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At First Sight
We Were Comig Home - Vic “Garth” Davies. DFC.

I was deep in thought as I made my way up to the Flight Office. We were on tonight and it was to be the last operation of my tour. Our task would appear to be a formidable one for we were to assist the British Army in crossing the Rhine. In order to do this we were to mark Wesel, prior to a heavy raid by our Lancasters, but this was to be marking with a difference.

Normally the first wave of Pathfinder Lancasters would drop Primary Blind Markers. The second wave would then drop Parachute Flares to light up our target. We would then search out our Marking Point while circling at about 3,000ft. On locating our MP we would then call out “Tally Ho” and glide down to release height, let go the target indicators, which were then assessed as accurate or othewvise, these would be backed up by the other markers and when all things were satisfactory the Main Force were called in to bomb.

However, tonight, because of the congregation of British Troops waiting to cross the Rhine, and whose presence needed to be kept as hush-hush for as long as possible, we had to do away with the Parachute Flares and mark by the light of the moon.

As I continued walking, my thoughts were on Peenemunde, the rocket research station in the Baltic; we had gone in low and were silhouetted between the fires below and the full moon above; easy prey for the German night fighters; was Wesel to be a repeat?

My thoughts were interupted by a grunt and looking over to the farm piggery on the right I could see Percy the boar performing his daily rituals. I swear that boar listened to martial music and had a sign in his pen saying “England expects every man this day to do his duty” for his patriotic endeavours to keep bringing home the bacon was an inspiration to us all.

Over to the right was our locker and briefing room and further over one of our hangars. It was here that, as I looked through the flight window one day I had spotted Nobby Clarke. We had trained together at 6 AOS Staverton and got our brevets on the same day. Nobby had fallen by the wayside with air sickness and now had come to 627 as part of a team of men and women who went about their task, knowing full well our lives depended on them. Yes, Nobhy was one of our ground crews and it had been good to see him again.

On my way over to Met. and Intelligence I went past the Post Office where I had first met the attractive WAAF who was to become my wife. I had a quiet little chuckle to myself, for we were living out unoficially and I used to cycle home each lunch time to the market gardeners where we were lodging and come back looking like one of Percy’s pregnant sows, laden down with pears, apples, tomatoes, eggs etc., stuffed down my battle dress top. Made a change from Anchovy paste anyway.

In Intelligence I met my pilot, what an unlikely pair we were. I had come on to the
Squadron after four months absence on the wrong side of the Channel; survivors leave, a lecture tour on Evasion and Escape, all round the British Isles telling my story to fighter pilots; Mosquito Conversion Unit at Warboys and thence to Woodhall Spa, Unfortunately my pilot went sick and I was left kicking my heels for a time. That is, until, one day I heard a very refined voice “I understand I’m to be your pilot, I’m Bill Topper”. Cor - stone the crows, me a typical country lad being landed with one of these posh city gents. Would it work out?

I’d never been far afield in my youth, I’d walked for miles, bird watching, never realising (until I got to 627 Squadron) that there were other types of birds besides feathered ones. My love of the countryside far outweighed any disadvantages of not having any other pleasures. I had had a very strict upbringing and had a Mum “God bless her”, whose word was law. I shall always remember her Friday night purge - Senna Pod Tea! It was horrible - “Get it down you, it will do you good, fetch it back up and you’ll have another dose’, was her war cry. My walking and strict discipline was to stand me in good stead in the five days and nights walk through the Pyrenees, in continuous rain, in December 1943, but that’s another story.

Could Bill and I make a go of it. The country lad and the city gent? I need not have worried, we got on famously and now here we were, on the threshold of my last operation. In between we had survived a near Ack-Ack burst at Villeneuve; we had watched blazing Lancs. going down right in front of us at Revigny (were the Germans, perhaps, aware of our destination that night?). We had watched Buzz Brown and Jock Cowan go in at Kaiserslautem, and we had been coned by searchlights over Bremen, and got away with it.

We had motored over the Pennines in Bill’s open top Bentley, with Rostov, his dog, standing erect in all his glory with me hanging on to his legs to stop him falling out of the car. The stops en route trying to scrounge a little extra petrol; our grief when Rostov died. We had listened in to the drama unfolding as Reid and Irwin tried to make it back to the Shetlands after the abortive sortie at Trondheim and were saddened by their death. We had heard Pop Rutherford and Stanbury struggling to get back to Woodbridge after being hit over the target. They succeeded, only to go missing later. We had pierced the gloom over Brux, where production was totally disrupted and Bill was to get his DFC.

We had had our tiffs and differences, settled many times over pints of near beer. We had become almost inseparable and I must admit to becoming jealous when Bill did photographic trips without me. I wanted to shout out “Hands off - he’s my pilot” and how we were, unbeknown to him, about to make my last operation.

Take-off time came and as far as I can remember the trip out was uneventful. We duly marked and did our usual commentary, and then turned for base. I remember thinking to myself about the lads below who would be now crossing the Rhine and subconsciously wishing them luck, Ahead of us we could see the four red lights on Tattershall Castle, “we were coming home” - the city gent and the country boy.

Copyright 1943-2012 627 Squadron in Retirement or as credited