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15 October 2014
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'T' for Tommy: Bomber Command - 7 Squadron, at RAF Oakington

by Danny Pearce

Contributed by 
Danny Pearce
People in story: 
Stanley Arthur Pearce
Location of story: 
during 1942
Background to story: 
Royal Air Force
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
01 November 2003

My grandfather, Flt Lt Stanley Arthur Pearce D.F.M. served during WW2 in Bomber Command.

He joined the Royal Air Force, in January 1938, as an engine fitter.
He was one of the first to arrive at the newly opened RAF St Athan. Post training he was then stationed at various units until the talk of the comming war over took things and he was posted to RAF Cosford for training on larger engines that were used in bomber aircraft.

Whilst based at RAF Stradishall as ground crew,he applied numerous times to be come aircrew but was constantly knocked back, being told they were to important as fitters.

1941 saw the Stirling enter service. Upon the crew room notice board was a request for applications for the job of Flight Engineer.

In March of this year he found himself moving around the country doing various courses relevant to Sterling airframes and to Bristol for the engine course.
At this time the post of a Flight engineer was a new job and his aim was to assist with the technical aspects of getting the aircraft, to and from the designated targets.

Having done a No2 Gunnery course at RAF Dalcross in Scotland he was posted to RAF Waterbeach (Cambridgeshire)to get crewed up.
From here on he would be flying crew.

SGT S.Pearce, was milling around a large hanger along with Pilots,Navigators,Bomb aimers and Gunners, until they were all paired up.

He was picked by a man called Eddie Land, an American, also on his crew were the Nav,Bomb aimer,Rear gunner,Wireless operator,Upper gunner and him self Flight enginer a total of 7.

June 23 1942 saw them posted to 7 Sqn, at RAF Oakington.(Cambridgeshire).
On arrival they were al billeted in rooms big enough for three crews.
First brief followed shortly with their first sortie to Cologne, Germany.
Air crew wore ordinary battle dress, with high neck sweater,then a mae west, then parachute harness. The parachute was stowed seperatley.
Wfilst their checks were being carried out the ground crew carried out there checks and re-fuelling. Anything between 400 and 800 gallons.(2,254 was a full load.)

Armoures loaded the bombs weighing anything from 1,000lbs to 4,000lbs.
From about 4pm the aircraft were ready, and flying usually took place at around 8 or 9pm.

All the crews attended the briefing, then had to stay put until transported to the relevant aircraft.

During the brief the the curtain on the stage would be drawn back and either a cheer or an ohh, would go up as they saw where the red tapes went to. This would be from England to anywhere, either The Rurh valley, Italy or further afield in Germany.

After the target was known, they were then told the height at which to fly, what course and what the weather was supposed to be like.

No personal effects were carried due to the fact that a crash landing could take place. Even though most men carried some form of lucky charm with them. Some of the items mentioned were,small dolls, keys, photos and even girls knickers.
Stanley carried a yellow silk scarf.

Three crews to a bus and they were at the aircraft dispersal site. The ground crew didnt know were they were going till they returned, but usually had an idea by such clues as fuel load and bombs etc...

This first flight as an opperational crew was a 1,000 Bomber raid on Cologne, with no previous training they made it there and back, but had one engine pack up.

Whilst on 7 sqn at RAF Oakington there was several opperational flights.
28/6/42-At Nazaire(sub marine penns)
19/7/42-Vegasack(engine failure on stbd outer lost oil and engine seized up and broke off the wing)
26/7/42-Hamburg(port inner engine failed)
10/8/42-Denmark(mine laying)

Got badly shot up by JU 88 and a F/WULF 190 night fighters. Suffered engine failure and had to divert to Abingdon in Oxfordshire. Crash landed there as it was a grass aerodrome a/c completly smashed up but all walked away from it.
Cause of the crash was German fighters having shot up the port side of the a/c, damaging fuel lines to both of the port engines. This caused Stanley to cut off the fuel lines starving the engines of fuel.This being carried out over the English channel.

When they touched down at 120mph, the port under carridge collapsed, letting the port wing to hit the deck as it did the port engines ripped off the wing, and the nose of the a/c dug into the soft earth of the gardens of the Air Minstery houses at the end of the areodrome.

Not damaging or hurting they all walked away, apart from the Nav who had sprained his ankle.

The German fighters had also shot away part of the port u/c.
They were debriefed by staff at Abingdon(he said interogated)fed and given somewhere to sleep for the night.
In the morning they went to look at "e" for edward. It was a right mess. The local station staff thought they were all heros.
(He said he thought they were all fools for doing what they were doing)
That day they returned to Oakington, where they were given 6 days survival leave.

August bank holiday of 1942, they were stood down from duty and went to THE BARON of BEEF public house. (This is where he met my grandmother.)
On a long seat against a wall sat six very nice girls. He got his beer and went and sat opposite them. He was very attracted to the one at the end but she didnt seem to have much to say.

