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Enemy Coast Ahead - Guy Gibson VC

#81
It may be apocryphal, but I have read that at the time of the filming of ‘Battle of Britain’, Michael Caine could not drive. The scene of him driving off from the bombed airfield in his red vintage car (Rolls?) with his black lab was shot in such a way as to hide the fact it was being pulled by a rope and members of the film crew out of shot.

Maybe his Merc was chauffeur driven?
Caine didn't get a driving licence until he was 50 (so in the 1980s), so entirely possible, although I imagine that if he had a basic understanding of how to drive, he might have got away with it (not being on a public road at the time).
 
#82
The decision to form a strong Bomber Command was a strategic initiative taken at War Cabinet level. It was thought that the UK/British Empire could not defeat Hitler's Germany until it had been substantially weakened. And the way to weaken it was to destroy its industrial potential.

The theory was sound enough. The RAF (and the USAAF) spent the bulk of the war (a) gaining air superiority, (b) developing the correct tactics and techniques and (c) identifying the correct targets to hit. When those three problems were solved in late 1944, the German war economy collapsed rapidly.

Bomber Command took heavy losses - they were allowed to continue to do so because WSC/the War Cabinet thought that the impact on the German war economy justified incurring those losses.

Wordsmith
Their losses bigger than ours.

An unfortunate mentality, adopted when the only thing you can, and can afford to, look at, is the total cost.
 
#83
I believe the table you're referring to is Note 18 to Chapter 64, which refers to percentage chance of survival by type of mission flown. This table was compiled before 16 November 1942, so is in no way indicative of the overall losses suffered by the RAF in the following 2-1/2 years.
Indeed, Fighter Command's worst year was 1942 and Bomber Command's was 1943 - by mid-1944 Bomber Command was losing aircrew so slowly that they had a surplus. Coastal Command's torpedo/strike crews also had a (slightly) easier time in 1944/45. But the overall trends hold true.
 

AfghanAndy

On ROPS
On ROPs
#84
Indeed, Fighter Command's worst year was 1942 and Bomber Command's was 1943 - by mid-1944 Bomber Command was losing aircrew so slowly that they had a surplus. Coastal Command's torpedo/strike crews also had a (slightly) easier time in 1944/45. But the overall trends hold true.
ISTR that fighter commands excessive losses in 42 were significantly contributed to by rhubarb fighter sweeps over Northern Europe.

All of your above examples were to be accepted as part of the earlier stages of grinding down the Luftwaffe in order to secure victory in 45.

As an aside I grew up on story’s of the courage of these guys as many were still around. I sense that with their passing their sacrifice and courage gets dulled over time.
 
#85
Caine didn't get a driving licence until he was 50 (so in the 1980s), so entirely possible, although I imagine that if he had a basic understanding of how to drive, he might have got away with it (not being on a public road at the time).
Not a lot of people know that....

Can we try to stay on topic? I started this thread thinking about the courage needed by Bomber (and other crews) and by extension other parts of the Services from 1938 to 1945, not really for a discussion of strategy, personal flaws of senior Officers or squadron commanders, or things like that.
 
#86
As an aside I grew up on story’s of the courage of these guys as many were still around. I sense that with their passing their sacrifice and courage gets dulled over time.
Their sacrifice and courage should not be. But they, and my other examples (infantry and escort crews), and many others were 'just' ordinary men doing their duties to the best of their abilities. Each service threw up heroes (and leaders) in the true sense of the word: Leonard Cheshire, John Walker or Peter Young for example, but they were a tiny minority.
 

Wordsmith

LE
Book Reviewer
#87
As an aside I grew up on story’s of the courage of these guys as many were still around. I sense that with their passing their sacrifice and courage gets dulled over time.
And with Area Bombing being judged by the standards of today, not the 1940's. As I've posted before, area bombing was the only realistic tactic available to Bomber Command until the later stages of the war.

Bomber Command tried precision attacks from 1939 - 1941 and found they were largely ineffective. They only moved to area bombing when they'd exhausted the other possibilities. It did cause massive civilian casualties, but the alternative was not to bomb German industry at all.

The USAAF also engaged in area bombing when conditions over Europe were not suitable for visual bombing, but they had better PR and never attracted the same level of opprobrium as Bomber Command did. Indeed, post war it was found that Bomber Command bombed more accurately by night than the USAAF did through cloud.

(Although the USAAF's visual bombing was generally very accurate, there were generally only 4 - 5 days a month where it was possible).

Wordsmith
 
#88
The wireless operator who climbed out on the wing to extinguish flames is a good example. He did it because there was no other option.
IIRC his VC was nearly turned down because his actions "had an element of self preservation"...
 
#89
Kenneth More played Bader . Richard Todd played Gibson. Todd could ( IMHO ) play harder types than More but as in so many war films was rather old for the role.
Todd dropped with 7 (LI) Para on D Day so might not have been such an effort..

