25 avril 1945, Wangerooge…

Je me rappelle très bien de notre conversation en octobre 2011. Jacques Morin avait été témoin des collisions entre les bombardiers.

DSCN2136

 

Voici une recherche faite à partir du site Canadian Virtual War Memorial.

Ceux qui sont morts cette journée-là.

Surname Initial(s) Given Name(s) Date of Death
Amos L H Lloyd Hilbourne April 25, 1945
Baker D G Douglas George April 25, 1945
Boyd A B Allan Bernard April 25, 1945
Brambleby J E James Edwin April 25, 1945
Cruickshank J D John Duncan April 25, 1945
Curzon D R H Dennis Rupert Humphrey April 25, 1945
De Marco W T Wilfred Tarquinas April 25, 1945
Dilworth A J Arthur Joseph April 25, 1945
Ely A B Arthur Blevyn April 25, 1945
Emmet B D Barry Desmond April 25, 1945
Hammond J R John Robert April 25, 1945
Hanna W E William Edward April 25, 1945
Henrichon P E A Paul Edouard Adolphe April 25, 1945
Hiatt L U M Lewis Ullysees Malcolm April 25, 1945
Hicks E W Earl William April 25, 1945
Hovey V E Vernon Earl April 25, 1945
Johnston N H Norman Hubert April 25, 1945
Lee E J Edgar John April 25, 1945
Livermore C H Carl Herman April 25, 1945
Mark C R I Clarence Robert Irwin April 25, 1945
Mellon R J Ralph Jackson April 25, 1945
Morrison C R M Colin Ross Milne April 25, 1945
Outerson J L Joseph Lawrie April 25, 1945
Ramsay J John April 25, 1945
Ross J D C John Douglas Carlisle April 25, 1945
Surname Initial(s) Given Name(s) Date of Death
Roy J J P R Joseph Jules Pierre Raymond April 25, 1945
Rutter A L Albert Leroy April 25, 1945
Slauenwhite L L Lester Leon April 25, 1945
Slaughter M C Murray Charles April 25, 1945
Stanley J K James Kent April 25, 1945
Stingle R J Robert John April 25, 1945
Sweet R I Ronald Ignatius April 25, 1945
Teskey S J Stanley James April 25, 1945
Tuplin J C James Chester April 25, 1945
Walker G V Gordon Victor April 25, 1945

Tiré du site de Richard Koval:

April 25, 1945

92 Halifaxes from 408, 415, 425, 426, and 432 squadrons were joined by 100 Lancasters from 419, 424, 427, 428, 429, 431, 433, and 434 squadrons on an attack of the coastal guns at Wangerooge.

The weather was clear and the crews were over the target at between 10,000 to 12,000 feet, releasing 2,100,000 lbs of high explosives. According to reports the target area was well cratered. This operation proved to be the last over enemy territory after two and a half years of effort. The 6 Group crews would not be asked to carry bomb loads over enemy held territory. As well as this being the last operation, the group suffered its final casualties, but not at the hands of the enemy. Sadly the 4 crews that failed to return were all due to mid-air collisions.

F/Lt. A. Ely, RCAF, and crew from 408 squadron, flying Halifax MK VII NP-796, coded EQ-M, failed to return from this operation. 

Sgt. J. Hughes, RAF
P/O J. Brambleby, RCAF
F/O J. Stanely, RCAF
F/O A. Boyd, RCAF
P/O A. Rutter, RCAF
P/O V. Hovey, RCAF

There were no survivors in a mid-air collision.

F/O D. Mullin from 424 squadron had one engine go u/s outbound. They bombed and returned safely on 3 engines.
W/Cdr. W. Norris was hit by flak. There were holes in the fuselage. The Flt/engineer, P/O J. Duggan RCAF, was injured, but not seriously.
F/Lt. J. Matheson was hit by flak. F/Lt. Matheson was struck in the left eye. The Lancaster went out of control, however it was regained and the crew returned safely to base were the injured pilot was taken to the hospital.

P/O J. Tuplin, RCAF, and crew from 426 squadron, flying Halifax VII NP-820, coded OW-W, failed to return from this operation. 

Sgt. R. Roberts, RAF
F/O J. Ross, RCAF
W/O R. Evans, RAF
P/O R. Curzon, RCAF
P/O E. Hicks, RCAF
P/O S. Teskey, RCAF

There were no survivors in a mid-air collision.

