Well, what are you supposed to do when you have a total travel time from Thessaloniki, in Greece to Manchester of 10 hours, when only 4.5 of those are actually flying?
I decide to go through the ORB putting together a cut and paste history of the Halliburton crew (Devinder Sidhu and David Church being my interest). Working up from the op where the boys were lost, the realisation dawns on me that David was not part of the crew per se and it makes me think, once again the ORB’s have shown a sad trick of fate. I have known his son, also David Church since last summer reunion and at the time I was amazed that having spent the weeks before talking to Tony about Devinder and then meeting David, that they were the ‘crew’ as it were – apparently not…..
I don’t normally find my self in 1942 – most of my research efforts inevitably have been focused on 1943 – 45. I decided a few months ago to undertake the (in hindsight) slightly stupid attempt of cataloguing the Stirling’s of the Squadron – from arrival to replacement by the Lancasters. A full Sunday satisfied me this was a task greater than a whim and a weekend, but it let me see and begin to remember names – coming back to the ORB for ’42, I am pleased that I still recognise the names.
Running backwards with the Halliburton crew I reach the point where Keith undertakes a 2nd dickie flight with P.J. Buck – now that is a name I remember from my last stay in 1942. Reading back to the description of the raid I come a cross an amazing description of the fate of F/S C.A. Rothschild’s aircraft and their subsequent rescue – This level of reportage I find really touching – something that certainly humanizes these boy’s experiences and something that slowly evaporates through the following 3 years of the war.
“Stirling III BF455, captained by Flight Sergeant Rothschild, was hit over the target by A.A. Fire and also chased by fighters. This caused him to run out of fuel over the English Channel on the way home, and he eventually crashed landed in the sea 3 miles off Shoreham. The wireless procedure had been perfect, and Spitfires had been escorting it from the French coast, and a Walrus flying boat was waiting for it to crash land. Dinghy drill was perfect and all the crew got in safely after an immaculate landing – the Stirling floating for 25 minutes. The final scene enacted in the Channel as the Walrus collided with the dinghy and dropped all the crew in the sea. No ill effects except for Sgt. Grainger, the Flight Engineer, who suffered from shock.”
When I scroll further back to see the raid destination……it’s Frankfurt – I am sat in its airport typing this…..