Begin forwarded message:

From: SKEOCH <alan.skeoch@rogers.com>
Subject: Fwd: THE LAST FLIGHT OF HX313 by ALAN SKEOCH Page 2
Date: October 4, 2019 at 12:26:49 PM EDT
To: Alan Skeoch <alan.skeoch@rogers.com>, Marjorie Skeoch <marjorieskeoch@gmail.com>

Pages 1,  2, and 3

NOTE:   I have begun to transcribe this story which was originally
written in  an attempt to discover how RCAF sergeant George Freeman
died on May 27,1944…as time permits I will transcribe the story…and look for the pictures.
There will be typos.


(Original written in 1984, Current rewrite Oct. 2019)

alan skeoch

Death doesn’t impact on a six year old as much as it does on an adult.  When George Freeman was declared missing on May 28, 1944, I barely noticed.
My parents were a little different that day I imagine. Quieter. Distracted.  My brother Eric  and I may have slipped out to Dufferin  Park as usual.  We  didn’t
really know there was a war being fought in Western Europe, the Middle East, Burma, China  and  islands chains of the Pacific Ocean. Not real to us at all
To us the world war was fantasy as we spent a lot of time playing  ‘guns’ with wooden weapons made from cast offs from the local piano factory. We  spent
more time  playing cowboys and indians than replicating the confusing  combatants of World War II.

The only real war we knew about were the gang wars between the Beanery  and  Junction gangs which seemed to rage regularly when waves teen age hoodlums
attacked each other with lead pipes and baseball bats or fists and hand held broken  beer bottles.  Time has magnified these fights in my memory.  There are
only a few news clippings that even mention these battles.   Eric  and I did see  some battles that’s for sure.   As to how  often  I cannot be  sure.  But they did
happen.  I know  this  because we watched  them from the safety of our rented  flat at 18 Sylvan Avenue, a large Victorian house right inside Dufferin Park.
We saw the police  arrive in force to break up the combat and  when the field was  clear we tried to pick up what was left behind by the gangs. This included
what mother called “dirty things” left earlier under the forsythia bushes which bisected the park in those days. “Good balloons, Mum.”

So the  disappearance of George Freeman passed unnoticed. I never met him even though he  was a cousin.  I do remember, however, Mom taking  us by
street car to the Hunt Club Golf Course just before Christmas  in 1944.  Uncle Chris Freeman  was the head greenskeeper and  as such lived  in a nice
little house in the  centre of the place.  I remember aunt Kitty crying cause someone had  died.  Uncle  Chris who had a crooked eye was stoic but
serious.  Normally he liked to tease us.  Good humoured kind of man.  But not that year.  Mom  explained  that their son, George, has been declared
missing in acton.  He was likely dead they knew but they clung to the hope he  would turn up in a German POW camp when the war ended.

His bags were sent home from his 427 squadron headquarters at Skipton on Swale in Yorkshire.  Seems I remember mom saying that aunt Kitty took
the suitcase up to George’s room and left it there.  Unopened.  She clung to the  hope  he would be found and return to them at war’s end.  That hope
was held through 1945 and even into 1946 because newspaper  reports  of  long lost soldiers and airmen continued to crop up.  That room was waiting.
George Freeman became  a kind of  ghostly mystery figure to us.   His room…his bag…were a kind of mysterious presence that entered the long term
storage of  my brain.  Even  now, over 70 years later,  I can visualize that greenskeepers house with aunt Kitty misty eyed  and  uncle Chris stoic.

A strange thing happened to me forty years after George Freeman died in that Halifax Bomber labelled  HX 313.  Something made  me  want to try and
find out what happened to George Freeman.  I began  to try to put the fragments of his life together in 1984.   What really happened in the skies over
Belgium on May 27, 1944?  As a history teacher  at Parkdale Collegiate  Institute I wanted my students to understand what it was like to be  young, patriotic
and idealistic in the1940’s.   Wanted the students of 1984 to see  themselves wearing George’s fleece  lined RCAF boots rather than  just reading  aging
historical facts.   I had no idea just how  startling the story would become.

