AVM Sir R.A. Cochrane – provided by Geoff Raebel, Australian Bomber Command Association Editor
It was a particularly bitter night in the winter of 1944 as the Warrant Officer made a last check of the dispersals of his Flight at 463 Squadron, Waddington. Snow swirled around him as he trudged from bay to bay, it was not a night to be out. Under the wing of a Lancaster something moved, instantly alert the W/O cautiously approached a man. To put the other off-guard he bellowed at him “Who the blazes are you?”
The man pulled pack one shoulder of his greatcoat to reveal his shoulder flashes “Cochrane, AVM.”
The W/O snapped to attention while doing a double-take and simultaneously threw up a salute “Sir” It was the Commanding Officer of 5 Group, Bomber Command.
“Who are you” Cochrane asked and the W/O identified himself then Cochrane continued “I was just visiting your CO and decided to take a tour on the way out. The driver bogged the Hillman over there” he pointed into the night. “He went off to find the Guardhouse a half hour ago to rouse the Officer of the Day” The W/O took it all in as Cochrane continued “Is there any shelter about?”
“Come this way sir” he beckoned “The Erks have a humpy, it’s only a couple of minutes”
The W/O pushed open the door of the shelter made of canvas and scrap timber surprising the fitters inside and called “Ten – shnn” The Australians smirked until they saw the officer behind the W/O and they jumped to their feet. “Gentlemen, Air Vice Marshal Cochrane” the W/O introduced.
“As you were” said Cochrane. The men open mouthed, thought, they rarely see Rollo except when on Squadron Parade where on earth did their Group Commander drop from.
Relaxing, one of the men offered Cochrane a box to sit on while another plied him with a hot cup of tea in an old chipped tin mug from the iron stove.
When he had almost finished the door burst open again letting in a shower of snow. A Pilot Officer stuck his head in “Right you lot, on the double outside, we have an officer lost nearby!”
Nobody moved, the Pilot Officer began to puff up, in the face of the usual insubordination where popular pilots were known by their nicknames, then his eyes landed on Cochrane. He snapped to attention crashing his head into the door lintel before he could salute. A fitter caught him and put him on a box beside Cochrane. Other startled members of the search party crowded into the humpy saluting Cochrane as they came in.
“Well Pilot Officer” Cochrane started “I’ll bet you’re glad you found me. Now have you got any transport, I should be getting back to Group Headquarters”
“Sir, yes we can lend your driver a car and swap them tomorrow” the Pilot Officer replied
Cochrane looked around the crowded humpy “Excellent, thank you gentlemen for your hospitality on a cold night, it has been most instructive. Pilot Officer, my compliments to your Commanding Officer and I must be on my way.”
The Erks sat in awe as they watched the humpy empty, a brush with fame.
To find out more about AVM Sir R.A. Cochrane see his biography here
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Image By Royal Air Force official photographer Stannus (F/O) – This is photograph CH 14564 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums.Transfered from en.wikipedia 2007-03-17 (original upload date) Original uploader was Greenshed at en.wikipedia, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3217591