quite a long time. It was of course the first 1,000 bomber raid. Target Cologne. Two days later the planes were again prepared for ops. This time the target was Essen. That was the last Wellington bombing raid from Driffield by 158 Squadron. A few days later we rejoined the main squadron at the new station…
[photograph of a Halifax Mk 2 Aircraft]
Halifax Mk 2 4 Rolls-Royce Merlin XXII
About 9 miles north of York, close to the hamlet of Sutton-on-the-Forest, East Moor was one if the new breed of satellite stations, with well dispersed living quarters in the wooded areas.
The first days were filled with lectures mainly about the new aircraft and one I particularly remember was about security. After this meeting 2 or 3 of us decided to go down to the local ‘watering hole’, but just as we were leaving I was called back to ‘see in’ B Flight’s first new Halifax bomber. About half an hour later I went to meet my friends at the village pub and I saw them talking to a couple of civilians who on my entry, quickly left the premises. I was surprised at their quick exit and asked the lads what had happened. On being told that they had been asking questions about what type of aircraft etc., I asked the landlord permission to use his ‘phone and called the civil police and our own service police. On returning to camp we were interrogated by our police, but heard nothing further.
During the next few days, aircrew and groundcrew were arriving to bring the squadron up to strength. Again I was allocated to P, and was quickly introduced to the new aircrew as they came to test their ‘plane. When the crew came for their next flight I asked the pilot for permission for my new assistant (straight from training school) and I to go up for our first flight in a Halifax. We all climbed on board, and had a very pleasant flight on a lovely summer’s day – except the pilot didn’t warn us that he was going to do a few tests. The first inkling was when the outer starboard engine was stopped then feathered, next the starboard-inner, the nose dropped slightly and was corrected by the pilot, then the port-inner was stopped and immediately restarted when the nose dropped. Test over, and as the pilot lowered the undercarriage preparing to land, a horn sounded, not having heard this before, I asked the Flight Engineer what it was for. “It’s a warning to indicate that the landing-gear hasn’t locked” was the response. The pilot was receiving instructions over the radio. Climbing higher, he went into a fairly steep dive as he attempted to lower the under-
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carriage – still the horn sounded. After a few more attempts he was told to use-up some fuel, then land. All aircrew were ordered to crash positions between the main spars, while my assistant and I lay on the floor with our arms protecting our heads. It was a great relief when I heard the screech of tyres as we touched down – the horn continued all the time till we got to our base. Later, a ground check was made and an electrical fault was found on the system.
Towards the end of the first month at East Moor, planes were prepared for a raid which we learned later was the 3rd 1,000 bomber raid. This time against Bremen. During that month of June several raids were carried out and any loss of aircraft was keenly felt throughout the squadron, partly because we were such a small unit – 2 Flights – 16 aircraft maximum. [inserted] One [deleted] new [/deleted] innovation to our routeen [sic] was the introduction of a heater van [/inserted]
The following story may seem incredible, but it actually happened. All I can assume is that a certain Canadian F/Sgt. rear gunner found a cheap way of getting someone else to pay for his beer – My aircraft was based close to a narrow country road and one afternoon I was working by myself, on top of one of the engines changing plugs when I heard children laughing close by. Looking down I was horrified to see a lady and two young children (about 4 or 5 years old) sat by the side of the plane with a tablecloth spread out with plates of sandwiches, then from behind I heard a man call his wife to ‘come and look at this’. Turning round I saw a man looking into the aircraft though the entrance hatch. I told him to leave the field as he was trespassing. He said he wasn’t trespassing as he had arranged to meet his friend Flt/Sgt - - who had promised to take them on a flight and if I wasn’t careful he would report me to his friend and get me put on a charge. This was getting very silly, so I told him to go to ‘that building over there’ pointing to the guardhouse and they would get hold of his friend for him. So off he went. I don’t know what happened but he never came back for his free flight. Warning! If any of you get called up again (there’s no knowing the way things are just now, they are short of recruits) don’t try the free drinks trick on me, unless you pass me a bottle or two.
