By the 12th of July 1944, our skipper had been promoted to Flying Officer and had been out celebrating in the Officers Mess with fellow officers who had been promoted until well into the early hours of the morning.
When called out for an operation he was still the worse for wear. We thought he would back out. This had us all worried, as crews were very superstitious, and for a pilot to back out was seen as a very bad omen
Luckily we all manned the aircraft and took off with no incident. Once over the coast, the pilot whispered in my ear that he needed to sleep off the night before and asked would I take over the controls.
I had taken over the controls before, but only on cross-country practice, never on a night's operation.
I was a bit shocked, but said ok and agreed.
The pilot said it would be ok, just keep an eye on the instruments, listen to the navigator and change course when he said.
I was to wake the pilot to take over the controls when we came back over the English Channel. He would then handle the landing.
I somehow managed ok and was quite proud of myself.
When the bomb aimer was giving his instructions over the target, left, left right, keep it steady and bombs away. I was actually quite thrilled.
Luckily there was no incidents, we were not called upon to carry out any evasion tactics, such as a corkscrew.
Once over the channel, I woke the skipper and he took over the controls and we landed safely back at base.
I had done about seven and a half hours out of the eight and a half hours flying time.
This was our 23rd operation, 8 hours and 25 minutes.