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RAF Skellingthorpe in the Second World War 1939-1945 - The Wartime Memories Project -

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- RAF Skellingthorpe during the Second World War -


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World War 2 Two II WW2 WWII

RAF Skellingthorpe



    RAF Skellingthorpe opened in 1941. The standard pattern of three concrete/tarmac runways had just been constructed along with one Type B1 and two Type T2 hangers. Accommodation for airmen was in nissen huts.

Today a memorial room to 50 Squadron and 61 Squadron is located at Birchwood Community Centre on Birchwood Avenue, Lincoln, on the site of the former RAF Skellingthorpe

Squadrons stationed at RAF Skellingthorpe

  • No. 50 Squadron. 26 Nov 41 to 20 June 42 & 17 Oct 42 to 15 June 45
  • No. 61 Squadron 16 Nov 1941 to 1 Feb 44 & Nov 1943 to 1944 & 15 Apr 1944 to 16 Jun 1945
  • No. 619 Squadron RAAF:: Jun 1945 to 18 Jul 1945
  • No. 463 Squadron RAAF o Jun 1945 to 25 Sep 1945
  • 50 Conversion Flight. 15 May 1942 to 17 Jun 1942
  • 97 Conversion Flight 1 Sep 1942 to 7 Oct 1942
  • 106 Conversion Flight 1 Oct 1942 to 7 Oct 1942
  • 1485 Bombing and Gunnery Flt Aug 1943 to Nov 1943
  • 383 MU Jun 1945 to Sep 1945
  • 58 MU 1945 onwards


 

26th Nov 1941 On the Move

7th Feb 1942 44 Squadron Lancaster lost

April 1942 New Aircraft Arrive

30th Apr 1942 50 Squadron Manchester lost

30th May 1942 Raid

31st May 1942 50 Squadron Manchester lost

20th June 1942 On the Move

16th Oct 1942 On the Move

17th October 1942 Raid

13th Jun 1943 50 Squadron Lancaster lost

15th Jun 1943 50 Squadron Lancaster lost

31st Jul 1943 50 Squadron Lancaster lost

16th November 1943 On the move

23rd Nov 1943 50 Squadron Lancaster lost

26th November 1943 Aircraft Lost

30th Dec 1943 61 Squadron Lancaster lost

1st February 1944 Relocated

9th Apr 1945 50 Squadron Lancaster lost

15th April 1944 On the move

5th July 1944 Crash landing

24th Sep 1944 50 Squadron Lancaster lost

24th Sep 1944 61 Squadron Lancaster lost

24th Sep 1944 61 Squadron Lancaster lost

15th Oct 1944 61 Squadron Lancaster lost

3rd Feb 1945 50 Squadron Lancaster lost

26 April 1945 Last Ops

26th April 1945 Oil refinery bombed

6th May 1945 PoWs brought home

16th June 1945 Preparations


If you can provide any additional information, please add it here.



Those known to have served at

RAF Skellingthorpe

during the Second World War 1939-1945.

  • Alford Bernard William. F/Sgt.
  • Aston Ron. Flt.Lt
  • Aston Ron. Flt.Lt
  • Austin Derrick. Sergeant (d.8th Jul, 1944)
  • Battersby. Ronald . Flight Sergeant
  • Beresford A. G.. F/Sgt.
  • Bishop James Douglas. P/O (d.8th Jul 1944)
  • Blakemore E. J.. P/O
  • Boakes Edward . Flight Sergeant
  • Brown Frederick. Sgt.
  • Buchan David McDougal. Sgt.
  • Campbell Jack.
  • Cole T. B.. Sqd Ldr.
  • Cook Michael Arthur. F.Sgt. (d.6th Nov 1944)
  • Copson D.. Sgt. (d.22nd Jun 1944)
  • Corewyn. William . Flying Officer
  • Craig Robert. Flt.Sgt. (d.25th July 1944)
  • Craven J.. F/O.
  • Cunningham Robert Norval. (d.11th May 1944)
  • Darby William. Sgt. (d.6th Nov 1944)
  • Deaville Aurther Kenneth. Flt.Sgt.
  • Douglas. John . Sergeant
  • Dowling Ralph Andrew. Flt.Sgt. (d.6th Nov 1944)
  • Dunkelman George Amos. P/O (d.6th Nov 1944)
  • Dunkleman Fred. Sgt.
  • Earl. Peter . Sergeant
  • Elliott Newman Walter. Flt.Sgt.
  • Ferris George .
  • Grantham William Edwin. F/Lt. (d.8th July 1944)
  • Green Albert William. Sgt.
  • Hannah N.. P/O
  • Harper Robert Noel. Sergeant (d.8th Jul 1944)
  • Higgins George Albert. Sgt. (d.8th Jul 1944)
  • Hopkins Frederick Randall. P/O (d.8th Jul 1944)
  • Horning Fred. Sgt.
  • Horning Frederick Arthur. F/O (d.6th Nov 1944)
  • Ingram Kenneth Herschel Callender. F/Sgt. (d.2nd Oct 1944)
  • Jackson Clifford. F/Sgt. (d.8th Jul 1944)
  • James Sidney . Flight Sergeant
  • Laidlaw Alain. P/O
  • Lane J. F..
  • Lloyd Edgar Charles Prytherch . Sgt. (d.8th Jul 1944)
  • Manning . John. F/Sgt
  • McCallum Robert. W/O
  • McConnell Victor. F/O. (d.11th Apr 1944)
  • McCray David William. F/Sgt. (d.17th Dec 1944)
  • McDonald H. S.. F/Sgt.
  • Miners C. Alf. Sgt.
  • Motriuk Stanley Arcadie. W/O (d.8th Jul 1944)
  • Nash MID. Reginald Morris.
  • Noren Peter Oliver Kenneth. Flt Sgt. (d.8th Jul 1944)
  • O'Connor Charles Joseph. F/Sgt. (d.8th Jul 1944)
  • Packard S. E.. F/Sgt.
  • Poole David John. Sgt. (d.24th Dec 1943)
  • Rennie Robert .
  • Rennie Robert Edward. F/O (d.6th Nov 1944)
  • Richardson. Richard . Sergeant
  • Ross Robert John S.. Sgt.
  • Scott C. J.. Sgt. (d.30th Apr 1942)
  • Shorter Frederick Henry. Sgt. (d.22nd Jun 1944)
  • Spencer Hubert Arthur. Flt.Lt
  • Stenner Lester.
  • Stirling Eric John Walter. F/Sgt. (d.8th Jul 1944)
  • Terris George Thompson Gilbert. F/O (d.6th Nov 1944)
  • Thibedeau Roy Frederick. P/O (d.31st Mar 1944)
  • Tucker George Henry. Sgt. (d.8th Jul 1944)
  • Willett DFM.. S.. F/Sgt.
  • Willett Tim. Flt. Sgt.
  • Williams D. A.. Sgt. (d.30th Apr 1942)
  • Wise Geoffrey Norman. F/Sgt. (d.12th Sep 1944)

The names on this list have been submitted by relatives, friends, neighbours and others who wish to remember them, if you have any names to add or any recollections or photos of those listed, please Add a Name to this List

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Flt. Sgt. Tim Willett pilot 50 Sqd

F/S Willett was pilot of Manchester L7516 VN-N which was shot down on the 20th of April 1942 flying from RAF Skellingthorpe. They landed on tidal mudflats on the island of Sylt, Germany.

The crew were:

  • F/S S.Willett DFM
  • F/S S.E.Packard
  • P/O N.Hannah
  • F/S H.S.McDonald
  • Sgt C.A.Miners
  • Sgt D.A.Williams
  • Sgt C.J.Scott




Sgt. C. Alf Miners 50 Sqd

In 1941 I trained in the Australian Empire Air Training Scheme as a Wireless Operator/Air Gunner and on completion was posted to the embarkation depot in Perth, Western Australia, where I discovered I would be posted to Singapore. A few days later we were told that a number of Lockheed Hudson aircraft which were to be sent by the British to Singapore for our use could not be spared and consequently we were to travel to England.

The first part of our travels was under first-class conditions on an American passenger liner, the Maraposa, where I was fortunate to be allotted a single, self-contained cabin on the Promenade deck, much to the envy of all the troops. This ship was, of course, travelling under peace-time conditions and the food was quite unbelievable. The ship called at several ports on the way including Auckland, Fiji, Pago Pago and Honolulu. At the last named we were met by some of the local ladies who had brought their cars in order to take us on a tour of the island.

At one of the beaches we surprised a soldier who was supposed to have made himself invisible and prepare for an invasion. I did have the opportunity to examine a Garrard semi-authomatic rifle which I had not previously seen. The American Air Force put on a show for us with a full squadron of 'Bell Air Cobra' fighter aircraft which were well in advance of those we had in Australia. I should mention that this incident happened only a few weeks before the attack on Honolulu by the Japanese.

Our first port of call in America was Los Angeles where we were taken on a tour of Warner Brothers' film studios. After touring the studios we were given drinks and cigarettes by young starlets. We watched Bette Davis at work on a picture as well as other performers whose names I have since forgotten.

We re-embarked and travelled to San Francisco where we boarded a train for Vancouver. We made a number of stops and at most of them there were local inhabitants gathered at the level crossings, apparently to cheer us on. Although conversation was carried out at high volume, it was a very friendly interlude. The reception was at all times very enthusiastic and we all felt that there was a strong bond between Americans and Australians. The journey was quite enjoyable and the type of country varied a lot, unlike our Nullabor Plain.

After arrival in Vancouver we were embarked on the Canadian National train. I was very impressed with the size of the locomotives which were designed to haul their trains across the Rocky Mountains. During this trip we travelled almost exclusively by night and we were given the days to see what we could of Canada. The highlight was in Ottawa where, to secure better photos, we entered the tallest building we could see. This building we discovered was a Government office housing the Department which dealt with the inhabitants of the northern ice-bound regions. We met a Department officer who went to a great deal of trouble to explain the difficulties and the way in which they tried to overcome them. The places at which we stopped which spring most easily to mind are Jasper and Toronto which are quite beautiful. We travelled right across Canada on the train which had the American style Pullman sleeping cars, the journey taking about a week.

At Halifax, the end of the line, we boarded a troop ship, The Warwick Castle, a vessel of 20,000 tons and which was cleared to join a 20-knot convoy. My good fortune still held for this ship had not been converted to the usual troop ship but still had four-berth cabins. We were provided with a strong escort which included a light cruiser and a number of destroyers. We saw little action on the Atlantic crossing although when we counted the ships each morning there appeared to be some missing. We saw a demonstration of the ability of these escort ships when a warning of a submarine attack was given. The sight of these ships speeding around making rapid, sharp turns and throwing depth charges was something I will never forget. On this day the swell was described as 'moderate' but I think sailors are very conservative. I did not discover whether these depth charges caused any damage to the submarine. Over one day and night we encountered a severe gale when the sea swamped the boat deck making the biggest waves I have ever seen.

On arrival in England at Greenock, we disembarked and travelled by train to Bournemouth on the south coast. On the first night a small bombing raid was mounted by the Germans and although only a small number of aircraft was involved, some damage was inflicted and particularly to one of the nicest hotels. Our training did not include instruction on what to do in an air raid so we went to an air-raid shelter which seemed to be overcrowded and, I thought, the reception was somewhat hostile so we decided to go to the nearest hotel where we spent a pleasant evening despite the 'dressing down' I received for being too slow to close the blackout covers over the door. For some reason the ARP (Air Raid Precautions) were concerned this small light could be seen from the enemy aircraft and would precipitate an enemy attack.

I was posted to the Operational Training Unit near Doncaster and then to the squadron at Lincoln which, unfortunately, was equipped with 'Manchester' aircraft. We flew operations one night and had the next day at leisure. In order to perfect the methods to be used in the planned '1000 bomber raids' it was decided to send 250 aircraft per night for two nights consecutively on each target which were the cities of Lubeck and Rostock which had a ball-bearing factory and submarine pens respectively.

On the first of these raids on 28 April, 1942, we were instructed to attack Rostock at 12,000 feet and 'glide' bomb at 10,000 feet. I should mention that the 'Manchester' bomber could not reach a higher altitude so most other aircraft were flying at twice our height. After releasing the bombs we experienced a major explosion some distance below us and we flipped over on to our back. The pilots were successful in gaining control and righting the aircraft which was quite close to the ground as most of the crew agreed they felt heat from the fires in the city. Later discussion arrived at the belief that the explosion was a shell from a demounted cannon from one of the 'pocket' battleships. After this, the trip back to base was uneventful and we reached our squadron in Lincoln. The aircraft was fairly badly damaged, especially at the rear, by light and medium anti-aircraft fire. By some miracle the rear-gunner was not hit. On touchdown, however, a 500lb bomb, which had apparently been hung up on the bomb rack came out of the bomb bay from the starboard side and ran along the ground beside us for some time before it veered away. Fortunately, it did not explode.

Two nights later, on 30th April, 1942, we were instructed to lay mines around the 'pocket' battleship bottled up in Kiel harbour. This entails flying at an altitude of 500 feet at 150 miles per hour, straight and level. As I remember, this night was lit by a full moon and everything, including our aircraft, seemed brightly illuminated, which gave an uneasy feeling of insecurity. In addition, our instructions lead us further into Germany than any other bomber on that night which meant that for several hours we were the only intruders over enemy territory. As we proceeded on our way back to base it was discovered that one of the 1600 lb mines had hung up on the bomb rack and was still with us. The normal manoeuvres did not dislodge it so it was left in the bomb bay.

As we approached Denmark we were attacked by an ME 110 night fighter from below, which meant he was not seen and the first indication was a burst of gunfire. I was flying in the mid-upper gun turret on this night and a burst of cannon fire entered the lower portion of the turret, under my left arm and out through the Perspex in the top of the turret. I then saw gunfire at the rear of the aircraft and decided it was aimed at the rear gunner and as I saw no answering fire concluded he had been hit. I then requested the wireless operator to investigate.

I was able to fire a burst at the attacker who was below us and travelling in our direction. Unfortunately, the downward angle of fire was too steep and the guns jammed. I had further opportunities later the last of which was when the enemy appeared to have broken off the attack and went under us from right to left. The German rear gunner was still firing and as my gun came to bear, I fired and his firing stopped. My assumption was that I had made a hit.

I then saw that our port engine was on fire and although the pilot took all available action, including trying to feather the propeller, nothing worked and the fire increased. Due to enemy action our landing lights were activated thus lighting up the aircraft like a beacon. These were later extinguished and the order to abandon the aircraft was given. In order to vacate the turret it was necessary for me to step on to the arms of a chair beneath me and then get out. However, my foot slipped and I fell and was caught by the release buckle of my parachute harness on the floor of the turret and was swinging in mid-air. I managed to free myself and fell, fracturing my collarbone. My parachute was packed beside the door at the rear of the fuselage but the fire had beaten me to it thus rendering it useless. I then checked that the IFF radio (Identification "Friend or Foe") had detonated. This occurred as I looked and suffered some burning to my face.

By this time, the pilot had decided to land on the sea, which he did but was unable to pass on his decision to the rest of the crew as the intercom was not working. Following the decision to bail out, the front gunner and second pilot had attempted to open the escape hatch in the bomb aimer's position. Although it was jammed it eventually opened and the front gunner jumped. Unfortunately, the aircraft had descended to about 100ft and he was killed instantly. The second pilot then dived and swam to the side. We had landed on a sandbank but when the aircraft settled down it was found that he was trapped by the foot. The surviving crew members climbed out through the astrodome on to the starboard wing and between us we managed to free him and get him on to the wing.

As we could still see the searchlights operating on the shore it was an indication that we may be close enough to be able to walk there. The water we were in came up to my neck and when I tried to inflate my 'Mae West' lifejacket I was unsuccessful. The jacket was shown to me the next day by a German guard and had two bullet holes running parallel to my body. There was no life raft in the aircraft so our position looked a little precarious.

We started to wade and I tried to help the injured pilot but as his left leg was damaged, he had to lean on my injured right collarbone which was extremely painful. When I thought I could not continue we fell off the edge of the sandbank into deeper water and so had to return to the aircraft.

We discovered that the aircraft's force of impact on water and/or sandbank had caused both engines to be thrown forward twenty to thirty feet (about ten metres). We sat on the edge of the port wing watching the oxygen bottles and other objects exploding, one of which exploded with enough force to send the two of us from the wing into the water. The pilot then returned to the aircraft and emerged with the survival kits. There was one for each crew member, containing necessities to sustain us for one or two days. This included a small bottle of rum, which was most acceptable.

About 5.00 am an inflatable boat containing two occupants with Schmeiser submachine guns came to pick us up. When we were about half way to shore one of the petrol tanks on our aircraft exploded which looked very dramatic, particularly as we realised that if the Germans had been half an hour later we would still have been on the aircraft.

