The "Lucky" Crew
This is the story of a unique crew
(as they all were, of course) who flew with 149 Sqn in the same
period as Andrew, arriving on the Squadron some five months before
The Crew consisted of:
Pilot Officer J. L. Blair, Pilot,
RNZAF; F/Sgt J. "Fritz" Giacomelli, RCAF, Navigator;
Sgt T. Whitlock, RAF, Bomb Aimer; Sgt F. Johnson, RAF, Flt Engineer;Sgt
W. H. Clayton, RAF, W/Op; Sgt R. Zambra, RAF, M/U Gunner; Sgt
C. Barker, RCAF, Rear Gunner.
This is a portion of their story........
The crew met up at 1657 HCU, at Stradishall, and
then posted to 149 Sqn on 18th Dec '42.
Their first "Lucky" was a trip in R9334,
OJ-G, on 3rd Jan '43, on a Night Bombing practice at Rushford bombing
range. After being instructed to land on runway 24, the pilot (
At that time,Sergeant, L Blair RNZAF) realized that the drift on
that runway was too high. The Stirling was noted for not liking
drift on landing or take-off, and the undercarriage was very susceptible
to collapse. The overshoot was not good, with two engines loosing
power, undercarriage still down and flaps partly out. Blair could
do nothing but hold it level until it hit at the far end of the
Lakenheath playing field. On the way down it had hit power cables,
causing a fire, and taken off a few chimmney pots. The Pilot and
Bomb Aimer were both injured by the impact, Whitlock fatally. The
rest of the crew got away with minor injuries. The burnt bit of
parachute is from this incident. The WoP, Clayton, left the crew
during Blair's recovery from this incident, and was killed when
shot down by a nightfighter in March '43. The rest of the crew
continued with Laurie and survived.
The second "Lucky" was the 3rd Op in EF343,
Fighter Claim and FW 190 at West Malling.
The third was a mining or "Gardening" mission
to the French coast in BK696, OJ-L. After being hit by Flak and
a night fighter the aircraft lost the use of the compass and were
very low on fuel. To add to the trials, an electrical storm hit
them and they were forced to (sucessfully) abandon the aircraft
over Havant, Hampshire. The crew all got the "Caterpillar"
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