IT'S that war again, I am afraid. An interesting follow up to my recent aerial ramblings turned up in a book one of our sons bought at a car boot sale — and found his dad's name in it.
It's title is 'Ton Up Lancs' and it tells the stories of 35 Lancaster bombers, each of which completed 100 operations and of the men who flew in them, including LL885 GI J, (nickname JIG), at 622 Squadron, Mildenhall, in Suffolk.
We only flew a couple of missions in Jig while our regular Lancaster was recovering from a bruising visit to Cologne. It was May, 1944, and we had switched our attention from the Ruhr and places further afield to attack railway yards and other key centres during the build up to D Day.
One was a fairly sticky trip to an important rail centre at Chambly, near Paris, an experience made even more tense because Frank, our bomb aimer, failed to spot his aiming point and we went all the way round again before he was satisfied. We returned safe and sound but 10 other aircraft did not.
This interesting book gives chapter and verse on all the crews from our squadron who flew in JIG. It brought them all safely home but several were less lucky in other aircraft.
I recognised the names of several fellow gunners who are on the squadron roll of honour.
Its first sortie was the fateful Nuremberg raid on the night of March 30/31 (when thankfully we were on leave). This ill-thought out catastrophe resulted in 97 bombers failing to return and JIG might well have been one of them because it was struck by a falling incendiary over the target. It cracked the main spar but Pilot Officer Jack Lunn brought JIG safely home.
Another narrow escape came in July on a raid to Stuttgart when it sustained serious damage after being attacked by a night fighter. The pilot, Flight Lt Allen, ordered the crew to put on parachutes but managed to get the aircraft under control and rescinded the order.
Too late for the mid-upper gunner who had already baled out and spent the rest of the war as a PoW.
JIG dropped its last bombs over Bremen on April 22, 1945, then flew on several 'Manna' trips dropping food to the starving people of Holland. It completed 123 missions overall before going to the scrapheap in March, 1947.
A gallant lady indeed and I feel proud to have played a tiny part in her story.
DEVON is certainly the place to meet interesting people if you are not too shy and are prepared to mix it with strangers as I have discovered several times recently, particularly on the golf course.
The Tuesday Seniors roll up recently found me paired with a pleasant man who turned out to be a judge. A jolly judge with a keen sense of humour. A little weary of being greeted on the tee with 'your honour, your honour' but a demon putter.
Last week brought yet another 'small world' moment. My partner and I were joined by a visitor who, after the usual exploratory conversation, turned out to be a chartered accountant who runs a racecourse in Yorkshire but with an interest also in Staffordshire, where we used to live.
I mentioned that I was once a member at the Whittington Barracks Club near Lichfield (before its title was demilitarised and it became just plain Whittington).
Surprise, surprise. His sister Wendy was lady captain there a year before my own wife took over the post from her. Although this was more than 30 years ago, we reminisced about mutual acquaintances, many of them sadly no longer striding the fairways.
Talking of trains and interesting people where else, except Devon, could you ring your chimney sweep on his mobile phone and hear the whistle of a steam train with the message 'can't talk now, I'm on the footplate'.
That's Charlie Dennis, a man constantly on the move and enjoying every minute of it. Fingers in all sorts of pies and having to fit in his sooty work with firing duties on the steam train and duties as a Teignbridge councillor at a time when Ashburton, his home town, is going through a great deal of change.
We eventually managed to pin him down and while he got various chimneys ready for winter we had a chat about another controversy in which he has become involved — seagulls and why are they such a pest, snatching sandwiches and other tasty titbits out of people's hands as they relax on a beach.
Charlie told his local paper that it was a shocking state of affairs and recalled recent holidays abroad in places where, apparently, all the gulls are well behaved and would never dream of snatching the bread from people's mouths.
His comments have started a furious debate with seagull lovers lambasting Charlie and calling him cruel and heartless. All of which he takes with a smile and the mischievous grin that is his trade mark.
Good for you Charlie. I think they are a germ-carrying nuisance.
IN THIS increasingly noisy world where people need to be in constant communication with each other, it takes courage for a restaurant to display a notice saying mobile phones are banned. You know you will get a touch of peace and quiet in Vintage Tea at the bottom end of Totnes.
Elegant surroundings where you drink tea from fine china cups and listen to very low level music of yesteryear that stirs memories for those of us who are getting on a bit.
We were sipping gently away the other day when the strident ring of a forbidden mobile rang out. Shock, horror. An embarrassed lady had left her infernal machine switched on by mistake. But no great drama. A smile and an apology solved the problem.