Robert Anderson's memoir



Robert Anderson's memoir


Robert Anderson describes his training in Tasmania and Canada, and his tour of operations to targets in France and Germany with 106 Squadron.


Temporal Coverage



58 photocopied sheets


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[Drawings of Australia shoulder flash, RAAF pilot’s brevet and medal ribbons.]
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This is not written as any kind of record of facts, neither does it include any of the finer detail. It is only a vague outline of my own experience of a relatively short, but crowded period, while I was involved in surviving a war as one of many aircrew. No doubt many other people have much different ideas, mainly because their experiences would have been different, some better, some worse, I had no experience of injury to myself or crew, either through enemy action or just plain accident, but there were times when we put that down to our better than average good luck. Not once did we even have what could be called a crash landing. My crew would disagree and say they were all far below the average safety level, but could still grin when they said it, so there were times when I accept that as almost praise, they still hoped for some miracle, even if it didn’t happen.
But back to the beginning
[signature] R J Anderson
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At the beginning of the war in Europe, all of our age group were called up for home service in the army. A referendum for overseas conscription having been defeated. However P.N.G. was a mandated territory at this time so it was included in home territory.
I joined the 3rd Div. sigs as a despatch rider because I had an interest in motor bikes, but the army didn’t ride the way we did. Of course you had to take your own bike along as the army only had a few, mostly antiques.
They soon managed to acquire every side valve model in the country to make up the numbers. Mine, being OHV, I took home again, the army thought these were unreliable.
The courses here were very simple, internal combustion engines, Morse code, sig by flags etc. plus the usual armaments. The rest was pack drill and physical exercise.
Went OK, until our selected officers turned up to take command straight out of school. Perhaps they could count to ten without using their fingers, but they didn’t know one end of a gun from the other, let alone what went on in between. They also had the greatest ability to get lost once they were more than 10yds (3m) from the main road. So a few of us decided we would be better off somewhere else. We all thought, perhaps if we could fly, we may have some hope of getting away from the stupidity (just do as you are told we are never wrong) how could anyone achieve anything that way.
Not that we thought air force officers would be any different, but if you were flying by yourself, you should have some chance of making some of your own decisions, be they right or wrong. So, as the camp period lasted only three months, we then returned to normal work until our next call up for another three months.
At this time we just signed on, not as pilots as we had hoped, but just as aircrew, the airforce [sic] then sorted you into whichever they considered you most suitable for.
Of course there was a very tough physical examination to pass, and then back to school three nights a week to catch up on maths, etc. it was then left up to the airforce to claim us from the army. As they had first claim because we were already partly trained. However I managed to get my release two days before the next camp was due to begin. So I carried on the night school until called up for the airforce. By this time the empire air scheme was getting well organised. Ours was No. 23 course at Sommers. Accommodation was mostly huts, but some tents, just to make up until they could build more huts.
It was the day after our arrival in camp when the Japanese entered the war, of course this must have added to the need to speed up the training, but it still took nearly four months of solid study. Subjects included - all maths, alg, geom, trig, etc. Morse code, send and receive minimum 17 words to minute. Met, Navigation, theory of flight, internal combustion engines, carburation, super chargers some physical and structural stresses, and a lot more interesting junk that you would never hope to use in practice.
As it had been a few years since I had left school, it wasn’t easy but some of these were new subjects anyway.
Four of us from the army course had arrived for this intake, so I wasn’t the only one with strange ideas. (I was later told that the 3rd div. was almost wiped out in New Guinea, perhaps they didn’t have time to learn).
A lot of time was put into physical training too up and down the sand dunes etc. as many of this intake were league footballers, rugby players from N.S.W. and some of our better known athletes in other sports, the competition was always pretty keen.
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I remember being told off by a W.O. because I let one chap beat me at something I said “yeah, but I could have beat him if I have to”. He said “My boy, you only come second once in a war there is no second chance”.
He was so right.
Here too, were the first of the assessment boards, you marched into a room, when called, to face 4 or 5 officers, ex-school master types, seated behind a long desk, each with a list of questions to fire at you.
The questions would be on all strange unrelated subjects, often overlapping before you had time to complete your answer to the previous question.
There must have been a reason somewhere as these were regular up to ops squadron, but at the end of the course we were divided into groups, pilots, navs, wops etc. and sent to different camps for further training in our selected fields.
I was lucky enough to be selected as a pilot. Our mob went to Western Junction (Tas) to start on Tiger moths.
Our quarters were unlined gal iron huts with no heating which was not a lot of protection from the snow on the hills outside. I think most of us slept with our clothes on plus a few spare news papers tucked between the couple of issue blankets, but no one complained too much, after all, we were doing what we had set out to do.
Between the flying we still did plenty of ground courses, Nav, Morse, theory of flight etc. Met became a very important subject now to learn the types of clouds and try to read the winds and weather conditions that went with different types at different heights.
The link trainer is the first introduction to practical navigation using instruments only with no possibility of map reading from sightings on the ground, however the main aim at this time was to learn to fly instruments only.
The “link” is a little dummy aircraft fixed to the floor, fitted with a complete set of instruments, controlled entirely by the pilot. It is capable of doing all turns, climbs, dives, spins, variations of speed and heights, flying any compass course etc. in fact anything a plane can do without going anywhere, but always the instruments register everything the pilot does.
You climb in the same as in a plane, a cover goes over the trainee so you cannot see anything outside your little cabin. All instruments have repeaters on the instructions desk, along with a pen on wheels, as on a recording graph, this plots your track you actually fly on a map. Speeds, height etc. can be read off along the track by the instructor.
A map of a chosen area is fixed to the bench top, with North corresponding to your compass North; and the pen set at your starting point. You have a similar map with your track, turning points, heights etc. marked on it, so if you can fly the correct courses you have worked out, at the correct speeds, then the pen on the desk will trace the correct track on the map, but I think most of us went off a bit. The only to tell when to turn is when your calculated time for that track is up. Trouble is, if you go off track, or flown too fast, or too slow you are no where near where you should be when you turn, and the error increases as time goes on. Hard to believe when you see the results on the map on the desk. However the instructor can talk to you through the intercom, so he does put you right now and then. It’s easy to go into a spin at the beginning, if you are good enough you can, get out again, if not you crash without getting hurt, but either way it’s a good way to practice.
[underlined] Tiger Moth [/underlined]
Basic trainer for R.A.A.F. in fact most of the Empire air training at the time. This is a simple aircraft, very stable in flight, fully aerobatic, speed about the top speed of my motorbike, but no trees to miss.
It has no flaps, no super chargers, only one petrol tank, fixed propeller, with a strong head wind it can fly backwards relative to the
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ground, open cockpit, no radio, only a tube speaking system between the seats. There are no brakes either, which makes it hard to taxi. Only method of steering is by use of the rudder, but with a strong wind from the side, it can be greater than the airflow from the slipstream, which means the aircraft automatically turns into wind, only correction is a burst of throttle against a full rudder, but the stick must be held hard back or this will lift the tail and smash the prop into the ground.
Tiger Moth DH 90
Engine 130hp Gipsy Major Inverted
Span 29’ 4”
Length 23’ 11”
Height 8’ 9”
Take Off [deleted] Height [/deleted] W/T 1825 lbs
Max Speed 109 mph
Top Ceiling 13600 ft
Range 302 mls
Fixed prop No brakes No flaps
A fairly high drop out rate at this time considering the already carefully selected personnel, mostly through lack of co-ordination etc. most of these would be able to fly quite well but there just isn’t time to teach them. This was my first experience of hearing of someone freezing (mental & physically) one chap on final approach pointed the tiger at the end of the runway and just kept going until it hit.
He was unhurt, a tiger lands rather slowly, but he stayed in hospital a couple of days before the shock came out. Most of those who failed this initial course were changed to other aircrew ratings usually wireless ops or gunners.
Obviously a tiger is a very easy aircraft to fly, obviously I was not very good, because it took me a long time to go solo. It seems there was a lot to learn and my trouble was I could not accept anything without trying it first, so I wasted too much time just doing the same things over again. Little things like crabbing or skidding on approach or side slipping to lose height because I started too high.
It would have been hard to get lost here, because we only flew in good weather, never far from the drome but I guess we managed to fit all the essentials in and gradually built up our confidence.
Provided you did the routine checks before take off and landing everything worked out OK. They said of the tiger, if it was properly trimmed when flying and you got into trouble, you just took your hands and feet off and it would get itself out but I didn’t try that one.
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It was still very cold flying in the open cockpit between the snow covered hill tops, so most of the trips were pretty short. This has advantages too because it gives more takeoff’s [sic] & landings for the total hours flown.
One of my instructors had been an instructor in civvy pre-war. He had joined the airforce hoping he would be put into fighters and sent to New Guinea, but the airforce needed good instructors rather badly and obviously knew he was far more valuable as an instructor.
This was very good for us but rather frustrating for him. Just about the end of my course his frustration started to show, but this was even better for me because it did teach me some of the things to watch in low flying. Low flying in civil flying is anything below or about 500ft, low level flying in the airforce is just above to just below the tree tops. In daylight this is not too bad, in moonlight it is rather worse, add in flak and searchlight – you need a lot of luck.
He picked a day with a fairly strong wind, but once we were airborne he said “I want to show you a few things, unofficial of course so you will have to forget they happened OK?”. I said “OK” and began to wonder what this was going to be.
We drifted away from the drome to one of his paddocks where he took over control and said “ hands and feet off and just watch”, he then dived down to grass level at full speed and went charging along with the wheels just touching the grass until he spotted a hare running in our direction, he tried to hit it with the wing tip, of course this is very hard to do because the wing hides the object from view when you get close to it. Then climbed and turned towards our starting point, but he couldn’t see the hare again.
His next effort was to pick two trees spaced a little apart, he obviously knew his paddock. We were now going in the same direction as our first run so he built up speed again and dived straight through between two trees with not a lot of space either side. We then returned to our starting point again, he then said “right you’ve got it, I want you to fly between those two trees like I did, but don’t go low enough, stay just above the tops OK?”.
Well-it’s just as well I stayed above the tops because I would have gone straight into the tree on the right hand side. Not so good he said.
Next we went to the left of the paddock and again turned towards the trees. He managed to do a steep turn to the left just before we got to the first tree. Back to the starting point, and as before, it was my turn, but again above the tops. Back to the routine exercises..
When we landed back at base he explained why he had shown me these effects. He said he had picked a day when he knew the wind was strong enough and in the right direction for his paddock. What he wanted to show me was the effect of wind drift on the aircraft relative to the ground. If the wind is head on, you go much slower relative to the ground. When you fly with a cross wind your aircraft goes sideways at the same speed as the wind is blowing regardless of the speed you are flying at. If the wind is from behind you, you go that much faster relative to the ground.
The reason I would have hit the trees on the first run through was simply because I had not allowed for any drift. The reason I would have hit them on the second run was slightly different, partly because the wind would again have blown me into the trees, but also, when an aircraft or any object is travelling in a straight line at speed and you try to change it’s direction it tends to continue in the same direction.
In the case of aircraft you change the attitude of the aircraft, but it’s kinetic energy carries it on it’s original direction for some distance, so the trick is to learn to allow for this.
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The one thing he did say is a good idea for beginners was to practice on the clouds, but always remember the clouds don’t move, but the trees and houses always move.
He was so right.
His object on the first crossing was not to chase the hare, it need not have been there, it was only to check the wind drift while we were clear of the trees.
This later proved to be a very valuable lesson.
At this time the Japs were well involved in our war getting closer to our north every day, but some of us were still chosen to go to the U.K. I for one tried to change it but it seems big decisions like that can’t be changed. So a few of us were posted to Sydney. The crossing from Tas. to Melbourne in that little tub must rate as one of the roughest, being the only time I was sea sick. Our trip from Melbourne to Sydney must have been one of the worst too. Anyone who travelled on this trip pre-war must have really needed to go. We were all unloaded at Albury to change trains. It was a different gauge rail in N.S.W. at that time. Then packed into N.S.W. trains like squashed sardines, we were supposed to sleep that way, I’m sure we didn’t.
We camped at Bradfield park in Sydney waiting for our ship, but the Japs had sunk it somewhere so we all came back to Melbourne to wait again for the next one.
This was the Klip Fontain a 10000 ton Dutch freighter that normally carried a few passengers. The only armament was a singly [sic] little cannon mounted directly aft., but it was a fairly modern motor ship, cruised at about 18 knots. So there was no escort and we went far to the south from the usual trade route.
Not much out of the ordinary on this trip except for one incident where we almost had a head on collision with another ship at night, no lights of course, our little ship almost dived under when turning to starboard. The idea was to run directly away so that the gun on the aft deck could be used but it must have been one of ours, so we just continued on our way.
We had some rough weather which was unfortunate, because a table came loose in the temporary mess hold. It must have spent the night bashing everything to pieces because the next morning there was only a great pile of match wood left and thereafter we had to stand up to eat.
Three of us volunteered to be guard Capt.’s on this trip, against our principles really but it gave us full access to the cook house which is not a bad idea. The duty of the guard Capt.’s was only to check on the odd guards who were posted at different points around the ship 24 hours a day. No problems really until I went to check on one guard stationed in the hold one night. This was a pretty terrible position. It was an empty hold but the previous cargo had been a load of cow hides, they had removed all the hides but the smell in this closed area was most noticeable. There was also one steel door that swung with a creak all night, perfect ghost atmosphere, no one knew what was being guarded either. Anyhow I had just opened the hatch at the top of the stairs (not ships talk) when the poor guard pulled the trigger of the rifle. The bullet went crashing from wall to wall to wall making no end of noise in the confined area, but he did not manage to shoot himself so I wandered down and talked to him, but I did hold the rifle. It only delayed the inevitable, he was scrubbed in Canada and sent home.
It is essential to get some exercise on board ship, so our mob had to do the usual drill. One of the chaps job pre-war was a pianist at the Tiv” [sic] for the ballet more for a change than anything he taught us to do some different steps, like the about turn and change step etc. quite spectacular for the ballet, but it was just exercise for us.
Eventually arrived at San Pedro USA and made a slow trip by train up west coast to Vancouver, then across the rockies [sic] to Edmonton which was our base camp until we once again sorted into our respective groups for training purposes.
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We were rather worried about this train trip after our last experience, but there was no comparison, these trains had all the mod-cons including a porter to look after you. The porter didn’t get paid by the company, but had to tender to the rail company to get the job, his only pay was a from tips collected from the travellers. He had to clean all the carriages as well as look after his passengers, also the seats had to be made into beds every night, including the ones that folded down from the top, very comfortable too. We couldn’t afford to tip him on every occasion so we all put in and paid him at the end of the run. He made far more than we did that week. Travelling up the west coast changed our ideas of American life completely, we had looked to America as Gods country but that was only for the few. The people we saw were extremely poor. The farm houses would not have passed for decent pig pens in Australia, but the one big difference was the cars they drove, all late model yank tanks, petrol at that time was 3 pence per gal, in Aus it was about one shilling and eight pence.
The contrast in the farms was very similar to the desert and Mildura, which turned out to be typical of all the parts we saw, either they had the lot or nothing at all, not what we were used to.
The Canadian Pacific Rail, over the rockies to Edmonton was perhaps a little better than the Yank train. The railway paid their porters but you still had to tip some times. The scenery on this run must be some of the best in the world. The rivers are magnificent, often packed with Oregon logs floated down to the mills, then held by booms across the river until ready to be used.
Probably the one reason for such scenery is the fact that at the higher altitudes the air is so cold you can see even small detail for miles.
Continued across the rockies to Edmonton, which was our base camp until we were once again sorted out into our respective groups for training purposes. Edmonton at that time was a fairly big camp, but mostly for new recruits, so they were trying to teach discipline in a big way.
This wasn’t part of our deal. They were not very interested in us. There was nothing for us to do, so they kicked us out of the gate each morning and were not all that happy to see us back each night. Sometimes they held a roll call so a few of us would roll out and answer for everyone and everyone was happy.
Eventually posted to camp Borden, an RCAF camp about 60mls north of Toronto to continue our flying training. Our party have been divided into two groups, some to train on twins on dromes further west and our crowd to train here on fighters.
We were taken over by a French Canadian flight sgt who’s job it was to march us from place to place as required. English was not always his best subject so we used that as best we could. Probably one of the best scenes while doing drill was, first to march with our thumbs straight up. He stopped us all and said “non non non” took a long time to learn to keep our thumbs down, next we did the change step we had practices on the ship, then the about turn, he was very patient, perhaps he was use to idiots.
He had his laugh in the end though, once the snow arrived. We were marching down to the flight one day and coming back the other way was a group of Canucks, as they went behind a hut from us we all broke ranks and quickly made snowballs, when they were clear of the building we threw everything we had at them, but we didn’t know much about snowballs and they had spent their lives at it. They killed us in no time flat and the sgt thought it wonderful. Unfortunately they had a keen type officer with them who may have copped a snow ball, because he was very much in favour of putting us all on a charge of some sort just on principle. Their local basket ball team decided to challenge us to a game, so we said OK even though we had never heard of the game. It only
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lasted about 5 minutes before we were all ordered off the court. It seems you are not allowed to bump your opponent off the floor.

Here we saw the first example of instant lawns. They had erected a new flag pole and levelled out the ground around it as a parade square. Next they brought in great rolls of turf and rolled it out, side by side, rolled it down and watered it. Much quicker than sowing seeds, anyway they probably wouldn’t have grown it was just before the snow.
Their living conditions and food were much like the Yanks, so far ahead of ours, what with grapefruit and tomato juice etc. Just help yourself. The huts too were central heated, we didn’t realise at the time that this was essential to survival later when weather really got cold. Perhaps it was an early hint when Bing’s new film was put on in the camp theatre. “White Christmas”. It was the first white Christmas I had ever seen. I didn’t think Tassie was cold anymore.
Our first aircraft is a Yale. This is an early development of the NA16, ordered for the French air force training, but at the fall of France they were taken over by the EATS (Empire air training scheme).
A small advance on the tigers, being a monoplane, with fixed undercart, fixed prop-boost, radio & intercom, closed cockpit, rudder
Early model of NA 16
Engine S3 HL Wasp 350hp
Fixed undercart
Flaps and Brakes

Engine 600 hp Prat [sic] & Whitney
Span 42’
Length 29’
Height 11’ 8”
Take Off Weight 5300lbs
Max. Speed 208mph at 5000’
OP ceiling 24000’
Range 730mls
Operated brakes, hydraulic flaps, a bigger motor, radial instead of inline, but still gills to control engine temperature a bit more work to do, it did fly faster, but not as stable, which meant you had to fly it all the time.
Next on to the Harvard which is a further advance on the Yale. Bigger motor DH hydromatic prop, retractable undercart etc. At this time, the drome was covered with snow rolled hard by large corrugated rollers, no runways visible. Strange to spin on landing, to be able to do nothing but sit and let it spin while it slid along until it stopped.
Here I won the award of the week for taxiing with flaps down. Just forgot to put them up after landing. It seems lumps of ice can be lifted by the slipstream and put holes in them.

