This is a true story,
enjoy it and remember,
these are true words.
Journey To Java
In December 1941 I finished my OUT training in Bicester and thus our Blenheim IV crew of Les the Pilot, Graham the
W/OP, AG and me the Observer were considered qualified to face the foe
We were posted to the Middle East Flight on 7th
December and went to Filton (near Bristol) to collect a new Blenheim to
take to the Middle East under the aegis of 44 Group ferry. We were
supposed to be leaving England on Christmas Eve and we drew lots to see
which of us would report sick the previous day so as to remain in the UK
over Christmas. I lost and the station MO (suspecting the authenticity
of my stomach ailment) dosed me with castor oil!
We left for
Gibraltar on December 29th
and from there flew low level to Malta on Jan 6th. En route
we saw a German twin boom fighter (the Zerstorer) flying in the opposite
direction; fortunately he just kept on flying. The following day we went
of to Cairo to deliver our aircraft.
The newspapers announced that a ‘Vast Aerial
Armada’ was being assembled to fly out to the aid of Singapore (in fact
this consisted of 2 x 18 aircraft Blenheim squadrons) (84 and 211)). We
were posted to 211 squadron on 25th Jan, the three of us plus
a Corporal Fitter (Willy Hillman), who had to sit on my lap throughout,
set off from Helwan (Cairo) for H4, a flat piece of desert on the oil
pipeline through TransJordan where our beds overnight were composed of
petrol cans – it was freezing so we slept in all our cloths (there were
no bed cloths to be had)
Next day we set off for Habbanyeh (near Baghdad)
then the following day to Sharjah – which was a fort in the desert and
then to Karachi. On the 29th January we set off to Allahabad
where disaster stuck. When we took off for Calcutta, at about 50 feet,
both engines cut out and as Les had not fully retracted the
undercarriage we landed with only minor damage which was quickly put
right and so the next day we tried to take off again and the same thing
happened only with slightly more damage. The fault Les realised was as
To take off 100 octane fuel was used and once well
off the ground tanks were switched to 87 octane filled tanks. I can’t
remember which (inner or outer) tanks held which but the ground crew had
got it wrong and the 9 boost needed for take off couldn’t cope with 87.
All was put right and on 1st Feb we went to Dum Dum
(Calcutta), we were however, behind the rest of the squadron and what
with one thing and another no authority at Dum Dum knew what to do with
us and we were stuck there for eight days while fingers were removed
and we went of to Magwe in Burma and thence to Rangoon.
No one at Magwe or Rangoon seemed to know what to
do with us but eventually we were set off for Lhonga in Northern Sumatra
then Pakanbaroe in Central Sumatra (Lhonga, incidentally was wiped out
in the tsunami of 2005). On 17th Feb we reached Batavia (now
called Jakarta) and the day after we reached the rest of the squadron
(What was left of them) at Kalidjati aerodrome.
Of the 18 crews that left Cairo there were only
five left – all of the rest had been shot down by fighters on bombing
raids on Jap shipping. Three more went west on an op the following day
leaving us and the CO (W/C Bateson) the sole survivors.
The following day a Jap raid destroyed the rest of
the remaining aircraft on the ground, so that was that.
I have no doubt that is the Indian ground crew in
Allahabad hadn’t made their mistake we would have perished as did the
others. – “Fate moves in mysterious ways”
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