Veteran Stories:
Mervyn Couse

Air Force

  • "If you were shot down and could contact the Underground, these photos would be used to create fake ID to help you evade the Germans."

    Mervyn Couse
  • #12 Squadron at the retirement of the NAN (plane in photo). April 1945.
    Commissioned officers were are on the ground, Non Commisioned Officers on the Wings.
    Mervyn Couse is on the ground, second row, 11th from the left. Two of his crew are sitting on the propellor on the right.

    Mervyn Couse
  • Last pages of flight book - identify totals for Mervyn Couse's flight crew.
    Indicates two operations: On April 25, Operation 29 was to target SS Barracks and "Eagles' Nest" - Hitler's Bunker.

    Mervyn Couse
  • 1945 approximately. From Left to Right: Pilot Ernie Baird, Rear Gunner Don "Doobie" Duncan and Flight Engineer Geoff Munk. Mervyn Couse's shadow is visible, as he takes the photo.

    Mervyn Couse
  • "The Crew: Ernie Baird - Pilot, 'Pinhead' - Nav., Don Duncan - Rear Gunner, 'Mac' McPerson - Bomb Aimer, Don Boyd - Mid Upper Gunner, Jack D'Arcy - Wireless Op 30/08/44 P.S. It's a double exposure."

    Mervyn Couse
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"So I popped my head up in the astrodome and looked out and we could, the cloud was at about 18,000 feet and the pink tongues of the flame were going through that and went up to about 21,000 or 22,000 feet. It was one hell of a fire."

Transcript

So at 19, I went down to the recruiting centre and joined the air force to beat the draft. And the reason I went to the air force was because I couldn’t, I got seasick and I, I couldn’t sleep in a hammock. And I knew that the army slept on the ground. And in the air force, you slept between clean sheets in a nice hut, all the time. In fact, when I became an officer, we had batgirls looking after our uniforms and shining our, all our brass and stuff. And they were a godsend actually because they knew everything that was going on.

I had to keep a record of everything that happened and direct the pilot on his course and altitude. And I kept the rest of the crew sort of informed and happy. Certain things happened on some of these flights. On one flight, we’d come in from the Baltic and we were heading south onto our target, which was, I’m trying to remember where, Kiel. It’s in the book here. And we got hit by a jet stream. We didn’t know anything about jet streams in those days and our air speed went up to about 500 knots in just an instant like that. And it threw us all over the place.

And when it settled down, I wasn’t fastened in, I didn’t have a seatbelt because I had two radar sets to operate and I was sliding back and forth. And it threw me up against the roof of the aircraft and the back of my harness caught on some rivets and I was up there dangling. Fortunately my oxygen mask was long enough that I was okay but my intercom pulled out. So the skipper called out a roll call and I didn’t answer so the wireless operator came around and he said, my feet were dangling in his face so he unhooked me. And I guess I did a little bit of swearing. (laughs)

I think the most poignant one was Dresden. It was a very long distance away and the Russians had asked Churchill to stop the troops from going out east, against the Russians. And the plant that we were bombing was the IG Farben plant, which manufactured artificial rubber, which they didn’t have, artificial gasoline and another substance called xenon two, which before the war, had been used to, by exterminators, to exterminate vermin in houses, put a tent over them. And this is the chemical used in the killing camps to kill Jews, same stuff.

So we knew this and when we went in on the target, we, our squadron was supporting Pathfinders. These were the guys who went in and dropped the flares. And the first, we usually flew in three waves. The most experienced crews were in the lead and the least experienced crews were in the third wave. They were about six minutes behind us.

And we were told there was a Red Cross train on the west side of the Alb River and we were told not to bomb it. And as we turned away from the target, the bombing master called out to the rest of the crew that the Nazis had ignited some flares in an open field on the east side of the Alb and what was happening was that the lesser experienced crews could see these target flares and they went over and bombed in the centre of the town, which caused the conflagration. So in reality, the Germans were partly to blame for their own casualties.

But what was happening was that in addition to the trains taking German supplies and troops to the eastern front, they were bringing back a lot of refugees. And nobody knew how many people were in Dresden that night. The estimates that we got went as high as 70,000 people. Some of them drowned in water reservoirs and in the river, because they were trying to get away from the fire. And after the war, I heard that all that they could do to identify the people, those that were married, all wore a wedding band with their name on it. And they took the rings off and they had buckets full of gold rings to record names.

But as we turned away from the target, about 30 minutes out, our rear gunner called up and said “fellows, you’d better look out astern.” So I popped my head up in the astrodome and looked out and we could, the cloud was at about 18,000 feet and the pink tongues of the flame were going through that and went up to about 21,000 or 22,000 feet. It was one hell of a fire.

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