Where to begin?  Records existed, I knew  that but I wanted to put flesh and blood on those  records.  So asked George’s sister Lillian, we called her Mickey
for some reason, if she had any letters sent by George from  Yorkshire.   She had a few letters and small pictures but she had no idea what happened
on that last day when HX 323 fell flaming  from the skies over Bourg  Leopold.   Most moving was a picture of George  in this RCAF  uniform.  He  looked
so much like  our own sons.  Young.  But also serious and perhaps idealistic.


to be  continued
…the story is longer than  I ever expected

These first few fragments became parts of what became  a giant jig  saw puzzle with many pieces  missing and others in a jumble for me to sort.  One  piece  dated  January 4, 1944
was a starting point. 

 “Please  accept my sincere sympathies in this period  of  great anxiety. I trust that favourable word will be forthcoming of  your son.  The enclosed letter (and snapshots) 
addressed to you was found amongst your son’s personal effects. We  regret the necessity of having to censor the letter for security reasons, and  to ascertain  if  it contained  
anything of  a testamentary nature.”  signed  by Squadron leader  Pennington of #6 Bomber Group

The snapshots  turned  out to be wonderful clues. The letter, George’s  last letter, revealed  that he knew his chances of survival were slim.  He  was taking extra flights to try and get
his 20 flights  over with.  Air crews who survived 20  bomber raids were relieved of future  raids  unless they volunteered to continue these risky flights which many  did even with
the horrific death rates.  George was  planning to stop it seemed  although that was  not certain.  He was  committed to the war effort.  But would  he continue with HX 313?
Maybe  not for he had fallen in love with an English girl ands  preparing to surprise aunt Kitty with an engagement announcement.  “The girl works in our mess and is a  good girl.
In fact, mom, she is a  Cockney, so  you have an  idea  from  that what she is like. Her parents made me  very welcome and  I had two eggs there.”  Included with the letter was a
snapshot of George and his girlfriend in each others arms.  Smiling.  We would never know her name.  Tragic romances  were all too common among  members of #6 Bomber Group.


George also told  his  mom that he  had bought her a  Victory Bond.  But he said  nothing about the  war or HX 313.  One  tiny photograph wa dated February 10, 1944, taken in front
of a flimsy  looking  barrack on which was printed  “Moe, Pop, Bob, Wilf, Eric, Casey and Me”.  No last names but enough hints to  lead me deeper.  As things turned out “Pop” became
the linchpin I needed to get all the  pieces in place.  Sorry for the mixed  metaphor.



The final  snapshot, taken after the war, showed  wooden cross labelled ‘P.O. Freeman,  G.F., RCAF, KS 28,5, 44, #J 88397”.  George would not be returning To aunt Kitty and  Uncle Chris.


Then I  found a crumpled news clipping with the title “Nazi rockets Failed to stop Canadians” referring  to George Freeman’s first flight in HX 313.  A strong hint that the skies over
Germany were filled  with rockets and flak and  night fighters…and terror.

But I still knew nothing about the last flight of  HX 313.  George was the mid upper gunner in that lumbering Halifax bomber belonging to Tiger Squadron,  RCAF.  Efforts to get information from otters  
failed because  the Privacy Act forbade the release of  crew members that survived  the war.  Strange.  Must be some  reason for this but I failed  to know what reason.   Lillian   
Peers, George Freeman’s  sister, told me that the pilot of HX 33 visited  their golf club home after the war. “His name was Mallet and  the meeting was very emotional for all of them.”

