Lancaster

The usual, deafening roar of the Merlin XX engines came slowly to my ears as the aircraft began to picked up speed, jolting down the unpaved runway. As the tail wheel began to lift, I felt that elated feeling you only get in situations like these. I started to pull back on the yoke, beginning to tilt the aircraft towards the darkening sky and my right hand stayed in its place upon the throttle, ready to stop if there was any need. Finally, we leapt into the air, buffeted by small winds swirling around the fence. At 5,000 feet, we met up with the other bombers and our squadron fighters flew a thousand feet above us, on the lookout for prey. We lumbered towards the german territory, heading for Berlin, our bomb load weighing us down.

Our mission had been explained to us in detail a few hours before. We were to go to Berlin and attempt to drop a 4,000-pound bomb or ‘cookie’ on the Bundestag, the German equivalent of parliament house. This mission was to be completed with strict radio silence and we would only communicate during the landing and takeoff. All 16 of us in the air carried these deadly bombs and all 16 of us knew where to strike. The tail guns of the Lancaster in front of me was completely still, but I knew that, inside, there was a different story. The gunner’s eyes would be prowling the sky, looking for a well-known shape amongst all crewmen, the BF-109. The Messerschmitt BF-109 was a deadly plane at night. Their pilots had the ability to sneak up on an entire formation of bombers and take down plenty of planes and then race away unscathed. It was these fearsome planes that left pilots and gunners alike, shivering in their seats.

As I sat still in my place, flexing my fingers to keep them warm, I saw something that made my heart miss a beat. The turrets of the gunner ahead of me had suddenly swivelled around and pointed upwards towards something in between us and the fighters. A Messcherschmit! I immediately spoke to my navigator, who quickly got up and ran out to the back of the fuselage to warn the gunners of its position. Our leader was 3 Lancasters ahead of me and he slowly rocked his wings, a sign that an enemy aircraft was near. The Spitfires that were our escort, saw the rocking of the wings and began to ease back on the throttle and slowly descend behind the enemy fighter. It seemed miraculous that he had not seen the fighters descending behind him and we all felt sorry for the heavily outnumbered plane. Suddenly, he shot up into the clouds, realising for the first time that a whole squadron of fighters was on his tail. The gunners' guns returned to normal, and you could practically hear the sighs of relief from the pilots and crewmembers alike.

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