The Slaugham Archives

Bomber Command crews prepare for an operation
The Slaugham Archive
Bomber Command crews prepare for an operation

The photograph shows various Bomber Command crews about to be driven to their aircraft for an operation. Although Tom Gallantry, the pilot of the Halifax bomber which destroyed High Beeches house, has added his signature it is not known if he appears in the photograph.
I am indebted to Clive Smith for his assistance in providing information to produce a list of the eight crew, all of who survived by baling out of the plane before it hit the ground. The detailed list can be seen by selecting Open Document.
It was a close call whether the Halifax would make the return journey back to Britain having been severely damaged by flak. The following is an account of this final flight of the Halifax DT492 as told by Flight Engineer Bill Middleton.
“In the raid on Stuttgart, an aileron was severed by ack-ack fire, which meant that the pilot, Tom Gallantry, (who found his name an embarrassment), could no longer maintain control of the aircraft. Rapid action was therefore required. The ailerons were wire ropes easily accessible from the fuselage. The ends could not simply be rejoined, because the aileron would then have been too short. Bill was quick-thinking, and saw that one of the box spanners from his toolbox would solve the problem. He chose one of appropriate length. The aileron ropes were made of thick steel wire. He threaded the broken ends of them through the holes in opposite ends of the box spanner and using brute force bent each one round into a loop, in order to secure it. Thus the box spanner bridged the gap between the two broken ends of the aileron. The repaired aileron was not exactly the length it should have been, but it enabled the pilot to regain control of the aircraft. The pilot then had to use his skills and all the physical strength he could muster all the way from Stuttgart to England. It was a consummate piece of flying. The aim was to reach the English coast. The pilot knew that he would not be able to land the plane, but for the crew to bale out over England was better than doing so over water or enemy-held territory. The plane steadily lost height, but Tom Gallantry did manage to bring her to the south coast of England, where the crew baled out. There were 7 in a Halifax crew, and all of them survived. However, with the plane in the state it was, it was impossible to try to guide it in any particular direction before abandoning it, and what really upset the crew later was to discover that the plane crashed on a remote farmhouse near Handcross in Sussex, killing two old ladies.”
There were normally seven crew in a Halifax, but on this occasion a second pilot was taken which increased the total crew to eight. Of course the plane did not crash on a remote farmhouse but on High Beeches house, and so far as I am aware three members of staff were killed, not two.

Open Document Open Document
Picture added on 05 February 2015 at 11:57
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High Beeches
I am informed by Clive that the photograph depicts 76 Squadron crews waiting around before an Op to Kassel, which took place on 22/23 October 1943 and that Tom Gallantry would probably have finished his tour somewhat earlier, perhaps April or May. Of course, one would have to check the Operational Record Book (ORB) again for October to make sure.
Added by Barry Ray on 10 February 2015
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