At First Sight
At Second Sight
BEF Al Faw Video '05
At First Sight
Caps Off? Andy Denholm
credit must be given to the high standard of maintenance on our
squadron aircraft by ground staff personnel, but none of us is perfect!
To look back on one particular experience seems almost hilarious, but
it wasn’t seen like that as events unfolded. To be exact it was 2nd
December 1943 on board DZ426 around 2100hrs over Berlin. Peter Denny
was my pilot and after some harassment by searchlights and flak we
found the starboard engine overheating rapidly and had to close it down
and feather the prop.
Our height was around 30,000ft but on one engine we began to lose
altitude and as we approached the Hanover area the port engine began to
splutter and die! Pete felt that baling out time was approaching
rapidly so I opened the inner door at my feet, stuffed emergency
rations and escape kit into his and my battle dresses, and clipped on
my chute. On the last putting strokes of the engine it suddenly roared
into life again! We tried to regain some of the lost height but before
long it died as before and down we went again. We must have yo-yoed up
and down through the main force three or four times hoping that some
trigger happy rear gunner did not mistake us as being unfriendly, when,
with my hand on the handle of the outer door, about to jettison it, the
port engine roared into life once more.
It was at that moment Pete had a flash of inspiration (or something
dawned on him) - the cause of the problem was a barometric switch
controlling the supercharger, and we had been oscillating through its
set height level. Switching off this unit cured our “stop start’
progress and it was all go for home on one engine. Without the
starboard engine we had no generator so it was necessary to conserve
electricity, only switching on the navigation board light for a few
seconds at a time and keeping the “Gee” set off until we were near the
English coast. Even then it was only switched on long enough to heat up
to get a fix and then switched off again.
A quick call on VHF to warn Oakington of our circumstances pretty well
flattened our battery and by the time we were over the airfield a
further call asking priority to land finished it altogether. We
couldn’t even make out their reply! We had arrived back in the circuit,
no navigation lights to put on, Lancasters all around us, and watching
in vain for a signal from the control van at the end of the runway to
give us permission to land. An instant decision was made by Pete after
a Lancaster crossed directly in front of us (we almost recognised the
tail gunner!) - “We’re going down now - watch out for any other
aircraft near us and fire the Very pistol!” I’d already fired all the
correct colours to suit the circumstances, so for the next few minutes
it must have looked like a fireworks display to those on the ground.
Every time I saw a Lanc - bang went another one!
After a successful landing we had to roll off the runway to avoid
blocking it, and then be picked up by the flying control wagon.
What had caused all the excitement? A plug on the engine coolant system
had not been securely locked, and had worked loose. “Whodunnit” as they
say, I never found out, or should it have been “Whodidn’tdunnit?”
Copyright © 1943-2012 627 Squadron in Retirement or as