F/O D. Walsh of 428 squadron saw 2 Lancasters from 431 collide. The crew saw 5 or 6 parachutes open.

F/Lt. J .Elliott from 431 squadron returned without bombing as the load hung up over the target. 
F/Lt. B. Emmet, RCAF, and crew, flying Lancaster X KB-831 SE-E, failed to return from this operation. 

Sgt. J. Simms, RAF
F/Lt. R. Stingle, RCAF
F/O W. Hanna, RCAF
W/O2 C. Mark, RCAF
Sgt. D. Faulkner, RAF
F/Sgt. R. Mellon, RCAF

There were no survivors in a mid- air collision.

F/O D. Baker, RCAF, and crew, flying Lancaster X KB-822, coded SE-W, failed to return from this operation. 

Sgt. F. Smith RAF
F/O J. Cruickshank, RCAF
F/O L. Amos, RCAF
W/O2 P. Henrichon, RCAF
F/Sgt. J. Roy, RCAF
F/Sgt. L. Hiatt, RCAF

There were no survivors in a mid-air collision.

F/O S. Raymond from 432 squadron was hit by flak, not serious.
F/Sgt. D. Jamer was hit by flak, holes in the fuselage. 

Wangerooge_250445

Wangerooge

En 2015, 70 ans plus tard, Jacques Morin se souvenait encore du 25 avril 1945… Il en était à sa dernière opération, mais l’ignorait à ce moment-là.

The wireless operator, Douglas Radcliffe MBE

The wireless operator, Douglas Radcliffe MBE

doug-ratcliffe_1015113c

Warrant Officer Douglas Radcliffe MBE flew a full operational tour as a Wireless Operator, flying in Wellingtons with No. 425 Squadron.

Source of article…

After the war he worked as a cine-technician in several film studios in London, his lifelong home. Now aged 84, he is secretary of the Bomber Command Association, based at the RAF Museum in Hendon, North London.

« I was a messenger boy at the BBC when Broadcasting House was bombed during the Blitz in October 1940, killing seven girls in the music library. I was there when they brought the bodies out and that was what made me decide to join up.

I was 17 years and 11 months old when I when I volunteered in 1941, and I persuaded my colleague Bill Wright, who later devised the TV quiz Mastermind, to join up at the same time. I chose the RAF because I wanted to fly, simple as that.

Getting in wasn’t easy – at first they didn’t want us but when we said we worked at the BBC they immediately thought « wireless » and signed us up, even though we didn’t know anything about radios.

We were trained up as wireless operators, but you had no rank as a wireless operator, so we were put on a gunnery course to get the rank of sergeant, which meant you would have some degree of protection if you were captured by the Germans.

I had told my mother I was joining up as a cook, and when I went home with my Sergeant Air Gunner’s uniform my mother took a dim view. She said I had lied to her and she wasn’t happy.

After a spell as a ground wireless operator my crew was sent to North Africa in 1943 to replenish depleted squadrons there, but on the way there we crashed, and that crash saved my life, because I was kept in hospital in Tel Aviv for a while with shoulder and back injuries, and so I was separated from the rest of my crew, who didn’t have to stay in hospital so long. By the end of the war my original pilot had been shot down and killed and, separately, the rear gunner was also shot down and killed.

When I recovered I joined a depleted French-Canadian Squadron, No. 425, flying missions over Italy after the invasion of Sicily. We were based at Kairouan in Tunisia and it was always low-level flying – I never had to wear an oxygen mask during my entire tour.

As a wireless operator my job was to receive messages – the only time you transmitted was if it was an SOS. Your main job was as the liaison officer in the aircraft. Every 15 minutes there would be a coded transmission from base, which might be information to help the navigator, or you might be told that an airfield had been put out of action and you had to land somewhere else. You could also tune in to beacons which transmitted signals to help locate your position, and I would also keep checking the rear gunner to make sure he was alright.

They always said you could tell a wireless operator by looking at his boots – the heating duct for the cockpit came out by my left foot, and it would partly melt the rubber sole of your boot. It meant I was always roasting, while the rear gunner would be freezing.

The biggest problem we had flying over Italy was the fighters. Whenever you had to join another crew you would always find that they had lost someone during a fighter attack. We got damaged once, on one of the wings, and we never knew what it was that had done it. A lot of people who got shot down never knew what hit them.

When we attacked targets it would be at such a low level that the gunners would be firing at targets on the ground. The bomb aimers, who doubled as the front gunners, had a particularly busy time.