As many know he dropped to support the OXF & BUCKS at Pegasus Bridge, and in The Longest Day Todd played the part of Major Howard DSO, their OC.
 
#90
My Nan's younger brother was a mid upper gunner on Lanc's and he only really spoke to me about the war once after a few malts the new year just after I joined up, he said that his regular crew were lost on a mission where they stole another crews mid upper as he had an ear infection. It still bothered him every day that they died and he didn't. As for losing people in a constant stream he said they were just faces mainly, he learned not to get close to anyone after a while as they probably wouldn't be around for long.

The thing that sticks in my memory was him saying that his regular pilot, the one that died with the rest of his crew, would tell the rest of the crew he was going to pray just before boarding. After he died he found out that the ground crew had seen him on more than one occasion silently crying to the point of shaking behind a tree near their dispersal. I cant imagine the guts it took to get in the aircraft after that and not only take yourself, but six other men, to a place that terrified you so time and time again when you are just in your early twenties.

I did have his wartime diary but I gave it to his old Squadron Association for safekeeping and posterity. It was quite hard to read in places, irrelevant and funny in others. And he hated Gibson, he said 617 got far more recognition and adulation than their contribution to the war effort warranted. When I told him that 617 were, in the modern day RAF, basically exempt from disbandment and kept active ahead of far more illustrious squadrons he was livid.
 

Lacking Moral Fibre

Old-Salt
Book Reviewer
#91
Bader by all accounts was a complete cock.

I can’t help but think that when you have survival rates like bomber command had you just got an a did amazing things because there was little other option.

The wireless operator who climbed out on the wing to extinguish flames is a good example. He did it because there was no other option.

It isn’t exactly the scenario when you can bunker down in a shell scrap and wait until the nastiness goes away.
Regarding D Bader, I'm sure when he was in Colditz he had a batman who duties included carrying Bader up to the stairs to use the bath. IIRC the batman was offered the chance of being repatriated before the war ended ( I assume he was a medic) but Bader objected and the man stayed until the war ended.
 
#92
Regarding D Bader, I'm sure when he was in Colditz he had a batman who duties included carrying Bader up to the stairs to use the bath. IIRC the batman was offered the chance of being repatriated before the war ended ( I assume he was a medic) but Bader objected and the man stayed until the war ended.
Yes that's mentioned in a documentary I saw on Bader fairly recently . Another thing I didn't know was that Bader was one of the greatest fly-halves of his generation and if not for his accident might very have played for England .
 
#93
Yes that's mentioned in a documentary I saw on Bader fairly recently . Another thing I didn't know was that Bader was one of the greatest fly-halves of his generation and if not for his accident might very have played for England .
he was named as selected for the England team the day after the crash, if I remember Reach for the sky (the book) correctly
 
#94
Bravery takes many forms I’m told . Granddad Alec said it was mostly not letting his crew down that drove him. If he had flunked a trip they would just have to do one extra with the extra stress that would bring, stress and tiredness increased the chances of mistakes or carelessness, and both could be fatal.
The thing he said they never discussed but all feared was not just dieing, ( though as a 22 year old that must have been up there) But the time it would take before you were out of it.
Grandad saw countless ways for crews to die and not many of them would have been instantaneous, fire being the worst.
For me it is almost beyond my comprehension how young men could watch mates go down as flamers from a ringside seat and know the dice said they could be next, and then go out and do it again tomorrow night
Brave doesn’t cover it as a word.
My bold.. precisely, this true tale is of one guy who preferred jump without a parachute from18,000 ft. rather than burn, the amazing thing is HE LIVED to tell the tale!!
Nicholas Alkemade - Wikipedia
snip "On the night of 24 March 1944, 21-year-old Alkemade was one of seven crew members in Avro Lancaster B Mk. II, DS664,[1] of No. 115 Squadron RAF. Returning from a 300 bomber raid on Berlin, east of Schmallenberg, DS664 was attacked by a German Ju 88 night-fighter, [Note 1] caught fire and began to spiral out of control. Because his parachute had gone up in flames and thus was unserviceable, Alkemade jumped from the aircraft without it, preferring to die by impact rather than burn to death. He fell 18,000 feet (5,500 m) to the ground below.
His fall was broken by pine trees and a soft snow cover on the ground. He was able to move his arms and legs and suffered only a sprained leg. The Lancaster crashed in flames, killing pilot Jack Newman and three other members of the crew. They are buried in the CWGC's Hanover War Cemetery.
Alkemade was subsequently captured and interviewed by the Gestapo, who were initially suspicious of his claim to have fallen without a parachute until the wreckage of the aircraft was examined. (Reportedly, the Germans gave Alkemade a certificate testifying to the fact.)[2] He was a celebrated prisoner of war, before being repatriated in May 1945"
 
#95
There’s a pub in Cambridge who’s name escapes me. Quite a tall ceiling in the bar and still heavily stained with nicotine and smoke.

Why has the landlord not given it a lick of paint to freshen it up you may ask?

