17 February 2008

More of my father's stories

I have recently finished reading Nemesis, Max Hastings’s account of the final year of the war against Japan. It’s well written and definitely worth reading. One anecdote stuck particularly in my mind: USAAF B29s attacking Japan would often hit thermals bouncing the aircraft about. On one aircraft the thermals loose the toilet which emptied on a crewmember. Thereafter he became known as Pisspot Smith.

This reminds me of two of my father’s wartime stories. One occurred when he was on stand down near Basra before onward posting to Burma. For a short while he was assigned as a navigator on a C-47 Dakota. On a couple of occasions they had to fly a particularly unpleasant officer on inspection visits to Indian Army Service Corps deports in the region. He must have been particularly offensive for dad and his crewmates to wait until the officer went to use the aircraft’s chemical toilet before encountering “thermals” - at least that’s what they told their commanding officer, who accepted their explanation.

My dad is friends with a fellow Pathfinder, “Chappy” who served as a flight engineer in 582 Squadron which flew Lancasters. Over one target his Lancaster was coned – caught by several searchlight beams. A coned aircraft was usually dead meat unless urgent evasive action is taken (and usually still was). It was standard procedure to dive to gain speed then turn violently to escape the beam. The pilot did this and luckily the plane survived. During the escape Chappy was thrown to the floor and felt a hard, painful blow to his head. He then felt what he thought was blood trickling down his face. A crew member checking whether he was seriously wounded noticed that the liquid was not blood but urine. What happened was that the pilot’s urine bottle had come loose and hit Chappy. For a while he was known as “Pisshead”.

It was particularly amusing to hear Chappy’s wife tell the story at a Pathfinder Day at RAF Wyton a couple of years ago.

11 comments:

Richard Havers said...

Brilliant!

jams o donnell said...

Glad you like it!

CC said...

I'd like to hear Pisspot Smith telling his great-grandkids how he got that nickname!

r morris said...

Jams:
Great stories.
As a WWII aviation writer, I've come across some funny stuff like this. I'll share a couple quick ones.
One, on the B-17, the 'relief tube' that allowed men to urinate during a mission, had a siphon on one end and dangled out the underside of the ship. Unfortunately, it often empied directly onto the ball turret, covering the gunner's ball with a thick coat of yellow ice.

A ball gunner told me one time that he tried never to piss in the air. He said that your piss literally froze to the tip of your 'tackle' as it came out. When he had to go, he'd just piss his pants, but even taht was dangerous, because of the electrically-heated flight suits, which would then short-circuit.

Also, in combat, men often forgot where they had relieved themselves. One pilot grabbed his flak helmet and put it on his head, only to remember afterwards that he had shat in it.

C'est la guerre. Not funny at the time, but funny later.

jams o donnell said...

Indeed Ewbl, that would be worth hearing!

rmoris. Thanks for dropping by. I'm glad you enjoyed my dad's tales. I loved yours. I must go back and explore your blog further it is utterly fascinating!

Richard Havers said...

Jams, Rob's a friend of mine and a source of endlessly fascinating WW@ airforce info.....

jams o donnell said...

I'm glad he visited and shared his anecdotes, Richard

r morris said...

Jams, just one to perk your interest. Did you know that Hermann Goering's nephew was a Mormon from Utah and flew bombing missions over Berlin? I talked with him and also his co-pilot. Pretty bizarre stuff. Herman Goering's brother or sister converted and immigrated to the States, and Werner Goering ended up flying B-17s.

It's in my book. Truth is stranger than fiction.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

That's a great story, jams.

jmb said...

Great stories. The comments are as good as the posts today.

jams o donnell said...

Hi R morris. I didn'tknow that at all until I had a look at your site! That is exactly the sort of curiousity I love.... just like Adolf's nephew William joining the US Navy in WWII.

Glad you like it Welshcakes!

Thanks jmb. rmorris's comments are brilliant. I love them