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Jack D Bainbridge / Flight Mechanic (Engines)

I met up with both these chaps during my lunchtime breaks while I was on my delivery rounds, it wasn't long however to soon find out why both these men first crossed each others path and how I eventually came to get to know them and of their war time exploits and the common interest of the love of aircraft, and aviation in general.

Both shared the same name of Jack and the eldest of the two spotted the others car in a layby near a local beauty spot because the numbers it formed read the same as one of the Sqns that he had served with, having stopped there on numerous occasions myself it wasn't long before we got talking as they were interested in the scanner I was listening to, and the rest is history as they say and a case of listening to learn and learning to listen about two men and their own contribution to the war effort during 1939 and 1945.

What grabbed my attention most of all with these two men and like so many other thousands of men and women alike serving during this war period was their own personal endeavours went without praise and unlike some selected people being highly decorated all they picked up after a long campaign were demob suits and the obligatory campaign gongs, what also made me want to record these mens past efforts is the way the government seems to reward these ex service men and women with a struggle to maintain standards living in a world today where we have only just found out that pensions were wrongly taxed. I will recall as close as possible the record of both men's time in the RAF as how they wrote it to me in a couple of letters I received some time ago.
(John Bilcliffe)

Story 1... by Jack D Bainbridge/ Flight Mechanic Engines....

I was called up for service on my eighteenth birthday and sent to Padgate to get kitted out, was there for a few days and from there was posted to Blackpool for initial training (square bashing), and how to learn how to use a rifle. All the lads were billited in private houses or guest houses. The food was passable but not in great quantities so we had food parcels sent from home, our landlady wasn't too keen on us having food in our bedrooms. There wasn't a lot going on in Blackpool at this time as it was Winter, although the pleasure beach was open. There were lots of RAF lads in the town all there for the same reason as me, also this training was carried out in the streets with the passing out parade being carried out some 3 weeks later in a car park.

Click to enlarge photo   ........   
Jack  D Bainbridge is in the front row, 2nd from the left.

From here all airmen who had applied for the mechanics course were sent to Cosford near Wolverhampton to train for aero engine maintenance. Having passed the course at Cosford I was posted to Marston Moor to work on Halifax bombers which were powered by the Merlin engines, this was where the real work started. Marston Moor was a war time aerodrome, we lived in huts on the outskirts and were only a few miles from York, so were able to spend some of our leisure time there. The aerodrome wasn't operational as it was a conversion unit now known as an OCU for pilots moving up from twin engined aircraft to four engines. I was stationed there for 12 months during which time GP/Capt Leonard Cheshire VC, DSO, and DFC was station commander.

Click to enlarge - Jack Bainbridge and the new Bomber  Command war memorial at Lisset Aerodrome.
Jack Bainbridge and the new Bomber
Command war memorial at Lisset Aerodrome.
Click to enlarge photo   ........   
Jack  D Bainbridge is bottom row & 1st on the left.
 The captain of the aircraft is Flt/Lt Watson who is centre back row, and the rear gunner a Mr Don Simpkin who is far right in the back row
My next posting took place during the Winter of 1943-44 to my first operational Sqn to work as a flight mechanic engines on the Halifax Mk111 with 158 Sqn at Lissett. The Halifax was then powered with Hercules sleeve valve engines, having previously worked on the Merlin engines the Hercules was a new inovation to me and quite exciting also it didn't take me long to get used to this engine . Lissett was built during the early part of the war, situated some 6 miles from Bridlington and 10 miles from Hornsea. Our billet was the furthest from the aerodrome and about one & a half miles from the cookhouse and a further one & a half miles from our dispersal point on the other side of the aerodrome. We were here to form another flight to be called "C" flight comprising of 8 aircraft, i worked on "Z" for Zola. In charge of us at the time was Flight/Seargent Ashby a very strict but good man, who always congratulated us when our aircraft went on op's. A lot of hard work was done during 1944 and at one period all leave was cancelled due to increased enemy raids .

Each time the aircraft came back from op's a bomb was painted on the nose, each aircraft had a figure painted on the nose aswell, ours was a skeleton called "Zola", this aircraft completed 30 op's. I can't remember what happened to "Zola" but we got another replacement and christened this one "Zombie". This aircraft was to go on and complete 37 op's before being hit by flak, it managed to get back home with a large hole in the port side nose area just behind the pilot, also close to the navigators area. This damage forced the aircraft to make a diversion to the emergency airfield which was at Carnaby, a distance of some 4 miles from Lissett.

