We climbed into the plane. Zak started to go through all the checks and I logged on the radar control and entered our coordinates so the flight controller could direct our interception. The engines revved up and we taxied on to the runway, gathering speed as we went. We waited whilst the engines roared to full throttle, then we and our ‘wingman’ were racing down the runway with seven feet between wing tips. Another minute and we were detached from terra firma and climbing through light cirrus cloud to our interception point. The American flight controller confirmed our interception co-ordinates and we signalled that our guns were’ locked on’.
We received the message that the interception had been successful, ‘dead turkey in the run’ and were awaiting our next interception co-ordinates when there was a short sharp whistle. RAF Central Control cut in to tell us that the training exercise was terminated because a flight of Russian ‘Bear’ bombers had penetrated our airspace west of Uist and we were ordered to proceed at ‘best speed’ to intercept them and chase them out of our skies. Zak responded immediately and we were soon heading up the East coast as fast as we could go.
I asked if we should not tell RAF Central Control that we were not ‘armed up’. Zak’s reply chilled me somewhat.
‘I shouldn’t bother, old sport, because if I get the order to attack I shall ram the b***’s anyway’.
I just sighed deeply.
We started to receive messages that the Norwegians had alerted two squadrons, the Belgians three, the Dutch four and the French ten. ‘It seems to me’, I said quietly,’ as though we are quite superfluous and indeed we shall be in the way Zak, so why don’t we just turn round and go home’. But Zak was adamant, ‘No can do sport! I have been given a direct order by the top brass, to chase these b***s out of our skies’.
Then we saw them, three huge bombers, with two turrets on each side carrying as, we knew, two 650mm heavy machine guns, plus a top turret with two cannon guns which kept swivelling towards us. They were certainly ‘armed up’.
Zak again, this time very quiet and intense: ‘D’you know what I ‘m going to do which will definitely upset them? I’m going to do a belly roll right underneath their old tub.’
I replied, ‘I definitely don’t second this move, it smacks of showing off.’
Zak flew straight underneath the nearest Russian bomber and I was horrified to see that the bomb doors were half open and that the bomb racks were full.
Drama on top of drama! There was a sudden silence. I realised that our engines had stopped.
Zak’s voice hit me, ‘Sorry old sport you will have to do a dive, are you ready to open the cockpit hatch?’
I was but I knew it was all hopeless, no one had ever escaped that way because the back draft resulted in impalement on the rear fin. I tugged on the hatch release: nothing moved. Did anything work on this **** plane ?
Then a miracle occurred, the engines suddenly fired and Zak’s voice was as confident as ever. ‘I knew the angels were on your side, Dave.’
We said the ‘Hail Mary’ together with great fervour.
The Russians apparently didn’t like our manoeuvres, or maybe our devotions, they just vanished, sure that we were raving mad.
A video of a Gloster Meteor NF 11, night flying variant of the only jet fighter used by the Allies during the Second World War. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wemjUKPXSx4