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What model of bombers did they have? I bet it was LOUD!
The Confederate Air Force (I think they changed their name)
Is your Dad a WWII vet?
Contributed by teebooPeople in story: Michael Victor AllenLocation of story: Wickenby,LincsBackground to story: Royal Air ForceArticle ID: A8997899Contributed on: 30 January 2006M.V. Allen 2500 WordsTHE HARDLUCK CREW OF ‘V’ VICTORByMichael Allen“ME645 12Sq Feb-Oct44 ILFS, 1656CU, 20MU, Scrap Aug 46”Lancaster — Story of a Famous Bomber, A Harleyford PublicationIt was barely light. Lancaster PH-V (Victor), with bomb load still intact, swept low across the airfield at Wickenby, Lincolnshire. Its wing tip passed within feet of the control tower and below eye level of the air controller on duty. Minutes later it touched down on the runway and came to rest at its dispersal point. It was 05:30 hours on June 18, 1944. The “hardluck” crew of V-Victor had completed their thirtieth and final submission. Target Aulnoye. Flight time 4 hours 20 minutes. Mission aborted due to cloud cover over target.While the crew slept, First Lieutenant Lail K. Dawley of the U.S.A.F., on attachment to the Royal Air Force, packed his gear and slipped quietly away. Six months earlier, he had just as silently appeared out of a thick pea-soup fog that blanketed 1656 Conversion Unit at Doncaster in the north of England…Due to the fog, the train bringing Lt. Dawley north to Doncaster was hours late. The driver sent to meet him huddled in the cold of the open jeep. She heard the sounds of revelry as the pubs closed and knew it was after ten o’clock. Among the revellers were Mike and Jock. The two, scheduled for court martial hearings the following day, had been given a send-off party by other members of their crew. Although confined to quarters, they had crawled under the fence and hitched a ride to town. Now they faced a six-mile hike back to base.As the jeep eased slowly through the fog, it was hailed by the six men on foot. Over protestations of the driver they clambered aboard and urged the driver to “press on”. Mike, perched on the hood, gave directions to the driver, “LEFT LEFT”…”STEADY”…”R-I-G-H-T”, standard bombadier jargon for guiding a pilot to a target. The rest of the crew would echo “BACK A BIT!” and laugh as though the joke were an original. Lt. Dawley, unused to English humor, took comfort from the .45 automatic cradled in its shoulder holster under his coat. Thus pilot and crew were informally introduced for the first time. The Fates chuckled at their deviousness.As he read the personnel files of the crew members assigned to him, Dawley recalled snatches of conversation from the previous night. It soon became apparent that what he had inherited was what he feared the most. “Red” Redshaw, navigator, 23; Joe Pickering, flight engineer, 18; Joe Williams, wireless operator, 20;Ted…Mike and Jock had left the sergeant’s dance at midnight. Scheduled to leave for a squadron the following day, they had found out that their pilot had chickened out at the last moment. Over-night he had decided that he could not be a party to bombing “defenceless women and children”. He had been relieved of duty.This was the second time they had been on the verge of getting into action. Their first “skipper” had a nervous breakdown and froze at the controls on their final checkout flight. It took the combined efforts of the crew to bring the bomber down to a safe but somewhat unorthodox landing.The Commanding Officer’s Hillman Minx staff car stood invitingly in their path. The CO and his adjutant were inside paying their respects to the latest graduating class. Jock noted that the CO’s dress cap with “scrambled egg” insignia lay on the seat. The keys were in the ignition.Between the sergeant’s mess and the W.A.A.F. quarters was a footpath bordered by a white picket fence. While Jock donned the CO’s coat and cap, Mike aimed the Minx down the narrow path.The oversize hat hung over Jock’s ears. The coat dragged on the ground. Seat rolled down his swarthy face in rivulets. “Stand by your beds for inspection!” roared Mike, flipping on the lights. Awakened from deep sleep, the girls automatically obeyed, seeing only the insignia of authority. As Jock weaved down the line of beds, murmurs of disbelief became screams of hysteria. The two were bodily ejected.Undaunted and thirsty from their efforts, they next headed for the Officer’s Mess. It was a repeat performance with instant recognition. After allowing them to quench their thirst, they were sent on their way with admonishments to return the car and trappings to the spot where they had found them. The car, as yet unmissed, was returned. Mike and Jock set off again, on foot his time.The parade ground was immaculate. With a fresh coat of tarmac, it had just that afternoon received its final embellishment — white lines to identify various assembly points and gamin areas. The