By George Gosney (4 Hangar Sheet Metal)
Transcribed from “BAD News – Journal of the BAD 2 Association” Vol. 5, No. 2, April 1982
© 1982 BAD 2 Association
It was one of those typical damp, foggy Lancashire days in April, 1944. Hangar #4 was running B-24s. The sheet metal boys had completed their phase of the operation. They’d been installing bubble-type windows in the nose compartment, adding parachute static release belting at all exit points and installing armour plate alongside the pilot’s compartment. They’d also been installing chutes through which aluminium chaff could be dropped in an effort to foil German radar.
With nothing better to do, the sheet metal crews would content themselves with looking busy, by cleaning tools, tool boxes, sweeping up, etc.
After an hour of that “duty”, Sgt. Allen Carr suggested to me that we go for a plane ride. At first I doubted there would be any planes taking off. The field appeared to be socked in. But we decided to give it a try anyway. After getting permission from Sgt. Kane, Sgts. Carr, “Pappy” Dewel and I went over to Operations. We did manage to sign on a B-24 that was warming up on the hard standing.
We checked out our chutes, jumped aboard a Jeep and went speeding out to the plane, where the pilot waved us aboard from the cockpit window.
Within minutes we were roaring down the runway. Once we broke through the soup into the bright sunshine above, the scene was beautiful. The fog bank below us looked like a gently rolling sea. After an hour or so, we decided to go up forward but found the door leading to the bomb bay was secured.
With the racket of those four engines, there was no point yelling or pounding. We knew better than to use the intercom, so we reconciled ourselves to staying where we were for the duration of the flight.
When you have been down there in the rain and fog for weeks on end, that bright sunshine reflecting off the pure white cloud layer is a lovely sight. We were admiring the view from the left waist window when suddenly a fighter passed below us from thee o’clock, so fast we couldn’t identify it. About a hundred yards out it peeled right and dived into the fog bank.
No day dreaming now! We were wide awake and no one was thinking about the scenery. Three British Spitfires screamed past us on the tail of the first plane and followed him into the fog.
The rest of the ride was uneventful, and in about an hour we nosed down into the soup again, and came out smack on Warton’s runway.
After the pilot had parked us on the hardstand again, we joined the crew standing near the nose. They looked rather nervous, and the back of the pilot’s flying suit was wet with perspiration. We got the flight engineer aside and asked him what had been going on.
“You mean you guys don’t know?” he asked.
According to him, the aircraft’s compass had malfunctioned. The crew had become hopelessly lost and had to break radio silence to get a fix. At that point they were startled to learn that we were near the French coast!
Then an ME-109 appeared on the scene. Luckily for us, RAF Spitfires arrived at the same time, and drove him off.
That night, lying on my bunk in Site 10 a cold sweat came over me as I thought about what could have happened up there. All guns had been removed from the plane. But even with them, I wondered how much defence we could have put up.
I had fired a .50 calibre machine gun when I was stationed at Tinker Field, but that had been a long time ago. I doubted I could have hit the broad side of a barn.
Through the passing years I’ve wondered if that flight engineer had been pulling our legs, or if we really HAD had a visit from the Luftwaffe. Several BAD2 Association members who were with Flight Test in those days claim it DID happen. One man even added that the pilot had been called up on the carpet for getting lost.
It’s hard to be sure what was fact and what was fiction, after all this time, but that flight crew sure did look nervous after we were back on the ground!!