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F e a t u r e s

by Tom Atkins I


in the by Tom Atkins

n early 1944 the strategic bomber war over Europe was at its height. By day American B17s and B24s fought desperate, frenzied, close-range battles with German fighters for control of the skies over occupied Europe.

At night the Royal Air Force fought an altogether different war. Their war was cold, calculated, ruthless and just as deadly. They did not see the fighters trying to kill them. They could not feel the lethal radar beams reaching out for them. They had no warning of when death would suddenly strike. These were their Demons in the Dark. It was into this war that Pilot Officer Doug Jackson and his crew flew, when they arrived at Royal Air Force Metheringham. Straight from training, they had to learn fast or die as the head of Bomber

How this nail-biting book came to be written by a member of 8 Squadron while he faced his own demons in the skies above Afghanistan.

While the stories recounted in crew rooms today are many and varied, the stories I heard from the ‘old boys’ who flew the Heavy Bombers really put us modern day flyers back in our box.

The thread of an idea You can’t go far into Lincolnshire without coming across a reminder of why it is called Bomber County. As the RAF Waddington liaison officer for the Aircrew Association I was brought into contact with a large number

12 Spring 2010

Command, Air Marshal ‘Bomber’ Harris, launched the third of his great night bomber offensives, The Battle of Berlin. It was not without reason that the Royal Air Force Bomber crews called him ‘Butcher Harris’. Whole German Cities would be laid waste, but the Bomber crew losses would also be high. An Operational Tour in Bomber Command was 30 missions, but at this time, the average crew was only surviving seven. Jackson and his crew would have to beat the odds more than four times to survive. Thirty times they would have to face their Demons in the Dark.

of WWII bomber crews and I very quickly heard a lot of war stories.

It wasn’t just the content of the stories and what they went through, but the fact that they had to face those situations night after night after night. I decided then, that these stories should not be forgotten. I started to write them down so I could write a book but, like most good intentions, I did nothing about it. Then ‘September 11’ happened and we were rushed off in our AWACs to the war in Afghanistan.

Getting on with it To fly ops over Afghanistan we were based in the Middle East and had a three hour

transit to our operating area. We would be on station over Afghanistan for eight hours and then fly back to base. Add our mission planning and debriefing times to this and you had an eighteen hour day. The next day we would sleep, the day after we would rest and then we’d do it all again. Lying in a tent in a desert is pretty boring and I no longer had any excuses as to why I couldn’t write the book.

The next problem was how to do it. I had a laptop, but what sort of book should it be? I didn’t want to write a book of short stories because that had been done before and while it got the stories down on paper it didn’t tell the whole story of what it was like.

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