Swinging in the dark air he looks above him with a final effort, the aircraft floats majestically, the bright flames pour from one side surrounded by beautiful lights exploding, lighting the night’s sky. The ghostly figure begins to swirl and tumble towards the white ground, it passes close by the still swinging man, knocked unconscious from the past 5 minutes events and the view that surrounds him. An overwhelming flash rises away from the bright ground, and the flames continue to lick through the trees. The man floats alone; the remainder of the 7-man crew remain part of the now dilapidated flaming wreck in the trees below.
His dreams echo back to the last 24 hours, the details of their flight path, the target, the final fair-well to the coast, darkness surrounds the aircraft after just a few minutes, and looking around from the nose of his Lancaster It begins to almost impossible to view the other 1046 giants floating past him. The flight is kept short by the vast conversation between him 6 best friends, friends that have kept each other alive for 20 missions. Every night they enter the hornet’s nest, but together every night they have returned. Approaching the target the view before them never seems any less incredible. A wall of fire. A seemingly impossible amount of explosives pass but metres from their ship. Around them aircraft tumble, they drop, they twist, they explode.
A great rumble shakes the Lancaster to its very seams, looking out to one side the fire corkscrews into the sky; the heat can be felt through the skin of the aircraft. “Lads I’ll hold her steady! Bail out, I’m right behind you” is the voice from the captain, he bravely grasps the controls enabling the crew, most of which are already dead to escape. Our lonely figure grabs his parachute and heads for the nose escape hatch. Shut. No panic, no fear just an overwhelming urge to get to the back of the now flaming plane, jumping through the door he’s met with a rush of flaming air, “bang” legs smash off the tail, the man falls, spiralling, face raw legs crushed.
The floor comes all to quickly, and striking the snowy ground the parachute falls over the forever-disabled hero. Five hours later he is caught by the Germans, he will survive his injuries, and live life in a camp, among his peers. In January 1945 he will embark on his final walk, on crutches in a polish winter, this will ultimately be his demise.
50,000 members of royal air force bomber command were killed in the Second World War. No medal was ever handed to them throughout their campaign; no memorial would be created in their honour. They were forgotten, their sacrifice not recognised for far too many years.