diary of bruce johnston diary of bruce johnston

 

 

 


Military Colleagues & Friends

This section is divided into three parts:

- an alpha list of all of the people mentioned in the diary
- a list of colleagues by squadron & related locations
- the story of Alex “Red” Campbell’s final mission

Alldridge, A.C.
Canadian pilot in “B” flight in 115 Squadron at Witchford
Promoted to Flight Lieutenant August 10, 1944
Attacked late June 1944 by a Junkers88
On August 25, 1944 Alldridge and Johnston were posted to Pathfinders, but turn it down as they were too close to the end of their tours (in low twenties at that point)
Alldridge’s plane collided with another Lancaster at 19,500 ft over the target on the mission to Russelsheim that night (August 26, 1944). Both port engines were lost, and with the aircraft out of control, the crew baled out at 6,500 ft. Alldridge and his crew survived and were taken prisoner, with Alldridge being sent as a POW to Camp L3.

Allan
Flight lieutenant at 246 Squadron, Holmsley South

Allan, Harvey
Pilot friend of Johnston who was shot down over Germany
Noted as a POW in Germany in March 1944

Anaka
Canadian pilot in 115 Squadron at Witchford
Crashed at Pas-de-Calias France on the mission to Valenciennes June 15, 1944
He and his bomb aimer survived and evaded capture, while the rest of the crew was killed

Andrewartha, Charles
Pilot who trained with Johnston at 12 OTU Chipping Warden, 1753 HCU Chedburg and 3 LFS Feltwell, before being transferred with Johnston to 115 SQuadron at Witchford. Born in Cornwall, he was twenty-eight years of age at the time the events of the diary took place. He served in “A” flight at 115 Sqaudron.
After the war he went on to become a flying instructor and subsequently Air Traffic Controller, later being promoted to Squadron Leader as SATCO.
He was awarded a DFC in October 1944.

Photo at right:
Charles Andrewartha


Art
Johnston’s uncle in Ontario, husband of Flo

Auld, Johnny
Pilot and friend posted with Johnston to 18 Operational Training Unit, Worksop
After a full tour, went back on ops in January 1945

Baker, H. Al
Canadian pilot and friend from Graysville, Manitoba, who trained with Johnston in Canada and in England
Roomed with Johnston at Edgehill and Chipping Warden
Killed at age 26 with all his crew at 12 Operational Training Unit, Edgehill when he crashed January 29, 1944 on his first solo in a Wellington bomber

Photo at right:
Al Baker & Frank Mair


Balcombe
Muir’s navigator in “B” flight in 115 Squadron at Witchford

Bannister, Red
Navigator friend of Johnston, based at 90 Squadron at Tuddenham

Barbara / Barb
Johnston’s girlfriend at the time, in Ontario

Photo at right:
Barbara


Bashford
Instructor at 12 Operational Training Unit, Edgehill

Bassett, Bill
Friend of Johnston who spent time with him in London in October 1944

Belyea, D.G.
Flight Lieutenant in “B” flight in 115 Squadron at Witchford
Shot down on a mission to Germany August 12, 1944
He survived and became a POW, but all his crew were killed

Bennett, Buck
Bomb aimer friend of Johnston’s on Bob Giffen’s crew at 514 Squadron at Waterbeach
He was 21 years of age when he completed his tour. In January 1945 he had just completed his tour and was about to go home

Photo at right:
Buck Bennett


Berkeley, Nicholas G.
British pilot who crashed his plane on the beach June 30, 1944 while returning from a mission – likely to Vierzon
In late August 1944 transferred from 115 Squadron at Witchford (“B” flight) to Pathfinder Force
Before he could be transferred, was shot down and killed at age 21 in “Willie” on the mission to Stettin (his tenth) August 29, 1944
Also killed in his crew was his wireless operator, Sgt Aspinell, who at 17 was one of the youngest airmen killed on Bomber Command ops, and who at that point had already been in the air force for at least two years

Bess
Johnston’s aunt in Ontario

Bevington, Bob “Bev”
Pilot who flew with Johnston in Transport Command

Bickford, Peter W “Bick”
British pilot (flight officer) and friend, who had been living in Pennsylvania, before joining the RCAF
Posted with Johnston to “B” flight in 115 Squadron at Witchford
Escorts Johnston back to base September 11, 1944 after he sees Johnston’s plane has been hit hard over Kamen, Germany
Killed over target at age 22, along with all his crew, on the mission to Moerdijk September 16, 1944, when his plane collided with another Lancaster from 90 Squadron, and crashed into the Dutch countryside near Strijen

Birch, Ed
Friend of Johnston

Black, Neil
Sgt Major friend of Johnston, from Guelph, Ontario

Boden, J.
Pilot in 115 Squadron at Witchford
Received DFC in September 1944

Briggs, Bill
Friend of Johnston - likely a pilot

Campbell, E. Alex “Red”
Canadian pilot and friend who trained with
Johnston at 5 Service Flying Training School, Brantford, and roomed with Johnston at Edgehill
Was later posted to 514 Squadron at Waterbeach
Shot down over France on the mission to Stuttgart July 28/29, 1944
Johnston notes in his diary entry that he was killed, but Campbell and five other crew members survived the crash and managed to escape with the assistance of the French Resistance
Note: the story of his final mission appears at the bottom of this screen

Photo at right:
Alex “Red” Campbell

Chapman, Jack “Chappie”
Canadian bomb aimer from Toronto on “Red” Campbell’s crew in 514 Squadron at Waterbeach
Note: the story of his final mission appears at the bottom of this screen

Photo at right:
Jack “Chappie” Chapman


Chatterton, Edward “Chatt”
Canadian pilot and friend of Johnston from Toronto in “A” flight in 115 Squadron at Witchford
Promoted to Flight Lieutenant along with Johnston August 10, 1944
Shot down by a night fighter over Stettin and killed at age 26 on August 30, 1944 on his 29th mission

Cheatle
Wing Commander at 12 Operational Training Unit, Chipping-Warden

Chris
Kirsch’s gunner at 90 Squadron at Tuddenham

Churchill
Sir Winston Churchill, British Prime Minister

Clarey, Colin M.
Australian pilot in 115 Squadron at Witchford
Killed July 21, 1944 at age 30 on the mission to Hamburg - his 27th op
The plane, which has been christened “Popeye” by the crew, crashed at Papendrecht, and was excavated from the site in 2002 by the Royal Dutch Air Force

Photo at right:
Colin Clarey

Cochrane
Canadian Flight Lieutenant at 1653 Heavy Conversion Unit, Chedburgh

Cynthia
Jeannette’s (Kirsch’s girlfriend) brother’s fiancé

Daniels, Danny
Instructor at an Advanced Flying Unit, likely 20 AFU

Davies
Flight Sergeant at 12 Operational Training Unit, Chipping-Warden

Deacon, Paul
Pilot and friend of Johnston’s
In May 1944 he had converted to training on towing gliders

Dean
See “Johnston, Dean”

Dickie, Gord
Canadian pilot and friend from Hamilton, Ontario, who trained with Johnston at 5 Service Flying Training School in Brantford
In January 1945, he had just obtained the rank of Warrant Officer 1
Based at 24 Operational Training Unit when he was killed at age 23 on a mission April 5, 1945

Photo above right:
Gord Dickie


Eddie
Pilot friend of Johnston in Transport Command

Eleanor
Steen, friend of Johnston in Ontario, with whom he corresponded

Photo at right:
Eleanor Steen


Elizabeth
Princess (now Queen) Elizabeth II

Photo at right: Standing centre: The Queen, King George & Princess Elizabeth - Johnston circled in back

Ella
Johnston’s aunt

Ellin
Wireless operator at 12 Operational Training Unit, Edgehill

Ellisdon, R.
Folkes’ bomb aimer in “B” flight in 115 Squadron at Witchford

Epstein
Trained with Johnston at Chipping-Warden

Ethel
Friend of Johnston (see Harold)

Evans
Wireless operator in Madham’s crew in “C” flight in 115 Squadron at Witchford

Farrell, George
Friend who trained with Johnston at #5 SFTS in Brantford, Ontario

Fennel
Flight Officer at 1653 Heavy Conversion Unit, Chedburgh

Ferguson, “Fergie”
Friend who likely trained with Johnston

Flo
Johnston’s aunt in Ontario, wife of Art

Folkes, B.
Pilot in “B” flight in 115 Squadron at Witchford

Foulke, Fletch
Pilot friend who trained with Johnston at Methwold and was later posted to 514 Squadron at Waterbeach
Nationality unknown, but not Canadian
Shot down on the Stuttgart mission and killed July 28, 1944

Fowler
Squadron Leader at 1653 Heavy Conversion Unit, Chedburgh

Francis, Don
Canadian air gunner on Holder's crew in “C” flight at 115 Squadron at Witchford

Franklin, Bob
Squadron Leader at 12 Operational Training Unit, Edgehill

Fyfe
Friend of Johnston, likely a pilot, based in Six Group

Gadd, K.V.
Canadian pilot in “B” flight in 115 Squadron at Witchford
Awarded a DFC in March 1945
May have trained with Johnston

Photo at right:
Gadd (centre) and crew


Garland, Robert “Judy”
Canadian navigator, from Sydney, Nova Scotia, on “Red” Campbell’s crew in 514 Squadron at Waterbeach
Note: the story of his final mission appears at the bottom of this screen

Photo at right:
Robert “Judy” Garland


Garside, O.S.
Canadian pilot who trained with Johnston at 5 Service Flying Training School, Brantford, and 20 Advanced Flying Unit, Oxford-on-the-Green
Later posted to “A” flight in 115 Squadron at Witchford
Promoted to Flight Lieutenant August 10, 1944 with Johnston, Alldridge and Chatterton

Gaston, J. M.
Canadian pilot in 115 Squadron at Witchford
Crashed at Woodbridge July 21, 1944, after his Lancaster was shot up by an enemy night fighter – almost everyone on board was shot, although only the wireless operator and rear gunner were killed
Awarded a Distinguished Flying Medal in August 1944

Gavard, W. L.
Canadian padre (F/L) from Brantford

Photo at right:
Father W.L. Gavard


Georgius Rex
King George II

Gerry
Friend of Johnston in Canada

Giffin, Bob “Giff”
Canadian pilot (flight officer) and friend from Toronto who trained with Johnston, and was later posted to 514 Squadron at Waterbeach
Killed at age 22 over Stuttgart July 28, 1944 as second dickey on “Red” Campbell’s crew
Giffin was scheduled to go as second dickey with someone else, but went with Campbell as he knew him
Giffin was the only one killed on that mission – the other crew members survived the crash and escaped with the help of the French Resistance
Note: the story of his final mission appears at the bottom of this screen

