Purpose of this blog

Dmitry Yudo aka Overlord, jack of all trades
David Lister aka Listy, Freelancer and Volunteer

Sunday, April 4, 2021


 Between 2130 and 2145 the airfield at RAF Metheringham reverberated to the sound of hundreds of Merlin engines. One by one the Lancaster's of Bomber Command lifted into the dark sky. Their target for tonight was Schweinfurt, the location of the infamous ball bearing plants that the Americans had so disastrously failed to smash the previous October. Now on the night of 26th April 1944, the RAF were to have another crack at the target. Previous attacks by the RAF had met with little success, and Harris had avoided the target until he was forced to do so. Now there was a stream of bombers in the air heading to the German city again. 

A Lancaster getting Bombed up at RAF Metheringham

One of the Lancaster's in that stream was registration ZN-O of 196 Squadron, flown by the Canadian Flying Officer Frederick Manuel Mifflin. This was his 30th mission, and thus the completion of his tour of duty. The same applied to the rest of his crew, who had been together since training, with one exception. Sergeant Norman Cyril Jackson had been part of the crew from the start, however, this was his 31st mission, as he had acted as a replacement flight engineer on a different aircraft two days earlier. Despite receiving a telegram that morning saying he had become a father, he decided to remain with his crew and fly an extra mission.

F/O Mifflin

The mission was a disaster. There was a strong wind that scattered the Pathfinder’s markers. Equally, there was a fault in the master bomber’s radio, so that he could not control, or guide in the bombing. It was also a full moon, without any real cloud, so the bombers were sitting ducks. After ZN-O released its bombs, she made a climbing turn from 21,500ft heading to 22,000ft, and headed for her base. It was at this point disaster struck. A FW-190 night fighter came hurtling in and strafed the aircraft. Sgt Jackson was knocked over by a blow, as he was wounded by shrapnel in the shoulder and leg. Worse still the attack had started a fire in the starboard wing between the inner engine and the fuselage, right above a fuel tank. If it reached the fuel tank the Lancaster would become a fireball. 

Z-NO in flight on an earlier mission.

Sgt Jackson volunteered to exit the plane by the escape hatch and tackle the fire with a handheld fire extinguisher. Wounded, and in the 200mph slipstream it was almost certain that he would be unable to regain the inside of the aircraft. Even so, he tucked a fire extinguisher into his life jacket and began to clamber out of the escape hatch. As he was exiting his parachute rip cord caught and the parachute deployed inside the cockpit. This would mean that if he fell off the plane the parachute may not deploy properly, or it may become tangled on the aircraft, either outcome would likely lead to his death. Keep in mind that he knew he was unlikely to be able to re-enter the aircraft. Several of the crew attempted to control the parachute inside the cabin, and even use it as a sort of safety line as Sgt Jackson edged to safety.

Suddenly the plane gave a lurch and Sgt Jackson slipped, he fell down the side of the plane, hitting the wing. He managed to grasp onto an opening in the leading edge of the wing, however, the impact caused the fire extinguisher bottle to fall out and disappear into Germany. He was lying in the fire, so he beat at it with his gloved hands futilely.

On fire and getting badly burnt with no means of tackling the blaze, Sgt Jackson lost his grip and was swept through the fire. However, the crew inside did not realise what had happened for a few critical moments. Thus, Sgt Jackson was dragged behind the aircraft in its slipstream, while the parachute was in the fire. Realising the danger, the crew had no choice but to let the parachute out as well they could. Sgt Jackson was seen to tumble away from the Lancaster, his parachute partially inflated, and on fire.

Sgt Jackson

On board the plane, F/O Mifflin realised their plane was doomed and ordered the crew to abandon the aircraft. Both F/O Millfin and the rear gunner (Flight-Sergeant Norman Johnson) died in the attempt to bail out, although the rest of the crew made a safe landing.

Sgt Jackson smashed into the ground heavily, there was just enough of his parachute left to keep him alive, although two thirds of it was burnt. He did break his ankle in the impact. The next morning, he crawled some distance and found a German house, whereupon the man who answered the door started yelling about a ‘Churchill Gangster!’. Despite this Sgt Johnson was taken prisoner and spent 10 months in hospital before being sent to Stalag IXC at Mühlhausen. Sgt Jackson attempted to escape at least once, before being recaptured. Some sources talk about a successful second attempt, others that he was still at the camp when it was liberated by the Americans. For his actions Jackson was awarded the VC. After the war he became a travelling salesman of Haig Whiskey, although his hands were permanently and badly scared from the burns received. He would eventually die in 1994. 


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Credits & Sources:

www.backtonormandy.org, www.abct.org.uk and www.findagrave.com