The last flight of Lancaster RF154 (AS-B)

Discussion in 'The War In The Air' started by Ron Goldstein, Jan 30, 2012.

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  1. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron

    Section 1

    What follows is an attempt to reconstruct the events in question chronologically. It is an amalgam of various articles, extracts from letters and a transcript of a tape recording , all of which were supplied to Ron Goldstein by four surviving members of Jack’s crew and all of which are strictly first hand reports. It starts with Alf White’s story of events.
    Chapter 1 The flight from Kirmington.

    [ALF] The 16th March 1945 was just another day for myself and my crew on 166 Squadron based at Kirmington, Lincolnshire. The 14th and 15th of March had been spent on two short practice bombing trips, which, owing to bad weather, we failed to complete. We were having a lateish lie-in on the 16th March, anticipating perhaps that the bad weather might stop any Ops. on that day, but about mid-morning, the inevitable AC/2 came around on his pedal cycle and warned us to be at Briefing immediately after lunch, for our fifteenth and what turned out to be our last operational trip.
    Ours was a close knit crew, consisting of
    Bud Churchward, the Pilot, R.C.A.F.
    Lefty Ethrington, the Navigator, R.C.A.F.
    Chock Goddard, The Bomb Aimer, R.C.A.F.
    myself, Chalky White the Wireless Operator, R.A.F.V.R., from High Wycombe, Bucks.
    Ted Hull, Engineer, R.A.F.V.R. from Romford
    Jack Goldstein, the Mid-upper, R.A.F.V.R. from Stamford Hill, and
    Bob Green, R.A.F.V.R. the Rear Gunner from Barnsley. [1]

    We were billeted in adjoining huts which were dispersed amongst small fir trees, about a mile away from the ‘drome’.
    After our call from the AC/2, Bud, Chock and Lefty came into the billet and joined the rest of us, and after once again admiring our selection of pin-ups and running through our crew song ‘The Lady of the Manor’, we departed for lunch at the Messes, arranging to meet afterwards to wander down to Briefing.
    We all walked past the 250-lb H.E. bomb that had lain beside the path from the Messes
    for as long as I could remember , and arrived at the Briefing Room, checked that our crew was on the day’s ‘blood-sheet’. As always, the object of our unwelcome attention for that night remained hidden behind the curtains, and there was speculation as to where it might be, but this was soon answered by the arrival of the C.O., Wing Commander Vivian, the Bombing Leader, and the Gunnery Leader. The curtains were pulled aside and there it was revealed, the red tape dog-legged from Kirmington to Reading, the turning point, and on across the Channel, across France to Nurenberg - not a happy sight, as it was well known that Nuremberg, the seat of Nazism, was heavily defended.

    [LEFTY] Our target was Nurenberg on the night of March 16, 1945. At briefing we were told to expect moderate to heavy flak with a possibility of fighters before the target.

    [ALF] The C.O. and the various leaders gave their usual pep talks and take-off was timed for about 5.0 p.m. Off we trooped to the crew room to kit up and snatch a quick cup of tea. Kitted-up, we then joined two or three other crews, in the blood wagon to be taken out to dispersal, where Lancaster B. Baker, (TARFU to us - Things are Really ------- Up) was waiting for us, with Bob, Buster and Stan, our ground crew.
    All the crew were sorry that we had been told to remove the painting of the naked lady on the side of the Lanc., but apparently this offended the W.A.A.F’s as we taxied past Flying Control, as a bomb was shown as coming from a very strategic place!
    We made our pre-flight checks and before long the ‘green’ went from Flying Control and we started up. No sooner were we away when - owing to a change of wind - the runway was changed from the long one to the short one and a lot of mutterings ensued because we were all well aware that we were fully laden with 2154 gallons of petrol and our bomb load. It was going to be difficult to get off the short runway and, allied to this, we knew that the bomb dump was just a few yards to the port side at the end of the runway. The change of runway delayed things, and as we joined the stream of aircraft awaiting the green to go, there were mutterings from Ted, the Engineer, as the Merlins began to overheat. Our turn to go at last came and we taxied on and, as always, I said my very short prayer, “God, Please bring us back!”. We got the green from the caravan and off we went. At full blast, the four Merlins carried us along the runway and as the perimeter track loomed nearer, I thought, “Christ, we are not going to make it!” but with the last bump as we hit the peri. track, we got air-borne, and off we went.
    [TED] On the night of the 16th we took off from Kirmington with a 4000 lb Cookie & lots of incendiaries & experienced trouble with the rear turret when it started to fire spontaneously as we left the runway. [2] The firing mechanism was switched off by the rear gunner & the skipper & I discussed whether I should attempt repairs in flight but he decided he couldn’t spare me from the cockpit or having the rear turret unmanned for what could be a long time. I mention this because it meant that the rear gunners reaction time was extended by having to switch the firing mech. on again if attacked.

    [ALF] We were all tense on the way out and our crew song was always reserved for coming home, but this time it was not to be.
    We joined the gaggle (no one could describe it as a formation) of aircraft and successfully rounded the turning point over Huntley & Palmers Biscuit factory at Reading, always a danger spot in my mind, and headed out across the English Coast. Being the Wireless Operator, my duties were not too strenuous, and all I had to do was to listen out for the bombing winds [3] and any change of plans. These were usually transmitted in at about 12 w.p.m and presented no difficulty to me.

    [LEFTY] Everything was going well until we crossed the French-German border, a few miles south of Strasbourg. Then the rear turret guns kept firing short bursts. The firing solenoid had packed up so the tail gunner had put them on to “Safe”. As we approached Stuttgart on a course of approximately 030º, the skipper said he was altering course to dog-leg around it as they were pooping up a lot of flak. We passed Stuttgart without further trouble and got back on track. Then we altered course to approximately 096º for our run in on the target, which was the central marshalling yards. As soon as we had altered course , the rear gunner started reporting fighter flares on both port and starboard. Then kites started going down all around us.
    I logged five then quit to take pictures of the H2S (( Ground Scanning Radar)) screen as we were fourteen miles from the target. I adjusted the gain control and set the range dial. The target was showing up perfectly. I looked at my watch noting it was exactly nine thirty [4] and as we were due on the target at nine thirty four I figured we’d be just about spot on.

    [ALF]Everything went well en route except for a bit of flack and we crossed from France into Germany. That night, the BBC were broadcasting an account of a fight between Roderick and Danahar, and in my position, I was able to tune in and listen, but I was unable to hear the result because the last bombing wind was due at 9.30 p.m., and by then we were nearing Nuremberg. I obtained the bombing wind and passed it to Lefty and then, as we approached the target, Bud told us to clip on our chutes. On the inter-com. I listened to Bud, Lefty and Chock talking, and I could see the ‘wanganui’ flares [5] being put down by the Pathfinders over Nuremberg. We started our run up to the target at 20,000 feet and I could see the flack exploding all around.

    Chapter 2 The attack by the Luftwaffe.
    [TED] We were on the approach to the target (Nuremberg) but had not yet opened the bomb doors. The target was in flames & there was some flack ahead but none in our vicinity. A good indication the fighters were about, when the rear gunner shouted ‘Corkscrew Skipper for Christ’s sake’.
    [LEFTY]
    Then it happened -- the tail gunner yelled “corkscrew starboard”. Just as we started our dive to starboard, I heard the .50s in the rear turret open up and then slugs started hitting our starboard wing creeping towards the fuselage and bomb bays containing a “cookie” (4,000 lb. H.E.) and six 1,000 lb. incendiary clusters. Someone screamed, (probably our M/U gunner) and I looked at the floor to see it starting to melt along the side of the fuselage underneath my table. The incendiaries had caught fire.
    [LEFTY/L] (( On 26/3/96 Lloyd wrote to Ron with some afterthoughts ))
    I heard Jack say “Corkscrew P...... He was obviously going to say Port but he didn’t. All that came out was “P” and it was several seconds before the tail gunner yelled “corkscrew starboard”. I believe it was several seconds before Bob Green sounded out. I also feel we were hit with a JU 88 with upward firing guns. They had them then. They homed in on the H25 transmission . They flew immediately under the Bomber Stream and the guns fired automatically. Because of Jack’s incomplete command I felt at that time and still do, that he was hit in the turret and didn’t get out. The hydraulics were also damaged. In the rear turret the .5 guns elevated and jammed Bob’s foot so he couldn’t get out. He manually cranked his turret around to beam, opened the turret doors, leaned out and pulled the ripcord. The ‘chute’ pulled him out with his boots left in the turret.
    [TED] Apparently it was a JU88, which was already firing at us & all I could see were the cannon shells ripping into the fuselage on the starboard side below Jacks position & into the wing root which caught fire. My intercom was cut off in the attack so I had no further contact with the rest of the crew. I shut down the starboard engine, which was in flames, & operated the fire extinguisher for same but could not observe the results as by this time there was fire at my position & the floor was melting due to the incendiaries having ignited. I noticed that the front escape hatch had been jettisoned & the bomb aimer had gone, indicating that the skipper had instructed us to bale out.
    My position was up front with the skipper so I couldn’t see Jack as the midupper turret was over half way down the fuselage & he would bale out of the normal entrance towards the tail, as would the wireless operator & possibly the rear gunner if he couldn’t get out over his guns.