Photo at right:
Bob Giffin

Goring, Lyle
Johnston’s best friend in high school in Sarnia, Ontario before they entered the war
A pilot eventually posted to 430 Squadron, a photo recon unit
Married a WAAF in early January 1944
Was flying his Mustang on a reconnaissance mission with one other plane when he was shot down and killed over Villers-Canivet, Normandy (just north of Falaise) on August 12, 1944 – local residents were able to extract his body from the wreckage,and he was buried in Banneville-la-Campagne, Normandy
The wreckage of his plane was rediscovered in 2005
Full name: Francis Carlyle Goring

Photo at right:
Lyle Goring

Gough, Mr & Mrs
Friends of Johnston in Great Barton, Suffolk, whom he frequently visits

Photo at right:
The Gough’s House

Gough, Brian
Friend of Johnston in Great Barton, Suffolk, son of Mr & Mrs Gough

Gough, Daphne
Friend of Johnston in Great Barton, Suffolk, daughter of Mr & Mrs Gough

Granny
Johnston’s grandmother in England

Gudge, Jack
Friend of Johnston who spent time with him on leave in London

Hall, Bill
Friend who trained with Johnston in England, and was later posted to 15 Squadron at Mildenhall

Hallam, Mrs
The mother of Johnston’s friend from Ontario, Don Hallam, with whom Johnston corresponded

Hallyard, Ralph
Australian navigator on Wadham’s crew in “C” flight in 115 Squadron at Witchford
Replaced Henderson on the operation to Nucort July 10, 1944

Harold
Friend of Johnston (see Ethyl)

Harris, Sir Arthur
Air Chief Marshall, Commander in Chief, Bomber Command
Nickname “Butch”

Henderson, Murray
Johnston’s navigator in “B” flight in 115 Squadron at Witchford
Canadian from Kirkland Lake, Ontario
28 yrs old in mid 1944
He passed away April 1, 2007 at age 91

Photo at right:
Murray Henderson

Hill, Don
Canadian pilot who trained with Johnston, and was posted with him to “B” flight in 115 Squadron at Witchford
Promoted to Flight Lieutenant Aug 10, 1944 along with Chatterton, Johnston, and Alldridge
In October 1944 he had finished his 30 op tour

Hillier, Pete
Pilot and friend – possibly Canadian - who trained with Johnston at 12 Operational Training Unit, Chipping-Warden

Hillyer
Newsie from General Reconnaisance

Hislop, Johnny
Pilot and friend who trained with Johnston – possibly Canadian

Hockey, G.B.
Australian pilot in “A” flight in 115 Squadron at Witchford
Shot down August 12, 1944 on the mission to Brunswick
He survived, and became a POW in Camp L3, but all his crew were killed

Holder, Donald F.
New Zealand pilot in 115 Squadron at Witchford
Shot down and killed at age 22 on the mission to Kiel August 27, 1944

Holloway
Flight lieutenant at 12 Operational Training Unit, Edgehill

Hooker, H.H.
Canadian pilot and friend who trained with Johnston in Canada and at Weston-on-the-Green
Also known as Hook or HHH
Not known where he was posted, but in March 1944 he finally “got crewed up”

Howitt, Gerry
Friend with whom Johnston corresponded

Hughes, Ted
Johnston’s Flight Engineer in “B” flight in 115 Squadron at Witchford From Guernsey in the Channel Islands, England
Born at Wavertree, Liverpool, but resided in Guernesey, where he worked in the grocery trade
A good amateur boxer, he evacuated the island just before the German occupation
He was 22 years old and married when he was killed while flying Liberators v111 fror India Command
On August 3, 1945 his plane was seen to catch fire and explode before hitting the ground.
Only 6 bodies of the 8 crew were found, and buried by villagers - the bodies were never re-found

Photo at right:
Ted Hughes


Jackson
Instructor at 12 Operational Training Unit, Edgehill

Janke, Howard “Howie”
Canadian pilot and friend who trained with Johnston at 5 Service Flying Training School in Brantford, Ontario

Photo at right:
Bruce Johnston & Howard Janke


Jean
Johnston’s aunt in England

Jeannette
Kirsch’s girlfriend in England

Jilek
Flight Officer in 246 Squadron at Holmsley South

Johnston
Sgt with the Intelligence Section in 115 Squadron at Witchford

Johnston, A.N.
Canadian navigator on Bickford’s crew, posted with Johnston (no relation) to “B” flight in 115 Squadron at Witchford
Shot down and killed at age 22 over Moerdijk on mission to that town September 16, 1944 – the plane crashed near Strijen

Johnston, Dean
Johnston’s brother, who was at one time stationed at 115 Squadron, but during 1944 was based near Cambridge

Photo at right:
Dean Johnston & Bruce Johnston


Jones
Flight Officer at 12 Operational Training Unit, Chipping-Warden

Jowett, F.
Gunner in 115 Squadron at Witchford
Replaced Peardon on the op to Aulnoye July 18, 1944

Judy
Nickname of Robert Earl Garland, “Red” Campbell’s navigator in 514 Squadron at Waterbeach

Kent, Martin
Friend of Johnston, who trained with him at #5 SFTS in Brantford, Ontario

Kirsch, Abraham Lionel
Canadian pilot and friend, from Outremont, Quebec, who trained with Johnston
Possibly Johnston’s closest friend from that class - roomed with him often in training in England, and spent leaves in London together
Based at 90 Squadron at Tuddenham
On August 11, 1944 he had eleven missions completed
Johnston learns on October 1, 1944 that Kirsch was killed at age 21 in a raid on Frankfurt September 13, 1944 – died with Dick MacLaren

Photo at right:
Lionel Kirsch


Kitching, John & Ethyl
Friends of Johnston in Canada, with whom he corresponded

Klufas, Rip
Canadian Squadron Leader from Edmonton in 115 Squadron at Witchford

Kovacich, Tony
Canadian bomb aimer on Chatterton’s crew in “A” flight in 115 Squadron at Witchford

Landon, Mrs
Friend of Johnston

Lawrence, Roy
Based in 115 Squadron at Witchford
Filled in as Johnston’s bomb aimer on Operation 15 to L’Isle Adam

Lemoine, R.
Flight Officer in “A” flight in 115 Squadron at Witchford

Letts, Sidney Albert “George”
Pilot who trained with Johnston at Chedburgh
Badly damaged by flak, and returning through thick fog, his plane crashed into a farmhouse near Great Offley, England while returning from Emieville July 18, 1944
Three occupants of the house were killed, as were all of the Lancaster crew, including Letts (age 31)

Photo at right:
“George” Letts


Lister
Visited by Johnston March 1944
Possibly the F/O Lister who was later in 115 Squadron at Witchford, and who was shot down October 14, 1944 and taken prisoner

Livingstone, Bob
Johnston’s Bomb Aimer in “B” flight in 115 Squadron at Witchford
Canadian from Edmonton, Alberta

Llewelyn
Flight lieutenant at 12 Operational Training Unit, Chipping-Warden

Lofthouse / “Lofty”
Pilot and friend of Johnston at 18 Operational Training Unit Worksop in November 1944
Bomber command HQ refused to release him to Transport Command with Johnston in January 1945

Lown
Squadron Leader at 1653 Heavy Conversion Unit, Chedburgh

Lyle
See “Goring, Lyle”

Mabel
Johnston’s aunt in Ontario

MacBride, Bruce
Pilot in 115 Squadron at Witchford, who regularly flew Lancaster KO-S
Tour completed in September 1944

MacDonald
Pilot friend, who was posted to 514 Squadron at Waterbeach

MacDougal
Group Captain at 18 Operational Training Unit, Worksop

MacLaren, Dick “Mac”
Canadian bomb aimer on Kirsch’s crew, and friend from Elmsdale, Nova Scotia, who trained with Johnston, and billeted with him at Chedburgh
Based at 90 Squadron at Tuddenham
Killed September 1944 at age 32 on mission to Frankfurt flying with Kirsch’s crew as bomb aimer
Full name Richard Edward MacLaren

Photo at right:
Dick MacLaren


Magginson
Squadron Leader at 1653 Heavy Conversion Unit, Chedburgh
Crashed a plane night flying in May 1944

Mair, Frank
Pilot and friend who trained with Johnston in Canada at 1 G.R.S. Summerside, and in England

Photo at right:
Al Baker & Frank Mair


Malcolm
Commanding Officer of “B” flight at 12 Operational Training Unit, Edgehill

Mallinson
Flight Officer at 1653 Heavy Conversion Unit, Chedburgh

Marsden, Frank
Johnston’s Wireless Operator from Liverpool, England, in “B” flight at 115 Squadron in Witchford
After the war he worked as a telephonist at the British General Post Office, and as a member of the Labour Party was elected to Parliament in the 1970s
He passed away November 2006 at age 83

Photo at right:
Murray Henderson, Bruce Johnston & Frank Marsden


Marsh
Gadd’s engineer in “B” flight in 115 Squadron at Witchford

Martin, Bill
Pilot in “C” flight in 115 Squadron at Witchford
Promoted to sub lieutenant in July 1944

Mary
Kirsch’s girlfriend in England

Mat
Kirsch’s gunner at 90 Squadron at Tuddenham

Matteson, Ria
Johnston’s cousin in Canada - from Rosebush

Maurine
Lansdell, a friend of Johnston’s in Ontario

McCallum, Mrs
Friend of Johnston, with whom he corresponded

McFetridge, W.J.
Pilot in “A” flight in 115 Squadron at Witchford
Awarded a DFC in December 1944

McNeil, Duncan
Bomb aimer from Toronto in Baker’s crew
Killed in training at 12 Operational Training Unit, Edgehill January 29, 1944

Mellor
Flight Officer with the Intelligence Section

Miller, Trev
Australian pilot and friend of Johnston, in “A” flight at 115 Squadron
Completed his 30 op tour in October 1944

Monty
Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery, commander of the British ground forces

Morgan-Owen, Maurice
Pilot and friend who trained with Johnston at 5 Service Flying Training School, Brantford, and was posted to 514 Squadron at Waterbeach in April, 1944
Killed on an op in early May 1944

Photo at right:
Maurice Morgan-Owen


Morrison, Don
Friend of Johnston in Canada

Mowers, Johnny
Detroit Red Wing goalie Johnston saw in a “scrub” game in London in December 1944

Muir, Allen J.
New Zealand pilot and friend based in “B” flight in 115 Squadron at Witchford
Finished his 30 op tour in October 1944, after which he was reposted to Oakington
Awarded a DFC in February 1945
By December 1944 he had six Pathfinder ops in

Murray
Friend of Johnston in Canada

Nethercutt, Kate
Johnston’s aunt in Canada

Nice, Mrs.
Friend of the Goughs, who lived nearby in Great Barton, Suffolk

Nugent, Cecil “Nugie”
Canadian bomb aimer on Bill Hall’s crew, and friend who trained with Johnston at Edgehill, and billeted with him at Chedburgh
Was posted June 3, 1944 to 15 Squadron at Mildenhall at age 28, where he successfully completed 35 operations.
Survived the war, but was killed shortly afterwards in April 1947 with his wife in a civilian plane crash on their honeymoon in British Columbia. The wreckage of the plane was not discovered until 1995, almost 50 years later.

