I am the second generation cousin of a tail gunner who died on an operation to Stuttgart, Germany, in 1944. Bud, and the rest of his Lancaster bomber crew, were men I never met. They died long before I was born. However, their presence in my life is an unexplainable constant.
Today, the 25th August, marks a special day, a wedding anniversary gift to remember. One year ago my husband and I did a taxy ride in Just Jane, a Lancaster bomber at the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre in East Kirkby, UK.
I had requested the tail end turret and as such I was on my own, just like Bud. I imagined being closed behind those doors, cramped in that tiny turret, sitting bundled up in warm gear, lifting off the ground, feeling disjointed from the aircraft in this most vulnerable of places and looking constantly in the ink dark skies for night-fighters.
I’m bumped and jostled about as we taxy on the grassy field. I can hear nothing but the thunder of the engines in my ears. I see naught but cloudy skies.
When the ride is done and I crawl out of the turret, I take one last look behind me to say goodbye.