Most Memorable Operation
As is true of other reminiscenes, Peter’s begin during training prior to ops. Prior to the “crewing-up” process at Operational Training Unit, Peter had met a fellow bomb-aimer and Torontonian, and Ameriacan pilot in the RCAF, and a navigator from the Windsor area. The four had become friends and when it came time to “crew up”, the pilot and the navigator asked Peter to join them as part of a crew. Subsequently, he met another pilot whom he had known back in Toronto and who also asked him to join his crew. After some friendly negotiations, it was agreed that Peter would accept the second invitation. He was asked to recommend a bomb aimer to take his place and his other friend from Toronto. Peter relates sadly that the crew he had almost joined was lost on ops. “A chance meeting saved my life” he says.
Peter arrived on the squadron just after D-Day, rightly expecting plenty of action in the air. He credits his pilot with saving his life for the second time on July 18. At 03.30 hours, their Lancaster H-How received the green light and with full power and 12,000 lbs. of high explosives, they thundered down the runway. Suddenly, the interior of the aircraft was lighted with an orange glow. A starboard engine was on fire and the fire was spreading across the wing. The pilot made a split second decision to abort the take-off, cut the engines, activated the fire extinguishers, and applied brakes judiciously. The Lank skidded sideways, resulting in one undercart leg buckling, putting the aircraft into a ground loop. Peter thinks that he may have been the first to do the one-minute in getting out and clear of the burning aircraft. To his credit he made his exit and dash for safety wearing only one flying boot. Fortunately, all the crew escaped without harm. The nearby residents were not so luchy. Although there were no fatal injuries, windows were blown out of homes for miles around when the bomb load exploded and debris rained down on Holten-le-Clay, the nearest town. Peter’s future bride, Betty, who lived in Cleethorpes, about ten miles away, felt the shock of the explosion,
No rest for the wicked. Having been issued with another pair of flying boots, Peter and crew were off on ops the same day to attack an oil refinery near Gelsenkirchen in the Ruhr Valley,Two squadron aircraft were lost.
Hixon, Staff, #30 OTU, Jan., 1944