Usk ex-airman’s visit honours dead comrades
A FORMER airman on a Lancaster bomber who saw two of his crew killed when it was shot down in Germany 60 years ago returned to the country to honour his dead comrades.
Second World War veteran John Davies Jones, 88, left his Usk home in September for an emotional trip to visit the war cemetery in Durnbach where his former aircrew members were laid to rest.
Mr Jones was flying over German soil on September 12, 1944, on route to bomb a target in Frankfurt when his aircraft came under attack from a German fighter plane and crashed.
"We flew low level across France and when we got nearer, we climbed to bombing height, which was about 12,000 to 14,000 feet.
As we turned to bomb Frankfurt we were engaged and shot down by a German night fighter. He shot us from underneath and did a good job on us. We caught fire and we were descending rapidly so the skipper gave us the order to bail out with our parachutes.
"It was all very quick and everything happened in a split second. It’s a big aircraft.
“My initial duty was to put the fire out in the bomb bays. I thought I had stopped it but the order came to bailout. You’re up in the air, the plane is burning and you don’t know what could happen," he said.
Mr Jones was just 22 when the plane went down near the city of Mannheim killing Norman Overend, a 20-year-old New Zealander and Harry Beverton, the mid-upper gunner.
The war veteran landed on his own after the planed crashed and was hiding in the woods when he was captured by German soldiers and taken to the interrogation centre Dulag Luft.
“That’s where they try to break you to get information out of you. The only thing that you have to give is your number, rank and name - and that’s what you keep to. I was put in solitary confinement. They leave you in the cold, try and starve you and stop you from having sleep.
“They threatened me with my life during interview, you’re not allowed to talk to anybody and food and sleep weren’t regular at all,” he said.
Mr Jones was then taken to the Prisoner of War camp Stalag Luft VII in Bankau on the Polish/German border where he remained until the end of the war.
He had only been married a year and had seen his newborn baby daughter Mair once before he was captured.
Mr Jones remembers how daily life was monotonous but with some social activities like a Welsh club, choir and rugby.
Despite this, Mr Jones said looking for a way to escape was the order of every day and counts himself as "one of the lucky ones".
Ex-bomb-aimer got Lottery grant
Mr Jones joined the RAF as an apprentice in 1938 aged 16.
He had the role of bomb aimer onboard the Lancaster Bomber and flew in dangerous night missions over the occupied territories of Europe.
His main role was to guide the pilot and the aircraft into position over a target and release the bomb load.
Mr Jones recently paid his respects to his fallen comrades with the help of a £500 grant from the Big Lottery Fund's Heroes Return 2 programme.
This provides grants of between £150 and £5,500 to allow World War Two veterans to return to the battlefields and cemeteries across Europe.
Applications are accepted until January.
Call 0845 0000121 or see www.biglotteryfund.org.uk for more information.