This was the one. We were on the
run up into the target, and just prior to that Archie called:
Messerschmitt 110 tailing us Skip!"
"Keep a sharp eye on him
Archie! I'm on my bombing run!"
"Oh, he's disappeared"
"Watch for him because he may just be getting away from the target
So we are on run up into the target, and the bomb aimer (F/S Bernard Pullin, DFC) says "Bombs Away!"
The aircraft makes the lurch and WHAM!
We were hit by a flak burst and man it was a damn good near miss. It
blew a hole through the dinghy, which we didn't know about for some
time. It was on the starboard side, just outside the fuselage.
aircraft filled with burning cordite and we went out of control. The
aircraft just took off on me and started diving down toward the target.
I ordered the crew to put their parachutes on. Of course the only ones
who wouldn't have them on would be Bart, (S/L Bartrom Melrose Mathers,
DFC RAAF) the navigator, because it was a chest pack and it bothered him
when he was working, and Bernard, the bomb aimer. The engineer put on
his as well at this stage. I wrestled and wrestled with the controls.
"I've got it under control, I've got it under control!"
It wasn't very
secure because I had the steering column over to almost ninety degrees,
and it was vibrating back and forth as if it was going to fall apart.
lost about 7 or 8,000 feet in the dive as we had no control over it and
all of a sudden Archie yelled
"Skip, that bastard Messerschmitt is
"Archie, watch him because I've got a hell of a
time trying to get this airplane level again!"
All of a
sudden, all hell broke loose!
"He's after us! He's firing at
us and I'm firing back!"
The Messerschmitt had six machine guns and four
cannons. All of these have tracer bullets in them. Archie has forward
guns firing back with tracers so it's quite a fire works display around
the airplane. All of a sudden I hear, (and I'm pretty helpless to do
anything about evasion, I can only go to the high part of the airplane)
"I got the bastard, I got the bastard Skip, I got the bastard!!!"
then everything was quiet and of course during the firing some of our
oxygen bottles were hit and exploded in the airplane. A machine gun
bullet from the Messerschmitt went through, between my legs at crotch
level and hit the steering pedestal and ricocheted up through the
windshield. Bullets came up between the engineer and myself, we were sitting
about 10 inches apart.
After something like that, when you have things
more or less under some control, you start asking for a report from all
the stations. You start at the front end:
- Okay Skip
- Okay skip
- Okay skip,
"Radio operator?" Okay Skip, I'm
"Mid Upper Turret?" and there's no answer, so I called into the
rear turret and no answer, so I'm assuming now they've been hit and are
either seriously wounded or dead.
I told the engineer to put on my
emergency oxygen bottle and go back through the aircraft.
Well the mid
upper gunner was dead and hanging out of his turret, but Archie was okay
at the back. We fought our way all the way back home and I was getting
awfully tired fighting with the controls. I had the engineer help me
hold the stick.
I called ahead to the control
tower and told them I was "slightly shot up".
Well the controller gave
me a straight in approach. I was coming down and I didn't like it so I
had to go around and again I emphasised that I was slightly shot up and
had control problems. So I came around the second time, I didn't do any
climbing, just low level, came back in and they tried to give me a
straight in runway which was a bit of problem because I had so little
I was just coming in, there was a flare, which was basically
cut back on power. I had two and a half engines at this stage. One had
totally quit and one was running really rough.
All of a sudden she (the
controller, who I found out later was the squadron leader's wife)
says, "F for Freddy, you haven't got your Nav. lights on!"
At this point I
totally blew my cork. There was no one on the aircraft talking to me at
this point. It was automatically no talking in this type of situation. I
said" You silly #@!?? b##?%%! I told you I was slightly shot up!!"
I got the plane onto the runway, I had no brakes, the hydraulics had been
screwed up as well and I finally got to the end of the runway and came
to a stop.
The fire trucks were there in seconds. I unloaded everybody,
including the body of the mid upper gunner and we were taken back to the
We got to look at a little bit of the damage to the
aircraft. There were four feet missing off the port wing on the time,
and that's why she (the controller) couldn't see any navigation lights.
The Nav. lights were gone! Forty eight square feet of the underside of
the metal of the starboard wing were gone, torn away by the blast and a
hole through where our dinghy had been, which is where the main blast
had gone through.