Bob Cowper - A fairly shakey do

Running time
3 min 32 sec

Department of Veterans' Affairs


The Battle of Sicily was on, invasion of Sicily - and we were flying at night. One night up there – we'd already been shooting at trains and one thing or another – but we got up there that night and we got in a stream of bombers that were dropping bombs on Sicily and some of them were landing in the sea, and we noticed a hospital ship down there with a cross on it all lit up, and we didn't not take much notice of it at the time - but something we took notice of – and then we got behind a Junkers 88 and I fired at him and the first of our canon shells hit a bomb – or a bomb or – they were dropping land mines as well – dropping a bomb or a mine on board – and the whole world blew up – the enemy aircraft just vanished in dust and we were in a ball of fire – we were right in the middle of it.

Our aircraft was all badly damaged and we knew that – but I stayed just long enough to try and see if I could make it fly, and found nothing worked – and then I decided I'd netter open my hatch so we could bail out – and my observer in a Beaufighter sat at a seat further back in the aircraft – and he was singing out "bail out, bail out."

The next thing he called to me is "I can't the handle of my escape hatch." So I said to him "well you better come and jump out of mine." I thought that was the best advice I could give him under the circumstances – but mine was open and I was trying to get out of it myself – and in a Beaufighter you put your hands up – and your parachute and your legs are sitting in the seat and you got to lift your bum out of the seat and drop through this hole behind you.

Well I started to take my hands off and it went into a spin and the G force was so strong I could feel I wasn't going be able to - I couldn't lift my bum out of the seat – I could feel my hands being torn off – and I knew the instant when all of this was going on – I thought "you thought you were going to die sometime or other and this is it."

Then everything all went quite – that's the last I remember – when my hands were torn off – and that was the end of my life. Except the weight of the top half of my body was heavy enough to tip over and bring my bum out – and I hit my head and broke my nose and god knows what and blood was everywhere – and the next time I came too I was floating in the air – so I put my hand down to see if the parachute was there – and I pulled the parachute and I just got it opened and I landed in the water at about the same time as our aircraft. So I don't know how long I floated before but I had been any longer I would have just hit the water. So I could call that 'a fairly shaky do.'

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