"A Risk Of Collision"

copyright: Jack Routledge, 2002


Updated: January 2008

The possibility of collision over the target was very real, with l00 to 800 bombers concentrated over an area for a period of 20 to 30 minutes. Into this melee was anti-aircraft fire exploding around us and searchlights probing the sky for a target to assist the night fighters. Bomb explosions on the ground plus ground flares which lit up the sky were a great help to us, but also to the night fighters.


We had several very near collisions with other aircraft. On one occasion, while on our way to a target, another Lancaster passed roughly fifty feet overhead, the mid-upper gunner sounded the alarm, but by this time it was too late to take evasive action. I looked straight up from my turret into the darkness and I could see this huge black silhouette of a Lancaster with his exhausts glowing in the dark, it was so close I felt I could have reached out and touched him. Our pilot kept the aircraft on course as the other slowly slid from the starboard side to the port side and disappeared into the night, his engine noise drowning out our own.


Now that was close! We felt quite sure that the other crew did not see us at all. However, there was no conversation for a few minutes, I guess we were thinking how damned lucky we were, or else determining whether we needed an underwear change.