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‘Yes, Jimmy.’ ‘Well, I can now see the fields of Germany through it!’ A decision had to be made. I was left with two good engines on the port


side, two without power and, more important as they were still windmilling, without oil. The starboard wing was ablaze and had lost much of its sheet metal skin. The Halifax was becoming difficult to control, but I had managed to trim the rudder bar to help me hold it against the push of the good engines. It was only a matter of time – seconds at the worst, a minute or two at the most – when those dry and rotating engines were going to do something nasty to what remained of the starboard wing. I don’t think I hesitated even for those seconds. The executive order to abandon aircraft is given by the skipper and should properly be:


‘Parachute! Parachute! Jump! Jump!’ We were never a crew to stand on ceremony unless someone was checking


us. So I said, as quietly as I felt I could: ‘Right, chaps! I doubt if there’s any future hanging around here! Get out as quickly as you can!’ The boys did move quickly. The two gunners called to say they were on their way out of their turrets. The rest of us had to leave from the cabin where Henry and Alf were out of view from the pilot’s seat and where the escape hatch was in the floor beneath their feet. Jimmy could see what was going on down there, and he nodded an affirmative as Henry came on the intercom. to say: ‘Alf’s not moving!’ ‘What do you mean?’ ‘He’s just sitting here staring at nothing!’


‘Alf,’ I cried over the intercom. ‘What do you think you’re doing? Get out!’


Henry came on again to say Alf was still not responding. ‘What should we do?’ he asked. ‘Drop him out!’ I ordered. ‘But skipper – what if he doesn’t open his parachute?’ ‘That’s his problem – we can’t leave him to fry or splash. Drop him!’ They did, Jimmy and Henry between them. They too departed. That left Paddy and myself. As I have explained, bomber crews, including the pilot, did not wear their parachute packs. They wore a parachute harness with two large steel spring clips on the chest straps on to which a parachute pack, separately stowed during the flight, could be fixed via its two metal fittings. The pilot’s ’chute in a Halifax was in the charge of the Flight Engineer standing behind him and, as the pilot would be the last to leave the aircraft, it was the duty of the Flight Engineer to help him, busy as he would be with the flying controls, release himself from the restrictions which would prevent him leaving his seat – the Sutton harness which ties him to it, the oxygen supply tube and the intercom. wiring plugged into the panel in front of him. Paddy dumped my ‘chute in my lap and disappeared.


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