We were taken into the Sylt Luftwaffe headquarters and locked in a room. Our clothes were taken for drying and we were given hot soup. During the morning there was a loud explosion and some time later a lot of yelling. I later discovered that five German technicians went to examine our aircraft which was unfamiliar to them and while they were aboard the mine exploded killing all of them.

The pilot of the night fighter, Flying Officer Koeberich, came to see us during the morning and told me he had broken off his attack due to a fire in one engine and was preparing to land his aircraft when I saw him. He also advised that his gunner, Corporal Schubert, died that morning of gunshot wounds. From a report given by his replacement gunner, he was a successful pilot. When Reichsmarshall Herman Göring heard the details of the loss of the ME110 night fighter and the death of the gunner, he took the view that the Sylt Commandant had been negligent in sending assistance to his downed air crew and therefore the delay caused the gunner's death. This officer was relieved of his command at Sylt but I do not know the final result of his punishment.

Flying Officer Koeberich talked for some time in a friendly manner and described his training. He was recruited before the war and had had at least three years night fighter experience. At the end of our conversation he insisted that I receive some bandages. This was followed to the letter and I was presented with a two inch wide bandage to set a broken collarbone! Flying Officer Koeberich was later killed in a Royal Air Force air raid at Quakenbruch on Easter Sunday in 1944, when a bomb struck the air raid shelter he was in and the roof collapsed on him.

Our two injured crew members were taken to hospital but when I asked for some treatment I was ignored and this was repeated at each of the camps in which I was later interned. I cannot explain the reason for this but I was told on capture that as an Australian I had no right to be involved in this war. My injuries were not severe but treatment would have been beneficial. I had a broken collarbone, a broken nose, small fragments of shrapnel in my right thigh, Perspex splinters in my face, burns to face and hands and some damage to my knees. The two injured crew members were repatriated during 1943 in a prisoner exchange.

The pilot and I were transferred to Frankfurt for intensive interrogation and while there a bomb was dropped on the camp which destroyed some of the perimeter fencing, which caused a fair amount of excitement amongst the Germans. During the period of three days, I was locked in a room containing a bed, a table and a chair and waited for the interrogator. I was lucky enough to find a piece of a needle and a small piece of mirror. With these implements I passed the time digging out the Perspex splinters from my face.

We were then sent to Stalag Luft 3 passing through Hamburg. While on the platform, waiting for the train, we were joined by other prisoners and when the train pulled into the platform and we started to embark, the crowd on the platform which was now fairly large, started to push forward towards us which looked fairly dangerous. Our two guards pushed us into the carriage, jumped in and slammed the door behind them. They then made a great show of the fact that they were armed. Fortunately, the train left without delay.

Some distance from the station we saw evidence of airmen having been murdered. We arrived in Sagen and except for some prisoners from other camps who were to act as cooks we were the first batch in this camp. We spent about a year in this camp and were then transferred to Heyderkrug Stalag Luft 6 near the Baltic coast. After being sent to several other camps we finished up at Fallingsbostel and later were sent on a forced march, ostensibly to Lubeck. This was terminated after some weeks when we made contact with the British flying column who brought in some arms. I eventually returned to England on 7 May, 1945 in time to celebrate the end of the war.

As previously mentioned we were the first prisoners to go to Stalag Luft III but soon prisoners from other camps started to arrive and with the increased number of aircrew being shot down due to the escalating number of aircraft being used in each raid, it was not long before the camp was officially full.

At this time the camp consisted of only one compound in which prisoners were housed and a large compound for the administration block. The camp had been carved out of a pine plantation and the vorlager was still littered with stumps where the trees had been felled. Other huts were built until the maximum was reached. This left only enough room for a parade ground where the twice daily counts were conducted.

The huts were designed to hold about 100 prisoners in each and were divided into two rooms. The only furniture consisted of two-tier beds originally fitted with full sets of bed boards on which were placed mattresses filled with straw, often wet. By direct order from the Chief of the Luftwaffe, Reichsmarshal Hermann Göring, we were not permitted to leave the camp for any purpose including working on farms. The concentration, therefore, became fixed on the food we would eat when we got back home and the method we could use to accomplish this. Many harebrained schemes were put forward in all sincerity but in most cases the proponents were persuaded not to try.

One aspect of this, however, probably had some good effect. Realising that any successful escape must involve a great deal of walking, many of us decided to exercise as much as possible and as the only method available to us was walking, we took this up. Due to the large number of men wishing to walk on the one available track which was around the perimeter fence, keeping clear of the warning rail, it was agreed that we would walk using only left-hand circuits (all turns are to the left). I should mention that to cross the warning rail was tantamount to suicide as the guards had instructions to shoot for any infraction of this regulation. We had a good respect for their ability to hit their target with either a rifle or machine gun so we did not take any chances. They had to attend weekly shooting practice on the practice range which was placed within easy earshot of our compound probably as a warning. Our ambition was to walk 30 kilometres which was considered the distance we would have to travel at least in the first day and probably on some subsequent days if we succeeded in escaping. This remained an ambition for most of our time but as the effects of restricted diet took effect it seemed more like a pipe-dream.

We were provided with personal washing facilities which consisted of a double-sided trough with a pipe in the middle holding a number of taps. It will be appreciated that a lot of water was spilt on the floor through this method and in the winter months the water froze making a hump of up to thirty centimetres in height, which made it quite difficult to use.

After some months in this camp we were attacked by hordes of fleas and it became a daily ritual to search the blankets and exterminate the pests. After some time of enduring this, we were shepherded to a formerly forbidden area of the camp and into a delousing facility. In this building were clothes racks on wheels and we quickly stripped off and placed our clothes on them. They were then wheeled into what I can only describe as an oven. We were permitted to enjoy the luxury of a hot shower - the first in a long time. We all agreed that this was the most enjoyable way of combating the attentions of fleas. Having been established, this procedure was repeated at irregular intervals.

We had little to do so boredom became a serious problem. On one occasion we were offered the chance to help remove the stumps of the pine trees displaced by the building of the camp which was, of course, due for extension. The Germans had dug out most of the sand from the stumps and our task was to lift the stumps out of the ground and onto a cart. We worked in teams of six and were provided with a tool referred to, almost reverently, as die maschine. I think it was designed by da Vinci and consisted of a pine log tripod with two lever, or handles, attached to it. A sling was attached to the stump and connected to hooks on the handles. With three of us on each handle the work was not very strenuous. We were paid for this engineering feat in what was known as lager geld, which was acceptable only in the canteen for the German troops and then only for specified articles.

One task we were to perform was to peel the vegetables for the daily soup. These were almost invariably potatoes which had spent the winter stored in the underground clamps. A great deal of the potatoes was wasted because of this which allowed the potatoes to rot. The main addition to this was mangelwurzels which are an oversize swede-turnip grown for cattle food.

Most of the ground around the huts was taken up by very small garden plots in which the owners spent a disproportionate amount of time but they still made a valuable contribution, firstly, in providing some interest and secondly, as a cover for the tunnels attempted. One of these was a garden about one and a half metres square, covered by a wooden board on which the plants were growing. The whole garden was lifted up, the operator slipped underneath and the garden replaced. Unfortunately, this was not a successful attempt. A number of such schemes were attempted but none reached more than halfway between the warning rail and the perimeter fence. If my memory is to be relied upon, this would equate to about seven metres of tunnel which, considering the difficulties faced, was quite a creditable effort. The worst feature of all this tunnelling was the fact that because the soil was impoverished sand it was vital to shore up the tunnel even over relatively short distances and the only suitable material was our bed boards. It was decided that a total of five boards would support a man's weight and from then on our beds were slightly less comfortable and this situation continued in each camp.

It may be of interest that this was the camp from which a mass escape was made and on which the American film "The Great Escape" was loosely based. A few weeks before this escape was made we were transferred to Stalag Luft VI at Heydekrug which was situated not a great distance from Königsberg which gave us all the hope that it might be possible to board one of the ferries to get to Sweden.

After a short period of settling in we were paraded and an announcement made by the Camp Commandant that the escape from Sagen had been made and that in recapturing them, some of the prisoners had been shot. This, of course, caused a strong reaction for which the guards were prepared. They had been reinforced and our demonstration was quickly stifled by some manhandling.

This camp, probably because of the more severe weather conditions, had brick buildings and even a shower block. Each building held about 50 prisoners in one room. A heating stove was provided but no fuel.

Each morning we gathered at the main gate to see the new prisoners coming in. One day I saw in the group a friend whom I made at OTU (Operational Training Unit). The new prisoner was Vic Oliver, who was an instructor when I met him, resting after completing a tour of operations in which he earned a DFM. He was a talented pianist and a keen music lover and we stayed together until the war ended and he shared my unorthodox return to Britain, which is described later.

While at Sagen I saw my first game of rugby and was later pushed into playing. I did not know the rules or objectives but received a short verbal instruction session. I do not remember the name of the position I was allotted but I do remember I was in the 'scrum', which I found very uncomfortable. Towards the end of the game all action stopped and we found that one of the players had broken his leg and was being carried off the field. This ended the game and my participation in rugby for the future. To be injured in this place was a disaster as even small wounds took a long time to heal.

One story is that of a young Polish pilot who had joined the RAF in a Polish squadron after the German occupation. He was subjected to a considerable amount of enticement and threats to encourage him to join the Luftwaffe. His parents were reputed to live about twelve miles from the camp. He was promised almost unlimited visiting privileges but did not waver in his refusal which, considering the state of hostilities was a very courageous stance.

One of the saddest stories is that of an 18 years old gunner. He had joined the regular RAF and on 3rd September, 1939 was sent on a raid on a city in France. He was shot down and spent a considerable time as a prisoner. The trauma proved too much for him and his mental control was affected. We tried to have him included in the prisoner exchange which was carried out in 1943. I am not sure whether he was included but I believe he was as I did not see him after that time.

At each of the camps in which I was held someone had managed to create a radio on which we were able to receive the BBC news. In addition, we were told the German version of the progress of the war and we were, therefore, able to put together what we thought was a reasonable assessment.

At Heydekrug we were permitted to transform one of the wooden buildings into a theatre. We all laboured hard to do this. By working on this project we were able to steal some of the wood off-cuts which we used in our "blowers" to heat water to make tea. The apparatus was really a small forge made from food tins and with a belt-driven fan they were very efficient and boiled a 'billy' with very little fuel.

The theatre, however, was intended, in part, to deflect unwanted attention from the search for the radio. Because the local Gestapo had taken over camp searches, the possession of a radio could have had dire consequences so it was decided to burn down the theatre. This occurred late at night and although the German guards tried to extinguish the fire they could not and we were called upon to join the bucket chain. The search for the radio became less intense although regular searches of barracks and personnel continued.

There was a game which was played, as in other camps, where inmates, after being counted, would move to another group to be counted a second time. One night the parade went for an extra two hours much to the chagrin of our guards. When the count exceeded the full complement of the camp we considered we were victorious. This game rebounded on us the next day when the local Gestapo took over the count. During this period the barracks were minutely searched and we spent about eight hours standing in snow waiting to be dismissed. In order to fill in the waiting time, I engaged in conversation with one of the guards to discover his version of the state of the war. This was a complete failure but produced some humour. He was upset about the poor performance of their Italian allies and suggested that if our side would accept them as allies the Germans could win the war.

On a later search we were taken to a Gestapo colonel for interrogation and personal search and to show his authority he broke my last two cigarettes and threw them out on the pretext that I might have had a compass hidden in them. This wanton provocation made me lose my temper and I protested rather loudly for which I was hit from behind and commenced serving seven days solitary confinement in the camp "cooler".

One morning one of the guards in a postern tower heard that his family had been killed in an air raid the previous night and he opened fire with his machine gun. A number of near misses occurred but I did not hear of any casualties.

The impossible escape ideas still came up. While walking just before dusk I saw two of our number lying in a shallow creek which ran through one end of the compound. They had the intention of digging under the fence after dark, fortunately, they were persuaded to give up the attempt.

One of the English prisoners had apparently spent a considerable amount of time in pre-war Germany and could speak the language well enough to pass as one of them. I do not recall his name but he seemed to be able to go out and in at will. On one occasion he agreed to escape and gather information to help an escape bid and then return. He later vanished from the camp and enquiries elicited the statement that he had been sent to a holiday camp - a statement that left us full of foreboding.

After about twelve months at this camp we were transferred to another in Thorn in Poland. Transport was in the usual horse boxes which were always labelled '40 hommes-10 horses'. These railway vehicles were divided into three sections, the end ones for the horses and the middle for their attendants, in our case, for the guards. The wagons were built with rather heavy planks with a gap of about 75mms between them. The wagons were not sufficiently wide to allow us to lie down straight and so were rather uncomfortable.

When entering Thorn railway yards I was dismayed to see groups of women under guard and re-ballasting the tracks. This involved using picks and shovels. By the way they swung the picks they must have been in great fear.

On arrival at the camp we were ushered into a reception area which was filled with three-tier beds and wet straw mattresses. We were, however, only kept in that place for a few days and were then transferred to our new homes. We discovered that a large number of Australians (AIF members) were being held here and I even met one who was a friend of my future wife. My stay in that camp convinced me we were bringing a lot of trouble on ourselves by our actions.

We had been told in England that if we became prisoners we were to attempt to escape if possible and to cause enough trouble to ensure that as many of the German forces as possible were required as guards and I believe we all followed this course fairly successfully.

The practice of locating Prisoner of War camps next to service establishments was followed and at Sagen we must have been next to a Luftwaffe camp charged with testing new models of aircraft. One ME110 used to make an extremely low-level pass over our camp each morning until an idiot threw stones and eventually hit the aircraft. This could have resulted in a large number of casualties as most of us were out waving encouragement to the pilot. We were later privileged to see testing of other models, such as, the new two-engined super dive bomber.

At another camp (probably Fallingbostel) we were next to a rocket testing site. These were not the big ones like the V1 and V2 rockets but rather limited to about 1.0 to 1.5 metres in length. There seemed to be a problem with steering as large numbers careered wildly on the way up and crashed back to earth - fortunately not in our camp.

Events of great interest were the sight of Mosquito aircraft being pursued by German fighters and relying purely on their superior speed to escape. A similar occurrence was sighted when our first jets showed a clean pair of heels to the FW190's (Focke-Wulff 190's), which were probably the best of the German fighters.

Some time later we were transferred again, this time to Fallingbostel. The camp was not very different to others and had brick buildings. The interesting item was the small road roller used to collapse tunnels. However, the distance was too great from buildings to the fence and to my knowledge only one succeeded in reaching this distance and was collapsed. Another radio operated in this camp and our spirits soared and sank as the fortunes of war changed.

One aspect of prison life which was not too pleasant was the use of guard dogs to enforce orders. This was more prevalent after the daylight raids on Germany commenced. We were supposed to proceed to our barracks and not make any gestures which could be interpreted as signals to the aircraft. After shouted orders followed by threats with rifles, the dogs would be let loose which had an immediate effect with prisoners running madly for shelter.

The trip to Fallingbostel turned out to be an interesting interlude. We were crowded into the usual horse wagons and at one station, which had a large marshalling yard, we stopped and the guards left the train. Naturally we tried to assess the chances of getting away but as some of our members tried to open the wire doors we discovered that each wagon was guarded by a young soldier equipped with a sub-machine gun. An ambulance train carrying many Red Crosses passed us heading in the opposite direction and the inmates appeared to be very fit to our eyes.

Shortly after this we were attacked by three American Lockheed 'Lightning' aircraft. I was climbing the wall for a better view when firing started and dived for the floor. A number of nasty holes appeared in the walls but we decided we were probably not the prime target as on the second set of rails from us stood a train of fuel tankers some of which were burning.

Later that day as the temperature started to drop we stopped to cross another train heading in the opposite direction to us. As this train neared we heard the most unearthly sound, which was spine tingling. The train consisted of steel wagons covered in pig netting and the noise was made by Frenchmen being transported as slave labourers to Germany and were crying for help to relieve their sufferings. We could do nothing for them but their cries gave me nightmares for some years after the war. I cannot imagine how many were in the wagons and how many could have survived the night.

From the camp at Fallingbostel we were able to hear the sound of the canon at the time the crossing of the Rhine was being pursued. This continued day and night for some days and when we found out the attempt had been successful we were elated.

About this time the Germans apparently decided we were of some value to them and arranged an evacuation. We were to travel by train to Lubeck but when we arrived in Hamburg a large air raid was in progress which did considerable damage to buildings and railways. As our train could not proceed we were required to finish the journey on foot. Our route is now a mystery to me but I do remember passing through Schleswig-Holstein and days later crossing the river Elbe by ferry which looked like a small landing barge. During this embarkation of about 100 prisoners, two British aircraft appeared. They came down low but did not fire, much to our relief. We then walked about 30 kms per day sleeping in barns on farms each night. We did, however, have a rest day on Sundays. Our biggest fear was that of being 'strafed' by British aircraft and indeed this happened to the group which left after ours. We did, however, become adept at diving into the ditches on each side of the road.

