Almost everyone has had a near death experience – a time when the Grim Reaper’s scythe has missed you by a hair’s breadth. Sometimes we wonder how we managed to escape unharmed. This is my story.
First off, you might find it strange that I nearly died during a war that ended many years before I was born, but carry on reading – all will be explained.
During *World War 2 (WW2) my father served in the Royal Air Force as a navigator in Lancaster bombers. These jolly fine chaps – in their flying machines – used to go on what was known as **sorties, over Germany. They would then try to drop bombs on various ***strategic locations in this country. Although my old dad was never one to talk about his wartime exploits, I was able to piece together one harrowing incident that took place during a bomb-run over enemy territory.
Maybe it would be a good idea to first explain a little about the Lancaster bomber. This Second World War bomber was designed and built by Avro (no, not Afro, dummy!) for the Royal Air Force. The “Lanc,” as it was affectionately known, was powered by four Rolls-Royce Merlin engines and became the most successful of the WW2 night bombers, delivering 608,612 tons of bombs in 156,000 sorties.
Now, as for the crew of seven:
Pilot – seated on the left-hand side of the cockpit (note: there was no henpit)
Flight Engineer – seated next to the pilot on a folding seat
Navigator – (my Dad) seated at a table directly behind the pilot and flight engineer
Bomb Aimer – seated in the front gun turret
Wireless Operator – seated beside my Dad
Mid-Upper Gunner – seated in the mid-upper turret
Tail End Gunner – seated at the rear turret, and no, he was NOT a homosexual
Ok, now we have the seating arrangements sorted; let’s get on with the real story.
One dark, cloudy night over Germany, my old man and his buddies were up to their usual tricks – dropping bombs on breweries and such. But on this particular night fate stepped in. After dropping the “eggs,” as the bombs were called, the pilot decided to return home. Unfortunately the noise of the exploding bombs woke a German anti-aircraft crew, who immediately started firing at the Lanc with their 20mm Oerlikon cannon.
One 20mm projectile passed clean through the fuselage of the airplane – entering at the bottom – passing through various items, before exiting at the top. It was at that very moment, that I nearly lost my life.
Many years later, after having been for a swim with my dad, I notice some serious scarring – high up in his inner thigh – and asked him about it.
Turns out that the 20mm round, fired from the cannon in 1943, penetrated the seat he was sitting on – passed through the inside of his leg – but missed his femoral artery, cojones and ****reproductive organ by a hare’s breath. It then drilled a hole through the table, and went on to exit through the top of the fuselage.
Now imagine if that bloody German projectile destroyed my old man’s family jewels. Where would I be? Let me tell you! I would have been spattered all over the cockpit (that word again) of the Lanc; and that would have been the end of my life!
So, what can we learn from this story?
“Don’t count your chickens before they are hatched?”
*World War 2 – 1939 to 1945
**sorties – going out with you drinking buddies
***strategic locations – breweries, Schnapps distilleries, sauerkraut factories, etc
****reproductive organ – how come there are no reproductive pianos?