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Tour of Operations

by CSV Action Desk Leicester

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Archive List > Royal Air Force

Contributed by 
CSV Action Desk Leicester
People in story: 
JOHN DEREK BAILEY ( BILL BAILEY)
Location of story: 
LORDS CRICKET GROUND TO KIRKHAM
Background to story: 
Royal Air Force
Article ID: 
A4476198
Contributed on: 
18 July 2005

No.27.. 26.12.44. Target "ST-VITH" Daylight operation.

Aircraft 'B'. Bomb load 1 x 40001b Cookie and lOOOOlbs HE.

"The Battle of the Bulge", the German offensive in the Ardennes was in progress.

A
large force from Bomber Command was called upon to support the American 1st.
Army trying to stem the German advances hi the Ardennes. The attack was
concentrated on the town of St. Vith where the Germans were unloading panzers to join the battle.
The whole of Lincolnshire was blanketed in fog with ground visibility of only a few yards. After briefing we went out to the aircraft, climbed aboard and waited for the time to start engines. Just before time there were white Very Cartridges fired from the control tower which indicated the operation was scrubbed.

We returned to the mess and were given a new time to go out to the aircraft. Another flying meal. We went out to the aircraft again and had a repeat performance. Third time lucky, we sat in the aircraft and although there was still dense fog, time came to start engines. This time no scrub. A marshall appeared in front of the aircraft with two torches signalling us to start taxying and we were guided to the end of the runway.
A glimmer of a green from the airfield controller and we turned onto the runway, lined up, set the gyro compass and we roared off down the runway at 1.15pm.

Airborne and climbing we came out of the fog at about 200 ft and it was just like flying above cloud. We set course according to our flight plan and visibility across France and Belgium was first class. No cloud and snow on the ground. We did not really need navigation aids, I was able to map read all the way to the target.

Approaching the target area there were a few anti aircraft shell bursts and it was apparent the Germans had advanced quite a long way. We bombed from 10000ft and the bombing was very concentrated and accurate. In fact it was reported that 80% of the attacking aircraft obtained aiming point photographs.

It was now time to concern ourselves with the return to Kirmington. The fog was still there and the only 1 Group airfield open was Binbrook, high up on the Lincolnshire Wolds, which stuck out of the fog like an island.. The whole of 1 Group landed at Binbrook. There were Lancasters parked everywhere. Whilst we were in the circuit awaiting our turn to land, I was looking out of the window and noticed a hole in the wing between the two starboard engines.
When we had landed and shut down the engines, we went to look at the hole. On top of the wing it was very neat but on the underside there was jagged aluminium hanging down around the hole. Obviously a shell had gone up and passed through the wing on its way down, without exploding.

An airframe fitter looked at the damage and said the aircraft was grounded. This meant that after interrogation we were allowed to return to Kirmington by bus and proceed on leave.
Our next operation was not until 5.1.45 but some of us returned early from leave to attend a New Year party in the WAAF mess which was actually situated in Kirmington Village.

'This story was submitted to the People's War site by Rod Aldwinckle of the CSV Action Desk on behalf of John Derek Bailey and has been added to the site with his / permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions

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