Monthly Archives: March 2015

A Rear Gunner’s poem

I’m wandering slightly off topic now, but one of the items I found in my grandfather’s collection of wartime material was the following poem.

I know he didn’t write it, as it is the story of a Rear Gunner in heavies with Bomber Command. At any rate, rather than languishing in a box in Somerset, I felt it should be shared.

Please do feel free to reproduce the text or share this post (but please credit as appropriate). Maybe someone out there will recognise it as a poem their ancestor wrote.

A word of warning – this poem will transfer you back to a cramped rear-gunner’s turret in a heavy bomber some 70 years ago!

Another Op

Bumping down the runway
With the turret on the beam,
Flashing past well-wishers
Lit by the drem’s dull gleam.

The pulling of the stomach
As we slowly climb on track
Setting course to eastward –
How many will come back?

The clipped command to alter course
As we cross the Anglian shore,
Then extinguish navigation lights
As the engines increase their roar.

The throbbing of the engines
Disturbs the fading light
As onward, ever onward
We fly into the night.

Routine settles to a rhythm,
And those ‘up front’ dictate
The course, the speed, the height
And the passage of our fate.

Searching ever searching,
The turret turns to and fro,
Looking, always looking
For our enemy and foe.

The sound of throbbing engines
Envelopes our immediate night,
And the clammy taste of oxygen
As I adjust the dull ring sight.

A quiet statement from the Nav –
‘Enemy coast a head’,
The blood flows quicker thro’ the veins –
Our training stifles the dread.

Searching ever searching,
For that darker smudge of black.
Looking for the fighter
That could stop us getting back

The Nav again is heard to say
‘Target. Dead ahead’.
The tightening of the stomach
Is the only sign of dread

As a lonely, cold rear gunner
I always face the rear
And never see the target.
Till the aircraft’s there.

Flying ever closer, closer
To that awful scene.
Every nerve is strung so tight
You stifle the need to scream

The observer now takes full control
And by his directed call
Keeps the tingling nerves on edge
Till he lets the bomb load fall

With the sudden upward lift
We all expect the worst,
But heave a sigh of intense ‘relief
As the aircraft changes course.

Nose well down and increased speed
To escape from that dreadful sight.
We race across the crimson sky
To the safety of the night

As those up front now search the sky
For the fighter that lurks in the dark
While I at last see the target fires
Where we have left our mark.

 

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RAF Zeals – 1944 Aerial Photograph found

On 04/v/44, 488(NZ) Squadron moved from RAF Bradwell Bay to RAF Zeals.

This move was covered in earlier posts, but I have just found an aerial photo of RAF Zeals dating from March 1944, only weeks before 488(NZ) Squadron arrived.

As a reminder, RAF Zeals is at Grid Reference ST 78018 32945, between the villages of Stourton and Mere, just off the A303. The photograph below shows how the airfield looked on 24/iv/44.

You can see the issues that 488(NZ) Squadron faced with the airfield – no proper runway, just a grass track. In his account of his D Day Patrol, Broody described the state of the airfield at Zeals:

“Zeals was a not too satisfactory grass airfield, close to Mere. One of its less attractive features was a roadway running across the main “runway” (i.e. the path outlined in the grass by runway lighting) which was showing a tendency to break up and throw pieces of debris at the tails of the aircraft. On taking off in a westerly direction, it was necessary to climb fairly hard to clear a ridge, which was succeeded by a valley, notorious for down-draughts, before another and higher ridge”

Aerial photograph of Zeals airfield looking south east, the control tower, technical site and blister hangars are at the top, 24 March 1944. Photograph taken by No. 544 Squadron, sortie number RAF/NLA/80. English Heritage (RAF Photography).

Aerial photograph of Zeals airfield looking south east, the control tower, technical site and blister hangars are at the top, 24 March 1944. Photograph taken by No. 544 Squadron, sortie number RAF/NLA/80. (Image Source – IWM / English Heritage – Original image at – http://www.americanairmuseum.com/media/6185)

Not much remains of the airfield today – it has returned to agricultural use – apart from the old control tower which has been converted into a private residence.

The site of RAF Zeals as it looks today. (Image from Google Earth)

The site of RAF Zeals as it looks today. (Image from Google Earth)

Please note that as the 1944 image was taken from an almost southerly aspect, I have also rotated the Google Earth image for better comparison.


The Broodbank Collection – Catalogue now available!

At long last, I have catalogued the various items in my grandfather’s collection. You can see a complete list of all archive material by following this link.

This is still a bit of a work in progress, as there are currently no links to images etc, but in time this page should allow researchers to view the material in my collection.

As ever, if you want to get in contact about this or any other page on the site, please use the Contact page.