    [ALF] We were within a few seconds of ‘bombs gone’ when, with an almighty crash we were hit in the bomb bay and port wing. From my vantage point in the astraldome I saw that we were on fire, that the port wing was well alight, and some foreign object had come through the bomb bay. It was only too obvious that this was our ‘lot’, and Bud said, “Get out quick!”.
    My point of exit was the rear entrance door and it did not take long to climb over the main spar and make my way to the door. I had to pass under Jack’s turret, and on my way I slapped his legs in case he hadn’t heard Bud’s order.

    [LEFTY] I called the skipper saying, “Skip, the bomb bays are on fire”, he said, “Can you put it out?” I replied “Hell no!” and with that he said “OK boys, bail out”. By this time, the fire had really gained headway and my table was on fire. I swung around to the forward edge of the bench and started putting on my ‘chute’. It went on the left clip okay, but the oxygen tube stopped it and one of the elastics caught in the clip. I took off my helmet and unhooked the oxygen tube and after what seemed like hours I freed the elastic and clipped my chute on.
    By this time the flames were coming up on my right side and I knew I was getting scorched but I couldn’t feel any pain. I scrambled past the skipper who was still at the controls trying to keep it on a steady keel, down into the bomb aimer’s compartment where the escape hatch was located. By the light of the flames I could see the escape hatch door jammed upright in the hatch. [6] I tried in vain to move it as the slipstream was holding it fast. Then I decided to drop through the front half of the hatch. I dropped until my chute jammed against the edge. I thought I’d bought it then and there, but I prayed, cussed, swore and pushed and dropped into space. All this happened in approximately one minute from the time we started to dive.
    [BUD] After we were hit and the aircraft was on fire and Ted and Alf and Choc had done all they could to put it out , the extinguishers were empty. I gave the emergency jump order. I watched the ones leave who went out the front escape hatch but Jack and the rest were to leave by the rear door so I couldn’t see who left. After I thought they were all gone I gave a roll call to check and I did get an answer from Bob Green only. He was stuck in the rear turret. After he told me he was going I again asked if everyone was gone before I left. Not hearing anymore I assumed everyone had jumped .

    Chapter 3 Bailing out and capture by the Germans.

    [TED] I moved down into the nose & baled out, saw our tail wheel pass over me (I was on my back) then I must have hit something, for I came to suspended from my parachute which I have no recollection of releasing from its pack & suffering from burns to my face, broken teeth & pain in my back & side, then lost consciousness again & woke up in a ploughed field adjacent to a forest into which I crawled to wait for dawn.

    [ALF] I jettisoned the door and it was then that the aircraft must have exploded, because the next thing I remember is floating down with my chute above me with the cord from my inter-com. almost choking me. I know that we had been told to take our helmet and inter-com off before bailing out, but things had happened so fast that I didn’t do it. I remember trying to free my inter-com. from the shrouds of the chute, but all this did was to cause me to swing violently. I must have then passed out, because the next thing I remember was coming to, with quite a few German soldiers surrounding me , on the lawn of Nuremberg Gaol! (No question here of burying your chute and making every endeavour to escape.) I was now a ‘Kriegie’ (Kriegsgefangener - German for prisoner of war).

    [LEFTY] I looked around and couldn’t see our kite so I pulled the ripcord. I heard a sharp crack and felt a violent tug at my harness so I knew my shute had opened okay. I breathed a sigh of relief and began to take interest in my surroundings. I bailed out about 12 or 14,000 feet so had about five minutes to get to the ground. I could see the target plainly, I judged it to be about ten miles away. There were a series of explosions, then, they must have really hit something as there was a load roar and a blinding explosion and a rush of air passed me. I believe it was the gas works. Below me was a dummy target. From the usual bombing heights it looks like a genuine target, but as you get closer it just looks like a field full of electric lights being turned on and off. It is supposed to be burning incendiaries.
    I drifted past it and a few minutes later a kite hit the deck and blew up a few miles from me. I looked down and saw the ground about a hundred feet below.
    Seconds later I hit the ground and rolled. I heard a couple of kids and a dog nearby so I hastily snapped off my chute and Mae West and headed for a bush a few hundred yards away. Safely in the bush, I took out my escape aids and found a small compass. The stars were out, so between Polaris and Nuremberg I judged myself to be about ten miles south-west of Nuremberg. [7]
    With the aid of my compass I started heading in a south westerly direction. After walking for a couple of hours my face and hand started to sting. Up until then I had completely forgotten about being scorched. I took out my lighter and after lighting a cigarette I looked myself over for damages.
    [BUD] Upon landing I headed West and I wasn’t captured for several days and finished up in a prison in Stuttgart until they put us on a road march East. The American Army finally caught up to us and we were liberated. I didn’t see any of the rest of the crew until I returned to England.
    [TED] (Morning of Saturday, March 17th) When it was light enough, I used my escape map & compass & set off through the trees but it was not long before I heard voices and concealed myself in some bracken. They passed me by, all but one, & he was aiming a rifle at me , so there was nothing to do but stand up with my hands on my head.
    They eventually left me with an old chap with a luger pistol who marched me off across field after field & eventually through a hedge into a hutted camp at the side of a forest & on rising ground.
    To my right between myself & the forest was a large pit (100’ x 40’ ?) newly dug & being worked on by people in prison garb. Further along on the same side was what looked like a refilled pit of the same size, then further along still & higher up the rise was another pit with people in uniform moving around it & there was the sound of small arms fire. There were Gestapo & SS men around as well as some in the drab army uniform. [8] I was then taken into one of the large huts & noticed some of the army men showing each other items of jewelry etc. to each other as they came through the door. I built a picture in my mind & became very frightened. Was then taken into a room where two SS officers were seated at a round table & they indicated I should take a vacant place. They questioned me in the expected manner at first but said ‘You are a Jew to come from a Jewish Squadron’. This I denied but they persisted & said
    ‘Your Midupper gunner is a Jew & so are you’. This kept on for about an hour & then I was locked in a log cabin like a cell about the size of a garden shed with bars on the windows. As you can imagine, by this time I was in a state of shock & I’ve no exact idea how many days I was in that camp. Three times they interrogated me along the same lines & on one occasion while I was in the cell I heard various voices & on looking out of the bars observed a small group of people with armed guards moving towards the pits. My view was from the side but to this day I’m certain one of them was Jack. He was very distinctive as you well know & not easy to miss.

