October 11th – On this Day in…

October 11th, 1940

Navy Guns Nazi Port

Royal Navy in Action

Big guns of the Royal Navy carried out a terrific bombardment of the Nazi held port of Cherbourg. Helped by RAF spotting planes the Navy blazed away at the docks, and shipping, and the fires could be seen some forty miles away. An RAF Squadron Leader who was over the area at the same time described the scene as “hell let loose” he continued “as we went over the English coast the glare and explosions appeared to be so close that I imagined at first that we must be off course.”  

October 11th, 1941

Smash-Raid on Cologne

Halifax Bomber

After nine consecutive nights of poor weather grounding our bombers the RAF carried out a fierce attack involving more than 200 aircraft. The aircraft included four-engine Halifax bombers with their huge payloads. While they were smashing enemy industrial targets in Germany, other RAF planes were hitting the docks at Ostend, Dunkirk, and Bordeaux. Ten bombers failed to return.

While these attacks were ongoing British night fighter-bombers were pounding enemy aerodromes in Holland and France leaving a trail of destruction. At one aerodrome in Holland incendiary bombs started one large fire and two smaller ones. At another Dutch aerodrome, a large plane on the ground was seen to be well alight.

October 11th, 1943

He Hung from Burning Plane as Huns Attacked

RAF Marauder

With his shoes and flying boots ripped off by the wind and cannon shells from German fighters ripping into his plane, Staff-Sergeant Air Gunner, La Verne F. Stein hung unconscious half-way out of the escape window of a smoking Marauder bomber. High over France the Marauder had been set ablaze and a crash seemed inevitable.

Stein decided to bail out. Then halfway through the escape window the parachute flew open a moment before Stein was ready to jump. Floating out, the parachute jerked him against the side of the plane knocking him unconscious. The wind froze his feet. Stunned and bleeding Stein dangled there. Another gunner, Technical Sergeant Kovalchik saw his plight and crawled to his aid. With the cold air numbing his fingers Kovalchik fought to loosen the ‘chute. Once he almost succeeded, his numbed fingers failing at the last tug.

The ‘chute trailed out of the plane again; another German shell struck, Kovalchik, wounded, shook his head and went back to work. Stein, conscious again, gave a hand. The parachute was loosened, and Stein was pulled into the plane. Miraculously the Marauder was still flying, the enemy aircraft were seen off by Spitfires, and Kovalchik and Stein were brought home safely.

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