Photo at right:
Cecil “Nugie” Nugent


Oldham, J.
Pilot in “B” flight in 115 Squadron at Witchford

Olive
Friend or relative of Johnston’s in Ontario, who passed away in June 1944

O’Sullivan
Pilot friend of Johnston in Transport Command

Parry, Mrs
Acquaintance with whom Johnston corresponded

Pat
Friend of Johnston in Canada, with whom he corresponded

Payne
Posted to 15 Squadron at Mildenhall
Possibly a Canadian pilot

Peabody, Harold S.
Canadian pilot and friend of Johnston’s who was shot down over Stuttgart July 29/44 and killed at age 23 - from Sherbrooke, Quebec - based at 622 Squadron

Peardon, Johnny
Johnston’s Mid-Upper Gunner from Daytona Beach, Florida, in “B” flight in 115 Squadron at Witchford. He passed away March 25, 2011.

Photo at right:
Johnny Peardon


Peggy
Friend of Johnston in Canada

Pellew, Robert E.
Australian pilot in 115 Squadron at Witchford
Killed at age 21 on the mission to Aulnoye July 18, 1944 – crashed in Laplaigne, Belgium, on the Franco-Belgian border

Phillips, Al
Canadian pilot and friend who trained with Johnston, and roomed with him at Edgehill, Chedburgh and Weston-on-the-Green
On June 3, 1944 was posted to 514 Squadron at Waterbeach
Was shot down and killed on first trip as second dickey over the Ruhr (target Gelsenkirchen, Germany) June 13, 1944
Full name Alexander Samual Phillips

Pinson
Pilot at 12 Operational Training Unit, Edgehill

Pritchard
Pilot in Transport Command

Proud, Al
Canadian friend who enlisted with Johnston in Hamilton Ontario March 1942

Pugh
Flight Officer at 12 Operational Training Unit, Edgehill

Quick, Russ
Pilot and friend who trained with Johnston in Canada

Retter, Red
Canadian Flight Sergeant, and friend of Johnston

Photo at right:
Bruce Johnston, “Red” Retter & Lionel Kirsch


Richardson, Cuff
Friend of Johnston, likely a pilot, based in Six Group

Roberts, Jack
Canadian Flight Officer friend of Johnston from Port Credit, Ontario, who returned home in November 1944

Roger
Pilot who trained with Johnston at Chipping-Warden

Rommel
German Field Marshall

Rowe-Evans, L.
Pilot in 115 Squadron at Witchford
In September 1944 he has finished Flying Instructor School on Oxfords and was waiting on a posting
Awarded a DFC in later 1944

Rusk
Squadron Leader in 115 Squadron at Witchford

Russell, G.C.
Pilot friend of Johnston in 115 Squadron at Witchford

Scottie
Nurse at 12 Operational Training Unit, Edgehill

Searston, William
Flight Officer in 115 Squadron at Witchford
Awarded a DFC in February 1945

Shorty
Johnston’s nickname for Noreen Walsh (see “Walsh, Noreen”)

Sid
Acquaintance of Johnston, whom he met in Transport Command

Sid / Siddie
Johnston’s aunt in Ontario

Sinclair, Miss
Johnston’s teacher in 1941 (class 5B) at Guelph Collegiate Vocational Institution in Ontario, with whom he corresponded

Sis
Johnston did not have a sister, so assume “Sis” is a nickname, or an abbreviation of a friend or relative’s name in Canada

Sobering, George
Flight Sergeant in 115 Squadron at Witchford
On his first mission September 12, 1944, flew as second dickie with Johnston
Awarded a DFC in April 1945

Smith
Former sub lieutenant in 115 Squadron at Witchford
Became Wing Commander at 218 Squadron at Chedburgh in mid-November 1944

Smith, Jimmy
Timms’ bomb aimer in 514 Squadron at Waterbeach

Smith, W.J.
Commanding Officer in 115 Squadron at Witchford

Southcott, Gord
Friend of Johnston based at 427 Squadron at Leeming

Stapleton, Eileen
Former girlfriend of Bill Whyte

Steen, Bob
Friend of Johnston, with whom he corresponded

Stewart
Pilot and friend who trained with Johnston in Canada

Susie
Friend of the Goughs

Taylor, Dave
Johnston’s Rear Gunner from London England, in “B” flight in 115 Squadron at Witchford

Photo at right:
Dave Taylor


Taylor, Lloyd C.A.
Australian pilot who trained at Weston-on-the-Green with Johnston, and was later posted to 514 Squadron at Waterbeach. On May 24/44, Johnston sees Taylor at Waterbeach and notes that he has 13 ops. Taylor was killed three days later on the mission to Aachen, when his lancaster was shot down by a night fighter, and crashed at Ophasselt.

Photo at right:
Lloyd Taylor


Timms / Timmy
Pilot friend who trained with Johnston at 9 EFTS, and 20 AFU Weston-on-the-Green, and was later posted to 514 Squadron at Waterbeach

Photo at right:
Timms


Towse, Mr
Hungarian friend of the Goughs

Traill, John Alan
Australian Pilot Officer in 115 Squadron at Witchford
Crashed in Gannes, France, and killed at age 21 with all his crew on the mission to Montdidier June 17, 1944

Photo at right:
John Traill


Turner, Bruce
Friend of Johnston

Venables, Jeff
Canadian pilot and friend who trained with Johnston, and later posted to 514 Squadron in Waterbeach
During his time at Waterbeach he hit a light standard with a Lancaster, resulting in his entire crew being sent to disciplinary school

Wadham
Pilot in “C” flight in 115 Squadron at Witchford

Walbank, Jimmy
Friend of Johnston

Walsh, Noreen “Shorty”
Canadian CWAC from Alberta, with whom Johnston spent time in London from October – December 1944

Photo at right:
Noreen Walsh


Whartle
Flight Lieutenant at 1653 Heavy Conversion Unit, Chedburgh

Whiston, Mary
Scottish subaltern in the Auxiliary Territorial Service

Whitaker, Len
Friend of Johnston

Whittle, Colin
Friend of Johnston in Transport Command

Whyte, Bill
Pilot and friend of Johnston, based at a Mosquito squadron near Cambridge

Wilkie
Kirsch’s navigator in 90 Squadron at Tuddenham

Williamson, Jack
Canadian pilot and friend who trained with Johnston at #5 Service Flying Training School in Brantford, Ontario

Woodward
Air gunner acquaintance, who may have trained with Johnston

Worster, O.W. “Red”
Canadian bomb aimer in Hill’s crew in “B” flight in 115 Squadron at Witchford

 

