Bomber Command, A Last Few

True Stories From Bomber Command WW2

The real lives of those who flew alongside comrades on the bombing raids across Europe during WW2. These interviews were taken in 2013, with all the ex servicemen living in the south east of England. I was honoured to have spent this time with Fred, Sidney and Ben. Their stories brought a realism of what life could have been like if they had not served, and the war had not been won.

There are now only very few alive today from this period, their reflection during my time with them was plain to see. It was as if it was just yesterday that it all happened. The emotion of losing friends, being away from home, and the fear of some of the most important missions that the RAF flew during that time was all spoken about.

I have lived in Lincolnshire, one of the most influential places during the bombing raids of WW2. The people of Lincolnshire (Or Yellowbellies as they are known.) are very proud of this, and so they should be. Lincolnshire was home to many of Bomber Command, most famously, The Dam Busters. Having spent time in the area I got an understanding of why it was such an important area, but had never met anyone who was in WW2 bombing raids until about 4 years later when this story started to unfold.

I was also intrigued by the aircraft that was influential during WW2, The Lancaster Bomber. I have been lucky enough to see the only flying Lancaster in flight over the city of Lincoln. The size of the aircraft, and the shuddering noise that left its engines was a noise that I had never heard anything like before. You could only imagine what it must have sounded like, hundreds of planes airborne on their missions to Europe.

I was visiting my parents, who live in North London. Whilst eating dinner my mum decided to start telling me about one of the old couples that she house cleans for. " Fred was telling me about a couple of his missions today." I was a little stumped about this so asked what he was involved in. "He was flying the aircraft that dropped the bombs on Europe." I asked if he would be interested in talking to me about it.

The following week I was invited around while my mum was there to meet Fred and Joyce. I was quiet nervous as I had never met anyone who had been involved in WW2 missions. They were extremely pleasant, a wonderful couple who were very inspiring. Both in their 90's, they met prior to the war and were teenage sweethearts. The war started and they went their separate ways due to the start of the war. After a few years Fred managed to find her when visiting home and their relationship was re kindled. They have been together ever since, a true war love story.

After the visit's to Fred's I was wanting to meet more people who had flown during this period on the Lancaster Bomber's and other aircraft. This was very difficult, as many of the services men had since died. However I managed to locate another two airmen and their stories will be told along with Freds. I was also lucky enough to visit a number of the bases that all the men served at. My good friend Kevin Widdowson, who normally is in charge of the huge ships that lay our cable line around the world, also lives in South Yorkshire. Another area which was home to Bomber Command. When not on the high seas Kevin can often be found at Sandtoft Airport where his light aircraft is. This was also home to many Lancaster Bombers that went on missions during WW2. When I told him about my idea he offered his services and i managed to document many of the runways from the air. A big thanks to Kevin for his help.

I was lucky enough to build a great picture of how the bases were run, exterior design's of buildings during the time, and why the eastern seaboard was so vital to the war being won. I hope that the stories that you read from these amazing men that I met, along with the other visit's to locations will give you more of an understanding of what life was really like for them.

Fred Crawley

Fred Crawley was born during the year 1920 in Edmonton, North London. He went to Rainham Primary School, and then was lucky enough to receive a school scholarship at Latimer High School. Fred left Latimer in 1937 and joined the North Met Power Company. War was so anticipated that he decided to join the RAF in 1938, whilst the rest of his family recruited in the army and navy.

Pre war Freds first flight came in a 3 crew plane, The Fairey Battle. In 1939 Fred joined 12 Squadron and was meant to be departing for France when he had an accident and was not able to travel, when 12 Squadron returned only one person made it back. For two years Fred trained pilots ready for war, in his own words Fred told me " After two years I had not damaged Germany but I have trained many who have". Fred's chance came when he had to cover for a navigator on a Lancaster Bomber. This was also a vital mission towards the war ast the target was the harbour at Gdansk. Once the mission was finished the harbour was out of action for two months.

"Every time I went on a mission I was always behind a Merlin engine, it was truly inspiring and never ever let me down", Fred said with passion.

Fred flew an amazing 74 missions,
Mosquito 139
Halifax 158
Lanc 106
Battle 12

He also received.
The Defence Medal
DFC Medal 1943/46
1939/45 Star Medal
74 Opps Star Medal
1939/45 Medal Of Recognition.

The stories of how 3 days bombing the city of Hamberg were devastating. on the third day the fires had caused so much heat there was a huge electrical storm. The whole city was on fire. Also the importance of locating Peenemunde, and if they had not destroyed this advance in science the war could have been lost, and Fred put it. 800 aircraft were sent to destroy the missile site with Fred leading the way, dropping the markers for the bigger bombers to unload their bombs on.

Fred explained that Hitler knew he was loosing North Africa, Italy and Greece. He also new that they were far more advanced than us with the V1 and V2 Doodlebugs. Fred was confident that Hitlers plan was to wipe out London in a very short space of time. But we never bombed Berlin First. The reason we did go to Berlin is that Hitler bombed London, it was the worst thing he could have done. Whilst on his missions to France and Germany Fred was always 15 minutes in front of the rest, feeding back information on wind direction, times to targets and so on.

Fred lost many friends during the war period, he had also been in crashes himself. One crash in particular nearly cost Fred his life. They were training in a Halifax when the engines stopped. Fred recalled hitting the floor on a down slope at 160 knots. The plane broke up into three pieces and Fred was found in a bush by a local farmer south west of York. He was badly burnt and hurt.Fred also lost five friends in the crash.

Fred did recall one story that he looks back with on laughter. Again on a training flight the aircraft left North Yorkshire and headed over the Irish Sea the engines decided to stop. All crew ditched into the sea on a life dingy. The night was pitch black, no sound other than wind and sea. They were all concerned that they may not be located. Hours passed and then the sun started to rise enabling them to see where they were. In total disbelief there was a huge tower only half a mile from them. They had ditched just off the coast of Blackpool, the lights were turned off in the town due to war time so that it was harder to bomb at night.

A gentleman was walking his dog and noticed them all out at sea in the dingy. He raised the alarm and the crew where all rescued.

The war had ended but Fred was given what he called the best job in the RAF. He was sent to Foggia in Italy on a 3 year mission. He was put in charge of three runways, making sure all the men were returned to the UK from war. It was an extremely busy time with up to 700 aircraft a day arriving and departing with the servicemen on their way home. When Fred had finished he was flown back to Elvingdon, Yorkshire where he was de mobbed with honour in 1945.

Now in his 90's Fred relaxes with his wife Joyce. His passion is playing the organ during the day. The music he produces is beautiful reflecting back on the era's that were so special to him.

To Be Continued.