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Then there was a pause on the intercom. as I put the control column forward and threw the Halifax into its left turn, whereupon the gunner’s voice came again: ‘Sorry, skipper! Corkskrew RIGHT!’ We were lucky. It can only be assumed we were not the actual target of that


fighter, if indeed there was a fighter, for our turn left would have given it a not too difficult target to hit with a straight burst. But no incendiary trace or any burst of fire came our way and we resumed our straight and level flight on the way to our own target on the ground. That leaves the last member of the crew, our own ‘ tail-end Charlie’, Ken Rodgers. Ken was, like the rest of the crew apart from Jimmy Ward, an NCO and a young one at that. He would have been perhaps nineteen years old and told me he had been ‘a backer-up in a rolling mill in Sheffield’. It is strange how even unimportant details stay in the mind for years – I can still remember that Ken’s address in Sheffield was 47, Vivian Road, Firth Park. But now, nearly half a century later, there is no Rodgers living there. Ken himself stays in my memory for the events of one particular morning. It was late on in our history as a Halifax crew and the night raids of October to December 1944 were, from February 1945 onwards, being largely replaced by daylight operations. The Allies had achieved overwhelming air superiority in the daytime and, with the possibility of using fighter cover to protect daylight bomber sorties as a further strength, we flew a series of daytime raids after a month in January when we managed only a total of two operations, bombing Saarbrucken on the night of the 13th and Stuttgart precisely two weeks later. The weather was cold, with snow and bitter temperatures at that time. I recall looking at the outside temperature gauge on my instrument panel before taking off on one of those raids, and it registered -9° Celsius. At bombing height of around 20,000 feet, the dial showed -46° C. To get back to Ken. We were alerted for briefing for a daylight raid fairly early one morning, just around breakfasttime. We duly assembled in the briefing room half an hour later, the crew sitting together as usual – but with no Ken. He was missing. I made some enquiries from the other NCOs who shared the Sergeants’ Mess with Ken and discovered that he had gone into York the previous evening and had not been in his bed overnight, nor had anyone seen him anywhere else. This was a dilemma. There was no roll-call or any such check at briefing and it was up to me to ensure I had a full crew, as we were to be included in our Flight’s complement for this particular raid. We waited around hoping for Ken’s appearance, and the minutes ticked by. It got close to the moment when I would have to ask for a spare rear gunner to make up the crew, which meant revealing that Ken was missing. And that would undoubtedly mean a court martial for him. It was the very last moment when there appeared before us a very tired-looking, very haggard Ken Rodgers. He was untidy and unshaven. He had obviously –


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