The simple answer is that when you look closely at the ceiling it is covered in graffiti from bomber crew who used to drink there. 70 year old graffiti lovingly left alone to remember the memories of those brave men.

ISTR that there is a picture of then Memphis bell behind the bar and I think that crew signed the ceiling.

If you are ever in York, go to Betties Cafe (which is splendid) and downstaires in a corridore adjacent to the Gents door there is a huge mirror with all sorts of grafiti from the crewes who served around York in the numerouse airfields.
 
#96
Guy Gibson married a Penarth girl. An old (in both senses of the word) friend was a GPO telegram boy before being called up into the RHG and met him once whilst delivering a telegram. On even the briefest acquaintance he thought Gibson was a tw*t of the first order.

On the other hand the WW1 ace (and serious head-case) Ira Jones also lived in Penarth for a while and, once again whilst delivering a telegram, John asked to speak with him. The man was charm itself. Then the silly bu**er moved to Aberaeron, fell off a ladder and died.

Edited to add, as well as Alkemade I think a bloke called Rolfe was either blown out of a Ventura or came down in the tail assembly as it dropped like a sycamore leaf.
 

Wordsmith

LE
Book Reviewer
#97
^ ^ ^

A number of the bomber Command VCs are for bomber pilots who stayed at the controls to give their crew a chance to escape, pretty well guaranteeing they would die with the aircraft.

It takes a special kind of courage to give up your own life, so your crew members can live.

Wordsmith
 
#98
My bold.. precisely, this true tale is of one guy who preferred jump without a parachute from18,000 ft. rather than burn, the amazing thing is HE LIVED to tell the tale!!
Nicholas Alkemade - Wikipedia
snip "On the night of 24 March 1944, 21-year-old Alkemade was one of seven crew members in Avro Lancaster B Mk. II, DS664,[1] of No. 115 Squadron RAF. Returning from a 300 bomber raid on Berlin, east of Schmallenberg, DS664 was attacked by a German Ju 88 night-fighter, [Note 1] caught fire and began to spiral out of control. Because his parachute had gone up in flames and thus was unserviceable, Alkemade jumped from the aircraft without it, preferring to die by impact rather than burn to death. He fell 18,000 feet (5,500 m) to the ground below.
His fall was broken by pine trees and a soft snow cover on the ground. He was able to move his arms and legs and suffered only a sprained leg. The Lancaster crashed in flames, killing pilot Jack Newman and three other members of the crew. They are buried in the CWGC's Hanover War Cemetery.
Alkemade was subsequently captured and interviewed by the Gestapo, who were initially suspicious of his claim to have fallen without a parachute until the wreckage of the aircraft was examined. (Reportedly, the Germans gave Alkemade a certificate testifying to the fact.)[2] He was a celebrated prisoner of war, before being repatriated in May 1945"
Most on here will be familiar with the story. However I wonder if it might have been at least a partial inspiration for the film "A Matter Of Life And Death"?

It definitely sounds like Conductor 71 was working that night.
 
#99
There was a RAF pilot, awarded the VC who baled out of Germany and was incarcerated in a POW camp for a while. He had sustained serious injuries to his arms and legs on bailing out, and had to have a leg removed.

He requested his leg be flown to England and dropped over his old Squadron base, and the Camp Commandant, being Luftwaffe, and in respect to the Englishman's VC agreed. When his other leg had to come off he made the same request and again the Camp Commandant agreed.

Then he had an arm amputated and made the same request; that his arm be flown to England and dropped over his Squadron station. This time the request was denied.

When he asked why the Commandant replied; 'We believe you are trying to escape'.
 
Harris - to give him credit - had many qualities as a commander - he was a formidable tactician, administrator, advocate for his cause, and so on. However, he lacked strategic insight.

Smashing Berlin - as was done to Hamburg - would probably have won the war, However, to achieve that was beyond Bomber Command's capabilities at the time. A wiser commander would have realised that and gone after more strategically attainable goals.

The weaknesses in the German war economy had been identified with some accuracy before the war - oil and their Reichsbahn (rail network). Had Harris focused on how to improve navigational and bombing accuracy so they could have been hit hard earlier in the war, he would have caused the German industrial collapse to happen months (or years) earlier than it actually did.

But 20/20 hindsight is a wonderful thing. We should also remember that strategic bombing was a strategy that had to be learned on the job in WW2. And that the RAF was continually seeking to improve its strategy and tactics throughout the war. Without prior experience to draw on, they actually got a lot right - and should be given credit for that.

Wordsmith
I think that there is definitely an analogy between the strategic air offensive of WW2 and the fighting on the western front in WW1. Both were rather new types of warfare , and the technology and tactics to win them took time to work out. In the meantime doing nothing was not an option . You don't win wars by defending.

Edited to add-

Haig has been even more vilified than Harris , and his job was even more controversial and more important. But they got results - Bomber Command by 1945 and the British Armies in France by 1918 were very effective killing machines.
 
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