Andy Anderson - Under attack
After the Germans had left, had been pushed out of the western edge of France towards Paris the British intelligence came up with this rather odd request that we fly an aeroplane up the Gironde, that's the river north of Bordeaux, and have a look at the shipping there. Because the rumour was that the Germans were cutting a hole in the hull of fishing boats and dropping the fishing boat over conning tower of the U-boats. And the U-boat would then escape as a fishing boat. That was the rumour.
I mean it sounds almost fantastic, but that's what they said was happening. And they'd like us to fly up that year-round, have a look at the docks and let them know if I could find anything suspicious. I mean, what a stupid thing to ... So, we said, "Look why don't you just send a mosquito over at altitude and take a photograph?" So they said there's no problem "The Free French have taken it over. You won't have any problems at all".
So we flew across the bay down the Gironde and we poked our nose in and nothing happened and we were quite cautious. We poked our nose in a bit further and nothing happened, so we thought, "Oh, perhaps they're right." And then we flew at 2000 feet straight and level, beautiful morning, up the Gironde.
Now, these German gunners must've been sitting there thinking, "How stupid can this slow, lumbering ... All by itself, there's no danger for us because it's over the water so what are they going to drop bombs on?" So they must have just sat there with their fingers on the trigger, waiting. Then we went further up and further until we took all the photographs we needed and then just as we dipped the wing to come out, oh, all hell broke loose. Anyway, we dropped down onto the water and zigzagged and, you know, you can make an airplane appear as though it's going in one direction when it's actually going in the other.
And you do that by applying an aileron where the aircraft is due to turn, but stopping the turn by using full opposite rudder, and therefore the aircraft is pointing this way, but it's moving that way. And this, I hoped, confused some of the gunners because great spouts of water were ...
And we could smell the cordite, it was black, you know. Anyway, we got out. And of course, eventually, the squadron received an apology from British intelligence. It said, "Well, we were a bit forward in our forecast. The Free French, in fact, haven't taken Bordeaux yet." And they never did. I think the British did it.