"And our thirty-second trip was very interesting. It was without any pathfinders – the people who marked the route and the target."
This is George Tabner speaking. I was a navigator, flying with the Royal Air Force rather than the Canadian [Royal] Air Force, on 576 Squadron, Lancaster bombers – the best that anyone had.
I'd just like to relate one little experience that sort of shows the crew spirit:
Halfway through our tour we went on leave, and the rear gunner, Nick, got into a fight and got his eyes blacked, and was grounded for three trips. So ultimately, we got to the magic number of thirty trips, and we were called into the Flight Commander's office and told that, "You, you, you, you, you, you are finished. You've done your thirty trips, but you," pointing to the rear gunner "owe us three trips." So they sent Nick (the rear gunner) with a new crew. We thought that was a really dirty trick, because new crews, lacking in experience, are most likely not to survive. And here was Nick with twenty-seven trips, recommended for the Distinguished Flying Medal, and a commission.
So the six of us went into the Flight Commander's office and said, "We're here to do two trips. We want to finish up Nick. He took care of us, and we're going to take care of him." So volunteering, all six of us without any dissent, did two more operations against Germany. One was not against Germany, it was actually mine laying in the Straits of (?) – and we flew underneath the radar at elevation one hundred feet, and the Lancaster has a wingspan of a hundred and two feet, so it didn't leave a lot to spare. That was our thirty-first trip.
And our thirty-second trip was very interesting. It was without any pathfinders – the people who marked the route and the target. It was strictly a radar trip. It was to Brunswick, and we did it all using the H2S – that was the radar that gave us a picture on the cathode ray tube of the ground underneath it. We got to Brunswick, circled over the target for twenty minutes, peaceful and quiet. Maybe they were figuring if we don't shoot at them, they'll go away. But on the word from the Master Bomb Aimer (which was a code word), I dropped the bombs using the H2S, without the bomb aimer doing anything at all. So that was our thirty-second and final trip – thirty for Nick, and we were all finished at one time.