By Rebecca Drew
THE FATEFUL story detailing the close friendships of the brave men from one RAF bomber command squadron who raided the deadly skies of Nazi Germany during WW2 have been revealed in a new book.
Incredible black and white images show the members of the XV squadron which was lead by Squadron Leader Drummond Wilson taken in November 1941, five months before one of their Stirling bombers was badly damaged by anti-aircraft fire in raids over Essen, Germany. Other stunning pictures show Drummond at the controls of an Avro Anson and receiving his wings at RAF Uxbridge in 1939.
After being hit in Essen on the night of April 10, to April 11, 1942, Drummond and his co-pilot Sgt David Southey managed to navigate their damaged bomber back to RAF Alconbury, but were told to go around due to an aircraft on the runway. Over the Cambridgeshire town of Godmanchester, the machine’s oil pipe broke causing the engines to cut out and the aircraft to crash, breaking up on landing. Drummond and the Mid Upper Gunner, Sgt Edgar Gould, were killed, six men survived.
The real-life story has been unveiled in the book, Stirling to Essen: The Godmanchester Stirling: A Bomber Command Story of Courage and Tragedy by Roger Leivers. It is published by Fighting High Publishing.
“In early October 2012, an email was received by the Godmanchester Community Association from a gentleman by the name of Roy Palmer. He was enquiring about a crash involving a Stirling bomber out of RAF Wyton, which had occurred on the morning of April 11, 1942,” said Roger in his book’s introduction.
“He was trying to find out if anyone had any information on the incident. As I had carried out the war walks it was forwarded on to me to see if I knew anything, which of course was a resounding no.
“I had to admit also to having been rather intrigued by the crash-landing of a heavy bomber, a Stirling, which up to that point I had never heard of.
“Before long I had received several comments from a variety of people that a Stirling did indeed crash on the outskirts of the town.”
The Godmanchester Stirling bomber was one of 18 that raided Essen on the night of April 11, 1942. Of the six men that survived the crash, three didn’t live to see the end of the war. Sgt Edgar Gould was on the raid after the original member of the crew had frostbite. Flying Officer Clifford Reeve went back to the burning plane to rescue the two men and was later awarded a military MBE for his actions.
“I hope you will enjoy reading this narrative. I decided, as the tale unfolded, to allow it to follow its own path, wherever it might take us,” added Roger.
“Hopefully, as you put it down and close it for the last time you will know these men and women personally, you will have experienced their war hardships, you will have felt their emotions and grasp the effect the war had on their families the loved ones they left behind.
“We will discover a tale of young men answering the call, who came together to form a tight-knit fighting unit, each one depending on the other to do their job, no matter what.
“So often, the lives of these men were dependent on factors beyond their control; sometimes Lady Luck would smile upon them, for some she was a constant companion. For others, less fortunate, she would turn her back and abandon them.”
Published by Fighting High Publishing, Stirling to Essen: The Godmanchester Stirling: A Bomber Command Story of Courage and Tragedy by Roger Leivers is now available to buy on Amazon for RRP £19.95.
For more information see https://www.amazon.co.uk/Stirling-Essen-Godmanchester-Command-Courage/dp/0993415288/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1500390738&sr=8-1&keywords=Stirling+to+Essen%3A+The+Godmanchester+Stirling%3A+A+Bomber+Command+Story+of+Courage+and+Tragedy+by+Roger+Leivers