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Opperation Exodus

by DennisGriffiths

Contributed by 
DennisGriffiths
People in story: 
Dennis John Griffiths
Background to story: 
Royal Air Force
Article ID: 
A2114713
Contributed on: 
07 December 2003

I flew as a rear gunner firstly with 195 Main Force Bomber Command, then 7 Squadron Pathfinder Force. It was the eight of May 1945. A number of us were sitting or stamnding in the crew room waiting to hear if we were to be on operations that day or night. It was several days since our last op. Reg the mid upper and myself flew with a different crew on that one. We bombed Wangarooge Island and we were hit by flak in our starboard wing but were able to get back safely. In fact it turned out to be our last 'op'. In Eupore, whilst hanging about in the crew room, the door opeed and some 'bod' burst in shouting, "it's all over, they have packed in". That evening many of us went to Cambridge to join with others to celebrate what was to been known as V/E Day. Around 9am we were approached by R.A.F police in company with civilian police, who asked which squadron we were from. We gave them the info, they dirceted us to a waiting R.A.F coach and told us to board as we were required back at base. During the journey we speculated as to why. The main confusion was we were required to sort out some pocket of resistance, not so. On arrival we were told that we were to fly to Lubeck and transport ex POWs back to the UK. Further, only five members of the normal seven crew would be required, leaving the bomb-aimer and the one air gunner behind. I was elected to go, my task was to make sure only 24 passengeres were to board and I was to allocate them sitting along the whole length of the fuselage and to make sure they remained seated in these positions. It was at a later date that it became obvious why these instructions were given. The reason being that 25 ex POWs were positioned in the rear of a lancaster that took off from Juvin Court, radioded back they had to make an emergency landing. The positioning of the passengers upset the flying trim causing the pilot to lose control. The plane crashed at Roye-Ami - all twenty five passengers and the six crew perished. I would add that around 14,000 ex POWs were flown home without any further loss the last flight being 28th May. Hence my duties: no more that 24 ex POWs plus a crew of five, safely located. We were awakened at 4am 9th May, took off with no parachutes. However we had 24 blankets and 29 mae wests (life jackets). On arrival at Lubeck we were delayed quite a while. Then all abroad, me carrying out my orders, landing at RAF Station Tibbenham that evning. I saw our guests down the short ladder at the rear of the aircraft the look of joy on their faces, which more than compensated for our celebrations being cut short. Approaching toward us were a number of medics carrying what appeared to me, flit guns. Each POW was squirted down the front and the back of the shirt and trousers, then they beckoned to us. We said "no" we are crew. They replied "Yes" you have been in their company. So we got the same treatment. The POWs were marshalled toward a hangar - music from the tannoys, a long row of tables full of food and beverages. Awakened at 4am, now late evening, we decdied to partake of some of the fayre only to be told no, ex POWs only. You will be loooked after when you get back to your home base. So be it, it was a most gratifying day. We were tired but we felt good.
I would just like to remind you that 55,000 aircrew of Bober Command gave their lives in WW2. Many are in unknown graves. We who are left will remember them.

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