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Jon Lake

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    Henley on Thames

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  1. Chilling? Perhaps, depending on whether your glass is half full or half empty. While gunner Ken Conway on the port beam gun was killed (that's the cause of the ominous stain down the rear fuselage), the rest of the crew survived what should have been certain death, and at least two of them are still alive today. My Dad always viewed it as the luckiest day of his life - the day he should have perished, but was instead saved, along with all but one of his mates. A little before 3pm (after a 5:34 am take off), Nick Nicholson in the rear turret spotted three grey/green Bf 110s approaching fast from astern. Two of the 110s came up on the starboard beam to give the Lib a good look over - perhaps making sure that this B-24 was a hostile. On another occasion the crew encountered nine Ju 88s who simply gave them a cheery wave - perhaps thinking they were KG200? This time, though, the three 110s attacked from the port side, standing well off and pumping 30-mm into the Lib, out of reach of the B-24's defensive 0.5 machine guns. Conway was killed in the first couple of attacks, the port inner was put out of action, the fuel tanks were holed and Nicholson was badly injured (he subsequently had to have one leg amputated). Jack Frost's skilful flying (which included tight downward corkscrews FROM 800 ft down to 200 ft, and which saw the Lib standing on one wingtip) prevented the aircraft's destruction, though after landing engineers counted more than 300 bullet and shell holes in poor old EW288, which was written off. When the Bf 110s ran out of cannon shells, they pressed their attacks closer, and at this point (during the ninth attack, after 40 minutes of combat), Merv Gollan in the mid-upper turret was able to hit one of the attackers, which was observed leaving the scene on fire and trailing heavy smoke from one engine. Soon afterwards, presumably low on fuel, the other two enemy fighters withdrew. I believe that both sides claimed and were credited with a kill! The Lib limped back to Sumburgh (the nearest airfield, since there was no way on earth they were ever getting back to Leuchars) with the crew jettisoning everything that wasn't 'nailed down'. This included the depth charges, which had to be manually released by the F/E, standing on the narrow catwalk along the centre of the bomb bay, and relying on their weight to push open the partially jammed bomb bay doors. The Lib landed wheels up on the runway (contrary to the wishes of ATC, who were expecting the return of a Beaufighter squadron), before skidding off onto the grass. The incident was not judged to be a 'productive action' in that no U-boat or ship was sunk or damaged, and under standing Group rules and regulations this limited the tally of medals given to the crew - a DFC went to Frost, and a DFM to Gollan. Promotions followed for several of the crew, however, and Sergeants Webb and Lake were commissioned - both subsequently staying in the air force into the 1970s, retiring as Wing Commander and Group Captain respectively. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, a dwindling number of the British members of the crew met up on the 15th November to celebrate their 'deliverance' (the crew included Aussies and Kiwis, too).
  2. The end result of your help.....
  3. Thanks very much, more really useful input!
  4. and what a lovely piece of artwork! J (How were the codes presented under the wings?
  5. That's really most helpful, many thanks!
  6. Yes please! My partner reads German so that would be very helpful indeed. So all four code letters in plain black, and no coloured spinners, bands, etc.? J
  7. I'm trying to work out whose Bf 110s nearly did for my Dad off Bergen on 15 November 1944. I'm guessing 12./ZG26 based at Herdla, though some sources suggest that Lt Rudolf Kurpiers was one of the assailants, flying 1B-NX. What unit is that? What colours, codes, etc. might have been worn? Unfortunately WWII Luftwaffe really isn't my bag!
  8. Thanks all, really helpful input! J
  9. I'm looking to try and find out what was on the name panel on Gabreski's final P-47. It's the red-outlined white panel with black writing in front of the kill tally. (I see that some decals show it as yellow!) From pictures of Robert Johnson's aircraft I'm guessing that it reads something like: PILOT: CAPT.FRANCIS GABRESKI CREW: MSGT STAN LAUREL SSGT OLIVER HARVEY ARM: PFC BUSTER KEATON I'd be very grateful for any guidance!
  10. Lovely! I remember flying that very 'dog, too, albeit a bit later, as by the time I was on ULAS we had the props in black/white stripes. My logbook tells me that I flew her with Sqn Ldr O'Brien on 9, 10 and 11 March 1980, and with S/L Drew the next day. Among lines and lines of Bulldog flying, I only flew '524 a few times after that - more often solo than dual, and with Don Merriman, our CFI, and F/L Lander, including a really memorable sortie from St Mawgan on Summer Camp. I have a feeling that she might have been the boss's aircraft, but I do remember being pleased when she was my allocated mount on the auth sheets, though XX553/07 was my favourite - first solo, most of my aeros, and the last aircraft I flew as a VR pilot. And Dick Ward very kindly gave me a sheet of the decals, too, and I once had a nice little model of '553 in ULAS markings, albeit not as nicely painted as that one!
  11. You do know that the SC9 never flew in Hemp? The Hemp colour scheme was applied ONLY after the aircraft had been relegated to a ground instructional role at St Mawgan, as practise for St Mawgan's painters and finishers.
  12. It's good to 'meet' you, as it were. I do have Gunn's book, and Jimmy Glazebrook's, too. I was also lucky enough to hear all the recollections - so I can tell you about the day they captured a U-Boat, or the time they ran into nine Ju-88s stooging along towards them, and which ignored them (perhaps thinking they were a KG200 B-24?). I can tell you why they called Frank Harris 'Ace', etc. I can't tell you about their U-Boat kill (my Dad wasn't on that trip)...... We really must have a beer sometime.
  13. That's a really nice model of 'Uncle' Jack Frost's Liberator. Skipper Marshall John Frost was, perhaps inevitably, known as 'Jack' Frost, and as my Dad's wartime skipper and my godfather, he was always 'Uncle Jack' to me. And you may be interested to know that Jack is still with us, living with his Finnish wife in Shaftesbury in Dorset. Most of the rest of the crew have gone, of course. Ken Conway died at the port beam gun of EW288 in November 1944, replaced by your Dad. My Dad (Group Captain Eric Lake) died in 2009. Frank 'Ace' Harris died soon after that. Navigator Jack Webb died before my Dad, and I don't know what happened to 'Shorty' Seymour, Merv Golland (who downed one of the attacking Bf110s) or 'Scotty'. Amputee Nick Nicholson (the grandfather of the crew) was still with us fairly recently - a Kiwi immigrant to Canada and a snowbird who wintered in Phoenix every year. I have lost touch with him, and with Don Knight, who was alive and well in Rushden, Northants, last time I heard.
  14. Hi Lars, what became of this? The 3d model looks fantastic.
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