Thursday, September 29, 2005

Good-bye Mrs Miniver's Bomber

The RAF loses another of its World War II heroes:

Dudley Henderson Burnside was born on January 26 1912 at Woodford, Essex. He was educated at King Edward VI School, Bury St Edmunds. Aged 17, he enlisted in the Territorial Army and served as a private soldier with the 14th London Regiment for six years before joining the RAF in October 1935 to train as a pilot. ....

In November 1942, Burnside was promoted to wing commander and appointed to form and command a new Canadian Wellington squadron, No 427, based in north Yorkshire. He attacked many industrial targets during the so-called Battle of the Ruhr.

On the night of March 5 he was sent to bomb Essen, and his aircraft was hit by flak before reaching the target. The navigator, who was standing beside Burnside, was killed; the wireless operator had a foot blown off. The aircraft controls were damaged and fumes quickly filled the cockpit.

Burnside decided to press on, and he successfully bombed the target despite being illuminated by searchlights. On the return flight, night fighters attacked the Wellington, but Burnside's evasive action and the fire by his gunner shook them off. With limited control, he flew the badly-damaged bomber back to base, where he made an emergency landing at an airfield in Suffolk.

For his outstanding airmanship and courage, he was awarded a Bar to his DFC. Two of his crew also received DFCs, and the wireless operator was awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal.
Shortly after his squadron converted to the Halifax bomber, Burnside was attacked five times by different aircraft during a raid on M√ľnchen-Gladbach.

On May 24 1943 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer adopted No 427 and allowed the names of stars such as Lana Turner, Greer Garson and Joan Crawford to be displayed on the aircraft. In recognition of this association, No 427 adopted the name "Lion Squadron", a title which persists to this day.

....In October 1944 Burnside ... assumed command of No 195 Squadron, flying Lancaster bombers. He led it on many night and daylight bombing raids over Germany in the lead up to VE Day. Returning from Gelsenkirchen, his Lancaster was badly damaged and set on fire, and he was forced to make an emergency landing on three engines at Brussels airport. He was awarded the DSO.

Burnside ... took command in early 1949 of the RAF base at Koggala in Ceylon, where his squadrons flew air-sea rescue and reconnaissance sorties over the Indian Ocean. On the closure of the base a year later, he took command of the Far East Flying Boat Wing at Seletar, in Singapore.

The Wing's Sunderlands flew anti-terrorist patrols around Malaya before providing detachments at Iwakuni in Japan during the Korean War. Burnside commanded the units, which flew anti-shipping and coastal patrols off Korean waters. For his services with the Wing during the conflict, Burnside was appointed OBE.

After completing a familiarisation course on jet aircraft, Burnside assumed command of RAF Hemswell in Lincolnshire, the home of two Canberra bomber squadrons. The filming of The Dam Busters took place during his time there. After two years he took up an appointment at the Headquarters of the Allied Air Forces Central Europe (AAFCE) at Fontainebleau. In 1959 he was the Deputy Director of Organisation at the Air Ministry, retiring from the RAF in 1962 with the rank of group captain.

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