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Bomb Aimer's View

by epsomandewelllhc

Contributed by 
epsomandewelllhc
People in story: 
J Errikerr
Location of story: 
UK, Canada, Middle East
Background to story: 
Royal Air Force
Article ID: 
A2757747
Contributed on: 
18 June 2004

MR Errikerr understands the Site’s rules and regulations and has agreed that his story can be entered on the Peoples’ War site.

A BOMB-AIMER’S VIEW

In 1941, at the age of 18, I volunteered to be a 'Bomb Aimer' in the Royal Air Force
After enlistmentI, in June 1942, I reported to the 'Aircrew Reception Centre based at 'Lords' in June 1942 and then, from there, I was posted to No.3 Initial Training Wing at Torquay, Devon..
At the completion of R.A.F.training, with others, we went to Blackpool and Heaton Park; then, it was to Gourock, in Scotland, from where we sailed, on 6 December 1942, in the 'Queen Elizabeth ', to Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, We arrived there on 9 December and then, after a short stay, by train to No.31 RAF Personnel Depot, Moncton, New Brunswick (a six days train journey!
I remained at Moncton until being posted, in January 1943, to No. 8 Bombing and Gunnery School, Lethbridge, Alberta.
At Lethbridge, we were on an actual aerodrome for the first time. Our 'Course' started as soon as we arrived and it was a seven day week, even studying in the evenings, so had very little spare time! The weather was extremely cold and at one time the temperature dropped to 42 degrees below zero!

My first flight was on 8 February 1942 in an Anson II and lasted 1/30 hrs.
The 'Bombing Course' involved 16 day flights, a total o (29/20 hrs). and 2 night flights (4/15 hrs).
The Gunnery was in a Bolingbroke and consisted of 16 flights of 30 to 40 mins each, a total of 9/45 hrs. My 'Course' finished on 13 March 1943.
I was then posted to No. 4 Air Observer School, London, Ontario. Here they were all civilian pilots. My Course was from 21 March to 20 April 1943 and consisted of 19 flights (35/00 hrs day and 20/35 hrs night in the Anson I.
At the end of the Course and after passing my exams. I was commissioned. LAC in the morning, Sergeant at midday and then Pilot Officer late afternoon. Our Course had the first commissioned 'Bomb Aimers'
Five days leave, which included a visit to New York and then back to the 'Personnel Depot' at Moncton, where I remained for a considerable time . There was no officer accommodation available on the ships to England so I agreed to travel 'troop-deck. That was sleeping in hammocks on the 'Louis Pasteur', a "banana boat'!
Eventually, I arrived at No,2 (Observer) Advanced Flying Unit at Millom, Cumberland and did my first flying there on 22 July 1943. in the Anson I.
The pilots were a mixture of RAF and civilian. I did 10/45 hrs (Day) and 6/35 hrs (Night) Navigation. 2/30 hrs (Night) Bombing and 1/05 hrs (Day) Gunnery). My Course finished on 15 August 1943 and I was posted to No. 15 Operational Training Unit at Harwell, Didcot, Berkshire.
At 15 OTU I became a crew member . The other members were
F/O A F McALPINE, 418152 RAAF (Pilot), P/O F F SAIT J24039 RCAF ANav), Sgt W W BRIGHT 1580574 (W/Op), Sgt HAIR 636986 RAF(VR) (M/U/G) and Sgt A FOLLET R176962 RCAF (R/G).
We were stationed at Hampstead Norris, a satellite of Harwell. The aircraft used were Wellington ICs and I had flown 39/35 hrs (Day) and 40/30 hrs (Night) 40/30 hrs (Night) when in Z9106, due to failure of the starboard engine, we crashed at North Cheveey, Berkshire, returning from a 'Bullseye Exercise', on the night of 6/7 November 1943. At the time we were in the 'circuit'.
The Rear Gunner was killed and the Mid/Upper Gunner injured and admitted to 'Sick Quarters'.
I flew again, with F/O McAlpine, from 9 November until 24 November 1942, when the crew was split up
Then, I was posted to No.19 Operational Training Unit at Kinloss, Morayshire, Scotland, to join Sgt M W HENTSON and his crew, who were short of a 'Bomb Aimer'. We were stationed at Forres, a satellite of Kinloss.
We flew in the Whitley V from 7 December to 16 January 1944, 12.15 hrs (Day) and 14.25 hrs (night) and were then posted to No,1658 Conversion Unit, Riccall, Selby, Yorkshire, where we picked up a Flight Engineer. The aircraft there were Halifax IIs. We flew 46/15 hrs (Day) and 11/45 hrs (night) in the period 5 March to 12 April 1944.
On 14 April 1944, we were posted to 78 Squadron, No.4 Group, Bomber Command, based at Breighton, Yorkshire, where we started flying in Halifax IIIs on 20 April 1944.
Our first 'operation' was on the night 26/27 April, to Villeneuve St. Georges (Railway Yards), France.
I was with 78 Squadron from April to September 1944. I did
39 'operations'and was awardred the Distinguished Flying Cross. After the 'Invasion' in 1944, on one 'operation,'to Caen, we bombed in front of the British troops so I became a 'Normandy Veteran'.
After our required number of 'operations', 39 for the crew and 40 for the Pilot, the Pilot and myself were awarded the D.F.C. The crew was split up! I was posted to the Aircrew Re-allocation Centre at Nairn, Scotland.and then transferred to Transport Command.