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A lot of experiences I had here were very valuable later but rather frightening at the time, surprises like, to fly on a “clear” day and drop from a big height on landing. On complaining to the instructor because the aircraft stalled at higher speed, I was taken back to the aircraft where he said “watch this” and bashed the wing with his hand, from the point of impact, cracks spread across the wing. It was covered in clear ice therefore the aircraft was much heavier. When ice is present (if you know) landing speed is increased.
Next was to get caught in snow, nothing visible outside except white parallel lines, not easy the first time, not easy any time.
Next was to be lost while flying No.2 in formation practice in fog. Broke formation in a thick patch and lost No.1.
I called base and was told to use emergency map, but there was no map, someone needed it more that I did I guess. Finally found a small town, and described this to base i.e. Direction of main street railway crossing etc. given a course to fly from their recognition, called again in 10 minutes, very relieved to note that his voice was louder.
Leader landed in snow field safely but the kite stayed there until after the snow.
Here too, I flew into cloud deliberately for the first time, I was quite sure I was right and the instruments were wrong, but I came out the bottom in a very fast spiral dive, luckily there was enough room to correct before the ground.
This was the beginning of another duty that had a steady increase. Pall bearers for some of our mates who were not so lucky. Often there was little left to bury, so mostly just a bag of sand to make up the weight but the smell was always the same.
One of the airforces [sic] faults I thought. Always for these “Honours” they pick the duty detail from the top of the list i.e. Names starting with A.
A good number dropped out from here, some sent home, some to other aircrew musterings, w/op, bomb aimer etc. There were many strange landings, even upside down on the golf course. Luckily I always got home.
The last part of the training here was an advanced unit, bombing, dive bombing etc., all on the bombing range. There was also a machine gun range, so, while trying to do low flying, we could shoot at sea gulls, never hit any of course but it was fun to try. Tried to fly formation on the migrating wild geese too but they were a bit too slow.
The weather here was extreme to us, to see hard frozen snow blowing like sand to be confined to heated living quarters because 10 minutes of bare skin exposure could mean frost bite. Tales of people loosing [sic] fingers etc., but the worst we saw was similar to sunburnt skin going brown and peeling, only on fingers and ears. Chaps flying with cockpit open because of bad visibility.
A great deal of pressure was applied towards the end of the course when it came to tests.
The first was a non-stop aerobatic act with [deleted] no [/deleted] [inserted] AN [/inserted] instructor to tell you what to do next and ensure you didn’t stop or make them too gentle.
After 3 / 4 of an hour of rolls, barrel rolls, loop rolls off the top, rolls off the bottom, even a couple of high speed stalls (unintentional) just bad flying, I was happy to get my feet on the ground. Next came unannounced again starting at “A”. A new instructor said “instrument test” I said “I haven’t done any” He said “I haven’t time to wait for that you can do some now”.
These aircraft were the same as the others except for a cover that fitted over the pilots cockpit so the only thing you could see were the instruments.
The instructor of course was not enclosed he had to watch for other aircraft as well as your flying.
I found this rather hard at this time even though the routine must have been fairly simple, compass courses, changes of course e.g. 180’ to 68’ to 240 to 60’ etc. with rate one turns, but I managed to turn the wrong

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[underlined] 10 [/underlined]

way sometimes. Perhaps I would never make a pilot even after all the link training.

Another of my better efforts was to try to land with the wheels up. The Harvard, like most planes, has two indicator lights that show red with the wheels up and green with the wheels down, it also has a loud horn right behind your ear, this only works (automatic) when you close the throttle with the wheels up as on landing.
Guess I had (a) forgotten to put the wheels down (b) check the lights (c) ignored the red lights from the control tower (d) ignored the hooter in my ear (rather bright boy) but I Couldn’t ignore many red very lights they fired off from everywhere, so I had to go around again.
Didn’t get the award for that, I guess it must have been beaten by someone else that day.
The miracle was, I eventually passed and had my wings but I was nowhere near the bright boy of the course.
Up to that time, there were two incidents of over confidence. The first at about 100hrs in “Tigers”, the second at about 300hrs total. So I was much luckier than some of my course. On looking at the registration numbers of aircraft I had flown (log book) it would seen you hardly even flew the same aircraft twice. I suppose each aircraft is slightly different so it is better practice to fly different aircraft each time rather than get used to the same one.
Our next step, we hoped, was England and Spitfires. After a short leave in America we assembled at Halifax NS. To await a ship. This must be one of the worlds coldest ports I think, everything covered in clear ice, it was hard to stand up without sliding down the hill.
In time we were joined by other courses, some who had flown Ansons, Cessna twins etc.
The ship was rather large 45000 tons. “Andies” built for the south American run (pre-war) therefore it was fairly flat bottomed for shallow water. This of course meant it rolled continuously and sometimes rather too much. We had to put two ropes over our bunks to keep us in but that was no real problem. Again we were unescorted, it being a fast ship, but this time we were somewhere up near the north pole, its [sic] just as cold as the south. As the spray went over it built up as ice on every rope on the rigging even the deck was covered in ice, caused many broken arms when people slid as the ship rolled, then they crashed into the superstructure to stop, arrived iat Glasgow after a very rough and very cold trip but we did avoid the subs. Then down to Bournemouth to await posting. At this time there was no need for fighters. The change was now to bombers so very few made it to “Spitfires” but some did manage “Beaufighters” as night fighters.
The next step for me was to Oxfords. These little twin engine aircraft were very easy to fly after the violence of single engine flying, but you could not do aerobatics, not even a spin, in fact we were told, it was impossible to recover from a spin because the fuselage blanked the airflow over the rudder, therefore the plane wouldn’t straighten out. Didn’t try to prove it.
After conversion a good deal of this flying was navigation, trying not to get lost, but you could always get a fix (your position) if you had to by radio, you just called up and asked for a fix and kept your transmitter button pressed until they took a bearing on you from two different points and sent the point where these crossed back to you add the time and direction you have flown since the fix and that is where you are.
After this came night flying, from one pundit to the next on a cross country circuit.

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Airspeed Oxford
Engine Two 375hp AS Cheetah x radials
Span 53’ 4”
Length 34’ 6”
Height 11’ 1”
Take Off Weight 7500lbs
Max. Speed 185mph at 7500ft
OP Ceiling 19500ft
Normal Range 960mls
The distance between the pundit called for 20 minutes or so straight flying until you could read the next one. A pundit was a red light fixed on the ground, usually near a drome, the light flashed the letter of the drome in Morse code so all you had to do was pick the right one, do your turn on it and fly the correct course to the next one.
It was carefully chosen weather for beginners so there were no real problems, but it is strange to be alone in a plane at night for the first time looking down on nothing except an odd beacon flashing somewhere in the distance (there was a total blackout).
Differences in planes were not hard to overcome. To apply the brakes on a “Harvard” you pushed your toes down, as in a car, one wheel only (for steering) you pushed that side rudder forward and toe down. So aircraft was steered while taxiing simply by slowing the side you wished to turn towards. In a twin engined [sic] aircraft you can turn by using more power on the outside motor.
The brake system was a little different on English aircraft. There were two leavers [sic] on the wheel either, or both would put the brakes on, the rudder was then used to distribute pressure to both or either wheel as before.
Unlike single engine planes you don’t have to wobble from side to side to see where you are going when taxiing, only other difference was on take off where you could increase power on one motor to help correct swing. This was good in the first part of take off, before the slip stream had enough power over the rudder.
For some forgotten disciplinary punishment I was told to shift 14 planes from one side of the drome to the other without help even from the ground crew. To start a Oxford, you must climb onto the wing and insert crank handle into inertia starter (i.e. wind up the spring some 40 or so turns) repeat on the other side motor, prime both motors, put the push bike in the kite, climb in and start, if you miss the start, out and wind again, you then taxi to the other side of the drome, park the aircraft and return on bike, about 1k for next aircraft. A very slow job, but you do learn how to start engines. My first experience of .05before it was heard of as such. At the party the night before I must have been “reasonably” full, but of the next morning. The job was to fly 7 w/ops on a training flight. I only had to fly all the courses they could work out from their fixes (loop) and

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eventually return to base. I didn’t realise, alcohol removes oxygen form [sic] the blood, so does altitude. On return I had so much trouble trying to see the drome let alone the runway it wasn’t funny.
In fact the chewing gum turned to sand in my mouth. I offered to let anyone of the w/ops try, but they were not impressed, none of them had seen one of these kites before.
Managed to arrive after about the fourth try. Later I learned the answer (just breath [sic] plenty of oxygen from the oxy. Bottle).
Another part, of this course was the SBA (Standard beam approach and landing). This is approach and landing on Lorenze beam. All done on instruments with no outside vision. A hood is fitted over learner with instructor in the right hand seat keeping full external vision. You are then flown to some point away from the drome and given a course to fly, so you fly back until you cross the beam.
A beam consists of a 2˚ wide control beam (steady buzz) with identification superimposed in Morse, outside that, on one side dashes, on the other side dots.
As you cross the beam you carefully time the width of the beam, then a rate 1 turn 90˚, fly for 1 minute, and another 1 90˚ back toward the beam, time the width of beam again as you fly through. If it is more, you are going away, if less, you are going towards the drome. You then turn back onto beam, heading toward the drome. You must cross the drome to find which marker comes first. Reduce height to 1000 ft (having landing permission from drome and Barometric pressure set on your altimeter, checked with control tower).
Fly along the beam, if you swing to the left you get –s, if you go to right you get .s so you try to stay in the middle. When you cross the outer marker you must start to let down at 300ft per minute, holding steady decent [sic] rate and keeping in centre of beam (beam is getting narrower as you approach the end of runway).
When you cross the inner marker (lights on main beam) you should be at 100 ft cut throttles and prepare to land (wheels and flaps are down before outer marker of course). This is not easy because at this point, the beam is very narrow and with even a light cross wind it is hard to stay in the middle, but even in bad weather, there would be some lights to see, so the last part would be a visual landing (you hope).
At this point when practising, instructor sometimes releases cover, which gives you full visibility, surprise, there is a control tower right in front of you. Not good for the nerves, but it proves you must stick to the beam.
Back to Bournemouth again to wait for the next posting. In between there is nothing to do, so we are often selected in small groups and sent off somewhere to do a short course in something or other just to fill in the time, until we can be posted to further flying training.
As Bournemouth is on the south coast, the whole beach front is guarded by barbed wire with gun emplacements at intervals. There were a number of a/c a/c guns (light) Bofors, I think, in front of our pub. Just to keep them in practice, they sometimes flew a fairy battle along parallel with the beach and towing a drogue, much to our horror, it only took two or three shots to knock the drogue down.
So we were beginning to wonder what our chances were going to be if it was as easy as all that. However there came a day when 2 FW190’s sneaked in low across the water, sure, the gunners saw them soon enough but they flew around quite safely, just going up and down.
Just for good measure they flew straight down the beach, machine gunning everything, as they went, then turned out to sea and disappeared untouched.
Well at least there must be some chance for survival, watching the trace from the guns, it was always too high – too low or just too far behind, but they were not amateurs flying those kites and they were pretty fast.

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Our next training exercise, just a few of us, who’s names started with ‘A’ were packed off to Whitly [sic] Bay new [sic] Newcastle. This is our third commando style camp, on arrival, in the late afternoon, we were shown to our huts, which we thought were a bit strange, because they appeared to be almost new houses, unused, but there was no glass in the windows, OK well maybe it would be a bit cold, but we were used to changes by now so we soon got off to sleep alright, but not for long.
It seems the KG5 was being fitted out just down the road. Its [sic] hard to sleep when the sirens go, but its [sic] much harder once the guns start. It was soon obvious why there was no glass in the windows. There was one big gun just outside our “hut” each time it went off, it caused quite a compression in the room as well as the noise. We had no idea where the nearest shelter was, so we just stayed put. This course was mostly unarmed combat, with the usual assault course to run over, but also a ‘demo’ of how to throw hand grenades. I don’t know why. Interesting when one didn’t go off, after a given waiting time an officer and an NCO crawled out with the necessary equipment and placed a small charge, which exploded the grenade, and everyone was happy.
The usual was 6 of us in the trench at a time and the instructor and each of us had to throw one grenade in turn out of the trench and down the range toward a target, observed by someone with files [sic] glasses out side to check the results.
This went OK until one idiot hit the edge of the trench and the grenade fell back in. In the half second panic that followed, we all went vertically upwards, then sideways, without touching the sides, then flat on our faces. It must have been a very long fuse, because it seemed age before it went off harmlessly in the trench. Can’t say the instructor was at all happy. His Scots. Accent was hard to understand normally. None of us ever knew the words, but I’m sure we got his meaning. It did prove we were all fit enough though.
The air raids here were fairly frequent although there was usually only about a dozen planes at a time. There were plenty of guns on the ground, and someone said about 3 acres of rocket site, so plenty of noise and plenty of searchlights just to brighten it all up. An interesting variation to some of these rockets was that they fired a kind of net into the air, which was then held up by parachute but also trailed small explosive charges in the hope that an aircraft would fly into them, never heard of any being effective, but how would you know.
We had been to sneak a look at these rockets, when we got caught in the next air raid. The rocket launches seemed very simple, just an angle iron frame that could be rotated and vary its angle for height. The rocket appeared to be dropped on, similar to a mortar, but ‘wooshed’ off instead of a bang.
Anyhow when the raid started again we didn’t know the area, so we didn’t know which way to run for a shelter. Someone spotted a shop verandah in the dark, across the street, so we raced across and stood close to the wall laughing at the tons of shrapnel falling and bouncing on the road. All OK until we looked up and noticed there was only a frame left above us, so we would have been just as safe anywhere, but it didn’t last long, and this was another lucky day. It seemed to be a big risk to put expensively trained aircrew in the middle of air raids, but you did see the other side. I never knew later why they claimed the Germans didn’t have rockets. Perhaps they thought we would believe them or the rockets would go away or may be they just didn’t know how to counter them.
Our next posting is to Litchfield on Wellingtons. Lichfield was officially an Australian operational conversion and training unit, but shortage of some categories of aircrew meant that RAF bods had to fill the vacancies, so, six pilots from here, six navs from somewhere else, six w/op, six bomb aimer’s and six gunners all arrive and sort themselves into crews. Usual method seemed to be to go down to the local and tell each other how bad you were at your particular branch of

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flying. My crew all believed me, but claimed they were even worse. So out of this batch of “no hoper’s” we had to mould a unit.
The idea being that each man knew his job to perfection, but more than that, there must be complete confidence, understanding and instant unquestioned action from everyone. Perhaps we were lucky here too, because it was the best English weather (no ice or fog).
The course was designed to give each of the crew a chance to learn his part in conjunction with the rest of the crew.
Navigation trips to test navigator, w/op and bomb aimer, accuracy of pilots flying too. I suppose, and often a friendly fighter attack to test the gunners ability with camera instead of guns. In the evasive action, directed by rear gunner, we sometimes had some very sick crew members.
As this course advanced, the trips became longer and more complicated often across country north ward up the Irish sea to Scotland, often in or above cloud most of the way. On one of these trips we were in 10/10 cloud off Scotland at 13000ft. when there was a very big ‘explosion’ I thought we had been hit by a navy shell, as everything smelled of burnt sulphur, but at the same time we had been propelled downward. Out of the bottom of the cloud height now 2000ft. no sign of any navy craft on the sea, but we were flying level.
On accessing the damage we found a burnt out wireless set, trailing aerial burnt off, some fabric burnt off fuselage and the port wing. Decided better to land at nearest drome to check the damage properly. So, we headed for Prestwick, but arrived at the same time as about 50 Boston’s that had just crossed from USA as their fuel was almost out we had a longish wait before landing.
On inspection, they patched out fabric replaced a tyre (flat) and sent us home with only R.T. Decided we had flown into a cu-nimb (thunder storm) inside the stratus, been hit by lightning and dropped the 11000ft. in a vertical down draught. I don’t know but I didn’t do it even if, I did get the blame.
Next effort was a night cross country trip. The idea of these, was practice for us and practice for the home defences i.e. a/c a/c searchlights and also night fighters.
The searchlights would pick you up and the a/c a/c would fire real shells, but always much lower than your altitude even the searchlights were small and let you off pretty easy. We never saw a night fighter (maybe they were painted black).
The first time we saw a searchlight it was right on our starboard wing. I dived all over the place trying to get away but it didn’t even move. Well the top end didn’t move, didn’t go past our wing either but the bottom end shifted. Se we stopped our evasive action and turned our landing light off. The w/op had to disconnect the wires at the switch, something had shorted out.
The landing light, on a wimpy is set in the under side of the wing, pointing straight downwards, if used for landing, there is a lever operated by the pilot which swings the beam anywhere between straight down and straight forward. I don’t remember anyone ever using a landing light in practice but I’m sure we would have been shot down a dozen times with that light showing (must have lost another 10 out of 10 for that little effort).
On our next night cross country trip two crews, ourselves and Fred Mathews were given new aircraft. These were fitted with a new automatic mixture control, one lever less to pull. There is no flight engineer in a wimpy so the pilot had to do all these things himself as well as all the checks on gauges, oil pressure, brake pressure, oil temp., head temp. fuel gauges etc.
To check fuel gauges you had to lean across and press a button on the far side of aircraft, this lit up the gauges to show amount of fuel left in tanks. You must do this at regular intervals to ensure fuel is used evenly, to keep balance of aircraft, you can, by changing taps, use fuel from any one tank. Usually emptying outside tanks first.
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At some point, less than half way, I decided to check total fuel left. Had to call on navigator to workout quantity used for distance travelled compared to distance left to go. We went straight home without any corners and lost a few more points, I guess for not doing the trip. The other new kite had the same trouble but ran out of fuel and crash landed on the railway line near Manchester, probably mistaking the signal lights for a runway, but who knows, he could have called “mayday”.
Our next job was a trip to Manchester by train to bury the bods. Flying lost a few more points in my book. No survivors Fred’s rear gunner had been grounded and a substitute had made that trip (some people are not lucky). There were always extra gunners on this course, because when some crews finished, they were posted to four engine conversion units and needed another gunner (mid upper) other went to wimpy squadrons with standard crews. Not all front line aircraft were four engine at this time, as this was almost the end of our course, we were told we would need another gunner so I asked Vic (our rear gunner) if he knew one he could get along with. His immediate choice was ‘Titch’ Fred’s gunner who had stayed at home. This completed our crew, except for f/t engineer who joined us at con unit.
So we now had self 25 f/sgt. As pilot, not very efficient nearly always in trouble, mostly because I liked to try my own ideas and RAF does not approve of anything outside its standards (just like the army).
Rod Ramsay Aust. f/o navigator about 32 ex Commonwealth Bank, married, very serious, very cautious, very thorough and often very worried (perhaps he was right).
Alan Withers Aust. P/o Bomb-aimer about 28 married also worried at times (they both had more sense than I did) Alan had been on same course as me as, a pilot. Had passed in Tas. On tigers and then posted to cesnas [sic] in Canada where he was scrubbed as pilot and remustered as bomb aimer.
He would have been one of the few at Litchfield [sic] that I had known before. These two, I think were good friends with similar problems both starting to loose [sic] a bit of hair, down the middle, so one was baldy and the other was egghead. The argument over who was the worst was not enough to stop them joining the same team and trying to drown their troubles down at the local, but that didn’t really work, not beyond those few hours anyway.
Blue Kellaher Aust. Sgt w/op about 23, redhead Irish ancestors, rather carefree, happy sort of bod. “She’s apples mate” being the favourite saying but still very efficient underneath. Only trouble was he was almost always airsick in the earlier part, sometimes to the point of being helpless, lying on the floor, don’t think he ever quite got over it, but he never complained either.
Vic Blackwell rear gunner RAF Sgt. At 34 the eldest of the crew, married with two kids ex Watford footballer and still very keen on his soccer. Insurance salesman before the war, but a very keen gunner now as his target practice could prove.
Titch Crowley mid upper RAF Sgt. About 21 about 5ft. high with a very small face to match, in fact we often wondered how he could see once the oxy mask was on his face. His favourite saying in the Air, when asked about some kite in the area was always “I can’t see nothing mate” in perfect cockney.
This was not exactly Rod’s idea of English. He would say “Of course you can’t see nothing, you idiot, no one can” but we were stuck with it, you don’t change years of perfect English dialect just like that.
At this time there was very little time left to improve (we thought) but we still tried anyway.
As the captain of this bunch of ‘airmen’ I suddenly found myself responsible for all their mistakes (as if I didn’t make enough myself). Just the little things, like my immaculately dressed rear gunner, who marched carefully up to receive his pay. Signed the pay book, stepped back, stood
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to attention and saluted, turned and marched away. He was almost to the door, before there was a screech from the WOD who had just noticed he was wearing his cap in his shoulder strap instead of on his head.

