This story is a translation of an account of a wartime pilot who flew mostly Lancasters and is based on some letters that I have received from him. These recollections are being typed up in the chaps dining room and every now and again it follows a different path to recall some moment that has stayed highlighted in the chaps memory and he wants to point it out to me so I wont forget to mention it, So every now and again I'll go off the story line and pick up this new thread as it was told to me, lets not forget this chap is 82 and not as young as he used to be and its quite painfull just to try and remain in a good upright position to type this out.
Story of Lancaster pilot J Lunn.,.....
I was born a farmers son on the 16/5/1920 at Gainsborough and attended a local parish school till I was five years old . My Aunt was also the Head Teacher of this first school, after this I attended a preparatory school . One Christmas my Aunt bought me a model aircraft with a 3 foot wingspan powered by a rubber band and launched by hand. Another time I recall some planes arrived on the farm to give joyrides costing the public the princely sum of 5/- for the treat. My Father was given a free ride for about half an hour in one of the planes and returned back looking pretty sick from the experience, commenting in no way were we to go in one of those things. As the years passed, war clouds eventually started rolling over England . We had a very good school friend who said he was learning to fly and in due course of his training he used to fly over our farm and wave regularly to us from about 2/300ft from his Miles Magister and from then on I wondered if i could fly one. During 1940 a friend of mine visited me on the farm now at Doddington, Nr Lincoln, and said lets go to Skellingthorpe to see if we can cadge a ride in a Lanc, i later found out to be 50 squadron . Anyhow we walked across the drome unchallenged and came across this fellow with a pack on his back and just asked 'give us a ride mate'. We took off, me hanging on like hell and in no time reached 10,000 ft over Lincoln. I was too frightened to look out but my mate was jumping around like a monkey and later he became a W/Op completing 53ops, in due course we saw Hampdens Manchesters and Lancasters taking off from the dromes around Lincoln.
A friend of mine who had once flown over the farm in a Hampden showing off his skills visited the farm a day or so later and informed us he was going that night. I thought "Oh another booze up" but was proved wrong. The next day he returned and told us he was over Berlin that night. I asked him how many trips he intended making before resting, he replied 30, i looked at him again and thought
he would never make that number, and decided there and then to fill his place should anything happen to him. It did happen on his 33rd trip coming
down short of fuel in the North Sea, so off I went to London to the air crew recruiting centre and spent 3 weeks feeding at the "Zoo" then went to Scarborough for Nav/Gunnery training etc. This was followed by a spell at Carlisle flying Tiger Moths for grading where I was terribly sick and after this down to Wolverhampton for more training and then across country to Cranwell for training in Oxfords. There I was asked if I'd like to take up an instructors position, but my sights were firmly set on going on op's and refused this offer. Next it was down to Leighton Buzzard for a spell on Wellingtons. Returning one day from a cross country flight I was immediately informed about going on op's the same night.
After the usual briefing we were soon in the air and before reaching our height our navigator informed me that we were lost, at this point I just remember looking back at the engines and thinking they looked red hot before realising it was only the exhaust port, technically known as the flame damper exhaust tail pipe extension, it really boiled down to the fact that both me and the navigator lacked experience. Anyway I carried on to fly over France where I remember 3 planes with lights on started to track us and our every move. I decided to take cover in the clouds and eventually made for home and the upshot from the whole escapade was a telling off from the C/O, saying we were back 20 minutes too early and black marks were the order of the day. In due course a friend of mine was to join me at this drome, and his aim was to fail the course, and not go on Ops. As it turned out he was shot down over Biscay in a Wellington doing submarine searches, by our own aircraft, for being in the wrong place. Next stop was a place called Waterbeach for a spell on Sterlings, these I found to be horrible planes and on my first solo I had an engine cut on me at 75Mph, but carried on the flight like this. This brief spell was broken by a posting to W Ratting Com near Cambridge to join a pool of aircrew for a Squadron posting, from here I was given 622 Squadron based at Mildenhall doing mine laying in the Fresians, lost a friend out of a group of four, and transferred to lancasters.
I completed 30 trips with this aircraft and this included some really heavy Ops. My first 3 I recall we lost 55, 58, and 76 aircraft, the 76 one was memorable as we shot down a fighter, had a few combats on the way and finished 7. From here I was sent to Upper Heyford Near Oxford as an instructor but didn't accept the job so was sent to 91 General Servicing Unit testing Wellingtons, having done 134 tests in 3 months here I got tired of this work and requested to go back on Ops ,only to find myself going into Transport Command going to India and Ceylon every month .
At this point the letter I am working from seems to go back to the time when Mr. Lunn was with 622 Squadron at Mildenhall, and we pick him up as he explains the joining of the Squadron, anyway at 82 and after all what he's been through these are just mere details, also I think it would be good to lay the writing down as I read it as this gives you the feeling of how Mr Lunn expresses himself now after all those years ago recalling the events when joining the squadron .
I was told "first of all go see the ground crew who will be looking after your plane and get to know them.", this was
most important because they always put extra fuel in, in case the tanks were holed by A/A fire. I came back once with 75 holes in the fuselage so some shells were pretty near.
On the Nurenburg raid I had a bet that I could go higher then he could, he could get to about 25,000ft. When I got up to 24,500ft, I thought that no right minded person would be this high up. I was wrong though because a 30lb incendiary went straight through my port wing & cracked the main spar, so my old bus was off for some time to get a new wing.
Towards the end of the tour, the Navy officer came to me & asked "what are you doing Lunny", "nothing" was the reply, "so get your plane and off to Whitchford, sit there" he said & after 20mins he came back with a pound of strawberries in his hand and thats how things went on to let ones hair down.
I reguarly took my washing home to my mother from Mildenhall to Lincoln & sometimes I would get the rear gunner to bundle it out onto the field near the house, nearest drop was 75yds.
I think only 4 crews out of 19 finished the tour with me, although we did have a good time even though the pay was only 63 pence a day for 7hrs work tantalizing Gerry. Dortmund was my worst target, one third of bombers turned back because of icing on the wings. My plane got iced up so the engineer said that he would put hot air into the Ventury tube, so I told him that he might as well go out & pee on it though we were falling on full power.
Aachen was another, they picked me up on radar target & followed me all the way to the Dutch coast. It took 30secs for their shells to reach 20000ft, so I counted 23 & turned 45 degrees either starboard or port and waited to be picked up again. I was an hour late home & all doors were shut & everybody had gone to bed.
When the ground crew flew with you on air tests you knew that they were on your side. They were lovely lads because when I went on trips , they would take my car to the local for the night out & then I would find it full of petrol the next day.
Many experiences such as laying mines in Brest harbour and not getting any shots fired at me was great. We had a few combats, the One on Leipzig, put a cannon shell into the port inner engine without warning, the ground crew kept it as a souvenior. I lost 7000ft in diving and found that I had to pull out by being as strong as an elephant I took it steady in case anything broke. My old lass went on to do 113 trips, so she was well trained from the start. A Lt. Commander took it one day & brought it back with a prop feathered, i never forgave him because he was a clever sod, thats all I can remember, 55yrs since my last Op.
Lancs were good then, Yorks replaced them on transport command. I flew alot of them for 13 months, Churchhill had one, by the way I have signatures of many top notchers though they were no better fliers than the the rest. I have Johnny Johnsons the leading fighter pilot & many aircrews from a bog reunion at the Grosvenor in London. I can get a copy for you if you wish, you will be ready for sleep after all that.