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(pic: Imperial War Museum North)
Lancaster bombers in flight

Commanding the skies

The Imperial War Museum North’s latest exhibition, Against The Odds, tells of the importance of Bomber Command in the Second World War. Amongst the stories are three which show just how that branch of the RAF touched Greater Manchester.

The Salford Lancaster

Shortly after 10 o’clock on the morning of Sunday 30 July 1944, a Lancaster Bomber from 106 Squadron, which was trying to limp back to base, crashed into Salford’s Littleton Road Playing Fields. Sadly, all seven members of the crew were killed.

Amongst them was a volunteer reserve from Purley in Surrey, a coal miner’s son from Pendlebury, a farmer from Shropshire and a medical student from the Punjab.

(pic: Imperial War Museum North)
The crew of the downed Salford Lancaster

Flight Lieutenant Peter Lines was the flight’s pilot and had only just begun to take part in operations, flying his first raid against St Leu d’Esserant earlier in July, while his rear gunner, Sergeant Mohand Singh had been with the RAF since 1941 and completed 22 operations before the Salford crash.

Between them on the plane were Flight Engineer Sergeant Peter Barnes, who had served in both Iraq and Ceylon (Sri Lanka) as ground crew; Navigator Flying Officer Harry Reid, a Canadian born to Scottish parents; Wireless Operator Sergeant Arthur Young, who trained in Morse code at Blackpool; and Mid Upper Gunner Sergeant John Bruce Thornley Davenport, a RAF cook who completed his gunnery training in January 1944.

Perhaps the oddest story to come out of the flight is that of the Bomb Aimer, Flying Officer John Harvey Steel. A Bradford man who’d learnt his skills in America, he had told his family of a premonition that he wouldn’t be coming home in June 1944.

Some were experienced officers, others were new to the skies, but the diversity of their backgrounds, upbringings and even nationalities tells us in one tragic blow just how many different people made up the pilots, flight engineers, navigators, wireless operators, bomb aimers and gunners of Bomber Command.

Against The Odds: The story of Bomber Command

Against The Odds: The Story of Bomber Command in the Second World War is at the Imperial War Museum North until 7 January 2007. Entry is free. To find out more, visit the website.

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