[italics] It was around this time that a Group Captain from a neighbouring ‘drome insisted on holding an inspection of all personnel once a month (I must have been born with 2 left feet!). His name was Gp. Captain John Whitley and he was later to become very important to me [/italics].
The Squadron was heavily engaged in August and suffered many losses, but one cheery note was that P.O. Chambers, who had been with the Squadron since the Driffield days, finished his tour of ops.. September was also a very busy month but towards the end we were less busy and I ‘volunteered’ (you, you & you!) for a special mission, in late October. Actually, there were six or so groundcrew, an MT driver and a bus. The instructions were to drive 10 miles south of York on the A19, open the secret instructions and carry on from there. Arriving at the 10 mile spot, the secret instructions were opened. We were to proceed the RAF Harwell and to prepare our Halifax aircraft for [underlined] Glider towing [/underlined]. As we were driven down we discussed the implications and came to the conclusion that someone ‘high up’ didn’t know what he was talking about – not unusual! As far as we knew, none of our aircrews had any training for towing gliders. However, on to Harwell, or so we thought, but leaving the road directions to the driver, it was a little surprising when we entered a small town whose main claim to fame was a statue of a lady riding a cock horse (what ever that is). Fortunately, one of the party knew the area, so beating a hasty retreat – (which included reversing into the statue) and sped like the devil in case anyone had noticed our arrival). We were late reaching the gates of RAF Harwell, only to be told that the operation had been cancelled – and no we couldn’t be admitted to the camp. Our driver pointed out that he had already driven over 8 hours and wouldn’t drive any further, so we had no alternative but to find somewhere to stay for the night. Fortunately there was a farmer near by who agreed to let us stay the night in his stables and led the horses into a field. We had a restless (and smelly) night and set off early next morning for our journey back.
On arrival, we were so exhausted that we went straight to our hut (most of the party were in my hut) and lay on our beds and began to doze off only to be wakened by a Flt/Sgt. telling us that we were supposed to be working on the planes and if not, we had to volunteer to fly on a special trip – it was the easy way out[inserted],[/inserted] so back to sleep. The next morning we were told that we would be
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taking over the duties of the squadron, whose own aircraft (Liberators) had been cannibalised one-at-a-time in order to keep their aircraft flying until they had only one aircraft. Our flight down to the South coast was uneventful, but the cloud base was rather low and we couldn’t see the ground so I cat-napped. Sometime later I awoke and was looking at a strange cloud rising just at the side of our ‘plane., about the size of a large black football – it then dawned on me and just as I was going to shout at the captain he called on the inter-com ‘Navigator we must be nearly there’. ‘Yes, just nip below cloud and confirm’. At least 4 German A.A. guns were firing at us, and looking hastily back, I couldn’t even see the Channel. Quickly climbing above cloud, we eventually reached our destination. But it was going to be one of those days best forgotten. I was given my instructions to try and keep the planes serviceable at all times and to make sure that all ‘planes were fully fuelled, as the trips were to be over the Bay of Biscay searching for enemy subs. Mine laying and submarine attack was the main aim.
