- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Mr Harry Watterson
- Location of story:
- Background to story:
- Royal Air Force
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 08 August 2005
This story was submitted to the People’s War website by Karolina Kopiec on the behalf of Mr Norman Edwards and Mr Harry Watterson, and has been added to the site with their permission. Authors fully understand site's terms and conditions.
During 1945 several Squadrons from 5 Group were detailed to form “Tiger Force”, which was to be based in Okinawa in the Pacific to be in striking range of the Japanese mainland, says Harry. The idea was that the Force would bomb under the cover of darkness, the USAF doing the daylight raids.
Harry’s Squadron was equipped with the latest high technology in gunnery, that is AGLT and ZEBRA. The AGLT stood for Automatic Gun Laying Turret — radar to the uninitiated — and this, combined with the ZEBRA system, meant that approaching aircraft could be identified as friend or foe with the appropriate treatment being meted out to foes.
‘After preparatory training trips, the last significant exercise to complete the programme was low-level map-reading, to be carried out at 800 feet by seven Lacasters, says Harry.
‘The idea was to follow a specified route, the main turning point being the pier at Brighton.
‘We located the turning point and proceeded to turn. However, as it so happened on or two noughts seemed to have been missed off the altimeters and the people of Brighton were amazed to see seven Lancasters bombers having to climb to get over the pier!
‘The usual complement of paper rolls and empty milk bottles was dropped — some were later produced as evidence at the court martial of the pilots!
‘It seems that one of the paper rolls unwound itself round the windscreen of the Provo Marshal’s car, which pranged!
‘A reception party was awaiting out arrival back at base. The pilots were all charged, to await court martial.
‘As part of gathering evidence, a duplicate trip was arranged in our aircraft, with the assistance of the flight engineer’s log, but it was impossible to keep to the times. It was clear, therefore, that we were not there!
‘One wonders whether the fact that all four engines had been replaced by more powerful ones and that the weather was a bit different had anything to do with this.
‘The finding for all the pilots was NOT GUILTY.
‘This is not the end of the story!
‘One member of our crew, the mid-upper gunner, was a former pupil of Christ’s Hospital School, Horsham, known as the Old Blues. He discovered a report in the school magazine of that era describing how a Lancaster bomber had interrupted a school cricket match by suddenly appearing, parting trees surrounding the pitch. At the same time, the crew were being treated to a suitably-embellished commentary in the air.’
Whilst the court martial was taking place, over a period of some three weeks in August 1945, the crews were grounded. As a result, apart from the skippers, they were able to attend the wedding of rear gunner Roy Goff whose wife became the eight member of the crew, the Mother Hen.
The Japanese was ended on 15 August 1945, so the Tiger Force training, enjoyable though it was, was never needed in action. One Lancaster survives from the Tiger Force — it is now the one that flies with the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.
Harry and his fellow crew members still meet from time to time but, unfortunately, Roy and his wife have died.
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