    March 18/19
    [TED/T]
    I was just sort of dozing on and off and with quite a lot of pain and the burns and that and then the door opened one day or morning and there were two guards or two uniformed people anyway with Shmeissers and bicycles and I thought well they’re taking me somewhere and I’m not coming back and so they beckoned me out , Oh, not that it makes any difference, but obviously I’d lost my flying boots when the parachute opened and they’d fixed me up with some old ammo type boots which were pretty uncomfortable but that’s all they give me and so they beckoned me out , and put one each side of us and escorted me back the same route where I’d previously seen Jack but instead of swinging round left at the end of the huts towards where they were firing , not that I saw Jack from there, don’t forget, but that was the way out to the pits then they carried me straight on between the new pit and the old filled one.
    We went into the woods, we walked through these woods and we came to a lane where we turned left and when I got up there I started to calm down and I realised that these two lads that had got me were Luftwaffe uniform and anyway we carried on and went through quite a small village, the local inhabitants obviously had been warned we were coming, they’d got some indication cause they all seemed to turn out and they were wanting to get hold of me but these two chaps I’d got escorting me at one stage they stood back to back with me in the middle, at one stage ,one of them actually fired his automatic into the air for to calm them down one actually got hold of me just before that by the arm, anyway they saved me from that and we went on walking for an hour or something after that and we came to a permanent Luftwaffe station. I was taken into there and immediately taken to the medical section where an SS still in his dress uniform, he’d been out for the evening, or something like that , anyway he had a look at me.
    He took all this muck off my face and the paper bandages and cleaned it all up, gave me some anti-tetanus injection which he showed me was May & Baker of Dagenham and he cleaned my face up then in a small, it looked like a fridge or a freezer mounted on part of their work top he took out a cassette, looked like a stainless steel type cassette, which I should think was about three inches or so long, maybe four inches long, about the size of a 35 mill film cassette only more than twice as long, and out of that he pulled out what looked like a piece of skin and it was a pinky creamy colour and he put one on each side of my face cause there was only one piece in each cassette so two cassettes
    That’s right and then bandaged my other dressing on top of that and then bandaged the whole of my head up I’d just got room to see and to open my mouth and breathe. Then I was put down in like a dungeon underground then the next morning we were taken out, although I say we, I was the only one in that one, but there were about half a dozen of us on this lawn upstairs and some local officer taking photographs of us as a group. That’s where I saw my bomb-aimer, this was Chuck of which I see some people call Chock, Chuck Goddard, course he didn’t recognise me and I had to grab his hand and said ‘Chuck!’ and he recognised the voice and he said ‘Jeez Ted, what the Hell happened to you !’ and before we could say much they were taking these photographs and of course I’d still got hold of his hand and I shall remember this to this day he shook my hand off, he didn’t want a photograph holding a man’s hand !!, I don’t blame him !
    That’s right, it was later on the same day , I didn’t go back in there.
    [LEFTY]
    I found my right pant leg had been completely burned off just above the knee and the back of my leg was a mass of large water blisters with a small piece burned out just below the knee. My right hand was covered with torn dead white skin where the blisters had broken. It looked a mess. I then took out my first aid kit and smeared anti-burn jelly over my leg and a patch on my face. Then I put a cellophane bag filled with sulpha powder on my hand. I started walking again until 1:00 a.m.[Saturday March 17th]
    By this time I was tired out so I found a ditch with little bushes along one edge and decided to try and sleep awhile. I had another cigarette, noting I only had two left I slept in fits and starts until just before daybreak (around 5:30).
    At dawn, I got up to see a farm house no more than two hundred yards away. I skirted around
    this and walked some more. My leg was beginning to bother me now so I thought I’d give myself up for treatment. About seven o’clock, I was walking slowly along a narrow roadway in a bush, when suddenly a man in brown raincoat and hat appeared coming up the road from the other direction. I thought at first he was a German soldier, but then remembered their uniform was a dark greyish green. When he was about ten yards away, I stopped. He came up and pointed saying “Deutch”, I said “English”. To my surprise he started babbling in French and shaking my hand furiously. He was as happy as a clam at high tide. I finally made out that he was French and had been sent to Germany for forced labour.
    He changed the bandage on my hand and regulated and wound my watch which had gone a little off kilter, and said “Au Revoir” after shaking hands again. So I started walking again, thinking “I can’t even give myself up”. Shortly after this episode I had to dodge around a lumber camp. Just before eight o’clock I came to the edge of the woods and decided to have a snack, so I ate a few dry biscuits from my emergency rations and started walking across the fields.
    About 8:30 a.m. I came across a little village. It had about a dozen houses. I picked one separated from the rest and knocked on the door. A dog barked and I heard people inside but no one came. I knocked again with no results so I gave up. I went from there across a little stream to the rest of the village. A half a dozen women around but they just gave me a passing glance and kept going. I came up to a large house and decided to try there. Success -- some old geezer answered the door. Then I was stumped for something to say so I said “doctor”. He mentioned me to come in. I stood in the hall for a few seconds while he went to the back and got another fellow out of what looked like a flour mill. He searched me and then took me into the kitchen where he offered me a chair so I sat down. Then I had my last cigarette and a couple more biscuits. There was a mirror across the room from me so I took a gander at my face. A large scab had formed on my right cheek extending to just below my eye. There were a few little scabs on my nose and around the rim of my ear.
    Two or three little urchins in the house were standing looking at me wondering what the score was. One was munching on a piece of rye bread and jam. I suppose it was his breakfast. Then two or three women appeared and gave me the once over. The woman of the house must have called over her neighbours. They stood away looking at me.
    About an hour later the burgomaster showed up smoking what looked to be a short piece of rope. It also smelled like it. I suppose it was the German equivalent of a cigar. He asked if I spoke German and I shook my head. Then if I spoke French and I again shook my head. Finally he said “Do you speak English?” I answered “Yes” but he said no more so I gathered it was all the English he knew.
    By this time quite a crowd had gathered outside to see what was going on, everyone with their nose pressed against the window. Then about half an hour later, two German police officers arrived on bicycles along with three or four Volksturm (German Home Guard). They searched me and took my escape rations, maps and first aid kit. They all tried my Ronson but finally gave it back to me. Then one asked if I could walk. I nodded, so he waved a pistol under my nose and said the German equivalent to get moving. I waked in front while he rode his bike.
    About half an hour later, we came to a little place called Kammerstein where an old woman came out and after cursing me in German, spit on me. A bunch of urchins followed us about a mile but didn’t do anything. Then a kid of ten or eleven years old passed on a bicycle and called me “Pig of an Englander”. He also spit on me.
    Then we came to another little town called Haag. Another bunch of urchins followed us through the town. Everyone we passed gave me a dirty look and said something to the German police officer whereon they’d both laugh. After another hour’s walking we came to a fair sized town called Schwabach. [9] When we reached the centre of town some goon rode up and said, “How you like kill women and children, eh?” I was kind of jittery as there were crowds of people around who didn’t look too happy with me. We finally got to a Luftwaffe camp on the edge of the town where they put me in the hoosegow. [10] I breathed a sigh of relief.
    A few hours later I was taken out of the cell and went to see one of the Luftwaffe officers. He could speak English and started asking questions which I wasn’t allowed to answer. Then he took my identification card, dog tags, and lighter, saying I’d get them back later when I was moved to a Stalag. I was taken back to my cell.
    It was about six feet by ten feet with one little window. The door also had a little window. It was now well on in the afternoon and so far I had nothing to eat except for the couple of biscuits. I made motions to one of the guards that I was hungry so about an hour later I was given a bowl of watery soup and a thick piece of rye bread and some rotten cheese. I ate the soup but I couldn’t stomach the bread and cheese.
    Next morning [Sunday, March 18th] I started to really get hungry, but all I got was a cup of mint tea which was lukewarm so I made an effort and ate the bread and cheese from the day before. That night I got another bowl of watery soup and one slice of bread. The following morning it was a cup of ersatz coffee and a slice of bread.

    [ALF] [Friday, March 16th] Very quickly, I was taken inside and, surprisingly, I was only suffering from slight burns and cuts, which were promptly treated by my captors. A German Airforce Officer, who spoke perfect English, interrogated me, wanting to know my squadron, the names of my crew, the aiming point, etc., and accusing me of being an English bandit who killed civilians in preference to bombing military targets. Before long, I found myself alone in a cell, [11] the equipment of which consisted of three bare boards lying on the floor. There I stayed for a few days, not knowing what had happened to the rest of my crew, but thinking that they must have all got the ‘chop’. My spirits were at their lowest ebb one day when, to my joy, from the next cell I heard the strains of “The Lady of the Manor” being sung by Lefty as only he could sing it!
    A day or two later, the time came to move, and together with some other RAF and American Airforce air crews, we were taken from the gaol and put into a lorry which was to take us for interrogation to Munich.[March 19th, according to Lefty’s account].


    End of section 1
     
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  2. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron

    Section 2

    Chapter 4 The coach journey to Munich and interrogation.
    [TED/T]

    Then later on we were taken to a coach , I’m hesitating because I think we actually were given something to eat it was boiled potatoes and something it was in the skin anyway it was an apple anyway they put us in this coach and this coach it was quite a small one and on the back was a big cylinder and actually what it was it was a gas generator that you filled the top half full of wood chips and then the bottom half there was a fire burning which had to keep going with flames, well the top half you put chips in there which then generated the gas to drive the vehicle and we set off from that and after a while, half an hour , that sort of thing, we stopped and Alf and Lefty, the Navigator, came on board.
    That was a bit of an experience actually that trip because every time you came to a bit of a steep hill every one had to get out and we had to stop and get out anyway and help to fill the top with fresh wood chips and stoke the fire up and when we went through any towns or villages the curtains all had to be pulled, I mean you had a little squint and some of them were in a terrible state, they looked just like ploughed fields with a load of rubble mixed with them.
    We didn’t know where we were being taken to, we finished up in Munich for interrogation, they always had a central area and it had obviously recently moved to Munich because of the front line moving, Frankfurt, I think they used to go to anyway we went to Munich and we were in the Gaol there for, once again, for a couple of days or so. They were largish share of the cells with just the straw on the floor so you just laid down where you could .

    [ALF] The journey to Munich was uneventful, except that as the lorry came to the foot of each hill, all the prisoners had to get out and push! However there was no chance of escaping because we were heavily escorted by armed guards.
    After a journey of about twelve hours, [12] we arrived at the interrogation centre at Munich, and for the next few days I spent various periods being interrogated by fluent English-speaking German inquisitors, but I pride myself that I managed to convince these people that this was the first operational trip I had made. Their source of information about RAF activities was obviously good, because they were able to tell me to which squadron my aircraft belonged, and were able to name quite a few of the Officers of that squadron, including Wing Commander Vivian, the Commanding Officer.
    It then became time to move again, and we were escorted from the interrogation centre to beside the railway line at Munich where a train was standing, the station at Munich having been destroyed. I boarded the train, together with a number of P.O.W’s and our escort, and commenced our journey north to an unknown destination. After travelling for quite a while without food or drink, we drew into a station, and, on looking out of the window, I saw the dreaded name ‘Dachau’. At that time I had not heard anything of what went on at this place but speculation was rife amongst the various P.O.W’s about what would happen to us when we were ordered off the train. However, after not many hours, we were once again taken out of the camp and back to the station and put on to the train and it soon became apparent why we had been taken off, because most of the railway track just a short distance away had been destroyed by bombing.

    [LEFTY] Then I was taken to a wood burning gas bus for a trip to the interrogation centre in Munich. When I got on the bus I discovered my bomb aimer, wireless operator and engineer.
    [13] The engineer’s head was completely wrapped in bandages. He had also been scorched before bailing out. Also on the bus was a navigator from our squadron who was a good friend of mine. There were seventeen of us on the bus altogether.
    This was quite a bus. We had to stop every hour to refill the wood burners which generated the gas. When we came to a steep hill everyone had to get out and walk up as the bus couldn’t make it loaded. Going through the towns we had to draw the shades or get bricks thrown at us by the civilians. It took seventeen hours from Schwabach to Munich [12] , a distance of about sixty-five miles.
    During this time we had two slices of bread and a bit of blood sausage.
    We were put in a jail here along with ten Americans who had been taken prisoner in Yugoslavia. There were four of us to a cell with one wooden platform wide enough for one, which was supposed to be a bed. They also gave us two blankets and a straw filled mattress between the four of us. The following morning [ Monday, March 19th] it was a cup of ersatz coffee and a slice of bread. That afternoon I was taken out of my cell and over to see a doctor. He looked at the burns and said something to a nurse who put a bit of salve on them and wrapped them in paper bandages.
    The afternoon we arrived we got a bowl of soup and two slices of bread with a bit of cheese. Next morning [Wednesday, March 21st] at seven o’clock we got a cup of coffee and our day’s ration of bread (about three thin slices). We were to have our bowl of soup at 11:30 a.m. but the air raid sirens went and all the guards headed for the shelters so we didn’t eat again until five o’clock, when we had another bowl of soup. This happened six days in a row.
    On the third day here [Thursday, March 22nd] I was taken over to the hospital to have my dressings changed. When the paper bandages were taken off my hand and leg most of the dead skin came with them as they’d soaked through the bandages. The doctor trimmed off all the loose skin and put a bit of powder and another set of paper bandages on. After being here a week we started being interrogated. Mine lasted about ten minutes, as we were interrupted by the sirens.
    Chapter 5 The train journey back to Nuremberg.

