On the night of February 23, 1945 we bombed Pforzheim a town in which, according to intelligence reports, the residents assembled instruments in their homes. This meant that the whole town was a target for saturation bombing. We bombed from 8,000 feet and the concussion from exploding bombs caused the aircraft to shake. Thinking that we were being hit by flack the pilot asked the navigator for a course out of the target area. When the navigator reminded the pilot that we had to fly straight and level for 30 seconds to get a good picture, the pilot’s reply was “F... the picture” and a course was given to starboard. We brought back a picture that showed the fires of the target area in a curve.
I never heard what the people in charge said to our pilot, navigator or bomb aimer, but it never happened again. According to “The Bomber Command War Diaries” over 17,000 people were killed in the raid.
On the night of March 3, 1945 we bombed Chemnitz. On our return to base we were informed that we were
“turn 23 to land”. We were stacked for 90 stressful minutes as we circled in overlapping circuits. We were airborne for 10.25 hours. When we landed we were a very tired and stressed crew. So much for following the rules.. On subsequent trips my pilot was known as “briefed speeds Hodson”.
A few recollections:
We had a good navigator, bomb aimer pilot team. As briefed wind frequently were unreliable, the winds determined by our team, were signalled to H.Q., which in turn sent the information to the bomber stream. At the end of the war our crew was being considered for the Pathfinders group.
As updating my log in the dark was a problem, I would kneel in the nose section with my back to the Perspex, my body shielding a minimum of light using the edge of the pilot’s seat platform as a ‘desk’ with the rudder pedals close to my face. I would calculate the fuel consumption and enter the data. One night there was a series of bangs as ice on one of the props broke loose and hit the fuselage next to my head and really startled me. I don’t recall praying when on my knees but I must have said a prayer which probably is one reason why we survived, that and good luck.
On another night op we emerged from cloud into a valley in the Alps with a mountain peak above and on both sides of us. While the peaks were a few miles away, it was a scary sight. Shortly after this our mid upper gunner (Carson Dawdy) reported to the pilot that he saw an airfield with fighters being refuelled. So I guess we were twice lucky to avoid the mountain peaks and late enough to avoid being attacked by night fighters. Both good luck and good navigation were in our favour on that occasion.
The most rewarding flight: Operation Exodus.
Two days after VE Day we flew to Rheims, France and landed on steel matting. We brought 24 liberated British POWs back home. Some of these soldiers were captured at Dunkirk June 1940. When we landed in England, some were so glad to get home that they kissed the tarmac.