striper, still primed, stood invitingly in their path. A giant egg-faced Kilroy in the centre seemed appropriate to the occasion. The white line then veered off diagonally in the direction of the officer’s billets.Their late pilot, now confined to his quarters in disgrace, was not alone. Mike and Jock pounded on his door. Faces appeared at other doors to see what all the ruckus was about. Unable to quiet them, the pilot, now in tears and start naked, ran down the hall and out into the night. Jock entered the room to find a damsel truly in distress and shivering under the bed. He promptly passed out on the floor. Mike, doubled over from uncontrolled laughter, leaned too far over the stair rail and fell to the floor below.The culprits were not hard to trace. Charges were filed from all directions and the two confined to quarters pending formal hearings.This was the crew that Lt. Dawley had to face. His pep talk brought murmurs of scorn and “now we get a bloody ‘Yank’”.In the days that followed, Dawley gained grudging recognition from his newfound crew. In record time he checked out on the Lancaster and proved to be an able pilot despite his size. Shortly they were assigned their own place, V-Victor, which they would fly to their future squadron.On the final checkout flight, Dawley took the plane to 20,000 feet. Putting nose down in a power dive, he pulled the stick back into his stomach in an attempt to loop the heavy plane. The Lancaster stood vertically on its tall, shuddered and fell forward. That night, for the first time, he was invited to join the rest of the crew to celebrate their posting to 12 Squadron, Group 1, RAF Bomber Command. Departure was delayed while V-Victor underwent replacement of wing rivets that had popped from the strain of a manoeuvre for which it had not been designed.Wickenby, home of the 12th and 626th squadrons, lays in the flat lands of Lincolnshire. The spires of Lincoln Cathedral, eleven miles to the southwest, was a familiar landmark for crews returning from their nightly missions. The White Hard pub some two miles down the road was adopted by the air crews as their own. The publican always knew, before the crews did, what targets were scheduled for the next day. (His uncanny forecasting ability was later traced to his listening to Lord Haw Haw broadcasting in English from Germany.) Further to the north lay Market Raisen with its Friday night town hall dances providing a goodly selection of “popsies” for companionship on the nights when no operations were scheduled.Upon landing at the base, Lt. Dawley was told that a “maximum effort” was scheduled for that night. He was instructed to have his crew report for briefing at 1100 hours in case they should be needed to fill vacant slots on other crews. As the curtains were pulled back there was a groan, “Berlin again”. All but Mike were assigned to other crews.This mission was the last in the series of 1000 bomber raids on Berlin. Despite high losses all six of the planes to which Dawley and his crew had been assigned returned safely.On the nights of February 21, 25 and 26, the crew became fully operational as a team. Stuttgart, Schweinfurt and Augsburg were bombed. While RAF losses were heavy, V-Victor returned to base each time without incident. Dawley and his crew, having survived the first critical missions, took on the swagger of the overconfident.Their cockiness was dispelled in short order. Next in line for takeoff on a repeat flight to Stuttgart, Dawley saw the plane ahead veer off the runway and bounce across the grass as the pilot desperately tried to get his plane airborne. The plane crashed in a neighbouring field, exploding on impact. Already lumbering down the runway at full throttle, Dawley felt V-Victor veering to the left as though guided by an unseen hand. With superhuman effort he was able to regain control and clear the boundary hedgerow with no room to spare. It was a much chastened crew that returned to base.During standdowns when poor weather conditions brought the air war to a halt, morale ebbed. Mike and Jock set rabbit snares in the woods behind their nissen hut, and skinned and cooked their catches over an open fire. The crew that had become a disciplined unit in the air fought and bickered among themselves on the ground. Only occasionally could Dawley get them all together for a few beers.Once a month they would fly south to an American base to collect Dawley’s ration of candy and Lucky Strike cigarettes. A cross country training flight took them over Yorkshire and close to the town of Halifax nestled in the Pennine hills. It was an afternoon that residents of suburban Illingworth remembered for many years after.