"The engineer was then sent back with a bottle of oxygen and he found both of them unconscious."
My name is James Macgregor. I joined up in the RCAF because my father was going to put me in Royal Rhodes. So I joined up on my eighteenth birthday. I wanted to be a gunner. I guess I had the option of being a pilot but I thought, "Naw, I'd rather shoot at somebody."
I got overseas, and eventually I got to 12 Squadron. At that point, we were flying 'Wimpys' – Wellingtons. Our first trip, we got lost. We were supposed to go to Berlin, but we found ourselves somewhere near Nuremberg. The navigator went back to the master compass and he didn't come back. The wireless operator went down to see what was wrong, and he didn't come back. The engineer was then sent back with a bottle of oxygen and he found both of them unconscious. We got them fixed up and headed north for where we figured would be Berlin, and the engineer said, "Skipper, you don't have enough petrol to get to Berlin and back to England." We headed west.
On the way we stumbled over Kassel, south of the Ruhr Valley. There were a lot of guns there. The sky turned blue with a big master radar beam which picked us up, and then all the other searchlights honed in on him, and the sky was just alight. Tommy said, and I can still hear him, "Don't worry, chaps! I'll get us out of this," and he dove us straight down. We pulled out somewhere around two thousand feet from eighteen thousand feet, dropped the bombs when we were coming down, and when we pulled out, the engineer told me we were doing over three hundred and fifty knots in a Lancaster. It just pulled the rivets out of the top. The bombs went off when we were not far away, and there was a 'cookie' in there – a four thousand-pounder. When it went off it just reached right after us and gave us a hell of a jolt in the tail end. Several times we passed over water and several times we got shot at, even when we got into England. We landed and turned on to the perimeter strip and the engines quit. We hadn't made it forty feet down that strip when the engines quit.
All kinds of things happened to us. Over... on the fiftieth trip, we hit another Lancaster head-on. Glancing off each other, we took out his bomb bay doors and one of his engines. He took off sixteen feet of our port wing, right into the port engine.
I spent most of my time in the squadron evenings walking around the base counting insulators on the telephone poles, practicing night vision, because there's daytime vision and night vision. You use different parts of the eye for night vision. I got pretty good at it. I also spent a lot of time in the darkroom with a camera and film moving, so it was dark but there were fighters coming at you in that dark. My night vision was at two o'clock, and when I looked at two o'clock I could see what was dead ahead of me. That's one of the reasons I got home.