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participation was limited owing to mostly poor weather at Jever. My personal involvement was just two sorties, one of which proved very eventful. My other sorties during that week were purely local and involved ranging and tracking exercises using the new (to us) radar ranging gun-sight in preparation for our forthcoming detachment to Sylt.3 The second of these sorties was a routine loose formation (neither close formation nor battle formation but somewhere in between) cross-country from Jever across the North Sea to supposedly 'bomb' a target in Norfolk and, yes, we were bounced by Fighter Command at least twice before we reached the coast, but otherwise it was uneventful. The first however had a different outcome.
1px-trans.gif, 43 bytesIt was a gloriously sunny Sunday afternoon following a morning of bad weather, the 18th of July to be precise, when we were in the crew room waiting for anticipated orders to do our bomber formation stint. This sort of waiting time usually made us edgy. We had already done our pre-flight checks on our designated aircraft, so there was little else to do until we were ordered off. Some of us sat around and smoked or drank Coke from our Coca-Cola bar in the crew room. I was one of the latter. Others aimlessly wandered about the hangar just killing time. Then orders came that we were to take off in 15 minutes. After last minute dashes to the toilet we made our way out to our aircraft, climbed in, and sat there waiting for the order from Sqn.Ldr. Allen, our formation leader, to "Press Tits".4 We taxied out for a stream take-off, quickly formed up, with me as a No.4 in the 8-ship (two fours) formation, set course for Blighty, and climbed to 37,000 feet. Visibility was superb following a morning of dense cloud. As we crossed the island of Texel off the Dutch coast we could already make out the evidence of land ahead in the form of haze and rare tufts of cloud over the East Anglian coast. It was a relaxed, well disciplined, pleasant flight early on a summer Sunday afternoon. It was one of those days when it was an absolute pleasure to be in the air. We had just crossed the point of no return over the North Sea when 'Bang' and my cockpit misted up and, simultaneously my gut swelled up and my ears nearly burst. I was in severe pain owing to cockpit explosive decompression. It was usually, in equivalent circumstances, my immediate reaction to swear volubly but I couldn't speak. Neither could I see out because the inside of the canopy had misted up and was freezing over. It was a moment before I did the safe thing and veered off to port so as to avoid a collision with the formation which by now I couldn't see. My next reaction was to turn up the oxygen flow. By this time someone was calling me over the RT to tell me to get back in formation. Somehow, in considerable pain, and with the shortage of breath due to high altitude, I gasped out a Pan call, and at the same time commenced a westward descent into denser air. Our leader ordered George Hickman to accompany me for an emergency landing in 'enemy' territory in the UK. George realised that I was having difficulty speaking and made all the RT calls on my behalf, at the same time telling me what heading to steer. In less pain as I descended I was able to scrape away some of the ice from inside my canopy to see outside and signal to George. Realising by this time that my cabin seal had probably ruptured and that I had not been hit by an unseen defending aircraft (my first initial thought), also that there was no other apparent malfunction, I began to feel more confident. My stomach hurt beyond belief. It was full of wind from the Coke I had drunk before take-off. I couldn't belch it out, neither could I fart. I would gladly have messed my trousers in an effort to release the gas and the pain. By now at under 5,000 feet, the pain began to become more bearable and my canopy and windscreen began to clear so that I could see out without having constantly to scrape away ice
3 One of these sorties was in Sabre Mk 4, XB 812, which is now preserved and displayed in the RAF Museum at Cosford, Shropshire. Until early 2006 it was displayed at the RAF Museum's Hendon establishment.
4 The vernacular for initiating engine start procedures.
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