I have many stories.
Here is the first - How it all began ... (My story that is, not the war!)
I was assigned to a Canadian OTU (Operational Training Unit) and on our 3rd from last training flight - we got lost.
There was 10/10ths cloud and we could just make out search lights penetrating through. Ernie, the pilot, descended so that he could circle under the cloud and said we were over the airdrome and had the green light to land.
As I was retuning the wireless, Ernie said it was OK to go and started his descent.
As we were coming in we clipped something, could have been the the top of a building, and crashed.
Ernie had managed to switch the fuel off but he, Freddy and myself all sustained bad injuries.
I ended up with my legs trapped and my head (still attached) outside the plane. My right leg, right foot and ribs on the right-hand side were all broken.
Ernie suffered critical chest injuries and died after a week.
Freddy, the rear gunner, had stomach injuries due to the buckle on his harness but he survived.
It was 7 months before I had completely mended and was able to walk again and I was posted back to the OTU.
I was advised to wait until the next training intake for a crew and one day, whilst queueing for lunch, I overheard three Canadians discussing their requirement for a good English wireless operator.
I joined in the chat, introducing myself as 'Bill' (for William). They all agreed it would be great to have 'Bill' as a member of the crew but, as there was already a 'Bill', communications may be a problem. "OK, use my middle name", said 'Bill' and so as 'Steve', I joined the crew.
The crew at that time consisted of 5 of our eventual team and we trained on 2-engine Wellingtons. Our last training flight turned out to be an actual Operation and, together with two other planes, we raided a bomb dump in Northern France.
After training we were posted to Croft, outside Darlington, and Wilf converted from 2-engine flying to 4 on Halifaxes. It was at this time that the rest of the team, Pete and Harry, joined us.
We were posted to Middleton-St.George, and joined the Ghost Squadron - so called because it had lost most of its previous crews and was being rebuilt!
Instead of the usual picture on the side of our plane, Q for Queenie had a Latin phrase - "Semper En Excretum" which, roughly translated, means "Always in the s***", and our first trip proved the point.
On our return flight, as we were crossing the channel at Southampton, ready to fly North, we were hit by flack from British ships and were forced to land at Newmarket - albeit safely.
We lived through 30 Ops on Halifaxes and then transfered to the 'new' Lancasters. Wilf's opinion of their new Q for Queenie Lanc? "Beautiful". The Lancs needed so much less effort to get off the ground.
We were really proud of our plane, particularily as it would fly at 28,000 feet whilst the rest of the Squadron could only manage 24,000. We had a good ground crew too. Sgt. George Games looked after us really well and joined us in many of the 'stress-free' sessions at the local watering-holes - as well as the subsequent visits to the local Police Stations !!
The main downside to the sessions was that often we would be told the next day - "You're flying tonight".
|I am loading this up occasionally as I type so it may not look complete for a while.|