My late father was flying (on what he thought was the last ‘op’ of his Tour) to Stuttgart on 28/29 July 1944. Although the aircraft had a minor fault and they could have turned back, the crew decided to ‘press on’. Around three hours later, they were attacked by a night-fighter, over eastern (occupied) France, and with a wing ablaze were forced to abandon the Lanc.
Although it is thought that all managed to escape, the last three out were killed, probably because they had jumped from the aircraft too low for their parachutes to be effective. One of them was the pilot, who was buried alongside his two comrades in a local cemetery – on the eve of his 21st birthday.
Two of the survivors became PoW, whilst my father and the Navigator evaded capture, being hidden in the house of a young woman who was a member of the local Resistance cell.
[Until the Germans confiscated radios, they used to pass the time by listening to cricket or other sport commentaries and theatre or variety shows on the BBC!]
The two remained in hiding until the Allied advance was nearby. Dressed as farmhands, with false ID, they reached the Free French forces under the guidance of the woman who’d sheltered them.
Whilst my father returned to the UK, she joined the Free French Army and, because of intellegence held, became close to General Le Clerc and instrumental in liberating her part of France.
Having first visted France nearly sixty years ago, I remain in touch with the descendants of the local people who aided my father (without thought for their own safety) and continue to attend commemorations in memory of my father and his comrades.
Recently, I read my father’s diaries in detail and discovered that he was hospitalised during final training. Without this, he would not have survived the war (and I would not be typing this), as the crew he had been with all perished in Febuary 1944.
Submitted by Keith Macrea