A Family History Collection
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12 August 2014. - 70 years ago today Dad took off from Lincolnshire in Lancaster VN-D to destroy this submarine pen in Bordeaux. Dad was the Navigator. The life expectancy of a Lancaster crew new to operations was 2 weeks. This was their first mission. It was high risk, being performed in daylight at low level in order that the concrete-busting Tallboy bombs could destroy the pens. The German submarines were sinking shipping supplying the beaches of the Normandy landings so it was critical they were taken out. As Dad's Lanc approached the target at around 4:30 this afternoon they were hit by flak. The left inboard engine was hit along with the hydraulics that control the ailerons and elevators, so the aircraft could not be controlled. The order was given to bail out. Dad's parachute had been damaged by the shrapnel so he jumped out over the River Gironde with the parachute bundled in his arms- he let go and it opened!! The pilot, an Aussie Joe Lorimer, stayed in the aircraft until the last of the other 6 crew had left and also to avoid the plane coming down over Bordeaux. He bailed out with only 1500 feet to go - barely enough for the chute to open. He was 19 years old. Dad had just turned 20 that July. Dad was captured in the Forest de la Coubre by the River Gironde. He had sustained burns to the chest from coolant escaping from the damaged engine coming through the Navigator's window which had been blown out. He also sustained a bullet graze to his left leg when a German fired at him as he came down on the beach. All the crew survived. Dad and the wireless operator Freddie Stearn evaded capture and were assisted by the French Resistance in escaping.