Vickers Wellington
Engine I590hp Bristol Hercules
Span 86' 2"
length 64' 7"
Height 17 6"

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Max. Takeoff WT 29000lbs
Max. Speed 12000ft
OP Ceiling 19000ft
Range with I500lbs 2200mls
Or "Blue", who could walk past the CO with one hand in his pocket and say "Gooday mate" instead of saluting.
So we were a pretty scruffy bunch over all, not exactly RAF standard I'm afraid.

At the end of this course I had to front up to the flight commander to give my assessment of each of the crew. I thought they were much better than he did. He then suggested I put in for a commission, but I said "No thanks I'd rather be a w/o better pay and no bills. He said "In that case I will have to give you a different report won't I", so he tore that one up (its sometimes hard to win).

Just before we left Litchfield we were lucky enough to have a try in their new flight simulator which they had just installed at a cost of about [symbol] 1,000,000.

This looked like a wheat silo from the outside. Only the pilot and nav did this exercise as a combined trial. We climbed to the top of a great flight of steps, there was a small platform mounted out into space with a couple of seats, a set of flying instruments in front of the pilot and a complete nav set up for the nav who sat sideways and just behind the pilot. This could be used for day or night training but it was only night for us. So all the lights were turned out, then very little showed on the ground, the sky showed only stars and occasionally cloud cover.

The ground was a very big map, you took off and flew like the link trainer but there was no pen on the map, instead the map moved across exactly as you flew over it. The stars moved too, in relation to your speed and direction. To map read from this height at night is always impossible except for the odd bend in river or a scrap of coast line, but the

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nav could nearly always take astro shots, so it was a help. No one told you anything about the trip you were doing before we started. We were just, given a target area and told to plot our track and times over the target etc. So off we went, climbed to height, and set our course for target.

Imagine the surprise as we crossed the enemy coast, the searchlights came on right on target (us) and, slung between the floor and sky were wires with lights at intervals up their length. These flashed in order from the ground upwards just like real Flak, when any of them came near enough to our little cockpit area, it rattled all over the place and almost fell to bits. Not a very good feeling in the dark, especially when you know how high you are above the floor, but you can't really get hurt or shot down.

We also spent a few hours doing dingy drill, in case we ever had to ditch. For this they had a wrecked wimpy just sitting on the ground, so the whole crew took up their usual positions for flight, and in theory we did a ditching. We then had to release all escape hatches, dingy etc., clamber out and into the inflated dingy. For this we were given just over 1 minute, lost a bit of skin off the shins and elbows etc. Escape hatches are not padded. The other half of this was done in the pool. Dingy to be inflated and everyone to get in. Apart from the cold and the wet, this wasn't too bad.

Two crews. Bruce Simpson and ourselves are next posted to Conversion unit at Swinderby 5 group, so it would seem we will go to one of the Aust. Squadrons in this group either 463 or 467. On arrival, there was little time to look around, we were allotted a flight engineer, Johnnie Lancaster from Lancaster, RAF Sgt. Johnnie was just 19 and had been an apprentice to a pro golfer (Cotton I think). Perhaps because of his age, and the short time since leaving school, he rather tended to stay strictly to the book. I couldn't say that for the rest of the crew. So there were times when he was lonely, but he knew his job well enough. There were some `Lanc's' here, but only enough to do the final conversion. The first part

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had to be done on `Manchester's'. These were the original, almost as big as the `Lanc' (looked the same) but only two engines instead of four. Engines were bigger and heavier but not very reliable. We almost got through without a serious problem until we had to do gunnery practice over the Wash. While Alan (bomb aimer) was firing the front guns, a hydraulic pipe burst. This completely covered my windscreen with dark coloured oil. No trouble to fly home as I still had instruments, could also see out the sides OK, but nothing out the front so it would be hard to land.

Engine Two Rol's Vulture. Each motor was made by joining

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two rols Kestrels one inverted, to form an x section
giving 176hp.
Span 90' 1"
Length 69'
Height 18'
Takeoff Weight 50000lbs
Max. Speed 273mph
OP Ceiling 19200ft
Range 1630mls

On the way back, I got the bright idea that if I opened the side window, and by keeping my left arm pressed against the side. I might be able to slide my hand around to the front and wipe a little spot, enough to see through. I then reduced speed, lowered wheels and flaps to get the maximum drag, but the slowest speed you can fly these at is 120mph. I only had part of my arm out when the wind took it backwards. There must be a better way of breaking an arm. So I gave that idea away very quickly, but that didn't solve the landing problem. Had to raise the wheels and flaps and return to base. By now the crew were only half as worried as I was. At least that was a change, but time was running out and the oil was worse than ever.

It was taboo to have anyone in the nose on landings in case of a crash but I decided if I put Alan down there to look through the nose cone, he could guide me onto the runway, as on a bombing run (right left, left steady as required) I would have to hope he was right, and I could judge the height out of my side window. The landing worked OK but it was lucky Alan had done some time as a pilot, because the hardest part is often keeping straight on runway after landing and there is very .little time to check a swing (which would finish in a ground loop) with about 30 tons at 90 mph in a machine that is not really made for road work.

Anyhow we made it safely but had to keep Alan in the front to taxi back. Now I'm in trouble again for not notifying control of this little

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problem before I landed, so I asked just what could they have done to help/ [sic] The answer was simple, "The fire cart and ambulance could have followed us close down the runway. (Oh well).

Again I am called up to the flight commander to see if I have considered a commission, again I refuse, but within no time at all I have to front up to the CO. He didn't propose that I took a Commission this time, he told me I must because there was no way that I, as an NCO could give orders to the officers in my crew. So either I took a commission or lost my crew and start again. I did point out that we got along quite well, but he didn't agree (just not done, old boy, What?) Later I learned none of this had much to do with it. The real reason for having a commission was in case we were POW. We would get much better treatment as officers. I don't know why this didn't apply to w/ops; and gunners though. Soon after this we converted to Lanc's, a bit bigger, a bit heavier, two extra motors, but much more manoeuvrable and a much better rate of climb. A lot of the load is taken off the pilot now, as the engineers job is to check all gauges, temps, boost, revs, fuel etc., he even helps on takeoff by locking throttles once you have top power, raising undercart and flaps, when told (pity there are no dual controls I could have sat and watched). Also there are repeater dials on gyro compass and airspeed, one for the pilot, and one in nav compartment. This allows Nav to call airspeed on take off and landing so that pilots job is keeping it straight, and judging height and distance etc.

It is the engines of every aircraft that always seem the most important item. You can get by with some bits missing from other places, but those fans up the front end have to keep going all the time (you hope) so, even at the beginning you must learn to look after the motors, and when times of pressure do arrive, you try not to exceed their limits. Its not always easy to slow them down when you want to go faster, but when the gauges say that's the limit its a good idea to take notice. The basic principle is the same as any internal combustion engine, but a bit more

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sophisticated with extras like super charger (sometimes 3 stage) fuel injection dual ignition (magnetos). Always variable shutters of some kind to control air flow over (oil coolers) radiators, an [sic] inline engines (water glycol cooled). The theory being that the engine gives its best performance at the correct temperature, therefore the shutters must be used to keep the temperatures constant, head temp, water temp, oil temp, etc. In the cold winter mornings it could takeover half an hour just waiting for the motors to warm up. It may seem a waste of time, but on take off, a small loss of power can leave you with some very anxious moments. The standard drill was simple, warm up motors, run up to test maximum revs. In fine pitch (3000) reduce to 2650, switch off one mag switch, note rev. drop, turn on again, switch off other mag switch, note drop if any, turn on again. If rev. drop is greater than 100 rpm. mag must to checked, could be just a bad plug, but often it was moisture in the mag.

If mags are OK revs. Up to 2850 test pitch control, return to fine pitch, check all pressure gauges etc. if all OK you should be ready to taxi.

Take off for small aircraft was simple. Stop before runway check [inserted] TR [/deleted] [deleted] l [/deleted] imes, mixture, pitch, fuel, flaps, sperries (instruments) gills gyros etc. get OK clear from control, turn onto runway, open throttle push the stick forward to get the tail up, hard rudder to stop the swing caused by slipstream, hold it until flying speed is reached, checking swing as speed builds up, ease back on the stick and climb away. The heavier twins were usually held on brakes until the motors were reved up to get more power, this took less distance to get flying speed. In the loaded Lanc. we used all the runway, brakes locked on until the two inner motors were flat out and locked. As the outer motors were then reved up and the tail started to bump off the ground, the brakes were released to let it roll forward, as speed was gained, some swing could be conected by pushing one outer throttle more than the other, but as speed increased the rudders became effective. There is a lot of strong wind from four motors going flat out, but it does tend to go in a spiral rather than straight and therefore pushes

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the tail to one side. Trims must be set before take off to help counter this swing (part of standard pre takeoff check). Continual checks on all instruments must be taken while in flight, especially oil pressure and temperatures. Temperatures can be controlled by changing radiator openings but loss of oil pressure would mean the engine would seize and often go on fire. So it was better to close down the motor than take the chance, but if it were only the gauge at fault you would have to be a `dill' to close the motor down and loose all that power, as well as overloading the remainder, loosing fuel economy and making the kite much harder to fly.

So a faulty gauge was always a worry. Even after you had decided it was definitely the gauge at fault, you could never be really certain until you had landed and had it checked, and by that time, it didn't matter anyway but the ground always felt a bit more solid somehow once you had made it back to base.

After some practice in all aspects of bombing, fighter attacks, searchlight, a/c a/c, High level bombing etc., we were posted to a squadron. Not an Aust. Squadron as expected but 106 at Syerston. This was a permanent pre war base and now has 2 squadron 106 61 both RAF both operating from here. This causes a bit of crowding when everyone returns at the same time. We get a few days to settle in before I go on my first `op' just as a passenger with an experienced crew, but it does give some idea of conditions to be encountered in the future. The crews pilot was Flt A Poore 617 sqd. Unfortunately the weather is getting much worse by now, also the nights are getting longer, this means longer trips and much more time spent over enemy territory.

I think this combination plus bigger concentrations of aircraft on both sides took a lot of fun out of flying for the next few months.

As a crew we decided we had to change some of the standard RAF patter between the gunners and pilot, as it was too vague and too slow. Our new idea worked alright in practice but it was a bit hard on

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w/op and navigator who got very little (if any) warning and therefore no time to prepare for the violent evasive action. Often the Navigator would loose all his equipment including charts which were thrown all over the place.

We missed one trip from Syerston just because we couldn't find the kite in the fog. Another night we had to be guided to the end of the runway by following a truck. Take off was on compass but not too bad. Our worst trip here, was to return in a very heavy storm. Our radio was u/s so we missed the diversion order to another drome. Couldn't contact control for permission to land, finally came very low over tower and used the aldis lamp. When we finally landed and turned off the runway all the four motors cut out (no petrol) I reckon we spent too much time trying to do the right thing. Should have landed first and asked afterward, but it takes time to learn. Someone said "If you live you learn if you learn you live" (chicken & egg situation). About this time, it was decided someone else needed this drone, so we all had to do the big shift, 61 squadron going to Skellingthorp [sic] and 106 to Metheringham. Apart from the problems in shifting to a partly finished drome in the middle of winter (mud everywhere, no showers, huts were still pretty basic and the training had to continue as often as possible. Must have been rather rough on the ground crews. One of the reasons for so much continuous training was the addition of new electronic equipment. We now had 25 different sets fitted into our kite, including H2S monica mandril, fishpond G. etc. H2S (radar) and G were navigation aids, some of the others were supposed to detect fighters, confuse fighters, you name it we had it. Unfortunately the fighters often used these beams we were transmitting to detect us, even radar could only be used for short intervals without having an angry JU88 on your tail (makes life interesting don't it).

By this time we have a reasonably efficient crew, who work together very well. It seems to fall on the pilot (as captain) to help sort out each crew members personal problems because somehow they seem to

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show when flying. He must therefore be able to judge how much work load can be applied without help from someone else. I don't know who checks the pilot or how they can help, but maybe they did at times. These air crew generally are a pretty quiet lot. The only time they play up is on leave. The bar in the mess is open most of the time, but usually empty. Nothing like those airmen of 1918 most of them seem to be just too tired I would think. By reports from other dromes, our losses are very low, but always there are new crews coming in as replacements, new aircraft tom. Still "Cockies" airforce (Cochrane being the AOC 5 group) were often accused of getting the best aircraft and maintenance facilities but they didn't [inserted] g [/inserted] [deleted] b [/deleted] et the best of targets. They sometimes operated as a special force on specially selected targets (not always easy) 617 squadron had been formed for this purpose by taking a couple of senior crews from each squadron in the group and combining them to form a new squadron. Gibson was from 106. Their aircraft were all specials, depending on the job they were used for.

Interesting to watch the reactions of the old crews to the new replacements. They could tell you how many trips they would manage before they went missing. Trouble was, even the old crews, who were doing the judging didn't often get past 20 before their luck ran out. The terrible weather must have been a big factor in so many ways in our losses it was always bad or worse, We once had to spend the afternoon digging snow off the runway just so we could take off. If you think digging snow off a 3000yd runway is easy, (try it). On one of our earliest trips Kassel we went into cloud at about 200ft from take off, came out in a small hole over target, back in again to return, but had to land away from home because cloud had come down to ground level. (Good test for sprog crews).

Takeoff's and landings were always dicey. Take off because it was always a heavily loaded kite, and therefore had trouble getting flying speed. We had very little time to take off. All aircraft having to taxi

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along tarmac facing down wind, which meant motors overheating very quickly. If there was ever a slight hold up we had to try to turn partly into wind to get some air through the radiators, but there was no room for error, one wheel in the mud at the edge of the tarmac would stop half the squadron getting off (other half came from other side).

Our take off rate was about 1 every 3/4 minute and land one every minute. In take off you were very close behind the next aircraft so there was much buffeting from his slipstream.

Given the heavy load and the low flying speed it was often hard to hold it in the air. Each alternate aircraft turned slightly port or starboard, which meant by the time you get to 200ft you were OK.

Landing problems were even worse. Just too many aircraft trying to land at the same time and all nearly out of petrol.

Often aircraft from other squadrons diverted because their home drome was closed or we would go to their drome for the same reason. (very thick fogs were common).

One of the jobs allotted to the bomb aimers on each op was to throw out "window". Window was the code name for the aluminium foil strips. These were cut to the exact length to match the German radar frequency. Each one gave the same reflection as an aircraft on the radar screen, so each time another hand full was thrown out it showed up as another 30 or so aircraft.

Being very light in weight, it slowly drifted downwards. With hundreds of aircraft doing this it formed one big box of reflections and it was almost impossible to pick one as a single aircraft. Excepting of course for those who got outside or too high above the box, or the leaders, who were always the little blip on their own with the fan shape of aircraft trailing out behind. There are safer places than being leaders, especially when you are in front of P.F.F. (Path Finding Force).

One other problem for all aircrew was loss of night vision when you were hit by searchlights before you had time to turn away, it meant

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you could not be sure of seeing another aircraft even if he were close for the next five minutes or so.

There is no way you can use a light to see any of the instrument, as this would show outside, so to overcome this, the instruments were all done with luminous paint, barely visible, but set high up behind the pilot on both sides, were two ultra violet lights directed onto the instrument panel (invisible) but the power could be increased to make the instruments show up much brighter if required, even then these had to be kept as low as possible because it could spoil your vision too.

On one return we were diverted to a drome up north and stacked to 13000ft. They said later there were only 3 dromes open in the whole of England. Some control points even told their crews to head their kites out to sea and bale out, but I didn't know of any that did that, but trying to imagine 6 to 8 hundred aircraft trying to land on three dromes in the dark with very little fuel, so very little time left for anyone. It also meant those 3 dromes didn't have the best of weather either. This could explain why so many trips were cancelled at the last minute I guess. Well that's for main force anyway, because there were always shot up kites who had priority (lost more on return than by enemy action some nights but these were never counted in the losses) only the ones the enemy could positively prove, that is the ones that crashed inside their territory. There were times too, when the enemy fighters came in with the bombers returning and shot up the dromes and unsuspecting kites. Each of our kites was fitted with I.F.F (Identification Friend or Foe) but obviously you could not shoot down every kite that didn't have it working, there were lots of reasons why it might not be, shot up or burnt out etc., but the result was the same. So out went all the lights, this included our own navigation lights, which we had just switched on. Had to wake everyone up to watch for other aircraft because they were not all flying in the same direction now, and the chances of collision were very high.

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"George" (auto pilot) was fitted to all aircraft but I don't think it was used very often even on the longest trips. I sometimes tried to use ours on the early part, climbing to height over England, but it always did the same trick, a steady turn to starboard, so it was pretty well useless. Never the less it was always set in "spin" ready to be put in an emergency. One of our crews with a full bomb load and hotly pursued by fighters had completely lost control in a dive, even the trims had no effect, in desperation the pilot engaged "George" and out they came. Even the fighters had given up by then. Its quite a sensation to build up a speed like that in the dark. You do think about the kites flying lower than you. Also wonder if the wings will stay on when you are trying to pull out of the dive. The pressures on your body are so high its impossible to lift an arm. Your head is on your chest and your eyes seem to be halfway down your face, but you recover instantly the pressure comes off.

Ice is one of the big worries in this weather. The moisture builds up on the cold aircraft as condensation all over then freezes to ice as you slowly gain height because of the fall in temperature with altitude, therefore the all up weight increases and slows the rate of climb even more. Leading edges of wings are covered with a deicing strip and thick grease. This causes ice to crack and flake off which helps, makes some terrible noises when the slipstream throws it against the fuselage though.

Carburettors have icing problems also even though they have heaters. Also the pilothead (airspeed and static pressure for instruments). It is fitted with electric heater, but doesn't always manage to cope with these temperatures.

Another effect was a build up of static electricity in the fuselage. This caused pale blue flames like metho burning. They danced along the wing edges etc. but the worst was the flickering on the windscreen, each section of perspex had its little row of flame top and bottom which continually joined in the centre then flicked apart again. Disturbing for two reasons, one because you could not see out (we were used to that

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anyway) by wondering what would happen, if we ran into the other side of the charge (+ or ).

I was later told, this is a very old phenomenon known to the earliest sailors. They called it St. Elmo's lights (not harmful well, not at ship speed).

To be able to read the clouds, was often important too, as it could indicate changes of wind etc. which would help the navigator but there was no way we could change course drastically to avoid the rough ones, so we had to press on, bumps and all.

Often on return from Berlin we would climb a little higher (to about 25 or 26000ft) here you would be clear of cloud (nearly always) :because it was too cold to hold moisture but there would be continuous `con' trails as each kite left its own track behind it, no need to navigate, just follow the road and keep a very careful watch for fighters.