Early in the march most of us suffered from an internal complaint which struck suddenly and left no time to seek a suitable location. The first two casualties occurred one morning and they dropped behind. Two guards stayed with them but I do not remember them ever rejoining the party.

My own case was more amusing. We had stopped in a barnyard and dug a hole. There was no cover so the hole was in plain view from the road. While I was using this convenience two girls drove up in a wagon of potatoes and waved quite vigorously. They were not in a hurry and were quite happy to stay and talk to the group.

Later in the march some of the guards left us, apparently deserting military service. The sergeant in-charge managed to obtain bread at each town except for one which gave him flour, which we could not cook and so we went hungry.

One night, while being overcome with an attack of our illness, I shot out of the tent we were using, dived underneath the bayonet of the guard and went to the hole. He followed me and when he saw what was happening he left me alone. I did not return but decided to try to escape which, considering our condition and location, was a very stupid choice. When daylight returned I found myself in another farmyard which sported an extremely large clump of what looked like rhubarb. I decided to hide in them until I planned my next move.

There was a fairly large building about 250-300 metres away with two farm wagons outside - these were drawn by the usual one horse and one cow. Soon a number of men started loading the wagons with objects brought from the building. From my position, and considering the manner in which the objects were thrown onto the wagons, I decided they were human bodies. I have not been able to confirm this conclusion but it gave me a great deal of concern at the time. I then decided to rejoin our party if I could find a way to do so without being shot. Fortunately I was successful, thanks to the cooperation of the members of our group.

My memory says we continued to walk east for some time, probably two to three weeks, when a guard to whom I was talking made the comment "Tomorrow, we will be the prisoners and you the guards". Despite my probing he would say no more. By some means which I cannot describe, we found out that a flying column was approaching and that the army would not be too far behind.

Early the next morning we took off through the 'bush' and made contact with a jeep containing a British Lieutenant and a corporal who advised us to return to camp and that they would come the next morning and bring some arms. They kept their promise and appeared with six rifles. This was sufficient as our guards were ready to surrender and no other military personnel were too close. All this occurred on 2nd May, 1945. We were not far from town and a group of five of us joined forces and walked. The name of the town eludes me.

When we arrived in town we looked for accommodation and transport but we found only the former. A large building of apartments seemed to contain only women and when we explained our situation as being escaped prisoners of war, a number of the women appeared afraid of us, which was, of course, understandable. After some talk they seemed to accept our assurance that we meant them no harm. One of them, after discussion with her neighbours moved her things to the next apartment and lent us hers for the night. These women told us they were the widows of German soldiers killed in Stalingrad. I do not know if this was correct and some other explanations for a large number of women in a building circulated.

However, they adapted to the situation and in the apartment we were actually cooked bacon and eggs. In return I gave the woman some tins of German rations that I had acquired. As we drifted into town we found that some British soldiers had set up a sort of canteen and served hot tea and white bread and butter. When I saw the white bread I thought it was sponge cake and ate half of it before I realised I could have put butter on it.

Next morning we again looked for transport and despite several attempts could not find a vehicle good enough. Then I discovered an American major who seemed to be organising traffic movements and, at my request, told me to take a German motor truck parked on the road. It was, to my eyes, a massive vehicle needing five steps to the cab and room to sit five across. The largest vehicle I had ever driven was a three-ton Bedford. When I started driving out of town I discovered a lot of other ex-prisoners looking for a way out and before long the truck was full. I did not count the number of passengers but it seemed to be a full load. At this time we discovered we had been given a ration truck which was full of edibles. Our passengers were good providers and were divided into groups to look for liquor and fuel and they were quite successful.

The road was crowded with traffic but we were impeded only at a few spots. At one of these an ambulance pulled alongside us and in starting collided with us and tore out the side of the ambulance. When the American officer, who was trying to keep traffic flowing, investigated the damage, he found that the only occupants were two high-ranking Germans trying to get away.

We eventually arrived back at the Elbe River and had to say goodbye to our truck because the original bridges had been destroyed and were temporarily replaced by Bailey Bridges, which would not carry the load. We caught a ride on a jeep and it is still a mystery how the driver could have seen his way. We had men on the bonnet and others everywhere they could find a hand-hold.

Across the river we found a reception area where we stayed the night and embarked on a British truck for the next stage westward. At the end of the journey we saw our accommodation - there were hundreds of little tents in a paddock. Our group now consisted of only Vic Oliver and myself and we decided that as we required medical attention for some obscure stomach affliction, we would take off on our own. This we did and rode on all sorts of military vehicles including tank carriers and ate at any army establishment we could find.

The British soldiers were very hospitable and we were provided with food and beds. Although our clothes were disreputable we had no trouble in getting the army drivers to pick us up.

We eventually arrived in Brussels in the late afternoon and were too late to get clothing or money which I desperately needed to go into town. We then noticed a Douglas DC3 aircraft with its engines running and ready for take-off. We both ran as fast as possible and were lucky enough to reach it in time. We thus became the first of our group to reach England.

We arrived at Bishop Stortford (now renamed) and travelled to a RAF hanger where a reception was laid on and we were ushered from the bus to a de-lousing centre where we were pumped full of DDT. From this area we were met by a WAAF (Women's Auxiliary Air Force), dressed in her best, and ushered to a table. I found this a little daunting as I must have smelt of DDT and had on a pair of trousers which had a large tear in the bottom. This was, of course, the first female I had met for three years.

We were later taken to our accommodation for the night and travelled to Brighton the next day arriving in time to be issued with some clothing but too late for money. This was, of course, VE Day and big celebrations were expected.

As I left to go into town I met a New Zealand soldier who lent me £5, which we proceeded to spend. By this time we had been joined by some WRNS (Women's Royal Naval Service) and one or two other servicemen. We danced in the streets and drank large quantities of beer and were all very happy. The next day when entering my hotel I was confronted by my cousin whom I had not seen for some years.

We were placed on a diet guaranteed to add body weight which included a gallon (4.5 litres) of milk per day. After being on this diet for ten days I was weighed for the issue of an identity card and was amazed to find I was then 35 kilos - my normal weight was 60+kilos.

Towards the end of August 1945 we embarked on the ship 'Orion' for our return home. This ship had been completely converted to a troop ship and, therefore, provided no storage for gear and had hammocks to sleep on. This was my first experience with hammocks and I was not impressed. We travelled by way of the Panama Canal. When in mid-Pacific, the Captain announced that he had heard that the Japanese had surrendered but as he had no official orders the ship would carry on under wartime rules, which included anti-aircraft practice with rockets.

We landed in Sydney and an English officer who had been designated 'Officer Commanding Troops' issued an order that we would not be granted leave and must remain on the ship. It was later discovered that there was to be a reception at the local RAAF station, which we attended. The next day he tried to enforce his order but was unsuccessful and I met my brother for the first time in five years.

The voyage to Fremantle was quite rough but was worth the worry when we arrived to see waiting on the wharf, the welcoming party consisting of my father, mother and my future wife, Phyllis, who was still waiting for me after my absence of five years. We married in 1946, had a daughter and a son, and 56 happy years together.

My crew were:

  • F/S S.Willett DFM. pilot
  • F/S S.E.Packard
  • P/O N.Hannah
  • F/S H.S.McDonald
  • Flying Officer L.T. Manser, VC.
  • Sgt D.A.Williams RAAF
  • Sgt C.J.Scott (d. 30 April 1942)
  • Sgt C. Alf Miners. RAAF

Alf Miners



Sergeant Robert Noel Harper flt eng 50 Squadron (d.8th Jul 1944)

Robert Noel Harper was the Flight Engineer of Lancaster VN-J of 50 Sqd. This young man, aged most likely 19 years old, was killed when their Lancaster crashed on the night of July 7, 1944 with 5 of the crew. The pilot, Alan Laidlaw from Winnipeg, Manitoba was ejected from their Lancaster plane. Robert Harper is burried in France, a small village called Meslin Mauger, near Roen. Their plane was one of 31 planes shot down by the German on that night. 208 Lancasters were sent, 13 mosquitos were sent to bomb at St. Lue d'Esserent the V-1 flying bomb storage depot. This fourth attack was part of the Operation Crossbow. It was a great victory. Does anyone know anything about this young man?

The crew were:

  • P/O A.F.Laidlaw RCAF
  • Sgt R.N.Harper
  • F/S F.R.Hopkins RCAF
  • WO2 S.A.Motriuk RCAF
  • Sgt D.Austin
  • WO2 J.D.Bishop RCAF
  • Sgt P.O.K.Noren RCAF
  • Danielle Lawrence for Alain Laidlaw now 86 years old.

Danielle Lawrence



Sergeant Derrick Austin w/op 50 Squadron (d.8th Jul, 1944)

This young man, aged most likely 20 years old, crashed on the night of August 7, 1944 with 5 of the crew. The pilot, Alan Laidlaw from Winnipeg, Manitoba was ejected from their Lancaster plane. Derrick Austin is buried in France, a small village called Meslin Mauger, near Roen. Their plane was one of 31 planes shot down by the German on that night. 208 Lancaster were sent, 13 mosquitoes were sent to bomb at St. Lue d'Esserent the V-1 flying bomb storage depot. This fourth attack was part of the Operation Crossbow. It was a great victor. Danielle Lawrence for Alain Laidlaw now 86years old.

Danielle Lawrence



F/Sgt John Manning 61 Squadron

My father, John Manning, served as a Flight Sergeant/Air Gunner on 61 Squadron, flying Lancasters based at Skellingthorpe, an airfield shared with 50 Squadron at that time.

Dad had a roll-out picture taken (he thinks) at the end of the war with aircrew of both squadrons sitting on the wings of a Lancaster. This photo was unfortunately lost when my sister died, as she had been looking after it.

Dad is, thank God, still with us and still very sharp, but he misses his photograph. Has anyone out there got a copy they can scan?

Christopher Manning



Flt.Lt Hubert Arthur Spencer 61 Squadron

I qualified as a wireless operator for aircrew and joined 61 Sqdn in February 1945 and operated from Skellingthorpe until May 1945.

Hubert Spencer



Flt.Lt Ron Aston 61 Squadron

LANDING ON THREE! Ron Aston (a survivor) now living in Gordons Bay South Africa.

November 25th 1944 was a wet wintry day in Wigsley, Nottinghamshire. Cloud was low and it was dull grey with showers. I was there to convert from twin engined Wellingtons to Stirling four engined aircraft, prior to going on to Lancasters and thence to joining a squadron.

Today my crew and I were to undertake our first cross-country exercise. Well prepared, with four hours solo, briefed, in possession of the met forecast, we took off after lunch into the murky day. The weather didn't present any problems, we were well trained on instruments both in cloud and at night, and we knew we would have to make a night landing on our return. I had a good Navigator and was confident that this would be just another exercise... How wrong could I be?

We were climbing on course and levelled out at about 6000' in and out of cloud. I was busy sighting the two port engines to synchronise the propellers, after which I would do the same with the starboard ones. This is done by simply adjusting each pair of throttles so that the pair each side are running at exactly the same speed - this cuts out the droning associated with multi-engined piston aircraft. Whilst adjusting the throttles, the port outer throttle lever gave me a severe rap across the knuckles which, despite the gloves, hurt. I immediately asked the Fight Engineer to check the instruments for that engine. I knew that there must have been a backfire through the fuel induction system which could be caused by a broken valve or faulty ignition. Either way is wasn't good news, especially when the Engineer reported that the engine was running hot and losing oil pressure rapidly. There was no choice but to tell him to feather the prop and shut down number one engine.

Now I knew that the Stirling was underpowered, indeed, it was a very heavy and ponderous aircraft to fly. But I had no idea how it would perform on three engines... Shortly I would find out! With the remaining three engines now at full power, I now had a course to steer for a return to base, but there I was with both feet on the same rudder pedal, both hands straining the ailerons to keep the port wing up, and losing height.

Returning for an emergency landing, at about 3000' feet I was holding height. We were now in cloud and it was getting dark. I called the Wigsley tower for an emergency landing and was told to stand by. This I accepted as I knew they would want to get the emergency vehicles at the ready. Meantime the Engineer and I were recalling items from the Pilot's Notes for the Stirling. One point kept coming back - on three engines with wheels and flaps down you cannot overshoot. This meant that once these were down we were committed to land. Then another thought occurred to me; I had never been demonstrated a three engine landing or practised one with an instructor! So I assumed it was the same as a single engine landing on a twin, so it didn't worry me too much.

Continuing to call base for permission to break cloud and land, each time they came back with the same message to stand by. After half an hour of flying the crippled aircraft around in thick cloud I was beginning to sweat blood. Calling base again I told them I was breaking cloud and preparing to land at the first aerodrome I saw. Immediately they came back with the instruction to divert to Waddington. My Navigator gave me a course to steer and an ETA of eight minutes. At 1000' we broke cloud into a clear black night. In a short while I saw the runway lights and the Drem system of an airfield dead ahead and told the Navigator that I could see Waddington.

Calling on the emergency frequency I requested permission to join the circuit for an emergency landing. This given, I reported in the circuit and again on downwind. As I turned onto base I lowered the undercarriage and still with plenty of height, lined up with the runway as I turned onto final. As we reduced speed it became more difficult to keep straight. At 300' I called for full flap as I was then certain of making the runway. Just as the flaps came down I was given a red from the runway caravan and a red Very light, just in time to see another four engined aircraft taxi out onto the runway for take off...

The very same runway we were now committed to! I had no time to be horrified, I knew that an overshoot was impossible, and the instinct for self preservation took over. There was no time to think; I knew I had to land and I didn't fancy landing on top of the other aircraft. So I did the only thing possible - turned 10„a to port and proceeded to land on the grass, looking out of the starboard window to judge my height from the flare path, seeing also the other aircraft take off. Fortunately there were no obstructions and we made a fair landing.

Making back for the runway I turned off left, parked and shut down, with an incredible feeling of relief! Most of the crew had no idea what was going on - just that I had landed on the grass - but those up front soon put them wise. A van arrived shortly and we all piled in. I asked to be taken to the tower and arriving there marched up the steps feeling very much put out and more than a little peeved. I opened the door with a bang and asked who the hell let the aircraft take off whilst I was coming down on an emergency landing. They all looked puzzled and said they had no knowledge that I was making an emergency landing. I was quick to remind them that I had been talking to them only minutes before on joining the circuit... this they denied all knowledge of... and then it struck me... I asked "this is Waddington isn't it?" "Oh no!" they said, "this is Swinderby!" I had landed at the wrong airfield!

24th February 1945 was my first daylight raid, the target being the Dortmund–Ems Canal Canal, Germany. I paid particular attention to the briefing to be ‘on the ball’ and to make sure of my designated position in the ‘goggle’. Unlike the US Army Air Corps, the Lancaster wasn’t designed to fly in formation; we kept position in loose groups of aircraft.

We took off with a full bomb load from our Linconshire base early afternoon, expecting a return night landing. As we went out to the dispersals I kept an eye on the other aircraft that I was to fly alongside, so I could take off as close to them as possible. There was little wind and we used the whole runway to take off. Alas, once airborne it was impossible to catch up with those in front. We were climbing at nearly full power so I did what everyone else did and slipped into the gaggle at the nearest point and held station, which wasn’t easy as the Lancs in front & on either side began to wander. daylight raids demanded more attention than keeping course at night. All went well for a couple of hours, but then the Wireless Operator announced that the op had been abandoned due to heavy cloud over the target, and that we were to return to base. I thought that we should go for an alternative target, but no, we were to return to Skellingthorpe. As we turned I could see some of the other Lancs dropping their bombs into the North Sea. As we flew back 4Flight Enenginee and myself had a discussion about the weight of the aircraft for landing. The bomb load comprised fourteen 1000 lb bombs with half-hour delay acid fuses. We had consumed fuel on the engine run-ups prior to take off, climbing to height and cruising for two hours since then.

The flight engineer gave his computed figure which showed that we were well over the maximum permitted weight for landing. Should I jettison some or all of our bombs? Hell, to come all this way and drop those precious bombs into the ocean seemed such a waste; overweight or not, I would take those bombs back. I was confident that I could handle it, as the Lancaster was the most forgiving aircraft that I had flown, so we continued back in the dark. I could see other aircraft landing as we approached Skellingthorpe, and I could already imagine the taste of the hot cup of cocoa as we entered the crewroom. I called up on the radio and we joined the circuit. Suddenly the whole world lit up. A huge explosion had taken place on the airfield, and even at 1000 ft we felt the shock wave. Immediately I turned off the navigation lights as I thought German night fighters had come back with us in the bomber stream, as sometimes happened. After a few minutes I was diverted to Woddington, just a short hop away from our own base, and was soon on the approach to landing there. In the meantime, with all the excitement, I had other things on my mind and had forgotten about our weight. However, all this came rushing back to me as we were about to land, but thankfully all went well. However, I was surprised when the groundcrew directed us to the far side of the airfield, where we began a long wait in the dark.