MILITARY COLLEAGUES BY SQUADRON
1 “R” Depot RCAF (Warrington)
Southcott, Gord
Turner, Bruce
Walbank, Jimmy
15 Squadron RAF (Mildenhall)
Hall, Bill Pilot
Nugent, Cecil “Nugie” Bomb Aimer
Payne Pilot
18 O.T.U. Worksop (Retford)
Auld, Johnny Pilot
Lofthouse / Lofty Pilot
MacDougal Group Captain
90 Squadron RAF (Tuddenham)
Bannister, Red Navigator
Chris Gunner
Kirsch, Abraham Lionel Pilot
MacLaren, Dick “Mac” Bomb Aimer
Mat Gunner
Wilkie Navigator
115 Squadron RAF (Witchford)
Alldridge, A.C. Flight Lieutenant “B” flight
Anaka, P. Pilot
Andrewartha, Charles Pilot “A” flight
Balcombe Navigator “B” flight
Belyea, D.G. Flight Lieutenant “B” flight
Berkeley, N.G. Pilot “B” flight
Bickford, Peter W “Bick” Pilot “B” flight
Boden, J. Pilot “B” flight
Chatterton, Edward Pilot “A” flight
Clarey, C.M. Pilot
Ellisdon, R. Bomb Aimer “B” flight
Evans Wireless Operator “A” flight
Folkes, B. Pilot “B” flight
Francis, DonAir gunner“C” flight
Gadd, K.V. Pilot “B” flight
Garside, O.S. Pilot “A” flight
Gaston, J.M. Pilot
Hallyard, Ralph Navigator “C” flight
Henderson, Murray Navigator “B” flight
Hill, Don Pilot “B” flight
Hockey, G.B. Pilot “A” flight
Holder, S.W. Pilot “C” flight
Hughes, Ted Flight Engineer “B” flight
Johnston Sergeant – Intelligence Section
Johnston, A.N. Navigator “B” flight
Jowett, F. Gunner
Klufas Squadron Leader
Kovacich, Tony Bomb Aimer “A” flight
Lawrence, Roy Bomb Aimer
Lemoine, R. Flight Officer “A” flight
Letts, George Pilot
Livingston, Bob Bomb Aimer “B” flight
MacBride, Bruce Pilot
Marsden, Frank Wireless Operator “B” flight
Marsh Engineer “B” flight
Martin, Bill Sub Lieutenant “C” flight
McFetridge, W.J. Pilot “A” flight
Mellor Flight Officer – Intelligence Section
Miller, Trev Pilot “A” flight
Muir, Allen J. Pilot “B” flight
Oldham, J. Pilot “B” flight
Peardon, Johnny Mid-Upper Gunner “B” flight
Pellew, R.E. Pilot
Rowe-Evans, L. Pilot
Rusk Squadron Leader
Russell, G.C. Pilot
Searston Flight Officer
Sobering, George Flight Sergeant
Smith, W.J. Commanding Officer
Taylor, Dave Rear Gunner “B” flight
Traill, John A. Pilot
Wadham Pilot “C” flight
Worster, O.W. “Red” Bomb Aimer “B” flight
218 Squadron RAF (Chedburgh)
George
Smith Wing Commander
246 Squadron – RAF Transport Command (Holmsley South)
Allan Flight Lieutenant
Bevington, Bob “Bev” Pilot
EddiePilot
Jilek Flight Officer
O'SullivanPilot
Pritchard Pilot
Sid
Whittle, Colin
427 Squadron (Leeming)
Southcott, Gordon Pilot
430 Squadron
Goring, Francis “Lyle” Pilot
514 Squadron RAF (Waterbeach)
Bennett, BuckBomb Aimer
Campbell, E.A. “Red” Pilot
Chapman, Jack “Chappie” Bomb Aimer
Foulke, Fletch Pilot
Garland, Robert “Judy” Navigator
Giffin, Bob “Giff” Pilot
MacDonald Pilot
Morgan-Owen, Maurice Pilot
Phillips, Alec Pilot
Smith, Jimmy Bomb Aimer
Taylor, Lloyd C.A. Pilot
Timms / Timmy Pilot
Venables, Jeff Pilot
622 Squadron RAF (Mildenhall)
Peabody, Harold S Pilot
Trained in England
Andrewartha, CharlesPilot Chipping-Warden, Edgehill & Feltwell
Baker, Herbert Allan Pilot Chipping-Warden & Edgehill
Bashford Instructor Edgehill
Campbell, E.A. “Red” Pilot Chipping-Warden & Edgehill
Chapman, Jack “Chappie” Bomb Aimer Chipping-Warden & Edgehill
Cheatle Wing Commander Chipping-Warden
Cochrane Flight Lieutenant Chedburgh
Daniels, Danny Instructor AFU
Davies Flight Sergeant Chipping-Warden
Ellin Wireless Operator Edgehill
Epstein Chipping-Warden
Fennel Flight Officer Chedburgh
Foulke, Fletch Pilot Methwold
Fowler Squadron Leader Chedburgh
Franklin, BobSquadron Leader Edgehill
Garland, Robert “Judy” Navigator Chipping-Warden & Edgehill
Garside, O.S. Pilot Oxford-on-the-Green
Giffin, Bob Pilot Edgehill
Hall, Bill Chipping-Warden & Edgehill
Henderson, Murray Navigator Chipping-Warden, Edgehill & Chedburgh
Hill, Don Pilot Edgehill
Hillier, Pete Pilot Chipping-Warden
Hislop, Johnny Pilot Chedburgh
Holloway Flight Lieutenant Edgehill
Hooker, H.H. Pilot Weston-on-the-Green
Hughes, Ted Flight Engineer Chedburgh
Jackson Instructor Edgehill
Jones Flight Officer Chipping-Warden
Jones, Earl “Jonesy” Mid-Upper Gunner Chipping-Warden & Edgehill
Kirsch, Lionel Pilot Chipping-Warden, Edgehill & Feltwell
Lance, Ben Wireless Operator Chipping-Warden & Edgehill
Letts, George Pilot Chedburgh
Livingstone, Bob Bomb Aimer Chipping-Warden, Edgehill & Chedburgh
Llewelyn Flight Lieutenant Chipping-Warden
Lown Squadron Leader Chedburgh
MacLaren, Dick “Mac” Bomb Aimer Edgehill & Chedburgh
Magginson Sub Lieutenant Chedburgh
Mair, Frank Pilot Edgehill
Malcolm Commanding Officer Edgehill
Mallinson Flight Officer Chedburgh
Marsden, Frank Wireless Operator Chipping-Warden, Edgehill & Chedburgh
McNeil, Duncan Bomb Aimer Chipping Warden & Edgehill
Nugent, Cecil “Nugie” Bomb Aimer Chipping-Warden, Edgehill, Chedburgh & Feltwell
Peardon, Johnny Mid-Upper Gunner Chipping-Warden, Edgehill & Chedburgh
Phillips, Al Pilot Edgehill, Chedburgh, Methwold, Feltwell & Weston-on-the-Green
Pinson Pilot Edgehill
Pugh Flight Officer Edgehill
Roger Pilot Chipping-Warden
Smith, Jimmy Bomb Aimer Edgehill
Taylor, Dave Rear Gunner Chipping-Warden, Edgehill & Chedburgh
Timms / Timmy Pilot Edgehill & Weston-on-the-Green
Venables, Jeff Pilot Chipping-Warden & Edgehill
Whartle Flight Lieutenant Chedburgh
Trained in Canada - #5 SFTS Brantford, Ont
Campbell, E.A. “Red” Pilot#7 in back row (below)
Dickie, Gord Pilot#1 in 4th row (below)
Farrell, GeorgePilotNot in photo
Garside, O.S Pilot#5 in 4th row (below)
Janke, Howard “Howie” Pilot#7 in 3rd row (below)
Johnston, BrucePilot#8 in 3rd row (below)
Kent, Martin Pilot#11 in 3rd row (below)
Morgan-Owen, Maurice Pilot#7 in 2nd row (below)
Williamson, Jack Pilot#9 in front row (below)
Sgt MajorPilot

Trained in Canada - #1 GRS Summerside, PEI
Baker, Herbert Allan Pilot
Campbell, E.A. “Red” Pilot
Mair, Frank Pilot
Trained in Canada – Other
Deacon, Paul Pilot 1 I.T.S. Toronto, Ont
Ferguson, “Fergie” Pilot 9 E.F.T.S. St Catherines, Ont
Hillier, Pete Pilot 3 O.T.U. Patricia Bay, BC
Trained in Canada – not sure where
Goring, Lyle Pilot
Hooker, H.H. Pilot
Kirsch, Abraham Lionel Pilot
MacLaren, Dick “Mac” Pilot
Proud, Al Pilot
Quick, RussPilot
StewartPilot
Unknown
Allan, Harvey Pilot
Bassett, Bill
Black, Neil
Briggs, Bill
Ferguson (Fergie)
Fyfe
Gudge, Jack
Retter, Red Flight Sergeant
Richardson, Cuff
Roberts, Jack Flight Officer
Whitaker, Len
Whyte, Bill
Woodward Air Gunner



Alex “Red” Campbell’s Last Mission

Editor's note:

One of the themes that comes out in reading our father's diary is how few of the men who trained with him in Bomber Command actually survived the war.

One of Dad's best friends during this time, Alex “Red” Campbell (photo at right: Alex Campbell & Bruce Johnston), is mentioned frequently in the diary, both during training, and afterwards, even though they ended up at different squadrons.

Dad's last diary reference to Mr. Campbell was July 30/44, where he notes that “Red Campbell went for a Burton (was shot down and killed) on the last raid ... all my friends going”.

During our research for this diary, we discovered something that Dad never knew; Mr. Campbell survived that fateful mission, and had spent the past sixty years living within a few dozen kilometres of our family.

While Dad never heard the story of that last bombing mission, we were fortunate to have that honour, and repeat it here in Mr. Campbell’s own words.


My story revolves around the day of July 28, 1944. It turned out to be our last operational trip.

We were at 514 Squadron, Waterbeach, and had done twenty-four trips up to that time – bombing trips – or ops, as they were called. A full tour was thirty.

For this one, there was much concern among my crew that we’d go to Stuttgart, Germany. I told them that I didn’t think we had to go there, because the moon was coming to a bright phase, which was very bad for bombers, and good for fighters.

Some crews got through entire tours without being attacked by fighters, but we were always being attacked, it seemed. On our third mission to Dortmand in the Ruhr Valley, we’d just get rid of one fighter, and another would come along. The navigator was able to log twelve of them, and I’ve been certain afterwards there were at least four more. Not all at once – mostly around the target area. I’m sure that’s some sort’a record.

The crew of Lancaster A2-C
Back row: Jock Donaldson, Alex Campbell, Jack “Chappie” Chapman, Ben Lyons
Front row: Sam Harvey, Earl “Judy” Garland
Inset: Earl “Jonesy” Jones

Anyway, we had been to Stuttgart a couple of nights previously, and it was a long, long trip. Seven hours and fifty minutes, actually, much of it over enemy territory, and we thought we’d done a pretty good job of it. We didn’t think we’d have to go back there for a while.

Of course, the ground crew was always full of rumours, and could tell us where they thought we were going. We had the very same bomb load that we’d had on the other night, and the same fuel load, so they thought it was Stuttgart again. But it was hard to tell, because Wing Commander Wyatt insisted on us having full tanks regardless of where we were going, on the remote chance that we were compelled to stay aloft longer. That often happened if your aerodrome was fogged in. You’d be sent to another one, and sometimes by the time you got to that one it was fogged in, because fog could come in very quickly.

So those of us who had bikes rode to the dining hall, and we had our operational meal. This could be roast beef – oh, it was an excellent meal. The joke was that they tried to avoid feeding us cabbage, as it gets you pretty gaseous. Not what you want in a closed unpressurized space at high altitude for several hours!

We had a good meal when we got back, too. Usually in the wee morning hours, so that would be breakfast – bacon and eggs.

Our operational meal was held before our briefing because they didn’t want anyone to know where we were going, of course, for secrecy. So then we all went to the briefing. I’m not sure what time it was, but it was getting on into the afternoon. We assembled, and attendance was taken. The brass came in, and we all stood up, and waited to be told to sit down again, after which we did.

Then came the auspicious moment when everybody stopped mumbling and moving as the C.O. pulled the curtains back on this huge map at the front of the room. And there, with a big black zigzag line, was the route that was etched in our minds; the route to Stuttgart. (Editor’s note: see map at bottom of screen)

There were a few groans, and then we settled down, and of course we were told how important it was, and that the situation depended on us, and how good a job we were doing.

Then the different heads of department – navigation and so on - gave their separate spiels, and our navigators would mark up their big maps. Of course, we weren’t aware of the target until the briefing began.

The pilots had “Captains of Aircraft” maps – smaller maps that showed the route, in case anything happened. Occasionally the navigator would plot that for his skipper, and give it to him. If not, of course, we were all quite capable of doing it – we had many months of navigational training in our pilot training courses, and we did a lot of navigation.

As our briefing wound to a close, we got the usual wishes of good luck, and we always wondered about that. I guess some of the people who stayed behind genuinely worried about us, because we heard afterwards about how they would wait and wait and wait after we were all due back from operations, until there was no hope of hearing from those crews that hadn’t returned.

So we got our wits together, and went to the cloakrooms and picked up our parachute gear and our flying suits, and then it would soon be time to head out to the airfield. The lorries took us out there - the little trucks - to the dispersal areas. We usually tried to be there an hour ahead of time. I don’t think it was much longer, but we did have a bit of time to put in. You tell a whole bunch of nervous jokes, and try to laugh.

We had eight in our crew that night, instead of the normal seven. I was in the pilot’s seat, which is just behind the windscreen on the left hand side of the Lancaster. On the right there’s an opening that leads down. There’s enough room to swing feet first or if you could crouch low enough you could squat and step down the two steps – the first one is a glycol tank that holds the fluid for the windshield and wing de-icers - to get to the bottom of the nose section. Here the bomb aimer lies on his stomach, and peers through a bomb site which is directly under the front turret.