This almost proved our undoing on one occasion as I had forgotten about the predicted flak. Thinking the box of aircraft below should cover us, but their radar was better than that. We were too high at
27000ft. Caused a bit of a panic when a couple of big shells exploded right under our starboard wing.

The shrapnel sounded like hands full of gravel hitting a tin fence. Somehow we had been rolled over by the blast. No one was injured but my straps had been too loose and we were obviously in some trouble because I was jammed hard up against the instrument panel with my head trying to push the roof out. I called up each bod in turn to check how they were, gunners didn't appear to be too bad (guess they were used to it) but everyone else complained they were lying very heavily on the roof by now, with the force built up so high, the only thing I could do was to jam the stick forward against the panel and hold it there. Seemed to be an hour before we came out, then the rubbish returned to the floor and we were almost on course again just a couple of thousand ft. lower. Bomb aimer was unlucky, seems he got to the floor first in his compartment,

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followed by the pressed steel tins (which had held the window foil) one of these landed on his head and cut through his helmet. His explanation was quite colourful, but there were far more complaints from the navigator as all his charts and equipment had been sucked out a hole in the side. We were almost to the Dutch coast anyway so we knew our way home and the G was working for the last bit. I did put the nose down to help us along.

Our usual kite in the earlier part was O orange which we shared with another crew when we have a night off they fly in it.

I guess we were late getting back from leave one night, just in time to see the kites returning (early takeoff) as we stood and watched them join the circuit one above the other circling while waiting to descend and land, we were more than surprised to see one idiot going the opposite wa [deleted] s [/deleted] y around, that is against the traffic on a one way street. So we waited to we him land. It was a good landing so we didn't know why. We didn't know who either until next morning. Our beautiful O was shot to pieces, great holes in the fuselage, hardly any tail section left, but it had flown home, even if it could only turn one way. Replacement kites came in almost daily, but not this time. We had therefore to fly N as a second crew to a senior crew, but it wasn't long before they went missing and took the kite with them.

We then became the senior crew on a new N, (very doubtful privilege) but did get stuck with one ground crew, which was good because they tried very hard to keep that kite perfect. The second it had stopped rolling on return, they were there to see how much damage I had done to their master piece. There never backward in telling a rival crew, theirs was the best aircraft on the station and theirs was the best aircrew flying it. I suppose it helped their morale's because it must have been a terrible job in the freezing cold (anyway they didn't have to believe it did they).

There were times when an aircraft had problems soon after take off. It was very obvious you could not land again with a full load of

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petrol plus bombs. OA weight being too great. You then carried on out over the wash or north sea to a safe spot and dropped the 4000lb. `cookie' before returning to land. We were always told where any ships might be just in case, but one night someone must have been in trouble very early and the cloud cover was pretty thick so the bomb went down a bit early, no one had said the navy was underneath but they soon let us know, don't know if they hit anyone but they fired off a lot of a/c a/c and we weren't very high at that time.

Overall the Berlin trips were as rough as any 7 to 8 hours duration, but even though the track and direction would be changed, the defences were always very heavy. You would see every kind of German aircraft; in the air using all kinds of rockets and things (unheard of). They often flew aircraft above and parallel to the bomber stream, dropping flares down each side. This would light up a long corridor with bright reflection off the cloud (if any). There were faults in our system here, because you could watch our kites being, shot down but there was no way you could even warn them. Our own evasive idea seemed to work very well. We rolled a lot to let the gunners see below as well as other points. A lot of the attacks came from below as this was a blind spot unless you did roll. Its hard work with a heavy kite at this height, but it always gave us time to break first. Its a nice feeling to see the trace or rockets going the wrong way and no damage to the old kite. We always lost the fighter too, which was a comfort.

Bombing runs were always dicey, as you had to hold straight and level for so long.

First on the run in onto aiming point then it took about 2 minutes for bombs to fall from this height. The camera was timed to take its pictures where the [deleted] flak [/deleted] flash went off. This gave a row of overlap photos of where you had actually aimed at, also showed every little wobble in your flying. Almost held too long on one occasion, rear gunner warned me of dornier sitting out of range directly astern. Gave an unheard of
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order "weave mate". I did [inserted] , [/inserted] just as a rocket whizzed past on the starboard side leaving a great trail of flame. We had sometimes seen kited [sic] shot down by this method, but it was usually from much closer and almost directly below. There was very little chance of escape as there was usually just one big explosion when the bomb went off.

We always reported these sightings but were always told, such things couldn't happen because no one had equipment like that. Much later they called it slanting music which sounds a bit like the proper name in German.

We did loose [sic] a lot of kites at turning point especially the first ones on the way out. A lot of kites, no lights of course, converging onto one theoretical point at the same time and height from different directions, often in very thick cloud. As each two collided, there would be a visual explosion, followed by a bump, if close, then many different coloured lights as everything that was left fell burning to the ground. Each different metal used in the plane burns with a different colour.

No wonder there were so many bods missing unaccounted for.

Another strange sight at this height on return from Berlin, was a sheet of thin vertical cloud at right angles to out [sic] track. As each aircraft went through it left a clear hole. The result when we arrived looked similar to a sheet of pegboard bigger and softer of course.

Its at this time, for the frst time that you realise, there are so many often very important decisions to be made instantly as well as some you have little time to think about, but it is so obvious they are all your decisions and you must be sure they work out. Its no use afterwards, if there is an afterwards, to say well it was your idea and it didn't work, because you, as the captain went along with that, but you had to remember too that each one of the crew was a specialist at his task, so when there was time you accepted his judgement before the final decision. The instant ones were instant and mostly the well proven theory. Its better to do something than to do nothing because even if you were wrong there

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may be a chance to change but if you have done nothing the opposition has done it all, there are no prizes for second and you don't exist anymore.

The old saying from WWI still applied the quick and the dead.

We had done very few trips when we found ourselves up front with the leaders. I mentioned this to Rod (Nav). He said "Yes I know, I complained to the nav officer and said we needed more experience before we got a job like that", but he was taken over to the results board, (showed times, tracks, aiming points etc.) and our results were up near the top, besides a few more of the old crews had failed to return and someone had to take their place (great, its hard to stay young and innocent) one other drastic effort of a weather change was notable, as we crossed the north sea on return, the rear gunner (looking towards the better light in the east) complained about the size of the waves, as my altimeter was reading 1000ft I told him he was mad, nobody could see waves from that height in the dark. Next the bomb aimer enquired about a fixed light approaching from high up front. Turned out to be a lighthouse on the cliff above. We had to climb rather smartly to get over it. Didn't know why a lighthouse should be operating during war time, but it was lucky that it was, we could have made quite an impression on return. It was normal practice to get a new altimeter setting (barometric pressure) on return just in case there had been a change in pressure (front) I usually left it a bit later than this, didn't usually get that low, that early either, but I was trying to beat one of the other crews back to base so I had pushed the nose down to gain some extra speed. I still came second in that race.

On one relatively good day without ops, we have a practice run for high level bombing. Take off climb to 18000ft or so, do a run across the bombing range, drop a few little practice bombs and return to base and check the results which are phoned through and plotted on target map.

Unfortunately we are 3/4 down the runway on take off, but no airspeed call from the Nav. This is not too unusual, as the IAS does not start to show a reading until about 60mph. He suddenly realises it is not

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working a quick glance at mine just proved he was right, but by this time there is no room left to stop before the fence anyway, so off we went. Of course you can't do a bombing run without an indicated air speed. It has to be set on the bomb sight, so we must return to have it fixed. After calling up for permission to land, we had to evade their enquiry as to the reason for return because the correct procedure for a landing like this is rather long and complicated, involves another aircraft flying beside you but slightly in front, the idea being if his speed is right, you should have some idea of you [sic] speed.

I decided we were better on our own despite a few groans, and reminders from the crew. Later someone said we were better off without an airspeed indicator, as that was the only decent landing we had done up till now. Later the ground crew Flt. Sgt. Went [sic] to a great deal of trouble to line up his crew to thank us. It seems the penalty for this fault in maintenance was a bit rough on all who had signed to say it was OK. The fault must have been pretty obvious because we still managed to do our practice trip and I don't think anyone else even heard about it. One other fault that developed before take off was a complete loss of brake pressure, right at the end of the runway. As this [sic] . In [sic] my opinion was going to be an easy trip (French special target with 617) I decided to take off and worry over brake pressure on return. Should have known better, but I called up base just after crossing south coast on return to tell them of the problem. I did know there were crash dromes with extra long runways so I thought we would get diverted, but we still had to return to base, where they put the engineering officer on the air. He couldn't help us so we were sent back to Wittering. Here they had a 61/2 mile long runway and I think we used most of it, trouble is without brakes to check the swing, you must use inside motor (inside the swing) but this doesn't slow you down. There were watch towers at intervals along this runway, all lit up and after we had passed the third still going very fast I was beginning to get a little worried. I had no idea, at that time, how long this runway was, but having

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lost our main speed the last bit slowed down fairly quickly. Had to leave the kite to be towed back to maintenance by a tractor, returned to base the next day. Never did find out the cause of the trouble, probably a burst pipe. I did think to myself "next time we stay home" its [sic] just as bad as being shot at.

Another thing I tried, to overcome this loss of control on take off with heavy load of bombs I picked a night with take off just before dark (bad judgement) as I was too easily recognised I held it down on the runway to about 140 then lifted the wheels without climbing away this built up speed very quickly. Also put the bods riding their bikes along the road at the end of the runway into the ditch. Vibrated a few things off the mantle piece in farms and caused many complaints all around. CO (Group captain) had a well selected set of words to say next day. Completely ignored my protest that the higher the speed the safer the flight. His final words were something like this, "Look Andy I know you can do that with your eyes shut and your hands behind your back, but think what will happen when some of the new crews try the same thing, you are supposed to set a good example (well I did try).

Next time I had to front up for a similar variation of the rules his final words were "you don't have to be the best pilot in the airforce but you could to be the oldest." It was a good thought, but there was no chance of me being either of those.

At one point our flight commander went missing, his replacement was a bit keen, and said a few nasty things about the appearance and discipline of our crew result I'm up before the CO again.

This time he was on my side, reminded the new bod that we were a very experienced crew and going by the results shown on the board, also very competent, but as he was only the CO G/cp. and not the OC flying on our next trip we had to leave our Nav. Behind [sic] and take the squadron Nav. Officer who volunteered to check us out. His confidence was quite a

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compliment as this made his 143rd trip. He had no complaints on return so it just faded out.

I managed to get into a couple more disagreements with the OC flying w/cm mostly over our revised method of evasion and the instructions that went with it.

He thought it was quite wrong, we should stick to the standard RAF procedure which, he said, was proven, l didn't say for 1914, but a voice from down the back end said "Why don't thee tell the silly mate" and that didn't raise our share value either, even worse, no one could identify the voice (strange language English as she is spoken).

Shortly after this we won the fight against a couple of jerry night fighters without any damage to ourselves, which was rather lucky as our guns didn't work for a while.

One went down in flames and the other climbed slightly above us before it exploded but we were only allowed one as no one else had recorded the other one going down.

I was then called in to tell the OC how we did it, my reply was "Exactly as you said Sir". Didn't go down at all well, in fact he kicked me out of his office instantly.

Soon after this he went missing and I had second thoughts as I said to Rod "he was on our side." Rods [sic] reply surprised me, he said "No mate, anyone who tried to teach his crews that rubbish had to be one of Adolphs [sic] best men". (Great, but there were 6 others in that crew who had no choice). Then again war is like that. The one thing that is for certain by now is that you make no friends, it isn't good for the morale, they just don't last long enough and that sometimes makes you think maybe its my turn next.

We had always managed to cope with fighters. Its obvious you never see the fighter first, otherwise he would not be attacking you, but if you can see him soon enough to be able to turn away as he is closing in and just before he opens fire then the nose of his aircraft hides you and as

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he has to fire in front of you, on your line of flight to hit you his trace always went high and behind. He then has to pass and attack from the other side but mostly he would loose sic] you in the dark.

We also managed to escape the searchlights very quickly, before they had time to cone up. This meant we kept away from usual a/c a/c or fighters that were near enough to catch you but when it came to beating all the a/c a/c it was only luck.

The intelligence figures were something like 22000 heavy guns many of them mobile units on the track in, often about the same on the way out again. It didn't pay to fly over towns. They soon told you where they were.

Most heavy guns worked in conjunction with the searchlights. The system was very effective. If you became isolated enough to be picked out by radar, the first you knew, was a flick of pale blue, then a steady beam fixed on you. This was the master beam light, directly controlled by radar. It doesn't operate until you are located. Instantly this light comes on, all other standard lights in the area close in on it, giving a very wide cone of lights from all sides, if you had not escaped by then, you were in for a very bad time, because as you flew out of range of those ; behind, another batch in front picked you up progressively. Every gun within range tried it's luck, so the air got a bit thick, even the fighters would sometimes have a go if the guns didn't seem to be winning. It's not good to watch this show and not be able to help, but you can't afford to watch either. The only method of searchlight evasion we got to work was an instant height loss of a minimum of 2000ft almost straight down. Someone calculated that this would get you out of the narrow radar beam quickly enough so that they didn't know which way to follow. Maybe it did, maybe it was only luck, but if you could beat the lights forming a cone with you in the middle, it seems to be hard for them to pick you up again. A lot of flak was fired directly upwards into the general formation area. Many of these shells came very close and no doubt hit a lot of kites,

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but even if you got bumped about and sometimes rattled with shrapnel, you never worried unless this was followed closely by a repeat, then it was time to make a hurried exit to somewhere else.

To see a main force target on a clearish night must have been rather frightening for a new crew for the first time, large, coloured target indicators (these were different colours, like the colour of the day, they changed fairly often to try to stop the enemy imitating them with similar flares over empty fields) e.g. 2 red 1 green, I [sic] similar combination. Usually these were parachute flares, backed up at intervals with new ones. Searchlights everywhere, when they could get through the cloud, when they couldn't, they shine on the clouds turning them into a bright white base, silhouetting all aircraft for everyone above to see.

The better German fighters used this to great advantage, their method was simple. They stayed high above the bomber stream until they picked out one kite flying reasonably straight and level, then closed in the distance until they were almost level, but still high above. The next step was to dive almost vertically down passing just behind the bomber, they by lifting the nose almost vertically upwards they lost speed quickly, but they were also directly, and pointing at the bombers bomb bay, usually unseen by that crew. There is no vision downwards, no one to look either.

A long burst of cannon fire set the bombs off or at the worst, for them, hit the motors, tanks, pilot or crew. The need for them at this time was a very quick retreat to miss the bits remaining so they would flip over onto their back at the top of the loop and dive away below. To do this in the dark is not an easy thing, the only aircraft that I saw that could do it, was the JU88. The ME210 was supposed to be their best aircraft for night fighting, but I never say [sic] one do this.

It was not true to say the rear gunner was often the target of the fighters, he was a very small target compared to the centre section but he was often the first in line from attacks from the rear. His job also needed

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a lot of cool nerve too, because he had to watch all the tracer coming straight at him while trying to shoot back, some of it goes very very close.

The main force on major targets was usually (not always) divided into 3 phases one behind the other, in theory anyway, to spread some of the congestion over the target area, but this still left about 200 aircraft crossing the same point at the same time, at about the same height for each phase. The point of fire for all a/c a/c guns was obvious, so there was one big black ball, (smoke) from the exploding shells, which was filled with red to orange flashes from the new ones going off. I'm sure everyone held their breath for the bombing run, as you had to stay straight and level for so long, until you were right through to the other side.

To look at this from the approach, you would say it was impossible to get through without being blown apart. You did get bumped by the flak and often much too close to other aircraft. Once on a Leipzig raid, a fighter going in the opposite direction over our head, was so close, I could seethe [sic] rivets in his wings. Just a few inches lower and our luck would have run out with a big thud. The closing speed would have been somewhere about 700 mph, at that speed, in the dark, there is no way you can see him quickly enough to do any evasion. The type of marker used on these targets (above cloud) is always dropped before the target, and, therefore must be bombed on a fixed, pre arranged heading and speed so that the bombs carry on past the markers (aiming point) to the target below, on clear nights the markers are on the ground.

This bombing run must have been the cause of many losses too, especially for beginners. As I remember out first trip as a crew, the bomb aimer called bomb doors open as we approached the target, we held the straight and level for what seemed to be a quarter of an hour, despite the nav's protests that we were nowhere near the target. In the end we closed the doors and flew on until we came to the target. That was the first time our bamb aimer had seen a target and his judgement of distance was not very good.

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Under these conditions you are a sitting duck if a fighter turns up, but you couldn't blame him, as a target is visible for a long way from that height, some times up to 300mls from that height, especially to the last phase of the attack (beginners).

Here I should add, an experienced crew have the bomb doors open for the minimum time. The bomb aimer steers you onto the target before the doors open and he knows exactly when to call to close them again.

The nervous tension is still pretty high for those few minutes, probably just because you know the concentration of flak and aircraft in such a small area.

On our first trip I remember being soaked with perspiration, even my gloves were wet through, but you improve on that with practice. We wore three set of gloves, first silk, to stop them sticking, then wool to absorb the moisture, then long leather gloves over the outside to stop contact with any metal we had to touch. To touch any bare metal at these temperatures means your skin just sticks to the metal if you try to pull away you leave your skin stuck there.

A lot of kites were hit by falling bombs from higher flying aircraft, the usual bomb load for this type of main force target, being one 4000lb cookie and the rest of the load made up of hundreds of small incendiaries (4lb). These were square in section and packed tightly into crates, held in place by a bar across the bottom. When dropped, the bar felt away and the incendiaries just fell out to spread in all directions.

The method of dropping was usually progressive, one crate after another, called stick bombing, so this spread the bombs over a longer area. Idea was that the 'Cookie' blew things apart and then the incendiaries lit it alt up, with all these bombs dropping in such a limited time and area, it's no wonder the rescue services had problems. The numbers of people killed was often in the thousands in one raid, they didn't count the injured. It was said that any airman unlucky enough to come down near the target

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area was treated as a war criminal and hanged on the spot by the civilians, so you hoped the army found you first.

We did quite a few courses in unarmed combat in training, partly to keep fit and partly to help if there was a chance of escape. We were also given a 3 cal revolver, as was our right, but told it was a good idea to leave it home. If you had a gun in your possession at the time of capture, you could be shot on the spot (Geneva Convention).

In view of the reported mood of the German people that seemed to be a very good idea.

It seemed to me there would be very little chance of escape from Germany, unless you could speak German anyway. Perhaps in France or Belgium where you might get local help it may have been different.

Most of our clothing was made to rip to pieces so that we could pass as civilians, even the fur lined tops could tear off the flying boots, some of the buttons on our battle suit were really compasses, but you had to have two, one to act as pivot for the other.

We carried small maps and a small compact high energy food pack. Mostly dehydrated, which needed water to increase it's volume and make it edible, also a bundle of money relative to the country flown over, but we always had to give it back on return (maybe it was real). Standard
drink of orange juice and a small bar of chocolate.

Standard equipment for each aircraft to be checked before takeoff included, portable oxygen bottles, fire fighting equipment, first aid kits, including plenty of little tubes (toothpaste type), but smaller, when the cap was removed, there was a built in needle for injections, each tube held a measured shot of morphine for anyone who had been shot up or injured, with strict instructions as to the number of shots that could be given within the time limits. A major problem on these trips would have been fatigue. After an hour or so on the return trip, you would tend to relax, not because you wanted to, just because you were going home and it was

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so much easier to fly a kite without the bomb load and over half the fuel load used up.