The story could have ended there were it not for the  offer of a CBC Classified appeal. “At the sound of the beep, give your message…be sharp and specific”

“Eric Mallet, are  you listening?  You were the pilot of a Halifax bomber that was shot down over Belgium on the  night of  May  27, 1944.  Your upper middle gunner was George Freeman,
my cousin, who was killed. I am trying to  put together the details of his death.”  Then  I innocently mentioned the little snapshot of the pet Scotch Terrier sitting in George’s Air Force hat.
“I  have a  few  fragments that belonged  to George.  One is  an RCAF hat sitting upside down with a  little black dog below which is written “Nooky, Squadron Leader”, perhaps that clue
might help.”   Does the word  have any meaning?”
Well the word certainly had meaning. Many listeners responded to let me know that Nooky referred to sexual activity of a  casual  nature. Mention  of  Skipton  on Swale and  #6 Bomber 
Group and  HX 313 along with Nooky resulted  in a  shower of puzzle pieces.  Many clarified he meaning of  Nooky.  “Refers to sexual activity, Alan.”   I should have  known  that and
had I known I would never have included  it in a CBC radio broadcast that went clear across Canada  from  seas to sea to sea.

Several phone calls came  immediately.  Most were irrelevant.  Veteran airmen just making contact…wanting  to help.  Mothers  who  had lost sons.  Sisters who had  lost brothers.  One
man living in a dirt encrusted  room on Toronto’s River Street was  insistent I visit him.  Doing so I realized  he  had   lost the battle with alcohol long ago.  He had  been a gunner  with
#6 Bomer Group but had never met George Freeman.  He just wanted someone to talk to.

There was no call or letter from any of the four surviving crew members of  HX313.  But there was one unusual call.  “Alan, my name is Joyce Inkster, a listener told me to call you and
offer my help.  For the  past few years my husband and I have been tracing and reassembling RCAF flight crews.  Perhaps we can help you.”

The  Inkster were part of the Allied Air Forces Reunion.  Joyce Inkster was a  female version of Sherlock Hollmes.  Within  a day  she  had  found the casualty report for the night
of May 27/28, 1944.  It listed when names of the crew and 1944 addresses.  Pilot Eric Mallet was from Vancouver.  Mrs. Inkster consulted  her collection of telephone books from
around  the world,  No Mallet listed in Vancouver.  “Let’s try Victoria”  There was an E.  Mallett.  Was it worth a call…budget  over run possible was in my mind.  I could not afford to
call every Mallett in Canada. “Don’t worry, I have  a system. I make the call when rates  are low, say the  message  fast…of wrong person end the call in less than a minute.  But first
I need a clue that will guarantee I’ve  reached the right person.”

The Scotch  Terrier picture…Nooky….almost barked at us.

“Are  you Eric  Mallett the pilot of HX 313 in 1944?”
“Yes,” My heart skipped a beat.
“Did you have  a  mascot?”
“Yes,  we had a scotch  terrier.”

The pilot of HX 313 had been found and the story began to unfold. I was asked  to return  the CBC  Joe Cote show snd tell the audience the  story as  it stood.

We found the  pilot of HX323 living in Victoria, British  Columbia, talked with him…he confirmed that they had a mascot… Scotch Terrier  Nooky.

“We had a seven man crew normally but on our last doomed flight we had an eight member. New pilots joining the squadron were assigned to a veteran pilot for
one live operations  flight so we  had co-pilot W.F. Elliott  aboard.  Of our eight man crew, 3 were killed but 5 managed to bail out.”


Many Bombers featured ‘Blonde Bomber’ nose art.  This photo of a Handly Page  Halifax bomber
is likely not HX 313. 

Picture of personal standing  on wings of a Halifax Bomber at Skipton on Swale
Yorkshire, where  George Freeman was stationed as a mid upper gunner on
HX 313, Number 427 Tiger Squadron, Number Six Bomber Group, RCAF.

“Dear Alan:
In the first place I must you that George Freeman was never known to us  as George,  he was Hank.  Hank carried out his duties as  Mid Upper Gunner
with great courage and at no time was overcome  by fear. I am enclosing the only picture  of our aircraft that I have with a member  of the ground crew
sitting in my seat.  The ‘Blonde Bomber’ was one of the finest aircraft that I have ever flown (note: Eric was an experienced  pilot)  At that time the  Halifax 
was the fastest heavy bomber in the world.  We  carried 42 tons of  bombs and 21,000 gallons of100 octane  gasoline, total all up weight was 85,000 pounds 

Hank’sturret had four Browning machine guns capable of firing  1,250 rounds per minute.”

