Part of his training for our pilots,
was to send them up in pairs and if any of the doodlebugs were flying in
our direction, providing they were well away
from anywhere, they were allowed to open fire. They did this by going over
to the French coast, as at that point, the aircrafts were travelling at a far
speed. One of the problems was, the Typhoon had to go down and shoot the doodlebug
in order to destroy it. Upon impact, the doodlebug gave off a the ball of flames,
which the pilot had to avoid going through-I’m not too sure what the liquid
inside of them was, but it was very volatile. One pilot unfortunately did go
through the ball of fire, on arriving back at dispersal, as his aircraft came
in, we were all astonished to see that it was soot from the propeller to the
tail unit. The pilot who was handling the aircraft stood up on his feet and working
his pedals to direct it. Upon stopping it, in the middle of our dispersal, the
Commanding Officer came out and was not very happy with the pilots actions – to
teach this particular pilot a lesson, he had him wash the aircraft, with old-fashioned ‘gunk’,
and we were not allowed to help him. In my opinion, it was very rough justice
for him, we were all hoping we could go, but the Commanding Officer said ‘No’.
I don’t think that pilot ever made the mistake of getting too near again!
I have no idea who he was, as I was still a new larker here and had not got
to know all the pilots.
On another occasion, we had a new aircraft come in, it went into the dispersal area, in-between our line of aircraft, and the pilot went. We all mucked in, had a look at it, checked it over and, on this occasion we were putting 60lb rockets on to the rails under the wings, ready for action .A part of the procedure was to connect a wire from the rocket unit, which had to be plugged in to the aircraft to fire the rockets. The chap, who was looking after this aircraft, got back into the aircraft to start it up, in order to check how the engine was. Upon going through the start up procedure, somehow, and I don’t know how, he ended up actually firing the rockets off-this caused considerable damage!
I flew from Manston to Colombe, where I rejoined the 124 wing, they were already established at Colombe. Our digs there were tents, which we lived and slept in. They were large standard ones, the meals had to be cooked in the open and our tables and chairs were collapsible ones. We had rejoined the other three squadrons, who were flying all the time. We in turn joined in with 137 Squadron. Whilst there, we had many incidents of aircraft being attacked.
My first memory of Colombe itself was of an old lady. First thing in the morning she took a large mallet into the field adjacent to us, and there was a cow fastened up to a peg on a chain .She would take the peg out, move the chain forward one pace, then hammer the peg back in again. This way, the cow could then proceed to eat the extra area of grass that it could reach.
I was doing all the jobs that I had done at Manston, reloading the aircraft with rockets, looking after the engines, and checking their serviceability. This had to be done regularly.
One evening I went out for a walk, just outside the farm, down a lane. As I walked down the lane, I became aware that on either side, there were people who had died; their bodies were part buried along the roadside. You could see their boots sticking out of the soil, and at the foot of their boots, was their rifle and helmet .The helmet stood on the butt of the gun –this really brought home to me what the war was really about .As I walked further down this lane, the whole length of it, there were more and more bodies, head to toe, just underneath the verge.
I continued further down the lane and I found a small chapel. I went inside, to relax my mind and contemplate what I had just seen. This was a side to the war I had not seen before.