Veteran Blog

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John Oliver (Jo) Lancaster DFC had a remarkable career in aviation spanning half a century. Starting out in 1935 as an engineering apprentice with Armstrong Whitworth Jo went on to fly an extraordinary 54 operations against the enemy during the Second World War, piloting Vickers Wellingtons and Avro Lancasters with RAF Bomber Command’s 40 and 12 Squadrons. Jo also took part in the ‘Thousand Bomber Raids’ in 1942 while an instructor at an operational training unit.

Subsequently Jo was posted to the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment at Boscombe Down, during which he flew a wide range of types, including captured German aircraft, and this was followed by training at the Empire Test Pilots’ School. Post-war Jo took up numerous appointments as a test pilot including duties with Boulton Paul and Saunders-Roe, where he test flew the revolutionary Saro S.R. A/1 single-seat jet flying boat fighter.

On 30 May 1949, while carrying out test pilot duties with Armstrong Whitworth, Jo was flying the A.W. 52 Flying Wing and became the first pilot to use a Martin-Baker ejection seat in an emergency. Retiring as a test pilot in 1962, Jo was later involved in aerial crop spraying in the Middle East before becoming Aviation Manager for Meridian Air Maps, carrying out aerial survey work from the West Indies to Central Africa and Portugal to Cyprus.

By retirement in 1984 Jo had accumulated 11,000 flying hours on some 150 different aircraft types. Author David Gunby, through extensive interviews and correspondence with Jo, and complimented with diligent archive research, has written a highly detailed account of this outstanding aviator. First Out In Earnest, featuring numerous previously unpublished photographs, is the remarkable account of a life dedicated to flying by one of the rapidly diminishing number of survivors from the golden age in British aviation.

Bomb Aimer – Wing Commander John Bell MBE, DFC. John served with No 619 Squadron from July 1943 to January 1944 and then with No. 617 Squadron through to August 1944. John completed 50 operations, which included 8 trips to Berlin and numerous attacks using ‘Tallboys’ on targets such as submarine pens and v-weapon sites.

Pilot – Flight Lieutenant George Dunn DFC. George flew 44 operations with Bomber Command, his first tour carried out during one of the most intense periods of the war – April to October 1943. Indeed his first operation as a second dickie with No. 10 Squadron was to Essen in April 1943. As pilot he flew Halifaxes with No. 76 Squadron, taking part in the outstanding and essential attack on the German secret weapon research station at Peenemünde. George then went on to fly Mosquitoes with No. 608 Squadron and No. 1409 Met Flight.

Russell (Rusty) Waughman DFC, AFC was posted to No. 101(Special Duties) Squadron at Ludford Magna, Lincolnshire in November 1943. As a Lancaster pilot he completed a full tour of operations, which included a number of trips to Berlin. Rusty survived a mid-air collision, a crash landing and on the fateful raid to Mailly-le-Camp in May 1944 his aircraft, over the target, was blown upside down. He also survived Bomber Command’s worst raid of the war, the attack on Nuremberg on 30/31 March 1944, when 95 aircraft failed to return including 7 from Rusty’s squadron.