Eventually, after we had tucked the aircraft down for the night, a ~n from Skellingthorpe picked us up. The driver told us that another LAnc with bombs on board had exploded, killing its crew as well as seven ground crew, and destroyed other planes and hangars.

It was a very sad journey home, and we got to bed in the early hours of the morning. Early that same morning I was woken with the news that I was to return to Waddington to collect our aircraft, as it was required for a sortie that same night. A little piece of RAP St Mowgan’s 42 Squadron History: Flown by squadron CO Wg Cdr Carson, on 2nd Auciust 1965, Mk III SF~ack WR958 dropped supplies at a rendezvous 400 miles out into the Atlantic.

Robert Manry, sailing a 14 ft dinghy from Falmouth, Connecticut USA to Falmouth, Cornwall was making the British National press headlines at the time and, of course, someone at Mob thought it great PR to drop mail and fresh fruit to sailor Manry. The skill in finding this tiny boat in the middle of the ocean didn’t occur to anyone, except the aircrew who had to find it - pre-GPSI. The Press were in the accompanying shack to witness and photograph the event, and this is the photo syndicated at the time.

I can only tell you how relieved the navigator in ‘b’ was when the aircraft landed - the crew also had an AVM on board, a future AOC for 18 Group! Waddington knew of the tragic accident at Skellingthorpe before we landed, and didn’t want a repeat performance with another of our aircraft. Last night there had been seven aircraft lined up with ours, but this morning mine was the only plane there and all the other crews were back in bed - where I wanted to be as I expected to fly an op again that night. Meanwhile, there was not a soul in sight by our aircraft - everyone knew that my bomb-bay was full of bombs! On entering the aircraft we were staggered to see the fuselage aft of the tail door stocked with the fins from our 1000 lb bombs, each standing chest-high. There were also ammunition boxes containing the bomb fuses. With so much weight in the rear of the aircraft it was impossible to take off, so something had to be off-loaded. I then contacted control and asked if the armourers could take off some of the bombs. But we waited and waited, and nobody came. After two hours I had had enough, so I sent the bomb aimer to see if the bombs were safe. He did just that and reported that all was well. I started the engines, did the proof light checks, switched off the radio, and then told the bomb aimer to release the entire bomb load on the grass. We felt a jolt as the bombs left the aircraft, and I could feel the Lanc breathing a sigh of relief, just like me. To clear the tail wheel around the bombs I locked one main wheel and pivoted the Lanc around. Fortunately this manoeuvre worked, and as I headed for the runway I glimpsed our 14 large bombs laid out neatly on the grass. I then took off and landed at Skellingthorpe a few minutes later. Believe it or not, I never heard another word about the incident. Thankfully I also didn’t have to fly that night, but I did return to Dortman Elms Canal several times.

Ron is alive but not too well, in Gordons Bay South Africa.

Peter Chamberlain



Flt.Lt Ron Aston 61 Squadron Skellingthorp

By Ron Aston Old War Stories: l3Bombs AwayITM Shack Drops a Welcome Ron Aston,. Serving in the Royal Air Force during WW2 as a F14’ht Lieutenant Pilot flying 61 Squadron’s Lancasters~ from RAF Skellingthorpe, Lincolnshire. Ron hasn’t been too well recently. 30/05/2010

24th February 1945 was my first daylight raid, the target being the Dortmund–Ems Canal Canal, Germany. I paid particular attention to the briefing to be ‘on the ball’ and to make sure of my designated position in the ‘goggle’. Unlike the US Army Air Corps, the Lancaster wasn’t designed to fly in formation; we kept position in loose groups of aircraft.

We took off with a full bomb load from our Linconshire base early afternoon, expecting a return night landing. As we went out to the dispersals I kept an eye on the other aircraft that I was to fly alongside, so I could take off as close to them as possible. There was little wind and we used the whole runway to take off. Alas, once airborne it was impossible to catch up with those in front. We were climbing at nearly full power so I did what everyone else did and slipped into the gaggle at the nearest point and held station, which wasn’t easy as the Lancs in front & on either side began to wander. daylight raids demanded more attention than keeping course at night. All went well for a couple of hours, but then the Wireless Operator announced that the op had been abandoned due to heavy cloud over the target, and that we were to return to base. I thought that we should go for an alternative target, but no, we were to return to Skellingthorpe. As we turned I could see some of the other Lancs dropping their bombs into the North Sea. As we flew back 4Flight Enenginee and myself had a discussion about the weight of the aircraft for landing. The bomb load comprised fourteen 1000 lb bombs with half-hour delay acid fuses. We had consumed fuel on the engine run-ups prior to take off, climbing to height and cruising for two hours since then.

The flight engineer gave his computed figure which showed that we were well over the maximum permitted weight for landing. Should I jettison some or all of our bombs? Hell, to come all this way and drop those precious bombs into the ocean seemed such a waste; overweight or not, I would take those bombs back. I was confident that I could handle it, as the Lancaster was the most forgiving aircraft that I had flown, so we continued back in the dark. I could see other aircraft landing as we approached Skellingthorpe, and I could already imagine the taste of the hot cup of cocoa as we entered the crewroom. I called up on the radio and we joined the circuit. Suddenly the whole world lit up. A huge explosion had taken place on the airfield, and even at 1000 ft we felt the shock wave. Immediately I turned off the navigation lights as I thought German night fighters had come back with us in the bomber stream, as sometimes happened. After a few minutes I was diverted to Woddington, just a short hop away from our own base, and was soon on the approach to landing there. In the meantime, with all the excitement, I had other things on my mind and had forgotten about our weight. However, all this came rushing back to me as we were about to land, but thankfully all went well. However, I was surprised when the groundcrew directed us to the far side of the airfield, where we began a long wait in the dark.

Eventually, after we had tucked the aircraft down for the night, a ~n from Skellingthorpe picked us up. The driver told us that another LAnc with bombs on board had exploded, killing its crew as well as seven ground crew, and destroyed other planes and hangars.

It was a very sad journey home, and we got to bed in the early hours of the morning. Early that same morning I was woken with the news that I was to return to Waddington to collect our aircraft, as it was required for a sortie that same night. A little piece of RAP St Mowgan’s 42 Squadron History: Flown by squadron CO Wg Cdr Carson, on 2nd Auciust 1965, Mk III SF~ack WR958 dropped supplies at a rendezvous 400 miles out into the Atlantic.

Robert Manry, sailing a 14 ft dinghy from Falmouth, Connecticut USA to Falmouth, Cornwall was making the British National press headlines at the time and, of course, someone at Mob thought it great PR to drop mail and fresh fruit to sailor Manry. The skill in finding this tiny boat in the middle of the ocean didn’t occur to anyone, except the aircrew who had to find it - pre-GPSI. The Press were in the accompanying shack to witness and photograph the event, and this is the photo syndicated at the time.

I can only tell you how relieved the navigator in ‘b’ was when the aircraft landed - the crew also had an AVM on board, a future AOC for 18 Group! Waddington knew of the tragic accident at Skellingthorpe before we landed, and didn’t want a repeat performance with another of our aircraft. Last night there had been seven aircraft lined up with ours, but this morning mine was the only plane there and all the other crews were back in bed - where I wanted to be as I expected to fly an op again that night. Meanwhile, there was not a soul in sight by our aircraft - everyone knew that my bomb-bay was full of bombs! On entering the aircraft we were staggered to see the fuselage aft of the tail door stocked with the fins from our 1000 lb bombs, each standing chest-high. There were also ammunition boxes containing the bomb fuses. With so much weight in the rear of the aircraft it was impossible to take off, so something had to be off-loaded. I then contacted control and asked if the armourers could take off some of the bombs. But we waited and waited, and nobody came. After two hours I had had enough, so I sent the bomb aimer to see if the bombs were safe. He did just that and reported that all was well. I started the engines, did the proof light checks, switched off the radio, and then told the bomb aimer to release the entire bomb load on the grass. We felt a jolt as the bombs left the aircraft, and I could feel the Lanc breathing a sigh of relief, just like me. To clear the tail wheel around the bombs I locked one main wheel and pivoted the Lanc around. Fortunately this manoeuvre worked, and as I headed for the runway I glimpsed our 14 large bombs laid out neatly on the grass. I then took off and landed at Skellingthorpe a few minutes later. Believe it or not, I never heard another word about the incident. Thankfully I also didn’t have to fly that night, but I did return to Dortman Elms Canal several times. Ron is alive but not too well, in Gordons Bay South Africa.

Peter Chamberlain RAF



Sgt. David McDougal Buchan 50 Squadron

My Uncle, Sgt David McDougal Buchan, was a Navigator serving with 50 Squadron at Skellingthorpe.   

David and his crew.

Scan of a letter received from Skellingthorpe

David William Buchan



Jack Campbell 463 Squadron

My Grandfather, Jack Campbell, is a Canadian Second World War veteran who served as a mid-upper gunner in 463 Squadron, RAAF, 61 Squadron RAF. At my grandfather's request, I have recently transcribed his memoirs where he details his wartime experience, and his time spent at Skellingthorpe, from 1942 to 1944.

The Airbourne Years

Robin Heron



F/Sgt. David William McCray 50 Squadron. (d.17th Dec 1944)

I have been researching F/Sgt McCray for my Australian relatives as they believe that his name may be spelt wrongly in the memorial books in Lincoln Cathedral which I will return to in a moment. My distant cousin, David McCray, was a member of 50 Sqd in 1944. He was Navigator on Lancaster LM676, VN-W. which took off from Skellingthorpe at 1615 hrs on the night of 17/18th December 1944.

The Crew was

  • P/O R E Amey DFC (Pilot)
  • Sgt F Livesey (Flight eng)
  • F/Sgt D W McCray (Navigator)
  • F/O D R Kennedy (Air Bomber)
  • F/Sgt G W Lane DFM (Wireless opp air)
  • Sgt M J Cook (Mid Upper Gunner)
  • Sgt R Shackelton (Rear Gunner)
The RAAR records show that the Lancaster was detailed to bomb Munich. Nothing was heard from the aircraft after take off and it failed to return to base. It was later established that the aircraft crashed at 2200hrs on the 17th December 1944 at Freimann Barracks Munich. Five of the crew, including David, were killed in the crash and two P/O Amey and Sgt Livesey survived the crash and were POWs. The five who lost there lives are buried in the Durnbach War Cemetery 48 km south of Munich. P/O Amey was wounded and sadly died of his wounds in hospital on 31st December 1944. Sgt Livesey stated in a report that the aircraft crashed near to the target and both he and P/O Amey were blown out by the explosion.

Now we come to the spelling bit. On a trip by John McCray (David's Brother) to the War Grave in Durnbach it was noted that David’s surname had been spelt wrongly as "Mcgray" this has now been rectified. John also attended the unveiling ceremony of the memorial in Skellingthorpe with his wife Eva and learned of the memorial books at Lincoln Cathedral but they were unable to go there to see. Now John is unable to travel and he has asked me to try to find out if David’s name has been spelt correctly in the memorial books. I would be very grateful if anyone could give me any info regarding F/Sgt David McCray or Sgt Livesey.

Tim Robson



F/O. Victor McConnell 83 Squadron (d.11th Apr 1944)

I would like to tell the story of the crew of Lancaster ND389, my connection is slim, although I have spent many years researching the crew but I would like to add this in remebrance of the crew.
  • P/O V. McConnell
  • Sgt T/Powell
  • F/O A.J.S.Watts
  • Sgt H.S.Vickers
  • Sgt W.Surgey
  • Sgt G.H.Bradshaw
  • Sgt W.J.Throsby
The first mention of the crew I have found is 13 October 1943 where they were identified as having been at 1660 Conversion unit at RAF Swinderby. Here they were learning to fly four engined bombers, having first been together as a crew on two engined aircraft, most probably a Wellington but possibly a Whitley.

On the 13/10/43 they left Swinderby to join 61 Squadron who were based at RAF Skellingthorpe outside of Lincoln. This squadron was part of 5 Group. They flew their first Operation 03/11/43 to Dusseldorf. They remained with the squadron until 30/04/44 and flew Operations to Modan, flew on operations to Berlin 5 times, plus Frankfurt, Stettin and Brunswick - so they were very much a part of what came to be known as 'The Battle of Berlin'. If they had stayed with 61 Squadron and completed 30 Operations then they would have completed a 'tour', however during this period Bomber Command was experiencing very heavy losses and the chances of a crew completing their tour was very slim - and all crews were all volunteers.

At some point whilst they were with 61 Squadron they must have volunteered to join a Pathfinder Squadron, this would have meant even more operations before they were considered to have completed their tour and as such the chance of survival became even less. They would probably have been considered as an 'above average' crew in terms of competence. On the 3st if January 1944 they went to Pathfinder Force Navigation training unit to spend 2 weeks learning the role of a Pathfinder. They joined 83 Squadron in mid February 1944 who were part of 8 Group, and were based at RAF Wyton. As will as some familiarisation exercises at the airfield they flew a number of Operations - Leipzig, Stuttgart, Frankfurt, Essen, Lille and another 2 Operations to Berlin. I believe that during late March/Early April 1944 they may have had some leave.

On the 11th of April 1944 they were down for an Operation and took off at 20:46 from Wyton, flying Lancaster ND389 OL-A as part of a 341 strong Lancaster force aiming to Bomb Aachen. At approximately 22:08 a German Nightfighter Pilot took off from St Trond Airfield in his BF110, he was with Luftwaffe Nightfighter unit 4/NJG 1, his name was Heinz-Wolfgang Schnaufer, he was a highly decorated Pilot and eventually finished the war having shot down over 120 RAF Bombers. The aircraft climbed to 5000 metres and at 23:05 the German Radar Operator got a signal, which turned out to be Lancaster ND389, the aircraft moved closer, behind and probably slightly under the aircraft where it could not be seen and at 23:15 opened fire on the Lancaster. It appears that it was a very successful attack and took the crew by complete surprise (it was possible that Schnaufer was using up ward slanted guns known as 'Schrage Musik'). The aircraft caught fire immediately and according to my eyewitness started to burn quite fiercely. As it was on its way 'in' it would have been still carrying a heavy load of fuel and bombs. Sadly it appears that at some point the crew all bailed out the aircraft but were too low for their parachutes to open, the Lancaster apparently blew up 100 metres above the ground (but that must have been hard to judge). The aircraft crashed north of Beerse in Belgium at a place called Boensberg. After about 15 minutes after the crash, a car was heard to be approaching, initially it was thought that this would be Germans but was apparently the Chief of Police from Turnhout, a religious father and a nurse. They asked where the crew were, who were apparently were sadly already dead by this point. The father apparently administered the 'last rites' and about 1 hour later apparently the Germans arrived and placed barriers around the plane to ensure no one approached it (although the aircraft had broken up in the explosion.) The crew were initially buried near a German Airfield and then taken Schoonselhof Cemetery in Antwerp where they now lie. The final note in the Operational Record Book for the Squadron on this crew notes that 'the crew were well liked and very promising'

I have all the Operational Record Books for 83 Squadron during WW2 and would very much like to hear from anyone connected.

Neil Webster



Reginald Morris Nash MID 57 Squadron

My dad, Reginald Nash did not talk very much about his war time experiences but I inherited from my mother, who died recently, my dad's wartime 'stuff' including his flying log.

He qualified as flight engineer with effect from 8th of October 1942 and as flight engineer with effect from 24th of May 1944. He began operational duties on the night of 13th of February 1943 from Scampton with a sortie on Lorient in France. Throughout his time with the 57 squadron during 1943 he flew 29 successful sorties with 1 abort mostly over German cities.

Some of the sorties were recorded as eventfull:

  • 8th July 1943, aircraft attacked over target (Cologne) by junkers 88, mid upper gunner killed, enemy aircraft destroyed by rear gunner.
  • 13th May 1943, Skoda arms works Pilsen, aircraft attacked by 2 Junkers 88s.
  • 3rd Apr 1943 Duisberg, rear gunner unconcious.
  • 12th May 1943 Duisberg, 'heaviest raid of war to date'.

My Dad's pilot on most of the ops was Flt Lt Greig but I note that he flew 3 ops with Flt Lt Astell in Feb 43 who, I believe, was killed on the Dambusters raid.

My dad then flew a limited number of operations during 1944 with 50 squadron and his last sortie of the war was on the 6th of May 1945 'Operation Exodus' to Brussels to transport POW's.

