I Was There! - Greek Carried Me over the Mountains

The War Illustrated, Volume 4, No. 76, Page 164, February 14, 1941.

Onlookers who saw a British bomber in flames over the Italian lines in Southern Albania gave up the entire crew as lost, but twelve days later the pilot and observer turned up at their base. Here we gave the story in the words of the pilot, a 23-year-old Flight Lieutenant.

Sitting up in bed, his leg and arm in splints, the Flight Lieutenant said:

"We had dropped our bombs and then Italian fighters were after us. A Macchi 200 got a good burst in and suddenly the fuselage between the cockpit and the air-gunner's turret burst into a blazing furnace. I told the crew to jump out, but the air-gunner must have been killed, for his gun had stopped and I could get no reply from him.

The observer climbed out first, and was gone, but the hatch on my side stuck, so I moved over to follow the observer. Jolly fortunate I did so, for just as I was squeezing through to the hatch, an enemy fighter let another burst into our aircraft, this time destroying my seat and my instrument panel.

When I did bale out part of my parachute harness, which I discovered afterwards had been nicked by a bullet, caught round my leg, and as the parachute opened it jerked my leg up behind my neck and broke the leg just above the knee.

I was not in too good a shape because previously I had received a bullet through the elbow. Even while I was sailing down an Italian fighter came after me and put 20 bullets through my parachute we counted the holes later. Because the punctured parachute and broken harness I landed pretty heavily. My observer came down at a village farther away in the valley. I lay down on the ground for about half an hour. Then Greek soldiers found me we had landed just inside the Greek lines.

Soldiers bandaged me up as best they could; then they found a stretcher. They were absolutely splendid. For four days they carried me cheerfully over the mountains, often through deep snow and along narrow mountain tracks with precipitous edges. Looking over one side of my stretcher I saw nothing but a horrifying chasm. Yet they were surefooted and never slipped or slithered about.

At last we reached Koritza; then on to Florina, where my leg and arm were put into splints, and my observer, who was O.K. except for burns, was attended to.

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