Whilst researching on previous article, Comments from the Spitfire article , Rolls Royce Merlin Engine , and The Hawker Hurricane, at the Imperial War Museum at RAF Duxford north of London, I met an ex RAF pilot, Philip Gray.
Philip Gray joined the RAF in 1942, to join Bomber Command as a pilot, and he has written a book about his experiences, Ghosts of Targets Past.
He writes about his going through the Selection Board through to end of the Second World War in the first person, recalling the conversations of his fellow aircrew, officers and friends. He describes the raids made on German cities, not only his fears as he flew through Ack-Ack or flak, but also those of his crew members.
For me it was the information and stories he told of his duties after the end of the war, still flying the mighty Avro Lancaster with its’ four Rolls-Royce Merlin engines across the English Chanel to drop food supplies to the Dutch in Holland. His description of an old lady looking up at him as he was flying over her at only 150 knots and at low-level,
“down on her knees, hands clasped together and held upwards, face staring towards the sky. Whether
she was thanking her Maker, the Lancasters or both……..“
this really moved me.
Avro Lancaster, cockpit, front gunner and bomb aimer positions
He also told how he and his crew flew across to France to pick-up and repatriate prisoners of war, and the emotions involved, not only for the ex PoW‘s but for him and his crew.
My father and many of my uncles and were involved in the war, but they never talked to me about their experiences, sadly they are no longer with us, so I am grateful to have read Philip Grays‘ book and to have met him, so I have a better understanding of what these men and women had to endure, and the public of both sides of the conflict.
Lastly the facts that Philip Gray imparts, has helped my understanding and knowledge. of staggering figures of “unloading a million tons of explosives over the Third Reich, losing eight-and-a-half thousand bombers in the process and a staggering fifty thousand aircrew.“