Evocative print documenting the loss of a Lancaster Bomber and the awarding of a DFC to the Pilot and a posthumous VC to the Wireless Operator
New Years Day 1945 over Holland. a Canadian Spitfire escorts a badly damaged Lancaster towards Heesch airfield, the Spitfire's forward operating base. The Lancaster had suffered two catastrophic flak bursts after releasing it's bomb load onto the Dortmund-Emms canal in Germany.
The first shell hit the aft bomb bay creating a six foot square hole in the aircraft floor, rendering the bomb doors inoperable and turning the rear fuselage and gun turrets into a mass of flames. Radio communication and trim control was lost. The second shell exploded directly in front of the aircraft, setting fire to the port inner engine and shattering the bomb aimer's perspex blister. The inrush of air caused the cockpit roof to blow out along with the flight engineer's parachute pack which then tore open and streamed along the length of the fuselage.
Wireless operator Flt Sgt. George Thompson carried out almost super-human deeds, rescuing Ernie Potts and Haydn Price from their burning gun turrets. The pilot Harry Denton was using all his reserves of strength, maintaining control of the stricken bomber in the face of a two hundred mph icy gale. A short while later the starboard inner engine was put out of action by another flak burst.
The Spitfire entered the scene as the Lancaster lost height south of Arnhem and began trying to coax it towards the airfield of Heesch. At one point the Spitfire dived ahead of the Lancaster and pulled up sharply to warn of electricity pylons and cables up ahead. Harry Denton dragged back the control column and the Lancaster staggered clear. Turning to avoid a village the Lancaster made a belly landing across two fields breaking in two at the point where the fuselage had been weakened by the flak burst.
The crew staggered clear and were taken to a small cottage nearby which was soon filled with sympathetic villagers. On seeing the pitiful state of the injured, most of the women wept. Ernie Potts died the next day from his injuries. George Thompson died three weeks later from pneumonia. Haydn Price recovered from his severe burns. Ron Goebel lost all the tips of his fingers on one hand.
Harry Denton, for his splendid endurance and determination in getting the aircraft safely onto the ground was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. George Thompson was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross, the citation stating: "His courage has seldom been equaled and never surpassed”.