As I got out of the ‘plane I saw a petrol tanker on the perimeter track, so I hailed him to come over, and told him we wanted to fill the aircraft immediately. ‘Sorry mate. You don’t belong to us’, was the response. So it was a case of ‘take me to your leader’ attitude. I climbed into the tanker, back to his base and had words with his officer, who more-or-less said the same thing. I was then passed up the ranks – Flt.Lt Engineer Officer, Squadron Leader, Wing Commander and finally the Group Captain. Repeating my request for refuelling the aircraft, I got the same answer – ‘No, I don’t know anything about you’. I tried another way. ‘Sir, someone must have sent a signal for reinforcements.’ ‘No, they would have told me about it’. Feeling that I was getting nowhere – ‘May I use the ‘phone , sir?’ ‘Yes certainly. Who do you want to ring’? ‘Our own base, there is little point in us remaining here, we may as well return.’ Ah! I’d hit a tender spot. ‘Now let us think this out’ he said. The solution he arrived at was that he would call in a WAAF typist, dictate an agreement to the effect that I was responsible for all the fuel used by our unit, and that we would both sign it – I know that it all sounds crazy, but that is basically what happened. [italics] (My recurring worry is that someone in the Air Ministry may find that document, and ask me to repay them for the fuel used. However, I am comforted that my fellow members of the Squadron will dig deep in their pockets to reimburse me.) [/italics]. However, having got permission I rushed back to fuel the aircraft, as a lot of time had been wasted and it was getting towards night-time. The tanker arrived and two of us, one on each wing, commenced to fill up. The driver warned us that if the ‘drome was attacked (France was only 20 or so miles away) the standing instructions were for him to pull away immediately. It rapidly got very dark that night, (remember it was early October). Suddenly, there was a big flash and bang, and without warning, the tanker driver started to pull away shouting at us as he went – we just had time to pull out the nozzles. Quickly fastening down the petrol caps, we slide down the wing stubs and met at the bottom. It was pitch-black by this time and we hadn’t a clue were [sic] any of the buildings were situated and just hoped that the rest of our party had found somewhere to stay. By good luck, the first building we got to was the NAAFI which was practically deserted, except some of our friends were there. They had similar experiences to us in that no-one on the ‘drome was interested in us – so it was a case of do-it-yourself – our lads just commandeered a Nissan hut, ‘pinched’ beds from other huts, bedding from several places and even broke into the coal compound. So, at least we had somewhere to sleep and in some sort of comfort. Someone explained that the big flash & bang we heard was their last Liberator blowing-up on its test flight. One can imagine that the whole camp, from the Group Captain to the lowest ranks, were so demoralised by the situation that there was no point in them being there. We had our own duties to attend to.
Our original instructions were [italics] ‘You’ll only be there about a week, You’ll only need your knife, fork and mug’[/italics] – we were to remain there until we were relieved early in December!. Things ran fairly smoothly at first, but then we all ran out of money.. The normal channels were tried – going to the accounts department and explaining the situation, but to no avail. Finally, a meeting was arranged with the whole detachment and a plan of action arranged – that on the next station pay parade we would disrupt the action by walking in front of the station personnel and prevent them from being paid. The pay day arrived and we caused absolute chaos – we were threatened with dire consequences, but eventually everybody calmed down and the Squadron Leader in charge of the parade promised to look into the affair straight after their men had been paid. We agreed to this and left the parade. The next day we were paid. So at least I could buy a cup of tea at the NAAFI.
We existed (couldn’t think of a better word) there for about 5 weeks – our only possessions knife, fork and mug. [underlined] [italics] No change of clothing. [/italics] [/underlined] One day, one of our own aircraft arrived unannounced, dropped off replacement ground crew (they returned the following day) and flew us back to…
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It was the 5th December when we arrived back again in the area of York. Rufforth is about 4 miles west of the city and was a typical war-time ‘drome, with 2 runways and scattered living accommodation. One difference to our previous home, there was a working farmhouse [underlined] within [/underlined] its boundary. I was allocated to P, which was based close to a country road.
Routine was slightly different than before, in that we serviced the ‘planes early in the mornings (remember this was winter-time and day-light hours were short. It would be dark by 5 p.m.) Aircrews air tested, and in the course of early afternoon we towed each plane by tractor, onto the runway, fairly close together, and at a 25o angle to the runway. The planes were then topped-up with fuel (some times overload tanks were fitted), bombed up – often with a mixed load of 2,000 lb. H.E.s and incendiaries.
On one occasion there was an electrical fault and a canister of incendiaries fell to the ground, fortunately very few ignited and we managed to throw, and kick them out of the way. The reason for parking the planes on the runway was to save as much fuel as possible as some of the raids were at Turin or Genoa. I remember on the return of one aircraft, how the crew waxed lyrical of how beautiful the Alps looked in the moonlight.
