Frank Poole's crew in 1944, 420 Squadron - 6 Group - Yorkshire, UK:
(front, left to right): Bob Ireland - Pilot, Sam Camerman - Rear Gunner, Leo Penny - Wireless Operator
(rear, left to right): Frank Poole - Mid Upper Gunner, Ron Hutchinson - RAF Engineer, Billy Dennis - Navigator, Bill Webb - Bomb Aimer.
All except Frank Poole and Sam Camerman perished when their aircraft was shot down on a mission to bomb Magdeburg, Germany on the 16th of January, 1945.
Part of a letter written in captivity by Frank Poole after bailing out of his stricken aircraft and being taken prisoner.
A letter written by Frank Poole to his family after his capture by German troops in 1945.
A 420 Squadron badge.
A 'certificate of membership' to the Caterpillar Club awarded to people whose lives had been saved by parachute, issued by the Irvin Airchute Company.
"The next thing I know I was knocked unconscious because the starboard wing blew up and blew the tail off. And I was hurled out of the aircraft unconscious and started to fall to the ground... and I guess it’s probably 40 or 50 below zero up there. And it revived me. Anyhow I came to on the way down and I realized I hadn’t pulled the rip cord, gave it a yank and the chute opened and shortly thereafter I landed in a snow bank."
We think that it was a night fighter that came underneath the aircraft and the two gunners – there’s no way you can see underneath the aircraft. And this particular aircraft we think was a Messerschmitt 110 or maybe a 210, but they had upward-firing guns, which was not common knowledge at the time. At least I didn’t know. And so all of a sudden after we had bombed the target and we’re back near Hanover [Germany] on our way home at 18,000 feet, suddenly the starboard wing caught fire, just like that, suddenly. And the pilot said, “Bail out!” So I had to get out of my turret and get down into the fuselage and put on my parachute and then I had to get disconnected from my oxygen supply and electric suit. I had to unplug that and the intercom and I started to crawl back up the fuselage towards the tail where the main entrance door is located because that was my emergency bailout spot. And the rear gunner, he bailed out through the turret. He just opened the turret doors and bailed out backwards. But me, I had to crawl down there to get to the door and the aircraft suddenly tilted and I was crawling uphill because the airplane was going into a dive. And the next thing I know I was knocked unconscious because the starboard wing blew up and blew the tail off. And I was hurled out of the aircraft unconscious and started to fall to the ground. So on the way down – we’re talking January now, January the 16th and it was very, very cold that year. They had more snow on the ground than they had in 50 years and I guess it’s probably 40 or 50 below zero up there. And it revived me. Anyhow I came to on the way down and I realized I hadn’t pulled the rip cord yet, so I grabbed the rip cord, gave it a yank and the chute opened and shortly thereafter I landed in a snow bank. And that was it.
From the jail they were collecting quite a few people from different – like the Free French. There was a Free French pilot there and a couple of more Canadians, but not my other gunner. He wasn’t there. Some RAF [Royal Air Force] guys. There was probably about eight or nine of us altogether that had been collected from that immediate area and they put us on a train and took us to Frankfurt. There was a big interrogation centre there. It’s called a Dulag. And so we went to this interrogation place and I was kept in solitary confinement for 13 days, being taken out once in a while and questioned and so on.
Eventually I got out of there and went to another transit camp not far away, maybe about 10 miles, a place called Wetzlar and in Wetzlar – I was there maybe a week and they collected enough of us to put us on a train and take us down to Nuremberg, Stammlager XIIID. So I was there about a month and eventually we evacuated out of there and we started off for the Southern part of Germany, down in Bavaria.
And we were on a train and they stopped the train and let everybody off to stretch our legs and get a drink of water and while we were there, along this embankment, the locomotive unhitched and went down near – there was a tunnel not too far away. And then in came seven American [P-51] Mustang fighters and opened fire on us and they riddled the engine locomotive and shot up some of the box cars that we were travelling in and killed some of our guys. But they finally twigged that we were POWs and they wagged their wings and went away. But from then on we marched because we didn’t have a train anymore and we ended up in Stalag VIIA which is outside of Munich. And there we were liberated by General Patton who was commanding the Third American Army and he actually came in the camp and did a little tour around the camp and then he left and another American Army arrived, the Seventh Army and they took us over and fed us and arranged for evacuation.