My dad was at 97 Squadron Woodhall Spa from Oct42 to Jan43. Then 57 Squadron Scampton to Aug43; then 1660 conversion unit Swinderby to Aug 1944 and finished the war with 50 squadron based at Skellingthorpe. The aircraft types flown seems to have been almost everything the RAF had in service, Lancaster, Halifax, Sterling, Manchester and Oxford. In total my Dad flew 228hrs at night and 174.25 daytime and he survived without a scratch or being a POW.

He was released from service on the 4th of September 1945. He had met my mother whilst doing his leaders coarse at St Athan and they married in Penarth on the 30th of September 1944. After the War my Dad joined BOAC then BA based at their engine overhaul site in Treforest near Pontypridd, South Wales as a Production Engineer before his retirement in 1975.

He was, as well, for a number of years, President of the Penarth RAFA and I remember one of their guests at an annual dinner was W/Comdr Barder. There are many programmes on the TV these days about WW2 and now that I am custodion of some of my dad's wartime memories and know a lot more than I did I feel a real connection with those times. I am very proud of my dad's courage and achievements and I regret not finding out more of what it must have been like for him and thousands more of his generation when he was alive. Maybe he was embarassed with all the controversey over the tactics used by Bomber Command but I am pleased that at long last their sacrifice has finally been recognised and so would have my Dad.

David. B. Nash



Sgt. David John Poole 50 Sqd. (d.24th Dec 1943)

My Uncle was stationed at RAF Skellingthorpe with 50 Squadron. He was Sgt David John Poole (W.Op/Air Gunner) Aged 23 yrs. His Lancaster was brought down over Hanover on 24 December 1943 and he is buried in a War Grave in Hanover War Cemetery - section 5, row D, grave 13. His widow re-married in the 1950's and is still alive today. David was loved and missed for many years by all who knew him.

Elaine Sayer



Sgt. Robert John S. Ross 50 Squadron

My Dad Robert Ross, joined the RAF in 1943 and mustered out in 1946. While he never really talked about his war efforts but one could tell he was very proud to have served and happy to be alive to not talk about it. After various aircraft and bases Dad ended his war service as a young 20 year old tail gunner on a Lancaster so I can understand his feeling. I write this to share with others what he did write down.

He trained in 14943 at McDonald, Gunnery Training School, Manitoba Canada, his log records 20 Flights on Blenhiems - Duration 13/4 each for 3 weeks. He then moved on to the Gunnery and Navigation Training Wing in Linchonshire England, having Approx 30 Trips Average 3 Hrs over 5 Weeks, flying Wellington's This was also the Crew Gathering Unit . His Familiarization Training was at Relfor,d Lincolnshire England with Conversion to Lancaster Bombers to become familiar with Flight Controls of the Aircraft, Nav and Wireless EG and Hydralic Gun Turrents for 6 weeks. His crew then went operational at RAF Skellingthorpe - York England with 50 Squadron Bomber Command. Targets were: Berlin, Brenem, Dresden, Lupzieg, Dusseldorf, Kruptworks, Hamburg, Luxemburg, Stuttgart, Calongne, and Brussels. Canadian Military Records indicate he TOS 50 sqn and 53 base 31-3-45 and SOS 50 sqn 1-6-45 and then TOS 433 sqn 29-6-45 and SOS 433 sqn 7-7-45 before beginning the process of going back to Canada.

I do have but one photo of Dad and if anyone recognizes any of the other lads I would appreciate your contacting me. Helps put the story together.Dad is the lad in the back row on the right in light coloured trousers.

Derwyn Ross



W/O Robert McCallum Air Gunner 50 Sqn/630 Sqn/44 Sqn

Robert McCallum joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve on the 20th of June 1940 and served until the 13th of Mar 1946. He became aircrew in 1943 and trained with 17 OTU at Turweston and Silverstone this was followed by 1661 Conversion Unit at Winthorpe. He began at 50 Sqn Skellingthorp with F/O Hinkling as his first pilot then transferred to 630 Sqn in Feb 1945, flying with pilot F/Sgt Grange at East Kirkby. He transferred to 44Sqn on 18th June 1945 to the crew of pilot F/O Munson

Nic



Sgt. Albert William "Sonny" Green 50 Squadron

My grandad, Albert Green, known as Sonny, was in 50 Sqn. based at Skellingthorpe. His plane was NF918 VN F, which went to VN N afterwards and sadly lost on a raid on a oil refinery in Bohlen on 6th March 1945. He was a rear gunner.




Flt.Sgt. Robert Craig 50th Squadron (d.25th July 1944)

My dad's older brother, Robert Craig, was killed in action on the 25th July, 1944 at the age of 19 years. My dad was only 13 years when his big brother was killed. He obviously found it difficult to talk about but he did tell me some things about him. Recently I have been trying to find out more about what happened all those years ago (nearly 70 years). I have discovered that he was a flight engineer on a Lancaster bomber and most of the other crew members were from the Canadian Air Force. They were based in RAF Skellingthorpe, Lincoln.

Unfortunately, all crew members lost their lives on their first mission to bomb an oil refinery in Donges, France. They crashed in Pontchateau, Nothern France and are all buried in a collective grave.

  • P/O C.B.Haaland. RCAF
  • Flt.Sgt. R.Craig RAF
  • Sgt. J.L.Nelson RCAF
  • F/O S.J.Sulliven RCAF
  • Sgt. W.J.B.Doughty RAF
  • Sgt. N. Gronbeck RCAF
  • Sgt. G.F.Finch RCAF

For my dad, who is now deceased, I plan to visit Skellingthorpe next year for the 70th anniversary and later in the year I hope to visit France to pay my respects to my Uncle Robin and all his crew. I don't have any photographs of my Uncle Robin as none have survived. I was wondering if anyone out there met or knew my uncle or any of the crew. Would love to find some photos of the crew and/or 50th Squadron. Do any survive?

Lynne Sayar



Sgt. Frederick Brown 83 Squadron

Sargent Frederick Brown typed this account for my wife's Father after WW2. Freddy was the best man at their wedding on 19th December 1942. Regrettably we have lost touch with the family. This account is part of a photographic and verbal record of Freddys life in WW2 and you will note that this account starts with his return from Rhodesia and ends with his incarceration as a POW. It is clear this account was written with an intent that the story should be told to a wider audience and of course has details of other mens lives. I hope therefore that it will interest your organisation and perhaps other families.

May 1942. It was a dull early morning when the Stratheden docked at Gourock. We early risers watched the goings on on the quay and, as General Fercival disembarked with all his luggage, we noted with interest a box covered with sacking which looked very much like an orange box. This led to a concerted attack by us of lesser rank on the deck cargo of South African oranges. Nothing was saod about our strange shape greatcoats later. The customs men had asked each of us to provide a list of dutiable imports we had to be shown as we got ready to disembark. The chap in front of me in the queue said he had some cigarettes. "How many?" he was asked "I don't know", he replied and the whole of his kit was opened up and laid out on deck! On my list I had declared 120 cigarettes which seemed to satisfy the customs man and he passed me through much to my relief as tucked in my kit bag, stuffed out with socks and things, were 1000 fags and a pound tin of tobacco! Eventually our lot were taken to Glasgow and told to report to the North British Hotel for the evening meal later on.

We took the overnight train south, crossed London and arrived in time for breakfast in the Union Jack Club at Waterloo. Dad was working there at the time and was most surprised to see me especially when I unloaded my pockets full of oranges on him. Later that day we reached the aircrew despatch centre at Bournemouth. It was not until after a spot of disembarkation leave that we heard about the arrangements for new aircrew categories in. preparation for the forthcoming 4 engine bombers and we were asked to volunteer to become bomb aimers (the official description was "Air Bombers" which seemed a stupid title). I think most of the intake put their names down but it made no difference as everyone was roped in for the job.

It was early in June when our postings came through. Eight of us went to N. Luffenham where we met presumably eight of each of the other aircrew trades. They were a varied crowd; N.C.O.fs and Junior Officers, British and Canadian and at least one American, a Jewish Pilot, a Wing Commander, in fact all sorts, all mixed together. The aircraft here were Wellington 3Lc's, bigger than anything we had met so far and while the pilots continued their conversion on to them the rest of us attended various lectures, sometimes with the navigators, sometimes with the gunners, sometimes everyone together. We all ate together in the mess, jostled at the bar, found the local pubs and after a couple of days had got to know people. Then came the day when we were herded into an empty hangar and told to get "crewed up”. A W/OP, Geroge Hinsworth introduced himself to me and asked if I would like to join his crew and that is how we got together.  We were:- Pilot Sgt. Charlie Murray RCAF from Saskachewaa. W/OP George Hinsworth R.A.F. from Blackburn, Nav. Jack Holt R.A.F. from Manchester, Rear gunner Sgt. Ken Davis R.C.A.F. from Toronto and me, Sgt. Fred Brown R.A.F. from London. A good friendly crew. About 10 minutes after I had met George, a P/0 Navigator Ginger Laverac asked me to join the Wing Commander’s crew! I wonder where that would have led me?

I think we all got to like the "Wimpy”. My chied moan was that when occupying the front turret a door was closed behind you by another member of the crew. With a few gymnastic contortions one could open this door from inside the turret. But what if the aircraft was in trouble? Fortunately, we did not have to find out. Because of this minor inconvenience on cross countries etc. I usually sat in the little dickey seat next to the pilot so I had a good front seat.

On one flight, while I was sitting next to Charlie, the navigator gave a change of course to 220. From my angle of sight across the cockpit it looked yo me that Charlie had set 200° on compass but I felt unsure about it so I kept quiet, but after spending an uncomfortable time trying to make Southampton Water fit a map of the Bristol Channel and then getting a close look at the Southampton balloon barrage, I had to say something!. Charlie was pleased too.

When we had done half the course we moved to Woolfox Lodge, a satellite station of North Luffenham, where we lived amongst the trees and swam in the pond. Later on in the course we began to do "Bullseyes". These were night cross countries around Britain, under operational conditions.

24th Aug. 1942. The Wellingtons we were flying were all getting a bit old. One night we had to do a bullseye in "0". We had to fly up to Flamhorough Head in Yorkshire, thence to St. Bee's Head in Cumberland, out into the Irish Sea and down past the Isle of Man. We were getting near the area of N. Wales when Charlie decided he wanted to use the Elsan and,having more faith in my brief experience on Tiger Moths than I had, he got me to take over the controls! Charlie told me to sit on his lap. We were both wearing observer type parachute harnesses and there was not much room between him and the control columa but I managed to squeeze in and "snap", one of my harness clips hooked on to a brale rod and I was fixed on to the control column, in the dark! We sorted that out and Charlie made record time for a visit to the rear of the fuselage which was a good thing as hy now I was about 90° off course, heading for the mountains and thoroughly unnerved by the whole affair. We carried on in a southerly direction across Cardigan Bay to Fishguard where we had to do an infra red bombing e^rcise on a sugar beet factory. Infra red light, of course, is invicible but on the bombing run I could definitely see a red light where the factory should have been. So, grasping this unexpected bonus, that is what I aimed for, When the photographs were printed later on they showed a quarter or a mile error and the crew said I had probably got a direct hit on the local brothel!

Carrying on across S. Wales, Charlie saw that the engine oil pressure was dropping so he told George to pump some more oil in. Pressure returned to normal but soon dropped again and by the time we were over the Bristol Channel George was spending more time pumping than listening to his wireless. Obviously something was amiss so Charlie decided to land as soon as he could. We saw the lights of Chivenor in N. Somerset ahead so we came in to land. It was only on the final approach that we saw a row of red lights across the flarepath. It was a dummy aerodrome! We climbed away heading east now and Charlie calling for "Darky". There was no reply and soon Charlie was getting pretty frantic calling "Hello Darky". "Where are you, you little black bastard?" After what seemed like qges we saw a flarepath. It looked rather small so I tightened my seat belt as Charlie, without more ado, came in to land. It was a brilliant landing but we ran out of runway and came to a stop at the edge of the field. When we tried to get out we found a barbed wire fence under the exit hatch.

We had landed at New Zealand Farm a satellite of Upavon being used for night landings on "Oxfords". And what a dump it was! We spent the night there with one blanket on the bed and no sugar in the morning porridge.- When we saw 0 next morning the whole of the starboard side of the fuselage was covered with oil. The engineering officer said an oil return pipe had broken and we only had about 5 minutes oil supply left. We returned to base by road. We later heard that none of the instructors was willing to fly 0 out again from that landing ground. Maybe it is still there!

We did our first operation while we were still at O.T.U. It was to Dusseldorf on the night of 10th September 1942. For it we took off with 4 x 500 lb H.E.'s and it was a quite uneventful trip; no sign of fighters and the flak more interesting than menacing. One thing I remember was being so keyed up over the target. When I released the bombs, instead of a crisp "Bombs gone", I said in a rather squeaky soprano voice "The Bombs are going"! One chap on the course was Harry Beebe, a Canadian, nephew of the famous deep-sea diver. He always wanted to shake hands when he met you and as he had a grip like a vice you had to count your fingers afterwards.

At the end of the course our crew got a posting to 207 sqd. Bottesford but when we got there by road transport they had never heard of us and didn't want anyone! Eventually that was sorted out and after a few hours wrangling we were taken to Swinderby for conversion to heavy bombers. We were joined by two further members of the crew. Denis Chapman was a Flight Engineer and came from Salford and Jimmie Little as mid-upper gunner from London. Here we met the dreaded Manchester but only for the first few circuits and bumps and acclimatization. Menchesters had been withdrawn from service owing; to engine problems and I think our crew (just three of us!) did the last night flight on them. Then we progressed on to Lancasters. Everyone liked Lancs. Bags of room to move around and well able to fly on. two engines on one side.

We had one little upset. Jimmy the "schoolboy" gunner wasn't getting on too well with Ken, the "professional" gunner so Charlie had a word with the powers that be and Ray Prichard joined us and took over the mid-upper turret.

At the end of the conversion course November 1942 we were posted to 50 sqn. at Skellingthorpe just outside Lincoln, nice camp with a very rustic H.Q. and billets across the fields. Soon after we got there, 2nd December, Charlie had to do an op. to Bomb Wuffertal, I believe, as second pilot. I was detailed to replace another B/A on the same trip. We got as far as the south coast when the pilot said the oxygen supply was U/S so we had to return to base. That was called a "boomerang". Before each night flight or operation we used to do a Night Flying Test.(NFT). I was detailed to do one with another crew and so I turned up at the crew room complete with parachute harness etc. to be met with snide remarks about daylight ops. "Where's your tin hat etc.!" They didn't bother with such cissy things parachutes when they flew round the aerodrome. That crew were some of the "Dam Busters" later on.

Our first operation on Lancs, was to Turin on December 9th, a long uneventful trip. It was about now that I received an invite from Ted and Ethel to be best man at their forthcoming wedding so I had to go and see the C.O. W/Comm. Russell to get a weekend pass. As there was not a lot going on in the way of operations, we had to do a bullseye.

15th December 1942. I forget where it was to, but we did it O.K. When we got back to base the weather wasn't too good. As we came in to land a local searchlight swept across the field and blinded us so Charlie had to open up the engines and go round again. The second attempt to land was no good at all so we went round again. This time we made a good approach but just before touch down a line squall hit us and everything was blacked out and we wiped off the undercard and did a belly landing on the runway. When the sounds of metal bending and scraping and breaking finally subsided we all filed out of the escape hatch over the pilot's seat. When I got out and stood on the wet wing I slipped and toboganned down until I found myself sitting in a puddle on the runway.

Charlie seemed to be the only one hurt. He banged his forehead and as we sorted ourselves out the firecrew arrived followed by the ambulance and the C.O. in his little car. "Anyone hurt?" was his first question. It was only then that we realized that Ken was missing! He was in fact trapped in the rear turret. Through the wet perspex all he could see was the red glow from the tail lights of the rescue vehicles and he thought the plane was on fire, so he was panicking pretty well. The C.O. Wing Co. Russell took charge and, turning to the nearest crew member asked "Where is the axe"? Unfortunately he asked George, the wireless operator who thought he said "Where are the accs." and showed him where the aircraft batteries were located. They sorted that out and the C.O. now armed with the hatchet raced down the inside of the fuselage and got his foot stuck in the Elsan! We were sent back to conversion unit next morning and blamed George for putting the "old man” into a bad temper.

Getting posted back to Swinderby suddenly like that might have caused problems with my leave pass so when we reached the private road into the camp I left the crew to cover up for me and hitched a lift along the Fosse Way to Newark. I had a fright when an S.P. came on to the platform while I was waiting for the train to Kings Cross but although he came near he ignored me and sorted out someone else.