It was common practice for ground crews who were on night duty, waiting for returning planes, to cat-nap as best they could. One night I was awakened by an odd noise, looking out of the door of the office, I saw a horse, then noticed 2 or 3 more. Rushing back in I rang the control tower. There was quite a panic as the returning aircraft were due in about 1/2 hour. “A” flight office was informed and together with some control tower staff we just managed to get the last horse in when the first planes arrived. Well! I couldn’t face having to eat horse meat for the next week or two.
It was possibly early in 1943 when it happened – [underlined] [italics] the worst day of my life. [/italics] [underlined] The day started just like any other at Rufforth, early breakfast and off to work. After we had ground tested, the aircrew arrived and proceeded with the air test. Everyone going for an early dinner as the afternoon was very busy – only one tractor per Flight, and pulling the ground-starter motors over, ready to start the aircraft. The aircrews came out after briefing, engines were started up, and while the rest of the groundcrew cleared the area of ground-starter motors etc. I remained in the aircraft while the pilot checked the engines one at a time, checked the fine/course pitch, and so on until he was satisfied, checking the petrol and finally signing ‘Form 700’ – which contained the signatures of all who had done any work on the plane.
Closing the hatch, with the ‘700’ under my arm I walked to the Control Tower to watch the planes take-off. It was getting dusk but I could just read the letters on the side of my plane. As the pilot opened up the engines, I was horrified to see white steam pouring from the starboard outer engine – a sure sign of a coolant burst (the planes were all powered by Merlin XX’s at this time). I expected to see the pilot immediately shut-down and stop the plane, but no, the plane carried on gathering speed, as it reached the end of the runway and lift-off. I watched the aircraft as it slowly turned to port with steam still streaming out behind. Then inevitably, there was a dull thud and a flash as the ‘plane disintegrated, killing all the crew.
I was in a state of shock. Had I missed something on my check? My F/Sgt. was on the balcony of the control tower, and he called down to me [italics] “That was your aircraft wasn’t it? You had better give me the 700 before you do anything stupid with it.” [/italics] That statement certainly did not improve my already troubled mind. What of the poor crew – they must have realised that something was seriously wrong and tried to fly to the other end of the runway, so that they could land again. It must have been hell for them before the inevitable explosion. My mind was repeating all the event that had gone on during that fatal day. Would I be arrested and await a courtmartial [sic]? I eventually returned back to my hut, and my friends tried their best to console me
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On reporting for work the next morning the F/Sgt decided that I wouldn’t work on aircraft but work in the office and be a general ‘dogsbody’ for any one who wanted assistance. I heard nothing about the accident for 2 or 3 weeks, until one day I was asked to report to one of the offices, were [sic] I was asked by a Sgt. S.P. to verify that it was my signature on the Form 700 and that was all I heard about it officially.
I was in the office a few weeks later when our office clerk said to me that there was a rumour that we were moving to another station near the east coast called Lissett, do you know it? I thought for a moment, ‘Yes! It’s a hamlet on the Bridlington Low Road. I’ve driven through it a few times. It is notorious for a stretch of straight concrete road w[inserted]h[/inserted]ere idiot motorists ‘open-up’ to see how quickly they can kill themselves.’ – and so on to …
We were still working on Rolls-Royce Merlin engines, a newer version Halifax Mark 2. and Flights A, B, & C. I was very surprised when I was put in charge of R Robert, based just out-side what was to become the Radar Office and close to the bomb dump. [italics] (Most of those who served at Lissett will have realised how dangerous that base was.) [/italics] There were differences in some of the Halifaxes – they now had the large oblong shaped tail, apart from that, most of them had radar blisters under neath [sic], but the aircraft I was working on had a blister made of metal and the rear was wide open to the air. It was suggested that it was intended to be a lowerer [sic] gun position, which never materialised. I went on the first flight and when the ‘plane was airborne I crept into the blister and strapped myself in – I’ve never been so frightened, the flight itself was rather bumpy but the air-drag was trying to pull me out of the open blister. Very carefully I undid the strap and held tight-hold of it, at the same time pulling myself into the fuselage. What a relief!
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D W Raettig, “Dennis Raettig's wartime memoir,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 24, 2024,

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