A TEAR FELL
Eric Richman - WOp/AG
Eric died in 2010
It all began in late July 1943. I had been posted from 5 AOS, in Jurby, Isle of Man to 17 OTU, Silverstone (now the famous racing venue) and with many other self-conscious lads, was given the task of sorting ourselves out into crews.
One can imagine my delight when a tall, well-built chap who was the proud owner of a superb handlebar moustache, approached me and asked me if I would care to join his crew. He had already selected his navigator, one Laurie Taylor, and was looking for likely candidates to complete the crewing-up process. The pilot was named Pemberton with all and sundry referring to him as Pem.
In due course we settled down as a crew with our first flight together on 13th August, with a certain F/O Hughes as screen. We did our circuits and bumps with the usual bombing and fighter affiliations, etc. and found that we all worked in total harmony and firm friendships were made at an early stage.
After the normal run of exercises and bullseyes, we completed our training on Wellington MkIIIs and were posted to 311 FTU, Moreton-in-Marsh.
Our first cross-country was on the 4th December, and it was shortly after this that I went sick, which was apparently brought back from the Middle East by some kind soul, who passed it on to me. I finished up being sent by ambulance to a Military Hospital (which, believe it or not, was my home town, Sevenoaks in Kent). Being in strict isolation there was no way my parents could visit me for some two to three weeks, but after that time I had no shortage of visitors.
On my release from hospital, I hot-footed it back to Moreton and immediately made tracks to my old hut. One cannot imagine my feelings when, to my utter disbelief, all my old crew were making their way to the flights and were due to take-off in a very short while.
Pem assured me that they would stall for as long as was possible, so I simply flew to the Flight Commanders office and begged to be allowed to join the rest of my crew. There was no way this would be possible, as I had to undergo a full Aircrew medical after being in an Army hospital.
There was nothing else I could do except to say farewell to the lads and watch their Wimpy take to the air, at that moment, a tear fell.
Subsequently, I crewed up again, this time at 12 OTU, Edgehill and was indeed fortunate enough to crew up with a very keen pilot, one George Gilbert (he came from Padstow), and found myself in a happy crew that took pleasure in doing things the right way, with the result that we had total confidence in each other .
We left Edgehill on the 30th June and completed our training on Wimpys at Chipping Warden, leaving there to do a stint on the venerable Stirling. We did some 40 odd hours (more Bullseyes and HLBs), with a posting then to 3 LFS at Feltwell with a final posting to 90 Squadron, Tuddenham, Suffolk.
Our first op was to Dortmund, swiftly followed by 32 more trips, mainly in Happy Valley. Our aircraft was a true Queen of the skies it was S for Sugar, and despite taking a lot of punishment, always got us home. We were fortunate enough to earn the two yellow stripes on the tail, indicating that we were GH leaders, no extra pay though.
After our tour plus three we were split up, and for my sins, I was given a crash course on Code and Cyphers followed by a posting to Bombay (Get your knees brown, you might say), and on arrival there found that I was i/c the C&C Section of the RAF Castle Barracks. They must have got wind of my posting as, just a few weeks after my arrival, the Indian Navy mutinied, we were trapped inside the Barracks for quite a few days until the Brown Jobs, did a rescue act, knocking-off every piece of movable equipment in the process, probably a small price to pay!!
On my posting home, I was then holding the exalted rank of Warrant Officer, but this did not equate me to a stateroom on the SS Georgio and on the journey I learnt that my old crew had been shot down over Budapest. No other details were forthcoming, so eventually I contacted the applicable authorities who, in due course, sent me a booklet, entitled The War Dead of the Commonwealth, Budapest War Cemetery.
Inside, on page 18, I read, Pemberton, Flt Sgt, George Gordon, 13881192, RAF(VR), 150 Squadron, 3rd April 1944.
A tear fell.
Links & Notes
90 Squadron http://www.raf.mod.uk/bombercommand/h90.html
The Wartime Memories Project - RAF Tuddenham http://www.wartimememories.co.uk/airfields/tuddenham.html
page last updated 28 June 2010: © ACA Surrey Branch 2010