Jack Bell - Shot down by Panzers

Running time
2 min 56 sec
Date made
Department of Veterans' Affairs


Actually that was on the 23 January, my friend and I, Tony Carter, we were spare crew and we were put into this aircraft to do this trip. Now what it was supposed to be, because the Germans were attacking, the British headquarters near this funny little town called Msus, needed to be evacuated and we were flying up spare pilots, and a doctor and medical equipment up but being things as they were the British intelligence was two days behind.

Now we used to fly in behind enemy lines but it wasn't as if we were in any danger at all, it was such a huge area you could drop in and do that but when you're flying at 3000 feet and you are over the mountain range, escarpment as they called it, we came down through the cloud bank at a thousand feet to come into this town, this little landing field at Msus and unbeknownst to us, of course, there's a section of the 15th Panzer Division coming up the escarpment to go to Benghazi and, of course, here we are at a thousand feet just lumbering at 112 mile an hour which was our average speed and here's 24 tanks coming up the hill like that and boof and away she went.

Well shrapnel killed my friend Tony. The first pilot lost his left leg, that's right. A pilot we were carrying in the back lost an arm and the second pilot didn't get a scratch. I got shrapnel, because I was protected by the transmitter radio, I got shrapnel up my legs, through my belly, up that arm, like that, and I would say it was ground fire but the second pilot, he absolutely, he said 'No. A tank shot us down. It was a tank that shot us down not ground fire.' So I got the reputation in prisoner camp as the only plane that was shot down by a tank. I can't say if that was right or wrong but I think it was ground fire myself.

We went down, the second pilot landed, we were in flames. I'll never forget it. I put my hand on the exit door, the door had been opened by the fitter and rigger, and it burnt so badly that I didn't even feel it. So I dropped down to the ground which was probably about 12 or 13 feet and I was bleeding, of course, and the second pilot called out 'Jack, can you help me with the first pilot?'

There's an escape hatch in the front and he had opened that and I stood there and he was lowering him down, of course, to catch him but I didn't realise how injured I was so I caught him and, of course, I fell to the ground and he landed on top of me but that was fine.

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