poppy field



(Account of a WW2
bombing raid)

By Geoff Towers BEM


After going to Hell and back forty times, our last operation was the one that sticks in my mind, apart from some dicey trips during the rest of our tour.

The operation was to WITTEN in the Rhur in Germany.  It was a night operation, taking six hours and twenty five minutes on the 18th March 1945.

There were a total of 324 aircraft taking part in the raid -
259 Halifax Bombers, 45 Lancaster Bombers and 20 Mosquitoes.  Eight aircraft were lost during the raid - 6 Halifaxes, 1 Lancaster and 1 Mosquito.

Me and the rest of the crew were keeping our fingers crossed and hoping we would get back to our base safe and sound.  I made sure that my rabbit's foot in a little pocket in my Mae West life jacket was safe.

The raid was reported to have been a success: 1,081 tons of bombs were dropped destroying 129 acres of the built-up area.  German reports stated that the Ruhrstahl Steelworks and the Hammersham Tube Factory was severely damaged. (Extracts from Bomber Command War Diaries).

We encountered only light flak on the way to the target area.  Over the target the flak and
search lights were more concentrated: The German defence was putting up a box barrage of flak.  This was like flying through the fires of hell.

There was no choice, but to go through and bomb the red target indicators on the ground.  With great relief we got through, suffering only minor damage.  Our skipper put our aircraft into a steep dive and we got to hell out as quickly as possible.

On our way back to base at LISSETT we hoped and prayed we would not encounter any night fighters.  Luck was with us and the Good Lord was looking after us.

We landed at our base in the early hours of the 19th March 1945.  It was an unwritten law
that when you were on your last operation, Flying Control allowed you to land before all other aircraft in the circuit, but of course this did not apply if there was an emergency.  Priority was given to the aircraft in distress.

After we landed I can remember us all getting out of our Halifax, putting our hands together to say a little prayer to thank God for our safe return.  We were all now due for a six month rest period, before reporting back for our second tour of operations.  We were due to join a pathfinder squadron.

We were given four weeks leave, after which we would all be posted to a training station on instructional duties.  Fortunately the war ended during this period.

All of my crew split up and we went our separate ways.  It was with great sadness when the time came to say our farewells.  We had been like a band of brothers.  We flew together, lived together and went out on the town together.  It was a wonderful relationship.  Never again, during the remainder of my lifetime, will I ever encounter such wonderful comrades.

Geoff Towers BEM

Ex Air Gunner

158 Squadron