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Library Reference Number: 159

The Longest Seconds Of My Life.

Anderson MacCormick, ex-Flight Engineer 100 Squadron, Scottish Saltire Branch, ACA.

No.100 Squadron is one of the oldest Squadrons in the Royal Air Force, and was the first Squadron formed for the specific purpose of night bombing. Aviation history provides us with information about the Squadron from its formation in 1917, right through to the present day. It was not until 15th May 1940, that the British War Cabinet agreed to the bombing of military targets in Germany. Initially, each pilot and crew were "masters of their own destiny? allowed to make their own decisions on bombing strategy regarding approach, altitude etc. However, this was soon to change with the advent of "bomber streams? where it was felt a greater impact could be made on vital military targets, than could be implemented by a series of single aircraft on solitary bombing missions.

Anderson MacCormick was a Flight Engineer on 100 Squadron Lancasters, and his story is reminiscent of the fate of Bill Reid, VC, whose aircraft was brought down by bombs being dropped from a higher altitude. It is little wonder that in the following account, Anderson MacCormick considers those were the longest seconds of his life. It should be noted that where "stream" is mentioned in this account, it refers to the "bomber stream."

The wakeup call by the Service Police at 4 a.m. on 23rd March 1945 was unexpected, as we had never previously been called so early for a battle order. When we arrived at the Mess for breakfast, we saw that this was a maximum effort for 100 Squadron, as the place was full and of course we were getting a flying meal for breakfast.

At briefing we learned that our target for the operation was a bridge over the river in the centre of the city of Bremen and that we were going there in company with 116 other Lancasters, a few of which were carrying Tallboy bombs. We were not flying in our usual aircraft this trip and had been allocated one from "B? flight, "P? (PB 462), an aircraft we had never flown before. Our bomb load was 14,500 lb, all High Explosive and we were given a bombing height of 18,000 ft.

It was a bright clear morning with no cloud and whilst waiting at the dispersal for take-off about 7 a.m. we could see the trail of a V2 rocket which had been fired from Germany and presumably was on its way to the London area.

After take-off and climbing on track with the stream over the North Sea, we tried to climb to our bombing height of 18,000 ft. but found that this aircraft would not climb above 17,000 ft. It was quite fast and we were able fly up under the stream and have a look at the Tallboys being carried by the leading Lancasters. No matter what we did we could not gain any more height and we were flying about 1,000 ft under the centre of the stream. Our track took us past the right hand side of our target and after making a turn of between 130° -160°, we flew back over the target. At this point the aircraft in the stream were spread very wide, but as we approached the aiming point, they started closing up tight until they were massed above us. When looking up into the bomb bay of a Lancaster, on the ground, which is loaded with H.E. bombs, they did not look too threatening but when the aircraft above us opened their bomb bay doors, and we saw the bombs hanging there they did look very threatening and we knew that in seconds they would be falling on top of us. The seconds-minutes felt like hours waiting for the bombs to be dropped and when they were eventually released they looked as if they were going to hit our wing but they fell in front of our propellers and between our main-plane and tail-plane. That was all happening on the starboard side and I presume that the same was happening on the port side, but it was all over in seconds and I did not have time to look.

I have always believed that the only reason we were not hit by the falling bombs was because we were flying on the same track as the aircraft above us and as we were on our bomb run the Skipper was flying straight and level with no variations of course.

Having experienced during that day what it was like to have aircraft above you dropping their bombs, I can only imagine how many of our aircraft must have been destroyed in this way at night.

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