Northern Journey

By BUNNY MASON – Chairman
Air Gunner, 196 Squadron

The war in Europe was drawing to a close, as one by one those countries who had for five years or more, suffered the indignation of occupation and loss of freedom, now welcomed the Allied Forces as they advanced towards Germany.

One such country yet to obtain its freedom was Norway. Remote somewhat from the rest of Europe but nevertheless its people had been subjected to the same brutality as their more southerly neighbours.

On the 11 th May 1945, an armada of Stirling Aircraft from 38 Group, set forth from their bases in East Anglia laden with airborne troops and equipment destined for Gardermoen Airport near Oslo. Its purpose, to liberate the people of Norway,

After an uneventful flight, we landed and taxied to a part of the airfield now brimming with Stirlings. As soon as the aircraft came to a halt, A Wingco Engineering type hopped on board and in no uncertain terms, told us that we had one hour in which to disembark our troops and their equipment and have a break before returning to base.

E Edward at Gardermoen

Having said farewell to our airborne friends, we decided to take advantage of what little of our allotted time we had left to look around the airfield.

We were in for some surprises. Firstly, we saw Luftwaffe personnel walking about freely, and armed which was a trifle unsettling, but we consoled ourselves with the fact that they must be aware that the war in Europe was all but over.

Our second surprise came when we reached an area on the other side of the airfield. There stood row upon row of German Night fighters. My mind went immediately back to our Base Intelligence Officer and his then words of comfort at briefings over the last few months, when he assured us that there were no longer any Night fighters as they had been switched to the Russian Front.

We were soon joined by other crews, some of whom were soon pulling the emergency toggles on the side of the aircraft fuselage and withdrawing the emergency packs, which were quickly opened. Amongst the usual items were tins of cigarettes. To find cigarettes was no surprise but the brand was, they were all Senior Service!

Perhaps at another time I will relate our further experiences. We did not return to base that night, for our Skipper very conveniently found a mag drop, genuine of course!! Much to the Winco’s disgust.

Bunny MASON – Chairman, Air Gunner, 196 Squadron