Last Updated: 06/05/04
                        H.G. Turner
                        Piccadilly Commando

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  I left the U.S. by sea on the English Queen Mary with part of my crew while the rest of the crew flew overseas. We would all team up again in England. We arrived in Glasgow, Scotland, and from there we boarded a train and headed for England to a staging area where our crew reunited and we received orders to proceed to Northern Ireland. In Northern Ireland we received briefings by seasoned crews on what to expect in combat. The stories and movies shown of the real thing were quite hairy -- nothing like the Hollywood version. After a couple of weeks in Ireland we were on our way back to England.

707 Patch Our orders were to report to the 446th Bomb Group, 707th Bomb Squadron, 8th Air Force, at Flixton Air Base, England. As part of this group, our training would be put to use finally.

We traveled in darkness by train across England for safety reasons. German fighter bombers couldn't spot trains as easily at night. Just as we pulled into the train station, all hell broke out. Sirens were blowing and search lights were blazing in the sky. Planes were flying high and low, some friendly and some not! Anti-aircraft guns were firing. It was the loudest thing I had ever heard! This was my first taste of war and I didn't see much glory in it. The skirmish luckily didn't last long. We continued our travel to the base by bus.

Once assigned to the barracks, crews began returning from the ordeal we had just witnessed. The German fighter-bombers had flown into England and were attacking our planes as they were in the landing pattern. The airman next to me in the barrack received credit for shooting down a German ME 109 aircraft that day and was one happy fellow. It was very hard to get credit for shooting down an enemy aircraft because usually more than one gunner was shooting at it.

The first couple of missions for my training crew were flown with seasoned crews. We were evaluated on how we reacted under fire. Not long after my first couple of missions, my training crew was back together, and now it was our turn to make a name for ourselves.

Piccadilly Commando On May 9, 1944, our crew was assigned to fly a B-24 aircraft by the name of "Piccadilly Commando."

This was a maximum effort mission meaning every flyable aircraft was scheduled to fly. We were still in our parking area, preparing to taxi out for take-off, when one of the incendiary bombs exploded in the bomb bay of our plane. We were all stationed at our take-off positions when the explosion occurred. My position was in the forward compartment of the aircraft by the radio man. I was looking into the bomb bay as a flame resembling a blow torch errupted from the bombs' nose and came towards me. Flames and smoke quickly developed in the plane. A few of us had only one means of escape; that being through the bomb bay where the bomb had just exploded. With little hesitation, we made our move to the bomb bay and made a narrow escape through the scorching flames. As we sprinted from the plane, the rest of the incendiary bombs exploded, destroying the plane and showering us with debris. The "Piccadilly Commando" would fly no more as she lay on the pavement as a blazing inferno. A few of us had our eyebrows and hair that was showing from under our flight caps, singed off from the fire. Fortunately, the entire crew escaped, with no serious injuries to report. No other aircraft were lost as a result of the explosion.

After much speculation, some thought the plane might have been sabotaged. However, the truth will never be known.


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