HUNG UP

Cyril Pearce - Pilot
142, 70 Squadrons
Cyril died in 2006

I joined 142 Squadron on 1st June 1943. It was stationed like the other five Wimpy squadrons on three airfields around the holy, but very smelly, city of Kairouan in Tunisia. Our targets were airfields, docks and marshalling yards in Italy, Sicily and Sardinia.

Bombs hung up in the bomb bays were infrequent but we had been bringing them back to base. They had been removed by the armourers, taken back to the bomb dumps and defused ready for further use. There had been three tragic accidents, one on my squadron, where bombs had exploded in the bomb dumps when being defused killing many armourers. An order was then promulgated that all hang ups were to be jettisoned into the sea. On no account were we to bring any back.

On the way back from a raid on Messina, Sicily, Eric Scott, my bomb aimer, switched on the light in the bomb bay and looked through the window at the back. He informed me that two bombs, a 250 and a 500 pounder, were hung up. I told all the crew to get back to their seats and to hang on. I opened the bomb doors and performed some very violent aerobatics. Eric checked again and said that the 500 pounder had gone but the 250 pounder was still there, apparently jammed. I repeated my attempts, even more violently, on two occasions but to no avail.

The wooden bomb bay housing protruded in the Wimpy fuselage to a height of about fifteen inches. Eric took the aircraft axe and smashed open the top of the housing. He then removed his parachute harness, his Mae West, his flying boots and his stockings. Jack Morvell, my Wop/AG, took hold on one ankle and my navigator, Eric Taylor, took hold of the other and lowered him down into the bomb bay. Ted Peters, my rear gunner, remained quietly in the rear turret on the watch for night fighters.

Eric Scott was about 5’6” in height so the two holding him had to lower him, ankles and all into the bomb bay. After about five minutes of vigorous work he chopped away the racks against which the bomb was jammed and it fell into the sea. We returned safely to base.



Pearce crew: L-R: Ted Peters - Eric Scott - Jack Morvell - Eric Taylor - Cyril Pearce: source Doreen Pearce

The aircraft riggers were not pleased when they saw the damage but knew that we had obeyed orders.

My wife, Doreen, and I, Eric and his wife, Jessie, kept in touch after the war and visited each other quite frequently. About thirty years ago they spent a few days on holiday with us at Tadworth.

We held a dinner party one night and invited Johnny Johnson and his wife, Jane, old friends of ours, to join us. Johnny was a Spitfire pilot. After the meal and a lot of wine we sat and chatted. Johnny, being a fighter pilot, knew little about the duties of a bomb aimer and questioned Eric about the functions he had to perform. The above story emerged during this discussion.

Jessie knew nothing about this episode in Eric’s flying career. It is not the sort of thing you talk about except when you are reminiscing with other aircrew. As the story went on - at 6,000 feet, in the middle of the night, over the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, no parachute, no Mae West, being held head down by his ankles, chopping away at a live bomb - her eyes got wider and wider with horror.

When the story ended Jessie clouted Eric on the shoulder and exclaimed, “But Eric, you can’t swim”.

Links & Notes

142 Squadron http://www.raf.mod.uk/bombercommand/h142.html

page last updated 5 June 2010: ACA Surrey Branch 2010