When I reported, I was posted as 'Trooping Officer to 14 Staging Post, Lydda, Palestine. This involved a 'sea trip+ through the Mediterranean, to Egypt and then by train.
On arrival at the 'Staging Post'„ I also became the 'Sports Officer' and also in charge of the 'inventory' (not an easy task to check when in a Middle East country!

At that time the 'Jews' were trying to land by sea, in Palestine, and set up the 'State' of 'Israel'. There were two 'terrorist gangs' operating 'Stern' and 'Vaad Leumi'!
Being based at Lydda, near to Jerusalem, I had the opportunity to visit the biblical sites and Tel Aviv.

When it was time for my 'demob', I returned to England and became a civilian without a job.
Eventually I joined the 'Racecourse Betting Control Board' and stayed with them for 19 years before joining the 'Travel Section' of the 'Atomic Energy Authority' in London.
I continued the interest that I always had in 'Athletics' and became a 'Field Events Judge' and eventually, for six years, became the Organiser of the Surrey County Championships. Subsequently I became a 'Life Vice President' of the Surrey County Athletic Asssociation.
In 1971, via USA, my wife and I moved to New Zealand and we lived in Auckland for 10 months before returning to England.and also rejoining the Atomic Energy Authority.
I retired in 1983 and my wife and I have lived in Epsom since t4mn . 117,5
I joined 'The Epsom amd Ewell Lions Club'' and was in charge of the 'Bookstall' which, on alternate Saturdays, appeared in the Town Centre.
I became their representative on the Committee of the local 'Talking Newspaper for the blind.'
In 1993, I became the 'Archivist' of 78 Squadron and decided that I would try to locate all those aircrew from 78 Squadron, who returned and all those who failed to return from 'operations' over Europe during 'World War II'

I now have a record of those buried and also of those who have no known (their names are on Panels at the 'Air Forces Memorial' at Runnymede.
979 aircrew of the Squadron were killed during World War II.
For the past 10 years, I have been trying to locate their relatives and, to date, have corresponded with more than 420! Some live in Australia, New Zealand and Canada.
It has been most rewarding! and some regard me as a relative!
78 Squadron is, at present, based at Mount Pleasant, in 'The Falklands'.

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These messages were added to this story by site members between June 2003 and January 2006. It is no longer possible to leave messages here. Find out more about the site contributors.

Message 1 - Bomb Aimer

Posted on: 21 February 2005 by GrandmaSue

I had no idea what that was until editing my Dad's story of his experiences during World War II. He was Bomb Aimer on 33 missions in a Lancaster. He too, went to Canada for his training and was on ops between May - October 1944, 57 squadron based at East Kirkby. He never talked about the war or his experiences, so it has been quite a humbling and poignant learning curb for me. I think what hit me most was the length of time required for training and the RAF statistics for surviving missions,(1 in 2 killed, wounded or became a prisioner of war?)

I am glad my Dad finally recorded his memories and that I was able to relate seventeen of his accounts with the RAF diaries for posterity to pass on to his grandchildren and future generations. We should never forget.

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