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Lucky Escape – Yonder

It was a very bad morning weather-wise. Cloudbase was down to just a couple of hundred feet and visibility around half a mile. In those days with just a ‘Gee’ box and a 4-channel VHF for aids, one tended to look a little askance at this sort of weather.

The Boss walks in, all five foot three inches, and announces: “When I fly, everyone flies”. Good, we thought, in this weather and with fewer Mossie hours than us, he won’t fly! “And today” he continues, “I’m going to fly!”

Some nice gentle cross-countries were rapidly mapped out and off we staggered. The Boss’s route was Base (Celle) – Bremen – Keil – Base, and he took with him old Ben, one of our most experienced navigators. He’ll be safe with Ben…

We got down – somehow – some two hours later, all except the Boss. We waited and waited. As Squadron Adjutant I was obliged after half an hour to commence “Missing” procedures and phoned Mrs Boss to warn her. “Oh that’s all right” she said, “he’s always doing this. I’ll put his lunch in the oven to keep warm”.

It must have been about two hours after his ETA that the sound of Merlins was heard and shortly, out of the murk, Boss appears. We got the story from Ben – before they were both whisked off to explain to the Hierarchy what had happened.

Heading north for Bremen, up comes ETA – and no sign of Bremen, just sea shore. Boss said rude words to Ben, told him he’d obviously got the wrong wind, sort it out and try again for Keil. Ben was puzzled as there was no wind anyway but calculates a heading for Keil using the new-found “wind”. They miss Keil altogether which was followed by more but stronger rude words from Boss. Ben is going frantic. New “wind”, new course for Base and off they head south. Dead on ETA up comes an airfield which they circle at about 150 feet – but it doesn’t look QUITE right. It’s got two runways where we only had one – and what are those odd looking aircraft with bent wings? Ben spots where they are after about the third circuit and suggests “270? for Base”. They had homed onto Brandenburg, a Soviet airfield on the outskirts of Berlin!

The eventual answer to their unusual navigation was that when Ben passed the course to steer MAGNETIC, Boss had applied not the deviation adjustment for that aircraft’s compass, but had looked at the AIRSPEED CORRECTION CHART alongside! So for 350?M he had subtracted “-8”. For 085? he had subtracted “-6” and for Base at 190? he had subtracted “-15”! (The figures are approximate – i.e. guesswork!). I think he had his lunch about four p.m. – the next day! The Intelligence chaps were VERY interested in what they had seen. . .