My first op from RAF Dunholme Lodge. 619 Squadron As seen through the eyes of W/O Ron Jennings
Two married friends of mine were keen to visit Lincolnshire in June 2012 and asked me to join them for a few days. They were keen to stay at the Petwood Hotel and also to visit the BBMF and asked me to arrange this.
The only convenient dates I could get at the Petwood were the 27th. and 28th of June so off we went.
On the 28th. we arrived early at the BBMF only to be told that it was not possible to see the Lancaster as it was due to do a Fly Past during the unveiling of the Bomber Command Memorial. something I had forgotten about.
However, after I had explained the position the three of us were Introduced to the CO of the BBMF at the Coningsby base and given the full VIP treatment for the rest of the day. We saw the Lancaster take-off and were then taken into the mess to see the Service on TV. When this was over I was asked to do a broadcast for Radio Lincoln and in the meantime the word had got around about my poem. The CO was very interested and asked if I had a copy, which I had as I was going to visit Brian and Margaret Wykes and give it to them. After reading it the CO told his PRO to put it on the station website where it would be seen world-wide. It has been on there ever since.
When the Lancaster landed we were taken aboard and I was able to sit in the seat I used to sit in 68 years ago.
When it was all over we visited Brian and Margaret.
A truly unforgettable day out.
Givors is a small town in France with a population of around 24,000 and was important because it had a large rail network and marshalling yards, ideal for troop movements.
As this was precision bombing our height over target was 7,000 ft and when we arrived the visibility was so poor that all aircraft were ordered to switch on their navigation lights to avoid any collision.
Our flying time on this operation was 9hours 32minutes.
As a crew we did 32 ops together and our crew members were as follows:
Pilot ………………….. R. Bateman
Flight Engineer …… E.Dutton
Navigator ………….. A. Cameron (Australian)
Bomb Aimer ………. B.Shepherd
Radio Operator ….. R.Jennings
Mid Gunner ………… H.Vanderkelen (Belgium)
Rear Gunner ……… L.AIIen (Australian)
A special tribute must be paid to our pilot Ray Bateman whos undoubted flying skills enabled the whole crew to complete this tour unharmed.
In all, 669 crew members who flew from Dunholme Lodge Never returned.
One by one each mighty Merlin burst into life
It was 1944,our losses were high,a time of great strife
The noise was shattering the silence of the night
This was our very first op,there was no time for fright
Our last letters home had been written with care
Then placed in our lockers for our loved ones to share
Whilst each word we had written was truly meant
We all fervently hoped they would they would never be sent
As we waited for take-off I looked into space
Alii had learnt then fell into place
Now we were airborne and struggled to gain height
Check the equipment again, it would be a long flight
Our target-Givors-would be shortly in sight
Waiting to bear the RAF’s might
The Pathfinder boys had done their job well
The buildings they had identified would soon be a shell
Our bomb doors were open, the bomb aimer took care
It depended on him now to hit that red flare
At 7,000ft we began our bomb run
This was for real, our practice was done
The searchlights were weaving as though doing a dance
If you were caught up in those you stood little chance
Night fighters were prowling like birds of prey
Take your photographs Bill and let us be on our way
Now Dunholme Lodge lay beneath us with a welcoming arm
Our first op was completed, we had come to no harm
After de-briefing and all had been said
My only thought was to get into bed
Friendships were made, then quickly lost
We were all volunteers, this was the cost
No time for reflection, no time for a tear
Our cloak of bravado hid many a fear
A memorial now stands close to where the control tower once stood
Built by Brian and Margaret, as only they could
Each year a Remembrance Service is held there
To remember the airmen who are now in God’s care
When the time at last arrives for my final flight
I shall wing my way to Heaven at the speed of light
There to greet me will be comrades of mine
From Dunholme Lodge and 619