Veteran Stories:
Richard Sellen

Air Force

  • Richard Sellen, Winnipeg, August 2011

    Richard Sellen
  • "The Bomb" 1 - 8 that hit Lancaster "N" 20 April 1944. Recovered from large tank, right wing. Went through the top and made hole in bottom. Gas leaking into wing - 3 engines were switched to get leaking tank to get use of as much possible.

    Peice of incedinary bomb removed from Richard Sellen's wing.

    Richard Sellen
  • Peice of V-1 Rocket that landed in London near the hotel where Richard Sellen was staying.

    Richard Sellen
  • Richard Sellen (Left) and his aircrew in front of aircraft.

    Richard Sellen
  • Photograph of Richard Sellen with his aircrew from the rear of the aircraft.

    Richard Sellen
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"Put her in a dive and you weren’t supposed to let the speeds get over 360mph during the dive. But you got a Junkers 88 chasing you, you know, you'd risk it."


I guess what kind of made me, you know, want to get into the air force was the fact that they were bombing London and different parts of England and that’s where my parents came from. And I still had relatives in those areas, you know. So it just really irritated me, you know. So that’s why I wanted to get into the air force. I was on operations. I could go out on a raid tonight and come back and I don’t mean that I wasn’t scared on the raid but I’d come back and I’d debrief, have a meal, go to bed and get up and I was ready to go again the next day. It didn’t bother me to have to go again the next day. And I don’t know why, because a lot of them really were nervous about that. I was on a raid on Cologne [Germany] one night and another one of our own bombers dumped 8 of these [bombs] on my airplane. These are incendiary bombs. This one went into my big gas tank and made a hole in the bottom. The reason it didn’t burn was that there’s a little safety propeller in this that when it drops, the propeller will release the detonator. But this was so close to me, the propeller never had time to turn off and release the detonator. So instead of burning, it made a hole in the bottom and I was losing gas. And you were limited to the amount of gas you got on a raid because they wanted to put more bombs on. So I had to give up on that raid really, we raided, we went ahead and bombed, even though we’d been hit and we were on fire, but I had to get a navigator to give me a course for emergency [aero]drome in England, the closest one I could get. Because I couldn’t stay with the bomber stream, I had to fly like on my own back to England. Which is what I did. Nervous but I didn’t worry about it, you know, I went and I get up the next morning, I was ready to go again, you know. I don’t know why I didn’t worry more because some of them felt really too upset to have to go and there was a few of them washed out, you know, they couldn’t carry on. Called it lack of moral fiber or some such ridiculous thing that. They were being labeled like that when really, you know, I don’t think they should have been. We had, oh, real scares with collision with their own bombers, you know. Flying at night, no lights on and flying through cloud, lots of times and all of a sudden there’s a big hulk, you know. Not flying directly at you but we’d have turning points. The idea of that was to throw the Germans off as to where and what target we were going to. And so you hit those turning points and you had to set a new course. And some of them, we’d be turning a little early and some a little late, so you’ve got the guys going like this at those turning points. They were particularly dangerous spots. We had, we had a fellow dump his bombs out over Essen [Germany] one night and I guess he wasn’t ready to allow for the loss of weight and he just came up like that. There he was, sitting right in front of us and how we never chewed that tail gunner off with that other plane, I don’t know. Just so close. That was one of the closest collisions, experiences I had. And it was indeed very real. The Germans used to set flying bombs off with no pilots. And they’d put just enough gas in them for, to get over London and then go down out of gas and they’d blow up. This is a piece that hit a building right next to where I was staying one night. As a matter of fact, I was in a tub at the time. But when the motor stopped, I jumped out of the tub and laid on the floor, under the lip, one of those old fashioned tubs. And when that went off, so it blew the glass in out of the window from the bathroom but it went overtop of me and none of the glass hit me. When those [friendly] bombs hit us and we were on fire, in our approach to the target, we were, the bomb aimer was giving me a run up on the target indicators because there’d be, pathfinders would go in and they’d locate the particular target we were after in the city. And they would lay down markers, flares, like bright colours. And we had started our run up quite a bit back on that when this fellow dumped the bombs on us. And I don’t know how come he did that because they couldn’t have been up onto their target indicators yet, you know, they must have dumped them early. And so we were on fire and when we were on fire, we had a fighter attack at the same time. So we had to do an evasive action. And the gunners would call the evasive action, you know, and he’d tell you to corkscrew starboard or port, you’re flying like that and this guy would come in at you like this, you see. Well, when they said corkscrew starboard, Go! You know, you went. You tipped that son of a gun up like that and you just pull her right around like that and put her in a dive and you weren’t supposed to let the speeds get over 360mph during the dive. But you got a Junkers 88 chasing you, you know, you'd risk it.
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