    [ALF]
    It then became time to move again, and we were escorted from the interrogation centre to beside the railway line at Munich where a train was standing, the station at Munich having been destroyed. I boarded the train, together with a number of P.O.W’s and our escort, and commenced our journey north to an unknown destination. After travelling for quite a while without food or drink, we drew into a station, and, on looking out of the window, I saw the dreaded name ‘Dachau’. At that time I had not heard anything of what went on at this place but speculation was rife amongst the various P.O.W’s about what would happen to us when we were ordered off the train. However, after not many hours, we were once again taken out of the camp and back to the station and put on to the train and it soon became apparent why we had been taken off, because most of the railway track just a short distance away had been destroyed by bombing.
    Our journey north continued, and after another long period without food or water, we arrived back at Nuremberg and from there was taken to Stalag 13D
    [TED/T]
    I think we were probably there( ?) overnight and then they got us out of there and we were all left at the side of a railway line in a side railway sidings and then this train made up of cattle trucks came in ,which we were all sent into , so many in each one and Alf was definitely with me in that one and that just shunted along cause they were shut, you couldn’t get out except every so often they did stop for you to just get out on the side to relieve yourself, we were worried about being attacked by aircraft and we couldn’t have got out. (They were) Allied aircraft, for which of course they were doing a lot of , anyway, that’s another story, we did stop for quite a long time during one night but we didn’t get out of those trucks till we got to Nuremberg sidings or near Nuremberg anyway, obviously a lot of the place was smashed up and they stopped wherever they could we eventually got out near Nuremberg and had to walk then to Nuremberg Prisoner of War camp through an area which looked as though it was an industrial area but all it was mounds of brickwork and twisted girders sticking out of it and at each crossroad there were piles of our incendiaries which hadn’t gone off and we walked passed their parade ground where they had all their parades (The Stadium)
    I said to Alf I’m going to walk on it, because we were quite close, and so I just walked about ten yards to one side and walked along the edge of it, nobody bothered and anyway we eventually got to Nuremberg Prisoner of War camp.
    [LEFTY]
    Next day [Friday, March 24th] we left for the prison camp. I had to be carried two miles by the rest of the fellows to the train as my leg had stiffened up in a bent position and the bandages had stuck again to the burns. It took twenty hours for the trip to Nuremberg. Overnight we stopped in the Dachau marshalling yards.


    End of section 2
     
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  3. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron

    Final Section 3


    After reaching Nuremberg [Saturday, March 25th] all but two of us set out to march the ten miles to the prison camp. The other fellow was hurt pretty badly when he bailed out. While in a waiting room waiting for a truck to take us out to the camp I struck up a conversation with a Luftwaffe pilot who had been badly burned when shot down by an American.
    Finally the truck came and we went to the camp..
    Chapter 6 Life in the POW camp at Nuremberg.

    [ALF]
    . Shortly after entering the compound, to my joy, I found that Chock, Lefty, Ted and Bob were already there, and before long, I was enjoying the very welcome food from Red Cross parcels which had been sent to the camp.
    Life in Stalag 13D was quite routine, and most of the time was spent baiting the goons in all sorts of ways, one of which particularly amused me, in that, during morning and evening roll calls, the goons could never arrive at the same numbers, because after counting the first few ranks of three, the first ranks would double back behind the remaining ranks to be counted again. After three or four weeks in Stalag 13D, it became obvious that before long we would either be liberated or moved,
    because the sounds of war could be heard getting closer. One morning, all inmates were lined up and told to collect our belongings, because we were on the move. Our belongings consisted of so little that they did not take much assembling!.
    [TED/T]
    Eventually we got to Nuremberg Prisoner of War camp, and we were standing around outside for a bit and then went into a hut and each one was given a cursory interrogation and some information took down and then we were taken into one of the compounds and that’s where several people immediately got hold of us to give us the update on where the front line was. We hadn’t crossed the Rhine at that stage which they were a little bit disappointed. There were so many people in the prisoner of war camp that we were housed in a big marquee erected within a spare space.
    I walked into this big marquee to be greeted by two people “Ted, where the bleedin’ hell have you been?”, there were chaps I ‘d trained with and there were so many people there that what they did, they’d managed to get an issue of Red Cross parcels but it wasn’t enough to split up or really dish up so we had our own kitchen and kitchen staff would use these to produce one meal a day and I remember one day , I don’t know where it came from, perhaps it was something the Germans did supply and it was green pea soup and to every pea there was a bug like a bed bug floating around in this soup, a lot of people wouldn’t touch it but I was that hungry I would eat mine and somebody else’s. It was pretty well organised this and I think probably saved a lot of discontent and even squabbling maybe when it comes to food although it wasn’t sufficient at least you got something each day. We just amused ourselves, mainly with talking and then we heard that we were going to be on the road so we started to get ourselves organised as it was cold still at that time of the year. Alf and I , we decided to sew two blankets together, which we had a blanket each and make a big sleeping bag, we thought we’d probably be warmer that way, we tried it out in the camp, I looked at him next morning, he looked at me and I said “well that’s not going to work, is it” so we unstitched it all and then there was an American Armoured column going mad again, they’d slipped on ahead so rapidly, made such a rapid advance and they’d stopped and there was a big pig farm where they’d stopped and they decided to have a big feast overnight but in the meantime the Germans had re-grouped and they captured the lot of them and put them in our compound and they virtually took over the place. They took over I think because their senior officer was senior to our senior officer and we’d been saving up, I say we, but we hadn’t been there long, but the RAF people in the compound had got things organised cause they knew this was coming up so any chocolate and that in the Red Cross parcels that wasn’t needed was saved for this march , well we didn’t get much out of that because the Americans seemed to take charge of the lot anyway eventually we got marshalled up and got on the road march.
    [LEFTY]
    After being searched I went into the camp hospital which was run by British and American doctors. It consisted of one hut filled with three tier beds. Each had a filthy straw mattress and two blankets. I got the last empty beds. There were fellows in there with double pneumonia, frostbite, dysentery, boils, impetigo, and just about everything else. Even two cases of VD The meals here weren’t too bad. A bowl of porridge, one slice of bread, and a brew for breakfast; a bowl of thin soup and a brew for dinner; and two slices of Span and one average potato for supper, and also a brew and a bread spread. I was in hospital for two weeks getting clean dressings once a day. ((This would be some time in Mid-April)) . They had both Sulpha powder and penicillin there which came through the Red Cross.
    Then I went into #2 Compound. Here I met my bomb aimer again,((Chuck Goddard)),my tail gunner , ((Bob Green)) who thought I was dead and a fellow I had been with for two years in the AF who had been shot down six days before I was. We had quite a reunion -- dry of course. My tail gunner had his right eye almost blinded by the chute when he bailed out. It took a big corner of skin out of the edge of his eye. He looked pretty thin but he had been hiding for four days and hadn’t anything to eat in that time. My chum was okay, but he was always thinking about food. After two days in the compound I was the same way. There were a thousand guys in there at first but a few days later it was two thousand. In this compound there was a communal mess and four sittings beginning at 7:00 a.m. until 11:00 a.m., then from 2:00 to 6:00 p.m. If you ate at 7, that was until 2 when you had your last meal of the day. In the morning it was a bowl of porridge or prunes and raisins and a brew and a slice of bread and jam. In the afternoon it was some kind of soup, quite often “meat and beans” (hard white beans, lots of water and lots of little black bugs) and a slice of bread and German fish cheese. We also got a cigarette ration of fifty per week.
    My bomb aimer, tail gunner , W/Op and Engineer slept on wooden boards in a tent which held something over two hundred men. They had two blankets apiece. My B/A was allergic to fleas and bed bugs and as a result was covered with bites. Some of the fellows saved the prune pits and after roasting them, cracked them and ate the bitter nut inside. They were awfully bitter.
    The German news was posted every day and according to it the Americans were within fifty miles of the camp. On the 3rd of April we were told we were on the move.

    Chapter 7 The forced march to Moosburg.

    [TED/T]
    Anyway, Alf White was with me and Chuck Goddard together. I think it was the second day out of Nuremberg these Americans, this crowd of American Thunderbolts flew across about a thousand feet or so in the air and we thought they were just going on and then the next thing they were pouring out of the sky and coming straight for us across the fields so low that the grass was flying and then we obviously knew what was coming so we all scattered and sure enough they were bombing and strafing , but it was, I’m certain by the length of time it went on and the number of aircraft involved that I think they realised at one stage who we were and then called it off I don’t think they’d really gone for us at the time cause we were about to pass under a railway bridge and to our right, in the trees, there was a goods train drawn up with flat bed trucks and strapped onto those were piles of what looked to me like Jet engines for their new two six two.

