Bomber Command veteran recalls memories in visit to Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre
An emotional visit to Lincolnshire sparked recollections of one Bomber Command veteran's life-saving missions.
Memories came flooding back for Bert Melville, when he visited Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre at East Kirkby for his 87th birthday.
Just Jane, the Lancaster on display at the museum, stirred thoughts as he contemplated service in the Second World War.
In the first few months of 1945 he had seen cities ablaze from allied bombing and helped to sink the German battle cruiser Admiral Scheer.
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Then in May that year he and his Lancaster crew flew missions dropping food over The Hague, as part of the humanitarian operations Manna and Chowhound.
"There's a picture of me and the crew from this time and we're all smiling because the bomb bay had just been fitted with panniers for food drops over Holland," said former flight engineer Mr Melville, who had travelled to Lincolnshire with relatives from his native Northumberland.
"There was a famine and the Dutch were starving.
"The feeling of carrying food instead of bombs was fantastic. We dropped corned beef, flour, butter and sugar.
"It was incredible to look down and see people waving flags at our aircraft instead of the devastation of a horrible bombing raid.
"I took out my handkerchief and waved it at the people below as we passed. The Germans did not fire any flak at us – but some of the Americans were fired at with guns from the ground."
Mr Melville, who served with 138 Squadron, based at RAF Tuddenham, in Suffolk, also repatriated PoWs from France and went on to serve in 38 Squadron Coastal Command, in Malta.
"Seeing Just Jane brought back a lot of memories," he said.
"There was not a lot of room inside a Lancaster but that did not matter to us.
"It was what the aircraft could do and its bomb load that was important.
"We did feel for the people we bombed.
"But you have to remember what Hitler was responsible for as one man and he had to be stopped.
"Sadly, people like him keep on emerging."
His stepson, David Bramwell, 53, said: "The men of Bomber Command are all heroes as far as I'm concerned.
"They were all volunteers and many lost their lives protecting this country.
"I think the memorial for Bomber Command was long overdue."