I always called every member of the crew in turn about every 10 minutes, just to check in case of oxygen loss or freezing. We were issued with "wakey wakey" pills to be taken if you got too tired. I took one on return from Berlin one night, but it had the opposite effect I kept dozing off and people were calling me (quite a change). The effect didn't last long, and needless to say it was never repeated. I should have tried one out first when we were not flying, but I took their word for it when they said it would work, not my usual practice, but it may have worked under different circumstances. Made you wonder about the pep pills in the escape kit though.

There was no question about being tired. Everyone would have been the same, the daily routine didn't allow for much time off: One problem was the broken times of operations. As there is so much dark time at this time of the year, take off time was sometimes 4pm and sometimes 00.30am but regardless, aircraft still had to be tested daily, weather permitting, there was also the training required for new equipment which took all our spare time, and we were often briefed for ops day after day, but often it would be cancelled sometimes as late as when we were getting into the aircraft and all ready to go.

At one period, we were briefed to go to the same target 10 nights in a row, and in view of the threat to security everyone was more than pleased to see a change of target.

A short period of worry one night on a Berlin raid was caused by a simple fault, the Packard Merlin's we had were fitted with solenoid cut outs on the carburettors, this just meant, to start the engines you had to turn on the switches, this energised the solenoids, which turned on the fuel.

Unfortunately we must have run into another load of static on the way, this somehow turned off the solenoids with the switches still on. No

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one was very happy, when the old kite went into a noiseless steep glide, heading for the deck with a full bomb load, but fortunately the noise started up again just before we had decided to bail out (guess we were always lucky).

This has just been another Berlin raid, we have had our usual share of troubles, but this may have shown one weakness in our system of communications. Basically, it was, complete silence from everyone unless they needed something. The idea being the time for gunners to call, must not only be as short as possible but also be as clear as possible. This can't happen if someone else is talking, so no talking.

The one exception was the pilot who had to call each member of the crew from time to time. This was kept to a minimum like Vic OK?, Titch OK?, you could not call the w/op because he was off the intercom, operating anti fighter electronics or the wireless, but the Nav could check him. Pilot could see the engineer, so the only other one was the bomb aimer, it was just a quick check, but always had been effective. This night was different, on the last check, the rear gunner had complained of the cold, (not surprising, as the temp. gets down to 60°C below at this height) his electric suite wasn't working but he said he was OK. This time there was no answer when I called. This could mean a loss of intercom' contact or worse, so I called the Nav to put the w/op (Blue) onto the intercom.

I must explain the situation to him, because being off the intercom, he didn't know anything was out of normal routine.

Something like, “Blue can you take a couple of portable oxygen bottles and check on Vic". There was a lengthy period of silence to follow, but also the tension builds up because we now have a blind spot. I can't fly far from straight and level to help the mid upper gunner to see, as I would like to. I must just fly straight to help the w/op as much as possible.

When he arrived at the rear turret, it was sideways on, so he bashed on it, but got no reply, so he had to rotate it by hand to get the

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doors to line up with the back of the aircraft. When he got the doors open our gunner was almost unconscious, so he then pulled his intercom plug out and put his own in. We decided the first thing to do was to put him onto a portable oxygen bottle and take him out of the turret, then replace him with the mid upper gunner, but he was very firmly frozen to the floor and he just couldn't shift him. However he soon started to regain consciousness with the oxy supply flat out. Next the w/op looked at the rubber tube on his helmet. There had been a slight downward bend in the rubber tube and because of the extreme cold all the moisture from his breath had condensed and formed ice in the tube untt had completely sealed off the supply, and no one lasts very long at this height without oxygen. Having achieved all this "Blue" was then able to quickly check his flying suite circuit.

The heating elements are built into the suite, but all the press stud type buttons are the contacts from the power supply.

Somehow he had undone a couple, which cut off the power supply. Normally he would have checked these himself, but no one is very efficient when their oxygen supply is gradually cut off.

Once the heat in his boots came on again, and he had his oxygen supply back, he decided he was OK to stay there.

After that I called a little more often.

We all thought "Blue" had done a terrific job, back at base they said it was just routine, just the same effort required as putting out the fires in their crazy electronic junk, which was pretty often anyway.

To me it was quite an achievement to find your way down the length of a bouncing aircraft, over all the built in obstacles, in extreme cold, on emergency oxygen, and all in complete darkness, then find your way back again. He must have looked something like a modern day frog man without the flippers, but he would have had to carry the bottles as they didn't come in packs. Just routine when you know your job (they say). You Wonder [sic] how many crews were lost this way too because, had

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we been attacked at that time, we would have had no warning, and, assuming we were not shot down in the first attack, we would have had no chance to revive our gunner. Maybe the mid upper would have managed OK after the initial attack, but he is completely blind to anything below, and we would have had only two guns instead of six.

Care had to be taken to check every order or direction given. As everything in the aircraft is in complete darkness except for the small sealed compartment of the w/op and nav. With all the outside noises, it was very easy to have the course given by the nav. at turning points misunderstood.

It had to be a spoken heading, no use writing it down because you can't read in the dark. The nav. then had to check the new course on his repeater compass. On one trip I misread the given course and flew off on an eastward course at a tangent, out of the protective block of "mirrorcover", but by this time we had a fair idea of where we were by the permanent concentration of flak, so we soon corrected and set a new course direct for the next turning point, which put us back into the stream

Luckily, (we thought) although we were a single, isolated little spot (on radar) all ready for the radar to find, and all that would follow, we didn't even get challenged by a light, a gun or a fighter.

On some of the Berlin targets we saw strange little football shaped objects flying at our height, always with a vertical pale blue bean going straight down from their centre point. We reported these at debriefing, but they didn't exist, we were told, and although they often changed direction, I never saw one do any damage to anyone. Still they were treated with respect because we though they had to belong to the enemy, we never got close enough to fire at them so I don't know what the result would have been. (30 years later, they were still unclaimed by either side), some called them phoo fighters, and claimed they came from outer space.

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A great deal of effort was spent by the enemy placing false markers in the wrong place, building dummy towns in their attempts to divert the bombing, and it did work to a fair degree, especially with the inexperienced crews, but a careful look would show slight differences in the colours used and a radar scan would prove it wrong, but then not many aircraft had radar at this time.

Through all this our old kite staggered on, often tested to the maximum and sometimes seriously over strained, but I though, as long as it was prevented from skidding, that is, provided always there was no structural damage done to the spars or controls.

On one of our shortest raids (Essen) which was fairly heavily defended, being a very important industrial centre in happy valley. We were unlucky enough to have about a foot shot off one blade of the port inner prop. This changed the balance so much that the whole aircraft jumped up and down at a great rate. The nav. had trouble keeping his junk on the table. So we decided to feather a motor and go hone on three, but we didn't know which one it was, or what the cause of the vibration was at this time either.

The only thing was to try one at a time, started at the port outer, it was ok, next the port inner and there was no doubt that was the one causing the problem, but (so sorry old chap) no port inner meant no generator and therefore the power for the G set and a heap of other goodies we needed, so I turned it on again, and to over come some of the vibration, increased the revs on that motor. The effect of this was to put the motors out of syncro, also increased the vibrations, but the bumps were smaller and much faster. Everyone managed to cope much better. I though[inserted] t [/inserted] the closer we could get to base before that motor packed up, the easier it would be.

We had to keep a very careful watch on all the gauges. Especially the heating side, but it lasted all the way. It should have been turned off and feathered before landing (anti fire etc.). I did think about it and

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decided it was still giving plenty of power, therefore I decided to use it as normal.

In the next days maintenance, the whole front shaft and gears had to be changed, not important compared to the job it had done. It's no wonder so many praised the Merlin.

As our average fuel consumption was always 1.1 mpg and the loss of power from one motor would have forced us to use more revs on the remaining motors this could have caused a possible shortage before we got to base. We may have had to land away from home, and we only did that when we really had to.

Of course there was a good chance too, that by driving this motor at these revs, and so far out of balance, it should have pulled itself to pieces (The good luck was still on our side).

Main force bomber command operated at this time as a unit. The total number of aircraft for each raid varied according to the number each separate squadron could manage to get back to airworthy state for the night. The other factor being that often the main force would be split into two or more raids to try to divide the enemy defences.

The usual briefing held by each squadron, would give you, the target and the tracks to follow and the times to bomb, also all the forecast winds, cloud conditions, possible ice etc., as well as the known defence strong points. Unfortunately they didn't know them all, just because so many guns were mobile, and if they could get early warning from their radar they sometimes managed to get within range.

The target would be marked by PFF, but many aircraft still had trouble getting there on time. One big problem was always the winds given by met. when there was 10/10 cloud there could never be any reference points visible to compute drift from, and when you had to fly in cloud, sometimes 3hrs or so without seeing anything, this would call for very accurate flying so that the nav. could do all his courses and times
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from dead reckoning. This means if you have flown all your courses accurately then you should arrive exactly on target exactly on time.

As we were fitted with radar, it became our job, with other senior crews, to lead, checking our dead reckoning points against radar points. Rod then had to complete a corrected wind and "Blue" signalled it to group. From these results, corrected courses given by the leaders, a mean course was taken, then relayed from group HQ back to the following aircraft. A tribute must be paid to this aircraft that it could fly so accurately under such conditions, with such a heavy load. In contrast to today's aircraft, they were loaded to their maximum for their power, but flying at this height they were hard to keep straight and level, in fact they seemed to wallow all over, obviously they didn't.

It took along time to climb through the often very bad weather, and there was no way you could get above it eve [inserted] n [/inserted] with a light build up of ice. I [inserted] t [/inserted] was just a lucky guess by the met. people as to what was out in front, sometimes an unlucky one. Add to all that the total commitment of a very advanced enemy defence system (e.g.) to ask for a fix (your position) over England was relatively quick and safe but to break radio silence over Germany meant a stack of fighters on your tail if you managed to avoid the Flak. (It was better not to be a leader).

An example of a bad forecast was on a trip to Leipzig, everyone at the higher altitude was caught in an unsuspected jet stream, ourselves included. This meant we had to circle over Berlin area for 3/4 of an hour to wait for bombing time. For some strange reason there was almost no a/c a/c so it was not as dangerous as it sounds, but it should have been.

It seems, or so the theory said, the a/c a/c. didn't want to fire because it would give their position away. (I don't believe it).

If we had dropped our markers, chances were that all the kites flying at lower levels would not have got to the area before the markers had burnt out.

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Interesting to watch the Flak coming up. The lighter calibre, quicker firing guns sent up streams of trace. They called it hosepipe Flak. It seems they wobble the guns similar to holding a hose pointing upwards, and the trace took the same shape as the water would.

To look down on it starting from the ground level it appeared so slow, it was hardly moving but in no time at all the speed increased until it flashed past almost invisible and often much closer than you expected. The big ones you never saw at all, only the flash when they went off and cloud of smoke left behind. There is nothing you can do about these, no way to avoid what you don't know or can't see, either you are lucky or you are not.

A case of good luck by one of our crews was to be hit by a shell as it went upwards, but it didn't explode, however it did go right through the main wing area and cracked the main spar. They flew it gently home without much trouble. Luckily they were not attacked by fighters on the way or the wing would have fallen in half, but they, and the rest of us too, were amazed that it had held together for so far.

Another of our kites, on his bombing run, was hit by an incendiary falling from a higher flying kite. It got stuck just near the port inner motor, just above the main fuel tank on that side and burned away like any good incendiary should burn. There was no way they could put it out, so the pilot put into a steep dive and built up enough speed to blow it out. He came home to tell us all about it too, we couldn't say it didn't happen, you could see where it had been.

We didn't see many of the crashes that happened near our drome, we were mostly flying too. There was never a panic as in civvy dromes, when the whole town is waiting, often there is no warning at all, but the fire cart and ambulance are always ready and waiting.

One of the crashes happened on take off: As the kite crashed off the end of the runway, the "cookie" broke loose, it didn't explode as it should have, but rolled along and split the casing and then started to burn.

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Explosives usually burn safely enough unless there is some compression. As this casing had split, they decided it would be reasonably safe enough to go out and extinguish it just in case, but they never made it. The compression built up in one half enough to explode all that hadn't burnt.

The blast from this always has one strange feature, although there is always an overall shock wave fairly evenly all around, there are also narrow strips of very intense pressure that are quite unexplained, so it is possible, as in this case that one chap lost an arm, the other just disappear.

There were many, like one of ours, badly shot up but still holding together. He was on the down wind leg nearly ready to turn in for landing, but as he put his wheels or flaps down, they must have been holding things together, the aircraft suddenly fell apart and dived straight into the ground. It's height would have been about 1000ft, but when they dug the motors out they were 12ft down. We were diverted to a Canadian drome one night because of bad weather at our base, had the usual trouble getting down from a crowded sky, but had made it safely and parked off to one side of the drome as directed. Climbed out of the kite to stretch our legs and wait for transport. It soon became obvious there was something wrong as a couple of incoming aircraft got red lights and had to go around again.

We soon spotted the trouble, coming in very low and making funny noises, he too must have been shot up badly and was going to do a belly landing because he was off to the other side of the runway. The general procedure for a belly landing is to land on the grass, as this causes less friction than the concrete runway, and also because the kite digs into the ground and slows down much quicker. It also keeps the runway clear for further use by other aircraft, which was very important.

We watched this chap do a beautiful landing, but as he slid along the ground a great stream of sparks went flying out the back just as though

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you were grinding steel on an emery wheel but much bigger, as the plane skidded on, the sparks followed, but at the back end there was a little flame which soon followed the plane, so we concluded he had broken some petrol lines somewhere.

By now the ambulance and fire cart were chasing madly across the runway with all lights on but there was along way to go to catch up. The plane was slowly losing speed by now, but the little flame was going faster as though it was trying to beat the fire cart. As the plane lost speed, the starboard wing tilted downwards and something on that side dug into the ground. The tail of the plane lifted and. turned so that it came to rest at right angles to it's original direction , but that little flame had got bigger and soon caught up the remaining space.

The ambulance was leading the race, but just at this point the driver turned sharply away, he was none too soon either. The explosion that followed was more like a woof than a bang and the surrounding air seemed to be sucked in towards the flame rather than pushed away. A great cloud of smoke and flame rose above the plane lighting up the whole drome. The top escape hatch had been sprung, but no one left the aircraft.

l was awakened from my staring by a ground staff corporal who was saying "your transport is waiting sir," your equipment will be ok in the plane, come on sir, bring your crew there is nothing you can do now and it's better not to watch."

The fire cart arrived and charged straight in, but time had already run out.

As we went around the other side of the drome in the transport there were a few small explosions, maybe tanks or oxy bottles or even the ammunition, but l don't think it made any difference now. After debriefing, we were invited to the mess and open bar. These boys were already celebrating, they had only lost 5 kites, but they had drunk enough grog to float the navy. We soon left their party and found ourselves some beds.

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There was very little left of the aircraft when we took off next morning, just an outline surrounded by a few trucks and crews trying to clear up the metal remains.

About this time our group decided to install a "Fido" system on our drome. Fido was set up with a pipe down each side of the runway with burners at intervals and just off the side of the drome, a large storage tank of petrol. The petrol was pumped through these pipes and all the burners were lit. This used about 58000 gals an hour. Apart from the light it gave, the heat generated dispersed the fog for the full length of the runway giving a long tunnel to land in. This was not finished before we left, so we never landed on it. I think this would have been a very crowded drome in the future, but they did install a few others at other dromes too.

Bomber dromes are always large areas. The requirements are always the same. A central control watch tower to control air traffic and direct all taxiing on the ground. Long runways, a perimeter taxi strip all around and off this, dispersal points for parking all aircraft at intervals so that they were never in bunches or a straight line. This gives some chance or saving a few kites when the place is shot up or bombed. Just outside the tarmac area, the flight offices and crew rooms and at an other point, opposite side of drome, are the living quarters; all using the same system of dispersal, but the big disadvantage is transport between points. Because there is a shortage of fuel in war time everyone is issued with a push bike to go between all necessary places.

Aircrew, going from flight huts to and from aircraft being excepted because of the load of flying equipment they always had to carry. This always has to be returned and put into [inserted] D [/inserted] [deleted] f [/deleted] rying rooms between flights. This helps to avoid the risk of frost bite caused by moisture freezing at the lower temperatures of the higher altitudes, and so, about twice a day every day, everyone rides the distances between the mess huts and the flight rooms on the bike. We sometimes cheated, rather than ride

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around the road, we climbed over the fence and rode around the perimeter, which was probably 20 yards shorter. It was the morning after one of our crews night off that we were doing this trick, partly to have a look at one of the kites that had been shot up the night before. There was no doubt it had had a bad time going by the holes in the side of the fuselage, been caught in searchlight cone and hammered with heavy flak, but it did get back to base.

We didn't take much notice of the crows fighting over the scraps as we passed until one came out of the kite with a lump of meat, then the fight for possession was on again. No doubt the medics had done a good job of cleaning up the night before but it was dark, and the wounded would have had first priority. The final cleanup would be fnished later. Someone said, it doesn't really matter how the recycle job is done anyway, but there wasn't a lot of laughter for the rest of the day.

Perhaps these are the reasons you don't make many friends.

The set out of [inserted] c [/incerted] [deleted] d [/deleted] rew rooms was always about the same. Flight commanders office on the end, next the pilots room, then the navigators, W/ops and gunners, in that order. May seem strange to separate categories, it did have its advantages, mostly it gave the newer crews, divided as they were to learn a lot from the older crews, that is from the same categories in the experienced crews. I know I learned a lot from the older pilots in my earlier stages. Just the fact that they argued about different ways of doing the same thing. You still had to make up your own mind which way was right, but there were so many things you had never heard of.

There were other moments too, when some were sitting around the very hot pot bellied stove trying to keep warm, someone would get out his cigarette lighter and flick the flint over the hot top. The little flashes that continually rose in the thermal were so like flak in the distance. I'm sure it didn't do much for some of those shattered nerves.

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By this time I think my flying had calmed down a bit too, it may have been the result of experience, or fatigue, or perhaps even the influence of the little WRAF I had met at Syerston before we parted from 61 squadron.

That was only a few weeks really but it seemed like years.

Some of the group leaders had always been opposed to the main force bombing idea led by PFF, believing they could do better by bombing in smaller groups on selected targets. So about this time 5 group (Cochran AOC) started to do tests on a new idea of special bombing, but as their aircraft were stripped of almost everything excepting guns, so that they could carry the big bombs, 6 crews, 3 from 106 squadron sometimes 3 from squadron were picked to lead the way and mark the target area.

Allowing for wind drift, 3 aircraft flying parallel dropped 3 parachute flares at an even spacing as we crossed the area, followed by the next 3 planes, then return and drop 3 more.

Cheshire (first flying a Lanc., but later a mosquito or mustang) would fly around at low level until he could definitely identify the target. He then dropped a spot fire (ground marker) as close as possible to the target. We usually had to go around again a few times and back up the flares as the first ones burnt out. When he was satisfied his marker was close, he would call in his kites to bomb in order. His call was often, e.g. on heading of 185 bomb 30yds to port. The original idea didn't work because he marked the target but the first bombs blew the markers away, so he had to change and mark away from the target. It worked very well, as we hit one target 30ft. x 30ft. about 600 miles from base, but of course these were only French factories taken over by the Germans and never very heavily fortified.

