The Navigator - Ken Dodwell remembers his life as a RAF navigator from 1940 to 1946

3 The Navigator The following memoirs resulted from a request from one of my Grandsons, who asked me some 20 questions about my wartime service with Bomber Command in the Royal Air Force. He told me that he needed help with a school project which he was asked to carryout on the events of the Second World War. As I pondered these questions I thought that I could best help him by telling him my story or apart of it as there was much more of course. As I write this I shudder at the absolute reality and truth of the words which fall upon the page. I do not know how we stood up to it. It was another world. Afar cry from the comparative easy life of today. In all my six years in the R.A.F I knew of only three young men who asked to seethe commanding officer to declare that they could not carry on flying. These men were seldom treated well. They would be stripped of their rank and declared to ‘lack moral fibre a dreaded three letters in the R.A.F. 1940 –The beginning I was sworn into the R.A.F in May 1940. Then I was sent home to await a vacancy on a training course. The training programme of the R.A.F. had expanded somewhat since the outbreak of War in September 1939 but still had along way togo. I returned to my home in Northwick Park Harrow in time to witness the German attacks on London and the “Battle of Britain” fought by Fighter Command. In this position we could only seethe glow of fires mostly in the London Docks area and the East End. As the crow flies we were some 10 miles from this area. Being NorthWest of Londons centre we were the recipients of a small percentage of bombs –those were dropped by “bomb aimers” who had overshot their targets (not the normal experience as crews tended to undershoot being plastered with anti-aircraft fire) This is why the southern suburbs of London suffered much more as the German bombers approached from the south-east. The Croydon area particularly suffered for this reason. In fact I remember a report that low flying aircraft machine gunned Croydon High Street. Even in Northwick Park it was rather nerve-racking at night one could continuously hear the throbbing of the bombers engines. The nearest house destroyed at the time was some 300 yards away as the crow flies. During the latter part of the war the V1s (doodlebugs) were overcoming in daylight. I remember on one occasion when I was on leave that one
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