Short Stirling LK386 battling through
Short Stirling Mk III LK386, OJ-O of 149 (East India) Squadron, is coned by searchlights and hit by another flak burst just after dropping mines off the Brittany Coast on the night of 23/24 June 1944. The flight engineer, Sgt Ronald Vivian French RAFVR, was wounded but kept on trying to keep the engines running because, as he put it later, that was his job.
The pilot, Pilot Officer Sidney Edward Lucas RAFVR, dived low to escape the Germans' attention and headed back to England. After regaining the south coast the crew headed for RAF Hartford Bridge (now Blackbushe) in Hampshire. On touchdown at 0357 the hydraulic brake pressure was insufficient to prevent the Stirling from running off the end of the runway, whereupon the undercarriage collapsed and the wreckage caught fire.
My piece was commissioned by Sgt French's son, who told me: "My father was so badly injured – in fact I have a piece of the shrapnel that they took out of my father that he passed on to me – that he could not get out of the burning aircraft, but the Wireless Operator dragged him through the aircraft and passed him down to the pilot and other members of the crew, which is how he survived."
For the night's heroism P/O Lucas received the Distinguished Flying Cross, Sgt French the Distinguished Flying Medal and the Wireless Operator, Flt Sgt Donald Houssemayne Du Boulay of the Royal Australian Air Force, received the British Empire Medal (Military Division).
The valiant LK386 was a Short S.29 Stirling Mk III, one of a batch of 200 Stirlings among those built by Austin Motors at the massive East Works at Longbridge, Birmingham.
There is more in this article I wrote about the picture: http://www.aerialcombat.co.uk/2016/08/strong-by-night-battling-short-stirling-lk386-1.html.