A FORMER airman who served in Bomber Command as a teenager spoke of the fear and comradeship of the air crews.
Gordon Cottrill, 86, of Rowley Lane, Lepton, was just 17 when he signed up in 1943.
He trained as a tail gunner and went on several missions in 1944-45 as part of a seven-man Lancaster bomber crew.
“My overwhelming memory is of the fear and the comradeship of the air crews,” said Mr Cottrill, who later became a design and technology teacher.
“When you were flying there was an intense feeling. You were part of a crew and you were afraid but you could never show it and you should never let each other down.
“If you did you were branded LMF (lack of moral fibre) and you were straight off station, your stripes were gone and you were put on menial duties.
“I remember the rituals we went through. We would have a last cigarette before the flight and then urinate on the tail wing because that was the last opportunity you would get.
“I have known some young men vomit at the same time but they still went out to do their duty.”
Bomber Command lost a staggering 55,000 airmen during the Second World War and Mr Cottrill said: “That was 20% of the total casualties of the war and we certainly did our bit.”
Mr Cottrill said it was down to luck or fate who lived and who died.
“I look back and think how lucky I was to survive,” he said.
“There are men still alive who went on 80 operational missions while others were killed on their first one.
“That’s how it used to go. You were either very lucky or very unlucky. Maybe some of us had a guardian angel.”
Liverpool-born Mr Cottrill, married to Sheila, 87, volunteered for Bomber Command while he was working as an apprentice at an aircraft factory making Halifax bombers in Speke, Liverpool.
“I wanted to serve my country and was accepted,” recalled Mr Cottrill.
“I was only 17-and-a-half, still a schoolboy really, but I did what I wanted to do. Looking back I was naive and I grew up very quickly.”