People say to me that it must have been terrible, but it wasn’t terrible. We knew the dangers but at that age you just don’t think about it. You always convinced yourself that people who were missing would have bailed out safely.

In between ops we had a great time. We were the lucky ones in many respects. When you got back from a raid you had a clean bed to sleep in and for most people they were in the heart of the English countryside. I always tell my family I wouldn’t have swapped with sailors or soldiers, who had to put up with much worse.

After completing the equivalent in flying hours of 30 ops, which was a full tour, I returned to England and spent some time as an instructor before converting to Lancasters in anticipation of a second tour. I was due to go to the Pacific as part of Tiger Force, but the Japanese surrender meant we didn’t have to go in the end.

I didn’t like the Lancaster as much as I did the Wellington. Not many people did. I think it was probably because I was alive, and I felt I owed that, in part, to Wellingtons.

We didn’t find out until the end of the war just how many airmen had died. Mostly they were just listed at the time as missing, and it was only later that we realised what a high percentage of them had died.

Even today I’m still finding out that friends of mine didn’t survive the war. I found myself thinking a couple of weeks ago about a pilot I had greatly admired, who was one of the very best. I looked his name up in a book which lists all the casualties and found that he had been killed in a flying accident at his home base.

In a way it hits you even harder after all these years, because you suddenly find that someone who you thought might have been alive for the last 60 years has, in fact been dead since 1943 or 44. »

Un mystère – Une mise à jour

Bonjour,
Une mise à jour s’impose suite à mon premier message concernant ce Wellington III BJ 657 et son équipage. Depuis il y a eu un hommage en 2016 pour ses cinq hommes.
 

Billet écrit en 2015 suite à un commentaire.

Bonjour,

En parcourant le web je suis tombé sur votre blog. Je tente depuis quelques années à identifier un site de crash, celle d’un avion anglais tombé dans la nuit du 6 au 7 décembre 1942 entre 01h45 et 02h (heure française). Le document est très fiable, il s’agit d’un courrier adressé au préfet de la région Bretagne suite à un courrier envoyé au préfet du Morbihan. Le Préfet régional lui reprochant ; que la population civile de la commune de Langonnet (Morbihan) n’aurait pas signalé la perte d’un avion Britannique.

Le préfet lui répond que le maire a alerté par téléphone vers 9 heures la brigade de gendarmerie de Gourin. A 10 heures le chef de brigade se trouvait sur les lieux et en rendait compte à l’officier de gendarmerie de Pontivy, lequel prévenait les autorités allemandes locales. A 14 heures la feldgendarmerie était à son tour sur place suivie à 16 heures des techniciens allemands.

Le rapport de gendarmerie. Un avion s’écrase près du moulin du Bois en Langonnet. Le choc est rude : la carlingue est en partie enterrée, le moteur s’achève de se consumer à 6 m de la carcasse et les arbres environnants sont couverts de débris de toile. La gendarmerie de Gourin résume l’affaire par ces mots : amas de ferraille. Ce serait, selon eux, un bombardier bimoteur anglais. Quant aux occupants, on ne sait ce qu’ils sont devenus. Les allemands arrivent à 14 heures le lendemain.

Les débris de toile font penser à un Wellington. Il y a des pertes cette nuit là.

Wellington Z1401 de 300 Escadron a été abattu par la flak près de Boulogne sur le retour de Mannheim. L’ensemble de l’équipage a été tué.

Un Wellington du 301 Sqdn s’est écrasé à Salcombe dans le Devon (SW Angleterre).

ORB 115 (R.A.F.) Sqdn. Two losses. Wellington III VJB 513. Pilot : Flying Officer. DIXON, MAXWELL WINTRINGHAM. Buried : MONTCORNET MILITARY CEMETERY. (Montcornet is a commune 38 kilometres north-west of Rethel).

Wellington III CBJ 898 : Pilot : Flying Officer. LARKINS, HARRY WILLIAM. Buried : RHEINBERG WAR CEMETERY. (The town of Rheinberg lies in the west of Germany approx 85 kms to the north of Koln).

Et ce dernier. ORB the 425 (R.A.F.) Sqdn. Loss of the Wellington III BJ 657. Pilot : Pilot Officer. CRONK, GEORGE EDWARD. RUNNYMEDE MEMORIAL.

Rien de plus dans les pertes du 6 au 7 décembre 42, il n’est pas question sur les lieux du crash de corps. Dans les dossiers escape evasion, aucun nom ne ressort, dans le fichier des POW, rien non plus.

