tagNovels and NovellasNo Flying Tonight Ch. 18-19

No Flying Tonight Ch. 18-19


Chapter 18

The better weather promised by the Met. Office arrived the next morning; Friday the 24th of March, 1944. The brass at High Wickham went over their strategic targets and selected one; Berlin. It was to be the last major raid on the German capital. The invasion of Europe was imminent and targets were changing from strategic to tactical and from Germany to France.

The crews didn't like Berlin. The flight there and back took at least seven hours, unlike the two or three hours to northern France, and for most of the time they were subject to anti-aircraft fire or pursuit by German night-fighters and, while these dangers were accepted as the normal course of war, it was the risk of death posed by their own bomber stream, including collision with, being bombed by or being shot at by their own side, which they found difficult to accept.

Jack's father looked at the orders. He knew his son was on his last mission and that his squadron was part of the night's bomber force. He had hoped Jack would complete his tour with a couple of easy half-mission targets, such as a 'gardening' operation, dropping mines off the coast of Denmark or Holland or a tactical target in northern France. He wished he could have changed the target; but even that wouldn't have helped much. The skies of Europe were dangerous whatever the destination and, whatever people thought, there were no milk runs.

At Langton the day started at dawn. Even those not privy to the plans of the RAF brass knew the weather was going to be good and in all probability, it would mean the squadron would be flying. The planes scheduled to fly were sitting on their pads, being worked on by their mechanics. Jack's plane was being prepared by a ground crew led by Sergeant Al Findlay; a taciturn Scot who had an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of the mechanics of aeroplanes and in particular, the Lancaster. Armourers were preparing bombs; four thousand pound cookies for the lead planes and smaller bombs and incendiaries for those trailing them; the cookies to blast open the buildings and the incendiaries to set fire to them.

The mandatory flight test was brief as there had been a problem with a generator, but the ground crew had managed to locate the fault and repair it. When they landed, Jack toured the plane with the flight engineer; he couldn't understand those who waited until just before take-off when they were distracted by the immediacy of the mission.

The afternoon was spent on individual briefings with the navigators, flight engineers and wireless operators receiving specialised details of the route, petrol loadings and call signs. At five the crew ate their evening meal; a ration-breaking fry-up featuring bacon, eggs and beans – some crews referred to it as 'the last supper'. At six o'clock all the crews gathered in the briefing room with both the C.O. and the Wing-Commander in attendance. The intelligence officer entered the room and took down the cloth, which was covering a map of the western part of Europe on which red ribbons dog-legged to Berlin. Among the veteran crews a few groans were heard. They had been to Berlin, some far more often than they cared to remember, and there was nothing good about it.

The instructions were lengthy. There was going to be a feint raid on Kiel using Mosquitoes – lucky them, at over 400 knots in level flight they could outrace even the quickest German night-fighters – and another, into France, in an effort to convince German controllers that a site in southern Germany was the target. The main force was to head east; cross over Denmark and, over the Baltic, turn south-east and head for Berlin. The weather forecast for the raid was reasonably good, with winds of seventy-five mile per hour the only problem expected. There was to be variable cloud for both the inward and outward journeys and over the target and a quarter moon. The lack of moon and the partial cloud cover would cause them to rely on the Pathfinder force in locating their target, but would provide some protection from the night-fighters.

Jack took-off immediately after the Wing-Commander's plane and headed for the collection point over the Norfolk Coast. There were 811 planes heading for Berlin and it was well over an hour before the last one joined the stream. The journey over the North Sea was uneventful, although the experienced crews knew it was only the lull before the storm. They knew the Luftwaffe had been tracking them since the first plane took to the air and, even now, radar operators were relaying information to night-fighter stations. It wouldn't be long; once they cleared the flak barrier they would be fair game for the enemy fighters.

In Z, Zulu the crew worked methodically, with most of the pressure falling on the navigator. Winds speeds were higher than forecast, reaching over one hundred miles per hour and making route plotting almost impossible. The plane was equipped with H2S which, in theory, provided a map-like outline of the ground below but, in practice, while useful when flying over contrasting topography – it had readily identified the Danish coast - its electronic pulses attracted night-fighters.

Flak had been as hostile as usual and as they crossed the Danish coast they saw their first casualty when, immediately above them and to port, they saw a flash of light as a bomber burst into flames and watched as it spun out of control and headed downwards. Nobody would escape; centrifugal force would pin the crew down and they would have to wait - terrified - for the sixty or so seconds it took the plane to descend from almost four miles up. From that point on they watched as nine planes burst into flame or exploded around them. They saw parachutes deploy from two of them, but most either exploded or spun into the ground; offering the crew little chance for survival.

They reached the turning point just before eleven and headed south-east. As they crossed the Baltic the flak disappeared; it was quiet but they knew the fighters were waiting.

They reached the outskirts of Berlin just as the Pathfinders dropped their flares. The aiming point was marked by a green flare, which, hopefully, was located directly on top of the marshalling yards. As he began his run-in Jack could see the bombing was creeping back as crews anxious to bomb and leave were dropping their bombs west and north of the aiming point. It didn't matter much as the chances of hitting the marshalling yards were poor, whereas the chances of hitting Berlin were good. To Bomber Command the strategic bombing campaign was as much about destroying the morale of the civilian workforce as it was hitting specific targets. But the bombing was working; in the major cities the German people were becoming despondent and the German military machine was slowly being strangled.

"Left skipper.... that's it.... steady."

In the nose of the plane the bomb-aimer was lying face down watching Berlin pass below him.

"Five seconds Skipper... steady.... steady ..... bombs gone."

The massive plane leapt in the air as its four ton cargo dropped into the night. For thirty-five seconds Jack held the plane on course until the photo-flash went off, signalling the end of the bombing run. It was 12.01 a.m. DDST – Double Daylight Saving Time.

At 12.07 a.m. the radar operator of a He219 picked up an echo from an allied bomber.

"Tommi, 3,000 metres above and to the left."

The pilot banked and climbed, searching the night sky for the enemy. At 12.10 a.m. the radar operator made visual contact.

"Lancaster, 400 metres to the left and 200 metres above us."

Three seconds later the rear gunner in Lancaster Z, Zulu saw a twin-engined fighter outlined against the fires of Berlin.

"Bandit, Skipper. Cork-screw right."

Chapter 19

In the Queen's Hotel, Grimsby, Jane Grey was lying face down, with her thighs on either side of Lieutenant Simon Henderson's shoulders, her nipples brushing his stomach and her mouth teasing the last drops of spunk from his cock. As she sucked, her thoughts turned to Jack and how much more exciting their love-making had been.

In Lancashire, Flight Lieutenant John Lindsey's aunt was in bed, dreaming fitfully, playing with herself and mewling, softly, in her sleep as she recalled the last time her nephew had made love to her.

In Hamilton, Sophie McLeod was sitting in a chair, nursing her son. As she watched him she thought of her lover, remembering vividly the last time he had suckled at her breast and the night, she was sure, he had made her pregnant.

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