Their courage should never be forgotten
THIS summer has brought back many memories for Gordon Mellor.
In his role as president of Elsham Wolds Association, he and the association's chairman Ken Duddell were present for the unveiling of the Bomber Command Memorial in London.
This month there has been a second visit to the capital where he addressed an audience of 5,000 people – and millions watching on television – at the Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance.
Flt Sgt Mellor's story of heroism is modestly told 70 years on by a man with a wonderful lively mind, who now lives in Wembley, near his son.
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He was one of the many brave men who flew from the airfields of the Wolds-Binbrook, Goxhill, Ludford, Wickeby, Kirmington and, of course, Elsham Wolds.
His story of what happened on that October raid in 1942 and in the weeks following, is a remarkable one of great courage in the service of his country.
On his 17th trip over occupied Europe, Mr Mellor's Halifax aircraft came under attack and he was hit by an enemy fighter.
He baled out and, on landing, was lucky enough to have been helped by friendly Belgium and French people to escape to safety.
He was one of the lucky few, for 55,573 men of Bomber Command left airfields in the UK during the Second World War and never returned. Among them were 1,300 men from the key Elsham Wolds base.
Mr Mellor, who flew as part of 103 Squadron, said: "It was the night of October 5. A Messerschmitt that was faster than our Halifax hit us and we caught fire. We were approaching the Ruhr and we baled out.
"It was a nerve-wracking experience.We did as we were told by the pilot and it was not long before I was down and hanging in a tree. I got away from the area and could see our plane on fire."
On the run in an occupied country, one night Gordon was caught in a thunderstorm and took his chances by knocking on a door.
Luckily, the family were sympathetic – inviting him in and helping him to escape – a kindness he says he will never forget.
He said: "I was so lucky. The family said they had connections and would help me."
Even with their help, his journey was long and fraught with danger.
He narrowly evaded some German soldiers on a train but, finally, after making his way across Belgium and France, he crossed into the foothills of the Pyrenees and to safety.
He said: "By that time, I was with another RAF sergeant, a Canadian officer, a Russian airman and a guide.
"We crossed a river and knew we were in Spain. It was a great moment. From there it was on to Gibraltar and a flight back to the UK."
Speaking at the Royal Albert Hall event, BBC newsreader and presenter of the evening's festivities Huw Edwards said: "Tonight we pay special tribute to the brave men of Bomber Command."
So many of these men were from Lincolnshire airfields and we, like Mr Mellor – who returns to our area every year to lay a wreath at the foot of the Elsham Wolds Memorial – should never forget their courage.