Un mystère !

Frederick Hull – 425 Alouette mid-under gunner

Source: http://www.thememoryproject.com/stories/1845:fred-hull/

My name is Fred Hull. I joined the [Royal Canadian] Air Force in 1942 at eighteen years of age. After landing in England, I was taken from the boat to be used as a spare gunner. This avoided operational training and put me on operational runs immediately with the 408 Squadron. On about the eleventh run we need the entire runway and a little bit more, as we had a lamppost at the end of the runway that took off the starboard undercarriage. We were able to complete our run over Germany and return to an emergency airport over the coast. We did a loop on landing, and all of the crew were ok. We got a few drinks for that one. My thirty-third trip turned out to be my last on November the 1st, 1944. I was sent to the 425 Squadron for a night run on a Halifax. We dropped bombs, and while over Oberhausen in total darkness we were hit on the port wing and the engine caught fire. As we prepared to bail out, we were again hit in the rear. I never found out if we were hit from the air or by ack-ack. I notified the pilot that I was bailing out, and the rest of the crew did the same.

November 1/2, 1944202 Halifaxes from 408, 415, 420, 424, 425, 426, 427, 429, 432, 433, and 434 squadrons were joined by 47 Lancasters from 419, 428, and 431 on an attack at Oberhausen. The crews were over the target at between 17,000 and 21,000 feet, releasing 1,979,000 lbs of high explosives and 379,000 lbs of incendiaries. The target was cloud covered and the attack was scattered.

F/O T. MacKinnon from 425 Squadron returned early as the stbd outer was u/s. They landed safely at base on 3 engines.

F/O R. Lafreniere was hit by flak, not serious.

F/O A. Hutcheon landed at Woodbridge due to the brakes being u/s.

F/O D. Smith landed at Carnaby due to the brakes being u/s.

F/O P. Legault and crew, flying Halifax III NA-634 coded KW-X, were attacked by an ME-110, strikes were seen and it was claimed damaged. They were also damaged, the port flap was shot off and the fuselage was riddled with exploding shrapnel.

P/O G. Chabot was hit by flak, there was holes in the fuselage bomb doors and elevator. They landed at Horsham St. Faith due to a fuel shortage.

F/Lt M. Dugas, RCAF–POW and crew, flying Halifax III  LW-379 coded KW-D, failed to return from this operation.

F/Sgt. J. Carrier, RCAF–POW
F/Lt. H. Goodwin, RAF–POW

F/O J. St. Arnaud, RCAF–POW
W/O2 J. Ranger, RCAF–POW
P/O J. Crispin, RCAF–POW
F/Sgt. J. Federico, RCAF–POW
P/O J. Savoie, RCAF – Killed

1 crew-member was killed and 7 were POWs  after being shot down by a Nightfighter over the target.

Stuart Hunt – Rear Gunner with the Alouettes

Source:
http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/communities/north-county/sd-no-stuart-hunt-20170331-story.html

When Stuart Hunt went off to war in 1943, the longtime San Diegan remembers having the same gung-ho, patriotic spirit as the millions of other young men who enlisted to serve in the Allied Forces during World War II.

But when he reluctantly returned to the battlefield again in 1950, as a forward observer during the Korean War, he was a changed man. In his autobiography “Twice Surreal,” the Rancho Bernardo veteran and onetime prisoner of war says he couldn’t muster much enthusiasm for a second conflict.

“I was one of those eager young people, ready to go fight for our country, willing to accept that my life was a number, disposable on the cheap,” he wrote of World War II. “But I am sure that, for many, after they see the horrors of war, the enthusiasm wears thin or disappears.”

Hunt, who turns 94 on April 5, is one of the nation’s few surviving veterans who served in both World War II and the Korean War. On the wall in his home office, a glass case filled with ribbons and medals, including a Bronze Star, testifies to his bravery. But when he talks and writes about his experiences, he focuses more on the friends he lost and his own will to survive.

“There is no glory in war,” he said, “and often .. you have experience it to fully understand it.”

Hunt grew up in Montreal, a dual citizen with an American dad and Canadian mom. His father, Thomas Hunt, ran an airfield in Ontario and young Stuart learned to fly single-engine planes like the Tiger Moth before he was 15.