Jack Chapman, also known as “Chappie”, was our bomb aimer. He was from Toronto. I had bumped into him in training in Canada, so it was natural for us to team up when we were crewing up at O.T.U.

Photo at right: Jack Chapman & Alex Campbell

We had Bob Giffin with us that night acting as Second Dickie, which was the term given to a new pilot who accompanies a crew on his first operational trip. So Bob would take the seat normally occupied by the flight engineer – just a metal fold down seat on the right beside the pilot. Bob was from Toronto.

Sitting next to me would normally be Jock Donaldson, our flight engineer. Because the crew went through O.T.U. training without a flight engineer – the bomb aimer took that position - Jock was the newest member of the crew. He had just finished his flight engineer’s training a few days before arriving at Waterbeach, and we were his first crew, and we were glad that we had such a wonderful chap as an engineer. He was from Inverness, Scotland.

Because Bob was in his seat, Jock stood up the entire trip. He was such a dedicated person. He may have sat for a while on the spar. But he was glad to do that. I couldn’t take off even on a short fifteen minute test flight without him wanting to go along, he was so keen.

Next comes the navigator. His name was Earl Garland, commonly called “Judy”. Judy Garland was a very popular person in those days, so what else would you call a person named Garland? He was good-natured about that nickname, and answered to it throughout the war. He was a wonderful character. He was from Sydney, Nova Scotia. He worked for Dominion Steel Company, and went back to his old job after the war.

Then, behind him was the wireless operator, Ben Lyons. It seemed almost imperative that everyone have a nickname in those days, and there was a radio personality at the time called B.B. Lions, so he would get that nickname sometimes. But we just called him Ben. It was a nice easy name to remember. He was from London, England.

Then, back a bit further, in the mid upper turret, would be Earl Jones, commonly known as “Jonesy”. He was from Calgary, Alberta. As some of them did, because he was too young to officially enlist, he had lied about his age a little bit, and got in the Air Force. He would be our youngest member. He and Jock were quite young chaps.

Photo at left:
Earl “Judy” Garland, Sam Harvey & Earl “Jonesy” Jones

And in the rear turret was Sam Harvey. He was from Lake Cowichen on Vancouver Island. He worked in the lumber industry and he went back to that after the war, and he ended up carrying out just about every operation that can be done in the big timber business.

We had been designated aircraft C “Charlie”. Our call sign was A2, or “Able 2”. We had applied to the WingCo to get permission to have it named “The Adelphi Queen” after the Adelphi Hotel in Glasgow.

It was a Mark II Lancaster. The Mark II was not a rarity, but there weren’t really all that many. It had radial engines, which is the outstanding feature of a Mark II, rather than the in-line Merlin engines that so many of them were equipped with. The Merlin was a very popular and successful engine that was in the Spitfire, the Hurricane, the Lancaster, and eventually the Halifax, and so on. There were quite a few aircraft that used it. Our C flight was the last on our squadron to have radial engines – the rest had converted to Merlins already.

There were only 300 Mark II Lancasters made. And there’d be one less than that when we got through!

It was another hot day in July. This is still daylight, and the sun was up quite late at night. We were on British Double Summer time throughout the war. I guess we’d call it Daylight Savings time, but it was a two hour difference. It was confusing at times, but we always used Greenwich Mean Time, regardless of where we were or what the time zones said.

They’d given us a take-off time of about 9:40 pm. That’s a round figure because each plane had to line up, and if there were twenty aircraft, and we took off at one minute intervals, that would be twenty minutes. And that’s if everything goes absolutely as clockwork.

When we got in the plane we’d do a take-off check, which consisted of several letters of the alphabet. They were H, T, M, P, F, F, G, and S, and they in turn stood for hydraulic, trim, mixture, pitch, flaps, fuel, gyros, and switches. We took a little longer to go through them all, but it was a good rule for the pre-take-off check.

The other rule of thumb we remembered was about navigation lights – which one is red, and which one is green, left and right. This one English chap said in a lecture “here’s one you might remember – you go into a pub, and you order your drink, and you’d like some red port, and the guy says, ‘there’s no red port left’”. You remember those three things, and you’ve got it nailed down.

Photo at right: Instrument panel of a Lancaster

So then we’d done our take-off check, and our intercom checks, and our oxygen, and so on. After the engines were started we didn’t like to run them too long, idling on the ground because they use quite a lot of fuel. And you’d rather have that coming home, instead of running out fifteen minutes short of your base!

Then we get into the line-up for takeoff – no particular order, just whoever’s out there first. And there’d be a long string of Lancasters wending their way around the perimeter track, and the first one at the take-off end of the runway goes up and waits for the tower to give a green light to taxi out.

So we go to the far end of the runway, and wait for a signal from the tower, a green aldis light, and we pull out on the runway with the aircraft at forty-five degrees, take a good look up and down, and swing directly on the runway. Then you do a run up with each engine at full throttle, not for any great length of time, but just to make sure they all worked okay.

Then immediately preceding take-off you advance all four throttles, wide open now, with your brakes fully on, and the stick well back to keep your tail on the ground. Then release the brakes, and forward we go, in full fine pitch. You get an idea of the power of the engines, when you realize you’re moving thirty-two and a half tons. When you release the brakes, you just lurch forward.

There’s no time to synchronize the engines now, just leave them full-bore. Pretty well both hands on the control column and the wheel. Push the stick forward slightly and up comes the tail, which means you’re going just fast enough to lift the tail. Now you’re on your two main wheels, and watch the air speed indicator, and it’s creeping up to 80 miles an hour, then 90, then 100, and around 110 you can ease back on the control column and it should start lifting off – it begins to feel lighter, and the wheels are just ticking the runway now.

Then you’re off the ground and you’re airborne. You don’t touch anything right away. You can raise the undercarriage first. You must never release the flaps at too low an altitude or you would crash immediately with a heavy load. That’s been done.

We circled to gain height, so we’d be ready for our set course time. This was the exact time that we were to leave for the mission, and we had to adhere to that rigidly. The navigator would tell us how many minutes we had, and we would circle around until it was time to cut across the aerodrome and set course.

Here’s where we do a check of the whole aircraft to make sure everybody’s intercom is working from stem to stern. We call each person up to see if their oxygen’s working and so on. We’d started using oxygen before take-off when we were flying at night. It’s good for your night vision and gives you a healthier start on things.

We started out on a heading of 221 degrees, that’s southwest, and we flew ‘til we were west of London, then we headed in a more southerly direction until we got to the Channel.

You had to go well wide of London – lots of trigger-happy anti-aircraft guns there - and for good reason. One night when we got back, we reported bandits in the area over England. Bandits were positively identified enemy planes. If they were still unidentified, they were called bogies. Anyway, Sam saw one following the stream in, tucked in with all the bombers, and staying right there. We informed the tower, and I wanted to turn our nav lights off. It did manage to shoot a plane down at another aerodrome, possibly Witchford.

By then we were crossing the English Channel, and the second pilot, Bob Giffin, turned to me, and said, “you know, if this is operations, it looks as though I could have brought my knitting along”.

I heard the odd click of microphones from the other crew members, and then they thought better of it, and didn’t say anything. I said, “I’m not too sure that that’s gonna last.”

Soon we were over France, and the gunners were on the alert. That was one of their key jobs – to watch for fighters. They were always at me, “skipper you’re not weaving”.

The reason to weave was so that we can look underneath. The wireless operator’s antennas were out to the side, to scan that way, and that’s no good for underneath, unless you can turn your plane up on its side. Then two gunners could look visually, and the wireless op could scan with his radar.

Photo at left: Rear gun turret of a Lancaster

We were always on the move. We were told that was always a good idea in any case, because a fighter will be stalking someone, and if the Lanc starts to weave will say, “That guy’s on his toes, and we’ll go somewhere else”. That’s what they looked for – unsuspecting prey.

We were there to do a job - bombing – and we weren’t to encourage fighters, so it was perfectly in the books for gunners not to fire at another plane. But by keeping an eye out for fighters, and waiting for the right moment to call out evasive maneuvers, they saved our lives a number of times.

That’s one of the reasons we had never been hit by fighters in any of our previous missions. But we’d been hit by flak.

Normally we just heard small scatterings of flak when it hit us – like someone dropped rocks on us – a rattle – on the metal fuselage. But once a piece of shrapnel came through the bomb bay doors, and embedded itself in the floor under our feet. And another one went into one of our fuel tanks, and we lost a little bit of fuel. Jock was watching and it looked like it was losing more, so he just transferred the remaining fuel into the other tanks – used it up. The self-sealing tanks appeared to work well in that case.

We also had ice hit the side of the plane. Once we were coming in from over Holland, and there was severe icing in these thunderclouds. Icing could ruin the aerodynamics of the plane – destroying the airfoil shape. And big chunks of that could come flying off – BANG - you could hear them over the noise of the engines, and with your earphones on.

So anyway, that night we were supposed to have an overcast sky all the way to Stuttgart, but it was not very thick from the looks of it. Sure enough, as we were flying across France within the clouds - this was getting on towards midnight - it starts to get lighter, and I said, “I’m going to go upstairs a little, and see how thick this cloud is”.

So we just climbed for a minute or so until we broke out into a clear moonlit sky. The moon was about five eights to three quarters. It was bright, and miles of white clouds stretched below us. You could call it a beautiful sight, but we weren’t often in the mood to appreciate the beauty.

There were a few other bombers in sight, pretty much doing the same thing we were doing – popping up to check how thick the cloud cover was.

Photo at right: Lancaster

It looked like it extended quite a ways. It was supposed to go right to the target, so I said we’d better get back down into that cloud for now. So we descended, and found out that the clouds were only about five hundred feet in thickness. As I broke out I was able to see the patchwork of the French farming communities and countryside down below – dark and light patches of the fields – and the odd silvery glint of a river.

We were approaching midnight now, and the wireless operator had turned on a visual Monica set, which was a radar unit that sent out its own signal. He could watch a little screen in his compartment, with a rotating beacon – like you see on the TV weather maps or those submarine pictures. We were never warned that the Monica could attract fighters, but I’m sure going along with that now.

Ben said that we had a bogie closing slowly on the port side – that means it was getting closer to us, but not at an alarming rate of speed. We could keep our eye on it.

And before long, another one appeared directly behind us, and slightly low.

Then he said he was getting ready to leave his radar and tune in to the hourly broadcast from base that might give us some important information concerning a change of target, or cancellation of operation, or severe weather.

Just after he said that, he checked the radar again, and said we have more company on the port side, and slightly below us.

We couldn’t see anything visually, and the gunners were straining their eyes. We were still in cloud, but it was getting brighter.

