Bomber Command Book
The Navigator’s Story
NANTON WWII Bomber Command Memorial
If you have any information regarding the 166 Squadron please send to the Parish Council email for submission to this page.
Bomber Command Book
Today I’ve completed conversion of my December 2019 Draft of 19 chapters into today’s new 22 chapter draft of my Bomber Command book.
Some chapters of today’s draft are virtually complete, while others still require more work, and all of course require polishing. Today’s draft is a combination of my significant re-write of my December 2019 draft and fresh additions.
I feel today’s draft is richer, cleaner and more comprehensive. My hope is the flow and clarity of my book have significantly improved. Now I must obey Mark Twain’s strict instruction to remove lots of words. That’s a difficult process.
Today’s milestone is particularly meaningful given I’ve accomplished this in my seventh week living alone in total isolation with my beloved Ka Hyun is still in Ottawa.
And, guess what? The moment I pushed SAVE on my attached Table of Contents to complete this draft this afternoon, my phone rang. It was my son Ruaridh calling from the United Kingdom. He wanted to know how I’m doing.
On hearing my happy news, Ruaridh insisted we each pour a wee dram to celebrate together. I of course poured The Dalmore here in West Vancouver because it’s the ultimate MacKenzie Scotch. Ruaridh meanwhile poured his favourite Scotch, Talisker from the MacKenzie Clan Lands on the Isle of Skye. Auspiciously, the bottle Ruaridh poured from today was a gift to him from me when I was last in London.
Then Ruaridh and I shared a most enjoyable celebratory hour together thousands of miles apart sipping our favourite Scotches.
This was the perfect way in our Coronavirus Pandemic to celebrate that my Bomber Command book conversion is complete!
Yours faithfully, Roddy
Allan Crompton Smith was born in Pontefract, Yorkshire in 1923, as a teenager he moved with his family to Coventry to work in the local car factories as a lathe turner. Allan joined the RAVR in 1941 and was called up for service in March ’42. He was trained as a pilot/navigator. He joined 166 Sqd. in October ’43.
On the night of 23rd/24th Nov ’43 the crew were on a bombing mission to Berlin when the aircraft was brought down by an ME.110 night fighter piloted by Peter Spoden (the crew thought Navigator Allan C. Smith they had been hit by flak) using Schrage Musik. The following are the accounts of Allan , Grove (Pilot), Rossi (F.E.) & Spoden (German Pilot)
“I was the Navigator of a Lancaster bomber attacking Berlin on the night of 23/11/43. As we were approaching Berlin the plane was hit by two bursts of flak, the first of which came between my legs which were apart due to the fact that I had my parachute on the floor between my feet because the Wireless Operator had put the rations bag in my parachute stowage container. As I bent to look under the navigation table the second burst of flak came and the blast caught me in the eyes, face, under the chin and on the back of the left hand, resulting in superfluous cordite burns and cuts. The intercom and hydraulic systems were rendered u/s so therefore the bomb doors could not be opened or the bombs released . The two port engines were on fire and the incendiary bombs were ignited. I was ordered to bale out three times by the F.E. on the instructions of the Pilot, but I had seen that the w/op. was in a state of shock and he wasn’t wearing his parachute harness. I stayed behind to fit it to him which was a bit of a struggle as his legs were rigid and I had to force them apart to get the harness straps to the front. Meanwhile the plane had lost height from 21,500ft. to 13,000ft. and kept veering and tipping over to port trying to go into a spin.
