In his earlier working life, my Dad used to go to Worcestershire, to a place called James Archdale and Co. (famous engineering place that sadly closed in 1972), chap there called Reg Smith (if anyone happens to know additional info on Reg it would be incredible) who was a Lancaster bomber Captain in World War II. My Dad explained how Smith used to tell them great stories about the war. This one was most notable.
Reg Smith was a Lancaster bomber Pilot/Captain, on a doomed night mission over Italy. The Lancaster was shot up badly including all their instrumentation. With the plane having suffered irreparable damage, and with altitude unknown, he gave the order for all crew to ‘bail-out’. As is customary for Captains, he ensured that all crew members bailed out before him.
Finally, Smith managed to make his exit from the plunging plane, only to immediately hit ground and roll (at no doubt some considerable speed) down a hill side and see his Lancaster smash to fiery smithereens some distance from him.
It transpires that he had bailed out, unknown to him, as the Lancaster had passed a large hill and therefore landed comparatively safely. Sadly all his crew perished (being too high to survive the fall but too low for parachutes to be effective).
Smith wasn’t without injury, he’d broken both legs and his pelvis but still managed to haul himself to the nearest Italian peasants he could find. Upon taking him in, the Italians quickly concluded that they were unable to help so called the local German forces who came and picked him up.
He was looked after well by the German forces and after recovering from his injuries was placed in a POW camp (where he set about making radios out of crystal sets and anything else he could find to try and engineer an escape). He and others did attempt escape but were caught and returned to the camp where they saw out the rest of the war.
Astonishing tale of luck and the futility of war. Certainly puts the usual ‘difficulties’ of life into perspective.
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