A special rapport existed between the Bomber crew, there lives depended on one another. Night and day they watched each other backs like it would be their own blood spilt. After the war, rear gunner Lawrence "Larry" Smyth described the crews camaraderie, he clearly missed what they once shared in dark freezing skies above hostile Germany - balancing on the edge of life and death. One could never begin to understand the sacrid bond these boys shared unless of course you were there. God willing we would never wish ourselves in such a position. Below is Lawrence's account in his own words published one year after the war :-

With 35 Bombing trips behind me, I understand now the spirit of the flying crews, the natural daring, the absolute acceptance of all the dangers and hazards of their life. When on operations one took it all for granted, and now that it is ended one longs for the comradeship and matchless spirit above the stratus and nimbo-stratus clouds.The war united us – one could hear the silence. broken suddenly by a voice over the intercom, then silence again. One felt that sense of infinite solitude, that endless night".
 
  Rear Gunner - Lawrence Smyth RAF 158 Squadron
  July 1946

Friday the 13th & Clueless

Several Halifax Bombers operating from the base became legendary icons. Many had bokti nav - lucky motiffs painted on their fuselage. Aircrews occasionally christened aircraft with negative nick names as reverse omens and two bombers take pride of place in history, LV917 C for Charlie "Clueless" and LV907 "Friday the 13th".  Hardly planes you'd want to fly aboard.

The squadron had been losing aircraft with the letter "F" in registrations, so the crew of LV907 decided to defy the jinx and call their Bomber after a cursed day. It seemed to work and like "Clueless" which flew 99 sorties, Friday the 13th  flew over 128 missions, without being shot down.

friday nose

The Legendary - "Friday the 13th" Norman & Crew flew on several missions

Records show Norman and his crew flew several missions in "Clueless" and "Friday the 13th" , pilots frequently had to swop Halifax Bombers. Both aircraft took up with the 158 squadron in spring 1944, covering some of the bravest sorties ever undertaken by bomber command in WWII. especially over the notorious industrial Ruhr Valley which was heavily fortified.

The halifax aircrews faced horrendous heavy German defences and many of the Bombers failed to return home, shot down by enemy fighters or literally torn apart by anti aircraft batteries. For some bailers - parachutes failed to open, sending airmen screaming into the ground, planes fell from the sky due to loss of fuel or crashed into mountains after becoming lost. These monstorious flying machines even smashed into each other, this was common.

The odds were heavily stacked against the "lads of the iron bird". Some were only 19 years old and few friends survived for long. Life expectancy for a young airmen - 3 to 5 sorties, a lone rear gunner - 2 weeks.  

crashed fire

Halifax Shot down

pic 9 mountain crash

Halifax down - Mountain Crash Site Memorial Cumbria

Only 1 in 4 Canadian aircrew completed their bombing tour, the rest killed in action, training, or captured Pow. 55,888 personnel of Bomber Command or 51% of all aircrews lost their lives in WWII. It really was halfway to hell and each time they took off - Jaso o duval - they journeyed with god.

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