Search for the Sole Survivor
A review of my uncle’s log book indicated a total of 23 red inked operational flights to enemy targets. Five of these had to be aborted due to equipment unserviceability including engine problems, oxygen failure and rear turret malfunction. Ten trips including the last was to the “Big City”, Berlin. The longest was to Stettin and was an incredible nine hour trip! The last entry for March 24/25, 1944 to Berlin had the following haunting comment under the Remarks column - “Missing - nothing heard”.
It took some time to fill in the missing pieces of the jigsaw puzzle. Shortly after the end of the war my grandfather received the following account from Frank Magee which filled in most of the missing pieces.
“Copy of account of operational flight of March 24-25: which was the date when Jack was reported missing, as written down by the bomb-aimer of the plane, which was a Lancaster bomber.
We set course from base about 20:00 and headed for target, Berlin. One of our navigational aids failed about an hour out, but we still had to carry on. The winds during the whole trip were a way different from what we had been told on leaving base. We were in the first wave and as the wind was more or less behind us we arrived and overshot the target, no markers having been dropped as yet. We had a 100 mph gale to contend with heading back towards the target. We never did reach the target as it was time for all the bombers to head home; so we just dumped our load and headed for home. We dodged flak and searchlights all the way back, and were way off track, and I think about an hour late. It was a clear night and I believe I saw the coast of Holland when the navigator called up to the engineer and asked him if we had enough gasoline for an hour’s flying, as it would take that long to reach England. The engineer said we were very low, and doubted if we would make it. Just then we could hear shells tearing through the kite, and as they came from exactly below we presumed it was flak. The plane was full of smoke and Jack opened the bomb doors to drop anything that might have stuck up and been on fire. However everything was gone and the draft cleared away the smoke. The mid upper gunner suggested that we do evasive action in case it happened again. Jack said, “Okay” and just started to do so when we were hit. I could see tracer bullets flying past the nose so we all knew then it was a fighter. The plane immediately went into an almost vertical dive, and Jack shouted that he couldn’t control the kite, and shouted for the engineer to help him. I couldn’t get the escape hatch open during the dive, between them they managed to pull the plane out for a second or two. I flung open the hatch just as the inter-communication was cut; I could hear nothing over it. The engineer shouted my name and I saw him reaching for his chute so I jumped. I went down okay and landed in a small field just inside the Dutch border. I received immediate assistance from the Dutch Underground and was down in Belgium when Allied troops occupied the country.
Two days after I landed, the Dutch told me they had found the plane (not burned) with five bodies in it. Apparently the Germans later found the sixth.
I would just like to tell you how much I thought of Jack. He was a darn fine fellow, and a good pilot.”
This undated and unsigned document was stored in the attic and became part of our family history.