“Germany Surrenders”: VE Day
This has been an opportunity for those of us who work for History off the Page to remember our relatives who lived during the Second World War. This is the true story of one of them. He was the uncle of our Managing Director, and his name was Michael Wingham.
Service in the RAF
‘Seventy-nine years ago, one of my mum’s older brothers signed up with the Royal Air Force. Mike (the man on the right in the photos above and to the right) began training as an observer/navigator. The entry in his logbook shows that he was at first considered to be an ‘average’ student. In fact, all of the initial entries in his logbook describe his ability as average.
‘By 1944 Mike had accumulated nearly 450 hours in the air on duty and had now been posted to serve in southern Italy. He was by now considered to be one of the best radio operators around and had formed an almost telepathic relationship with his pilot, Flying Officer Tim Reynolds. Tim is the man with his arms folded in the first photo. They flew together as the two man crew of an aircraft called the Bristol Beaufighter. One particular night, they were to discover just how strong and well-built this type of aircraft was.
A Near Disaster
‘On May 30th 1944 Mike and Tim had been sent up by their RAF controller to look for a German aircraft that had been flying overhead at night, taking photos of Royal Navy ships in the nearby harbour. When they were flying at 24,000 feet (that’s over 7000 metres up) they were told by their controller that an enemy aircraft was below them, so Tim dived down towards it. Mike picked up a signal from his radar and so they continued downwards, almost vertically.
‘At 10,000 feet now and flying at 300mph, Mike realised that they were going too fast and would fly past their target. He called out to Tim to slow the aircraft down. It was a moonlit night and Tim next saw the moonlight reflecting off the sea below. It seemed that they would soon crash into the sea so Tim did all he could to slow down the Beaufighter so that they could pull out of the dive. He cut the engines to minimum power and dropped the undercarriage so that the air resistance would slow the aircraft down further.
‘The rushing air ripped the undercarriage doors off the aircraft and the Adriatic Sea was still approaching. Tim wedged his feet against the front of the cockpit and pulled back using both arms (and all of his strength) on the joystick. The Beaufighter pulled out of the dive just in time, skimming the top of the sea before climbing back up in to the air. Tim and Mike had survived – just.
‘On 8th May 1945 Mike wrote in his logbook: ‘Germany surrenders’. I often wonder how he must have felt when he wrote those two words that day. The rest of Mike’s logbook is empty. Mike’s war ended on V.E. Day 1945.
‘For Courage and Devotion’
‘Some months later, an envelope arrived at Mike’s house, containing a letter headed ‘Buckingham Palace’ in red; it was from King George VI and told Mike that he was to be presented with the Distinguished Flying Cross, awarded for courage and devotion to duty whilst flying. Inside the box was Mike’s DFC.
‘As we remember those who served during World War Two, I remember Michael Wingham. Thanks, Uncle Mike.’