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May 12, 2011
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KENNETH Giles, who turned
100 on April 28, knows what
it's like to fly a crippled
aircraft with five tons of high
explosive under his feet.
He did that in 1943 in a Lancaster
bomber and he and all his crew lived
to tell the tale.
Later, he was awarded a
Distinguished Flying Medal by King
Former FLTLT Giles, who took
part in this year's Anzac Day march
in Adelaide, was a member of
460SQN RAAF in WWII.
He flew 30 missions, including in
the iconic 'G for George', which is
now at the Australian War Memorial.
"When I arrived at 460SQN, it
had just become a Lancaster squadron
comprising many Australians, who
were held in very high esteem by the
British people," Mr Giles said.
"It was a great squadron to operate
He enlisted in the RAAF on April
"The war was a necessary evil and
unfortunately many lives were lost,
but Hitler's dominance in Europe had
to be stopped," he said.
On the night of April 3, 1943,
the then SGT Giles joined a 348-air-
craft raid on the Krupp works at the
German city of Essen. The crews
called Essen Happy Valley because of
its strong anti-aircraft defences.
The aircraft carried five tons of
bombs, including a 4000lb 'Cookie'.
The mission proceeded without
incident until the aircraft steadied on
its bombing run.
"There was a terrific noise like a
sledgehammer. Tracer bullets were
flying up in front of us with hits up
When King George VI presented
SGT Giles with the Distinguished
Flying Medal at Buckingham
Palace in London on August 17,
1943, the banter led to a long-
SGT Giles was presented to
King George VI by squadron CO
WGCDR Chad Martin, who told
the king about the incident and
pointed out that the bomb load
included a 4000lb 'Cookie' bomb.
His Majesty asked SGT Giles:
"Was the bomb any good after
This resulted in a joke in the
squadron that from then on crews
flying with the bomb were to "take
care of George Rex's bomb".
through the tail, the wing, and the left
port engine," FLTLT Giles later said.
"I knew it was a fighter, so I broke
away (from the bomb run)."
As well as flak, Essen was
protected by the 1st Night Fighter
Wing (NJG1), which flew the
Messerschmitt Me-110 fighter.
The engine exploded into flame,
and the aircraft was lit up with search-
"We must have looked like a moth
in the light," Mr Giles said.
To make things more difficult, the
gunfire had destroyed the rudder trim
tabs, meaning SGT Giles had to keep
the aircraft flying straight by putting
his entire weight on the rudder bar.
He turned back to the bomb run. Now,
the crew discovered that the bomb bay
doors would not open; another round
had pierced the hydraulic pipeline that
operated the doors and the oil had run
out.Also, the hand pump would not
SGT Giles told the crew to pour
their coffee down the pipe and then the
contents of the urinal in the hope that
would work; it didn't and he realised
they would have to abort the mission.
"I told the boys: 'Well, we offered
them a cookie and coffee. At least we
peed on them; let's go home'."
As the battered Lancaster headed
home, SGT Giles discovered another
round had punctured the port main
If he landed, the aircraft would
probably ground-loop, with the very
real danger of the bombs exploding
As they neared the aerodrome,
SGT Giles told his crew to bale but
they refused to leave him.
Then, for the next 90 minutes he
circled the field while options to get
him down were considered.
The command suggested he fly
back to the coast and bale out; how-
ever, SGT Giles pointed out that as
soon as he took his foot off the rud-
der bar, the aircraft would probably
swing around and crash in England.
Finally, he lined up for a landing.
As he touched down, the wheel col-
lapsed and the aircraft ground-looped.
The bomb bay doors burst open
but the bombs stayed in place.
GERMAN TARGETS: Former FLTLT Kenneth Giles' Lancaster went on a
bombing raid to Essen.
NEARING HIS CENTURY: Above, Kenneth
Giles enjoys this year's Anzac Day parade in
Adelaide, three days before his birthday.
Photos courtesy of Monique Fitjer
FLASHBACK TO WWII: left, in uniform; right,
with his Lancaster crew (Mr Giles is the first on
the left). His crew refused to bale out and leave
him even though the aircraft carried five tons of
bombs, including a 4000lb 'Cookie'.
Careful does it
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