Harvey Firestone's air crew, at Number 6 OTU in England, in 1943.
The crew earned the title "Top Notchers" for being the best in aerial photography, used during reconnaissance training.
Back Row (L-R): Wireless Air Gunners Harvey Firestone, Ken Graham, George Grandy.
Front Row (L-R): George Deathe (2nd Pilot), Gordon Biddle (Pilot), Maurice Neil (Navigator).
Photo of the crew in England, after returning home safely from Norway, November 1944.
The photo was taken for a newspaper article about the air crew returning home after being declared missing in action.
The crew were forbidden to talk about the details of their experience while the war was still on.
Back Row (L. to R.): George Grandy (Wireless Air Gunner), Gordon Biddle (Pilot), Ken Graham (Wireless Air Gunner)
Front Row: Maurice Neil (Navigator), Harvey Firestone (Wireless Air Gunner)
"And we were shot down when we hit the coast. Fortunately, even though we were amidst thousands of Germans, we were able to evade capture and eventually the Norwegians in the area, were part of the Resistance"
Well, we were briefed by intelligence before we went on any flight and this was later on and we were told that if we saw anything on the water, at this particular time, we should shoot them because they shouldn’t be there. They were, more or less, fuelling submarines, etc. This was off the coast of France, of course, in the Bay of Biscay.
When on one trip, it was daylight and there was a boat of some kind out, a coastal boat, and we attacked it with our front gun, single gun. They shot at the boat. And I was in the [rear turret]. And when we crossed the boat, there were people, not many, but on the other side of the boat because they were getting out of the bullets, but they were wide open for my four guns. And I depressed the trigger and that’s a thought that stays with me, seeing them flopping over and not knowing.
And we made another attack and when we crossed the boat and they come into my sight, I said my guns were jammed. I didn’t shoot. There was nothing there to shoot, really. But I wouldn’t do it. That was near the end of it, before we were shot down, before we left the France area of our patrol and went up to northern Scotland and started work off the coast of Norway.
In September we ran into trouble in the air. One of our engines caught fire. We couldn’t go down, the weather was bad. You know, we would never survive and we had already threw out all our equipment. We thought we would try to fly across Norway into Sweden, although our fuel was gone. And we were shot down when we hit the coast. Fortunately, even though we were amidst thousands of Germans, we were able to evade capture and eventually the Norwegians in the area, were part of the Resistance, although one of them, the one who contacted our intelligence in Great Britain said he didn’t want to, but he did, and they identified our crew by using my nickname, which was “Fred.” I was red-headed and they said that they had this crew and a ship came over from the Shetland Islands, [Scotland] to discharge a bunch of munitions for the Resistance in Norway. We rendezvoused with them and were taken back to the Shetland Islands by the most decorated man in the Second World War, a Norwegian captain of the boat, [HNoMS] Vigra it was called. His name was Leif Larsen, the only man in history to be recommended for three Victoria Crosses for different things but couldn’t get one because he wasn’t a member of the British services.
Our crew are the only crew in the history of the Second World War to be shot down, stay together and get back together.