"I must confess that there are two times in my life I really prayed seriously because I only figured I had about 20 seconds to live or so."
Hitler was supposed to be in Munich and Bomber Harris [Commander-in-Chief of Bomber Command, Air Marshal Sir Arthur Harris] decided he’d give him a surprise visit. So they loaded up one night there in 1945 and had it where a squadron would head, an A and B squadron at [Royal Air Force Station] North Killingholme in Lincolnshire. And it was a winter’s night and Munich is way in southern Germany and beyond the Bavarian Alps I guess. And on the run up to the target, it was a dreadful night, the Luftwaffe [German air force] was waiting for us and shot down several Lancasters going down in flames. I must confess that there are two times in my life I really prayed seriously because I only figured I had about 20 seconds to live or so. Anyway, my prayers were answered on that deal.
Another time, we bombed Cologne [Germany] and the flak [anti-aircraft fire] was quite heavy and the port outer engine caught on fire and we still had a thousand gallons of gas in the wings and the tanks at seven pounds a gallon, that’s seven tons of gas, 14,000 pounds. And there’s a fire extinguisher in each engine on the Lancaster, we went into a dive and corkscrew and the fire was put out, so I’m still here.
Then with the three engines, I returned back over the [English] Channel to English soil and the wireless op [operator] received a message from base saying, don’t come back to base in Lincolnshire, we’re in the middle of a big snowstorm, so we landed at an American [aero]drome near King’s Lynn, near The Wash [estuary]. And that was an American outfit and there was some, another air crew. There we had to sleep with the staff were from the southern [United] States, they were illiterate and when they shaved, they took their steel helmets and put hot water in the helmet and had a shave. Then two other chaps, one couldn’t write, so he had another chap write a love letter back home to the States to his girlfriend.
On one occasion coming back from an op [operation], we landed with, there’s only two big wheels on the Lanc and one was a flat and you didn’t realize that until you touched down and that took two of us to hold the, the aircraft on course until it slowed down and finally stopped.
We took off one evening there. When you see 700 or 800 aircraft above low-lying clouds, it’s quite a sight when you’re gaining height and one, I guess it was an air gunner on another crew left his intercom on and he was screaming and he wasn’t going back and he wanted them to turn back to the base and I listened to all that patter going on, so it, the pilot had to turn around and abort and take him back to base and I think he was taken off the squadron right away because that was bad for morale.
Anyway, I did 28 ops [operations]. You’re supposed to do 30 but the rest of the crew did 29 and on the 30th one, we, you worked six weeks on and six days off. I was on leave with one more to go, so I got to Edinburgh [Scotland] and got a telegram from the commanding officer back on the squadron saying, take an extra six days off, your tour is complete. So that was good news.