On one of these, out [sic] kite, the last to bomb was the only one to hit the target. (Allen's head got bigger) but someone did hit something one other night. The explosion at ground level must have been fantastic, there

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were rocks about the size of houses coming down from above us and we were at 8000 ft.

One of our main worries on these trips were the magnesium flares. They were carried almost loose in the fuselage, extremely unstable, burnt with a brilliant light, but very dangerous to carry around especially with the bumps. The poor W/op had the job of dropping them down a special shute exactly when the nav. told him to.

We nearly always had some delayed action bombs on these targets too (1000lbs.) each. The delay time varying from one hour to a day or more. This idea is to stop a quick clean up, as you would have to wait until all the bombs had exploded before it was safe to start to repair the damage, or defuse all the bombs first.

On return one night, we were diverted to a drome down south, and left our kite to a local ground crew for servicing, unfortunately it was not a bomber drome and the ground crew were not used to bombers. I awoke to a terrific panic, it seems we had a temporary hang up, one bomb we didn't know about, after we had closed the bomb doors, the bomb had just dropped from it's cradle and lay on the bomb doors all the way home.

When they pumped the doors open for inspection it dropped onto the tarmac with a thud. No one managed to start to run away, the shock much have been too great.

Then they realised it was a delay. The action of a delayed action bomb was simply a glass tube with filler in it. At the other end is a little container of acid which brakes [sic] when bumped, the acid then eats through the filler until it ignites the cap. The delay time can be changed by changing the length of filler in the tube.

No one knew if the action had started from the first bump to the bomb doors or the second bump to the tarmac, or what the time delay was anyway, so we were most unpopular. Finally they took the only chance they could, there was no one there to defuse it, no time anyway. The tied it on a long rope to a truck and dragged it across the drome into some trees

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on the far side, but no one was allowed to take off for 2 days, in case it went off at that time. Don't know if it ever went off but it just proves how gentle the old kite was, or maybe it was a dud, but we had sat on it all the way home. (Some people are still lucky).

It was only a I000lb.'er. We weren't very popular when we got back to base either, was one way of getting a night off.

We did have some troubles on the Nuremburg raid (main force) because it was a very clear night bright moonlight, without any cloud, and the defences picked up the bomber stream very early. It was normal practice to log every kite that was seen to blow up or get shot down (time and place). This would be checked up by command after return to give total later. Knowing your own losses, you can tell time and place of enemy planed [sic] shot down, provided they have been logged. There were too many on this night, most crews stopped logging them, mostly because it took too much time on the intercom. We needed it far more than ever in case of sudden attack. We were supposed to be sending back wind corrections but we were continually attacked by an ME210. We could usually loose a fighter fairly quickly, but it is not so easy on a clear night like this, almost daylight at this height, he keeps coming back, so the only hope you have is to beat him on the turns.

In theory he has to point in front of you if he is going to hit you, but you [inserted] r [/inserted] gunners can shoot all the time he is within range.

Unfortunately our guns didn't work for a while (frozen oil lines). The guns, like the turrets were operated hydraulically, but because the turret was continually moving, the oil remained free, just the little bit up to the guns that was isolated that remained static unless the guns were fired. There should have been some way to circulate the oil without firing the guns, because of this delay the fighter was getting in a bit too close, that is dropping his speed and trying to follow behind us, we would then be a sitter every time we turned. It was just as well it was a Lanc. We

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were in, there weren't many fully loaded bombers good enough to stay inside a determined fighter.

There was no time or chance to jettison the bombs so I was beginning to wear down a bit before Vic got his guns going properly. The 210 soon paid the price of getting in too close after that. There was great relief and satisfaction in Vic's voice when he said "got the b - " understandable, l felt the same way. He had put up with a lot of trace going very close for some time, to see that explosion must have been pretty good.

We didn't get much of a break before Vic reported another, ME 109 this time, approaching by weaving across as he closed in from behind.

We let him came in as close as possible without us loosing [sic] the advantage. When the time came to fire Vic said starboard, as we turned, one burst was enough, he climbed to starboard and burst into flame before falling to the ground.

We were able to resume course, perhaps we were lucky once again, he must have just turned to follow us on the turn, instead he climbed to starboard and burst into flames before falling away, but after 3/4's of an hour of continuous evasion, we didn't have much idea where we were or what the wind might be either. Had to use the radar to locate out position again, thus inviting more fighters, luckily none came.

Although this was very hard work on the physical side, it was a clear night, there was always a clear horizon to be seen and therefore no excuse for bad flying, quite unlike a dark night with heavy cloud, that means you do violent aerobatics in the dark.. [sic]

Always, after the first turns the instruments spin violently and are no use to fly by, they need a little time flying relatively straight and level again before they settle back into proper functional use.

Easy enough to fly with out instruments when you have a clear horizon, but not so easy when you have neither. Could be why it was

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easier to loose the fighter too because they had to turn sharper to get inside your turn. Combine this with a very restricted range of vision and you had to win, provided you saw him before his attack, (but you had to win anyway.

By this time we had long since qualified as senior crew having [rest of page blanked out]

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be at sea level to avoid radar detection from land or German navy ships in the area.

For this trip we all had new aircraft, must have been one off specials at that time, I never saw anything like them again, even to the end of the war. They were “Hush hish” too. They arrived on the drome and [rest of page blanked out]

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We were now approaching the canal at right angles we had to climb to 150ft. (bombing height), and turn to starboard for the bombing run. About this time, it seemed every searchlight and every gun (well three or four anyway) east of Berlin went into action, none of them were ours either but we were the only target. Mines had to be dropped all from the same height, and at intervals down the length of the canal.

By now the trace was coming from both sides and we were forced downwards, so I called for more revs from the engineer. He said "yes I think so too." The terrific surge of power that followed put us all back in our seats. Our speed jumped to about 300mph. All that was left to do was go up and down to dodge the trace, and hope it worked, as we couldn't swerve away from the narrow canal. Sometimes we were down below the banks and the trace was firing down crossing from each side just above our heads, but we still had to come up to 150ft. each time to drop a mine. By now our gunners were using up a lot of ammunition putting out searchlights and gun posts, but you can't shoot the ones in front, only the ones behind, we could have used another man in the front turret, the bomb aimer was far too busy at the time. One searchlight came on from out across the bay in front pointing straight down the canal. Although it was almost blinding, it did save our lives as it showed up the masts of a ship in the canal, I pulled hard back on the stick to gain some height and we were able to clear the tops, then quickly down again. At the end of the canal, hard back again, this time straight up. The only thing I have seen (before the jets) that could climb like that was a contra prop spitty and that was much later.

By now I had my first chance to look at the instruments. Johnny had pushed both boost and revs to the maximum, no wonder it leaped forward. When I said that was a bit much, his reply was positively rude. The kite was hardly damaged and we still had one mine we hadn't time to drop before we came to the end of the canal. Maybe we were going too fast, maybe I didn't get up to height often enough, but we did have an

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alternate dropping spot off the coast, so down again and dropped it and turned for home. Back across Sweden, on across Denmark. Still low level but not like the target area. Our worry now was being so isolated, even if they all got through (which they didn't) there were only 6 kites and almost 900 miles to go, but I think this monster was almost as fast as most fighters at this height, but it would be so easy to get plotted as we crossed Denmark. Our luck was still on the good side. Perhaps all the fighters had followed the main stream south, perhaps they hadn't had time to refuel, or perhaps they mistook us for "mosies" [sic] which did a regular run to Sweden. Given a little start they knew they couldn't catch them.

Our aircraft was isolated again (under guard) on our return, so it wasn't only the mines that were "hush, hush" but it had been flown away early next morning and we never really got a look at it.

If old N was a good kite (and it was) this monster was magnificent.. [sic] I don't know how it would have been at high level though.

Still 8000hp is a lot of power to pack into one kite. We did use it all for that short time. It's only after, that you notice the effects.

The next day I found the pressure had lifted a thick layer of skin off the palms of both hands, they soon healed back again.

That was about all the damage, didn't even see how many holes there were in the kite, couldn't have been many or they wold have had to patch it up before it went.

Only a few more trips to do at this point but none of the older crews left, and no one has managed to finish a tour from our flight either.

Have even lost a crew on their last op. As this was about the worst period for losses during the war, due to an all out effort by bomber command prior to invasion, and a corresponding all out effort by the enemy's opposition, and added in some of the longest raids in some of the worst weather, especially on take off and return. The fogs would have been enough, but added to this and very well mixed in, must have been thousands of tons of coal smoke caused by every little factory chimney

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working night and day flat out and producing something for the war effort, even some private houses were used.

It was normally very easy to find your home base, you simply got reasonably close by navigation and then joined in on the circuit lights of the drome. Our drome always had a Sandra light (little searchlight) pointing straight up from the control tower. The circuit itself was a ring of lights mounted on poles at regular intervals, and pointing straight upwards.

The only break in the circle of lights being at the entrance to the runway in use.

As you enter this space for approach, there were two straight rows, one either side set on converging angles to guide you onto the runway as the sides of a funnel. At the beginning of the runway on the ground level, on both sides of the runway there was a GPI (glide path indicator). This can only be seen from the approach end of the runway. It is divided into 3 colours giving angles of approach (height) ie. red too low, green ok, amber too high. This gives points of touchdown on runway, amber - too long, green ok, red -too short. No other lights are visible from the air, but at very low heights, or at touchdown, there are lights down each side of the runway and along the taxi strips, all are hooded so that they can°t be seen from above about 100ft.

On one nights return, a rude awakening came, as we approached our drome with trace going in all directions from intruding fighters, who had come in undetected with the bombers. This caused no end of confusion, as all aircraft lights went out. All the drome lights were out excepting for the hooded ground lights and the GPIs. Thanks to the easy handling of the Lanc., a few of us managed to land. We simply set the direction of the runway on the gyro compass, flew straight down the runway, took our time form [sic] the time we crossed the GPIs flew for 1 minute, 90° rate one turn to port, flew for 1 minute 90° turn to port, flew 2 minutes, another 90° rate one turn port and flew for I minute, and there on

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the port side were the GPIs another 90° turn into compass heading letting on normal approach on GPIs. Almost at ground level the runway lights became visible, so the rest was a normal landing. We did have to use the radio RT with control to keep spacing and notify of being clear etc. There were no nav. lights to look for even for taxiing on the.ground.

It's doubtful if this was a useful exercise, as the drome had been shot up already, I gather before the lights went out. The risk of flying at 1000ft. with wheels and flaps down must have been pretty high, (you could not do evasion) and the fighters could not stay long anyway. I suppose it could have left more time for someone who could have been running short of fuel.

Some of the intruders were chased by our night fighters about this time, and it seems the further they went the further our fighters got left behind. It's possible they were some of the first of the jets (German) to operate over England. I didn't see any of them.

Up until now we have had three "Boomerangs", early returns because of faults in the aircraft. The responsibility is with the pilot, he is always supposed to press on provided there is some chance of getting to the target. For my part, I couldn't see why, when your kite wont go any higher than 8000ft. because it is covered in ice or the guns or instruments wont work. All of these, or even some of them would just mean you would almost certainly by shot down. That is a loss of one Lane., plus a fully trained crew. If you turn back, you have to drop the cookie in the sea, but provided you land it safely, that's the only loss. If you were shot down, the cookie didn't hit anything anyway.

To me it seemed better to run away and come back another day than dig your own grave. Not what heroes are made of though is it?

Probably the worst torture for the old Lanc. would have been the standard evasion, 5 group corkscrew. As the gunner called the position of the attacking fighter, i.e. port or starboard, the stick was pushed hard forward, at the same time, full aileron and full rudder on the same side
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(say port) so full roll to left full rudder to left with full downward dive. As the speed builds up very quickly you must then roll to the right, with full roll and full rudder, still going down. As the speed builds up, the controls become much harder to operate, so before it gets too high you must start to pull out, hard back on the stick again while still turning to the right. This is the point of greatest strain, if the speed has been allowed to build up too high, it becomes impossible to shift the controls without using the trims. As the speed starts to fall off on the way upwards, you then roll back to the left i.e. full left roll, full left rudder. This has regained some of your height and should be somewhere near your original course, (depends on how good your flying is). Speed drops off very quickly near the top of this climb, so care must be taken not to let it get too low or you are again a sitting target with no flying speed left to manoeuvre with if the fighter is still there. Mostly he will overshoot you on the first dive. Either way he is just about ready to attack again, so you must repeat again, usually from the opposite side and hope again to lose him on the break again in the dark. There is no way you could have time to jettison your bombs, so in view of the total weight involved, and the accurate way you have to fly, if you want to keep the wings on, this gets to be hard work. With reasonable flying the old kite could take it much longer than l could.

Later, while instructing at Litchfield, I tried this manoeuvre in a hurricane [sic]. It's easy to see why a fighter found it hard to follow, especially at night. The only way seemed to be to drop the speed, let down 20° of flap and try to stay behind, but if you have to fire in front of the bomber, you can't see him, so you go straight on while he goes the other way, and just as we found on ops, you are a sitting target for the bombers gunners.

Our last trip with 617 was to carefully bomb the railway yards at Paris. By this time 2 squadrons of PFF (path finding force) have been reformed in 5 group to take over the marking job we had been doing. It seems the deport [sic] for all our escapees trying to return along the

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underground escape line was right there beside the tracks. Bombing had to be spot on, or not only would we kill our mob, we would also break the escape line. However, there was not a lot of a/c a/c to worry over, so we were down to the usual 8000ft. at that height the old Lane. was so stable to fly you could land the bombs within feet of the aiming point. So we were happy to wreck the railway and I don't think anyone was hurt (quite a change). The flak increased on the outer edges of the city, but compared to the German targets it was like the kids with pea shooters, Our substitute navigator spent his time, not only counting the gun flashes on the ground, but timing from the flash on the ground to the explosion of the shell. This somehow gave him the position and calibre of each gun. Not that that helps much as most of them are mobile, but I guess it kept him busy and helped to calm his nerves.

He was the only aircrew member left on the squadron from when we had started. Even the CO who should not have been flying was missing.

Flak happy was the term used to describe crews at our stage, and at times it was true. No one would have known the dangers better than we did, but often we would ignore the flak that was too close for too long and just say ha ha you missed again, but the flak didn't hear you, it didn't go away either, it just kept trying. I'm sure this was never over confidence, just plain fatigue, sometimes I would alter course to clear a heavy concentration of flak, and Johnny would say "go straight through, it won't hurt you", well it doesn't either unless it hits you.

About this time we had a visit from the ABC who's object appeared to be a recording for transmission on stations in Australia. They needed a crew to glamorise I guess. They tried very hard to get us to say how good we were, and how easy it was to beat the opposition, but this wasn't a glamour crew. The conversation was all one sided. Someone said something like, "no mate we are not a good crew really, its just that we are lucky, lucky that we haven't met anyone on the other side that's

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better, so far, but that doesn't mean we wont [sic]." So they gave up. I'm sure they would have broken the record before they got out the gate. There was never any place for a crew on a squadron once they had finished their tour, in fact the postings were through before the last trip. I did have to front up to the new CO to give a final assessment on each of the crew members ability, relative to where each would be posted as an instructor, but that was all.

The Australians were going beck [sic] to Litchfield but the rest were split up to various RAF depots. Met Vic, rear gunner, once on leave in London but never heard from the others.

Back at Litchfield, things have changed, it's almost a complete RAAF station now excepting for the ground staff. Instructors are all ex ops, (there are some who finished a tour).

Some who are very much afraid of flying now, many with an controllable, unconscious twitch in hands and face muscles and some who claim they fly much better when they are drunk, but a lot have managed to remain reasonable [sic] normal (I think).

Most pilots go into the flights teaching conversion to wimps (Wellingtons). I managed to get into the gunnery section. We take a crew with their pilot flying and their gunners in the turrets. These are all dual control "wimpies", so the instructing pilot has the right hand seat and gunnery instructor is able to instruct from outside the rear turret (inside the kite of course). We can direct the fighter to do all the different styles of attack from different directions by RT. As it was often hard to get the fighter to do the attacks we needed, we often had to change over and fly the fighter ourselves on the next trip.

The turrets were fitted with cameras instead of guns (IR for night) practice [sic]. Our Hurricanes had a light (IR invisible, except to the film) set in both wing tips, so the film showed not only the direction of the gunners [sic] fire, but by measuring the width of the lights on the film you could tell the range when he started to fire and when he stopped. That's if he managed

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to get you in the picture of course. If you found, in theory, you could shoot him down too easily, you had to go back and try to teach the pilot to improve his evasion. Twice I managed to overdo this bit. The first time was a nasty surprise, I didn't realise you could make anyone so afraid. I had expected them to be used to violent aerobatics but most of these new pilots were trained on twins and their aerobatics had been limited to steep turns.

Anyhow I had done my best to show them how to beat the fighters, (it's not easy in the daylight) and handed back to him to fly back and land. He went ok until the final approach, but at about 300ft. I realised we were going straight in. The poor bloke had pointed it at the end of the runway and frozen hard, just like the one in Tassie had done.

It isn't easy to take the controls off a bloke in that state (but you can). So I had to take him back the next day and do it all again. This time it didn't even worry him. I think there should be a bit of crazy aerobatics in everyone's training.

The next time this happened I was watching for it, but I was more surprised, as the pilot had done one tour of ops. in the middle east on "Wimpies" should have been able to fly them better than I could, but as he said, he had never seen a fighter let alone having to evade one.

By this time it made little difference which aircraft we flew in. We had Miles Master, Martinets, and Hurricanes as fighters and half a dozen fighter pilots to help out, so there was plenty of practice, you even got attacked when you were flying the Hurricanes.

The Master was really designed as an advanced trainer, but it was nearly as fast as a Hurricane and very manoeuvrable, just a little bit stiff, which was a bit more tiring. The Hurricane must have been one of the best aircraft of it's time, it flew like a bird, always exactly right.

In fact in fog you could fly it straight down the runway, because you can see down through a fog but not across.

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Wheels and flaps down, just at the far end of the runway, you cut the throttle, lift the nose and with full rudder it falls over sideways, points it's nose straight at the ground, then with just a little throttle, it lands it's self back along the runway. It has to be a thick fog to do this or the noises form [sic] control can be very disturbing.

In one of our brighter moments here, when the first Martinet arrived, two of us decided we would fly it. The Martinet is a two seater, advanced from the Master, bigger motor etc. We found the hand book with all the instructions and positions of all the controls etc., my mate in the back seat with the book. We were half way down the runway when I realised I couldn't get the tail to lift off, so I'm shouting out where's the trim (hadn't done my checks?) but he couldn't find the page, so we took off at about 90° from the runway and had to fly around finding things before we could land again not really dangerous, but not very professional either.

We did a very short course in instructing from here. It was a joke I think, the instructor RAF was still 1918 and never more than rate one turns (it would be too dangerous at night) so after our little disagreement as to how to evade a fighter, I found myself grounded as incompetent again, which didn't go down too well with the rest of the flight They did all the work, I just sat and watched. After a while they got sick of that, but they found they had to import an outside qualified instructor from somewhere else to do a test before I could fly.

When he did arrive he picked everything I did around the taxi strip. Taxied too fast etc. Even had the gunner swing his turret on take of, which acts like a rudder and makes the kite turn unless you counter it. After cutting the odd motor and trying just about everything else that could upset normal flight. He said "you can take me back, I hate perfectionists", but his report not only put me back to work it upset the CO who said I had tried to get grounded in the first place. Which must prove --- (it ain't what you say, so much as who you say it to).

