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- Royal Air Force
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- 21 August 2004
I served as a wireless operator/air gunner with B flight 49 squadron at RAF Scampton from September 1941 to November 1942 on Hampdens, Manchesters and Lancasters.
About midday on 12th February 1942 we were ordered to an urgent briefing and take-off to lay mines in the path of the 3 German cruisers ( Scharnhorst, Prince Eugen and Gneisenau )who were sailing up the channel from Brest to Bremen under cover of bad weather - the channel dash,
As we scrambled in the flying clothing locker room getting kitted up, Flt.Sgt.Jack Gadsby DFM came in to tell me my detail was a scrubbed as our aircraft was unserviceable. Sgt Brian Hunter, a fellow wop/ag, was doing some cursing as he had left his flying boots back at his billet - incidentally against orders - and how prevailed upon me to lend him mine as I would not be needing them.
Brian hunter and his crew did not return nor did 3 other b flight crews.
John Wards` excellent history of 49 Squadron - beware of the dog at war - records on page 122 that Hampden p5324 pilot Sgt Downs came down in the sea but the cause not known. He was not found but the bodies of 3 crew, Sgts Poxon, Wood and Brian Hunter were recovered from a Dutch beach several days later.
My flying boots were clearly marked 1051928 Sgt W E Clarke on the upper rim but obviously Brian would be identified by his `dog tags`. Harry Moyles’ book `the Hampden file` records on page 118 that the 3 crew are buried at The Hague.
I reported the loss of my flying boots, and the circumstances,to my flight commander and the following day I was called in and given Brian Hunters` boots, in time for my next operation on 16th February, laying mines off Heligoland.
I wore Brian`s boots until the end of my flying duties and demobbed in November 1945
I still mourn Brian - and the 955 bomber crewmen of 49 Squadron
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