In August 1941, his father took a job with Ryan Aeronautical and the family moved to San Diego. Hunt, then 18, was sailing with a friend near Coronado when they heard about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

The U.S. Army Air Corps rejected his application because he lacked two years of college credits, so he signed up instead with the Royal Canadian Air Force. After more than a year of training, he was shipped overseas to serve as a flying officer in the U.K.’s Royal Air Force.

Assigned as a tail-gunner to the No. 425 Alouette Squadron in Yorkshire, his crew flew four-engine Halifax Mark II and III bombers on daring night raids over Germany in 1944. Up to one-quarter of the planes that made the bombing runs over Frankfurt, Nurenberg, Berlin, Essen, Kiel and other cities never returned.

“For self-preservation, you didn’t make friends over there because the guy next to you would be gone the next day,” he said.

A few weeks after Hunt’s 21st birthday, his squadron was assigned to bomb the city of Karlsruhe on April 24th, 1944. Hunt had such a bad feeling about the mission, he wrote a goodbye letter to his parents and arranged to have his things shipped home if he didn’t return.

Sure enough, there were problems from the start, with ice on the wings, fuel problems and high winds. On the way home, a German fighter plane shot up the Halifax’s crew and set two starboard engines ablaze.

As the only officer on the plane, Hunt helped each man — some badly injured and one dying — parachute out before he leaped free, landing hard in the waters off the southwest coast of Holland.

With the help of the Dutch Underground, he and some other downed RAF and American pilots made it to Antwerp, and then south into Belgium before they were sent their separate ways and told to find their way to Spain on foot.

Eventually, the Germans caught up with Hunt hiding in a haystack on a farm near Brussels. He would spend the next 13 months as a prisoner of war, enduring extreme hardship and injuries that still trouble him today.

After weeks of interrogations at Belgium’s St. Gilles Prison and various other places, Hunt was held for 36 hours in a prison camp with no name in Weimar, Germany. It wasn’t until much later that he discovered it had been Buchenwald, the Jewish concentration camp. He doesn’t like to talk about what he saw there.

“I knew something was wrong,” he said. “I could see people walking in, but there were bodies going out in trucks.”

From there he was sent to Stalag Luft 3 in Poland, where he was held with 2,000 others in a section of the camp reserved for British officers. He arrived just a few months after the famed “Great Escape,” where a British pilot organized a massive tunneling effort under the camp walls. Seventy-six men escaped, but only three made it to safety. Fifty were executed and conditions for prisoners were quite restrictive by the time Hunt arrived.

Germany was losing the war, Russia and Allied armies were closing in and food was scarce. To escape approaching forces, the Germans marched their under-dressed prisoners 52 miles west in blizzard conditions with no water and virtually no food. Three months later, the men were forced to march another 90 miles, once again in below-zero conditions.

Hunt remembers those months as the worst of his life. He struggled with dysentery and lost nearly 60 pounds. His feet were so damaged by frostbite that even today the nerve damage in his feet causes constant shooting pains.

On May 3, 1945, Hunt said he woke up at a prison camp in Lubeck and realized all the guards were gone. Minutes later, the British Second Army rolled in.

When Hunt returned to San Diego, he married the pretty blonde San Diego State co-ed he’d begun dating before the war, Edith Bridget Darsey. They would have three daughters together and 70 happy years of marriage until her death last year.

After the war, Hunt worked as a stock and bonds trader. To make extra money for his growing family, he joined the National Guard. He figured it was worth the risk of being called up because the nation was weary of war.

But in 1950, the call came. Because the newly established U.S. Air Force was flush with pilots, Hunt and his fellow WWII “retreads” were assigned to Army artillery units as “forward observers,” which he describes as a polite phrase for “cannon fodder.”

Stationed in bunkers along the front lines in North Korea, Hunt called artillery missions at several battles against North Korean and Chinese forces. One of the most memorable and surreal experiences was the Battle of Heartbreak Ridge in September and October of 1951.

The month-long battle resulted in more than 3,700 American and French casualties and an estimated 25,000 North Korean and Chinese casualties. Not long after, Hunt was assigned to supervise the firing of the war’s millionth high-explosive round.

When he finally returned home to his family in late 1952, Hunt knew he was done with war. For the good of his family, he asked for, and was granted, a discharge. Eventually he founded a security products company with Jim Horwood, who he met in officer’s training school in 1942 and remained close friends with until Horwood’s death in 2008.

When Hunt started writing his memoir, which is available on Amazon.com, he decided to name it “Twice Surreal.” The name reflects his experiences in two wars as well as the unimaginable odds he overcame to survive.

