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Dead-Eye Ernie

Contributed by Iain Dick (Mar 49 – Apr 51)

It was in Germany that we flew. 1949 had been a glorious summer and the island of Sylt had been much enjoyed for its nude sunbathing by the Auxiliary squadrons from the UK! We, the permanent residents only went up for our Armanent Practice Camp when the weather was lousy – and the sun-worshippers had exchanged their sun oil for anti-freeze.

There had been a party celebrating some quite insignificant event as parties usually do, like a General Election, and we had been late to bed. After an hour in bed and two hours trying to wash, shave and dress, we oozed down to the hangar for an ear-shattering attempt at Air-to-Ground gunnery. The Boss had kindly kept the altitude down for the sake of our throbbing heads.

Ernie taxied out with Ken, not his usual nav, to try his hand at this dangerous hobby. A Canadian pilot and ex-wartime PR Mossie pilot, we felt it was reasonably safe to let him loose with loaded 20mm guns.

The targets were sited at a spot on the southern bulge of the island across from the causeway that joined it to the mainland, Morsum. With the sea behind them and a large muddy pond in front, I suppose the idea had been that if you missed the targets there was nothing else to hit.

Ernie made his first lightning dart at his target – and missed. After a couple more tries he decided he’d get REALLY close to make sure of putting at least something through the canvas. At the last second he fired – and undershot by yards throwing up a veritable barrage of thick oozing mud – which he flew straight through!

image
Disqualified…

Ken, looking through the side window, which was the only part of the cockpit roof that afforded any visibility at all, assured him that they were still safely at about 15 feet altitude and wouldn’t it be a good idea if they climbed up a bit in case the seagulls were standing up? The windscreen was totally obscured but Ernie remembered that the kite was fitted with screen wipers. A search round located the switch and the wipers dutifully “zip zak zip zakked” across the glass – leaving a well-defined arc of opaque paler brown. But there was a clear patch, 6 inches wide and half an inch high, where the blade had been before he turned it on.

Ernie headed back to the airfield just a couple of miles to the north with “your starboard engine’s getting hot” from Ken. Ah, there’s the field – “your engine’s getting hotter” – into the circuit – “it’s nearly boiling…” and landed.

The machine looked as if it had been painted with matt brown camouflage all over including the cockpit – and the radiator flanges were beaten flat!

His score was disallowed…