Note from 1984:  Eric Mallett’s enthusiasm for the Halifax contrasted with the opinions of military historians who regarded the Halifax heavy bomber inferior to the Lancaster.
Some historians even went so far as to note that the conversion of  bomber squadrons to Lancasters was done in a discriminatory manner which favoured
RAF  bomber squadrons.   Canadian Number Six Bomber Group continued to fly Halifax bombers to the end of the war.

“The member of  my crew were  Flight Lieutenant Bob Irwin (deceased); Wireless Operator Wilf Wakely (deceased); Vic Poppa, tail gunner; Ken Sweatman, bomb aimer;
Engineer Morris Muir (English); Mid-UpperGunner George Freeman (deceased); and flying  officer Elliot who was coming  along on his first trip…The target was Borg
Leopold in Belgium a base  which the Germans  were using as a  rest camp for their troops from the Russian front.   After leaving the briefing I  mentioned  to the 
crew that we were being sent on a mission for the sole purpose of killing people. We  carried  14,000 lbs. of anti-personnel bombs and the aiming point was to
be the officers quarters.  This mission did not sit well  with the crew. We had already  been through some tough missions against industrial targets but
this  mission made us feel uneasy.”

“Strangely enough we were not able to drop our load.  We were  right on our bomb run when we got hit.  Just a few seconds prior to being hit I had  an
urge to take evasive action but I did not because we had  our bomb doors  open and  had  started  our run.  I didn’t want to spoil the bomb aimers sighting
as there was  no indication of an attack other than my hunch.   Suddenly there  was  a tremendous burst of flame and I gave the order to ‘abandon aircraft ‘
immediately.  Knew from past experience that we only had seconds to do so because  100 octane gasoline  would blow  up once the  flames reached  the 
tanks. The Navigators position was right on top of the  forward escape hatch.  The whole crew was supposed  to go out this exit so  I would know when all
were out.  They did  not, however,  because Bob Irwin couldn’t get the hatch  open.  The second pilot (Elliott) and engineer (Muir) took off the rear seat and
went out of the entrance hatch.  I went forward to see how Bob was  doing and  by good fortune he was  beginning to have some luck so  I went back and
straightened out the aircraft.  In what seemed  like an eternity I returned to the hatch in time to see someone leaving.  I then, did not hesitate to  follow.
Upon hitting the air my flying  boots left me and I then tried  to find the rip chord  on my parachute.  I couldn’t find the  ring for what seemed like another
eternity. Eventually I hooked the ring, otherwise I would  not be here.”

Note:  Even today, Oct. 2, 2019, I can remember reading Eric Mallett’s letter.  Rivetting.  I could hardly believe I  had set an event like  this in
motion back 1984.   I had an idea that this  was  the end of the story so I read  slowly  and  re-read even slower.   But the story of the  Last Flight
of  HX 313 was really just beginning.  Read on!

“Drifting down through the nigh sky, I could see the target with the bombs landing, exploding and  setting fire to the buildings.  I thought for a moment or two
that I was going to land right on it.  The next thing I recall was seeing the ground  come up to me and then  ‘Boom!’…everything was silent.  When I came
to, I found myself right beside  a barbed wire fence.  Remembered my previous training and buried my parachute.  It required much effort.

“It is almost  impossible to describe the feeling that overcame me.  Since that day nothing has ever scored me as all I have do is recall in my
mind this dreadful night and the terrible feeling that I had.”

“I spent the rest  of the night sitting in a cornfield taking off my rings and rank markings as well as looking at my purse and pandora.  The escape kit
contained Horlicks tablets, benzedrine, German, Belgian And French currency.  When daylight came I discovered that I  was close  to a small village.
I knew that i  must get some help as I had a badly cut finger and no footwear.  I waited and  waited to  see what  sort of  traffic was entering or leaving the village.
There seemed  to be none other than that of  someone  tying up a  goat close to  where  I  was  hiding, for  quite  long time I wondered what the tinkling of
the goat’s bell  was.”

