These are the stories of Allied and German airmen whose planes
crashed on land or ditched in the sea during the Second World War.
Many of them lost their comrades. Several were injured. All counted
themselves lucky to be alive - and, in most cases, to fly again.
David Rowland, the author of several popular books on the last
war, has researched dozens of gripping incidents and has spoken
to many of the brave men who thought they were doomed to die but
survived against all odds. This is David's most recent book, published
from October 2004 onwards, and the following extract gives a flavour
of the amazing personal stories that it portrays:
On the 28th August 1941 Wallace Cunningham, a flight commander
with 19 Squadron, took off from his base at Matlask, a satellite
station of Coltishall, to escort a number of Blenhiem Bombers. The
operation was a low level attack on shipping in Rotterdam harbour.
This was demed to be a large raid by British bombers, but a stiff
price was paid. The Blenheims came from several squadrons, including
21, 88 and 226, and they suffered heavy losses. A total of seven
bombers were lost and several more were damaged. Another crashed
on take-off from RAF Wattisham. Five crew members were taken prisoner
but 16 were killed on the raid.
This wasn't to be a good day for Wallace either. As it was a low-level
attack he was ordered to fly his Spitfire almost at sea level.
"We took off at 4pm after a two hour delay" he later
recalled, "escorting two squadrons of Blenheims, to bomb a
target in Rotterdam harbour. We were flying close to sea level and
I can still see the tracks made by the twin engines of the bombers.
We were ordered to keep down, as the Blenheims wanted the maximum
advantage of surprise, although we as escort were no help in not
being high enough to attack enemy fighters that might arrive on
the scene. However, we might act as a distraction and draw the fire."
The group were met by the German defences, and one by one the Blenheims
were shot down. The Spitfire escorts fared little better.