A BOMB AIMER’S STORY – 576 SQUADRON

Bill Jock Wishart

My father’s account of a 576 Lancaster Squadron operation

We had recently moved from Elsham Wolds to our own airfield. On the morning of 4th November 1944 I saw the Skipper’s name was on the battle order which meant our crew were on operations that night. At briefing we learnt our target was to be Bochum in the industrial Ruhr. We duly took off over Lincoln Cathedral and set course for Germany. Approaching the target I could see the searchlights sweeping the sky and what looked like sparklers in the darkness were in fact exploding anti-aircraft shells. I had just dropped the bombs and we were about to leave the target area when a searchlight caught us in its beam and immediately all other searchlights concentrated their beams on us – we were “coned”. If you were in the cone for any length of time your odds of survival were pretty low as all the ack-ack guns in the area concentrated their fire on what was now a visible target. The standard evasive action to escape the cone was to “corkscrew”. This probably lasted only seconds till you hopefully escaped the cone. Meanwhile during this violent manoeuvre anything not strapped down was just flung about the aircraft and that included me in the nose, the navigator and wireless operator, the gunners being confined in their turrets! As soon as we escaped the cone we set course for home. At the debriefing that night the tot of Navy rum with the mug of hot tea was more than welcome! Then off to the mess for a flying breakfast which included a REAL egg! On that operation 28 bombers were lost.