S FOR SUGAR 2
There was a two stage supercharger on our engines and at this height it was just between the best change levels, we were always shifting from one stage to another and watching our boost gauges as the engine revs surged around, as if we didn't have enough to do.
The other thing wrong was the sun. "Watch for the Hun in the Sun" was something that had been drilled into all fighter pilots from their training days on, looking up with smoke tinted goggles at best they would look shadowy silhouettes close at hand and diving fast. The Luftwaffe always had this advantage in the mornings when the Sun was in the east - why most operations, especially bomber escorts, were always in the mornings we never found out.
As we got near the other coast it was time to do other checks, gun sight on, gun buttons on fire, seat right down and feet up on the anti-G rudder pedals, we might have only a split second warning, if any at all, and have to pull maximum G to turn inside an attack, to black out usually spelt disaster.
There were forty eight Marauders in two equal groups, we were looking after the first and 609 the other. There was the usual flak as we crossed the coast, black puffs of smoke mainly at the bombers height which by this time we were above and between them and the Sun weaving around watching our section and searching, searching up Sun trying to catch a glimpse of something against the glare. We were close escort and there would be no top-cover until the Spits met us on our return, the only clouds around were in a nice white layer at ten thousand feet just below the bombers, ideal to silhouette them for an attack from above, but for us it just made the glare worse trying to see the enemy fighters we knew that were up there. While still in radar range the voice of our Controller was spelling out their height and direction in his calm distant voice. ૠBandits at 1 o쯣k. Angels 20s close escort we couldnଥave the bombers and go after them even when we saw a 109 diving down to one side as a decoy, we just had to weave around waiting and watching our position and tails all the time while looking behind the other sections and peering up Sun. No wonder we all wore neck scarves, even the softest collar rubbed the skin off our necks on a show like this.
We could see Eindhoven coming into view and the clouds cleared away, having been there a few times before it always seemed such a splendid target. The large sprawling factory stood out from the flat countryside, it never seemed to be camouflaged in any way and we always saw it in cloudless skies. The flak, which had been intermittent and inaccurate up to now, became heavier as the first group of Marauders closed formation and got set on their bombing run in, it was like a black carpet below and amongst the planes. This was the most dangerous time for any bomber, on the run in to the target they had to fly straight and level without change in height so they could carry out pattern bombing by dropping their bombs all at the same time on orders from their leading bomb aimer which made them even more vulnerable.
This was also the time when enemy fighters were most likely to attack if they were going to do so. Weaving around waiting for them and keeping up Sun as the bombers turned together we caught a glimpse of some of the explosions on the ground, but we couldnଯok for long enough to see how accurate the attack had been. Now we were on our way back, above and behind the bombers with our necks craning more and more over our shoulders and weaving more and more to get a good view behind us. 609 was now coming in with the second group and we could hear some exciting chatter on the R/T as a result of one of its Belgian pilots, who had started after a decoy, being called back with some very rude words!
The 109s and the 190s stayed above and didnඥnture down, they seemed to be more scared of the Typhoons than they were of the Spits. The Marauder formation seemed to be intact with no stragglers so we were relieved when we saw the Hornchurch Spits came into sight right on schedule, relieved because we could now get down and do some attacking and not hang around in the sky waiting and nothing turning up.
With the new close escort got into position and the top-cover seemed to dispel the enemy fighters even further away, we dropped our overload tanks, closed up to formate down through the cloud layer and descended rapidly. Blowing my ears clear as we went down we got dropped below 1000ft where we felt comfortable, it was quite a change from the glare above cloud and although the air was a bit bumpy we felt more at home at low level, besides t was usually more exciting too.
However this time it wasnl that exciting, at least not to start with. No enemy aircraft could be seen, there didnem to be any trains around and there was nothing to shoot at on the roads, everything was very, very quiet but near the mouth of the river Scheldt things seemed to be a bit better, there were one or two ships around and a flak ship that seemed to have lost its convoy and subsequently we all got in some good bursts of cannon fire then suddenly it happened. There were one or two nasty thumps and I found my controls were locked solid! I just couldn୯ve the stick! I was right down a few feet above the water in a channel between little islands. 䠬east I৯ing in the right direction頴hought to myself. The engine sounded OK and all the instruments were normal but I didn૮ow what had hit me, which wasnനat unusual as even if the flak was tracer you rarely saw it in front of you, all I had seen was a lot of seagulls flying around.
