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Lancaster bomber command
The story of World War II Bomber Command as told by Lancaster navigator, Tasmanian Max Sanders.

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Lancaster Bomber Command

Sanders DFC Out Of The Darkness

The Sunday Tasmanian - September 18, 2011

Amazing account of aerial warfare By Reg Watson

Tasmanian Max Sanders was only 19 when he joined the Canadian Bomber Command 419 Squadron in World War II, flying Lancasters over Germany as navigator.
It was a dangerous assignment for the seven member crews. Six out of every 10 airmen were killed. Airmen who survived 30 operations were usually stood down, but Sanders flew 31 missions and is still alive to tell his story.
Sanders, of Launceston, tells author Frank Madill, of his experiences - and it is an amazing tale of the tensions, risks, and drama of aerial warfare.
It is also amazing that the airmen were so young, The crew's captain, Andy was only 24.
Max was drafted into the RAAF and after training in Australia went to the UK. After more specific training, he was attached to the Canadian squadron, which included three Britons.
It was a tight-knit group, with Sanders saying, "The Canadian were a lot like Aussies, they didn't like saluting and all that sort of thing."
Bombing operations for Sanders and his crewmates began with Operation Overload, the huge D-Day Allied invasion of Europe on June 6, 1944.
Although the Lancaster bomber was massive, it was a tight fit inside, uncomfortable and freezing.
The bombing raids were sometimes short runs but when the squadron bombed cities, factories and military targets in Germany, they were up to 14 hours long. The formations were massive, with sometimes as many as 1250 bombers - at times escorted by fighters.
Madill handles the atmosphere well, describing the tension and fears of the crew before and during missions
For Sanders, the navigators job was difficult. He not only had to contend with the cold and being shot at, but also with the vibrations of the plane: "It was as if even the plane was trembling with excitement."
He and his crew were attached not only by enemy ground fire when caught in the searchlights, but by German fighters. Returning to Britain, the crew inspected their plane and often wondered how, with gaping holes from shrapnel and engine failure, they made it back. Colliding with other planes was a a major risk.
With sardonic humour, Sanders and the crew observed that while it was "hotter than hell down there [after delivering the bombs] inside the craft they froze.
On November 26, 1944, without fuss or formality, Sanders was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. After 30 months, he returned to Launceston, incredibly in one piece, and married Merle, the girl with whom he had fallen in love before going to war.
Madill, whose three previous books were memoirs of his time as a doctor, politician and farmer; handles the subject well, delivering an informative and compelling story.
Lancaster Bomber
Rear Gunner
Rear Gunner