19th December 1942 It was a happy weekend. Ted and Ethel were well and truly spliced and as a present they gave me a shaving wallet which turned out to be very useful later on. I got back to Swinderby on the Sunday night to find that nobody had missed me but the crew had had an eventful few days doing circuits and bumps. One night they saw another aircraft blow up in mid-air and o.n anotiter night, when about to take off, another Lane, had come in to land and almost landed'on top of them! Charlie was lined up at the end of the runway when Ken saw the other aircraft coming in and shouted a warning. With full throttle Charlie swung off the runway in an effort to get clear and the starboard wheel of the other aircraft hit our tail while the port wheel smashed into the mid upper turret, fortunately unoccupied, as Ray was in my usual place in the front turret. There was a court of inquiry about the incident to which I was called but Charlie explained that I had not been there and I heard nothing more about it. We stayed at Swinderby over Christmas and returned to Shellingthorpe in the New Year and we did our next operation, a mining trip, down to the Gironde estuary in the Bay of Biscay on l4th January 1943- The weather was not too good this month. I seem to remember the whole squadron clearing snow off the runway at one time so our next op. was not until 2nd February to Cologne.

We had other duties as well as ops. Gunners were having trouble with gears freezing up at high altitude so we, and no doubt other crews, had to get some facts and figures and one dau we were sent to try out our guns at a quiet spot near the North Sea. Jack didn't come as he had no guns so I had to do any necessary navigation which was straight out on a course and back on the reciprocal, we hoped! I also had a cold! We flew out to the appointed area and had climbed to about 20.000 ft. Then we had to record the temperature and fire all the guns. Then again at 21,000 ft. and so on. Surprisingly my guns were the last to pack up at 29,000 ft. I don't recall the temperature. The job done Charlie said "O.K. let's go home" and, turning on to the reciprocal, dived down to sea level, and as we weren't pressurized it was just like having an electric drill in each ear and when we crossed the East Coast at 0. I wasn't at all happy. Charlie continued flying fairly low across Norfolk. Then Ken spoke over the intercom "We have just passed a big house. I bet some crusty old general lives there. Let's shoot him up!” So Charlie, who couldn't resist the challenge, did a 180° turn and flew low over it, not too low, but enough to rattle the windows, then another 180° and over again. By now Dennis the flight engineer was taking an interest. He said "I think that’s Sandringham! Charlie asked "What’s Sandringham?” "Oh that’s where the King lives!" Charlie headed for the clouds and that is where we stayed until we saw Lincoln Cathedral, shining in the sun, poking above the clouds.

After getting a few more operations under our belt we got our own aircraft. It was VN-P or P, Peter over the radio. We discussed an insignia on the nose. I suggested a picture of Dumbo, Walt Disney's flying elephant, a vision prompted by the look of Charlie’s flying boots. In the end we just had the bombs for operations painted on including a couple of ice cream cornets for the Italian ones. February was a busy month in which we did eight operations. The last one was a fairly easy one to St. Nazaire and unusually it was followed by another the following night. It was Charlie's 13th and proved to be to Berlin

1st Mar 1943 We went out over the North Sea, across Denmark, over part of the Baltic, crossing the coast of N. Germany,near some markers dropped by Pathfinders. Everything seemed very quiet which is an odd feeling since we were sitting between four roaring Merlin engines! Ahead of us was a weak looking searchlight waving around aimlessly so Charlie steered carefully around it. Then Wham! we were picked up by a master searchlight and in no time we were "coned", and everyone joined in the act. Wherever you looked there were these big eyes glaring at you. Charlie said "Jesus Christ 'they played me for a sucker". While Charlie was throwing the aircraft around to get out of the cone of searchlights, shrapnel from Heavy flak was hitting us. Someone, I think it was Dennis, opened the bomb doors and pulled the wrong jetison switch. I was a bit annoyed by this at the time but I suppose getting rid of the bomb load was a good idea at the time. It is not very safe sitting above a thin-skinned 4OOO lb. H.E. while you are being shot at. Unfortunately, the incendiaries went down "safe" but you can't do that with a "cookie" which exploded on impact and at the same time we got a lovely unplottable picture of a long straight railway line. We did eventually get out of the cone, by which time we had lost a lot of height and we had no more bombs aboard so after a quick conference over the intercom It was decided not to go on to Berlin but to cut across country and join the stream of early arrivals on their way home. This seemed a good idea until we wandered over what we thought to be Hanover and attracted a lot of light flak so Charlie came down very low and we flew out of Germany at about zero ft. "That will wake up a few" said someone- I got what I thought was a good pinpoint on the coast of the old Zuider Zee now rechristened Ijssel, Heer but it didn’t seem quite right when we tried to back plot the navigation chart later. Anyway we got home again and, I suppose that was the main thing.

Damage to the aircraft was confined to the skin of the fuselage but it had to go into the hangar for repairs which didn’t take long. Unfortumately when it was ready to go back into service someone tried to tow it with a tractor across the line of the tall wheel and twisted the spar in the tail plane so poor old P-Peter had to go back into the hangar for a major overhaul. We went to Essen two days later. That one was supposed to be the beginning of the Battle of the Ruhr. The following night wa went to Kiel which was Charlie’s 15th. So when a call came from Group H.Q. for a crew who had done about 15 ops. to volunteer for Pathfinders we were first in line. The incentives were promotion to the next rank for everyone and to do 45 trips total and finish. We spent a long time discussing the idea. I didn't want to go as it seemed we were all happy at 50 sqn. but finally we agreed to go.

Harry Richardson flew us down to 83 sqn. at Wyton in his Lancaster which resembled a furniture van with the fuselage filled with 2 crews, all our kitbags and other gear and a bicycle. Wyton was a big pre-war station with two squadrons, a mosquito PFF squadron and us in 83 sqn. ‘We were a little disappointed with the aircraft which seemed to be older than the ones we had on 50 sqn. One of the Mosquito pilots, a Canadian named "Fritz" Chrysler had been at the same school as Charlie but he wouldn't tell us anything about the secret equipment they had (Oboe). We found we had to do six or eight ops. as backers-up before qualifying for the pathfinders wings and only then would we be carrying marker bombs in our bomb bay.

The first trip we had to do was to Pilsen in Czechoslavia where the Skoda works were situated and as the local population were thought to be anti-German the bombing had to be accurate and we were told to bomb from the fairly low altitude of 12000! However when we got there the area was covered in low cloud and, in fact, Charlie came down to 12000 ft. before we saw the markers, the target indicators on which to drop our bombs. Leaving the target area and after checking that the bombbay was empty I was rather surprised to see we were passing over a north of Pilsen where there shouldn't have been one! When we eventually got home there was not a lot we could tell them at de-briefing. The following day was Sunday and the papers were full of enthusiastic reports on the raid, about how we had bombed from a low level and what we had seen! The C.0. sent for Charlie and told him to tell me to pull my finger out when the reconnaisance and photographs became available they showed that the raid had concentrated on a lunatic asylum about 10 miles south of Pilsen!

Our next trip wao to Steltin where we bombed on 3 engines, the engine that had been hit being the one which affected the bomb sight! Our crew had two observers. That meant that two of us had done a navigation course. The way we worked things was that Jack would navigate until we were on the last leg into the target and then I would take over visually. My 17th trip was to Essen and things went quite to plan. Jack gave Charlie the course for the last leg into the target area of Essen and I was looking ahead for the T.I.s (Target Indicators) dropped by the Pathfinders. Charlie was not a pilot who liked hanging about once we had dropped bombs so he asked Jack over the intercom for the next course to set on the compass for a quick get away from the target. There was no answer. After trying again without success Charlie said to Dennis "See what's the matter with Jack". Looking through the black-out curtain, Dennis saw Jack with his elbows on the navigation table and his head in his hands. "The lazy bastard is asleep" he reported and swung a punch at him and Jack just slumped on to the table. Panic "Something's wrong with Jack" Charlie who was always cool and collected said "O.K. Get George to help you with Jack. Fred give me a course out of target, drop your bombs and come up and navigate". The only maps I had with me in the nose of the aircraft were a target map of little use to me now and a quarter inch topographical of the area. I took a quick look by torchlight and off the top of my head said "Steer zero-one-zero". By now we were in the thick of it but I managed to aim the bomb load at one of the T I.s. checked through the spyhole that the bomb bay was now empty and started to gather my bits and pieces to put into my shopping bag to take up with me. Then over the intercom came Jack's voice "Can you see the target Fred?" Somehow his oxygen tube had become disconnected after which he could remember nothing until it was reconnected. We were probably at 18/19000 ft. at the time. When we went over the navigation plot later the course west of target should have been 005° so I was 5°out. The crew didn't let me forget it I but I think Charlie was pleased that everything was kept under control.

Then came Dortmund, Dusseldorf, Essen again and Bocheim and finally Cologne.

16th/17th June 1943. Cologne was hard to find that night, but we were not. It was two nights after full moon and we were leaving enormous vapour trails behind, and soon after leaving the target area we were attacked by a Me. 110. Some say there were two of them. From the start it had been a rotten trip. The Halifaxes had been withdrawn leaving 140 Lancs. Of these l4 were lost, 10%, which was a lot. After dropping our bombs - a cookie and twelve (4000 lbs. H.E. and 12 cans of incendiaries), I checked that the bomb bay was empty and everything switched off and returned to the gun turret just as Jack H. was telling Charlie the next course.

Then we heard Jack Mackay, the rear gunner, call "Fighter" and heard also the sound of cannon shell hits in the rear of the aircraft. Charlie said "They've got the controls! No, wait a minute". Then came the second attack with even louder explosions in the rear. Mac. called out "If you don't turn I've had it". But the controls had gone and we couldn't turn. Ray, the mid-upper gunner reported Jack's turret had been hit. Charlie exclaimed "Never mind Jack, watch the fighter. Then came the final order "Bale out".

Dropping down from the front turret I whipped off my helmet in 'gas mask fashion', complete with oxygen mask and intercom leads. I planned to do this not realizing that I would then be out of touch with the rest of the crew. I turned back the cushions over the escape hatch revealing the release ring. I lifted this, pulling up the hatch on the end of the Bowden cable. When I tried to push it through the hole it turned and caught the sides so I had to lift it away again. Straight through the hole it went this time with me in hot pursuit. Immediately before leaving the aircraft I felt a hand touch my back. This worried me for a long time as it made me think I had made a mistake about going. Later, Dennis, the flight engineer, told me that when I jerked back over the escape hatch he thought that I had been hit and he tried to grab me. Leaving the aircraft was like diving between two car headlights, in fact, two streams of tracer bullets coming from the fighter as it made its third attack.

Then the air hit me like a wall. I think I must have passed out momentarily for the next thing I knew was that I had the rip cord handle in my hand. How I do not know. Then I thought "this is no use to me now" and tossed it aside. Then I thought "the parachute isn't going to open and I'd better do something about it", giving me time to wonder if I should have jumped in the first place and to wonder why someone had thumped me on the back just as I was leaving the plane. Anyway, I couldn't go back now! It took a long while to get down, a slow, slow descent, enlivened now and again by wild, pendulum swings during which I lost the chocolate from my pocket and the ops supper from my stomach. When the ground came in sight it took me by surprise as it rushed up and thumped me in the rear and doing two ligaments not a lot of good at the same time.

I was in a cornfield and for some reason I, a non-smoker, wanted a cigarette. I was deaf having removed my helmet in the plane, but thought I heard a distant dog bark. Then I thought I saw a shadowy figure going by so I ducked down out of sight. It was probably Dennis Chapman who was whistling Rule Britannia, There'll always be an England etc. trying to contact me. The parachute had been the most beautiful sight on earth as it ballooned on landing, but now it had collapsed and I had to draw it in. It is not easy to bury a parachute unless you have got a handy shovel so I cut off two cords and a big square of silk. Nobody else was going to use it. Then after taking a look at the stars I started walking S.E. pushing the remains of the silk under a large bush as I went by. I had parted company with my flying boots and also the plimsolls I wore inside soon after I left the plane and walking in my socks wasn't very comfortable so I stopped and bound them up Roman sandal fashion with the silk and silk cord but the going was a bit slippery with the dew (or was it rain?) and my temporary footwear soon finished round my ankles. I was still wearing my harness so I took it off and cut 2 foot size pieces from the back and tried them out as sandals with the same result as before. Sometime during the night I saw a poster on a tree. The only word I could understand was in large type and said "Verboten". Then I had a bright idea. I took the collar off my Sidcot suit, cut it in half and tied oh a pair of fur lined slippers. Nice to wear but not a bit of good for walking. Turning them inside out was no good either so I finally concluded it was socks or nothing. Luckily I was wearing 2 pairs.

It was about now that I came to a road with tramlines. To me, trams meant Aldgate, Commercial St., the big City, so I moved cross country to the left and went miles out of my way. How could I know there are cross country trams in that part of the world? As dawn broke I decided to hide in a cornfield. I had by now decided on a plan that I would try to get home via Spain. First, to get well away from the aircraft, I would walk S.E. for two nights, then S. for two nights, then S.W. for two and carry on across Belgium and France to Spain. I spent the day hidden in a field of corn or maybe oats or something. All I am sure about was that it got very hot during the day. Somewhere I could hear running water. The only way for me to see out of the field was by jumping. There was nothing to stand on. I thought I could see clear blue water when I jumped. I crawled to the edge of the field and looked out. There was no water, all I saw was the back of an old man driving a goat somewhere.

After dark I left the field and soon came to a river. It was shallow and stoney so I paddled across. The water tasted metallic as from a factory but I filled the water bottle in the escape kit but did not add the purifying tablets yet. The far bank of the river was muddy and churned up as if the cows had come to drink. Perhaps that was why the water had a strange taste. Anyway it was all I had. I left the river bank and began to climb a sloping field but my feet were muddy, the grass was damp and halfway up I slipped and fell flat on my face and, since the water bottle was shaped like a flimsy toilet bag, it just collapsed and that was the end of the water. I could have sat down and cried! Honestly! I decided not to retrace my steps but continued to the top. During the night I found myself walking along a path, tree*-lined and somehow it seemed like a churchyard. Beside the path was a small water trough. Pushing the floating leaves away I filled ray water bottle. Holy Water? As dawn was breaking I found another cornfield to hide. I spent the day cutting off my chevrons and wing from ray uniform and generally investigating the contents of my escape kit. I couldn’t sleep. In fact I didn’t sleep at all while I was loose. Foreign Bank Notes - I don’t know the value. Chocolate Horlicks tablets, Silk map of W. Europe, book matches, Water bag Purifying tablets, Energy tablets, Tube condensed milk and a mystery tube.

Walking at night I found the moon was my best guide so long as I had a check with the Pole Star every couple of hours or so. I walked along a road in an area which, in the dark, reminded me of flat, near the river, Dagenham. It was probably the north of Aachen. I was travelling too far eastward and decided to take the next right fork or right turn. I saw a turning ahead. On the corner plot where I was due to turn was a caravan or I suppose it could have been some sort of German pre-fab. As I got there the back door opened and I saw a woman silhouetted against the bright light inside. She seemed to shake out a tablecloth, suppertime crumbs for the birds, and shut the door quickly. She certainly heard nothing as I was still in my being on my own, I worried. Perhaps it would be best to zig zag a bit, so I looked out for a left turn. No left turns appeared but the road got longer and longer and the buildings got bigger and bigger. I was heading into town. I was still thinking about turning back when I saw a T junction ahead. Now I could turn left. I was only a few yards from the corner when a light appeared directly opposite followed by the sound of hobnailed boots coming down some steps. That woman must have let some one know about me. The best thing to do seemed to be to carry on as intended and not to do anything to look suspicious. The owners of the hobnailed boots seemed to be 4 soldiers? Who must have come out of a canteen or something and they lined up at the kerbside and had a leak.

Having turned left I didn’t dare to look back. I walked uninterrupted down this road pausing momentarily when 1 heard a distant motorcycle and at last I reached an open square which I left via the opposite corner. The path seemed to run parallel to some sort of open water conduit some way below. I tied my water bottle to one of the silk cords and lowered it down, hoping that these people didn't have open sewers. The water I caught seemed to taste O.K. but then I suppose anything would the way I felt just then. I spent one day in the Siegfried Line. I think it was anyway. It was like a cut-out corner from a hill. Across the front of this spot was a light fence so small that I could ignore the gate and just step over. The left-hand wall was concrete to about 7 or 8 feet high and let into this wall was an iron barred and locked door, something like the cell doors in a wild-west jail. The bars were too close to allow one to look down the passage that ran behind. The facing wall was also concrete at right angles to the first one. It had a square steel plate covering an opening in the middle and which reminded me of a king-size camera bellows. Beneath this cover was a long ledge which dould be used for a seat. The right-hand wall was more or less non-existent being mainly cut away earth, the only other feature being an electrical danger sign in German and high up. This place seemed to be useless as a hiding place and there was no escape route out should anyone see me there out it was in a hollow and I stayed there uninterrupted all day.