Also of some significance was Carnaby which housed a fog dispersal unit, this consisted of lengths of pipes placed on both sides of the runway where an inflammable liquid was passed through the pipes under pressure and released through outlets made every few yards in the pipes. As the fog came down, the outlets were lit up, and this formed a line of fire either side of the runway, an amazing sight which i wittnessed quite often. Many aircraft used this facility when they were unable to land at their own drome, it was an eye opener to see just how many different types of bomber were parked up when the fog had cleared, even the Americans landed here. The fog dispersal unit was coded - FIDO(Fog Investigation Dispersal Operation).

My 21st birthday was spent on duty, it was September 1944 and hectic, we were doing daylight raids over Germany and on these occasions as soon as the aircraft had taken off we would get on our bikes and pop along to Barmston, about a mile away to the coast where we would have a dip in the sea if it was warm enough, or call in the little cafe on the cliff edge for egg and chips, then it was back to our dispersal to wait for the lads to come back. It was always good to count the aircraft back (all of them), unfortunately this wasn't always the case as sometimes some might not return at all and although this was heart breaking for all of us we had a job to do and in a couple of days some sort of normality would return.

On the 18th of July 1944, 28 crews were briefed for a massive dawn raid of over 1000 aircraft on enemy ground positions near Caen, X for Xray took off for this operation and was airborne only a few minutes when it dipped from view and crashed into Barmston Bay with all the crew lost. On another such tragic occasion a few days later H for Harry was taking off with a full bomb load when it swung off the runway and caught fire, luckily it hadn't left the ground and the crew managed to get out safely. In the early hour's of the next morning the same aircraft blew up leaving a massive hole just off the runway leaving buildings nearby crumpled and windows were even smashed in Lissett village.

It was one evening at the beginning of March 1945 that German fighter planes followed our lads back from a raid over Germany, at that time I was in Bridlington visiting my girlfriend . Later that evening we could hear the sound of the Halifax aircraft waiting on the circuit to take their turn to land. One Halifax coming in to land from the coast area was followed in by one of the German fighters and fired upon the Halifax seriously wounding the rear gunner in the chest badly, luckily our bomber landed safely and the rear gunner was swiftly taken to hospital. Two aircraft were diverted to other aerodromes whilst another was shot down in flames at Sledmere Grange near Driffield.

We hadn't expected enemy fighters at this stage of the war. One evening our aircrew were standing around the dispersal point before climbing aboard to go on another raid maybe just having the odd laugh together or maybe even prayer, but having boarded, the mid upper gunner soon appeared again and said he couldn't get in his turret, i think his nerve had gone and whilst he was taken away, another was brought in to replace him, it would have gone down as LOMF (lack of moral fibre), and presume he would have lost his stripes. We had 2 crews that had completed a full tour of op's, 30 sorties, the ground crew were rewarded with a night out at one of the local pubs with plenty of beer flowing, loads of food and truly a night to remember. At the end of the war our last "Zombie" had completed 22 successful operations and was placed in line on the runway with the rest of the aircraft, a really pleasing sight.

Another successfull Halifax "Friday the 13th" also a B. Mk111(LV907) from "A" Flight of 158 Sqn had completed a total 128 op's, recording the highest amount for its type. It was delivered to Lissett on the 10th of March 1944, its 1st operational sortie was on the 30th of March to Nurnberg, piloted by Flt/Sgt J . Hitchman and its last op was on the 25th April 1945 to Wangerooge, this time the pilot was a F/O Wheeler. Friday was damaged by flak 3 times, the first resulted in a painful injury to her navigator P/O King, while on the other 2 occasions her crew escaped unharmed, the official record shows Friday flew 550 Hrs. After the war Friday was surplus to requirements and was put on display in Londons Oxford Street, was finally sent for scrap except for the saving of the panels showing the bomb tally, these can now be seen at the RAF Museum at Hendon just on the Northern out skirts of London near the M. 1.

On a final note 158 Squadron (RAF Bomber Command) Association was formed in the 1970s by a Henry Taylor, an ex bomb aimer who was awarded the D. F. C. Owing to ill health Mr Taylor had to take a less active part in the association and the main job was taken up by a Bluey Mottershead DFC, a tireless worker. In 1991 the membership was at 863 and because of expansion, a committee was formed to help spread the work load. Now a reunion is held every year in September at Bridlington with various activities including Dances, and visits to places such as Elvington which also now displays a Halifax painted in the scheme worn by "Friday the 13th"plus a trip to Eden Camp all done in a 3 day weekend . Formerly these reunions were held all over the country in such places as Brize Norton, Derby and Morton In the Marsh until about 10 years ago as most members enjoyed going back to base and making a holiday out of it. On Sunday morning a service is held at Lissett church yard where there is a dedication stone in memory of the fallen, this is followed by a meal and a get together in Bridligton.
Jack D Bainbridge

There is good reading about different squadron activities in a book called "In Brave Company" written by W. R. Chorley.

Story 2 to follow...

Story by Jack D Bainbridge
Edited by John Bilcliffe