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Most of our training trips took us across the west side of England as this was well clear of all ops dromes and testing areas, although it did cross much of the area used for training glider pilots (pre invasion). Also the storage area for all invasion equipment. The roads were filled with tanks, trucks, etc. parked end to end, ready to move in a continuous line south to the ports to cross the channel when ready. Many of the fields were stacked with fighter aircraft. It appeared to be impossible to fly them off, until you looked close enough to see the hedges were only painted on the grass.

The aircraft we flew here had no effects from enemy action but we still had minor troubles with the odd panels falling off.

They.were old and well worn planes (not by today's standards) but they had had a very rough life. Sometimes a motor would give up. One motor on one Wimp continually gave trouble while flying, but on the ground tests it was always 100%. After l had continually written it off as u/s they stripped it down to find it had no top left on one piston, just burnt out.

It seems that was fairly common on Herculies [sic] motors.

One incident here while night flying, was to hear a trainee pilot call control from dispersal area and ask for an ambulance to be sent out. To the girls insistent query "why?" he said "my rear gunner has crashed through the prop, he's not very pretty."

No one ever knew why he turned his turret sideways and got out over the side, as he would do if he were abandoning aircraft in the air. Normally on the ground, he would centralise the turret and come out through the aircraft. No one knew why he walked straight through the prop. either.

One of our gunnery instructors RAF who often flew with me in the Wimp, was an Englishman with strange pre war interests, one was the ancient castles which he often flew over and he could recognise from a quick glimpse through a little hole in the cloud, he would then tell you it's

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history, all very interesting too. There are a lot of castles along the Welsh border line. His other hobby had been mountain climbing, which had taken him to the same area.

As these were all dual control aircraft, but we only took gunners for practice over the Irish sea he often used to fly us back from the right hand seat. This way he could follow his own selected track back and pick out as many interesting spots as possible to tell us about. On one trip we were flying along a deep valley, just above the hill top level on either side, when we were hit by a very strong down draught. I managed to take over with full power and full climb before we landed in the river, but it shook his faith in his flying ability a little. Proved I should not have been asleep too.

On one of these trips I noticed a Wimpy flying along below me with both props feathered and streams of black smoke pouring out the back of both motors. I called up to report this, as I expected he would have to crash land somewhere pretty soon, but the answer from control was slow incoming back. When it did, they just said "shut up and forget it, it's under control" couldn't see how, but I had done my part.

This turned out to be fuel tests on jet engines which were mounted directly behind the normal engines testing various types of fuel mixtures in flight, so it was all quite safe, just looked dicey to someone as ignorant as I was. Jets were stilt unheard of at this time excepting to the few who were working on their development.

Certainly the German had then [sic] in operation, but I doubt if you would be able to pick a jet at night, especially if you had never heard of one before.

As the war in Europe was coming to an end, the demand for transport aircraft was increasing, so I applied for a transfer to a transport squadron flying Halifaxes [sic] to the middle east and back which I thought would be a change.

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In due course I was told to pack my bags as I had the job, but right then the war in Europe finished and I lost the job, because all Australians were grounded. It seems our government had been trying to get us back for the Jap war for a long time, but they didn't want anyone killed after the war in Europe ended. So this left us with nothing to do. It was a points system really, how long you had been away from home, how many ops. Hours you had done, married or single etc., most of our points were much too high, so no more flying.

We had a visit from some bod RAF who was trying to give away some AFCs and MIDs but no one wanted those. When he asked "why?" someone said "it's a joke mate, you have to get killed in the navy to get an MID." He was not anti navy, but he did point out some facts, like, if you are in the navy in one battle, it may last 2 hours, there may to so many tons of shells fired, there may be a few "bods" damaged etc., but everyone gets a gong to commemorate that battle as well as the few, (sometimes many) who are decorated, whereas on one Berlin raid, 6 to 8 hours, thousands of tons of explosives used, minimum about 300 "bods" missing but it's just another raid, you don't get a gong for that, you don't get a gong for 6 raids, not even for 10, and that's about 70 hours over enemy territory and 3000 lives, and you still have 20 more to go, but he didn't sell his gongs.

However he was right about his gongs, the usual for bomber command seemed to be one for the pilot as leader, sometimes one for the navigator, but there were pilots here who had done their 30 trips for nothing.

Our crew of 7 must be hard to explain too, as 5 got gongs and 2 didn't. They were in the same kite on the same raids. Also I got an immediate award for one raid, that means nothing for 29 others.

Cheshire was given a VC because he was the leader of the 617 group who pioneered the new marking system. Just watching him I think Cheshire earned 6 VCs on his own. As gongs are no use to the ones who

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get them, maybe they boost the morale of the newer recruits, maybe it's just something for the papers to write about. Afterall [sic] the civvy population needs a boost too.

Back in civvy street a gong can be a definite disadvantage.

It's hard to compare the airforce officers to the army officers, for many different reasons, first the army were completely inexperienced, being straight from school and depending on the odd corporal and Sgt from the permanent malitia [sic] to help them out. Whereas many of the airforce were also straight from school (civvies) but were specialists in their fields i.e. pre war pilots, navigators, Morse code operators from PMG etc. They were not required to know the admin. Side, that was left to about 2 or 3 who had been regular airforce who we rarely sa[deleted] y [/deleted] w anyway.

It was not until we were getting towards our final training that we had much to do with the pre war types. Most of them were good blokes, but they seemed to have trained as a cross between a commercial pilot and a politician, very good pilots, but their combat tactics were still 1914. They refused to change as the Germans had. Most of them were out of ops. by now but still in the front line squadrons as admin. We did try to tell them of some changes, but it isn't the thing "old chap", no junior has the right to suggest a change to his senior. The whole thing has to wait until the top brass issues an order and it creeps back down the line. In these times you had to change almost every day because of all the new junk on both sides.

Every effort was made to advance the electronic side, but no effort seemed to be made to counter the Germans counter actions except by the crews themselves, perhaps this was considered the best way, because no one would be better informed than the ones who had done the trip last night, and it was up to each crew to listen to all the reports.

As for comparison to the army officers, this was a different end of the war and secondly a different war anyway.

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I have no doubt the army officers improved if they managed to live. There were a few of the original airforce officers left, but very few.

A percentage managed to survive the war because they were shot down and taken prisoner. The percentage of pilots in this lot was relatively low because they had to stay with the aircraft to try to keep it under control until the rest had managed to bail out. Some managed to crash land, I don't know how. George kept it straight enough for a few who were quick enough, that's if George still worked. Some ditched in the Zider [sic] Zee, but they did survive, some of us were even luckier, we just went home.

It' [sic] easy to see this has many faults.

The first is the limited, and therefore monotonous use of language, like jumping up and down in the one spot. The other criticism is to say it put down our efforts, to hide them behind a camouflage of good luck, but, this was a good crew, in my opinion anyway, one of the best in bomber command. This may seem strange because it was not a specially selected crew, rather it was one that just happened.

As these crew members met at OUT for the first time in most cases, it was their own choice whether they stayed together, or walked away and joined someone else. There never appeared to be any conscious assessment of anyone's ability or character, they just came together and stuck, for better or worse, may have been quite different if someone didn't fit though, I'll never know.

The one exception being the engineer, who was allotted later. All of these had one thing in common, they were inclined to rebel against the approved system.

Caused me no end of trouble at times, but to me it was good, as it proved they could think beyond the standard RAF text book. Not that they said it was wrong, just that it was sometimes out of date, and there could be something better.

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It is true that underneath, this was a very confident crew, but they never overestimated their own ability, nor under estimated the enemy either. I think it is also true to say others had a higher opinion of us than we did, but I think this could have been, because, after the first couple of months we had lived long enough to be a senior crew and it is natural for the new crews to look up to experience.

At least three others in this crew had the ability to be the leader and make all the decisions, but I had to be the undisputed leader just because all the quick decisions, there are many, have to be carried out by the pilot, therefore time, or mostly lack of it, dictates that he alone is the leader.

We all tended to give more credit to the other members of the crew than to ourselves. Never when they could hear you of course, e.g. on return from Nuremberg, after debriefing, I was leaving the hut when the CO stopped me. Thinking I could get in first, I said "my gunners did a very good job Sir", He just shook his head and grinned as he said "yes but you weren't too bad yourself'. Here I should explain that debriefing is all done in the one room, but only the first part is done as a crew, you then divided into sections, pilots, navigators, wireless ops, gunners, each in their section, so you never know what they say about you.

As far luck.

It was the end of a briefing for a Berlin raid. The CO finished off with, "and good luck to all of you, any further questions?".

Someone's navigator, more to break the tension (there is always tension at briefing) than to be serious I think, said "Yes Sir, can you define luck for us?". Without a moments hesitation the CO said "certainly, in any high risk to personnel business, I define luck as complete dedication in attention to detail and eternal vigilance". Maybe that could account for a lot of things, perhaps even 99% but not all. Just think of one 4.7 AC shell.

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They predict you [sic] height, speed and direction etc. They assume you fly a straight line, which you don't. The minimum range is about 5 miles, assume the shell goes straight, which it might, assume you zig when you should have zagged.

It's true a predicted shell will always be fairly close, but you can't dive into a trench, you can only hope. Then there are the hundreds fired straight up into your bombing run when you can't do anything except fly straight. If one shell misses you that's lucky, but they fire a hundred or more at you in one night. If they all miss, to me that's a lot of luck.

I don't think that 1% is as small as it looks.

When counting the nightly losses, it was the policy of bomber command to show only the aircraft missing which they knew the enemy could positively be certain came down in enemy territory.

Therefore the figures shown are highly misleading e.g. Nuremberg raid --- next morning the loss posted on the ops. room board in our crew room was 145. The German news in their broadcast claimed 130, so our figures immediately dropped to 120. From there it slowly came down to 96.

In the period in which we were on ops., the average loss per raid was 7%. According to Rod that was 7% per raid x 30 raids = 210% chance of being shot down. The final figure of 106 sqdn, adjusted for overall duration was about .15%.

Hard to work that out, until you realise that they take the total number of trips done by all Lanc's. and then divide by the total losses of 106 sqdn. In praise of our ground crew, I should mention one small episode that stood out.

The usual procedure for us, prior to ops, was to air test our aircraft in the morning, return it to dispersal, note any faults found, if any, ready for take off on ops.

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About 3/4 hour before take off time, they would run all motors to warm up before we arrived. This meant everyone's aircraft was ready for take off at about the same time, so there were few hold ups.

We arrived at our aircraft one night in time to get ourselves organised, do the final run up and checks ready for take off, only to find the motors closed down and the complete ground crew starting to work like crazy on one motor. In a few minutes one ground crew member was peddling his bike frantically back to the hanger while the rest were erecting their mobile decking around the port inner motor and stripping off the cowlings and prop. Thinking we had no hope of going anywhere, much to our delight, I called out to the chief (staff Sgt) to see if we were scrubbed for this one.

He said "may be but wait a while first." In a couple of minutes, a truck with a frame mounted on the back, left the hanger and raced out to our site, returning the bod on his bike.

It then backed to the motor in question, removed the prop, backed further under the motor until it was bolted to the frame. At the other end of the motor, all the control cables, fuel lines, oil pipes, electric cables etc. were removed. Next another truck arrived with a new motor. The old one drove off to the hanger, the new ones backed in, and the controls were being replaced as the first of our kites were starting to taxi out for the take off.

In next to no time the last cowling was screwed back into place, the motors primed, and the chief was holding up his hand to start.

It had taken less than an hour to completely change the motor and remove all stands etc.

We got off about 1/2 hour late. I wouldn't have believed it, considering the freezing conditions. These poor bods had to work out in the middle of the paddock, in all the wet without any protection even from the wind, but their idea was different, if we wanted to go, the least they

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could do was everything they could possibly do to help, and we depended on them all the way.

To Quote Harris

"in bomber command we had to lay on, and more than often than not, carry through al [sic] least one and occasionally more than one major battle every 24 hours. That was a situation no naval or military command has ever had to compete with. Navy's fight 2 or 3 battles per war. Army's maybe a dozen, we had to lay on during my 31/2 years well over 1000."

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[underlined] FINIS [/underlined]

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Huricane (11 C)
Engine Rols [sic] Merlin xx 1200 hp
Span 40 ft.
Length 31 ft. 5z [sic]
Max. Speed 340 mph
Camouflage on most day fighters was standard green and brown on upper side but usually light blue underneath.

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Miles Master (11 )
Engine Wasp Jun 825 hp
Span 39 ft.
Length 31 ft.
Height 11ft. 5”

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Miles Martinet

Engine 870 hp Bristol Mercury xx or xxx
Span 39ft.
Length 30ft. 11"
Height 11ft. 7"

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Wing Area 238sq ft.
Weights Empty 4640lbs
Loaded 6750lbs.
Max. Speed 240 mph
Range 694mls.
The airforce like the other services used many words and phrases developed within their own system and this became standard language, hard for any outsider to understand. None of this language had been used in these notes, but some of the following may help with some explanation.

One of the bigger differences between the services seemed to be. Troops in the army stayed in their units for longer periods and became close friends, the navy likewise many staying on the same ship for the duration, but even as a crew, in the airforce you were divided, first by rank, and also by living quarters, seldom sharing even part of the same hut, but you were forced into very close cooperation when it came to flying.

Looking at the time of arrival at OUT. That is the first meeting of most of the crew. It was only 2 months before we were a complete crew and one more month before we were engaged on ops.

At the end of ops we once again became separated individual people again.

Some we never met again.

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There is no attempt to detail any raid, as many are a repetition of the previous ones. The attacks by fighters, flak, searchlights, etc. could and did happen at any time on any target. It also seems pointless to detail all the casualties and crashes, so a description of only one of any type has been included.

True, some raids were relatively free from challenge by enemy defences, owing to factors such as weather condition etc. It [sic] we could climb above the thick layer of heavy cloud with ice, into clear conditions, and the fighters had to climb up through worse conditions, even with their greater rate of climb, they sometimes didn't get through, but if they acid it would reduce their endurance time. No doubt they had problems on landings with fogs too, but it is easier to do a tight circuit in a fghter than in a bigger kite.

The weather did not effect the a/c a/c in any way except to make visible coning by searchlights impossible, l would say there were very few trips without some fighters, and none without some fighters, and none without searchlights and a/c a/c and always the big risk of collision. A constant search of the sky from wing tip to wing tip and above, on return your vision passed over, and checked, all instruments and back to starting point. An aircraft flying in the same direction and apparently parallel could appear small in the distance, but before your vision returned to it, it could slide across your track and just too close.

Most a/c a/c guns on low level raids were quite different, being small calibre, i.e. machine guns and 25[inserted] .[/inserted] 5mm cannon, much greater in

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numbers in the local target area and much faster firing rate, bit like flying through a woven screen, so the evasion tactics had to change, but there was still the target to hit. Some low level targets had many "blimps" on cables. Our aircraft were fitted with cable cutters on all sections of the wings i.e. when the cable hit the wing it slid along until it hit the cutter which automatically fired a chisel against an anvil, hopefully cutting the cable, didn't happen to us.

The Lanc. was progressively overloaded, even carried 22000lb bomb, compared to the fortress's 3000lb bomb load, that's a big difference but it didn't have many guns. The little 303's range was only about 400 yards, the 20mm cannon on the German fighters was much, much greater. The theory was, you can only see so far in the dark, but they must have forgotten about the hundreds of searchlights and the reflection from the clouds. Later they installed 2/50 cal guns in some rear turrets also put a few night fighters mixed in with the bomber stream, never saw one. They said there were 5 one night on Berlin but about 800 bombers spread over ? miles. Our fighters, like the Germans were fitted with a radar device to detect the German fighters never heard any of the results.

About this time (the battle of Berlin) the Germans changed from offensive to defensive, i.e. switched their bombers to fighters. They claimed their bomber pilots were very successful as night fighters. In the battle of Briton the English bomber pilots were not successful as fighter pilots but of course the Germans would have been very experienced pilots by then, and there were quite a lot of them. The twin engined types JU88 ME210 & ME410's were directed mostly from ground radar the single engined types ME 109 & FW 190's fitted with radar as our night fighters were. They were directed into the bomber stream by radio R/T from ground station, then let to find their own targets.

Some comments say there should be much more detail on the technical side of flying, but there seems little you could say about this, the

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basics were trying to avoid the heavy icing on fuselage and wings which increases your overall weight and drag, and trying to get the best economy for fuel. In time of attack by flak or fighters the economy becomes a secondary thought. Constant checks on all gauges with adjustments could always help. We tried to maintain the most height possible on longer trips, but this was often dependent on the winds.

You did get better ground speed at higher altitudes therefore better economy but the best was at near ground level without using second stage supercharge. Would be very unsafe for mass bombing and you can't drop big bombs from there unless there are time delays, you can't time delay "cookies" they just go off on contact.

As much depended on good navigation as any other factor, no point in wandering around over enemy territory with a bomb load unless you find the target, and the best height for navigation would have been about 8 10000ft, but I think they would have been very short one way trips at that height, unless you were very lucky.

Max. cruise speed for a Lanc was given at about 270mph perhaps 300mph may have been a little under rated for a "special" flat out at ground level.

Details of landing procedures were standard, but very necessary when so many aircraft were trying to land at the same time.

Our squadron call sign "optrex" our station call sign "[deleted] O [/deleted] Affray". So as we approached the drome we called (optrex nan to affray over) rely [sic] (affray to optrex nan, followed by the position you were allotted to land, i.e. first aircraft "funnel" that is approaching to land, second aircraft, down wind, i.e. wheels and flaps down parallel with runway and heading away from touch down point. Third, cross wind, i.e. right angles to runway and flying across the far end of runway before the down wind leg, all at 1000ft from there all aircraft step up 500ft, continue on a left hand circuit and listen to call as each aircraft clears the end of runway after landing, then you drop down to next lower position in order. All aircraft

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have nav lights on (normally) so most are visible from the ground up in a big spiral circuit around the perimeter lights (DREM).

There are emergency calls on fixed frequencies for anyone who was in trouble or got lost in fog. Mayday which is still used internationally and Darky which was mostly used by anyone lost in fog. You had to call darky three times followed by your call sign three times. Your position was then plotted and you were then given a course and distance to fly to the nearest drome that would accept you landing, but if you didn't get the procedure right you got no reply.

We sometimes laughed at the Yanks, lost in fog on return from a daylight raid, we should not have done that, because we did know what the feeling of wondering how to get down when the fuel was quickly running out, and it can be harder to find a drome in daylight than in the dark, the lights do help.

The Yank system was different to ours, where each of our aircraft had it's own navigator, and flew independent of all others, the Yanks, because they flew in formation, followed their leader and dropped their bombs when he did, so the problem came when the formation broke up on return and had to find their own bases.

You would hear things like "Hello Darky honey, MIs brown's little boy Johnny sure is lost up here" but Darky didn't answer, even after so many calls however they did vector a fighter across to identify him and lead him to a drome. This was not always the safest thing to do because they never minded who they shot at, so the escort had to be pretty careful. It was often said "the Yanks didn't need an enemy."

Darky's worry was any enemy raider could use the system to pin point any drome, which would be a big help to him if he were trying to bomb it.

There was never any white around the roundels on any camouflaged aircraft on ops. The thin yellow line was a gas detector, just in case the enemy dropped some gas bombs on the drome.

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This would give some warning in case personnel were isolated in a raid and lost all communications. Everyone carried gas masks at all times, some thought they were too heavy and replaced them with spare socks etc. Luckily there were never any gas bombs. The socks just kept the appearance in the shape of the bag.

