Our First Mission by Bruce Wallace
The target was a flying bomb site (V1) at or near L’HEY just over the coast of France. Exactly where doesn’t matter to the event. It was our first operation (OP), as a crew, over enemy occupied territory and I guess we were all “on our toes” and somewhat nervous.
We crossed the coast in an easterly direction and north of the target. We turned south at the appropriate point to head directly toward the target. The bomb aimer (Hamish) took over from the navigator when the target came in sight. He then, through his bomb site readings directed me, the pilot, to the bombing site giving me instructions, through his internal microphone, by saying left left or right right depending on his pinpoint to the target. His instruments would tell him exactly when to drop the bombs. At the appropriate time and point, he would command me to open the bomb bays, which I would do by pushing a lever while still giving me instructions as which way to direct the aircraft. It became a finite point, at last. After five minutes of this procedure that his bombsite gave him, the best instant to release the bombs by pushing a button in his hand that gave the electrical impulse to the bomb bay that released the bombs.
The instant the bombs were released from their moorings in the bomb bay, their was a significant lift to the aircraft from losing the weight of the bombs. The procedure then was to fly straight and level with no variation of height until the bombs exploded on the ground, hopefully on the target at which time a picture was taken as your bombs exploded to give evidence back at base, the damage done, the place your bombs exploded relative to the target and that you bombed the target intended. This procedure was followed for every target day or night.
Once the picture was taken, we were free to go wherever we wanted, probably back to base. The navigator (Vaughan) who was completely involved with this whole procedure and knowing exactly where we were in time, space and on the ground, would give me a compass heading over his intercom as to the direction I should take, or steer the aircraft. The bomb aimer was released from his duties the instant the bombs struck the ground and the picture was taken. The two gunners Howie (tail) and Alvin (midupper) were expectedly scanning everywhere all the time for the enemy fighters to shoot down if they attacked us. As it happened we didn’t see one in the whole trip, which, incidentally, only took 3 hrs and 35 minutes from base and back.
At the time the navigator gave me my new compass heading, which would have been to turn right or west back over the North Sea, or English Channel, I for some inexplicable reason – you guess- I turned left which would have taken us inland and deeper into enemy territory. The navigator immediately told me I was going in the wrong direction, left instead of right. I immediately corrected my error in manipulating the aircraft and turned right to the proper and given compass heading
I have often thought of this incident and have come to the conclusion that I should have used the error, on my part, to say to the whole by the way of an excuse, over the intercom. I thought you would like to see the place we would be working over the next few months.