During one of the R.A.F. raids on Flushing Docks one of our aircraft dived down to within a stone’s throw of the ground and secured direct hits on buildings and an ammunition dump. The pilot, a young New Zealander, broadcast an account of this exploit, and here it is in his own words.
We broke cloud just south of Flushing from along the coast. We waited for about 20 minutes to pin point it—just to make absolutely certain. Then we went up seaward and came in across the docks. In the meantime they must have been getting all their guns ready. I thought we were going to glide in and catch them by surprise, but it didn’t happen that way.
We were fairly low when they opened up. I have never seen anything like it—it didn’t even seem worth trying to dodge the Flak, there was smuch of it. I thought “Good night nurse,” put the nose down and hoped for the best. That wasn’t being foolhardy. It was as good a way of getting out of it as any other.
The inside of the aircraft was recking with cordite. Nobody said anything. Frankly, I thought we weren’t going to get out of it, and I think the rest of them thought that too. I remember it flashing across my mind that if they did bring us down the aircraft would make a pretty good bomb lead to land on them. I don’t mean anything heroic, but even if it was all up, we were going to hit the docks anyway.
The searchlights were holding us all the time. I just kept my eyes on the instruments and on the docks. If one had looked round one would have been blinded.
As we went over, the bomb-aimer made certain all the bombs had gone. We dropped them and they landed right in the centre of the dock buildings.
Immediately we were thrown up to 600 feet. There were tremendous explosions. The second pilot was standing beside me. His knees buckled underneath him and he went down on the floor. I was just concentrating on trying to keep the aircraft in the air and to get away. More or less automatically I pushed the nose down, the throttles forward, and hoped for the best.
There was a curtain of fire on all sides. We went through. I bet the Germans thought they had got one aircraft down all right, but we must have given them a terrific shaking.
The ships opened fire on us as well as all the guns on the shore. They seemed to have a ring of Flak ships round the harbour. The machine-gun tracer was making spirals in the air. They were using heavy arm quick-firing guns, too, and flaming onions by the dozen. The sky was absolutely full of it. We scooted along the edge of the sea. I could see the breakers quite clearly. By this time I was fighting with the stick. We sent out an SOS that we were likely to be coming down. I knew that we had been hit. I had felt the shells smack into the plane and I couldn’t hold the aircraft properly.
I Never Thought We’d Make Home
We said we would have a crack at getting home. We told them that by wireless. I thought the rear gunner had been hit. He didn’t answer when I spoke to him on the intercommunication set and I sent the second pilot along to his turret. We found that the gunner was all right, but that his intercommunication set had been put out of order. I told the second pilot to have a look at all control cables and keep his eye on the petrol gauges to see that the petrol tanks weren’t leaking.
The front gunner came out of his turret and stood by to operate the flotation gear in case we had to land on the water. At 15 to 20 miles out we could still see the flashes of explosions from the docks.
Frankly I never thought we‘d make home. The aircraft was kicking like a bucking bronco. There were heavy clouds and I was flying on instruments all the way. It was raining most of the time. My arms were aching and seemed tied up in knots from the strain of holding the aircraft. Finally we got home, and I landed safely.
Uit :The War Illustrated, 1 november 1940