Former Lancaster pilot Tony Bird has some remarkable tales to tell about his time with 61 Squadron during the Battle of Berlin in World War II and in particular recalls two occasions when he miraculously survived against the odds.
The first incident led to his being awarded a DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross) for flying his badly-damaged Lancaster back to England following a night raid on Berlin despite being badly injured himself and without either a navigator or co-pilot, both of whom had baled out over Germany in the belief that their aircraft was about to crash.
A year later, in 1944, after many more eventful sorties over enemy territory, his wartime flying career came to an abrupt end when his aircraft exploded in mid-air over Germany ~ almost certainly a victim of Schräge Musik ~ the deadly upward-firing cannon mounted in Luftwaffe night fighters to take advantage of the ‘blind spot’ beneath the Lancaster.
Remarkably, he survived and spent the remainder of the war as a POW at Stalag Luft III -- an ordeal about which he also has many interesting recollections.
His experiences, related with modesty and humour, make for fascinating reading.