I opened the unmarked tube in the escape kit. It contained condensed milk so I ate the lot. I took off my Sidcot suit and did up the main zip fastener, then, using silk thread from the parachute cord and the marlin spike on ray knife for a needle, I sewed across the zip at the waist. Then X unpicked the seam around the waist to leave me a sort of lumber jacket. From the discarded legs I unpicked the map pockets. These I sewed up on to my feet to give me a pair of ballet shoes. In front of the iron door was a drainage sump covered by a metal mat. I dislodged this. Maybe the next person would break his ankle. I also pee-ed through the bars of the door to improve the atmosphere inside. When I left and got going again after dark my feet, now more sensibly shod, seemed more comfortable but not a lot, I was still going across country with lots of barbed-wire fences to straddle so my battle-dress trousers became badly moth-eaten.

At one point I was about to cross a field when I saw a sentry box - a strange place to see one but I had to go that way. It was not until I crept close up that I realized it was in fact a stook of corn! I came to a lonely house and thought I would see what I could steal. The front was gravel so I went round the side of the house. There was a door there so I tried it. It was unlocked and I was really scared stiff as I gradually pushed it open half expecting a dog or something to jump at me. When the gap was wide enough I squeezed in and pushed the door to. It seemed a long time as I stood in the dark waiting and listening for I don't know what. I felt I had to do something so I struck a light from my book of matches. I was standing in the toilet! I didn't panic but made a very hasty exit which was silly as I ignored the newspaper in there and also the adjacent door which could have been a coal hole, toolshed or something. I found myself walking through a forest along a well trodden path. The trees were straight and tall and the moonlight filtering through the tree tops made one think it was the aisle in a cathedral. At the side of the path I sat on what seemed to be a moss covered milestone. I couldn't see any inscription as I dared not strike a match. At one time I felt so thirsty that I moistened my lips with water from a rut in the road. As I walked along a small country road I had the feeling I was walking through a hamlet even though I could see no houses. Ahead to the left I could see "flak" and thought I could hear voices. Past that spot I climbed a slight hill and at the top the road turned right and stopped. At least the tarmac did, the road continuing on as a card track. By the side of the road where the tarmac finished was a cottage and in the front garden I could see a bicycle.- What should I do? Pinch the bike, retrace my steps through the hamlet, or cycle along the rough farm track leading to goodness knows where, but at least in the right direction. It was a bad decision but I carried on walking.

At one time the track was along the side of a small river so I stopped and had a shave - by memory in the dark! I was disturbed by the sound of rattling chains and a white apparition the other side of the stream. It was a pair of horses tethered near the bank. Some time later I went into a vegetable plot. Raw, unripe potatoes taste awful! I also passed by a garden hedge with a lady's top coat laying across it to dry.- That might have been useful but I left it. Another farmhouse laid back from the road. I felt very exposed as I walked down the drive in the moonlight. Going round the side I found a door down a few steps and went in. It was a room stocked full of empty bottles and in the middle what I thought might be a wine press. I took a bottle - at least it would stand up on its own in the middle of a field - and left the way I came.

Another sleepless day in a cornfield - more walking. I had not realised it but it was very near the longest day of the year which meant, of course, the shortest night. That was why I was surprised by the dawn each morning and when it came this morning I looked for somewhere to hide. The only place was a small copse ahead, and in I went. It was a horrible place, all wet underfoot and branches dripping down my neck as I went by. I looked out the other side for somewhere better. There was nothing and then I noticed what was like an Anderson shelter made of earth about 25 yards away. I thought that this might be a better place for the time being so I hurried across and went in. The entrance just sloped down but it was very much like an air raid shelter without the corrugated iron hut covered with grass. Inside was quite dry. The roof too low to stand up but there was room to move about and spread your arms. "The cowman homeward plods his weary way”. This was another hiding place with no escape route but beggars can't be choosers and I stayed there all day. The weather was fine but I couldn’t move out. During the afternoon I heard a noise and looking out I saw a cow go past, then another and another. I realised it was a herd going back to the farm for milking. Driving them home was an old man and I watched this pastoral scene as they made their way to the right of the copse. As I watched them go a small boy appeared following his grandfather, skipping along and kicking the buttercups like all boys about 6 years old and as I stared out inevitably he stopped and looked back. With a look of horror and disbelief, eyes like organ stops when he saw me, he turned and ran after his grandfather.

As they passed out of sight to the right hand side of the copse I left the shelter and looked for somewhere else to hide. There was nowhere except back to the copse which was now quite dry after a fine day. So back there I went and crawled under a nice big bush in a position which allowed me to see my previous hiding place. It was not a moment too soon because the small boy returned now with his "big brother", a lad of about 12 years strutting along in a Hitler Jugend uniform. They went straight to the shelter which was now empty of course. This started an argument between the two, the bigger boy thinking his time was being wasted, but the youngest must have finally convinced him that he really had seen a stranger because they started to look around and came to the same conclusion as I had done that the only place to go was the copse. The older boy strode purposefully towards the copse, the younger one hung back a bit looking uneasy. About 2 yards from the edge of the copse the big boy had second thoughts and stopped. Then they both bent down and tried to look through the bushes. They tried to see any signs of me from 2 or 3 other spots and finally they gave up the hunt and left.

When they had gone I left the copse and crawled into a nearby ditch out of sight for the time being. I came to what I thought was a likely looking road but soon realized it was the drive through some gloomy looking trees up to a large country house. The front was gravel so I skirted round this until I reached a farm track at the right-hand side of the house past some cart sheds, cow sheds etc. This must have been one of the fortified farms I read about later, built in a square behind the big house. When I turned the far corner I was by an entrance to the inner quadrangle and a wide wooden staircase led up to a hayloft above the empty cow stalls that had been at the corner. The hayloft was quite empty, the only thing of note being a water tank (about 2,000 gals) in the corner and I found a place to lie down behind it. Nearby were a pair of double doors giving access to any loads from the perimeter track by means of a pulley and yardarm above them. Peering through the ill fitting doors during the morning I saw an elderly lady picking gooseberries and collecting vegetables from what appeared to be a kitchen garden on the other side of the track. Also during the morning a young woman came up to the hayloft with a young infant and a small puppy. There was a crude swing hanging from the rafters and she amused the toddler on this for a little while. I kept out of sight but I was a little worried in case the puppy should notice me but luckily he didn’t go far away. After they had gone and during the afternoon I felt a bit more venturesome and wandered round the hayloft finding a dusty old jacket in one corner. It was a bit tight but I was able to put it on over my home made lumber jacket. Looking through a gap in the staircase door I saw a German soldier crossing the grass in the middle of the quadrangle so I retired to my corner just in case he might come up but I had no further interruptions and time dragged on.

After dark I left the hayloft and went straight across to the kitchen garden and spent a little time picking and eating gooseberries, spiky and a bit insanitary when I think about the bird droppings that must have gone down as well. Then I recrossed the farm track and went into the empty cow stalls to look around. In a corner I found a tap over a floor level sink but did not use it to fill my water bottle in case it made too much noise. Also, nearby, was a pair of clogs which seemed to fit me and which I carried with me when I left, carefully retracing my steps via the farm track and the drive to the road. Here I tried out my new clogs but just couldn't get along with them so, in disgust, I hurled one as far as I could over the field to one side of the road and the other one the other way. Then I set off in my home made ballet shoes, south-westward I think. Some time during the night I came across a counter weighted scaffold pole barrier such as one might see at a frontier post. This one, however, was chained and padlocked in a vertical position. I looked in vain for signs of a sentry box, the concrete base of a customs post; there was nothing. There was not even a river, hedge or barbed wire fence in line with this place. Anyway, to cheer myself up I decided I must now be in Belgium and carried on walking.

A day of mistakes: After a few more miles once again I was overtaken by the dawn and I climbed a five-bar. gate into a field. It was a big square field with a big tree growing near the opposite side. I made my way around the side and noticed that the hedge around the field was very thick and strong. There was something about this field which made me feel uneasy but I was attracted to the big tree. When I reached it, it proved to be quite unclimbable so I sat down beneath it and had a think. What sort of a field was this? Where they bring the old bull? Horses and new born lambs? I was worried. Being so unsettled I decided to move on although it was getting quite light by now. I gathered up my odds and ends and made my way back to the gate. I looked over the gate the way I had first come, then the other way and I was surprised to see a milk churn standing on the edge of the road by the corner of the field I had not yet reached so I went to investigate. It was full of milk. Luckily I still had the wine bottle with me so I dipped it in and got a half litre of milk for my days ration. I hadn’t been seen so I hurried back to my old field and sat beneath the big tree to sample my unexpected breakfast. I must have got the cream off the top and it was smashing so I had another mouthful, then another and another. That bottle of milk didn't last very long so I decided to get some more and, once again gathering my bits and pieces, I returned to the gate. Carefully I looked back along the road. It was getting quite light now but it was all clear. I looked the other way and to my utter amazement the churn had gone and I had heard nothing. Feeling very disappointed at being done out of another breakfast drink I decided that now at least I could move to another hiding place so I climbed over the gate and came face to face with a woman! I hadn’t a clue where she had come from. She was a well dressed matronly woman and more surprised than frightened and she shooed me away towards the other side of the road without Saying anything. As she didn't seem unfriendly or hostile I followed her directions and as the hedge was rather thinner on that side of the road I forced my way through it and made my way through it and made my way to the corner of the field which would be opposite "milk churn" corner. I think it was a mistake not to try to see where the lady went. I dropped my trousers and tried to move my bowels which was another thing worrying me but without any success. Then I went down that side of the field - I can’t remember what it was. I think it must have been banked up; anyway I settled halfway down amusing myself curving a bit of stick. During the morning I was surprised to see two young girls coming down the path across the field. When they saw me they looked frightened and ran back. Again I did the wrong thing. Instead of watching where they went and finding another hiding place I went down to the stream and had a wash and shave to make my appearance more acceptable. Then I returned to my resting place.  Shortly after the girls came back looking more confident and friendly as they approached me. Unfortunately we had no common language so I drew a line across the inside cover of my book of matches, writing "Belgium" on one side and "Deutchland" on the other and gave them an enquiring look, "Where were we?". The older girl shook her head, drew another line across and in between she wrote "Noyas Belgium" which sounded to me like the German for New Belgium and could have been part of Belgium taken over by the Jerries in 1940. I then showed them my escape map and they seemed to say that Liege was about 20 miles (Km?) over there. Then I pointed out my ill-shod feet and said "shoes". They, for their part, pointed across the fields from where we could hear sounds such as from a school playground and said "school" so I wasn't very sure if we were understanding each other. Anyway, rather stupidly, after they left I decided to wait around to see if they might return with some help.

(Where could a couple of young girls get me a pair of shoes?). A little while later I noticed for the first time some woman working in the adjacent field which may have been a coincidence. However, I still waited around. It was early afternoon when I looked around and was surprised to see a German soldier, a feltwebel, had jumped the stream and was running towards me with a pistol at the ready. I put my hands up and said "Kamerad" which seemed to be the best thing to do at the time. He looked a tough old sweat. When I looked down the barrel it was about as big as a field gun. Still pointing his gun at me he quickly frisked me and finding I was unarmed he indicated that I should pick up my odds and ends. Without thinking I picked up my wine bottle and had it kicked out of my hand very smartly. Then, still with the gun at my back, we went down the field, over the stream and up the other side to the road where there was quite a crowd of people waiting. I tried to impress the locals but it wasn't easy with flat feet: I thought I saw one of the young girls watching me out of a window.

Walking westward I believe my captor was able to give me directions in French which way to go. Then he asked me if I was American? Australian? and finding I was English any further conversation came to an end. Eventually we reached an open level crossing the other side of which was a policeman standing by a small garage-like building. We all went inside and I was searched again. This time they found my packet of escape money which seemed to excite them. Then we carried on to the local police station where the feltwebel was given a receipt for me. I think it entitled him to an extra day's leave.

Another search turned up my little bit of toilet paper (p.999) I wonder if it finished up in Gestapo H.Q. Once again I had no common tongue but was able to ask for water and the toilet. After a long time and many phone calls a tall policeman took me further into town called Hergonaath. He spoke 4 languages but not mine. We went into a low ceilinged cafe where my escort was greeted by the waitress like an old friend and a mug of beer and some black bread and margarine was produced for me. The beer tasted like washing up water and I only ate some of the bread. I hadn't learned yet to put the left overs into my pocket for later. It was getting late in. the evening when we made our next move which seemed to be just across the road to what must have been the village "lock-up". We entered through a heavy door which seemed to lead in straight from the pavement. Inside seemed to me just like an empty shop mainly because across the back was a sloping wooden bench meant for a bed and which somehow looked like the marble slab in a wet-fish shop. The bedding consisted of two old greatcoats from God knows what army. The other thing in the cell was a crudely made throne for use as a toilet. The policeman left and in the gloom I made myself a pillow with my bits and pieces, crawled under the greatcoats and slept like a log.

I awoke quite early so I was up and ready when the policeman came back followed by the lady from the cafe with, I think, more black bread and marge and a drink. After they left I had time to look around the cell. The walls must have been white washed donkey's years ago and were covered with writing by previous occupants. One, written in French said that the writer had walked some 700 kms. and had been caught on the frontier. During the morning a much be-ribboned German officer turned up. I think he was a major or something. He just looked at me and as I had nothing better to do I just stared back. Then, having said not a word, he cleared off. Later that morning the policeman returned together with a young shortish unter-offizier who toted a pistol "as big as himself", who was to be my next escort. He and I took the crosscountry "tram-train" which went to Aachen where we went into the canteen in the railway station full of disinterested German troops. I think we had some soup and then took a train to Cologne (Koln). It was evening when we arrived. I was allowed to use the toilet before we left. Outside, with the great cathedral in view we waited for a No.22 tram. When it arrived as it quickly filled up my escort had a word with the conductor and I was given a seat against the window with the unter offizier sitting beside me. I was feeling fairly exhausted by now and as the tram got going I closed my eyes and let the world pass by.

After a little while I became aware of some sort of a row developing and I had a look with a cautious one eye and I saw that a 3-way argument was going on. A civilian was claiming a seat, my seat in the well-filled tram. My escort was saying that he was responsible for me and refused to let me out where I might escape and the conductor was saying that anyway I was a soldier and soldiers were entitled to a seat. Finally they compromised and the civilian got my seat while I had to stand in the gangway just in front of my escort. I felt so tired and anyway I was never a good traveller on trams so I dumped my bundle on the floor - it is surprising what you collect - and sat on it in the gangway. Inevitably someone to the front of the tram had to get off and I was in the way so I had to get up again. As the tram was rocking and swaying along I lost my balance and took a wild grab for something which turned out to be the bell cord which must have given the driver quite a surprise. When we got going again everyone seemed to be a lot more cheerful. Perhaps they thought they had nothing to fear from enemies such as I who was obviously a B.F. Then my escort had a chat with the conductor. A little while later at apparently nowhere in particular, my escort and I got off. As the tram went on its way my escort started looking for somewhere and as we walked up and down the main road and side roads it was obvious he was lost. At one place I was so knackered that I just stood at the corner in the dark and let him get on with it! At last he got a clue and he strode purposefully down a side road with me in tow. We arrived at what seemed to be a large double bay frontal house. He knocked on the door and we waited as nothing much happened. Then after a little while and some scraping noises much to ray surprise the small window on my left was flung open and a head appeared. There followed a completely unintelligible conversation and again to my surprise I was told to climb through the open window. My guard followed and we stood together in the dark. The window was shut, the blankout replaced and the light switched on again to reveal, a bare military office and the occupant, another tough looking German feltwebel. There followed another session of double-dutch after which the feltwebel left the office for a few minutes and returned carrying a blanket. We spread this out on the floor for me to lay down on, then my escort laid down beside me and the feldwebel laid down the other side and believe it or not I slept.

I don't know for how long but we were awoken by the sound of shouting and hobnailed boots rushing about. There was an air raid warning. The feltwebel went out again but soon returned to join us on the floor. It must have been a false alarm as we weren't disturbed again until morning. On awakening I was allowed a visit to the toilet. On the way there and back I realised that this place was an arbeiztlager (work camp) and the residents were French. I had no opportunity to try and talk to them but as I passed by one gave me a small bar of chocolate and another gave me a packet of cigarettes, Caporal bleux. Then back to the office where I got my breakfast which was like a bowl of tea with biscuits floating in it. Some time later we were taken by pick-up truck to what I think was Luftwaffe Kohn. As we waited at the main entrance a German "erk” stood on the steps eating what looked like a mustard pickle sandwich and that really turned me off. Actually I think it must have been erzartz honey . After spending a short time encaged in a cell I was taken before, I think, the C.O. He certainly had an impressive desk! He just stared at me so I returned the compliment. Finally he tired of this, bent down to the side and picked up a pair of flying boots which he tossed across the desk to me. I thought at first they were Charlies but on closer inspection I think they must have belonged to a Yank. Anyway they fitted O.K. and apart from gash in one toecap they were in fair condition. Later I was taken for a meal (salad) in the airman’s mess and afterwards with 3 or 4 other RAF joined a train for Frankfort. One of the chaps said he was gasping for a smoke so I produced my packet of blue caps and achieved instant popularity.

