It was 69 years ago tonight…

On July 8, 1944, just a little after 1 a.m., Hauptmann Gerhard Raht’s Ju-88 came up from below the crew of LM 129, and the Luftwaffe pilot unleashed a barrage from his 20 mm cannons into the Lancaster.

The bullets tore through the aluminum skin of the four-engined bomber, setting the rear of the plane ablaze, and if not killing the rear gunner instantly, then surely sealing his death.

My grandfather, Flight Sgt. Jack Fisher, was the wireless operator aboard LM 129, flying out of RAF Spilsby as part of Bomber Command’s 207 Squadron. On that night in 1944, they had been tasked with bombing a V-1 storage depot the Germans had tucked into the limestone caverns near St. Leu D’Esserent in northern France.

A raid two nights previous had been unsuccessful, but on this night, the planes of Bomber Command were able to complete their assignment to block the entrances. It was with a heavy cost, however, as the RAF lost 37 planes – five of which were from 207 Squadron

bomber_croppedMy grandfather’s plane never made it t the target site, instead spiralling to the ground and crashing near a road that runs between Auvers Sur Oise and Hérouville (now known as Rue François Mitterrand).

My grandfather got out, as did the flight engineer, navigator, and bomb aimer; the bodies of the two gunners, Richard Seddon and John Marwood, and the pilot, Flying Officer Charlie Stamp, were found in a field a few days later. Stamp’s parachute was partially open, meaning he made it out of the plane, but was too close to the ground when he jumped (my grandfather had jumped at 18,000 feet). They are now buried at the communal cemetery at Auvers, along with a dedication to the people who assisted the four crewmen who survived, and recognized five townspeople who had been hauled off to the concentration camps by the Gestapo for their role in the funeral for the airmen. None of them returned.

My grandfather didn’t know what had been done to the local people for nearly 50 years.

My grandfather walked to a village near where he landed, northeast of the crash: Labbeville. There, a farmer bade him to sleep in a haystack for the night, and the next day he was hidden in a shed until later in the day when another man came with two bicycles to lead him to an Underground contact in Parmain. A few days later he was taken into Paris, where he stayed with several other airmen at the home of Yvonne Diximeir.

On Aug. 14, 1944, while he and several others were being transported to the south of France, to a camp for Allied airmen who were being funneled through Spain on their way back to England, when they were caught in the middle of a firefight between members of the resistance and a German secret police unit. After their capture – during which the airmen were nearly executed – they were taken back to Paris, interrogated, then distributed to the various prisoner-of-war camps; my grandfather ended up at a camp in Silesia, in what is now in the southwest corner of Poland.

Before war’s end, he and several thousand other POWs would be marched into the heart of Germany – some for a few days, and others, like my grandfather, for three weeks before they were loaded onto cattle cars for a POW camp outside of Luckenwalde.

So on this day, I remember the sacrifices of the crew of LM 129 – the three airmen who died in the crash, and the four who survived the war (three in prison camp, one was able to evade capture), including my grandfather who died in 2004.

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