    Some of the time they moved us in, through, the night, they were trying to shake off , because these Thunderbolts, obviously they reported back that we were there cause after that we used to get what turned out to be their photographic reconnaissance units, they were Mustangs , two would come, one would fly alongside obviously taking photographs while the other one was up protecting him..
    Well actually I was about to retrack because I forgot something there about the Americans, so we’re going back to after we were strafed and they did hide us in barns overnight to try and put these photographic aircraft units off and we laid down one night and something woke me up, small cold feet on the side of my face, and it was rats as it turned out to be, feeding on the dead skin on the side of my face, this ultimately led me to have a tubercular gland there on that side of my face, it was the type, apparently that the doctor said attacks cattle I mention that because I did have a bit of trouble there but apart from that I just kept the wound clean and I was fit enough at that age when I could heal up, so we had times when we were locked up in barns for a whole day and night to try and put these photographic aircraft off.

    I think our injuries and losses were insignificant compared with some columns, I’ve heard of one that at the time was marching through Regensburg when the Americans bombed it and we lost the lot so ours doesn’t seem to count as any (big thing)

    [LEFTY]
    The next morning all the rest of the camp set out on a march (about 10,000 of them) to Moosburg, another prison camp, 120 Kilos south of Nuremberg
    We had just started moving when three American Thunderbolts flew over with two five hundred pound bombs apiece. We saw it start to dive just about where the boys on the march were. Later we found out three were killed and several injured. On the second day we arrived at a place called Ingolstadt after many delays caused by bombed out railway tracks. We had just left there when the air raid sirens went. We stopped as the Yanks were bombing everything that moved. A few minutes later the Fortresses started unloading their stuff over Ingolstadt. There were Mustangs flying low cover for them. As the Forts turned away for the target we saw three Mustangs start for the deck. Everyone was thinking “some b------s going to catch it”, and then they headed straight for us. Somebody hollered , “hit the deck” but by this time I was doing a ground hog act. The Mustangs opened up on the engine and were about to do the whole train when they must have noticed the P.O.W.’s painted on the side of the train as they peeled off and kept going. One South African had an arm blown off and a German guard got hit. We were lucky.
    [ALF]
    Before long, we commenced a long walk towards the south and I remember the first night of our move we marched throughout the night in the pouring rain and as dawn broke during one of our short periods of rest, I positioned myself on a low post and promptly fell asleep, despite this uncomfortable position, only to be rudely awakened very shortly by orders to move. Throughout that day we continued to march south, and about mid-day, greeted the arrival
    overhead of a number of U.S.A.F. Thunderbolt fighter bombers, with loud cheers. I saw these planes commence to dive, and thought that they were acknowledging our presence there, but to my horror, as they got lower, their .5’s started to spout fire and bombs came from beneath them. I thought I could run fast, but I found that our escort could run faster! I threw myself into a very convenient ditch until the attack was over. We were then re-assembled. Unfortunately, some of my fellow P.O.W’s would not be marching any further, as they lay dead in the road, and quite a few more had been injured by the gunfire and bombs.
    The journey south continued for the next few days and nights. I remember one of the nights was spent in a forest beneath the pine trees. I would not like to think that the howling of dogs we heard may have been wolves - most probably the noise was caused by farmer’s dogs guarding their owner’s property from the foraging P.O.W’s!
    One day of the march I particularly remember was when we were passing through the countryside and, foolishly, a chicken tried to pass through the column of P.O.W’s. It never reached the other side alive, and for the next few miles, white feathers were fluttering around the column.
    Obviously a message had been forwarded to the U.S.A.F. about their mistake of attacking our column, because for the remainder of our march we were provided each day with an escort of Thunderbolt and Mustang aircraft, thus illustrating the superiority of the allied airforces at this stage of the war.

    Chapter 8 Life in the POW camp at Moosburg.

    [LEFTY]
    The next afternoon [5th April] we arrived at Stalag VII-A Mossburg and were happy to get behind wires again where it was safe. For a few days we were in the north compound but then went on a delousing parade and shower (the first since being at Kriegie) and into the main compound. The huts here were worse than Nuremberg. They were crawling with fleas, lice, bed bugs, and cockroaches, so the delousing didn’t help much. Here we were issued with one Red Cross parcel each week and had to cook our own food. There were no stoves so we made them out of tins. They looked like the one shown here. [13] and we spent most of the day cutting little bits of wood to burn. Six of us got together on our Red Cross parcels and ate together. We cooked our meals on two of these “Klim Can Burners”. We managed to purchase a “Klein” which was an aluminum jug about two feet high and eight inches around to cook our “glop” in. Glop consisted of prunes, raisons, dry bread, macaroni, crumbled biscuits, margarine, and sugar out of the Red Cross parcels, dumped into a gallon of water. We boiled hell out of this until it got thick. It took about two hours on the burners. This was one of our two meals for the day. The other consisted of a few potatoes and spam. We also had two or three brews a day and three slices of bread and spread. We didn’t eat too badly here.
    Then I went into the hospital with an attack of appendicitis. If you were too sick to get up and make your meals you just had it. While I was in the hospital I bought a pair of sandals made by the Russians for three packages of French cigarettes and a pack of American. You could buy just about anything here for cigarettes. A Kilo loaf of rye bread was thirty cigarettes or one chocolate bar, fresh eggs -- five cigarettes apiece etc.
    After I got out of the hospital we were moved to a large compound. The British and Canadians in separate barracks from the Americans which was a good thing ,as the Yanks were always quarreling over food and everything else. The boys on the march from Nuremberg arrived two weeks after we did. They came into the camp pushing old fashioned baby buggies, carts and what have you to carry their food and clothing. They had scrounged everything they could get their hands on.
    [ALF]
    Our march was ended when we arrived at the P.O.W. camp at Moosburg (Stalag 7) and once again we settled down into the routine of a P.O.W. camp, which consisted largely of bartering for food, baiting the goons and sleeping. Whilst in this camp I had my first experience of a low -flying
    jet aircraft, because some days, a Messcherschmitt 262 flew backwards and forwards over the camp and the pilot seemed to take great delight in frightening the inmates. The sound of his aircraft was very much like the arrival of a heavy bomb and invariably caused most of the kriegies to dive for the nearest cover.
    I had been in Moosberg only about a fortnight when the sounds of war became nearer and nearer, and the inevitable rumours went round the camp as to what was going to happen to us. I certainly did not relish the thought of yet another march away from the war zone. One day, word was passed around that in fact we would not be moved, but would await the arrival of the allied forces, and at the end of April 1945.
    [TED/T]
    We were in Moosburg for quite a while, we came to the second Prisoner of War camp at Moosburg , it probably might be three weeks away or something like that and anyway apart from scares of seeing and hearing aircraft where we scattered there was no other attack on us although it was really frightening, as soon as you heard an aircraft you all scattered, you went round the backs of houses, we pushed on.
    I’m trying to think ,at one stage there was an attempt by, an escape committee was set up, a group of people would go one night rather than a lot of people go which would make it awkward now my rear gunner was with a group that did escape one night and they were away a day or something like that and then the rear gunner came back in with a story that the SS had found them, had shot half of them and put the other half back in. Eventually got to this place called Moosburg and who’s ever in charge announced there’s a Stalaag there and an Offlag. The Stalaag is for non-commissioned and the Offlag is for officers, that they needed a couple of Sergeants to look after things for the Senior British Officer, make his bed and that sort of thing, and well we thought that if we volunteered for that we’d be in the same compound as Chuck and Lefty so which we did so we were in the same block, same hut as Lefty and Chuck and later, I can’t remember how many days it would be, an American armoured column once again way ahead of its support came to our rescue as it were and came in to the compound then of course they disappeared again and it got a bit exciting because the German guards had gone by this time and there was Germans in the village nearby and there was a church tower from which they could see the compound and there was sniping by the compound . I’ve no knowledge of them actually hitting anybody but a bit later the officer, the American artillery men arrived and they were firing shells for a couple of days, it was like express train after express train passing over us, we didn’t know at the time but apparently some information had got through that the SS guards were trying to get back in to wipe us out
    So this was quite a lot of activity, artillery shells going over, and also American, I don’t know if there were any British, but they were mainly Thunderbolts, they were dive bombing and strafing all around us, mainly to one side, to try and shield us , it was quite heavy, it wasn’t just the odd one or two, they were diving and they were coming over and following each other, G-d knows how many aircraft they had in the air to protect us
    Chapter 9 The Liberation by the Americans.

