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15 October 2014
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Actually Flying in a Lancaster: Memories of a WAAFicon for Recommended story

by Dundee Central Library

Contributed by 
Dundee Central Library
People in story: 
Sheilah Cruickshank, Sheilah Lundie, Sheila Wearmouth, Renata Campbell Rogers
Location of story: 
Background to story: 
Royal Air Force
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
25 June 2004


Renata Campbell Rogers and I had organised a first birthday party for the Australian 463 Squadron. She arranged the decorations, managing to find wattle from Covent Garden and conjuring a koala bear from someone's Teddy. As usual, I was responsible for the food. The Group Captain was so delighted with everything that he promised that I would be taken home by Lancaster bomber on my next leave.

By this time, Renata's Italian mother had been located in Paris, having been saved by the nuns. She had been in grave danger from the Gestapo as the wife of a Scotsman. Renata was now stationed beside her Mother.

It was strictly a Court Martial offence for W.A.A.F. personnel to fly and although I had tried my hand at flying an Oxford training plane on two occasions, I had certainly never flown in a real Lancaster bomber. So it was exciting to don a parachute over my battledress, have it fastened on my back and between the legs, and clamber up into the dark, hard, strong-smelling interior of the Lancaster. I made my way over the large metal struts to find a very small, hard, cold metal seat, which is all that normal aircrew had for these 4 or 5-hour raids. There was a smaller crew than usual, because we did not carry bomb-airmen or gunners.
So we set off from our dispersal site, trundled into noisy movement and we were off, an exciting void in the stomach as we left the earth and soared into the air.

It was a beautiful, sunny, cloudless May day. We flew at a constant 1000 feet over streams, fields, oblivious, munching cows and panicking sheep running from the unaccustomed noise.

Because we were flying so low, it gave an entirely new view of the treetops and hills. We flew over flat Lincolnshire into the colourful hills and dales of Yorkshire, the lakes of Cumbria and the low mountains of lowland Scotland. After two short hours we landed at Prestwick.

The last I saw of the Lancaster bomber, as it taxied away from me, was the smiling face of the Group Captain, as he waved goodbye from the cockpit. Sadly, I never saw him again. He was killed shortly after.

Sheilah Cruickshank via Dundee Central Library

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Women's Auxiliary Air Force Category
Allied and Commonwealth Forces Category
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