“Alan,  I  am going  to sign  off for now for this  is  only the beginning of a long, long story.  Enclosed you will find  your map with the location of the attack. Also 
you will find pictures of my crew, and one of  the Blonde Bomber.   We  were not allowed to take any pictures of our aircraft for security reasons, as  you can
well understand.    Also included is a  picture  of Hank  and Vic  Poppa engaged in a  little horseplay outside of our flight room.   Vic Poppa  and Ken  Sweatman
would be very pleased to hear from you if  would  care to write them.”

Kikndest  Regards
Eric  L. Mallett

Note from 2019:  Wow!  What a letter.  More to come. Eric  Mallett included the addresses of two other survivors.   The story was growing and growing.   It could  so  easily have  been  
lost.  What followed was almost a  year of contacts back  and forth and even  a visit with Victor Poppa in Cslifornia topped  off by him travelling to Toronto in a ramshackle truck
and trailer filled with spare used tires.  Victor’s  story eventually took  over.  Hank’s best friend.   Could  I put their life experiences  back together?   Pictures  are a bit of
a problem  for me  in 2019.  They are here among my books and records but it will take time to find them.   My  priority is  to get the written account transcribed to digital.

Note from 2019:  This is the  living quarters at airbase Skipton on Swale in 1944, a series of  Quonset buildings with rounded roofs.  The ruined  brick  building
was the  operations centre, picture taken about 1984 when the airbase had  been converted to a chicken farm after  the tarmac landing strip had  been
ripped up.


Page 3

And so the  story  continues.   The excitement that coursed through my body as I read Eric Mallett’s letter is hard to describe.  Something akin to Eric’s feelings when he  hit solid ground
in Belgium.  No, that is an overstatement.  Not only had i received his letter but also had two other  survivors  actresses … Ken  Sweatman and  Victor Poppa.   Both of  whom were ready
to talk about their experiences.  Talking about the war was not easy for many.  Some air force survivors  just would  not talk about it.  One good friend, who  was also  a tail gunner like Victor
Poppa just did not want to talk.   Why? “Because  I survived and so many of my friends died.”  Talking hurt in her words. 

In a subsequent letter, Eric  Mallett explained he  had  joined  the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan and subsequently received  his wings in 1941 at Dauphin, Manitoba, “The BCTAP
was one  of Canada’s great contributions  to the war effort.”  For nearly  two  years Eric was a fight instructor and  had 1300 hours of flying time before he was  sent overseas as a  Flight
Commander.  Like  so many young Canadians he was attracted to the airforce by a desire to fly.  Many young men, 18 year olds just out of high school found the idea  of flight the most
attractive military arm.  Did they know the  death rate?  I am not sure of that. 

Eric  Mallett was older…age 24.     He was married and his wife was shocked.  “My wife’s reaction was one  of disbelief,” wrote  Eric.

By interviewing the  survivors was it possible  to find our what happened to George Freeman in those last few chaotic  moments before  HX 313 hit the ground followed by a totally disintegrating explosion?
As a mid-upper turret gunner George may have been the prime target for a diving German  night fighter like the JU  88.  He may have been killed  in the first burst of gunfire.  Gunners, like Victor Poppa
and George Freeman were  used more as  spotters than as gunners.  The  best defence against German night fighters was evasive action.  Remember Eric  Mallett’s hunch?   Unlike the American bomber 
groups who flew in high formations  in broad daylight, the Canadian  and British  bomber  groups flew at night and were on their own from the moment they  left the coast of England.  They flew in a stream
kind of formation most of the time. Evasive  action was easier since there was no tight formation to worry about.   American bombers that took evasive  action were as likely to collide with other bombers.