I cannot recall how or when we arrived at Dulag Luft, the interrogation centre, only that we were stripped and put into solitary confinement which in my case didn't last very long as I was soon joined by an American Puerto Rican airman. When I got my clothes back I was surprised to find that my compass buttons had been found and removed. My jackknife also disappeared. Some time later I was taken to the main interrogation block in solitary again in a small cell containing a bunk bed, small table and stool, blocked off window and a handle near the door to call the guard. Food when it came was like a watery potato soup and most unusual coffee, black and unsweetened.

An elderly German officer came into the cell. His first words were "Sergeant Brown, we have been looking for you".

Jack Ansell



F/Sgt. Bernard William Alford 61 Sqd.

I have little information, apart from the fact that my father Bernard Alford was based at RAF Skellingthorpe, near Lincoln and flew as crew on Lancasters during the Second World War. He was demobbed in 1948. He and my mother were divorced by then and, as far as I am aware, he had had no contact with either my mother or myself for sometime before that. He emigrated to Canada in 1957.

This is just a long shot that someone might have some information about him which would fill in some gaps for me.

Anne Phillips



Sqd Ldr. T. B. Cole 50 Squadron

A Dutch friend phoned me who has been contacted by HIS friend asking for help. It seems this chap when he was very young remembers a Lancaster being shot down over his parents farm near the village of Epe. His father subsequently discovered a parachute and an RAF cap hidden under a bush.

The cap bore the name T. B. Cole. The cap has survived all these years, despite a fire at their farm some years ago. The chap has suddenly decided he would like to contact any surviving family of Mr. Cole to return it to them. He has done some research and found that the aircraft was from 50 Squadron, RAF Skellingthorpe, target was Gelsenkirchen and it was shot down on 22 June 1944 at 02.20. He also quoted the serial number LL 840.

My query is that I would like some pointers as to how to continue my search, if anyone can help.

UPDATE:

The Lancaster took off at 23:17 on the 21st June 1944 from Skellingthorpe. Shot down by a night- fighter and crashed at Oene (Gelderland), 5 km E of Epe.

The crew were:

  • S/L T.B.Cole. taken PoW and interned in Stalag Luft III.
  • F/S Kenneth H.C.Ingram. flight engineer, initially evaded, but fell into the hands of the Gestapo and was shot on the 2nd of October 1944. He is buried in Apeldoorn (Ugchelen-Heidehof) General Cemetery.
  • F/O J.Craven. Evaded capture.
  • F/S A.G.Beresford. taken PoW
  • P/O E.J.Blakemore. Evaded capture.
  • W/O J.F.Lane. second Wireless Operator was killed
  • Sgt Frederick Henry Shorter, air gunner. killed, he is buried at Epe

On 17th April every year, the people of Ugchelen commemorate those who died for the freedom of their country. F/S Kenneth Ingram is one of fifty-seven aircrew, buried in the Heidehof cemetery, Ugchelen. Read the Story

Richard Buckby



F/Sgt. Kenneth Herschel Callender Ingram 50 Squadron (d.2nd Oct 1944)

Kenneth Ingram served as flight engineer on T.B.Coles crew




F/Sgt. Clifford Jackson 50 Squadron (d.8th Jul 1944)

Clifford Jackson served as a navigator




J. F. Lane 50 Squadron

J.Lane served as the wireless operator on T.B.Coles crew.




F/Sgt. Charles Joseph O'Connor 50 Squadron (d.8th Jul 1944)

Charles OConnor served as a bomb aimer with 50 squadron.




F/Sgt. Eric John Walter Stirling 50 Squadron (d.8th Jul 1944)

Eric Stirling served as a Wireless operator with 50 squadron




Sgt. George Henry Tucker 50 Squadron (d.8th Jul 1944)

George tucker served as a flight engineer with 50 Squadron.




Sgt. Frederick Henry Shorter 50 Squadron (d.22nd Jun 1944)

Frederick Shorter served as an air gunner with T.B. Coles crew in 50 squadron




Flt.Sgt. Newman Walter "Bill" Elliott 61 Squadron

My Father Newman "Bill" Elliott was a Rear Gunner, he trained at No.5 Lancaster Finishing School at Syerston, Nottinghamshire from July 29th to August 8th 1944. He then joined No. 61 Squadron at Skellingthorpe, Lincolnshire. His missions were all flown with F/O Cooksey.

On August 10th - 29th 1944 his Logbook shows Lancasters flown in: MF 912, BJ183, EE17, PD266, ED8s60, PB434 R , Between September 10th - 27th 1944. PB434 R, Non specific 729 V, H, G, D. From October 1st to November 29th 1944. All operations LL843 R. From December 1st to 17th 1944. LL843 R, Non specific L. From January 12th - 27th 1945. All LL843 R From February 1st to 21st 1945. LL843 R, Non specific Q. March 1st to 11th 1945. LL843 R, Non specific O & Y. His tour expired 11th March 1945 when he had flown Thirty Six ops. I am researching further.

Debbie Bloomer



P/O Roy Frederick Thibedeau 50 Sqdn. (d.31st Mar 1944)

Roy with brother-in-law Earl Bock, also killed in another Lancaster

Roy Thibedeau was one of three uncles killed in WWII who I never knew since I was born years later. I carry with pride his first name as my middle name. He was a son of Fred and Ruby Thibedeau; husband of Vera Thibedeau, of Echo Bay, Ontario, Canada.

Roy is buried in Durnbach War Cemetery. Roy and two others from his crew were buried by the German civilians in a church graveyard and after the war their remains were relocated. His flight scarf was kept by a German resident of the village where the plane crashed and was later tracked down by a United States Army Captain. It was eventually returned to Roy's wife Vera. Four others from the flight crew survived and became prisoners of war.

His brother-in-law was F-Sgt. Earl William Bock who died on 22nd October 1944 when his severely damaged Lancaster barely made it back to England, where his is buried.

Art Osborne



F/Lt. William Edwin Grantham 61 Squadron (d.8th July 1944)

My Uncle is William Edwin "Ted" Grantham. He was the pilot of Lancester ND867 (QR-V) of 61 Squadron Skellingthorpe, that was shot down at Moliens, France, on the 8th July 1944, returning from the raid on St. Leu d'Esserent.

I am trying to contact relatives of his crew. Five of the 7 perished, one evaded capture, and the other was a POW. I've contacted the daughter and nephew of Cliff Young, the brother of Bill Hobbs, and the niece of Charlie Bolser. I would like to contact anyone related to, or who knew 1431592 Ronald Towndrow (WOP) and 1852464 Peter Henry Baigent (Rear Gunner). Thanks for contacting me if you have any information

Neil Grantham



Flt.Sgt. Aurther Kenneth "Dev." Deaville 61 Sqd.

My father Ken Deaville, flew Mk 1s, Mk 11s and Mk 111s as a Flight Engineer from 1943 to 1945 for 115 Sqd and 61 Sqd. In June 1944 he was in 115 Sqd at Witchford in Don Cameron's crew flying ME836 C-Charlie. By April 1945 he was in 61 sqd at Skellingthorpe in Danny Boon's crew flying NF997 H-How.

Paul N Deaville



F.Sgt. Michael Arthur Cook 50 Sqd. (d.6th Nov 1944)

Michael Cook joined the airforce in Hamilton, Ontario on July 22 1943. He was 68 inches tall weighed 132 lbs. He trained in air gunner unit 10 B & G Mount Pleasant PEI . In six months he weighed 143 lb. He completed his training Jan 14 1944 as an air gunner and went overseas. His personal record states he was "fair Material" Motivation fair, very anxious to be part of any aircrew. Athletic build, will probably do well. Later it was written "This chap has tried hard for a long time to get into aircrew, in my opinion he deserves a chance, he has a pleasant manner, he realizes conditions of selection at manning and will do his best to succeed at whatever selected for. Should be good material" He was posted to Upper Heyford, Burford and St. John, England. He flew in Wellingtons, learning to fly in formation, cross country and in familiarization runs day and night.

In Sept 1944 he started flying in Sterlings on bombing raids and in OCT Lancaster bombers. He was a sergeant by this time with 50 Squadron at Skellingthorpe. Lancaster III were his machines now. He was rear gunner. He flew cross country and on Oct 19th flew to Neuremburg Marshalling yards in Germany on a night run of 8 hours. Two days later he flew to Flushing and on Oct 28th went to Bergen to bomb submarine pens, another 7 hr night flight. He was now up to 150 hours of flying. November 1944 saw him flying exclusively at night to Hamburg. On Nov 6, this the last flight mentioned in his log book, he had flown a total of 100.25 hrs daylight and 90.35 hrs night. The crew of seven left in a Lancaster aircraft and failed to return from an operational attack on Gravenhurst, Germany. It left base at 16.19 hours on Nov 6th 1944; after no further news was received he was declared MIA in Nov 1944. Later it was learned he was shot down over Holland. Dutch people buried the aircrew in Heerde, Holland. An extract from German Tottenliste @264 and forwarded by the International Red Cross states that 7 were killed on Nov 6th 1944. His fellow crew men were Sgt Ralph Dowling,Toronto, Sgt George Dunkleman, Midland, Fred Horning,Toronto, Bob Rennie PEI, George Ferris BC.

They are buried in Heerde Cemetery, 9 miles SW Zwolle, Hollland. There is also a cenotaph in his hometown that bears his name. His brother John visited the grave after the war and John's daughter and husband visited in 2005.

Sharon Murphy



Flt.Sgt. Ralph Andrew Dowling 50 Squadron (d.6th Nov 1944)

He was a member of a 7-man crew of a Lancaster bomber that took off from RAF Skellingthorpe at 1619 hours on 6th November 1944 and did not return. the aircraft crashed over Holland.

Crew members, who are all buried in the Heerde general cemetery, Holland, were: -

  • Flt/Sgt Ralph Andrew Dowling (R/270087),Toronto, coll. grave 667
  • P/O George Amos Dunkelman (J/95289),Midland,Ontario, coll. grave 667
  • F/O Frederick Arthur Horning (J/36835), Toronto, coll. grave 667
  • F/O Robert Edward Rennie (J25818), Prince Edward Island, coll. grave 667
  • F/O George Thompson Gilbert Terris (J/36306), B.C. grave 666
  • Sgt William Darby (1737140), coll. grave 667
  • Flt/Sgt Michael Arthur Cook (R/263352), grave 665

The graveyard is 9 miles from SW Zwolle, Holland.

Mel Ogden



P/O George Amos Dunkelman 50 Squadron (d.6th Nov 1944)

He was a member of a 7-man crew of a Lancaster bomber that took off from RAF Skellingthorpe at 1619 hours on 6th November 1944 and did not return. the aircraft crashed over Holland.

Crew members, who are all buried in the Heerde general cemetery, Holland, were: -

  • Flt/Sgt Ralph Andrew Dowling (R/270087),Toronto, coll. grave 667
  • P/O George Amos Dunkelman (J/95289),Midland,Ontario, coll. grave 667
  • F/O Frederick Arthur Horning (J/36835), Toronto, coll. grave 667
  • F/O Robert Edward Rennie (J25818), Prince Edward Island, coll. grave 667
  • F/O George Thompson Gilbert Terris (J/36306), B.C. grave 666
  • Sgt William Darby (1737140), coll. grave 667
  • Flt/Sgt Michael Arthur Cook (R/263352), grave 665

The graveyard is 9 miles from SW Zwolle, Holland.

Mel Ogden



Sgt. William Darby 50 Sqdn. (d.6th Nov 1944)

William Darby was a member of the seven-man crew of a Lancaster bomber that took off from RAF Skellingthorpe at 16.19 hours on 6th November 1944 and did not return. The aircraft crashed over Holland.

Crew members, who are all buried in the Heerde general cemetery, Holland, were:

  • Flt/Sgt Ralph Andrew Dowling (R/270087), Toronto
  • P/O George Amos Dunkelman (J/95289), Midland, Ontario
  • F/O Frederick Arthur Horning (J/36835), Toronto,
  • F/O Robert Edward Rennie (J25818), Prince Edward Island
  • F/O George Thompson Gilbert Terris (J/36306)
  • Sgt William Darby (1737140)
  • and Flt/Sgt Michael Arthur Cook (R/263352)
The graveyard is 9 miles from SW Zwolle, Holland.

Mel Ogden



F/O George Thompson Gilbert Terris 50 Squadron (d.6th Nov 1944)

He was a member of a 7-man crew of a Lancaster bomber that took off from RAF Skellingthorpe at 1619 hours on 6th November 1944 and did not return. the aircraft crashed over Holland.

Crew members, who are all buried in the Heerde general cemetery, Holland, were: -

  • Flt/Sgt Ralph Andrew Dowling (R/270087),Toronto, coll. grave 667
  • P/O George Amos Dunkelman (J/95289),Midland,Ontario, coll. grave 667
  • F/O Frederick Arthur Horning (J/36835), Toronto, coll. grave 667
  • F/O Robert Edward Rennie (J25818), Prince Edward Island, coll. grave 667
  • F/O George Thompson Gilbert Terris (J/36306), B.C. grave 666
  • Sgt William Darby (1737140), coll. grave 667
  • Flt/Sgt Michael Arthur Cook (R/263352), grave 665

The graveyard is 9 miles from SW Zwolle, Holland.

Mel Ogden



F/O Frederick Arthur Horning 50 Squadron (d.6th Nov 1944)

He was a member of a 7-man crew of a Lancaster bomber that took off from RAF Skellingthorpe at 1619 hours on 6th November 1944 and did not return. the aircraft crashed over Holland.

Crew members, who are all buried in the Heerde general cemetery, Holland, were: -

  • Flt/Sgt Ralph Andrew Dowling (R/270087),Toronto, coll. grave 667
  • P/O George Amos Dunkelman (J/95289),Midland,Ontario, coll. grave 667
  • F/O Frederick Arthur Horning (J/36835), Toronto, coll. grave 667
  • F/O Robert Edward Rennie (J25818), Prince Edward Island, coll. grave 667
  • F/O George Thompson Gilbert Terris (J/36306), B.C. grave 666
  • Sgt William Darby (1737140), coll. grave 667
  • Flt/Sgt Michael Arthur Cook (R/263352), grave 665

The graveyard is 9 miles from SW Zwolle, Holland.

Mel Ogden



F/O Robert Edward Rennie 50 Squadron (d.6th Nov 1944)

He was a member of a 7-man crew of a Lancaster bomber that took off from RAF Skellingthorpe at 1619 hours on 6th November 1944 and did not return. the aircraft crashed over Holland.

Crew members, who are all buried in the Heerde general cemetery, Holland, were: -

  • Flt/Sgt Ralph Andrew Dowling (R/270087),Toronto, coll. grave 667
  • P/O George Amos Dunkelman (J/95289),Midland,Ontario, coll. grave 667
  • F/O Frederick Arthur Horning (J/36835), Toronto, coll. grave 667
  • F/O Robert Edward Rennie (J25818), Prince Edward Island, coll. grave 667
  • F/O George Thompson Gilbert Terris (J/36306), B.C. grave 666
  • Sgt William Darby (1737140), coll. grave 667
  • Flt/Sgt Michael Arthur Cook (R/263352), grave 665

The graveyard is 9 miles from SW Zwolle, Holland.

Mel Ogden



Lester Stenner

I lived in Lincoln during WWII. My father was stationed at Waddington, Swinderby, Skellingthorpe and Coningsby.

Lester Stenner



Robert Norval Cunningham RAF Skellingthorpe (d.11th May 1944)

My first cousin, Robert Norval Cunningham, felt compelled to join the armed forces in the first days of WWII. He lived in the USA, but had been born in Scotland. He joined the RCAF and shortly thereafter was sent to Skellingthorpe, England. On 11th May 1944 the Lancaster he was aboard was shot down and the entire crew killed. He was a rear gunner. We subsequently found that he was buried in a mass grave at Oostvleteern Churchyard, Belgium.

Little was known of the first Robert Norval Cunningham (for whom my cousin was named). He was killed in 1917 at the age of 39. By the strangest of coincidences, we have found that both Robert Norval Cunninghams, who sacrified their lives for world peace in two separate world wars, are buried in Belgium about 10 miles apart.

Jean Fuhrer



F/Sgt. Geoffrey Norman Wise 50 Sqdn. (d.12th Sep 1944)

Flight Sgt. Geoffrey Norman Wisewas killed on th enight of the 11th/12th of September 1944 on the bombing operation of Darmstadt. Has anyone any information or photos of him or of RAF Skellingthorpe at this time? Any information would be appreciated.

Norina Dixon







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