    [TED/T]
    Then eventually their Army came up and liberated us and jeeps then came through. The thing I always remember about that was this jeep drove in and everybody knew that these jeeps had got bars of emergency chocolate, quite dark, big bars and there were quite a crowd round this jeep with two officers in it and I took a run at him and I jumped, cleared all these people, landed in the jeep rooted around as fast as I could, found three bars of chocolate ,threw one to the crowd ,leaped out of the other side and was gone , it was all in a flash, very quickly, so Alf and I had two big bars of chocolate each.
    [LEFTY]
    On the 29th of April about nine a.m. two Mustangs came low over the camp, dipping their wings and putting on a show for us. Then one of the towers opened up on them so they got a little height and came down at the tower. Things happened fast. Three American tanks on a hill about a mile away started shelling the German guards’ quarters on the edge of the camp and a German machine gun on a church steeple started spraying the camp. Everyone headed for the slit trenches and the outhouse.
    I took the outhouse as the walls on it were at least a foot thick cement. This went on for two and a half hours and then an American tank rolled into the camp.
    We were liberated. English, French, Russian and American flags appeared from nowhere and the Stars and Stripes were run up over the camp.
    (Lloyd was back in Canada before his 21st birthday)
    [ALF]
    I was delighted to see American tanks, manned by G.I’s arriving beside the camp. Before long, the Americans were in the compound and we were enjoying the luxury of hot showers and plenty of food with which they provided us.

    Chapter 10 The survivors return home.

    [TED/T]
    It was left to the Yanks (to organise us) they flew us to airports near Regensburg, it was a Luftwaffe station, I shall always remember that, there was quit a lot of stuff left in a big building which was a dormitory or stores , you were a bit afraid as this stuff was all mixed up and there was so much booby trapped in those days , incidentally before we went there we went out for a walk to a local village and Alf and I were walking across a field and I could see a lovely new rifle, obviously a German one and I drew Alf’s attention to it and he made as if to go to it and I said ‘leave it alone’ cause it might have been booby trapped and we went on then, had a walk around this village and we found an old mill of some sort, that’s right it was a mill cause on the floor there was a heap of grain, once again I had a sort of sense that there was something buried underneath that, you were tempted to have a look, we came to a steep staircase down underground and it went straight down and I could see some sort of picture right at the bottom of it, it was a door with a Norman arch over it and a huge padlock on it, we went down to have a look at it. Eventually Alf knocked the padlock off it and we went in, it was a tool store and Alf, he being in carpentry, he took a couple of planes and whatnot and I took a plane, some drills, some pliers and as far as the pliers are concerned I’ve still got a pair of those to this day and probably some of the drills as well. You could have kitted a good workshop out of that , anyway to get back to the Americans who were liberating us and then we went on to this Forming waiting there to be flown out, they were moving all the Americans first, we were in tents, no we weren’t, sorry, that was later on, we were just laying out in the field, out in the airdrome, we did get an issue of American type combat rations and a lot of it was with tins of meat and veg and so we lived on these for a bit to the extent that when we got home that was the sort of standard issue at home on the rations and I couldn’t stand the sight of it, it made me sick just to smell it , anyway we had this, enough to keep us going.
    When we were going to be flown out , so we were told that we were going and there were a lot of displaced persons around, I think they were displaced and they new that we were being flown home and there was a lot of this foodstuff laying around and there’s one of them came up and wanted our loose tins and we weren’t sure so Alf stabbed them all, he let them have them but he stabbed all the tins, so the chap would have to eat them right away if he was hungry but he couldn’t sell them on. Then we got on that aircraft and was flown down to Nancy and then taken to the village market square in Nancy with big marquees there, all set up there, they laid out white cloths and cutlery and they fed us proud, all the local lasses were feeding us and then we went to a chateau and they had all the German prisoners of war sweeping the floors, washing up, but the time went on and we got a little bit browned off and I don’t know where we got the information from but there was a Red Cross train in a siding opposite on its way down to the coast so we decided to go and have a look, sure enough it was and so we decided to do a bunk, Alf and I got on this Red Cross train and I don’t know how many days we were on it but at one time it finished up in the sidings and a goods train came alongside and that’s the way they used to transport wine in France and the truck was actually a huge barrel on its side with a bung underneath, obviously, and this was all chained up and padlocked and there were some Indians on the train and they managed to get on or more of these undone so the whole train had buckets and buckets of red wine it was raw but everybody drank it then eventually we finished up at Le Havre, got on the American airfield at Le Havre, we were in tents there, probably for a day or so and then we got flown out of there to an airfield in Southern England which I can’t remember where it was , it might have been Lynne or somewhere like that and there we got off and immediately the Red Cross were there giving us toiletries and cigarettes and we had a medical there , an immediate medical, we were just lined up and passed doctors and so on, they were doing really sort of field surgery there. I had two small shell splinters in my leg and they’d gone septic and he got a scalpel and cut them and then just joined the two holes up, it didn’t hurt as much as I thought it was going to but I think there was an Army chap next to me in the line and you got something to lean on and hold on to and he just grabbed hold of my arm to try and comfort me as this chap was cutting my leg open , anyway you got that and it was dressed

    [ALF]
    It seemed like an eternity, but after two days, the American Forces provided us with transport to a nearby airfield and from there we were flown home via Nancy and Le Havre to the UK, where to my joy, I found that Bud had also survived. The only one of my crew killed was Jack, the Mid-Upper Gunner.
    At this stage of the war the communications were obviously chaotic and on my arrival back in the UK a message was sent to my Mother telling her of this. This was the first intimation she had that I was alive, it having been reported by other crews from my squadron that we had exploded over the target with no chance of survival of any of the crew.
    After a medical check-up and interrogation at RAF Cosford, I was sent on leave, and re-united with my family.

    My Royal Airforce number was 1852534. I joined on 8th March 1943 and was demobbed on 12th March 1947.

    FOOTNOTES:

    1. Bob Green emigrated to Canada after the war and joined the R.C.M.P.
    166 Sqdrn Assn. Sec, Jim Wright, says he died about five years ago (1990/1991)
    2. The rest of the crew appear not to have noticed this, although Lefty reports trouble
    later on in the flight.
    3. This was the half-hourly wind forecasts based on information radioed back to
    England by selected Pathfinder Aircraft. (Martin Middlebrook)
    4. This timing is of particular significance when compared with the Luftwaffe’s claims
    report of that evening. In Document 23 a Feltwebel Shuster reports shooting down a
    Lancaster at 2131 over N Nuremberg.
    5. The ‘Wanganui’ technique, or sky marking, employed coloured
    flares which hung in the sky for some time (Gp.Capt.T.G.Manhaddie)
    6 This would indicate that someone had previously baled out from this exit point
    7. Lefty, having been trained as a Navigator could be relied on as being accurate in his
    estimate of where he landed. See map on Album page 24.
    8. See sketch on Page 35, drawn in 1996 by Ted, from memory.
    9. First mention of Schwabach where the War Graves Commission report as being
    the Cemetery where Jack was first buried.
    10. This is the first mention by Lefty of being held in a cell.
    11. Alf mentions hearing Lefty in the next cell to him whilst he was still in Nurember g
    Jail. The episode of boarding a bus is confirmed by both Alf, Lefty & Ted.
    12. It is interesting to note the discrepancy in the estimated time taken for this trip
    between Alf & Lefty’s accounts.
    13. See Lefty’s sketch in the original article, Page 34
     
  4. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron

    Since I first wrote the above both Ted Hull and Alf White have passed away and it is largely because of that fact that I decided to put the document shown above into the public domain.

    Ron
     
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  5. Mike L

    Mike L Very Senior Member

    Brilliant account Ron, very well done mate and thanks for posting it.
     
  6. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Have now read it all Ron & made thread sticky .
    Very interesting read indeed.
     
  7. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    Ron,a first class account of one air operation of Bomber Command.

    First hand reports of raids remain in history and with the participants and their experiences are a permanent reminder of the air war over Europe and for some the risk of the loss of life in the aftermath.

    Know Kirmington quite well and saw it in a not a too bad condition until it was bought by Hull Corporation and the NE Lincolnshire Council and Humberside Airport was created.Apparently,during the war,the Scunthorpe/Grimsby A180 road was always closed when the main runway was in use although the road might have ben diverted through Kirmington village itself.

    Regenburg is a very nice city on the Danube and worth visiting.When I first visited the place I thought of the slave labourers who were employed at the ME works and as such,the location attracted the attention of a number of daytime raids by the 8th USAAF...it must have been a long haul in daylight.

    As the war progressed,better aircraft,enhanced training and professionalism of Bomber Command made the command vastly effective compared to the results up to 1941/42.

    Many years ago when the RAF News was free in the service,there were many articles such as the one compiled by Ron,all based on first hand experiences of survivors.Precious material for researchers.
     
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  8. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron

    Gents

    Your comments are much appreciated and make the posting worthwhile.

    The snap below was taken when I made my only visit to Hull & Kirmington and shows me with Alf White (left) and Ted Hull (right) discussing the route that was taken to Nuremberg.
     

    Attached Files:

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  9. Peter Clare

    Peter Clare Very Senior Member

    Excellent account Ron. I know from past experience the time and effort that goes into this type of research.

    Thank you

    Regards
    Peter
     
  10. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron

    Many thanks Peter

    I bow to the master in matters relating to the RAF and would remind my readers that it was the crew themselves that supplied all the data.

    For the benefit of those who are new to this story, Jack's son Michael wrote about his father here: BBC - WW2 People's War - The night my father was killed in action

    Ron
     
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  11. Oldman

    Oldman Very Senior Member

    Ron
    Thank you for the post, great account
     
  12. Recce_Mitch

    Recce_Mitch Very Senior Member

    Ron
    Thank you for the post

    Cheers
    Paul
     
  13. canuck

    canuck Token Colonial

    Thanks from this side of the pond as well Ron. Great story.
     
