- Contributed by
- Warwickshire Libraries Heritage and Trading Standards
- People in story:
- Flight Lieutenant Owen Scott D.F.C.
- Location of story:
- Hemswell, Lincolnshire, 170 Sqaudron
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 04 May 2005
I served in 170 Squadron and stationed in Hemwell, Lincolshire. For a period of twelve months, I joined up at the age of 19 and trained as a pilot. Later in the war I flew Lancashire bombers and I served the full term of thirty flights over enemy territory. I and my crew were often airbourne for ten and a half hours. Our take-off time could be at any time of day, depending on the weather and was a secret to us until we were briefed to report for duty. We might be wakened by our batman and told. "Briefing in 50 minutes, sir!" or receive a radio message while on a training flight. Our aircraft had to be fully operational. Sometimes, with the crew ready in position, the green light which told you to take off, was replaced by a red one. Your operation had been cancelled because yout plane was not fit to fly. Then you went back to bed.
Ninety per cent of our operations were at night, flying over enemy territory in the dark, dependent on maps and instruments and aware that enemy fighters would be on our tail. We flew manually and often "rolled" the plane to avoid attack. Being caught in a searchlight was a terrifying experience as it made our plane an easy target for enemy shells.
Accuracy was of vital importance. The crew. which included the pilot,flight engineer, wireless operater and bombing team had to synchronise watches to the second to ensure that every operation went according to plan, that bombs hit the right target on schedule. The pilot would give the order, "Synchronise watches, 12.05. Hit target 12.10!" In front of every bombing flight flew the "path-finders ", usually Mosquito aircraft, to drop flares indicating where the targets were. This was doubly important when the air was filled with black smoke from exploding shells, spread by the wind into an dark haze, making it impossible to see for any distance. It was terrifying to be flying "blind" and put us at grave risk of collision with other aircraft. We were never warned of the danger of collision and were not fully informed about the number that took place at the time, though were experienced the enormous explosion that took palce when two bomb-loaded palnes collided. We were also not aware of casualty numbers. All we knew the following day was that a friend or collague was not to be seen and later heard that he had "bought it".
I rememer vividly the bombing raids on V2 targets in France. We had to fly in at a height of 7,000 feet,but the "Path-finders" had to fly mch lower then that. As we straightened up ready to drop our bombs, we were at grave risk from enemy fighters who knew exactly where our targets were and were waiting to attack. Coming up to the target it was "Left a bit, right a bit, steady, hold it, Skipper!". As soon as our bombs, 7 tons in weight, were gone, the aircraft "leapt" into the air. We went into a shallow dive, opened up the throttles, closed the bombdoors and made for home. It was not unitl after the war was over that we gradually learned of the massive losses incurred by Lancaster bombers and their crews. 7,000 bombers, 7,000 pilots, 55.000 men over all. The chances of survival were one in three.
I have vivid memories of the night we bombed Dresdon. We had no idea then of the damage our bombs had done but I shall never forget the sight of the city in flames. It seemed an easier mission than usual owing to the lack of ground fire and enemy fighters.
The first time I went out with a bombing crew, I was being trained by a more experienced pilot. It was a daytime mission and, as we made for the Kentish coast, I looked down and saw Ramsgate, where I grew up and pointed out my old school, Chatham House.
I have many records of the missions accomplished by Lancaster bombers and their crews: personal photos, film footage, log book and so on for my family and others who did not experience the wartime years to see and read.
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