We hadn’t positively identified these aircraft, but Ben could see on his Monica that they had been traveling faster than the other blips representing the bomber stream, then slowed down to our speed, and had moved into strategic positions slightly below suitable for attack. So they were more than likely unfriendly. We were all aware of what was going to happen.

They were following us with their radar, but they were flying in the clear sky under the clouds.

They could fire using their radar, but it wasn’t at all a successful thing in those days – they couldn’t zero in on it properly, and it hadn’t been improved.

Besides, they could afford to wait, as they had the advantage of being able to look ahead and could see what we couldn’t see, because we hadn’t flown high enough above the clouds; the end of our cloud cover was just up ahead.

All of a sudden the clouds ended, and we burst out into moonlight. At the same instant Sam hollered out: “fighter – port – go!”

According to procedures, he should have said, “there’s a fighter approaching on the port side, get ready to do a corkscrew or evasive maneuvers”. But we used the short form to save time. It usually worked better that way.

So I proceeded to put the Lanc into a violent corkscrew maneuver. In this case rolling completely up on one wing-tip, left wing down, kicking bottom rudder violently, which drops the nose straight down, and then rotating the aircraft about it’s fore and aft axis to the right, through 180 degrees, and then pulling up again back to port where we were before. You describe a corkscrew shape through the sky.

That was found to be the most successful maneuver to avoid being shot down by fighters. We had done that many times in our previous missions - and escaped successfully.

So far.

In this case, at the same moment that Sam saw the fighters, they had already fired. There were shells in the air and they were hitting us violently, entering our port wing from below and leaving several elongated holes that ruptured the metal upwards and forwards. The fuel tanks, containing 1,000 gallons of high octane gasoline, were ripped wide open and set on fire.

Shells also came through and took out part of the windscreen in front of me and the DR Compass – the Distant Reading compass. I could smell the rank acrid odour of cordite from the shells – they were explosive.

After that first corkscrew it was hard to manage any more evasive maneuvers. Both port engines were on fire, and we had quite a fire all along the port side, but we were still hurtling through the sky.

I kept the plane going, although it wasn’t really level. I put all three extreme trims on – there was an aileron trim, that can trim the starboard wing down, as far as possible, and extreme rudder trim to the right, which helps to give you full right rudder, and the same with the elevator. I had full nose up elevator trim on, but we were still losing height rapidly, and had now lost power on both port engines.

I had shut off the fuel and put extinguishers on both of the port engines and subdued the flames for a while, but they were too far advanced, and they flared up again.

I could see a cloud. I tried in vain to get to it, but it was miles away. You couldn’t judge the distance. There’s no perspective for a cloud.

The fighter, and we did just get a glimpse of it off to starboard, was a Junkers 88. It had huge antennas very much like TV antennas. Called SN2, it’s the mark name of their successful radar, and the Junkers 88s were excellent at using it.

He circled around, and I thought, “boy, he’s gonna come around again and finish us”. And that’s just what he did.

He came up from underneath and behind us - it’s a good place to shoot from – and started firing. He hit the cockpit, I’m sure the armour plating in the back of my seat was protecting me. I could envision the top of my head sticking out above it, so I got down as low as I could.

Bob was badly hit. I got some of the spray off of him – bits of bone and shiny metal in the arm and face. It made it look like I was hit too, but I wasn’t. How it missed Jock, I don’t know. He was standing right behind Bob.

Judy was out of his seat and sitting on the floor when those shells came through, and that’s what makes me think we were fired at the second time from slightly underneath. He got two of them in his leg – hurt him pretty badly. He was changing the tubes for the GEE navigation system – as you get out of range of one set of operations, you have to put in different tubes for different frequencies and ranges. That’s what he was doing, and his instrument panel just disintegrated with the shells. That’s how many times we were fortunate.

Photo at left:
Earl “Judy” Garland

This latest attack put out one of our starboard engines, and I had to feather it, but the one engine that was running on its own started to run away. The CSU – Constant Speed Unit – packed up on it, and this let the propeller go into full fine pitch, and it just screamed like a siren. It was going, I don’t know how many thousand RPM it would reach, but it was just like I’d heard in the Hollywood movies, with a plane going into a power dive and screaming higher and higher and higher.

I’d already given an order to the crew to prepare to abandon the aircraft. I asked them to acknowledge, and they all acknowledged on the intercom except Jonesy, the mid upper gunner. He didn’t get the message, but we were in no shape to dispatch any crew member back to check on his condition.

The reason for Jonesy not answering was that some of the shells had burst his Perspex canopy. Pretty well blew off the mid upper turret, and cut off the oxygen and microphone lines to his facemask. He couldn’t answer us, and I think the ammunition tracks for his guns had been damaged, so they couldn’t carry any shells. He had two machine guns, and the rear gunner had four.

Just the one plane attacked us. It turned out that two other Lancs went down in the same area – we met their crews later on. So those three fighters each got a Lanc. What a set-up. Coming up under the cloud, and waiting for us to come out, and then - boom. There wasn’t much we could have done. We could have gone above the cloud, but we were gonna run out of cloud no matter which way we went.

That was a lively bit of action for a while. So I told them all to jump, and you repeat that word three times in the intercom – “jump-jump-jump” to make sure there’s no misunderstanding, because people have jumped out when they weren’t told to at all – they thought they’d been told. A lot of bad things can happen like that.

There was no doubt here.

Each station had a stowage position for their parachute, usually in the side of the fuselage, and each was secured there by a bungy cord. Except for the pilot, who wore a seat pack – and sat on an inflatable dinghy. We wore our parachutes all the time. We had a deep bucket seat shaped to fit the parachute. It was quite bulky, and you can imagine trying to walk with it on, so we didn’t, we just slung it over our shoulder.

“Chappie”, the bomb aimer was the first one out. He unlocked the lower escape hatch, which he normally lies on in his compartment. This hatch is about two feet wide and about two and a half feet long. He put the hatch up in the front turret out of the way rather than try to put it out the hole, because it could jam in the hole. So he did that, and he went out.

Photo at right:
Jack “Chappie” Chapman

Then the second pilot, Bob Giffin, he still had his wits, and even badly wounded was able to get out of his seat, and so he went down the opening in front of him to the escape hatch. I heaved kind of a sigh when I could see him going down.

Then a few seconds later he turned around and attempted to come back up. He had caught his rip-cord on something and his parachute had opened in the aircraft.

That’s a twenty-four foot silk parachute – quite a lot of silk packed in there, and it bounces and springs out when the tension is released. The cockpit and passageway was filled with silk and cord, blowing in the wind that was whistling through the broken windscreen.

Bob was probably trying to get past us to get out of the way, so we could get out. But the flight engineer, Jock Donaldson, managed to turn him around, and got him back down to the hole, and bundled him up and shoved him out.

Jock went out next, of course. I remember he gave a little Winston Churchill “V for victory” before he jumped.

Photo at left:
Bob Giffin

I didn’t realize at the time that Judy the navigator had been wounded. It was hard to tell if a person was walking normally in a Lancaster – it was rather awkward. But he came up to the front and went out there.

Meanwhile, the wireless operator and the mid upper gunner had gone out the side door on the starboard side of the Lancaster, which is where you come in normally.

And all this time the plane is diving, and gaining speed, and on fire. We weren’t very high – we started out at only about 7,000 – 8,000 feet. Not much air under you for a rapid descent like this.

Photo at right:
Earl “Judy” Garland & Sam Harvey

When it came to my turn to get out, Sam had one working gun – the others were disrupted by the cannon fire from the Junkers 88 - and he was still firing from the rear turret. He did claim he saw bullets ricocheting off one of the engines – it was a twin-engine fighter.

I hollered at him to get the hell out of there.

He was alone in his little compartment in his rear turret, with two sliding doors, which were directly behind him. He reached behind his back and grabbed the two doors, one slid to his right on a curved track, and the other to his left. He was then able, providing he was facing dead astern, to lean back into the aircraft, and on the starboard side of the aircraft was his parachute. Then he had to bring the parachute back into the gun turret and snap it on the two hooks on his chest. They all wore chest parachutes.

Then to get out, he swung the turret to the beam position, at right angles to the plane, pulled his knees up, and just rolled out backwards through the two open doors.

Now fortunately, Sam went out the starboard side, and I’m sure he must have realized that had he gone out the port side the flames would have just engulfed him immediately – burning gasoline and flames. That would be an awful thing.

After Sam quit firing, I removed my helmet and intercom and let go of the control column right away. The Lanc lurched on down faster now, and I flew up in the air and landed in the passageway. Like driving along a country road, and you come up and over a real steep hill, and you leave your seat.

Then the plane stabilized a bit. I had to get back in my seat to get my seatpack and parachute back on properly because it was kind of tangled up. When I had bounced up, the dinghy I was sitting on had lodged between the seat and the throttle quadrant. So I had to get back in my seat, and get adjusted.

Photo at left:
Alex Campbell wearing helmet and parachute harness

Then I stepped back out in the companionway, to the top of the stairs to the bomb aimer’s compartment. The plane’s nose was pointing down now, and the floor was more or less behind me, so I made one leap to go down hill in a hurry. As I pushed off, I got jabbed in the stomach, and just hung there.

Here’s what happened. There’s a telescoping pipe that pulls out in front of the flight engineer to rest his feet on, and shoves out of the way into the center of the aircraft. Normally Jock, the flight engineer, would have moved that out of the way, but Bob was sitting in Jock’s seat this trip, and wasn’t familiar with this practice.

I had attempted to shove that in myself and did not get it all the way in, apparently. It was sticking out about six inches or a foot, and it jabbed me in the ribs, and hung me there, and that’s what I was hanging on, and I couldn’t rest my feet on anything.

Then a big explosion came - I expect it could have been the port wing collapsing - and flung me against the starboard side of the fuselage. I hit the fuselage, and it unhooked me. Down I dropped on the glycol tank, which forms one of the two steps that lead down into the bomb aimer’s compartment, and onto my stomach with my head about two feet away from the open escape hatch.

Gravity was still holding me to the floor, but it was a steep angle. So I bent my feet up behind me and pushed off against the glycol tank, and used that as a springboard to propel myself forward with a huge leap like a frog, jumping with his hind legs, towards the hole.

But with all the violent movements the hatch had shifted out of the turret and been sucked into the opening by the pull of the air, and had become wedged corner ways in the opening. I hadn’t even noticed it.

All that went out was my head - just barely out into the slipstream. My shoulders and the rest of my body were inside the aircraft in this triangular shaped opening.

Fortunately when my head had been out I was facing backwards or the air would have blown my eyeballs out. I was going about three hundred miles per hour, and you can’t keep your eyes shut enough to keep the air out.

I thought that would be the end. It’ll be a big bang, or a silence, or a horrendous headache - just for a split second. I think that’s all it will be.