Medals were rarely granted before the end of a tour therefore none were worn around the station or on ops by any aircrew. Some of the administration staff who had them from WW1 or a previous tour of ops were the exception. There appeared to be some form of grading here, in that only higher ranks could get higher standard medals. VC's always excepted. There were only two VC's while we were there. Cheshire of course (not our squad), the other was Jackson, Miff’s crew, but as he was taken POW I don't think this was granted until after the war. Miff’s was a Canadian, very solid build, always a happy type, tended to be common. His kite was U for Uncle so it carried the insignia of Stalin and called Uncle Joe. The story of this episode is in one of the Lanc books (I think). Miff’s was killed in the crash.

Another of the kites E easy had it's insignia painted on for some time before they decided they would paint the words on. We take anything. The next trip (Berlin) they took just about every thing the enemy could throw at them, but they brought it all back.

Much time was spent cleaning perspex especially by the gunners, always a damp cloth and plenty of cigarette ash, but as the smallest speck shows up at night, even if you know its there, it still distracts your vision, so finally the whole back panel was removed from the turrets.

Don't know how they managed when the turret was turned past the 90° as you would be in very strong wind, but they must have done it on the canal raid. The normal loading for machine gun belts for normal targets (aircraft) was one standard, one armour piercing, one incendiary, one trace, but when you have four guns each firing about 1200 rounds a

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minute this gave too much trace, which ruined all your night vision, so much of the trace was replaced with standard or incendiary.

Each squadron or group had it's own crest, but like the group photos few people ever bothered about them, it's only long afterwards you remember them, but I have forgotten the faces now anyway.

Bill Akers, one of the original intake went to a lot of trouble to try to find out the fate of all those in this intake. Some refused to say.

o. 1. I.T.S. Somers

I J.G. Alston W/ag P.F.F.
2 no sure think A.S. Simpson
3 R.A. Kingston Pilot K.I.A. R.A.F.
4 D.O. Donaldson discharged qualif. to run farm
5 R.F.C. Badman Pilot K.I.A. RA.F
6 D.C. Carter Pilot K.I.A. R.A.F
7 K. Travina Gunner K.I.A. Germany 1944
8 J. Bellock D.F.C. Pilot
9 D.V. Harvey W/op K.I.A. R.A.F
10 No idea
I1 P. Walters Pilot died POW Far East
12 C.J. Thoday Catalina Pilot
13 G.R. Balcombe Pilot K.I.A. R.A.F
14 A.V. Withers D.F.C bomb aimer our crew
15 Do not know
16 Do not know
17 C.W. Milburn Pilot discharged to run farm died
18 Do not know
19 J.W. Bassier Catalina Pilot
20 J. Humphrey D.F.C. nav P.F.F
21 W.R. Lardner not sure
22 D. Fisher W/ag returned died since

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23 G. Blanch K.I.A 5sqdn
24 R.F. Anderson Pilot D.F.C
25 S.G. Lee Pilot K.I.A R.A.F
26 K.C. Bell left to run farm
27 R.J. Adams W/ag 10sqdn K.I.A
28 R.C. Martin Pilot buried Germany
29 M.J. McCann not known
30 F.N. Birch Pilot Ormond Trnsprt Cmmnd
31 B. Woods D.F.C gunner P.F.F died after return
32 W. Bates unknown
33 S. Williamson D.F.C P.F.F W/ap transport to Japan,
drown Port Phillip Bay 1980's
34 C.T. Akers D.F.C gunner
33 A. Lord Pilot K.I.A R.A.F
36 L.G. Rigg Returned

Of the pilots in this course (23) it shows only 2 out of every 10 in the European theatre (R.A.F) survived, of the other categories 8 survived to every 2 K.I.A but as many are not accounted for this is not a true summary. Only one pilot in the Pacific area died as a POW, but only 4 of this original course went to Tas, others must have been at different EFTs.

We never had any connection with P.F.F. P.F.F was started because in the earlier times Bomber Command couldn't even hit Germany. So Bennet [sic], an Aust, a pre war commercial pilot with a great deal of experience with air lines flying international routes and regarded as one of the best air navigators in the world, was given the job of forming a squadron to mark the target area. He had already done a tour of ops, been sho [deleted] w [/deleted] t down over Norway and escaped back to UK. Also set out the air route for convoys of aircraft flying from USA.

His idea was to take the best crews from odd ops squadrons and further train then to be pathfinders, but many of the squadrons sent their worst, wanting to keep their best, he tried them and sent them back. Harris was against having any group as more elite than any other, saying it was only one air force (didn't mention 617). 5 group wanted their own markers, of which we were part. As the feelings on both sides became

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stronger Harris decided to take two Lanc squadrons off P.F.F and return them to 5 group, but P.F.F still had to train the replacements. The first of these operated on Paris (20/04/44) just before we finished. I have been told that all crews joining 106 later were asked to volunteer for P.F.F after they had done 6 trips. (perhaps Cochrane didn't give up). The difference in target marking was simply that 5 group, that is, Cheshires mob, picked one select factory which specialised in a product considered important to the war effort, and that was our only target. The theory in main force, P.F.F, was more to select one area of a city containing several important factories. The R.. [sic] A.F said, there are two ways to stop production, one knock out the factories or two, knock out the workers. The workers can't produce without the factory the factory can't produce without the workers, but even a combination of both must be effective.

The main difference in 5 group marking was the use of a master bomber (Cheshire or Martin). Their job was to mark the specific factory and direct the bombing of each aircraft, but our trips with them had very few aircraft, not the hundreds as in main force. As there seemed to be no count kept on casualties of conscripted labour, and many of them were forced to work on war production, the loss of life to them will never be known. I did meet one Balt out here long after the war. He asked if we had bombed Leipzig on that date. When I said we had, he said how very good we were, the bombs had all around them in their camp, but no one had been hurt. It was a night of solid cloud, the winds were all wrong, we all bombed on sky markers, we didn't even know they were there. (I'm sure he was very lucky).

When returning from each trip we called control and were given a QFE & a QFM i.e. barometric pressures for one, your own base. When this is set on your altimeter, you altimeter would read zero feet at ground level on your drome. The other was the barometric pressure at sea level, so if you were diverted to any other drome, you had to adjust for the height of that drome above sea level. The heights of dromes are marked

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on your maps. It is critical that all aircraft landing at one drome have the same altimeter setting, otherwise the variation in heights in the circuit would be very dangerous.

Date Target A/c no. No a/c on op Time Op loss
Sept. 27 Hanover P ja973 678 6 5.6
Oct. 18 Hanover O dv297 360 6 25 5
28 Leipzig N ed801 258 2.50 4.5
22 Kassel U in301 569 6.25 7.6
Nov. 3 Dusseldorf O dv297 589 4.40 3.1
22 Berlin T jb593 764 7.50 3.2
26 Berlin O jb534 443 8.05 6.2
Dec. 2 Berlin O bj534 458 6.45 8.7
3 Leipzig O jb534 527 7.50 4.7
16 Berlin O jb534 483 7.35 5.2
Jan. 1 Berlin Z ni339 421 7.30 6.7
27 Berlin N jb664 515 3.10
28 Berlin N jb664 677 7.45 6.8
30 Berlin N jb664 534 6.35 6.2
Feb. 15 Berlin N jb664 891 7 4.8
19 Leipzig N jb664 823 7.15 9.5
20 Stuttgart N jb664 598 3.15 1.5
25 Augsburg N jb664 594 7.55 3.6

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24 Scheinfurt N jb664 734 8.20 4.5
Mar. 1 Stuttgart N jb664 557 8.15 7
15 Stuttgart N jb664 863 7.25 7.3
18 Frankfurt Njb664 846 5.30 2.6
20 Angouleme N jb664 20 7.05
14 a/c of 617
22 Frankfurt N jb664 816 5.50 4
25 Lyons N jb664 20 7.10
14 617
24 Lyons N jb664 20 8
26 Essen N jb664 705 5.10 1.3
30 Nuremburg N jb664 795 7.20 11.9
Apr. 5 Toulouse N jb664 144 7.20 617sq
9 Konigsberg B 6 9.15 106&9
18 Swinernunde N jb664 168 7.15 2
20 Paris rlw stn N jb664 247 4.15 617 2
22 Brunswick N jb664 238 5.55 1.5


Struck fighter flares before we reached the Dutch coast, saw a P.F.F kite going down in flames. Rear turret u/s from Hanover. "Blue" had to go down and pump oil every 15mins. 0/0 cloud, flak moderate. Came back north over Baltic and Denmark. Had to let down over sea, were damn near on the deck. Almost cleaned up a light house, had to climb to clear it. Nearly had our time. Lost one crew, P/O storer [sic] , they were only kids and had put off their leave to be home for Christmas.

December 21st
P/O Starkey and crew took our kite to Frankfurt last night and got it all shot to hell. Half the port rudder and elevator shot off by cannon, about half the port aeleron [sic] too, broken main spar and plenty of holes in the wing, they were lucky to get back, they could only do right hand turns.

December 23rd
Briefed for the big city, take off put off from 1650 to 2340, taxied out, then a kite bogged on end of runway, prevented us from taking off, in bed by 0230.

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January 2nd
Berlin 9th trip 94821lbs of bombs 1425mls 7hrs 30. Took off at 0028, near miss by Scarecrow over north sea. JU88 passed 20ft above going the other way like a bat out of hell, a bit too close for my liking, nearly pranged by a Lanc on the way home, stupid bastard was weaving like the clappers.

Two crews lost P/O Holbourne & P/O Garnet, Holbourne was in our hut, he was married.

January 22nd
Briefed for Magdeburg but a kite bogged in front of us and prevented 6 of us from taking off.

January 27th
Started off for Berlin but boomeranged. Pressure line in mid upper turret broke, then API went u/s. First G box blew up, later H2s box blew up and caught fire, managed to put fire out and decided to press on regardless, but just before we reached the Dutch coast, rear turret went u/s, so decided to come back. Loud cheers.

January 27th
Berlin 10 trip 9037lbs 1425mls 7.45hrs.
Went in over Denmark and Baltic, saw a Lanc shot down over Sylt, and saw it explode on the ground. Near Rostock engaged by heavy flak bursting just under the tail, close enough for us to hear it. Shrapnel rattled against the kite we bounced around all over the place.
Fighter had [deleted]tb [/deleted] go at us with a rocket, successfully evaded it and it just passed over the top of us. Then another fighter came in and tracer whizzed over the top of the starboard wing. Took off after midnight landed 0800 in bed by 1015.

January 29th Monday
Berlin 11th trip 10702lbs 1287mls 6.35hrs.

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Took off 1720, in over Denmark out over Holland, moonlight, saw 10 kites shot down. Just before target, a JU88 went down in flames, spun, lost a blazing wing, then exploded, a wizard sight, that will teach the bastards to interfere.
Saw a combat going on and both kites went down in flames. F/O Forsyth was hit by a rocket from DO217 fired from a free gun mounted on top when enemy a/c was flying 800ft below. Rocket burst in bomb bay bomb load saved the pilot. Bags of fighter flares, Kirkland missing.

February 15th Berlin
12th trip 10036lbs 1328mis 6.35hrs.
Vic's oxygen gear froze solid and he passed out just before reaching target. "Blue" went back and changed his helmet, was pretty shaky too, as there were evidently plenty of Jerry fighters up by the amount of tracer flying around. Vic must have been out for 10 minutes. A bit more flak than usual but no fighters sighted by us. Had another fire in some nav equipment, but soon put it out.
Heaviest raid yet on Berlin.
2500 tons, 900 odd 4eng kites.
One of our kites flown by P/O Dickenson pranged in circuit area, only survivor a cove named Ramsay mid upper a/g. This kite was our old O Oboe. Alan and Rod have worked it out that out of the 20 crews at OUT four months ago, there are only 8 left.
February 19th
Leipzig 13th trip 9710lbs 1304mls 7.15hrs.
Took a 2nd Dickie P/O Bartlett
Weather was bloody awful, bags of ice, had to do 12 dog legs and an orbit to fill in time. Fighters were waiting for us over the north sea and followed us all the way around. Saw about 6 kites collide over target. Fighters whizzing all over the place 79 kites lost, biggest loss yet, one crew from ours missing, Dickie Legget.

February 20th

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Stuttgart. Boomeranged as generators were u/s.

February 24th
Scheinfurt, 14th trip 9238lbs 1491 mls.
We were in the second attack, 2 hours after the first and saw the first attack start while 300 400 miles away, visibility marvellous, saw Switzerland plainly, it was a wonderful sight, moonlight on the snow and all the houses with their lights on. Quite [sic] trip. On the way back over England saw an air raid on London saw 6 Jerry kites sho [deleted] w [/deleted] t down.

February 25th
Augsburg. 15th trip 9060lbs 1521mls.
After 6hrs sleep out of bed again, quiet trip, my compass u/s. Bob steered wrong course and we went over Switzerland but were only one minute late on target by cutting comers. Snowing when we arrived back.

March 2nd
Stuttgart. 16th trip 9584lbs 1430mls.
Nothing much happened, our nav lights were u/s so we arrived back late purposely and our ground crew had given us up for lost.

March 16th
Stuttgart. 17th trip 9762lbs 1483mis.
We had to go in 5 minutes ahead of P.F.F.
Attacked by a DO217 with a belly gun, combats all around.
March 19th
Frankfurt. 18th trip 12326lbs 1006mls.
Took a second Dickie, Ken Warren, too many searchlights for my liking. 22 kites missing.

March 21st
Angouleme. 19th trip 5998lbs incendiaries only 1116mls.
Went on special do with 617 squadron (Gibson & Cheshires, Dambusters). We acted as P.F.F for them 617 went in with 12000bders [sic], they go off with quite a thump, each one bombed in turn, we spent an hour over target. Brake pressure u/s on return had to land at Wittering.

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March 22nd
Frankfurt. 20th trip 12536lbs 1106mls.
Heaviest and most concentrated raid of all time. 3000 tons in 15 minutes. Bounced around by Flak over target. Picked up by searchlights but thanks to Bob we got away from them. Slipped s/lights with kites on either side coned, saw only one fighter.

March 23rd
Lyons. 21st trip 10082lbs 1245mis.
With 617 again, spent one and a half hours over target, marking and bombing.

March 26th
Lyons. 22nd trip 5998lbs incendiaries 1362mls.
We acted a [sic] P.F.F. Target was a factory 100yds by 50yds. Going on navigation only, I told Alan when to drop the flares, and our first flare hit the factory roof and set it on fire.

March 29th
Essen. 23rd trip 13436lbs 860mls.
First trip to happy valley since November, ran into a bit of Flak over target, lost a foot off one of the prop blades, made the kite vibrate like hell.

March 30th
Nuremburg. 24th trip 10032lbs 1405mls. Bright moon light all the way. Just south of happy valley the fun started, an ME210 attacked us, both Vic and Titch scored hits on it. He came in several times and each time Vic poured lead into him and sent him pitching and tossing all over the sky. Some of his stuff came uncomfortably close. Later Vic picked up an ME109, got him with a long burst, he went down in flames and exploded on the deck. Combats were going on all around us, saw 8 Lancs go down in flames in 20 minutes. Heaviest loss yet 96 kites out of 600.
For March we did 9 trips, 7 in 10 nights, briefed 14 nights in a row.

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April 5th
Toulouse. 25th trip 9396lbs 1386mls.
With 617 sqd Alan's bombing was the best for the night

April 9th
Konigsberg canal. 26th trip 78501bs 1739mls.
Longest trip we have ever done, 9.5 hours.
Briefed to go in at 150ft and if we thought defences were too hot we were told not to go in, first time this has happened. Only 6 aircraft on this, 3 of ours & went with main force as far as Danzig then went on another 100 miles loosing height to cross coast at 1000ft, then lost height to ground level, had to climb to go over a factory. As soon as we started our run we were picked up by 4 searchlights and about a dozen 20mm from a distance of 50yds to about 600yds. Their fire forced us down to 10ft from the water. Bob did a wizard job lifting and dropping the kite to dodge their fire, four of the five mines dropped dead in the centre of the canal, one hung up. Vic. Titch, and Alan opened up with their guns between them accounted for 5 S/ls and a couple of gun positions. Canal was only 156ft wide and our wing span was 104ft, so had only 8yds clearance on each wing tip. We were so low that we were below the level of the canal banks. As we came up the canal ship shone it's S/l right in Bobs eyes and blinded him, how he kept the kite in the air I don't know, it was a super human effort. Had the ship not put it's light on we would probably have crashed into it.
We whizzed along at 3000 revs and +18 boost, must have been doing 300mph. Only our three kites dropped their mines. Old "Butch" was tickled to bits, saying, "it was the best effort since the dam busting." Even the Admiralty condescended to give us a pat on the back. We became famous over night, but they can stick this honour and glory, it's too dangerous. Bob was recommended for a DSO and myself a DFC. These were back to a DFC for Bob and SFA for me. Next day we heard a

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sub was sunk in the canal after hitting one of our mines. The canal was closed for 16 days, bottling up a cruiser (Koln) and 43 subs in the harbour.
These mines could not be neutralised, only way to remove them was to explode them, this would play hell with the canal banks and those who try.
April 18th
Swinemunde. 27th trip 7850lbs 1428mls.
Mining again came back over Sweden.

April 20th
Paris. 28th trip 7850lbs 710mls.
Central rail yards. Quiet trip, light Flak.

April 22nd
Brunswick. 29th trip 12234lbs 1050mls.

These records of target are originally from Alan's diary, but as I got them from Rod, it is obvious they have been rewritten to apply to a navigators view, as the nav rarely sees anything outside. As Alan's original notes were rather colourful, Rod must have censored them. Also the first 9 trips are missing, the total, including 3 boomerangs should have been 33 but ended at 29. Less the first 8 or so. To try to fill in the first few trips ---

September 27th 1943
Hanover. 12830lbs 950mls
My first trip, went as 2nd dickie with F/L A Poore and his crew. They left 106 and went to 617 sqdn. A very good skipper, a very good crew. For me an interesting and useful trip, although there were no problems, maybe he knew how to keep out of trouble and still do the job.

October 18th

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Hanover. 12827lbs 949mls.
Our first trip as a crew. This was the trip when Alan ordered bomb doors open so long before the target, but luckily we had no problems.

October 20th
All instruments u/s, G u/s caused by heavy ice, cloud base on return 400ft, only 4 a/c landed back at base.

October 22nd
Kassel. 11962lbs 915mls.
Went into low cloud at takeoff, cloud all the way small hole over target, back into cloud, on return. Diverted on return, cloud base 800ft heavy static in cloud, all instrument flying.

November 3rd
Dusseldorf. 13128lbs 782mls.
Clear night with lots of searchlights.

November 22nd
Berlin. 11994lbs 1230mls.
This would be our first Berlin raid. Everything possible happened on most of these.

November 26th
Berlin. 11279lbs 1455mls.
10/10 clear with heavy con trails and fighters everywhere.

December 2nd
Berlin. 10856lbs 1234mls.
Bad forecast for winds, heavy losses.

December 3rd
Leipzig. 998lbs 1351mls.

December 16th
Berlin. 9740lbs 1328mls.

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Defences always very heavy, all types of a/c, many med. sized with rockets mounted as free guns on top of fuselage, often used captured a/c, even Lancs flying above and to each side of the stream dropping flares to assist the fighters.

"The bomber command war diaries" cover a general history of all the bomber raids. Well, almost all.



Robert Anderson, “Robert Anderson's memoir,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 19, 2024,

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