As I continued up the channel I saw a little flak post off to my left side and I couldnവrn to shoot at it, as it got nearer I could see that I was going to pass very close to it and I was already being fired at. Suddenly bullets were hitting my plane, but there was nothing I could do about it, by this time I could see two Germans quite plainly on the top of a little platform with a heavy machine gun and the smoke coming out of the barrel and spent cases popping out. The one who was doing all the firing was a rough looking chap, he was concentrating hard at aiming at me and shaking a lot with the recoil, I just sat there watching him and raised my left hand in a half salute, our eyes meeting and I flashed past him. It was sort of a spontaneous gesture as I didnਡve anything else to do, I don૮ow whether it put him off his aim a bit, but anyway the sound of the bullets hitting my plane stopped.
I was still sitting there with my locked controls when I realised I had crossed the coast and the islands were receding behind me. I called up Johnnie Baldwin on the R/T and told him I had been hit, but I was so far OK and gradually found I could get some movement fore and aft with the stick and got up to a decent height then noticed the rest of the squadron was keeping an eye on me as ever so slowly I got into some sort of formation behind them.
By the time we had got half way back over the North Sea things had got even better, I could now control the plane fairly normally although it still required a lot of effort to move the ailerons and the plane୯vements seemed a bit sluggish, there were also funny whistling noises which I could just make out above the noise of the engine.
As we approached Manston I thought I could get into our usual 嬬毲mation, this was something we had got used to doing on return from a show. As tight a formation as possible, wings tucked in behind each other and in three lines astern then as we got over the airfield we would break into the three sections each turning tightly and landing in quick succession. It took a lot of practice to do it properly and we and 609 were always trying to out do each other in this as well.
I was the last to land, green lights on the undercarriage instrument showed that my wheels were down alright, I thought. The flaps came down and I followed the others in making a slightly wider turn to give a bit of extra speed over the hedge. I made a pretty good 3 pointer and immediately knew there was something wrong as the aircraft swung away to the right despite full left rudder and left stick to try to keep it level, finally coming to a halt on the grassy surface with one wing suspiciously low. As the plane stopped I noticed a Humber staff car coming out it was the Group Captain himself. 衴 the hell does he wantɠthought to myself as I clambered out with my parachute and helmet. 崠in Roperਥ shouted. ⬬ take you back to dispersalԨe unaccustomed treatment had me wondering at first, then he introduced me to an Air Vice-Marshall from Command who was sitting in the back, I understood, he was showing off his Station again.
I took a look at S for Sugar, it was full of holes in the front and underneath and on the left hand side. There were two huge holes in the leading edge of each wing just outside the cannons and the right tyre had been literally blown to pieces. A truck was tearing over the grass from the maintenance hanger like a racing car pit stop 䨥 wing was jacked up, the wheel changed, the engine started and a sergeant started taxying it over to dispersal. Quite a show for the visitor I thought as the Gp. Cpt. had a broad smile on his face.
I was feeling a bit tired by this time and didnথel like impressing anyone. Anyone above the rank of Wing Commander was usually out of touch with what was going on anyway but without realising it I played right along with the Groupieబan. ࢩt of action today Roper eh?襠asked. ﴨing really Sir. Very quiet Iࡦraid䨥re was no further comment from either of them as a quiet day at Manston was a hectic one elsewhere, Ire that was just the impression intended to be conveyed to Fighter Command and I couldnਡve done it better if I had tried.
I arrived at dispersal just as S for Sugar got there. We debriefed on the spot - there wasn୵ch to say, just 2 trawlers and a flak ship damaged besides it was time for lunch, then I saw Plamondon, I had forgotten all about him, forgotten even that it was his brand new plane. He was looking at it strangely and he didnem to notice me at first, then he just said, ﵠpromised not to damage itᮤ walked away. I didnথel like going into long explanations especially as nerﵲ old Engineering Officer began shouting to the ground crew. ﭰlete write off. Take it away to scrap!Ⓘ
(During the summer of 1944 Peter Roper was shot down by flak while flying with another squadron and captured by the German SS. While this website has only a small archived part of Peter's memories regarding this event it is clear that although severely injured he was going to be shot. Mercifully however, he managed to escape from the Chateau where he was being held prisoner and return to Allied lines. The one and a half page excerpt we have makes for uncomfortable reading.)