By this time the w/op had come round so I gave him his parachute to put on and I went to the pilot who had now put the plane on automatic pilot. I wanted to open the bomb doors manually and for him to put the plane in a dive to extinguish the flames, but he said there wasn’t time and told me to bale out and stop arguing otherwise we would all get killed. He ordered me out the front exit, during this period my parachute which had caught some of the flak and flames from the incendiary bombs was smouldering a little, so that when I jumped quite a bit of the chute was burnt and torn which led to me dropping faster than normal and made for a very heavy landing”
“We had an uneventful flight to Berlin 23/11/43 – a couple of false alarms but nothing serious. We were on the bomb-run, quite scary when there were a series of explosions from below, and the aircraft burst into flames. A quick tally of damage revealed the port inner engine tilted up at an angle but the engine/airscrew still rotating. The intercom and signalling lights were u/s so that communication with the crew was by shouting only. I dived the aircraft steeply to try and blow out the flames, but to no avail. After I levelled out I asked the crew to try and release the bomb load manually, with no electrics the bomb release switches didn’t work, ( still a full one including a 4000lb “cookie” ) but they wouldn’t go. The bottom of the aircraft was burning and the manual release in the floor was melted. After five minutes of trying I turned north towards the target (now fully active) as we had veered a bit south of track. I peered behind me and saw that the upper turret was empty and the rear turret had the guns pointed towards the portside. Thus I believe both gunners were missing. After a short while, during which the engineer, w/op at least tried to get the bombs away I gave the order to abandon. As the last man went by me ( to leave by the nose ) I was getting anxious – he seemed to be taking a long time. As he passed me ( and I don’t know who it was ) he gave me something and said “you’d better have this”, it was my parachute … until then I’d forgotten I didn’t have it on. So I owe my life to him!!”
Flight En. :-
“On our fatal mission, the weather was good for bombing, very little cloud I do believe it was a 1000 bomber raid on the German capital, the take off was perfect, we encountered no opposition until we crossed a tiny island off the Dutch coast, called Texel, there the flak was very heavy, which we had anticipated, as we had flown over it previously. As we crossed into German territory, the flak got heavier, you could see it all around you, we were flying about 28,000ft. and in the main stream of British a/c it was very concentrated, most of the flak was boxed and on one or two occasions we saw German fighters, but luckily were not attacked by them ( * as I said the crew thought they were hit by flak *) every now and then we could see a huge flash in the sky as if the Jerry fighters had got one of our aircraft, I believe we lost 76 aircraft that night.
As we approached Berlin the flak got very heavy and as we got near Potsdam, we were hit I think by predicted flak as it was a direct hit, the portside of A/C caught fire, we couldn’t jettison the bomb load as the hydraulic system was knocked out of commission, also the intercom, also the incendiary bombs must have been set off as the floor of the a/c was holed in places. We were losing height rapidly, I managed to jettison the escape hatch door that was positioned in the floor. I immediately jumped from the a/c, being the first out and hoping the rest of the crew would get out before it explode or hit the ground.”
German Pilot :-
“Although the weather wasn’t especially conducive, I was airborne from Parchim at the controls of my Bf 110 on a Zahme Sau mission. I had caught sight of a Lancaster and immediately opened up with a long burst with my forward firing weapons. As it happened, I was in an angry, vengeful frame of mind – it was three months to the day since I had been shot down and seriously wounded over Berlin. A bullet had smashed through my femur on that occasion and my injuries were such that I had been laid up in hospital for a good number of weeks. This time – and I’m still astonished to admit it today – I hadn’t aimed at the wing but poured a sustained salvo into the Lancaster’s fuselage. The resulting explosion sent countless chunks of burning debris and wreckage cascading earthwards.”
JA865 was bought down over the town of Lehnin & Emstaslome, the two gunners were both killed that night, with Iverson being buried in the Berlin War cemetery and Davies remembered on the Runnymede memorial. All of the remaining crew were captured and spent the rest of the war as P.OW.’s in Stalag IVB, being liberated by Russian Cossack’s on 23/4/45. My Dad, Allan returned to Coventry, worked in the car factory, married and had four children. He never even collected his medals after the war, but wore his Caterpillar badge with pride. Allan died in 1982 aged 58 my hero.
There is a book available in stores and online by Sgt. John Martin, now aged 94, who was a former Lancaster Wireless Operator with 166 Squadron, RAF Kirmington. It is entitled ‘A raid over Berlin’ and includes a mention of Kirmington.
NANTON WWII Bomber Command Memorial
My wife Ka Hyun MacKenzie Shin and I paid this week a meaningful, emotionally moving visit to Nanton, Alberta’s marvellous WWII Allied Air Forces Bomber Command Memorial and Museum. It’s an hour’s drive on the freeway south from Calgary. Read more … Opens in a new window
Kirmington and Croxton Parish Council