Link to Bomber Command site, including Statistics.

Another excellent link to Bomber Command sites.

Please switch on your speakers.(Recording courtesy of BBC Archives).

Early in 1942 I was posted onto operations. I first had to undergo a short course on Oxfords. On completion, I was posted to a Wellington Operational Training unit at RAF Wellesbourne - Mountford, where my Wing Comander Flying was the late Air Commodore Hughie Edwards V.C. and my instuctor was Squadron Leader Peter Cairnes D.F.C At the end of this course Squadron Leader Cairnes informed me that I was to carry out an operation as captain with my own crew, consisting of the grand lot of S.N.C.O.s that I had been training with (3 Canadians: Nav. Sgt. John Patterson; W.O.P. Sgt. Frank Linklater; Bomb Aimer Sgt. D. Hall - 1 Rhodesian: Rear Gunner Sgt. Ken Wilman - and 2 Brits: Engineer Sgt. Frank Gissing and Mid Upper Gunner Sgt. Collins). [My son, Peter, who was now over a year old, also accompanied me on every flight in a photo that I carried inside my flight jacket]. This operation was to be carried out from a different aerodrome - RAF Pershaw, near Stratford-on-Avon. My Wellington was moved to RAF Pershaw and we were briefed for the operation; the very first One-Thousand Bomber raid. It was on the German city of Cologne and was to give the enemy a taste of the suffering imposed on our own cities - London, Coventry, Liverpool, Southampton, Bristol, Plymouth, etc. It was carried out satisfactorily and we returned safely, although we did nearly collide with another aircraft over the target as we were running in to release our bomb load.

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The weather that night was fine and clear. The moon was full, and over Germany the River Rhine showed up like an illuminated winding ribbon.

Cologn Raid by W. Krogman (Propaganda painting from the National Archives)

I will always remember experiencing the spectacular view of aircraft exploding and the crowded sky of aeroplanes, shell bursts, and searchlights around Cologne as the great fires burned below. That is a night I shall never forget and it brings tears to my eyes even now when I talk to other people about it. This was the start of a new phase in the air war and all units involved received many plaudits for this raid.Caught in the searchlights

A couple of nights later my crew and I were detailed to carry out the second of the so-called Thousand-Bomber Raids, this time on Essen. This operation was full of surprises. After we had taken off, the starboard throttle became disconnected at the maximum position - something must have come adrift between the throttle lever and the fuel adjustment on the engine. However, as everything else was working satisfactorily and the starboard engine still maintained power with no apparent rise in temperature, I decided not to inform Flying Control or my crew of the situation and carry on as if nothing had happened. (I also knew from previous experience that the Hercules engines were pretty robust). We reached the target with small breaks in the cloud and managed to pinpoint the drop zone. As we were running in the flak was very heavy and we were coned by searchlights but managed to jink out of them after "Bombs Gone". We then made tracks for base when I realised that, because of the throttle problem, I would still have to take action to land safely and then avoid being in the way of other landing aircraft after we had slowed down. I decided that we would have to turn off the runway to port and end up on the grass as it would be impossible to taxi on the one engine that I was able to control. So, on the approach to land, I informed Control that I was coming in on one engine, then switched off the starboard engine. After landing safely and slowing down, I veered the aircraft to the left onto grass and then switched off the port engine when we were safely off the runway. I told my crew what had happened and on my debriefing informed the interrogation officer - but he didn't appear to be concerned. My crew and I then had a few days leave before reporting for duty with our Squadron (158) at Driffield. However, on arrival at Driffield I found out that the Squadron had moved to Eastmoor, near York, so my crew and I relocated there and commenced conversion on to Halifax II aircraft (a heavy bomber powered by four Rolls Royce engines).

["The Ruhr Valley Express" painting of a Halifax II bomber by Tony Woollett]

Click HERE for a look inside.

On completion of the conversion course we were detailed to carry out a square search over the North Sea for one of our aircraft that had failed to return from an operation over Germany the previous day. We did this without seeing anything unusual and returned to base for debriefing. After two days leave we reported to operations with our own Halifax II aircraft (W1211). My first operation was as 2nd pilot to an experienced crew. The target was a factory East of Hamburg. This operation was carried out with little difficulty, except for an enemy night fighter attack on the way in to Germany which we avoided close contact by spiraling down a couple of thousand feet. We also encountered considerable flack, without being hit, during our run in to the target.

Click HERE to read supporting information from Mike Skeet, obtained from the Public Records Office at Kew

Click HERE to read details of relevant 158 Squadron Operations obtained by copying stored documentary extracts from the Public Records Office at Kew and sent to me by Mike Skeet.
Read an extract from a book about Eastmoor from a local perspective.
View some pictures taken during the 2008 reunion of the surviving members of 158 Squadron.

