A page from Jim Beale's log book in 1945.Jim Beale
Jim Beale (2nd from the right) and his crew in 1945.Jim Beale
Jim Beale's Squadron, 1945.Jim Beale
A Lancaster flys across Jim Beale's bombsight camera in the crowded skies over occupied Europe.Jim Beale
Jim Beale's Lancaster, 1945.Jim Beale
"he says, “It’s a good job you didn’t need this skipper.” And he showed it to me and there was a long piece of flak, just like a needle, up through the seat."
I flew all my operations, 30 operations out of Killingholme [England]. Well, the first mission I went on was the Essen [bombings of Essen, Germany] but I was only a second dicky [second pilot], as they called them, that would [help you] get an idea of what you were going to be up against. My first mission was Christmas Eve, 1944. We went to Cologne [Germany]. We lost the one engine and flak hit one engine over the target and the bits and pieces flew off and ruptured the glycol tank on the air board starboard outer and we had to shut that down because it overheated and we wanted to use it for landing.
On the way back, we were diverted to an American aerodrome. The airplane spent 10 days there while they fixed the engines. And while we were there, they parked us in a hard stand, that had held a B-24 [bomber aircraft]. But the B-24 didn’t come back that day. The day before actually. And the master sergeant who was in charge of it said, “Oh, the airplane is Y Okle.” I said, “No, it’s Y Orker.” He said, “Well, it’s Y Okle from now on.” And he gave me a picture of the, the nose art and we painted that one as soon as we got the airplane back to Killingholme. That was just before Christmas and we went on the first operation.
One mission, when I came back, I always used to drop my parachute out the front hatch. Because the pilots had on the seat pack, you see. And the rear gunners had on the seat pack. But I dropped it out the front hatch and then it was easy to climb over the main spar, the main spar in the Lancaster [bomber] is about that high and there was about that much room between that and the roof. So we had to more or less do a half roll over the top of the thing to get out or get in. And when I was going over the main spar, I said to my bomb aimer, “I think I pissed myself.” Because it was a 10 hour trip. And put my hand down my pants and it came up all blood. So when I looked in the parachute with a young lad, my parachuter , he says, “It’s a good job you didn’t need this skipper.” And he showed it to me and there was a long piece of flak, just like a needle, up through the seat. That must have happened when the bomb bay doors that were open because it didn’t make a hole in the doors, it went up through the aircraft and right up through the seat parachute and just a little small piece of needle like flak scratched my rear end.
So I went to the MO [mission officer] and I said, “I want a wound stripe.” And he said, “Oh, you won’t get a wound stripe for that. A piece of stick and plaster will fix that.” I remember one mission where we bombed and sunk the battle ship Von Sheer [the Admiral Scheer] and my picture showed a 250 pound armoured piercing bomb going right down the fall.