War hero features in book

John Watson
John Watson

The memories of a war veteran from Willingdon have been published in a book to capture the events of a fateful night where hundreds of men lost their lives.

John Watson, known as Jack, survived the events of March 30, 1944, but sadly other men from the Royal Air Force Bomber Command were not so lucky, more dying during that one night of World War Two than the total RAF losses during the whole of the four-month long Battle of Britain.

The great grandfather’s account of that fateful night has been told to author John Nichol, along with other war veterans, for his book The Red Line – The Gripping Story of the RAF’s Bloodiest Raid on Hitler’s Germany. He himself is a former RAF Flight Lieutenant whose Tornado Bomber was shot down on a mission over Iraq during the first Gulf War in 1991. He was captured, tortured and held as a prisoner of war.

Mr Watson, 89, joined the Royal Air Force as a flight mechanic but during the evening where 795 aircraft set out for Nuremburg he was a flight engineer and had the responsibility of aiming bombs. The raid was a plan to being the war to an end.

The great grandfather, who was in 156 Squadron, said, “The whole night was a disaster, it was a clear night and people were leaving condensation trails.

“We were very fortunate that night and got there without any problems at all.”

The 89-year-old, who has written a book called Four Amazing Years about his time in the RAF, added, “We were concentrating on the bombing run and concentrating on getting it right and you were oblivious to everything else. We didn’t know about the loss until we got back.”

In total out of the 20 aircraft from 156 Squadron, four did not return.

Mr Nichol, who spent around two years putting the book together, said he wanted to remind people what the men went through, adding, “My own experience was horrific but only lasted seven weeks.

“I’ve been following the ex-Bomber veterans for years now, their experience was horrific for five years and people seem to have forgotten that.”