Then I got mad and started thrashing and kicking and hollering. Well, I must have moved that wedged door just enough, because I finally wiggled out.

I felt this rush of wind over my body, and both my flying boots were whisked off with the slipstream.

This huge orange and black shape went whipping on past me. I wasn’t gonna count even to one-two-three now because I knew now I must be awfully close to the ground.

I slapped my chest where my rip-cord should be … and there was no D-ring there.

No harness.

Nothing.

No parachute on at all.

And I thought – it just went through my mind in a flash, “well this is dumb”. Or maybe a bit amusing - to get out of all that and then end up without a parachute.

Just about that time something attracted my attention above me – I was going down head-first. It was a chrome buckle on my parachute harness – one of the shoulder buckles or something, and it flashed above me. And sure enough there was my harness stretched out behind and above me, and the parachute pack wobbling and spiraling behind that again.

I went to reach up, but bent my knees as I was reaching, and felt a tug at my ankles. Sure enough, it was the thigh straps, which had slipped down to my ankles and were still there.

I hadn’t realized it, but in my panic to squeeze and wriggle out of the escape hatch, my parachute harness had slipped right off my shoulders, and down my body and off my legs and caught around my ankles - which remember, no longer had any boots.

So I reached up and pulled the harness towards me hand over hand till I could reach the D-ring. Then I dug my fingers into the harness, and gave the D-ring a tremendous pull.

All of a sudden that big chute just went WHACK. A big crack, and it opened – a beautiful canopy of white.

It tore my fingers open, and cracked both my ankles together. Ended up chipping, or bruising them, or something.

Here I was hanging upside-down by my ankles. I guess I’d wound up my harness as I fell, because I saw the moon spiraling. Now that the chute had opened, the harness was unwinding.

You land in a twenty-four foot military chute at the same rate as if you were to jump from a ten foot wall onto the ground. That’s traveling. That’s why we never practiced parachute jumps. We jumped into swimming pools with our gear on, and inflated Mae West life jackets and stuff.

I was watching the moon go around, and saw something out of the corner of my eye and thought, “cripes - that looks like the roof of a house”.

A roof! It was, so I quickly grabbed for my ankles, because I didn’t want to hit head on.

I just got my head bent forward, and WHACK! I hit the ground with the back of my head and shoulders at the same time, and crumpled up.

A perfect landing, really, all things considered. If I hadn’t realized the roof was there and prepared myself, I would have been just driven straight into the ground.

I landed on what turned out to be a stubble wheat field. I didn’t know where I was. I knew I was flat on my back, but I wasn’t sure where. I could feel something trembling, a motion, and then made out it was the bomber stream disappearing overhead - several hundred bombers. You could feel it in the air, and in the ground.

Then I reached out, and felt something sharp on my wrist. Then I felt it was earth, so I grabbed a handful to see, and sure enough, that was earth. It almost brought tears to my eyes to think that, “oh, God, I’m alive”.

I realized I’d probably be taken prisoner, but at least I knew I would be alive and able to see my twenty-first birthday next month.

When I looked at my hand again I thought, “I’ve lost a finger”. I could see four white fingers and where the other should be was black. I thought it was gone.

But to my relief it wasn’t. What had happened was the ring my wife Hazel – I guess at that point she was still my future wife - had given me, had pulled right off when the chute had opened, and tore my finger up. It was covered in blood, which looked black in the moonlight.

Normally to remove a parachute you turn a big circular button on the front of the harness, which releases the four clips. But I didn’t need to worry about that because it was just lying in a heap beside me.

So next I got up, and went to bury my parachute. And this is where I started to do stupid things. I picked up a handful of dirt and walked to the middle of this big half moon spread out on the stubble, dropped it on, and went to get another handful of dirt.

Then I thought, “I’ll be here til the sun gets up, I have to get out of here fast”. So I started to run away from our plane, which had crashed nearby – it was only about 300 yards away. And did the second stupid thing.

Even through all the noise going on I could hear something behind me – a rattling noise, and I thought, “Gee, what is that?” So I turned around and I couldn’t see a thing. And I ran even faster, and there it was again, right behind me, so I thought “I’m gonna stop real quick, and turn around”. What good that would have done, I don’t know, but I did that. And tangled around my feet was a long string of wild pea-vine that had been growing in the stubble. That had been wrapped around this one ankle, and every time I moved, I would hear this stuff.

The moon was fairly bright, and when I looked up, I could see a house. There were men and women in front of it, so I thought “I won’t go to that one”. At another house nearby there was just women, so I chose the women. I thought I might be able to outrun them if they proved hostile, or something.

So I approached them, while the burning wreckage of our plane was roaring and crackling with the sound of ammunition exploding and the many oxygen cylinders going off – no bombs, yet.

Pilots were issued Smith and Wesson handguns. I had carried mine for three or four trips, I guess. Then Bert Delacour, one of the really old experienced chaps - done about fifteen trips - I think he was an Aussie, he said “don’t carry that thing with you.” I said, “Why, what’s the problem?” He said, “Can you picture you bailing out, comin’ down, and there’s about forty armed enemy soldiers down there, and you’re brandishing a revolver? What do you think’s gonna happen? You are armed. They are obliged to shoot you. Not only allowed to, but obliged to.”

I didn’t carry the gun again.

So as I approached these women, I kept my hands out. I remembered what we’d been told in lectures about bailing out in hostile territory – don’t reach for anything in your pockets – you don’t want to alarm them, and you don’t know who’s watching you.

The three women I was approaching were in their nightclothes. I said “Je suis RAF” and “Je suis Canadiennes”, and so on. They looked at each other, and they must have said something, but I couldn’t understand them talking in French. I could speak a bit – I got 80% every year in French in Aurora High School, but it’s a little different when you have to speak it outside the classroom!

They sort of accepted me, and some more people came, and then I was gradually taken to a house. There was an elderly lady in there and an elderly man. Six or eight more people crowded in, and the old man shooed some of them out. It was just a small gathering of houses – maybe four houses, but I know he was telling them to get lost, or go out.

Then they proceeded to interrogate me. About halfway through the interrogation we heard a motorcycle come roaring up and they just sort of froze. Then they grabbed me, opened a door, and swung me in backwards. My legs hit a chair, and I flopped into it. They shut my door, and answered the pounding on the front door.

It was a German officer and driver.

The farmer told them he hadn’t seen anybody, and he thought we all crashed. I couldn’t make out all of what they were saying. It was hard to hear properly. I think they were speaking French.

Anyway, the Germans went away after a bit. The French couple came and got me out. Then the lady pulled a little rug up off the floor, and a ring in the floor lifted out and I thought “oh, boy, they’re going to hide my down there - that‘s the first place the Germans’ll look.”

She went teetering down a little ladder there, and came up with a bulbous bottle of wine with dust and straw on it, and poured some for all of us. I went to drink mine, and looked at my hand, and it was just a’ jumpin’. I had to hang onto the glass with both hands to keep it from spilling.

No French farmer would think of offering just water to guests – water was for the cows. And as we soon learned, water was pretty scarce there for some reason. That might have had something to do with it.

I was shaking, and drank some wine, and looked through my clothes. Of course, I had my uniform on that said “Canada” on it, but we weren’t supposed to have anything that could identify where we came from. We’d had many lectures on security, by evaders and ex-POWs, and so on. You had to check your handkerchiefs, and make sure there weren’t any laundry marks on them. Anything that might identify your town, or home base, or divulge military intelligence. You never know; your wrecked plane could have a new type of radar in it, and the Germans would want to know where you were from.

I had a package of Sweet Caporal cigarettes, and passed them around. I noticed the old fellow took two - put one behind each ear. And I don’t think he smoked.

As I sipped a bit more wine, the motorcycle came roaring back again.

This time the old fellow got me and opened another door and there were three horses standing there under the same roof. A common thing apparently – the house was attached right to the barn.

I thought “boy, don’t put me up in the attic, they’d look in the loft, and don’t put me in the manger”.

He took me down past the horses to what I called a chop box. It was a big wooden box that had ground up grain in it, and beside that box was this great big pile of chaff – short straw. They’d already done some cutting, I guess. Or it might have been last year’s.

He backed me into the corner – it felt cold – I think it was a stone wall, and plaster. There I was flat on the floor with my head down against the chop box, and in the corner of the wall. He took a fork, and just heaved that pile of chaff on top of me. Piled it right up.

Then he went back and into the kitchen - I heard a door open. They were talking to this German. And I knew they shut the kitchen door again, because I could see a bit of light filtering in though the chaff.

So after a bit, sure enough the light comes in again – they’d opened the door. I thought, “oh, boy”. I could hear people walking now. They were coming towards me. But they stopped at one of the horses. I heard the officer grunt, or say something in German or French to the horse. He wanted him to get over. And he walked in, and I heard him pounding in the manger. He did something the same in each horse stall. Then they walked on down to the end. I’m not sure what was down there. They were down there for just a short while.

Then they came back, and I could feel the vibrations as they walked. I’m sure they stopped right in front of that pile of chaff I was under. The fork was still sitting there against the wall, and I hoped he wouldn’t pick it up and stick it into the pile. I could feel that fork going into me – all those prongs. Every one of them was going right through my ribs. Maybe the farmer would stop them. He’d have to – I’d be killed, and he would, too.

And then a thought came to me, “what if a person had to sneeze now”?

Well, why did I ever think that? I felt a sneeze coming on. And with my hands tight to my body, and my head down, how am I going to pinch my nose?

What a terrible thing to think of. Amusing? Not likely. If they’d found me I would have been a prisoner, and they’d have shot that fellow.

Then, to my great relief, I heard them going back inside the kitchen.

At that point I realized, “My God, I have the Captains of Aircraft map in my battledress pocket”. This map showed our target and route. The rest of our planes were still two hours from the target, so if the Germans found that, well, there was lots of time to phone ahead and warn the authorities. And it showed our route back.

So without disrupting the chaff – I figured they might come back and search again - I managed to wiggle it out. Then I remembered that for security we’d been told that if we were ever captured, we were supposed to eat these. Oh cripes - a sixteen by twelve inch map!

Then I felt down, and sure enough, I could feel under one corner of the chop box, and with a big sigh of relief, managed to shove it in the gap under there. You know; it may still be there today.

They talked some more in the house. The Germans probably looked through the house. Then they finally started up and drove away.

The French couple was a while coming out to get me. Then they did, and finished the interrogation, and I could hear them talking about different things. They asked me what kind of bomb load I had on. I suddenly thought of those long-delay bombs.

So I said I had “bombier retardement”. I figured that would do, and I saw them looking back and forth. Then another women came in and she said “would you speak to me in English. We might understand each other better”.

