Thursday, January 17, 2013

When you look up "tough guy . . ."

By Donald Sensing

... William Reid's photo will be next to the entry.

Lt. William Reid 
RAF Flight Lt. William Reid was the lone pilot of an Avro Lancaster on the way to Dusseldorf with a load of bombs on the night of November 3, 1943. Barely halfway to the target and just past the Dutch coast, Reid took a burst through his windscreen from a Messerschmitt Me-110G night fighter and was hit in the shoulders and hands, his head raked by splinters of sharp Perspex. The attack had also damaged the elevator trim and left the Lanc without compasses. A lesser man would have done a 180 and headed home, but Reid soldiered on. (Unlike U.S. heavy bombers, Lancasters were single-pilot airplanes without dual controls. The flight engineer sat where a copilot normally would, on a seat that folded to provide access to the bombardier's compartment.) 
A Focke Wulf Fw-190 "Wilde Sau" night fighter found them soon thereafter and did worse damage, killing the navigator, mortally wounding the radio operator and disabling the airplane's oxygen system. Reid was hit again, but the flight engineer, despite a bullet through one arm, was able to bring him a portable O2 bottle. They were still nearly an hour from the target, but Reid managed to dead-reckon to Dusseldorf so precisely that the automatic strike camera later showed their bombs dead on target. Only the engineer was aware of how grievously wounded the pilot was; Reid had said nothing on the intercom. 
Weak from spilled blood, Reid set a course for home by the North Star and the moon. The oxygen bottle was empty, and the shattered windscreen bathed him in a 215-mph blast of bitter November air. Somehow the flight engineer helped to keep the semi-controllable Lanc on course, through the inevitable flak barrages along the Dutch coast and across the North Sea to the flatlands of Norfolk. With the USAAF base at Shipdham in sight, a tenacious Reid, blood from his freshly opened head wounds obscuring his vision, was roused to make the night landing between two rows of runway lights barely glimmering through ground fog. The Avro settled to earth heavily but safely even though the damaged legs of the one main gear gave way. 
For his airmanship, courage and devotion to duty, Bill Reid was awarded the Victoria Cross.
William Reid died in 2001 at age 79. Much more information here, including,
After a period in hospital, Reid went to C Flight, 617 (Dambuster) Squadron at RAF Woodhall Spa in January 1944.  During a raid on a V-weapon storage dump at Rilly-la-Montagne, near Rheims, Reid’s aircraft shudder was hit by a bomb dropped by another Lancaster 6,000 ft above. The bomb ploughed through his plane’s fuselage, severing all control cables and fatally weakening its structure, and Reid gave the order to bail out. Reid managed to escape just as the Lancaster broke in two. He landed heavily by parachute, breaking his arm in the fall, he was shortly after captured by a German patrol and he ended the war in Stalag III-A prisoner of war camp at Luckenwalde, west of Berlin.

After the war Reid became an agricultural adviser.
Many more incredible stories at the first link, which is to a compendium of history's most incredible aircraft crash landings. Most are not military.

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