One complete tour in just one Lancaster Bomber

ED995 PH-X by Andy Smith

At 15.40 hours on 19 May 1943 Flight Engineer WJ Smith (Wally to his friends) of 12 Squadron RAF Wickenby, along with the rest of the crew, boarded Lancaster bomber ED995 PH-X for the first time. The crew’s duty this day was to last only one hour, for as ED995 had only been delivered that morning, this flight was just a shake down. Five days later this plane was to embark on what was the first visit to enemy territory for both plane and crew, a nearly six hour sortie to Dortmund.

Flight Engineer Wally Smith was a reasonably local lad, the son of a grocer in the village of Walesby, Nottinghamshire (just a short ride home on his Norton motor bike when off Ops). The others were from more distant parts of England. They came together as the seven men left standing when everybody else had crewed up through self selection based on experience and friendship. All the crew were to survive their first tour bar the Wireless Operator, Sgt Tom Routledge, who died of oxygen starvation on the second operation, a night raid to Dusseldorf.

During the summer of 1943 Bomber Command suffered its heaviest losses and the life expectancy of both crew and planes was very short. For Wally and the rest of the crew to survive was against all the odds. Raids were carried out on Turin, Milan, Berlin and Peenemunde to name a few, a remarkable feat at this point of the war. What made this tour even more remarkable for Wally was that he completed his 30 ops in the same Lancaster. Through his undoubted ability as an engineer and the phenomenal skill of pilot
Jimmy Wright and the rest of the crew, after each raid they were to bring ED995 back to Wickenby virtually unscathed. So when they were next on Ops ED995 (who was affectionately named Sarah) was waiting at dispersal.

Superstition played a big part in bomber crews’ lives, and as the sortie numbers rose into the twenties, the crew became more and more anxious to keep ED995 as their own, to avoid breaking a winning sequence. After twenty seven ops Wally was chosen to be Flight Engineer to Wing Commander Craven on a night raid to Berlin. The mission was a success, but it meant that when the rest of the crew had only completed twenty nine ops, Wally had finished his tour of duty. Having no intention of breaking the sequence however, Wally still went on the last op with his regular crew.

So on the night of 4 October 1943 the crew set off in their trusty Lancaster ED995 on a raid on Frankfurt. Six hours and ten minutes later they landed safely at Wickenby for the last time. ED995 had carried them close to two hundred operational hours.

On the morning of 5 Octo-ber 1943 Wally walked away from his kite for the last time, mindful of how lucky he had been to have such a wonderful plane beneath him.
ED995’s next mission was three days later. She was to take her new crew to bomb Hanover, a mission from which she never returned.

Wally went on to complete another tour of 20 operations with 463 Squadron and was commissioned in August 1944.

The crew of ED995 PH-X were:
F/O FJ Wright—Pilot
P/O EV Saunders –Navigator
Sgt DJ Hone—Wireless Operator
Sgt DR Tattersall—Bomb Aimer
Sgt W J Smith—Flight Engineer
Sgt BS Heath—Mid Upper Gunner
Sgt GW Shrimpton—Rear Gunner
F/Sgt TA Routledge—Wireless Operator—Killed in Action 25 May 1943

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