RAF Gunner Who Spent 3 Months Hiding From The Enemy

Blogger: GemSen A World War II RAF airman has finally received a medal for his bravery, which included spending three long months hiding in a French café that was frequented by the Gestapo. Tail gunner, Len Manning was just 19-years-old when his Lancaster bomber was shot down by a German fighter in July 1944. The giant aircraft was attacked and immediately set fire, falling from the sky over Northern France — four of the crew were subsequently killed in the crash.
Len fell at 4,000ft from the bomber with a burning parachute and was badly burned before going on the run from the Germans who tried to track him down. “After I climbed out of the turret into the fuselage which was burning furiously, it was like looking down the flames of a blow lamp. It was the most terrifying experience of my life,” Len told the East Anglian Daily Times. “Although I managed to get out of the plane, the parachute had also caught fire and as a result, I was badly burned.” The navigator and Len were the only survivors of the crash. However, the navigator was captured by the Germans and sent to a Prisoner of War camp. Len was more fortunate and was rescued by French Resistance fighters. “I spent three months living in a café/hotel in Bassevelle, France, hiding from the Germans who frequently used the café and stayed at the hotel,” Len told the Daily Mail. “People often liken it to the TV series ‘Allo ‘Allo! but, it was a really risky experience.” Mr Manning kept a low profile in Bassevelle until American troops liberated the town months later. Significant role of Bomber Command From Sudbury, Suffolk, Mr Manning was part of RAF Bomber Command and his 57th Squadron based in Lincolnshire played a significant role in bombing key German targets. RAF Bomber Command controlled the RAF’s bomber force from 1936-1968. During the Second World War, it destroyed many German cities and several of Nazi Germany’s industries. RAF Bomber Command successfully destroyed a significant proportion of Nazi Germany’s industries notably in the Ruhr valley and many German cities including Cologne and Dresden in 1945. This was to disrupt industrial production of weapons, to weaken morale and to force the Germans onto the defensive — which was a crucial component in the liberation of Europe and the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945. Flying in a British bomber during World War Two was not a job for the faint of heart, and it was one of the most dangerous jobs imaginable.  RAF aircrews responsible for this vital task faced some of the most terrifying combat conditions of WW2 yet had an average age of just 22, with the youngest scarcely 18. Around 55,000 aircrew died in raids over Europe between 1939 and 1945 — the highest loss rate of any major branch of the British armed forces.

Tail End Charlies It might be 69 years later, but Len received the Bomber Command Clasp in a special ceremony at Ipswich Town Hall last week to mark the service he gave to his country as he risked his life time and time again. Apparently angry Bomber Command members were not given medals because Prime Minister Winston Churchill believed it could have been seen as 'condoning killing civilians' after German cities were mercilessly bombed. "We didn’t think it was fair because all of the other services – the Battle of Britain, the Land Army – were given campaign medals," Len said. "More than 30,000 air crew were killed in the war and we always felt it was a bit of an insult not to be deemed worthy of a medal. There are not many of us left now and we felt really let down. "So about five years ago, we started a campaign to push for the government to issue a medal – it was really about the principle of it." Mr Manning always believed he and his comrades should have been given a medal because the air crew and particularly rear gunners – known as Tail End Charlies – stared into the face of death time and again. “I was only 19 at the time and you couldn’t dwell on the possible dangers, although it was at the back of your mind because every raid was risky,” he said. “You literally had people shooting at you from the ground and fighters coming at you from all around – there was nowhere to escape so you had no choice but to go through it. "I only did three raids before I was shot down and that was enough. Every raid was a trauma." Source: Daily Mail Did any of your ancestors get awarded medals for their actions in war? Perhaps they did, but you just haven’t found out about it yet…Why not search the Forces War Records site and let us help you start, or continue your genealogy quest… Forces War Records also offer a range of official military replacement medals from World War I and World War II, including the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal, and the 1939-45 Star. Made to a very high standard, the medals are the perfect way to remember the war heroes in your family and are sourced from an MOD approved supplier. Why not delve into our ‘historic documents’ library and read some of the interesting war diaries that we get sent – there’s nothing quite like reading a personal account of war, as history unfolds itself through the eyes of somebody who was actually there. Forces War Records are fortunate to receive such amazing real life war stories involving lashings of courage, and now you can read some of them – free of charge.
Log In / Register to comment
Your comment has been sent for approval. You will receive an email when it gets approved. Got It!


Search for a name in our archive

Please enter a surname

Follow Blog

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.
Join 9643 other followers

Please enter your email address
You are now following this blog.
Something went wrong. Please try again.

Get the latest from our blog in your favourite RSS reader or direct to your browser by using our RSS feed below:

RSS Feed

Top Stories

Top Tags

Small Medium Large Landscape Portrait