Information overload worried me.  So much that I did not know about Bomber Command in World War II.  So much to learn.  So  much to miss.  Would it be possible to get more information from the
rest of the crew?  First person accounts.  Like how was a bomber crew put together.   I think the  crew members were deliberately unknown to each other at the beginning.  Never brother  and brother.
Or even friend and friend.  Keep  emotional attachments to a minimum.  But I was not sure.  One thing seemed certain.  Once  a crew  was formed they bonded tight.  Now the close bonds may not have
been true for all air crews in World War II, but it was certainly true for the ill fated crew of HX313.  The  crew was headless when Eric  Mallett arrived  at Skipton on Swale.  “I chose  my crew from a
conversion unit.  They  were called a headless crew as their skipper had been shot down on his first flight with another crew.”   Eric Mallett did not know that on May27,1944, Flying Officer  Elliott would
suffer the same  fate leaving another headless crew.  Why risk sending  new pilots on dangerous bombing runs  The answer is simple.  The the experience  a new pilot got as a co pilot reduced his chances
of interception by German night fighters.  But not by much.  New  flight crews had a higher risk of being shot  down by veteran crews.   And every crew had to make  20 runs over Germany.  Statistically
few survived.   Thousands of bombers were lost.  The  story of  HX 313 was not unusual.  It went down during its eight raid as I remember.


“Dear Mr. Skeoch,

“Hank” and “Pop” were  an inseparable  pair.  They  did everything together…their gun inspection and harmonizing (test firing)… their courting when on leave.  The stories they told of their escapades on  
leave  were really something  else.  Hank saw the fun in every situation.  He was a good  looking boy with his deep blue eyes and  brown hair and always prided himself on looking sharp. I remember
asking  as he came into barracks after a night out:  

“How was she, Hank?”
“Both of her teeth were nice.”

Wilf Wakely was a slightly built but very agile chap.  He often sang in a delightful Irish tenor voice, songs like “Martins and the Coys”, “Queeney” and “Lillie Marlene”.  On our  way from our billets o the mess Wilf
would do a few cartwheels along with forward and  backward somersaults.  It was Wilf who got us all whistling ‘Pedro and  the Fisher Boy” wherever we went as a  crew.  Bob Irwin and I worked side by side
in the nose of the aircraft.  I operated the H2S passing on pinpoints as they came up on the screen.  We  were always reassured when the flak and searchlight positions were where they should be and then we
knew we were on track. I began passing on this over the intercom but on bad nights with fighters I used chits and left the intercom to Pop and  Hank.   

Bob was a more  serious type of person, very sure of himself. Having been in the cavalry in peacetime he had a very  military bearing and  manner.  He had his hands and feet frost bitten on a mountain climbing
episode so he and I used  to trade gloves quite often on ‘ops’ (operation flights) where the temperature could drop to minus 72 degrees centigrade.  In Canada,  he had  won a gold watch for navigation so we
were sure  of his ability. A lot of  noise would  bother him and he often called ‘less chattering’.  He  married a nurse, Kay, while on ‘ops’ which added  a heavy load of worry.

Morris Muir of Nottingham, a very British  Englishman, was our flight engineer who came  to us from South Africa.  Being on a lower R.A.F. pay scale and  receiving no overseas  parcels made it hard for him
to be one  of  us.  He tried  hard to fit in but he had a  habit of bragging.  When this happened  in our crew we formed a join hands right around  the  culprit and sang  ‘bull shit, bull shit, bull shit, it all sounds
like bull shit to me’, to the tune of ‘My Bonnie Lives over the Ocean’  It happened to us all, not just poor Morris.

Eric  Mallett (our fourth pilot) came to us as a Flight Lieutenant with a British  accent as he was English born.  He had a log showing 10,000 hours as a flying instructor.   In an easy  sort of way  he
became one of us.  One  of the first things did was make  an unintentional  belly landing and he became ‘Wheels up Mallett’ for a while. I remember on our ops he would call the  two  gunners to see  
if they were OK and awake.  It was  hell trying to stay  awake with the drone of the aircraft and  constantly staring off into space.