“Hey, I can almost see my home”, said Mike over the intercom. “Let’s go see”, drawled Dawley, pulling the plane around in a wide circle. With Mike giving directions, Dawley brought the Lancaster down to ground level across the golf course at Ogden. Those on the eighteenth fairway scattered like scared rabbits as the plane thundered by up the narrow valley. Mike’s home lay just below the church and Dawley brought V-Victor round and down and straight on target. Mike’s mother, caught in the bathtub, was clearly seen bare-breasted, waving her towel from an upstairs window. They flew so low that Mike looked up at the church tower clock and saw the time frozen at ten to four.The incident was never formally reported. The air reporter, on duty at the time, was a friend of the Allen family and guessed who the culprits were. There were, however, casualties of sorts. A window cleaner fell off his ladder and sprained an ankle. Major Youngman, commander of the Home Guard unit, in freshly pressed uniform, was reading his evening Courier before a cozy fire when V-Victor’s slipstream swept unit his chimney clean and in the process doused the major in soot from head to toe. The local vicar, entertaining ladies over tea, shook his fists skyward and was heard to loose some ungodlike epithets. The crew, high spirits restored, returned to base.In the weeks that followed, the RAF suffered some of the highest casualties of the war. At Stuttgart on March 15 some 3000 tons of bombs fell on the city in an hour. Ninety-six crews were lost in an attack on Nuremburg the night of March 31. Each time the crew of V-Victor returned unscathed. The “hardluck” crew became, by default, the senior squadron crew on returning from their thirteenth mission. It was on May 3, 1994 that V-Victor’s luck nearly ran out. The target, a Tiger tank factory at Mailly-Le-Camp, was thought to be a “milk-run”. Briefed to bomb at 4000 feet, Dawley and his crew conspired to drop their load and then go in a t tree top height and dos some strafing.It was a night when everything went wrong. The bombers were ordered to circle flares and await instructions from spotter planes to start their bombing runs. The flares silhouetted the planes for the German night fighters to pick off one by one. The operating wavelength clashed with an American Forces Network station playing “Deep in the Heart of Texas”. They heard the calm voice of the spotter pilot, “Firepump One. Am hit and going down”. The situation was chaotic. Dawley, disobeying instructions to wait, started his bomb run. Percival yelled “Fighter!” as tracers slammed into the wing six inches from Joe Williams, the wireless operator. The combined fire power of Jock and Ted scored a bullseye on the fighter. The fighter, now flaming, flew wing tip to wing tip with V-Victor as though its pilot could not decide whether or not to ram and take them both down. Time froze. The ME-109 slipped by and underneath and headed for the ground. Mike said “dummy run” and the crew groaned.The bombs were dropped on target and V-Victor headed out into the safety of darkness homeward bound. The stench of gasoline was overpowering. Flight engineer Joe Williams reported that they were losing fuel through a holed tank. Dawley elected to make it back to base. In daylight a German tracer was found to have passed through a gas tank, coming to rest in one engine. The tracer had failed to ignite. Of 362 Lancasters taking part, 42 failed to return.Dawley’s determination to make home base was not without reason. On landing, it was learned that his wife back in Detroit had delivered a baby girl. To honour the occasion, V-Victor was christened “Mari-Jac” and a picture of a stork carrying a diapered bomb was painted above the 16 mission markers on the nose.May passed into June; D-Day came and went. The final eleven missions were flown in 15 days, culminating with the aborted mission.M.V. Allen ‘V’ VictorOver Aulnoye, the only time that V-Victor failed to release its bombs.Lail Dawley and newly commissioned officers “Red” Redshaw and Mike Allen were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. The rest of the crew (with one exception, never clarified — Joe Pickering, flight engineer) received the Distinguished Flying Medal.Rear gunner Ted Percival, on a second tour, parachuted out of a disabled plane over Holland. He was shot by members of the Nazi as Youth upon landing. Jock received an emergency discharge after his father and two brothers were killed when their deep water fishing boat struck a mine. Lt. Dawley became an appliance salesman for a department store in Royal Oak, Michigan. Mike Allen emigrated to the United States where he has now completed 26 years as a programmer for a major oil company in Houston, Texas. The balance of the crew faded back into civilian life.Finally, PH-V (Victor), number ME-645, completed several more missions with a new crew before being pastured back to a conversion unit as a trainer plane. It was finally scrapped in August of 1946.M.V. Allen 2500 Words© Copyright of content contributed to this Archive rests with the author. Find out how you can use this.
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