Home' Air Force News : July 19th 2012 Contents July 19, 2012
Bomber Command Commemorative Mission
ROBERT Chester-Master was
a rear gunner with 514SQN
of Bomber Command during
He left Australia in 1943 and the
next year flew 12½ missions over
Europe, working in the cramped con-
fines of the rear gunner's station of a
"People wonder how I did half
a mission, but it was because after
bombing the target my aircraft got
shot down over Belgium behind
enemy lines," Mr Chester-Master
said.At 1pm on August 13, 1944, he
bailed out of his crippled Lancaster at
1000ft and landed awkwardly, frac-
turing his left ankle.
Then began his efforts to evade
capture and get back to Britain with a
little help from the French Resistance.
"I landed at a farm and spent the
first night in a haystack, not being
able to move anywhere," he said.
"When I woke up I could hear
church bells ringing so I knew I
wasn't far from a town."
The next day a local farmer found
Mr Chester-Master and offered to get
him medical assistance.
"He spoke as much English as I
did Flemish, which was absolutely
nothing, but by gesticulating I worked
out he wanted to tell the Germans I
was there and needed medical atten-
tion," he said.
"But me being a brash 19-year-old
I told him, through gesticulating back,
what he could do with that idea."
The farmer finally understood
what he wanted and assisted him to
the forest to hide.
"I was there for two nights and
eventually some food and water was
left at the edge of the forest for me,"
"I realised the farmer was a good
man and a short time later two men
came to help me.
"One of them was a mountain of
a man and picked up, put me on his
shoulders and carried me to another
clearing in the forest."
Upon reaching the clearing Mr
Chester-Master saw something which
at the time was a little peculiar, espe-
cially considering he had a bad ankle.
"I counted three push bikes and
then thought how the hell was I going
to ride one of those?" he said.
"But in those days, because the
wheels and pedals were fixed, they
could strap my injured foot to the
"We set off with my left leg dan-
gling though the country tracks until
we got to a farm house, which was
my first safe house."
Mr Chester-Master spent three-
and-a-half weeks living in the loft
during the day, only coming down-
stairs at night.
A group within the Resistance
eventually took him to an apartment
in Brussels, where he met up with
someone he had flown with.
"They had the bomb aimer from
my aircraft there and luckily he knew
a bit of French and I could speak to
them through him," he said.
"As the Allies were advancing, the
Resistance decided we should travel
back to Britain via an escape route
through France and Spain."
Mr Chester-Master and his col-
ALBERT Wallace was a Lancaster
mid-upper gunner in 467SQN during
From 1942 he flew 21 missions
and spent between 400-500 hours in
He recalled one mission where
he nearly lost his life on February 8,
"We were flying to a place called
Stettin and I noticed a German JU-88
come up beside us between the tar-
get," he said.
"If he'd been in the right position
I could've shot him down, but he was
too close to us, just 200 metres away.
"Then he went under us and used
his vertical-firing canon on us, which
was up towards me.
"The rounds came close to me and
exploded my parachute, setting it on
fire, which then burst the hydraulic
pipes going to the rear turret, setting
them alight, too."
About 2000 rounds of ammunition
began to explode, which set the back
half of the aircraft alight. Finally the
pilot asked the wireless operator to go
back to see what he could do.
"He had one extinguisher with him
and put out the fire near me so I could
get out and help," Mr Wallace said.
"The rear gunner couldn't get out
because his hydraulics didn't work
and couldn't fire his guns, as his
ammunition was used up, too."
The fire continued to burn and
could be seen trailing to about 300
feet behind the aircraft.
The wireless operator and bomb
aimer managed to put most of the fire
out, but to finish it off, an unorthodox
decision was made involving every
member of the crew.
"We all went back and we took it in
turns to piss on the smouldering fire,"
Mr Wallace said.
"Uric acid was good for putting
A fella from Tasmania wa
Even though the fire w
crew still had five hours t
the damaged aircraft befo
made it home.
"We headed towards S
to try and crash land ther
the sea, but the pilot said
'we aren't going to bail ou
leave Albert in the aircraft
his own without a parach
"I agreed with that."
The rear gunner event
ally got out of his station
and the crew dropped the
bombs on a target, a heav
protected oil refinery at P
before making its way ba
Waddington in England, a
FIRE AND FRIENDSHI
A rear gunner shot down behind
enemy lines escaped capture with
the help of the Resistance, writes
SGT Andrew Hetherington.
league followed the plan, although,
after reaching the northern part of
France, they had to return to Brussels
when they found the escape route had
They then tried to enter into
Switzerland, but once again had to
"When the Brits came into
Brussels they used the public address
system the Germans put up through
the country to call out to any Allied
personnel in hiding to report to the
Hotel Metropole," he said.
"I went and they sent me back to
Britain in late September of 1944."
After medical examinations and
questioning by intelligence personnel,
he was given the option to be sent on
leave or sent home to Australia.
"I wanted to be sent back to the
squadron to either re-crew or do some
instructing in Britain, but they said
I was to go home," he said. "When I
got back in February, and through to
December 1945, I was given the job
as 2IC of a transport and movements
office in Brisbane."
He was discharged from the Air
Force in December 1945 and finished
the war as a flying officer.
Even after his narrow escape he
continued to praise the members of
the Resistance who gave him back his
"I still talk about the courage and
bravery of members of the Resistance
because they gave me a second life,"
"What I do now is celebrate two
birthdays a year, my normal birthday
on November 30 and on August
celebrate my second life becaus
THE uniform Robert Chester-
Master wore to all the Bomber
Command functions in London
during June also had a story of
"I handed it in at the end of
the war and I was recalled to
service in 1948 during the Cold
War and was retrained on Avro
Lincoln bombers," he said.
"Strangely enough, maybe
because of my height, I was
issued an old uniform and when I
put it on I realised it was the one
I'd handed in back in 1945.
"They'd changed the black
buttons to gold ones and I knew
it was my uniform as there was
a mark I recognised inside it and
when I put it on it fitted perfectly."
Mr Chester-Master still wears
the uniform in Brisbane when he
attends functions with aircrew
associations and Air Force cadets.
After being asked how he
managed to do up the buttons
after more than 60 years, he
said: "I've been able to do it
due to what I call the three Ds --
delightful, delicious, dieting," he
s the best
was out the
'I still talk about
of members of
because they gave
me a second life.
-- Former rear gunner Robert
VIVID MEMORIES: LAC Dallas Powell, of AFG, stands with Bomber
Command veteran Robert Chester-Master at the Air Forces Memorial in
Photo: CPL Chris Moore
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