26/05/07 Flights into History

FLIGHTS INTO HISTORY 

The extraordinary story of a doomed wartime flight from RAF Fiskerton has been recounted in a new book.

Flights into History: Final Missions Retold by Research and Archaeology by Ian McLachlan (Sutton Publishing, ¬£19.99) includes 14 different accounts of flights taken by British, American and German airmen and is a sequel to McLachlan’s Final Flights.

The aviation archaeology expert, who works at e2v in Lincoln, found his research bringing him close to the county and its Bomber Command history when he uncovered the story of Harold D. Church.

His memories of the fate of a Lancaster that left Fiskerton never to return are included in the Chapter Five, No Particular Courage.

Harold felt he had “no particular courage” and was reluctant to retell his experiences being a veteran “whose heroism was hidden behind masks of modesty, irreverent humour and self-depreciation”.

“He was only persuaded to do so in the end because the story honours those of his crew who did not survive,” explains McLachlan.

“The work is dedicated to the memory of his fallen comrades and others who have since faded, in respect for the men that they were.

“The words ‘no particular courage’ are Harold’s. I think he and his men had a very special courage.”

The navigator’s story certainly does illuminate the courage he and his fellow servicemen showed in the face of much adversity.

From facing jumping out of a burning plane while the pilot stayed at the controls to give his crew a chance, without hope of escape himself, to being captured by the Germans and dealing with the conditions in a prisoner of war camp, to trying to tunnel their way out from under the lavatories – Harold narrates his tale without bravado, with due reverence to the lost young men and with thoughts of others whose experiences were worse than theirs.

As well as the courage of the Lancaster pilot Norman Carfoot from Burton on Trent, McLachlan recalls the first Fortress to fall in combat from the USAAF’s 447th Bomber Group, the final flight of an intruder Mosquito pursuing a German night fighter and the story of a Spitfire’s last flight and its heroic Belgian pilot.

“We did not know, we could not know, that within two hours some of us would die, violently,” Harold begins his reminiscences – a line that would be true for many serving in the early 1940s.

In agreeing to publish his and his crew’s tale, he has helped ensure such sacrifices are not forgotten