The loss of ED432
June 15th 1943
by James Arnold
Our aircraft's call-sign was 'N' for NAN, the target was Oberhausen. The trip out to the Ruhr was the usual run-in, quite a lot of flak, aswas to be expected.
Once the target was reached, we commenced our run-in to the aimingpoint. The first run up was not successful, so we did an orbit and started another run-in. By this time the flack was very intensive and very severe turbulence was experienced.
We had just dropped the 'Cookie' (bomb) when there was a violent explosion. This was a direct hit on the starboard side, putting the two starboard engines out of action and on fire. The forward fuselage, next to my position at the radio on the Port side facing forward, was riddled and torn open. The shrapnel killed F/Sgt.Biggins who was sitting next to me on my right.
The Bomb Aimer 'Dickie' (F/Sgt. Deacon) was injured, also 'Barney',the Navigator. The Pilot and Engineer, I believe, were unhurt at that time. Our height for the Bombing was 27,000 ft, but after the explosion we lost height and the Pilot managed to pull out at 10,000 ft. We were flying quite well on two port engines.I went back along the fuselage to the rear to check on injuries to the Mid-Upper Gunner (Johnny Bryan) and the Rear Gunner, Dusty Rhodes. The Mid-Upper Gunner was un-injured, but I could not elicit any response from the Rear-Turret.
We were, I remember, losing height at this time, and along with the Mid-Upper Gunner we jettisoned all we could to lighten the load of the Lancaster.
I believe a fighter was on our tail, and it was for this reason that we went down to Deck Level. I had released previously the rear roof hatch off the Astrodome when throwing out all that was possible. I clearly recall hearing a swishing sound, and I stuck my hand out of the Hatch and saw we were skimming the tops of the trees.
We then crashed and I found myself out of the Aircraft and tried to get back in, but I could not reach the Hatch. I had difficulty in walking, my back being injured. I remember coming to a River which I now believe to be the Rhine, and meeting to Dutchmen.One had a bicycle and sat me on the crowbar to support me and put me in a Barn. He also gave me some apples.
I was taken to a Convent either before I was hidden or after, but this part is hazy. Possibly I was in shock at this time. I was under the impression that having been hidden; I was now with the Dutch Resistance and would get back to England. The persons who hid me had no English and I could not speak any Dutch.
After a passage of time (I can't recall how long I was in the barn), I was taken along a narrow road. At the foot of the road was a car with Uniformed Germans. The Officer saluted and said,"For you the war is over!"
Then I saw Johnny, the Mid-Upper Gunner was also in the car.
Things after this point are a trifle hazy. I was separated from Johnny Bryan and was taken to a Fighter Station, where the Commanding Officer requested the Crew Members names "to givethem a Christian Burial". That night was spent in the cells of the Luftwaffe Base Guardroom. From the way I received treatment for my back injury by a Dutch Nurse who spoke English; it may have been Arnhem Hospital.
After leaving the Luftwaffe Base, I went by train to Amsterdam Military Barracks escorted by a German Flak Battery Commander.In the Barracks at Amsterdam I met up again with Johnny, the Mid-Upper Gunner. We were the only two occupants of a ward.
After being caught trying to escape via a fire escape ladder, which ran down from the third floor, I was once again put in the cells. These I believe were in the basement of the building. I did not meet up with Johnny until I reached Dulag Luft Interrogation Centre at Frankfurt, where we stayed for about one week before being transported to Stalag Luft 6 at Heydekrug in Lithuania. After about 6 months I was transferred to Salag Luft3 at Barth Vogolsand, near Stralsund on the Baltic Coast. Here I remained until we were liberated by the Russians, and I returned to England after V.E. Day.
In 1947, after a spell in the Foreign Office Code and Cipher Division I re-joined the Royal Airforce flying in Transport Command, Airborne Support Squadrons, Coastal Command and various other duties.