"My greatest concern on that operation, after we’d got away from the target and away from our adversary, was that we were flying over Paris at, at sort of a rooftop level and I was afraid I was going to run into the Eiffel Tower."
I was, of course posted overseas, went to Bournemouth. While there, I was dispatched to the air crew officers school to learn a little bit about air force law and escape-and-evasion exercises, and that sort of thing. And since they didn’t really have our postings I suppose organized because Bomber Command needed people and I was, together with a good number of others, dispatched to an elementary flag training school just to keep our hand in flying while they sorted out our postings. We were transferred from what was going to be a coastal command operation to Bomber Command.
I was out twice on D-Day. Once at dawn and then the day after, we went to a marshalling yard [railway depot] south of Paris called Juvisy. We were coming in low, about 5000 feet, and we were jumped by an Me 10 [Messerschmitt bf 109, German fighter plane] and got shot up rather badly. My navigation was killed, my bomb aimer lost most of his leg subsequently. The aircraft was heavily damaged: the elevator rudder bomb doors couldn’t be closed; undercarriage and hydraulics were knocked around; and the undercarriage couldn’t be retracted. The upshot of this is that I had to get the airplane home and I flew it back at about 50 feet in the dark and brought it back to the UK and landed in an emergency [aero]drome [airfield] in England. But that is one of the useful aspects of having some good navigation knowledge in the astro-nav [astrological navigation] side of it because I came home on the basis of looking at the stars and getting my bearings accordingly.
My greatest concern on that operation, after we’d got away from the target and away from our adversary, was [laughs] that we were flying over Paris at, at sort of a rooftop level and I was afraid I was going to run into the Eiffel Tower. [laughs]
We took out a large gun emplacement at dawn and the Bomber Command, there were a number of heavy guns that the navy was deathly afraid of. And these are the coastal batteries and all of them were taken out. Our particular one was not a very successful business because the weather was so bloody awful and the result was that all of them were successful, but I think ours wasn’t as good as the others because we had very difficult weather conditions. Low clouds and foggy and, of course, on the way back, we saw all of the armada and the shipping and so on. It was quite an experience because the weather cleared as we got back over the, well, it became clearer. And, of course, you could see the whole business of the armada coming in and it was the business of the attack on the shore. So all of the troop transports, the naval vessels and so on, that’s sort of part of the whole exercise, it was really quite an experience. I’ve seen a thousand airplanes in the air when we went to Caen and that was a nice bright day. They streamed just like taxis coming across the Channel and on to France. Turned around and went back in parallel. By that time, we’d knocked more, the Luftwaffe [German air force] wasn’t much of a danger and there were all kinds of visuals that were worth noting and worth remembering; and I still see them every time I read or think about all of this.