Excerpt from “Boldness Be My Friend” by Richard Pape ~~Crash~~

picture-boldnessbemyfriend-papeAs the bomber began to fall, the skipper yelled over the whining, faltering intercom, ‘Jump, bale out!’ It was a ‘Now’ situation: individual action, no hesitation. No doubt the tail gunner swung his turret and was the first away. In the general flurry, I glimpsed the second-pilot, the wireless operator, the front-gunner rush past and descend to the bombing well to vanish into the night. Terry was struggling desperately to get the machine into some gliding angle. I was shocked then to see the kid, the mid-upper gunner, lurching beside my navigational table. He seemed concussed; clearly he could not look after himself. And Jock Moir was still there. He had been frantically working, shutting off all petrol flow, a vital task with crash-landing inevitable. It was too late now to jump. I rapped Terry on the shoulder. He turned, gazing almost unbelievably at three of us. It was then, as I flashed my torch, that I observed blood trickling from below his flying helmet; his face was ashen.
Adding my strength to Terry’s, heaving desperately on the control column, we brought the machine to a more horizontal position for a few minutes before the nose fell with a vicious lurch to a more acute angle. I recall a patch of water and hoping we might pancake . . . it went by. Then horrifyingly a church steeple. God! We’re going to die in church with our boots on! Uncannily, an updraught lifted us lazily over the roof and we carried on, the earth terrifyingly close. Dark blotches on the ground raced up to meet us. I braced myself for the big ‘dig-in’. Strangely I was no longer frightened. Thirty tons of bomber hit the ground at over 150mph, bounced back into the air, then down, up and down again, ploughed deeply across a small field: a blinding white flash, vicious lurch, hideous grinding of metal . . . then silence.
I long believed we ended up facing towards home. Not so. We had done three complete turns; first about a small village, then around a farmhouse, just missing it as we began our bucking crashes; at the last, a wing struck an oak tree standing splendidly alone in a small open field – a stout anchor, it spun us about and settled us alongside its splintered trunk with a final grinding thud. That blessed oak may have been our salvation. We were down.


1 Comment

Filed under Literature, Military, Non-Fiction

One response to “Excerpt from “Boldness Be My Friend” by Richard Pape ~~Crash~~

  1. Richard Pape was born in Yorkshire, England in 1916, and died on 19 June 1995, aged 79 years.
    The Stirling crashed on 7 September 1941, near the village of Hengelo in Holland. All crew members survived the crash, but were captured as prisoners of war.
    “Boldness Be My Friend” was published in 1952.

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