- Contributed by
- Stockport Libraries
- People in story:
- Richard Gration
- Location of story:
- Background to story:
- Royal Air Force
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 28 January 2004
This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Chris Comer of Stockport Libraries on behalf of Richard Gration and has been added to the site with his permission. He fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.
After the European and Far Eastern hostilities were finished an interesting operation called "Operation Dodge" was instigated.
This was the means of using a huge fleet of Lancaster Bombers and the attendant aircrews who were now "out of a job" in order to transport soldiers of the 8th Army back home from holding units in Italy - especially those who had been away from home for 4-5 years.
The pick-up points in Italy were Bari on the South east coast towards the bottom of the country and the second one was Pomigliano, near Naples and close to Vesuvius.
My first trip out was on August 22nd 1945 to Bari whilst with 44 Squadron with Chalky White's crew.
On September 9th there was a second try with my own crew, skippered by George Newman - this was an exercise to take back to Italy 20 Italian POWs who were mostly walking wounded destined for Bari, going the long way round to avoid the mountains in view of the oxygen supply being restricted to the aircrew only. However having reached France we had mechanical trouble with the aircraft and had to return back to the emergency landing strip at Woodbridge in Suffolk.
The third trip out on October 8th was to Pomigliano near Naples, with Mount Vesuvius on the landing circuit, which looked quite menacing - as at that time clouds of smoke were still being given out after the major eruption in 1944. The day after the landing was considered a rest day and was spent visiting the ruins of Pompeii, which at the time was considered a great experience and not to be missed.
My 4th and 5th trips out to Bari were non-eventful. we were issued with K.D.s (khaki drill) - mine was made for a much bigger man - we used to change from blue to khaki whilst airborne. The transit camp at Bari was rough and inhospitable so we usually found a room in the Officer's Club in the town. Those trips were like having a free holiday with swimming in the Adriatic sea, lazing about and eating good food.
My 6th and final trip was on November 20th when the weather was changing. This was a little different as we had mechanical trouble with the aircraft on the way out and were diverted to Istries in Central France. We were carrying a spare Merlin engine in the bomb bay for a stranded aircraft in Bari but it was fitted to our own aircraft and after 3 days delay we again pressed on to Bari.
On each occasion we returned with 20 soldier passengers on board who were delighted to be going home in a few hours instead of a few weeks by sea, regardless of the discomfort, noise of 4 Merlins and sometimes airsickness.
So the aircraft specially built to carry bombs and destroy cities were at the last used for a more humanitarian reason and the aircrew who flew in them were given a pleasant job to carry out and at the same time have a mini holiday. It was a very rewarding experience and a memory to cherish.
A matter of interest to the modern traveller - the trip out was 14-15 hours - much different to today's travel by jet liner!!
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