I don’t know where she came from but they brought her in to interrogate me some more. Then she told me about three young boys very badly hurt – one even blinded – when a bomb went off the day before from one of our other bombers that went down there. Of course, I then realized why they were so interested in what type of bombs we had on board.

I was taken then to an outdoor shed not too far away. A two-wheeled oxcart was in there with partial sheaves of grain on it. He laid me right down on the bare earth floor beside it, and reached up, and he just randomly hauled a bunch of these sheaves off. Somewhat like I’d been covered up in the house.

He told me to stay there. Don’t move. Don’t come out at all until somebody comes out and tells you to come out.

About four in the morning I heard the bombers coming back. At that point they were only a little over a mile away – 7,000 feet up in the air. Right over our heads. And I thought in another two hours the crews’ll be sitting down after briefing, to bacon and eggs.

Lying there under that hay, oh, I never felt so lonely.

Two hours later the farmer came and got me, the same guy who put me in the barn. He spoke a little English, and told me we were going to another house. But he was cautious. He would walk ahead of me, and if he took out his handkerchief, it was okay for me to cross the road and follow him. If he kept on going, I had to stay hidden at the last place he left me. That was the rule all the way on this march we did.

So we started walking across this field of grain stacks, and came to one, and he stopped, and he looked around, and pulled back a sheaf, and there’s Ben, our wireless operator, crouching down under there. That’s the first we knew at least of two of us were still alive.

We were lead to a house on the side of a paved road. We were ushered in and vouched for by our escort. The owners’ last name was Arthur, and we called them Mom and Pop. She had two boys there in one room who we first thought were her sons. Then we found out one was an Englishman and one was a Canadian flier, who had been shot down the night before! She couldn’t keep four of us in there, so Ben and I ended up in their haystack.

She’s the one who made us all an eighteen egg omelette. Was it ever good.

Then for lunch, she made us tripe. Not the most appetizing looking stuff, and what a smell. It just reeked. I could eat it, but Ben, he couldn’t handle it too well. He was trying to smile, but he kept giving it to the Arthur’s little dog, Suzette. It was a little black and white spotted short haired dog – a terrier of some kind. Guess he gave her all of it, because the lady came along, and Ben was smiling as if he liked it, and she went and got him another helping. I said “she’s asking you if you enjoyed it”, and he said, “oh yes, it tastes just like cow flops”.

Well, the rest of us just about exploded. Of course, she couldn’t understand English.

While we were eating lunch, one of our 500 pound delayed bombs went off. It had been on a nine hour delay. It was out in the field, and what a boom. Shook the house. And Suzette started shaking, too.

When we went to the window, we could see a piece of our plane fluttering down. It was the covering of number one fuel tank – a big sheet metal piece.

After the war, I heard that some locals had tried to defuse the bombs in our wreckage, and three men were killed in an explosion, and a fourth man, 100 yards away, was hit by debris and died a few days later. Whether that was from the same explosion we heard then, I don’t know.

The Arthur’s house was a road house, I guess you’d call it. The Germans would stop there for water and to buy eggs. I didn’t mind them selling the eggs to them, because what else could they do? The Arthurs would see the Germans coming and whistle, and we’d hide out in the straw stacks. Each of us in individual ones. Goin’ in feet first, and lying on our stomachs, and we could peer out.

One day the Germans surprised us in the house, and we had to hide in the bedroom, and keep very quiet. Gaw - I was just in a sweat!

Another time we were hiding in the little orchard – it was only one hundred feet wide – when a truckload of camouflaged German workmen came out and stopped right in front of the orchard. They walked in there under the trees to relieve themselves, and we were hiding in there. Ooo – that was close.

They gave us a basin to wash in outside the house. They had been able to get a hold of those slimy soap cakes we had in our escape kits. I don’t know why, but water was very scarce there at the time. They told us not to throw it out, so we used it for two or three days. By the time we left it was pretty thick and slimy – it probably wouldn’t have run, even if we had tried to pour it!

It was while we were at the farmhouse that Pop Arthur took me aside and told me “Giffin est morte”. Apparently, Bob had landed alive, but he was so badly riddled, that he died from loss of blood shortly after.

Shortly after that, we had a one bit of good news. The farmer came in one day, and he was grinning, and I knew something was up, and he looked around to make sure there was no strange person in the house, and he brought in Jock and Jonesy.

That’s when we found Jonesy had been hit by shrapnel when we were shot down. We pulled some out of his legs. It was getting infected. He had quite a bit in his legs and under his armpits. I was kidding him. I said “tell me, how does one get shot under their arms, unless they have their hands up covering their face in the face of danger.” He smiled at that. He limped a bit, but it was just superficial. It was just sore.

Jonesy said that as soon as he landed after parachuting out of the plane, he heard somebody hollering at him. He thought it was in German, so he started running, and when he looked around, there was this person running after him, so he ran faster. And then he came to a fence, and as he was trying to get over the fence the person called him a “crazy bah-stard” and told him to come back here. It was Jock. In the dark, and with his adreline a-pumpin’, Jonesy had mistaken Jock’s heavy Scottish accent as German.

As if the constant German patrols weren’t enough to keep us on our toes, the Arthur’s house was right under the take-off runway for a Junkers 88 squadron. Maybe even the same ones that shot us down.

The planes were only about 500 feet above us - the wheels were still turning around on the planes as they went over our heads, and we would see the huge antennas, and the pilots’ brown helmets. We had to stay in the house out of sight and remain still, or if we were caught outside, and couldn’t get to the house or a haystack to hide in, we would grab a pitchfork or something and try to blend in.

After a while Jonesy said, “You know skipper, I could hit one of those buggers with a rock.”

I said, “You what?!” And he probably could have. They were so low, and he was an active guy. I said, “For God sakes, don’t you dare. What would happen to all these people?” It scared me, it did. I thought he was gonna do it.

After about three days, Mom Arthur couldn’t afford the risk of keeping us any longer, as the Germans were searching more and more. Hitler had made an edict that there would be no more sympathy for the people who shielded fliers – they would be shot, and the fliers too. There were too many fliers escaping to Spain, and to a place on the coast there.

The night before we moved there was a bit of activity and the odd strange visitor. We weren’t sure what was happening, but we soon found out - we were to go on a long march to a new camp in the woods. This was around July 31st.

We left around noon. We had to agree to go in civilian clothes. It would be foolhardy to appear in daylight with our uniforms on. And there was a curfew in place in that area of occupied France, so we couldn’t go at night. That’s why we went in the daytime.

We were paired up, and I was with Jonesy. He kept saying to me what he was supposed to say if we were accosted, and I’d say “je ne sais pas”. Later he said, “what was that ‘jerry’ thing I was supposed to say?” And I said it was best to say nothing.

Jonesy was limpin’, his leg swelled up a bit. It was a hot summer. We weren’t worried about it - they weren’t going to have to amputate it or anything, but it made it hard to walk. So they got him a bike. He would coast down the hills, and push it up.

We were told not to talk to anybody, or wave at anybody, as we walked. At one point a horse and buggy caught up to us with three men in it. Well, I’ll be damned, when this buggy passed us, this guy in the middle turned around and put his hand up slightly, and it was Sam. He got a ride, the bugger.

Another time we saw a tower of dust being raised in the distance. It was a black car – a big one. We were near a culvert, and we hid there. They must have seen us, but they didn’t stop. They were traveling quite fast. We think it was some German officers fleeing the area.

They didn’t have any water to send with us, but before we left, Mom Arthurs gave Jock, Jonesy and I each a bottle of wine to take with us. Everybody had one. We drank ours in the first hour, it was so hot. I got badly sunburned.

We came to a field, and there was on open wooden bucket for the sheep. We went over to see if there was water in it. The water had green scum over the top of it, though. We just scraped the scum back, put the bottle down in it, and filled it up. We had halizone tablets, with chlorine in them. We were to put one in, shake it, and leave it for twenty minutes, before we drank it. We put about four in, shook it for twenty seconds, and drank it right down – we were so thirsty.

I don’t remember us taking any food with us, but we did stop at a safe house along the way. The lady there brought out this big stone bowl with chunks of pork in it with white fat all over. We also had some cheese in a cloth bag. There were little wiggling things in it – looked like little maggots – I don’t know what they were. Someone tried to assure me they were harmless to eat. Well, we ate them anyway. I guess they didn’t hurt.

Since I had lost my boots, the Arthurs had given me some wooden clogs. I had to get rid of them soon into this long walk. They just cut into my feet – they were too small for me. Then the lady at the safe house gave me a pair of panko soles – composition rubber. Both were cracked on the bottom, and that just wore blisters and broke them open. My feet were sloshing in blood – they looked terrible. The cuts weren’t deep, but very uncomfortable. I had to walk in the sand or grass at the side of the road. I wanted to keep going to this camp, because we were going to be safe when we got into this forest.

Later in the day – it must have been after six or eight hours of walking – maybe 20 miles - the sun was still up, but it was August and the days were longer – we could see the forest ahead. Only about a mile away. As we drew closer, we could see a figure standing at a small crossroad up ahead - what we thought was an American GI in his fatigues uniform – olive drab colour. We were talking about it, and hadn’t hollered to him yet, when Jonesy and I realized at the same time it was a German soldier. He was not armed. I guess he was waiting for someone. But we had to walk right past him. I can’t remember if we nodded to him, but that was pretty disconcerting.

Shortly afterwards, we reached the Freteval Forest and were met by the welcoming committee. Chappie was there too, along with about one hundred and fifty other downed Allied airmen.

This would be our home for the next three weeks … in the middle of occupied territory … surrounded by Germans … under constant aerial and artillery bombardment … with the threat of being discovered at any moment …

But that’s another story.


Postscript:

Earl “Judy” Garland had taken two shells through his leg during the fighter attack, and was taken prisoner shortly after parachuting out of the stricken bomber. He spent the rest of the war in a POW camp.

Bob Giffin, who died shortly after bailing out, was buried in the St Cloud-en-Dunois Communal Cemetery in France (photo of Giffin's grave at right).

Alex “Red” Campbell, Ben Lyons, Sam Harvey, Earl “Jonesy” Jones, Jack “Chappie” Chapman and Jock Donaldson spent three weeks in the Freteval forest before being rescued by the advancing Allies. All of them returned to England and then home. Campbell was back in Ontario in mid-October 1944, and married his fiancé two weeks later.

Leutnant Strassner, the German pilot of the Ju88 that shot down the bomber that night, survived the war. Campbell attempted to contact him in 2002, but Strassner had passed away 5 years earlier.

The remains of Lancaster bomber A2-C were dumped in a quarry near Au Villiers, where they remain today.

 

© Bruce Johnston, Mark Johnston, Scott Johnston

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