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second for the rest of the crew, or at least for five of the six of them. I say ‘five of the six’ of the others, for we had lost that mid-upper gunner whom we had never much cared for, and had acquired a new one that very same morning. F/O Jack Frost DFM had arrived the day before, posted to 77 Squadron for a second tour to follow one he had completed as an NCO with the award of his gong. He knew his way around, having done all this before, so he carefully enquired about the capabilities of the crews and skippers he might be joining. He got good reports about us and approached me asking if he could fly as our replacement mid-upper gunner. So he was with us as we forgathered that bright morning to be briefed for a take-off at about 13.00 hours on what promised to be a short and comparatively sweet raid. As we came out of the briefing room I was accosted by W/Cdr Ransome. He was another visitor from Group HQ and, as a Group Liaison Officer, had made my acquaintance earlier. ‘Oh, Kilpatrick’, he said, ‘Your promotion is in PORs (Personnel Occurrence Reports) this morning, so you can sew on your half stripe today.’ ‘Well,’ I replied, unnecessarily churlishly, ‘I’ve done without it for two years and nine months, so an extra day won’t matter.’ How wrong I was! The day’s target was the oil refinery of Bottrop in the Ruhr, the raid a comparatively small one of only 70 heavy bombers, and my own Halifax was scheduled to be in the rear of the attack to drop our load at 16.20 hours. We retired to our respective messes to have a bite to eat. That consisted mainly of baked beans and I was not interested. I regretted that later on. Our personal possessions were, as usual, collected in a small bag to be handed in before we took off. I had invariably removed my wrist watch to leave behind, for it was a beautiful Rolex chronometer in 18ct gold which I had acquired in Southern Rhodesia where its price had been £26. But today’s raid was to be a quick and easy one so, for the first time, I kept it on my left wrist. Bits of money and the contents of pockets were stowed, but we had, just prior to this date, been issued with new pink identity cards which we were allowed to carry with us on operations. They contained the minimum of information – name, rank and number which we in any event could give to the enemy if we were to fall into their hands. I didn’t bother to take the card with me – it was not obligatory. The outward flight was uneventful – south down Britain, over the Channel into France, still over friendly territory until we reached the longitude of the front line below us and then the last few minutes on a little dogleg to Bottrop. Our timing was, as ever, absolutely bang on and we had little trouble in dodging the light flak which greeted us over Germany itself. There was no enemy fighter activity and in any event we had been briefed to expect fighter cover from the RAF which, by this date, could fly from or refuel at bases in France if they so needed. The target of the oil refinery was not far ahead and we were flying steadily at the height of 20,000 ft. at the end of a visible small stream of Lancasters and Halifaxes, all according to schedule.


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