About The Book

Under a Bomber’s Moon is the true story of a New Zealand navigator-bomb aimer with the Royal Air Force and a German night fighter pilot as they fight for success and survival over night time Germany during the bitterest years of the Second World War. In early 1944, after completing one tour of operations and winning the Distinguished Flying Cross for his exploits, the New Zealander, Colwyn Jones, was killed during a raid on Berlin.

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About The Night War Over Europe

During the Second World War the night sky over Europe was one of the most lethal places to wage war. By 1945 almost half of the airmen who flew with Bomber Command and a third of the Luftwaffe night fighter crew pitted against them had been killed. Many German cities became moonscapes of rubble, their inhabitants the first to experience the reality of ‘total war’ – itself a glimpse of the destructive potential of the nuclear age about to explode in the Far East.

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2 - Ditching EXCERPT

Excerpt from Col Jones' Diary

Third Account of Ditching Surfaces 70 Years Later

From Col Jones’s diary, 6 June 1942

“Just about somewhere near Antwerp it all started and everything happened at once. Out of the blue a terrific crash followed hard after by another. Direct hits by flak. Flying controls affected. At that stage Geoff was in the mid-upper watching for fighters. When the excitement of the crash had passed he told us that simultaneously with being hit by flak, a Wellington [RAF twin-engined bomber, nicknamed ‘Wimpy’] had dived out of control and hit us at the rear with an engine. Personally, I think we were more likely to have been hit by a wingtip, but he says he is sure, so there it is.
Then we were hit again, and the combined result of the collision and the flak almost buggered the flying controls completely. In a quiet interval (?), Geoff made his way down to the rear of the kite to see what had happened to ‘Moonbeam’ Keith, because there was no answer on the intercom. He had to pick his way over the holes in the floor of the fuselage – they gaped everywhere. In the dark he fell into the space for the mid-under [ventral turret, not installed]. The blast of the flak had forced the doors open and he thought he had gone right through. That is one of the worst experiences I think I have ever heard. When he picked himself out of there, he fell over the flare chutes. Then he looked for Keith – and all he saw was a great gaping hole in the rear of the kite. The turret had completely disappeared. Poor old Keith must have gone with it. Still, he would never have known what hit him, because Geoff said the Wimpy came down from above.
After that I don’t know how many times we were hit by flak. To make matters worse, we discovered that the flak had caused fires in the bomb doors. We managed to put them out, with a small fire extinguisher, or perhaps they went out themselves. Anyway there was no sign of flame and no smell of smoke. Then we received two more direct hits by flak, one shell burst inside the kite about two-thirds of the way down the fuselage and another in the bomb aimer’s position. That one wrecked the front turret, in which fortunately no-one was sitting at the time. Somewhere about this time, Eric ordered us all forward to try and keep the nose of the machine down. It wanted to climb, having no fore and aft stability, but did not have the speed. We were staggering along at between 95mph and 105mph – a few miles an hour above stalling speed – and that is a fact. When I looked at my air speed indicator I thought it had been put out of action when it read that, but then I noticed Eric’s read the same.
We threw out everything moveable – spare ammo; the navigator’s chair, hoping it might hit something on the ground (even his cushion, which was silly); we tried to get the gas [cylinders] out, but they were jammed and shot away so that they would not shift. Only Geoff was aft of the armour plating door, and he was protected by his own armour plating. I think the fact that we all had that protection saved us from what came next...."

AUDIO CLIP of Col’s skipper, Eric Whitney, describing the events on BBC 12 days later

Original BBC recordings courtesy of www.ltmpub.freeserve.co.uk 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Third Account of Col Jones’ Ditching Surfaces 70 years Later

The following account was sent to me in December 2010 by the son of the front gunner of the Stirling in which Col Jones and his crew ditched in the North Sea in June 1942. Written some years after the war, it differs in some small details from the versions recorded by Jones and the skipper, Eric Whitney, recorded at the time.

On the 5th June was another 1000 [bomber] op to Essen. We had a really shakey do. On the way back just over Holland we were hit by flak and were then shot up three times by a German night plane, and suddenly the aircraft tilted up 45 degrees when our rear turret was hit by the tip of a Wellington bomber on its way down after being shot up by a night fighter. The tip of the wing of the Wellington hit the back of the turret just by the tail wing and took it clean out of its housing with the rear gunner in it. We found out later that the Wellington was from 419 Squadron from Mildenhall, the only Wellington lost that night.

We were going round in circles as we went down and prepared to ditch. Eric Whitney, the pilot, made a good job of ditching and Jeff [Geoff] Cheek was the W.Op [wireless operator] that night and had managed to send out an SOS and [position].We ditched hard but opened up the door as the Stirling was floating and opened up the dinghy and got in. I made them paddle round to the rear to see the empty spot where the rear turret had been. It was clean out and poor Keith [‘Moonbeam’ Roderick] the rear gunner was obviously killed instantly. I understand his body was washed up on the Dutch coast some weeks later.

We paddled away from the Stirling. T for Tommy was still floating…as we paddled away. Only Jeff was injured as he had banged his head somehow. Eric Whitney was given a DFC and commissioned and Jeff was given a DFM and had to tell the story on the BBC. Poor Jeff was badly injured and it affected his behaviour. We went to live near him when we found a flat in his street after the war.

Anyway, when it became daylight we heard aircraft and being just off the Dutch coast we thought it was German, but lo and behold it was a Spitfire, and he spotted us and circled around us. We sure cheered him. It wasn’t long when six Spits found us and circled around us for air cover as we were so near the Dutch coast. About 2 or 3 o’clock in the afternoon, up turned an air sea rescue boat and took all aboard it after taking our photo.

We were taken to RAF Manston and checked out by the medicals as OK and on the 6th June in the afternoon the squadron CO Wg Cdr [Charlton-]Jones arrived in a Stirling and took us back to Lakenheasth for debriefing. We were then given a week’s survivors leave and off we went.Collie Jones who was our navigator that night came with me to London to Joy [Martin’s younger sister, a nurse] and her friends and later over to Belfast to Hettie [Martin’s older sister] and all our friends there.

One strange thing, a friend of Joy was a fighter plotter at Biggin Hill [fighter base in Kent] and had been telling about sending out Spits to cover a bomber crew shot down off the Dutch coast, which of course was us. We sure downed a few pints and sent a few back to the plotters at Biggin Hill for a drink.

Collie went to Belfast and stayed with Hettie and had a good time. I remember we went to a big dance in the Ulster Hall and Collie went off somewhere on his own and came back with a bottle of Irish whiskey. From what he said, I think he found a pub in Sandy Row, a Protestant stronghold, and was given a bottle by the pub. We saw everybody we wanted to and then back to Lakenheath on ops.

With thanks to Hugh Martin for sending me his father's account of this episode.

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