We thought the raid  on Bourg Leopold  would be a  piece of  cake.  It’s located in the NE corner of Belgium little more than a  two hour flight from Skipton on Swale  in Yorkshire.  Also Bourg Leopold was
a POW camp, our men in other words.   I remember the Wing Commanders caution, “the target it a  rectangle…imagine a line dividing it diagonally.   Our prisoners are on the close side and to your left.
Don’t undershoot the target.!”

The flight to Bourg Leopold was  quite  uneventful as the Blonde Bomber wove  its way around  flak  stations and avoided getting coned  by searchlights. A lone Mosquito bomber  had already dropped 
a yellow flare on the target and was backed  up by a Pathfinder force  dropping green  and red flares.  The target began to look like a bulls eye by the time the first wave of bombers were beginning 
their bomb run. I think it was the poor Sterlings (*rather obsolete English Bomber aircraft) flying  at 8 to 10 thousand feet that had the first run. How the Pathfinders kept from colliding amazed the  crew
of HX 323 but the trick was for each wave  of bombers to attack from different heights.  Pathfinder crews were the best that could be found.  Not only were  the bombers given height instructions but
they also had precise time periods over the target. After the bomb  run, the planes headed for home as fast as  they could.  HX 313 was part of 424 squadron and was part of the  third  wave coming
in at 23,000 feet…we dropped down for the bombing.  At the moment the bombs  were released a photograph was automatically taken. “

Note from 2019:  Ken Sweatman noted that the low  flying Sterlings were in one of the pictures taken.  Bombs  did occasionally
hit friendly aircraft flying at lower altitudes.   The  infantry term is ‘hit by friendly fire’

“I was about to put the fusing switches down when I reported an enemy aircraft passing below  us from port ahead. Pop saw him pass on through on a straight course.  Eric reported port inner engine 
on fire.  Nest I heard a sound like stones hitting  metal and Wilf yelled  ‘ouch!’.  Next came Eric’s voice, very faint, “abandon aircraft…Jump! Jump!”  Bob was struggling to open the  the  nose  escape
hatch which had melted where an incendiary bullet had passed through  the  door jam.  Between us we managed  to get it open.  Wilf went first, Bob next, then Eric.   I recall yanking the intercom wire
from my helmet and in my panic I twisted off my oxygen tube. Snapping on my parachute, I remember thinking how I hated to leave as the wind from the holes in the  nose kept the fire back.  The  cockpit
and backwash an inferno by now. The last thing I remember was  hooking my thumb through the rip chord ring while the  wind was tugging at my feet.  From this instant on, all was  black.

Parachutes were very awkward it seems and both Sweatman and Poppa were

not wearing their chutes when the cry came to  abandon … Jump…Jump.  the
picture above shows how encumbered they all were.

“I assume that I had gone  out feet first facing forward.   When the chute cracked  open the chute casing hit me  under the jaw. I landed
unconscious and took quite  a beating.  The next recollections are fleeting  glimpses.  I remember my ankle  hurting as someone was  ripping the leggings off my escape boots.  I recall I was in a
very dark place like  a dirt cellar.  Next I remember Eric and someone with him saying, “Oh good,it’s Ken.”  I didn’t have  any idea who Ken was…and what’s more I didn’t give a damn.”

Note:  The Belgian underground found Eric Mallett and Ken Sweatman and hid  them in the Ardenne forest for 10 days.   After this began a series adventures that eventually lento them being 
liberated by American troops not long after D Day (June  6, 1944)


“When we were struck there were white hot incendiary bullets that hit us through the crew compartment.  They  were hopping about somewhat like water droplets in a hot frying pan.  With  each hop
theist anew fire.   I handed Morris the fire extinguisher.   The paper from the maps were all on fire anti soon becomes infernally hot that I barely had time to trim the  aircraft and head it out to sea.   As I went
out I noticed Ken Sweatman sort of dazed and I  motioned him to come as I jumped.”
This is an artist’s take on what it must have been like  in HX 33 when the German incendiary shells set the plane on fire
which soon engulfed everything.  The  surviving crew had seconds to jump.


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