  14. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron

    Friends

    Again, many thanks for your approval of the posting, the decision to post it into the public domain was not the easiest of ones but I now realise was the correct one.

    The terrible thought is that the night skies over Germany during that period were full of stories such as the one I have just disclosed and that grieving households all over Britain and her allied countries were the ones to pay the heavy price.

    Lest we forget !

    Ron
     
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  15. sebfrench76

    sebfrench76 Senior Member

    You made my day,Ron,Thank you very much.Some sentences really hard to understand for a frog but a very amazing account.To be connected with the execution of many flying officers in Germany,since the attitude of the german civilians was indeed hatefull.
     
  16. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron

    Completely out of the blue came this article in the German newspaper Nordbayen, dated 16th March 2013. „In den Krater hätte man ein Haus hineinstellen können“ - Schwabach - nordbayern.de


    Headed by the photo shown below (copyright Gerner and shown also with a very poor Google translation) it seeks further information about the crash, in Kammerstein, of my brother's Lancaster on the 16th March 1945..

    As a direct result of the publication of this article, Jack's son has now been contacted and, all being well, he hopes to pay a visit to the crash site later this year.

    I thought I had closed the file on my brother's death in action.

    It now looks as if there is plenty more information to come.

    Ron

    ps
    If any German speaking forum members would care to read the original article and perhaps supply a better translation than the terrible GOOGLE "automatic" one, it would be much appreciated.
     

    Attached Files:

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  17. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron

    Since posting the article above, Jack's granddaughter has kindly provided a professional translation of the newspaper article as follows:

    “You could have fitted a house in the crater”

    68 years ago today a British bomber crashed in a field near Kammerstein, remembers contemporary witness Georg Rahnhöfer, 83 - 16.03.2013, 07:19am

    KAMMERSTEIN/HAAG -- This Saturday sees the 68th anniversary of the shooting down of an English Lancaster Bomber over Kammerstein. The plane struck a field beside today’s Bundesstraße 466 [466 ‘Federal Street’] in the last few weeks of the war and exploded in a powerful ball of fire. But what happened to the crew?

    Where were the debris/fragments taken to? Many questions remain unanswered today.

    68 years later Volker Bauer has assembled three contemporary witnesses at the place of the crash. From left, Leonhard Heubeck, Georg Rahnhöfer and Heinrich Volkert. On the table some pieces of wreckage -- the only things that ‘remember/evoke’ [ie remain of/testify to the existence of] the British Bomber [ie the aircraft, ‘Lancaster Bomber’].

    Presumably also because there are no written documents. Everything literally went up in smoke in the last days of the war. But at least there are still people like Georg Rahnhöfer. The 83-year-old from Haag was 15 years old on 16th March 1945. When the sirens sounded shortly after midnight, he jumped out of his bed and climbed with a number of other Haag locals into a provisionally dug bunker. He didn’t need to get dressed. ‘At that time we always went to bed with our clothes on, because there was a bomb alarm almost every night’, he remembers. Rahnhöfer’s father switched on the radio, and there was news of large allied bomber formations which were moving from a northeast direction to a middle Franconia direction.

    Two Bombers shot down

    Soon dozens, maybe more than a hundred, airplanes emerged. In Schattenhof there was a anti-aircraft position, but there was no shooting from there. Rather, the Army sent its own aircraft in the air to engage the bombers in aerial combat. Two British bombers were shot in Schwabach, believes Georg Rahnhöfer. One hit in Schwabach, near Penzendorferstraße [Penzendorfer Street], the other not far from Kammerstein, near the so-called Katzenweiher (catpond), on the other side of today's Bundesstraße 466.
    Because the "Kammerstein Lancaster" still had its bomb cargo on board, the plane
    exploded on impact with elemental force. "We felt the shock wave two kilometers from Haag," says George Rahnhöfer.
    In Kammerstein, which was closer, power lines were knocked down and roofs partly taken off, explains Kammerstein local Heinrich Volkert, then seven years old. At the crash site gaped a huge crater. "So big and so wide, you could have put a house in there," says eyewitness Rahnhöfer.

    Crew member trapped

    But what happened to the usually seven-strong crew? At least one British soldier jumped in time with the parachute off the plane and landed unhurt in a meadow near Haag. Georg Rahnhöfer's father, one of the few people from Haag who did not have to go to war because of his important position in the Swabian company ‘Schmauser’, chased the man with a weapon. "Hands up, Hands up," called his father again and again in broken English, tells Rahnhöfer. After a short time the Englishman surrendered and called "Help, help".
    "The adults considered for a long time what they should do with him," recalls the now 83-year-old Rahnnhöfer. At first the NSDAP [Nazi] people wanted to take him with them out of Schwabach. Then, however, the Wehrmacht [army] intervened and took him away.
    Presumably to a POW camp. But now, in Schwabach at least, the scent was lost track of. Until his removal, recalls George Rahnhöfer, tea was made for the man. "The atmosphere was not at all hostile."
    After dawn, Rahnhöfer himself saw another crew member near the plane crash site - dead, his face disfigured by the explosion. In Heidenberg, in the days following, one or two parachutes were found. Did other crew members survive and then struggle [ie succeed] to get behind the fast approaching front? That is unclear.

    Hardly Any Documents

    In Kammerstein the plane crash as such has not even been documented in writing. "We
    have very, very few documents from this time," complains Leonhard Heubeck, who was in charge of the Kammerstein community archive for many years. Heubeck, born in 1935, like Rahn Höfer from Haag, experienced the bomber crash at the age of ten. On the day after the crash he tried to get to the crash site, but in vain. "We were just curious," said Heubeck. "And we had little else to do, because since the beginning of 1945 there had been no more school teaching." He could see the crash site only from a distance. "The SS men chased us away."

    What's left of the British Lancaster, is stored, as it were, in a bucket in the basement of Volker Bauer. An old dynamo/generator, parts of the plexiglass cover, behind which the gunner sat, twisted iron parts, the glass of a pilot’s glasses. Every time the field is freshly ploughed, Bauer embarks on a search for new debris remains.

    Something spectacular rarely falls into his lap. "Of course, after the war, the huge hole was levelled with rubble and anything else available" suspects the local council.

    Looking for Photos

    Bauer has never given up hope that there might be this or that historical photo from those days in some Kammerstein attic or other, that can shed a little more light on the matter. Until that happens, he tries to interview the last surviving witnesses.

    Contemporaries such as George Rahnhöfer.

    The then 15-year-old himself avoided having to go to war by a whisker. In early April 1945, he had to enlist at the barracks ‘to’ [not sure of preposition meaning, probably ‘in’] Schwabach, along with many other children and young people. The last contingent of the supposedly 1000-year Reich.
    After a few days of training in Schwabach, Rahnhöfer and his companions were taken via Roth, Thalmässing, Titting and Eichstätt to Neuburg on the Danube. From there, he bolted/scarpered in the early morning of 19th April 1945. Desertion. On foot and as a motorcycle passenger, he fought [figuratively not literally] his way home, where on 20th April he could be folded in his mother's arms. A day earlier, the Americans had occupied Schwabach (and Kammerstein).

    For Rahnhöfer and for the region, the war was over.

    Should there still be documents somewhere relating to the last weeks of the war in
    Kammerstein, the CSU district council and the CSU chairman, Volker Bauer, would be a grateful purchaser. Phone number: (09122) 854000.
    ROBERT GERNER
    Translated by Lesley Rankin
     

    Attached Files:

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  18. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron

    There have been further developments by the German research team at Kammerstein and I have just received the attached map of the crash area supplied by Volker Bauer.
    [sharedmedia=gallery:images:320]
     

    Attached Files:

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  19. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron

    My nephew Mike, more formally known as Dr. Michael Goldstein CBE, previously Vice-Chancellor of Coventry University, has just returned from a visit to Kammerstein, the German village where his father's Lancaster crashed on 16/3/45.

    Although Mike has made several visits to his dad's grave at Durnbach, this is the first time that he has visited the actual crash site and this has been made possible only because of recent interest in Kammerstein, as reported in the local German press, regarding the eventual whereabouts of the plane's crew, and a letter Mike had received from a local history researcher referred to in the following report as M.


    Mike has also taken many photos and some of these will be eventually added to the Album that has been set up for this purpose

    His edited report, each day written in the evening following, is as follows.



    Day 1 Tuesday 28/5/13
    Coming into Nuremberg Airport, looking out from my window seat, I thought of the irony, the poignancy, the contrast between me in a modern jet aircraft with all mod cons and in total safety and broad sunny daylight, and the experience of my father's last flight, in no more than a rattling and cold flying suitcase, with flak all around, in total darkness and the worst of dangers. My view of Nuremberg was of a modern and confident city.....

    After arriving at Nuremberg at 13:45 I picked up a car and drove to the hotel nearest to Schwabach, in the village of Haag, from where I was later collected by the German family with whom I had been corresponding.

    M, the mother of the family and a local history researcher, had originally written to me concerning her search for information regarding the plane's crew. Her grandmother, now aged 85, had actually witnessed the Lancaster crash in March 1945. M’s family consists of her husband and four youngsters aged from one to eighteen.

    We drove to a huge wheatfield, and with the help of GPS location and walking out into the field, came to the actual site. I have some photographs, which I will send in due course, but there is naturally enough nothing significant to see! I am told that when the wheat has been harvested and the field ploughed, it is possible to see a depression in the field where the 'plane came to rest and exploded. The crater had been described by one eyewitness as big enough to contain a house, and had been crudely filled in after the war. M and her husband described the flightpath to me, the ‘plane coming from the direction of Nuremberg. It is a blessing that there was nothing around but open countryside - a good way from the nearest building. I spent the evening as a guest of M’s family.

