Fully operational crews

Bomber crewsWhile there may have been failings at the highest level of command, the fate of Bomber Command hung on the integrity and mutual confidence of the operational crews :

“At the Operational Training Units they were being brought together. There was no more arbitrary assembling of men for odd operations… every possible step was taken to allow like-minded souls to fit together. In the first few days at OTU, a milling herd of assorted aircrew was left to crew up by natural selection:

‘I hear you want a gunner? Can you fly a Wimpey without making me throw up?’

‘We’re looking for a wireless operator and you’re the only bloke here who doesn’t look as if he’s got DTs..’

‘Our driver flew into a hill this morning so we wondered if you might do us for a new one…'” (Hastings 173)

 

Bomber Command Pilot Peter Sarll recalls the strength they drew from each other in dreadful circumstances:

“I don’t remember how many we lost then, the awful moments I do remember were going back into the village of Watton (in Norfolk) where the young wives were waiting for their husbands who had not returned, and never would.

I do not think that anyone who did not experience what we were called upon to perform… could ever visualize the tremendous courage of our people, so many of whom died. We were three to a crew, twelve crews to a squadron, and our lives depended upon one another. We reached out to one another for strength and support: when one was low, we tried to boost him up. I remember seeing many of them vomiting before getting into the aircraft – a sure sign of physical and mental exhaustion. There was, too, the toll of the stand-bys, at 30-minute readiness in the aircraft, taxying to take-off, and then being recalled because the square that was chalked on the observer’s map was the position of our own troops; and so back to dispersal, switch-off, and then that awful waiting again . . . Having a second tour on Lancasters and experiencing the smoothness of the higher organization and its tremendous efficiency, I used to look back on the old Blenheim days and wonder how any of us survived.”

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