“I almost felt like everything that happened over there doesn’t seem real,” he said this week. “If you read my book you can see why there’s really no reason I should be sitting here right now.”

Doug Radcliffe – Wireless-Operator with 425 Alouette

Source: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/history/raf-bomber-command/3254659/The-wireless-operator-Douglas-Radcliffe-MBE.html

After the war he worked as a cine-technician in several film studios in London, his lifelong home. Now aged 84, he is secretary of the Bomber Command Association, based at the RAF Museum in Hendon, North London.

« I was a messenger boy at the BBC when Broadcasting House was bombed during the Blitz in October 1940, killing seven girls in the music library. I was there when they brought the bodies out and that was what made me decide to join up.

I was 17 years and 11 months old when I when I volunteered in 1941, and I persuaded my colleague Bill Wright, who later devised the TV quiz Mastermind, to join up at the same time. I chose the RAF because I wanted to fly, simple as that.

Getting in wasn’t easy – at first they didn’t want us but when we said we worked at the BBC they immediately thought « wireless » and signed us up, even though we didn’t know anything about radios.

We were trained up as wireless operators, but you had no rank as a wireless operator, so we were put on a gunnery course to get the rank of sergeant, which meant you would have some degree of protection if you were captured by the Germans.

I had told my mother I was joining up as a cook, and when I went home with my Sergeant Air Gunner’s uniform my mother took a dim view. She said I had lied to her and she wasn’t happy.

After a spell as a ground wireless operator my crew was sent to North Africa in 1943 to replenish depleted squadrons there, but on the way there we crashed, and that crash saved my life, because I was kept in hospital in Tel Aviv for a while with shoulder and back injuries, and so I was separated from the rest of my crew, who didn’t have to stay in hospital so long. By the end of the war my original pilot had been shot down and killed and, separately, the rear gunner was also shot down and killed.

When I recovered I joined a depleted French-Canadian Squadron, No. 425, flying missions over Italy after the invasion of Sicily. We were based at Kairouan in Tunisia and it was always low-level flying – I never had to wear an oxygen mask during my entire tour.

As a wireless operator my job was to receive messages – the only time you transmitted was if it was an SOS. Your main job was as the liaison officer in the aircraft. Every 15 minutes there would be a coded transmission from base, which might be information to help the navigator, or you might be told that an airfield had been put out of action and you had to land somewhere else. You could also tune in to beacons which transmitted signals to help locate your position, and I would also keep checking the rear gunner to make sure he was alright.

They always said you could tell a wireless operator by looking at his boots – the heating duct for the cockpit came out by my left foot, and it would partly melt the rubber sole of your boot. It meant I was always roasting, while the rear gunner would be freezing.

The biggest problem we had flying over Italy was the fighters. Whenever you had to join another crew you would always find that they had lost someone during a fighter attack. We got damaged once, on one of the wings, and we never knew what it was that had done it. A lot of people who got shot down never knew what hit them.

When we attacked targets it would be at such a low level that the gunners would be firing at targets on the ground. The bomb aimers, who doubled as the front gunners, had a particularly busy time.

People say to me that it must have been terrible, but it wasn’t terrible. We knew the dangers but at that age you just don’t think about it. You always convinced yourself that people who were missing would have bailed out safely.

In between ops we had a great time. We were the lucky ones in many respects. When you got back from a raid you had a clean bed to sleep in and for most people they were in the heart of the English countryside. I always tell my family I wouldn’t have swapped with sailors or soldiers, who had to put up with much worse.

After completing the equivalent in flying hours of 30 ops, which was a full tour, I returned to England and spent some time as an instructor before converting to Lancasters in anticipation of a second tour. I was due to go to the Pacific as part of Tiger Force, but the Japanese surrender meant we didn’t have to go in the end.

I didn’t like the Lancaster as much as I did the Wellington. Not many people did. I think it was probably because I was alive, and I felt I owed that, in part, to Wellingtons.

We didn’t find out until the end of the war just how many airmen had died. Mostly they were just listed at the time as missing, and it was only later that we realised what a high percentage of them had died.

Even today I’m still finding out that friends of mine didn’t survive the war. I found myself thinking a couple of weeks ago about a pilot I had greatly admired, who was one of the very best. I looked his name up in a book which lists all the casualties and found that he had been killed in a flying accident at his home base.

In a way it hits you even harder after all these years, because you suddenly find that someone who you thought might have been alive for the last 60 years has, in fact been dead since 1943 or 44. »