    Kammerstein is a small, sleepy and very old village. It is a delightfully peaceful and relaxed place. Life is pretty basic and simple here.

    The weather today has been perfect, but the forecast for tomorrow is heavy rain all day. I will probably go to Schwabach to visit the cemetery where my father was first buried immediately after the crash. I am due to meet four eyewitnesses of the crash, on-site, on Thursday, when the weather might be a bit better. That will be the most important part of the trip for me.

    Day 2 Wednesday 29/5/13
    I have had a lovely day. I stayed in the hotel this morning, catching up on emails and preparing for my meeting with eyewitnesses tomorrow. I was collected at 1pm and taken to the New Cemetery Schwabach. This is as lovely as a cemetery can be, and certainly the most beautiful an peaceful I have seen, set in woodland and carefully laid out (pardon the use of that term) as well as being tidily kept. The area where my father was originally buried (along with the crew of another Lancaster - and others over the next few weeks before the war finally ended) was pointed out to me. It is now simply part of the cemetery and one would not know of its earlier use unless told.
    We then walked around the old district of Schwabach, a delightful area (even in the rain). We saw the Old Synagogue (now used for education and culture – a concert is scheduled in a few days time), the Talmud School (up for sale) and the Rabbi's house, as well as the usual important buildings (church, Rathaus etc).

    I went back with M and her family and spent the rest of the day with them. They really have taken me into their lives and been extraordinarily generous with their time and hospitality.

    We chatted for a long time about all kinds of things - economies, energy policy, bringing up children in today's world, prisons (I have to talk about them since I started my volunteering in one), Lady Godiva, the story of Coventry Cathedral, and of course loads on football!

    Tomorrow I am going to watch M’s daughter, aged 11, play in her local football team (she is as keen on the game as the men in the whole family, and M’s father coaches local kids too). In the afternoon we meet at the crash site with three or four eyewitnesses. I have marshalled my questions, with M’s father acting as interpreter and M as scribe. I will go back to the house afterwards and doubtless eat there again. I will take my tablet and share with them all I have on my father stored on it and some of the many photographs I have - but will not bore them, I have promised. I spent some time in the evening looking at M’s local history collection (which includes boxes of postcards about the area).

    They are truly a lovely family with the best set of values imaginable and I feel so humble at the way they have opened up their lives and allowed me to share them.

    Day 3 Thursday 30/5/13
    Another full day, and the last before I make my way home tomorrow (Friday) morning. As arranged, in the morning I watched M’s daughter's team play in a local football tournament. I was glad to see them win 2-0 and even happier they insisted I pose for a snap with the winning team.

    The key part of the day was, of course, meeting with the eyewitnesses. This was somewhat chaotic. First of all, only one of the witnesses could recall seeing my father or could add very much to what we know already. This witness was 15 at the time (so now aged 83).

    He had much to say, a lot about his experiences at the time and also about one of the crew whom he said he saw baling out. In a nutshell (and missing out the times he gave, which are certainly wrong), he said he heard the aircraft coming down and went out of the bunker (air raid shelter) he was in to see it coming from the direction of Nuremberg; it was on fire and unstable. [The incendiaries on board had all exploded in flight when the ‘plane was hit by a Luftwaffe fighter]. He did not see it actually crash as he was then a few km away in Haag. But he began to walk to where the 'plane was headed, sheltering from danger on the way. He heard a loud explosion as the 'plane crashed [it still had a 4000lb bomb on board]. The explosion was said to have been heard 6km away.

    On the way, he came across bits of wreckage which he said he saw falling from the 'plane as it was coming down. He particularly referred to seeing wreckage in Schattenhof. When he got to the crash site, the aircraft was still on fire but the flames were dying down. He said he saw my father about 10m from the crater, lying on his back. There was a lot of blood on his face but not elsewhere on his body. He said the face was disfigured and he could not discern a nose. He was clearly dead.

    He described how later that morning, two young women (members of some kind of Home Guard, as I interpreted) came with two ponies pulling a cart and put my father's body in a wooden box – he believed it already contained other bodies they had collected. He understood they took the bodies to the nearest town, Schwabach.

    There are couple of things to say about the testimony of this eyewitness. Firstly to restate he was just 15 years old at the time of the crash, and that this was 68 years ago. As clearly and confidently as he spoke, the times he gave are not consistent with other information. He thought the crash occurred at about 1am and that he arrived at the site between 6:30 and 7:00am. The 1am guess is miles out - as shown from the time reported by the German Luftwaffe [and, I later checked, from the testimony of surviving crew as assembled by Ron]. Secondly, it is not clear why it would have taken him until 6:30 or 7:00am to get there from just a couple of km away in Haag.

    Others present thought the crash was earlier (correctly). One must remember these were all young children at the time, probably without watches, and as scared as we in London were when the bombs came down. But apart from timings I have no reason to doubt the essence of this man’s testimony. There was some discussion by others present at the site about how the body managed to get out of the crashed 'plane. From what I then knew, I had no doubt that it was thrown there from the explosion - any suggestion that my father was alive when the 'plane crashed and managed to get out after the crash and explosion of the 4000lb bomb is, in my view fantasy. [However, I was later to learn of testimony from another eyewitness, not present at the crash site, which changed my understanding substantially – I shall come to this later]. Other witnesses present could add little, but I did not doubt the account of the first, main witness,

    The chaos of the afternoon meeting was due to a lot of cross-talk and interjections by some of those present. In addition, one of the witnesses appeared to be claiming credit for 'finding' me and uncovering a lot of the story. There was also a member of the press from Schwabach there, complete with video camera, despite my express wishes for this to be low key and personal. We dealt with that, but nonetheless it added to the general chaotic situation.

    Anyway, that aside, I believe we have that further piece of the jigsaw puzzle. M is going to get a better fix on the time the two women came with the cart, and another check on times from a witness who was not there today. Even after about 1½ hours with witnesses, on reflection I still have a couple of questions. Regardless of the actual times, it must have been several hours between the crash and the two women coming to collect the body. Was it just left there as everyone went about their business? How could the other eyewitnesses not have seen it? M will try to clarify - one living witness was not present yesterday, and she will try to him.

    One of the people present (not an eyewitness) had brought with him a box of small pieces of (assumed) wreckage which have come to the surface when the field has been ploughed. They were mangled bits of metal, Perspex (?) fragments a few cm across, an electric motor and some more personal items - a spoon and a lens from spectacles come to mind. He asked if I wanted any of it. I declined, saying it was like picking over the dead.

    My hosts later took me for a walk in the woods adjacent to Kammerstein, since I had earlier remarked how I like walking in Sutton Park or in the countryside. They were so thoughtful.


    Day 4 Friday 31/5/13
    Goodbyes were said and thank-you's made to my incredibly considerate hosts, and then I was off in the rain for the drive back to Nuremberg Airport.

    Sequel
    By the time I had reached home, and continuing into the next day, Saturday 1/6/13, M was providing me with more suggestions and information. But the really significant part of the story was when she emailed me about her own grandfather, now aged 81, poor in health but sound in mind. He was taken care of by various family members when his mother died a few days after he was born, but at the time of the crash he was living on the north-westerly outskirts of Kammerstein nearest to the crash site. He was only 12 years old at the time of the crash, but his memory was exact. He said (with adjustment of the literal translation):
    It was late evening when we heard the crash – it was about 22 o’clock,
    still not quite late. I ran with some other Kammerstein people to the crash site.
    A man was still sitting in the opening (of the ‘plane) He was not moving.
    Some Kammerstein people gathered to get him out of the hatch to see if he was still alive.
    They carried him a short distance away from the crash spot, and confirmed that he was dead.
    We all went back to the air-raid shelter for protection against further attacks.
    I do not remember who took the man from the plane, but whoever it was, they are all now dead.

    This clearly provides the final missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle. It explains how my first eyewitness, who walked all the way from the next village of Haag, found my father’s body away from the wreckage, and why there was no-one else then there, so he thought he was first on the scene. On further enquiries of M’s grandfather, he said he thought the canopy of the aircraft’s mid-upper gun turret had been blown off by the force of the landing and explosion.

    In summary, then, my father was trapped in the Lancaster when the decision was made to bail out – all others parachuted safely to ground, but were captured over the next two days, returning safely home in due course. My father was probably dead before the ‘plane hit the ground, but in any case he was evidently dead after the explosion. He was taken out of the aircraft by the first group of villagers to arrive on the scene, and left on the ground about 10m from the wreckage. Later, another local person (my first eyewitness) arrived on the scene and saw him on the ground. In due course, his body was removed to Schwabach New Cemetery, where he was buried with six other airmen from another Lancaster which had crashed nearby. He was transferred to the CWGC cemetery in Durnbach a few years later.


    Mike Goldstein

    [sharedmedia=gallery:albums:439]
     
  20. Pylon1357

    Pylon1357 Junior Member

    Ron, I only just now caught up with this story. I am quite full of emotion at the moment, therefore I cannot fully reply in the manner is wish to. Thank you for sharing this story of your brothers final flight. May he and all who went before and after him, be forever remembered.

    FIOR GO BAS
    Cliff
     
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