Our next operation took place a few nights later. Our target was Duisberg in the Ruhr. We were airborne at 10:15pm and crossed the enemy coast into Holland at 18,000 feet. As we approached the target area I heard, without any warning, the sound of guns firing over the intercom. I called out "Who is firing their guns!?" but received no answer. I called again, and my mid-upper gunner replied "I thought I saw something, Skipper!" My reply was "For God's sake, only fire when you are sure the enemy aircraft is in your sights and at a suitable range!" A few minutes later the bomb-aimer called out "Enemy aircraft approaching from the starboard quarter, Skipper!" and I called out "Turning starboard and diving!" Almost immediately my aircraft shuddered as the enemy aircraft nearly collided with us. Its cannon shells struck both starboard engines as well as the mid-upper gunner's position. The starboard outer engine was on fire, so I took action to feather it and successfully applied the fire extinguisher. I followed suit with the inner engine and then called out to the mid-upper gunner with no response. I ordered the rear gunner to come forward and help the mid-upper if he could. My navigator also went back to help after giving me a course to steer, but called me back saying that the mid-upper was "In a Hell of a mess" and most likely dead. By now I had managed to control the aircraft, ordered all crew to return to their posts, and had jettisoned the bomb load over enemy territory. However, I was unable to close the bomb doors and we were losing height - now down to 6,000 feet. As I guessed that we were just about coming over Holland, I ordered the crew to prepare to bail out, but not to go until I gave the order. I then realised that my vest-type parachute was still in its storage compartment way down below and out of my reach! My navigator was coming forward and I managed to get my hand on his shoulder and point to the parachute. He immediately realised what was happening and, grabbing the parachute, handed it to me. I then struggled to get it clipped into my harness and climbed forward. As I did, I saw my wireless operator still tapping away on his radio and shouted for him to get out. However, he said "After you, Skipper!" As I realised that there was no room for him to pass me and even less time left to stand there and argue with him, I decided to continue forward and let him follow on behind. After reaching the escape hatch in the floor of the aircraft, I sat on the edge and pushed myself forward. Hanging upside down outside the fuselage, I suddenly realised that I was caught on something and going down with the aircraft! Frantically shaking myself, I was suddenly free and immediately pulled the ripcord. The next thing I remember was crashing through some trees until coming to an abrupt stop about six foot from the ground, hanging upside down with my 'chute in the branches above. I heard shouting and the sound of barking dogs, but managed to climb down unobserved, not far away from where my crashed aircraft was burning.

After a short period of time, I decided that I had better find a safer place away from the crowds of people surrounding my burning aircraft, and made my way out of the wooded area into the centre of a field where I had seen a small copse. I made my way there, lay down and passed out! It was daylight when I finally came to and I took a look at the emergency rations that were in my escape equipment and had a taste of the chocolate that was there. After staying in the copse for most of the day, I decided that it was time to start looking around and see if there was anyone that could help me. I saw a bungalow in the distance with some people sitting outside but thought they looked a bit too prosperous and comfortable to be inclined to offer me assistance. So I looked around some more and, noticing a farm some distance away, decided to make for that instead. having got into the farm, I found a cow shed quite close to the farmhouse and was trying to get in when I suddenly felt a hand on my shoulder, and heard a voice saying, "Polizei!" "Polizei! Kom mit!" I said, "English, English! Water please, water!" and he called out to his wife who was now at the back door of the farm. She brought me a jug of water which I rapidly drank dry. The man then said once more "Kom mit"! so I thought that the best thing I could do was to follow him. He took me down a lane towards the bungalow that I had seen earlier on. About halfway down the lane a man came towards us from the bungalow and, in perfect English, said to me, "Hello, old boy. Are you all right? Can I help you?" I remarked that he spoke very good English, but he told me not to say anything now as he couldn't say too much in front of the man who was accompanying me, as he was a policeman. We continued to the bungalow, where his wife was sitting with a child, and she brought me a glass of milk. This man's name was Schwerz and he said that he would try to contact my family if I gave him my home address, which I did. He then said that I would have to wait for the Burgermeister, who would take me to the police station. He also told me that, if I wanted to escape I shouldn't attempt anything until after the Germans had picked me up, or it would mean certain trouble for the locals.

The farmer/policeman then left and came back about twenty minutes later in a car with the Burgermeister. The Burgermeister informed me in broken English that he would have to take me to the local police station. On entering the station I came face to face with my bomb-aimer, Don Hall, who had also been captured some time earlier. He and I got together to talk about what we should do, and he told me that there was a boy there who was the son of one of the policemen, and that he might be able to give us some help. This boy, who was about fourteen years old, came over and said in fairly good broken English that he would do what he could to let my parents know that I was all right and that he would try and look after anything of value that I didn't want the Germans to have. (Remarkably, he kept his word to me, although he was unable to complete his mission until after the war was over. Details of this story are written up more completely in "The Story of the Watch"). A translated version of the actual Police Report was sent to me by Hans Ooms, who obtained it from the records held in the Saint Anthonis Town Hall archives.

It became apparent that my time in Operations was over and that I was about to embark upon a new period of my life.

Jack Patterson's story.

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