When I was a boy my dad would tell me stories about his experiences as an air gunner in the RAF during WW2; stories that eventually, forty years later, became Tail-End Charlie.
I always remember my dad telling me there was a camera crew on board his plane the day he was wounded and I tried hard to find this mystery film footage over the years – but with no success. Then, not long after the publication of Tail-End Charlie, some 2nd TAF/180 squadron operational film footage turned up on the Imperial War Museum website. The date and location of one of the films matched my dad's last op. . . I knew it had to be the missing film. I ordered a copy and waited.
A few weeks later three or four minutes of footage arrived in the post and I was transported back to Melsbroek 1944 in a scratchy black and white film. I saw aircrew gathered by their planes. . . I even recognised Paddy and Com, my dad's crew mates, walking towards the camera, smiling and waving. In another sequence I recognised our book's consultant Dicky Levy. The cameraman, Sgt Eaton had also captured aerial shots of 180 squadron en route and combat footage of the bombs dropping and exploding on Schmidtheim. It was all filmed from my dad's Mitchell B25 and it felt strange to think he must've been close by, somewhere behind the camera.
I have now added a short clip from the film footage on our website so go and have a look. Be careful – it's a time portal that, for a few brief seconds, will carry you back to 180 squadron, 1944.