View Full Version : Poor Night for a Ditching

11-10-2005, 04:13 PM
This is the tale of an RCAF Havoc crew on an Intruder mission over occupied Europe.

From the book: From Hell to Breakfast - page 68-71
Author's Alcorn and Souster
Intruder Press, 39 Baby Point Road Toronto

Poor Night for a Ditching

As we continued to fly Intruder operations we'd run up against a new complication, courtesy of our ingenious enemy the Hun. The same night we'd had our Abbeville jaunt another crew led by P/O Peter White had spotted what looked like a German airfield near Nivillers, France. But on closer inspection it turned out to be a dummy drome put there to lure trespassers like us away from the busy Luftwaffe base at Beauvais. It had a short flare path ending in a wooded area where night fighters could actually be dispersed. To make it look even more authentic, at the sound of approaching aircraft a green flare would be fired from the end of the field to try to entice the Intruders to drop their bombs. It was just another problem to contend with, and from then on we were always on the lookout for these dummy airfields and plotting them for future reference.

But the night we were detailed to patrol an aerodrome in northern Holland, which turned out to be our last op from Debden, we weren't looking for dummy airfields. Jerry had been out raiding somewhere in East Anglia, and the hope was that we could catch him landing back at his base.
But having done an hour's patrol around this particular aerodrome without any joy whatsoever, we began our journey home via the Zuider Zee, intending to skirt around Amsterdam and have a look at an important Hun drome outside the city.
Halfway across the inland sea our pilot bleated out over the intercom in his thick Yorkshire dialect, "Looks like we've been losing bags of petrol, old chums. We may have to ditch."
Needless to say, this was unpleasant news, to put it mildly, but the petrol gauges were reading unreasonably low all of a sudden. We finally decided that since we were flying at about 3,000 feet we still had enough altitude and petrol to get us across the Zuider Zee and the few miles of Holland left, then out to sea far enough to stand a better chance of being picked up than if we ditched inside enemy territory.
The narrowest part of Holland between the Zuider Zee and the North Sea included the Hun airfield we'd been meaning to take a look at, so we had to pass close by itāā‚¬"¯actually too close. As it was situated quite near the coast, and since we always crossed the coastline flat out we were beginning to pick up speed by the time we arrived in the vicinity of the Jerry aerodrome.
All of a sudden I heard a terrific barrage of machine-gun fire, which seemed to come from the rear of the aircraft. All mixed together at the same time were these words shouted out loudly over the intercom: "Take this and this, you bastards," and "that and that. . . ." All in Colin's distinctive Newzie accent.
Mick and I both immediately jumped to the conclusion that we were being attacked, with our gunner spontaneously counter-attacking, although we had no clue whatsoever as to what was actually taking place.
Mickey began taking violent evasive action right away, undulating the aircraft freely. I was keeping one eye on the altimeter and one eye on my watch, calling off the altitudes as we flew up and down and from one side to the other. At the same time our gunfire had naturally attracted the attention of the ground defences below, and they started to pour flak at us. Mickey and I, hearing Colin still blazing madly away, and seeing coloured tracers and shells whizzing past and above us, naturally thought it was coming from an enemy attacker on our tail.

After what seemed at least ten minutes, but couldn't have been more than two at the most, we were finally out to sea and all firing suddenly ceased, both from behind and below. Mick began to throttle back and level out. I picked up my maps, which were strewn around the compartment, loosened my collar, then settled back in my seat for a moment to collect myself. I could feel the sweat running down under my armpits.

Then instinctively all three of us began speaking over the intercom at onceāā‚¬"¯Mick in his broad, thick Leeds lingo, Colin with a distinctive New Zealand twang, me in my excited, clipped Canadian chatter.
"What kind of aircraft was it?"
"Where is he now?"
"How close was he?"
"Did he hit us anywhere?"
Mick and I were really throwing the questions. Colin must have got fed up with our rapid-fire babbling, because he interrupted us finally with a roar.
"What the hell you chums beefin' "bout?"
"Well, weren't you firing at a Jerry? Weren't we being attacked?"
"Hell no, you dizzy bastards. I was just emptying my guns. You said we'd better prepare to ditch and I thought I might as well empty them all on that Hun drome rather than let the mermaids play with 'em. **** it, these guns are sure hot now."
"For God's sake," I asked, "what the devil did you think we were doing all that fancy evasive action for?"
"Simple as hell, chum. Thought you were doing the usual crossing the coastline."
I didn't have an answer for that. We often had to take violent evasive action such as weaving and undulating when crossing a heavily-defended coast.
Colin had the next question.
"How long before we ditch, Mick?"
"Ditch hell," Mick roared back almost immediately, "the bloody gauge is reading okay now! It's home sweet home for us after all, gents. All that bloody bouncing around must have unstuck the bloody indicator!"
When everything finally quieted down and I had a minute to think about it, I realized that Colin's dumb-bunny play with his machine-guns had saved us from making an unnecessary ditching and possibly many hours in the cold, dark North Sea waters, followed by even colder and darker months in a Nazi POW camp. Which was a very sobering thought to say the least.

11-10-2005, 04:45 PM
ill haveto make some intuder missions http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/16x16_smiley-happy.gif

11-10-2005, 04:57 PM
excellent read! http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/25.gif

11-11-2005, 02:51 AM
i would hate to be the guy on the ground shooting the flare, and trying to get them to bomb me http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/blink.gif