He started a conversation with her and found that her name was Betty Violet Impey. She lived and worked in Cambridge at the co-op. She was exempted war work because of her health.

They were all on their way to a dance, but he persuaded Betty to go for a walk in Cambridge, as he didnt know much about the place and she consented.
This was the start of a war time court ship between them both.

29/8/42-They were posted as a crew to 15 sqn at Bourne in Cambridgeshire, about 4 miles away.
They didnt mind this as they were going to make 7 sqn one of the first Pathfinder sqns.
30/8/42- posted to 15 sqn.
On arrival they found the accomadation about 1 mile away, there were bycycles to hand but he says you couldnt ride them so they had to walk every where.
They didnt have an a/c for them on arrival so they had about 3 weeks with nothing to do but attend lectures. Because of this he spent more time with Betty.

On the morning of the 18 Sep 1942, he had to report sick with a boil on his forehead. T he doctor put him on restriction from flying for 3 days. He found his pilot Edie Land and relayed to him what the doctor had said, and he replied with bloody hell we are flying tonight.

A replacement was found for Stanley as he couldnt get his flying helmet on. He watched the take off, four a/c then went and had a drink in the mess and went to bed.(they lived in nissan huts, two crews to a hut).

In the morning the rest of Stanleys crew were not in their beds, so he went for breakfast in the mess. When he asked the where abouts of his crew he was told they had not returned. This devistated him. After one week they were presumed missing believed killed. This left him with nothing to do and no crew until the 20/9/42.

11.oo o'clock that day the C.O. wanted to see him. He thought this was a posting but there was a FLT LT Tilson there and he was minus a flight engineer due to being disharged on medical grounds.
He was asked if he would like to crew up with him, he had done 15 trips to Stans 20, but he said he would be pleased to.

He went with "Hank Tilson" a Canadian, from Toronto to meet the rest of the crew.
They were happy to have such an expirienced engineer with them who was also a peace time member of the RAF.

Some crews didnt like the men meeting girls but his crew didnt mind at(some said it was unlucky.)

21/10/42-Went on airtest with the a/c to get familiar with it. "T" Tommy turned out to be a good a/c it had four ropey engines but all ways got us back.

23/10/42-First trip together to Vegesack ih the Rhur, normal trip no problems.
Hank relied on us to all know and do our own jobs, he put a lot of faith in my judjment as was to be proved over the coming months.
They asked Stan to stay on and do the 30 trips with them, which he said he would as he was allready 5 in front, they all liked this very much.

The next trip was to the dreaded Hamburg then Lubeck, they diverted them to a midland aredrome on the way back dont know why. Had to shut down the port inner engine on this flight.

05/10/42-Achen, stbd engine had to be shut down, on way back.
11/10/42-Mine laying in Bay of Biscay.
12/10/42-Same as above.
23/10/42-Genoa,Italy. It used to take nearly 12 hours to Italy and back, speed out climbing with bombs on was about 160mph, and had to get to about 13-14,000 feet to clear the Alps.
The Italians used to pack up and go home when they heared us coming so never ran into any trouble. But our engines used to give up the ghost quite a lot on this trip, the stbd inner would quit going over the Alps leaving only 3 to get home with. Tommy all ways got them back.

08/11/42-South west of France with leaflets
10/11/42-Mine laying in the Baltic.
29/11/42-Turin stbd outer and pt inner engines, packed up, which left only two. This was near the French coast, the skipper asked if they wanted to bail out or take a chance.
They all said take a chance, the Nav was busy looking for all the areodromes in the South of England.
They flew nose down to ease the load on the engines whilst decending.
They got over the coast of England and set course for Bourne, then all of a sudden the stbd inner went into course which was like putting a brake on.
Investigation found a hydraulic pipe leaking be hind the instrument pannel, after trying to stop the leak with tape and the remaning fluid, they then resorted to filling it with the coffe from the crews flasks.
30 mins from base and theres no liquid left.
Stan got the crew to pee into the now empty flasks and put that in the hydraulic system, this gave them enough fluid to keep power on.
They called up for emergancy landing, which they got and after landing they were towed away to dispersal.
Once they left the a/c they realised that the skipper hadnt come out, Stan went to see where he was and he was still in his seat with his leg wrapped around the controll column. He had been like this for the lst 100 miles to relieve the pressure on his hands. He couldnt move as he had ruptured himself, the wireless operator called for a doctor. When he arrived they had to cut the skipper out of the a/c, and rushed him into hospital.

This finished the tour Stan had done 33 trips, the rest of the crew had done 28.

Hank was awarded the D.F.C., Stan was awarded the D.F.M.
This was the end of flying duties for the crew of 'T' Tommy. Hank went to Stradishall as an instructor, and Stan also went to Stradishall as an instructor on 1657 conversion unit.

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