Augsburg 17 April 1942


By Sgt F H Harrison

On the 13th April we carried out a short daylight formation sortie. After two more such short trips there followed on the 15th a cross country of 5 hours 20 minutes duration. Two days later we went to Augsburg.

This was my first bomber op. My one undying memory of the briefing is of a Rhodesian WAG who spent the time reading a novel. When I mentioned it he replied that this was his last opportunity to finish it. He was wrong, although his chance to finish his book was delayed a number of years. By that evening he was a Prisoner of War.

We flew in two vics of three. Nettleton led with Garwell to port and Rhodes to starboard. The second vic tucked in close behind. I never saw the 97 Squadron contingent.

All was joyful until shortly after crossing the French coast. Then I saw a mass of German fighters manoeuvring and diving down onto our tails. Len Mutter in the rear turret, and I fired like mad throughout the entire engagement, as the fighters, one after another, came up behind us and then broke off to port. They were only within range of my 303s for a short time, whereas they seemed able to fire at us throughout their pass until they broke away.

The rear vic was shot down almost immediately. Then Rhodes was hit in the port wing and began to drop, which would have meant curtains for us. He levelled momentarily and seconds later hit the deck. A wheel bounded out of the inferno and seemed to chase after us.

The end of the action saw but two of us remaining: only one of my twin Brownings was operating, and only one of Len’s four.

All went well until the target, where we carried out a successful attack at low level as briefed. The brisk light AA claimed Garwell and alone we headed for home.

As the light failed we were able to climb but with the heavy broken cloud it became apparent that we were very lost. At a late stage a beacon was spotted. Des Sands consulted his flimsies and concluded that the code letters indicated either Hurn or Squires Gate. The Skipper plumped for Squires Gate, used their callsign on RT and asked for permission to land, which after 9 hours and 45 minutes we did with much relief.

Squires Gate kindly accommodated us for the night and then next day Nettleton asked us whether we wanted to fly home or go by train. We went by train. I for one had been amazed when undressing to find my underwear as clean as it had been that morning.

Later the crew was scheduled to tour the USA on a propaganda trip, for which I was allocated a new uniform. Apparently, objections were raised over an exclusive bomber ‘do’ so Nettleton and Buzzer Huntley were accompanied by bods drawn from other
Commands.