Colin Ian Jeffery
Airgunner - Poem by Colin Ian Jeffery
My uncle Stan was a sergeant air-gunner on Wellington bombers during the Second World War, a tail gunner who flew twenty-three missions over occupied Europe, and six over Berlin. The life expectancy of a rear-gunner was seven missions.
Wellington bomber's engines roar
There is a stench of burning oil
In darkness the heavy plane rises.
No moon or stars but inky darkness
An icy cold chilling the soul.
Flying over the white cliffs of Dover
He fires his guns - - testing them
Ready for German fighters
Swooping like hawks against the bomber
Darting from the darkness guns blazing.
Over Holland they join other bombers
Flying in formation towards Germany
Searchlights seeking for them
With ack-ack shells colouring the night
Trying to bring the bombers down.
Fighters like angry hornets sweep in
As bombers reach Berlin
Path-finders have lit-up the target
And below all seems to be a sea of fire
Hitler's punishment for London's blitz.
Bomb-aimer takes control of the plane
Guiding the pilot over the target
Where he presses the plunger
Bombs drop screaming as they go
Exploding the factory making tanks.
The bomber makes two runs
Turns for home caught in searchlight glare
Illuminated for fighters and gunners
Too slow to climb beyond the light
Swept by German fighter machine guns.
Burning bomber reaches England
Pilot dying, crew bloody and afraid
Crash lands on its airfield
Rear-gunner pulled from his turret
Weeping, he survived another mission.
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