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Notes from a telephone conversation on 17 / 7/ 2003 age 85 by Chris Cock
I was brought up at West Hall farm Mundford Norfolk where my father worked and I joined the RAF in 1936.
I worked firstly on the Handley Page Heyford at Mildenhall and then at Marham on the Handley Page Harrow with 115 Sqn.
The Royal New Zealand Air Force purchased about 30 Wellingtons and formed the New Zealand flight at Marham and we were to work and train them to fly and maintain the aircraft then to return with them to N Z for two years when we could return to England or stay on in NZ as part of the RNZAF .We had started to pack things including the aircraft tyres which we had to squeeze together when war was declared and that changed everything.
We fitters had to get in some flying hours so took everything we could get. One Pilot who I flew with often was named Collins and although a good pilot he was rather a madman. One time we were flying over Ely Cathedral and he said, "You see those two trees? Can we get between them?" I said, "You're not going to try, are you?" and he went right down and flew sideways between them. Sadly, he was killed on ops shortly afterwards.
I was awarded the Oak leaves for rescuing my mate Pete Mcurrie from our blazing Wellington and this is the story.
Our aircraft would be stored over at Methwold, hidden amongst the trees and we would go over in a lorry and get the aircraft ready. The Pilot would arrive and rather than go back in the lorry we would jump in the plane for the ride back to Feltwell. One such occasion we did this and took off, the pilot, whose name I have forgotten, went to retract to wheels but nothing happened. I remarked to him of this and he just shrugged his shoulders. I went up to the astra dome and could see there was a shiny substance on the wing and tail. Realizing we had a hydraulic leak I again mentioned to the Pilot that it would maybe be an idea to land using the longest part of Feltwell airdrome, being oval in shape. He again made no response. Wellington would normally land at approx 90mph and we were coming in at about 120mph with no flap control, etc.
We hit the ground and just went on and on until we struck a Nissen type hut, a small brick construction which the Pioneer corp used for cooking, then we hit a Crossley lorry which had a Lewis gun mounted on it for airdrome defence, then an air-raid bunker before tangling in the barb wire surrounding the airdrome which brought us to a halt. We finished up not far from a farmhouse and I remember the petrol running down the ploughed field all in flames. The pilot ran from the aircraft which was now well alight as did I, after I had kicked out a panel at the rear end. It was then I remembered my mate Pete Mcurrie who was in the front turret. I ran back and could see him shouting to me but I couldn’t hear him. I got in and opened the turret doors and he said, "My legs are jammed, I can't move." I pulled him but it was no good. By this time the crash team had arrived but couldn't reach us because of the barbed wire. I called for an axe and someone hurled one across. It seemed to be in the air forever but I eventually got it and managed to free my buddy from the blazing Wellington. By this time the rescue team had got through the wire and took us both to the ambulance where I gruff voice told me to get in although I had said I was OK. Photograph
On arriving at the sick bay the doctors first words were, "How is your sister?" and much to my surprise it was our family doctor, Dr Monroe from Northwold, he was a Flt.Lt.
I never met up with Pete Mcurrie again although I did visit his home at Cleevesly near Blackpool and his father told me he was still in hospital so he took me to his club and bought me a pint or two and we played some billiards.
About two years later I was at Calshot working on Sunderland flying boats when I was told to report to the CO. I was marched in and thought, "What the bloody hell have I done now?" The CO said congratulations and presented me with a set of Oak leaves and a certificate for the rescue of Pete Mcurrie. My wife thought the world of the certificate and I had it framed. Sadly I was posted away and my wife packed the certificate and forwarded the cases on but that particular case never arrived and we never ever recovered it. We were saddened by this, in particular my wife, she was very proud of it and it broke her heart to lose it.
It would appear that this incident occurred on November 18th 1940 and was Wellington 1c R1020 AA - Piloted by P/O Jackson, landing at 1120am. The photographs seem to suggest the aircraft came to rest at the rear of either Field or Grange Farms, Hockwold. At present no definite position has been declared.