|(When I am laid in earth, remember me)|
The fighter pilot hunched in the confines of the cockpit of his aircraft was tense, keen eyed and alert. The long range radar had been monitoring the bomber for some time now the local controller wasvectoring him into the vicinity of the enemy aircraft. He cursed the fleeting clouds through which he was flying. He could easily miss his prey in this white mist. At that precise moment the bomber broke through the thin cloud veil in which it had been hiding. The eyes of the fighter pilot locked on to it. The wallowing, bulky intruder was ahead and slightly above him. The gunners seemed unaware of his presence. His hand instinctively pushed the throttle forward and the huge radial engine surged into full power as he climbed into the attack. Now the bomber was close and moving across his line of flight. His pulse was racing, the adrenalin pumping... steady... steady...allow for deflection ... the RAF roundels on the portly beam of the Wellington bomber grew large in his sight. He pressed the firing button. His cannon shells crashed into the cabin of the enemy aircraft. Pushing forward on the stick he broke away below pulling his Focke-Wulf 190 fighter into a wide arc out of range of the gunners. Sweeping round for a second attack he throttled back. It was unnecessary. The Wellington trailing fire and smoke was steadily descending. He watched it crash into the sea reported to his controller and set course for base.
Inside the bomber the crew members were dismayed to find the thin cloud cover had completely vanished. A startled exclamation over the intercom was the only warning they had of the impending attack. As the cannon shells tore through the fuselage Flight Sergeant Parker, the Canadian wireless operator, was hit and died immediately. Flames from the ruptured wing gasoline tanks spread rapidly, fanned by the slipstream. The pilot, Squadron Leader Parsons, shouted over the intercom that he would try to ditch the bomber. The front gunner, Sergeant Gilmour, came into the cockpit from his turret and saw the observer, Flight Sergeant Clough, with the cabin fire extinguisher in his hand vainly trying to subdue the raging furnace. The aircraft hit the sea and only two survivors emerged, the gunners, both Canadians, Sergeants Gilmour and Stansell. That was how Len Clough died.
I first met William Leonard Clough at No 8 ITW, Newquay, Cornwall, in November 1940. We were both in "D" Flight where we endured the rigours of basic square bashing and the pressures of Navigational Theory. We moved on to Canada to become part of No.6 Air Observer's Course at Port Albert in April 1941 and experienced our first thrills of flying in Avro Ansons. After the wartime austerity of Britain Canada was paradise. We bought an old 1930 Essex automobile from a garage in Goderich in which we explored as much of Ontario as was possible in our periodic long weekend leaves. On termination of the course we were posted to the Bombing and Gunnery School at Picton. Here we were taught how to drop practice bombs with a reasonable degree of accuracy and the use of the Vickers Gas Operated machine gun in air firing. The aircraft we flew in were Fairey Battles. Not so sedate and much more exciting kites than Avro Ansons. The great day arrived on 29th September 1941 when we were awarded the coveted observer's brevet and our sergeant's "stripes". By some freak of posting we were still together, two members of the original ITW "D" Flight.
Back in Britain our next posting in November 1941 was to 20 OTU, Lossiemouth, Scotland, for operational training. The real war was getting closer. The ultimate move to an operational Squadron in the south was nigh. Soon we would be dicing with flak, night fighters and the remorseless North Sea. The chance of an identical Squadron posting vanished when Len entered hospital for a minor operation. I was sent down to 115 Squadron at Marham in Norfolk and within two months was a Prisoner of War in Stalag VIIIB, Germany. A letter received from home gave me a veiled hint that Len had followed in my footsteps and when a new batch of fliers arrived at Stalag VIIIB in October 1942, two Canadian gunners from 115 Squadron, in answer to my query, informed me that Len Clough had been their observer. From them I learned the story.
On Monday, 28th September 1942, three Wellington aircraft from 115 Squadron were detailed for a "cloud cover" daylight bombing attack on Lingen on the Dortmund Canal. A Wellington bomber was no match for a German fighter. It was essential that there was sufficient cloud to hide in. This type of attack was primarily intended to disrupt German industry by driving the workers into air raid shelters. All aircraft captains had strict orders to return to base if the cloud cover broke up. As the aircraft made their way east the cover thinned out rapidly to a scattering of isolated clouds. Sergeant Crimmin in Wellington BJ695 KO V decided to turn back. Squadron Leader Sandes in Wellington BK272 KO T made a similar decision. Squadron Leader Parsons in Wellington Z1663 KO J decided to press home the attack. Approximately eight kilometres south west of Urk, over the Zuider Zee, his attack failed...
My career in the RAF was virtually identical with that of Len Clough until the 28th September 1942 when he joined the ranks of all those whom we remember on this very special day.
Flight Sergeant John Austin PARKER, Wireless Operator/Air Gunner, aged 21, R/83152 RCAF, Grave 69.D.11-13, Amsterdam New Eastern Cemetery.
Squadron Leader Robert James Sealer PARSONS, Pilot, 33462 RAF, Grave 69.D.11-13, Amsterdam New Eastern Cemetery.
Flight Sergeant William Leonard CLOUGH, Observer, aged 31, 923190 RAF(VR), Panel 73, The Runnymede Memorial (to Airmen who have no known Grave).
Written by Don Bruce - Observer 115 Squadron -POW Stalag VIIIB
© Jean Darley 2013. Please respect the copyright.
This is an article that my father has written and is included in his compilation of 115 Squadron's Roll of Honour.