Wartime tales shared as RAF veterans meet

The Lancaster was our bomber: Bomber  Command veterans John Funnell (left) and Ken Duddell share their memories at the re-union of the Elsham Wolds association.
The Lancaster was our bomber: Bomber Command veterans John Funnell (left) and Ken Duddell share their memories at the re-union of the Elsham Wolds association.
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Elsham Wolds was a bleak place to be stationed in the Second World War, where the easterly wind from the North Sea blew through the huts that housed the airmen.

For more than 1,300 men, the airfield was their last living contact with this earth; the many who flew on bomber raids out over the North Sea and on into German occupied Europe and failed to return.

Each year in late summer, surviving veterans who are fit and able return for their reunion.

There were 12 this year, supported by friends in the Elsham Wolds Association and the Immingham Air Training Corps.

John Funnell and Ken Duddell, both 89, never flew together, but they both flew in Lancasters.

They are both convinced they survived those perilous night journeys because of the plane’s priceless ability to outmanoeuvre the enemy.

John flew 13 raids over Germany and for him it was a lucky number - he completed his ‘tour’.

“I was a navigator,” said John. “My worst moment was when a Lancaster flying above us dropped his bombs and they were coming directly at us several hundred feet lower.

“Somehow they just missed and we survived by the skin of our teeth; others were not so lucky though.

“Another Lancaster from Elsham Wolds had 23 nurses on board, who were serving in hospitals in Italy. They were lost and to this day nobody knows what happened to them.”

This year’s reunion was the end of an era for Ken, who has stood down from his role as Chairman of the Elsham Wolds Association - he described it is as a ‘great honour’ to have held the post for the past decade.

The two men talked Lancasters at the reunion - John from Dover and Ken from Barnetby.

“It was a very special plane - powerful and manoeuvrable,” said Ken, who had served as a flight engineer.

“Once you got rid of your bombs, its manoeuvrability was key to it getting us back as it could dodge fighters better than other bombers before it.

“It was a wonderful plane, a key to the success of Bomber Command.”

Two men sharing their stories of life as young men at a key base in the Wolds.

There may or there may not be many more reunions of the Elsham Wolds Association, but for those who remain, the memories of those dark days are priceless if horrific.