I was then moved onto eventually Eindhoven. Christmas had come around again,
and we had a little Christmas dinner, served by the officers. This is a tradition
in the Air force. After the meal, we were given the menu, printed in English
and in Dutch, which I have kept.
The snow started falling, the temperature dropped, and things turned bitterly cold. I believe it was around minus 20, which was very cold! . Having said that, it was noticeable that the cold here did not seem to have the ‘bite’ that we were used to, off the North Sea.
We carried on, following our routines, carrying on our duties, and attacking areas, so that the Army could move forwards. I am unable to recall if we were in Arnham just before Christmas or just after, but there, I saw the whole of the sky filled with Dakota aircraft towing gliders, towards Arnham.
As we watched, we could see what was going on. All our aircraft were grounded, with the result that there were many casualties. Unfortunately the Tiger Tanks were in amongst our troops. We had to wait, we were not allowed to fly-although I do not know if all the pilots obeyed this.
New Years day arrived, and this was a day I shall never forget. We were all in the hut, when all hell let loose. The German air force struck the whole of the continent, all the air force bases from Holland through to France. The actual damage I will not go into, but I know from reading accounts since, that there was total chaos on every aerodrome or landing strip on the continent.
Many people were killed, service people, pilots and aircrafts were destroyed .On our Squadron alone, we lost our Flight Sergeant, and one of my mates. I just escaped death, when a 20 mm cannon shell exploded, just a matter of a foot away from me. At the time, I was directing people out of the service hut, into hiding behind a brick wall-how to explain this is very difficult, you do not have time to think, you react. What I do know though is that I survived, I was one of the lucky ones-, and that’s as much as I can say.
The RAF regiment opened up fire all around the surrounding area, and I understand that they managed to destroy some of the enemy aircraft. I have heard many tales since the war, and read many various accounts of this.
If you wish to find out more on this, the book I would recommend is ‘The Battle Of The Airfields, Operation Bodenplatte, First Of January 1945’ the author is Norman Franks. I fully recommend this. Another very good book is by ‘Wing Leader Johnny Johnson’ this is his account of being on the continent-he was a top fighter pilot ace, and he was based on our landing strip, as a Spitfire Ace.
After the raids on January 1st,I was sent to the Medical Section to have a check on my hearing as I was having trouble with it. The reason for this was as I later found out, that my eardrum had been burst. This meant I could no longer work on the aircraft so was sent away from the typhoons and all my friends before I was able to say cheerio to all of them. I finished up working away from the landing strip building up jettison tanks. These were huge cylindrical tanks were hung on either side underneath the wings; this extended the range of the typhoon. How effective they were, I do not know but this was what I was doing. The snow was then about two foot in depth in places and the tanks were covered in snow, which meant it was a very cold job and I was pleased to get away from having to do it. I was posted away down to the coast here we were to be held at Ostend until transport was available to bring me back to England. To our amazement, Ostend was absolutely full in all the hotels on the front. The reason for this was the condition of the sea, the waves were very large and it was difficult for ships and tank landing craft to come into harbour.