F/L Eric Ernest Piper RAAF - 103 Sqn - 1943.
Eric Piper ( above ) enlisted at No 2 ITS Bradfield Park, Sydney, Australia in July 1941. He was posted to Canada to Montreal to complete a wireless course and departed from Sydney on his 20th birthday, the 13th November 1941.
He arrived in Canada on the 7th December and heard the news of bombing of Pearl Harbour by the Japanese.
His next posting was to No 9 Bombing and Gunnery School at Mont Joli, Quebec, flying Fairey Battles from which he graduated in August 1942.
He was posted to the UK to attended 81 OTU at Whitchurch Heath, Shropshire for further operational training where he flew Whitley aircraft. Here his crew were formed consisting of a pilot, navigator, bomb aimer, wireless operator and rear gunner.
After 4 months at Whitchurch the crew were posted to 1662 Heavy Conversion Unit at Blyton where they were joined by a flight engineer and mid upper gunner. After a couple of weeks on 4 engined aircraft they were posted to 103 Squadron at Elsham Wolds on the 5th May 1943.
The 7 crew members were :-
Sgt E J Presland - Pilot - RAFVR.
Sgt C D Hornby - Flight Engineer - RAFVR.
F/Sgt L D Groome - Navigator - RAFVR.
Sgt G Aitken - Bomb Aimer - RAFVR.
Sgt A G Staplehurst - Wireless Operator - RAFVR
Sgt E R Foster - Mid Upper Gunner - RCAF.
Sgt E E Piper - Rear Gunner - RAAF.
Eric continues “ We were detailed for our first operation on the night of the 12th May 1943. Being a fresh crew we were in the last wave with about 500 planes ahead of us. There was plenty activity in and around the target area with fires, flak, search lights and air battles with night fighters.
We were doing our bombing run in at about 20,000 feet into a barrage of heavy flak when we took some heavy hits putting the starboard outer engine out of service. We completed our bombing run and got out of there as quick as we could. The pilot and flight engineer did a wonderful job getting us home.
On inspection it was seen that the damage was caused by one of our own planes dropping part of its load on us and we took about 6 hits. What an initiation to ops!
By far the worst of our experience was being coned over one of the Ruhr targets. To be caught in a cone of search lights meant a lot of trouble. We had dropped our load when, on the bombing run, they picked us up with a radar controlled master search light at about 23,000 feet. This attracted more lights and heavy flak. The skipper put the nose down and headed for the deck. We took a hammering on the way down finally flying clear of it all at about 12,000 feet. Skilful flying and a lot of luck came with that one.
The rest of the tour had its moments with the usual flak and night fighter sightings. On one occasion the mid upper gunner had his turret shattered by shrapnel leaving a gaping hole in the perspex. A Ju 88 had a go at us one night and evasive action from the pilot saved us from further attack.
We had 15 trips to the Ruhr, 3 to Italy and the rest scattered over Germany like Hamburg, Berlin and Nuremberg.
The trip to Peenemunde on the 17/18th August 1943 is worth a mention in that we were making a bombing run at 5,000 feet. This target was an experimental and weapons development centre for V1 and V2 rockets and situated on the Baltic coast near Rostock about 200 km north of Berlin.
Nuremberg was our last trip on the 27th August 1943. and the crew parted ways at the end of the tour. I went to 27 OTU at Lichfield, Staffordshire.
In the latter part of 1944 I was posted back to Australia along with many other RAAF air crew to fly in the Pacific area. I finished my service with 40 Squadron Port Moresby New Guinea.
I would like to add a word of praise to our pilot, F/O E J Presland DFC, for his skill and dedication in flying that great Lancaster PM - K.
It was with much sadness that I later learnt that he and his crew had been shot down by a Ju 88 on his 11th trip of a second tour over Denmark.”
Note :- F/L Presland few his second tour with 576 Sq also from Elsham Wolds and was shot down on the night of the 15/16th May 44 on a mining sortie to Kiel Bay. The aircraft crashed in Denmark and the crew are buried at Assens Cemetery.
Written by David Fell from a contribution and photos by Eric Piper.