Dresden - Douglas Hicks (February 13 1945)

Flying Officer Harris and his crew are preparing for their first raid into enemy territory. The crew consists of seven,  Five of the crew are Canadians and the other two English. Flying Officer Harris  had made his “Second Dickie” flight to Germany on February 8th, the target was the Politz oil plant. The rest of the crew are all virgins. I, Flt. Sgt. Hicks, flew with this crew as the Tail Gunner. All of our training flights had been completed without incident. As a crew we were now competent to take on the duties of  an active flight crew. This is our first operational flight.

Briefing was completed and we were assigned aircraft  BQ-V. This aircraft was named the “Vulture Strikes” by the first crew to whom it was assigned permanently. Our confidence is bolstered by the fact that this aircraft had completed in excess of  90 trips over enemy territory. It had always returned the crew back home safely. Now, we would see, how we as a crew, would function under actual combat.

After take off we set course for the assigned target.  There was very little banter between the crew and only essential information was relayed. By listening in, one would wonder if this crew was working correctly. I had expected some banter between crew members to relieve the tension but the atmosphere was one of doing the job.  From  my position at the rear of the aircraft, the old saying,  I don’t know where we are going but I certainly know where we have been, came true. We are now  some 4  hours into the flight , all has been uneventful,  Then some 50 miles from the target a huge red glow can be seen in the sky ahead. We have no doubt where we are to go.  Our behaviour changes, this is it, this will be our trial by fire.  We approach the target and the Bomb Aimer takes over directing the aircraft on the correct heading for the bombing run.  Conditions change and almost daylight conditions prevail. The sky is lit up from the horrendous inferno  on the ground that is now the target. In this lighted environment I now see Bomber aircraft everywhere. They are to the left  and the right, up and down, it seems almost impossible that this zone of air space can accommodate so many bomber aircraft. As one of the bombers passes underneath my turret I can see the crew in the cockpit of the aircraft and notice the red hot exhaust from the four engines glowing eerily in the sky. I have difficulty in comprehending this vast armada of aircraft converging on the target. As quickly as it started we have now dropped the bomb load and turned to head for home.  So this is the trial under fire, we did it we have almost completed our first trip. There is no jubilation from the crew nor even a slight hurrah, it seems we are all busy doing our jobs and the jubilation will wait till we get home.

We return home safely with no incidents to report. “V” for victor has done it again  our trust in this old war horse has been justified. We land at our home base without incident. This trip lasted for ten hours and five minutes.  We have lost our virginity and still there is no jubilation. It seems we did what we were trained to do and that triumphant cries of jubilation will wait for another time. At debriefing we tell of the horrendous fires that were evident over the target and we wonder aloud if anyone on the ground survived that holocaust.  The papers will report on this raid in the morning with glowing accolades to those crews who participated.

 My first trip is over. The target that night, DRESDEN.