David Bowker was just 18 when he joined the RAF. He was a pilot in Bomber Command and survived a crash which killed two of his comrades. In this guest blog, David, 91, remembers his colleagues who were killed during the bombing raid over Frankfurt.
As we approach 11 November, I naturally begin to recall the night of 8/9 September 1942 on my 20th raid over Germany.
I was piloting a Wellington 111 in 150 Squadron operating out of RAF Snaith, near Doncaster. I still remember it all so vividly. It was very dark, which made for poor visibility. The target that night was Frankfurt and we quickly came under heavy fire.
Our aircraft was so badly damaged over the target by anti-aircraft fire that I could barely control it – we were constantly losing height on the return journey and our fuel gauges were reading nil as we crossed the French coast.
The wireless operator contacted base and we were directed by intersecting searchlights to RAF Manston.
Whilst aiming for Manston, the engines cut out and we crashed into a wood just North of Folkestone. We managed to get the co-pilot, who was on his first operation, out of the aircraft, but he died from internal injuries. The bomb aimer was trapped in the flaming fuselage and we were unable to help him.
He'd been persuaded to re-join the crew after telling the Squadron Commander he had lost his nerve. It remains a constant memory that he was burned to death in the plane that day.
My own injuries weren't severe but I now suffer with a bad back, which I'm sure dates back to the crash. Every Remembrance I attend a local service and pay my respects to my colleagues. We were all young men doing a job we had to do – what else could we do?
This Remembrance Day I will be remembering my colleagues who were killed that day and all the other men from Bomber Command that died during the Second World War.
By David Bowker
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