Thursday, 26 April 2012

I met a WW2 Lancaster flight engineer today

It seems to have been raining for weeks, but we had some breaks in the rain today. Amazingly it stopped for long enough for me and my five guests to enjoy the outside part of the Nimrod tour I was conducting this afternoon for them without us getting wet. One of the guys (John) used to work on Nimrods at Woodford, but it wasn't until we were in the flight deck that his colleagues 'outed' him as a Lancaster flight engineer with 32 ops under his belt!

He was based, he told me, at Ludford Magna. They were one of the few stations with FIDO (Fog Investigations and Dispersal Operation - see and he remembers returning from a raid and noting an orange glow on the horizon. "Birmingham, that? Or Manchester? Someone's getting a pasteing tonight" said the skipper.

As they drew nearer the glow remained on the nose - it was Ludford's FIDO! That night most of Bomber Command landed at Ludford and the airfield was jammed with aeroplanes parked nose to tail and wing to wing on every bit of available hardstanding. Took days to drag them out backwards with tractors and get them back to their bases! A missed opportunity for the Luftwaffe!

Over Germany one night a piece of shrapnel pierced the fuselage near the tail and jammed the elevator control rod. The skipper flew the aeroplane using the trimmer (in reverse sense, due the jammed elevator) until John managed to crawl back there and dislodge the shrapnel with an oxygen bottle.

I've met a few WW2 heros while conducting tours, including a few years back on Concorde the flight engineer of the Catalina that spotted the Bismarck. I'm always amazed how unassuming they are.


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